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If you enjoy modern, spoken poetry (like HBO’s Def Poetry Jam), you’ll enjoy Russell Simmon’s new show, Brave New Voices.

The show is part documentary, part performance, all engaging. The show’s page has links to the selected poets’ full performances, since they’re edited for the documentary. Some of these kids are amazingly talented and insightful. Most of the poems will stand on their own without their charismatic performers. Even if you don’t subscribe to HBO, you can see the shows on HBO.com. Watch it.

Poets & writers magazine is posting a great poem every day in April. There’s nothing like a poem you haven’t read in a long time, or even better — one you’ve never read before. Try it! Better than May flowers.

Here’s a fun blog that has all the posts written in haiku.

http://lulu-haiku.blogspot.com/

Very clear and economical: three lines and you’re done.

March Haiku

 

Snow fall in late march

robins fluff and flounce confused

what is this white stuff?

 

Squirrels cheek the feed corn

fuel to race around the tree

for spring’s courtship dance.

 

Garage grit and salt

sweep it out week after week

winter’s loathsome chore.

 

©Copyright 2009 Pat Edwards

I finished reading the novel, The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein, last night. First of all, it’s an exceptional book. It’s well written, complex, yet still has engaging, powerful characters. The author peppers the story with historical names and events, but brings you into the story through her protagonist — a woman I wish I knew personally. To me, this makes great historical fiction. Throughout the story, Yuiliang, the main character, uses poetry as a calmling chant, a game, and as a seduction device. Most of the poetry she quotes to herself is from Li Qingzhao, a poet who lived in the 12th century (thank you, Wikipedia). I don’t know of any western poetry that has endured that long, and the Chinese have poems that are even older. The closest I can think of are psalms, but I don’t think the old testament counts as western literature.

Portrait of Li Qingzhao by Zhou Sicong

Portrait of Li Qingzhao by Zhou Sicong

I caress the withered flower, fondle the fragrant petals
Trying to bring back the lost time.

She’s an orphan on a boat with her uncle, who is about to sell her — either for more opium or debts. We don’t know or care which, we just know what’s about to happen and she doesn’t. She’s just remembering her mother.

It was far into the night when, intoxicated,
I took off my ornaments;
The plum flower withered in my hair.

After her first customer in the brothel. Enough said.

The author uses other poets, Li Po and Ho Xuan Huong, both of whom are even older poets. I think the author has the character personally attached to Li Quingzhao because she is a “poetess,” and she herself, as a painter, has fought her whole career against being labeled “a woman painter.”

These poets set the bar very, very high. The poems have spare imagery, but are so emotionally evocative. In my whole life, I should write one poem that comes close to any of these.

To the Tune of Mulberry Picking Bajiao*
Who planted the bajiao tree under my windows?
Its shade fills the courtyard;
Its shade fills the courtyard…

Leaf to leaf, heart to heart,
folding and unfolding,
It expresses boundless affection.

Sad and broken-hearted, lying awake on my pillow,
Late into the night
I hear the sound of rain.

It drips and splashes, cool and melancholy;
It drips and splashes, cool and melancholy…

Lonely for my beloved, grief-stricken,
I cannot endure the mournful sound
of rain.
   
 * Ba jiao [pa chiao] belongs to the musa family, grown for
   the ornament of their large striking foliage.

I haven’t taken any classes in writing poetry, so I’ve been experimenting on my own with different voices and styles, just to see what happens. While experimenting, I wrote this poem about Ophelia’s drowning in the voices of the servants who may have found her. I was also reading Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons at the time, so I intended to make the voice 19th century southern American.

Ophelia Found

 

We found Miss Ophelia

drowned in the river

sunup this morning

checking fish traps we was

drowned by her choices she was

            Happens with no mother to see to a young’un.

Yes.

 

Stones clutched in her hands

stones lading her bodice

that fine thin gown a-hers

binding up her legs

pale like a baby bird they was

tried to fly too soon

            Better she should’ve put a stone enwomb.

Yes.

 

Pulled her out from the water

laid her down soft on the bank

sent the boy to tell ma’am

whilst I made her clean as I could

carried her up to the house

            Cleaned up as much as you could I’m sure.

Yes.

 

We piled her stones in a little cairn

aside the river

stones she chose herself

to mark the place

moved the traps upstream

Did you tell ma’am about the stones?

No.

 

©Copyright 2009 Pat Edwards

Poetry Speaks

Poetry Speaks

A few months ago, I listened to Poetry Speaks, a book with great poets reading their own works and accompanying text. While reading along with the poets, I noticed most of the time they spoke words that were different from the published version of the poem. The more I write, the more I’ve come to understand why that is. Perhaps there are some writers/artists that can create and walk away from the product. Not me, nearly every time I review a poem, I change some word.

Most weeks I submit poems for my writing group to critique. Every time it’s pleasure and pain. They are wonderful, bright writers and are always kind with their criticism. They never fail to zing me on a poem that I knew wasn’t good enough — even I wasn’t happy with — like they did last night for my poem, The Idea of Home. 

Another of the poems they reviewed last night is posted earlier on this blog under “What happened to the dress?” I weigh all their input. Some recommendations I use; some recommendations I just shrug off. Here is the latest version of that poem, new title (thank you, Susan), and all. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m working on a poem about choices, using stones as messengers and emblems.  Unless the poem comes to me fulll-term birth, I usually write down every random thought for the idea.  

Stone with Chrysicolla vein

Stone with Chrysicolla vein

I carry a few stones with me all the time in my pack.  One is a crystal one of reading students found in Arkansas, another is a lovely, smooth stone with a vein of Chrysicolla. 

I have three geodes from Bloomington, IN (the terminal moraine), near where I used to live, that sit on the porch and are now buried under snow with the porch frog.  I have my reading rocks to manage the summer breezes.  Brad brought me back a big chunk of alfastein from Iceland.  I have a piece of slickensides I picked up at the San Andreas Fault during a college geology class, pacific plate side.   I’m remembering literary references to suicides with stones in their pockets to weigh them down in the river, overcome the survival instinct.  I’ve seen rocks piled up into cairns beside paths at Buddhist monestaries, rocks shaped into arrows, rocks formed into walls, homes, chimneys.  Stones are gravemarkers. David killed Goliath with a stone.  Stones ‘grow’ albeit very slowly.  I’m enamored of the inuksuits, but I’ve already written them into another poem.

I’m feeling that the way to go is to write about choices, rocks picked up, kept, others discarded.  As soon as I have it complete, I’ll share it.

I read Julia’s Chocolates by Cathy Lamb.  It has a wonderful opening line, “I left my wedding dress hanging in a tree somewhere in North Dakota.”  The story takes the character to Oregon where she has the normal chick lit life changes.  I kept wondering, what happened to the dress?!   She only mentioned it in passing. So, I wrote a poem about it.  In the poem, I’m showing how, when you do something completely source for yourself, it ripples out to others in a way you could never have imagined. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Poetiosity is a word I made up. I spent a little time coming up with a name for this blog.  Certainly, I want a name that has some staying power and one that I won’t be trying to change two years from now like a morning-after tatoo.  So, we have Poetiosity — a concatenated word using the words poet and curiosity.  Curiosity is my superpower.  Poetics I’m working on.

Creating words from scratch has a real word:  logodaedaly.  Not, as some think, sesquipedalian (just someone who likes big words).