Thursday, June 22, 2006

Writing on a word

The suggestion for Poetry Thursday was to write about a word that we like, or a word we dislike. I started working around a word that my wife's Mother hated: succulent. I started wrapping a concept or set of thoughts around that one, but couldn't get it done in time to post -- it's a work in progress, another time.

Instead, I got political. It's not a good word.


Glory does not come in the red flash
of an improvised explosive device
or in dusty streets sliced by bullets
from a dispersed crowd.
There are no orchestral crescendos
in the soundtrack,
or technicolor battleflags
ready to drape shattered flesh
after the deafening noise and searing fire.

This is war;
a short word hollered in nationalist fervor
after we stopped caring enough to share
all the other words;
a word that can take a long time to finish
as the R echoes in our throats
and rumbles across the unseen battlefield.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Marriage protection disconnect

"We're not going to stop until marriage between a man and a woman is protected," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.

Last week, the U.S. Senate failed to pass a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as being a union only between a man and a woman. The vote was 49-48.

Such a charade. Most of the arguments in favor of this amendment were simply a cover for prejudice against people who have different sexual preferences. Or, based upon sentiments such as Brownback's, they represent an actual fear of gays.

I fail to see how my marriage is threatened by two men, or two women, living together in a loving relationship. What is Brownback protecting me from?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

This week's poetry assignment

It's Thursday, and we write something about our connection to poetry. I'm not publishing verse, but will share a few thoughts about my own experience with it.

I trace my re-entry into the poetry world back to Billy Collins and 9/11, of all things.

I heard an interview with Collins on that day (or the day after, memory is fuzzy). He was the Library of Congress Poet Laureate at the time, and someone asked him what poetry would be appropriate to read in the wake of the national trauma that we had just experienced. He replied that we couldn’t do much better than read some of the Psalms.

He seemed such a thoughtful, common-sense sort of person that day, very soft-spoken but heartfelt. He pointed to the Psalms, full of passages both spiritual and poetic. So I determined to read his material.

I liked it. He writes of everyday life, his lines are direct and friendly. Most important, he brings humor into his poetry – something rarely seen in the dense, sometimes obtuse poetry written by many major Western poets over the last three centuries.

He also speaks about the role of poetry. It shouldn’t be so difficult. We work too hard at analyzing it. Poems are wonderful forms of communication, a way to tell a story or reflect on images and ideas; but they don’t have to be over-wrought. My favorite is one of his shortest poems, Introduction to Poetry:

I try to take his lesson to heart in my own material; I don’t always succeed. But we all keep writing.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Voices on PoetryThursday

This is the first week that I join with a few others who publish or write something relating to poetry every Thursday (Poetry Thursday). And just like a first-time student, I didn't get the assignment exactly right...The theme this week was to walk around for a day and listen to people talking -- and build a theme around the snippets of conversation that you hear.

I started writing a poem about neighborhood voices when I was a kid. The poem had a mind of its own and took off in a different direction. It still speaks of voices, but from a different viewpoint: hearing the voices of those around you before they become faint voices of the past.

Neighborhood Voices

I grew up next to a cemetery --
played baseball in an empty field
with headstones a distant home run to right;
rode sleds down a snow-covered hill
yet to be occupied by the dead

We were a neighborhood full of kids --
we feared the voices that might come
from the shadows of stones in moonlight,
but were daring enough to shelter ourselves
in sleeping bags near pitcher’s mound

We could read history in those acres --
a timeline running uphill in reverse order
spanning nearly ten generations of lives;
the voices began their story with hard facts
marking a calendar with birth and death

Some of the older pages had more to say --
verse scrolled along the bottom or
a carved picture framing the top,
epitaphs to give color to their lives
before the drab cold stone crumbled and forgot

My father’s grave stands in full view
of the house where my mother no longer lives,
but his voice has little to do with that place,
and so much more to do with who I am
even as the distance of place and time grows deeper.

I search the voices of those who surround me
listening to the essence and beauty of their story;
I do not want to wait until dates and numbers
are etched upon a stone planted in distant hills,
waiting for the feet of a wary child chasing a ball.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Poetry Thursday

Since November 2004, I have posted a poem on the last day of every month. It seemed like a good habit.

Turns out, others are doing it better. I did some searching last week ( debuted a new search service that scans blogs), and found a community of bloggers who focus on some aspect of poetry every Thursday. Called "Poetry Thursday", it is spearheaded by a couple of poetry lovers who have a blog by that name (I added it to my index list).

It's a great community...I'm not sure I can keep that kind of timetable! But it is another great example of the links that can be generated through the internet.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Poetry community

The online poetry community is huge.

And no, I take no credit for it just because I have posted a poem on the last day of every month. But a recent column in the Philadelphia Inquirer points out the volume of poetry being written and posted on the internet. As with so many other facets of society, the internet is the new town square and everyone can gather. The technology can eliminate the phony walls put up by income, education, ethnicity....

A million flowers bloom. So many colors, scents, and sounds.