May 27, 2016
The Hugo House Summer 2016 catalog is now available for online browsing. Registration begins June 6 and classes will begin in July at the new/temporary Hugo House First Hill, 1021 Columbia Street, Seattle.
There are 17 poetry classes, ranging from one day to six weeks in duration, as well as a robust schedule of readings and writings, so you’ll be able to dip or dive into poetry this summer.
May 26, 2016
The other day, we talked about poetry that appears in the rain. This post offers the opposite: poetry that vanishes in the rain.
Daniel Rowland is the Pavement Poet. He travels around England, busking poems — silently — in chalk, in public spaces. A self-described Druid and pagan, he is interested in the “impermanence of thought” and often writes poems on political and social issues. While he occasionally has to deal with the local constabulary and often observes the indifference of the passing public, he also inspires conversation and even finds others joining in.
Of course, Rowland isn’t the first to think of this. The Academy of American Poets encourged chalk poetry in a National Poetry Month post in 2004. Michigan State University Center for Poetry holds an annual Poetry Chalking. The Guerilla Haiku Movement conducts, and encourages others to host, haiku chalkings.
And, of course there is “The Poem of Chalk” by Philip Levine:
The Poem of Chalk
On the way to lower Broadway
this morning I faced a tall man
speaking to a piece of chalk
held in his right hand. The left
was open, and it kept the beat,
for his speech had a rhythm,
was a chant or dance, perhaps
even a poem in French, for he
was from Senegal and spoke French
so slowly and precisely that I
could understand as though
hurled back fifty years to my
high school classroom. A slender man,
elegant in his manner, neatly dressed
in the remnants of two blue suits,
his tie fixed squarely, his white shirt
spotless though unironed. He knew
the whole history of chalk, not only
of this particular piece, but also
the chalk with which I wrote
my name the day they welcomed
me back to school after the death
of my father. He knew feldspar.
he knew calcium, oyster shells, he
knew what creatures had given
their spines to become the dust time
pressed into these perfect cones,
he knew the sadness of classrooms
in December when the light fails
early and the words on the blackboard
abandon their grammar and sense
and then even their shapes so that
each letter points in every direction
at once and means nothing at all.
At first I thought his short beard
was frosted with chalk; as we stood
face to face, no more than a foot
apart, I saw the hairs were white,
for though youthful in his gestures
he was, like me, an aging man, though
far nobler in appearance with his high
carved cheekbones, his broad shoulders,
and clear dark eyes. He had the bearing
of a king of lower Broadway, someone
out of the mind of Shakespeare or
Garcia Lorca, someone for whom loss
had sweetened into charity. We stood
for that one long minute, the two
of us sharing the final poem of chalk
while the great city raged around
us, and then the poem ended, as all
poems do, and his left hand dropped
to his side abruptly and he handed
me the piece of chalk. I bowed,
knowing how large a gift this was
and wrote my thanks on the air
where it might be heard forever
below the sea shell’s stiffening cry.
May 25, 2016
“May my silences become more accurate.”
(May 25, 1908 – August 1, 1963)
Alice Fulton will be the featured poet for the 53rd Annual Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Reading, Friday, May 27, 2016, 8:00pm at the University of Washington Roethke Auditorium (130 Kane Hall). The reading is free and open to the public.
. . . . .
photo by Mary Randlett, 1963
May 24, 2016
This is last week’s news, but in case you missed it, it’s worth a mention. On Tuesday, May 17, 2016, a group of advocates for the $15 minimum wage used their three-minute public comment slot to express themselves in front of the Olympia, Washington, City Council in what Andy Hobbs at The Olympian calls “the first organized poetry slam at an Olympia council meeting.”
Calling their public appearance the “Poetry Smash City Council Meeting,” the group offered a Creative Writing Workshop / Working Washington session in advance to help participants “embrace their inner creative writers and poets, even if you didn’t know you had one.”
In his article on the event, Hobbs says, “council members praised the speakers — and even responded with poetry of their own.” Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones recited part of a poem and Council member Jim Cooper said, “This is the most beautiful public comment in my four and a half years on the City Council.”
. . . . .
Hoffman Construction Company photo
May 23, 2016
Picture this: your rainy-day poem stenciled on the sidewalk…invisible…until it rains! Rainworks, a Seattle-based company (where else?), has come up with a non-toxic, environmentally safe, biodegradable product that does exactly that. It can be stenciled or painted on and once it’s dry it remains unseen until it gets wet. It lasts, on average, two to four months, the contrast fading as time goes on.
Now, Mass Poetry, in partnership with The City of Boston, is using a similar product to create “Raining Poetry” — four poems stenciled on sidewalks near downtown. Boston Poet Laureate Danielle Georges hopes to expand the program into the city’s neighborhoods.
Important note from the Rainworks website: “Please note that Rainworks Invisible Spray will not make you invisible.”
May 22, 2016
I spy on birds with binoculars, but I want
their nests, to unwind the mess:
brittle leaves, dried branches, cracked mud,
peel away their trash built homes;
the objects, the plastic, rips of ribbon, newspaper,
straw wrappers, the shiny
metals. For every Bird a nest.
What I make you wouldn’t want. But the delicate
homes of honey bees, the expansive
wasp nest, the condominium living of wispy
cardboard; the layers are persuasive:
a circle to curl into. I pick pocket
purple blue abandoned mussel shells five times.
The translucent skin from a snake: Finding
is the first Act. And then? All the debris
I wrap myself in.
. . . . .
*Copyright 2016 by Carla Conforto. Broadside illustration by Kim Wulfestieg