A few days ago, my Dad and I stood talking in a parking lot near the Boulevard Bridge when a young guy in dark shorts and even darker sunglasses pedaled furiously up the road behind my Dad on a black mountain bike. The anomaly that made my voice fall silent mid-sentence was the large rhinoceros horn protruding from the front of the guy’s black and silver bicycle helmet. Apparently mechanical issues can befall even rhino-cyclists, however; a few minutes later when I drove out of the parking lot, I saw him kneeling beside his bike inspecting the wheel. I love scenes that evoke grins and wonder! This one did just that – a scene worth capturing in what poet Claribel Alegria calls a seed book – to grow into a story or poem later…
As I was updating a personal anthology project guide for a teacher today, I ran across a mobile app (optimized for iPhones) that puts “the entire collection of over 2,500 poems on Poets.org, as well as hundreds of biographies and essays” in a mobile app. “Poems can be browsed by author, title, occasion, or form, and searched easily by keyword. Read a poem, anytime, anywhere—whether to fill a spare moment, woo a darling, toast a friend, find solace, or recite a few immortal lines—verse is now at your fingertips.”
To learn more and to download the app, go to Mobile Poetry.
Yes, it’s been nearly 19 months since my last post, but thanks to participating in the Arts and Social Change Institute with Holly Near last weekend at The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center, I’ve reclaimed my identity as a poet.
On the journey to the Mountain, I set a goal of writing my first public poem in years before the weekend was over. Despite having no clue what I’d write about or how I would move from no idea to presenting a poem publicly in 48 hours, I immersed myself in the effort.
After dozens of poem fragments, a theme emerged: the importance of visibility for LGBTQ people. With the National Equality March six weeks away and the UUA’s Standing On the Side of Love campaign in full swing, I’ve engaged in many conversations about this issue recently.
Once I settled on the theme, I struggled with finding a central image – then that serendipitous moment occurred. Gazing down at the sun-splashed path winding ahead of me on a midmorning hike, I noticed the earth sparkling with mica. I wondered aloud, ‘what if being gay made you glitter?’ The answers led to the poem “Shine”. I read a draft at the workshop on Saturday night, and a month later, read it at the Pride Festival in Richmond. It feels good to be writing again.
This poem from Barbara Crooker’s collection, Radiance, was featured on Writer’s Almanac this past Sunday, and as I drove home tonight in the cold rain and darkening gray, I thought of its call to see the glorious not in spectacular mountain views, but in the grit and groove of our street-level lives.
When I first read it, I’d spent the previous day working on a volunteer crew to install a modular wheelchair ramp, reminded as I bent with drill in hand or walked to get another length of railing, that mobility is a blessing we often overlook. How like the lines in the middle of Crooker’s poem:
“how we never think about the glories
of breath, oxygen cascading down our throats to the lungs,
simple as the journey of water over a rock”
There’s a senior poetry society at our school that meets every other week. This week they were sharing poems about poetry. I’m constantly amazed by our students and Wednesday morning was no different. Two students read poems in other languages – one in Latin, one in Spanish, both because they wanted to preserve the music and meter of the poems as conveyed in the original language, and each read with beautiful pronunciation.
Of the students who read in English, one shared a poem by Ted Kooser that delighted me with its shift in tone from wistful to playful/cynical – “Selecting a Reader“. Our whole circle of poetry enthusiasts laughed aloud as the student read the last lines.
A hint of winter has finally arrived in Richmond. Leaving the house early yesterday to walk the dog under gunmetal clouds, we u-turned to don another layer against the wind. Returning, energized, cheeks pink, we warmed ourselves by the woodstove, put on coffee to brew. Twice, during breaks from the Saturday busyness of chores and errands, we dozed in the cozy warmth.
Although I think of foods like soup, chili, pumpkin pie, and hot chocolate as cold weather settles in, I smiled when I read “Toast” by Susan Deborah King in my email newsletter from the Writer’s Almanac yesterday. What are the personal trappings of winter for you? What nudges you out of bed on cold mornings?
I received the happy announcement today of the next Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Sept. 2008. When I read the invitation, I saw an unfamiliar name: Chris Abani. Once I googled him, I wondered how I missed hearing about his award-winning, powerful writing. He’s on the Poetry Foundation’s site, has been featured on NPR, and has published works in several prominent journals.
Imprisoned 3 times by the Nigerian government, Abani now teaches at UC-Riverside and writes novels and poems, a skill he has crafted since finishing his first book at the age of 16. Check out a few of his poems and this video (approx. 18 min.) in which he talks about African narratives – and see what you think.