A Poet's Double Life

For poets working outside the literary world.


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April Poem-a-Day Challenge: Week 3


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As they say in the South, We’re getting down to the short rows. There are 8 more days in the Poem-a-Day Challenge. Although I’ve done the challenge for many years, it still surprises me how the prompts stimulate ideas I didn’t know were in my head. Enjoy the excerpts from this week.

Day 16 Prompt: <blank> System

Once we were orbs / in our own space / spun out / unable to withstand / the dust and rocks / hurled in our direction. (Solar System)

Day 17 Prompt: Dance

Cuddled / against / his chest / I become / bandoneon. (On the Dance Floor)

Day 18 Prompt: Life or Death

It doesn’t happen overnight. / You still wake up at the same time / but there is no rush to get ready. (Retired Life)

Day 19 Prompt: Memory

My blind / Date doesn’t show/ The waitstaff comps my meal/ But it doesn’t make me feel much / Better (The Times I Got Stood Up)

Day 20 Prompt: Task

Go downstairs / Read the sign above the washer–$3.50 per load / Walk back upstairs/ Bemoan the number of quarters added to your life (How to Do Laundry at Your New Apartment)

Day 21 Prompt: Object

What did you bring me today? A catalog, / forwarded mail, solicitations from old / charities? I know it’s not your fault, / but sometimes it feels like you’re in on the conspiracy. (Mailbox)

Day 22 Prompt: Fable

The people with the golden hair plucked his feathers one by one, took out his innards, washed and stuffed his body, and put him in an oven until he was golden brown. Then they sat down around the table, held hands, and prayed before tearing him limb from limb. You were lucky we found you before they did the same thing to you. (Little Golden)


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April Poem-a-Day Challenge, Week 2


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We’re halfway to the finish line of the Poem-a-Day challenge. Here are the excerpts from Week 2.

Day 9 Prompt: So <Blank>

You will / return to me / like the swallows / of Capistrano / to build / your nests / under the eaves / of my mission walls. (So Long)

Day 10 Prompt: Travel

In the city, / you rarely go from place to place alone. You’re stuck / in tin boxes underground, breathing in armpits and belches, / turning away from the man nodding off next to you.  (Commuting)

Day 11 Prompt: Sonnet or Anti-form

Spring’s blush / Dabbed in light strokes / As the days grow longer / The color in her cheeks deepens / To green (Cinquain)

Day 12 Prompt: Guilty

But you’ve banished yourself to the basement of your mind / where you watch the replays on reel-to-reel to pinpoint / that one wrong move, but it’s never just one, is it? (Mea Culpa)

Day 13 Prompt: Family

My father sent Ginger Snaps, boxed drinks, / and microwavable meals wrapped / in the Daily News sports pages / then stuffed in a small U-Haul box. (Care Packages)

Day 14 Prompt: Popular Saying

Life is a tunnel / I’m navigating with my hands. / Sometimes I have to stoop / or crawl to keep going. (Slowly but Surely)

Day 15 Prompt: One Time

As a girl, I had been told about this day / when my body would bleed / and it would be a normal part / of becoming woman. But nobody said / it could happen in the middle of math / with 19 pairs of eyes. (One Time in 6th Grade)


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April 2017 Poem-a-Day Challenge: Week 1


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Here are excerpts from the poems from Week 1 of the Poem-A-Day Challenge. Prompts courtesy of Poetic Asides.

Day 2 Prompt: Not Today

Friends are more bold in their predictions / each new person a possibility, a prospect / their you never knows float in your mind / like hot air balloons—colorful and grand, / but always disappearing from view. (The Question of Love)

Day 3 Prompt: <blank> of Love

I can’t see the driver’s face, / but I imagine him stroking / her knee, wrapping his sweet / talk in a smooth baritone. (Look of Love)

Day 4 Prompt: Beginning or End

It begins and ends with boxes—/ some stuffed and taped, others / flattened and stacked in a corner. (Moving)

Day 5 Prompt: Element

He wanted something to symbolize / his marriage vows. Tungsten was the strongest / element that would still bend to the will of love. (The Strongest Element)

Day 6 Prompt: A Sound

Sometimes / nothing but the roar / of the impossible sea / returning (Silence)

Day 7 Prompt: Discovery

That sinking feeling is not / from discovering the lie / but from realizing we’ve known / the truth the whole time (Icebergs)

Day 8 Prompt: Panic

I hear the boom, stop, run back faster faster. / The yellow mushroom cloud fogs the sky, my eyes. (Mariam on the Way to the Exam)


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April 2017 Poem-a-Day Challenge


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What better way to jumpstart the blog than by jumping into the Poem-a-Day Challenge. I had debated whether I would do the challenge because I didn’t think I would be able to sustain 30 days of poetry writing. But that’s how I always feel on March 31st, and by April 30th, I’m glad I have a pile of new work to sift through.

As in the past, I will post the prompt and a few lines from each poem from the past week. Here’s today’s poem:

Day 1 Prompt: Reminiscing

Your dear old friends share their new

scars and hopes and you will leave unsure

how either will turn out. A part of you

will want to keep everything in its old place

but that’s like trying to hold back a river

with your weak hand. You can go home again.

You can’t stop home or yourself from changing.

I will post more excerpts next week!


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Making of a Poetry Reading


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What started off as simple question on Facebook—I’m toying with the idea of doing a mini-tour for Blue Hallelujahs. Are their any specific places or reading series I should hit up?—became a full-blown poetry reading happening this Sunday, November 6th from 4:30-6:30 pm at the Arts at the Armory in Somerville, MA.

Different worlds collided in order to bring this reading into being. First, you have the Cave Canem universe, the home for black poetry, which randomly assigned me to share a suite with Cynthia Manick at the 2012 Fellows retreat. Subsequent retreats in 2013 & 2014 is where I met Brionne Janae & Breauna Roach. When I moved to the Boston area, I started attending the Dudley Poetry Group, where Brionne facilitates a weekly poetry workshop on Monday nights at the library. Back in August, she invited me to a poetry reading at Arts at the Armory. This place is an old National Guard building that has been converted into a community arts center. They host several events in their café and make them available at no cost if the event is free and open to the public. I connected with Nicole Terez Dutton at that reading in August. I knew of Nicole’s debut collection If One of Us Should Fall because it won the 2011 Cave Canem Poetry prize and was pleased to finally make her acquaintance.

The rest, as they say, is history—meshing available dates for the poets with available dates from the venue, confirming the date and time, the photos and bios, the flyer, deciding the lineup, and promoting the event. Needless to say, I’m excited the event it happening this weekend. Now all I have to do is decide which poems to read.

 

 


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Fall Reading List


In New England, summer slips off like a thin nightgown. Longer sleeves, thicker sweaters, and sturdier coats push toward the front of the closet. The many pairs of Hanes Gentlebrown hosiery rise out of drawers as if summoned by a snake charmer.

Fall starts as soon as the calendar turns a page. Last week, I wore a green short-sleeved dress with beige open-toe shoes. This week, I wore a wool-blend cardigan over a houndstooth sheath dress, stockings, and tan suede shoes. I see the sun in spurts. If we’re lucky, those spurts last a whole day. Lately, the clouds have thickened as if the sky has put on its coat.

My reading list has gotten longer. I’ve got stacks of books on either side of the bed. Somewhere between the last post and this one, I discovered the Minuteman Library Network connecting public libraries in 36 towns in Massachusetts, including the three places where I split my time.

 

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Unlike campus library, I borrow these books 3 weeks at a time. More popular books have an shorter time borrowing period. These books jump the line when I want to read something before I go to bed or when I have trouble getting back to sleep. Here’s the lineup:

  • The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparkes. A friend of mine heard one of the short stories “13 Ways of Destroying a Painting” on public radio. It’s about a time traveler who tries to stop an artist from completing this painting. The story has an interesting twist and the other stories in the book will make you wince or gasp.
  • Stamped from the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. A historian who traces the development of segregationist, assimilationist, and anti-racist ideas to defend or thwart racist policies from the 15th century to present day. I saw this book sitting face up in the Wellesley Free library and had to get it. It made the long-list for the 2016 National Book Awards for Non-Fiction. I’m only on page 70 of this book and my mind is blown. I’ll probably end up buying this book because I’ve dog-earned almost every other page.
  • Things that I Do in the Dark: Selected Poems by June Jordan. I saw a poem from this collection posted or shared somewhere. Had to get it. It’s the kind of poetry collection you can open to any page, read one poem, and be nourished for the entire day.
  • The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems edited by Mark Eisner. Another book I picked up because someone used two lines from Neruda’sPoema XX” in their poem. And it’s Neruda after all. He’s supposed to be by your bedside.
  • The Course of Love by Alain de Botton. A book recommendation from my friend, Iryna, who has excellent taste in books. I gave her and her husband, Cecil, a personal tour of the campus. I had to drag her away historic book display in the library. This book has jumped the line because it’s one of those 14-day books I cannot renew.

In addition to the public library books, I have my author-signed copies of Blue Hallelujahs  by Cynthia Manick, Soul Psalms by U-Meleni Mhlaba-Adebo, and That Church Life by long-time friend Teresa Howell as well as the collection, There are Talismans by Doris Radin, gifted to me by her daughter, Robin, a local photographer. These books are sitting by the bedside in my new apartment (more on that later). And did I mention I still have Audre Lorde’s Black Unicorn in my possession?

Who knows when I’ll get time to read them all. I’ll keep renewing until the library gods make me stop.

 

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Summer Book List 2016


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The best thing about working at a college is the library privileges. I can borrow books for 6 months and renew them for another 6 months. I recently had to do that for The Black Unicorn by Audre Lorde. I checked out the book in February and have been savoring it. I also misplaced the book a couple of times, so that added to the delay in finishing it. I’m reading this book as well as Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón. I normally don’t read two poetry books simultaneously, but this collection was a National Book Award Finalist.

I’ve read quite a bit this summer, most likely because I had long airplanes rides when I went to New Orleans and St. Maarten. Here they are in order of when I finished them: