Combining poetry, science, stargazing, people-gazing, looking outward, and looking inward, Astropoetica is quickly becoming one of my favorite new poetry journals.
See on www.astropoetica.com
The rain is ending
and with everything soaked
the wind turns light
fit now for flight
And through every bird
we begin our hearing
a whirl, a roar
a sprouting once more
of mud flecked
Their dirt tickling crown
loosens the ground
and is startling
Their gift, a greeting:
Louder than the Trillium…
And no, there is no punch line here. I just wanted to send out a very happy birthday to my youngest boy, The Monkey Prodigy. Today he turns 17.
I am really not sure how that happened. I think he was no older than nine just yesterday. And now he’s getting into jazz he says. Very cool. Time to get him out to the Bull Run Inn on a Monday night to hear Steve Mitchell, Challie Holmes and the rest of the musicians jam.
Among the poets who were pushing themselves to write poems in April, Micah has done a little writing of his own. For Poetry Month and Earth Day combined, he wrote this little piece on . . . well, earth . . . and worms. I like it very much, and I’m a bit envious of his cleverness.
My friend John over at Poetically Versed mentioned the poem this week, and made a comparison to it and the style of Angel Gonzalez, as evidenced in this poem. The similarity in voice and dark humor put a smile on my face. It’s always a thrill to hear someone talk about the awesomeness of my sons. And they are three awesome guys.
Oh my . . . it just hit me, one of Micah’s brothers, The Man with the Blue Guitar will hit a second decade this summer. Catch me, I think I’m gonna fai . . . (THUD)
the brown bag prophet
head to starbucks
mini-skirted lab assistants
the glint in his eyes
a sip from
they've all bought into
Well, you can scroll past some commentary and a pretty intense rant to get right to the poetry video if you want, but if you’re feeling feisty, hop right in!
So here we come to the end of another April, dubbed National Poetry Month by the Academy of American Poets. Most of this month I just dropped the first word. I’ve had enough of nationalism to be honest. The internet goes well beyond the borders of countries. Maybe it’s a small thing to you, but every time I wrote “National Poetry Month” I wondered if my very dear friends in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Brazil, Holland. . . well you get the idea, I wondered if it ever crossed their minds, yeah, they’re leaving us out of this too.
Don’t get me wrong, The Academy did a good thing. Especially when you consider any funding for education in writing and poetry that could come out of this. It’s just here on the web we don’t have such boundaries. Isn’t world poetry month in March? Couldn’t we have made it all one Poetry Month? Ah well. There seems no fixing it now, except for me to drop that first word. It’s a small thing? Well, maybe.
As for the poem-a-day thing. Wow. I am so impressed with so many of you. I only managed to highlight a few of my poet friends who were attempting to keep up with the NaPoWriMo challenges, but there are several I still want to share with you when this month is over (like any minute now?), particularly ones who tend to write, or at least post a poem nearly every day anyhow, and many who record their own work and post the audio. I’ve attempted it before, and I’ve never ended the month with more than 20 poems, so my hat is off to you all, and I raise my glass in your honor. Would that we could all sit down and enjoy a bottle or six together now that you’ve met your goals.
My own project this year was much like last, except that I used a good bit of audio recording on SoundCloud, and a lot less video. I wanted to record and post a poem each day again this year, not because I’m in love with the sound of my own voice, but because I hear over and over again just how much it changes people’s perception of poetry when they hear it read aloud. It’s extremely important to read poetry out loud, you know. As a matter of fact, the national championships of Poetry Out Loud started yesterday and concluded tonight. Langston Ward of Washington was the grand champion, and I’ll look for links to share with you of the finalists this week.
Face it, as annoying as Tom from the Scarriet blog may be, he’s right about one thing, we poets as a community seemed to decide, somewhere in that whole modernist movement, that poetry was going to be a difficult art. Forget about reading many messages, some on the surface, some as we dive deeper, no we wanted to build up some high walls and make sure that even the first few lines of a poem would confuse and baffle people. We didn’t just want a game, we wanted an unsolvable puzzle to prove just how smart, how special, how profound we deep-thinking, dark poetry-types really are.
Am I going too far? Fair enough, and I might even argue with myself on a point or two, but I’m making these extreme statements because whether or not this is what we intended, it is in fact how many people feel about about poets and poetry.
What an awful thing to do to art, to take it out of the arena of humanity, that meeting of spirit, guts and intellect, and turn it into disinterested philosophical posing, to build high walls around an art museum and expect people to climb them, then to fumble with impossible locks on the doors before they could get in.
It is changing, thanks in large part to programs like Poetry Out Loud and coffee shop readings, and yes, like it or not, the fun and boisterousness of slam poetry. It’s about being human, about communicating, out loud. Listening, or better yet, reading it out loud makes those words breath for us. Do we really only want to have our poems seen by other poets? I say that’s true for me only if that means that all the world starts to write poetry.
It’s not that I’m against difficulty, but the museum has to have a door. Draw them in, then make the puzzle fun, and delightful, and make me feel more alive having experienced it. Is that so much to ask of poetry?
As I said, this has been slowly changing, and it’s really my dream to be some small part of that change. So when someone tells me that a poem came alive to them in some way after hearing me read it, I’m ecstatic, almost tearful with joy. I’m not kidding. But even better is when people tell me that I’ve inspired them to start reading out loud too, to take poetry into their own hands, to read it, to write it, to speak it out. Well, I cannot think of much in this world that makes me happier.
One last thing about my modus operandi this year. I thank you, my readers for the kind comments on all of these readings, and I respect those few of you with a discerning ear who said, sometimes privately, “You could have read that better.” I admit you were probably right. But this year I stated at the very beginning that one of the goals was to read these poems in as few takes as possible, rather than my normal picky careful, obsessive approach.
Why? Really, I should have talked more loudly and more frequently about this. You see, a friend yesterday, when I enthusiastically told her how I loved the audio readings that she emailed to me, and that she should upload them, she said that she was far too shy to do that. Have you noticed that even poets often seem reluctant to read their own work?
But t’s word-play; it’s sound; it’s meant to be read out loud, and heard as much as music is meant to be listened to and played. Why have we gone and made people afraid and self-conscious about this very natural thing?
It should not be left to the “professionals.” I love the fact that more and more bands are playing in bars and clubs again. I love the Monday night music jams we go to at a local bar here where we live. People come from all over, bring their instruments and get up to play with the band!
How else will we learn? How else will we spread the joy of it, the sheer thrill of dancing with words? Granted, karaoke is sometimes a nightmare to sit through, but isn’t it awesome when that shy girl gets up and blows us away with her Barbra Streisand rendition? And we’ve all had to sit through painful poetry readings too, but damn, isn’t it amazing that the kid with the black dyed hair and eye-shadow had the balls to actually stand up in front of a crowd to do what I had no guts to do at his age?
We say if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, but some things are just worth doing. Period. And maybe if I can just jump up to the microphone and treat it like it’s something natural, maybe that will help others to be less afraid. Maybe even some of the listless readers among the professionals will learn from the enthusiasm of the youth, and start reading in a way that doesn’t put the crowd to sleep.
Critiques can come later. We can and should have classes about technique and rhyme, and meter, and the avoidance of cliche. Yes, of course we should. But dammit where the hell is our Barbaric Yawp? Why can’t we just belt out a song and sing it sometime, not concentrating so much on hitting every note, but just getting off on the thrill of hitting notes at all? Maybe, just maybe the only way to read poetry well is to just read it, and that means often reading it badly, at least at first.
How much critique do you give your children on those crayon and water color pictures you have hanging on your fridge door? Yeah, I thought so. There is a time for critique and technique, but that comes later. Let’s just read this stuff because it’s fun, because it brings us joy, or makes us cry, or helps us feel less alone in this world. Please?
Okay, so there you go, that is what I am about.
So, for the last poem of the thirty, I bring you an old poem I wrote. I posted it last April, but I’ve never recorded it until now. Maybe not my best, my deepest, or most clever, but it’s actually pretty damn smart now that I think about it. You see, accessible does not (say it with me now) equal simplistic. In technical terms I would say that the language of this poem was a fun experiment for me in having the words and the lines do what the poem is saying. The line is oddly “bent,” like the railing. Squeaks and sticks are onomonopia words. They make the sounds they describe. And besides that, it’s a humorous and very human poem.
I thought of it while driving home the other day, all the beautiful yellow dandelions on the new growing spring grass. Then I passed a lawn which was all the same, no color, no clover, no variation . . . Hey, maybe this really does fit the rant above. But I’ll leave it at that and give you the poem, “Of My Ego and the Muse.” You’ll notice that I only did this one in one take, and my kitty cat, Milton decided he wanted to read with me. Why not?
Of My Ego and the Muse
The rusty kitchen faucet drips and drips;
our oven needs a heating element;
the door knob to the bathroom squeaks and sticks,
and the railing in the stairway is oddly bent.
One day I’ll switch the hoses to the washer
so hot is hot and cold is cold again,
and find the reason that old dryer
never dries but only rocks and spins.
In the interim my toolbox sits unused.
Our speckled lawn grows weedy and unmown
with dandelions and violet blooms,
while I sweat and labor. . . at this poem.
© David J. Bauman 2012
My friend AngryRicky, who’s really not so angry, requested something by Edwin Arlington Robinson. So no more than two hours left in my personal challenge of thirty poetry recordings in thirty days for the month of April, National Poetry Month here in the USA, I bring you “Another Dark Lady.” I cannot say Ricky’s story fits the poem perfectly, but the title did leap out at me as appropriate.The fact that it’s a sonnet (only 14 lines!) doesn’t hurt since I am pressed for time.
But then I always get into this commentary thing, and this poem just demands a touch of it at least. I thought it would also be really helpful to have some visual aids here in case you were not familiar with beech trees. So, of course instead of a brief SoundCloud clip I was compelled to break out the video editor, which on this old laptop is getting to be rather slow.
So, since I still have one more poem to get out tonight, let me just say a few brief things. It seems obvious that he is comparing his Dark Lady to the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Like Shakespeare’s Dark Lady writings, Robinson’s is a sonnet. He even titled it “Another Dark Lady.” If you look up the Bard’s 127th sonnet. . . Oh heck, let’s just print it out here:
In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name;
But now is black beauty’s successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame:
For since each hand hath put on Nature’s power,
Fairing the foul with Art’s false borrowed face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress’ eyes are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
Sland’ring creation with a false esteem:
Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says beauty should look so.
The words “false” and “fair” are repeated, along with themes of darkness contrasted with beauty. There is even a bower of trees in Robinson’s poem, and it too turns out to be an unholy one, before the memories of “golden” woods turned toward something evil.
The Shakespeare allusions are meant to be obvious, and since Robinson is talking about fairness and youth, at least at first, when he talks of his memories, “I loved you then,” is it so far a stretch to think that he is implying some sentiments from William S.’s “Fair Young Man” sonnets as well?
Okay, maybe the young man part is a bit out there, but maybe in this poem Robinson’s speaker is the young man, in love with a Dark Lady? In any case the theme of fair youth–”The woods were golden then”–contrast with what later turned quite dark, comparing her to Lilith and the Devil.
As for Lilith, she is the legendary first wife of Adam, who would not submit to her husband. John Collier depicts Lilith with a snake, and the Celts often associate birch trees with snakes, perhaps because of the look of some of their longer roots.
Let’s look more closely at those beech trees, particularly their “feet,” or roots. In the video below you’ll see some photo that give you the idea of why he compared them to the devil’s cloven hooves, and in the end intimates that he should have realized that her feet, which must have been bare while in the woods with him, were more cloven (Faun and Devil imagery) than even the birch trees!
Wait a minute, didn’t I tell you to “let me just me say a few brief things?” Enough then! Here’s your request, Ricky. As usual the text is below the video.
I think if I had had more time I’d have done this reading a bit differently, but I’ll be curious to know what you think. I hope things are well for you on your side of the Pond, and I wish I could see you on your Summer return. Hang in there!
Another Dark Lady by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Think not, because I wonder where you fled,
That I would lift a pin to see you there;
You may, for me, be prowling anywhere,
So long as you show not your little head:
No dark and evil story of the dead
Would leave you less pernicious or less fair—
Not even Lilith, with her famous hair;
And Lilith was the devil, I have read.
I cannot hate you, for I loved you then.
The woods were golden then. There was a road
Through beeches; and I said their smooth feet showed
Like yours. Truth must have heard me from afar,
For I shall never have to learn again
That yours are cloven as no beech’s are.
Okay, so maybe this is cheating, but it’s the wee hours of the last day of Poetry Month and I am only on Day 28 here, and maybe you missed the link to this before. The audio was more than halfway down the page. So instead of a fresh recording I’ll bring you one that I only linked to back on the 20th.
That day I was posting a recording of Edna St. Vincent Milay’s Poem “To Kathleen,” and I didn’t consider the reading of my own poem in the link a contender for the Poem-a-Day recording project. But due to special dispensation granted by my poetry boss–yes, that would be me–I have decided that if I actually upload the audio to the blog, it will be close enough.
Today Cary Burkett of WITF FM in Harrisburg gave me the go-ahead to share this directly. So here’s the story behind it, as written in the audio file’s description, with a few of my characteristic links tossed in for those adventurous net surfers among you:
In October of 2012 I participated in a radio interview about the Commonwealth Poetry Reading at the State Capitol of Pennsylvania. Marjorie Maddox, Jerry Wemple, Melanie Simms, Nate Gaddison and I read in the East Wing Rotunda. Governor’s wife and Chair of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Susan Corbet was in attendance that day, and the cameras were rolling for WITF’s Television station.
The interview was conducted by Cary Burket on WITF FM along with fellow Commonwealth poet Melanie Simms. Part of that interview was aired on Saturday, April 20th for the station’s new “Poetry Corner” feature during the live music show called Center Stage. This is the full six minutes, and it includes my reading of a poem I’ve called “Local News.”
Roddy Williams - The Atheist Poet
Happiness under US$20
Because JustALiar was already taken...
From the desk of Mike Martinez