This has been a busy poetry week for me! My interview with J. Patrick Lewis was posted at the Poetry at Play blog, I’ve been in touch with two different editors about two different projects, I’m trying to finish up a couple of poems I started awhile back, and now – more news to report from the good folks at YARN!
Back in October, I told you about the online literary journal, Young Adult Review Network (YARN). They had published my poem, “Apple Stealing,” as one of three poems they were using to promote their “Fall Treats” poetry contest. Well, this time around, they’ve published FOUR of my poems! (I actually have my own page – I feel so special!)
These aren’t children’s poems, but I was never sure they really fit the ‘adult poetry’ niche, either…so I’m glad they found a home with young adults. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them.
And as if having four poems published simultaneously in an online journal such as YARN wasn’t enough, I was just notified by one of their editors that they are nominating “Apple Stealing” for a Pushcart Prize , which you can learn more about HERE. This honour reflects upon the journal that publishes the prize-winning poem as much as it does the person who wrote it – so I wish YARN the best!
Like I said, what a week – whew! But that’s still not all; for more great Poetry Friday offerings, please visit Amy at The Poem Farm.
Poet and author J. Patrick Lewis was 56 years old when, in 1998, he retired early from his position as professor of economics at Otterbein College in Ohio to become a full-time writer. During his career, he has written over 80 books and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2011 Poetry Award from the National Council of Teachers of English. That same year, Pat was named 2011-13 U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., and I’m still trying to work off my turkey coma. You’d think the energy from the sugar in the tarte tatin I made would counteract the effects of the L-tryptophan in the turkey, but you’d be mistaken. Instead of it being a zero-sum situation where the chemical effects simply negate themselves, each of the effects tries to out-do the other. Sort of like a game of walleyball with your brain as the ball.
Nevertheless, I had a blog post to put together, and no amount of soaring and crashing was going to deter me from my mission. I wanted to post something seasonal for today…so I decided upon this: a poem I thought perfect for this time of year.
It is the first of 22 poems I’m including in the manuscript for my winter-themed collection; once you read it, you’ll understand why I thought it best to start the book with this particular one! Enjoy…and please be sure to check out all the Poetry Friday happenings with Mary Lee & Franki at A Year of Reading!
The wind blew off their clothes, oh my!
One minute they were fully dressed,
And then before we knew it
They had lost their tops and Sunday best.
The wind blew off their clothes, good grief!
It seemed to happen in a flash.
Now, there they stand quite naked –
Poor old elm and maple, oak and ash.
The wind blew off their clothes, it’s true;
It took away their pants and shirts.
But soon they will be looking fine
In snowy hats and snowy skirts.
I just like the way that sounds. “Poetry in Windows.”It conjures up all sorts of images, from actual poems in actual windows, to more abstract definitions of “poetry” and perhaps some transcendental interpretations of ‘windows.’
In this case, however, we’re talking about the former. Specifically, The New Hampshire Writers Project’s annual Poetry in Windows event.
First, a little background: The New Hampshire Writers’ Project will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year. The 650 member-strong organization hosts several writing workshops throughout the year, two literary festivals, and Writers’ Day, a day of workshops, literary flash competitions, and book sales involving 250 writers from across New England. Their keynoter on April 6, 2013 will be author Andre Dubus III. Last year, NHWP hosted 13 state poets laureate for a festival. In addition to a formal program, they had readings across the state with New Hampshire poets. NHWP offers the workshops, publishing advice, a quarterly New Hampshire Writer magazine, and several free events across the state, like Writers’ Night Out, a free social held the first Monday of the month. (Membership is open to writers of all genres as well as readers and patrons who want to support the local writing community…so please click HERE and find out more!) .
Now then, getting back to “Poetry in Windows”…
This is one of the many events NHWP hosts each year. Writers and non-writers alike were asked to submit poems that somehow reflected the Granite State, and the best were selected to be displayed in the windows of downtown merchants of several NH communities, including the state capital, Concord. .
I was honoured to have one of my poems chosen! .
I didn’t write this poem with NH necessarily in mind; however, I did write it based on my life here, growing up in a rural town (my folks’ house is still on a dirt road!), being close to nature, and raising my kids in the country as well. Hmmm…sounds like I wote it with NH in mind, after all! I based it one something I used to tell my daughters when we’d see stone walls meandering across our property or even through the woods: that we’ll never really know why they were put there.
Other poets selected for the downtown Concord event included my good friend Sylvia Beaupre, Brandon Amico, Dianalee Velie, Midge Goldberg, Nancy Stewart, Barbara Hobbie, Linda Dyer, Marjorie Matthews, Jacqueline Garnett, Janet Barry, Becky Sakellariou, and Jennifer Militello.
So if you happen to be in Concord, stop by Centrix Bank at 11 South Main St. and you’ll see this on display, along with all these other fine folks’ works throughout downtown. I hope you enjoy it! And for the complete roundup of all the Poetry Friday happenings, head over to Booktalking!
Wall in the Woods
There’s a wall in the woods, hidden under the trees,
Made of mossy old stones piled high;
Where the soft fiddleheads grow and slowly unfurl,
And a thin little brook bubbles by.
There’s a wall in the woods neither level nor straight,
Sinking into the dirt and the clay.
It is strong but unsteady; deep cracks show its age,
For its builders have long passed away.
There’s a wall in the woods. Years ago, in its youth,
This was farmland, a pasture, a field –
Now, meandering through the damp ruins of time
With its history gently concealed.
There’s a wall in the woods – yet there’s no way to tell
If it suffered through flood, fire or drought,
And we never will know what was being kept in…
Or, perhaps…what was being kept out.
About a month or so ago, I was looking through some of the poems I’ve written over the past few years and came across this. I thought it would be appropos for this time of year, so I decided to use it…last month.
But then this happens, then that happens, and before you know it, the season has gotten away from you! So before the last leaf drops, allow me to present this little poem I wrote two years ago. And for all of today’s Poetry Friday offerings, head over to Ed DeCaria’s blog here!
First Time for Everything
One cool October afternoon
I lay down in the grass
And watched the falling leaves of red
And gold and orange pass.
It must have been quite comfortable,
The sun and autumn breeze;
I closed my eyes and fell asleep
Beneath some maple trees.
When I awoke, I was amazed –
I could not see the sky!
A mound of leaves had covered me
Completely, three feet high.
Well, I must say, I’ve jumped in leaves
A hundred times or more,
But never had a pile of them
Jump onto me before.
When Hurricane Sandy came hurtling toward the East Cost, we tried to prepare as best we could. When Sandy tore through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the rest of the Eastern seaboard, we prayed it would be over soon. And when it left, we experienced everything from massive devastation to minor inconvenience, depending on where we were at the time.
News reports showed towns decimated and communities trying to recover. Facebook posts informed us about how our family and friends were coping. We saw videos of families being reunited and pictures of pets being saved. We witnessed good samaritans offering their homes and supplies to help others, while looters plundered and the most desperate of us searched dumpsters for sustenance.
At this point, one week later, we are fully aware of everyone and everything affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Well, not exactly.
The other victims
In back of our house, the top half of an old tree was brought down by Sandy; fortunately, it was the only damage (and I use that word very loosely) we sustained. The next day, I went out to cut and split it for firewood. I worked my way from the top, down – and it was only when I got to the very last piece that I noticed this:
Our home may have been spared, but someone else’s wasn’t.
This had probably been a good 30 feet up, so I hadn’t noticed it before…but I felt bad for whomever had been living there. Somewhere, a homeless bird was now looking for a new piece of real estate.
I was reminded of the old adage, “there are two sides to every story.” But the longer I live, the more I realize that adage is not quite correct.
The Whole Ballpark
The fact is, there are always far more than just two sides to every story. There can be three, four, five, a dozen! You may be absolutely, positively sure of something, only to have some wild circumstance you never considered come flying at you from out of left field. Or right field. Or from behind the hot dog stand.
I always tell my kids, don’t assume that your truth is the real truth. Sometimes you’re right, but sometimes you’re wrong. And sometimes there is no ‘real’ truth – that is, there are times when there is truth in all sides of an issue, and the disagreement comes from a misunderstanding of that truth.
Whoa, starting to sound a bit too metaphysical there. Sorry about that.
But my point is, there are multiple sides to every story, multiple connections to every event. In the case of Hurricane Sandy, for every planned contigency and coordinated effort, there was unexpected misfortune (like the collapse of the Seaside Heights, NJ amusement park), unforeseen complications (voting may prove to be difficult for some residents of hard-hit areas), and unintended consequences (a growing anger among New York City residents who were going without power, while generators were being brought in for the marathon).
No matter how well we know something, how certain we are of it, or how prepared we think we might be…there is always another angle we never saw coming.
A friend of mine who lived on the Jersey coast for nearly 20 years told me that, even having survived massive storms like Hurricane Gloria and the Nor’easter of ’92, no one there could have expected what happened last week.
The folks in Huntsville, Alabama certainly never expected to see this.
Wanted: Tree, one bedroom
My wife and I pretty much live in the woods, so I’m sure our friend who lost his or her home won’t be out of luck for long…there are plenty of old trees perfect for carving holes into. But I have to admit, I never thought about all the wild animals being displaced or even killed due to Sandy. Not that there’s a lot I or anyone can do about it – but it’s still something that most of us have probably not considered.
How will Sandy affect the deer population in Pennsylvania? Will it raise the cost of Maryland Blue Crabs? Even the insect population – which was in overabundance this summer in the northeast due to a light winter and early spring – may be affected. But we never really thought about it, did we?
I know I should expect the unexpected…I try to anticipate the unanticipated…yet I’m constantly surprised by my inadequate foresight.
Applying the unseen angle
Knowing that these ‘unknown’ quantities exist is the first step in understanding how everything is connected. Applying that knowledge keeps us growing as individuals, even though we don’t know what those quantities necessarily are.
Look at all the ‘truths’ that have been debunked over the years: atoms were once considered the smallest unit of mass, before subatomic particles were discovered. Animal species once thought extinct have been found alive and well. Even the laws of physics get put to the test each time cosmologists and astrophysicists make a new breakthrough.
This is why, when writing poetry or commercials, producing audio, or even posting comments on discussion boards or Facebook, I try to look for the unseen. I try to find the angle that has yet to be found. I may not find it, but just the search itself can be fruitful. In business, it’s an extremely useful practice.
It’s a few days past Halloween, and here I am, finally getting around to posting this! Things have been crazy lately…but better late then never!
And so I present this treat, something I was inspired to write after seeing this blog post from illustrator Jennifer L. Meyer earlier this year. I got to thinking about what, precisely, one would find in a vampire’s kitchen – and this was the answer that presented itself. The poem doesn’t really ‘connect’ to the illustration – but it did provide my starting point, so I hope you like it! And be sure to check out all the Poetry Friday treats at Mainely Write!
You won’t find any crackers,
You won’t find any cheese,
You won’t find canned asparagus
Or bags of frozen peas.
You won’t see any burgers
Or slices of baloney,
There isn’t any cereal
Or elbow macaroni.
You won’t find any butter
Or sugar cookie batter,
You’ll find no loaves of raisin bread
(Nor raisins, for that matter).
There are no cakes or cookies,
No kale or collard greens,
No ham or Spam or leg of lamb
Or cans of pork and beans.
There isn’t any jelly,
There are no fancy jams,
No ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise,
Or scallops, shrimp, or clams.
There isn’t any meatloaf
Or liverwurst pate,
No homemade tuna casserole
Or spicy beef satay.
Go search throughout the pantry,
The fridge, and every shelf –
You’ll find no food or beverages
You’d want to serve yourself.
A vampire’s tastes are simple
And really not complex:
The only thing you’ll find is blood,
And lots and lots of necks.