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.

More with Cinchcast: poetry podcasting

The more I use Cinchcast, the more I like it. This morning, I was writing some poems and thought I might try to podcast them. I was considering using my phone and Cinchcast, but then I remembered a red “record now” button at the site. I figured I would give it a try with my Blue Snowball microphone and it worked like a charm.

And I can embed the audio, or download it. And my Cinch site is connected to Twitter. And it’s free.

The poems I wrote:

Dog Days
Today, I figure, is the day
our dog is one day older than
our son.
Tomorrow, it will be
seven days.
Next week? A month or maybe two.
The wet muzzle and playful eyes gaze
up at me as if to say,
your time will come, too, old man …
as he grows older right before my eyes
and then bounds off into the woods.

I’m Not That Poet
I find it particularly difficult
to be one of those
poets
whose eyes see every … little …moment
like a time-lapse camera.
They stand in front of the larger-than-life mural
and notice the face of the one lonely
boy in the back or they pay attention to
the joyful girl with flowers on her dress.
Me?
I notice the tacks on the corners of the canvas and wonder
why the whole thing doesn’t just tumble right down to the Earth,
spilling out humanity on the ground.
I’d be ready to stuff that boy
and that girl
and all the rest of those people right into my pocket
so that I could carry them around with me
like history etched beneath our skin.
That’s the kind of poet
I am.

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin


Once Upon a Midnight Dreary …

This is a great video interpretation of The Raven, which seems appropriate on this All Hallow’s Eve. It’s just a close-up shot of the reader. Nothing more ….:

Peace (in the night),
Kevin

Go Ahead: Write (National Day on Writing)

In honor of today’s celebration as the 2010 National Day on Writing, I decided to compose a poem.

Go Ahead: Write
(listen to the podcast)

Go ahead:
write,
on this Day of Writing;
Find a scrap of paper
and let your ideas take flight,
compose your life
or just jot down some simple thoughts
so that letters become words become sentences
become stories,
let your tales be heard admist the noise
of the world.
The pounding of the keyboard
or the scribbling of the pen, again and again,
is what keeps it alive for those behind you.
Hide your cache beneath a rock,
your flock will find you;
To whisper it, is to lose it;
To write it, is to use it,
so plant your flag into the ground,
gather ’round and go ahead:
Write.

What will you do today to celebrate writing?

Peace (in the words that flow),
Kevin

Am I the King of Similes?

I spend the month of April writing poems each day over at Bud Hunt’s blog. There were some cool ones and some throw-aways. That’s writing under pressure for you. I gathered up the 30 poems and dumped them into Wordle, just to see if there any emerging themes from what I was writing.

Here’s what I noticed: I used the word “like” a lot. Like, too much. Like, I must be overusing similes in my poems. And I think when I do write poems, I do use similes and metaphors a bit too much, because I am trying to move the poem from something concrete to something abstract, and that’s difficult to do without those comparisons. I don’t intend to abandon the use of these literary devices, but I like how the Wordle made that visible.

Also, it’s neat that “music” and “mind” were part of a lot of the poems. I’m not sure what to make of the word “even” as the most prevalent word in the batch of poems. It doesn’t seem to have much meaning for me.

Here was the last poem that I wrote with Bud to end April’s National Poetry Month:

I’m forever letting my tongue dance
over phrases
and even while the silent world ignores me,
I continue on with my “inside” compositions,
scribbling alone in the dark corner of my mind,
turning ideas over like compost as I wait
for the flowers to bloom.
I’ve come to the realization that not everyone hears
the words as I hear them,
nor do they dance to the same rhythm,
and so,
what begins as a conversation among many
often ends as a monologue of one.

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin

Emily Dickinson Lives!

Yesterday, thanks to the work of our school librarian, we had a special poetic visitor arriving from the Great Beyond. An actress who performs as Emily Dickinson (who lived in nearby Amherst) spent time with my students yesterday morning, talking and acting as if she were Emily Dickinson. She talked of her life and of her writing, and while it is hard to keep sixth graders in Spring in their chairs for (for them) an obscure poet, they were mostly attentive.

My student teacher is doing her unit around poetry (ack, I really miss teaching poetry this year), so the timing was right. As the librarian and I agreed, our kids need a variety of styles of performances (we had Mordicai Gerstein not too long ago and he was drawing, and laughing, and energetic with them).

And plus, who better to bring back from the dead than Emily Dickinson?

I’ve always like this poem of hers:

AFTER a hundred years
Nobody knows the place,—
Agony, that enacted there,
Motionless as peace.
Weeds triumphant ranged, 5
Strangers strolled and spelled
At the lone orthography
Of the elder dead.
Winds of summer fields
Recollect the way,— 10
Instinct picking up the key
Dropped by memory.

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin

What the Poem in your Pocket?

Poem In Your  Pocket Day

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day, when you are invited to print out or write out a favorite poem and keep it close to you throughout the day. I chose a poem called, eh, “Pockets” by Howard Nemerov.

It’s a new poem to me, but I like the use of pockets as a metaphor here, seen as lonely collectors of stuff  — but sort of a “theives’ kitchen” of things that bounce around all day — and which ends with the cool line of,  “What is a pocket but a hole?”

What poem will you carry around with you today?

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin

Glogging Some Multimedia Poetry

As readers of this space know, I have been writing poems every day over at Bud Hunt’s blog, where Bud has been posting images to inspire writing. We’re almost at the end (which is fine — I’m feeling a little poetry burnout right now) but I wanted to find some way to collect some of the poems together.

I decided to use Glogster because I could easily add the video poem I did, as well as upload a few podcasts from the month of poetry. I tried to find a good design, and I worry that the page is a bit busy (always an issue with Glogster), but I made this as  sort of “Thank You” card to Bud for inspiring me to write this month. I was always glad when others joined along, although I wish more folks would do it.

I also like that this glog is part of my classroom glog, so my students have a chance to read some of my poetry and see some of the multimedia work, too. It’s another way of sharing and showing.

Here is a direct link to my poetry glog, which I am entitling: “Inspired by Images.”

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin

Avant-Garde Composing

When I was an undergraduate — majoring in English, minoring in music — I had a professor who seemed very much out of sync with our small state college surroundings. Dr. Peacock seemed to have come from the fabric of New York City’s avante-garde composition scene and what he was doing at our college was never quite clear.

But it was with Dr. Peacock that I first learned about how a composer could push the boundaries of the norm when it came to creating music. He taught me about using synthesizers (we had this old monster of a keyboard that you had to program to make work — it was like hacking into a computer); how to cut “tape” of musical recordings and re-fashion those pieces into something new (the forerunner of remixing); and how to create atonal pieces of music. Oh, yeah, and how to open up the top of a grand piano and tinker with the insides to create strange, beautiful sounds from the percussion elements of the Grand. (This did not go over well with his teaching colleagues and more than once, I watched him argue with another teacher about why his students had their hands in the strings of the Grand and why were placing objects along the percussive hammers.)

He was all about pushing the boundaries of music. And he was all about the “doing” as much as the theory behind what was being done. I felt like an explorer moving into unknown terrain most of the time, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

I was reminded of him yesterday as I followed  a link from Larry Ferlazzo’s blog to a site by Jason Freeman called Piano Etudes, where Freeman has worked to create an interactive site in which the viewer can use fragments of his piano pieces to refashion them into something new. It’s a very visual experience, as Freeman has mapped out how the pieces of a composition might intersection, and you grab elements and pull them together. Then, you can add your piece to the gallery at his site, download the music as an MP3 file and/or get a PDF of the score (see the image above, which comes from the PDF).

Freeman writes:

Inspired by the tradition of open-form musical scores, I composed each of these four piano etudes as a collection of short musical fragments with links to connect them. In performance, the pianist must use those links to jump from fragment to fragment, creating her own unique version of the composition. The pianist, though, should not have all the fun. So I also developed this web site, where you can create your own version of each etude, download it as an audio file or a printable score, and share it with others.

I plunged right in, and created a version of Freeman’s “Reading  Poem,” which I called “Writing a Poem by Starlight.” I downloaded the mp3 file, and then write a poem inspired by the music, which has a lot of space and open air to it. Then, I recorded the poem in Audacity, with the Freeman-derivative score as the background music.

Want to hear it?

Listen to Writing a Poem by Starlight

Here is the poem:

Writing poetry by starlight,
I touch the keys
so that I may coax
the darkness
to play a duet with light,
and shimmer until morning
comes …

Give it try. Write some music. Remix and create.

Peace (in the exploration),
Kevin