.temples, bells.

 

there are temples. these, our temples,
bells rung, until gods shiver from the walls
blending in with the cadence
men, women of different tongues
make for different ingredients
making for a different simmer
to their cook
rendering off the empty hymns

During my blogging hiatus after NaPoWriMO, I’ve had time to think about a few things;  some of which are what the meaning of our lives truly are, how that meaning plays out in the lives of others, and how we, ourselves, interpret that meaning. These bodies we have are not our own. They are on loan and much like anything lent, we are to take care
click image to visit site
of them, use them to their fullest potential, yet not break them and not break others’, in the process. We aren’t always successful at this and for myself, I have been far from the  exception and probably a prime example of such failure. We are to discover what is written on these bodies. We can remain mysteries to each other, that is certainly a choice, but we all can relate in a much deeper way than we allow.

This world tells us what to worship, what to aspire to, what to attain, where to go, but it’s all rooted in self, in what one can get out of it with no regard for others. These bodies are temples, a meeting place for all things wise, temperate, giving. That bell (heart) within us, it must be in tune with those things and ring loudly, shaking off any of the ‘gods’ that we are tend to bow to.
We’re all very different yet so very much alike. What we want and need, intrinsically, is all the same, how we attain it, from what source, and when we attain it, are the places where variances lie. It all tastes different, smells not alike, yet renders down the same. What we are left with in the end, once we’ve cooked off  all of the impurities, once what we thought was the right flavor shows itself to be but a layer in the taste profile, is the end goal.

.deux. {NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 30}

.bury the illusion.
text in sub verse and
complete is oxidation
covertly offered diatribes
deep-space precipices
overlooking once angels lyrical
on spent time gained
illusion in professed confession
manufacture deeds masked in divinity
intoxicating dervish spins
until here and now diminish
songs of nowhere from
geometries sacred to lineage intact spiritually
to light of life given
deny not
do
♦♦
do not deny given life
of light to spiritually intact
lineage to sacred geometries
from nowhere of songs
diminish now and here until
spins dervish intoxicating divinity
in masked deeds manufacture confession
professed in illusion
gained time spent
on lyrical angels once overlooking
precipices
space-deep diatribes
offered covertly
oxidation is complete
and verse sub in text
©jcs

It’s the 30th and final day of NaPoWrimo. How do you all feel? I don’t know about you guys but I’m staying away from all things literary for a week or so, at the very least!  It’s been a great experience and a difficult one, at times. I’ve stretched myself a good bit this month and have learned much about improvements and changes I need to make in my writing and in my life. I’m nowhere near where I can and should be and have a ways to go, which brings me to the point of my poem.
As  I wrote this piece I started to ask myself what the true substance of it was. What was it really saying? Within all of the embellishment was maybe one or two points but they were lost within the whole of the piece.

” I give in scattered portions, never a whole…” click image to visit site
It caused for some reflection upon my life and how i separate myself from my writing quite severely. I may be critical of my work but don’t usually apply that same criticism to myself. I realized a need to be the opposite If  I do give of myself, I give in scattered portions, never a whole. Never.

The words are a bit distant and I don’t let the reader in to who I am, which in turn could be who the reader is. The cryptic and internal  nature of what and how I write is a way of not allowing access to me. What we search for in reading poetry or a book, or listening to music is to find a piece of ourselves in that work. To know that we aren’t alone in who we are and what we feel. My feeling is that I’ve been detached from all of that from the very beginning. My writing has revealed itself to be selfish. I guess that’s an indicator of who I am if I dig deep…or if I simply pull away the thin top layer.

“I don’t let the reader in to who I am…” click image to visit site
I find that I have been writing from a place that doesn’t help the reader. I make no room for consolation. I offer no help for your ills, offer no advise. My poems have been speaking to speak and that’s all. It’s time to evolve.

 

 

 

ghosts like me elude whispers, sometimes/
sometimes, whispers elude ghosts like me
©jcs

 

 


 

Robert Laurence Binyon had a long and successful career in English arts and letters, managing to produce almost a book a year in the span between 1894 and 1944. His father, Frederick Binyon, was a clergyman, and his mother, Mary, was the daughter of Robert Laurence BinyonBenson Dockray, resident engineer of the London and Birmingham Railroad. Binyon showed an early interest in art and poetry. After attending St. Paul’s School, he attended Trinity College at Oxford, where his poem “Persephone” was awarded the Newdigate Prize. In 1890 he took a first-class degree in classical moderations, and in 1892, a second-class degree in litterae humainoires. In 1890 he also published four poems in a volume called Primavera: Poems by Four Authors, which included the work of three other young Oxford undergraduates, one of whom was his cousin, Stephen Phillips, who would also achieve a measure of fame as a poet.
 

He published his first book of poetry in 1894 calledLyric Poems, and he followed this publication quickly with two books on painting,Dutch Etchers of the Seventeenth Century in 1895 and John Crone and John Sell Cotman in 1897. These two interests would govern his career, as he alternated between poetry and essays on the visual arts. He was also interested in Oriental art and culture: books such as Painting in the Far East (1908) and the book of poems The Flight of the Dragon (1911) reflect this interest. Ezra Pound was highly complimentary of the later work, and thought of Binyon as a pioneer in the Western appreciation of Chinese and Japanese art.

Binyon married Cicely Margaret Powell in 1904, and they had three daughters together. When World War I broke out, he became an orderly in the Red Cross, and managed to visit the front in 1916. He turned this experience into numerous books of verse that took the war as a subject. The Winnowing Fan, The Anvil, The Cause, andThe New World, published from 1914 to 1918, all dealt with the war as a noble cause, though his work became progressively less sentimental.

During his career, Binyon became interested in experimental versification. He had been influenced by John Masefield, who argued that verse should be spoken aloud, and, at Oxford, Robert Bridges had shared with him the complex rhythms of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s sprung verse, whose poetry could not yet be found in print. His experiments were not as radical, however. Mainly, he was skillful at manipulating verse within narrowly defined limits. Read more here.


Ypres

BY LAURENCE BINYON

She was a city of patience; of proud name,
Dimmed by neglecting Time; of beauty and loss;
Of acquiescence in the creeping moss.
But on a sudden fierce destruction came
Tigerishly pouncing: thunderbolt and flame
Showered on her streets, to shatter them and toss
Her ancient towers to ashes. Riven across,
She rose, dead, into never-dying fame.
White against heavens of storm, a ghost, she is known
To the world’s ends. The myriads of the brave
Sleep round her. Desolately glorified,
She, moon-like, draws her own far-moving tide
Of sorrow and memory; toward her, each alone,
Glide the dark dreams that seek an English grave.

Source: The New World (1918)

 

 

.the poets of…Yelp?. {NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 29}

 yelpers are poets
who would have even known it
yes now i’m hungry

©jcs


Day 29 brings us two new prompts from NaPoWriMo and Writer’s Digest and they couldn’t have been any more perfect for each other! They are to write a review of someone or something in poem form and the other is to write a what nobody knows poem. One thing most people don’t know about me is that I’m a compulsive researcher  (I wish I realized this earlier on in life because I surely missed my calling) and I came across the wonderful world of the poetry of Yelp in trying to get some information compiled for today’s entry.

Yes, you read that right, Yelp. Apparently, it’s a treasure trove of poetry and prose brought on by the great and not so great dining experiences and all around patronage of establishments. There are haiku written about lunch, full on comic strips constructed of symbols and font, odes to McDonald’s. You name it and you just might find it.

Camilla Vasquez, a linguistics professor who studies consumer reviews, says, “For people whose jobs don’t give them a platform for self-expression, Yelp is often treated as a creative outlet,”and “Yelp reviewers often feel a sense of ownership over their work. They enjoy the feeling that they are an author, that their voice matters and that they are being clever in their style.”

These reviewers are regular people with regular jobs and lives that find a way of expressing themselves in interesting, funny, and cool ways. Yelp has that ask of those that are writing reviews on the site and on the app. A prime example of the creativity of these folks is David Garcia, who is  Yelper with a loyal following that prefers the quality of his reviews to the quantity of his more prolific fellow Yelpers. An example of what I mean is that he develops plots and builds characters and takes his time with them. One review is of a shop local to him that he reviewed: “Garcia writes a story about two people who stare into the moon and speak out an ancient incantation to summon a powerful but nefarious cheese-loving villain. By tempting the villain with scrumptious cheese from Cheese Plus, the two heroes are able to kill the evil cheese-lover and end the day with a well-deserved cheese sandwich.”
-Elizabeth Segran Fast Company

Farzan K. used punctuation marks to create a cartoon strip about an unfortunate experience at McDonald’s:

click image to view in site

 

Haiku F. writes all his reviews in verse, such as this one for the Brooklyn restaurant Olea:

Read more here.

Somewhat of a side note, but not really:

My wife suggested we try a new ice cream (to us) from Steve’s Ice Cream. This particular one is made with organic coconut cream and is dairy free. It is delicious! I figured I’d get my feet wet with a poetic review in haiku form:

Displaying IMG_7747.JPG

there in brooklyn
the fine art of mixing cream
on a new level

 I’ve decided to sign up for Yelp and see what may be going in my area in the way of poetic reviews and possibly contribute some art to my local Yelp reviews. If you haven’t already, I suggest you get signed up and give it a try. If nothing else, it’ll be a great creative outlet for you. 


Aracelis Girmay

Born and raised in Santa Ana, California, poet Aracelis Girmay earned a BA at Connecticut College and an MFA from New York University. Her poems trace the connections of transformation and loss across cities and bodies.

In her 2011 online chat interview with the Rumpus Poetry Book Club, Girmay discussed innovative and hybrid poetric forms, stating, “I wonder what new explorations of form might have to do with documenting the new and old ways of thinking about power. Of how we’ve been taught to think by our families, institutions, television, computer culture, etc. [….] Perhaps the so-called hybrid poems are about dislocating or splintering the central lens.”

Her poetry collections include Teeth (2007) and Kingdom Animalia (2011). She is also the author of the collage-based picture book changing, changing (2005).

In 2011 Girmay was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. A Cave Canem Fellow and an Acentos board member, she led youth and community writing workshops. She currently teaches at Hampshire College. She lives in New York City.

Read more here.

 


Elegy

BY ARACELIS GIRMAY

What to do with this knowledge
that our living is not guaranteed?

Perhaps one day you touch the young branch
of something beautiful. & it grows & grows
despite your birthdays & the death certificate,
& it one day shades the heads of something beautiful
or makes itself useful to the nest. Walk out
of your house, then, believing in this.
Nothing else matters.
All above us is the touching
of strangers & parrots,
some of them human,
some of them not human.
Listen to me. I am telling you
a true thing. This is the only kingdom.
The kingdom of touching;
the touches of the disappearing, things.

Aracelis Girmay, “Elegy” from Kingdom Animalia. Copyright © 2011 by Aracelis Girmay.  Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.  http://www.boaeditions.org

.all matter. {NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 28}

click photo to visit site
the fact of our flesh
riddled with sighs
is that by semaphore
our wounds run a parallel
across matter
an overpass that spans
the scuttle of  piranhas
©jcs

We’re on day 28 of NaPoWriMo and it’s feeling pretty good to be so close to the end and to have accomplished so much! Thirty poems in thirty days is pretty good, not to mention combining the prompts for both NaPoWrimo and Writer’s Digest on a daily basis. That brings me to the prompts, themselves, which are to write a poem about bridges and to write a matter and/or anti-matter poem.
A bridge can be different things to different people. For some, they would take the prompt literally and write about a bridge, it’s contruction, it’s history, a memory had on one, etc. Others may take a more abstract or metaphorical approach and speak of bridges to one’s heart or bridges in communication, both crossed and burned.
For matter one can think of it in the way of what a substance is constructed of, or something that occupies space. Or one can take as something of importance, of significance.
For my poem I combined the prompts to come up with a statement about the fact that we are more connected or able to connect much more than we realize. Our pains and our joys, alike can act as beacons for one another to find either a soul in the same predicament or one that has weathered the storm you are in or walked whatever long path you are on and made it out of alive.

Born in Massachusetts, Tracy K. Smith earned her BA from Harvard University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. From 1997 to 1999 she held a Stegner fellowship at Stanford University. Smith is the author of three books of poetry: The Body’s Question(2003), which won the Cave Canem prize for the best first book by an African-American poet; Duende (2007), winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Essense Literary Award; and Life on Mars (2011), which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In 2014 she was awarded the Academy of American Poets fellowship.

In his review of Life on Mars, Troy Jollimore selects Smith’s poem “My god, it’s full of stars” as particularly strong, “making use of images from science and science fiction to articulate human desire and grief, as the speaker allows herself to imagine the universe:”[3]

… sealed tight, so nothing escapes. Not even time,
Which should curl in on itself and loop around like smoke.
So that I might be sitting now beside my father
As he raises a lit match to the bowl of his pipe
For the first time in the winter of 1959.

Dan Chiasson writes of another aspect of the collection, “The issues of power and paternalism suggest the deep ways in which this is a book about race. Smith’s deadpan title is itself racially freighted: we can’t think about one set of fifties images, of Martians and sci-fi comics, without conjuring another, of black kids in the segregated South. Those two image files are situated uncannily close to each other in the cultural cortex, but it took this book to connect them.”

Smith teaches creative writing at Princeton University and lives in Brooklyn.

Read more here and here.


Duende

BY TRACY K. SMITH

1.
The earth is dry and they live wanting.
Each with a small reservoir
Of furious music heavy in the throat.
They drag it out and with nails in their feet
Coax the night into being. Brief believing.
A skirt shimmering with sequins and lies.
And in this night that is not night,                                                                      
Each word is a wish, each phrase
A shape their bodies ache to fill—
            I’m going to braid my hair
       Braid many colors into my hair
            I’ll put a long braid in my hair
       And write your name there
 
They defy gravity to feel tugged back.
The clatter, the mad slap of landing.
                                    2.
And not just them. Not just
The ramshackle family, the tíos,
Primitos, not just the bailaor
Whose heels have notched
And hammered time
So the hours flow in place
Like a tin river, marking
Only what once was.
Not just the voices of scraping
Against the river, nor the hands
Nudging them farther, fingers
Like blind birds, palms empty,
Echoing. Not just the women
With sober faces and flowers
In their hair, the ones who dance
As though they’re burying
Memory—one last time—
Beneath them.
                        And I hate to do it here.
To set myself heavily beside them.
Not now that they’ve proven
The body a myth, a parable
For what not even language
Moves quickly enough to name.
If I call it pain, and try to touch it
With my hands, my own life,
It lies still and the music thins,
A pulse felt for through garments.
If I lean into the desire it starts from—
If I lean unbuttoned into the blow
Of loss after loss, love tossed
Into the ecstatic void—
It carries me with it farther,
To chords that stretch and bend
Like light through colored glass.
But it races on, toward shadows
Where the world I know
And the world I fear
Threaten to meet.
                                    3.
There is always a road,
The sea, dark hair, dolor.
 
Always a question
Bigger than itself—
            They say you’re leaving Monday
            Why can’t you leave on Tuesday?

Tracy K. Smith, “Duende” from Duende. Copyright © 2007 by Tracy K. Smith. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press. http://www.graywolfpress.org

Source: Duende (Graywolf Press, 2007)

.looking back. {NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 27}

days
are spent
in this reverberation
what
once was
is held tight
temples
bandeaud cinching
down the past
pushing
past parenthesis
remembering is simple
©jcs

Day 27 of NaPoWriMo is upon us. We are in the final week and it feels great that we’ll be gliding past that finish line in no time! FyFVO1.jpg (658×437)
I could have possibly done better writing but at least I’m having fun, right?
I’ve come across a ton of great writing and have gained a few new habits (good, of course) that can only help my writing and my desire to seek out other writers. Today’s prompts are to write what is called a hay(na)ku, in which your poem follows a syllabic format of 1,2, then 3 to form a tercet. You can also chain them together in order to make a longer piece or even reverse the order to 3, 2, then 1 syllables. It’s a relatively simple form that you can have a good amount of fun with if you feel adventerous. The other prompt is to write a poem about looking back, or not. The prompts are from NaPoWriMo and Writer’s Digest, respectively.
I hope you all have had a great Monday and maybe enjoyed some sun and read and wrote your hearts out!

The son of an African-American father and a Mexican mother, poet and playwright John Murillo grew up in Los Angeles. He was educated at Howard University and New York University, where he earned an MFA. Murillo makes use of both formal and free verse as he

IMG_7713
John Murillo (click image to visit site)

engages themes of family history and personal identity. In a Q&A with the Poetry Society of America, Murillo states, “I write, first of all, in the tradition of the witness.”

Murillo’s debut poetry collection, Up Jump the Boogie (2010) was a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the PEN Open Book Award, and was also named one of Huffington Post’s “Ten Recent Books of Poetry You Should Read Right Now.” Murillo’s poetry has also been included in Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of African American Poetry (2013, edited by Charles Henry Rowell). His choreo-playTrigger premiered with the Edgeworks Dance Theater in 2011.

Murillo’s additional honors include two Larry Neal Writers Awards, a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the Fine Arts Work Center, the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing, and the New York Times. Murillo lives in Brooklyn. -Read more here.


 

Trouble Man

IMG_7714 (1)
John Murillo (click image to visit site)

It’s the bone of a question
    Caught in your throat,
The first sighs of the next
    Day’s traffic, shoulders
Made fists under the skin.
    And say it’s raining 
This morning. Maybe a car 
    Lingers at the stop sign
Outside your window.
    And maybe you know
This song. How long since
    A man you called father
Troubled the hi-fi, smoldering
    Newport in hand, and ran
This record under a needle.
    How long since a man’s
Broken falsetto colored
    Every hour indigo. Graying
Beard, callused hands, finger-
    Nails thick as nickels. You
Were the boy who became
    That man without meaning
To and know now, a man’s
    Life is never measured
In beats, but beat-downs,
    Not line breaks, just breaks.
You hear Marvin fading
    Into a new day, and it caresses
You like a brick: Marvin, and men
    Like him, have already
Moaned every book
    You will never write.
This you know, baby. This
    You know.

.ode to a writer from paper. {NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 26}

Old Notepaper Texture

.ode to a writer from paper.

my dear, after this long, how do ever being again?
you’ve refused to remember me. had you not taken notice
of the knot about your finger? your forget-me-not?
now, half of the poem is with me, the other half, somewhere else.
is it even in you, dearest? the other half?

i understand that at times, the poem evades, i do.
is the night thieving you of your dreams, child?
the ones that brought your pen to me? oh, just let them
unravel, won’t you?

am i so naïve in the matter? do i wear
it as an ill-fitting blouse? well, i’ll chalk it up to faux pas.

please, usher that poem out of you,
no need at all for an envelope, no need
for an address. it’s hand to hand with me, love.
it always has been. i’m sure if we try, it will
land in your lap from your mind tomorrow.

maybe tonight.

i’ll show for you, i promise.
i’ll reinforce your breathing.
i’ll be your proof, so you don’t forget.

now, would you scratch my back for me, darling?
right there, between the margins.

yes, thank you.


Oil painting.
tap image to visit site

Haven’t we all, at some point, wanted to be someone, something, or someplace else? To go on an adventure of some sort or slink away into a fold in time far from the one you are currently in? Persona poems can do that that for you. They are freeing in that you can go about the path of your choice in poem that may otherwise not be practical or may carry heavy consequences.

Wanting to have a persona doesn’t have to be this deep, thankfully. It can be a casual thing, of course. Either way, its a departure from yourself and at times, it’s much needed as life can be overwhelming. I am so thankful that I have a creative outlet for those times. I hope you all have one, as well. Maybe it isn’t so much in the creative vein  but more so in the way of gardening, for instance.

Since this is a writing blog, I’ll focus on persona poems:

tap image to see site

It seems paradoxical, but writing as someone else—exploring what you don’t know—can prove an excellent method of coming to know yourself as a writer. Using a persona allows a student to temporarily shake loose her devotion to portraying her “true” self and be someone else for a while.

Persona presents a puzzle. It is predicated on artifice, yet persona is also a very intimate form of poetry. In a persona poem, a writer often speaks directly to readers and, in doing so, forges an almost interpersonal relationship with them. It whispers in their ears or grabs them by the shoulders. Read, for example, James Tate’s The Motorcyclists,” a persona poem written from a female perspective. Though the chatty female speaker initially seems frivolous, beginning the poem with “My cuticles are a mess” and ending with “Honey, can we stop soon? / I really hate to say it but I need a lady’s room,” her apparent superficiality is intercut with surprisingly dark observations:

Do you know that I have never understood what they meant
by “grassy knoll.” It sounds so idyllic, a place to go
to dream your life away, not kill somebody. They
should have called it something like “the grudging notch.”

Moments like these encourage us to rethink our initial assumptions, and upon rereading, we notice other instances in which the speaker points out the potential for first impressions to be false. The new negligee she wears isn’t unique but “a replica / of one Kim Novak wore in some movie or other,” the sweet words of a flirting chiropractor disguise a latent creepiness, and the fixtures in the White House look Displaying IMG_7711.JPGgold but might be a cheaper brass approximation. Just as the pastoral connotations of the “grassy knoll” belie the national tragedy it references, nothing is quite what it seems. But then, we realize, neither is the speaker. The persona poem can accommodate all sorts of speakers and dramatic situations—what matters is that we treat our subjects as worthy of our regard. If Tate had written this poem with the sole purpose of mocking the speaker, we’d have thought a lot less of the poem and possibly less of Tate. –cited

 


 

 The Venus Hottentot

1. Cuvier

Science, science, science!
Everything is beautiful

blown up beneath my glass.
Colors dazzle insect wings.

A drop of water swirls
like marble. Ordinary

crumbs become stalactites
set in perfect angles

of geometry I’d though
impossible. Few will

ever see what I see
through this microscope.

Cranial measurements
crowd my notebook pages,

and I am moving closer,
close to how these numbers

signify aspects of
national character.

Her genitalia
will float inside a labeled

picking jar in the Musee
de l’Homme on a shelf

above Broca’s brain:
“The Venus Hottentot.”

Elegant facts await me.
Small things in this world are mine.

2.
There is unexpected sun today
in London, and the clouds that
most days sift into this cage
where I am working have dispersed.
I am a black cutout against
a captive blue sky, pivoting
nude so the paying audience
can view my naked buttocks.

I am called “Venus Hottentot.”
I left Capetown with a promise
of revenue: half the profits
and my passage home: A boon!
Master’s brother proposed the trip;
the magistrate granted me leave.
I would return to my family
a duchess, with watered-silk

dresses and money to grow food,
rouge and powders in glass pots,
silver scissors, a lorgnette,
voile and tulle instead of flax,
cerulean blue instead
of indigo. My brother would
devour sugar studded non-
pareils, pale taffy, damask plums.

That was years ago. London’s
circuses are florid and filthy,
swarming with cabbage-smelling
citizens who stare and query,
“Is it muscle? bone? or fat?”
My neighbor to the left is
The Sapient Pig, “The Only
Scholar of His Race.” He plays

at cards, tells time and fortunes
by scraping his hooves. Behind
me is prince Kar-mi, who arches
like a rubber tree and stares back
at the crowd from under the crook
of his knee. A professional
animal trainer shouts my cues.
There are singing mice here.

“The Ball of Duchess DuBarry”:
In the engraving I lurch
toward the belles dames, mad-eyed, and
they swoon. Men in capes and pince-nez
shield them. Tassels dance at my hips.
In this newspaper lithograph
my buttocks are shown swollen
and luminous as a planet.

Monsieur Cuvier investigates
between my legs, poking, prodding,
sure of his hypothesis.
I half expect him to pull silk
scarves from inside me, paper poppies,
then a rabbit! He complains
at my scent and does not think
I comprehend, but I speak

English. I speak Dutch. I speak
a little French as well, and
languages Monsieur Cuvier
will never know have names.
Now I am bitter and now
I am sick. I eat brown bread,
drink rancid broth. I miss good sun,
miss Mother’s sadza. My stomach

is frequently queasy from mutton
chops, pale potatoes, blood sausage.
I was certain that this would be
better than farm life. I am
the family entrepreneur!
But there are hours in every day
to conjure my imaginary
daughters, in banana skirts

and ostrich-feather fans.
Since my own genitals are public
I have made other parts private.
In my silence I possess
mouth, larynx, brain, in a single
gesture. I rub my hair
with lanolin, and pose in profile
like a painted Nubian

archer, imagining gold leaf
woven through my hair, and diamonds.
Observe the wordless Odalisque.
I have no forgotten my Xhosa
clicks. My flexible tongue
and healthy mouth bewilder
this man with his rotting teeth.
If he were to let me rise up

from his table, I’d spirit
his knives and cut our his black heart,
seal it with science fluid inside
a bell jar, place it on a low
shelf in a white man’s museum
so the whole world could see
it was shriveled and hard,
geometric, deformed, unnatural.

From THE VENUS HOTTENTOT (University Press of Virginia, 1990)


Alexander was born in Harlem, New York City and grew up in Washington, D.C. She is the daughter of former United States Secretary of the Army and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chairman Clifford Alexander, Jr. and Adele (Logan) Alexander, a teacher of African-American women’s history at George Washington University and writer. Her brother Mark C. Alexander was a senior adviser to the Barack Obama presidential campaign and a member of the president-elect’s transition team. After she was born, the family moved to Washington, D.C. She was just a toddler when her parents brought her in March 1963 to the March on Washington, site of Martin Luther King Jr.‘s famous I Have A Dream speech. Alexander recalled that “Politics was in the drinking water at my house”. She also took ballet as a child.

Alexander’s poems, short stories and critical writings have been widely published in such journals and periodicals such as: The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, The Village Voice, The Women’s Review of Books, and The Washington Post. Her play, Diva Studies, which was performed at the Yale School of Drama, garnered her a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship as well as an Illinois Arts Council award.

Her 2005 volume of poetry, “American Sublime” was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize of that year. Alexander is also a scholar of African-American literature and culture and recently published a collection of essays entitled The Black Interior. Alexander received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry in 2010.

.the summings of cummings. {NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 25}

cummings2.jpg (23020 bytes)
e.e. cummings
might have used words like summings
 some say they don’t make sense
to them, a flip of the bird, his recompense
©jcs

NaPoWriMO is almost over and although this has been a great lesson in committing to writing every day I can’t say that I’ll miss it one bit. Today’s prompt from NaPoWriMo  is to write a Clerihew poem. This is a much needed respite from all the brooding that’s been going on this month. Writers can have a great sense of humor, smile sometimes, and even laugh. Imagine that!

 Here are the rules for a Clerihew:
  • It is biographical and usually whimsical, showing the subject from an unusual point of view; it mostly pokes fun at famous people
  • It has four lines of irregular length and metre (for comic effect)
  • The rhyme structure is AABB; the subject matter and wording are often humorously contrived in order to achieve a rhyme, including the use of phrases in Latin, French and other non-English languages[2]
  • The first line contains, and may consist solely of, the subject’s name. According to a letter in the Spectator in the 1960s, Bentley said that a true clerihew has to have the name “at the end of the first line”, as the whole point was the skill in rhyming awkward names.[3]

Clerihews are not satirical or abusive, but they target famous individuals and reposition them in an absurd, anachronistic or commonplace setting, often giving them an over-simplified and slightly garbled description (not unlike the schoolboy style of 1066 and All That).

The unbalanced and unpolished poetic meter and line length parody the limerick, and the clerihew in form also parodies the eulogy. –cited


Cummings, E. E., (14 Oct. 1894- 3 Sept. 1962), poet and painter, was born Edward Estlin Cummings in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Edward Cummings, a Unitarian minister of the South Congregational Church in Boston, and Rebecca Haswell Clarke. Cummings’s mother encouraged him from an early age to write verse and to keep a journal. He was educated at the Cambridge Latin School and at Harvard College, where in 1915 he received hiscummings2.jpg (23020 bytes) A.B., graduating magna cum laude in Greek and English; he received his A.M. from Harvard in 1916. In his last year of college, he became intensely interested in the new movements in the arts through his association with John Dos Passos, S. Foster Damon, and Scofield Thayer and began to experiment with free verse and to develop as a self-taught cubist painter. The first book appearance of his poems was in Eight Harvard Poets (1917).

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Cummings volunteered for the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps, serving in France for five months before he and his friend William Slater Brown were arrested on suspicion of espionage because Brown’s letters had expressed pacifist views. Cummings’s experiences in the Depôt de Triage, a concentration camp at La Ferté-Macé, became the subject of his first autobiographical work, The Enormous Room (1922). Released from prison after four months, he was sent back to the United States, where he was drafted into the army. He served in the 73d Infantry Division at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, until November 1918.

After the war Cummings moved to New York, entering his cubist paintings in yearly exhibitions and attaining celebrity for the unusual poems he published in the Dial and other avant-garde magazines in the 1920s. In college he had followed the Imagist principles for poetry laid down by Ezra Pound: to use the rhythms of common speech rather than metrical regularity, to strive for compression and precision in language, to avoid worn-out poetic diction, and to make poetic statement by means of images. But by 1918 Cummings had created his own poetic style. Because he was a painter as well as a poet, he had developed a unique form of literary cubism: he broke up his material on the page to present it in a new, visually directed way. Some of his poems had to be seen in their printed arrangement before they could be completely understood. “The day of the spoken lyric is past,” he proclaimed. “The poem which has at last taken its place does not sing itself; it builds itself, three dimensionally, gradually, subtly, in the consciousness of the experiencer.”

In addition, Cummings expressed ideas through new grammatical usage: he employed verbs as nouns, and other locutions as new linguistic creations (for example, “wherelings, whenlings / daughters of ifbut offspring of hopefear / sons of unless and children of almost / never shall guess”). He indulged in free play with punctuation and capitalization. Lowercase letters were the rule; capitals were used only for special emphasis; punctuation marks were omitted for ambiguous statement; others were introduced for jarring effects. His use of the lowercase letter “i” not only became a well-known means of self-reference in his work, but also reflected a role that he created for himself: he was the underling, the unnoticed dreamer, the downtrodden one, the child in the man; yet by asserting his individuality in this way, he thrust himself forward and established a memorable persona.


somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond

E. E. Cummings, 18941962

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands