October 29, 2017

The Urge for Going

Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize in 2016 and there was a lot of discussion about whether or not song lyrics qualify as poetry.

I came of age in the 1960s and even my high school English teachers were bringing in Dylan, Paul Simon and other lyrics to get us interested in poetry. It convinced me that some song lyrics were, if not poetry, poetic.

Joni Mitchell was another songwriter whose lyrics entered the classroom. One of her songs caught hold of me one autumn day in the late 1960s. It was a version recorded by Tom Rush. He was the first major artist to record some of her songs on his album The Circle Game. Besides the title song, he recorded "Tin Angel" and the lyric that caught me, "Urge for Going."

That song, heard on a chilly, late October day, changed how I felt as I listened. Isn't that what good poems do?

Tom Rush changed the gender in the lyrics and since I had "a girl in summertime with summer-colored skin" who also got the urge for going. I can still remember sitting in a car listening to the song and not moving until it was over.

Yes, I also wanted "to call back summertime and have her stay for just another month or so, But she's got the urge for going so I guess she'll have to go."

I heard the song again this past week and it all came back to me again - the song, that moment, that girl.

Does the lyric stand up as a poem?

Is there a song lyric that felt like poetry for you?  Tell us about it in a comment here.

Urge for Going by Joni Mitchell 
I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
and all trees are shivering in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go 
I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in
I had me a man in summertime
He had summer-colored skin
And not another girl in town
My darling's heart could win
But when the leaves fell on the ground
And bully winds came around pushed them face down in the snow
He got the urge for going and I had to let him go 
He got the urge for going
When the meadow grass was turning brown
And summertime was falling down and winter was closing in
Now the warriors of winter they gave a cold triumphant shout
And all that stays is dying and all that lives is getting out
See the geese in chevron flight flapping and racing on before the snow
They've got the urge for going and they've got the wings so they can go 
They get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in
I'll ply the fire with kindling and pull the blankets to my chin
I'll lock the vagrant winter out and I'll bolt my wandering in
I'd like to call back summertime and have her stay for just another month or so
But she's got the urge for going so I guess she'll have to go 
She gets the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
And all her empires are falling down
And winter's closing in
And I get the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
And summertime is falling down

October 25, 2017

Outdoors all afternoon under a gunmetal sky...

Feeling a bit old as another birthday passes, and cleaning up the plants dying in the garden today, I needed a bit of poetry and a hot drink when I came into the house to keep me moving on.

I took a poetic pilgrimage back to Stanley Kunitz's garden in Provincetown via his poem “Touch Me.” I took a literal pilgrimage to his garden years ago when I was there for a poetry workshop week.

This love poem unfolds in his garden as he prepares for a storm. I have heard him read it several times and it always moves me.

What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it's done.

It was the last one he ever published and what a way to leave this poetry world.

October 23, 2017

By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes

Halloween is my least favorite calendar event. I know it is the favorite of many of you. I never liked dressing up as something else, and trick or treating always felt too much like begging.
Maybe you celebrate Halloween, or perhaps you celebrate Hallowtide or Samhain. The latter is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. Samhain is celebrated from sunset on October 31st until sunset on November first and was chosen because it was the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
I do enjoy tales of Halloween, Martians and Radio Terrorists and, growing up in New Jersey, I enjoyed hearing about when the Martians landed in my home state. 
halloweengrinchSo, I am pretty much a Halloween Grinch. 
I would rather think of this time following my birthday as spooky in the way that a book and movie about the season scared me as a kid. That story is Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury which takes its title from Mr. Shakespeare's tale of wickedness with witches, Macbeth
"By the pricking of my thumbsSomething wicked this way comes."

And then there is the night before Halloween, known as "Mischief Night" and the "Devil's Night" which is less about the occult and lightweight vandalism.
But if you need some poetry for those nights, Poets.org suggests these:

The Vampire” by Conrad Aiken
The Apparition” by John Donne
The Owner of the Night” by Mark Doty
From a Train” by Lynn Emanuel
Omens” by Cecilia Llompart
The Haunted Palace” by Edgar Allan Poe
All Hallows Night” by Lizette Woodworth Reese
Bats” by Paisley Rekdal
Black Cat” by Rainer Maria Rilke
To Live in the Zombie Apocalypse” by Burlee Vang

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Open, locks,
Whoever knocks.

October 18, 2017

Philip Larkin: Unhappiness is probably the source of my popularity

Philip Larkin was born in Coventry, England in 1922. He is best known for his clipped, spare poems that explored post-war England. Though he was a very popular English poet, he didn't work very hard at self-promotion.

His father introduced him to the writing of T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce, and he was sure he would become a novelist. By By the time he enrolled at Oxford in 1940, he had written five full-length novels. He destroyed them but he did complete two novels, Jill (1946) and A Girl in Winter (1947) and his first collection of poetry, The North Ship (1945).

He tried to write another novel, but couldn't finish it, and so he said, "I didn't choose poetry; poetry chose me."

Philip Larkin spent more than 30 years as a university librarian, never married and lived alone. My first impression of him was a small bio in an anthology we used in school. He sounded like quite  the glum, curmudgeon.

He once said: "I think writing about unhappiness is probably the source of my popularity, if I have any — after all, most people are unhappy, don't you think? Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth."

He didn't try hard to promote his work. He never traveled to America. He never gave readings. H was nominated for Poet Laureate but declined the position when it was offered. Still, he is often described as England's best-loved poet.

Sample poems

October 15, 2017

A Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Dodge Poetry Festival

The Warren County Community College in New Jersey presents "A Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Dodge Poetry Festival."

This free event will be on Saturday, October 21, 2017 at Warren County Community College (475 Route 57 West, Washington, NJ 07882)

Poets and panelists include Martin Farawell (Director of the Dodge Poetry Program), Laura Boss, Kenneth Hart, Susan Jackson, Charles H. Johnson, Tina Kelley, Diane Lockward, John McDermott, Peter E. Murphy, Khalil Murrell, Priscilla Orr, Joe Weil, Gretna Wilkinson and Sander Zulauf.

The program will run from 12 noon through 4:30 pm.

12 to 12:45     Panel Discussions
1:00 to 2:15    Poetry Sampler: The Dodge Festival Poets
2:30 to 3:00    Poems by Martin Farawell
3:00 to 3:45    Favorite Poems by Others, as read by Dodge Poets
4:00 to 4:30    Favorite Poems from the First 30 Years of the Dodge Main Stage, as read by Martin Farawell

For directions to the college: warren.edu
For information, please contact BJ Ward

October 5, 2017

Prompt: Finders, Keepers

WordPress offers an Intro to Poetry 101 freebie online “course” to inspire you to write 10 poems in 10 days. Really, it is just a very brief one-word prompt and some poetry form and language suggestions. I don’t normally need much prompting to write, but it is good to get poked into writing once and awhile.  
On my Writing the Day website, I devote myself to the ronka form, but I took up this October challenge and let some other forms slip onto the site. Poems for this little side project are tagged #poetry101 there, and you can see poems by others as part of this project at wordpress.com/tag/poetry101.
One of their prompts was the "found poem" which is a form we used on Poets Online back in 2010. I decided to use it again because it is such a deceptively easy form. Easy in that someone else has done the writing for you, but a good and more difficult exercise in what makes a poem a poem. And what better prompt could I use for a found poem than a prompt that I found.
Here is what Wordpress gave us to use:
found poem is composed of words and letters you’ve collected — randomly or not — from other sources, whether printed, handwritten, or digital, and then (re)arranged into something meaningful. Since a found poem is made up of words and letters others have created, it’s up to you, the poet, to find them (hence the name), extract them, and rejig them into something else: your poem.

The classic way of going about the creation of a found poem is scissors and newspaper in hand: you cut out words and phrases and arrange them into your poem. You can then either snap a photo and upload it to your blog, or simply transcribe the resulting text into a new post.
That said, you can control the degree of randomness you impose on your available stock of words, as well as on the procedure you follow to create the poem. You can photocopy a page from a book (even a book of poetry!) and select every fifth word on the first ten pages. Repurpose one of your unpublished drafts into something new. You can even use your books to create some book spine poetry, or recycle your tweets (one online tool will actually do it for you) and other social media messages and turn them into a poetic meditation on… anything, really. Another popular option is erasure or blackout poetry, where you cross out words from an existing printed page until the remaining ones produce a new meaning.

As with our earlier attempts at found poetry, there are some rules for submissions:

  1. Use only the words found in the source - no changing verb forms, making plurals etc. 
  2. but the title can be original (and often makes a difference in the way the poem will be read.
  3. You can add or subtract capitalization and punctuation. 
  4. Your tools are careful selection, ordering, line breaks and stanzas. 
  5. You must identify the original source either in the title or a note at the beginning or end of the poem. (If the source is online, you could give a link for the reader to follow.)
Deadline for submissions is November 5, 2017