My Poetry Manifesto

So we’re making chapbooks for our final project in our poetry class, and I’m taking the easy (but more expensive) route–I’m doing mine on Shutterfly because I’m not that crafty yet.

Our professor wanted us include our manifesto on poetry, and so this is mine:

Manifesto

I grew up on Mother Goose and Eugene Field, in the voice of my father.

As I matured, I turned to longer works; it wasn’t till I had my firstborn that my love for such rhyme and whimsy was reawakened.

“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat” (1 Corinthians 3:2). My dad had fed me the milk, nourishing me so that I could hunt for my own meat. Many years would pass before I realized I had been brought up on one of the most influential books of poetry the world has ever known: The Holy Bible.

That book has illuminated my being with its powerful message: that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and are of inherent worth, for “ye are bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 7:23). That value is something no one can ever take away.

As I entered adolescence, I discovered Poe, Tennyson, and Frost–the classics–but it wasn’t until I took a college level poetry course that I began to appreciate adult, non-rhyming poetry.

And it was when I began to recite at and attend poetry readings that poetry became alive–something not just to be seen, but heard.

Poetry, for me, is a distilled form of literature, a purer form of language. It is life with the water taken out, and yet it flows like the blood of the one who wrote it.

Above all else, poetry has been, for me, the way to express all the things I could never say.

Dad

Me and my dad, circa 1982, who always read to me not from books, but from loose pages with illustrations, and who taught me to say “Three foul balls in a tub” instead of “three men in a tub” (on “Rub-a-dub-dub”)

Poem-a-Day 2017 Writer’s Digest Challenge #25. Theme: Love/Anti-Love

Because people are often contradictory.

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Love/Hate #7

She loved her faithful husband,
but hated the Christianity that had raised him to be.

She loved being pregnant,
but hated giving birth.

She loved environmentalism,
but hated the capitalism that helped her spread “the green word.”

She loved Mexican food,
but hated Mexicans.

She loved cheering for the football players,
but wouldn’t let them in her house.

She loved tolerance for all groups,
but hated it when someone thought she was a member of one.

She loved living in the Deep South,
but hated their genteel culture.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-april-pad-challenge-day-25

Poem-a-Day 2017 Writer’s Digest Challenge #24. Theme: Faith

Clouds, Stormy, Sky, Nature, Dramatic, Cloudscape

On Faith

“…blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” –John 20:29

Faith is what connects us to our deities,
but divides us from our fellow man,
because the deities we have faith in,
cannot co-exist.

It can be as blind as love uncontested,
as fragile as the male ego,
but as strong as a superalloy,
sometimes to the point of mass hallucinations.

Faith is often placed in the unseen infallible;
it is projected on spirits that will not defend themselves.
It can be placed in the wrong hands,
but in the right ideals.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-april-pad-challenge-day-24

Makeup on Empty Space: Poetry Reading Night

“Poetry can be a transmission to help you notice things.”
–Anne Waldman, 22 April 2017, Pensacola State College, at The Lyceum

Last night, I attended a poetry reading by poet, Anne Waldman, whose workshop I attended Friday.  I don’t write about these things so much to report, but rather to highlight the impact the event had on me.

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Anne’s son, Ambrose Bye, played the piano, which added to the ambiance, and behind them, flashed images of what she called a “family album”, or “honorary album”–pictures of poets, brain diagrams (which the medical student in me appreciated), indigenous peoples, nature (and perhaps environmental devastation–I’m not sure), so one could say that Anne had the three “poeias” down (words, music, images). 

One of the lines that captured me was “her century needed her to see above the height of the grass” which conjured up images of antitheses to anti-Christs (the latter who may always come in the form of a man).

Her poetry was written (and performed, rather than recited) in a woman’s spirit.  It wasn’t even her words so much that moved me, but the musicality of her words.  At heart, I am a storyteller; I like characters, and so many of my poems read like stories, so I saw, or rather heard, the expression of poetry in a new way.

The only thing that wasn’t for me were the chants, because it reminded me of speaking in tongues (except hers weren’t creepy).

She opened with singing the “Anthropocene Blues,” which sounded like an old-time religion church hymn.  (Btw, anthropocene is the name for the geological time we’re living in, where mankind has a significant impact on the environment.)

She also spoke on the theme of “archive,” which she defined as “an antithesis to a war on memory.”  We are living in a technological age where our words will be out there forever, which makes me very happy as a writer, but probably wouldn’t if I were a politician.  Politicians often wage a “war on memory” by trying to con their constituents/employers, saying they never said (insert inflammatory statement) if they did, as there is usually video to back it up.

Her poem on suffering was recited in a way that made me think of bullets being shot or bombs being dropped in rapid succession.  No, we don’t want to be seen as the age when people were killing each other or destroying the planet, though every age since the beginning of time can claim the mantle of the former.  We just have the power now to execute the latter.

One of Anne’s refrains was “pushing against the darkness”; I think of poetry as a way of illuminating the world.  It is the color where there is only black-and-white.  (The movie Pleasantville comes to mind.)

She recited what she called a “feminist love poem” about the g-spot (reminiscent of an apostrophe poem), which she described as a “genie trapped in a bottle.”

I concur.

I learned that the manatee is related to the elephant, and what human doesn’t love a herbivorous animal and one that won’t kill you for the hell of it?  She made a good point about man having no use for the manatee, which I took as an allegory for how humans judge one another’s worth–by their perceived usefulness or productivity (even to them).

Because racehorses have use for man, men breed them.

There was a question-and-answer session at the end, and, as Jamey Jones, the local Poet Laureate put it, “Anne really cares.”  She believes in her work, and that poets can change the world.

I will say that it already has, for is not the Bible a book of poetry?  Does that mean something has to be packaged as religion, or absolute truth, to change the world?

Something to think about.

Poem-a-Day 2017 Writer’s Digest Challenge #22. Theme: Fable

This was a piece to a longer poem (“Strolling Across Campus on a Monday Afternoon”), which is known as a “walking poem.”  My poetry professor had our class go outside and just record our observations in our journal.  We had to choose a line from Anne Waldman’s “Fast Speaking Woman” at random (the equivalent of flipping through a telephone book and blindly putting our finger on a name), and implement it (though I did not include it today).

Since it is Earth Day, I thought this would be perfect, because in Mormon mythology/doctrine (depending on your perspective), they believe in a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother, which makes sense, as in Genesis 1:26, it reads:  And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.

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Our Heavenly Lineage

The sun is like Mother Nature kissing me,
the breeze,
the brushing of her hair as she does so,
blessing me.

I think of the blue God,
the green Goddess,
coexisting—
our ecological parents—
for are not humans merely water and earth,
fused with a touch of the Divine?

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-april-pad-challenge-day-22

Poem-a-Day 2017 Writer’s Digest Challenge #18. Theme: Life and/or Death

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He Lives

He was the life of her new world,
the death of her old one,
the death of her sin.

He is a warrior,
a radical,
a servant,
an immigrant,
a lion,
a lamb,
a friend.

He is our Master,
but we are not His slaves.
His words are the plasma
that sears our souls.
Sometimes He is the part of a ménage à trois
that comes between lovers.

He lived,
even in death,
for there was not one moment—
even as a baby in the manger—
that He was not aware,
for He was the human form of God,
confined by neither space nor time.

He is in us,
one of us,
and for us,
always.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-april-pad-challenge-day-18

Poem-a-Day 2017 Writer’s Digest Challenge #16. Theme: (Blank) System

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The Integumentary System

It is what the world sees,
from ivory to ebony,
symbolic of heritage and health.
It advances with age—
the more lines,
the longer the timeline.

Twenty-two square feet of a durable, elastic material,
sometimes marred with scars,
freckles,
or uneven pigments—
indicative of disease—
it drapes our muscles,
our bones—
a cutaneous covering
that secrets the workings underneath.

In shades of white-blond
to tar-black,
it is a glorious crown;
sometimes it’s sensitive
and has a bad day.
Some is fine and straight,
others, kinky,
both enduring color and heat
in the name of beauty.
It frames the eyes like fans,
adds ten years to young men’s faces,
or falls out,
adding ten years to old men’s heads.

It was the glory of Samson,
Rapunzel’s ladder,
Jo March’s independent currency.
It is shaved in protest and
in camaraderie for others with cancer;
it is refrained from clipping for salvation’s sake,
even as it is sold for its preciousness.

The weapons of mass seduction,
painted in assorted colors,
and sometimes the indigestible chewable
of a nervous habit.
Whether weapons in defense of rape,
or branding tools of mates during orgasm,
they are the crescent moons
that grow on the ends of fingers.

It is the cover we wear—
our identity—
easily changed through chemicals,
contacts,
or surgery.

It encompasses the cup fillings
that nourish the children,
that make children of men,
that must not move
in polite society.

And for some women,
it must all be covered,
for it offends a man’s perception of
the God who created such heavenly creatures.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-april-pad-challenge-day-16