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A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim by Walt Whitman

A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim
by: Walt Whitman

A sight in camp in the daybreak gray and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the path near by the hospital tent,
Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there untended lying,
Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woolen blanket,
Gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.

Curious I halt and silent stand,
Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest the first just lift the blanket;
Who are you elderly man so gaunt and grim, with well-gray’d hair, and flesh all sunken about the eyes?
Who are you my dear comrade?

Then to the second I step—and who are you my child and darling?
Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?

Then to the third—a face nor child nor old, very calm, as of beautiful yellow-white ivory;
Young man I think I know you—I think this face is the face of the Christ himself,
Dead and divine and brother of all, and here again he lies.

Today’s Poetry Activity: Haiku

You knew it was coming. At least, you should have. I love writing haiku, so it seems fitting that we try to make our own today.

In short, haiku is a Japanese three-line poem that juxtaposes two images or ideas and “cutting word” between them — something that signals a moment of separation — as well as 17 syllables total in a 5-7-5 pattern spread out over three lines.

From Matsuo Basho:

The old pond-
a frog jumps in,
sound of water.

Here’s one of my urban haiku published at Better Than Starbucks:

Black gloss screen holds tight,
Slack jawed stare, eyes wide open,
Empty sockets filled.

Please share your favorite haiku or write one of your own in the comments. Here’s a Haiku Generator if you want some help.

YouTube Poetry: Gwendolyn Brooks

Forgetfulness by Billy Collins

Forgetfulness (listen here)
by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Via Poets.org

DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry and More

This National Poetry Month, I was finally able to make it to the local reading at the Gaithersburg Public Library for the DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg monthly poetry reading and open mic. It was amazing to hear Lalita Noronha, Marianne Szlyk, and Henry Crawford live. All three were fantastic, with Szlyk reading a poem about Worcester, Mass., which is near where I lived as a child. Crawford has a riotous presence at the mic and captivated much of the audience. Noronha was engaging as well, though I was a bit late to the reading and did not hear all of her poems (which made me a bit upset).

Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman also came to speak about the Gaithersburg Book Festival, which many of you already know is one of my favorites. It happens every May, and it is free and family friendly. Kids activities, writing workshops, books, authors, and tons more. Ashman spoke about some of his favorite books and authors featured this year, as well as the National Poetry Month proclamation received by DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg founder Lucinda Marshall.

During the full open mic set, I was able to read one of my poems in the Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens. Check that out below:

Lastly, the DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg event will be moving in the fall to the Quince Orchard Library. Readings will resume in September. Here’s the schedule, but keep in touch with schedules, etc. at the website:

  • September 8
  • October 13
  • November 10
  • December 8

Hope to see you there or at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 18, 2019.

Just Universes by Diana Smith Bolton

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 32 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Just Universes by Diana Smith Bolton, which won the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Chapbook Series from L+S Press, is an exploration of the universes we immerse ourselves in as children, the moments in time that etch themselves on our psyches, and so much more. It is a collection that speaks to the immensity of moments in our lives and the connections we feel and lose, but also the longing we have for moments that have passed long ago. “How to get back to you, Barcelona,/to nineteen years old, to fervent and pious trust/” the narrator laments in “To Barcelona”.

Time can pass quickly in some of these poems, like in “Mrs. Stockwell” where as a girl she watched the antics of boys dismissively only later to become a first grade teacher. Her universe became that school yard she remembered as a girl, and she lives her life there.

Bolton encapsulates moments in her poem that are chock full of emotion and wonder, as if she is gazing at the vast, starry sky trying to puzzle out the constellations. Just Universes by Diana Smith Bolton is a powerful chapbook collection. Don’t miss it.

RATING: Cinquain

Today’s Poetry Activity: Limerick

When I hear the word Limerick, I suddenly see Irish dancers, leprechauns, rainbows, and Ireland.

But Limericks are poems written in an anapestic[1] meter with a strict rhyme scheme of AABBA, in which the first, second, and fifth line rhyme, while the third and fourth lines are shorter and share a different rhyme. I’m not great at writing poems with rhymes or in certain meters, but I do love a good limerick, especially when they are humorous. Sometimes, they can be rude.

Here’s one of my favorites from John Updike:

There was an old poop from Poughkeepsie,
Who tended, at night, to be tipsy.
Said he, ”My last steps
Aren’t propelled by just Schweppes! ” –
That peppy old poop from Poughkeepsie.

If you’d like to share your favorite limericks in the comments, I’d love to read them. If you’re daring enough, maybe you’ll write your own and share it.

Here’s something I used the generator for:

There once was a man who liked weddings.
He said, “See the great beheadings!”
His name was sarge.
He found the brush discharge.
And he couldn’t resist the telecharge.

To help those who want to write their own, there’s this cool Limerick generator.

YouTube Poetry: Allen Ginsberg’s America

So Speak the Stars by Tawni Waters

Source: the publisher
Paperback, 154 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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.