Poetry Break

National Poetry Month 2021

Photo by Thought Catalog from Pexels
  1. “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman
  2. “Fight for Love” by Andrea Gibson
  3. “To Elsie” by William Carlos Williams
  4. “A Life of Errands” by Leonard Cohen
  5. “American Arithmetic” by Natalie Diaz
  6. “In the Event of My Demise” by Tupac Amaru Shakur
  7. “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” by Richard Wilbur
  8. “Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World” by Sherman Alexie
  9. “Stone” by Charles Simic
  10. “Said the Shotgun to the Head” by Saul Williams
  11. “Memoir” by Vijay Seshadri
  12. “You Love a River” by Ire’ne Lara Silva
  13. “Process for Undocumented Students” by Celina Gomez
  14. “Mama Said” by Isaac Nellum
  15. “Heaven, or Whatever” by Shane Koyczan
  16. “April 16, 2007” by Jared Singer
  17. “Stop and Frisk” by Claudia Rankine
  18. “Pearl” by Ted Kooser
  19. “A Statement from No One, Incorporated” by Justin Phillip Reed
  20. “Grace” by Joy Harjo
  21. “Wanting to Die” by Anne Sexton
  22. “Going Back to Sleep” by Molly Brodak
  23. “I Love You Big Brother” by Alex Lemon
  24. “Declaration” by Tracy K. Smith
  25. “Whiteness Walks Into a Bar” by Franny Choi
  26. “History Reconsidered” by Clint Smith III
  27. “The Color of COVID” by Darius Simpson
  28. “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
  29. “How to Read a Poem” by Guillermo
  30. “Earthrise” by Amanda Gorman
Poetry Break

Poetry Break

Once again:

  1. “Your Life” by Andrea Gibson
  2. “I Carry Your Heart with Me” by e.e. cummings
  3. “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” by Sabrina Benaim
  4. “Ohm” by Saul Williams
  5. “Why are Muslims So…” by Sakila & Hawa
  6. “14 Lines from Love Letters or Suicide Notes” by Doc Luben
  7. “Some Things You Need to Know Before Dating Me” by Jamie Mortara
  8. “What Society Says to Men” by Helly Shah
  9. “AmeRícan” by Tato Laviera
  10. “Through the Fence…” by Edward Vidaurre
  11. “America” by Allen Ginsberg
  12. “The Good Life” by Tracy K. Smith
  13. “When a Boy Tells You He Loves You” by Edwin Bodeny
  14. “OCD” by Neil Hilborn
  15. “Peach Scone” by Hobo Johnson & the LoveMakers
  16. “I Will Not Let an Exam Result Decide my Fate” by Suli Breaks
  17. “Consent at 10,000 Feet” by Guante
  18. “Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?” by Prince Ea
  19. “To This Day” by Shane Koyczan
  20. “34 Excuses for Why We Failed at Love” by Warsan Shire
  21. “Storm” by Tim Minchin
  22. “Chingona” by Leticia
  23. “Afro-Latina” by Elizabeth Acevedo
  24. “Juan Valdez” by Carlos Andres Gomez
  25. “Dear Straight People” by Denice Frohman
  26. “Poema XV”/ “I Like for You to be Still” by Pablo Neruda
  27. “McAllen Our Rinconcito” by Priscilla Celia Suarez
  28. “Some Days” by Amalia Ortiz
  29. “For the Quiet Kids Who’ve Been Told ‘Speak Up'” by Grace Carras

Your love: a mixed tape the car stereo ate; a sell-by-date, batteries not included, rough around the edges; scentless potpourri

from Chapin City Blues

I started to celebrate National Poetry Month. And I pre-selected each poem the day I made my decision to do this. However, April 29th and 30th were left unfilled. I didn’t know what to put in there. During this time, I discovered (for myself) the poetry of Grace Carras. So I had to give her one of the two slots.

This last piece took me years to write and hours to record and mix. And I hope that you enjoyed this journey as much as I.

Thank you.

Poetry Break

Poetry Break

When I compiled my list of poems to post throughout National Poetry Month, it didn’t occur to me how close to home “The Good Life” by Tracy K. Smith would hit. Especially during the pandemic. Because of the mishandling of COVID-19 by the president, the unemployment rate jumped 4.4% within a month, with a forecast for it to continue. Businesses are shuttering their doors, restaurants have closed their dine-in areas, reducing the need for several of their staff.

A generation of people who have always had to worry about their financial situation are now finding it hard to hold to their employment. And it’s frightening.

Maybe this will point in time we look back to in the future, when money was once that proverbial lover who skipped out on us, and marvel how we managed to survive. Until then, though, we just need to make sure we help each other out as best as we can.

Please enjoy.

When some people talk about money
They speak as if it were a mysterious lover
Who went out to buy milk and never
Came back, and it makes me nostalgic
For the years I lived on coffee and bread,
Hungry all the time, walking to work on payday
Like a woman journeying for water
From a village without a well, then living
One or two nights like everyone else
On roast chicken and red wine.

from Life On Mars

Two Posts, One Day Pt. 1 — Poetry

I heard poetry was a dying art. Actually, what I heard was some saying he heard it was a dying art. This was before he started reading his own work. Poetry, a dying art that he only could muster the strength to save. Let’s ignore the room full of poets set to read their verses.

I haven’t touched a book of poetry since college. Various literary magazines have skidded through my life and slid out just as quickly. Poetry, the foundation of my writing interest, no longer interested me. If poetry is a dying art, it’s because of assholes like me.

Until Saturday, 27 July 2013, when I found myself with a stack of magazines in hand — current issues of Vanity Fair, Texas Monthly, the controversial issue of Rolling Stone, Scientific American, and GQ — standing in front of Barnes and Noble’s pathetic excuse for a poetry section. If poetry is a dying art, it’s because of corporate assholes like those who run Barnes and Nobles.

Two titles stood out as I stood there with my stack of bathroom and employee lounge fodder: Fancy Beasts by Alex Lemon and Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith. I set the magazines down on the shelf and sat cross-legged on the floor, something that got my friends and me in trouble ten years earlier, and I read from each. Maybe it was Alex Lemon’s ability to crack a smile on my face with verses on society. Maybe it’s Tracy K. Smith’s references to David Bowie and my favorite science fiction novel. Maybe it was their cover art. Whatever the case, I was enjoying poetry for the first time since sitting in one of my English courses. I spent next to fifty dollars in the two books and magazines alone. Thank you membership discount!

Life On Mars by Tracy K. SmithA mixture of poetry and science with a splash of belief, love, and social criticism, Tracy K. Smith’s collection of poetry guides the reader into the deepest sense of emotion. In a way I can only describe as a religious experience — as religious as a man without one can get, anyway — the book hits every nerve I’ve kept hidden for a year. The intro poem, “The Weather in Space,” asks the human question—Is God being or pure force? Asking the unanswerable, the impossible.

What happens when we shrug this mortal coil? asks the poet in “The Speed of Belief.” “My father won’t lie still, though his legs are buried in trousers and socks./But where does all he knew—and all he must now know—walk?”

There is no denying that Smith has an uncanny ability to choose words and pauses perfectly in her verse. Any reader of poetry should have this collection on her shelf.

Fancy Beasts by Alex LemonI enjoyed Alex Lemon’s poetry from the get go. His wit. His ability to amuse me with serious social issues. His flow. His beats. And imagery. None of these am I even capable of describing as anything but great. The man has the ability to draw a reader into his world, our world, and hold a mirror up (is that too cliche?). But there was one line from “Modern Life” that hit close to home. “How do they keep at it like this? All that jabbering,/When just breathing the humid air feels like drowning./There are so many good things in life I’ve overlooked.” (emphasis mine). It’s enough to send a man wallowing in self pity into a fit of tears. So much so, I opened Twitter on my Tab and sought out Alex Lemon (@AlxLemon) and told him how much it hit close to home. It went as follows:

In short, if poetry is a dying art it’s only because we believe it is. Because if you just sit there, in front of the poetry shelf in a Barnes & Noble, you’d see that it’s still thriving. Just waiting for you to pick it up, again.

Purchase Life on Mars at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Purchase Fancy Beasts at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Fancy Beasts is also available for Kindle and Nook.