Monday, June 29, 2009

Project Verse ~ Week 4: Shore Tags


Did you know that, worldwide, hermit crabs are experiencing a housing shortage? About 30 percent of all hermit crabs live in shells that are too small for them, and up to 60 percent can't find homes that are the correct size in the spring when they experience their growth spurts.

Dana Guthrie Martin, one of our weekly judges, created a project called Shore Tags that addresses this problem. Click here for all the juicy details as to what Shore Tags is looking for in a poem.
Give us what Shore Tags is looking for in 40 lines or less.

No form constraints.

Work hard because the winner of this week's assignment will be published in the Shore Tags project.

Since the judging period falls on the weekend of a holiday, the results won't be posted until Sunday, July 12.
Week 4 poems are still due by 10am on 7/3.

Competitors, check back to I Was Born Doing Reference Work in Sin on Monday, July 6.
You have a curve ball coming your way.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Week 3: Results

Beth, Dustin, Dana, and Matthew Hittinger have deliberated; click here to revisit the poems and read their comments below each poem. The judges have selected the poets who wrote the two strongest and weakest poems for Week 3: Simile Vs. Metaphor:


KRISTEN and NIINA were voted the strongest for Week 3; however, only one poet can be the weekly winner. NIINA, there is always next week. Congratulations, KRISTEN!

EMILY and NABINA, both of you receive a vote from each judge to place you in the bottom two. This marks the second time that both you have made the bottom two.

NABINA, the judges had a problem with your use of metaphor. They weren't buying what you were selling this week.

EMILY, the judges didn't complain about your use of metaphor; however, they felt your work this week was sloppy. Two out of the four had issues with the addressee of your elegy.

EMILY, your previous work has been stronger. We want to see the strong work return next week.

NABINA, you are on permanent caesura!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Week 3 ~ Simile Vs. Metaphor: The Poems!

Here are the poems from Project Verse ~ Week 3: Simile Vs. Metaphor.




The elk are teenaged boys, hanging out on the side of the road again. Bennie and the Jets.
All, look at me: hey honey, take a long look. They’re so cool: combs in pockets, sneaking
drags on reds. I see you, Elk Boys, I see your racks and how you leap. Now run off and
let me have this road. They jump the fence, with too much grace for males at that age of
any species. Further down the road, mule deer punks have not yet shed their winter coats.
They stand shaggy near the Sweet Grass, cutting class, playing hooky, getting into things
between seasons: fresh moss, sprouting sage, a sweeter version of their mountain syrup

This is such a surprising and delightful little poem. I love the tone of “I see you, Elk Boys,” and the surprise of the shift into the speaker’s actual world “let me have this road”. The end is so deft too. I’m not wild about the very last phrase “a sweeter version of their mountain syrup” as it’s a little hard to know how to read it, but this is a small, small quibble about a poem that is utterly charming.

Dustin: I like the "Bennie and the Jets" reference. I like the detail of "combs in pockets, sneaking drags on reds." "They jump the fence, with too much grace for males at that age of any species" doesn't work for me; this is the one line in the poem that jams the flow. Small item: I'm annoyed by the lack of a comma at the end of your last line.

Dana: This is such an inventive poem, and while I like the use of the extended metaphor, I am not sure I buy it as a reader. By the end of the poem, I am not convinced that the elk are indeed teenaged boys. I am not quite able to accept the poem’s central assertion.

Guest Judge Matthew Hittinger: My first question was “is this the best form fit for the content?” and given the strong control over the sentence rhythms and variations I was left with a “yes”--the speaker's voice is sharp, but I found my ear wanting more. The elk metaphor as teenage boys (or teenage boys as elk) was strong and I almost wondered what would be lost/gained by just saying the elk are hanging out beside the road again, Bennie and the Jets, etc., describing them like teenage boys without saying “teenage boys”--again a question of what you lose, what you gain by such an omission. Where I think you can push this further is when you turn from the elk to the mule deer, especially by the last line which left me hanging and feeling the poem was incomplete. Not as much time is devoted to the mule deer punks as the elk boys and it left me pondering one, the relation of the mule deer to the elk boys (turf war?) and two, if there are other animals that might match-up with teenage groups (enter those mean girl clicks and look out boys!) which makes for a longer poem, but one that I'd love to read to see what affinities you can wield.




My wife and I were stepchildren, Marcia
and Greg destined to wed. I practiced
division serving cocktails to my parents
in front of the screen, siphoning ounces
from quarts. She memorized the nightly
schedules, a wry arithmetic. There were
clashing swords, bullets that knocked guns
from hands, long brawls without gushing
blood. We had relationships with suburban
witches and dead men, fell in love with bald
Greek lollipops and battled frightening odds.
We marveled at fallopian star voyages
and teenagers stuffed in telephone booths
on a dare, men slow on the uptake racing
to the airport to stop true love’s departure.
It was dizzying. God appeared and the Devil
tap danced. The days passed dream length
and dire in its hold upon us. We laughed
at cartoon bears and cherished theme songs
that we whistled during long, lonely hours.
Sometimes the light switched off, and we
were left with memories, familiar and false,
echoes that formed our own fragile borders.

Beginning with “My wife and I” seems to suggest that the focus of the poem is going to be about the relationship (even despite the title), and though the end comes back to the husband/wife theme a bit…“formed our own fragile borders”, the poem really veers from that subject for the bulk of its 23 lines. The import of the images and scenarios from TV on the speaker for me isn’t conveyed quite clearly enough. I should mention I was of this same generation, so I got (and appreciated) many of the references and I also watched way too much TV, but I want the poem to be bigger than it manages to be.

Dustin: I like the allusion to the Brady Brunch; however, I don't like your first line break. The poem needs more specific allusions than just the Brady Bunch one. I like the last three lines; however, those lines make me feel like something is missing from the poem---- like I went from episode 2 to episode 4.

Dana: I love all the detail in this poem, but the ending was less interesting for me than the rest of the poem. I also got hung up on the beginning, with the comparison of the narrator and the wife to Marcia and Greg. I know the two weren’t actually related, but still –- the idea of them getting married weirds me out.

Guest Judge Matthew Hittinger: This is a lovely poem, cataloguing TV's plot lines and character types, how they mirror and metaphor our own dramas in real life and yet are always heightened as both an escape and a revelation that at least our lives are not as bad as that. I felt a strong draw to the very specific allusion to the Brady Brunch with Marcia and Greg and craved more of those specifics throughout the poem which after that reference seems to operate with more general descriptions of familiar plots and such. Those last lines are very strong and resonate with anyone raised on a healthy dose of TV as our own personal histories slip into those we watched, at times indistinguishable from what is real and what is imagined (and aren't the imagined stories we witness real in some way, become real to us in some way?). My biggest question here involved the presence of the wife. I kept wondering why she was there other than she shared the same experience as the speaker and allows for the great Brady Brunch reference. But while the poem starts with establishing the presence of two, and then goes into her isolated experience and then the speaker's, they quickly conflate to a “we” and an “us” and I wasn't sure if I should take it as indication that once the “we” appears they are no longer single entities but now partnered and bound to this TV life together, and if that is the case, what is the significance of this TV life in the partnered state?



Perfect Weight

“...there’s a perfect-sized YOU just waiting to be discovered...”

Learn to love the lessons of your mouth: vessel
and enemy at once. Do not feed it
butter or peaches. Eat only peel--pocked
bitterchew. Leave its lavish moon of sluice.
Fruit's a costly strumpet. You
get solely what you've labored for.

You will witness the sacred
bloom in your empty bowl. Spit your meat.
Chew its dewy worm of fat, and swallow
the tallow scrap. You must make do
with gristle. Endurance is a fevered saint.
Let hunger roll and burn in it.

Substitute always nail beds
for heart, no matter the thrall
of your cravings. Want is a sluggard tongue,
seeking its greasy kingdom. It will tempt you full
to bursting. Lay down your fork. Purge
between each bite.

You will kneel to bless the dead
hive of your pelvis. The body
is an intermission: wait for the toss
and hurl of rebirth. Emerge, sanctified and blank.
Hover above the scale; note
the number. This is your perfect weight.

I really love the sounds and language of the poem. Oddly, though the poem is about food and taste and tasting, the real subject is as much the ear as the mouth. Some of the phrasing is just spectacular: “peel--pocked bitterchew,” “lavish moon of sluice,” “dewy worm of fat, and swallow the tallow scrap” etc. The critique of the weight industry is nicely submerged, and I admire that too.

Dustin: Love it! There is so much to love about this poem: "Fruit's a costly strumpet. You / get solely what you've labored for" and "Endurance is a fevered saint" and "Want is a sluggard tongue, / seeking its greasy kingdom." I could list more. Great epigraph selection. Your epigraph pulls the reader into the poem, and you never disappoint the reader. I tried to find something about this poem that I didn't like, but it was a lost cause.

Dana: Another one of my favorites this week. All the different metaphors work so well in the piece and don’t stand out as being part of an assignment. This is also an important poem, but the topic doesn’t overshadow the language and overall craft.

Guest Judge Matthew Hittinger: The music and word play struck me as the most exciting elements in this poem (just take a second to read it out loud and note the long EE and OO sounds in that first stanza, or the short I sounds in the second, and so forth and you'll see what I mean), as well as the authoritative speaker who gains her power from the imperative mode of addressing a “you.” I found a central metaphor in each stanza that really stood out (to the point where I have them all underlined): In stanza one: “Eat only peel-pocked / bitterchew. Leave its lavish moon of sluice.” In stanza two: “Spit your meat. / Chew its dewy worm of fat.” In stanza three: “Want is a sluggard tongue, / seeking its greasy kingdom.” And in stanza four: “The body is an intermission.” There were few weak moments for me: some awkward wording moments like “substitute always nail beds” threw me out of the poem, but those can be easily revised. I'm torn about the last line “this is your perfect weight” given that phrase is also the title and reference in the epigraph. The poem definitely builds towards such a tongue-in-cheek statement but I wonder if it is perhaps a place holder for a line that could do more work? Something to think about. Oh, and points for using one of my all-time favorite words “strumpet.”




Oh My God, the angels
wear white gloves on their left hands!
Eternity’s a big fat fucking show
tonight, vacuous black churned white

& glittering. I can see it
from my little clammy foxhole. The sky
is vintage celluloid, the hell with digital.
I hope you didn’t think

you’d make a nice clean break!
For’s Christ’s sake, don’t fail
us now— the stars went scuttling when
they heard you coming! You wouldn’t

leave us with no light
to top the bill? You couldn’t leave
us in the dark. We need another
comeback, need to know this isn’t how it ends—

(if you can end, then so can we)
& trust this Jersey girl who stalks
the sky— we never cared for your humanity.
The world’s no

stage these days, it’s just a screen,
some dumb flat firmament; convince me
why your death would break the mold.
Look up— even the moon’s turned out

for you; old hag of rag & bone,
she’s donned her crescent gold, she’s
donned her best. She’s know
tonight she hosts an honored guest.

I generally like a crabby tone, and there are some wonderful lines in this poem: “The sky / is vintage celluloid, the hell with digital.” and “the moon’s turned out for you; old hag of rag & bone.” Aside from the two typos: “For’s Christ’s” in stanza three and “She’s know” in the last stanza, my big concern about the poem is that the perspective of the speaker is a little fuzzy.

Dustin: Emily, I knew the type-o's were coming because of your email. I bet you are not happy that I wouldn't accept the correct version; however, since the beginning of the competition I've adhered to the rules. Once a poem is submitted, even if it is early, that is the poem that is judged. Also, I have kept with the same practice each week. I download each Microsoft Word File. Then I copy and paste the poems from the MW file to blogspot. This is why I did not copy and paste your poem from the body of the email. I didn't think it'd be fair.

I've enjoyed your poems from week one and two; however, I didn't really enjoy this poem. It didn't stand out for like your first two. Yes, you have great moments in this poem: "The sky / is vintage celluloid, the hell with digital" (Very Creative!) and calling the moon an "old hag of rag & bone." I'm not sure it is 100% clear that this poem is about Michael Jackson; it is clear at the moment because of his death and the nonstop media coverage. Will people make the connection in a few years or longer? I'm not confident this poem will stand the test of time.

Dana: This is one of my bottom picks this week. The piece doesn’t feel as strong to me as the poet’s other work. The person the elegy is addressed to is not named in the poem, and I think that weakens the piece considerably. Some of broad assertions the poem makes, such as “we never cared for your humanity,” feel weak and abstract.

Guest Judge Matthew Hittinger: A timely poem given MJ's death this past week. I overlooked some of the spelling/grammar mistakes “For's Christ's” and “She's know” to really focus on the sentiment here and found some lovely music, like fat/vacuous/black in the first stanza, and the embedded rhymes of sake/break in the third and best/guest in the last stanza. I'd cut the parenthetical “(if you can end, then so can we)” as I think the point of the poem is to do the work to show us that feeling by locating a pop star in the heavens, and one as big as MJ as he rivals the moon (love that line “old hag of rag & bone”) and the other stars who make way. The end is a little too tidy for me. The poem raises some good questions and has a wry tone “The world's no / stage these days, it's just a screen, / some dumb flat firmament” that doesn't match with those last lines about the “honored guest” (not sure if they were meant to be sarcastic—I mean, really the moon doesn't give a damn about MJ in the end, one of the pitfalls of personification, but that indifference could give you room to play more with the rivalry you're setting up.)



The Worry Dolls

They work through night, with backhoe or ice pick,
extracting worry: that rotten tooth. Sisters of the smallest order,
kerchiefed, the single-stitch of their red lips,
without hands, without horse or cart to carry my want.
I whisper tonight, I give you not the kiss on the cheek,
but the wanting it. Perhaps they weave the fabric of sleep
or steep the earth with desire; the grass wet when I wake.
There were six dolls once. I gave one to a girl
who needed a compass and wings. How to tell her that staying
is harder, that love dulls? The five cried in their little balsa bed.
So much worry for one. I should have given her the whole set.

A provocative, deft little poem with some lovely moments: “extracting worry: that rotten tooth,” “the single-stitch of their red lips,” and I love that the poem has an almost fable-like quality “a girl who needed a compass and wings."

Dustin: I like first two lines. You've created a great beginning. "Sisters of the smallest order, / kerchiefed, the single-stitch of their red lips," sticks out in an enjoyable way. My favorite part of the poem is "I whisper tonight, I give you not the kiss on the cheek, / but the wanting it." I feel like there could be a little more at the end. Overall, I really enjoyed this poem.

Dana: “Without horse or cart to carry my want” and “steep the earth with desire” are wonderful moments in this poem. I also love the metaphor “fabric of sleep.” This is a beautiful example of a poem that meets the assignment’s requirements while remaining focused, concise and engaging.

Guest Judge Matthew Hittinger: Lush music throughout this poem. To isolate just two patterns: the esses and short i's (sisters/kerchiefed/lips/stitch/whisper/kiss) which create a nice hissing spitting rhythm especially on the more monosyllabic words; and the long EE sounds (cheek/weak/sleep/steep) which being a high frequency vowel sound and all monosyllabic makes for a great sonic energy and rhythm. The poem seems to be reaching toward the sonnet form; it's 11 instead of 14 lines, but there's a turn that happens at light 8: “There were six dolls once” moves us from the description of the dolls and the location of the dolls in the present and first seven lines to the dolls' history and past in the last four. From that turn through to those awesome last lines, especially with the hard truth of “staying / is harder” and “love dulls,” I think this is one of the stronger ones here this week. My only suggestions would be to take a whirl at pushing it toward the sonnet form and see what a draft of that might look like (you can always return to this version), and to perhaps cut one of the three instances of “worry” (it's necessary in the title and the last line, and for the purposes of this exercise early on as the 1st metaphor, but I found myself wanting to find a way to lose the “worry” in line two).




At first light, a prayer is dark against
the white face of the nurse looking in.
My medicine cup whispers
on the night stand. Down the hall
the steps of an early visitor, a doctor
who drags his fingers across my waxy arm
saying Wait, I’m coming, I’m here.

I'm a patient, a toad in a dry pond, a worm
pushing up through recent rain. Out my window,
a blinking red light from the landfill colors
the wings of buzzards. They tiptoe their way
from pile to pile. The light is the eye of a boy king
peeking into his model kingdom.

My roommate tells me remember
that evil thoughts are free and free thoughts are evil
His drug is methamphetamine, he says
it turns the clock back so he can pretend
today is already yesterday. He knows time’s game,
knows her stutter, knows
how her neck smells up close.
The ceiling is a door, an alley,
a garden. If I stretch hard
I can touch it with my toes.

This final stanza is really terrific, and I am quite willing to forgive the roughness of a few earlier moments to get to its wisdom. I will say the first image is a bit vague (I’m not sure how a prayer can be dark about the nurse’s face) and the mention of being “a patient” seems a little bit unnecessary, but as I said, I think this last stanza is quite worth the wait.

Dustin: You create lovely detail in parts of this poem. I like "He knows time’s game, / knows her stutter, knows / how her neck smells up close." The first stanza seems to be your on-ramp. I'd scrap the first stanza, or give it a complete overhaul.

Dana:The final stanza of this poem is fantastic. The metaphors work well throughout the piece, but I did stumble on the two metaphors describing the patient in the second stanza. The two together felt like a little too much.

Guest Judge Matthew Hittinger: There's a lot of good stuff going on in this poem. I found myself wanting to start with those lines “My medicine cup whispers / on the night stand” if only because I had a hard time seeing “a prayer is dark against / the white face of the nurse” which just could be a wording issue (or my personal aversion to the word “prayer”). I was less compelled by the first stanza, but see the necessity of the nurse and doctor to locate us in the drug rehab scenario (but perhaps we don't need them?). Once I got to that second stanza the poem really picked up steam with the first grouping of three metaphors “I'm a patient, a toad in a dry pond, a worm / pushing up through recent rain” which mirrors “The ceiling is a door, an alley / a garden.” in the third stanza. I'd almost replace “patient” with another metaphor as it seems too literal given the structure you set-up (perhaps it is meant to be read as both literal and metaphoric, or perhaps you intended it for what it is, a literal patient, but that seems too easy—make it do more work). I think my favorite image is “the light is the eye of a boy king / peeking into his model kingdom.” Third stanza is also great with the entrance of the roommate and the sonic repetition of the long O rhymes (knows/close/toes) which lends a more somber tone that perfectly matches the content. I'm not sure the last line is doing all the work it needs to yet; I found myself wanting you to push it just a bit further, especially after lines like the boy king.



Kitchen Variety
- for G and Drosophila

I was trying to kill you, Little Red
Eyes, you and your six-

hundred siblings, when I saw your sublime
flotsam around the gentle rot

of my kitchen can. You floated ghostly
around the rubbish. Swam into my wine. I know

you can’t help it: the cidering, noiseless exhale

of the mango perishing
deep in the bin. You would gather on honey

everything, a lattice alive with desire,

shivering in the doomtime fervor
that all canker brings about in you,

sexual bright. I wanted
to blast you, but your aerosol death,

what would it have meant?
The soundless sound

of little bodies dropping, then nobody
to signal the sweetness nearby.

This is one of those poems that takes a really mundane subject (fruit flies) and makes it gorgeous. I’m completely won over by this poem “You would gather on honey/everything” (great line break!) “a lattice alive with desire”….And such a perfect end. Bravo!

Dustin: This poem took me back to my high school AP Biology course. One of our lab expirements was to use Drosophila melanogaster to do genetic crosses. I enjoyed that lab, but I enjoyed your poem more! You've written a lovely poem on a not so lovely insect. Good detail in the poem, and I love the statement at the end.

Dana:This piece contains a lot of great language, including “gentle rot” and “doomtime fervor.” There were moment where the language felt forced, including “sublime / flotsam.” I also wasn’t wild about the “soundless sound.” The last stanza is very strong.

Guest Judge Matthew Hittinger: I kept returning to this one and found something new to admire each time. Strengths: a strong title and strong music throughout: Red/death/meant, flotsam/rot, floated/ghostly; but most importantly the higher frequency vowel sounds of the long I (Eyes/sublime/wine/alive/desire/doomtime) and EE (ghostly/honey/bodies/sweetness) combined with the enjambments create an excitement in the rhythm and a nice tension that propels the poem and compels the reader toward its paradox-pondering end: that “soundless sound” which I admit tripped me up the first few times as being impossible, and while I still have reservations, I like the gesture, especially as it relates to the epiphany about the necessity of the annoying Drosophila to signal the sweetness of the rotting mango.




I didn’t have half brothers or sisters, now I do
Siblings in angst, about who grew up faster, smarter.

Macadamized heartbeats, belching, lying in the sun
Bristling in the smog of hyperventilating rush hours

Toenails curled inwards. That’s how we are.

Brother Chicago, from my labyrinth of freeways
I’ve seen your billboards flashing its psychedelic lure

Your finger slow-motioning from the cloud tops
Entwining me to your belly button deep and bright.

Your other brother or sister – that gushy half-sibling
New York is Woody Allen. Worried, glib! It arcs

A sharp tongue across Manhattan’s cacophony
Rips off the rootedness of our shared metro mangrove.

Laying with its jaunty back of a brooding T-rex

Chicago squints at the waterside, not ready to budge
Polishes its towering whiskers – unperturbed even in the snow.

New York slams me for calling out its name
For even thinking I could write these words –

Its skyline a lost ship that hopes someone will come
Anchor in its teenaged grudge. Well, let it gnaw!

Listen two cities. Don’t tell Kafka, I’ve turned into a city
Unyielding, aching and stymied. Forever looking inside.

A silently gregarious square tucked into my seams.

I admire the ambition of this poem, but it feels at times a bit strained. I’m having a hard time thinking of a speaker as a city. It may be my lack of imagination.

Dustin: I like the Kafka reference in the poem, and I am fond of "Bristling in the smog of hyperventilating rush hours." I wish the poem had more of those moments; maybe I would I have liked it more if it had of those moments. I feel the poem is forced at times.

Dana:This was one of my bottom picks this week. I just couldn’t get into the comparison between the cities and siblings, at least not the way it was done in this piece.

Guest Judge Matthew Hittinger: I enjoyed the metaphors of the half-sibling cities and the ultimate transformation of the speaker into a city (I love “Don't tell Kafka”). The poem started for me with “Brother Chicago, from my labyrinth...” and would suggest cutting those first five lines; the language wasn't as compelling to me as in the rest of the poem. I'd suggest a stronger title and dropping the caps at the head of each line as well. Strongest lines for me were the final three, but I felt overall the poem is really just a beginning and this version is the start of an exploration and comparison that you will fine-tune in subsequent revisions. The poem really sings when you get specifics like Woody Allen and Kafka in and I found I wanted less generic city-description like billboards (maybe give us what's on the billboards?) and freeways (reference specific ones like West Side Highway) and skylines, but more unique structures and architecture and urban layout that not only differentiate NYC and Chicago from each other but also really lets you know the identity of each.




I worry it’s too lazy to believe
everything happens for a reason.
That kind of faith is still-pond with damselflies
unfolding clear wings, each blue body a long,
thin dash of intrigue beyond the realm of human
suffering. They say, Admire me. Rest, you weary.

But some days the spirit in swaying reeds,
clasps me with kinder hands. Something whispers,
See, when the lost child stumbles from a thicket,
naked and dirty, offering the search party
his fist of raspberries.

Love this poem! My only quibble might be the prosaic flatness of the first two lines but the rest of the poem makes up for that ten-fold.

Dustin: I love the first two lines of this poem; they make a great beginning because they picque the reader's curiosity. I'm quite fond of "But some days the spirit in swaying reeds / clasps me with kinder hands. " I like this poem, but ut left me feeling like I missed something. Possibly another stanza in the middle?

Dana:This is one of my top poems this week. The metaphors work beautifully, especially the damselflies being compared to dashes of intrigue. And I am in love with the ending, that image of the child emerging after being lost.

Guest Judge Matthew Hittinger: Another one that seems to be reaching toward the sonnet form, and again 11 lines instead of 14 with the turn at line 7 and the stanza break here (perhaps this is the new sonnet? 11 instead of 14?). Strengths here include the repeated long EE sounds that in this poem support the anxiety of the speaker as she questions her sentiment about “everything happening for a reason;” and great metaphors: the image of the damselflies really struck me as a perfect way to make concrete the anxiety; and the image in the final lines of the lost child answers her questioning by such miraculous acts as not only the recovery of the lost child, but the child's act of offering raspberries on top of it, this image of not finding what was lost but having what was lost find us, and on top of it offering something perhaps we didn't know we were missing. I think the poem would benefit from a stronger, less abstract “theme” title and why not try to make this into a sonnet, which is often a perfect vehicle for a meditation or mini-essay in poetry. While the opening lines present a dilemma and then the poem goes on to explore two views of it, I kept returning to the language of those first lines and wanted more from “too lazy to believe” especially paired with such a weak, familiar language line as “everything happens for a reason.” The poem really picks up with the entrance of the damselflies, and it made me want more edge to those opening lines. I felt the same way about the opening lines of the second stanza: “spirit” and “clasps me with kinder hands” didn't do as much for me, but those reeds are gold: get more out of them if you can.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Black Shirt to Mourn Farrah: Pics

Dustin Brookshire

Deb Scott

Jeffrey Meeks



Miss Lani
She didn't want her face on the web.

BFF- Kim

Alex Gildzen

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Black Shirt to Mourn Farrah

6/26/09 ~ Wear a Black Shirt to Mourn Farrah

Send a picture of you in a black shirt to
It'll be posted in I Was Born Doing Reference Work in Sin.

Farrah Fawcett & Michael Jackson & Everday Christian

Stonewall Week will now forever be linked to the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. I know that Michael is a music legend; however, I'm more upset over the death of Farrah Fawcett. When I think of Farrah, I think of The Burning Bed, Extremities, Small Sacrifices, and of course Charlies Angels----- I watched all of them at some point during my childhood when I was home from school sick.

As an adult, Extremities has taken on a new meaning for me. Even though Farrah didn't have anything to do with the script, she is the actor who brought Extremities's Marjorie to life. Marjorie the avenger. Marjorie, my hero.

When I was on The Joe Milford Poetry Show, I read a poem that was inspired by Extremities. I think I'll post it later as a tribute to Farrah Fawcett.

I couldn't help but share this article from the EVERYDAY CHRISTIAN:

Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett put death into perspective
by: Peter Elliot

The death of Michael Jackson Thursday afternoon should be met with respect as much as it is, undoubtedly, with shock.

Growing up in the ‘80s, Michael Jackson was everywhere.

He ushered in the theatrics of music video and made it a popular form for musicians to communicate to their audiences. Today bands are trying to figure out the best way to present themselves through online media. Jackson pioneered a precursor nearly 30 years ago.

Like many people, I found out about Jackson’s death on Twitter minutes before it came across cable news sources. In so doing, a snapshot of the comments revealed genuine surprise and concern.

Unfortunately, a few people took the death as an opportunity to poke fun at the caricature Jackson had become both through his own doing and a relationship with paparazzi that redefined celebrity obsession.

Without a doubt, Jackson had more than his share of problems.

Even if you weren’t a fan and were completely turned off by the persistent rumors and allegations of pedophilia, someone is dead.

That is not a cause for celebration or comedy, nor should it be for another Hollywood icon, Farrah Fawcett who died earlier Thursday after a long fight with cancer.

The fact she died under much different circumstances and had a far less controversial past doesn’t change the fact someone has died and there are family and friends who mourn. That should always be taken into considerstion.

(Do you see Peter Elliot's sin in his last sentence?)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Stonewall Reading on 6/27/09

The Atlanta Queer Literary Festival and the Special Collections Department of the Atlanta-Fulton County Library are the forces behind a 6/27 reading paying tribute to the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The schedule is below.

First Section (10 a.m. - noon)
Franklin Abbott (host)
Patrique Vosges
Bob Strain
Guerin Asante
Larry Corse
Lakara Foster
Alice Teeter
Deb/ra Hiers

Second Section (noon - 2 p.m.)
Collin Kelley (host)
Megan Volpert
Theresa Davis
Yolo Akili
Lisa Allender
Elliott Mackle
Kristyl Dawn Tift
Dustin Brookshire

Third Section (2 - 4:30 p.m.)
Reginald Jackson (host)
Donovan Brown
Karen G
Jessica Hand
Stanley Fong
Robin Kemp
Cleo Creech
KenJ Martin
Queen Sheba

Week 3: Guest Judge Matthew Hittinger

Matthew Hittinger earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan where he won a Hopwood Award and The Helen S. and John Wagner Prize. Shortlisted for the National Poetry Series, the New Issues Poetry Prize, the Marsh Hawk Poetry Prize, and twice for the Walt Whitman Award, Matthew has received the Kay Deeter Award from the journal Fine Madness and three Pushcart nominations. His work has been published in many lit mags, and he is the author of the chapbooks Pear Slip, winner of the Spire Press Chapbook Award, Narcissus Resists (GOSS183/MiPOesias, 2009) and Platos de Sal (Seven Kitchens Press, 2009). Click here to visit his blog.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Project Verse ~ Week 3: Simile Vs. Metaphor

Week 3: Simile Vs. Metaphors

All similes are metaphors, but not all metaphors are similes. I'm sure you already know this creative writing quip. If you didn't, well, keep it to yourself. Similes tend to be easier to create than metaphors.
This week we want a poem with solid metaphors, and we are going to pass on the similes.
We want at least two metaphors in a poem of 60 lines or less.

No form constraints.

Get to writing!

Oh Dolly, I Want to Hug You

Week 2: Results

Beth, Dustin, Dana, and Andrew Demcak have deliberated; click here to revisit the poems and read their comments below each poem. The judges have selected the poets who wrote the two strongest and weakest poems for Week 2: Firsts:

W.F. and EMARI were voted the strongest for Week 2: Firsts. One of you received 3 out of 4 votes from the judges.
Congratulations, W.F.!

JENNIFER, you're at the bottom because the judges feel your poem didn't stand out enough. EMILY, you're at the bottom because the judges feel you didn't follow the assignment.

JENNIFER, you are on permanent caesura!

EMILY, while the judges felt slighted by your approach to the assignment, there is no denying that you wrote a good poem.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Project Verse: Week 2 ~ Firsts: THE POEMS

I'll post Project Verse's Week 2: Firsts poems throughout the day.

REMEMBER: Poems are best viewed in Internet Explorer. HTML coding shows in Firefox.




Inside the house, mango curry tempts
wrenched stomachs. The boy
cuts cactus paddles for salad,
stripping sharp thorns.
Outside, Father scythes the field.
With a curved blade and clenched back,
he lowers the horizon. Later
he’ll sip from his Silver stein.

“Don’t cut a finger, boy.
You’ll bleed pomegranate juice:
tender and holy.”
Mother stirs at the stove.
The boy’s eyes narrow
at her caution: wisdom
he doesn’t yet trust.

They sit, all in the same chairs
as the night before.
Cooling spicy bites
with cucumber and yogurt,
they stuff bellies like olives,
holding fork and knife.

Later they’ll gather the webs
like berries, pick the silk clean.
They’ll place the webs
in Mother’s biggest jar
next to the stone and the Shel.
She keeps them near and ready.

There’s plenty to like about this poem, especially some of the amazing details: “the boy cuts cactus paddles for salad,” “The boy’s eyes narrow at her caution: wisdom he doesn’t yet trust.” There are a few moments that fall flat for me: “Don’t cut a finger, boy. You’ll bleed pomegranate juice: tender and holy.” Though I like the weirdness, I’m not sure about ‘tender and holy” it doesn’t sound like real dialog, and I’m a bit of a stickler for that. “they stuff bellies like olives” is so weird for me as a visual. As for the imbedded poet’s name, it’s clever and cleverly done, but that “Shel” calls attention to itself in a way that feels forced to me. The last line is quite perfect though.

Dustin: I was intrigued the poem until I finished the last line of the first stanza: "he’ll sip from his Silver stein." If I want to be a man of technicalities, which I often am, I would say your poem didn't complete the assignment because you split up Silverstein to make "Silver stein."

Dana: Striking imagery throughout, especially the lines “With a curved blade and clenched back, / he lowers the horizon.” Slipping the poet’s name in so creatively deserves applause.

Andrew Demcak: A surreal poem. Too much going on here. Rather confusing.




My first memories are departure,
older sisters chanting the singsong stanzas
of Seuss, Lake Huron whitecaps cresting
behind the mop tops of cartoon apocalypse.

He should not be here when your mother is out

The summer my father hopped the yard
to kidnap me, a fishbowl of fear
made me scream him back to Alaska,
my cover of Cat in the Hat chewed to paste.

A person’s a person no matter how small

My father’s name made me unique in my home,
and alone in my town. What did Theodor
Geisel feel when his dad expected him to heal
men and he became a doctor at last for him?

I would not could not in a box

My mother built a bulwark to keep me at home
until I was twelve – no Halloweens or sleepovers,
reading myself asleep, nightlight beaming a perilous
passage, her drinking a sea I would soon sail.

You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go

I cannot forget racing on acid and the army’s night
rage, the women I cast in the wake of my tracks,
creatures of childhood welling up in my prose,
camouflaged among travelers, bottles and threads.

From here to there, funny things are everywhere

My mother and father spew out epic tales of lust
and mistrust, stories of gold digging and bricking,
fists and churning legs, truth and lies tongue thick,
blood thin, jagged verse to the conflict within.

There is no one alive who is youer than you

I read Seuss to my children and attempt to forget
the long stretches of loneliness and reunions lost,
forces colliding with no one to give way, east, west,
axe, pen, poetry, parenthood, a destination opening.

I admire here the way lines from the Seuss poem are woven into the fabric of the new poem so that they seem organic and powerfully intertwined. The poem is for the most part moving and deftly handled, I think. I’m a little unsure about the end. There’s a summary quality to it that doesn’t work as well for me. Especially after the power and force of the earlier stanzas and their details.

Dustin: Martin, I like this poem! This poem is much stronger than the poem you wrote for Week 1: Workshop 1101. Weaving lines from another person's work can be a difficult task; however, it seems like it was quite easy for you. Bravo! I have to agree with Beth about the poem's ending. I feel like ending with "blood thin, jagged verse to the conflict within" would make for a better ending than you have now.

Dana: The interplay between the Seuss lines and the accompanying stanzas, and the tension between the two, is lovely.

Andrew Demcak: Clever- I like the Seuss lines juxtaposed with the stanzas. The irony of the title and the reality of the poet’s childhood. I also get a sort of Seussian rhythm from the lines without having to have the poem be soaked with Seuss-type rhymes.



Mending Frost's Wall at Thirteen

Your poem,
dear Frost, is missing
a stoic daughter,
and I would go well with your rubble.
I'd let your cheekbones be--
I wouldn't touch,
or blurt out the obvious
in our moment of communion with the wall.
You'd find me
more tolerable
with every rock we settled.
I'd refrain
from nuzzling your flannel,
though you are all pipe smoke and I
am Wind Song.

After our genteel masonry,
you'd brew the Oolong in silence.
I'd sit
quite still, like you'd appreciate,
and consider the dignity in names:
would never suit you), and how
like a worthy frost, you civilize
your unruly swath of earth.

Thirteen is a century from ten.
I know now of this walling out, and in.
I'll carry in me the tonnage of your stone.
Something there is that doesn't love alone.

I like the way the poet and poem are brought to life here, and I love the humility of the voice, “I would go well with the rubble” …there’s a deference that seems fitting and well-handled. I’m not sure a daughter would “nuzzle”. well maybe she would, but she wouldn’t be so self-conscious about not doing so. (Maybe since she’s a presumed daughter, she’s a bit less comfortable? ) In any case, the conceit is inventive though maybe a very very tiny bit strained in placed. I think the end line is about as good as it gets. A nod and a furthering at the same time.

Dustin: I like this poem; however, I don't like it as much as your poem from Week 1: Workshop 1101. You have great moments in this poem. My favorite moment is "(Bob / would never suit you)." I like "I know now of this walling out, and in" because it refers to one of my favorite lines in "Mending Wall." I don't agree with all of your line breaks, but I can live with what I see.

Dana: I love how the narrator writes herself into Frost’s poem. The end rhyme in the final stanza is great and mirrors the construction of the wall, the rhymes fitting together like well-laid stones.

Andrew Demcak: I like the digestion of “The Mending Wall” done by the poem. “Genteel masonry” is funny, too- but I think Frost’s wall is a little more passive-aggressive. I don’t like the blending/reworking of Frost’s line into the poem’s ending. Also the rhyme calls way too much attention to itself at the end of an otherwise unmusical poem. I have no idea what “Thirteen is a century from ten” could mean. Is the speaker 10, not 13 as the title says? Also so strangely sexual, teasing, between a child and a grown up.



Blessed Art
for my neighbor, who last Saturday called me an angel

Hail Miss Mary
Lou, smoke stained spinster saint, who popped up
on my lawn as if from nowhere, half-puffed Merit

Light slung, quivering, from one liver-spotted hand.
I can tell you, she said, I know you’ll understand.

Last Saturday, I, too, rose up quick from drunk
sleep’s hasty nothing, light still empty

from the sky, my hair a matted, stuck-up rooster
Peter surely would deny. I was acid-gutted, choked.

Braless, I wandered to the porch with dawn’s first
run, and there she was— pick-comb curled, corona

panic in the low-hung sun. Sometimes
I wake alone & in the night, my throat just closes

up… Some nights I try to cry out in the dark,
and nothing sounds— my heretic tongue’s gone

missing, gagged or bound. Miss Mary Lou stabs the air
with smoke, she’s Saint Luke’s Black Madonna—

terse evangelist of my soul’s murk. I never loved
God, I loved His verse. My child prayers skittered

on vacant air, petite entreaties to a man
who wasn’t there. His telephone was always off the hook.

Miss Mary Lou stubs out her cig, borrows
a book. She calls me an angel, but I know fuck all

of grace. I only know her hand’s tight grip
on mine, her tanned and wrinkled face; I only know

this speech, these prayers, this cursed art. At death’s
cool hour, have mercy on my doubting heart.

I love this poem, but I’m not sure if I’m supposed to read “God” as the poet? In other words, the Bible is the text. I think it’s a bit of a dodge, but I’m willing to forgive for such meaty material and great use of sound quality. I think this is probably my favorite for the week. The characters are so well-drawn as is the situation, and the internal rhyme is deftly handled.

Dustin: You've written two good poems for the first two assignments. There are many details that I enjoy: "...quivering, from one liver-spotted hand" and "Miss Mary Lou stabs the air / with smoke." BUT, is God the poet? This poem may be good, but it missed the boat on the assignment. The assignment called for a first and last name to be used in the poem. Using a first and last name is what makes the assignment. I feel like you cheated. I guess I should be happy that you didn't pick Jewel.

Dana: It’s tough to pull of a poem that deals with religion, but this poem comes at the topic from a strong angle by focusing on Miss Mary Lou. I felt the ending was weaker than the rest of the poem.

Andrew Demcak: is the first poet? This one entirely missed the point of the exercise. The rhyme is interestingly embedded, but other than that, this poem wants to be prose. Look how the lines are stretching out, reaching to become sentences.



Reading Sharon Olds

Permission. That’s what she gave me. To say cock,
                to let it swell in my mouth. To praise blood,

to reorder the world: mandible, manacle, not god. To say
                 In this light, I could be any woman you want. It was

a promissory note I owed myself, signed at birth.
                I must have known the body is altar and offering.

Later, speech too. At eighteen I craved poems
                with teeth—a guiled smile, a snap. In the hot coals

of confession Sharon Olds’ voice rose, a near shriek,
                and I, tender, tinder, fixed to burn.

I lovely tribute here, and a clear testament to Olds and her work. The end is quite lovely too. Passionate, intense, strong. The poem’s more obvious than some of our other entries, but I like it for its honesty.

Dustin: This poem is delicious! Great job, Emari. "To say cock, / to let it swell in my mouth," is a way to grab someone's attention, and I love that it happens at the beginning of the poem. Also, I enjoyed the ending, "and I, tender, tinder, fixed to burn," but it isn't as striking (for me) as the beginning of the poem. Again, great job; this is a short poem with a lot of punch!

Dana: This poem is tight and has a marvelous finish. I keep coming back to the core of this poem – at least the core for me – which is the permission to reorder the world. In just a few words, this author gets at what’s so important about poetry.

Andrew Demcak: This is excellent. Great use of the images of Olds’ poems in tandem with the poet’s own experience. A truly great, well-crafted poem.



How to Read Ogden Nash

Wait for a day that’s hot
as the dirt underneath an elephant.
Taste the sun coming through
Venetian blinds. Watch the adults slink outside
to open beers and laugh in the shade.
Sneak into your uncle’s bathroom.
Catch your face in the mirror. Notice
how pink your cheeks are. Open the toilet’s lid.
Watch how the blue water ripples
as if embracing the bowl. Listen for the back door to open.
Pick up a book hidden behind the tank. Read
the first line you can find: Why did the Lord give us agility
if not to evade responsibility?
Drop the book.
Back away. Catch your face in the mirror. Notice
how red your cheeks are. Close the door behind you.
Remember the sound of your heels on linoleum
like distant cannons.

This is another of my top picks. I think the poem creates drama in a way that works well. The control of tone and voice are superb, and the details of the scene make the situation come to life in a powerful and immediate way: “Taste the sun coming/through Venetian blinds. Watch the adults slink outside...”

Dustin: Analyze more before you simile is advice I gave last week. I'm giving the same advice this week. I'm just not whole-heartedly buying "a day that’s hot / as the dirt underneath an elephant." The detail in this poem is nicely done. Using the poet's name in the title made the assignment easier for you.

Dana: If this poem walked up to me right now, I would kiss it. I am a sucker for a short poem that packs so much in and leave me wanting more. I would cut off a nonessential digit in exchange for last two lines in this piece.

Andrew Demcak: Dirt under an elephant is cool, as it is in the shade of that elephant, not hot. Why do heels sound like cannons? What happened here? The poem is so full of images and yet so empty. What is the real story trying to be told?



Where We Begin

The Walkman was red; a translucent gray window
for spying the spinning spool of tape rolling steadily
along – running back to remember to headphones black,
where two metallic marshmallows rest. At first,
I learned French: J’mappelle… J’mappelle… J’mappelle… I
have known Jaques, Michel, and Suzette. Then, imagined
riding my bicycle through Parisian streets, alone and wandering
in search of a hamburger or my grandmother’s pot pie.
I came back, fell idle and asleep, suffocated
teddy bears, brought hardbacks to bed
instead: a weighty chalk-colored one, the biggest
on the shelf, invited Shel Silverstein to the sheets,
learned the line and the rhyme
shut eyes to the book and it’s spine.

there are some great sounds here “spying the spinning spool of tape” “two metallic marshmallows rest” etc. I get a little lost in the poem though “I came back”…I’m not sure where the speaker is coming from—her imaginative riff? The ending is a nod to Silverstein I know, but it doesn’t seem to be doing a lot of work, and there’s a typo.

Dustin: This poem didn't move me to say it's a good poem. It didn't move me to say it's a bad poem. Wait. I'm telling a little white lie. It did move me; I almost fell out of my seat when I read "it's" instead of "its" in your last line.

Dana:Another Shel Silverstein poem, and a very different, and engaging, approach to the piece. I felt line two is a little heavy on consonance, I was confused by line three, and the ending felt somewhat forced with the inclusion of “and its spine,” but I do like the end rhyme in the last two lines.

Andrew Demcak:The beginning has a difficult time with its word choice. “running back to remember to headphones black” – is awkward, unnatural language. Also the implied sexuality of a child “inviting” a grown man “into the sheets.” I’m not sure Silverstein merits this sort of an image; he wasn’t Roman Polanski.



Better Version

It was like eleven liters
of icy water, falling
in love. I’m talking cold, and I know all
about buckets: at eight,

in grandmother’s basement sauna
washing my hair in the cold water basin, ginger dip
and rinse to avoid the freeze.
Then someone, brisk as a parent

says like this! and over-
turns the entire red tub on my head.
It’s like that, flooding the steam-softened
plateau of the back with bitter

rivulets, a furious blight
from the hairline on down
through the organs, fast and loud.
No wonder people in love are friendless,

become Sylvia Plaths to each other’s
Teds, want to open fire
on everything – water that cold
is hard, even an afternoon swim

is hard to handle, tepid pool water
on the cringing belly skin.
Now imagine warming all your life
on the bottom step of this sauna,

steam overhead, concrete beneath your pleased feet.
Everything’s nice, then that fucking water bucket,
hysteric of gooseflesh all over as you scramble
to remember which way. Forget

that thing they say about the heart. Love is a body’s worth
of shocked skin, and always starting from the scalp.

This is another of my top three of the week. I admire the overall wisdom expressed in the poem, and I think some of the precisely described physical details in this poem are arresting: “Then someone, brisk as a parent says like this! and over-turns the entire red tub on my head.”

Dustin: I think this poem is too busy, but I like the use of water in the poem.

Dana: I feel this piece is having trouble hanging together and being as tight as it could be. For instance, stanzas three and seven seem to be getting at the same thing. At the end of the poem, I don’t feel convinced that love it like having a bucket of water overturned on my head.

Andrew Demcak: The poem finds its emotional center in the last 3 stanzas. I don’t really see how Plath or Hughes fit in here at all based on the poem’s images. The title makes no sense. The opening stanzas are unnecessarily wordy too.



Years With Rabindranath Tagore

Little Boy Courage. The Old Banyan tree.

You came to me Rabindranath (tough name for a kid)
As playmate Rabi
On a horseback through our childish woods of romance
Mixing the monsoon rains with tunes
Of leaf floats making off to the Seven Seas
Between homework of grammar and spelling.

Here, Rabi, hold my hand
Write that stanza I’d read even years later
For every year the drummers are out
(Still underpaid, they now sell fake branded accessories)
Teasing autumn clouds.

Tall palm with winged-desire. Camelia my Girl.

So who said he wore a solemn beard? Not on my book cover!
Duping the elders we must remain green –
Exactly the way he called out:
My little greens, my little young shoots
And those lines are still the first to ring
The way it once did
Candle-blowing sleepiness on a power-outed summer night.

Reading Tagore in bed, living inside the crumpled book leaves
I frolicked with my playmate Rabi
Soared above static and din
(Father loved Tchaikovsky on old Radio Moscow)
Also cried when the Pilgrims drowned at sea.

Here, Rabi, take this line
Let my first eyes remember that time

A drop of water. The leaf shivers.

There’s a sweetness to this poem that is touching, but I worry that it veers a bit into the sentimental, and that the language suffers as a result at times. “through our childish woods of romance” “I frolicked with my playmate Rabi”. I know we’re in the child’s mind, but “frolicked” is a hard word to get away with in a poem. The intensity of the influence is strong though, and it’s a fine tribute.

Dustin: This is a much better poem than the one you wrote last week. The poem gently pulls the reader into it and continues to gently pull until the reader arrives at the end. I really enjoyed your first parenthetical note. Nabina, I like this poem.

Dana: Beautiful sounds in this poem and I love the shifts as the poem unfolds, especially the question and answer in the fifth stanza. The parenthetical remarks pulled me out of the poem.

Andrew Demcak: This is truly lovely in parts, but also vague and awkward. The word choice sometimes slows down the rhythm and makes the poem confusing, e.g. “Still underpaid, they now sell fake branded accessories” (awkward) splits the line “For every year the drummers are out/ Teasing autumn clouds.” Awkward split of a lovely line.



My First Poet

The owlish man is fond of nonsense
and his cat. Beard curly, unruly
with limericks and bits of runcible quince,
he writes about birds that nest there, messily
confirming his rag-tag fears. Then seeing
how those birds taunted his cat— “O lovely”—
he gave one owl a guitar, a pea-green
boat and a feline fetish to sail charmingly
into children’s literature. Dear Edward Lear,
I sounded out the two of them—confessing
desire, bobbing on waves with their weird
stash of honey and cash, music and repressed
instinct. Wings plucking catgut, to me,
at age six, as sensible as the Bong-tree.

“bits of runcible quince” “rag-tag fears”. I know this is Lear’s language and I love reading it and seeing it used in this way. The poem’s clever in the best sense of that word. Clever and linguistically rich and rife with great sounds for the most part. The only line that stands out as a little off is “feline fetish to sail charmingly/into children’s literature” it’s less compelling and a bit prosaic. The end seems exactly right though.

Dustin: This poem doesn't strike me as much as your one from last week. I am not a fan of "feline fetish to sail charmingly / into children’s literature," but that is my only real major complaint with the poem. I think my only other issue is that I would have liked more from you.

Dana:This poem is as playful as Edward Lear. There’s a slight breakdown on the sonic level in lines eight and nine, but overall piece is extremely musical and tight.

Andrew Demcak: Lear’s limericks are not unruly, nor was he himself for writing them. I really don’t get any sense of the poet (not Lear) in this. What is the poet saying about Lear? The tone of this poem is so strange and forced. The language is better when it apes Lear; when it moves to “music and repressed instinct” it is less so. Also again, this weird sexual implication of “my first poet” with a poet who wrote for children (word choice: “feline fetish,” etc. Strange sexuality.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Week 2: Guest Judge Andrew Demcak

Andrew Demcak is an award-winning poet whose poetry has been widely published & anthologized both in print & on-line, & whose books have been featured at The Best American Poetry & Oranges & Sardines. His latest book, Zero Summer, was published by BlazeVOX [Books], NY, 2009. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Lambda Award, Thom Gunn Poetry Award, both the California and Northern California Book Awards, Best of the Web, & others. He has an M. F. A. in English/Creative Writing from St. Mary's College in Moraga, CA. Click here to check out his books.

Project Verse: Catty Time!

The Elvis poem was trite and god awful - it was the winner, really?

So far this is a poetry competition of the insipid and uninspired. The judges should be ashamed of their fluffy comments!


Today, the first catty comment was left for the Project Verse judges. Feel free to read the poems from Week 1: Workshop 1101 and other comments left on the entry by clicking here. I am not surprised by a catty comment; however, I guess I was naive to think it wouldn't happen the first week.

The problem I have with the comment is the person who wrote it didn't have the brass balls or ovaries to leave his/her name. If you believe in your opinion, why not attach your name to it?

Mr. or Mrs. I'm Not Confident Enough To Back My Opinion With My Name, I hope you'll leave your name with future comments.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The GA Supreme Court Made Me Smile

Sometimes it pays off to have the news as background noise. 11 Alive just gave a report that made smile. In fact, the news makes me want to give each of the Justices of the Georgia Supreme Court a high five; however, I don't think it would be well received. But you have to admit, it would be a great photo moment to see a happily flaming me high-fiving the seven Justices in their robes. You know you'd pay to see it.

The following is from Sovo:

Ga. Supreme Court rules against ban against allowing kids around father's gay friends

The Georgia Supreme Court tossed out part of a Fayette County court’s decision that kept a divorced gay father from allowing his children to interact with his gay friends, according to a ruling today from the state Supreme Court.

In the ruling, Justice Robert Benham wrote the high court acknowledges that trial courts have the discretion to "limit a parent’s exposure of the children to certain people, if it can be shown that the children would be adversely affected."

In this case, the Supreme Court justices rejected Fayette County Superior Court Judge Christopher Edwards' ban on having the gay father bring his gay friends around his children. Edwards has been nominated to fill the a seat on the state Supreme Court after Chief Justice Leah Sears steps down at the end of June.

“The blanket prohibition against exposure of the children to members of the gay and lesbian community who are acquainted with husband is another matter,” says today's opinion. “There is no evidence in the record before us that any member of the excluded community has engaged in inappropriate conduct in the presence of the children or that the children would be adversely affected by exposure to any member of that community.”

Hannibal Heredia represented the gay father, Eric Mongerson, in an appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court and said the order created an unreal living situation for his client.

“He literally could go into a mall with his and if he saw one his friends he'd have to go the other way, that's how openly worded the order was,” he said today.

The opinion by Benham further states: “The prohibition against contact with any gay or lesbian person acquainted with husband assumes, without evidentiary support, that the children will suffer harm from any such contact. Such an arbitrary classification based on sexual orientation flies in the face of our public policy that encourages divorced parents to participate in the raising of their children…and constitutes an abuse of discretion.” As a result, “we vacate the blanket prohibition against exposure of the children to husband’s gay and lesbian acquaintances."

Click here for the rest of the article.

Project Verse ~ Week 2: Firsts


First kiss. First date. First time surviving elimination.

I'm sure you can name numerous firsts, but we are only interested in the poet you first remember reading. Write a poem with 40 lines or less making sure to use the first and last name of the poet you first remember reading.

No form constraints.


Project Verse ~ Week 1: Results

Beth, Dustin, and Dana have deliberated; click here to revisit the poems and read their comments below each poem. The judges have selected the poets who wrote the two strongest and weakest poems for Week 1: Workshop 1101:

Emily Van Duyne and Kathi Morrison-Taylor were voted the strongest for Week 1: Workshop 1101; however, one of the two received a vote from each judge. Congratulations, Kathi, you are the judges' favorite for Week 1! ! !

Martin Ott and Nabina Das. Who goes on permanent caesura? Well, Nabina, not you. Martin, not you either. We believe you can bring it next week, so do just that!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Denise Duhamel


I'm posting links to Denise Duhamel related items in honor of her birthday. Drop by the Fans of Duhamel Duhamel or A Group of Duhamalites to leave her a birthday message. Enjoy the links.

One of my favorite Denise poems, "Sometimes The First Boys Don't Count."


Denise reading at Books & Books; plus, there is a statement from Denise on light verse in her work.


Denise's brilliant poem in the "How I Discovered Poetry" series.

Denise's "Fathers" in Ducts.

Brief interview with Denise in I Was Born Doing Reference Work in Sin.

Denise's "A Different Story" in The American Poetry Review.

Denise interviewed in Limp Wrist.

Project Verse: Week 1~Workshop 1101: THE POEMS

Throughout the day I will post poems from Project Verse's Week 1: Workshop 1101. Let me explain my comment from yesterday before we get to the poems.

Two competitors did not submit their poems by deadline. I'm a bit of a rule whore, so as you might imagine, I'm not prone to deviate from the rules--- especially when I created them! With that being said, the two contestants were automatically eliminated from the competition.

There is a lot at stake in this competition. Do I need to remind the competitors about the residency at Marilyn Nelson's fabulous Soul Mountain Retreat? A week in the home of the award-winning Marilyn Nelson has to be one of the closest things to Poet-Heaven on this earth.

W.F. Roby and Kathi Morrison-Taylor are taking the spots of the two eliminated contestants. They have agreed to complete the Week 1: Workshop 1101 assignment within 24 hours. The limited time to complete the assignment will be taken into consideration when the judges deliberate.

In an effort to keep poems blurring together, asterisks will be used to distinguish separation as well as each Project Verse competitor's poem will be posted in an unique color. (Colors will be consistent throughout the competition.)

The poems are posted exactly as how they were submitted. Here we go!!!

Please note: Poems are best viewed in Explorer. HTML coding shows in Firefox.



A Day of You

A day in the life of you: the boom
and the filth of it, the dancing girl
of it, the push-shove-fight of it,
the man and woman making love
like cats in a zany club of it, the too high
taxi cab fare of it, the slick velvet streets
of it, the dancing umbrellas of it,
the long fly ball out to center field
of it, the subway rushing by
like a letter in the wind of it,
the mixed drink of it, the trading
of bills over the Indian dinner tab
of it, the fresh flowers in bins
next to limp sidewalk bums of it,
the beating rugs and hanging shirts
on the line of it, the slipping off
shoes and pausing your debonair body
like a film at the end of the day, exculpated.

Very nice energy and sense of play here. A keeper.

Dustin: The "of it" repetition combined with images is a great move. List poems can easily become clogged and exhausting. You do neither, so I give you a THANK YOU.

Dana: The list poem is a brilliant way to go about this assignment because once you are freed up from narrative, it's much easier to work the assigned words into the poem without in the process contorting the story. But this isn't the easy way out by any means. This poem doesn't have a weak word anywhere. The images are unexpected and, dare I say, delightful. This poem uses a collection of items to make a larger statement, to evoke an overall emotion and mood, and to ramp up our energy level.




The interrogator and priest were as close
as brothers, altar boys at Saint Francis

dipping their pocket combs in Holy Water,
debonair in their velvet sashes and dark

socks. They loved the zany prestidigitation
of Jesus, the limp arms welcoming them

to their future, closed eyes projecting
fervent anguish, twisted love. Each boy

chose a path of righteous indignation.
The interrogator’s pistol, on his hip,

was worn like a cross for his prisoners,
promising absolution or lightning bolts.

The priest’s confessional, a holding cell,
reminiscent of a dimly lit boys’ bedroom,

probed parishioners’ secrets, exculpated
sinners from bombed villages, strafed whores.

Dunking a man’s head beneath the water
was soothsaying to the interrogator, baptism

to the priest swigging wine to electro trance.
Bawdy texts twittered between the brothers

on their travels to turn men into brethren,
into beanie babies tagged in bargain bins;

they shared recipes for goat stew, onion
dip, skin rolls pinched to make a point.

They each agreed that the other would ask
God one question when the time arrived,

and they were certain the answer would be
the same, their long-forgotten family name.

Hmmm. I like the use of specifics here, but the poem for me is a little uneven in its presentation. I’m not clear of the point of view, the passive voice serves as a distancing device for me, and the cultural references seem confused “beanie babies” verses “goat stew”.

Dustin: You have a great first two lines that build suspense/excitement. These kind of lines make the reader want to dive in the poem, and this is how I felt. However, by the end of the poem I felt the suspense/excitement weren't done justice by the poem.

Dana:This poem is extremely creative. The first line almost starts out like a joke in that such seeming opposites are paired. One almost expects the first line to read: "The interrogator and priest walk into a bar." But the poem is not a joke at all and manages to show the mirroring in these two men's lives despite the seemingly disparate paths they have taken. It's interesting to me that the word "zany" was paired with "prestidigitation." I don't know that the pairing works, especially with the phrase "righteous indignation" only four lines down. I don't know that this poem can hold both the words "prestidigitation" and "indignation." I would have liked "zany sleight of hand" better, I think. I also felt the poem broke down sonically in stanzas 10 and 11, with so many "b" words piling up in three lines, and the reference to Beanie Babies seemed out of step with the overall tone of the poem and the rest of the language used throughout.



Thick as Thieves

“Your Aunt Hat was eccentric too,”
mother scoffs, slamming the dough
with bloodshot arms.
“'zany', she liked to call it. She lived

with goats, did you know that?
All by herself with goats. Watch out.
You have tendencies. Certain
females in our line bloom mad, poppies

among marigolds. Hattie for instance,
with her hut full of lentils
and those awful amethysts,
suckered in by that limp-eyed grifter Dan.

Oh but he was debonair;
that's all Hattie cared about.
All the time he had his sights
on her antique violin. It fetched

quite a haul. She wound up
pregnant of course. Nearly died delivering.
All for a little fun. The likes of you and Hat
can't keep your tongues off of poison.”

It's true I'm cavalier
about madness and venom,
but I nod, and snitch a pinch of dough.
I do not say: Mother, never mind

poor Hattie--the limp-eyed man and I are one.
How I divine his wanting, his object, all
he's willing to do for treasure.
I do not say: Mother, each night

those blanched goats of Hatties'
gather at my window, their velvet snouts
whiting out the stars. I pray to them in dreams:
Exculpate my hunger. Forgive me my salt tooth.

Very nice shifts here between the opening dialog to the speaker. I like the fullness of character, the end works beautifully to heighten the poem’s intensity, and there’s a good ear at work here too.

Dustin: You have such wonderful lines in this poem: "Certain / females in our line bloom mad, poppies / among marigolds" and "The likes of you and Hat / can't keep your tongues off of poison.” This poem is a treat.

Dana: This is another poem that folds the assigned words in without any hitches at all in the piece. The structure of this poem is interesting, given the long direct quote from the mother. I wondered at first if it should be a dramatic monologue. But then there's this amazing surprise in the last three stanzas of the poem where the narrator writes in response to the mother, revising the mother's assessment of her. This is so true in parent/child relationships, and especially mother/daughter relationships: Parents often can't see who their child is through the image they've created of that child. I have to mention that last, gorgeous stanza, in which the blanched goats gather at the narrator's window, "their velvet snouts / whiting out the stars." That is not only an amazing image, it also moves the poem up and out, making it about more than just the relationship between the mother and daughter, but an issue of cosmic proportions.



for Norberto Gonzalez

Limp-wristed Puerto Rican fat kid— zany R’s doubled
from your tongue, but mostly your words plopped
heavy on the air, gaskets
off a black conveyer belt. We felt nothing
but contempt. ‘Homo, ‘Rican, Spic… nail gun sounds spit

from our tiny mouths as you stumbled down
the melon colored halls. Even the teachers in their worn
cotton shifts rolled their eyes at your weird
speech, fuzzy hair, Salvation Army t-shirts
stained and stiff beneath the arms. At 13,

language left my fiery mouth
as easily as humans will make metaphors— it was
a shotgun triggered, sprinter off the blocks.
I couldn’t shut up if I tried. In English class, you asked
to read a poem you’d written yourself—

(a real one, sweet pea in a mattress stack—
Who left the milk of the baby to sour? It was not me.
The dishes to rot in the sink? It was not me…

No apostrophes in your tongue, your nouns
couldn’t own a thing— )

I laughed as loud
as the rest. You sat stony, white-faced, nearly
debonair. No tears, and filled with grace. In a month,
you’d move onto another city, another school.
In a month, I’d giggle the story

of your poem to a teacher
I adored, and he’d tell me— at 5, in Puerto
Rico, you’d found your father hanging, black-
faced, from the linen closet door. Your mother scrubbed
houses by day, hotel rooms by night. He told me,

Please, get out of my sight. This shame hangs
time like a crimson velvet cloak. It will not
exculpate. If I could, I would give it back.
It was not me, it was not me—
Little white girl, little hater, liar.

This poem is so beautifully tricky in its presentation. We get a clear and poignant picture of both the speaker and the child she describes.

Dustin: You have a great beginning to this poem that makes us want to know more, and you give us more in detail. Great use of the words from the assignment. This poem reached up and bitch slapped me. (That's a good thing.) Great job!

Dana: Great imagery right off the bat with the image of words coming out of the child's mouth like gaskets off a black conveyor belt. The piece is powerful throughout and tackles several difficult subjects incredibly well -- not by having a narrator who preaches but by having one who has not behaved well and is honest about that failing. The only place the poem breaks down for me is in the last stanza, where exculpate is not used correctly. The word takes a direct object, and there is not one in this instance. While words can be used in creative ways in poetry, I don't feel like it's working in this instance. The last line is incredible. But since it's in italics, like the line the teacher speaks in that same stanza, it did make me wonder who was speaking at the end. I imagine the last two lines as an internal chant that the narrator begins repeating when she realizes the shame of what she's done, but it could also be read as an extension of what the teacher said.



Our Lady of the Lint Trap

Faint her face outlined in blue thread, the babe
                               a darker shade.
                 Hail Mary of loose fiber, velvet pile:

what grace, what calamity calls? When she
                              appeared last year,
                a cataract in the night sky, no one

believed you, you who wear your faith
                              like an old wool cap
                in the darkest months. But the debonair

offer other prayers and you know loss.
                              In a dream, you fold
                bath sheets into swans; they fly through

the window without breaking glass, leave
                              lint in the yard.
                Today, you didn’t bother to sort the wash.

You peel mother and child from the trap,
                              cradle the cloth
                 scraps. Perhaps it’s enough to exculpate

yourself? Note the five-legged ant
                              hump a crumb
                 with an angel’s limp across your linoleum.

You are not madcap, zany. To hell
                              with the heavens:
                 what swans move at such speeds?

There’s lots to like here: the tone and control of the beginning, the lovely phrase--“you who wear your faith like an old wool cap in the darkest months,” surprised and a deftness with language, but the image “five-legged ant/hump a crumb/with an angel’s limp across your linoleum” is a bit strained, and finally the poem’s beauty at the beginning seems to lose focus and get a bit scrambled.

Dustin: "Hail Mary of loose fiber" and "you who wear your faith / like an old wool cap" and " fold / bath sheets into swans; they fly through / the window without breaking glass" are great moments in this poem. While I think this is a good poem, I don't think these moments represent the poem overall.

Dana: "Hail Mary of the loose fiber, velvet pile" Hail this poem of the Lint Trap visions. I love this piece. It's fun without being light verse. It's surreal without barring readers from being able to access and participate in it. It touches on wacky (or should I say "zany") contemporary news (the Virgin Mary in an egg sandwich) without allowing the news to overtake the poem. It pays careful attention to language and includes such exquisite lines as "you who wear your faith / like an old wool cap / in the darkest months" and "In a dream, you fold / bath sheets into swans." I also love how the poem moves into a confessional mode, with the admission of not sorting the wash and cradling the lint mother and child as a way of being cleansed.



November 26, 2006

Why do I come here,
to point at the long velvet muscle of my brother?
To skate over sheets of azalea? Last week
he got picked up for indecency. With a child.
We walk his castle, two dogs and me,
a bald faced youth with a crooked hand.
We bark at the cars in miniature, pick dragees
off his birthday cake. The dirty carpet
makes a showcase for his limp.
My brother has hidden pills everywhere,
among stereo bits they are like
quick nips of the future.

Why do I come here, to wake
my brother, sleep doused and drowsing?
He turns his head to me, his hair
as leaves of lettuce torn and left
to season underneath a rocking chair.
He needs a bath. He shows me
a poem he's written, his zany scribble:

Let us turn away,
at the hour of the death of the poem
and hold our own lyric close to our palms,
like opening an umbrella against
an otherwise cooling rain --
but with bright eyes, like you would look
at a drawing made by an infant
and pretend to believe it is
a sketch of a house and a car
and the sun and a tree.

There's no good way to peel clothes
off a debonair junky. He tells me the neighbor girl
will exculpate him. Without the scent of ash
or incense, without a candle
dripping waltzes in brisk wind,
there is no high romance. It is early evening,
I am washing my brother
with a hose in his backyard,
and but for lightning bugs
I'd be doing this alone.

There’s an emotional poignancy about this poem that seems consistent and compelling and for that reason, I give the poem high marks (especially since this was written in 24 hours), but the images are sometimes a bit hard to follow “his hair as leaves of lettuce torn” (I can’t imagine hair like leaves of lettuce try as I might) and “candle/dripping waltzes” while nicely surprising is also rather hard to grasp as a visual. On the other hand the ending is really quite brilliant (those lightning bugs).

Dustin: I think this is a good poem for being written within 24 hours. I'm endeared to this speaker because of the details we receive. I will change up the cliche "watch before you leap" to "analyze more before you simile." I think you handled the words from the assignment well for a poem written in 24 hours.

Dana: This poem has amazing moments. I would go so far as to say startling. It's the kind of topic that could end up getting sentimental, especially at the end, where many poets would attempt to end it on a predictable note. But instead, in this piece, we end up with the narrator washing the brother with a hose in the back yard. There's so much to say about the ending alone -- what it evokes not only in terms of emotion but also in terms of adding to the poem. The reader (or at least this reader) starts filling in the scene, imagining the brother getting in the back yard to begin with, the narrator's decision to wash him, to care for him, in this way which could be seen as even more dehumanizing but is clearly an act of love and the best one the narrator has in that moment. There is no "pretending to believe" at the end of this poem. There no pretending at all.




Chuck Berry tweaks
zany guitar riffs
and we’re dancing
from our knees
and ankles - joints
like the place
where rock and roll
begins: hands, fingers,
and elbows, forearms
limp for authenticity’s sake.
We work the floor:
twisting, swinging,
pulling ourselves
toward each other, trying
to exculpate Elvis;
from getting fat, from dying
late, from that velvet lined cape,
hiding behind cars, girls and
the jukebox, singing black songs
white. Tonight
the disco ball is unlit,
because this was before
that and rock-and-rollers
can’t be distracted by
such debonair decorations,
because this is the place
where something is beginning,
because even backwards
is a movement.

Again, good energy here, a nice organic movement. The use of “exculpate” stands out as rather exercise-like and there were a few less graceful moments, but generally, I think this one works well and feels cohesive and presents a clear depiction of character.

Dustin: I like that we get movement in your poem as we move along through it; however, I think toward the middle there might be a bit too much. I love this image "Tonight / the disco ball is unlit, / because this was before / that and rock-and-rollers / can’t be distracted by / such debonair decorations." This is easily a metaphor for many situations in life.

Dana: I love that this is a poem based on movements, and how music gets in our bodies. The ending is fantastic, where the narrator deduces that the dance floor is a place where something is beginning. And love the last line, "because even backwards is a movement." What didn't work as well for me were all the gerunds, such as "twisting," "swinging," "pulling, "dying," "hiding" and "singing." I felt the gerunds were getting in the way of the Elvis imagery and that this language wasn't as strong as other moments in the poem, such as "joints / like the place / where rock and roll / begins."



Eve at the Lake

These new days
you wake up barely a pirouette. The parrot-
colored lure, zany in the water: your wish
to leap in and be
a water fish. You have a body with which to use the world,
a dyad of hands to feel up
the world’s slip velvet fuzz, a debonair
dancefloor squirm for the world to have a dance,
a dip and then a double dip. Take a look
below you now, your face to the lake-smooth tension,
jump in
and exculpate the world. You know what it’s like to be wet,
the poem of your hair a limp power totem,
the warbling wind disturbing
your lonely rooms. The waters in your body
respond to this tremble,
draw out the long thrum of their next
best hunger, the one that resolves
what to do next, and why.

This has a way of moving slippery along, alluring in its sounds. “the world’s slip velvet fuzz” and so on. And there’s a sensuous ease in the way the lines move. I’m not as wild about some of the line breaks though “jump in” seems a bit forced. The end is graceful and generally the poem has a sinuous ease that I admire.

Dustin: My favorite part of the poem is "You know what it’s like to be wet, / the poem of your hair a limp power totem, / the warbling wind disturbing / your lonely rooms." I enjoyed the water imagery of the poem, and I think you work it well. You did a good job slipping in the words from the assignment. However, I have to agree with Beth in regards to your line breaks.

Dana: The most striking part of this poem for me is the phrase "You have a body with which to use the world." This is an assertion worth noting, since we typically don't think about "using" the world per se but rather becoming part of it or honoring or serving it in some way. This feels like the heart of the poem for me, and this central statement develops into the idea of entering the water to exculpate the world, which I also find intriguing. Here, the word "exculpate" -- in my opinion the most difficult word from the list to incorporate -- isn't merely a decoration in the poem. It is central to the poem's movement and development. The introduction of the notion of cleansing or absolving the world points me back up to the word "use" and makes me think about how these two terms are being positioned in the poem. How can someone's actions at once use and cleanse the world? Does the author perhaps want us to cast and re-cast the word "use" throughout this piece? The fact that I could spend hours on this one question the poem raises for me shows how evocative I find the poem. This is another piece I would never know was written to an assignment because the words are incorporated so well.



inside the body of the verse

Bring, the velvet and the
Mousse of your hands, tell
My verse yes we are
In love with this body
Yours and mine, with our
Zany nights that jerked off
Emotions and plights

Hold, just hold tight on
To the limpness of rhymes
Before we arouse slowly again
This turn of flaccid limbs
Your flourish into the dawn
My frenzy hay-rolled just
As in old-fashioned silver-
Screen tales of our body
Our verse so debonair

Give, give me that strophe
Stroked by your lips and set afire
This song of Moulin Rouge
The body of phones in sweet pangs

Say, just whisper into my ears that
You exculpate this ecstasy spent, so
Free from glare, you and I can curl
Up in pleasure and love the words
Off pages growing on our chests.

I like the sensuality of the poem, but many of the line breaks (“the” for instance, in the first line) feel a bit forced or clunky, “You exculpate this ecstasy spent” is rather a hard phrase to digest, and generally, the poem isn’t as polished as it might have been.

Dustin: "Bring, the velvet.." is a nice opening for a poem, and it grabbed my attention; however, my attention wasn't kept. Again, I have to agree with Beth about the line breaks.

Dana: There are beautiful lines in this piece, including the opening "Bring, the velvet and the / Mousse of your hands." The ars poetica is so hard to pull off. In this case, I didn't feel the poem locked into the imagery of the sexual relationship with the kind of clarity I would like to see. I felt there was competition in the poem between the poetry images and the sexual images, and that the two weren't working well together, leaving both in a sort of muddy place that I could not see or feel clearly.



Black Velvet Billboard, Summer 1977

Let’s say Elvis loves the Black Velvet Girl.
We imagine when they met. He unzips her
and paints a self-portrait on her dress.
He’s all “Love me Tender” to her cool
blonde Canadian proof. He’s all blue-suede
beret and wing tips to her fallen-off-
the-billboard charm. She’s tipsy as you were
at your uncle’s wedding when that zany
photographer with the squirting daisy
brushed against your breast.

Let’s say Elvis loves the Black Velvet Girl
and he’s alive again, looking down
on passing traffic with her and her giant
whiskey bottle. Up there, he’s dusted off
his debonair charm and croons to exculpate
his mid-life slump. And us, at 13, we’d die
to be as strapless and glossy as she is.
We sigh until our hearts go limp, Graceland
dizzy in a highball of grief, romance
oozing through our radios.

The control of tone is both consistent and admirable here throughout. Those “Let’s say Elvis” beginnings work well to establish a sense of control, and the imaginative riff is a lot of fun, with its deft handling of colloquial phrases “He’s all….” I love the details too. That “squirting daisy/brushed against your breast”…a really fabulous moment. Really, the poem’s quite stunning.

Dustin: You wrote this poem within 24 hours, and I'm impressed. I like how the words from the assignment don't stand out. I like your line breaks. I like the first line of the poem that acts like a hook to pull readers into the poem, and the reader doesn't regret the journey through the poem. One of my favorite parts in the poem: "She’s tipsy as you were / at your uncle’s wedding when that zany / photographer with the squirting daisy / brushed against your breast."

Dana: One of the things I was looking for in this round were poets who seamlessly incorporated the assigned words into their poems. I didn't want any of these words to call attention to themselves (for the wrong reasons) when I read each poem. This poem achieves that. The imagery is clear and original, the language compact and everything is ratcheted up with the sounds in the poem, namely the internal rhyme that pulls us from line to line. I noticed that several of the words from the assignment were folded into the poem by being paired with a rhyming or near-rhyming word, including "zany," which is paired with "daisy" and "limp," which is paired with "dizzy." This incorporation, not just on the image level but on the sonic level, helped make those words feel like part of the poem rather than elements that had to be forced into it. "... a highball of grief" is a phrase I will not soon forget.