Poem-A-Day: e.e. cummings

I don’t remember whether I’ve posted this poem before, but even if I have, I don’t care. It’s one of my absolute all-time favorites, “Me up at does” by e.e. cummings. It would be redundant to say that cummings plays with language conventions in ways that are conspicuous and interesting. So did Emily Dickinson, whose work I also love. (So does Marie Marshall — but more on her poetry tomorrow.)

“Me up at does” is one of those poems that I like to splash up on the board in class when we’ve got fifteen or twenty minutes to fill and want to do a little analysis work that can be contained and stretchy and fun, and that can make my high school students feel perhaps a little more accomplished after they’ve done it. (If anyone wants the lesson plan for this assignment, let me know.)

***

Me up at does

 

Me up at does

out of the floor
quietly Stare

a poisoned mouse

still who alive

is asking What
have i done that

You wouldn’t have

 

 

Poem-A-Day: Christine Heppermann (once more)

All right, I have one more poem by Heppermann I want to share with you this year. Previously appearing on this blog were some of her poems about sexism and the beauty myth. Today, we’re looking at a feminist reimagining of a fairy tale, “Rumpelstiltskin.”

And I have a question for you at the end. I’m fascinated by what your answers might be. Please leave your response in the comments.

***

Retelling

 

What the miller’s daughter should have said
from the start
or at any point down the line is,
no.
No, you can’t drag me to the king.
No, I can’t spin that room full of straw into gold.
No, not that room, either.
Or that one.
Quit asking.

No, I won’t give you my necklace.
No, I won’t give you my ring.
No, I can’t give you the child;
the child will never exist.
End of story.

Once upon a time
there was a miller’s daughter
who got a studio apartment,
took classes during the day,
waited tables at night,
and when customers asked
what’s in the gravy
on the rump roast sandwich,
it’s the best thing they’ve ever
tasted, she winked and said,
Guess.

***

So I’m curious: what do you think is in the gravy?

***

This poem has been posted here with the permission of the author.

***

Christine’s writing for children and young adults includes fiction, poetry, and narrative nonfiction. Her books include the highly acclaimed book of poetry, Poisoned Apples: Poems For You, My Pretty; the novel-in-verse Ask Me How I Got Here; the nonfiction City Chickens; and the Backyard Witch series (with Ron Koertge).

Christine has been working in the field of children’s publishing for more than twenty-five years. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Horn Book Magazine, The Five Owls, and The Riverbank Review of Books for Young Readers. She has been a book reviewer for many newspapers; currently she writes the young adult roundup for the Chicago Tribune.

Christine lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her two daughters, two cats, and one husband. Find her online at christineheppermann.com. She can be reached via email at info@christineheppermann.com.

 

Poem-A-Day: Christine Heppermann (again)

Yesterday I posted a poem by Christine Heppermann about the evolution of the dominance problem inherent in the inequity between men and women.

Today I’m posting one by her about the tragedy of the beauty myth, about how people can become conditioned — brain-washed — to pick themselves apart. Is there any more insidious oppression than the constant pursuit of perfection? What a curse to never be able to see one’s own value.

***

The Wicked Queen’s Legacy

 

It used to be just the one,
but now all mirrors chatter.

In fact, every reflective surface has opinions
on the shape of my nose, the size

of my chest, the hair I wash and brush
until it’s so shiny I can see myself

scribbling notes as each strand
recommends improvements.

I make sure to write them all down
when all I really want is to stop

at the market and flirt with the butcher,
ignoring his critical knives,

haggling, for once, over the cost of
some other poor creature’s thighs.

***

This poem has been posted here with the permission of the author.

***

Christine’s writing for children and young adults includes fiction, poetry, and narrative nonfiction. Her books include the highly acclaimed book of poetry, Poisoned Apples: Poems For You, My Pretty; the novel-in-verse Ask Me How I Got Here; the nonfiction City Chickens; and the Backyard Witch series (with Ron Koertge).

Christine has been working in the field of children’s publishing for more than twenty-five years. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Horn Book Magazine, The Five Owls, and The Riverbank Review of Books for Young Readers. She has been a book reviewer for many newspapers; currently she writes the young adult roundup for the Chicago Tribune.

Christine lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her two daughters, two cats, and one husband. Find her online at christineheppermann.com. She can be reached via email at info@christineheppermann.com.

Poem-A-Day: Christine Heppermann

When the Poem-A-Day series meets Women Writers Wednesday series meets Whom I’m Reading series…

My friend Sarah gave me a book of poems for Christmas called Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann. I love this book. The first time I read it, I did so all in one sitting.

Heppermann has written a collection of smart poems that investigate the intersection between fairy tales and gender roles, and that also explore the toxicity of the anti-feminist culture which is the fruit of those loins. E. Lockhart’s blurb on the front cover calls Poisoned Apples “[a] bloody poetic attack on the beauty myth that’s caustic, funny, and heartbreaking.” I don’t think I could have described it better myself.

Paired with these sharply witty poems are black-and-white photographs, by a variety of artists, which communicate the ideas of the poems without being too on-the-nose, and which are standalone pieces of art in and of themselves. I highly recommend this book.

***

A Brief History of Feminism

 

Simon says touch your toes.
Simon says turn around.
Simon says touch your toes again.
Now wiggle a little.
Simon says he is not a pervert.
Simon says hop on one foot.
Simon didn’t say stop hopping!
Hop closer.
Simon says hop closer.
Simon says is that a push-up bra?
Geez, honey, calm down.

Simon says calm down.
On second thought,
Simon says you’re pretty cute
when you’re all worked up like that.
Wanna hop your sweet self into my office
and see my sofa bed?
Simon says, we were just playing, Officer.
Simon, anything you say
can be used against you in a court of law.

***

This poem has been posted here with the permission of the author.

***

Christine’s writing for children and young adults includes fiction, poetry, and narrative nonfiction. Her books include the highly acclaimed book of poetry, Poisoned Apples: Poems For You, My Pretty; the novel-in-verse Ask Me How I Got Here; the nonfiction City Chickens; and the Backyard Witch series (with Ron Koertge).

Christine has been working in the field of children’s publishing for more than twenty-five years. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Horn Book Magazine, The Five Owls, and The Riverbank Review of Books for Young Readers. She has been a book reviewer for many newspapers; currently she writes the young adult roundup for the Chicago Tribune.

Christine lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her two daughters, two cats, and one husband. Find her online at christineheppermann.com. She can be reached via email at info@christineheppermann.com.

Poem-A-Day: Outspoken Bean

Last month I had the genuine pleasure of reading my work as a feature in the Poetry FIX reading series here in Houston. The basic set-up is that the night has two features and also open mic opportunities. It was one of the best venues I’ve ever read in: large enough for a good crowd but intimate enough for them to fill the place, and a gorgeous coffee bar environment. I don’t read my work in public often, and it was a real treat for me to do so as part of this series.

I’m what I suppose many people would call a “page poet,” in that my work translates well on the page. Much of my work can read well at a microphone, too, but I’ve never been able to create the kind of energy and presence that performance poets do. This is a mild regret of mine. I think I might have somehow enjoyed being a poetry rock star in my twenties. (Slam poetry is still quite popular in Houston, by the way, along with two or three other established poetry scenes, because our fair city is big enough for all of us.)

The other feature that night was a local slam poet who’s very much admired and respected here and elsewhere. He goes by Outspoken Bean, and you can find several videos of his performances online, but I want to share this one in particular. This video is not of the night we shared a stage, but it is of a poem he performed the night we did. I admire his perspective.

If you ever get a chance to see him perform, take it.

***

Emanuelee “Outspoken Bean” is a performance poet, writer, compassionate mentor, electric entertainer, and an educator. Bean travels the country performing his original works and inspiring creative minds. Bean is a military brat, but calls San Antonio, Texas, home, and since high school Bean has been producing shows and performing continuously. That work ethic has taken him to Trinidad to Miami to South Dakota to Off-Broadway New York City and across the vast Houston Metropolitan where he inspires people from all walks of life to find and claim their voice. He is a 2011 Texas Poet Laureate nominee, ranked 9th in the Individual World Poetry Slam 2013, ranked 2nd in collaborative poetry at Group Piece Finals 2013, and ranked 11th at National Poetry Slam 2014 (both with Houston VIP). He started performing spoken-word in 2005. In his senior year at Prairie View A&M, Bean founded and coached the University’s first poetry slam team. In their first year, they won the title in their region and grabbed the 8th place ranking in the country at College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI ’08). Bean has also worked with the Harris County Department of Education, Houston’s Young Audiences: Arts for Learning and Texas Commission for the Arts, Houston Grand Opera, and coached Miami’s youth poetry slam team, Tiger-tail WordSpeak in the summer 2016.  He serves as the Project Coordinator, Lead Coach, and mentor for Meta-Four Houston, a project under Writers in the Schools’ WITS Performance program, where professional performance/slam poets encourage self-expression and literacy among Houston’s youth through creative writing and performance. Fins him online at http://outspokenbeanpoetry.com.

Poem-A-Day: me

Today is my daughter’s twelfth birthday. I cannot believe it. There’s no need for you to experience all the usual platitudes about how quickly children turn into adults or the beastly parts of adolescence. We know, we know. They know, they know. We and they know everything and nothing.

So today I’m posting one of my own poems. It started as a litany exercise, really, and evolved into a list of advisable things.

There’s so much I want to help my daughter understand about the time of life she’s going through, and we do talk, a lot. In her birthday card, I’m giving her a copy of this gorgeous and vital essay by Casey Fleming.

And then there’s this poem, which I’m sharing with everyone else, too.

***

Litany

 

When you are given arbitrary instructions, take the nugget of common sense buried within them to heart.

When you have too many toys to play with, share all of them with anyone who needs them.

When the bread dough doesn’t rise, begin again once the sun is shining, remembering that flour and yeast are cheap.

When your pillows are expanding beneath you while you and your room remain the same size, take a deep breath and summon your inner peaceful goddess, the sleeping infant, the remembrance of time immemorial.

When you are given too many books to fill, pack them into a beautiful cabinet, all but one, and scribble your thoughts one page per day.

When you cannot stop sneezing, leave the house for an hour with your allergy medicine and a washed face, clean shirt, brushed-through hair.

When you burn your family’s dinner, know they still love you and will appreciate tomorrow’s feast all the more.

When the spiders come into the house, clear out the corners to give their webs room, and tell them the ground rules you’ve set. And know your wish has been granted.

When you cannot find your entrance into a poem, let other people talk around it on the periphery of your attention.

When the novel inside you is desperate to emerge but you have no time to write it out, make your passion part of your workday, even if just for half an hour.

When your father takes you to the rodeo, enjoy holding his hand between the games.

When you dream of me, be generous, please.

When you reach the end of your to-do list, revel in the glory of a blessing.

When you grow so wise you realize I am an imbecile, recognize this is a cycle, too.

 

Poem-A-Day: John Donne (once more)

Since conquering death is sort of the theme of the weekend, and so is holiness, here is another wonderful poem by John Donne, though not, this time, one charged with erotic imagery or the darkness of a disappointed love affair.

***

Holy Sonnet X:  Death, be not proud

 

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
***
Happy Easter.