Of Modern Poetry

Ask ten different educated, well-read people to define modernism, or the “modern” era [you know, the one right before our total disillusionment and our adoption of post-modern thinking] and you’ll likely get ten different definitions; or at least ten different sentiments about that period in our history as a nation, as a people. Certainly, going in to the modern era, we thought (or were at least were hopeful) that science would solve all our problems. There would be vast improvements in industrialization, medicine, peacetime, reduction in world hunger, and the advancement of the rights of man, woman and child. Then came World War I, the stock market crash, and World War II. We dropped a nuclear warhead on a Japanese city, instantly killing 80,000 people. The shock wave was felt for over 18 kilometers.

Novelists, poets, painters, and many other artists put their angst on display through the medium of their choice. I found the following poem by Wallace Stevens. Try reading it as if you were living in the early 1900s. Feel his emotion, his worry, his outrage, quiet as it may be in this piece. He comments that the poem of the mind had not always had to try so hard to find its scene. Its place. Things usually didn’t change so fast, so drastically. Stevens wrote this poem three years before the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Many more horrific and inexplicable changes were yet to come…

The poem of the mind in the act of finding
What will suffice. It has not always had
To find: the scene was set; it repeated what
Was in the script.
Then the theatre was changed
To something else. Its past was a souvenir.
It has to be living, to learn the speech of the place.
It has to face the men of the time and to meet
The women of the time. It has to think about war
And it has to find what will suffice. It has
To construct a new stage. It has to be on that stage,
And, like an insatiable actor, slowly and
With meditation, speak words that in the ear,
In the delicatest ear of the mind, repeat,
Exactly, that which it wants to hear, at the sound
Of which, an invisible audience listens,
Not to the play, but to itself, expressed
In an emotion as of two people, as of two
Emotions becoming one. The actor is
A metaphysician in the dark, twanging
An instrument, twanging a wiry string that gives
Sounds passing through sudden rightnesses, wholly
Containing the mind, below which it cannot descend,
Beyond which it has no will to rise.
It must
Be the finding of a satisfaction, and may
Be of a man skating, a woman dancing, a woman
Combing. The poem of the act of the mind.
©1942 Wallace Stevens

Fatigue Performance

Tonight the wind is in your voice.
And the gods are nervous
about the drinking water.
Someone hijacks the background
with three simple dance moves.
Or maybe the clouds
paused on the television
set during a ball game.
The silence inside
the photograph
of you eating alone
in an old yearbook.
This is going to be over
before you know it.
But not before your hands
become small birds
in celebration
of the present snow.
An expressed panic
attack of harmonics.
It’s like listening to your heartbeat
in a club, all the lights off,
all by yourself.

©2017 Noah Falck

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

By Dylan Thomas

Riding the Coattails of the Morning Sun

Like a knob-kneed colt
with wild mane flying
I galloped carefree through my youth.
Muddy potholes and thorny hedges
were no obstacles but welcome challenges.
Sparks bounced off my radiant body
as I rode on the coattails of the morning sun.

Now I sit by candlelight,
a crocheted comforter around my shoulders,
recalling old wrongs and shortcomings
as well as the delicate beauties of my life
—and tell stories.

©2017 Ute Carson

Retrieved from: http://www.longshotisland.com/2017/02/08/momentary-poems/

 

Woodland

Let me be
amongst your trees
for when you write
upon the sky
like poems
my thoughts come
to life
in the stillness
of your wood
and I must travel
again and again
through this forest
and listen as
your myriad leaves
sway
in leisured dance
and you sing me
songs of
olden days and
whisper secrets
through the wind
so I go
into the woodland
to lose my mind
for here
is rest

From the blog of Little April Shower
Retrieved from https://littleaprilshow.wordpress.com/author/littleaprilshow/

Childhood Dream

Long ago
Long before the dawn of his youth
Lived a boy, a young boy
A boy who had a dream
A childhood dream.
He would lay at the forest glade
And gaze, gaze in wonder
At the peculiar workings of the earth.
He would count all the birds of the sky
Wander into the dark forest deep
Stroll by the humming river
And paint with all the colors of the earth.
The night’s inner glow,
The wild’s cheerful tune;
All of earth’s splashy marvel
Would prompt his thoughts
To travel the world
In search of a secret.
The blue waters of the Pacific seemed a decent start, he thought
Perhaps a swim in the depths of Waikiki Beach
Or a hike up Mt. Rainier
A stroll in the scenic wonderlands of Northern Idaho
Maybe a nice dinner in Broadmoor Hotel at Colorado Springs
Or build a cabin in Minnesota’s lake country
A day picnic at Mt. Chocorua
A quick walk down Boston Common
Or a Tulip time at Bronx,
Drifted his mind.
Bend of Susquehanna, Cayuga Lake, Chesapeake Bay, Rehoboth Beach
Flashed upon his sight.
Then one day, not long ago
To his surprise
He found the secret
Veiled in one who owns his heart.

©2016 Marrion Kiprop

For Jimmy, Who Bruised By Ribs and Busted My Nose

I had a bully who pursued me nearly every day during middle school until one day I’d had enough. I round-house punched him in the face, bloodied his crisp white t-shirt. His dad came to the house and threatened to beat up my dad because I beat up his son. “See, this is why I hate fighting,” I said to my dad. The following poem by Brian Fanelli is dedicated to anyone who has ever had a bully.

In our neighborhood, Fat Jimmy descended the mountain,
his chest heaving like a bull,
ready to maul a matador.

He cracked his scarred knuckles, hunted scrawny prey,
curb stomped our basketballs
like heads he wanted to bash,

or ghost rode our bikes
down the garbage trail dump,
until one day I gripped my handlebars

like a soldier clinging to a rifle,
refusing defeat as Jimmy knocked me to my back,
clocked me in the chin.

Numbed, I laughed as he pounded and pounded,
until my nose gushed, my ribs throbbed,
my skin swelled faster than his heated cheeks.

This poem is for the bully who never cried,
who hid belt lashes from us, who ran from the sound
of his father’s battered Ford tracking him down,

the son whose hands tightened to fists like his father’s,
who uncurled his fingers to study my blood,
and then extended a hand to lift me up.

Pale As Milk

I live in a constellation of memories
of visits to Grandpa Roy and rides on his bulldozer,
visits to the hospitals where Uncle Jeff insisted on illness
for the free room, free meals, the free cable TV,
visits through the phone line after midnight
when Uncle Culby wanted to play me a song
by The Who after a few days off his meds—
we never visited him
in the psych wards or in jail,
we never visited Jeff on the skids,
we never visited our own Pop
aside from Sunday afternoons,
and I wonder now
where he spends his Sundays,
or if his last was spent alone.

We never visited our family’s men for any celebration
until we collectively broke the law
when we broke into that golf course by moonlight
to scatter Grandpa Roy’s ashes
and I sat there in Pop’s driver’s seat, sixteen,
permitted to drive only with an adult
but only my thirteen-year-old brother beside me

as I gripped the wheel and squinted at the shapes
approaching from the darkness—the strangest
figures in full stride—my uncles,
wet from the golf course sprinklers, laughing,
and then Pop’s boots crunching gravel—
the first time I’d seen my father run.
And he too was wet, but also pale as milk,
not laughing, not even in the neighborhood
of a smile,
as I turned the key
and he shoved me from the seat
to drive.

Jason Allen

Jason Allen is a poet and prose writer with an MFA from Pacific University. He is currently living in upstate New York and pursuing a Ph.D. in creative writing at Binghamton University, where he is an editor for Harpur Palate and at work on his first book of poetry, a memoir, and his second novel. His work has been published or is forthcoming in: Passages North, Oregon Literary Review, The Molotov Cocktail, Paterson Literary Review, Spilt Infinitive, Cactus Heart, Pathos, Life With Objects, and other venues. He hopes to one day meet Tom Waits and buy him a cup of coffee.

Day

‘Please state your full name,’ and so you

do. ‘Can you tell us today’s date?’ Staring out the

window, you shake your head no. ‘Do you practice any

religion?’ You expose the tattoo on the right side of your rib

cage, ‘maybe I did, I think I used to.’ They ask to take a picture.

You let them. ‘Where were you?’ You scratch the back of your left

hand and talk about the ink shop that was owned by a man with

two heads. ‘No. Where were you when the sun left?’ You take in

their question and throw a quick grin, ‘there was a funeral.

The family couldn’t afford a decent casket, so a couple

of friends chipped in. The day the Sun divorced

the Earth, I woke up from my death.’

Jacob Ibrag

Check out more from Jacob Ibrag: https://eyespluswords.com/

 

First National Youth Poet Laureate

unnamed

Nineteen-year-old Amanda Gorman of Los Angeles was named the first national youth poet laureate on April 26, 2017. The unprecedented title, to be awarded annually, honors a teen poet who demonstrates not only extraordinary literary talent but also a proven record of community engagement and youth leadership. For me, this is a great development. Although I am long past my youth (58 years old), the institution of national youth poet laureate is something that was long overdue.

For Gorman, poetry and civic outreach aren’t separate interests. The Harvard University freshman knows firsthand that creative writing can build confidence and a sense of community among young people whose voices are often underrepresented in mainstream dialogue. In 2016 she founded One Pen One Page, a nonprofit organization that provides an “online platform and creative writing programs for student storytellers to change the world.” She continues to serve as the organization’s executive director.

Gorman’s own writing often addresses the intersections of race, feminism, and adolescence, as well as the changing landscape of her native Los Angeles. For both her poetry and her advocacy, Gorman has been recognized by Forbes, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the YoungArts Foundation, and the OZY Genius Awards. She has also performed on The Today Show, ABC Family, and Nickelodeon News, and helped introduce Hillary Clinton at the 2017 Global Leadership Awards. In my opinion, there is far too little emphasis, on any public or national level anyway, regarding the often painful process of growing up.

Gorman said, “For me, being able to stand on a stage as a spoken word poet, as someone who overcame a speech impediment, as the descendant of slaves who would have been prosecuted for reading and writing, I think it really symbolizes how, by pursuing a passion and never giving up, you can go as far as your wildest dreams. This represents such a significant moment because never in my opinion have the arts been more important than now.”

amanda-gorman2

Michael Cirelli, executive director of Urban Word NYC, says the program was founded on a belief that “young poets deserve to be in spaces of power, privilege, and governance, and to have their voices front and center of the sociopolitical dialogue happening in our city.” The role of poetry, especially in marginalized communities, is to provide a voice to those who are traditionally silenced, and the best way to effect social change is to provide platforms for youth to tell their stories. We hope to leverage our work to allow these diverse stories to be told in spaces that have historically omitted youth voices, and to energize and engage the issues that they are most passionate about.”

“I am so grateful to be part of this cohort of young creatives who are taking up their pens to have a voice for what is right and what is just,” Gorman said in her acceptance speech. “I don’t just want to write—I want to do right as well.”

Steven Barto