It’s National Poetry Month! Here’s to Lorine Neidecker, born May 12, 1903, who grew up in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, lived most of her life on Blackhawk Island along the banks of a river, and never liked to read her poetry in public. As her literary executor, Cid Corman, wrote: “For her, poetry was something each person had to read—say—get for himself or herself. Quiet music.” Her spare, clear-eyed poems evoke place, nature and people with zenlike simplicity.
Learn a trade
to sit at a desk
The above poem comes from The Granite Pail (North Point Press, 1985). As does this one:
I knew a clean man
but he was not for me
Now I sew green aprons over covered seats. He
wades the muddy water fishing,
falls in, dries his last pay-check
in the sun, smooths it out
in Leaves of Grass. He’s
the one for me.
National Poetry Month hasn’t been around that long—since 1996. But how’s this for getting behind a good cause?: In 2005, the Empire State Building lit up with blue lights to mark its 10th anniversary.
What a great excuse to share three Atlanta poets whose work deserves celebrating.
Tania Rochelle, who blogs at thestonescolossaldream.blogspot.com.
Why I Still Cry at Weddings
I’d like to tell you it’s because
I sense the priest is a pedophile,
or know the pianist beats
his wife because she stutters.
I want to say the church is too hot,
that the depiction of an angel
holding John the Baptist’s head
like she’s about to drop-kick it
scares me; that I’m woozy
from the godawful heat
and the blood oozing from the lamb
in stained glass. I’d mention
bad dresses snatched from the backs
of closets, safe mauves, and pantyhose.
I could claim memories
of my own failed marriage, like tiny
glass shards in my fingertips, still hurt
when I press down, though I only
glimpse them in a certain light;
claim I’ve forgotten what it was like
to look at him the way
this bride is looking at this groom,
the way her father looks at her
mother, swept into the vortex
that is past and future all at once,
a shuffle of snapshots—first grade,
the goofy kid at the birthday party,
prom. But it’s because her gown
says This is the ball,
and midnight is a long way off;
and because I’m in love again,
which is akin to believing
in my own immortality:
so much hope in one room.
Chelsea Rathburn, who will be appearing this Thursday, April 7, at 7 p.m., at the “She Walks in Beauty Reading” with Beth Gylys, Alice Lovelace, and Sharan Strange, at the Barnes & Noble at 2900 Peachtree Road, Atlanta.
Bats in the Attic
By day, God how we hated them hanging there,
dry withered leaves with faces, a filthy mass
pissing and writhing in a crumpled hive.
We squirmed to watch them squirm beneath our stare.
But nights, nights we dragged chairs onto the grass.
A change had come to pass,
and as we watched their synchronized ascent
it seemed some lovely, hidden language meant
for us. They dipped and went,
and as we tracked them, bat by vanishing bat,
we wished that we were changeable like that.
.And Collin Kelley, who blogs here.
(Stewart Avenue, Atlanta, GA)
Abandoned putt-putt golf course
on a street that will eventually
become prime ho stroll
a picture of me at age five
hugging the flaking remains
of a dinosaur on the fourth green
pre-historic houses choked
with weeds, Astroturf buckling
and bleached, water feature
gone dry before I was born.
My parents say this photo
of me does not exist,
that I’ve confused this memory
with one of my Uncle Terry,
our last visit before he packed
up and moved to San Francisco
with his boyfriend, before AIDS
before memento mori meant
anything to him, or me. I am
certain I was there, squinting
in the glare, a double image
splitting us in half, the halo
of sun spots transferring
the life he would not finish
so seamlessly I misremember
where our lives intersect
synapses carving I was here.
You can read more of Collin’s poems at poetz.com.
Oprah Winfrey devotes this month’s issue of O to poetry, including “the Words That Rock Their Worlds”: 24 celebrities and literary lights—including Oprah, Bono, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, Sting, but also Rosanne Cash and Margaret Atwood—give stirring tributes to the written word. (A little freaked out that O included Mike Tyson and David Petraeus.)
Along with an interview with poet Mary Oliver, the issue offers “12 Ways to Write a Poem”: Honor Moore says poems take root in the found objects and slammed doors of everyday life, and she leads the way. There’s also the O Dream Board: 100 inspiring words selected by O editors that you can arrange to form your own verse—it sounded enticing. However, to use it you must sign in and become a member of the Oprah community.
Something about that slowed me down.
Poets are often loner types, so if you’re not into joining, you can view plenty of deep, writerly prompts at Language Is a Virus, all by your moody self. Like this fun haiku-maker. They provide the words, you do the work!
And what would National Poetry Month be without a reading? Charlie’s sister Sally puts a new shine on Elizabeth Barrett Browning.