A Poet's Double Life

For poets working outside the literary world.


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April 2014 Poem-a-Day Challenge, Week 3


stamp_with_green_earthIt’s always good to get past the halfway point in the month. The end is near, and yet, I know the poems must keep coming. Some days I surprise myself–like the rhyme in Day 17. Other days, I go back to the photographs I have stored in my poetic memory. Several poems this week seemed to run out of my mind onto the page. Thank goodness I keep pen and pad in the car and in my purse, and sticky notes on my office desk when the words start to form. Often it feels like clouds gathering above on the verge of a downpour. Here is what the poem storms brought this week.

Day 14 (Prompt: If I Were <Blank>)

I’d still be black

but this time

desired

Day 15 (Prompt: Love/Anti-Love)

The heat of your breath

warms my skin and every

feign, flutter, fantasy stands

arm hair on end.

Day 16 (Prompt: Elegy)

On a throwback Thursday, I see a photo

of you dressed in 70’s cool–wide-legged

jeans and Kojak shades–standing in a park

with a stoic lean like that tower in Piza.

Day 17 (Prompt: Pop culture)

You’ll never see me move it round, wave

my big round mound fast, slow, up

and down like a flag to raise your salute.

Day 18 (Prompt: Weather)

The freeze will come overnight,

trap you below the thick,

clear surface for the longest

winter on record

Day 19 (Prompt: Color)

I inhale the sweet

sting of citrus

then strip skin

in one long peel.

Day 20 (Prompt: Family)

It was my father’s foresight

to insist on a family photo,

the photographer’s instinct

to seat him at center


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April 2014 Poem-a-Day Challenge, Week 2


aprilWeek 2 is a mix of themes and topics that are familiar and new experiences and observations gathered each day. Already I sense a common thread connecting the poems this year–transition. This week, there are fewer poet-as-narrator poems and more poems from the poet-as-observer perspective. These PAD challenges give me an opportunity to observe the how of my creative process:

  • how images, incidents, and feelings take root throughout the day and I can’t shake them until they are on the page
  • how poems start in multiple directions and then I have to work different threads simultaneously until one of them comes to an end
  • how sometimes I’m not sure if I pulled the right thread
  • how some themes require a return at a later date when I’m not in get-the-poem-out-and-go-to-bed mode
  • how some days I just need to get the poem out and go to bed
  • how I seem to be writing the same poem over and over again

And always it’s an interesting ride to see where each prompt takes me.

Day 7 (Prompt: Self-Portrait)

seated and upright

black stockinged feet

freed from black-heeled boots

dangled toes cozy up

to the heater’s warm hum

Day 8 (Prompt: Violent/Peaceful)

I overhear him tell you

he told you up front

that he lived with his mother

and worked at the college

but didn’t have a degree.

Day 9 (Prompt: Shelter)

The tour of her fiancé’s house ends

in the room filled with what’s familiar and hers–

what I will name the piano room,

what used to be the living room

of the house where our friendship grew.

Day 10 (Prompt: Future)

The climate will change as the clouds

swollen with the megapixels of our digital

lives can no longer hold everything apart.

Day 11 (Prompt: Statement)

Spring Has Arrived

And so has he to the same park bench

where he unfurls the morning paper

and feigns to read

Day 12 (Prompt: City)

You strive ever upward with a million

anonymous stories stacked between

the gravel and glass of high

rises stretched down Broadway.

Day 13 (Prompt: Animal)

She likes her dogs the way

she likes her men–large and long-

haired, happy to be at her feet.

 


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April 2014 Poem-a-Day Challenge, Week 1


Close-Up Of Fridge MagnetsWe’re already a week into National Poetry Month and so far I’ve been able to finish poems before midnight. This time, I decided not to post poems to the blog so that each poem has a chance of being published in the future. Instead, I will recap each week with the first few lines of my PAD Challenge poems using the prompts from Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides column on Writer’s Digest.

Day 1 (Prompt: Beginning/Ending)

Let’s begin at the end,
when you’ve already claimed me,
when I’ve given you the orchid
of my trust

Day 2 (Prompt: Voyage)

What do I take on this journey
that doesn’t bring back the past?
I want to travel light but even my lungs
feel burdened by air moving through

Day 3 (Prompt: Message)

We were a hit at the disco party
in that brown-orange-tan-rose
patchwork jumpsuit hip-bumping
down the Soul Train line

Day 4 (Prompt: Since <blank>)

Tonight you are dim light
peeking through a dark veil
of clouds, blurred and diffused,
as mysterious as Churchill’s Russia.

Day 5 (Prompt: Discovery)

We didn’t discover fire;
we made it
with our hands,
rubbing sticks.

Day 6 (Prompt: Night)

Most nights, the window’s reflection
is the only other black face I get to see


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Double the Life, Double the Accomplishments


 

UNC_PhotoAfter writing poems for 30 days, I had to shift gears to focus on the work side of this double life. In fact the work project I was leading was a constant in the backdrop of September’s poetrySpark, the November poem-a-day challenge, and poetry submission deadlines. As hard as I worked on my poems on Sunday afternoons in the office at the library, I worked equally hard–if not harder–in writing a report for work. And finally, it has culminated in a presentation before a state legislative committee on operational efficiency within the University of North Carolina system (check out the video clip from News 14 and the write-up on WRAL).

griefissueIn true double-life fashion, this work accomplishment is accompanied by a few poetic accomplishments: submitting a chapbook to two contests and getting two poems published in the Grief Issue of When Women Waken, including the Day 5 poem of the November 2013 PAD challenge.

Times like this is why I love the double life!


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November PAD Challenge, Day 29


The End of Night 

~Inspired by the 2008 National Geographic article on light pollution

Milky Way

 

Artificial beams shine upward, flooding

our evenings with the vacant

glow of urban life. We’ve forgotten

the river of stars and planets flowing

into the rest of our universe just beyond

the reach of the shallow night

sky. Astronomers claim we need the dark

to balance our circadian rhythms

of wake and sleep, to keep us steady

like gravity. But what does science know

about darkness or time or how dreams devoid

of hope wither and die when they’ve lived

as long as I have without light?

 

~Pamela Taylor © 2013


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November PAD Challenge, Day 28


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Collision Course

I’m trying to get on your radar screen, be more
than a blip you can explain away by low-flying geese
or a malfunction in your instrumentation.

You always retreat to the air of safety because you can depend
on the rise and fall of the sun, have memorized the way clouds thicken
and thunder then wring themselves clear. You think only the sky
can be trusted, but I’ve been flying solo too and have seen
the sky bend the wind to get closer to a flame.

One day you will look up and see me heading right
for you and have no other choice but to jump.

~Pamela L. Taylor © 2013


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November PAD Challenge, Day 26


Fog

foggy city

I should be used to this by now:
the way the clouds creep in low, blurry
my vision, force me to feel
my way through parking lots and down
slick asphalt streets. Flooding the path
with light only thickens the confusion.
But I’m impatient and burn my head beams
anyway, as if nature were a cable channel
and I held the remote control. I want to push
past these moments when the world pulls
the curtain around itself, settles
into an easy chair and waits for all to clear.

~Pamela L. Taylor © 2013


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November PAD Challenge, Day 25


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Great-Grandma Maggie Ballard

You are the one she still talks about
with grandchild awe, quotes your wisdom
chapter and verse about the size of John Brown’s
barn and the kitty that got no milk.

But this is all she will say.

She doesn’t tell me about great-granddad
Harris who gave you his name or the family
you entered and held together with spit
and polish and the force of your kindness.

These things I learned from older
cousins twice removed.

They recall your tack-sharp mind
and how you never met a hurdle or wall
you couldn’t jump or scale without losing
your steady breath or frowning your smile.

They tell me I am you incarnate, have told her this
for years and years, but this she keeps to herself.

Once she gave me a pillow with a photo
of your daughter’s distant face,
and I wondered if it was like yours, if
it would have tendered in its old age.

I know less about grandmother than I do about you.

All of her pictures you are gone, says my father
threw them out in one of his basement-cleaning binges,
but he’s dead now and she won’t tell me why
she kept them down there in the first place.

~Pamela L. Taylor © 2013


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November PAD Challenge, Day 24


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Night and Day

I’ll tell you something: nighttime
is different than the day.

The snow flurries in haphazard
patterns like gnats drunk
on honeysuckle. I have to squint

to see these frozen dots–small
and bleak–against the concrete

sky. Oh but yesterday, as I crossed
the street at eventide, I could have sworn
a million stars were falling.

~Pamela L. Taylor © 2013


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November PAD Challenge, Day 23


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We Are Never Alone
~Inspired by Inuit art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Two spirit faces live
In each stone

Caribou stand on hind legs
To meet at the lips

The large man with the large heart stands
With his brother wrapped around his back

The hunter trudges home hunched
Over with meat from the winter kill
His dogs pant from the weight of their loads

A man flies to the moon
On the wings of eight black birds

An old woman embraces the cold
Away from her grandson

One woman carved in steatite
Carries her child next to another
With a bundled infant pasted to her left
Hip and a toddler clinging below

The littlest bear carries
The littlest one on its back

Even the tail of the whalebone goes
Nowhere without its soul

~Pamela L. Taylor © 2013

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