Poets in the Age of the Samurai

I am reading aloud a new book to my older boys. It is the newest edition of the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. They are getting a bit old for the series but they still enjoy hearing them and I am going to hold on to that experience as long as I can. Anyway, in this particular book, the main characters — Jack and Annie — are back in the time of Ancient Japan, and they have met an older man who is respected by everyone he meets and they think he is a great warrior. What they find out is that he is a great poet and that writers were respected by warriors at a level not quite seen these days.

“Yes, the samurai greatly honor the art of poetry,” said Basho. “Poetry helps focus the mind. The samurai believe a truly brave warrior should be able to compose a poem even in the midst of an earthquake, or while facing an enemy on the battlefield.” — (p.61)

Thanksgiving on Thursday

Peace (without the battlefield),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: Boy Versus Jacket — Dec. 2006

This is another poem in my effort to write and publish at least one poem every month for an entire year. This particular poem was inspired by watching my youngest son struggle to get his jacket on one day (poor kid).

Boy Versus Jacket
December 2006

Anger
lights up his face
his arm struggling against the suffocating fabric
as the seamless entry shifts, disappears, shifts, reappears, shifts, disappears again,
so he turns on me
as if I were the one casting some invisible net all around him
– a sinister Spiderman of a sort–
confounding his efforts in an premeditated move
to listen to him scream.

If only he knew …

I watch helpless as he drops like a rock
prone horizontal to the ground,
legs kicking with a power all out of proportion to his age,
the wail of anguish suddenly pulsating up from his chest
out through his lips, and right into my brain.

Meanwhile, his sworn enemy – the winter jacket – waits on the ground
patiently – waiting for another round against the boy
and already silently declaring victory.

Listen to me read Boy Versus Jacket Boy Versus Jacket

You can also read and listen to the other poems in this series.

Peace (with poetry),
Kevin

A Poem Gets Published (the new way)

I just got a poem of mine published at a site called The New Verse News.

The poem, called Incognito: Front Lines, was written for a friend of mine who was in the Middle East as a military police officer and the poem was inspired by the publication of some written memories of soldiers in The New Yorker magazine. Thousands of soldiers are taking part in a large project to document the experience of the war in Iraq through writing and the magazine published bits and pieces of some of that writing. It was very powerful and shocking, and emotional unnerving.

I wrote my poem this summer and then used the e-Anthology to get feedback from the National Writing Project teachers to revise it, and so I thank everyone who helped me along the way.

You can read a copy of my poem or listen to it, too. Incognito

Peace (for real),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: Buried — Nov. 2006

This is the second installment of a poem for my OnPoEvMo Poetry Project.

Buried
November 2006

There’s a poem buried in my backyard:
something left behind by someone else
who used to live here —
someone whose coffee cups are now just broken shards forced to the Earth’s surface
every spring by the frost heaves,
along with discarded bones from some old dog or wayward cat
or maybe a perfectly good person whose time just ran out.

I wouldn’t exactly call it treasure – these ceramic, organic tokens from the past —
except for the poem:
the poem that remains buried there in the fertile soil
– I can hear its Siren call late at night when my mind races
and my pen only writes in the ink of invisibility and forgetfulness —

I have the map but the shovel?
The shovel is nowhere to be found.

Listen to me read the poem Buried

Peace,
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: Billy Collins Blues — Nov. 2006

(This is the first installment of my One Poem Every Month for One Year project)

onpoevmo.jpg

Talking Billy Collins Blues

November 2006

I called on Billy Collins last night
And he asked me outright if I was disturbed
To which I replied,
Yes, slightly, sorry for the intrusion
but how do you write a poem every month for a year
And where do I look for lost words — the ones I have misplaced with time?
Billy slipped me a piece of paper when we were done talking
And disappeared
leaving me alone with nothing much but that paper.
I could just make out some red ink scribbles and a few doodles
when I held that thin skin of a tree up to the light
and let the paper become a translucent buffer between me
and the muse.
I held Billy Collins in my hand for hours,
nursing him like the last drink of the night when daylight is looming,
afraid to even look
because if it did hold the key then my search would be over
and why write poems after that?
So I crumpled Billy up and tossed him into the street bin
(apologizing profusely for being so impolite)
and I chased my own shadow all the way back home
in the darkness of memories.

And that’s when I really began to write.

Listen to me read my poem Talking Billy Collins Blues

Peace,
Kevin

Binary Code Poem

I wrote a poem in Binary Code.
Can you read it?
(See hint below)
01010100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01100011 01101111 01100100 01100101 00100000 01100011 01101111 01101110 01110100 01100001 01101101 01101001 01101110 01100001 01110100 01100101 01110011 00100000 01101101 01111001 00100000 01110011 01100011 01110010 01100101 01100101 01101110 00001101 00001010 00100000 00100000 00100000 00100000 01100001 00100000 01100010 01101100 01100001 01110011 01110100 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01101111 01101110 01100101 01110011 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01111010 01100101 01110010 01101111 01100101 01110011 00001101 00001010 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01100001 01101100 01101100 00100000 01001001 00100000 01110011 01100101 01100101 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101101 01101001 01101100 01100101 01110011 00100000 01100001 01110010 01101111 01110101 01101110 01100100 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01110100 01110010 01100001 01101001 01101110 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01101110 01110101 01101101 01100010 01100101 01110010 01110011 00001101 00001010 00100000 00100000 00100000 00100000 01100011 01101111 01101110 01110110 01100101 01110010 01110100 01100101 01100100 00100000 01101001 01101110 01110100 01101111 00100000 01110111 01101111 01110010 01100100 01110011 00001101 00001010 01101100 01101001 01101011 01100101 00100000 01110011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01110011 01100101 01100011 01110010 01100101 01110100 00100000 01101101 01100101 01110011 01110011 01100001 01100111 01100101 00001101 00001010 01110100 01101000 01100001 01110100 00100000 01101110 01100101 01110110 01100101 01110010 00100000 01110011 01100001 01111001 01110011 00100000 01110111 01101000 01100001 01110100 00100000 01001001 00100000 01110111 01100001 01101110 01110100 00100000 01101001 01110100 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01110011 01100001 01111001 00101100 00001101 00001010 01110111 01101000 01101001 01100011 01101000 00100000 01101001 01110011 00101100 00001101 00001010 01010111 01101000 01111001 00100000 01100100 01101111 00100000 01110000 01101111 01100101 01101101 01110011 00100000 01100100 01100001 01101110 01100011 01100101 00100000 01101111 01101110 00100000 01100001 00100000 01110100 01101001 01100111 01101000 01110100 01110010 01101111 01110000 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101000 01110010 01101111 01110101 01100111 01101000 00100000 01101101 01101001 01100100 01101110 01101001 01100111 01101000 01110100 00100000 01100100 01110010 01100101 01100001 01101101 01110011 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01100101 01101101 01100101 01110010 01100111 01100101 00100000 01101100 01101001 01101011 01100101 00100000 01100100 01101001 01110011 01110100 01100001 01101110 01110100 00100000 01110011 01101000 01100001 01100100 01101111 01110111 01110011 00100000 01101001 01101110 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01101101 01101111 01110010 01101110 01101001 01101110 01100111 00111111 00001101 00001010 00001101 00001010
To read my poem, copy the code and head to Digitalicious to convert to words.
Peace,
Kevin

Who is this Taylor Mali?

At a workshop on creating a student-centered Poetry Cafe during this past weekend’s Best Practices in the Teaching of Writing at Western Massachusetts Writing Project, a participant told me that I just had to “discover Taylor Mali” and so I went searching for him and found his home on the ‘Net.

Taylor Mali is a slam poet, a teacher, a fast-talking preacher of words that flow from inside the soul, an advocate for education, and intense dedication to the cause of language flowing off the tip of the tongue for the old and the young … (hmmm, slipped in some of my own flow there for ya) and his strange yet very admirable mission is to use poetry to recruit teachers into public schools. He has set a mark of 1,000 teachers (he’s at 145 and tries to keep track of them via a blog).

Mali has gained some fame with his poem “What Teachers Make” and on his site, he notes how many unauthorized versions are now scattered throughout the Web, with little or no reference to the author/poet.

Am I disappointed not to have received credit for writing this poem that has inspired so many? Used to be. But the truth will always come out in the end. And if I had to choose between inspiring teachers anonymously or not inspiring them at all and, I would choose anonymous inspiration every time.” Taylor Mali

So go to his site, listen to his voice on his podcasts, read his words and, if you are inspired, buy one of his What Teachers Make pens to support the cause of the conversion of poetry, language and teaching. And if his words inspire you to enter teaching, let him know so you can be counted, too.
Peace,
Kevin

Poetry e-Journal

A few months ago, I was helping some teachers at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project consider ways to use technology for classroom publications. We talked about Wikis, Weblogs and other possibilities, and I showed them how you could use Microsoft Word to create a Web document that could then be uploaded to a server.

My example was some poetry that I wrote and put together with a brief table of contents to show how hyperlinks could connect various pages together.

My e-Poetry Journal is here.

One of the poems in the e-Journal is called “Passion Release” and I wrote for a friend who played guitar in one of my bands but was asked to leave. Not for any personality reasons, but for difficulties with schedules and Life in general. It was a difficult decision for all of us because he is a wonderful person and a fantastic musician and I wrote this poem and sent it off to him.

microphone Listen to me read Passion Release microphone

Peace,
Kevin

Blink: A Multimodal Poem

As noted down below in this Weblog, I have been working on a multi-media poem that seeks to utilize some of the emerging technologies as a canvas for creative expression. My idea was to try to write something that could be reflected in a Read/Write Web format and see what happens with it. And so, my writing — can we call it that? — is a mix of words, images, and sound.
Are you interested in experiencing Blink Blink Blink?

This link will take you to my poem.

As part of the process, I also recorded an off-the-cuff audio reflection that is embedded in the poem page but which can also be listened to independent of that piece.

microphone Listen to an audio reflection about the poem

I would love to get any feedback on the poem — does it work for you as a creative piece? Does the technology get in the way or does it complement the writing? — and you can use the comment feature on this item to do so, if you would like.

Peace
Kevin