December 23, 2008

Teachers Blogging - A Call for Proposals

The New Jersey College English Association (NJCEA) is soliciting panels and papers on literary and composition topics for its Annual Conference on March 21, 2009 at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

I'm putting together a panel on blogging and would love to connect with some English teachers who use blogging as a teaching tool. I'd like to have papers on students as bloggers, teachers blogging for their students, teachers blogging as educators and the pedagogy of using blogs as readings and as writing platforms. I realize that Poets Online (this blog and the main site) has many teachers reading and using it, and that many of you are far away from New Jersey, USA. Still, perhaps there are a few of you that are blogging and would like to present a paper at the conference.

There are also panels planned on poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction and other topics. You can contact me or any panel's convener via the email addresses on the site.

Full and part-time college instructors, graduate students, and other professionals within the field of English are invited to send panel proposals and 250-word paper abstracts on any topic related to college English. Email submissions should include your name, e-mail address, affiliation, and mailing address.

NJCEA brings together those interested in language, literature, pedagogy, and other aspects of the teaching and study of literature and writing. Paper proposals are now being accepted for a variety of panels.

originally posted as Blogging in the English Classroom on Serendipity35

December 18, 2008

Last Minute Shopping

A week to go in the Christmas gift search - but 2 weeks if you give a new year gift! (I'm a classic Christmas Eve day/night shopper.)

We are not the only ones that were considering gifts for the poetically inclined.

From a post (and the additional comments) on Poetic Asides, come a few suggestions including the standard stuff (poetry collections)and some other ideas:

  • give a gift subscription to your favorite literary journal and support small presses
  • a framed poem
  • for the DIY crowd, a poetic decoration (poetry trees?)
  • a collection of your own poems (Is that too self-promotional?) Maybe just
  • your own poem on a holiday card
  • or including an appropriate poem with that bottle of wine or gift

December 8, 2008

Wash


Since I posted this month's prompt, I came across an interesting article online titled "The Poetics of Housework" that references the Behn poem I used as a model. There's a section on laundry that mentions several poems that might also serve as models this month.

I'm not familiar with Judith Minty’s poem "Making Music," but I can identify with the sounds described in the poem as the woman uses an old style wringer washing machine. It's what my mom used in our basement when I was child.

Rita Dove has a poem called "Taking in Wash" that doesn't deal directly with the laundry process, but uses it metaphorically.


every light hums, the kitchen is arctic
with sheets, Papa is making the hankies
sail. Her foot upon
a silk-stitched rose, she waits
until he turns, his smile sliding all over.
Mama a tight dark fist.
Touch that child
and I'll cut you down
just like the cedar of Lebanon.


The mother protects the clean laundry from the drunken man, and then she protects her daughter.



I said that serendipity played a part in this end-of-year prompt, since it was a chance browsing session that led me to Jane Kenyon's little poem titled "Wash." That started me thinking about all the clotheslines in all backyards of my youth. I loved the smell and heat of summer sun that was on the cloth fresh off the line. Everyone I knew had a clothesline, but now I can't recall the last time I saw one.

Later, I was clicking around the web looking for poems and came across "Whether or Not There Are Apples" by Robin Behn - another poem about wash on the clothesline. Both poems share that feeling I had of sun-warmed and season-scented cloth. I still remember visiting my cousins for a sleepover and being disgusted by their bed sheets that had been baked in a dryer.

The two poems together made our very simple prompt for December. Write a poem about laundry, wash, clotheslines or anything connected to that whole simple experience past or present. (extended holiday deadline = January 10, 2009)




Jane Kenyon (1947-1995) was a well-known contemporary American writer. Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, she published four collections of poetry and a translation of the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova before her untimely death from leukemia in 1995. She was featured with her husband, poet Donald Hall, on the Bill Moyers' special, "A Life Together."



Robin Behn is the author of Paper Bird, and The Red Hour and is the co-editor of The Practice of Poetry. She teaches in the MFA Program at The University of Alabama.

November 28, 2008

The Paradox of Poetry Prompts

“The ordinary man believes he is free when he is permitted to act arbitrarily, but in this very arbitrariness lies the fact that he is unfree.” - Hegel

Hegel called it "negative infinity.” The distance between those who recoil from choice and those who have no choice at all is not very great.

I wasn't remembering Hegel last month. And I wasn't remembering a book by Barry Schwartz, a social scientist at Swarthmore, called The Paradox of Choice. Schwartz says “unlimited choice” can “produce genuine suffering.”

So what did I do? I offered a lot of prompt choices for November poems via another site that was offering a prompt a day for 30 days. That should give readers 30 times the options of previous months when there was one measly prompt you had to address.

Do you think my inbox was flooded with submissions? Nope. Two submissions so far (plus 11 poems that don't address ANY prompt except the one they heard in their head).

Are you out there poets? Overcome by choices or overcome by the financial crisis, or overwhelmed by the Obama victory or overstuffed by Thanksgiving?

There are just a few days remaining for our November prompt: choose any one of the prompts that Robert Brewer has posted this month. When you submit your poem to Ports Online, be sure to include in the email an indication of what the prompt was that you used.

November 25, 2008

More Poets Wish List

When a non-poet friend asked what she should buy a poet friend as a holiday gift, I was initially stumped. Just buy them something they like - What's the difference if the person is a poet? But she wanted to buy something "poetic."

So, I crowdsourced it and posted a list as this blog's current poll. It's my own Top 10, but... What would make your wish list?

The bolded items below are the current top 5, but we need votes - otherwise, you may get a tie, wallet or a nutcracker this season! Hey, I'll take a writing getaway - but I don't think Amazon stocks those - try this link for some getaways
  1. poetry books (of poems, about poetry, about writing or poets)
  2. poetry read on audio
  3. blank books for writing
  4. music that is inspirational
  5. gourmet food (yes, that can be inspirational!)
  6. coffee / tea
  7. wine or other beverages
  8. a writing getaway (pricey but very cool)
  9. a Kindle book reader
  10. writing tools (pens, notebooks, magnetic poetry..)
Suggestions?

November 18, 2008

Poetry and the Presidency




I read a post on the Library of Congress blog that in 1982, when Barack Obama was a 19-year-old student at Occidental College, he had 2 poems published in the spring issue of the school's literary magazine of the time.

Here's one of those poems:

Underground

Under water grottos, caverns
Filled with apes
That eat figs.
Stepping on the figs
That the apes
Eat, they crunch.
The apes howl, bare
Their fangs, dance,
Tumble in the
Rushing water,
Musty, wet pelts
Glistening in the blue.

Obama is taking on a job that is incomprehensibly difficult to most of us. I'm delighted that he even wrote poetry as a student, and I hope that it may still have a place in his life as reader and writer. But I'm surprised by the "analysis" that these two poems have been given in the press and online lately. (I know some of you are saying that I'm naive for even being surprised.)

The second poem, "Pop," is reported to be about his maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham.

Pop

Sitting in his seat, a seat broad and broken
In, sprinkled with ashes,
Pop switches channels, takes another
Shot of Seagrams, neat, and asks
What to do with me, a green young man
Who fails to consider the
Flim and flam of the world, since
Things have been easy for me;
I stare hard at his face, a stare
That deflects off his brow;
I’m sure he’s unaware of his
Dark, watery eyes, that
Glance in different directions,
And his slow, unwelcome twitches,
Fail to pass.
I listen, nod,
Listen, open, till I cling to his pale,
Beige T-shirt, yelling,
Yelling in his ears, that hang
With heavy lobes, but he’s still telling
His joke, so I ask why
He’s so unhappy, to which he replies...
But I don’t care anymore, cause
He took too damn long, and from
Under my seat, I pull out the
Mirror I’ve been saving; I’m laughing,
Laughing loud, the blood rushing from his face
To mine, as he grows small,
A spot in my brain, something
That may be squeezed out, like a
Watermelon seed between
Two fingers.
Pop takes another shot, neat,
Points out the same amber
Stain on his shorts that I’ve got on mine, and
Makes me smell his smell, coming
From me; he switches channels, recites an old poem
He wrote before his mother died,
Stands, shouts, and asks
For a hug, as I shink, my
Arms barely reaching around
His thick, oily neck, and his broad back; ‘cause
I see my face, framed within
Pop’s black-framed glasses
And know he’s laughing too.


Someone asked Harold Bloom at Yale University to review it and he said it was “not bad—a good enough folk poem with some pathos and humor and affection... It is not wholly unlike Langston Hughes, who tended to imitate Carl Sandburg" and further says it is much superior to the poetry of former President Jimmy Carter whom Bloom calls "literally the worst poet in the United States."

I never knew critics were so interested (or tough!) on poetry in college literary magazines.

I picked up a book of Jimmy Carter's poetry in the library a few years ago, and I recall liking a few poems about fishing that were there. Great poetry? No. The worst poetry? Definitely not.

Presidents taking their chances on writing poetry is not without precedent.

How about this acrostic poem by George Washington?

From your bright sparkling Eyes, I was undone;
Rays, you have, more transparent than the sun,
Amidst its glory in the rising Day,
None can you equal in your bright array;
Constant in your calm and unspotted Mind;
Equal to all, but will to none Prove kind,
So knowing, seldom one so Young, you'l Find
Ah! woe's me that I should Love and conceal,
Long have I wish'd, but never dare reveal,
Even though severely Loves Pains I feel;
Xerxes that great, was't free from Cupids Dart,
And all the greatest Heroes, felt the smart.

John Tyler wrote several poems that have survived. One was written when his three-month old daughter Anne died in July 1825. Here are the opening stanzas to that elegy:


Oh child of my love, thou wert born for a day;
And like morning's vision have vanished away
Thine eye scarce had ope'd on the world's beaming light
Ere 'twas sealed up in death and enveloped in night.

Oh child of my love as a beautiful flower;
Thy blossom expanded a short fleeting hour.
The winter of death hath blighted thy bloom
And thou lyest alone in the cold dread tomb. . . . [4]


And we also have the precedent for the inclusion of poetry at Presidential inaugurals. Robert Frost recited "The Gift Outright" (PBS transcript) at John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural. (Frost actually that poem from memory because he was unable to read the text of "Dedication" (PBS transcript) which he had written for the occasion. (video of Frost reading "The Gift Outright" at Kennedy's inauguration)

Maya Angelou read "On the Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton's 1993 inaugural. (video of the reading) James Dickey read ''The Strength of Fields'' at Jimmy Carter's 1977 inaugural gala at the Kennedy Center.

Are any of you with me on thinking that having a President that reads, writes or at least has written and read poetry at some point is a GOOD thing?

November 17, 2008

Dodge Poetry Festival on YouTube

The Dodge Poetry Festival’s YouTube channel is available online at YouTube.

The first offerings are readings from the 2006 Dodge Poetry Festival – including Billy Collins, Linda Gregg, Ekiwah Adler Belendez, Jorie Graham, Mark Doty, Lucille Clifton, Ko Un, Linda Hogan, Toi Derricotte, Tony Hoagland and Taha Muhammad Ali – can now be seen on YouTube.

Dodge Foundation Poetry Festivals, some of which have been featured on PBS. Over the years a remarkable group of poets from around the world has read to enthusiastic audiences and discussed a broad range of topics related to poetry.

Beginning in 1986 multi-day Dodge Poetry Festivals have been held every other year, usually in the highlands of New Jersey, and they have always attracted a diverse audience of poetry lovers. Recent Festivals have drawn audiences numbering between fifteen and twenty thousand people.





Here's Mark Doty reading "House of Beauty" which is set at a fire in Jersey City, New Jersey - but, of course, being a poem by Mark Doty, it's about so much more.

November 5, 2008

The 30-Day Chapbook Diet


"Never a day without a line."
Catullus

This month's writing prompt is borrowed. I read Diane's post on Blogalicious about Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides blog hosting a prompt-a-day (PAD) for November as a way to build a chapbook.

"I'm thinking it might be a neat idea to try writing a poem a day in November with the view of trying to have the makings of a chapbook heading into December. I'll provide a prompt-a-day to try and help get the poetic juices flowing each day, but you can decide to follow or ignore the prompt as you see fit. After all, our main goal would be to have 30ish poems at the end of the month that you can then try turning into a chapbook submission."


He's not giving model poems as we do on Poets Online, but it seems that he will post his own attempts at the prompts at times.

The poem-a-day idea isn't new. William Stafford generally awakened and would write before dawn, and often wrote a poem every day. On the last day of his life, he wrote “Are You Mr. William Stafford?” It must have worked - he more than 60 books during his lifetime.

I also think of David Lehman's collection, The Daily Mirror. Like Stafford, Emily Dickinson, and Frank O'Hara, he began writing a poem a day. It started in 1996 and he continued for the next two years. He selected the best of these "daily poems" and compressed two years into one.

For our November prompt, choose any one of the prompts that Brewer offers this month. When you submit your poem to Ports Online, be sure to include in the email an indication of what the prompt was that you used.





Robert Brewer also throws out this teaser:

At the end of the month, I may be asking you to collect your poems together from this challenge and send me your chapbooks so that I can try to pick a Best Chapbook Award. If I do this, the winner probably won't be announced until Groundhog Day. But I'll give more information on this idea as the month unfolds.

October 31, 2008

Escape to the Library

I'm passing this information from my colleague and friend, Dana Maloney, who is coordinating this year's NJ Council of Teachers of English 2008 High School Writing Contest. She would like to reach as many teachers and students in New Jersey as possible, so I offered to post about it on several of my blogs.

It's a NJcentric contest, but the rest of you may be curious about the personal essay prompt and our model. It sent me back to a childhood memory that may be one you share.

The contest categories are: poetry, short story, and personal essay. More contest details at the end of this post. The personal essay submissions must respond to this year’s prompt.
Where do you live? Use descriptive language to give the reader a virtual experience of your world. As you do this, let us hear your voice. Share the thoughts, feelings, questions and concerns that arise out of your view of the world around you. Bring your space – your town, your school, your home, your room, your web - to life for your reader. Where you live can be interpreted in many ways, including both literal and metaphorical ways, and we encourage you to take liberty with interpretation.
Of course, you could use that for poetry too. As a model of a personal essay, Dana suggested an essay by another friend, teacher and poet BJ Ward. You might want to read his essay about his youthful home-away-from-home at his local library - it is available online. Escaping to books is probably something that many readers of this post can admit to from their youth.

"During the internet-less, video-game-less, and seemingly endless summers of my childhood, I could ride my bike to the Washington Borough Public Library and within one minute be transported to the world of Dr. Doolittle; The Hardy Boys; and Babe Ruth, All-American Hero. Each book was a planet with a spine. The librarian was an organizing star, keeping all those spheres in their places for future explorers to discover. The library itself was a universe—a macrocosm between paint-chipped walls, below a roof paid for by bake sales, sandwiched between a tattoo parlor and halfway house. It was the most fecund place I knew—a greenhouse for my imagination, where fluorescence had to do with my mind’s branches spreading. O the joyful fire in the astronaut’s skull when divination led to apprehension. "

I was one of those people who had a corner of the children's section of my public library that I considered to be mine. A big, fat, old leather chair in a corner with a dirty window and a wall of books for protection. When they built the new town library - a bigger, brighter, glass-walled
version - I never found a special place there. (The modern chairs discouraged getting comfortable anyway.) Of course, by then I was out of the children's section which almost always is the more inviting part of a library anyway.

Newark Public LibraryI had ventured a few times to the "big library" in my part of New Jersey - the Newark Public Library. It was impressive. Too impressive. I felt lost. Too many echoes in the halls, though I did like seeing in pop up in books like in Phillip Roth's Goodbye Columbus that I was reading. (My own hometown, Irvington, had shown up in some stories and in Portnoy's Complaint and I rode that same bus as

Perhaps, some student will write an essay for the contest about some private place of escape in their world. Do kids still escape to the library? My office is within a college library and it seems to be the place to study and use computers, but escape...?

BJ Ward's poem "Filling in the New Address Book" was featured on National Public Radio’s The Writer’s Almanac. (listen to Garrison Keillor reading it). His latest collection of poetry is Gravedigger's Birthday. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Warren County Community College in New Jersey.


CONTEST DETAILS
  • Each participating teacher may submit up to 10 entries in each category. Submissions must be accompanied by a signed entry form.
  • Entrants must submit four paper copies and one electronic copy of each submission.
  • Download the entry form which contains information on where to submit the entry.
  • The student’s name must not appear on the submission itself – only on the entry form.
  • Postmark and Electronic Submission Deadline: December 15, 2008
  • At least one student from every participating school will receive an award. Award categories are “Outstanding,” “Prize-worthy” or “Certificate of Merit.” Students in grades 10, 11 or 12 who are named “Outstanding” winners may be eligible for a New Jersey Governor’s Award in Arts Education.
  • Winners will be announced by April 15, 2009.

October 30, 2008

A Poet Wish List


A friend of mine (not a poet) recently asked me, "Ken, you're a poet. What would a poet like to get as a gift?"

Well, my first thought was that they want the same things as everyone else. (Poets are not really that strange.) But, I know what she meant. What kinds of things with a connection to poetry or writing would someone who writes poetry enjoy getting?

I gave it some thought and emailed a list and a few suggestions. I added that list to this blog on the home page as the current poll.
  • poetry books (of poems, about poetry, about writing or poets)
  • poetry read on audio
  • blank books for writing
  • music that is inspirational
  • gourmet food (yes, that can be inspirational!)
  • coffee / tea
  • wine or other beverages
  • a writing getaway (pricey but very cool)
  • a Kindle book reader
  • writing tools (pens, notebooks, magnetic poetry..)
Now, I ask you - vote in the poll and, even better, post a comment with some specifics. What would make your wish list: music that gets you writing, a place you'd like to go and write, a blank book, special pen, beverage... What book of poems would you like to get this holiday season? Is there a movie that works especially well for poets?

October 9, 2008

Poets are made, not born

If you're new to this blog, you might not know that it is an extension of the poetsonline.org website. We offer a monthly poetry writing prompt and the opportunity to submit your poetic response for online publication. All submissions that address the prompt will be read and considered for posting on the site - but, we will only consider poems that are actually in response to the current writing prompt.

We receive many poems (good and bad) each month that have nothing to do with the prompt, and always a few poems that respond to one the many prompts in our archive.

I know that many of our readers write using the prompt with no intention of submitting the poem and that's a good thing. As much as we enjoy reading your poems and sharing them with he world, the intent is to inspire people to write.

Which brings us to the October prompt - one that addresses some of these ideals directly.

Our featured poet is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson who is best known by the pen name Lewis Carroll. I find it sad that Lewis Carroll has often been relegated to the classrooms of younger students. I deliberately chose his poem "POETA FIT, NON NASCITUR" because it's not a poem for children or one that they should or would read.

Carroll was an English author, mathematician, logician, and photographer. His most famous writings are the stories about Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass.

Carroll published his first major collection as Phantasmagoria in 1869. His epic nonsense poem “The Hunting of the Snark” was published in 1876. In 1871 the sequel to Alice appeared. Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There includes the poem “Jabberwocky.” All of them might be considered part of the genre of literary nonsense. He is known for his word play and fantasy that appeals to children and the literary elite.

The title is a play on the Latin proverb POETA NASCITUR, NON FIT which means "A poet is born, not made." Carroll flips it over to mean a poet is made, not born which I have used for many years as the slogan for this website. Poets Online runs on the premise that we can all learn to be better poets by writing poems with a bit of guidance and by trying different forms and heading in new directions.

Unlike some of Carroll's other famous poems, this one is not all nonsense. In fact, you probably need a bit of help with some of the references.

In his advice to becoming a poet, he says:

First learn to be spasmodic -
A very simple rule.

"For first you write a sentence,
And then you chop it small;
Then mix the bits, and sort them out

Spasmodic poetry was actually a form known in his time. It frequently took the form of verse drama and the protagonist was often a poet. The poetry was choppy, and, from the few samples I could find, rather difficult to comprehend. Of course, we might also take his advice as a dig at poets who take prose and "chop it small" in lines and stanzas and call it a poem.

Carroll does use some of his word tricks as when he splits "immature" to complete a rhyme:

Your reader, you should show him,
Must take what information he
Can get, and look for no im-
mature disclosure of the drift
And purpose of your poem.

In other words, the "mature" poet will make sure the arrangement of those chopped sentences doesn't give away too much about what the poem mean.

And what better way to confuse things than to throw in some Latin - exempli gratia means "An example, if you please." Plus, the Adelphi is a London theatre and The Colleen Bawn is a play by Boucicault, and duodecimo is a book made up of twelve-page gatherings cut from single sheets.

So, Carroll's poem about how to be a poet is a model of how not to write a poem. Our prompt for the month is to write a poem either about how NOT to be a poet or how not to write a poem - and to use rhyme. Perhaps that rhyme will be a lesson in how a poet should not use rhyme. Maybe the poem will be Carrollish in its humor, satire, word play or fantasy. Maybe not.

September 30, 2008

Self-Publishing: Blurb

Blurb is a company (and community) that shares your joy of books. That includes reading them, making them, sharing them, and selling them.

There is something magic about holding a book of your work (poems, stories, photos, recipes...)

At one time, publishing your own book used to be called the "vanity press" but these days lots of writers are self-publishing. I should do a longer post on some of the better publishers for that. It doesn't take as much time, technical skills, money , or a friendly editor, agent, contest judge or publisher to actually publish a book - or 100 copies of that book.

One service that a friend used recently and liked is Blurb.
  • Prices start at only $12.95 for a 40-page softcover, $22.95 for Hardcover, Dust Jacket and $24.95 for Hardcover, ImageWrap.
  • Their bookmaking software is free.
  • All feature professional bindings and coated, semi-matte paper.
  • You can order just one copy or many, and you have the option to place your book in Blurb’s bookstore for friends and family to purchase.
  • Interesting formats -a distinctive Square 7x7 to Landscape 10x8 or Portrait 8x10 to Large Format Landscape 13x11.
  • Dozens of book styles, backgrounds, page designs, and text options to showcase your writing.
  • Orders arrive on your doorstep in approximately 7 to 10 business days

Nicely done website with lots samples - check out "poetry" to start.

September 20, 2008

World Poets

Last month, I received a submission of three poems in Turkish. I couldn't read them (and we only accept one submission) but it got me thinking about the world audience that the site and blog has gotten the past ten years.

If you ever look at the Live Traffic Feed here on the blog, you see that we get a good number of visitors from outside the United States.

This month we featured Coral Bracho (Mexico) for our writing prompt, and I'd like to use more world poets in the future.

If you're a reader from outside the United States (or a world-wise U.S. reader), please leave a comment and tell us what world poets we should consider for the site. Who are the most popular poets in your country? Give us a web link to their poems. Unfortunately, we are an English language site, so we're looking for either translation or foreign poets who also write in English.

I'm no expert on world poetry. I have been looking at poetrytranslation.org which has poems in a good number of languages.
Who would you recommend and why?

September 14, 2008

Coral Bracho: Firefly Under the Tongue

I first heard Coral Bracho interviewed on the excellent program Bookworm from KCRW (also available in iTunes).

Her poem, "Firefly Under the Tongue," that is this month's model poem for our writing prompt, I first heard read in Spanish. I only understood a few words, but I loved the sound. Then I heard it read in its English translation. I understood almost all the words, but I still didn't understand the poem.

I don't feel all that bad since Bracho's translator, Forrest Gander, says this about the poem:

Is it a carnal poem about sex? Or is it a phenomenological poem about the reciprocal relation between subjectivity and world? Is it a concert of sound patterns stressing long o's and u's, love sounds, or is it an account of synesthetic perception? Does the poem intimate the hidden centrality of the earth in all human experience, in language itself? Should "Lengua" in the title be translated as "Language" or "Tongue"? What happens to those good old guides I and you after the first line?

I'm comfortable with the ambiguity. I like that the poem sends me to the dictionary to define words like violaceous (though that may be more the translator's choice). The brackets and dashes are part of her style, but why are they there? Back to Gander:

In this poem, the most difficult word for me to translate was cabala. In Spanish, it means both conjecture and Kabbalah. Since the bracketed words often seem to me like keys that unlock hidden connections and connotations, I went with door number two.
Those "keys" don't unlock much of the poem for me, but the thing is that I don't care. I like that the dictionary helps me to define words like violaceous.

Here's an excerpt from another of her poems from the Poetry Translation Centre website:

Water of Jellyfish by Coral Bracho


Water of jellyfish,
milky, snaking water
of ever-changing shapes; glossy water-flesh; melting
into its lovely surroundings. Water - sumptuous waters
receding, languid

and layered into calm. Water,
water silken, dusky, dense as lead - mercurial;
floating free, idling. The seaweedin there, sparkling, in pleasure's very breast.

In a 2005 interview, she described that "Agua de bordes lúbricos" (Water of Jellyfish) "tries to get close to the movement of water with images that are "fleeting"; you can't grasp them, they are very fluid. What remains is that continuity of water."

It's the sound of the language that appeals to me. It's amazing that it works in translation. More from Gander:
It is impossible to carry into English the sound patterns. Sometimes I'm lucky, as when the long u of azules, zumo, and frutales work out as blue, juice, and fruit. When I lose sound play in one place—for instance, the slide from grieta to gruta or from goces to Gozne—I try to recover it in places where there may not be sound play in the original, as where I echo flustered in Luster or root in smooth. In Bracho's poems, the musical movement is primary and I let it tune my translation.

In this poem, the most difficult word for me to translate was cabala. In Spanish, it means both conjecture and Kabbalah. Since the bracketed words often seem to me like keys that unlock hidden connections and connotations, I went with door number two.

For this month's prompt, we reject narrative poems and request ones that are dripping with language, imagery, sensuality, mystery.

September 8, 2008

American Sentences

American Sentences as a poetic form was Allen Ginsberg's effort to make American the haiku. If haiku is seventeen syllables going down in Japanese text, he would make American Sentences seventeen syllables going across, linear, like just about everything else in America.

In Cosmopolitan Greetings, his 1994 book, he published two and a half pages of these nuggets, some of which had scene-setting preambles. For example:


Four skinheads stand in the streetlight rain chatting under an umbrella.


Rainy night on Union square, full moon. Want more poems? Wait till
I'm dead.

AmericanSentences.com is a site to present and foster this poetic form of haiku-length poems that Allen suggested be limited to 17 syllables, like haiku in Japanese and like the Heart Sutra in Buddhism.

It's not really a writing prompt, but feel free to post your efforts in the comments below.

The website is done by Paul Everett Nelson. He is self-descibed as a poet, father, teacher and broadcaster, and founder of the non-profit Global Voices Radio and co-founder of the Northwest SPokenword LAB (SPLAB!).

Paul says:
I have written one of these sentences every day since January 1, 2001. I find it
an amazing way to sharpen my perception and learn how to eliminate unnecessary
syllables. It aids in a sort of pre-editing that supports my spontaneous writing
practice.



September 4, 2008

Visiting Authors Series

Fall 2008 Visiting Authors Series at Warren County Community College (NJ)
  • Wednesday, September 17: Baron Wormser, former Poet Laureate of Maine and author of the just-released Scattered Chapters: New and Selected Poems (Sarabande Books)
  • Thursday, October 16: Mimi Schwartz, author of the new memoir, Good Neighbors, Bad Times - Echoes of My Father's German Village (University of Nebraska Press)
  • Thursday, November 13: Francine Prose, novelist and essayist, author of the forthcoming Goldengrove (HarperCollins—September 2008) and Blue Angel (Harper Perennial), a finalist for the National Book Award
  • NOTE: Baron Wormser and Francine Prose will each teach a master class, from 4 to 5 p.m., on the day of their respective readings. Enrollment in each master class is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required. To register for the master class, please call B.J. Ward at (908) 835-2531. High school students are welcome.

All events are free and open to the public, thanks to a grant from the Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission. The readings will be held in Room 123 and begin at 7:30 p.m.


For directions to the college, go to http://www.warren.edu/

September 1, 2008

August 16, 2008

The Last Thursday Poetry Reading: August 2008



I have posted here before that for New Jersey area poetry fans and readers of Poets Online, the Last Thursday Poetry Readings series should be of interest. The series runs on the last Thursday of each month at the Middletown Township Public Library in central New Jersey with
poets from the tri-state area, and there should be some names you will recognize from Poets Online both as featured poets and as contributors. The series is put together by poet, Gloria Healy.

In the category of shameless self-promotion (sometimes the only kind), this month's lineup includes myself along with two Poets Online contributors, Alissa Pecora and Susan Rothbard, and Emari DiGiorgio. It's on Thursday, August 28 at 7 PM.

There is an open reading after the featured poets, and it's a very welcoming audience for new poets. I hope to see both some familiar faces and perhaps a few Poets Online contributors that I have only known virtually.

August 15, 2008

New Poems? (Ballistics by Billy Collins)


I see that Billy Collins has a new collection of poems coming out in September. Sure to be a good seller at the Dodge Poetry Festival that month.

I'm a Collins fan. I bought The Apple That Astonished Paris in 1990 (it came out in 1988) which is probably before many readers knew of his work. He started getting a lot more attention in the later years of the last century (Picnic, Lightning in 1998) and really came to the front when he was appointed (surprisingly) Poet Laureate in 2001.

I was lucky enough to spend a week with Collins when he taught a poetry workshop on Long Island. The classes were great. The discussions were lively. He revealed the secret of the paradelle to us and we vowed to help keep it a secret. (We failed.) But the best part was our nightly sessions in a Southampton bar.

So, I look forward to his new book. But, I also wonder about this whole idea of a "new book" of poems from Collins or any leading poet.

You don't get books of poetry published unless you have already published most of them in periodicals.

I don't know what the table of contents for the new book looks like, but I suspect a lot of the new poems are ones I have already read and/or heard him read: maybe "Brightly Colored Boats Upturned on the Banks of the Charles," "August," "January in Paris," ( I recall the origin being in the Paul Valery quote "Poems are never completed, they are only abandoned") "The Lodger," "On Not Finding You at Home," "The Lanyard," "The Order of the Day," "Flock," "Constellations," "Carry," "Genius" and others. If you wanted to bother searching online, you could find a lot of them - for example, "The Breather" is on the Poetry magazine site. I have heard him read "Revenant" which is in the voice of a dog who was put to sleep, and it always gets a good reaction and laughs, so that's probably in there.

The title poem was one I heard him read back in 2005 on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion radio show. (Give a listen yourself.) "Ballistics" is based on the famous Harold Edgerton photograph of a bullet passing through a book and is echoed on the new book's cover.

I'm not saying there's nothing new in books of new poetry, but if you follow a poet's work, go to readings and read magazines, journals and online, you probably have encountered the poems before.

Still, buyers of poetry books are a small but solid consumer base. We like to have the book in our hands. We like to buy them at readings. We like to get them signed by the poet. Ballistics will sell well. Book sales may be down, but I think poetry will hold steady.


Suggested Link: Take a look at the series of Collins' poems that were animated at BCactionpoet.org


August 4, 2008

You Probably Think This Poem Is About You

Novelist Erica Jong wrote this:
Where does autobiography end and fiction begin? Best seller lists and publishers' catalogues assume we know the answer to this question, as they assume there is a clear- cut difference between fiction and nonfiction. Many writers are not so sure. The strongest and most passionate writing always comes out of our own experiences and obsessions - but how we transform these obsessions depends on the writer, or even on the writer's mood, at a given point in time. In E. E. Cummings's classic novel of World War I, ''The Enormous Room,'' the author writes as ''I,'' identifies that ''I'' as Edward Estlin Cummings, even includes sketches from his own notebooks, and yet the shapeliness of the book, the sense of a beginning, middle and end, lead us to think of it as a ''novel.''
So there I was reading through poems in the collection edited by Billy Collins called Poetry 180. I read "Gee, You’re So Beautiful That It’s Starting to Rain" by Richard Brautigan, and then I flipped pages and settled on "Bike Ride with Older Boys" by Laura Kasischke. Synchronicity was at work and the radio was playing Carly Simon who was singing "You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you."

I remember when that album was released. There was much speculation about who was the "you" of the song. James Taylor? I heard Warren Beatty was the one. Mick Jagger had a connection with Carly, but then he sang backup on the song. Now, THAT would be vain! (The speculation continues apparently - look at Carly's site.) 

I know teachers of poetry who deliberately remove the poet's name from a poem they hand it out in order to try and shut down the baggage that comes with knowing who is the poet and attaching a life story to the poem. 

How about this situation? Have you ever read a poem written by someone you know, and thought that it was about you? That might be flattering, insulting, or embarrassing, or it might give you thoughts about a lawsuit. I tried, but I couldn't find a poem that exactly fit the prompt I wanted: a poem about someone that tries to convince the reader and the subject of the poem that it is NOT about them. (Like Carly's song) 

So, that becomes the August prompt - Can you come up with the model poem that the prompt needed? The two model poems I did include on the site are certainly about someone. I suspect that Brautigan's Marcia really existed. Kasischke's boy (I do think of them as one) probably existed but she didn't actually do what happens in the poem, so the poem is about them, but not about them. Do you think the boys would recognize themselves if they read her poem?
You're so vain, I'll bet you think this song is about you. Don't you? Don't you?

July 29, 2008

Billy Collins Live

Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate, shares an evening of his poetry in a benefit reading for WNYC, New York Public Radio. Often compared to Robert Frost, his poetry has been embraced by people of all ages and backgrounds, and his readings are most often standing room only.

On this audio CD, Collins reads 24 of his poems, including "Dharma" --a spiritual yet humbling ode to man's best friend, "The Lanyard--an amusing recollection about the popular, if not pointless, summer camp pastime, and "Consolation" --a tongue-in-cheek reflection of a canceled European trip, and the benefits of staying home instead.

In addition to the poetry readings, Collins also spends some time in a brief question and answer session where he reflects on what makes good poetry, his own process of reaching his audiences as a poet, the success of his Poetry 180 programs in schools nationwide, and an amusing sidebar on his memories growing up as an only child.




================

The Newest Poet Laureate


The new United States Poet Laureate is Pat Ryan.

A resident of Marin County, California, Pat Ryan has written six books and has won numerous award including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, 2004 Guggenheim Fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Award, the 2000 Union League Poetry Prize and the Maurice English Poetry Award and four Pushcart prizes.

Ryan was born in 1945 in San Jose, California. She received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles. Since 1971, Ryan has lived in Marin County. Her partner of 30 years is Carol Adair.

For more than 30 years, Ryan limited her professional responsibilities to the part-time teaching of remedial English at the College of Marin in Kentfield, Calif., thus leaving much of her life free for "a lot of mountain bike riding plus the idle maunderings poets feed upon." She said at one point that she has never taken a creative writing class, and in a 2004 interview in The Christian Science Monitor, she noted, "I have tried to live very quietly, so I could be happy."


Turtle


Who would be a turtle who could help it?
A barely mobile hard roll, a four-oared helmet,
She can ill afford the chances she must take
In rowing toward the grasses that she eats.
Her track is graceless, like dragging
A packing-case places, and almost any slope
Defeats her modest hopes. Even being practical,
She’s often stuck up to the axle on her way
To something edible. With everything optimal,
She skirts the ditch which would convert
Her shell into a serving dish. She lives
Below luck-level, never imagining some lottery
Will change her load of pottery to wings.
Her only levity is patience,
The sport of truly chastened things.

'Turtle" is from Kay Ryan's Flamingo Watching, Copper Beach Press, 1994 and is also available at Poetry 180.

More on the new Laureate

July 27, 2008

Springfed Arts Writers Retreat


Cornelius Eady, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Sandra Seaton, Christopher Knight, ML Liebler and other writers of poetry, novels, memoir, screenplays will be featured at the Springfed Arts Writers Retreat 2008 (formerly Walloon Lake Writers Retreat) on October 9-12, 2008 at the Birchwood Inn, Harbor Springs , Michigan.

Register online and find complete information on schedule, costs, plus writer bios at springfed.org

July 22, 2008

Open Door Poetry

Borders Books has a portion of their website devoted to Open Door Poetry. It's a project to move poetry off the page and into video and audio. The site includes Billy Collins, Paul Muldoon, Kim Addonizio, Donald Hall, Franz Wright, Jorie Graham and others reading their poems and talking about poetry

They also are sponsoring the BORDERS Open-Door Poetry Contest which will be judged by Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate.

The second Borders Open-Door Poetry Contest is open for submissions through July. The top 10 (5 adult, 5 student) poems submitted, in text or in video, will be published on their site alongside a poem by Billy Collins in an upcoming episode. Billy will also read and give feedback on the poems he selects as best. All finalists’ poems will be considered for publication in our annual “Best of” book, which will highlight the many talented poets in the Borders community.

For full information and a submission form, go to bordersmedia.com/odp/

July 21, 2008

Hemingway's Birthday


Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899.

Working in a newspaper office in Kansas City at the age of seventeen, Hemingway started his career as a writer. Before the United States had entered the World War I, he joined a volunteer ambulance unit in the Italian army.

During the 1920's, Hemingway became a member of the group of expatriate Americans in Paris, which he described in his first important work, The Sun Also Rises (1926). A Farewell to Arms (1929), the study of an American ambulance officer's disillusionment in the war and his role as a deserter, was equally successful. Hemingway used his experiences as a reporter during the civil war in Spain as the background for his most ambitious novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).

I have been a big fan of Hemingway's writing since I started reading "serious" books in sixth grade. I liked his straightforward prose and vocabulary. I liked the dialogue, but came to believe that it was pretty unrealistic (and easy to parody). But I was a bigger fan of the short stories (like those in Men Without Women, In Our Time, The Fifth Column, and The Collected Stories) than the novels. (Oh yeah, throw in A Moveable Feast for memoir.)

Most readers aren't aware that Hemingway wrote any poetry. He didn't write a lot of it, and it's not the best of his writing, but it is interesting to look at some on this anniversary of his birth.

Here are 2 short ones that I like:


Neo-Thomist Poem

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not
want him for long.



Chapter Heading

For we have thought the longer thoughts
And gone the shorter way.
And we have danced to devils' tunes,
Shivering home to pray;
To serve one master in the night,
Another in the day.

A copy of his poems is hard to find (only some used copies on Amazon.com) but you can turn up some with a Google search.

Happy Birthday, Papa.

July 19, 2008

Share This






You may have noticed the ShareThis logo appearing at the bottom of my posts here. If you click on that, it allows you to share this post (and blog) with others via your accounts on Delicious, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Digg or many others, or your own blog or that old standby, email.

The folks at ShareThis were nice enough to notice that Poets Online users were clicking and sharing, and so hey featured this blog on their own blog this month on their Roll Call 7.9.08

We definitely appreciate all of you spreading the word about the blog and the Poets Online site with friends you think would enjoy our collected efforts.

July 11, 2008

Fall of Frost

I started reading Brian Hall's Fall of Frost last week. It's a fictional life of poet Robert Frost.

Hall says that he wanted to write the "life story of the poems," and write a book that goes into Frost's inner life.

On the shelf in the bookstore were other traditional biographies: an early one, Gorham B. Munson's Robert Frost: A Study in Sensibility and Good Sense, Lawrance Thompson's three-volume biography, Jeffrey Meyers's Robert Frost and Jay Parini's Robert Frost: A Life. The only one of that group I had read before was the Parini book.


Depending on the book you choose, Frost might be portrayed as a dairy framer, Yankee sage, country sage, a man of rather mean wit, a warmer verson of the Modernists of his time.

I didn't know of Brian Hall, but he has done this novel-bio before with I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company, a novel about Lewis and Clark.

Frost’s life has already been squeezed like apples in a press to try to find hidden meanings though he once said that his poetry, "means enough without its being pressed." How many teachers have led students through "The Road Not Taken" or "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening" and pointed out the symbols & meanings?

The book is a series of a 128 non-chronological scenes starting near the end of his life and pausing in his childhood, adulthood, and old age.


  • Frost's troubled childhood in San Francisco and his father, a newspaperman with a "paper-white face, blue below the eyes, the red coins in his cheeks not a sign of health"
  • his mother, described as a "Swedenborgian blessed with second sight, patient wife, incipient lunatic, embryonic writer."
  • time in Great Britain at the onset of WWI
  • his relationship with his married secretary
  • New England winters on the farm
  • perhaps the greatest tragedies: Frost's children's deaths - four of six preceded their father - his "brood of brooders" - the firstborn son dead of cholera at 4, the other son killing himself with a deer rifle at 38, a daughter institutionalized for mental illness


The book's title comes, not from Robert Frost, but from a poem by Emily Dickinson.




I watcher her face to see which way
She took the awful news --
Whether she died before she heard
Or in protracted bruise
Remained a few slow years with us --
Each heavier than the last --
A further afternoon to fail,
As Flower at fall of Frost.



Frost's wife, Elinor, plays a role throughout the book, including those times when he slips references to her into the poems. Hall uses the device of a character, "The Younger Poets," to represent Galway Kinnell, Donald Hall, Philip Larkin and other poets in the novel.


The book sometimes gets into the origins of the poems. It's a topic I find that many readers of poetry enjoy hearing - just listen to all the background material most poets give at a reading. But Frost had once warned a biographer that "It would seem soft for instance to look in my life for the sentiments in 'The Death of the Hired Man.' There's nothing to it believe me."


The novel opens in a hotel room in Moscow in November 1962, has the poet waiting to meet Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. He was sent by the Kennedy administration in the hope his words might have some softening effect on Russia's grip on Berlin or help the nuclear standoff over Cuba. How strange this hope that words might save the world. How different from today. The mission failed and in three months Frost died, and President Kennedy would be killed the following fall.


From Russia, we cut to Massachusetts July 1900 where Frost’s first child, three-year old Elliot, is dying. And then the scene shifts to a train from Boston in 1940, where Frost meets an adoring young poet who he tells "My son, Carol, died last night. He killed himself…. Please don’t talk to me anymore."

This is Robert Frost as an unsuccessful farmer, tormented father, distanced husband, but mostly as poet. The novel is a good read - simple and rather lonely and sad.



July 6, 2008

Imagism and Natural Landscape

I read the poem "The Changing Light" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and thought of some photographs I had taken in San Francisco many years ago. There was something about the light. It wasn't East Coast light.

That poem is from his book How to Paint Sunlight (New Directions,2001) and in the foreword he wrote: "All I ever wanted was to paint light on the walls of life. These poems are another attempt to do it."

I also couldn't help but think about Carl Sandburg's "Fog."

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.


That's a poem I read a few times in school classrooms and probably had an English teacher use it for a lesson in imagism. That was the name given to a movement in poetry in the early 20th century and represented by Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, and others. It aimed at clarity of expression through the use of precise visual images.

A few other poems that might have been in that section of the anthology:


In a Station of the Metro by Ezra Pound

The Apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.


and the poem that is sometimes called "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams. He actually left it untitled but for a number when it was first published. (I think it should be untitled.)

XXII

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.



Are all imagist poems so short? No, but many are rather brief. Still, people have a lot to say about a little poem like Williams' "XXII."

I thought this month you might try your hand at a poem that is very much anchored in an outdoor place. Your poem does not need to be purely an exercise in imagism, but it should bring into it the light, the weather and the natural atmosphere of the place. A kind of natural landscape should be present in the poem. Beyond that informal form, if you choose to have something else going on in the poem, all the better.

I was also reading a book about Robert Frost this week and in one section Frost said that a poem should have several doors in it - but the poem shouldn't open them. I'd say that's good advice for this prompt too.

June 28, 2008

A Poets Online For Kids

Recently, I reconnected with Laura Shovan who had been teaching and writing poetry in New Jersey and was an early contributor to Poets Online.

She moved to Maryland some years ago and we only seemed to connect every other year at the Dodge Poetry Festival. She still checks in on the the site and was coincidentally working on a series of poems in response to the Stafford poems in “The Darkness Around Us is Deep.” Hopefully, one of those will fit this month's prompt and find its way onto Poets Online.

Laura has made poetry her vocation these days with workshops and readings. She read last weekend with Lucille Clifton as part of the Columbia Festival of the Arts along with a group of contributors to a local literary magazine called the “Little Patuxent Review.”

Her new project is creating her Mrs. Poems site which is still under construction, but will have a poetry prompt for kids with the ability to submit poems. Laura says that it is, "Modeled after your site, of course! Let me know what you think – I’d love your comments and suggestions."

Poets Online has always had an audience with teachers and contributions from students, though many of the prompts are not really appropriate to kids, so I find a site that offers prompts and a chance to publish online for kids to be really exciting. Give Laura's project a look, and let her know your thoughts about poetry prompts and children's poetry.

June 24, 2008

Poetry at the Library of Congress

Most people probably think of the Library of Congress as, well, a library. Fans of poetry may also think of the Library of Congress as the home of our Poet Laureate.

Connected to that is a good number of other poetry-related events and resources that you can browse at Poetry at the Library of Congress.

One of those resources is the "Poet and the Poem" webcasts. This is an ongoing series of live poetry interviews (they run just under an hour in length) at the Library of Congress with distinguished artists that are available as webcasts online. The poets talk with host Grace Cavalieri about their craft and sources of inspiration.

Some of the poets featured include:
Another program is "Poet Vision" that features poets reading and talking about their work in video that was originally filmed and broadcast in Philadelphia from 1988-90. The 12 episodes capture for posterity insights from and about Lucille Clifton, Rita Dove, Allen Ginsberg, Louise Glück, Sam Hamill, Michael Harper, Stanley Kunitz, Denise Levertov, and Robert Penn Warren. The original tapes were donated to the Library of Congress in 2000 by producers Rohm and Haas and are kept in the Library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. View all webcasts in the Poet Vision series

June 21, 2008

The Last Thursday Poetry Readings

Hopefully, this series will be of special interest to New Jersey area poetry fans and longtime readers of Poets Online. The Last Thursday Poetry Readings series runs on the last Thursday of each month. They are held at the Middletown Township Public Library in central New Jersey.

Generally, the poets are from NJ and there are some names you will recognize from Poets Online both as featured poets and as contributors. (Disclaimer: I will be reading in August.)

This month's reading is June 26 at 7 PM and features Svea Barrett, Laura Boss, Jessica de Koninck and Jim Gwyn.

July 31 at 7 PM will feature Mark Brunetti, Laine Sutton Johnson, Linda Radice and Bob Rosenbloom.

To end the summer, at 7 PM on August 28 the series featured poets wil be Emari DiGiorgio, Alissa Pecora, Ken Ronkowitz and Susan Rothbard.

There is usually an open reading after the featured poets and it's a welcoming audience for new poets.

Get directions to the location via Google Maps

June 14, 2008

Parenting: Dark and Warm


After our May prompt mixing the mundane and erotic in a prose poem scared the poetry world into silence, we decided to normalize for June.

With Mother's Day and Father's Day past, the William Stafford poem "With Kit, Age 7, At The Beach" set us thinking about parenting.

That's a big topic and there are so many poems that could go into that anthology. From the poetic children we have poems that are as dark as "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath. There are also the poetic parents writing about their own parenting in poems as warm as "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps" by Galway Kinnell.

We also recommend William Stafford's poems and his many books on writing like Writing the Australian Crawl and You Must Revise Your Life.

May 21, 2008

The 2008 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival


At the Festival: left to right, Coleman Barks, Taha Muhammad Ali, Linda Pastan,
Mark Doty, and Lucille Clifton


The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival returns to Waterloo Village in Stanhope, New Jersey from September 25 through Sunday, September 28, 2008. This is the 12th biennial festival. I have attended ten festivals (missed that first one!) and it has always been the poetry highlight of that year.
Festival favorite, Billy Collins, wrote in "Wordstock:Celebrating the Dodge Poetry Festival" about the event. Here's the opening paragraph:

"To understand the nature of this cultural beast, this mother of all poetry gatherings (”Wordstock” is another name for it) you need to set aside any inherited notions of what poetry readings are all about. Forget the image of a few devotees huddled in a library meeting room or a church basement, and tear up the picture of a coffeehouse where one of the undernourished is inflicting his verse on a few unsmiling listeners. Instead, you need to visualize a kind of Bedouin camp of tents where, for four days, thousands of people navigate their way through a mad-dash schedule of events. The Dodge Poetry Festival is the largest poetry event in North America and it is the most energetic, festive, and high-spirited celebration of poetry I have ever seen."


There is a sizable list of poets, storytellers & musicians who will be at the 2008 Festival including: Chris Abani, Coleman Barks, Taha Muhammad Ali, Coral Bracho, Billy Collins, Lucille Clifton, Mark Doty, Martín Espada, Joy Harjo, Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Edward Hirsch, Jane Hirshfield, Ted Kooser, Maxine Kumin, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sharon Olds, Linda Pastan, Charles Simic, C.D. Wright, and Franz Wright.



The historic Waterloo Village will be re-opened especially for the event. (The village had been taken over by the State of NJ and is undergoing improvements.) They expect audiences of up to 20,000 for the four days of poetry. It's a great setting beside the Musconetcong River with historic buildings and tents among the trees being used for most of the readings and panels, and a huge main stage tent for larger readings and music events.


What originally got me into the festival was participating in some of the the great other programs that the Dodge Foundation does in supporting teachers and students to use poetry.


On Teacher Day (Friday, September 26) there will be about 2000 teachers there. There were 1500 teachers from 30 states and all grade levels on hand at the 2006 Teacher Day. On High School Student Day (Thursday) it's a trip watching busloads of kids come in and wander from reading to reading. Teachers who Pre-Register before September 12 are admitted at no charge on Teacher Day and/or High School Student Day.

It's not just readings. There are Poets on Poetry sessions with discussions about their own sense of poetry, partly through reading and discussing poems by others that have been important to them, and partly through reading and discussing their own poems.

Poetry Conversations bring together two to four poets to discuss topics like “On the Life of the Poet,” “Going Public with Private Feelings,” “Poetry and Jazz,” and “The Mysterious Life within Translation.”

Poets for Teachers sessions, reserved for teachers, provide opportunities to discuss with a Festival Poet ways to bring poetry to life inside and outside the classroom.

In the big tent, about 20 Festival Poets will each read two or three poems in the very popular (get a seat early!) for the Poetry Samplers.

Students really get into the Giving Voice readings throughout the day. Get up and remember by reading poets no longer with us.

Of course, there are opportunities for you to read in the Open Readings too. ("Yes, I read my poetry at the Dodge Festival!")

There are also evening programs on the main stage that generally include music and poetry.

Saturday and Sunday are the big days for the general public, but you can get tickets for the day or all 4 days.

If you're coming to the festival and staying over, there are of hotel, B&B and camping accomodation options. Though I had been a hardcore tent camper at the festival for many years, one very rainy 4 days made me upgrade to cabin camping at Panther Lake where you will find myself, my friend Steve and an assortment of festival types in the evening around the fire.