A Poet's Double Life

For poets working outside the literary world.


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Five-Day Poetry Challenge


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Five-Day Poetry Challenge – DONE!

The 5-day poetry challenge is a popular meme where you post one of your poems (preferably published) to your Facebook timeline then tag another poet to continue the challenge. Last week, I was double-tagged by poets Anna Weaver and Elizabeth Jackson. So in true double-life fashion, I decided to post two poems each day—one of my published poems around 9 am and one of my favorite poems about the working world around 5 pm.

I selected poems from the range of themes I tend to visit and revisit in my work:

  1. Work: “Twenty Questions for Black Professionals” from my chapbook, My Mother’s Child (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015)
  2. Love & Longing: “The Truth about Fire” published in The Pedestal Magazine in 2012
  3. Planets & the Universe: “To Earth, From Mars” published in Construction Literary Magazine in 2014
  4. Family: “At Night I Dream of Trains” published in the Grief issue of When Women Waken in 2013
  5. Tango: “If I Could Love You Like Tango” published in the anthology, …and love…(Jacar Press, 2011)

For the poems about the working world, I picked two of my favorites that I’ve posted to the blog before as well as a few poems that showed work and workers in a more positive light.

  1. “White, White Collars” by Denis Johnson, from The Incognito Lounge, 1982
  2. “Drone” by Wanda Coleman, from African Sleeping Sickness, 1990
  3. “The Gulf” by Brian Brodeur, from The Missouri Review, Winter 2010
  4. “Coming Closer” by Philip Levine, from What Work Is, 1991
  5. “Domestic Work, 1937″ by Natasha Trethewey, from Domestic Work, 1999

Here’s the last stanza from the Trethewey poem that always sticks with me.

She beats time on the rugs,
blows dust from the broom
like dandelion spores, each one
a wish for something better.

If you haven’t been tagged, start your own 5-day poetry challenge. I’d love to hear about it.

Chapbook Party!

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On Friday, June 26th, I had the launch party for my chapbook, My Mother’s Child. Thanks to my tango-friend Mariana, I was able to have the party at Terra Nova Global Properties new office in downtown Durham. And my friend Janet provided the food, decorations, prosecco, and the real champagne glasses.

 

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After a fabulous introduction by fellow Living Poetry organizer, Bartholomew Barker, I read a four poems from the chapbook and a few others I had written over the last two years. Many in the crowd had followed my April and November poem-a-day challenges and a few had never heard me read before. I’m so thankful to everyone who came out to support me and buy books.

This gallery contains 15 photos


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April 2015 Poem-a-Day Challenge, The End


2009 CalendarAs much as I love National Poetry Month, I always get to the point where I am DONE with writing poems. Unfortunately, I run of energy before April runs out of days. This year, I was mentally finished writing on April 25th, so I’m just happy to get all these poems done.

 

Day 27 – Looking Back

Red rocks reek of a time before
this river raged, when ocean waves kept the peace
with their rhythmic sway and the fish sang
lullabies through gaping mouths.

 

Day 28 – Matter/Anti-Matter

Apply heat to cause a burn,
a balling up into a rock-sized fist
of dust to be broken apart at will.

 

Day 29 – What Nobody Knows

She hadn’t moved away nor fallen
madly deeply for the Italian guy
from the housewarming party.

 

Day 30 – Bury the <Blank>

Seven years to get here, four more
to get the hang of the place
and bask in its bright orange glow.


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April 2015 Poem-a-Day Challenge, Week 4


ПечатьAs we say in the South, It’s getting down to the short rows! I’m at the point in the poem-a-day challenge where I don’t remember the poem I wrote yesterday because I’m so focused on finishing today’s poem and resting up before tomorrow’s prompt is posted. When my friends comment on poems I’ve written earlier in the month, I sometimes don’t remember writing it. The challenge keeps me in the moment of writing without the attachment that what I write has got to be good, finished, publishable, inspiring, <insert any other adjective here>. Which I guess, is part of the point.

Day 20 – My <Blank>

My eyes open before the early bird’s song
as if starting this job on the first day. After seven years,
I know the rhythm of this place like a child’s favorite lullaby,
can fall back in line like a soldier on his fourth tour.

 

Day 21 – What You Are (Not)

Born of the Atlantic
but I am nothing
like my mother.

 

Day 22 – Nature

The days grow long, my patience grows thin
The work you do to emerge from the ground is hidden

 

Day 23 – Historic

We call you by your first name as if we grew up
side by side on those red cushioned pews
in your daddy’s church

 

Day 24 – Moment

In the end, she did nothing
even though this was the time
she’d promised to do different.

 

Day 25 –  Across the Sea

A woman waiting
Her sister dying
Bleeding from eyes
Ears and nose.

 

Day 26 – Shakespearean Words

Courtship:
a frugal compromise
to end Lonely’s reign


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April 2015 Poem-a-Day Challenge, Week 3


inkwell pen paper old backgroundBeyond the halfway point of the challenge, I can’t remember the details of any particular poem; my only focus is finishing before midnight and looking ahead to the next prompt. Having time away from the double life this week has given my brain time to play with the prompts, even though I write most of the poems in the hour or so before going to bed. On the road, I used a combination of the Notes app on my iPhone, the Notes app on my laptop, and Google Docs to compose and fine tune poems. Seeing a poem on a small screen versus big screen and on the yellow background of Notes versus the white background of Docs makes a difference in the finishing process, especially when deciding on line and stanza breaks. Inevitably, I still find a missing comma, extra word, or spelling error when I copy and paste to the other places where I’ve been posting this year.

Day 13 – Confession

I sit four rows back, among the literati
where I can see and be seen, and later claim
I was there where *insert poet who thinks
she’s better than me* received the award.

Day 14 – Honest/Dishonest

I’m okay
I’m just going to have one more
Tomorrow will be better
It doesn’t matter

Day 15 – Pick an adjective

At noon, shadow slips underfoot
to follow without being seen.
Body thinks she’s walking alone—
a woman in need of no other.

Day 16 – Science

You were the pocket-protector cutie
with the pocked skin and taped-up glasses
checking hall passes during 5th period.

Day 17 – Swing
The two miles you walked on the trail
from where you started with your friend is the warmup
to this moment, a slow rocking back and forth,
sometimes in sync, sometimes out

Day 18 – Pick two vowels

Dark is
black air spinning
its myriad stars
in all affairs.

Day 19 – Authority

blue shirt and a badge
pushing bags
through the x-ray


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April 2015 Poem-a-Day Challenge, Week 2


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This year, I’m on vacation during the heart of the PAD challenge. I thought it would be difficult to keep up with writing, but I’m finding that my work routine (wake up at 6 am, shower, dress professionally, commute, interact with my colleagues, etc.) takes more energy than hiking 3-5 miles a day. Late mornings and long drives give the brain time to marinate on the prompt, even if nothing concrete is jotted down. Of course, having WiFi in the middle of nowhere helps.

Here are this week’s poems:

Day 7 – Love/Anti-Love

You were in love with love
even into your eighties, even after
dementia chiseled your wife
down to the unfamiliar.

 

Day 8 – Dare

swipe left for the ones
with photo after photo
of tattooed pecs
time spent working
the wrong muscle

 

Day 9 – Work

Except she’s not
no matter how hard
she tries to hide
the girlie parts

 

Day 10 – How <Blank>

Wait for the wind
to curve your edges

 

Day 11 – Seasonal

What matter the season
when the furnace of your body
heats my slumber, when you cool
to the touch of my cold soles?

 

Day 12 – Damage

A bruise is
break down of
cellular walls.

 


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April 2015 Poem-a-Day Challenge, Week 1


hands_with_plantOther than 14 Words of Love and my weekly poetry dates, I haven’t been writing much this year. National Poetry Month tends to increase my writing output when I take the poem-a-day challenge using prompts on the Poetic Asides blog. Like last year, I will post the first few lines of each poem in case I want to publish them later.

 

Day 1 – Resistance

Hope lies still
in the hospice bed.
Her once vibrant skin
ashen and gnarled
like washed out deadwood,
her eyes adrift in the sea
of colorless walls.

 

Day 2 – Secret

We may never know who looped a simple rope and hung it from a tree.

 

Day 3 – Machine

Lever
Simple machine
Press hard to reduce the load

 

Day 4 – Departure

At 5 am, the city shifts from graveyard
to day. The all-night clerk steps out
of the token booth the make room
for his replacement just as the passenger
with the uniform slung over shoulder
pushes through the turnstile.

 

 Day 5 – Vegetable

she’s everywhere
you look
wild and small
like a pin
ready to prick
your heart

 

Day 6 – Things-Not-as-They-Seem

You wake to an alarm
set by Ground Command
to keep your circadian rhythm
pegged to the Greenwich Mean.

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