Category Archives: Poetry

Review of Poem in Your Pocket: 200 Poems to Read and Carry, compiled by Elaine Bleakney

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Review of Poem in Your Pocket: 200 Poems to Read and Carry, compiled by Elaine Bleakney

I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought this book ten years ago.

Yes, I do. I wanted a book of poems. I ordered it through a book club (Book of the Month? Quality Paperback Book Club? Mystery Guild? I belonged to a bunch of them back in the day.) and in the picture in the brochure, it looked like an ordinary hardcover book.

But when I opened it, I was totally disoriented. It was glue-bound like a notepad. It had no page numbers, no table of contents.

The premise of the book is, you can tear out a poem and keep it handy in your pocket, ready to be referred to or to be offered to a friend or to a stranger.

Of course, I would never deface a book by pulling out pages. If I like a poem, I want it right there in my book where I can find it again, not in my pocket where it will get wrinkled or go through the wash, transforming itself into garbage.

Also, it’s really cumbersome opening a book and then reading pages that are bound at the top. You can’t flip through the pages without holding the book sideways.Poem in Your Pocket

I started the book several times without getting very far. But I recently committed to reading the entire book from front to back.

 

Many of the poets were familiar to me. None of the poems were. I don’t know if I am just ignorant, or if it was Bleakney’s intention to promote less-known masterpieces.

There are some poems in here that I didn’t care for at all (that risk goes with anthology territory). But there are also some that were so delightful I felt compelled to turn over the corner for ease of rereading.

For example, here is a Shakespeare sonnet I’m sure I’d never read before:

Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws,
And burn the long-lived phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleet’st,
And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets,
But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
O, carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.
Yet do they worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.

And this beautiful poem by Robert Frost:

Desert Places

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it, it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is, that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars, on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

I will reread this book periodically, because I am determined to become familiar with as much poetry as possible. But I recommend it only for people who would willing go to the trouble of reading relatively obscure poetry in an awkward format. Or for people who like to tear pages out of books.

Poet Laureate

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Poet Laureate

Can you name the current poet laureate of the United States? If you can, you have my admiration. I had to look it up.

Do you know what the poet laureate does? The American poet laureate acts as the chair of poetry for the Library of Congress. The position was established in 1936 by an endowment from the author and philanthropist Archer M. Huntington, and the title of poet laureate was created in 1985. (Before that, the position was known as the consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress.) The poet laureate is appointed by the Librarian of Congress and serves from September to May. Some serve more than one term.

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Main reading room, Library of Congress

The duty of the poet laureate is to promote poetry in the United States. He is expected to read from his work at the Library of Congress poetry series. She may travel the country making appearances to lecture about or otherwise promote poetry, or organize festivals or conduct special projects. She is also expected to reserve time to continue writing poetry.

The past poets who have been honored with this position are an impressive crowd. You’ll find names you recognize, even if you are not particularly a poetry enthusiast. At least one (Robert Pinsky) made a guest appearance on The Simpsons.

I copied these lists of Consultants in Poetry and Poets Laureate from Encyclopaedia Britannica online. Each name links to a biography of the poet.

The Consultants in Poetry:

  1. Joseph Auslander

    548px-William_Carlos_Williams_passport_photograph

    William Carlos Williams

  2. Allen Tate
  3. Robert Penn Warren
  4. Louise Bogan
  5. Karl Shapiro
  6. Robert Lowell, Jr.
  7. Léonie Adams
  8. Elizabeth Bishop
  9. Conrad Aiken
  10. William Carlos Williams
  11. Randall Jarrell
  12. Robert Frost
  13. Richard Eberhart
  14. Louis Untermeyer
  15. Howard Nemerov
  16. Reed Whittemore
  17. Stephen Spender
  18. James Dickey
  19. William Jay Smith
  20. William Stafford
  21. Josephine Jacobsen
  22. Daniel Hoffman

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    Robert Frost

  23. Stanley Kunitz
  24. Robert Hayden
  25. William Meredith
  26. Maxine Kumin
  27. Anthony Hecht
  28. Robert Fitzgerald
  29. Reed Whittemore
  30. Gwendolyn Brooks

The Poets Laureate:

  1. Robert Penn Warren
  2. Richard Wilbur
  3. Howard Nemerov
  4. Mark Strand
  5. Joseph Brodsky
  6. Mona Van Duyn
  7. Rita Dove
  8. Robert Hass
  9. Robert Pinsky

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    Robert Pinsky; photo by Jared C. Benedict

  10. Stanley Kunitz
  11. Billy Collins
  12. Louise Glück
  13. Ted Kooser
  14. Donald Hall
  15. Charles Simic
  16. Kay Ryan
  17. W.S. Merwin
  18. Philip Levine
  19. Natasha Trethewey
  20. Charles Wright
  21. Juan Felipe Herrera
  22. Tracy K. Smith

Review of Animals I Have Killed by Lauren K Carlson

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Review of Animals I Have Killed by Lauren K Carlson

Some poets write for themselves. Others long to share their verses. I fall in the second group.

When I started writing poetry a few years ago, the poems were often responses to online challenges, so I posted them on my blog, where they would be available to the online poetry challenge community. I was thrilled when I was selected as a featured poet for NaPoWriMo, because visits to my blog spiked. It’s gratifying when people want to read what you’ve written.

Submitting single poems or groups of poems to various publications is a tedious undertaking, which I have tried on numerous occasions with no success as of yet.

I follow the contest listings in Poets and Writers magazine, and when I realized I have enough decent poems to put together a chapbook (a small collection of poems by a single poet), I began entering chapbook contests. So far I’ve lost four. Shortly after I entered the fifth, Animals I Have Killed arrived at my house. I’d forgotten that the entry fee for the Comstock Review chapbook contest included a copy of the winning book.

 

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I read Animals I Have Killed with great interest. This is the work that beat me out, that the judges deemed better than all the rest of the entries.

Lauren K Carlson is a poet, teaching artist, and spiritual director in rural Minnesota. Nature and hunting and farm life and the sacred run through her poems. The title poem is a litany of animals that were killed on purpose, or by accident, or slaughtered for food. One line asks, “do the goats we take to the butcher count,” and the cover art is a silhouette of a goat with the cuts of meat mapped out. I was delighted to discover that one of the poems in the chapbook was her response to a prompt in The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop by Diane Lockward, which I am currently working through.

Carlson’s poems are unrhymed and utilize various forms. One is formatted unusually, and I wasn’t quite sure how to read it, due to how the lines were broken and staggered. Maybe that’s what she intended—having readers read snippets in different orders and get more than one meaning from the poem.

Two poems especially resonated with me. “The Week Before,” about a visit to a friend with terminal cancer, made me cry. And “The Lesson” is about a woman observing her son with his grandfather. They are carving together, and the lesson the grandfather teaches the little boy is internalized by the mother on a metaphysical level.

I enjoyed this chapbook. It’s a good read and I look forward to reading more of Carlson’s poetry in the future. The book also gives me hope that maybe my poems will be published one day.

 

Video of the Week #200: Helen Mirren Reads Tennyson

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NaPoWriMo2019 #30

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baby; baby sleeping

Lullaby

Precious baby
Little angel
No more crying
You’re fed
You’re dry
Let go
Sleep now

©ARHuelsenbeck

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NaPoWriMo2019 #28

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Platypus-sketch

Platypus

The platypus looks like a joke.
Though he’s covered with fur,
His mouth is like a duck’s bill,
And his front feet are webbed.
His tail is flat like a beaver’s.
On his back foot he has a spike
That he uses to poison his enemies.
He loves to swim.
His mama lays eggs,
And when the babies hatch,
They lap milk that leaks through her skin
And pools on her belly.

©ARHuelsenbeck

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NaPoWriMo2019 #26

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Venice, Rialto bridge, gondola, canal

Travelogue

What would it be like to travel the world
To see places I’ve only heard about
The tombs of the Pharaohs
The temples of the gods

To see the places I’ve only heard about
The canals of Venice
Lofty temples of strange gods
Windy mountaintops crowned with crosses

The canals of Venice
Sailboats on the sea of Galilee
High crosses atop mountains
Deserts shimmering with mirages

Sailboats on the sea of Galilee
Surfboards on the coast of California
Shimmering mirages in miserable deserts
Camels in the Sahara sand

Hanging ten on the coast of California
Tigers stalking the jungles of India
Camels in the sandy Sahara
What would it be like to travel the world

©ARHuelsenbeck

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