meanwhile, in Buffalo

May 21, 2020

In Buffalo, New York, the doors of the Just Buffalo Literary Center are closed. But poetry is still on view thanks to the new Sidewalk Poetry program. Several times a week, new poems are spray chalked (who knew?) on sidewalks around town. The poets all have a connection to Buffalo, including Lucille Clifton, who grew up there and whose “New Bones” appears above. Nice!


 
As long as you’re just sitting there, how about memorizing a poem? You could start with one of your own, or an old favorite, or select a poem from the huge catalog at Poetry Out Loud.
 
Not sure? Here are a few articles that might help you make up your mind:

Start now and you could be ready to recite at your next reading… or party… or Zoom get-together.
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marathon time

May 19, 2020

The Poetry Marathon returns! Twenty-four poems in twenty-four hours (or twelve in twelve if you prefer) can loosen the bonds of normal and get you into uncharted waters. Plus, you could end up with enough poems for a chapbook.

The 2020 Poetry Marathon will start on 9:00am Eastern on the Saturday, June 27, and go till 9:00am on the 28th. Half marathoners can start at 9:00am OR 9:00pm Eastern on the 27th.

Signups will be open from Monday, June 8, until Tuesday, June 23. Mark your calendar and visit The Poetry Marathon for updates.

returning

May 18, 2020

In the midst of everything, the re-launch of a venerable but long-absent print literary journal may seem unlikely. But in fact, Northwest Review, which first saw publication in 1957 and went on hiatus in 2011, “is in the process of a rebrand, redesign, and relaunch: the journal will resume publication in the Fall.”

We are especially interested in writers and artists working near the artistic frontier of American literature; writers who have previously been rejected by mainstream for-profit publications such as The New Yorker, Harper’s, or The Atlantic, are especially encouraged to submit their work.

Is that you?

not-comical comics

May 17, 2020

Montreal comic book artist and illustrator Julian Peters is one of many people whose book launch has been sidetracked by the coronavirus. In his book, Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry (Plough Publishing), Peters uses a variety of styles to illustrate poems by Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, Maya Angelou, Seamus Heaney, e. e. cummings, Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, Christina Rossetti, William Wordsworth, William Ernest Henley, Robert Hayden, Edgar Allan Poe, W. H. Auden, Thomas Hardy, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Philip Johnson, W. B. Yeats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Tess Gallagher, Ezra Pound, and Siegfried Sassoon. Learn more about Julian Peters and listen to a brief interview.

Pandemic Assignment

May 16, 2020

This is a guest post
by T. Clear

Tasked with the poetry prompt tomato, I sat down to a white page, and waited for something to happen. I’ve never been one to write to a prompt. All attempts have resulted in a ho-humness that’s not worth the energy it takes to type. Stabs at keeping a journal and establishing a daily writing practice have never amounted to much. A poem chooses me, instead of the other way around. I won’t say I’m happy with this arrangement, but I’ve come to accept it. Yet there I was, with an assignment, and because I had the time, decided to give it a chance.

Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family — Solanaceae — which includes potatoes, peppers and eggplants, as well as several poisonous species. As children, my five sisters and I feared deadly nightshade, whose dark purple blossoms with yellow starburst centers grew vigorously on the fenced edges of our property. We knew not to eat any of the crimson berries, and our idiomatic folklore taught that we would die within 15 minutes upon ingestion of any part of the plant. We wore gloves to yank it out; it exuded a bitter scent, as if even inhalation had the power to strike us down.

Nightshade seemed a good place to start work on a poem. A quick search informed me that the nightshade we so deathly feared was actually bittersweet nightshade (also known as felonweed, snakeberry, violet bloom); and death, though a possible outcome, is generally not a consequence, unless one were to consume ripe berries in great quantities, and with no ensuing intervention. Just like that, a large swath of my childhood beliefs was proven wrong. I wondered: what else did we believe would do us in, or not? And how were we so lucky to survive childhood’s real dangers? — Maple trees from which to plummet, the wrath of stinging nettles, blackberry vines whose unforgiving thorns snagged our arms in bloody zigzags. Skinned knees and elbows, a little finger sewn back on after surviving a door-slam, ice on a headbump: we persisted. Disease was not part of our vocabulary, except for the vaccination scars on our upper arms, which we compared and rated for their size and visibility.

Wait — wasn’t I trying to write a tomato poem? Yes, well….

Okay. Nightshade fit into the first line. That qualified it as a tomato poem, in a species-roundabout way. But from there, I veered to fairy-ring mushrooms, to a remedy for nettle stings, to the wild sorrel that grew abundantly in open fields, and on to the hazelnuts we cracked with our molars (which initiated long years of fracture). Death came only with the dogs killed on our busy street because they roamed freely then, as did we.

Until the summer we adopted a stray black cat and named him George. He moved in as if returning from a long journey, glad to get back to his own bed. We couldn’t have been more delighted with this affectionate, good-natured pet. And all that cuddling-up-in-bed with George resulted in a summer-long lockdown, of sorts, confined to our half-acre yard while we recovered from a nasty case of ringworm, compliments of…George. Though less than three months, it was an eternity to a six-year-old. Our dad drove away with the infected pet and we stayed on our side of the fence, nightshade and all. No explanation as to the cat’s destination, but none of us wanted to know. The protective innocence of childhood is a kind of virtue. The truth of the cat’s fate was too much for us to hear.

And suddenly there it was, on the screen: my poem, 33 roughly drafted lines. My tomato poem, veered from its triggering subject to my own childhood folklore. So lost in the stream of consciousness generated by the realization that my nightshade wasn’t deadly nightshade, I’d surrendered to the afternoon, and the poem essentially wrote itself. From a prompt.

Perhaps I succeeded because I’m home all the time now, compliments of the truly deadly danger from which we hover behind walls. Or maybe my belief that I can’t write from a prompt is faulty, like the belief in immediate death by nightshade. Maybe, it took this time to be able to stretch out, more time than I’ve had since childhood, minus that nagging sense that I was missing some essential task. And yet, when I sat there poemless with tomato looming before me, that become my essential task: a tomato, a poem, a black cat named George, and quarantine.

. . . . .


 
 
A co-founder of Floating Bridge Press, T. Clear’s poetry has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including Iron Horse Literary Review, Lily Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, Raven Chronicles, and The Rise Up Review. She is on the editorial board of Bracken Magazine, and facilitates the Easy Speak Seattle critique group Re/Write. Her website is tclearpoet.com.

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[Ed. note: T. Clear’s tomato poem is being submitted for publication. Please stay tuned.]

awesomesauce, adj.

May 15, 2020

If you are tiring of your own vocabulary, consider subscribing to OED Online Word of the Day. As self-isolation, flatten the curve, and social distancing have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary, the daily dose of words includes both antiquated and charming selections. Consider: awfulize, begrudgery, femina (‘The long pale feathers from the wing tips of a female ostrich, used as decorative plumes’), ombrogenous, wallydraigle, and (a favorite) o (‘Used to symbolize a hug’). Your spell-check won’t like it, but you might!

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