Monday, April 27, 2009

To The One I've Not Yet Met

To The One I've Not Yet Met

Speak to me in your own language,
your own voice and vocabulary. Do not try
to impress me or assume you know
my language. Speak to me as to yourself.
If I understand, we'll know this is love.

from Sunday's PAD prompt to write about miscommunication, after thinking about how sometimes i feel so few people, even among my friends, really speak the same language as me.

A promised, a bit of backstory

So, here is the story about that poem I posted last week....

I have been wanting to write a ghazal for a long time, but never really made myself try one. A pretty good explanation of the form is here if you want to read up, but the basic rules, as I understand them, are that a ghazal is composed of 5-15 couplets, and it utilizes a repeated word called a radif which appears at the end of both lines of the first couplet and then at the end of the last line of each succeeding couplet. Each couplet should stand alone, although a loose theme or feeling is generally developed throughout the poem. Traditional ghazals often evoke themes of the romantic, erotic, and/or spiritual, and have a melancholy tone. It is also tradition for the poet to "sign" the poem by including his or herself in the final couplet, often in 3rd person, though I chose to use 1st person.

The ghazal was popularized in English in the U.S. by a Kashmiri-American poet named Agha Shahid Ali. I met him in the fall of 1999; he read at Bowling Green as part of an Asian-American Writers' Conference. I also got to hang out and drink with him afterward, and he was a wonderful man. He died two years later. Before he died, he put together a book of ghazals which are absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking and amazing, especially knowing that he wrote many of them when he knew that he was dying.

The PAD prompt was to write a poem about regret, and for some reason the word just struck me as the perfect word to use in a ghazal. I wrote the 5 couplets posted here that day and then another three over the weekend that I think I will add in.

Shahid's book is called Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals. He also edited a book called Ravishing DisUnities: Real Ghazals in English which includes work by Maxine Kumin, William S. Merwin, Ann Townsend, and many others.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


no time to talk about this right now, but wanted to post it.....

Regret: A Ghazal for Agha Shahid Ali

The poet approached his death without regret.
His loves, his words, all pure and true. No regret.

Sunshine in April warms the panes of windows
composed of broken sand. Does the ocean regret?

The room is brilliant and empty, bed made,
window open, curtains billowing in gusts of regret.

Lovers frolic in the new grass, hands hot and waiting.
Their eyes meet. Everything is possible but regret.

I met the poet the year before he died. We talked
of everything but death. I still carry that regret.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Art of Work (and some news)

Still keeping up with the PAD challenge, though I haven't written anything super exciting the past few days. This whole experience has been very good for me though. Not only have I really gotten into the habit of writing every day, but it's been good for me to write on some different subjects and to write without feeling like the end result has to be perfect or even good. Going into the Poem a Day challenge, I gave myself permission to write some really bad poems. As long as I wrote something every day, that was okay; I've been trying not to overthink the prompts and just go with whatever comes to mind. Some of the poems have come easily, others I've struggled with. Some I've known were complete crap, but others have surprised me in good ways.

I read two more of these newbies on Monday at the Poetry Forum: "Easter Morning" (the prose poem I referenced but didn't post in its entirety last week) and "White, Through Four Seasons" which I linked to. Got good responses, but they could both use some edits I think.

But here's the big news: I found out on Monday that I won 3rd place in the William Redding Memorial Poetry Competition! It's an annual contest sponsored by the Poetry Forum and Pudding House Publishing. My friend Nathan actually won first place - go Nathan!!! He gets a featured reading at the Poetry Forum in 2 weeks. The 2nd and 3rd place winners also get to read that night in shorter spots, so that'll be exciting!

Anyway, here's today's PAD poem. The prompt was to write a work-related poem.

The Art of Work

When I was young, to be called lazy
was the greatest insult. Like robots
my parents valued efficiency and hard work
at the expense of anything else.
Creativity was unnecessary unless it meant
a new way of cooking dinner or a faster method
of clearing brush or harvesting corn. The arts
were luxuries we could hardly afford.

A working writer is an oxymoron
in my father's eyes. There is no sweat
involved, no dirt, he sees no danger.
I can not explain that art is a blade
turned inward, two-edged and shining,
an artificial intelligence that cuts to the truth
leaving the artist in tatters, sweating
and exhausted after a hard day's work.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A New Relationship

A New Relationship

I believe I have finally made peace
with sweet potatoes. For years
I would tell anyone who cared
that I just don’t like them, even go
so far as to say hate. And I do
still hate, or strongly dislike,
and refuse to eat, sweet potato pie
or any concoction that involves
brown sugar, butter, or, heaven forbid,
marshmallows. I credit Northstar burritos
and my last two ex-girlfriends
for inspiring me to renegotiate
my relationship with a vegetable
I’ve always felt I really should like.

We got off on the wrong foot, sweet
potatoes and I, that gooey, too sweet
winter vegetable “eat your dinner
or go hungry” foot of childhood,
and I confess, I held a grudge. I just
wouldn’t see that they could be more
than orange mush masquerading
as dessert. We just needed some spice -
salt and pepper, cumin, chili powder –
and some mutual friends – black beans,
onions, tofu, tortillas, olive oil
instead of butter, and never, ever,
sugar of any kind. If we both follow
those rules, I think we can have
a great, long-lasting relationship.

Just an interesting quote

from today's Poem of the Day email. It's from "User's Guide to Physical Debilitation" by Paul Guest. I can't say I love the poem, but this section made me laugh awkwardly...oh sex.....

When not an outright impossibility
or form of neurological science fiction,
sexual congress will either be with
tourists in the kingdom of your tragedy,
performing an act of sadistic charity;
with the curious, for whom you will be beguilingly blank canvas;
or with someone blindly feeling their way
through an extended power outage
caused by summer storms you once thought romantic.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Colors and Ideas and Possibilities, Oh My

(alternately titled: It's Finally Looking and Feeling Like Spring!)

I am fascinated by these photos of topiary in front of a small Applachian house with laundry drying on a clothesline. There is a poem in this, for sure. Actually, the entire photo project is really cool.

Today's PAD challenge was to take a color, make it the title of your poem, and then just write something. Very open-ended, but not a bad prompt. Here's a link to all today's responses. You can find mine by searching for my name, or the title "White, Through Four Seasons".

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

13 Ways of Looking at a Cat

Wonderful PAD prompt today!!! Take the title of a famous poem, alter it in some way, and then write your own. You don't have to follow the form of the original, but I chose to. This was actually a lot of fun, and the responses today are really good.

13 Ways of Looking at a Cat
(after Wallace Stevens' "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" with my apologies)

Throughout my entire apartment
the only moving thing
is the tan striped tail twitching.

I am of three minds,
like the cat
who can not decide which bird to chase.

The cat dances in the window at night.
She is a small part of the ballet.

A woman and a woman
are one.
A woman and a woman and a cat
are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
the beauty of accomplishment
or the beauty of anticipation,
the cat purring
or just before.

Raindrops streak the wide window
with sad saltless tears.
The shadow of the cat
crosses it, back and forth.
The desire
traced behind the blinds
an unfillable need.

O thin women of this city,
why do you imagine small dogs?
Do you not see how the cat
rubs against the legs
and nestles in the laps
of those you desire?

I know secret languages
and liquid, indescribable rhythms,
but I know too
that the cat in not involved
in what I know.

When the cat darted behind your couch
she marked the end
of one of many relationships.

At the sight of a cat
sleeping in a patch of sunlight,
even the most industrious
would wish to nap beside her.

You walked from downtown
in an old pair of flip flops.
Once, a dog followed you,
thinking the squeak
of your sandals
was the mewing of a kitten.

The curtains are moving.
The cat must be playing.

It was morning all day.
It was raining
and it was going to rain.
The cat lay curled
on top of my pillow.

And if you need a refresher on the original, it's here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Finally caught up

I couldn't come up with a good poem for Friday's prompt (which was to write a poem about Fridays - blah, sorry, dude, but that was a sucky prompt), then my internet was not working at home and I didn't go to work yesterday so I had to catch up with several days' worth of poems today, but I did it. I am now caught up. 14 poems in 14 days. Almost halfway there.

I ended up just doing a silly little haiku for the Friday prompt. Saturday's was to write about an object, and I wrote the following little piece because I've been shopping obsessively for shoes recently:

New Shoes

In the store, you are temptation,
possibility, elusive beauty,
impossible comfort. You are
quarry, I stalk you across town
through a maze of aisles.
When I find you, I am the hunter
victorious. In my closet
you are guilt, disappointment,
blisters and an empty wallet.

Sunday's prompt was to write a poem titled "So we decided to...." Mine was "So We Decided To Get Coffee", but it didn't turn out that great. Monday's prompt was to write about a hobby, and I used a poem I've been wanting to write this month about running. It's a prose poem, and I really really like it. Here's the beginning; it's about running on Easter morning (hence the title):

Easter 2009

The morning is all green and white and the dark wet brown of tree bark and mulch, drenched and glistening like kittens just born, sexless, blind, licked clean and new by an exhausted mother cat, each tiny mouth finding a nipple. There is no consciousness to this impulse.

It goes on from there. I actually have a long-standing habit of writing poems on or about Easter. The images of death and resurrection are potent for me and resonate in different ways at different times, and there is always the pull of religion or my fight against it, plus this is a time of year that always inspires me. I actually like that piece a lot. Today's prompt was either to write a love poem or an anti-love poem. Mine is kind of both, and it's not that good, so not posting it either.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Perfect Scent (and other random info)

Haiku from yesterdays Poem-A-Day prompt. It was to write a "clean" poem. I am kind of obsessed with spring right now, so that's why this is the direction I went.

The Perfect Scent

April air is clean
all green and white, the wet browns
of bark, mulch, background

to daffodil notes
hyacinth, dogwood, nameless
sweetness, breathable

refreshing, never
too heavy, only beauty

Monday's prompt was to write about something missing. Mine ended up being about my ex, so I'm not posting it. And today's prompt was to write about routine. I am knowingly bad at routine, and could not come up with anything decent. I put something together, but it's one of those poems this month that I knew would be terrible.

I read on Monday at Poetry Forum Open Mic, after our featured reader Mary Weems. She was really fabulous, a Cleveland lady who came down to read and hang out on a Monday night. Love that! I read two of the new April poems - "Genesis" and the one about Longaberger. Got good responses on both, and had a nice chat afterward with Connie and Steve and Mary. I stuck around the bar after poetry because Stacey convinced me that the music would be good, and it was.

Also, I got my last rejection letter this week, so now all the results are in. They are, in order of the date I remember receiving them....

Penn State - Accepted
Alabama - Rejected
Michigan - Rejected
Minnesota - Waitlisted
Wisconsin - Rejected
Colorado State - Rejected
West Virginia - Accepted
NEOMFA/Cleveland State - Accepted
Columbia College Chicago - Rejected

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Longaberger Basket Corporate Headquarters

From Sunday's Poem-A-Day prompt..... (the prompt was to write about a landmark, and this is one I drive past whenever I come from my parents' house back to Columbus)

The Longaberger Basket Corporate Headquarters

It rises above the trees
arched handles all you see
and you assume bridge
from a distance. You assume
it is rational but as you approach
its bulk appears south of the road
woven, windowed, a giant basket
shaped building complete
with outstretched handles
raised upward in supplication,
waiting for god to reach down
and carry it away and place it on a shelf
in his modern country home.

(if anyone is wondering what on earth I'm actually talking about, here is a link with a picture:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Isn't everything ordinary if you think about it?

I liked this, for reasons that may be obvious. It's from from the Academy of American Poetry's "Poem of the Day" email today.

Goldfish Are Ordinary
by Stacie Cassarino

At the pet store on Court Street,
I search for the perfect fish.
The black moor, the blue damsel,
cichlids and neons. Something
to distract your sadness, something
you don't need to love you back.
Maybe a goldfish, the flaring tail,
orange, red-capped, pearled body,
the darting translucence? Goldfish
are ordinary, the boy selling fish
says to me. I turn back to the tank,
all of this grace and brilliance,
such simplicity the self could fail
to see. In three months I'll leave
this city. Today, a chill in the air,
you're reading Beckett fifty blocks
away, I'm looking at the orphaned
bodies of fish, undulant and gold fervor.
Do you want to see aggression?
the boy asks, holding a purple beta fish
to the light while dropping handfuls
of minnows into the bowl. He says,
I know you're a girl and all
but sometimes it's good to see.
Outside, in the rain, we love
with our hands tied,
while things tear away at us.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Robin Speaks on Global Warming

Today's prompt was to write an outsider poem. This came from a story on NPR about how global warming has changed the migratory patterns of birds and other animals. It's kind of heavy-handed and tree-hugger-ish.

A Robin Speaks on Global Warming

It was warm in the wintering lands,
sun had melted the snow, green
burst from the tips of every tree, through
the dark soil, the first tiny flowers
were smiling, telling us to go home.

We flew north. Wind, clouds, snow
in the air. The spring mating grounds
are still snow-covered. There is nothing
to eat. We scratch through snow,
scavenge for shriveled berries. We
build nests, huddle together and wait
for warmth while we curse those
who've changed the rules we've followed
since our ancestors first sprouted feathers
and made their way to these mountains
in the springtime of a cooler planet.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I don't think I've mentioned it before, but I am going to try to do the April Poem-A-Day Challenge. I tried awhile back to write a poem a day for a month, but I picked a really busy month, and I was attempting it on my own, with no prompts, or challengers, so I'm hoping this will work better. I am sure some of them will be truly awful, but I'll post some that are less awful. The first prompt was to write a poem about origins. My mind went straight to the creation story in Genesis because the very talented Scott Woods mentioned on Monday that he's writing a series of haiku that are like a summary of the Bible.


I was never thrilled with the creation story.
There is no time I can not remember
knowing that God created the earth
in six short days, and I always thought:
where's the fun in that? How could He
appreciate what He'd done if the distance
between void and verdant paradise
was less than a week? I always thought
God must be like my father, a hard worker,
with no time for fun. My father builds
everything as quickly as possible, he could
miss entire phyla of creatures, never noticing
the arthropods or the nematodes until Adam,
the darling, the only boy, asked him
Why are there so many worms?