Found Poem: Fix This One Thing

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Fix This One Thing


You took AP stats?
Uno, dos, tres
The energy I got back
was nasty
She’s just making 
all these mistakes
Cuidado, cuidado,
Maybe it’s around the—
My best teacher
was Kiran Desai
I didn’t get lost

This is a found poem. All the lines and the title are things I overheard in New York.

—Susan Thomsen, 2023

*****

Jan at Bookseed Studio is the Poetry Friday host for January 27th. Go visit for more poems and inspiration on Friday.

Photo by ST of one of Timothy Snell's "Broadway Diary" mosaics (2002) at the 8th Street/NYU subway stop, Manhattan. It depicts the arch at Washington Square Park.


Cinquain: Gone Fishin'

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Gone Fishin'

River-

bank veteran,

grizzled heron gazes, 

lifts one foot, takes a giant step,

impales.

*****

After reading Molly Hogan's post about the cinquain last week, I decided to try out it out. On Twitter I started following Alex Price, who has a daily cinquain prompt. Tinkering with the form—five lines with a 2-4-6-8-2 syllable scheme—and thinking about the exact words to use was challenging and fun. Somehow Alex's prompt for "phase" turned into "gaze," and, voilà!

The Poetry Friday roundup for January 20, 2023, takes place at Marcie Flinchum Atkins' blog.

Photo by Susan Thomsen, Connecticut, 2019. Blue heron art by Kevin Costa.


Poetry Friday the 13th: The Roundup

Welcome to Poetry Friday! I feel lucky to host the roundup, which you'll find below. Please join us and submit a link. (If you're having difficulty, send an email to    c_spaghettiATyahoo.com    Replace the AT with a you-know-what.)

I'll start off with my poem "Vintage," inspired by a photograph by Trina K. Bartel which I first saw on Margaret Simon's blog, Reflections on the Teche. (Thank you to Margaret and to the photographer, who granted me permission to use her work.)

Blue-bike-with-sunflowers-by-trina-bartelVintage

The Craigslist ad
came out so nice
I decided to keep
Mom’s bike and
ride it myself

The flowers I put
in the basket made
all the difference
and sold me on the idea
of maintaining

—Susan Thomsen

A round of applause goes to all the poets and poem-talking participants. Drop a link here.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


School Rules, Lupe Mendez

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Lupe Mendez, the current Texas Poet Laureate, is also an educator and activist in Houston. His poem "Rules at the Juan Marcos Huelga School (Even the Unspoken Ones)," online at the Poetry Foundation, is my pick for today. An excerpt:

[Shout on paper, write boldly,
in a book, in the middle of an open
field, in the street, in the classroom,
make sure your voice shrills.
]

I'm grateful to the VS podcast for introducing me to Mendez and many other poets. Just like prior hosts Franny Choi and Danez Smith, the new duo, Ajanaé Dawkins and Brittany Rogers, are super fun to listen to, and their episodes always send me straight to library and bookstore websites looking for the work that was mentioned.

*****

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Reading to the Core. Next week it's right here, at Chicken Spaghetti.

Photo: Roll-gate mural in the Mission District, San Francisco. Susan Thomsen, 2021.


Favorite Poetry and Poetry-Related Books of the Year

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The following are some of my favorites of the year, with links to their publishers. (Not all were published in 2022.) For additional reading suggestions, do check out another, completely current list, "A Handful of Poetry Books to Savor Now and Later," by Mandana Chaffa, in the Chicago Review of Books

Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me, by Ada Calhoun (Grove Atlantic, 2022)

Avidly Reads Poetry, by Jacquelyn Ardam (NYU Press, 2022)

Broadway for Paul, by Vincent Katz (Knopf, 2020)

Curb, by Divya Victor (Nightboat Books, 2021)

Customs, by Solmaz Sharif (Graywolf, 2022)

The Difference Is Spreading: Fifty Contemporary Poets on Fifty Poems, edited by Al Filreis and Anna Strong Safford (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022)

Frank: Sonnets, by Diane Seuss (Graywolf, 2021)

Garden Time, by W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon, 2016)

The Hurting Kind, by Ada Limón (Milkweed Editions, 2022)

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance, by Nikki Grimes (Bloomsbury Books for Children, 2021)

Lorine Niedecker: A Poet’s Life, by Margot Peters (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011)

On Autumn Lake: The Collected Essays, by Douglas Crase (Nightboat Books, 2022). I'm still reading this one!

Starshine & Clay, by Kamilah Aisha Moon (Four Way Books, 2017)

Stones: Poems, by Kevin Young (Knopf, 2021)

The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On, by Franny Choi (Ecco, 2022)

*****

The Poetry Friday roundup for December 30th is at Patricia J. Franz's Reverie.

Photo by ST of street art by Timur (@timuryorkart).


Ashley Bryan & Langston Hughes

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The above collage is original art from Sail Away, a 2015 children's book in which Ashley Bryan illustrated poems by Langston Hughes dealing with the theme of water. It's part of a gorgeous show at the Morgan Library & Museum, in New York, through January 22, 2023. You can also read "Long Trip" in a bigger font at at the Academy of American Poets. My friend and I had the best time at the Morgan, chit-chatting with a friendly security guard about our favorite pictures and taking several turns around the room to make sure of our choices. 

*****

The Poetry Friday roundup takes place at Irene Latham's Live Your Poem on December 23rd. Happy Holidays to all!


Poem: Open Space

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Open Space

Tell us about your friends
You mean M.C.? Who danced on tables
and lit the night up loud
with his Long Island accent?
That friend? I still tend the mug,
a favor, from the prom
He was the teacher, I was the gossip,
The chaperone’s date
They didn’t know
The truth, we were never together
That way though I would
give anything to hear him sing
“There’s a kind of hush”
At the fountain at
Washington Square Park
“All over the world
tonight”

Draft, Susan Thomsen, 2022

*****

This poem riffs off a line from my feed reader. Last week I wrote about how the New York Times "Well" feed sometimes resembles a font of poetry prompts, so I ran with its offering "Tell us about your friends." All week long the next sentence in my head has been, "You mean M.C.?," so that is indeed what came next. I continue to tinker with this draft.

I have a nonfiction recommendation on the theme of friendship: Hua Hsu's Stay True: A Memoir, which I'm reading now. It's making all the best-of lists.

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Karen Edmisten's blog on December 16th. Enjoy!

Photo by ST


Poetry Prompts from the New York Times

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The New York Times and I have a long, one-sided relationship that includes a very sniffy rejection letter for a job I applied for ages ago. Whatever. It's still my favorite paper. Lately it has been sending me poetry prompts for which I am very grateful. I should explain. Every day in my feed reader I get the headlines (and links) for articles in the Well section, and many of them seem like the beginnings of poems. (A few also sound spectacularly unrelated to wellness, but I digress.)

Some examples:

Sadder but wiser? Maybe not

With this weed, I thee wed

Your cat might not be ignoring you when you speak

Tell us about your friends

Falling for your sperm donor

No more hiding

Aren't they great! I really want to hear the poems that start with these first lines. At a certain point I have to start writing them, right?

Anyway. Another source of inspiration has been The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On, the new book by Franny Choi. I'm in the middle of reading it, and my favorite line so far is "Every day of my life has been something other than my last." from one of the poems with the (same) title "Upon Learning That Some Korean War Refugees Used Partially Detonated Napalm Canisters as Cooking Fuel." This is powerful work, y'all.

The Poetry Friday roundup for December 9th is at artist & author Michelle Kogan's blog.

Photo: "Iced Tea at the Diner," by ST


Eraser

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Happy December, everyone. Where has the time gone? I don't know what happened to November.

Recently I participated in a small-group chat about "Do not trust the eraser," by Rosamond S. King. It's amazing much discussion how this shorter, open-ended poem generated. It starts,

Do not trust the eraser. Prefer
crossed out, scribbled over monuments

I hadn't known King's work at all beforehand, and having read more of the pieces linked on her website here, I find it really powerful. Frankly, I'd enjoy continuing to talk about "Do not trust the eraser," so, if you'd like, let me know what you think! A couple of questions, just to get started: who or what is the eraser? What do you make of the punctuation? Why "mis takes" and not "mistakes?" There are no wrong answers, of course; these are just things in the work that I wonder about.

The December 2nd Poetry Friday roundup is at Reading to the Core.

Photo by ST: Pencil (with eraser) sculpture, Bridgeport, CT


Recommended Reading: Kevin Young's "Stones"

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I’ve just finished
Stones, Kevin Young’s latest collection, and admired the concision and short lines in this book (Knopf, 2021). Young is not only the New Yorker’s poetry editor, he is also the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. These poems are about history and grief and ancestors, and, a topic after my own heart, the South. In Young’s case, it’s southern Louisiana, where his relatives live. (“The roads here/only lately got names.”) 

My favorite work in Stones is “Speed Trap,” which you can read online at Literary Hub. It’s a found poem (or at least it looks like one), quoting roadside advertisements (“WE BUY GOLD/Soul Food Seafood/Stock Yard Café”), and Young drops in photo-like details of his own (“Stray couch wounded/beside the road”). Driving through, the reader sees the town, its pleasures ("Butts-n-Ribs") and dysfunctions (FEMA trailers, etc.), and the way the word “trap” functions as both a reference to out-of-towners who dare speed and to others, locals unable to leave for a myriad of reasons. 

Stones is well worth your time. It’s already given me some ideas for poems mixing found language with a soupçon of personal observance.

*****

The Poetry Friday roundup for October 28th takes place at Jone Rush MacCulloch's blog.

Photo by ST.


Shelf Expression

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Shelf Expression

The heart of American poetry:
Wherever I’m at,
on Autumn Lake—
The difference is spreading,
A Black Arts poetry machine.

Old poet? 

Own poet.

*****

This poem was inspired by a shelf of books at the New York Public Library's Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, in midtown Manhattan. The first six lines consist only of book titles, but I didn't like ending with "old poet," which sounded too much like an epitaph. So, I pushed it down and tossed in a line that seemed to fit.

The Poetry Friday roundup for October 7th is at Sarah Grace Tuttle's blog. By the way, Al Filreis and Anna Strong Safford's The Difference Is Spreading and Edward Hirsch's The Heart of American Poetry are excellent. Both anthologies feature poems followed by essays on each poem.


"Siren Song"

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Last week I heard Saeed Jones and Isaac Fitzgerald talk about writing and friendship at a local literary festival. Both of these writers have new books out; Jones's Alive at the End of the World is a collection of poetry and Fitzgerald's Dirtbag, Massachusetts is a memoir in essays. Fitzgerald asked Jones which poems influenced him to start writing poetry, and in addition to work by the poets Jones calls "The Housewives" (Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton), he brought up Margaret Atwood's "Siren Song," which he read as a teenager. "Siren Song" is a persona poem, told from the point of view of one of the mythical beings, and Jones said until reading it he hadn't realized that a poem could could lie. It inspired him to go home and write.

I couldn't resist looking it up later, and must say that I like this one, too. Talk about unreliable narrators!

*****

Siren Song

This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:
 
the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see the beached skulls
 

*****

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Kathryn Appel's place on September 16th.

Photo by ST: The fountain (but not a siren) at the Yaddo Gardens, Saratoga Springs, NY


Poetry Friends

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A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how much I had liked the poet Kamilah Aisha Moon's book Starshine & Clay. Just this week I was reading Aracelis Girmay's 2016 collection, the black maria, and came across her beautiful poem "Moon for Aisha." The poem is a tribute to friendship and also speaks about the time before these two poets knew each other. I just love this excerpt, which reminded me of several of my own chums over the years.

& then you, all nearly grown,
all long-legged laughter,
already knowing all the songs
& all the dances,
not my friend, yet,
but, somehow—Out There.

There are more poems to read at the Poetry Friday roundup at The Teacher Dance.

Photo: Corner flowers, NYC, 2022. ST.


Charles Bukowski + Mary Oliver

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New Neighbors

 

Bored with the Bs, Charles Bukowski

bopped down a few shelves to

visit Mary Oliver, wedged himself

between her Handbook and the 

New and Selected, like a bro

at a bar on Saturday night. 

“I want to drink wine with

 the assassins,” he said

by way of introduction.

Dreaming of kale’s

puckered sleeve, Mary

expressed no interest in the con-

versation. Such silence.

But there he remained,

more than a week.

Anyone seeking his fix of

Bukowski would not

have thought to 

look among the

gannets and the whelks

and the poppies—or

at Blackwater Pond.

“I would kill an elephant

with a bowie knife,”

he announced. Dorothy

Parker re-applied her

lipstick, red matte

since you ask,

and smiled in

his direction: “Wild and fickle

and fierce is he!”

Misfiled yet again,

Meghan O’Rourke

sought an escape, or

at least a return to

alphabetical order. 

“It’s warmer this August

than it has been for decades,”

she declared, only to hear

“I’ve been bombed out of

better places than this.”

But Aimee Nezhukumatathil

leaned over to yell,

“I know you are dangerous.

I see it in your shiny teeth,”

which caught Mary’s attention.

She sensed a shadow— 

and wait,      is someone

smoking?—over

the Guidebook’s shoulder. 

Who’s there?

O, a turnip-hearted skunk cabbage,

No wonder. 

“In the past couple decades, 

we had a long-standing rule of 

keeping Charles Bukowski 

behind the register,” 

the bookseller said.

*****

Origin story: Someone had put Bukowski’s Storm for the Living and the Dead in the middle of the Mary Oliver books at the local Barnes & Noble, and I thought it was a funny poetry in-joke. After taking a photo, I decided to write a poem that brought together the two wildly popular and wildly different authors along with some of their shelf mates.

“The kale’s puckered sleeve,” and “turnip-hearted skunk cabbage” are phrases from Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems: Volume One; “Such Silence,” “Gannets,” “Whelks,” “Poppies,” and “At Blackwater Pond” are titles of poems. “Such Silence” actually comes from Oliver’s Blue Horses, not the New and Selected.

The Bukowski verses are from Storm for the Living and the Dead. Meghan O’Rourke’s quote is from her collection Sun in Days, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s is from Oceanic. The Dorothy Parker line can be found in Enough Rope: A Book of Light Verse. The bookseller’s words belong to Annie Metcalf, who was quoted in a 2017 article in Electric Lit.

*****

Head over to author Tanita S. Davis's site for the Poetry Friday roundup on August 26th.


August, Versified

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For everyone participating in the Sealey Challenge, how's it going? I am behind! But I am reading poetry every day, which has been grand. Use the hashtag #TheSealeyChallenge to find recommendations on Twitter and Instagram.

I had really looked forward to catching up with the work of Kamilah Aisha Moon, and I was not disappointed at all! Her book Starshine & Clay was poignant, heartbreaking, beautifully crafted. Knowing that Moon had passed away in 2021 made finishing this library copy hard because I wanted to stay in the poet's company. I'll buy my own Starshine & Clay (Four Way Books, 2017), as well as an earlier work, She Has a Name (Four Way, 2013). One of Moon's "literary North Stars," as she wrote in Mentor and Muse, was Lucille Clifton, so I want to go back to her work as well. Here's a good place to shout out Clifton's Generations, a spare & lyrical memoir recently reissued by New York Review Books; I read it earlier this year.

Other highlights so far were Claude McKay's Harlem Shadows (Modern Library, Centenary Edition, 2022) and Harryette Mullen's Sleeping with the Dictionary (University of California Press, 2002).

My current book is Jane Hirshfield's Ledger (Knopf, 2020). The Poetry Foundation says, "In recent decades, Hirshfield has become increasingly known as a poet working at the intersection of poetry, the sciences, and the crisis of the biosphere," and I know that Ledger will appeal to many of my Poetry Friday peeps. So far my favorite poem is "Today, Another Universe," which you can read on Maria Popova's site, The Marginalian.

*****

The Poetry Friday roundup takes place at the blog Leap of Dave on August 19th.

Photo by ST: Kimchi the cat with a new stack of books for #TheSealeyChallenge