August 28, 2011

End of Summer


It is not quite the end of summer, but all the signs are appearing. So here is the first section of Jane Kenyon's  "Three Songs at the End of Summer"


A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Across the lake the campers have learned
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese."


by Jane Kenyon

read the full "Three Songs at the End of Summer" from Poetry Magazine



August 26, 2011

Poetry and Song Lyrics

The online school of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, is debuting the new online course, Creative Writing: Poetry, for their upcoming fall term, beginning September 26th, 2011.

The 12-week course focuses on writing better lyrics through the study of poetry.

“If you want to gain control over your writing, find out what makes poetry work, and what your compositional options are, then this is the course for you,” said Pat Pattison, course author and Professor of Lyric Writing and Poetry at Berklee. “By the time you finish this course, your eyes are going to be completely open to the possibilities of language. This course will make your writing better, and if you do music, it will make your music better.”

Bob Dylan's handwritten lyrics to Just Like a Woman
Are any of you poets reading this also musicians? Do you write poetry when you sit down to write lyrics? Those questions take me back to the late 1960s when students were arguing that their favorite musicians were writing poetry, and some teachers were beginning to use the lyrics of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, The Beatles and others as a way to teach poetry.

The course says that you will learn "how to enhance your ideas through arranging lines into odd or even numbered line groups and creating either a feeling of tension or resolution with the composition itself, independent of the poem's meaning. You'll learn placement, timing, focus, and especially how to use rhythm in language expressively. By the end of the course you’ll be able to construct various chord types used in pop/rock and other styles, and have the improvisational (soloing) vocabulary used in pop/rock styles at your fingertips."

The course readings listed aren't from the world of music but from the very traditional class anthology with Shakespeare, Shelley, Keats, Emerson, Browning, Wadsworth, Longfellow, Tennyson, Yeats, Frost, Cummings, Allen Ginsberg.

August 24, 2011

Poetry On Video

A number of people have created videos to accompany poems. Not everyone gets the opportunities to go to festivals, workshops and reading and hear poets live, so sometimes video is the only alternative. And some videos are interesting films in themselves.

There are 11 Billy Collins poems animated at Billy Collins Action Poetry. (Also a Collins interview from Forum with Michael Krasny available to play (audio only)

Four Seasons Productions has made short films set to classic poetry. There are 21 that have won festival prizes and produced a DVD. Their best “poem videos” are available on their YouTube channel. and include Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues,” “Only Breath” by 13th century sufi poet Rumi and “100 Love Sonnets IX” by Pablo Neruda in the original Spanish.



Poetry Everywhere has 34 short videos of contemporary poets, one poem per video, hosted by Garrison Keillor, using footage from the Dodge Poetry Festival.

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation's YouTube channel has video highlights from past Dodge Foundation Poetry Festivals, some of which have been featured on PBS.



Brian Turner reading "Caravan" and "Eulogy" at the 2006 Dodge Poetry Festival.

August 13, 2011

Philip Levine: Are You Happy and Starlight


When I read that Philip Levine was named the newest U.S. Poet Laureate, I had been doing a little research on the Perseids meteor showers. The Perseids is a very prolific meteor shower that comes every August and I try to watch each year.

They are called the Perseids because they appear to come from a point, called the radiant, within the constellation Perseus.

Perseus was one of the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians. Perseus killed the Gorgon Medusa, and claimed Andromeda, having rescued her from a sea monster sent by Poseidon in retribution for Queen Cassiopeia declaring herself more beautiful than the sea nymphs. Many of those mythological characters are now found in the constellations of the night sky.

I went looking through Levine's poems and rediscovered his poem "Starlight" which seemed like a good connection.

Philip Levine always seems to be described as "blue-collar, working class, poet of the people, poet of work" and similar terms. He is that. Those poems are in his collection and they are important and powerful. But, I hope that doesn't limit his appeal because readers think that all his poems are about that world.

"Starlight" is a father-son poem and I suggest you watch the video below of Levine reading that poem online. He gives it the briefest of introductions - only to say that his father did not live long after the setting of the poem.

The question is asked in the poem "Are you happy?" Such an easy, such a difficult question.

For this month's prompt, write a poem that uses the stars as a way to help tell your story. From the mythology of the constellations, the science of the stars, the romance and history connected to the night sky or this month's shooting stars from Perseus - you have many places to find your stars. Perhaps, you will also find your story in the night sky.

Submissions Due: September 4, 2011


Philip Levine reads his "Starlight" is from Stranger to Nothing: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, UK, 2006). This film is from In Person: 30 Poets.


News of the World

A Poetry App


The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, offers a free POETRY app for Android and iPad/iPhone. The free app has been updated for all mobile devices, including the iPhone.

The updated POETRY app now offers audio versions of many of the 1,700-plus poems included in its virtual poetry library, links to biographies of poets whose work is featured in the app, source information for each poem, and newly added poetry from Francisco Aragon, Rita Dove, Carolyn Kizer, J. Patrick Lewis, and Michael Palmer, among others. Users can browse by poet, mood, subject, or audio availability. Text size may also be increased according to preference.

The iPad edition of the POETRY app includes all of the features available on Androids and iPhones, as well as free digital editions of Poetry magazine. When connected to the Internet, iPad users can download and read the three most recent issues of Poetry as they appeared in print. Electronic editions of the magazine can then be stored in iBook or other e-reader software, allowing app users to read these issues offline at any time. 

The POETRY app offers hundreds of well-known poems by contemporary and classic poets, including Lucille Clifton, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Heather McHugh, Pablo Neruda, William Shakespeare, C├ęsar Vallejo, and many, many others; easy access to new poems from the pages of Poetry magazine; a searchable database of poems to suit any mood or occasion; a folder for saving favorite poems; the capacity to share poems with friends through e-mail and social media; and an engaging, user-friendly interface.

Download the POETRY app for Android.
Download the POETRY app for iPads and iPhones.

August 10, 2011

Philip Levine Named New Poet Laureate


The Library of Congress has named Philip Levine as the new U.S. Poet Laureate. He will succeed W.S. Merwin in the one year appointment.

Levine's poetry has long reflected his Detroit origins and his own and others "blue-collar life."
He was born in Detroit in 1928, to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, and educated at Wayne University (now Wayne State), the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and Stanford University.

He is the author of twenty collections of poetry, and his honors include the Pulitzer Prize, two National Book Awards, and two National Book Critic Circle Awards.

The Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, described Philip Levine as
...one of America's great narrative poets. His plainspoken lyricism has, for half a century, championed the art of telling 'The Simple Truth'—about working in a Detroit auto factory, as he has, and about the hard work we do to make sense of our lives.

On November 29, 2007 a tribute was held in New York City in anticipation of Levine's 80th birthday. Among those celebrating Levine's career by reading Levine's work were Yusef Komunyakaa, Galway Kinnell, E. L. Doctorow, Charles Wright, Jean Valentine, and Sharon Olds. Levine himself read several new and interesting poems. He thanked his students and asked them to refrain from asking for any more letters of recommendation.








August 1, 2011

2011 Warren County Poetry Festival


The 7th Biennial Warren County Poetry Festival is a free event to be held on Saturday, September 24, 2011. The festival is held on the campus of the Blair Academy, in Blairstown, New Jersey.

The theme of this year's festival is "Mapping the Landscape of Love and Loss in Poetry."

The Festival will feature workshops, panel discussions, book signings, and open mic sessions.

Featured poets this year include: Toi Derricotte, Mark Doty, Marie Howe, Jim Haba, Sander Zulauf, Martin Farawell, Stanley Barkan, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Lyn Lifshin, Joe Weil, and Laura Boss, who is also the Festival Artistic Director.

This 7th Biennial Warren County Poetry Festival is made possible by a grant from the by the NJ State Council on the Arts and the Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission.