May 31, 2011

May 27, 2011

Poetry Friday--X.J. Kennedy

X.J. Kennedy and me at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.


X.J. Kennedy appeared at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival two weekends ago. I have long been a fan of his, and his wife Dorothy's, Knock at a Star: A Child's Introduction to Poetry, which, as a librarian, I have recommended for years.

I looked up his bio and found that he was born in August 1929, which makes him nearly 82. To someone my age, that's not quite prehistoric, but to a high school freshman or sophomore it surely is! Kennedy's performance at the festival's "Student Day of Poetry" was far from prehistoric, though! His humor made the reading a success.

Kennedy set a poem to the music of an old-fashioned song and sang it in front of the several hundred students. Imagine that--teens whose favorites singers are likely to be Lady Gaga or Will.i.am, enjoying an old guy's song! And imagine standing up in front of a crowd singing! I give Kennedy a lot of credit!

He also conducted a workshop for the kids, "Telling a Story in Poetry." Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend the workshop as I was a volunteer whose job was directing foot traffic. :-(

The following day, Kennedy was at the main festival for a reading with the Light Brigade, which read a variety of light verse. Much of Kennedy's contribution came from Peeping Tom's Cabin: Comic Verse 1928-2008 [BOA Editions, 2007]. After the reading he signed a copy for me and we had our photo taken.

The book's title surprised me since, as mentioned above, I knew that Kennedy had been born in 1929. The book's "Sort of an Introduction" explains
True, I wasn't born until 1929 and didn't print any verse until 1956; but like the ancient Chinese, I reckon that your age begins at the moment of your conception, almost a year before you emerged. Right away, a fertilized egg starts gestating poems.
Holy cows, I wonder what his mother ate during her pregnancy since most of the poems in the collection are, shall I say, a bit naughty!

Here's one that's suitable for a general audience:
The Cow's Vengeance

Obligingly, the mild cow lets us quaff
The milk that she'd intended for her calf,
But takes revenge: in every pint she packs
A heavy cream to trigger heart attacks.
For this week's Poetry Friday Round-Up you'll have to head over to Heidi's blog, my juicy little universe. An abundance of delightful poetry links awaits to start off your Memorial Day holiday weekend!

May 24, 2011

May 22, 2011

Happy Haiga Day!


© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Originally published in Notes from the Gean, volume 2, issue 3, December 2010.

May 20, 2011

Poetry Friday--Mass Poetry Festival Review


Congratulations to Michael Ansara and all the others who made the Mass Poetry Festival a huge success last weekend! (If you missed last Friday's preview post due to the Blogger problem, you can see it here.)

I had to get up at 5:30 Friday morning to head to Salem State University for the "Student Day of Poetry." Over 400 kids were signed up for a day of readings, workshops, and poetry profusion. Some of the poets appearing, or doing workshops, were X.J. Kennedy (see next week for more about X.J. Kennedy), Regie Gibson, Brian Turner, Jericho Brown, January O'Neil, and a whole bunch more.

One of the high points during the day was the showing of a documentary film Louder Than a Bomb. It is a little out of the ordinary to think of applause in a movie, nevermind applause for a poem in a movie! There was lots of applause! The kids loved it.

After the student program ended, the poetry festival began in earnest in downtown Salem and continued until about 9:30 PM. It was an exhausting day!

Saturday started for me at 10 AM with a fabulous session consisting of a panel of poets who are doing exciting things with poetry besides publishing in books and journals. "The Life of a Poem: Taking Poems Beyond the Page" consisted of four panelists and a facilitator:
Brian Brodeur who has posted interviews with 100+ poets on his blog How a Poem Happens: Contemporary Poets Discuss the Making of Poems.

Carl Carlsen who has set up websites highlighting Poetry of Places (several communities in north shore Massachusetts). This is a project that could be duplicated anywhere!

Kevin Carey who makes films about poets such as this:



Wes (Mongo) Jolley who runs the podcast site, IndieFeed: Performance Poetry. There are nearly 900 shows available!

The facilitator was J.D. Scrimgeour, Salem State faculty member and poet. Scrimgeour's own nontraditional project is Confluence-Poetry and Music.
Last week's post mentioned the "Bad Poetry" session with Steve Almond that I was hoping to attend. I did attend it and it was laugh-out-loud fun! (Maybe it was just the mood I was in, but I started chuckling as soon as Almond showed up. On his nametag he had written his name as "Steve Almond Joy.") The session was definitely for an adult audience, although "Almond Joy" is definitely 2nd grade humor!

Almond had asked for poets to send in their bad poetry:
Let’s face it even the best poets have some cringe-worthy verse hidden away in the archives. Maybe it was a birthday poem written to your mom when you were seven. Maybe it was your most earnest expression of adolescent angst. Or maybe it was an awkward early effort in a more flourishing poetic life. The time has come to put forward those bad poems with pride. The idea here isn’t simply self-mockery, but a chance to understand how the very worst of our poetry can teach us something about the truth.
At the session he alternated bad poetry "winners" and his own bad poetry with commentary. One of the winning poets was at the session and she was a fabulous sport as Almond is a "no holds barred" type of guy. I'll definitely attend another session if they have "Bad Poetry" again next year!

I heard many people say good things about Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye who appeared at the high school session on Friday, and again on the Main Stage on Saturday. I was doing volunteering stuff on Friday. The Main Stage was outside, and the weather was pretty cool, so I missed them again on Saturday. But, after the festival, I Googled them and found that they started Project V.O.I.C.E.
Project V.O.I.C.E. (Vocal Outreach Into Creative Expression) is a national movement that celebrates and inspires youth self-expression through Spoken Word Poetry.
Young, talented, and enthusiastic--what's not to like? Maybe next year...

Although I appreciated the vast number of session offerings to pick from, I'm wondering if perhaps there were too many. I'd like to see fewer, and the sessions offered in uniform time slots. With fewer sessions the attendance would be greater at each one. With uniform time slots people wouldn't have leave one early to try to catch the beginning of another one. There was too much overlap.

Not every session I attended was a complete success, which I found mostly due to a facilities issue such as acoustics, but, the problems could easily be overcome (especially by insisting that a reluctant poet use a mic).

The festival ended Saturday night with an outstanding performance by two award-winning poets, Mark Doty and Patrica Smith. All I can say is "Wow!" To get a taste of what I experienced, look them up on YouTube and watch their videos. (Use "Patricia Smith poetry" as your search term to narrow down the number of Smiths.)

The festival organizers set up a page on the Mass Poetry Festival site for "Poems of Place." Students and festival participants were invited to post poems about Massachusetts cities and towns.

After I left the reading, I happened upon a walking tour. The "tourists" were all in costume. I wrote the following kyoka (a humorous tanka):
poetry fest ends...
I head back to my car
flying high
there on Essex St.
"witches" on a tour
Salem is a crazy place after dark--even when it's not Halloween!

At The Drift Record Julie will give you the grand tour of this week's Poetry Friday offerings.

May 17, 2011

May 15, 2011

Happy Haiga Day!


© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Image courtesy Library of Congress.
Originally published in Notes from the Gean, volume 2, issue 4, March 2011.

May 13, 2011

Poetry Friday--Good Poetry/Bad Poetry

This weekend I'm heading to the Mass Poetry Festival that is taking placing in Salem, MA.

Today approximately 600 high school students and their teachers are coming to participate in workshops, listen to poets such as X.J. Kennedy, view a film on spoken language poets, and much more.

Tomorrow there are readings from morning to night--lots of good poetry! One of the readings is by a group of haiku poets, which is taking place at the Japanese Art Gallery of the Peabody Essex Museum. Right up my alley!

There's another session that sounds intriguing--"Bad Poetry with Steve Almond." Almond, a particularly good nonfiction writer, has published a small book of poems with explanatory notes under the title, Bad Poetry. A blurb by Matthew Zapruder on the back cover states,
In Bad Poetry, Almond makes incisive observations about metaphor, enjambment, compound words, and the dubious ethics of appropriating suffering. Yet it is also the case that the poems assembled here are truly quite bad.
Okay, I'll let you judge for yourself. This is an excerpt from "The Fruit Standkeeper, Wroclaw"
His hands are a thing of beauty,
long, thick fingers moving in webs
grazing apples and onions
settling each into the rusted cradle
of his scale, the needle's soft bounce
It is as if God composed these hands, or Mozart
They are not made for numbers
and trip crudely on the abstract
It continues for two more stanzas.

And here is part of Almond's note of explanation:
As the title suggests, this one was birthed during my one and only summer in Poland. I'd gone over there to pursue a doomed love affair, which is how I knew I was a Bad Poet. That and the body odor.
Can you see why I have "Bad Poetry with Steve Almond" on my schedule?

[Note: I heard Almond speak recently at the NH Writers' Project annual Writers' Day. He explained that he now self-publishes his own work using the Espresso Book Machine® at the Harvard Coop! He may be a bad poet, but he's a real forward-thinking kind of guy!]

I hope to see a lot of you Massachusetts and New Hampshire poetry lovers in Salem tomorrow! And, if I find why the planners decided upon the above design for the festival--with its splashes of blood it looks more like something for a mystery writers day--I'll let you know. I know it's not blood, but what poet still uses a quill, or even a fountain pen?

Today, the Poetry Friday Round-Up is being held at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup. Yummy!

May 12, 2011

Now Appearing

I have a tanka and two haiga in the latest issue of Sketchbook!

May 10, 2011

May 8, 2011

Happy Haiga Day!

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo by Lewis Hine courtesy Library of Congress.

Happy Mother's Day!

May 6, 2011

Poetry Friday--"Please, Not All at Once"


I like to look through a book of poetry and have my eyes alight on a poem that screams, "Stop! This is the one!"

"Please, Not All at Once" by Jack Myers, did that--screamed to make me stop.

I've left markers
in places where
I've left off
reading every book
in the house,
places where
my own stray thoughts
must've overpowered me,
or what I was reading,
or wished I had said,
or maybe someone
finally got through
to me. Wouldn't it be nice
if I got up now
and checked out
all those places
where I stopped
just to see if
they were all the same
word, or ended in the
beginning of some belief
or grief, or worse,
they were all different
and it all meant nothing
like letting the cat out
just as a car bomb
goes off in Beirut
on my unplugged TV?
After forty-five years of
investigations broken
off and loaded questions,
I still don't know
if I'm complex or just
above being stupid
or if at different times
I'm both. And I don't want
an answer to this but
I ask you is it or is it not
more than enough
just to know when to stop?

(Blindsided: Poems by Jack Myers, David R. Godine, 1993)
This is me! Books all over the place with bookmarks or scraps of envelopes marking Lord knows what. I never seem to go back. Oh, well, maybe some day...

The Round-Up is being held at Family Bookshelf. Terry has been working hard to get her revamped blog operational in time for today!

Photo by Leo Reynolds.

May 3, 2011

Haiku Sticky #95


© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. First published Lunch Break Easter Parade 2011 #3.

May 1, 2011