California Poets in the Schools

I’m going to end National Poetry Month with voices of children. California Poets in the Schools is just one of many organizations nationally that work hard to put working poets into classrooms to encourage the awareness of poetry as an art form and to give voices to children who are otherwise not offered poetry as a creative art. And, though there are others, in my book, CPitS is the only and the best. Full disclosure: I’ve been a poet/teacher with CPitS since 2001, and now serve as both the Area Coordinator for Santa Clara County and as a board member. I love this organization.

Annually CPitS produces an anthology of poetry from all across the state. These poems, from their Facebook page, is indicative of the delicate observation and emotional complexity that children are capable of.

THE SEA

In my mind, there is a sea full of words.
In patches of light green seaweed
words are like seahorses
swaying with the current.

I dive for words like
tuna, octopus, seabass
because they shimmer with color
in the blazing summer sun.

I clean these words and salt them
to preserve them so that later
I can add them to recipes and sentences.

Ethan A., 4th Grade, San Diego
Celia Sigmon, Poet Teacher
Chris Vasquez, Classroom Teacher

POURED FLESH, WITH SILENCE

I never felt like
pouring my flesh
my soul
to hell.
At night
I hear gunshots
get up and run
out to the window
see the smoke. I think
they poured their flesh
to hell. I never hear
silence. Silence is like
an hour glass only
it’s stuck. My heart has
a wish bone in it and
it’s wishing for silence.
One night i got silence
and felt like a butterfly
in spring. The next night
I didn’t hear silence.
I was left in gun smoke, and
in confusion.

by Misty Brown-T, Grade 7, 1993, Oakland
Cassandra Sagan Bell, Poet-Teacher
from the collection *Unborn Dreams* published in the aftermath of the Los Angeles riots (after the Rodney King verdict.)

2014 is the 50th anniversary of our organization. Check out our website and join us: as a teacher, a student, a parent, a donor.
As this is also the closing post on the Cupertino Poetry Exchange for April 2014, I thank you for your attention. Keep writing and reading, keep wondering and asking, keep poetry alive in your life. And drop me a line once in a while!

The Million-Line Poem from Tupelo Press

Right about this time in April, poets near and far are gasping at the well — so much poetry — so many invitations — so many readings —

It’s my first year as a poetry public official (hah!) and I was not prepared. How could poetry — that fleeting energy I love with all my being turn on me with her talons and rip my heart and lungs right out? I don’t think poetry did it to me on purpose — poetry just wants to be loved like the rest of us. Anyway — there must be a poem in there somewhere —

Fortunately for me, there is a place you can go to read the world’s longest poem. It just seems right at the end of Poetry Month. Tupelo Press has some very cool projects, and one of them is “The Million-Line Poem.” Anyone can submit a couplet (two lines of poetry) and they publish the ones they like. There are several repeat offender poets, and I’m even in there. Today is Day 646 of the project and the lines (submitted by V. Jane Schneeloch from Springfield MA, and which I love) are:

From strips of pain
she fashioned a thick coat.

What would you write in response to them?

(The Raquel Welch movie poster is in no way associated with Tupelo Press or its poets — I don’t think — but sometimes you just have to make yourself laugh — when poetry is hurting, try Raquel Welch movie posters.)

Los Gatos High School Poets & Larry Levis

It couldn’t be a more perfect story. “Los Gatos High Freshman English Class Publishes ‘Windows to the Teenage Soul’. The Ebook poetry anthology — possibly the first of its kind for a high school class — is innovative project to help finance 2017 Senior Prom.”

Quoting from Los Gatos Patch: Los Gatos High School English 9 Honors students collaborated with the Los Gatos Library and Smashwords, a distributor of self-published books, to create and publish what they believe to be the first self-produced ebook by a high school class.  Written by more than 120 freshman English students at Los Gatos High, Windows to the Teenage Soul  is an an electronic poetry anthology — an Ebook — available worldwide through Smashwords, on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, KOBO and Apple’s iBook store. Proceeds from the book’s sales, which begin May 6, will help fund the LGHS Class of 2017’s future events, including senior prom. 

I can’t share a poem from this book (not yet published) but I will share this poem about teenage life and its challenges and dreams.

The Poet at Seventeen

by Larry Levis

My youth? I hear it mostly in the long, volleying
Echoes of billiards in the pool halls where
I spent it all, extravagantly, believing
My delicate touch on a cue would last for years.

Outside the vineyards vanished under rain,
And the trees held still or seemed to hold their breath
When the men I worked with, pruning orchards, sang
Their lost songs: Amapola; La Paloma;

Jalisco, No Te Rajes—the corny tunes
Their sons would just as soon forget, at recess,
Where they lounged apart in small groups of their own.
Still, even when they laughed, they laughed in Spanish.

I hated high school then, & on weekends drove
A tractor through the widowed fields. It was so boring
I memorized poems above the engine’s monotone.
Sometimes whole days slipped past without my noticing,

And birds of all kinds flew in front of me then.
I learned to tell them apart by their empty squabblings,
The slightest change in plumage, or the inflection
Of a call. And why not admit it? I was happy

Then. I believed in no one. I had the kind
Of solitude the world usually allows
Only to kings & criminals who are extinct,
Who disdain this world, & who rot, corrupt & shallow

As fields I disced: I turned up the same gray
Earth for years. Still, the land made a glum raisin
Each autumn, & made that little hell of days—
The vines must have seemed like cages to the Mexicans

Who were paid seven cents a tray for the grapes
They picked. Inside the vines it was hot, & spiders
Strummed their emptiness. Black Widow, Daddy Longlegs.
The vine canes whipped our faces. None of us cared.

And the girls I tried to talk to after class
Sailed by, then each night lay enthroned in my bed,
With nothing on but the jewels of their embarrassment.
Eyes, lips, dreams. No one. The sky & the road.

A life like that? It seemed to go on forever—
Reading poems in school, then driving a stuttering tractor
Warm afternoons, then billiards on blue October
Nights. The thick stars. But mostly now I remember

The trees, wearing their mysterious yellow sullenness
Like party dresses. And parties I didn’t attend.
And then the first ice hung like spider lattices
Or the embroideries of Great Aunt No One,

And then the first dark entering the trees—
And inside, the adults with their cocktails before dinner,
The way they always seemed afraid of something,
And sat so rigidly, although the land was theirs.

 

 

Prompt # 29 : Postcard Poems

I attended a workshop on Saturday. I took a break from being the Cupertino Poet Laureate, from being a poet/teacher with California Poets in the Schools, I went back to school and was just a poet who needed to remember her muse. It was heaven.

The workshop was hosted by the Stanford School of Medicine Program in Arts, Humanities and Medicine. The workshop leader was Sharon Bray. We did six writing exercises in eight hours. It was exhausting. But revelatory. And I made new friends. And the lunch was yummy.

One of the exercises, which I can safely snatch and share here (I don’t think Sharon would feel it is her patented idea) was to write a poem on a postcard. She had us sit outside, walk around, and then write on the postcards she brought. Of course, she infused the exercise with her signature calm, love, humor and wisdom. But there are other (many!) postcard poetry spaces in the world; here are a few:

Anyhow — it’s an easy challenge. Look outside your window and write a tiny poem that fits on a postcard. Then send it to someone you love. Be sure to take a photo of it first. Share it here with us! I’ll post mine in a few days.

Poem postcard image by David Lehman on the poets.org site.

June 8, 2014 Note: Here’s a link to my collection of postcard poems. Enjoy!

Postcard from David Lehman. Postmarked July 27, 2011, New York. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22474#sthash.0OOPRYto.dpuf
Postcard from David Lehman. Postmarked July 27, 2011, New York. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22474#sthash.0OOPRYto.dpuf
Postcard from David Lehman. Postmarked July 27, 2011, New York. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22474#sthash.0OOPRYto.dpuf

Coffee Poems

Yesterday, the Knopf Poem-A-Day email contained this delightful poem, “In praise of joe” by Marge Piercy. The poem was also published on The Writer’s Almanac in 2008.

marge-piercy

In Praise of Joe

by Marge Piercy

I love you hot
I love you iced and in a pinch
I will even consume you tepid.

Dark brown as wet bark of an apple tree,
dark as the waters flowing out of a spooky swamp
rich with tannin and smelling of thick life –

but you have your own scent that even
rising as steam kicks my brain into gear.
I drink you rancid out of vending machines,

I drink you at coffee bars for $6 a hit,
I drink you dribbling down my chin from a thermos
in cars, in stadiums, on the moonwashed beach.

Mornings you go off in my mouth like an electric
siren, radiating to my fingertips and toes.
You rattle my spine and buzz in my brain.

Whether latte, cappuccino, black or Greek
you keep me cooking, you keep me on line.
Without you, I would never get out of bed

but spend my life pressing the snooze
button. I would creep through wan days
in the form of a large shiny slug.

You waken in me the gift of speech when I
am dumb as a rock buried in damp earth.
It is you who make me human every dawn.
All my books are written with your ink.


 

In case you want more in this vein, check out “Coffee Shop Poems” in the UK. And this collection of writerly quotes about coffee on Goodreads.

Coffee poem/art by Shelley.

Angela Narciso Torres and Peninsula Literary

Now it is Sunday, and I have missed two days of the Cupertino Poetry Exchange. I’m not quiet sure how that happened. My apologies.

Friday I attended a lovely reading of Peninsula Literary, a quarterly reading in Palo Alto. Here’s a bit of background: “Carrie Harper Hechtman has been a curator at Peninsula Literary for six years. Her poetry  appeared recently Meridian and is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly. She holds an MFA from University of San Francisco.” The readings take place in the fine Palo Alto art gallery, Gallery House, amidst paintings by Maura Carta and ceramics by Thomas Arakawa. It’s a great place for a reading and the format is welcoming and comfortable.

Friday’s reading featured John W. Evans, who read from his terrifying and inspiring memoir, and my good and sweet friend, Angela Narciso Torres. (The photo above is one that Angela’s son took after the reading; Angela and I with two good good friends from our old days in “The Nita Street Poets’ — a monthly writers workshop that kept us sane for several long learning years.)

I’d like to offer you Isla Mujeres, published in the DMQ Review. Please click through to read about “Waking up fevered in a foreign country, the bedclothes soaked –”  You’ll be glad you did. You can buy Angela’s book, Blood Orange, via Aquarius PressSmall Press Distribution,  and Amazon.

Image

“Midnight Approaches” — Persian poetry with music and video

This suite of seven videos (an introduction to Persian poetry, five video poem performances, and an interview with the translator) is the production of my friend, Niloufar Talebi. Niloufar is a dancer, translator, opera librettists — a woman with an enormous love for language, music and imaginative discourse.

I thought I’d take a break from “straight” poetry today and let you indulge all your senses with music and dance; listen, read, enjoy.

Of course, today is Poem In Your Pocket Day, too, but I’ll put up another post about this.

Is Today Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday? Maybe

Happy Birthday Maybe to the Bard!

Click through these links for some of Shakespeare’s most beloved poetry.

And one of my personal favorites: Sonnet 116 “Let me not to the marriage of true minds” at Poets.org.  Try reciting this one from memory a little tipsy the night before you get married.

 

TIME

Every year on April 23, Stratford-upon-Avon and the world celebrate the birth of the most famous English playwright in history — and this year’s festivities will be bigger than usual, as 2014 marks what would have been the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare.

Except that we don’t actually know for sure whether April 23 was even his birthday.

Here’s what is certain: the records of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford mark the baptism on April 26, 1564, of “Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere” and that baptisms — it’s generally thought — usually took place three days after birth. So “Gulielmus” — William, son of John — was probably born three days before, on April 23.

If that’s true, it’s a neat coincidence, as that would mean he was born on the day dedicated to England’s patron saint, St. George. But not everyone is convinced. Some experts believe the April 23 date

View original post 114 more words

California’s Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera

Again today I am lucky in my search for a great poem and poet to share on the Cupertino Poetry Exchange. Juan Felipe Herrara is the current California Poet Laureate — and if ever there was a cheerleader for poetry, this is the guy.

Earlier this week, Central Coast Public Radio, KUSP, hosted an interview with Juan Felipe on their Poetry Show. (Can we all just pause in wonder and admiration right now for a radio show with a “poetry show”???!!!)

It’s a delightful interview and Sr. Herrera also reads a couple of his poems. So, please, take a break, listen to the interview and poetry, and if you want more information about what this amazing energizer bunny for poetry is doing, visit his website and explore his projects. Here’s what he says about his life:

I grew up on the farm worker migrant trail. Marshall Elementary in SF, San Diego High. Attended UCLA, Stanford and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Write in many genres. Twenty-nine books. Have received a number of awards, most recent the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Guggenheim Fellowship. Abundant gratitude to my parents, families, teachers and students on many roads. Trees, animals, rivers and clouds. Gracias.

Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings

By Juan Felipe Herrera

for Charles Fishman

Before you go further,
let me tell you what a poem brings,
first, you must know the secret, there is no poem
to speak of, it is a way to attain a life without boundaries,
yes, it is that easy, a poem, imagine me telling you this,
instead of going day by day against the razors, well,
the judgments, all the tick-tock bronze, a leather jacket
sizing you up, the fashion mall, for example, from
the outside you think you are being entertained,
when you enter, things change, you get caught by surprise,
your mouth goes sour, you get thirsty, your legs grow cold
standing still in the middle of a storm, a poem, of course,
is always open for business too, except, as you can see,
it isn’t exactly business that pulls your spirit into
the alarming waters, there you can bathe, you can play,
you can even join in on the gossip—the mist, that is,
the mist becomes central to your existence.

 

I was very very fortunate to meet Sr. Herrera first at a California Poets in the Schools symposium last summer, and then to work with him again in March at the California State Poetry Out Loud Championship events in Sacramento. Here’s a photo of me (in the middle) with Brandon Cesmat (to the left, former CPitS board member) and Juan Felipe (shocked and amazed by the amazing students poetry performers and our exhaustion).

POL

You can learn more about Juan Felipe at Poets.org and PoetryFoundation.org.

 

“A New Song” by W. S. Merwin

Today, driving to work, feeling overwhelmed by National Poetry Month, and already stressing about what poem I would find and post to the Cupertino Poetry Exchange today, I tuned in to Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac (on my excellent local NPR station, KALW).

Today’s poem, “A New Song” by W. S. Merwin, turns out to be a charming meditation on time and our (always impossible) expectations for it. The poem allowed me to take a deep breath, to laugh at my preoccupations with time, and to move more lightly into the day. That’s enough.

The New Song

by W. S. Merwin

For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine
going back to and finding it
as I had found it the first time
but by this time I do not know
what I thought when I thought back then

there is no time yet it grows less
there is the sound of rain at night
arriving unknown in the leaves
once without before or after
then I hear the thrush waking
at daybreak singing the new song

“The New Song” by W.S. Merwin, from The Moon Before Morning.
© Copper Canyon Press, 2014.

Because I do not have permission to reprint Mr. Merwin’s poem on my blog, I am encouraging you to buy his books by providing this link to them on Amazon. (buy now) Here is the short scoop on this wonderful poet. “Merwin was the 17th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry of the United States. He is the author of over fifty books of poetry, prose, and translations. He has earned every major literary prize, most recently the National Book Award for ‘Migration: New and Selected Poems’ and the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for ‘The Shadow of Sirius.’ He lives in Hawaii where he raises endangered palm trees.”

I find Mr. Merwin’s photo to be almost as calming and comforting as this poem. I hope you enjoy them both.