In our small city, we have our own poet laureate. This year, it is Leslea Newman (who gained some national exposure with her then-controversial picture book “Heather has Two Mommies”). Newman is a wonderful poet, gifted author and creative force in our area. She has even done some work with my Western Massachusetts Writing Project.
Newman put out a call recently for local residents to take part in an event known as the 30 Poems in 30 Days event. This is both a way to get people to write (yeah!) and to generate funds for a worthy organization that provides free services to immigrant families in our region (double-yeah!). Here is an article about the event.
Yesterday, I created a Google Form and asked folks in my virtual networks to consider sponsoring me as a poet by pledging a small amount of money per poem that I will write in November. (I will be posting the poems here at this blog and also as part of an online writing network through National Writing Project known as the iAnthology).
I am quite humbled to see that I already have 11 people signed up. Thank you thank you thank you.
If you would like to consider sponsoring me, please fill out the following form. I deeply appreciate any help you can give and although I am a bit nervous about writing so many poems, I am going to channel the little red engine and say, “I think I can …. I think I can …” and go where the creative energy takes me.
I found out about a new music editing program that may rival Garageband but — thankfull for me, the PC user — is located all online and is free. The site is called Myna and it is part of the Aviary suite of applications.
This morning, I wrote a poem in my head about walking my dog out in the darkness of morning and then came back, launched Myna, and had this podcast poem in no time at all. Like Garageband, you can pull loops from a large database, and you can add effects to your voice.
But, unlike Garageband, Myna also gives you the embed code for your mixed down audio tracks.
I wonder how we might use this with our students because if it is easy enough to use, then I would replace this application with Audacity. I love Audacity and have used it for years, but this Myna brings ease of recording and podcasting to a new level.
As your tone and pitch change, so does the color sequencing and also the spread of the “ink” on the “page.” It would be cool if the site recorded the audio along with the image, so you could listen to the voice and art unfold at the same time (I guess I am never satisfied with the cool stuff I experience out here, eh?)
I dream in Twitter
in 140 characters
that cut off my thoughts before they are complete
and then I wonder, why 140?
Ten more letters would serve me right
as I write about what I am doing at that moment
connecting across the world with so many others
shackled by 140 characters, too,
and I remain amazed at how deep the brevity can be.
I find it unsettling to eavesdrop on conversations
when you can only read one
and it startles me to think that someone else out there
has put their ear to my words
and wondered the same about me.
Whose eyes are watching?
Twitter is both an expanding universe
of tentacles and hyperlinks that draw you in
with knowledge and experience
and a shrinking neighborhood of similar voices,
echoing out your name
in comfortable silence.
I dream in Twitter
in 140 characters,
and that is what I am doing
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 …
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.
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?
as I take minutes from my squeaky chair
just outside the circle.
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.
for you remain my favorite hue.
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.
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:
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, 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
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.
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;
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 … 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.