Poetry About Race

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you might have seen my posts about New York Times op-ed writer, Nicholas Kristof, and his call for poems about race.

Here are two articles that he’s written in response to the 300+ poems he received. The commentary is interesting, but the poems are wonderful. Angry, beautiful, hopeful, terrifying.

I don’t want to quote from the poems here, I want you to go and read them all. Then I think we should all get together and write our own. Soon.

Poetry Contest Winners

Poetry Contest Winners

Read here about the winners of the poetry (and essay) contest sponsored by the Cupertino Library Foundation as part of 2014’s Silicon Valley Reads project. You can click on the names of the winners to read their work. We write some fine poems in Cupertino! Special thanks to Stephanie Pressman and Amanda Williamsen for helping me judge.

Adult Category

First Prize Winner: Kim Johnson

essay-winner-first-place

Teen Category

First Prize Winner: Annabelle Tseng

Second Place: Angela Wang

Middle School Category

First Prize Winner: Hope Nguyen

Second Place: Jacqueline He

Here’s Amanda chatting with a couple of the winners after the event.

amanda chatting wtih winners

And this is Amanda and I with Robin Sloan, the author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, one of the books featured during Silicon Valley Reads this year.

jsb robin and amanda

Winners of Silicon Valley Reads poetry contest to be announced today

Winners of Silicon Valley Reads to be announced today

In addition to both authors returning to Silicon Valley to talk with De Anza College President Brian Murphy, the 1:30 p.m. program will include the announcement of the winners of the Cupertino Library Foundation’s essay and poetry contests. Forty-three adults and teens entered the essay contest, which was the most entries in the contest’s six years, and there were 50 entries for the first year of the poetry contest.

Join me there to greet the poetry contest winners.

Embellish Your Poetry with the Web

This poem, the genesis of which I described in an earlier post, is an example of how to embellish your poetry with “junk and stuff” you can easily find on the internet. Hyperlinks are easy, and while they might take your reader away from your poem temporarily, they might also provide context or audience to a poem that might enjoy a little of both.

Ode to an Oddball Winter

A giant runaway snowball
crashed into a college dorm.
Nothing about this winter
fits the norm.

Floodwaters rise in England
taking lives and homes –
Eliot’s strong brown god
groans.

Drought in California!
Farmers and ranchers fear,
gardeners, fishermen, skiers
stow their gear.

Brutal ice in Georgia
cancels Valentine’s Day.
Power’s out, trees are lost,
skies are gray.

Winter comes to all;
none are spared its pain.
Some will find its beauty
and love again.

Darkness threatens the spirit,
but shivering warms the blood.
Daily the light shines longer on
first bud.

Let’s write a poem for pleasure,
tell a story to coax a smile,
sing a song to offer solace,
survive in style.

If you’re writing a poem to enter in the Cupertino Library’s Silicon Valley Reads Poetry Contest, this is one way to get your poem to speak both on the page and in the techno-sphere.

Another place to explore, if you want ideas for how to combine poetry and other media, I suggest you visit The Poetry Storehouse. They have a host of videos that use poetry and I encourage browsing there. A “remix” I did of Erica Goss’s poem “Afternoon in the Shape of a Pear” is another type of poem + technology fun. I am still drawn more to collage than to video, but the field is wide open. Go for it!

Prompt # 19 Ode For An Odball Winter

Hello poetry friends! Today’s prompt will serve double duty: I want to tempt you to write in one of my favorite forms, the ode, but also I want to create a sample poem on one of the themes for the Silicon Valley Reads Poetry Contest, sponsored by the Cupertino Library. Here goes!

An ode is one of the oldest poetic forms in Western culture. As my friends at the Academy of American Poets describe:

“‘Ode’ comes from the Greek aeidein, meaning to sing or chant, and belongs to the long and varied tradition of lyric poetry. Originally accompanied by music and dance, and later reserved by the Romantic poets to convey their strongest sentiments, the ode can be generalized as a formal address to an event, a person, or a thing not present.”
I love to teach odes, because kids get the idea quickly. We talk about Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” which many of them have learned to play on their recorders if they are lucky enough to have music in school, and they readily understand praising and celebrating something or somebody. Read a couple of student odes at the CPitS website, in the Youth Poetry section.
Pablo Neruda, one of my favorite poets, wrote many odes (collected in translation and the original Spanish) in Odes to Common Things, common things like onions and chairs. He’s great to teach, too, especially if you have kids in class whose first language is Spanish. Neruda’s odes help dispel the silly idea some of us picked up in English Lit class that odes have to be about urns and dead athletes and other things we don’t care much about anymore. This one, “Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market” will give you a flavor.
pabloneruda
Today I wrote an ode to the oddball winter that is 2013-2014. The idea started when I read a news story about kids at Reed College who crashed a huge snowball (800 lbs) into a dorm wall, damaging it and setting of a viral news story. I didn’t really mean to write a poem with rhyming metered stanzas, but it happened, so I went with it.  (Use a web-based site like RhymeZone if you don’t have a rhyming dictionary.)
My poem (which I’ll publish in a separate post) is also an example of how you can hyperlink images, music, and other information to your poem, if you want to experiment. One of the prompts for the Silicon Valley Reads poetry contest is to “write a poem using technology as part of the process. Use hyperlinks, video, photos or music as part of the poem’s form.” This poem of mine, “Ode to An Oddball Winter” is just such a conglomerate mishmash kind of poem.
Enjoy!

Silicon Valley Reads Poetry Contest

The Cupertino Courier published a nice story announcing the Silicon Valley Reads Poetry Contest.

Here’s an excerpt:

This will be the sixth year Cupertino will have an essay contest, and the first with a poetry contest for cash prizes. The essay contest is open to Cupertino adults and teens in grades 9-12, and focuses on responses to a question based off the two featured books from the 2014 Silicon Valley Reads program. This year’s selections are “The Shallows: What is the Internet Doing to our Brains” by Nicholas Carr, and “Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan.

This year’s essay contest question asks “Is technology changing the way you read and access information? Is this bad or good?”

Cash prizes will be awarded by the Cupertino Library Foundation in all age categories, with the grand prize for the essay contest being $500 for the top teen and adult; $300 each for the second prize adult and teen. For the poetry contest, there is a cash award of $350 each for the top adult, teen and middle-school entrant. Second prize is $200 each for an adult, teen and middle-school ages.