Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Allen Ginsberg, "A Supermarket in California"

In last week's 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classes, students wrote their first group poems of the year, inspired by Allen Ginsberg's "A Supermarket in California." I chose the poem because of its imagery -- a blend of the everyday and the mythic -- and for its serpentine, oratorical lines; we have mainly been reading poems with more constricted language, and I wanted students to get a look at something quite contrastive, seeing (as well as hearing) the difference. After talking about who (and what) is in the supermarket, I asked what "shopping for images" might mean, and how poets can find inspiration in sometimes unlikely places.

More on the group writing process itself can be found at Shields' and Solomon's blog entries. Hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Alberto Blanco, "The Parakeets"

In my classes this week, we read and discussed Alberto Blanco's "The Parakeets." The focus was on personification and to what extent Blanco uses it in the poem, but we also delved into trickier territory, for example, asking how exactly does one talk to their shadow, or converse with silence -- isn't silence the opposite of talking? We also discussed Blanco's use of repetition in the poem -- what exactly he chose to repeat, possible reasons why, and what ultimate effect was achieved by doing so. Finally, we focused on the last two lines and why they were important. (I actively endorse good closure in a poem -- not necessarily simply for effect, nor for the sake of a contrived epiphany, but as a methodology for leaving the poem with a sense that you as reader have made a trek, from the equally-important opening, through the mysterious terrain of its body, to a predetermined destination. Admittedly, sometimes in a poem it's the journey and not the destination that matters, but more often than not a good ending gives the reader information that prompts them to re-explore the poem anew, and see it afresh, starting again at the beginning.)

Here are student poems from Shields and from Solomon schools. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Rapid Poetry Reading at Series A Mini Conference

On September 19th I was honored to be asked to participate as part of this rapid poetry reading, culminating the afternoon's special mini conference on poetry and poetics. Also featured here are moderator (and Series A founder) Bill Allegrezza, Tim Yu, Kristy Bowen, Srikanth (Chicu) Reddy, Abra Johnson, Ray Bianchi, Kristy Odelius, Garin Cycholl, Chad Heltzel, Simone Muench and Nick Demske. I'm actually first on this amazing bill, reading "My Biology of Louis Pasture," "New Age Baby Names" and "My Penis," but I encourage listening to the whole reading for some sense of the incredible range of voices and material assembled for this undertaking.

Series A
is dedicated to showcasing experimental writing in the US and the Midwest through readings, discussion and performance. Organized by Indiana University Northwest faculty member, William Allegrezza, this series brings exciting authors to the Hyde Park Art Center to share their work.

It looks as if I'll be back early next year for a feature at Series A. Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Larry Levis, "In a Country"

I am the poet-in-residence in two Hands on Stanzas schools this year. So far, work by students (grades 3-5 in one school, all 5th grade in the other, representing a rather wide demographic overall) has been pretty amazing.

I'll try to post their poems here regularly. In the meanwhile, take a gander at Shields and Solomon student work regarding Larry Levis' "In a Country." The prompt's genesis was Election Day this past week, and by its title you can see how this poem might apply. But it goes much further than that, and I was especially pleased by how readily and eagerly students responded to the poem, as well as to each other in our discussion of it. I always come well-prepared with questions and particulars to help them navigate the poem in question, but here they dove right in. Enjoy!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Window Washers

They're doing the semi-annual window washing for our building today. In honor of that -- and the brave folks whose job it is -- here's a poem from my Brief Nudity manuscript, currently circulating among potential publishers.


Window Washers


Stunt men of the air

swinging by a string,


water buckets dangle,

brushes soak inside.


Boots bang window

panes, steadying


descents. Squeegeeing

smudges with Zorro-


esque swirls, black

droplets spatter forty


stories down, dirty

tears


falling

from gratified glass.


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