August 22, 2018


Not everyone has the opportunity to attend poetry readings in their local area, but thankfully there are many available online. One source I was browsing and listening to today is the which has almost 3000 audio files.

I was just browsing and clicking and listening - the audio equivalent of doing that through an anthology.

I will admit to clicking on poems just because a title caught my attention - like 
—how her loose curls float 
above each silver fish as she leans in 
to pluck its eyes— 

or listening to "How to Love Bats" by Judith Beveridge:

open your mouth, out will fly names
like Pipistrelle, Desmodus, Tadarida. Then,
listen for a frequency
lower than the seep of water, higher
than an ice planet hibernating
beyond a glacier of Time.

As with browsing a poetry anthology or journal or an open reading, you will encounter poets you have never read before, which is always a good thing. 

I also subscribe/listen to the Poetry Foundation's podcast in which the editors talk to poets published in Poetry magazine and critics to discuss in more detail the issue. Conversations about poems are also something you might get at a reading. For example, I listened to a discussion about Terrance Hayes’s poem “How to Draw a Perfect Circle” and then promptly sat down to write a how-to poem of my own.

Some people say clicking these links leads you into a rabbit hole of more and more clicks. That is sometimes true for me. After listening to the Haye's podcast, I did click deeper into the prose selections on the site and read an essay "Another Life - Terrance Hayes and the poetics of the un-thought" by Joshua Bennett Hayes’s latest collection, American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin. It is a collection from the 200 days between President Trump’s election and the early summer of 2017. He wrote 70 sonnets which come from that time but are more about what led up to Trump's election.

After that though, I needed to return to some poetry to cleanse my poetry palate - perhaps William Blake's "The Ecchoing Green."  After too much reality, Blake sounds so happy that we might view him as naive. That would be a mistake.

...laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk, 
They laugh at our play, 
And soon they all say.
‘Such, such were the joys. 
When we all girls & boys, 
In our youth-time were seen, 
On the Ecchoing Green...’

August 3, 2018

Prompt: Science and Love

We don't normally associate love with science. Long ago, it was thought that love was centered in the heart, and that misconception still holds a place in our culture - just take a look around you when Valentine's day approaches. Later, we found that the emotions of love were centered in the brain and involved chemical reactions in our bodies.

In Sara Eliza Johnson's poem, "Combustion", we begin with the science of the body that we can enumerate.

If a human body has two-hundred-and-six bones
and thirty trillion cells, and each cell
has one hundred trillion atoms, if the spine
has thirty-three vertebrae—

But numbers can't explain love.

When I read articles about scientists studying love, it always seems so cold and dry. For example, when researchers measured hormone levels in young people who reported recently falling in love, they found "that the lovers had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than people who hadn't lately been bitten by the love bug. They also found that the men who were in love had less testosterone than their single counterparts, and the women in love had more. The researchers speculated that falling in love may reduce some of the differences between the sexes, making men softer and women more aggressive."

That last piece of scientific conjecture is the most interesting: falling in love makes us more like each other.

Johnson's poem moves from the facts of the body to the body itself.

When our skin touches
our atoms touch, their shadows
merging into a shadow galaxy.

I don't think you need to read about the neuroscience of love in order to understand that falling in love and being in love does things to our brain and our bodies.  The challenge of this month's prompt is to use some science as a way to understand an aspect of love in a new way.

Submission deadline: August 31, 2018 
As always, POETS ONLINE offers you the opportunity to submit your poetic response to this current prompt. All submissions that address this prompt will be read and considered for posting on our main site. Before your first submission, you should read some poems in our archive to get a sense of the types of responses people have had to previous prompts. Remember, we will only consider publishing poems that are in response to the current writing prompt.