Tuesday, March 12, 2013

As a published writer, from time to time you have to do a vanity search on Google to see if your work is being posted on the Web anywhere. As long as the poems are properly attributed I generally don't have a problem with folk posting them to blogs or websites. Once I did find one of my poems plagiarized on MySpace, but a simple comment fixed that. I was searching Youtube and I came across the above video which I had somehow missed until now. It appears that a student at the University of New Haven had to present one of my poems as part of a class he was taking from his professor Randall Horton (The Lingua Franca of Ninth Street). It's always weird to hear someone else reading one of your poems, but it does help to see how the language rolls or doesn't off an unfamiliar tongue. This particular poem is a riff off of a Picasso painting titled 'The Old Guitarist' from his Blue period and a poem by Wallace Stevens titled "The Man with the Blue Guitar"  It's part of a series of poems I have that are in conversation with some of Stevens work (and by 'in conversation with' I mean 'outright refutations'.)

I haven't been writing much lately for various reasons, hadn't even been doing much revising. Then I saw a Tweet that announced that NPR was once again doing their Twitter poetry contest for National Poetry Month. This is the third year that they've done it and last year (on April 24th) I was lucky enough to have a poem selected to be read on the air during their program Tell Me More. Since there is a 140 character limit on the length of the poems, I had submitted all Haiku, Senryu and Six or Seven Word poems. But after reading through many of the other entries, this year I decided to try a different strategy, mainly excerpting lines from existing poems that I thought could stand alone. For example;


The arch of a foot,
the tender architecture
of its bridge.
The slope of a nose
above the X-Y coordinates
of a kiss. #tmmpoetry

is a monk,
in the dark cave
of the heart,
your name
until light.

But because of the 140 character limit I had to edit some of the lines and a funny thing happened. Some of them got better, much better. For example, in the second Tweet above the original read " Tonight, I am a monk kneeling . . . ", but to get it under the limit I cut out the pronoun. This changes the poem slightly without really changing the meaning and (in my opinion) making it stronger. In fact, most of the changes I made for the Tweets found their way back into the original poems. We'll see if I'm lucky enough to get a poem selected to be read on the air this year. I plan on submitting some haiku/senryu later this week. One poem in particular wound up with some pretty major revisions sparked by the initial edits needed for the Tweet.


I always loved
to say 'acetaminophen.'
A wizened woman
once said
that some words
are Almighty
in the mouth.
Can be held
on the tongue
like a nib of licorice.
Some words
are roots
that can be chewed
for medicinal value.
Some stain
the tongue.
Some raise
the blood pressure
or relax the hard muscles
of the heart.
Like 'acetaminophen,'
some cause bleeding.
Your name is a word
in a language
I cannot yet speak.
a yearning
of the tongue.
Hope is
habit forming.
I lick it
from stained lips.
A rare sweet root,
to certain sentences
it masks bitterness.
The chemist says
boiled into an extract,
it could alleviate
even the barking cough
of loneliness.
Your name rhymes
with acetaminophen,
Bright syllables
spill from my mouth,
cloak me
in a crimson robe.
is a monk,
in the dark cave
of the heart,
your name
until light.

I feel like it's much improved over the previous versions, especially the ending. Maybe this is the kick in the pants I needed to get me back in a good writing groove. NaPoMo is coming up and I'll be doing my usual 30 Haiku/Senryu, so we'll see. 

I was hoping to post a Trip Report about my recent sojourn to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to feature and kick off their Spoken Word Series they do on Monday nights, but I'm waiting on the video of the event to be uploaded so I can link to it.

Until next we meet, may all your potatoes be sweet (and dusted with cinnamon.)
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