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Said Through Glass by Jona Colson

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 84 pgs.
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Said Through Glass by Jona Colson is a keen observance of ordinary life and how we deal with not only grief, but our feelings of “otherness” even among family. There are several poems in an interview style throughout the collection, which I felt disconnected from.The one “interview” style poem I did enjoy and did feel connected to was “House for Sale,” where readers get a sense of a distracted home buyer who has lost his father and is trying to navigate life after.

However, I really loved Colson’s use of language to demonstrate ailments like arthritis and so much more. In “My Mother’s Hands,” the narrator speaks about his mother’s arthritic hands in a way that makes them beautiful: “Now, her fingers turn and twist against themselves,/like stems of wild roses–reaching out/into delicate air.” And in “Retina,” the narrator talks about the darkness of an eye out of sorts and the joy of being able to finally see again: “And the next day: surgery,/to fasten the retina, like wallpaper, back to the frazzled/optic nerve and satisfy its hunger for impulse/and clear astonishment of light.//” There is so much beauty in this collection.

Honey

It pours from a jar, amber and combed
too thick to understand.

It softens the parched skin
rubbed in small fingerfuls.

It soothes the throat
when we stir it into tea.

At breakfast, it sweetens the morning toast
while we talk of summer --

hopeful as a bee toward a tulip
promising pollen.

In part three, we switch gears in a way with a series of ekphrastic poems after a painting from Diego Velazquez called Las Meninas. When I saw this, I wanted a QR Code, like in Jessica Piazza’s latest collection, This Is Not a Sky, but it’s not necessary as this painting was easy to find online. These poems carry a heaviness that makes it easy to visualize the kids/women in this painting, including the Spanish Infanta Margaret Theresa. In the first poem, Theresa is the central figure and her “hoop skirt” is heavy like her heart later in the poem, signifying the weight of obligation she carries. “Heart-heavy, she rises, oiled and/drowsy, surging on, with no anchor,/only a painting of her, here and there./” Colson breathes new life into the Infanta, and the journey is intriguing as it touches on the royal life lightly.

Said Through Glass by Jona Colson speaks and readers must listen, but more than that they must interact with the lines and stanzas on the page — becoming a second observer. Readers will see through this window unique ways to look at the ordinary — from honey to an orange — and examine loss, grief, and change in a way that is not only sad, but beautiful. This beauty ties the collection to its grief to create an arc of healing.

RATING: QUATRAIN

About the Poet:

Jona Colson is an educator and poet. He graduated from Goucher College with a double Bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish and earned his MFA from American University and a Master’s in Literature/Linguistics from George Mason University. His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Ploughshares, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere. In addition to writing his own poetry, he also translates the Spanish language poetry of Miguel Avero from Montevideo, Uruguay. His translations can be found in Prairie Schooner, Tupelo Quarterly, and Palabras Errantes. He has also published several interviews for The Writer’s Chronicle. He is currently Associate Professor at Montgomery College in Maryland where he teaches English as a second language. He lives in Dupont circle area of Washington, DC. Visit his website at jonacolson.com

Poem: Our Future Will Become the Past of Other Women by Eavan Boland

Today’s poem I share to honor the passing of Eavan Boland, an Irish poet who has recently passed away. I loved her poems. There’s a new documentary about her, that you can read about here.

Please listen below:

Do you have a favorite poem by Boland? Please share in the comments.

Other Voices Other Lives by Grace Cavalieri

Source: Purchased at Gaithersburg Book Festival
Paperback, 250 pgs.
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Other Voices Other Lives by Grace Cavalieri (listen to this interview), poet laureate of Maryland, is part of Alan Squire Publishing’s legacy collections and includes a selection of poems and plays, as well as interviews from her The Poet & the Poem public radio series.

I just had to get my hands on this collection when I was at last year’s Gaithersburg Book Festival and I had the honor of greeting her and escorting her about the local festival before her appearance was required on a panel and at the announcement of our 2019 high school poetry contest winners.

Selection from "Work Is My Secret Lover"

Work
takes the palm of my hand to kiss
in the middle of the night
it holds my wrist lightly and feels the pulse
Work is who you'll find with me
when you tiptoe up the stairs
and hear my footsteps through the shadows

I love that her poems take on a personality of their own and many of them are so different, tackling not only the angst of the writer’s life and the love we have for our work (which can take precedence over other things), but also the voices in which she speaks not for others but with them. From Anna Nicole Smith’s to Mary Wollstonecraft’s voice to poems styled after William Carlos Williams, Cavalieri’s imagination brings a new life to these women’s voices. Even the selections from her plays are lyrical and full of whimsy (in a way). Her persona poems imbue the public perceptions of women with a compassionate eye.

If you listen to her interview, at about 5:06, you’ll hear her read “Moderation,” which is my favorite poem from this collection. It’s deeply moving. A moment where a man knows it is time to pass into another world, and he hopes to never inconvenience anyone with his death. This silent man who doesn’t live outside the lines. Cavalieri displays her keen observations about her father and others, but she also observes herself as an outsider, an observer full of emotion. Other Voices Other Lives by Grace Cavalieri is a deeply emotional journey through her work, and it always rings true. I’ll be seeking out her other collections in the future.

Grace Cavalieri needs no introduction in Maryland as our state Poet Laureate, but damn she is smart, observant, kind, and deliciously cognizant of how to imbue others with humanity through her own compassionate lens.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Grace Cavalieri is an Italian American writer and host of the radio program The Poet and the Poem, presented by the Library of Congress through National Public Radio. She is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Poems: New and Selected (1994), Pinecrest Rest Haven (1998), and Greatest Hits, 1975–2000 (2002). Her collection What I Would Do for Love: Poems in the Voice of Mary Wollstonecraft (2004) was awarded the Patterson Poetry Prize; Water on the Sun (2006) won the Bordighera Poetry Prize. Further collections include Anna Nicole: Poems (2008) and Sounds Like Something I Would Say (2010).

Poem Generator Fun: Limerick

I just love a good limerick. This is usually another five line poem, but there’s always a bit of humor — some of the best are bawdy.  All have vivid imagery.

Here’s one from Ogden Nash:

The turtle lives ‘twixt plated decks
Which practically conceal its sex.
I think it clever of the turtle
In such a fix to be so fertile.

I also like this from Edward Lear:

There was a Young Lady whose chin
Resembled the point of a pin:
So she had it made sharp,
And purchased a harp,
And played several tunes with her chin.

Here’s mine from the poem generator:

There once was a man called danny.
He said, “See the lovely hanney!”
It was rather last,
But not enthusiast,
He couldn’t say no to the manni.

Let’s create some limericks! Share what poem you created in the comments.

Book Spine Poetry

Many book bloggers have participated in online memes where we’ve taken photos of our book stacks and our bookshelves. But have you ever wondered if you took some extra care, you could arrange those books’ titles to create your very own poem?

I’d love to see your book spine poems, feel free to tag @SavvyVerseWit on Twitter and use the #bookspinepoetry

Here’s what I came up with:

Girls like us
partial genius
Other voices, other lives
said through glass

What poem did you create?

Erasure Poetry

I’ve always loved blackout poetry, taking an existing text and erasing parts of it to create something new. Erasure poetry enables not only the poet but the reader to see an older work in a new way.

According to the Academy of American Poets, one famous erasure poet, Ronald Johnson, took the form to a new level when he revised the first four books of John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

One of my favorite collections of this type of poetry is from Heather Aimee O’Neill and Jessica Piazza, Obliterations. You can check out my review of that book from 2016.

Here’s Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay (with my erasures):

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Here’s the clean version:

Nature's first green
hardest to hold
early flower
subsides to leaf.
grief,
goes down
Nothing can stay.

Give it a try and see what you can come up with.

Poem: won’t you celebrate with me by Lucille Clifton

Today’s poem I share is from Lucille Clifton and is a poem about hope and perseverance in times of adversity. You can listen to the poem, here.

won’t you celebrate with me

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

What poems have you found during our pandemic lockdown?

I Shimmer Sometimes, Too by Porsha Olayiwola

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 96 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

I Shimmer Sometimes, Too by Porsha Olayiwola, who is Boston’s poet laureate, is a collection of hard truths. I first heard about her from this interview, which is a must listen. Her poems are raw and pull no punches, and they shouldn’t. She’s speaking for a very marginalized group of people in our society – queer black women.

Her opening poem brings to the forefront the rawness of our immigration policies in this country and the damage left behind when her father was sent to his homeland and her mother was left in the United States to raise their children. Olayiwola imagines what life would have been like had her father been able to stay in “Had My Parents Not Been Separated After My Father’s Traffic Stop, Arrest, and Deportation From the United States of America.” This serves as a lens through which her life has unfolded – the discrimination that follows her as a black woman who is queer — and her light amidst all of it. Even in the darkest moments of arrest, her poems shimmer with hope and light.

From "Interlude at a Neighborhood Gas Station: 2001"

the music peeled back the air
as the ivory chrysler swerved and jolted
into a spot behind our parked toyota

From modern subjects of finding and losing love, struggling with mental illness, dealing with discrimination at every turn, Olayiwola has a keen eye and slices through the malarkey of our society and reveals the whole truth of life in America. She tackles history and the present with aplomb. My favorite poem is “Unnamed.” Take a listen as she performs the piece in the video below:

Buy this collection today. I Shimmer Sometimes, Too by Porsha Olayiwola will challenge you, force you to look twice at your own behavior and comments, and move into a future where there is a bit more understanding and empathy for others. In a world where compassion is minimal at best, these are the collections that will have use recollecting our humanity.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Porsha Olayiwola is a writer, performer, educator and curator who uses afro-futurism and surrealism to examine historical and current issues in the Black, woman, and queer diasporas. She is an Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and is the current poet laureate for the city of Boston

Poem Generator Fun: Haiku

Haiku is one of those poetic forms that many teachers use to teach kids about rhythm and cadence. The form requires a first line of five syllables, a second line of seven syllables, and a third line of five syllables in its simplest form. There are other aspects of the haiku that bring the short poem a certain level of unexpected nuance, like its juxtaposition between two images — one appearing at the start of the poem and one at the end.

I want to share one of my haiku that was published in LYNX:

white skin, concrete head
red nose chilled with wind
stubborn, glued to you.

Let’s create some haiku! Share what poem you created in the comments.

Poem: Hope is the thing with feathers (254) by Emily Dickinson

I wanted to share a poem about hope today, and I’ve reached back to one of my favorite classic poems.

Hope is the thing with feathers (254)
By: Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

What brings you hope?

Visual Poetry

Visual poems are more than just concrete poems that take shapes of animals, etc. Check out the video for inspiration, a little bit of history, and take a moment to create your own visual poem.

You could take it a step further and incorporate some collage or photography or even some painting/drawing art with your poem.

Feel free to share them on Twitter or Facebook at tag me. I’d love to see them.

Happy National Poetry Month!

The Floating Door by M. E. Silverman

Source: the poet
Paperback, 92 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Floating Door by M.E. Silverman is a collection of poems that explores several schoolyard rhymes — “Step on a Crack” — and the experience of growing up in America, alongside the feeling of being an outsider in “The Last Jew” in Afghanistan. Silverman’s poems are a spiritual journey that is at times disconcerting, but also comforting. His poems look at American consumerism in a way that causes the reader to look at the life they imagine — the clean lines and everything in its place — and the life they lead, full of chaos and love.

One of the best looks at this is “Sitting in a Simulated Space at the Atlantic Station IKEA in Atlanta, Georgia,” in which the speaker is comfortably sitting in one of those staged rooms that the store is famous for, takes a book of poems from the shelf and begins to read. In this moment the speaker becomes part of the simulated room. But the illusion is broken when he decides to save the pages and rips them from the book and is caught by the eyes of a child in the store with her family. Silverman’s poems have children or child-like reactions in them to call attention to how discerning kids are to social cues and the visual moments around them, even if they don’t necessarily understand the words. In “‘I Don’t Believe,’ She Said, ‘In You.'” the narrator says, “He listened the way a/child presses an ear to a keyhole,” and readers can see the intensity of that moment — a spying on an adult conversation when one adult is exasperated with the other. The whole of the poem calls attention to a lack of attention we all have in arguments and moments of frustration — when we take less care in choosing our words and how those words can be interpreted by the listener a different way than what they were intended.

Silverman’s imagination is on full display in his descriptions, like this from “Response to: I Can’t Get Off the Couch”: “Look, the couch/would love nothing more than to waste the day caped with a shawl, laying/ burdened on someone’s back like Atlas, but honestly the couch is waiting for/the right cover to turn it almost youthful & beautiful, waiting for the vibrating/wonder of the vacuum so it can come clean, eyeing the shapely Victorian/curves of the love-seat, waiting & waiting for it to make the first move.” Oh, this unrequited love, the longing from across the room. Just beautiful.

Many of these poems offer surprise reactions in them: sensuality, families that have grown distant except for the love of a child that appears constant, and mirror images of suffering and displacement. There is a disconnect that is explored between being American and the Jewish religion, but within that feeling of disconnect, the narrator of the poems takes a journey to reconnect. The Floating Door by M.E. Silverman is a collection that moves the reader in and out of detachment in an effort to demonstrate that the feeling is fleeting and there is more to connect us with others than first appears to the eye.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

M. E. Silverman is the author of The Floating Door (Glass Lyre Press, 2018), The Breath Before Birds Fly (ELJ Press, 2013). The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary American Jewish Poetry (2013), which he co-edited with Deborah Ager, The Plume Anthology of Long-ish Poems (Madhat Press, 2018), which he co-edited with Andrew McFayden-Ketchum, and a forthcoming Holocaust anthology co-edited with Howard Debs. His work has appeared in over 90 journals including: Crab Orchard Review, Blood Orange Review, December, Town Creek Poetry, Chicago Quarterly Review, North Chicago Review, Battersea Review, The Naugatuck River Review, Many Mountains Moving, Hawai’i Pacific Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology, The Los Angeles Review, Pacific Review, StorySouth, I-70 Review, UCity Review, Tupelo Quarterly Review. You can also check out his journal, Blue Lyra Review, and his press, Blue Lyra Press.