Thursday, April 30, 2009

Closing Out the "How I Discovered Poetry" Series

I mentioned in the "How I Discovered Poetry" series introduction that the series would begin with Marilyn Nelson's "How I Discovered Poetry" and end with comments from Marilyn. I'm keeping to my promise.

Let me set this up: Someone sent Marilyn a message inquiring about "How I Discovered Poetry." This person asked a couple of questions that boiled down to asking about the nature of the experience and an item referenced in Marilyn's poem. Marilyn has graciously sent me her reply to the inquirer. I share it with you:

March 20 at 6:26pm
Dear Joyce - The event happened in about 1958, in a small town near a military base in Oklahoma. I was one of 2 black students in the school, and I was very smart. This was when the school integration movement was going on, fire hoses, police dogs, white adults yelling obscenities at black children in Little Rock, etc. Teacher was a middle-aged racist Okie; poem was selected purposely to humiliate me. I don't know what the poem was, but I think it was from what we know as "the plantation school" of literature written in late 19th century -- like "Birth of a Nation." Her husband was my math teacher; no matter how well I did, he always gave me D's. I was in 7th grade.

Thank you for reading the "How I Discovered Poetry" series. By reading, you have helped me honor National Poetry Month. I say we do this series again in 2011!

Georgia Takes A Stand

I am about to type something that is extremely difficult for me to type. I am proud of Gov. Sonny Perdue. If you live in Georgia (or have lived in Georgia at any point during Perdue's reign) you are probably wanting to know how such a thing is possible. Well, no matter how much I may not like you or agree with you, if you do something that deserves credit, well, I'll give it. Yesterday, Gov. Perdue earned a smiley-face sticker when he signed Senate Bill 170 into law. Sonny, thank you for not screwing up something good!

Senator David Adelman (pictured to the left) deserves a pat on the back for being the main sponsor of SB 170. He represents Senate District 42, which consists of Decatur(County Seat), Avondale Estates, Chamblee, Clarkston, Doraville, Lithonia, Pine Lake, Stone Mountain. When you have a moment, send Senator David Adelman an email at thanking him for sponsoring SB 170. (I sent mine.)

Gov. Sonny Perdue has signed legislation banning Georgia government agencies from entering into contracts with companies that have business interests in Sudan.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. David Adelman, said the new law is designed to sanction the Sudanese government and stop mass genocide taking place in the nation's southern region of Darfur. Adelman said militias doing the killing in Darfur receive financial backing from foreign companies involved in Sudan's oil, power, mining, and military sectors.

The bill took effect Wednesday as the governor signed it into law at the state Capitol.

(Taken from 11Alive)

If a company decides to hide any business with the Sudanese government, the company could face one of three actions:
(1) The company shall be liable for a civil penalty in an amount that is equal to the greater of $250,000.00 or twice the amount of the contract for which a bid or proposal was submitted;
(2) The state agency or the Department of Administrative Services may terminate the contract with the company; and
(3) The company shall be ineligible to, and shall not, bid on a state contract for a period of not less than three years from the date the state agency determines

How I Discovered Poetry: Dorianne Laux

How I Discovered Poetry ~ Dorianne Laux

Alouette, gentille Alouette
Alouette je te plumerai

A song my mother sang about plucking a lark:

La tete - the head
Le nez - the nose
Les yeux - the eyes
Le cou - the neck
Les ailes - the wings

Au Claire de la lune

My mother sang to my sisters, to me, the French words translated thus:

Under the moonlight,
My friend Pierrot
Lend me your pen,
So I could write a word
My candle is out,
I've no more light
Open your door for me...

Frère Jacques, Frère JacquesDormez-vous, dormez-vous?

My brother’s name was John, and we called him Jack. His two names, oddly combined, made me wonder if he could hear us in the other room, one wall away.

Are you sleeping brother John?

Sur le pont d'Avignon

On the bridge of Avignon
They are dancing, they are dancing...

These were the first poems that came to me in the dark, songs from my mother’s lips. I understood very little of the language, or what the songs meant, they were simply pretty tunes meant to put us to sleep. I remember singing along to Alouette, touching my pudgy finger to my nose, my eye, my neck. I loved the part when I patted my own head. Had I been able to translate the other words to conjure the image of a lark, a bird I had never seen, never heard of until I read a poem by Adam Zagajewski when I was in my late forties, a yellow lark dead in someone’s hands, being plucked, feather by feather, of his living coat, well, I don’t know what. Those songs were my entryway into poetry. They taught me that language was mysterious, that it could lull you or waken you into a different reality or deepen reality. There was much that was wrong in my house. It wasn’t a safe place or a pretty place, children were beaten and abused, the neighborhood was tough, the landscape dry and weedy, the ground ungiving and rough. But there were songs, moments, when the mysteries of language lifted us up and made us, ragged as we were, a family. I’ve been trying to find that place, with words, ever since.

House Passage of Hates Crimes Bill

Pelosi: House Passage of Hates Crimes Bill Honors Our Commitment to Ideals of Justice, Equality and Opportunity


Contact: Brendan Daly, Nadeam Elshami or Drew Hammill of the Office of the Speaker of the House, +1-202-226-7616

WASHINGTON, April 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement this afternoon on the House passage of H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. The House passed the legislation by a vote of 249 to 175.

"Throughout our history, this nation has sought to uphold the ideals of our founding - that all are created equal and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today, with the passage of federal hate crimes legislation, we have affirmed these ideals and the inclusiveness that our nation stands for by extending the protection of its laws to all: 'one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'

"All Americans have a fundamental right to feel safe in their communities. This legislation will help protect Americans against violence based on sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, national origin, disability, or gender identity.

"Congress has been debating federal hate crimes legislation for 17 years. It was more than 10 years ago that Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered. The time for debate is long over. I am proud that today the House has acted and in so doing, honored this nation's commitment to the ideals of justice, equality and opportunity."

Taken from here

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How I Discovered Poetry: Christopher Hennessy

How I Discovered Poetry ~ Christopher Hennessy



To understand why I am here,
sitting next to you, watching
how you tip your coffee just so,
or wondering why you tug
at the strand of hair
that won’t stay put behind your ear
(or why, even now, I feel the next word
must be ‘must’ but on the next line)
or imagining what you would say
if you knew I wanted you
to become a strand of words
like pearls around my neck…

to understand all of that, of me,
there are three things you must know about me
that is, the me before the ecstatic moment(s)
in my life when I came to the end
of the lobotomized frill of a boy I had been

and grabbed on to with my soul’s
monkey toes the thought that
though I wasn’t a poet
I could pretend to be one
until I was a poet…
and this would save
me from myself

Number one. I was ugly.
Or at least that’s how I saw myself.
My brain conjured sickness
like cheap tricks, and my body
was all spreading skin.
I saw ‘poetry’ as a contraption
that would make me beautiful.
Somehow when I put a word
on a piece of notebook paper
(the fringe like decoration)
and pointed to it as myword,
-- a set of secret initials naming a perfect me --
I felt like I would turn out
to matter, be matter, not the bloat
of space, spiraling vacuum,
that I would find
just the right word
to take away the fear
that I was, deep down, a freak
….or worse that I wasn’t here at all,
that the shoulder I was looking over
in Algebra class (where we all wrote
our poetry-less first poems)
was my own.

Number two.I was self-absorbed.
No surprise there.
My father had told me stories
about how he’d written stories
and poems and folks had listened
to him, enraptured, and mom had swooned.
Somehow I was the only one who didn’t hear him.
Somehow I hadn’t discovered blood
was mutual, that I was, in fact,
his son, though everyone told me so
every chance they could get.
So when I wrote my poems
it was this triumphant act of creation,
of original sin, of delight in the id,
of ‘I am so large I outshadow
even the father
of the Word.

Number three. I was in love.
Why else turn to poetry?
Everyone knows that.
His name was Ben
and he was brooding
but cool and he loved to write
and still he was one of the boys
who got to punch
the other boys in the shoulder,
who could shower
after gym without fear
and still write poems about wanting
to walk among fallen leaves anywhere
but where we were.
I thought I wanted
to be him, so I wrote
into him, around him, toward him….
But it was him I wanted
and every single poem
I’ve written since,
I think it must be true,
was, is, a love poem to him.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


For shits and giggles, I am reading the hilarious Chelsea Handler's latest book, Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea. I am happy to report there has been tons of giggles and thankfully no shits. Don't get me wrong, Chelsea is funny, but not make you shit yourself funny. If you are in an emotional rough spot, if you just need a laugh, if you love Chelsea Handler, you must read this book!

Here's a taste:
"Call my aunt," I said to Lydia, as my mind shifted back and forth from how I was going to brush my teeth to whether or not I would have access to Internet in prison. There was much planning to be done if I truly was going to prison: My first priority was to start thinking about what kind of gang I would join.

I hoped my uncle wasn't still mad at me for choosing to have sex with a family friend instead of him when my cousins and I were playing the "Who Would You Rather Have Sex With" game. The premise of the game is you have to choose between two people who you would rather have sex with---sober---or your entire family is killed. Usually, the choice is between two real winners like David Hasselhoff and Gary Coleman. A couple of weeks prior, when my fourteen-year-old cousin Madison asked me if I would rather have sex with her dad (my uncle) or their family friend Rusty, I course chose Rusty, because he was not a relative. My uncle didn't take kindly to this when Madison told him. He took it as a personal insult that I would rather sex with someone I barely knew. "We are related!" I told him.

"That's really shitty, Chelsea," he replied as he took another sip of his double vodka and grapefruit. "I've been like an uncle to you."

"You are my uncle," I reminded him.

"Not by blood," he replied.

Yes. Buy Chelsea Handler's latest book, and you won't be disappointed!

How I Discovered Poetry: Charles Jensen

How I Discovered Poetry ~ Charles Jensen

I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin for almost my entire life, hanging out, with few exceptions, with the same kinds who’d been in my kindergarten and preschool classes. When I was 13, my parents sold our house and started building a new one; during the twelve months it was going to take to complete, we moved to a small island in Lake Michigan, off the tip of the peninsula separating Green Bay from the Great Lake. My 8th grade class had just 11 students in it, most of them related to each other—cousins, cousins by marriage, or the kind of cousins who called each other’s parents “aunt” and “uncle” but weren’t actually related at all.

It was during that year I had my first earnest encounter with poetry. Through Wisconsin’s Artists-in-Education program, we spent part of our year enjoying residences with working artists. One, a visual artist specializing in collage and painting, encouraged us to work up frenzied diorama-like wooden panels that somehow said something about our lives. I struggled to do this. I glued things to my board. I drew stick people. I might have tried to draw a deer. This was not my strongsuit. I almost always nearly failed art class, though only partly through a lack of trying.

The other artist was a poet named David Steingass. He seemed enormously tall, with dark hair and a thick mustache. I think he had a mustache. He does in my memory, at least. He worked with us on short poems, and the advice he gave me on one of my pieces—“Don’t break lines with weak words like ‘and’ and ‘the;’ hold out for the strong words”—has always stuck with me.

My school was so small we had one teacher for almost every subject, and we sat in desks like elementary school kids, even though we also had lockers out in the hall by the high schoolers. One of our daily tasks was to write something—anything—in a journal our teacher was forcing us to keep in order to make us write something each day. Although I see the value now, back then I resented it, and probably as some kind of “I’m hipper than this” statement, I started using my notebook to play around with poems rather than straightforward introspective writing. They were deeply influenced by the schlock fiction I loved to read—Sue Grafton, Stephen King—and often featured a strangely furious presence called “IT” that was in pursuit of an ill-fated speaker. (I know, it’s so derivative—gimme a break; I was 13.)

It was after that year, when I was back in my old home town, attending the high school my brothers attended, that my English teacher pulled me aside after class and said I should keep writing poems. So I did. I wrote and I wrote, and I showed them to her, and she’d nod her head and say, “Awesome!” Or worse, she’d shake her head, hand it back to me, and say, “You can do better than that.” I always tried harder. I started to think of poetry as I thing I could do. I never thought of it as a life. It just kind of became a part of me. It suddenly became more than just a thing I could do.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Beth Gylys Event on Wednesday

It is no secret that I adore Beth Gylys. She is an all around sweetheart and my former professor. However, even if these things weren't accurate, I would still adore her for the poetry she writes. So, yes, you must attend this:

On Wednesday evening, April 29th, at 7:30 p.m. in the Kopleff Recital Hall, GSU soprano Sharon Stephenson and tenor Richard Clement, accompanied by pianist Peter Marshall, will be performing "Eight Personal Ads", compositions by internationally acclaimed composer Dan Welcher, lyrics taken from Beth Gylys's book of personal ads Matchbook. There will be a reception afterward. The event is free and open to the public. Please attend and invite your friends!

How I Discovered Poetry: Sandra Beasley

How I Discovered Poetry ~ Sandra Beasley

On the final day of the Scholastic Book Fair, I walked into our school library with a packet of dollar bills folded over and crammed down into the mini-pocket of my imperfectly pegged, not-Guess-label bluejeans. You know, the front pocket inside the pocket--the one for super-important things. I had begged my mother for a little extra money. After The Baby-sitter's Club, after Encyclopedia Brown, after deciding I could check out the lavishly illustrated, hardcover Jane Yolen book from the library rather than needing to buy it, I had $1.50 left. I picked up Piping Down the Valleys Wild, a poetry anthology edited by Nancy Larrick. I chose it because I liked the soft- and pink-edged cover, of a lamb merrily springing along. I liked the fact that even if I only had time for a page or two, a page or two was enough.

Even now, Karla Kuskin's poem echoes in my head: "I'm a lean dog, / a mean dog / a wild dog / and lone...." I was a lone dog that year: too desperate to be liked, too in love with my own sadness. Books were my buffer. I read poetry on the school bus. I read poetry in my grandfather's garden, down by the unnameable purple flowers. I read poetry in my tent. I read poetry while eating artichokes one leaf at a time. I read poetry on the cold mornings in my house, standing over the air vent with my nightgown tucked under my feet, trapping all the hot air against my thighs before it could escape to the rest of the house. I read that book in bed until my eyes grew tired, and so I took turns shutting one eye, then the other. I read that book until my arms grew tired, and so I tied a length of string around the book's spine and scotch-taped it to hang down from the ceiling via a length of packing string. The book fell down and bonked me in the face right after I'd finally gotten settled again under the covers. Emily Dickinson, Vachel Lindsay, Sara Teasdale.

So often when we move forward in school and in life, we look back at our most-adored books with a twinge of embarrassment. We outgrow the things we loved. But I have I never had to disown the poets; they travel with me. They gather in number. I felt like a lone dog back in the day when all the other girls wore Guess jeans, and I couldn't afford them. But I'm part of a bigger pack now. We race. We dare the moon with our howling.

Friday, April 24, 2009

"At vigil for Jaheem, mother weeps over his suicide"

At vigil for Jaheem, mother weeps over his suicide
Family says 11-year-old was bullied at elementary school

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A crowd of about 60 gathered Tuesday night at the DeKalb home of Jaheem Herrera to remember the fifth-grader who committed suicide last week. The 11-year-old boy hanged himself at his home after — according to his family — relentless bullying at Dunaire Elementary School.

Masika Bermudez, the boy’s mother, spoke briefly at the vigil that started about 7 p.m.

After a short prayer, Bermudez told friends and parents to make sure their children understand that whatever problems they have “don’t be afraid to talk to your mother.”

As Bermudez spoke, she clung to two daughters — Ny’irah, 7 and Yerralis, 10. Yerralis discovered her brother’s body last Thursday after school.

“His sister was screaming, ‘Get him down, get him down,’” said Norman Keene, Jaheem’s stepfather.

When Keene got to the room, he saw Yerralis holding her brother, trying to remove the pressure of the noose her brother had fashioned with a fabric belt.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Jennifer Errion, assistant director of student support services, prevention-intervention for DeKalb schools.

DeKalb County schools have programs in place to combat the types of bullying and violence that may have led to Jaheem’s death, but a Errion acknowledged the prevention program is “not a vaccine.”

Two years ago, DeKalb public schools adopted an anti-bullying program called “No Place for Hate,” she said. The program, sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, helps train faculty and students on accepting differences, promoting diversity and inclusion.

“We’ve created the idea that bullying is a rite of passage, and I don’t think it is,” said Errion.

At the vigil, the mother of Jaheem’s best friend relayed a story from Jaheem’s last day.

“Jaheem asked if anyone would miss him if he wasn’t here,” said Alice Brown, mother of Jaheem’s 10-year-old classmate A.J. “[A.J.] told him ‘He was his friend and he would miss him.’ “

Keene said the family knew the boy was a target of bullies, but until his death they didn’t understand the scope.

“They called him gay and a snitch,” his stepfather said. “All the time they’d call him this.”

Earlier this month the suicide of a Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover — who suffered taunts that he was gay — attracted national attention.

He was also 11. His mother found him hanging from an extension cord in the family’s home.

Bermudez also said her son was being bullied at school. She said she had complained to the school.

School officials won’t discuss allegations that bullying may have contributed to the boy’s suicide. Davis said Tuesday morning that officials are legally unable to comment on student-related records, such as whether the school had received complaints that Jaheem was being bullied.

The family has hired an attorney.

AJC article may be found here.

Other Articles:
Anti-Gay Bullying Claims Another: Jaheem Herrera, 11, Kills Himself
My bullied son's last day on Earth
Georgia Family Blames 11-Year-Old Boy's Suicide on Severe Bullying
Six ways to stop bullying

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why Do I Write ~ Patricia Smith

WHY DO I WRITE ~ Patricia Smith

It began with my father.

Grizzled and slight, flasher of a marquee gold tooth, Otis Douglas Smith was Arkansas grit suddenly sporting city clothes. Part of the Great Migration of blacks from the South to northern cities in the early 1950s, he found himself not in the urban Mecca he’d imagined, but in a roach-riddled tenement apartment on Chicago’s West Side. There he attempted to craft a life along side the bag boys, day laborers, housekeepers and cooks who dreamed the city’s wide, unreachable dream.

Many of those urban refugees struggled to fit, but my father never really adopted the no-nonsense-now rhythm of the city. There was too much of the storyteller in him, too much unleashed southern song still waiting for the open air. From the earliest days I can recall, my place was on his lap, touching a hand to his stubbled cheek and listening to his growled narrative, mysterious whispers and wide-open laughter.

Because of him, I grew to think of the world in terms of the stories it could tell. From my father’s moonlit tales of steaming Delta magic to the sweet slow songs of Smokey Robinson, I became addicted to unfolding drama, winding narrative threads, the lyricism of simple words. I believed that we all lived in the midst of an ongoing adventure that begged for voice. In my quest for that voice, I found poetry.

Poetry was the undercurrent of every story I heard and read. It was the essence, the bones and the pulse. I could think of no better way to communicate than with a poem, where pretense is stripped away, leaving only what is beautiful and vital.

Poetry became the way I processed the world. In neon-washed bars, community centers and bookstores, I breathed out necessary breath, taking the stage and sharing stanzas with strangers, anxious wordsmiths who were also bag boys, day laborers, housekeepers and cooks. I loved the urgency of their voices and the way they sparked urgency in mine.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

KA-CHING! Reviewed in Entertainment Weekly

Verse Things Verse: What better poetry for the current economic period than Denise Duhamel's hymns to money, ATMs, her IRA 
 accounts, the Treasury, gambling...and Sean Penn?

Sample Lines: ''I still see the poet in you, Sean Penn/ You probably think fans like me are your penance...''

Bottom Line: Learn and have fun while you read: Using prose poems, 
sonnets, sestinas, and other forms in Ka-Ching!, Duhamel is a wily technician, a touching humanist, a poet deserving stardom.

Grade: A
By: Ken Tucker

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Who Are The Project Verse Finalists?

Who are the finalists for Project Verse?

You can find out this Friday when I am interviewed on The Joe Milford Poetry Show. I hope you'll be able to tune in; however, if you can't listen live, check out the archives at The Joe Milford Poetry Show's website later for my interview.

Besides discussing a handful of poetry projects, I plan to read a mix of new, old, and really old poems..... titles including: "Bad Fruit," "Boys Will Be Boys," "It's All A Crapshoot," "Rule #3 Of Sexual Relations," "I Haven't Completed An MFA Program," and more.

How I Discovered Poetry: Mark Bibbins

How I Discovered Poetry ~ Mark Bibbins

I was in junior high (7th grade?) and saw somewhere some Cummings poem(s), and thought, That's how words should work: undo them, redo and move them; tamper at the level of the letter. I had jotted his "loneliness/a leaf falls" poem down in a notebook and thought for years I had written it myself. Oops.

A few years later, Peter Gabriel's "So" came out; it has a song about Anne Sexton on it ("Mercy Street"), and that led me to her. I otherwise didn't read much poetry, just sort of wrote compulsively on Post-Its or whatever little pieces of paper were around, having no idea what I was doing, or that what I was making might have been poems. I showed some to an older and more worldly friend, who was impressed enough to write a poem to/for me. There was something crucial to me about that exchange, that support; it revealed to me one of the functions of poetry, for which I'm still grateful.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Busy Day: KSU LGBT Summit & Poet's Dinner

I started off my day by going to Kennesaw State University for the KSU LGBT Summit. I gave a "lecture" on Online Social Networking-- Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, and the Blogosphere. I listened in on a presentation by Melanie Janus, and she was great. I'll give you one line from her presentation: "Capitalism may have taken my virginity, but Coke-Cola called me back the next day." I won't elaborate because I plan on interviewing her for I Was Born Doing Reference Work in Sin.

I think my part went well. I received a number of compliments, and I was happy that a handful of students stuck around after to chit-chat. Good times.

Then... There was a flat tire:
Unfortunately, I was stuck on the bridge that you see in the background of this picture. Luckily, I was able to make to asphalt. I was a bit nervous during the whole incident.

THEN.... It was off to the Poet's Dinner!

In the front: Cleo Creech and Beth Gylys.
The rest-- L to R: Dustin Brookshire, Julie Bloemeke, Megan Volpert, Collin Kelley Rupert Fike, and Christine Swint

It was yet another great time with talented poets.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How I Discovered Poetry: Laure-Anne Bosselaar

How I Discovered Poetry ~ Laure-Anne Bosselaar

Discovering Rhyme

They came cheap, the Petites Punitions
nuns flung at us for lesser sins: dyslexic
signs of the cross, skipped

confessions, whispers during Silence —
and sentences followed: copy two, ten, twenty
Lord’s Prayers or Hail Marys

on calligraphy paper, cursives
correctly curled, capitals clinging to margins,
black ink for consonants, vowels in red.

The wars I waged in those French
syllables — wanting love-red vowels to win
over habit-black consonants!

I hated hailing Mary, for anything
full of grace shamed me: I was homely,
lumpy, and had never been baptized —

three reasons for perpetual doom:
no sips of our Savior's red liquor for me,
or tastes of His wan

flesh on my tongue. Banished,
I spent mass in the chapel's back pews,
bored, counting red stained-

glass pieces over blue, gold
versus green in the west window
where Mary Magdalene

held Christ's foot to her breast
so tenderly. On drizzly days, slow
raindrops sobbed down

Christ's flank unto her longing
face­— I loved watching how nothing
distracted her from looking up at Him,

how she let Him quench His gaze
into hers. It was on one of those days
that novices sang a new hymn.

Its melody was rueful, flowed
with long ooo sounds: two words,
amour and toujours

swooned in harmony— it was
new to me: music inside a song, words
could pour melody into a tune —
swoon in harmony like Christ
and Mary Magdalene. I hadn't heard this
as achingly before.

After that day, I slipped rhymes
in each line of my small punishments:
Hail frail Mary,
blessed art thou now… sounds
crimson with amour, rhyme's song
pour toujours.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Amazon Becomes a Drama Mama

The blogosphere is buzzing with the with the Amazon drama, so I'm not going to write a lengthy post on the topic. I think anyone who spends two minutes knows my opinion on the drama-- lame. If you are asking, What drama, well, you need to visit at least one of the links below.

Queerty: Gay Lit Too "Adult" for

Mark R. Probst: Amazon Follies

Pam's House Blend: Amazon: LGBT books too "adult" to be ranked

Deep Dish: Sign Petition Protesting Amazon's LGBT Discrimination

Democratic Underground: Amazon on an anti-gay crusade? Removing sales rankings from LGBT titles.

Ingrid Díaz:

Publishers Weekly: Amazon Says Glitch to Blame for "New" Adult Policy

Saturday, April 11, 2009

How I Discovered Poetry: Ellen Bass

How I Discovered Poetry ~ Ellen Bass

I think poetry itself is what lured me to fall in love with it. I didn't come from a literary family, though my mother occasionally read a poem aloud, careful to read it well, as she was careful in all things, wrapping a sandwich in waxed paper or counting out change for a customer. She took a certain pride in knowing that you didn't stop at the end of a line, but followed the thought through until a natural place to pause.

We didn't have many books in our house until my brother, who is eight years older, went to college. On weekends, I'd cut myself a thick slab of salami, take a couple slices of American cheese, a knob of rye bread and a glass of milk and settle myself in the leather recliner in his empty room and read books from his shelves.

My first typewriter was a hand-me-down from my brother. I wish I still had it--a clunky black metal Remington with round silver-rimmed keys on which I taught myself to type using a fingering chart my brother made for me. Recently I was cleaning out my garage and came across a box of old papers, including some note cards on which I'd typed out poems and quotations fifty years ago:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to Cancel half a line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

I added the accent marks in pencil and some of the letters are darker than others. The punctuation keys I must have hit especially hard because they have indented the cards with their force. I can't help but wonder what this passage meant to me then, having had no experiences so painful that I would have wanted to erase them. Maybe I was preparing myself for the future. These lines certainly describe my struggles now--there's so much I wish I could go back and do differently. Or maybe it was something beyond the content, the way poetry speaks to us about the human condition, whether we have had similar experiences ourselves or not. All I know for sure is that I had a hunger for this kind of meaningful communication--and I still do.

I am excited and pleased about the new administration launching The website has information ranging from treatment & care to research to prevention & education to funding opportunities to finding a testing center. Yes, the site has it all.

After eight years of Bush I forgot an administation can actually work to help the people of this fab country. Thank you, Obama!

Become a fan of on Facebook!

Quick Links from
Recent Funding Announcements
Treatment and Care Programs
Clinical Trials

Sympathy vs Pity and Dustin in the Middle!

Over at Steve Fellner's blog, Pansy Poetics, there is discussion on sympathy vs pity. I've put in my two cents, and I'm really interested as to what you think.

The blog post that started it all: Self-Pity Can Be a Good Thing!: The Poems of James Schuyler (Part One)

The follow-up blog post: On Poetry, Self-Pity, and Sympathy: In Response to Dustin Brookshire's Comment on My Last Post

Visit Steve's blog. He enjoys intellectual debates, so play nice and leave a comment.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Why Do I Write ~ Barbara Crooker

WHY DO I WRITE ~ Barbara Crooker


Because I'm here, this late in the century,
looking at the ink-filled sky,
seeing the April comet, a luminous exclamation,
not believing, with the alternatives
of nuclear char or unchecked epidemic,
that anything from our time will last.
But still, I was here, on this rock,
this shaley hillside, violets blooming
in the grass, for a short time. I suffered,
I lived, I loved in the face of everything,
and I have to write it down.

“Because the world is round it turns me on.” (John Lennon)

Because, as Stephen King says, “What makes you think I have a choice?”

Because I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

Because “love calls us to the things of the world.” (Richard Wilbur)

Because “the Blues is truth” (Buddy Guy) and so is poetry.

Because in poetry, “Nothing is lost, everything is transformed” (Antoine Lavoisier, father of modern chemistry.”

Because “all sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story” (Isak Dinensen) or a poem.

Because there is no other language for joy.

Because “grapes want to turn to wine.” (Rumi)

Because, to quote myself again, there’s “one small / life, and it's never enough.” (“How the Trees on Summer Nights Turn Into a Dark River”)

Monday, April 6, 2009

How I Discovered Poetry: Denise Duhamel

How I Discovered Poetry ~ Denise Duhamel


I started writing
when I found out
that there was such a thing
as contemporary poetry,
that I didn’t have to
have a plot and minor characters
and a setting
and it could be all me,
like a channel
of all-Denise-all-the-time.
When I wrote stories
in my undergraduate fiction class,
the teachers asked,
“Might this instead be a poem?”
or “Don’t your characters
ever do anything but sit
at kitchen tables remembering the past?"
I started writing poetry
because there were things I couldn’t tell
anyone, but I could write them down.
I started writing poetry before I knew
it was poetry
by way of my journal and diaries.
I started writing poetry
because when the dishes flew
or my mother sobbed on the couch
my journal fell open, each page
a wing. I started writing
poetry when I had my first crush
and I couldn’t tell anyone
about it. I started writing
poetry so I myself wouldn’t
throw dishes or sob. Sometimes
I sobbed anyway and more than once
I’ve smudged my own writing
with a tear, but I wrote
right through it. I started
writing poetry because I was a misfit—
sickly, allergic. I wrote poetry
in the children’s hospital
in fourth grade when I fell in love
with a bald boy with cancer.
He was in sixth grade
with eyes that grew larger
and more stunning every day.
He wore away but not his eyes.
I wish now that I’d read him
my poems. I remember feeling
like a ten-year-old widow.
I started writing poetry
even though I found it embarrassing
to be so naked, so embarrassing
to think anyone would be interested
in what I felt.
I still find it embarrassing.
I started writing poetry
in secret. I started showing
my poems, much later, tentatively,
I guess to say, Hi,
I see you.
I’m here.

forthcoming in Limp Wrist

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Queens of Poetry

I am putting together an anthology-- Queens of Poetry: A Tribute to Bosselaar, Duhamel, Laux & Wier. I launched the site on April 1, and I have received almost ten submissions as well as a handful of queries.

Check out the submission guidelines. Submit.

Share the link to Queens of Poetry with your writing group, students, friends, on your blog, via Facebook.... whatever you can do to spread the word.

4/2/09-- Lisa Borders Announces

Lisa Borders is back in the race for mayor of Atlanta. I give Lisa Borders gave points for the use of the song at the end of the second video. I'm not saying which song she used... be a cool kid and watch the video to find out.

Georgia Peeps-- Add Lisa Borders as a friend on Facebook.

Announcement Speech: Part 1

Announcement Speech: Part 2

Saturday, April 4, 2009

How I Discovered Poetry Series!

If I compiled a list of my top ten favorite poems of all time, it is easy for me to say Marilyn Nelson's "How I Discovered Poetry" would be one of the first poems I would write down. (There would be no second guessing myself.) Chills creep over my body every time I read Nelson's "How I Discovered Poetry." Every time I read Nelson's poem, I feel the passion I felt the first time I read it. People, this is what good poetry does to its reader.

I use "How I Discovered Poetry" every chance I can when leading a workshop. I love to see the looks on the faces of writers after they finish Nelson's poem--the sound of the gasp as they finish the last line. I've also found it is a great exercise to have people use the first line of the poem as a writing prompt.

Marilyn Nelson is a powerful and talented poet whose words will make you bow to her work. Marilyn is a delightful, kind-hearted poet. Every time I've seen her she wears a smile that reaches out and hugs you. Marilyn Nelson is a poet who has not been polluted by her success. She is a delight.

My series titled "How I Discovered Poetry," as you probably already assumed, is inspired by Marilyn Nelson's poem, "How I Discovered Poetry." This series will be posted only during April in tribute to National Poetry Month and in honor of Marilyn Nelson. The series will include responses from Denise Duhamel, Ellen Bass, Mark Bibbins, Sandra Beasley, David Trinidad, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, and more. (I'm even going to participate! I am hosting the party after all.) I think I can safely say there will be a little something for everyone. I hope you'll take a moment every so often to visit I Was Born Doing Reference Work In Sin to check out the series.

I begin the series with Marilyn Nelson's poem, and it will end on 4/30/09 with brief commentary from Marilyn on her poem.



It was like soul-kissing, the way the words
filled my mouth as Mrs. Purdy read from her desk.
All the other kids zoned an hour ahead to 3:15,
but Mrs. Purdy and I wandered lonely as clouds borne
by a breeze off Mount Parnassus. She must have seen
the darkest eyes in the room brim: The next day
she gave me a poem she’d chosen especially for me
to read to the all except for me white class.
She smiled when she told me to read it, smiled harder,
said oh yes I could. She smiled harder and harder
until I stood and opened my mouth to banjo playing
darkies, pickaninnies, disses and dats. When I finished
my classmates stared at the floor. We walked silent
to the buses, awed by the power of words.

Marilyn Nelson, “How I Discovered Poetry” from The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why Do I Write ~ Michelle McGrane

WHY DO I WRITE ~ Michelle McGrane

I want to share one of my favourite excerpts on writing with you. It's from an essay by author, naturalist and environmental activist, Terry Tempest Williams, entitled "Why I Write", one of over thirty insightful pieces included in the volume Writing Creative Nonfiction, edited by Carolyn Forché and Philip Gerard (Writer's Digest Books, 2001).

I can't put it better than this:

"I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to create red in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change. I write to honor beauty. I write to correspond with my friends. I write as a daily act of improvisation. I write because it creates my composure. I write against power and for democracy. I write myself out of my nightmares and into my dreams. I write in solitude born out of community. I write to the questions that shatter my sleep. I write to the answers that keep me complacent. I write to remember. I write to forget. I write to the music that opens my heart. I write to quell the pain. I write to migrating birds with the hubris of language. I write as a form of translation. I write with the patience of melancholy in winter. I write because it allows me to confront that which I do not know. I write as an act of faith. I write as an act of slowness. I write to record what I love in the face of loss. I write because it makes me less fearful of death. I write as an exercise in pure joy. I write as one who walks on the surface of a frozen river beginning to melt. I write out of anger and into my passion. I write from stillness of night anticipating – always anticipating. I write to listen. I write out of silence. I write to soothe the voices shouting inside me, outside me, all around. I write because of the humor of our condition as humans. I write because I believe in words. I write because I do not believe in words. I write because it is a dance with paradox. I write because you can play on the page like a child left alone in the sand. I write because it belongs to the force of the moon: high tide, low tide. I write because it is the way I take long walks. I write to bow to the wilderness. I write because it can create a path in darkness. I write because as a child I spoke a different language. I write with a knife carving each word through the generosity of trees. I write as ritual. I write because I am not employable. I write out of inconsistencies. I write because then I do not have to speak. I write with the colors of memory. I write as a witness to what I have seen. I write as a witness to what I imagine. I write by grace and grit. I write out of indigestion. I write when I am starving. I write when I am full. I write to the dead. I write out of the body. I write to put food on the table. I write on the other side of procrastination. I write for children we never had. I write for a love of ideas. I write for the surprise of a beautiful sentence. I write with the belief of alchemists. I write knowing I will always fail. I write knowing words will always fall short. I write knowing I can be killed by my own words, stabbed by syntax, crucified by both understanding and misunderstanding. I write out of ignorance. I write by accident. I write past the embarrassment of exposure. I keep writing and suddenly, I am overcome by sheer indulgence, the madness, the meaninglessness, the ridiculousness of this list. I trust nothing, especially myself, and slide headfirst into the familiar abyss of doubt and humiliation and threaten to push the delete button on my way down, or madly erase each line, pick up the paper and rip it to shreds - and then I realize, it doesn't matter, words are always a gamble, words are splinters of cut glass. I write because it is dangerous, a bloody risk, like love, to form the words, to say the words, to touch the source, to be touched, to reveal how vulnerable we are, how transient we are.

I write as though I am whispering in the ear of the one I love."

- Terry Tempest Williams from "Why I Write", Writing Creative Nonfiction: Instruction and insights from the teachers of the Associated Writing Programs, edited by Carolyn Forché and Philip Gerard (Writer's Digest Books, 2001)

Read more about Terry Tempest Williams here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

National Poetry Month Begins!

National Poetry Month officially starts today!

Please leave comments on this blog entry letting me know what you have planned to celebrate National Poetry Month.

In honor of National Poetry Month I am running a series in I Was Born Doing Reference Work in Sin titled How I Discovered Poetry. Get ready for responses from Denise Duhamel, Ellen Bass, Charles Jensen, and more.

I think you will enjoy the How I Discovered Poetry series!