Featured Poet: Charlie Scott

This has been a wonderful month of poems. I’ve enjoyed all the work people have shared with me, and sharing it with you. As I’ve said before, I received so many wonderful pieces that I just couldn’t fit in for lack of days. If you had fun reading this series, I hope you’ll check out the rest of the works by these poets. We haven’t even scratched the surface yet of all the good stuff out there by these talented writers.

I’m going to end this year’s National Poetry Month series with one by Charlie Scott, my colleague and friend — and one of my poetry mentors from college. Speaking of college, news broke this week that the dorm complex where I lived when I attended there is going to be torn down. This news rallied literally hundreds of people who lived in those dorms within roughly the same decade and change to join together on Facebook and — reconnect.

Yes, many of us were already friends on Facebook. But prompted to share this news in a viral fashion, we found more than just each other. We found those we hadn’t kept in touch with. Friends of friends who were once friends of ours, like ripples in a pond, stretched in widening concentric circles until, within forty-eight hours, we had our own new Facebook group with (so far) 615 members (and counting — in fact, two more joined just since I started writing this blog post). People have been posting memories, anecdotes, photos.

I admit the volume of FB notifications has been overwhelming.

We’re planning a reunion before they raze the buildings. But honestly we’re having the reunion already, and it’s wonderful, and I cannot wait to be at that party and see so many people after the decades we’ve been apart. We’ll have to plan it far enough in advance for everyone to come back from the four corners of the country, from the outer bands of the planet. People are talking about doing this, and I hope they’re serious.

Bittersweet in all of this, of course, is that not all of us are still around. People have died. Our classmates, our friends. They died young and tragically and left so many behind. Some of them still have active Facebook accounts, and on the anniversaries of their births, Facebook reminds is to wish them a happy birthday and offers us a chance to send them a gift.

And we remember them, with love and fondness and occasionally the temptation to get, as Tim O’Brien cautioned against, sentimental about the dead. But we do not forget; we cling. And the fact that we can? That in itself is a gift.

 

***

 

ELEGY: TO BOB

 

Funny thing. When I sign up
for an on-line account
of some kind and am asked
to answer one of those
“security questions,” that question
has on occasion been, “What
was the last name of your first
childhood friend?” More
often than not (and I guess here
I’m handing all you hackers
out there a freebee), my answer
to this query has been
“Jordan.” The good thing is that
that answer will be always
the correct and, shall we say, perfect
one. Those memories do not
vanish. They persist. But people do
vanish and they don’t
persist, and when they do and do
not, my goodness, that’s bad.

 

***

 

Charlie Scott has published one full-length collection of poetry, So Much for Borders, and two chapbooks, The River Is Laughter and Methodoglia1. His poetry has appeared in several journals, including The New RepublicThe Antioch Review, Western Humanities Review, and Zocalo Public Square.

 

 

 

Featured Poet: Melanie Rosin

Tonight’s poem comes to us from Melanie Rosin. You might remember her from last year’s National Poetry Month series, but in case you didn’t catch her poem back then, here’s a link to it.

 

***

Oak Park
After Dylan Thomas’ “Fern Hill”

 

Now as I was young and blithe under the shade
of the oak tree, whose one hundred years of wisdom
stood firm in the ground and supported my head
when I leaned back, the sun sparkled
like a canary diamond in the sky,
showcasing the shadows of my protector’s leaves
on the ground as they danced with each gust.

 

And I was wide-eyed and ran my hands
through the fresh, crisp-cut greens of the links
and often picked the reddish pink begonias
lining the base of the gates when my nanny
was buried in her novel. I saved
those blossoms under the tree’s protection
until the sun’s decline reminded my nanny and me
my parents would soon come home from work.

 

And now, to return to Oak Park
during brief visits home for the holidays,
as my parents and I amble around our neighborhood
on a Sunday afternoon, balmy beads form on my face.
I wish to retreat from the stone in the sky
scorching my exposed skin.

 

But, just as I did when I was young and blithe,
I also wish to catch a glimpse of the begonias
I used to bring home to my parents
but that have since been replaced with manicured bushes,
and I wish to rest under that guardian oak
who has decayed into a perpetual winter tree
despite the adolescent stories its seen,
and I wish to dance under my past protector’s shade
and form patterns in the ground alongside its leaves.

 

***

 

Melanie Rosin is from Houston, Texas. Melanie’s collection of poems, Four Feet from the Surface (Neo Literati Press), was published in 2011. It can be found on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. She is currently a second-year law student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor but continues to write.

Book Spine Poetry

You are probably familiar with the concept of Book Spine Poetry by now. It all started, if my research is correct, with Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books project over twenty years ago. The basic premise is that you make a little poem out of the titles on the spines of books. I love this form and plan to feature several of them in my National Poetry Month series this year. Here’s one I put together tonight.

 

BSP 4/2/15

 

I don’t normally use more than one book by the same author in a single Book Spine Poem, but tonight it just worked out that way.

 

wicked
witches
drinking coffee elsewhere

four sisters, all queens
shattered souls
lost

happy to be here

 

I’d love for you to share your Book Spine Poetry with me. Consider this your formal invitation to do so! Maybe it will even be included in this series. Please send it to me at forest.of.diamonds@gmail.com with “Book Spine Poem” in the subject line.

April Poetry Contest: Something REALLY Short…

It’s April again, and that means NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!!  YAY!!!

This year for my April poetry contest, I’m going with something a bit different.  (Well, different for me, but apparently commonplace everywhere else, as a simple Internet search will suggest.)  Have you ever heard about Book Spine Poetry?  Well, that’s the focus of this contest.  Read this Slate article here by David Rosenberg for more information and some stellar examples by Nina Katchadourian.

You have until April 30th, 2013, to compose a short poem or story comprised entirely of the words on the spines of books.  Each composition must be the contest entrant’s own original work.  To enter the contest, email a picture of your entry to me at forest.of.diamonds@gmail.com with the subject line “BOOK SPINE POETRY CONTEST ENTRY.”  (Please do NOT leave your entry here in the comments section, although if you foresee having difficulty emailing your entry to me, you may explain why here in the comments section, and we’ll work it out.)  There is no limit to how many times you may enter, as long as you do so before the end of this month.

For a multitude of glorious examples which I won’t picture here because of copyright issues, check out these images of book spine poetry from Google search.

All entries will be featured here on Sappho’s Torque.  The winner will be selected by a volunteer panel of writers and will receive a t-shirt with a hilarious Emily Dickinson joke on it.

Thank you for playing, and good luck!

***

Please note:  The deadline for this contest has been extended to Sunday night, May 5th, 2013.  Good luck!

National Poetry Month — Just a Little Over a Week Left! (Until Next Year, That Is…)

Hey there.  Have you all written a poem or two in honor of April, National Poetry Month?  Maybe you’ve attended a poetry reading?  (I know some of you have, because I saw you at mine a few weeks ago.  Thanks!)  Or maybe you’ve gone out and purchased a book of poetry, thereby doing your small part to help stimulate the economy?  No? Hmm…we can fix that…

Go out and support a local independent bookstore this week by purchasing a book from them, ideally (since it’s still April), a book of poems.  If you don’t like to read poetry yourself, then get one as a gift for someone who does.  And for the next week or so, you can even find copies of one of my chapbooks of poetry, still available till the end of month, at Brazos Bookstore in Houston.  Here’s their website:  www.brazosbookstore.com.  (Perhaps if sales of it go well this month they’ll want to keep featuring it on their shelves.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  It could happen.)

The chapbook they have in stock right now will likely be out of print soon, so this might be one of your last chances to find it anywhere.  It’s entitled Barefoot on Marble:  Twenty Poems, 1995-2001.  I thought, for this weekend’s post, it might be nice to share with you a sampling from this volume.  Back in the late 90’s when I was living part of every year in Los Angeles, I had written a short series of poems which my friend and poetry colleague Greg Rea had dubbed “mermaid lit.”; this is one of the poems from that series, a sestina.  (And because of the vagaries of WordPress formatting, I’ve placed an asterisk each time there’s a stanza break, just to make it clear.  Sorry I had to do that, and if you WordPress bloggers out there know how to insert a space-break on here without having the formatting ripped out when the post gets published, I’d love the guidance.  Thanks.)

Enjoy!

***

Moving to Green Rain Island, Your Home

We’ve been sitting on the bed
in the place where it rains
every afternoon as a part
of the natural order of things.
The afternoons become evenings
quickly here under the rainy sky.

I recall an afternoon when a green sky
made me want to crawl into bed
and wait for the dark, wet evening
to clean the greenness away with rain.
The sky-light washed all of our things
in a pale green bath, and a part

of me wished we could make a departure
from this place, jump into the wet sky,
leaving all our things
in the house, piled on our bed
in case rains swallowed the land.  Blanket-cocooned, I trembled for rain
to wash the daylight out of the evening

air, but the green tint slid even
onto the darkness, partially
dripped in sheets by the rain,
partially a reflection on the sky
of the wet trees.  The window by the bed
shook with the wind, and little things

started to scare me.  I packed a few things
into a satchel in case we left for the evening
to sleep in your old bed
at your parents’ house.  They were never a part
of the plan, but even I could not resist the sky’s
thundering, the ugly greenness of rain.

Now, wrapped in the blanket, we watch the rain
dripping rivers on the window.  You reassure me our things
will be safe in this house, under this sky,
under our bed, and that we will stay home all evening.
I’m not wild about the weather here, but I guess it’s part
and parcel of being with you, together in this bed,

in this house, under this rainy sky,
on an island where people leave their things under their beds
and the evening is part of the afternoon.

National Poetry Month (That Would Be April)

I know you’re eagerly awaiting the news of who won the March Poetry Contest, but the entries are all really good, and I’m not going to be announcing the winner till this weekend.  Sorry!  But I do have some other exciting news.

Tomorrow night — Thursday, April 5th — Brazos Bookstore will be kicking off their National Poetry Month festivities with a reception honoring and reading by several local Houston poets.  The store will be featuring these authors’ books the whole month.

Guess what?  I’m one of them.  Wheee!

Come on out Thursday evening at 7:00 for the reading, and stay to buy some books and get them signed by their authors.  The book I’ll have available is Barefoot on Marble:  Twenty Poems, 1995-2001.  I’m not sure yet what all I’ll be reading, but I suspect my selections will be from all three books (the two already published and the one I’m still working on).

Here’s the store’s website for more information:  http://www.brazosbookstore.com/

I hope to see you there!