My short poem “Transfer of Power” went up this week on Asses of Parnassus. The Asses of
Parnassus site publishes “short, witty, formal poems.” Check it out, and check out the whole site! Much thanks to Brooke Clark!
Naomi Replansky, at 99 years old, is on full speed ahead, a poet with an entirely unique and powerful style, as well as political activist and pioneer in so many ways. Read a fascinating article about her here; it speaks of how the poet Philip Levine “rediscovered” her while in his capacity as Poet Laureate in 2013, and by shining a light on her, helped her gain the recognition that had eluded her for much of her life. Despite praise from many critics and poets for her first book, the National Book Award-nominated Ring Song, a bad review by Lawrence Ferlinghetti so upset her that she didn’t write another book until 1994, 42 years later. However she continued to write and to engage with poets and other writers, including Bertolt Brecht, whose work she translated, and her longtime partner, prose writer Eva Kollich. Now she has sadly stated that she will write no more, and to that end has penned the poem below. Also, she reads another poem “Inheritance” on a video link here.
About Not Writing
Tongue-tied, I stand before
Myself as inquisitor.
I loved to mark time
With a beat, with rhyme.
Time marked me with its thumb,
Slowed down the pendulum.
Slowed it down, or stopped:
Words were lopped, words dropped—
No use to devise
Reasons or alibis.
Now, strangely, I draw breath
Well past my ninetieth.
What’s begun is almost done,
Still, I must brood upon
The much that I sought,
The little that I wrought,
Till time brings its own
Lockjaw of stone.
Here is the text of “An Inheritance”:
“Five dollars, four dollars, three dollars, two,
One, and none, and what do we do?”
This is the worry that never got said
But ran so often in my mother’s head
And showed so plain in my father’s frown
That to us kids it drifted down.
It drifted down like soot, like snow,
In the dream-tossed Bronx, in the long ago.
I shook it off with a shake of the head.
I bounced my ball, I ate warm bread,
I skated down the steepest hill.
But I must have listened, against my will:
When the wind blows wrong, I can hear it today.
Then my mother’s worry stops all play
And, as if in its rightful place,
My father’s frown divides my face.
Raise the roof! Sound the chimes! Click the link! Bring on the rhymes! The June issue of the gorgeous online zine Orchards Is now live and I am the featured poet!!! This includes an interview (including a question about this blog) and a selection of my poems (eleven!). Needless to say, I’m on Cloud Nine, deeply honored to be featured on such a fine formal-friendly publication. So many fine poets are included in this issue, a stunning array of poetry, quite varied too. My highest-flying thanks to fantastic editors Karen Kelsay and Jeff Holt! Please check it out, the whole issue well worth your time.
Read it here. What a thrill to have a guest blog post on Trish’s fantastic site! Meriam’s book is definitely a must-read.
International Women’s Day this year, galvanized by the misogyny of President Trump, showed the world a powerful presentation of the importance of women and their essential contributions, calling for both recognition and justice in so many ways.
At the same time, just last month, the shortest month of the year, was Black History Month, for which I barely found enough time to do a few posts, despite that even a 31-day month would not be sufficient time to do bring up a tenth of the poets we need to hear about. One important poet being Allison Joseph.
Allison Joseph’s poetry addresses both concerns: that of racism and its insidious dehumanization of people of color, and civil rights, and that of women’s rights and the fight to be respected and given their due. Here are two strong poems demonstrating what a strong voice she is indeed on both issues.
By Allison Joseph
A sundown town was a town, city or neighborhood that was purposely all-white. The term came from signs that were allegedly posted stating that people of color had to leave the town by sundown. They are also sometimes known as “sunset towns” or “gray towns.” The highest proportion of confirmed sundown towns were in the state of Illinois — Wikipedia
Don’t show your face in a sundown town,
or forget your race in a sundown town.
What ancient shame flushes my cheeks?
Reminded of my place in a sundown town.
“How’d you get so good-looking?” said with a wink.
Old white man loves my grace in a sundown town.
Lost in a neighborhood where dogs snap chains,
my body’s a dark space in a sundown town.
Shotguns, gun racks, Dixie stickers, rusted trucks.
Should I stray, armed with mace, in a sundown town?
Crimes thrive in black, white, every grade between.
Are you just another case in a sundown town?
Kink of your hair, curl of your lip,
be careful who you embrace in a sundown town.
State police, city cops, small-town hired hands.
All give chase in a sundown town.
Burned houses, riddled with junk and meth.
Hatred creeps its petty pace in a sundown town.
Black father, white mother, coffee-colored daughter.
What can love erase in a sundown town?
Rivers, tires, bodies—a confluence that cannot hide.
Hard not to leave a trace in a sundown town.
And here, first published on the PBS website:
By Allison Joseph
I remember this as her kitchen,
the one room in our house where no one
questioned my mother’s authority—
her cast iron pots bubbling over
on the stove, cracked tea cups
in the sink. How I hated
the difficult oven always hanging
off its hinges, so loose a clothes hanger
rigged it shut, gas range whose flames
leapt beneath fingers when I turned
its knobs too quickly, floor tile
that never came clean no matter
how much dirt I swept from its
cracks. This was her domain—
kitchen for frying fish
and stewing chicken, for rice
and peas, plantains and yams,
for grease and hot sauce and seasoned salt.
Only she could make that faulty
oven door stay, only she could master
the fickle flames of the rangetop,
only she could make those worn dishes
and chipped plates fill a table
with food so rich and hot
my father could not complain.
And though I am her daughter, this house
no longer hers, her body deep in holy ground,
I know she’d want me to save all this—
decades of platters and saucers, plates,
glasses—every chipped cup, tarnished fork.
The tenth Anniversary, and for now also the final, issue of The Centrifugal Eye is live with two of my poems. Themed “A Celebration of Poets,” all poems are written in the manner of or in tribute to other poets. Mine are in the manner of William Shakespeare (sonnet: “Double Helix”) and Agha Shahid Ali (ghazal: “East-West Highway”). It’s a beautifully done journal available online at the website, or in PDF or print. A huge thanks to Eve Hanninen and the TCE staff for a spectacular issue!
Two of my poems, “In the Louvre” and “Portrait of Her Hands,” (the latter being a sonnet which happened to be all one sentence) have been published in the latest Able Muse Review (Winter 2016). This is a very prestigious place to be, a gorgeous print literary magazine that includes fiction, essays, interviews, and art, as well as poetry. Huge thanks to editor Alex Pepple for such a spectacular venue featuring, but not limited to, formal poetry as well as other genres. The photography collection in this issue is breathtaking, featuring cloud forms and skyscapes among other subjects. It is an honor to be included in it.