Poem-A-Day: Mike Alexander

It should come as zero surprise to anyone that I like political and/or satirical poems. I suspect we’re in for a lot more of that in the near-term. But the ones in this series won’t always be. This one needs to get out there, though.

***

CONSIDERING THE ALTERNATIVE 

He thought he saw a castle wall, built on bad advice.
The president informed him it would be a paradise,
where avocados could be bought for just three times the price.

He thought he saw an oil spill contaminate a fjord.
The president declared it was a co-pay that insured
a preexisting malady that cannot now be cured. 

He thought he saw a gathering that nobody attended.
The president informed him that the party never ended.
I’d best not say a word, he thought, lest any be offended. 

He thought he saw the televised results of an election.
The president declared that there had been an insurrection
whose perpetual exposure somehow escaped detection. 

He thought he saw the opposition take it up a notch.
The president pretended he would grab it in the crotch.
He couldn’t look away, but he could barely stand to watch.

***
Alexander organized the weekly readings at Helios (now Avant Garden) from 1999 to 2003. He was on the board of Mutabilis Press from 2010-2015, & has been active in Public Poetry since 2011. His book Retrograde came out in 2013. He is now running POETRY FIX, a bi-monthly reading on Tuesday nights at FIX Coffeebar.
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Poem-A-Day: W.H. Auden

We’ve been thinking a lot lately about tyranny: what it looks like, where it comes from, and how it roots itself in the culture and sprouts into a choking kudzu when too many people aren’t paying attention.

Here’s a poem by W.H. Auden, who lived from 1907 to 1973.

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Epitaph on a Tyrant

 

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

***

If you’d like to read some astute analysis on this poem, check out the Interesting Literature blog here.

 

A Long Time Coming

I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for over a week, but sometimes it has felt too overwhelming to sit down and do it. I’ve made a list of things I wanted to say in it, an outline; I’ve composed fragments of it in my head while walking down the street or brushing my teeth. But I haven’t actually written it yet because there’s just too much to say.

So I’m going to try and do this a piece at a time, because I’m coming to understand that right now, a piece at a time is the best way for me to respond to life. Continue reading “A Long Time Coming”

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.

 

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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.

GOP Debates Haiku

So, here in the US the presidential campaign starts a couple of years before the election. And since everyone and their nephew has decided to run for the GOP nomination — with the exception of Rick Perry, who was doing it but who has since dropped out — we’ve been having debates. Big Kid Debates and Little Kiddie Table Debates (not my epithets), in fact. You have to be in the Top 10 to get into the Big Kid Debate, and the LKDs happen earlier in the afternoon for the lower-ranking candidates.

Back in July, HuffPo decided to quit covering Donald Trump’s campaign in the politics section. They’re still covering it completely, but just in the entertainment section, because Trump is, as they said, “a special case.” They didn’t want to give him credibility as a serious contender. Yet he manages to persist. Quite a phenomenon, as US politics seem to be filled with these days.

So back in 2012, I held a haiku contest on this blog during the Democratic nominating convention; it was fun and entertaining, and I’d like to invite you all to share your thoughts on the debates with us this time around. All political perspectives are welcome. Leave a haiku (any interpretation of that form you can validate) in the comments section below, and if you leave your email address too (or send it to me in a private message to forest of diamonds at gmail dot com with “GOP debates haiku” in the subject line), I’ll send you a free copy of Finis. (ebook) for participating.

Let the fun begin!

 

Featured Poet: Fady Joudah

The world is too much with us. This poem, which I think about often, is a reflection of that.

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Mimesis

My daughter
.                        wouldn’t hurt a spider
That had nested
Between her bicycle handles
For two weeks
She waited
Until it left of its own accord

If you tear down the web I said
It will simply know
This isn’t a place to call home
And you’d get to go biking

She said that’s how others
Become refugees isn’t it?

***

Fady Joudah is a Palestinian-American poet and physician. He is the 2007 winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition for his collection of poems The Earth in the Attic. “Mimesis” appears in his book Alight, published by Copper Canyon Press.

Featured Poet: Vivekanand Jha

With the ramp-up of the 2016 presidential campaign lately, I’m already anticipating the news cycle misery to come. Shouldn’t we limit our campaign season to just a few months? I really think that would be a good idea. Other countries have that. We should have that, too.

Anyway, all this preemptive fatigue reminds me of this poem by Vivekanand Jha.

***

Toxin-Tipped Words

Our politicians, merchants
of vibrant, electoral democracy,
are cultivating a novel poll weapon
of toxin-tipped words,
flooding the lexis with new entrants
of vices and venoms.

It’s not the first time, new thing;
only medium of discourse has changed.
We can understand their disquiet,
sudden harmonic imbalances and fear.
The festival of fleece near,
they rehearse to chant the satanic verse,
seeking salvation for selves
spitting befooling words.

The new gutter dialogue
carries limitless sewage,
stinking a rotten egg-like smell,
words leaving their tongues
as aimless as the boat
without oars and rudder.

A pompous journey on a felonious fling,
through the sewers of language,
setting the course of the nation to capsize
into the water woes of hazy politics.

***

Dr Vivekanand Jha is a translator, editor and award winning poet. He is the author of five books of poetry. He has also authored one critical book on the poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra and edited nine critical anthologies on Indian English Writing. His works have been published in more than 100 magazines round the world. Moreover his poems have been published in more than 25 poetry anthologies. He has more than 25 research and critical articles published in various national and international anthologies and referred journals. Recently he has edited a poetry anthology, The Dance of the Peacock, featuring 151 Indian English poets and published by Hidden Brook Press, Canada. He is son of noted professor, poet and award winning translator Dr. Raja Nand Jha (Crowned with Sahitya Akademi Award, New Delhi). He is the founder and chief editor of two literary journals, VerbalArtPhenomenal Literature. Read his blog at http://www.poetvjha.wordpress.com.