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Tag: poetry

What Growing Up Tastes Like

 
                —A poem today after a long hiatus

                —Happy International Day of the Girl

 
WHAT GROWING UP TASTES LIKE

 
I sit with my windows open, drink of the air
as if it were the gumdrop from childhood

that never melted, that never tasted
quite like the color coating implied:

daffodil yellow, all-of-your-dreams-come-true-
blue, make-a-wish-like-it-matters-white

cotton. Now, I chew on gum only until
the flavor is out, long before it can turn

gray skeleton, harlequin moon, empty lake
by an extinguished fire.

 
 

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My Reading with Write Night! Next Up: Dinosaurs.

 

Last night, I had the extremely great opportunity to perform as one of the five Selected Readers for Lit Literary Collective’s Write Night in May, organized by Krista Cox and Ultreia, Inc.

Thank you, to Krista and Lit Literary and everyone, for having me. I haven’t read in over a year, and I needed it; the company was great; and my fellow readers were excellent.

Here are a few photos from my little sliver of the night, taken by my wonderful friend, Jenn Adams. Thank you, Jenn, for being there, and for taking these and a video.

And thank you to my friends, Jonathan Adams and Joe Eggleston, for also being there and supporting me. You all make me laugh, and you make me feel more deeply, which is what this whole big artistic world is all about.

Next up in my little world of reading: dinosaur poems in Chicago. Stay tuned!!

 

 

 

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Reading at LangLab Tonight! & Poem Featured as Creative Writing Prompt

 

Hi everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying your week. Two pieces of fun news for this afternoon—

I’ll be reading tonight among friends at LangLab in South Bend at 7pm as a part of Lit Literary Collective‘s WRITE NIGHT with Ultreia, Inc. You can find more about it here; I hope you’ll join us!

And I also found out yesterday that my poem, “Timetable,” previously published by the beautiful Rogue Agent (and featured partially above), was used as a creative writing prompt online! I am so pleased and flattered. You can check it out, and the other writing prompts, over here.

Have a wonderful night, all! If I don’t see you, I hope you enjoy the sunshine and get some writing done. If I do see you, I hope you enjoy the poetry!

Until Later, Best ~ from me

 

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Poem of the Day: Ada Limón

 

Help me turn my mind off. Help me be more than a song. The stress like a crow’s open flame. Help me to not give up on forgiveness. The work has become too wild here. Help me. Help me—
(Days like today, poetry reminds me to live.)

 

INSTRUCTIONS ON NOT GIVING UP

 

1976

 

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

 

—appeared previously with Poets.Org

 

 

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Poem of the Day: Kim Addonizio

 

DARKENING, THEN BRIGHTENING

 

The sky keeps lying to the farmhouse,
lining up its heavy clouds
above the blue table umbrella,
then launching them over the river.
And the day feels hopeless
until it notices a few trees
dropping delicately their white petals
on the grass beside the birdhouse
perched on its wooden post,
the blinking fledglings stuffed inside
like clothes in a tiny suitcase. At first
you wandered lonely through the yard
and it was no help knowing Wordsworth
felt the same, but then Whitman
comforted you a little, and you saw
the grass as uncut hair, yearning
for the product to make it shine.
Now you lie on the couch beneath the skylight,
the sky starting to come clean,
mixing its cocktail of sadness and dazzle,
a deluge and then a digging out
and then enough time for one more
dance or kiss before it starts again,
darkening, then brightening.
You listen to the tall wooden clock
in the kitchen: its pendulum clicks
back and forth all day, and it chimes
with a pure sound, every hour on the hour,
though it always mistakes the hour.

 

—previously appeared with Poets.org

 

 

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Poem of the Day: Kim Dower

 

HE SAID I WROTE ABOUT DEATH

 

and I didn’t mean to, this was not
my intent. I meant to say how I loved
the birds, how watching them lift off
the branches, hearing their song
helps me get through the gray morning.
When I wrote about how they crash
into the small dark places that only birds
can fit through, layers of night sky, pipes
through drains, how I’ve seen them splayed
across gutters, piles of feathers stuck
together by dried blood, how once my car
ran over a sparrow, though I swerved,
the road was narrow, the bird not quick
enough, dragged it under my tire as I drove
to forget, bird disappearing part by part,
beak, slender feet, fretful, hot,
I did not mean to write about death,
but rather how when something dies
we remember who we love, and we
die a little too, we who are still breathing,
we who still have the energy to survive.

 

—previously appeared on Poets.org

 

 

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(I’m Back) Poem of the Day: Jack Gilbert

 

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a while again. But here I am: quiet little me, doing quiet not-so-little things. I’m in the process of starting a small feature series called The Curve with Write around the Bend, in preparation for their literary magazine launch next fall / winter, as well as an independent interview series for emerging writers that I’m hoping to find a home base for. So these are all on the rise. But for now, here’s a poem by Jack Gilbert, and tonight or tomorrow, I’ll post a longer piece about the rock I’ve been hiding under. Stay tuned.

 

IT IS DIFFICULT TO SPEAK OF THE NIGHT

 

It is difficult to speak of the night.
It is the other time. Not
an absence of day.
But where there are no flowers
to turn away into.
There is only this dark
and the familiar place of my body.
And the voices calling out
of me for love.
This is not the night of the young:
their simple midnight of fear.
Nor the later place to employ.
This dark is a major nation.
I turn to it at forty
and find the night in flood.
Find the dark deployed in process.
Clotted in parts, in parts
flowing with lights.
The voices still keen of the divorce
we are born into.
But they are farther off,
and do not interest me.
I am forty, and it is different.
Suddenly in midpassage
I come into myself. I leaf
gigantically. An empire yields
unexpectedly: cities, summer forests,
satrapies, horses.
A solitude: an enormity.
Thank god.

 

—previously appeared with Poetry Foundation

 

 

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My Dumb Heart

 

                —To my fellow Benders, I threw on my grief.

 

MY DUMB HEART

 

is open wide and overflows with water. How I manage
to stay alive is beyond me. I like to think that I am more

than a wallflower, that others see something in me, that the love
I feel swells out in swarms, but sometimes I wonder what good

that will do—after the apocalypse, what will be left but a swarm
of beetles—what but exit signs, laundry, and dirt,

my sadness like a cloth underneath—still present and wet
with earth and never clean again, never reflecting

sun or moon or teeth quite like the first time. My sadness goes
with me like a cloud. My sadness rides around with me

in the backseat. It wears a black cape and snakeskin boots
that click down afternoon hallways. It trades, sometimes, for

feather-duster wings when it is a she and she
is in the mood for forgiveness. She eats chocolates by the handful

and offers them over silently. Every time
they taste like tears, because they were not meant

for someone like me, and yet
I try them, because there is a persistence

to them. They bring out the hope in me. I look up, like moon, and I think
that is what I love most about her. Every time she trades

for her wings, she keeps those snakeskin boots.

 

 

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Dear Emily—

 

Hope is the thing with feathers.

 

Here is a truth: I thrive
on hope. But yet, here is another: if you fill

a pillow with feathers, I cannot sleep—
I wake in the middle of the night,

heavy-chested and warm, throwing off the dark
as if it were a spare blanket meant

for the shadow sleeping
in the spare room. I will not lie to you,

I am lonely; I am restless; I dream
that others will recognize

the potential in me like a cloud. You prod
at that hope in me like a swarm of bees.

But when the winter comes, let me throw on my grief
like gloves because my hands will be frozen anyway—

without them, I will not be able to write you letters,
and how sad would that be, how sad your grave

would be without all these folded sheets
of paper—but really, how sad

I would be without you. Dear Emily, how I
have turned back to you

in the fog—

 

—for Kelcey Parker Ervick’s Letter to Dead Authors exercise at her reading yesterday at LangLab

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“Black Light / Her Name in a Cup”: Scenes & Impressions: Reading David Dodd Lee’s Animalities

 

animalities-cover-for-web2David Dodd Lee has been there with me since the beginning—not since the beginning of my reading and loving poetry, but of my writing poetry and taking that progress seriously. Of taking poetry seriously, and the idea that there was something to be taken from poetry, to be understood, to be had. Like a physical object you can pull off the page each time, and put in your pocket, and take with you.

That’s how I feel each time when I read a poem, let alone a collection, by David: that I am taking something with me—whether or not it is my choice. Some burden almost, some understanding, some new being even. Something in me has changed after having read David’s work. I tend to feel calmer, a little newer, but unsettled, too. Good poetry tends to do that to me. It will renew me first, and then it will rattle me. That’s what happens with David’s work, every time. Sometimes it takes a minute to go inside, knowing that; and it takes a minute to come back out. It takes a minute to shake it off.

More and more, I find myself drawn not only to David’s images (I’ve always loved David’s images—and his blending of perceptions), but his use of narrative, and how he bends it. I’m particularly interested in the somewhat sinister quality that creeps into that narrative from time to time, but also the female figures that he introduces, who are obviously not all the same woman. This interest is not all the book’s doing, of course; partially, this is just where I am in my own writing life, and where I draw my personal inspirations from… but I believe he’s doing imagery, narration, the sinister, and the female figure exceptionally well in this collection—hence the term Animalities, or, our animalistic (or more primal) qualities. How fitting. But not too fitting—that would be too clean.

At any rate, before I say too much more, here is one of my absolute favorite, if longer, poems from the collection, that I would like to use to explore these areas that I’ve highlighted. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have:

 

FOR THE COUNTRY

                (Happy Days Café, Wakarusa, Indiana)

 

We’re buzzing and adrenal
with contempt,

then laughing—

a cork pops out of the life raft.

The cook wears a pea coat.

Northern-based diet, everything a smothering,
while the flickering reel
of a window

helps give life texture: a bird
poles a small
wagon under a traffic light . . .

at home she has finally gotten up

she can taste the air coming in through the screens

*

It’s in the drink,
just north of Wakarusa,

sassafras in the joints,

the blur of test tubes where a tear might throb . . .

The usual contingencies and then this
tertiary

black light

her name in a cup,

the pine needles.

*

Elaborately complicated
by candlelight,

her fingertips stuck to my arm like sawdust.

Yes, though, I said, to the fresh
gleam of the wood and the yellow rope,

her spasmed anxiety,

the orange she’s allowed to eat each day at 6 pm,

the time it takes
for the claw-footed tub to fill up.

*

“Hot Blooded” surges
on the radio

an unfortunate marriage of circumstance
and nostalgia

a nice haircut

a kiss on the cheek

crows on the phone lines like her little black shirts

*

The waitress’s blood ran down the bright front window

He’d given her a photograph of “an ocean.”

She took it, held it close

A mayonnaise jar full of weeds in some warm creek water

 

Isn’t this poem lovely? Doesn’t it just stop you in your tracks? It floors me, every single time—and it’s that pea coat, that black light, that claw-foot bath tub, and that ending—those last four lines, so unsettling. As I stated earlier, I’ve always loved David’s imagery—and this “ocean” and mayonnaise jar are as vivid as they come—but I’m particularly impressed with his latest use of narration, and how that pairs with his imagery, especially in these poems.

As a poem in five sections, I’ve considered time and time again its sequence—but I’ve realized the where and the when is somewhat inconsequential. I assume it is evening, but I’m more interested now in the repetitions and variations: every sequence includes flesh and water, and nearly every sequence includes food, but not every sequence includes music—but somehow there’s an echo of it just the same. It’s that distortion of perception that I’ve come to love in David’s work, and that’s why I’m addressing sequences. For example, in the first section, the two characters are on a life raft; in the second, they are under a black light; and in the third, they are under candlelight, and “her fingertips [were] stuck to my arm like sawdust” (30). Such a strange, beautiful progression—from location to location, from light to light, from sawdust to a bathtub to a windshield and a mayonnaise jar. These movements are what I look for, out of instinct, in David’s works now, because I love them, and because I believe this is what makes them tick.

In addition to his sequential work, there is also the sinister nature of many of his poems, including the ending of this one, and the transformation of his female figures. I’ve really never felt that David’s poems are overly sinister (and there are certainly some poets where this is arguably the case); there is simply an element, an edge, to his poems—supplying a woman with an image of nothing short of a murder scene when she requested an ocean? Sinister. But after all of the surreality, and the beautiful imagery work earlier in the poem, the poet is able to get away with this, and the moment is even unstated, because it achieves such a balance. It achieves an edge, rather than dominance. Pair that with this female character in particular and, well, it’s just a gorgeous poem. I can’t arguably say what draws me so much to this particular character, except for how she is presented through distortion—which, once again, just reinforces my point for this poet’s handling of perception and the rewriting of perception. All of that being said, I know there are other poems, which I will not take time to list here, where the female figure is much more present and solidified, but perhaps what I love so much about this is figure is how her personality and perspective is impressed upon by what happens around her.

Really, what else is there to say—I greatly admire David Dodd Lee’s work, I have enjoyed this collection repeatedly, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you have read his work before and enjoyed his imagery, you will not be disappointed, and you will appreciate the newfound relationship with the narrative. If you are new to David’s work, you are in for a treat. Imagery, narrative—and throw in wonderful sinister (and sometimes sweet) edges, and female figures like in this poem—you can’t go wrong.

 

DAVID DODD LEE is the author of eight previous books of poems, including The Coldest Winter on Earth (Marick Press, 2012). His fourth book, Sky Booths in the Breath Somewhere, the Ashbery Erasure Poems (BlazeVox, 2010), taught him how to write the poems in his next books: The Nervous Filaments (Four Way Books, 2010) and Orphan, Indiana (University of Akron Press, 2010). He is the editor of two poetry / fiction anthologies: Shade 2004 & 2006 (Four Way Books) and The Other Life: The Selected Poems of Herbert Scott (Carnegie Mellon, 2010). His poems have appeared in Court Green, Denver Quarterly, Field, Jacket, The Nation, Nerve, and in many other places. He is also a visual artist, writes and publishes fiction, publishes chapbooks and full-length titles as editor-in-chief of 42 Miles Press, and teaches classes in poetry, publishing, art history, and the art of collage at Indiana University South Bend, where he is assistant professor of English. He lives in Osceola, east of South Bend, where he kayaks and fishes on Baugo Bay.

 

David Dodd Lee’s latest book, And Others, Vaguer Presences: A Book of Ashbery Erasure Poems, is now available for pre-order from BlazeVox Books and Amazon.

 

 

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