National Poetry Month — Day 30

We have arrived at the end of this year’s NPM series on my blog. Thank you so much to all of you for joining me on this exploration and celebration of a few of the different ways poetry enriches our lives.

For my last post in this 2016 series, I’ve decided to share some images with you of how I spent my afternoon. I love making art, beautiful things made by hand. I used to make jewelry, which went rather well until I became a novelist and (between that and the two kids and the full-time teaching job with an hour-long commute each way) no longer had time to spend on it. When I was a kid, I loved to draw, and I did it often, even though I had absolutely zero talent. When I became an adult, I began painting, and I still love that, too, but I’m definitely not going to be featured in any galleries anytime soon!

But again, making art is important to me. This morning I spent editing one of my novels, which was awesome. This afternoon, I designed and created these handmade cards which feature fragments of my poetry. One of these fragments was featured earlier this month. The rest are probably new to you. All of these are from poems which appear in my new collection, Playing House (publication date TBA).

There are around a dozen different cards in this project, and all will be available for sale next weekend at the Gulf Coast Indie Book Fest. (If you’re in Houston on Saturday, come by! We’ll be at the Menil Park all day and you can get copies of Finis. and The Milk of Female Kindness — An Anthology of Honest Motherhood there.)

Anyway, here you go. I hope you like them. If you have comments on these cards — or on this year’s National Poetry Month series in general — please leave them below.

 

excerpt: "In Earnest" / copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016
excerpt: “In Earnest” / copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016

 

excerpt: "Samantha and the Relatives" / copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016
excerpt: “Samantha and the Relatives” / copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016

 

excerpt: "Relief from the Heat" / copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016
excerpt: “Relief from the Heat” / copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016

 

excerpt: "Lust and the Landscape, Barren" / copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016
excerpt: “Lust and the Landscape, Barren” / copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

National Poetry Month — Day 29

Yesterday I posted a poem by Rick Lupert from his forthcoming collection, Romancing the Blarney Stone. Today I’m featuring another from that collection which I like in particular for its use of very specific imagery to put us into a scene.

 

***

 

Show Yourself Dublin

 

Two days without sleep.
Our feet have quit their jobs.
Potatoes of every kind inside us.
At least three kinds of whiskey.
Dublin is a city like other cities.
They pick up the trash.

They erect their spires.
They move you from one room
to the other if you don’t like the smell.
There are three more days to
come out of your shell, Dublin.
Wake us up. Shine for us.

People have been telling us
not to kiss the stone, but
we’ve come all this way, I feel
we’re going to kiss the stone.
We can no longer see the river
from our hotel window.

 

***

 

Rick Lupert has been involved with L.A. poetry since 1990. He is the recipient of the 2014 Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Distinguished Service Award and was a co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets for two years. He created the Poetry Super Highway ( http://poetrysuperhighway.com/ ) and hosted the weekly Cobalt Cafe reading for almost twenty-one years. His first spoken word album, “Rick Lupert Live and Dead” featuring twenty-five studio and live tracks, was released in March, 2016. He’s authored nineteen collections of poetry, includingProfessor Clown on Parade, Romancing the Blarney Stone (both forthcoming from Rothco Press in May, 2016), Making Love to the 50 Foot Woman (Rothco Press, May 2015), The Gettysburg Undress and Nothing in New England is New, and edited the anthologies Ekphrastia Gone Wild, A Poet’s Haggadah and the noir anthology The Night Goes on All Night. He also writes and draws (with Brendan Constantine) the daily web comic Cat and Banana. He is regularly featured at venues throughout Southern California.

 

 

National Poetry Month — Day 28

My friend Rick Lupert, whom I know from the years when I was teaching in Los Angeles in the late ’90s, writes wonderful, accessible, fun poetry which I enjoy so much. He once wrote me a poem, almost twenty years ago, that was so intentionally terrible it made me laugh so hard I cried. I copied it into a tiny journal where I recorded things that made me tremendously happy.

Today’s poem, “Somewhere Over Canada,” is from his forthcoming book Romancing the Blarney Stone, poems written in and on the way to and from Ireland, last summer.

 

***

 

Somewhere Over Canada

 

It is 7:30 in the morning and my eyes are
staging a revolution of closing hours.

I message Brendan to ask if he is awake
with a quick follow up telling him I am not.

They will not hold planes for tired people.
So if you wish to go to a place that is

different from the place you are in
you will need to defer to the schedules

of others. Behind me they discuss
the size of water bottles. This is a topic

I have nothing to add to. They say this
flight is nonstop but I can’t imagine

any other kind.

 

***

 

Rick Lupert has been involved with L.A. poetry since 1990. He is the recipient of the 2014 Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Distinguished Service Award and was a co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets for two years. He created the Poetry Super Highway ( http://poetrysuperhighway.com/ ) and hosted the weekly Cobalt Cafe reading for almost twenty-one years. His first spoken word album, “Rick Lupert Live and Dead” featuring twenty-five studio and live tracks, was released in March, 2016. He’s authored nineteen collections of poetry, including Professor Clown on Parade, Romancing the Blarney Stone (both forthcoming from Rothco Press in May, 2016), Making Love to the 50 Foot Woman (Rothco Press, May 2015), The Gettysburg Undress and Nothing in New England is New, and edited the anthologies Ekphrastia Gone Wild, A Poet’s Haggadah and the noir anthology The Night Goes on All Night. He also writes and draws (with Brendan Constantine) the daily web comic Cat and Banana. He is regularly featured at venues throughout Southern California.

 

 

National Poetry Month — Day 27

This past weekend I attended DFWCon, a writing conference in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It’s the fourth year I’ve attended, and while I’ve been to several other writing conferences, I think DFWCon, so far, is my favorite. There are a number of reasons why, but that would be another post.

One thing the con had this year — which is unusual for non-academic writing conferences, I think — was POETRY. Yay! One of the poet presenters there this year was Joaquín Zihuatanejo, a really impressive spoken-word artist and rather good workshop/class leader.

One feature the con offered this year was a Heroes and Villains competition. Essentially, a bunch of people took the Heroes session, which was a character development class to collectively come up with a hero. At the same time, a bunch of other people took the Villains session, which was a character development class to collectively — you guessed it — invent a villain. Then two slam poets took all those character notes, and overnight, they each composed a poem to go with one of those characters. An illustrator also came up with artistic visual renderings of these proposed characters.

The following is the poem that went with the villain character, and it was delivered beautifully at the Sunday lunch keynote program by its author.

 

***

 

Villain Hell

 

A villanelle

 

My father’s arms were replaced by orphanage walls
Dropped on cold steps draped in my mother’s sweater
The six pound eight ounce embodiment of the heroic fall

My mission in life, to grow stalwart and tall
A child who turned her back on heroic things because I knew better
My mother’s embrace was replaced by orphanage walls

The bigger children attacked me once in a bathroom stall
Forced their heads in toilets, I grew angrier while they grew wetter
A six-year old embodiment of the heroic fall

They dropped the gauntlet I answered the call
Dropped me without so much as a letter
The heroes that were my parents were replaced by orphanage walls

A revenge filled adolescent I grew to live for the brawl
Mastered the art of deadly traps, I was a real go getter
The sixteen-year old embodiment of the heroic fall

When I trap the heroes under my heel, I listen for their caterwauls
My cape, nothing more than an unassuming sweater
If I kill one hero, I’ve killed them all, replaced them all with orphanage walls
The bloodshot, crazy eyed, 30 year—No, 29-year old embodiment of the heroic fall

 

***

 

Joaquín was the winner of the 2008 Individual World Poetry Slam Championship, besting 77 poets representing cities all over North America, France, Japan, and Australia. The following year Joaquín was the poet chosen to represent the U.S. at the 2009 European World Cup of Poetry Slam in Paris, France, a competition that he won besting 15 poets from 15 different nations, making him the number one ranked slam poet in the world on both sides of the Atlantic. In recent years Joaquín has given performances in Mexico, Canada, Spain, Germany, Austria, and the Island of Reunion off the coast of South Africa. He was the winner of the Institute for Creativity, Consciousness, and Community Artist in Residence Award by the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he spent the better part of the summer writing and teaching in 2014. Joaquin was also recently a featured performer at the Lincoln Center La Casita Literary Festival in New York City, and while there was invited by NPR to be interviewed for two upcoming series, Historias and The National Teacher’s Initiative. A featured poet at the Glastonbury Music and Arts Festival in 2015, he is currently a second year MFA student at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Joaquín’s work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Yellow Medicine Review, Más Tequila Review, and Learn Then Burn, among others. His latest collection of poems and short fiction, Fight or Flight, is due out this summer by CoolSpeak Book Publishing. Joaquín currently lives just north of his hometown of Dallas, Texas, with his wife and two daughters. He has two passions in his life: his wife, Aída, and poetry, always in that order.

National Poetry Month — Day 26

And here is another by Melanie Rosin, a poem which has to do with the magical thinking of paper cranes.

 

***

 

Paper Cranes

 

I grew up hearing the legend
of the power of paper cranes,
that if you make a thousand for another,
a wish will be granted.

We set to work
the day after your diagnosis,
spending our breaks between classes
and nights in our room
after we finished our homework
making art out of origami.
We brought them in bags to your hospital room,
and instantly knew what our friend wanted—
to never admit defeat.

In your old room, the paper cranes
make a chandelier, strung together
and hanging from the ceiling.
When your father cracks the window
and the wind blows,
the cranes come to life
and dance about your bed,
and we can see the magic to the legend
that somehow lives on even when people cannot.

Now allow the cranes to grant another wish,
that of your family, which is to heal.
Mend their aching hearts.
Give them the peace they need to live on
even though you cannot.
It takes time to heal, can’t be achieved
in a matter of days,
but it gets slightly easier with the help of a chandelier
made out of a thousand paper cranes.

 

***

Melanie Rosin, a Houston native, is currently a J.D. candidate at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor. Her collection of poems, Four Feet from the Surface (Neo Literati Press), was published in 2011 and can be found on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. She plans on returning to Houston upon graduating law school this upcoming December.

 

National Poetry Month — Day 25

One of the functions of poetry is to make art. Another is to make activism. Still another is to make comment. This poem, from Melanie Rosin, does all three.

 

***

 

Assignment on the African Diamond Mines

 

My boss instructed me to capture
the inhumanity happening on the other side
of the world in 450 to 500 words,
but I can’t seem to put my fingers to my keyboard
and find a way to explain
the distant gravity of diamonds mined in war zones,
the financing of insurgencies
in so few words.

To begin,

I imagine a ten-year-old boy
sitting in the scolding sand,
holding a small rock covered in dust.

I imagine a warlord firing a shot into the charcoal sky,
snatching the treasure from the boy’s palm,
demanding that he move on to the next search,
leaving large footprints in the ground as he walks away.

And I imagine blood staining
the red sand drifting through the boy’s fingers,
wondering if diamonds aren’t the only thing
that lasts forever.

 

***

 

Melanie Rosin, a Houston native, is currently a J.D. candidate at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor. Her collection of poems, Four Feet from the Surface (Neo Literati Press), was published in 2011 and can be found on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. She plans on returning to Houston upon graduating law school this upcoming December.

National Poetry Month — Day 24

For Shakespeare’s birthday, I’m sharing a fragment from Romeo and Juliet that never ceases to amaze me. It’s from that glorious balcony scene — no, I’m not a romantic at all, why do you ask? — the scene that made me want to take up acting when I was very young.

Also, this fragment is one that gives me fits, as an English teacher and general lover of language, because people get its meaning wrong all the time. Here’s a hint to help this fragment make actual, logical sense: “wherefore” means “why,” not “where.” If it meant “where,” that would suggest Juliet knows Romeo is out in the garden, and part of the point of the start of this scene is that she does not. He completely surprises her when he climbs up that trellis.

Also, if “wherefore” meant “where,” the rest of the lines would be a somewhat confusing non sequitur.

 

Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name,
or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

 

Notice the lack of direct-address comma after “thou” in the first line? Yeah, me too. Its absence means she isn’t addressing him a third time in that sentence, but that his name here is a direct object of “art” (“are” in modern parlance).

As it turns out, Juliet is musing on the misfortune of the boy she likes being a Montague, and thus a member of the family her own family is feuding with and sworn to hate. This moment of pre-rebellious reverie is important, too, because she’s deciding that if Romeo won’t renounce his family, then all he has to do is swear his love to her, and she’ll give up her family, to be with him.

Hijinks ensue.

 

***

 

And just for fun, here’s an amazeballs flow chart from goodticklebrain.com to help you decide which of Sheakespeare’s plays you might want to watch to commemorate his birth- and deathday.