#TheSealeyChallenge

9FD819D6-D0F4-49BA-8993-19F288D01D8CMy favorite literary event of 2020 was #TheSealeyChallenge in August, when I (and so many others) read a book of poetry every day. Yes, 31 books in a month! Even when a big storm knocked out our power, I was making coffee on the grill and reading the day's poetry book on the patio. So. Much. Fun. I learned so many things. Water takes a really long time to boil on the grill, and the work of Ashley M. Jones, Tommy Pico, Junious Ward, Nancy Willard, Jenny Xie, Alberto Ríos, Ocean Vuong, et al., is well worth seeking out.

I kept track of the books on Twitter; others used Instagram, Facebook, blogs, etc.

The new edition of the challenge launches on Sunday, August 1, 2021. The poet Nicole Sealey (Ordinary Beast, Ecco Press, 2017) started this endeavor. From the website:

"in 2017, balancing her administrative work with the promotion of her first book left poet nicole sealey with little time to read for pleasure. nicole decided to challenge herself to a personal goal: read a book of poems each day for the month of August. nicole announced her intention on social media and the challenge quickly took off, inspiring its own hashtag: #TheSealeyChallenge!"

You can borrow books of poetry at the library and through inter-library loans (start requesting now!) and buy them at your favorite bookstore. Some good apps for reading e-books include Hoopla, Freading, and Libby. All free, in various systems, with a library card! Don't forget about audiobooks; I plan to to listen to Eve L. Ewing's 1919.

What to read? Follow the website's advice: "while the books you choose are up to you, The Sealey Challenge encourages reading books by marginalized poets. for ideas, browse blog posts from past participants."

The roster of interviewees (and hosts) at the Poetry Foundation's VS podcast and the one at the New Yorker's poetry podcast are also good resources. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the online journal Jacket2 and its podcast, PoemTalk, as well. And Stephanie Burt's books The Poem is You: 60 Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2016) and Don't Read Poetry: A Book About How to Read Poems (Basic Books, 2019) contain multitudes.

For books of poetry for children, the LA Public Library's article "21st Century Kids: Embrace Diversity Through Poetry" provides a good reference, and so do NCTE, 100 Scope Notes, the Cooperative Children's Book Center, Lambda Literary (scroll down for the poetry books), and Sylvia Vardell's Poetry for Children blog, among others.

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For more poems and poetry talk, check the Poetry Friday roundup at author Kathryn Apel's blog on July 23rd.

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Photos by ST (2020). Top, NYC mural by Rone, part of a series curated by the organization Education Is Not a Crime. Below, Share TMC graffiti, Westchester, New York.


Poem: Provincetown August 16, 2018

Provincetown August 16, 2018

after Frank O’Hara’s “The Day Lady Died” (1964)

 

Afternoon at Land’s End

boys everywhere

stopping and shopping

picking up charcoal

filling cars with gas

lining up for ice cream

flying through town

on clunky bicycles, dressed only in

Speedos

 

Good night, Mom, a bass voice called to me

from a porch the night before

Good night.

 

I go for a swim alone at

Race Point, my friends want to

eat lobster,

buy t-shirts in town

The water, the ocean, 

cold but calm and I

can float with my toes

in the air like I always

do, unaware of the 

Great White Shark, 

who waits until tomorrow 

to make the news

 

In the car hot from the sun,

I plug in my phone and read

 

Aretha

 is 

gone.

 

Later

in town, on Commercial, friends found,

a sea-glittery float in the 

Carnival Parade passes, two bearded mermaids

dancing, their speakers blaring

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

And we dance, too.

 

@Susan Thomsen 2021


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Photo by Susan Thomsen. Carnival parade, Provincetown, Mass., 2018.

Links

"The Day Lady Died," by Frank O'Hara, at the Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Friday roundup for July 16, 2021, will take place at the blog Nix the comfort zone.

"[Photographer] Joel Meyerowitz Reflects on the Magic of Provincetown," at Aperture


Poem: March 2020

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March 2020

from Bartleby & Co., by Enrique-Vila Matas; translated from the Spanish by Jonathan Dunne (New Directions 2007)

 

Full of doubts at home

I must change something

Stammering life, a voice over flow

I let that word 

the impossibility of it 

out of the blue.

 

@Susan Thomsen, 2021

For other poems and poetic talk, check the Poetry Friday roundup at the blog Reflections on the Teche.


A Found Poem for Poetry Friday

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A Day Like Any Other: A Found Poem

 

How do I get downtown?

The first two years of

the lease there was one point two million dollars

of rent

 

How do I get downtown?

You don’t want to be with me no more

Fine

 

How do I get downtown?

Get your ass over there

 

How do I get downtown?

I call my dad’s father Gramps

 

How do I get downtown?

That was freshman year

 

©Susan Thomsen, 2021

PigeonArt

I made the poem above with lines of conversation I overheard in New York earlier this week. That's one of my favorite things to do: collect random sentences and rearrange them. (Another favorite thing is taking pics of street art.) When I heard several different people on the crosstown bus asking the central question here, I knew I had to do something with it, and then borrowed the title from the last line of James Schuyler's "Februrary."

You'll find the entire Poetry Friday roundup at author and poet Laura Shovan's blog.

Photos by me. The impressive pigeon art by Michael Paulino (@infamous_moke on Instagram) in the lower photo is part of Uptown Grand Central's Grandscale Mural Project, on and around East 125th Street in New York.


Starting the Year with Smiley

Unlike what I wrote in the last post, my first book of the year was not by Rachel Cusk. That one turned out not to be the right book at the right time. My first three books of the year were the first three published by John Le Carré, an author I'd never read. Spy stories were just the ticket for the new year: A Call from the Dead, A Murder of Quality, and The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, all collected in one volume, The First Three Novels. I got the idea from a Novel Readings post that mentioned Smiley's People, the last of the Smiley series. By the way, that's a great blog for Austen-ites and other literary people. It's written by Rohan Maitzen, an English professor in Canada, and she frequently writes about what is going on in her classes. 

Another fun blog that I stumbled upon is Locus Solus: The New York School of Poets. After taking Penn's Modern and Contemporary American Poetry* MOOC on Coursera last fall, I've become a fan of the poets Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, et al. Today at Locus Solus is a bit about O'Hara's influence on the young writer Garth Greenwell, whose new novel, Cleanness, waits for me at the library. Synchronicity!

In addition to the Penn course, David Lehman's book The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets was very informative.

*Highly recommended


Feeling a Warm Embrace from a Tortilla

Every once and a while, I come across some true weirdness in the New York Times. I actually love when the Times gets odd and unpredictable. A phrase from today's paper (online edition) inspired this doggerel poem, which I wrote before reading the article. It was just too delicious to pass up.

 

Feeling a Warm Embrace from a Tortilla

(headline on the front page of the New York Times, web edition, Wednesday, October 2, 2013)

When I hugged a cucumber,

It didn't hug me back

Cold, lifeless, green,

It stared without seeing,

wordless, rejecting, and cold.

I turned to the tortilla,

Soon to become my taco.

And wrapped it 'round my shoulders,

Savoring its warm embrace,

This humble shawl of corn,

Destined for the dinner plate.

A comfort food who

Put the cuke to shame.


Poetry Friday: Copy What?

I worry
about


copyright.

Do I have 
permission
to post an entire work, a photograph, a painting by
a poet? A lyricist? An artist?
Public domain? What's that?
Fair Use? Who's she?
Is Intellectual Property
really that smart?

Copyright resources
abound.

There's the Cardinal. 
Copyright & Fair Use at the Stanford University Libraries.
And Gov.
US Copyright Office at the Library of Congress
Go, Gophers.
Understanding Fair Use at the University of Minnesota Libraries.
Plus Eff.
Electronic Frontier Foundation, Legal Guide for Bloggers.
Then CC.
Creative Commons.
Not to mention
Google.
Blogger copyright tips.

A college is even offering
a free course on
copyright, but I missed
the deadline.

Maybe next time?


Weekend Poetry: Chicken Spaghetti

Chicken Spaghetti 4

Photograph by Saroy. Source: Flickr. Used under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDervivs 2.0 Generic license. 

When I started this blog in 2005, my first idea was to make the whole thing about chicken spaghetti, a favorite casserole of my Southern childhood. I thought about posting variations on the recipe and photos of how they turned out. However, I soon realized that an audience for such a blog would be non-existent tiny. So, instead I turned my attention to kids' books, but kept the name since it seemed child-friendly.

I still think about the dish, though, and, after a Twitter search, have located my fellow casserole people. Like me, lots of other folks like their mom's version, Grandma's, Aunt So-and-So's, and when they're really pleased with their own efforts, they post pictures.

On Twitter, chicken spaghetti = happiness, and these tweets are music to my ears. I removed hash tags, added some punctuation, and stirred some of the short odes into a poem. Here goes:

 

Chicken Spaghetti: A Found Poem from Twitter

Y'all, I can cook.

Sauteeing burns my eyes

but it is worth it

in the end.

My dish!!

Chicken spaghetti.

Remember how excited we got

when we thought about

chicken spaghetti?

Ya girl throws down

chicken spaghetti

                    and garlic bread.

Anna Beth is at it again.

Chicken spaghetti!

Chicken spaghetti, rolls, corn on a cob,

                    kiss the cook.

And on the 8th day

God made chicken spaghetti,

and all was good.

I'm cooking collard greens, 

chicken spaghetti and fried porkchops!! 

Jalapeño cornbread! Boom!

                                                  If you can cook chicken spaghetti, I'll probably

                                                                    marry you. 


Poetry Friday: Walk This Way

Photo-2

In case you're reading this post on a mobile phone, the above work of art reads,

A poem doesn't do everything for you.
You are supposed to go on with your thinking.
You are supposed to enrich
the other person's poem with your extensions,
your uniquely personal understandings,
thus making the poem serve you.

Gwendolyn Brooks, (1917-[2000]), "Song of Winnie"

The sidewalk on the south side of 41t Street leading up to the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue is called Library Way, and contains many of bronze plaques like the one above with quotations about literature and writing. Sponsored by the New York Public Library and the Grand Central Partnership, Library Way stretches from Park Avenue to Fifth, and was created by the artist Gregg LeFevre.

The Gwendolyn Brooks excerpt is about poetry, sure, but it's also an extended metaphor, encouraging an active engagement with life and the world around you. That's why I liked it so much, and took a picture one sunny morning last summer.

For other poetry posts this morning, see the roundup at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.


Found Poetry: Fascinating...and a Invitation (for Poetry Friday)

Rhymes with Fascinating

 

Aggravating, calculating, carbon dating,

figure skating,

in-line skating,

maid-in-waiting, nauseating, open dating,

operating, penetrating, suffocating, titillating.

 

Source: Merriam-Webster Online. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fascinating Website accessed 12.15.12.

I am seeing poems all over these days. (Uh, oh.) Last week it was in a nonfiction YA book; today the poetry comes via the Merriam-Webster online dictionary entry on the word "fascinating." I cracked up when I read the above. It struck me as a delightfully weird collection of rhyming words. If someone were writing a poem, would she really like to rhyme "fascinating" with "carbon dating"?

Heck, yeah.

So, of course, I had to try my hand at it.

 

Rhymes with Fascinating II


Overrating, understating, mammal mating,

Silver plating, shark baiting, beagle crating,

Syncopating, procrastinating, cheese grating,

Enervating, table waiting, double dating,

Seven eighting, railroad freighting, irritating.

 

Other children's book bloggers are also talking about poetry on Friday. (I am posting a little early). See the Poetry Friday roundup tomorrow at Kate Coombs' blog, Book Aunt.

And go ahead. Take a shot at your own "Rhymes With Fascinating" in the comments.