Friday, April 24, 2015

#npm15 -- Among the Things He Does Not Deserve

Here's a quick National Poetry Month creativity exercise for you -- write a list poem. Start with a topic. Any topic. Let's say, life advice. What to do while waiting for a friend at a bar. Reasons you love Sunday. Places you want to go. Places she should have taken you. 

Or, all the things he does not deserve ...

Among the Things He Does Not Deserve
by Dan Albergotti

Greek olives in oil, fine beer, the respect of colleagues,
the rapt attention of an audience, pressed white shirts,
just one last-second victory, sympathy, buttons made
to resemble pearls, a pale daughter, living wages, a father
with Italian blood, pity, the miraculous reversal of time,
a benevolent god, good health, another dog, nothing
cruel and unusual, spring, forgiveness, the benefit
of the doubt, the next line, cold fingers against his chest,
rich bass notes from walnut speakers, inebriation, more ink,
a hanging curve, great art, steady rain on Sunday, the purr
of a young cat, the crab cakes at their favorite little place,
the dull pain in his head, the soft gift of her parted lips. 

From The Boatloads
© BOA Editions, 2008

Coming up next week: Poetry from my writers workshop buddies, and more poems suggested by CI readers. Here's to a great weekend -- go write!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

#npm15 -- My Favorite Poet

Those of you who know me well might guess that my favorite poet is e.e. cummings. Or Robert Frost. Perhaps Dorothy Parker? I love 'em all. But none of them compare with my first and favorite poet: Lillian Sokoloff.
This is from her 90th birthday.
What a cutie!
Let me tell you a story about Mom, who celebrates her 94th birthday today. When she was a young woman, she was offered a job writing greeting cards for Hallmark.

Janet: "Why didn't you take the job, Mom?"
Mom: "I didn't want to write for them, Janet. They had too many rules."

God bless her. Here's a poem from Mom that has been published in several magazines and in The Kansas City Star. She wrote it according to her own rules:

On Criticism
by Lillian Sokoloff

Too quick are we to criticize,
Too slow are we to praise,
The comings and the goings
Of other people's ways.

If only we would stop to think
Before the words come out,
Perhaps a nicer thought would come
For us to talk about.

So next time you are tempted
Unkind things you are about to say,
Stop, reflect, remember,
What you have read today.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

#npm15 -- On Turning Sixty

I love coloring books. I don't just color within the lines -- I trace the lines, outline them with a darker color. Creativity with boundaries, with rules, gives me the wonderful freedom of structure.

Given that, it's no wonder that haiku is a favorite of mine, and the poetic form I chose for today:

On Turning Sixty
by Jan Sokoloff Harness

I hold the railing
now when I go down the stairs.
Aware. Not afraid.


Earlier in the month, my friend Connie asked for a poem that I wrote years ago -- she first read it in The Kansas City Star, back in the good old days when the paper still had a Poetry Corner. So here -- by popular request! -- is that poem:

Found Poem: Rural Route 20, Oklahoma
by Jan Sokoloff Harness, June 2006

An unintentional poet summed it up
on a swinging sign
outside an auto parts store
near Tulsa.

Jesus is Lord
Everything is for sale

Amen, brother.
Amen and hallelujah.

Ya gotta love Etsy. Find this here

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

#npm15 -- Michael Blumenthal, Here You Are

I haven't read enough of Michael Blumenthal's work, but I like what I've read! That's part of the joy of National Poetry Month -- finding new poets.

Here You Are

It’s such a relief to see the woman you love walk out the door some nights
for it’s ten o’clock and you need your eight hours of sleep
and one glass of wine has been more than enough
and, as for lust – well, you can live without it most days
and you are glad, too, the Ukrainian masseuse you see every Wednesday
is not in love with you, and has no plans to be, for it is the pain
in your back you need relief from most, not that ambiguous itch,
and the wild successes of your peers no longer bother you
nor do your unresolved religious cravings or the general injustice
of the world, no, there is very little, in fact, that bothers you these days
when you turn first to the obituaries, second to the stock market,
then, after a long pause, to the book review, you are becoming
a good citizen, you do your morning exercises, count
your accumulated small blessings, thank the Lord
that there’s a trolley just outside your door your girlfriend
can take back home to her own bed and here you are
it is morning you are alone every little heartbeat
is yours to cherish the future is on fire with nothing
but its own kindling and whatever is burning in its flames

it isn’t you and now you will take a shower and this is it. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

#npm15 -- e.e.cummings i thank You God for most this amazing

Happy Monday! Today's National Poetry Month poem was suggested by two wonderful women -- Terri and Cheri. (Terri and Cheri. That's poetic right there ...) You know I love e.e. cummings and this poem is the perfect start to most this amazing week!

i thank You God for most this amazing 
by e.e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing 
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees 
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything 
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth 
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay 
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing 
breathing any-lifted from the no 
of all nothing-human merely being 
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Illustration found on Etsy!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Fun and #npm15: Judith Viorst

If the only thing Judith Viorst had ever written was the name of her popular children's book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, she'd be certifiably wonderful. But, of course, that's only one of her many writing accomplishments.

My dear friend Hedy, who walks in beauty and simply makes the world a better place by being, suggested this Viorst poem. Thanks, Hedy, and happy weekend everyone!

A Whole Other Stage

I've reached the stage where my lawyer, my broker, my allergist, 
   and my president are all  significantly younger than I.
 I've reached the stage where I recognize, when I am buying new 
   living room drapes or a new set of dishes, that  they're  likely to 
   be the last ones I'll ever buy.
And when I'm starting to tell my friends some really terrific story,
   and I ask them whether I've told  them this story before, and no 
   matter what story I've started to tell, they say yes.
I know that I have reached a whole other stage.

I've reached the stage where I find that most of the spaces I used to 
     park in are now too small for my car.
I've reached the stage where I'm no longer able to call myself
    middle aged because that's where my children are.
And when going to see two movies at two separate theaters on the 
   same day, followed by by eating a sausage-and-anchovy pizza, is
   what I'm defining as orgiastic excess.
I know that I have reached a whole other stage.

I've reached the stage where a lot of the reading I'm doing is at
   the market checking salt-free and fat-free and expiration dates.
I've reached the stage where nobody bothers to look at my driver's
   license when I purchase tickets at senior rates.
And when I'm out of town and I phone my husband at six A.M., 
   and I ring and ring but he doesn't answer the phone, and my
   first thought is not infidelity but cardiac arrest,
I know that I have reached a whole other stage.

I've reached a stage where people with whom I once
   discussed Marcel Proust are discussing inheritance taxes and
   living wills.
I've reached the stage where I couldn't leave my house for
   twenty-four hours unaccompanied by eight different kinds of  pills.
And when I have to admit that, offered the choice, I'd -
   unhesitatingly- give up a wild rapture with Denzel
   Washington for a nice report on my next bone density test,

I know that I have reached a whole other stage.
-- Judith Viorst, from Suddenly Sixty and Other Shocks of Later Life

Thursday, April 16, 2015

#npm15 -- Rod McKuen, Twenty-Five

I'm not gonna lie. When I thought about doing this National Poetry Month series of posts, I immediately considered a Rod McKuen poem. Why? He was the first poet I "discovered" outside of the classroom. I loved his poetry, his albums. I loved his raspy voice. Mom even took me to see him perform once.

But the literati typically sneer at McKuen, so I waffled. Then I read the news of his death, and that made the decision for me.

I've mentioned before that any landing you walk away from is a good landing. Any poet who inspires you to love and read poetry is a good poet.

Twenty-Five / The Coming of the Rain
by Rod McKuen

Where were we
when the coming of the rain
made us turn from conversation to the window?

In mustard fields maybe,
                   or the love jungle,
and as we talked
we were with others, not ourselves.

I was thinking of old birthdays and holidays gone wrong
                      and pretty people seen on streetcars
          but never met.
Selling soda bottles to pay for movie matinees.
               I was twelve.
     Tarzan was the man I most resembled in those days.
How can I have grown so old without once swinging on a vine?
                Did you think of party dresses
    and high school plays
                    or hallways full of lovers not yet met?

The mind is such a junkyard;
                      it remembers candy bars
                                       but not the Gettysburg Address,
Frank Sinatra's middle name
                but not the day your best friend died.

If in your mind there is some corner
      not yet occupied with numbers you may never need,
remind your memory of the day
                      we turned to watch the rain
    and turning back forgot
             that we belonged to one another.

--- from Listen to the Warm, 1967