Found Poem: Urban Nature

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Urban Nature

Cityful passing away,
other cityful coming,
passing away too:
other coming on,
passing on.
Houses, lines of houses,
streets, miles of pavements,
piledup bricks, stones. 
Changing hands. 
This owner, that.

Source: Ulysses, by James Joyce

*****

I’m slowly reading Ulysses with a group at a local library, and this passage seemed particularly poetic when I came across it recently. I broke it up into short lines, and gave it a title.

Now I have the itch to go to Dublin and take the Footsteps of Leopold Bloom Walking Tour. But first I better read the next 498 pages of the book.

The Poetry Friday roundup for March 22nd is at Rose Cappelli's Imagine the Possibilities.

Photo by ST.


Lady Liberty

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It's fascinating to see where poetry pops up in public spaces. Here Nathalie Handal's poem "Lady Liberty" watches over Zang Toi's hand-beaded New York City skyline cape and Enrique Torres's graffiti jacket; all constitute a display in the super-fun exhibition "This Is New York: 100 Years of the City in Art and Pop Culture," at the Museum of the City of New York.

If the print is too small to see in the photo, you can also read the poem at the Poetry Society of America.

Handal, a French-American poet with Palestinian roots, also translates, edits, and writes plays. And teaches! She's the author of  "The City and the Writer" column for Words Without Borders. You can read more about this multi-talented woman at the Poetry Foundation and at her own website.

The Poetry Friday roundup for February 23rd is at Tabatha Yeatts's blog, The Opposite of Indifference.

Photo by ST (2024).


Poet Evie Shockley

Length of video: 2 minutes, 16 seconds

Evie Shockley recorded this poem a while back as part of the Art for Justice project at the University of Arizona. According to the project's website, 

The University of Arizona Poetry Center’s Art for Justice grant funds a three-year project that commissions new work from leading writers in conversation with the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States, with the goal of creating new awareness and empathy through presentation and publication.

I wanted to include the video here to introduce Shockley's poetry to folks who might not know it yet. You can hear how powerful it is. Every morning lately I read a few poems from her new collection, suddenly we (Wesleyan University Press, 2023), and savor them. Prose poem fans will want to add "the lost track of time" (no online version available without registration/subscription) to their mentor-text lists, and the same applies to those inclined toward ekphrastic works, with "perched." Fortunately, that poem appears on the book's website, which is linked above.

The Poetry Friday roundup for February 16th is at Margaret Simon's Reflections on the Teche. Here's a shout-out to Margaret, our host and my fellow Jacksonian!


Poetry Books to Look For, 2024

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If you want to move to the city, you can, Miss Grehan said. And studying poetry at university is a wonderful thing to do. But more important is to read poetry, and write poetry, every day. It doesn't have to be for long. If just once a day, people would read a poem instead of picking up their phone, I guarantee you the world would be a better place.

from The Bee Sting, by Paul Murray (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023)

*****

Maybe you're like me and enjoy both a good list and the idea of being well-organized. (Write every day? Ha!) Here are some places to read about new poetry titles.

Literary Hub

Sylvia Vardell's Poetry for Children. Sneak Peak List 2024.

Publishers Weekly. A long list and a Top Ten for spring 2024.

The Millions. Winter 2024.

The Poetry Friday roundup for February 2nd takes place at A(nother) Year of Reading; our host is the most marvelous Mary Lee Hahn.

Photo by ST. Part of the mural at LifeBridge Community Services, Bridgeport, CT.


Año Nuevo, and the Poetry Friday Roundup

 

 

Año Nuevo

The Passaic piñata
Drops at midnight

No Times Square ball
Instead a glittering star

Defying cardboard origins
And less astral reputation

The Passaic piñata
Whooshes through the air

Radiating confetti
The way its humble

Cumpleaños cousins
Delight with candied joy

The Passaic piñata
Spreads sweetness

This new morning
This new year

Here, the new country
Here, the old one, too

Draft, Susan Thomsen, 2024

*****

Inspiration for this poem comes from an article in northjersey.com and from the Poetry Sisters' advice to write about a piñata. (That's my takeaway. They did, of course, put it more poetically.) The Poetry Sisters are a working group of talented writers.

And now for the roundup. Add your link below. For additional information on Poetry Friday, see Renée LaTulippe's post.

 

P.S., look at these nice piñata stamps!

Pinatas-stamps


Sitting Down to Another Year

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In the latest issue of a literary journal called Birdfeast I found some poems I really like, including this one by Maria Nazos,  whose work I hadn't known before.

"Anniversary" begins,

And again, we sit down to another year,
and join hands, clumsily accepting the fact
we only have each other to love, ourselves to fear,
yet it's love that keeps us coming back.

You can read the rest of the poem at Birdfeast.

The Poetry Friday roundup for January 19th is at Robyn Hood Black's blog.

I'll be hosting right here at Chicken Spaghetti on January 26th. The Poetry Sisters' January poetry plan regarding piñatas has inspired my contribution next week.

Photo by ST: Morgan Library café, NYC, 2019.


January Recommendations

Mantis Shrimp

Mantis shrimp. See credits, below.

 

Catherine Barnett's "Thought Experiment" begins,

What would it be like to be a mantis shrimp,
poorly understood, territorial, combative,

with part of your brain housed
in each eyestalk?

Read the rest in The New Yorker' issue of January 15th, 2024.

Surprise is one of my favorite elements in poetry, and you'll see what I mean when you read Barnett's whole poem. I don't know how in the world she came up with the transition from mantis shrimp to the larger theme here, but I love it! In the same issue of the magazine, Richard Siken's "Piano Lesson" is an absolute mentor work for prose poems, as in, "This is how you do it." Listen to the audio of both poems, too.

The Poetry Friday roundup for January 12th is at Tracey Kiff-Judson's blog.

Photo by under Nazir Amin, shared via the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Source: Wikimedia Commons.


The Art of Swimming: An Erasure Poem


The art of swimming
Has a human, dedicated
Character.

Each activity, the flowering,
Settles on a certain ability.

The ones called “enchantment”
Consist of the reality
of magic.

Translated from the Spanish by Susan Thomsen

*****

El arte de nadar
Tiene un carácter
Humano, dedicado.

Cada actividad, el florecimiento
Se posa en una cierta habilidad

Las llamadas «encantamiento»
Consisten en la realidad
de mágica.

Source: Diccionario del Uso del Español A-H, by María Moliner. Madrid: Editorial Gredos, Segunda Edición, 1998.

*****

This erasure poem (original version included, below) grew out of choosing "art" as my word for 2024. Once I picked that, my plans gained some focus, and I decided to consult one of my Spanish dictionaries. The phrase "el arte de nadar" ("the art of swimming") in the entry for "arte" surprised me, and let me know I was on the right track, er, in the right lane. I love swimming! Everything else followed, and it felt very productive to sharpen pencils, underline stuff, and use the copier. Plus also, markers! After selecting the Spanish words I wanted, I arranged them into lines and breaks, and then translated that into English. The poem/s endured a number of iterations and revisions (and tweaks for agreement). If I had more time, I'd redo the visual presentation (seen below), maybe get out some Liquid Paper and white-out to my heart's content.

In the image, the "artar" and "art déco" entries are just window dressing; they have nothing to do with the poem itself.

For additional information on erasure/blackout poems, I suggest Erin Dorney's "6 Styles of Erasure Poetry" at Trish Hopkinson's blog.

The Poetry Friday roundup for January 5th is at Marcie Flinchum Atkins' place. I hope that one day Marcie will write a book about writing poetry because she has all kinds of good ideas and approaches to the matter.

Erasure poem  new version


(Almost) Last Year

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Happy New Year, everyone! It will be here in just a few days. Looking back over poems from the past year, I happily came across some from April, when I wrote a haiku a day, a prompt suggested by Liz Garton Scanlon.

I'd forgotten about the following at the nearby state park. (Shout-out to eBird!)

April brings the birds
Seventeen snipes this morning
Lucky me sees one.

Writing this post makes me look forward to 2024 and whatever good things fly in with it.

The last roundup of 2023 for Poetry Friday is at Michelle Kogan's place today.

Photo: Wilson's snipe by Wildreturn. Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


"The One You Told Me About"

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The One You Told Me About: A Found Poem 

Hi, love, do you know where you’re going?
Act Two is beginning shortly,
I’m actually going to go get my booster shot,
Can I use a debit card?
Masks have to remain on and over your nose,
I’m going to try to get reservations for Jackal and Hyde,
I don’t know how that will be possible,
I counted wrong,
My arm is stuck
I didn’t understand all the lyrics,
At least they’re busy,
Where are the restrooms?
The mask has to stay on, stay on,
Learn from my lesson, ok?
You’re being underpaid,
The guy’s, like, “I’m not having it, I’m shutting it down.”
The Mac and cheese was incredible,
Okay, baby, thank you,
Enjoy the show, love,
Stay safe.

*****

"The One I Told You About" is a found poem; the title and every line are things I overheard in New York. I call these "street poems," although I do collect lines everywhere, not just the streets! If you're interested, you can check out my guide to composing street poems, from back in March.

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Janice Scully's blog, Salt City Verse, on December 15th.

Photo by ST.


Apologies to Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss

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shakeseuss sonnet

When I consider every thing that grows
One fish two fish red fish blue fish
Holds in perfection but a little moment
Black fish blue fish old fish new fish
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
This one has a little star
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment
This one has a little car
When I perceive that men as plants increase
Say! what a lot of fish there are
Cheered and check’d even by the self-same sky
Yes. Some are red and some are blue
Vaunt their youthful sap, at height decrease
Some are old and some are new
And wear their brave state out of memory
Some are sad. And some are glad
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
And some are very, very bad
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight
Why are they sad and glad and bad?
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay
I do not know. Go ask your dad
To change your day of youth to sullied night
Some are thin. And some are fat
And all in war with Time for love of you
The fat one has a yellow hat
As he takes from you, I ingraft you new
From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.

*****

This work is a combination of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 15 and an excerpt from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, the classic children’s book by Dr. Seuss. A spin on two of the late Bernadette Mayer’s writing experiments, the poem is now 28 lines long. I removed the end punctuation, except in a couple of places, to open up the possibilities of interpretation. I am also assigning the pronoun “they” to the speaker. As I noted in a more academic explanation (for the class in which I originally wrote this), "The [combined poem's] speaker is prone to overexplaining."

Yes, it is silly. Some of the inadvertent combinations work well, like "When I perceive that men as plants increase/Say! what a lot of fish there are," and some not so much. It's super fun to play around with, though.

The Poetry Friday roundup for December 8th is at Patricia J. Franz's blog, Reverie.

Photo by ST. Detail from a new mural by @keydetail in Bridgeport, CT.


A Case of Nerves at the Armadillo Hair and Nail Salon

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Photo: Nine-banded armadillo, by http://www.birdphotos.com, 2008. From Wikimedia Commons.

 

A Case of Nerves at the Armadillo Hair and Nail Salon

Stay out of the way, it’s opening day
We have some big work to do
Rule number one, remember have fun
And no rolling up in a ball
Us armadillos, we know, will only go
To the side with the manicure station
What we lack in hair, we give great care 
To others who seek a coiffure
Let’s now take suggestions and open up
Questions, get ready, get set, yes?

“If a snake comes in and
Sheds his skin
Shall we tell him it’s okay?”
Of course we do
It’s nothing new
You know they outgrow
And need to let go
Those tight skirts and pants

“And how ‘bout the skunk
With her dreadful smell,
That odiferous trail, inhaled
From a mile away?”
Again we say yes
She’s in need of finesse
And won’t spray us
As long as we’re kind.

“The possum’s problems
Truly can we solve ‘em?
His tresses are messes
The teeth need braces
At least a retainer or two”
Dentistry we ignore
It’s not at the core
Of services that we provide
The hair, don’t despair,
It’s really all there
In the Armadillo book of instructions

Combs, clippers, air fresheners, dryers,
Scissors, shampoos, tiny capes, mirrors, 
Schooled and trained, we’re specialty specialists
Artisan artists, colorful colorists, vibing vibrationists
Now open the door, you’ll see we’re in store
For a treat, well, c'mon and usher those animals in.

Draft, Susan Thomsen, 2023

*****

This kooky little poem grew out of a conversation with a friend about armadillos—and their long, manicure-worthy nails. I didn't envision writing a poem about the matter, but the armadillos took over and here we are. Maybe it's a companion piece to "The Dance of the Moonlight Jellies" from a couple of months ago.

Catherine Flynn hosts the Poetry Friday roundup at her blog, Reading to the Core, on October 13th.


Swimming

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For Poetry Friday I chose this lovely poem, "Romance," by Susan Browne, from the July/August 2023 issue of Poetry Magazine. Here's an excerpt:

I watch other bodies slip through the blue,
how fast the young are
& how old they become, floating, floating,
forgetting the weight of years
while palm trees sway above us,
 

I've recently returned to swimming after talking entirely too much about how I wanted to get back to swimming but hadn't been swimming in forever, etc., etc. Yawn. Y'all, it's not that hard. I simply drove over to the beautiful pool at the local Y, where I'm still a member, and jumped in. Perhaps it's my age, maybe it's endorphins, but I can completely relate to Susan Browne's words about "embracing the whole magic show."

Matt Esenwine has the Poetry Friday roundup for October 6th.

Image: Astoria Park Pool, Queens, New York, via Wikimedia Commons.


Poem: Seasonal Situation

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Seasonal Situation

How much attention do fleas have?
Because I have that.
Smaller than I can put into words
I’d say microscopic but
That might be too big
It started with,
I don’t know what it started with 
But it’s shrunk down to this
Have I read a book?
I have not, fleas don't read books
Fleas scroll through Instagram reels
And decide they want to roller skate
Because, look at all these beautiful skaters
Until a surfer rides by, all casual and cool
On the lip of a wave curling perfectly
And the flea suddenly needs a surfboard
And for that matter a wave 
Every single summer I am going
To get more done and every single summer
Instead, the flea takes over 
And hangs ten. 

—Susan Thomsen, draft 2023

*****

The Poetry Friday roundup for September 8th is at Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's blog, The Poem Farm.

Photo by ST. Seagull mural by Javier Eastman, Norwalk, CT.


Poem: Pull Up a Chair

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Pull Up a Chair

I just need to sit with a poem
Standing tires us both
Jumping demands such stamina
Whirling distracts us from the task
When we sit, we can talk
If we run, one of us is breathless
And we struggle to put syl
lables in the right pace,
Make that place,
So that’s why sitting
is going to work out fine.

Susan Thomsen, draft 2023

*****

Linda Mitchell generously offered the first line during her recent "clunker" exchange. Thank you, Linda.

The roundup for Poetry Friday on August 11th is at Tabatha Yeatts' blog.

Art: "Table and Two Chairs" (1946), oil painting by Horace Pippin, Metropolitan Museum. Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. Via Wikimedia Commons.