More Poems and Podcasts

Somehow, I am still writing and recording a poetry podcast every day over at Bud the Teacher’s blog, although I have to admit that it feels as I am forcing more than a few (and that I am in a friendly competitive tangle with fellow poet, Ken Allan, as he and I are the regular contributors — way to go, Ken!).

Here are a few of my poems from this past week, although it may be helpful to remember that these are inspired by photographs that Bud is providing. I hope they can stand on their own, but how knows …

Fried Like Chicken
(listen to the poem)

This heat came suddenly,
so we’re in the oven right about now,
wondering when the cold might snap back
into place —
even as we know this change is exactly
what we had been hoping for
and to wish otherwise seems like
Sunday morning blasphemy.

Justice Served
(Listen to the poem)

When the gavel talks,
the world falls silent
but what happens to justice
when no one is watching?
Is the law an invisible backbone
that keeps us standing straight
or just another broken authority figure
to be ignored when the lights go down?
You decide,
as I take minutes from my squeaky chair
just outside the circle.

Colored Pencils
(Listen to the poem)

You presume me: green–
light and soft on the spring grass beneath the warming sun,
when in fact I am red,
dripping dark with the dried blood of effort and exertion —
while you, blue,
drink in the ocean’s vast horizon stretched out before us.
Here in this space,
I compliment you and you, me,
even though the color-blind few of us
assume these shades of difference don’t really matter.
They do,
for you remain my favorite hue.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

Envisioning a Digital Writing Resource and other creative ventures

I’m taking a bit of a break from blogging because I have been working on a few different projects that have me otherwise engaged. All of them are pretty exciting, I think, although for different reasons. And I continue to blog small poems/podcasts every day over at Bud’s blog site, where he is posting daily pictures as inspiration for poetry. It’s been a lot of fun and challenging, too. The poems are pretty rough but I am enjoying the ideas running through them and it is fascinating to think about photos as inspiration for writing.

This past weekend, I joined a group of other teachers in the National Writing Project to begin planning a future online space to showcase ways in which technology and writing are coming together in meaningful ways for students. This is not going to be a “how to” site, but a “why do it” and “what does it all mean” site for sharing and reflecting. The philosophy behind the concept is to design a portal and insight into projects, with reflections. The conceit is that we are “beyond the moment” of technology making an impact on learning and now we need to understand what is going on with it. The NWP is a partner with the MacArthur Foundation on this venture, so there are many exciting connections to be made with other MacArthur partners in the future.

I am working on a prototype of a resource around last year’s Many Voices for Darfur project, in which my students joined others to use technology (podcasting, images, videos, etc.) for social action. As I go back to that time, I realize now just how powerful it was for my students as they joined hundreds of others from around the world to advocate for peace in the Sudan.

Meanwhile, on a personal musical note, a friend and I are in the midst of developing an entire “song cycle” story that is a bit hard to explain, but it is a big project that tells the life of a man through the use of poetry, with songs as part of it all, as he struggles to connect with the world, falls in and out of love, and then comes to terms with life. It stretches from childhood to the end of his life. We are thinking of this as a multimedia production, although what that will look like we can’t quite say yet. It’s been a great source of inspiration to be writing the poems of this story and also, the songs. In the past two weeks, I have composed about eight new songs for this project and I can “see” the whole thing before us, even if I can’t quite articulate it yet.

So, how about you? What have you been up to?

Peace (in sharing),

Kevin

Writing Poems with Bud

I’d like to toss out some thanks to Bud the Teacher for giving me daily poetry inspiration with his photographs. I’ve been enjoying the experience. Here are a few poems from the past week that I have written that I still like a few days later:

Nighttime Cleaning
(listen to the podcast)

Some nights,
I’d like to hang you out to dry
with the clothes
when you come home all wet
with whiskey and beer
and laughter from your podium at the bar
while I console the kids in their nightmare deliriums
and use the remote to talk with
as the wind brings in life from the streets
through our open windows.

Oh, Golden Saxophone
(listen to the podcast)

Oh, deep moaning gold
you delight me with your voice
gentle spirits pushing up from within
blasting notes begin
to tell the story of dancing ideas
that can’t remain on the page

Your reed tastes of the forest
your keys click with rhythm
your pads hold in and let go
like a heartbeat to the pulse of time

In the hands of some, you shimmer
along the tops of the melody lines
in a freeflow improvisation tapping into something unknown;
In others, you follow the rules —
straight, narrow, perfect —
and deviate not one iota from what the composer
has envisioned.

Oh, saxophone, you are a wild beast
in my hands
and I mull the possibilities of what might emerge
when I place you to my lips
and blow the world a kiss.

Infinity Feelings
(listen to the podcast)

The blue hue of swirls
forces my hand –
I must admit:
doubt;
fear;
longing inside me where the facade crumbles —
the only voice is mine
and it only knows truth.

i am the white blanket
(listen to the podcast)

i am the cold:
the chill that comes with spring;
the frost that covers you
so that you lay quietly dormant,
expectant for release,
only to be told to wait, wait, wait;
i hesitate,
knowing that once the snow has melted,
the ice removed,
you will come into your own without me
and our roles reversed — i will be gone,
no longer necessary —
and that, i cannot even begin to fathom
beneath this white blanket
we share together

I hope you find time in your days to write or read poetry, and not just this month but throughout the entire year.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

A poetic vacation for Day in a Sentence

I am off to California this weekend for a technology retreat with the National Writing Project, and I have a nutty few days ahead (we play Quidditch tomorrow!) so I am giving Day in a Sentence a little poetic vacation. Why poetic? Because I am hoping some of you may venture over to Bud the Teacher’s site, where he has been posting interesting photographs every day to inspire poems from his readers.

I urge you to take a look and add your own poem this week in lieu of Day in a Sentence. Sure, make your poem your day in a sentence if that makes sense for you. Write a poem. I know you can do it.

HEAD TO BUD’S SITE

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

Poem-a-Day’s How to Read a Poem

I subscribe to the Poem-A-Day feature from Poets.org. It’s a nice way to begin the day, with some words sitting there in my email box. Some poems I like; some, I don’t. That’s OK, though. Today, I found a poem about reading poems without the need for a college degree. It reminded me a bit of Billy Collins. Yes, poems should reach everyone from all walks of life. It’s a shame that poetry is often the forgotten cousin to prose, isn’t it?

How to Read a Poem: Beginner’s Manual
by Pamela Spiro Wagner

First, forget everything you have learned,
that poetry is difficult,
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,
with your high school equivalency diploma,
your steel-tipped boots,
or your white-collar misunderstandings.

Do not assume meanings hidden from you:
the best poems mean what they say and say it.

To read poetry requires only courage
enough to leap from the edge
and trust.

Treat a poem like dirt,
humus rich and heavy from the garden.
Later it will become the fat tomatoes
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.

Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true,
doing holy things to the ordinary.

Read just one poem a day.
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun.

When you can name five poets
without including Bob Dylan,
when you exceed your quota
and don’t even notice,
close this manual.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

Poems with Bud the Teacher

My friend, Bud the Teacher, is doing a cool little poetry event at his blog. He is posting pictures and prompts, and asking folks to be inspired and write poems in the comment section of his blog.

Here are three that I have written this week:

The Space Between the Aisles
Listen to the podcast

I wonder about
the space between the aisles
and which books have been left aside
by the keepers of the words;
which tomes have been deemed
so unwieldy as to not even inhabit
the empty air,
for as much as I see the books,
I also see the possibilities.

Do Not Touch!
Listen to the podcast

not touching is easy —
it’s the not playing
that always gets me
so, i swivel around,
making sure the coast is clear,
and take off into imagination —
soaring the sky —
until the footsteps of the world
trample me
and i return my eyes to the sign
that reminds me
of the things i cannot touch
and the things i cannot do
and i leave so quietly that no one even knows
i was there.

Time
Listen to the podcast

Time … time?
who needs time
when I’ve got my mind
running circles before the sun comes up —
it’s just me and the moon
and the cat, if you count living things that crawl into your thoughts,
and all that silence makes for a canvass full of nothingness
just waiting for words.

I come here looking for images
only to find letters
so I close my eyes
and concentrate on time.

There is still plenty of room for you, too. Come join the writing.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Haiku Postcards

(This is part of the Slice of Life project)
This is kind of cheating, but I finally gathered up all of my haikus that I wrote on a family trip to Japan two weeks ago and created this slideshow, so it is a Slice of Life — but not immediately recent. One interesting side note, though, is that I was talking with a teacher at my son’s preschool and he mentioned that he has been writing haikus recently, too, and we are now exchanging our poems with each other. Very cool to be on a poem hand-off with another teacher.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

Listening to the Music of the Wood

A poem I wrote came in second place for a writing contest with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project (the second year I came in second) and I used some of the comments/critiques to revise it a bit, and then I added a podcast. The poem is a memory poem, of Sunday mornings in my childhood when almost the entire neighborhood packed up for Church … except for me.

Listening to the Music of the Wood (slightly revised)
Listen to the podcast

They all left on Sunday mornings,
dressed up in clean clothes and polished shoes;
their faces pushing up against the inside windows of their parents’ cars
as I waved goodbye in my dirty jeans and beat up sneakers,
feeling not quite alone but utterly free as they disappeared down the road,
swallowed up by the sound of the church organ.

I’d take in the deepest breath of the day;
drawing in the silence of the neighborhood to consider my own thoughts
of the Infinite and the world beneath and above me.
I could hear music moving in and among the trees —
melodies of the woods
that called out to me with a spirit all of its own.

I imagined their preacher standing up high on the pulpit,
pushing back against the sins of the world,
delivering sermons on the temptations that lay around us,
guarding his flock against the tide of bad judgments and unexpected calamity,
moving his congregation with equal parts anger and compassion,
making them understand that this is but a fragile peace
and that one must live with open hearts and open minds,
while my friends — so prim and proper on the outside yet full of chaos and energy on the inside —
fidgeted in their seats with empty ears,
daydreaming about the Wood ….

where I scampered about with abandon in the early morning Sunday light,
climbing the tallest trees to survey the world from above
and declaring this place to be my own Heavenly Kingdom
for as far as my eyes could see.
If you listened, if you put your ear to the wood and held your breath,
the wind would make faint hints at a symphony,
something for the solitary journey into the heart of the mind.

My friends sat on hard benches, balancing bibles on their knees,
absentmindedly turning page after page, scanning words
written in a language they could not quite understand —
while I opened my long, sharp, silver pocketknife
and carved a secret name into the biggest tree I could find,
pledging myself Protector of the Wood from the Great Unknown
that always seemed to be lurking just beyond view.

It was only a matter of time …

Those spirits later did come calling
— right at my doorstep, discordant in tone, unsettling —
and it turned out that neither the preacher nor the Wood
could do much to fend off this unbidden sadness of the world
— the slow rumble of minor chords ever present, ever present —
even as I retreated into the trees for solace and comfort,
seeking out their protection as I once promised mine to them
and finding nothing but loose notes engraved in the bark,
solitary sounds outside of the song.
I’d rub my fingers along the carvings
and feel the wounds I had made with my words and actions,
complicit and conflicted and completely alone.

A childhood is made up of overlapping worlds:
some defined for us; some, we make our own.
On Sunday mornings, when I’d become the center of the Universe,
the possibilities of changing this place for the better never seemed more likely than when I was
lying down on fallen leaves,
staring up past the treetops,
pushing off into the clouds,
listening to the music of the Wood.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

A few stray Haiku Postcards from Japan

We arrived home last night after a grueling airplane ride — nothing too dramatic, just too long, and the time changes wreak havoc with your mind … how do we land in Atlanta, Georgia, earlier in the same day that we left from Tokyo? That had my sons’ minds spinning a bit. But, we survived.

I hope to go through photos later today (as you can imagine, we have tons) and share a few out, and get a collection to show my students when I am back in the classroom tomorrow. (Yikes) One interesting side project involved a series of photos of advertisements we saw in Japan that had us scratching our heads. I hope to have my students look at them, write about what the ads are about, and then talk about advertisement techniques that travel across cultures.

Yesterday morning, we got a tour of the USS George Washington, which is an aircraft carrier where my brother-in-law is an operations officer in charge of coordinating the fleet of which the GW is the flag ship. It is an incredibly large ship that is home to thousands of sailors and pilots when it is at sea (it is in dock now, getting repairs and updates).

So, my first haiku:

A floating city
thousands of sailors living
in this labrynth

As we stood aboard the flight deck, out in the distance, we could see Mount Fuji appear in the skyline — a sight that is hard to describe. It is a stunning vision.

Almost a mirage;
Mount Fuji sits on the edge
of the horizon

During out travels, we saw beautifully crafted porcelain pottery. Bowls, cups, etc. Much of the designs have stories behind them, moving tales into artwork.

Intricate, etched blue
set against the white background
tales told: pottery

And finally, green tea is everywhere and it has a very distinct taste. One day, the kids ordered up some green tea ice cream. It was delightful, although with a strange aftertaste.

Hot liquid green tea
cooled and transformed into ice
sweet and yet, bitter

Peace (and thanks for reading my haiku postcards),
Kevin

Haiku Postcards from Japan: the trains and the adventure

I did not get to post yesterday, as it was a day for great adventures: a bus ride from Tokyo to Mount Fuji, a bus ride up to a point about 7,000 feet up the incredible dormant volcano, a boat trip across a crater lake in Hakone, a gondola ride up another massive mountain that provided spectacular views of the world and Pacific Ocean, and then … the coup for my youngest son … a ride back to Tokyo on the super-fast bullet train. Wow.

One observation: the commuter trains here are brutal at rush hour — the trains are packed full and yet, no one speaks, no one communicates. It’s a small space with no sound. Unless you are Americans with five young kids and then all you hear are our voices. Also, the train waits for no one. There is a strict timetable – to the minute — and the doors close whether or not you are all the way in. There are even train employees called “pushers” that jam you into the train to make sure the doors close on time. If you have little kids, this is a bit stressful, as you might imagine.

So:

Doors close, in or out;
This train stops for no one;
Unrelenting pace

Mount Fuji is as impressive as you might imagine — rising as a white landmark from miles and miles away. We got lucky – it was clear skies and blue and we could see all the way to the top. It was breathtaking in its beauty.

Magnificant cone;
white-capped, majestic beauty;
its power:dormant

And finally, after a gondola ride up another mountain, we were greeted by an ornate temple, standing like a sentry thousands of feet up in the air.

Red temple standing
near five volcanic craters
peaceful and serene

Peace (in poetry),
Kevin