First Lines

This week, I had the privilege of spending 90 minutes with sixteen fabulous poets from the community at my Nature-made Poetry Workshop. We explored nature through an up-close and personal lens, and then from a distance. I was humbled by the beautiful poems that were shared with the group at the end of the session.

Before we started writing our own poems, however, I had everyone participate in a warm-up exercise called “First Line.” In this exercise, the first line from an existing poem is provided, and the poem is then passed around the table with each poet adding a subsequent line.

Like our nature exploration, this exercise has the poet first focusing narrowly on the line that came before, then from a distance to take into account the whole of the emerging poem. What resulted from each group was a meaningful poem, which you can enjoy below.

Interested in trying a workshop?

Come join me on Wednesday 8/7 from 12:00-1:30PM in the final Nature-made Poetry Workshop. You do not need to have attended the previous workshops to join in the fun.

And don’t forget to RSVP to the Nature-themed Community Poetry Night happening on Thursday 8/8. Details and tickets available here.

Enjoy the sunshine and the natural world in its summer state!

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WARM-UP “FIRST LINE” POEMS FROM 7/31/19 CPL WORKSHOP

woman s face

Nature-made Workshop Group Poem A
after “Packing” by Sampurna Chattarji

I put in a butterfly, first
and a drop of cherry juice
watched its wings turn the color of sunset
in the blazing sun
brushed with the flowers of the clouds
its wings carried it through, to the heavens
and beyond
into my dreams from which I woke
and rose through the day, butterfly

 

Nature-made Workshop Group Poem B
after “Replication of Desire” by Lee Herrick

How much delight before we collapsesilhouette photo of couple standing outdoors
Thoughts tumble as I grapple with my heart
Hearts expand, smiles abound
We strive to connect to all
Give me ten more seconds, I’ll survive
When you tickle me unconscious

 

Nature-made Workshop Group Poem C
after “California Hills in August” by Dana Gioia

I can imagine someone who foundphoto of person walking on deserted island
a redwood growing in the desert
kelp rising up from a bed of fern
stood there stricken with awe
color, dry sand, green and alive
on this planet, I can thrive

 

 

Nature-made Workshop Group Poem D
after “Beauty is brief and violent” by Snehad Vadher

Beauty is brief and violentflour
Punching a fist in the flour that will be cake
A splash of strawberry icing has lent
Its sweetness to the chill of celebration
Family gathers around and sings, and sings
Until hoorah explodes and the crowd ebbs

My new chapbook, Pixelated Tears, is published!

I’m excited to share that my chapbook, Pixelated Tears, is now available from Prolific Press. Here’s the postcard:

Chapbook Announcement - Pixelated Tears

And here’s the press release that went out this weekend:

https://www.prlog.org/12734824-prolific-press-has-published-pixelated-tears-by-kaecey-mccormick.html?embed

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via My new chapbook, Pixelated Tears, is published!

Poetry Prompt: Horoscope Poetry

Some people swear by the messages in the stars, some find them amusing and harmless, and others find them offensive. No matter your take on horoscopes, you can use the daily messages as a poetry prompt, either refuting the message, writing a narrative poem that explores the hidden story, or taking a word or two as a jumping-off point for further poetic explorations.

Here are today’s horoscopes from The Mercury News (September 25, 2018). Try your hand at writing a poem based on or in response to your horoscope, and if the stars are with you (or even if they’re not), send me what you write! I guarantee your poetry will serve me better than my horoscope! 🙂

HOROSCOPES – September 25, 2018 (The Mercury News)

    • Aries (March 21-April 19):
      Consider your options before letting your emotions take over. ★★★
    • Taurus (April 20-May 20):
      A change will do you good, but it may not please some of the people you work or live with. ★★★
    • Gemini (May 21-June 20):
      Get the facts before you help someone looking for a handout. ★★★★
    • Cancer (June 21-July 22):
      Stay focused on what you are doing. Let your creativity take over. ★★
    • Leo (July 23-Aug. 22):
      Travel, meetings and educational pursuits are highlighted. ★★★★★
    • Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22):
      Get out and try something new. A change to the way you live is favored. ★★★
    • Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22):
      Emotions can hold you back. You have to think clearly about what you should do next. ★★★
    • Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21):
      Don’t let anyone take advantage of you, and don’t 
      pay for someone else’s mistake. ★★★
    • Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21):
      A change you make to the way you earn your living or to your arrangement at home will be to your benefit. ★★★★★
    • Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19):
      Professionalism at work and diplomacy at home will be in your best interest. 
      ★★
    • Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18) :
      Money matters should be handled smartly. Emotions and joint ventures can lead to loss. ★★★★
    • Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20):
      Concentrate on yourself and how to project your very best into whatever you take on. ★★★

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Collective Poem: Building a Voice Together

Yesterday, at Sonic Boom, the first session in my Sound and Sense workshop series, our warm-up exercise was to collectively write a poem. Each participant contributed one line, but to ensure some cohesiveness and pattern we voted on three things each line must have: each line had to begin with “You,” contain a type of weather, and showcase a feeling. Each writer then read his or her line aloud, one after the other, and it was often serendipitous in word choice, emotion, and weather.

Here is our collective poem (unedited):

All that You Are

You set me on fire in this stormy sea.
You, my dear storm-torn sea,
abcdeplease show me the joyful white tops of your waves.
You look so blue; could it be the last thirty days of rain?
You open summer rains to water my joy.
You make me feel the sunshine when it rains.
You tearfully rain down on my fretful life.
You and your melancholy are the humid summer air,
abcde
choking my love into lifelessness.
You love blustery winds.
You bluster along in a most annoying way.
You look out over the crowd,
abcde
feeling the queasiness that comes before a storm.
You are a drizzle of calm in my fear.
You shiver when gentle raindrops stroke your nose.
You create a hurricane of anxiety in my soul.
You are lost in fog,
abcdefeeling forgotten.

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Speaking at Monument Unveiling: Celebrating Our Sister City – Toyokawa

toyokawa sister cityForty years ago, Cupertino joined into a partnership with a city 5,317 miles away – Toyokawa, Japan. Toyokawa become Cupertino’s second Sister City, and the partnership has blossomed over the past four decades. Perhaps the most widely celebrated aspect of the Cupertino-Toyokawa friendship is the annual Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival. And another integral piece is the annual student delegation exchange. “In September 1979 the first annual student delegation of six middle school students from Toyokawa visited Cupertino. The first delegation of eight Cupertino middle school students visited Toyokawa in 1983. Over the years, the size of delegations has grown. The delegations of today are typically 12-16 students plus chaperones. Each autumn, a delegation of middle school students from Toyokawa travel to Cupertino with their adult chaperones”  (Cupertino-Toyokawa Sister City website).

On the morning of July 11, 2018, this forty-year relationship was celebrated and commemorated with the unveiling of a new monument outside Cupertino City Hall after the recitation of a celebratory poem written and performed by the current Cupertino Poet Laureate, Kaecey McCormick. Representatives from both Cupertino City and Toyokawa City governments were in attendance, as was the Japanese General Consulate from San Francisco and numerous other delegates from Toyokawa who all shared remarks and commentary on the special occasion. A video recording of the hour-long ceremony can be watched here.

 

Refugee Poetry Sought!

 

Poets and Writers –

Editors James Adams (Pulitzer Prize nominee for Noble Savage) and South African poet Peter Anderson are looking for submission to their INTERNATIONAL REFUGEE POETRY ANTHOLOGY — WaterWood Press will accept refugee poetry beginning the 2019 anthology entitled Elusions: Refugee Poetry.

Submission guidelines: Original poems/translations on refugees in any style. No PPW (previously published work) except for poems in translation. Submit 1–3 poems per poet (3 copies per poem). No more than 30 lines per poem. Include SASE and cover letter. All entries postmarked by August 15. No fees.

Mail submissions to:
WaterWood Press
Attn: 2018 Refugee Poetry Editor
47 Waterwood
Huntsville, TX 77320 

Good luck! Let me know if you submit and if you’re accepted!

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Writing Poetry with Warm Ups

writing exerciseThere are many parallels between writing and exercise. With both, it can be challenging to get started. We’ll swear tomorrow’s the day we get going, we’ll do it every day for at least an hour, and we imagine grand results in record time… only to quit after a day or so. We worry we’ll look foolish next to the “experts” out there. It can be hard to find a routine that works for us, especially with the constant demands from work, family, and friends on our time. We hit plateaus, and physical or mental obstacles can set us back or derail us.

It’s no wonder many people who have always wanted to try writing (or exercise) shy away or give up when their first draft (or workout) is less than stellar (hint: almost all first are less than stellar!). In teaching writing, I’ve found one mistake new writers make is diving into composing a piece without doing any pre-writing work. This is the equivalent of setting out to sprint a mile without warming up. Your muscles are cold, your blood flow is slow, and you’re bound to get hurt or, at the very least, you won’t set your best time.

Think of these warm-up exercises as getting the brain ready for the real work by clearing the creative passageways of any junk warm upfloating around. Sometimes the “junk” might actually be precious gems that can be used in finished pieces, and sometimes the junk is just junk. And that’s okay. By getting it out of your system, you have warmed up your brain and can focus on the next thing.  Working through warm-up exercises is also a great way to beat writer’s block.

Here is one quick warm-up routine I sometimes use. You should spend no more than 15 minutes total on the group of exercises – in other words, write and write fast. The trick is to not think before you write. Just write. Let whatever comes to mind come out on the page without worrying about whether or not it’s good or makes sense. No judgments, just the pen moving over paper.

Ready? Let’s go…

brain-exercisesPoetry Warm-up Routine #5 

Required equipment:

  • A timer or clock
  • A pen/pencil and paper (do warm-up exercises by hand!)
  • A space to work in

Exercises:

    1. Spend two minutes writing lines that begin with “I wish…” and keep going until the timer sounds. Write the lines as a list going down the page.
    2. Spend two minutes writing lines that begin with “Once…” and keep going until the timer sounds. Write the lines as a list going down the page.
    3. This two-minute warm up is split: Spend one minute writing lines that begin with “Now…” then spend one minute writing lines that begin with “I remember…” Write the lines as a combined list going down the page.
    4. Spend two minutes writing a list of lies.
    5. Spend no more than six minutes total!
      – For the final warm up, fold your paper in half to create two columns.
      – Next, write a list of five concrete nouns in the right column (30 seconds). (Concrete nouns are nouns that are tangible. To figure out if the noun is concrete, do what I call the “Drop Test.” Ask yourself, could this noun be dropped on my foot? For something like a mug, the answer is yes. For something like love, the answer is no.)
      – Then, write a list of five verbs or adjectives ending in -ing (e.g., biting, singing, dashing) in the left column (30 seconds).
      – Now randomly draw a line from each noun to one -ing word. When you’re done, you should have five word pairs.
      -Finally, write a sentence for each pair. Do not spend more than one minute on each sentence! The sentences do not have to be related, though if you’re looking for an extra challenge you can layer this in.

To help you see what the result of these warm-up exercises look like, here are some excerpts from the last time I used this warm-up routine. Remember – these are warm-up exercises, not polished pieces of writing!

ONE – “I wish…”

  • I wish I could function on four hours of sleep every night.
  • I wish guns had no place in our world.
  • I wish it were easier to find size 10 ballroom shoes.
  • I wish I could answer the question “Why?”
  • I wish my children never had to face loss.
  • I wish I could fall asleep each night watching stars streak across the inky sky.

TWO – “Once…”

  • Once I believed unicorns and dragons were real and leprechauns lived at the end of rainbows.
  • Once I found five dollars at the bottom of a river.
  • Once I laughed until I couldn’t breathe and the black spots burst on the backs of my eyelids.
  • Once I believed love was enough.
  • Once I dropped a pink ribbon into a pot of soup.
  • Once I wanted to be a firetruck with a tall ladder and loud bell.
  • Once I was able to run for miles and miles.

THREE – “Now…” followed by “I remember…”

  • Now she pays for groceries with borrowed pennies.
  • Now I wipe away their tears with my apron strings.
  • Now I know the joy of giving in at the right time.
  • Now I know the only thing at the end of a rainbow is wet grass.
  • I remember the weakness of small people in a large crowd.
  • I remember the slice of a knife through my finger.
  • I remember the taste of being five and the warm rain as it fell on the field.
  • I remember the banter of the geese on the pond in the early hours of November.

FOUR – “Lies”

  • I never to go bed angry.
  • My patience flows from a bottomless well.
  • I’ve never regretted a decision or action.
  • I love my name.
  • I never struggle to find words.

FIVE – “Concrete Nouns & Descriptive Words”

  • cutting eraser – My sketch disappeared without hesitation under the cutting eraser.
  • biting bed skirt – The scratchy fabric burned the tops of her sensitive feet like a biting bed skirt.
  • longing pencils – The blank page called liked a siren to the longing pencils sitting idly in the dusty cup at the edge of the desk.
  • searing wedding band – Her entrapment after his betrayal was like a searing wedding band melding flesh to bone.
  • enveloping coffee – I closed my eyes and allowed my senses to be overwhelmed by the enveloping coffee.

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Creativity Workshop: Igniting Your Writing!

sensory imagesI had so much fun on Tuesday at the Quinlan Center with a group of 3rd through 6th graders as we went through the first of the Igniting Your Writing workshops! In this first session, we focused on making our writing come alive with sensory imagery.

We began the session by listening to poetry and visualizing the imagery in them. We even attempted a drawing of Jack Prelutsky’s crazy dog from My Dog, He is an Ugly Dog! It was great fun. The kids then broke into groups and visited different sensory stations focusing on picking descriptive words based on sense sensations for sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Finally, we worked on crafting our own imagery poems based on sensory description. I’m very much looking forward to next week’s session on word choice!

Here is a sampling of their original work!

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Original Sensory Imagery Poems (Grades 3-6)

Multilingual Poetry & Prose Night!

Multilingual Poetry & Prose 5-10-18 Program-page-001Last Thursday (5/10/18), a group of over fifty people from the community came together to celebrate the power of poetry and prose in many languages at the first annual Multilingual Poetry & Prose Night. The Cupertino Poet Laureate Program joined with the United Chinese Alumni Associations (thanks to Jing Jing Yang!) to put together a transformative program. From our list of invited speakers to the brave souls who shared during the open mic portion of the evening, every syllable imparted a bit of the magic of language to those listening.

As I soaked up the sounds of the different languages, I was Multilingual Poetry & Prose 5-10-18 Program-page-002transported – across time and across the world to a different places and spaces until all that mattered was the beat of the language as it reverberated in me and in the bodies of those sitting in the audience. We were joined together to share in this powerful experience, and it is a memory I will carry with me for years to come.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of attending a multilingual event, I encourage you to make space on your calendar to do so. I plan to host the second annual program through the Poet Laureate program next spring, and I hope to see you there! In the meantime, please enjoy these photos and video from the event! And if you were present and would like to see you photos / video posted, please send me the files via email to poetlaureate@cupertino.org.

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Photos courtesy of Alex McCormick (c) 2018 

VIDEOS:

Here is a clip of Flo Oy Wong reading in Cantonese.
Video courtesy of Mara Grimes (c) 2018