A Global Poem Project

I saw this project and could not resist adding a line. It’s a Global Poem for Change Project by LitWorld, and they have started a poem with the help of poet Naomi Shihab Nye. The poem is open to the world to contribute a line, so that the poem slowly grows with each contributing poet. And the theme of peace and global change for the better is at the heart of the project.

Here’s the line that I added:

I sent my thoughts out from my heart
a small step, but it’s a start

Go ahead — you come, too. The door is open for you for a single poetic line.

Peace (in the collaboration),
Kevin

PS — here is more information:
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Slice of Life: Cool is the Way it Plays

Slice of Life 2011Last night, my wife and I went to a jazz concert that celebrated the music of John Coltrane. It featured tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson and beyond the drums was the legendary Jimmy Cobb, who has played with everyone from Charlie Parker to Miles Davis and more. He may be getting on in years but he can still kick it.

As I was listening, my mind drifted along with the music and this one line of words kept popping in my head. “Cool is the way it plays …” and this morning, I still had it there. “Cool is the way it plays ….” and as I was walking our dog, under the stars, this poem started to form for me.

I purposely tried to weave ideas in and around the lines, making an attempt to captures some of the ways I heard Javon Jackson play around with melodies and lines.

Cool is the Way it Plays

Cool
is the way it plays
on stage
the way the notes graze
against each other
in melodic memory
in harmonic time
in the rhythm of the line
is where the notes
dance
take chances, sometimes,
I’m out here alone –
in there
you’re trying to find
the hook, the head,
the crazy way I said
to listen to that sound
coming from that horn
as if it were some theme
I’d heard before
we were born
reminding us
to listen,
to listen,
to listen to the currents
weaving in and out
of each other –
Cool
is the way it plays
on stage,
Put away the rage
listen
relax
dance along the line

You can listen to the podcast version of the poem, too.

Peace (in the cool),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Writing with my students

Slice of Life 2011(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers) We were able to sneak in a bit of freewriting in class yesterday. For about 15 minutes, the room was mostly quiet as my students worked on stories, poems, letters, comics and whatever it was that they decided to write about. My only condition for freewrite is that they are writing and they are quiet. The condition I set for myself is that I write along with them.

Yesterday, I had an image in my mind from last weekend, when some thick fog rolled into our area as the warm weather hit the cold earth. It was an eerie experience, like something out of Stephen King. My son and I noticed an old tobacco barn that had fallen down over the winter (there was a lot of that around here), and that scene of slow destruction amid thick fog was pretty amazing.

I tried to capture that in this poem.

Abandoned Barn
(listen to the podcast)

Soft light flickers through
the veil of fog,
Shimmering off the old barn
and seeping into my mind.

Boards, beams
and advertising banners announcing the sale
of tomatoes, turnips
and summertimes along the roadway

lay scattered on the ground,
a graveyard of wood and iron
and seeds.

The shotgun blast of rubble
instills in us a sense of fear, awe,
and curiosity.

I lean against the weight of winter —
the remnants of snow, sleet
and falling rains —

but it’s an illusion, too,
in this cloud cover that is as empty
as mist.

Spring warmth wrestles winter’s fury
and then, beneath the stillborn chaos,
a flower blooms:
slow, sturdy and strong.

Peace (in the poetry),
Kevin

A Poem: Why Watson?

A few weeks ago, when I first read that IBM was pitting its supercomputer, Watson, against contestants on Jeopardy, my first thought was: Why did you name it Watson and not Holmes? This poem sprung up from that thought, and I forgot about it until this week when Watson crushed the humans in the game.

You can listen to the podcast I had done, too, of the poem.

Why Watson

Why, I wonder, is it Watson
and not Holmes
who is the spirit of the answer machine —

Wasn’t it Holmes who uncovered the truths
by means of the scantest of clues?
Wasn’t it Holmes who silently let his gears churn
to make the most of improbable connections?
Wasn’t it Holmes who asked questions that seemed irrelevant
only to later turn on the pin of relevance?
Wasn’t it Holmes?

And where was Watson?
Acting as the foil, watching and wondering
and waiting to beat Truth over the head
with his London umbrella
in hopes of forcing a confession.

Or is it always Watson, and never Holmes,
who solved the murders,
and therefore it was I, the reader,
who was left in the dark,
never understanding the mystery to begin with?

Like many, I thought it funny that Ken Jennings used a Simpson’s quote for his final answer, and I also found his essay on Slate about his thoughts on matching wits against the machine, and why he realized that the humans were “the away team” in this experiment.

Peace (in the clues),
Kevin

Inside My Poetic Mind: A Reflection on Writing

Lost Piano Poem rough draft
Yesterday, I shared my digital poem entitled Lost Piano (Standing on the Shoulders of the Ocean) and today, I wanted to take a step back as a writer and mull over what I was trying to do with the poem, where the inspiration came from and why I scribbled out so many lines.

I am sharing the draft paper of the poem here as a sort of roadmap and instead of writing out my reflections this morning, I decided to sort of wing it and podcast my ideas as I remember them and as I am looking at the rough draft version.

Here is the final version of the poem

Lost Piano (Standing on the Shoulders of the Ocean)
listen to the podcast

I imagine the notes
riding the tides out each night
as the world slumbers —
silent fingers slipping over ivory puzzles,
piecing together stories in the moonlight.

What hint of a symphony draws the ears
of the stars above,
stretched to the point of falling from their perch
so that they may hear?
What rhythms push down into the depths
of the sand below,
burying treasure on whose map one
cannot ever hope to find?

Last night, as you and I stood on shore,
watching the waves lap at the pedals of that piano,
we listened for whatever might come.
We closed our eyes and held hands,
breathless in the moment of wonder.

We both swore we heard it.
How could we not?

You; the lost murmurs of your mother
sitting in her easy chair
overlooking the bay, unfolding stories
in her lap.
Me; the distorted refrain of my brother
on electric guitar,
amplified sounds behind doors locked
to keep us out.

These songs of our lives entwined, locked like fingers,
moving their way into a single melody
only we could hear, together,
as one.

We left it there — that song —
as others had done before us;
We left that song on the piano
standing on the shoulders of the ocean.
We left it there and walked away.

Peace (in the poet’s mind),
Kevin

Lost Piano: A Digital Poem

I don’t know if you saw the news reports of the high school student whose art project for his college applications was placing a piano on a high sand bar off Miami (his father helped). They didn’t tell anyone about it, so that caused quite a stir in the media. Photographs show this lonely piano sitting there, in the middle of the bay. And, in my imagination stirred, too, as I wondered about the beauty of a piano sitting atop the ocean (even at high tide, apparently).

Before I knew the real story, I wrote this poem, and then created it as a digital story poem. Tomorrow, I’ll share my writing process and the rough draft work I did on the poem. (lots of cross-offs, restarts, etc.)

Peace (on the shoulders of the world),
Kevin

Dear Reader, We Write the Book of our Times

The latest activity in the Edublog Teachers Challenge is to consider our blog readers (that would be you, by the way — we were talking about you. We only said nice things). It’s easy to get wrapped up in the writing sometimes and forget that there are readers out there (have I mentioned how nice you look in that shirt today?) who read and sometimes write (make sure you keep a smile on today, even if it gets rough) at our blogs. We’re partners, often — the writers and the readers (so thank you for visiting).

I woke this morning thinking of this idea of visitors here (again, that would be you and don’t worry, the dream was purely platonic) and how nice it really is that anyone spends time to write with me. I do write for myself — I would write even if this blog were unplugged — but there is something nice knowing that there are a handful of folks who wonder what I am up (sorry if my wandering brain gets you dizzy, reader. It’s the writer in me).

So, I wrote you a poem, dear reader. I wrote you a poem to thank you for being on this journey with me (here, have a cup of coffee and a muffin and stay for a minute) and to show some appreciation for your end of this conversation (sometimes, you are silent, thinking, but that’s OK — I’m like that too, sometimes, on my own journeys).

Thank you.

Writing the Book of Our Times
(listen to the podcast)

Imagine my surprise in finding you
arriving here, so unexpected,
bundled up against the flow of ceaseless information,
seeking a place to land as temporary shelter,
seeking out a conversation.

Come in, dear reader,
and share this fire with me;
I’m tossing sparks into the flames
in hopeful optimism that change is afoot
out there —
it’s something we can feel, if not always see,
and it needs to be named.
I need your help, so perhaps your arrival is fortuitous,
a breath of air on the embers.

Ignore the rapping on the basement door.
I’ve locked up the Spam King and all of his cronies
trying to sell me their trinkets and lies
while scraping my blog for ideas —
they are thieves and scoundrels,
and I am sorry
if you have ever found yourself in their company.
Dear reader, you deserve better.

Take off your coat and grab an idea;
Feed the fire with me,
and tell me a story of your journeys
as I will tell you of mine;
Combined, we’ll write the book of our times.

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin

Boulder/Rock/Mountain: A Podcast Poem

During some freewriting with my students yesterday (I always write with them — do you?), I started to write this poem about a huge boulder that I remembered from my neighborhood. It was always this odd thing — something left over from the Ice Age that became an eerie play structure for us as kids. There was this deep crevasse or split in the rock, too, which was sort of scary because of the creatures and insects that lived in it. Of course, we couldn’t resist going down into it.

Boulder/Rock/Mountain

Who could say
where it had come from:
Perhaps it had been dragged there by ice
or regurgitated by roaming dinosaurs
or tossed aside by giants.
It was so much older than us
with stories all of its own
that it had no intention of ever revealing.

All we knew was:
it was there:
a boulder, a rock, a mountain
almost the size of a small house
plunked down into the grove of trees of our neighborhood
as unexpected as ice cream for breakfast.

With sharp footholds for ladders
and soft moss for seats
and a deep crevasse that had been cut by time itself
which seemed to descend down forever into darkness,
the Boulder/Rock/Mountain was our immovable treehouse
and dungeon,
luring us in with shadows and spiders and the unknown
down into a place that kept more secrets than I would ever know.

Thick maple and pine and oak trees loomed overhead,
casting a green curtain that kept us cool
in the insufferable months of August
and dry in the rainy Aprils
but never quite safe.

Awake before the others, always,
I’d climb the top of the sentry post
to scan the world
before heading down into the depths of the rips in the seam
toward the unknown,
plunging into my imagination for adventure.

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin

Sunday Morning X by X Poetry

Each weekend, over at our iAnthology network for National Writing Project teachers, Bonnie or I or a volunteer post a writing prompt. It’s always sort of a challenge to find an idea that will engage as many of the close to 400 members as possible (on average, about two dozen folks will contribute to a prompt each week).

Yesterday morning, I was trying to come up with an idea when I got a link shared to me by Ira Socol, who was responding to my post about 25 word stories. I loved the poems he shared, which are structured poems. I didn’t see a name of the style, so I called it X by X (X being the number of lines and then X being the number of words per line).

The response has been pretty wonderful, and I have been using Cinch to record audio responses to everyone’s poems, giving some voice to my reactions to their writing. I love the simplicity of Cinch and how easy it is to embed into our site. And since it a site where geographic distance is everything, having a voice connected to your writing gives it a certain power of response, I think.

Here are the poems that I wrote and shared:

2×2

Coffee cup

filled, steaming

3×3

Dog walking, cold

fingers, cold toes,

silent morning frost

4×4

Four balls bouncing loudly

against the garage floors

echo like a shotgun —

can’t take it anymore

5×5

Lying here in the silence

of the night, no movement

in the house, save me,

and my own restless thoughts

6×6

The smiling face is silently mocking

the reason why I am crouched

on the floor, with my youngest.

I hold the plastic action hero

in the air, as if fighting,

when what I desire is peace.

7×7

“Seven” is what I said when asked

what is my favorite and magical number.

We sit, elbows touching, at the table

where his fingers hold a crumbling cookie

of fortune and mystical numbers of chance.

I expect the next question: “Why seven?

but it never comes; only quiet munching.

And here is my podcast, via Cinch:

Peace (in the Sunday poems),
Kevin
PS – If you are a Writing Project teacher looking for a supportive space for writing, drop me a comment and I will invite you into the iAnthology network.