Poetry Monday – Mark Strand

Photo courtesy of poetryfoundation.org

Photo courtesy of poetryfoundation.org

The book from which the poem is taken. Photo courtesy of oxonianreview.org.

The book from which the poem is taken. Photo courtesy of oxonianreview.org.

Too many talents have died this year. Among them is poet Mark Strand, who passed this Saturday. I’d like to dedicate this Poetry Monday to his work and memory.

“The Coming of the Light” by Mark Strand

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.

What I like about this poem: I first heard about this piece when I took a workshop with Jericho Brown a few years back. He featured this poem in a really cool prompt. Since that time, I’ve used this poem in a few workshops with high school students. Because of these experiences, I associate this poem with playfulness and wonder. I often think of the surreal imagery in this poem, particularly the “warm bouquets of air.”

Bonus! Prompt: Here is the prompt Jericho Brown gave us in that workshop I mentioned earlier–
What is the opposite of “up”? Down.
What about “left”? Right.
What about “green”?
What about “the”?
Starting to get more difficult, right?

The prompt is to re-write this poem. The catch is that you must re-write it word for word using the opposite of each word. For example, write down the opposite of “even,” then the opposite of “this,” and continue in this manner until you’ve finished the whole poem. It’s OK if you are not certain of a word’s opposite. Make it up! “Opposite” can be interpreted in so many different ways. This is a great exercise for letting go of expectations and being surprised!

Poetry Monday – Sam Sax

The man himself. Image courtesy of samsax.tumblr.com

The man himself. Image courtesy of samsax.tumblr.com

The book from which the poem is taken. Image courtesy of www.buttonpoetry.com

The book from which the poem is taken. Image courtesy of http://www.buttonpoetry.com

“The Hunger Artist” by Sam Sax

the boy ate from my hands
then ate my hands,

finger bones making old
noises between his teeth,

my arm in his mouth down
to the elbow, the shoulder.

he gnaws through the sinew
strung up in my neck

like a white upright piano.
it sounds terrible

when he eats, all those
depressed keys

making music. each organ
forging sound. his windpipe

a well that drowns bright
boys like coins with dead

blues singers’ faces stamped
in the metal. fathomless pit,

cannibal ditch, the father,
the son, & the holy spirit

spread across his fingers
& lips.

the job of any competent
parasite is to convince

its host of the their relationship’s
symbiosis. i loved him even

as the anesthetic went in,
hatchet lifted from a hymnal,

& when i was at last inside him,
i couldn’t make a sound.

What I like about this poem: I love poems that give me the creeps sometimes, and this one certainly does! (Also, I thought it was appropriate since Halloween is coming up.) I love the coupling of both the religious and the macabre—like hymnal and hatchet, as well as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on the artist’s lips—which I think is what makes the poem so good at being spooky. I like that this poem is irreverent (even down to the refusal to use capitalization.) Lastly, the following lines get me every time:

the job of any competent
parasite is to convince

its host of the their relationship’s
symbiosis. i loved him even

as the anesthetic went in…

It can be tempting to think that one is just entering into a gross poem, but those last lines show it’s something more—the manipulation, the love even as the lover is being hurt by the beloved. I mean, it’s just the grittiness of life!

I recently discovered an earlier version of this piece, which, I think, has a much different vibe than the one printed here. If you’d like to hear an earlier version of this poem, click here.

Poetry Monday – Jon Woodward

Thanks for joining me for Poetry Monday! Today’s poem is from Jon Woodward’s book “Mister Goodbye Easter Island.” The poem I am reading is called “Cello.” Enjoy!

Poetry Monday – Jan Beatty

Thanks for joining me for Poetry Monday this week. Today’s poem is “The Waitress Angels Speak to Me in a Vision” by Jan Beatty. The poem is from her book “Boneshaker.” Enjoy!

Poetry Monday – George Ovitt

Thanks for joining me for today’s Poetry Monday! Today’s poem is by George Ovitt from the Spring 2014 (“Love Poem”) issue of Rattle. The poem is titled “Why I Like Marriage.” Enjoy!

Poetry Monday – Laura McCullough

Thanks for joining me for Poetry Monday!  The last poem of this year is “The Ways Water is Used” by Laura McCullough from her book “Panic.”  Enjoy!

Poetry Monday – Taylor Mali

Thanks for joining me once again for Poetry Monday!  This week I submit final grades for my five courses.  So in the spirit of learning and lauding teachers for their hard work, I’m reading Taylor Mali’s “What Teachers Make” from his book “What Learning Leaves.”  Enjoy!

In the Spotlight: Checking Off a Bucket List Goal

When I write a goal down, I have a vision for how I’d like it to look. Because of this, I didn’t realize I had accomplished one of my bucket list items earlier this year. I’ve always wanted to take part in a performance in New York City, and this summer, I did.

I am a teaching artist with an organization called Arts! by the People.  I’ve taught creative writing workshops with them as well as helped with jewelry, craft, and playwrighting workshops.  The experience over the past few years has been wonderful, so when I was offered the opportunity to take part in a multimedia performance with fellow teaching artists in January, I jumped at the chance.

In 2012, Arts! by the People put on a performance called “Across the Platform.” I was moved by the originality and message of the piece (which, to me, was that you need to be yourself and not conform to what others want you to be, particularly in the 9-5 job world).

This year’s performance was called “Tipping the Playpen,” and our main theme was “cerebral clutter.” As artists, everyone involved wanted to represent the creative process journey they’ve experienced. We wanted to represent the craziness of the beginning stage, the lovely moment when an idea comes together, and end with the fact that creativity is an ongoing cycle; a “finished” product does not necessarily equal a neat resolution.

The cast of "Tipping the Playpen" taking a bow

The cast of “Tipping the Playpen” taking a bow

Our performance incorporated dance, fine art, video, cello music, and, my specialty, poetry.  The process of putting this performance together took about six months. We debuted our finished work on June 9th at Dixon Place Theatre in New York City. (To see a highlight reel of the performance, click here).

One aspect of the piece that everyone was excited about was the built-in audience participation. For the first 15 minutes of our hour-long piece, the audience was going to be out of their seats and part of the performance through participating in dance, art, and poetry recitation, as well as through watching a video while standing up.

Our piece was very well received, thankfully.  I had a few friends attend, and they all said it was definitely different than anything they had previously experienced. Participating in this performance was different for me as well, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

To see the video we showed the audience as well as pictures of the performance, click here.

Poetry Monday – Kim Addonizio

Thanks so much for joining me today!  This week’s poem comes from Kim Addonizio’s book “Lucifer at the Starlite.” The poem I am reading is “Feeling Sexy.” Enjoy!

Poetry Monday – Kim Addonizio

Thanks so much for joining me today!  This week’s poem comes from Kim Addonizio’s book “Lucifer at the Starlite.” The poem I am reading is “Happiness After Grief.” Enjoy!

Poetry Monday – Richard Blanco

Thanks for joining me again for Poetry Monday!  Today’s poem comes from inaugural poet Richard Blaco’s book “Looking for the Gulf Motel.”  The poem is titled “Queer Theory: According to My Grandmother.”  Enjoy!