January 19, 2019

New Year's Inspiration

If you think of the new year as an opportunity to reflect and set goals for the future, then the Academy of American Poets suggests these 10 poems for inspiration.
  1. Time to be the fine line of light” by Carrie Fountain
  2. When I Rise Up” by Georgia Douglas Johnson
  3. These Poems” by June Jordan
  4. The Leash” by Ada Limón
  5. The Penitent” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  6. Assured” by Alexander Posey
  7. The Dream” by Lola Ridge
  8. from “Elegy in Joy” by Muriel Rukeyser
  9. "The Call of the Open" by Percy Bysshe Shelley
  10. Good Bones” by Maggie Smith

January 9, 2019

Prompt: Kissing

There are many kinds of kisses and many forms of kisses. We get them from birth to death. Though they are generally associated with love and affection, there are examples that are far away from those associations.

In our model poem, "Kissing" by Dorianne Laux, (read and hear the poem read) she examines some of this range.

They are kissing, on a park bench,
on the edge of an old bed, in a doorway
or on the floor of a church. Kissing
as the streets fill with balloons
or soldiers, locusts or confetti, water
or fire or dust. Kissing down through
the centuries under sun or stars, a dead tree,
an umbrella, amid derelicts. Kissing
as Christ carries his cross, as Gandhi
sings his speeches, as a bullet
careers through the air toward a child’s
good heart.

As Laux writes, we probably prefer the "long, deep, spacious kisses, exploring the silence of the tongue" to the "kissing when the cars crash and the bombs drop."

For this prompt, write about a kiss or the act of kissing in any of its forms or in many of its forms.

And you can get a head start on a call for submissions from Terrapin Books for a forthcoming anthology of poems on the topic of kissing. (The submission period is February 12 thru March 20, 2019.)  Publisher/poet Diane Lockward suggests "first kisses, last kisses, goodbye kisses, make-out session kisses, desired kisses, unwanted kisses, dangerous kisses, stolen kisses, romantic kisses, familial kisses, spin-the-bottle kisses, hot kisses, cold kisses, and metaphorical kisses."

On her blog, Diane offers as a model poem "When Sex Was Kissing" by Hunt Hawkins which begins:

In high school I was somehow able to kiss
for three hours continuously without consummation.
I still remember the underwater feel of the car,
how the windows steamed, the binnacle-glow
of the dash pointing us forward towards the trees,
the jerky light outside of a diver approaching
the wreck, pointing at this window, then that,
the policeman asking if we were okay. Sure
we were!

Our submission deadline is January 31, 2019

January 3, 2019

Poets and Hollywood: The Kindergarten Teacher

Have you seen the film The Kindergarten Teacher, now available on Netflix?

"In her new film “The Kindergarten Teacher,” Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a frustrated aspiring poet who discovers that a boy in her kindergarten class may be a budding literary genius, and begins co-opting his verses as her own.

When Gyllenhaal was preparing for the role, she thought a lot about what sort of poetry her character, a Staten Island teacher named Lisa Spinelli, would write. She figured Lisa’s poetry would be somewhat labored and clichéd — maybe verses about flowers and butterflies. So she and the film’s writer and director, Sara Colangelo, decided to ask a real poet to write some lines for the movie.

Commissioning poems wasn’t easy, it turns out..."       continue reading

Films have never quite known what to do with poets. And when poetry appears in a film, there is the question of how to judge it. If the poet is supposed to be a good poet, where do they get the poems? And who determines what is "good poetry?"

Some recent films that have portrayed poets, both famous - A Quiet Passion (about Emily Dickinson)  and Bright Star (about John Keats) - and unknown, as in Paterson. In portraying the life of a famous poets, at least you have the poet's own work to use and it has been already stamped as "good."

But if your subject is an unknown poet, you need to get the poems from somewhere. In the case of Paterson,  the poet Ron Padgett provided the poems attributed to the character Paterson.  The film features four of Padgett's existing poems and three new poems written for the film. The film's director, Jim Jarmusch wrote the poem "Water Falls" attributed to a young girl in the film.

For The Kindergarten Teacher, the poems written by the were solicited, from the poet Dominique Townsend, who had to rewrite he contributions to make them more "mediocre" (as one film critic called them).  They also needed poms for her young student. Jimmy's poems had to be exceptional and memorable, but also plausibly written by a 5-year-old. For those poems, the filmmakers turned to two young contemporary poets, Ocean Vuong and Kaveh Akbar.

The plot of this new film, as described on Wikipedia, begins this way:   Lisa Spinelli (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a kindergarten teacher from Staten Island, is struggling with feelings of dissatisfaction in her life. She is in a loving yet passionless marriage with her husband Grant (Michael Chernus), and her teenage children, Josh (Sam Jules) and Lainie (Daisy Tahan), are distant with her. Lisa attends a poetry class every week led by Simon (Gael García Bernal), but her poetry is dismissed as derivative. One of Lisa's students, Jimmy, is routinely picked up late from school by a babysitter. One day, Lisa overhears Jimmy reciting a poem he wrote while he is waiting to be picked up. Lisa reads the poem at her poetry class, where her classmates and Simon are struck by it and compliment Lisa on her talent. Lisa decides that Jimmy is a prodigy, and begins to dedicate her time to nurturing his talent.

Have you seen the film The Kindergarten Teacher?  If so, what do you think about what it has to say about poets and poetry? Leave a comment on this post.

A review of the film at nytimes.com/

December 17, 2018


       by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The holiest of all holidays are those
    Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
    The secret anniversaries of the heart,
    When the full river of feeling overflows;—
The happy days unclouded to their close;
    The sudden joys that out of darkness start
    As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
    Like swallows singing down each wind that blows!
White as the gleam of a receding sail,
    White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
    White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are;— a Fairy Tale
    Of some enchanted land we know not where,
    But lovely as a landscape in a dream.