October 30, 2007

Terrance Hayes: Two Poems in The Same City

This blog post allows me a little room to expand on the prompt for November that uses Terrance Hayes' poem. I have to admit that I did not first read this poem. I had it read to me, which happens more and more these days. No, I didn't go to a reading (though I did hear him read at the 2006 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival)

I heard him read it on a podcast from the Poetry Foundation. The podcast itself is called "A Straight Man's Epiphany in a Gay Bar" but it's really about Hayes exploring relationships between men - in the case of our model poem, a father and son.

You can listen to the poem online, but I'll put a recommendation in here to encourage you to subscribe to the entire series in iTunes.

Not that this is the "answer" to the poem, but I found what Terrance Hayes says about the origin of this poem on the podcast very interesting. It opened up the poem for me and inspired this month's prompt.

As I said on the site, I don't really care if Hayes ever really jumpstarted his father's car battery as he does in the poem, because I'm really taken with that image.

I also love the lines:

But to rescue a soul is as close
as anyone comes to God.


Think of Joseph,
raising a son that wasn’t his.

I decided to focus on the poem's 2 part structure. It's written to appear that the poet writes his poem and then decides midway to start again.

It's not just two poems linked together. The poem works because of the interplay between the two stanzas. The second echoes the first. They bounce images off each other.

This is not a totally unique approach in poetry. Many poets will do multiple takes on a line or question within a poem the way they have described something. Mark Doty comes to mind. He often asks questions in his poems, and sometimes questions himself.

So our new prompt is to write a poem that contains two versions of the same poem. I'm afraid that I'm going to get a handful of submissions that are just two conjoined poems that might easily stand alone.

You need to consider the reasons we might restart mid-poem and allow the original to remain. Hayes is partially reconsidering what he wants to say. I get the feeling reading the poem (and this happens when I write) that we are discovering something as we read (write) that forces us to reconsider whre we are headed.

Usually, when writing, you would go to draft#2, but might there be a case where a reader needs the "false start" to understand the new direction?

I'm not sure if this prompt is very easy or very hard. I'm sure that this might work with a poem that has more than two parts too.

And I admit that there's a more complex writing prompt in Hayes' poem that would involve fathers, sons, children, forgiveness and other themes. I hope you'll try that one some time too.

October 15, 2007

Haiku For Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day.

The theme this year is the environment and anyone with a a blog can join in by posting something today related to the environment.

Maybe it's a local environmental issue, or the beach cleanup nearby, or a poem or story with an environmental theme. Podblogs, videoblogs, and photoblogs count too!

The purpose is to have a massive hit on public awareness by sharing as many ideas in as many ways as possible.

Check out the Blog Action Day blog and read more about how bloggers can change the world. You can register your blog and join the 15,000+ other blogs (with 12 million readers) that are already signed up.

I clicked over to the excellent Poetry Foundation web site for inspiration, and using their search tool found some haiku.

I enjoy haiku for many reasons, but I do particularly like the close-up focus they often take on something in nature.

A few haiku from "After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa" by Robert Hass

New Year’s morning—
everything is in blossom!
I feel about average.

A huge frog and I
staring at each other,
neither of us moves.

And two by Gary Snyder-

Hammering a dent out of a bucket
a woodpecker
answers from the woods

At the last turn in the path
—bending, bowing,
(moss and a bit of

Both of those poets are ones that I particularly enjoy reading and having met them both and heard them read, I know that their sense of nature and its influence on their poetry is quite - organic. Is that the word I want? It is within them, not something they take on in the writing. It is part of their practice of poetry.

Still, my favorite haiku still come from the masters.

In this one by Bashō,

In Kyoto,
hearing the cuckoo,
I long for Kyoto.

you might say, "Where is nature?" I would have trouble answering you, and yet I am fairly certain that within that longing for place that is prompted by the bird's call is some longing for something lost from nature. Am I imagining that?

In this poem by Issa,

On a branch
floating downriver
a cricket, singing.

the branch, river and cricket represent three areas of the natural world. I hear that cricket's sound as joyful (singing) and yet I also feel it may be doomed in its river journey. Is it singing like those on the Titanic going down? I might even convince some (especially without the author or time period being identified) that this small poem is a plea for our natural world (cricket) which is being carried away while we sing a song of ignorance is bliss or the song of the sirens or a sad dirge.

October 13, 2007

4th Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival

Miles Coon, Founder and Director of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, wrote to ask me if I would let you all know about their upcoming event. I've taken workshops with several of these poets (Thomas Lux at Provincetown was poetlife changing) and heard almost all of them read, and it sounds like a great event.

The 4th Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival - January 21-26, 2008

The 2008 lineup includes Kim Addonizio, Claudia Emerson, Major Jackson, Thomas Lux, Campbell McGrath, Malena Mörling, Sharon Olds, and C.K. Williams. The event will also feature Florida poets Lola Haskins and Spencer Reece for a special reading. Roger Bonair-Agard and Marty McConnell will grace the stage for performances at the annual late-night Coffee House event.

The deadline to apply for a workshop is October 31st

This sounds very tempting - workshops with some great poets in the Florida sunshine during January (while I'll be sloshing through snow in NJ). All festival events take place at Old School Square Cultural Arts Center, a national historic site blocks from the beach Delray Beach, Florida.


STEALING FIRE with Kim Addonizio
POETRY IN PROGRESS with Campbell Mcgrath


MUSIC MAKES IT HAPPEN with Major Jackson
TRANSFORMING POEMS with Malena Mörling

In addition, participants get free admission to two craft lectures and a panel discussion by all of the faculty poets, as well as invitations to the festival gala and to participate in workshop participant readings offered free to the public.

"The Palm Beach Poetry Festival was simply one of the best, most fun, and best-run poetry conferences I've ever been to—a very high level of student writers was one special feature; to be among all those sweet people brought together in the spirit of poetry, in the miraculously soft Florida salt air, was a sweet and very satisfying experience. "—Tony Hoagland

"This was a lovely and thoughtfully worked-out event, absolutely exhilarating fo be part of. I didn't want to delay any longer in thanking you for putting on such an outstanding festival/workshop and for including me in it. To you, Miles and Mimi, and all who made it such a great success, my gratitude and my warmest congratulations."—Jane Hirshfield