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YouTube Poetry: Allen Ginsberg’s America

So Speak the Stars by Tawni Waters

Source: the publisher
Paperback, 154 pgs.
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So Speak the Stars by Tawni Waters, a collection of prose and poetry, is an exploration of the soul, a look at a soul struggling to love itself. This self-discovery journey travels from trailer parks to Paris and more internal worlds of faith, love, and self-confidence. Some of the poems exploring faith were meandering, like most journeys of faith can be, and often lost me on where they were going or what they wanted to say. But there are poem that read like confessions in personal journals and diaries. Some are incredibly raw and those are the poems that spoke the loudest about the pain of the journey and the sense of loss. Like in “AWOL Icon: A Love Song Without Music” (pg. 15), the narrator says, “Thunder breaks something and it’s not just the sky.”

From "Luster (Less)" (pg. 29)

Bad whiskey tastes sick sweet
like     forgetting
and that's enough to make me
              suck
      it
down.

Waters’ daughter, Desiree Wade, illustrates a few panels of comic like prose poems and the images are just as jarring and heartbreaking as the poems themselves. This team has great potential if they work together again on a graphic novel or another poetry collection.

These poems are fierce, particularly “Labor Pains,” which speaks about a mother’s fierce love and need to protect her child from the world. It’s beautiful and desperate and loss because as mothers we all know that our powers of protection are limited — inside and outside of the womb.

So Speak the Stars by Tawni Waters looks to foster self-love and faith and explore those concepts through religious-like experiences as told through poems and illustration. There is a lot to digest in this collection, but it is a journey worth taking. You may learn something about yourself along the way.

RATING: Quatrain

314 – Emily Dickinson

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers – 314
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.

For Every One by Jason Reynolds

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 112 pgs.
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For Every One by Jason Reynolds is a poetic letter to dreamers, those who find themselves longing for something outside of their current lives — whether a poet looking to write poems or an artist looking to paint a masterpiece. These dreams may or may not come true in two years, thirty years, or at the end of their lives, but the point is that they continue dreaming and moving toward that dream.

All of us out here,
slumped over wearing
weird fake
broken smiles,
trying to avoid the truth:
that we all got road rage.

Although there is no sage advice from Reynolds about how to make that dream come true, he does offer a sense of camaraderie with the dreamers. He’s here in the trenches with you. He understands your passions and your need to achieve that impossible-possible dream, and he knows your heartbreak. For Every One by Jason Reynolds is a realistic pep talk for those frustrated with their own lack of progress toward their dreams, even if those dreams are simple ones like having a spouse and children. Just remember that you need to take that leap!

RATING: Quatrain

Today’s Poetry Activity: Conversation Poem

Conversation poems are just what they sound like: a poem in which one person is speaking to another.

For instance, your poem could be a wife and husband speaking to one another, siblings arguing over a toy, or a father/mother speaking to a son/daughter.

There are a multitude of conversations you could have in poetic form, and they do not have to rhyme, though they can.

Here’s one I wrote as an example:

Darling, I wish we could go out more.
Honey, we’re out all the time.
But we’re never alone, even in the store.
I think a night in the tub would be sublime.

That’s an example of one that rhymes, but here’s another that doesn’t:

Give me that!
No way, it’s mine, and you know it.
It was never yours; you stole it from my room.
Really, a My Little Pony? No way.

Try your skills at a conversation poem and share it below in the comments.

YouTube Poetry: John Keats – Ode to a Nightingale

Book Fairs Around the World

As book lovers nothing gratifies us more than a book in hand. When we’re at book fairs surrounded by books, authors, publishers, and fellow book mongers, well that’s pure bliss.

If you’re looking for a book fair, check out this colossal searchable list International Book Fairs 2019 by the folks at the Kotobee Blog.

No matter where you are in the world, this list will help you locate the nearest book treat to you. Here’s a little snippet I took for the calendar of book fairs in North America (posted here with permission from the Kotobee Blog).

 

The Real Sky by Valerie Fox and Jacklynn Niemiec

Source: the poet
Paperback, 30 pgs
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The Real Sky by Valerie Fox and Jacklynn Niemiec is a chapbook that melds imagery with poetry so that readers look beyond the confines of structure to see the potential in each poem and drawing. Fox’s poems explore reality with surreal or dreamlike sequences, but they also are grounded in situations that readers will recognize from their own lives.

In “Ribs, Cat Claws,” Fox examines the notion that we all must “grow up sometime” with a cast of characters who on one hand seem to be out of their minds with mental lapses and disease and on the other hand lament the dreams they once had that are not fulfilled. Other poems delve deep into the unwritten rules of following doctors’ orders, only to secret believe they are useless orders — like many of the unwritten rules of society we follow. Should we just blindly follow them? Question them, only to follow them anyway? Or simply throw the rules out the window?

Fox’s slanted perspective on life and how rules guide us and are so easily set aside — our societal structures are artificial and yet they confine us. Where is the “real sky?” How do we break those invisible binds to see the light and the expanse of possibility? Niemiec’s sketches dovetail into these themes nicely, painting a physical picture for the readers.

The Real Sky by Valerie Fox and Jacklynn Niemiec is a multilayered collection that bends genre to incorporate not only the visual, but also fictionalized accounts and reality into a surreal mesh for readers to fall into and explore. A great deal of food for though in this slim volume.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Authors:

Valerie Fox’s most recent book is Insomniatic [poems] from PS Books, and her other volumes include The Rorschach Factory (Straw Gate Books) and The Glass Book (Texture Press). Her poems and stories have appeared in The Cafe Irreal, Juked, Sentence, Across the Margin, Cleaver, Hanging Loose, West Branch, Ping Pong, and other journals.

She has taught at various institutions, including Peirce College (Philadelphia) and Sophia University (Tokyo). Currently she teaches writing at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she is a writing fellow with the Writers Room. Much interested in collaboration, Valerie has published writing (poems, fiction) with Arlene Ang in journals such as Blip, Cordite, Apiary, Qarrtsiluni, and New World Writing. Ang and Fox also published Bundles of Letters Including A, V and Epsilon (Texture Press).

Jacklynn Niemiec teaches with the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University in the foundation year design studios, and coordinates their architectural representation sequence. Her creative interest and research lies in developing visual methods for understanding and representing space with the added and intangible layers of time, movement and memory. Her current creative work and interdisciplinary research project is Variable Space.

Jacklynn is a Registered Architect in the State of Pennsylvania and is LEED Accredited. She received her undergraduate degree at Pennsylvania State University and Master of Architecture degree at the University of Pennsylvania.

Today’s Poetry Activity: Acrostic Poems

Acrostic Poem? What on earth is that?

You actually may recognize them from your days in school. They’re like mini word puzzles in which the first letter of each line spells out a word.

I’ve shared my Acrostic poem below, and would love to see your poems in the comments using this word: SPRING

For those who want a little help, you can try this Acrostic Generator to spark some creativity or help you find some words for your poem related to the word above.

Sunrise warms my cold face
Pried from the warm blankets of bed
Rising like the dead
I only wish sunrise happened later
Noon to be precise, a
Good time to wake.

Please share your poem below in the comments.

National Poetry Month 2019

For more than 20 years, the Academy of American Poets has been celebrating National Poetry Month in April.

My favorite part of the month has always been to see the latest poster creation, which you can request from the Academy.

Another favorite of mine is Poem in Your Pocket Day, which this year will be April 18. I’m not sure what poem to keep in my pocket this year, but maybe it will be a haiku.

If I were a teacher, I would be all over this Dear Poet Project, in which students write letters in response to poems written or read by poets on the  Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors.

I strongly encourage everyone to sign up for Poem-a-Day, which comes direct to your email inbox. You’ll be reading more poems in no time, with this service.

Want to attend a poetry event near you, the Academy has this wonderful search engine by zipcode. Check out what events are near you and please share your experiences.

Here are 30 other ways to celebrate National Poetry Month; share yours too.

Almost Invisible by Kateema Lee

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 44 pgs.
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Almost Invisible by Kateema Lee, who read at the fourth DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading, is a short collection that explores the nature of family and how oftentimes as children we can feel like we’re on the periphery of others’ lives. Even as the narrator in these poems laments the life and relationships that she did not have with her father and sister, for example, it is clear she still views them as positively as she can.

From "Taraxacum" (pg. 19)

the passenger window of a police car
three little girls innocently giggling,
talking to someone who's vowed to be impartial,
to defend, nothing menacing in that scene,

I felt afraid. At that moment I remembered
being nine or ten, learning that to some
I was cute for a brown girl and to others
I was no more than a weed needing to be pulled,"

Through juxtaposition of innocent scenes, she clings to the good, but the darker memories of hate and racism creep in. The narrator also strives to remember relatives as they would like to have been remembered if war had not harmed their psyches — a war in Vietnam and a war with drugs.

“Elegy for My Sister” is a poem that will evoke deep sadness. The narrator’s sister, an artist who captured faces in charcoal beautifully, realistically, is dies long before she ages. “But somewhere deep in the District/my sister haunts hallways and vacant lots,/never taking flight,” the narrator laments after watching red birds fly. A moment she wishes her sister could have. She also speaks of a father who was proud of her as the new beginning he almost made. The narrator is “almost” invisible in her own life with these larger than life relatives, but she also is a reluctant pessimist.

Almost Invisible by Kateema Lee is a daring and deeply emotional collection of poems that lament what was, wishes for a better beginning, and has made peace with how it has arrived. Lee has a strong voice that echoes throughout the shadows of the District.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Kateema Lee is a Washington D.C. native. She earned her M.F.A in Creative Writing at the University of Maryland at College Park. She’s a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow, and she’s a Callaloo Workshop participant. Her work has appeared in anthologies, print, and online literary journals, including African American Review, Gargoyle, Word Riot, and Cave Canem Anthology XIII. When she’s not writing, she teaches English and Women’s Studies courses at Montgomery College.

#FridayFinds in Poetry

Sometimes as a parent you have to choose between your child’s soccer practice and a poetry event that is bound to be spectacular. Lucky for my girl, I can resist seeing her at practice and doing her best, even if an evening of poetry is preferred.

Last evening, I was unable to attend a reading at Curious Iguana in Frederick, Md. However, I was able to see the video of their event on Facebook. Alan King, whose poetry has been reviewed here, was reading, as was the delightful Reuben Jackson. Nancy Pearson also read, though I’m not familiar with her work.

If you’d like to hear some great poetry from your home, check out the video.

Curious Iguana has been mentioned on the blog before, even though I have yet to go. I’m really looking forward to my visit in May when Sweta Vikram is in town, and then I can check out this independent bookstore for myself.

I long for a closer bookstore, an indie store with author events closer to where I live and maybe I’ve held secret dreams of opening my own. But that all requires money, which I have little of.

In writing poetry news, I have 4 completed poems near final stages. Three are on one topic, which never happens for me. I tend to write randomly. I’m happy to have written just the four, though I wish I had more time this month to write poems.

If you’re looking for an interesting note about poetry and protest, check out this article in The New York Times. I agree with Audre Lorde; poetry is vital.