Saturday, April 10, 2021

and boy could I use a drink

Greetings, Poets and Poetry Lovers!  Before we get to the main course, I'd like you to know that my April NPM project, inspired by the excellent experience of participating in Laura Shovan's February Poetry Projects on Facebook, is to host a group called PARADISE, PAVED: 

"We are poets who need a place to park the results of our daily writing practice. We're looking for accountability, community and feedback. It may not be grand or glamorous, but it's practical--and private. There are just two rules, beyond the basic rules of civil discourse and internet decency:
1) Any day that you post a poem, please offer comments to at least three other poets.
2) If you used any kind of prompt, share!

It's private so that our efforts can't be considered previously published on the web (which prevents submission to many journals and anthologies)--but it's open to whomever.  We'd love to have you if you need a place to post! Just drop me a note and I'll invite you.

And now:  It was a Big Week: back to In-Person PreK on Thursday after a year of dreading what it might be like to teach 4- and 5-year-olds masked and from 6 feet away.  Technically, the 6-foot distance requirement changed in the last two weeks to "more like 3 feet is good enough," which means that our 9 students became 10 in a large early childhood room.

And guess what?  After I had both a panic attack and a temper tantrum (mainly about having to add a daily commute back in to my day), it went...not so terrible! Except for specials, there's nothing we need to use Chromebooks for, and while our pile of Pretend Play furniture and all the big wooden blocks are languishing in a corner covered by a Christmas flamingoes bedsheet (my para is a consummate thrift-store shopper), these little ones, most of whom had never been to any kind of school, took their individual trapezoid tables and individual Choice Boxes full of manipulatives in stride.

It'll be a while before we get the hang of dashing out of school at noon to get home and teach the Virtual PM group at 1:00--and it is two preparations, after all--but it wasn't awful and sad and difficult.  Check in with me after the honeymoon...

Meanwhile, by 5pm on Thursday I was well and truly wiped.  It was gorgeous out, so I got my turquoise lounge chair from the shed and sat reading BRAIDING SWEETGRASS in the evening sun and drinking a celebratory beer...which reacted unexpectedly strongly with my dehydration and my anti-anxiety pill, so that I when I stood up to make dinner I was well and truly DRUNK.  But not too drunk to cook, and not too drunk to notice that around the corner of the house these beauties had bloomed.


So here's my equation poem, inspired by Laura Purdie Salas's SNOWMAN - COLD = PUDDLE. 


evening sun + tulip cups + breeze = 

cocktails on a green beach


Our host today is dear Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.  May bebidas en una playa verde ease our swirling bilingual minds!

Friday, April 2, 2021

happy npm! let's celebrate with a challenge

Greetings, Poets and Poetry Lovers!  Before we get to the main course, I'd like you to know that my April NPM project, inspired by the excellent experience of participating in Laura Shovan's February Poetry Projects on Facebook, is to host a group called PARADISE, PAVED: 


"We are poets who need a place to park the results of our daily writing practice. We're looking for accountability, community and feedback. It may not be grand or glamorous, but it's practical--and private. There are just two rules, beyond the basic rules of civil discourse and internet decency:
1) Any day that you post a poem, please offer comments to at least three other poets.
2) If you used any kind of prompt, share!

It's private so that our efforts can't be considered previously published on the web (which prevents submission to many journals and anthologies)--but it's open to whomever.  We'd love to have you if you need a place to post!

The time is upon us: both for the poetry fest which is April in the US of America, and for the monthly challenge of our Sunday Swaggers critique group.  Today we are swagging from a source within a source:  Linda Mitchell has directed us to a post at Jama's Alphabet Soup honoring Pat Schneider, a favorite of Jama's, who sadly passed this year.

Linda asked us to use Pat's poem "The Moon. Ten Times" as a model for seeing one thing many ways.  It is a wonderful catalog kind of poem and worthy of emulation.  I struggled--first to find a subject, and then to imagine it sufficiently from all angles.  What I've ended up with is kind of a chronology of concepts.

I can't even tell you now how I chose milk.



I'm excited to see what my fellow Swaggers have come up with, and you can too, at their blogs listed below.

-Catherine at Reading to the Core -Margaret at Reflections on the Teche -Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone
-Linda at A Word Edgewise

Our first host of National Poetry Month is Mary Lee at A Year of Reading, where she introduces the Progressive Poem for this year and her Haiku Dairy I mean Diary for 2021. Party on, Poets!

Friday, March 26, 2021

slps 6: brevity with valerie and nikki

Here's early morning quiet and early spring damp, 63* at 6am. A rabbit is galloping giddily around my backyard where the last two days of rain have sent some--not all--of the grass shooting up, so that the lawn, which yearns to be a field both on the ground and in my mind, is a shaggy, ragged yellowgreen. It's windy today too, the community of clouds is rolling by, charging eastward past the sunrise, clearing out for the sunny day that's on its way.

I'm alone here with the patio door open just enough to feel it all, abandoned to the birdcall and the smell of suspense on the air.

 grass | Valerie Worth



A Community of Clouds | Nikki Giovanni

Busy this weekend--not planning to make the PF rounds.  But you never know!  Hosting today is Susan at Soul Blossom Living, who is rounding up all our celebrations of National Poetry Month.

Friday, March 19, 2021

slps 5: katz and piercy

Climate Action Alert:  Is YOUR state legislature attempting to undo some of the damage to our planet?  Mine is, and I have advocacy work to do today, which I know about because of my state's Unitarian Universalist Legislative MinistryGo here to see if your state has a one-stop shop for action alerts on matters of social justice, climate justice in particular.

It's time to return to my  self-led poetry study, in
which I revisit books on my shelf that never received proper attention.  Let's begin with the very first poem in UPSIDE DOWN AND INSIDE OUT: Poems for All Your Pockets by Bobbi Katz.  This little volume has a layered history: it's a 1992 Wordsong reissue of the original 1973 collection, and it's signed by Bobbi herself to someone named Mary Krogness--but it also bears a stamp on the inside and a label on the outside to let us know that this book belongs to the library of Aquita Sanford!  I acquired it hmmmmm from a used-book dealer?  It also has a barcode label that looks rather newer.

I met Bobbi on a few occasions in the 2000's, and she's the person who said, when I mentioned my family was moving to Paris for a year, that she knew a children's poet who lived there, an English woman named Sandra Guy.  Unbelievably, it turned out that Sandra lived LITERALLY ACROSS THE STREET from our exchange apartment in Vincennes--of all the addresses in Paris!  Thanks to Bobbi, I had a faithful critique partner during that year in France.

But I's that first poem.

 How I Got to Be a Princess: An Autobiographical Note | Bobbi Katz

Yesterday my friend said,
"You look just like a princess.”
I could not believe him.

Was he talking to someone else?
I looked behind me
in front of me.
I looked under the bed
on top of the closet.
No one else was there.
Again my friend said,
“You look just like a princess.”
He really said it to ME!
I felt all twinkling inside.
That’s how I got to be a princess.


This is a pretty unusual poem for Bobbi--most of her work is rhyme-and-meter perfection, playful and very definitely early-childhood friendly, not usually autobiographical. (For those familiar, this volume also includes the original "Things to Do If You Are" form, with "a Subway", "a Flower," "the Snow" and "a Pizza," among others. Bow down to Bobbi!)



Next I pulled down THE MOON IS ALWAYS FEMALE by Marge Piercy (Alfred A. Knopf, 1980).  I don't know where I got this one either, but I swear, despite knowing of Marge Piercy since I was in college (Wesleyan University, whose press published her first two collections), I don't think I have ever opened this book, considered a "classic text of the feminist movement."  My loss, my goodness!  

Marge (b. 1936) is roughly the same age as Bobbi (b. 1933) and I am. so. fascinated. by the juxtaposition of Bobbi's princess poem and this stanza from Marge's longer poem "Excursions, incursions".


                                                        Excursions, incursions  | Marge Piercy

Princess and godmother, girls and women, viewed and twinkled and labeled and priced: may they yet declare themselves queens of their own being?  I hope that both poets, now in their 80s, continue well and comfortable, and I am so grateful for their voices.

Linda at TeacherDance is our host today for Poetry Friday, and she is also exploring time and its nonsense and constancy and how it makes us think about our moments, our long lives, and how old rules don't apply...see you there!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

poetry friday is here! birthday numbers, birthday lights

Welcome! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.)

I'm banished from the downstairs where my beloved is cooking me a birthday dinner, a surprise dish that smells excellent.  I do not have my poetry books to hand, so today I don't bring down two from the shelf to explore & match; instead I avail myself of goodness from the Poetry Foundation website.  

From Linda Pastan, "Counting Backwards":

And I must say, I do feel a bit like I'm at a starting line, like the pall of the last year is lifting (oh cross all your fingers!), and also, as our two seniors  graduate and move on, full of all the possibilities that might come to pass in the next stage. Let's tackle childhood poverty head-on! Let's plant trees and spread love! Let's light our birthday cakes with light bulbs!



No, Calef's Grampa is gotta have the flame and the breath for wishes to come true. (In fact, I've been working for a while on a theory that the invention of the electric light bulb was the beginning of the end for humanity.  Nothing was ever meant to be that easy for us and it's finally catching up with us.)

So I'm lucky to be standing at the threshold of a new era for me and, I hope, for everyone--if we can make it to the end of this school year--and isn't poetry always a door to step through?  Please add your links below, and let us make merry while we March!

P.S. Can you tell I'm a little drunk on the sunshine and 75* we've had here this week?

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Friday, March 5, 2021

sunday swagger challenge: prompt mashup

It's the first Friday of the month and my critique group--the Sunday Swaggers--despite the wild ride in our classrooms, schools and physical BODIES, is soldiering on with a monthly challenge.  Today Margaret of Reflections on the Teche feeds our delight in the refreshing force that is Amanda Gorman by sending us to find a poem through a scavenger hunt.

That would be enough to get us going, but IN ADDITION we would like to give a nod to today's Poetry Friday host, Kat Apel, who just last week shared a seat-of-the-pants poetry form called the LaMiPoFri.  It's ideal for people like me who are sitting down at 6:30 am to a) write my Poetry Friday post including b) writing a response to my group's challenge. Here's how Kat describes it:

"What is a lamipofri? It’s a poetry snapshot that’s quickly scribed, to give people an insight into the world around you at a given point in time – that point being the last minute as you’re scrambling for a Poetry Friday poem to post! Hence the name: LAst MInute of a POetry FRIday! The trick with the lamipofri is to pause, take a moment to look around and share that moment with others. But don’t take too long, or the moment will pass!"

I've always called such last-minute poems Instadrafts™ but Kat's has the special feature of focusing on the moment.

So here we have it: three words from Ta-Nehisi Coates's BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME. It is taking me months to read this book, so painful is it for me to understand his experience of growing up in a Black body. It takes me 10 minutes and an effort to revisit pages 11 (my 'lucky' birthdate, next week), 22 and 33, but here are the words I choose:

declaration ~ edge ~ suspended

and here is the out-the-window poetry moment they become.


Find the rest of our group's responses here:

-Catherine at Reading to the Core -Margaret at Reflections on the Teche -Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone
-Linda at A Word Edgewise

Many thanks to the unwitting conglomeration that led to this AmGorScaHuLaMiPoFri, and thanks and congratulations to our host Kat on her new book A BIRD IN THE HERD (the egret has landed hee hee hee).  May we step, eyes wide open and socks on, toward a warmer Reality.


BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME (written to his teen son), p. 10-11

Friday, February 26, 2021

rip lawrence ferlinghetti

I confess: I have been a fan of the IDEA of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the Beat poets far more than of their actual work.  But on the occasion of the end of his very long and active life--the things he's seen!--combined with my participation in the February Poem Project hosted by Laura Shovan, I did some reading.

For the project, the theme of which is BODIES, I posted this for today:


Legendary Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti left us this week at the age of 101. He came to prefer the term “wide-open” rather than “Beat” poetry, because of the way it ranged and raged. One critic characterized Ferlinghetti’s work as “a revolutionary art of dissent and contemporary application which jointly drew a lyric poetry into new realms of social—and self-expression. It sparkles, sings, goes flat, and generates anger or love out of that flatness as it follows a basic motive of getting down to reality and making of it what we can.” 

 I invite you to enjoy Ferlinghetti’s “Underwear”, below and continued at the Poetry Foundation, and then to write about our "foundation garments," channeling Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s revolutionary art of dissent and contemporary application. [Underwear ads included as extra fodder.]











 I have not yet written my own foundation garment poem because during my explorations I found a fine and important poem called "I Am Waiting."  It is full, as the critic says, of Ferlinghetti's "sad and comic music of the streets." And then I saw that this poem was published IN 1958, in A CONEY ISLAND OF THE MIND, and somehow it sounds so current and live, and I am kind of stunned.

This is the fifth of six stanzas. The other five are worth your time!

I Am Waiting [excerpt] | Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for the day

that maketh all things clear

and I am awaiting retribution

for what America did   

to Tom Sawyer   

and I am waiting

for Alice in Wonderland

to retransmit to me

her total dream of innocence

and I am waiting

for Childe Roland to come

to the final darkest tower

and I am waiting   

for Aphrodite

to grow live arms

at a final disarmament conference

in a new rebirth of wonder

Ferlinghetti preferred to call his poetry "wide-open" and now we see why.  Why can't Tom Sawyer and Alice in Wonderland and Childe Roland and Aphrodite meet on the same turf?  Oh, they can.  My, I feel educated today.  Thanks, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

 Our host today is Karen at The Blog with the Shockingly Clever Title where she also is marveling, with Billy Collins, at the age of things. May we hang on to history, everything from Aphrodite to Cheerios to the Governor of Louisiana, and publish our howls. Friendly note:  I will probably not comment on PF posts this week so that I can do due diligence by the Feb Project responses. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

slps 4: frost & fletcher

How it's going down in my district...I'm perpetually downtrodden.

So today in my self-led poetry study I reach for a wee volume called 101 POEMS THAT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE: An Anthology of Emotional First AID (HarperCollins 1999). Published in the UK and edited by Daisy Goodwin, it has familiar famous poems and some you wouldn't know at all.

 This one's in the birthday section, and I'm familiar, but I never read it as a poem about aging.  It's a poem about learning, I think. Which, oh, IS a poem about age, wisdom, experience.

What Fifty Said | Robert Frost

When I was young my teachers were the old.
I gave up fire for form till I was cold.
I suffered like a metal being cast.
I went to school to age to learn the past.

Now when I am old my teachers are the young.
What can't be molded must be cracked and sprung.
I strain at lessons fit to start a suture.
I go to school to youth to learn the future.


I've lost my faith in school--not all schools, but in School as a concept. It must be cracked and sprung and I'm too tightly bound to break it.  There is, there will be suffering.

What  could possibly go with this, from my collection of poems for young readers?

In the same year as my SQUEEZE came out, Wordsong published A WRITING KIND OF DAY: Poems for Young Poets by Ralph Fletcher (2005).  I. love. this. book. 

I've just rediscovered this poem.

Writer's Block | Ralph Fletcher

We're doing grammar in school

which is bad enough but now

it's infiltrating my dreams.

I dreamed I was playing football

against a huge run-on sentence--

Coach said I had to stop him.

I threw a wicked block on that sentence

that knocked him into the next paragraph

and dislocated three compound words.

Verbs cracked! Nouns splattered!

That big sentence just splintered.

Til. Only. Fragments. Were. Left!



 Hm. Perhaps I'm less downtrodden than angry. I dream of dismantlement.


The round-up today is with dear Ruth at There is no such thing as a Godforsaken town.

I shall go in search of braided sweetgrass, of solace.


Friday, February 12, 2021

slps 3: Gerard and Joyce

In the wan winter daylight I pull off the shelf an unlovely 1970 paperback 4th edition of THE POEMS OF GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS (Oxford University Press).  I always say he's one of my favorite influences (despite a fundamental disagreement about the role of a God in all the wild wonder of the world), but how many of his poems do I know, really?

Here's one new to me:

That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection | 
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle ín long | lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest's creases; | in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, | nature's bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark
                               Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart's-clarion! Away grief's gasping, | joyless days, dejection.
                              Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; | world's wildfire, leave but ash:
                              In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
                              Is immortal diamond.


I pick this one because it does what my other favorites do:  uses a profligacy of language to celebrate the profligacy of nature.  You did read it out loud, right? Your brain can't quite keep up with the flood of images, right? And yet the tsunami is comprehensible if you loosen your logic and let your whole body sense the wide surroundings that he's attempting to pack into one spring-loaded canister of wildwonder. Gerard's wordplay is S U B L I M E, makes me want to shred the dictionary and wallow in the mudhole of slippery wordsherds waaaaah........ hoooo!  

What poet for young readers can compare?  Hmm, let's return to the shelf for a book I haven't spent enough time with....WINTER BEES by Joyce Sidman (HMH, 2014).  Here's another human for whom nature is cause for elated wallowing in language.

Chickadee's Song | Joyce Sidman

From dawn to dusk in darkling air
we glean and gulp and pluck and snare,
then find a roost that's snug and tight
to brave the long and frozen night.

We fluff and preen each downy feather,
Sing fee-bee---and laugh at the weather!
For if we're quick and bold and clever,
           winter's chill won't last forever.

The sun wheels high, the cardinal trills.
We sip the drips of icicles.
The buds are thick, the snow is slack.
Spring has broken winter's back.

Quick and bold and brave and clever,
we preen and fluff each downy feather.
Sing fee-bee--laugh at the weather--
        for winter doesn't last forever!


May you have enjoyed that as much as I did this morning, and may you find more to wallow in over at Nix the Comfort Zone, where Molly's post on her Artist's Prayer is a serendipitous echo.

Friday, February 5, 2021

let the cage fall

Today the Sunday Swaggers are writing to Catherine Flynn's challenge. Inspired by S. Kirk Walsh’s essay “How E.L. Doctorow Taught an Aspiring Writer to Hear the Sounds of Fiction," we are to copy a mentor poem (or other text) “word for word, then replace [that poet’s] language with your own.” For this experiment I return to Lucille Clifton and the poem that she says is one of the few that came to her whole. She says it has no title.

poem by Lucille Clifton

let there be new flowering
in the fields let the fields
turn mellow for the men
let the men keep tender
through the time let the time
be wrested from the war
let the war be won
let love be
at the end

"Let there be new flowering" from good woman: poems and a memoir 1969-1980 by Lucille Clifton.  (BOA Editions, Ltd, 1987)


more than one direction
                  for Duncan

let there be new burgeoning
in the boys let the boys
turn colors in their cage
let the cage fall carried
by the light let the light
be rescued from the core
let the core be cast
let love be
in the men 

draft ©Heidi Mordhorst

So that was a challenge indeed!  As the writer of the original article explains, "I copied...then replaced her language with my own — and began to understand how I could create my own musical arrangements in my imagination and on the page." I hope Lucille's music comes through here, and also a hint of how my shiny beautiful son lends new meaning to the term "martial arts." Also I reserve the right to edit this throughout the day.  It ain't done yet.

Check out the re-creations of all the Swaggers here, as we very deliberately swag the language of other writers and use them with stylish confidence.

Catherine Flynn @ Reading to the Core 
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone 
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise 
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Our Poetry Friday round-up today is at Jone Rush MacCulloch's blog, where she swags words and lines from all her lovely New Year postcards to create something new.  See you there!

Friday, January 29, 2021

stps > slps 2: lucille clifton & janet wong

Before we begin:  it was "Climate Day" at the White House on Wednesday--and about time!  In case you missed it, get summaries here and here.

It's only Week 2 of my "Self-Taught Poetry Survey" and already I want to adjust the name of what I am newly doing here at my juicy little universe.  I'm expanding my universe by grabbing a book of adult poetry off my rather dusty shelves each Friday, choosing a poem I like, and then seeking a companion poem from one of my collections for young readers.  It's not a structured survey and I'm not teaching myself as much as I am studying the work of others.  So to be more honest and less thoughtlessly supremacist,* I'm renaming this project the Self-Led Poetry Study.  It SLaPS, as my son would say.  Or maybe by the end of this post I will have been struck by a better, more poetic name.  Either way, thanks for joining me.

I had forgotten what a big deal Lucille Clifton is to me.  I knew her first as the author of the Everett Anderson books which were so important in my early work with Black and Brown children.  Then I became a Marylander and learned about her important role in the American poetry "establishment." But most of all, her style, brief and fluid and unflinching, leads me.

There's so much to discover and discover anew in BLESSING THE BOATS (BOA Editions, 2000), but I chose this one, without really noticing that its title describes what I am doing.  You know it's a good poem when you think it's about one thing but it turns out to be about a whole different thing too.

        study the masters | Lucille Clifton

like my aunt timmie.
it was her iron,
or one like hers,
that smoothed the sheets
the master poet slept on.
home or hotel, what matters is
he lay himself down on her handiwork
and dreamed.   she dreamed too,   words:
some cherokee, some masai and some
huge and particular as hope.
if you had heard her
chanting as she ironed
you would understand form and line
and discipline and order and


And then, again because I hadn't given it its due, I pulled down A SUITCASE OF SEAWEED & MORE (Pomelo Books, 2019) by our well-known-in-this-community Janet Wong.  Look how she also brings the language and the textures of working outside beneath behind within, of smoothing and crimping to meet the demands of the dominant culture.  These two short poems both deliver words "huge and particular as hope."

Joyce's Beauty Salon | Janet Wong

They call my mother
the perm lady, "Pum Ajima."
Dozens of mad Korean women
come in each month, ugly,
furious with their families,
frustrated by their stubborn,
straight, heavy, hair.
A few hours with Mother
and they leave
carrying a lighter load,
their carefree curls
bouncing out the door.

The named women, their hands, invisible yet so central to the scene, the moment which is minutes, hours, a lifetime; the women who go by names from languages not their own all around us...thank you, Lucille and Janet.

Our host today is Jan Godown Annino at Bookseedstudio, where there is singing, so much singing going on! Go hear the angel voices.


*This set of white supremacy culture definitions has popped up before me in several situations--this one shared by a fellow participant in a study group, so I don't have attribution.  But I'm having to see that I am--despite my efforts to acknowledge and honor other ways--a walking, talking, teaching, writing embodiment of this culture.  Claiming that I can, on a whim, at the drop of a hat, teach myself a general poetry survey, is putting many of the assumptions below into action.  I'm trying to do better.

Friday, January 22, 2021

self-taught poetry survey

Happy New Year all over again, am I right? I'm pretty sure none of us is able to release ourselves fully into the glorious dawning of a new America, knowing as we do that all THAT really is Who We Are--but at least maybe it won't be quite so draining every day.  Maybe we can relax a little.

But how about that Amanda Gorman, friends?! The future looks bright.

In my off-hours, I've been looking selfishly towards a time when I will not be a full-time classroom teacher and can become a full-time poet-teacher-writer.  To this end I hired a local poet to coach me in the ways of adult poetry publishing--journals, chapbooks, full-length collections--and how to start submitting in earnest  Her name is Sarah Ann Winn and we get along very well, not least because she spent 15 years as an elementary school librarian. I HAVE LEARNED SO MUCH.

One thing I have learned is that the 12 years' worth of original poetry published here for you, friends, is unfortunately not available to submit.  Most adult journals consider work posted on a blog as "previously published" and will not accept it for publication.  So I have to start keeping my InstadraftTM poems to myself until I know what they are, which represents a pretty radical change to the way I blog.

So I have an idea, which I will approach in rather a different way than the younger me, which is to say, "Let's see how this goes."  I (like you?) have shelves full of adult poetry books that have never received my full attention.  Each Friday I'll pull one down and find a poem that I like and post it here.  If I can, I'll find a poem for young readers that goes with it in some way, and add that. Welcome to my Self-Taught Poetry Survey: the STPS.

Let's see what Mark McMorris has for us in his book ENTREPOT (Coffee House Press, 2010). [Disambiguation: not the Canadian professional snowboarder.]  From the ToC I choose one that might have bearing on our current moment...and I am right.

Auditions for Utopia--for Donald | Mark McMorris

Say then that there is a room with large windows.

Sunlight filters in from the sky’s reservoir. 

One wall holds a scene of naked olive bodies

and giant ferns, bodies like ferns and ferns

with the aplomb of the forest, and I am indoors.

Not that they vanish but that the mind which drew

inward to disclose the forms of one happiness 

found what it did not gestate--on the island 

whistle and seaside refrain, blades of sunlight 

peeling automata from the senses--and chose

to be its province with its own star-apple trees. 

The mind is an emperor. Or the mind is subject 

to decree from obscure parliaments of language.

And if the latter, the leafy bodies motionless 

in the heat intimate a turn from ordinary sickness 

draft a pledge to labor to liberate the faculty 

from grammars beholden to icy winds and freezing 

waterways winding down to the naval port.

Antidote to tyranny and serfdom, beauty is a face 

alive with secrets but no designs on the soul.

The other wall of the sun-dazzled room shows 

the polis in smoky industrial affray, the emblems 

of feudal lord and banker and sea captain 

in stately parade underneath the parchment heaven. 

Stevedores load gigantic ship holds with cotton.

A locomotive circles the stockyards like a cheetah.

Somewhere else, counter-posed to labial orchids, 

the estates of sugar and coffee transact menace.

Unless the muralist desire the comity of slave 

and feudal lord, or captain and bulky stevedore 

the earlier scene must altogether disappear 

to become the prehistory of advertising perfume: 

langorous beaches kissed by a glittering sun 

where industrialists repose in the elbow of a cove.

The mind is bottomless. The mind is a membrane 

of nothing where beam of light falls toward

a gravity well, curving into the fall, a fragment 

of expanding cracks in a stable law ante bellum 

center-most oleander and the shade it gives.

Only images to keep a body quiet. Little wishes.


Phew...the density, the vocabulary, the transportation.  We have been sold a bill of goods, people, and it is time to open the box, take out all the bubble wrap and packing peanuts and see what's really inside.

As it happens this poem reminds me of one for young readers which is quite familiar. 😊

by me, from SQUEEZE: Poems from a Juicy Universe (WordSong, 2005)

I don't have time this morning to pull a Pádraig Ó Tuama on these poems, but I do wonder from what place inside that box I wrote "Throwing the Roads."

Our host this Poetry Friday is my neighbor and friend Laura Shovan, who, as I hoped, is properly shining the spotlight on that Amanda Gorman.  Let's spend more attention on the battered and less on the beautiful now, okay?