Fall Quarterly Special Edition: Student Poetry

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During my visit to O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India in April, I gave a presentation on “Poetry in the Public Sphere” to a group of students from professor Nandini Dhar’s literature class. Nandini, herself, is a published poet, and was particularly interested in Poems2go and how to make poetry more accessible to the public in India. During the talk I noticed the young man (he was the only male in the group) smiling slightly, but I couldn’t tell if it was something clever I was saying, or if he was nervously trying to control his reaction to a Get me out of here moment.

Many of the students had questions. It was rewarding to share conversations about poetry with emerging voices from another culture across the globe. The young man was quiet. As I prepared to leave, he approached me, and without a word showed me his phone. It held a poem he had written. I was pleasantly surprised, happy that he was comfortable enough to share it. Turns out he had more poems. I encouraged him to submit to P2g and he did the very next day. The student, Ksanbah Lyngwa, submitted three poems. “Walls” is the poem he showed me that day.

On this same trip, I met Sonam Tsering, the Tibetan student whose journey from his homeland inspired P2g’s Summer Quarterly theme and introduction. He, too, writes poetry. Now, I was determined to provide a forum for these two young men’s voices. I decided to make this quarterly edition a special feature: Student Poetry.

I knew my poet friend and previous P2g contributor, Marjorie Thomsen, was involved with teaching poetry to young students. She was Maine’s Berwick Academy’s poet-in-residence this year. She and Melissa Williams, teacher at Berwick Academy, shared their students’ chapbook. In this edition you’ll read works from eighth and ninth graders, including Belle Greenshileds, Noah Rich, Cole Roenick, and Isabella Gorman. They studied and were inspired by Carl Sandburg’s poetry and wrote their own poignant, soulful poems. It’s both sad and uplifting to read what’s on their minds.

I’m also happy to introduce two more promising voices: Penelope Summerall, a Tufts University undergrad, and Lexy Roberts from Utah State University. Interestingly, also telling, is how Summerall’s “Seeing Yellow” talks of walls as Ksanbah Lyngwa, from India does. Literal or metaphorical, walls create division, and often lead to feelings of isolation, confusion, and pain.

Yet fortunately there is still optimism in youth. In her mind, the world was open, writes Summerall in “Wasp Hives.” They have questions as in Noah Rich’s “Questions,” but they are patient as in Isabella Gorman’s “I Wait.” Lexy Roberts realizes the great task of caring for our world is uncomfortable as she states in ‘A poem about that one time I held a yoga ball above my head thinking of a god tasked with holding the earth.”

After reading these emerging voices and others I am hopeful, as I often am when I attend a graduation. The world is full of bright, sensitive, and empowered young individuals with voices to be heard and with changes to make.

Thank you to all the students who contributed poems to this special feature and to the teachers and professors teaching the power of poetry.

In conclusion, I’d like to share Marjorie Thomsen’s poem about her time spent with the students of Berwick Academy. Students truly are a gift to our future.

Thanks for reading,

Christine

The Illumination of You by Marjorie Thomsen

To the students and faculty of Berwick Academy using all the paint chips attached to my bouquet

One of you chose maraschino to describe jello and so
your poem sparked, did a jello-hello jig.
And then there was piccololeap, beachsass, and bookbloom—

more delicious than delicious in the mouth. Merging words
with his, Sandburg’s poem became yours: a cupcake
crowned with red velvet icing.

Speaking of red, no one owns strawberry
sunshine; we can all use the new spring sky, the hue
of whale song. You shared your words

the way flowers spread their plum perfect
purple. Maybe poems are really pieces of sea glass, delicate
beauties to collect, allowing us to reminisce. Let’s put coffee-

colored sand or a school bus in a poem or invent
a fresh season—a brain teaser to tap dance
in the world’s head. Keep walking

your forget-me-not walk to the front of the room, keep being
the whole enchilada, an ultraviolet blossom. To me, you are a coin
splashing in a wishing well, the cotton candy stuck to my heart.

In case you missed it…P2g interview with Lucy Griffith

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Because September has me reorganizing and revisiting I realize I missed posting about our wonderful interview with one of our contributors, Lucy Griffith. Her book, We Make a Tiny Herd (Main Street Rag, 2019) explores the life of Judy Magers, aka La Reina or the Burro Lady. During her travels in West Texas she would see La Reina and wonder about her long after passing her on the side of the road. She began to inquire. What she found was a community, protective and loving of this woman who chose to live outdoors with her burro. Life is about choices. She recalls: I was struck by how the far-flung community of West Texas not only respected La Reina’s right to be different, to be private, but celebrated her differences. 

We Make a Tiny Herd is a wonderfully simple story in verse about home, about self, about choice, and about respecting our differences. It’s a story that will travel with you.

Thank you Lucy, for sharing your thoughts and inspirations.

Christine

 

Fall Quarterly Special Edition: Student Poetry

Posted on Updated on

During my visit to O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India in April, I gave a presentation on “Poetry in the Public Sphere” to a group of students from professor Nandini Dhar’s literature class. Nandini, herself, is a published poet, and was particularly interested in Poems2go and how to make poetry more accessible to the public in India. During the talk I noticed the young man (he was the only male in the group) smiling slightly, but I couldn’t tell if it was something clever I was saying, or if he was nervously trying to control his reaction to a Get me out of here moment.

Many of the students had questions. It was rewarding to share conversations about poetry with emerging voices from another culture across the globe. The young man was quiet. As I prepared to leave, he approached me, and without a word showed me his phone. It held a poem he had written. I was pleasantly surprised, happy that he was comfortable enough to share it. Turns out he had more poems. I encouraged him to submit to P2g and he did the very next day. The student, Ksanbah Lyngwa, submitted three poems. “Walls” is the poem he showed me that day.

On this same trip, I met Sonam Tsering, the Tibetan student whose journey from his homeland inspired P2g’s Summer Quarterly theme and introduction. He, too, writes poetry. Now, I was determined to provide a forum for these two young men’s voices. I decided to make this quarterly edition a special feature: Student Poetry.

I knew my poet friend and previous P2g contributor, Marjorie Thomsen, was involved with teaching poetry to young students. She was Maine’s Berwick Academy’s poet-in-residence this year. She and Melissa Williams, teacher at Berwick Academy, shared their students’ chapbook. In this edition you’ll read works from eighth and ninth graders, including Belle Greenshileds, Noah Rich, Cole Roenick, and Isabella Gorman. They studied and were inspired by Carl Sandburg’s poetry and wrote their own poignant, soulful poems. It’s both sad and uplifting to read what’s on their minds.

I’m also happy to introduce two more promising voices: Penelope Summerall, a Tufts University undergrad, and Lexy Roberts from Utah State University. Interestingly, also telling, is how Summerall’s “Seeing Yellow” talks of walls as Ksanbah Lyngwa, from India does. Literal or metaphorical, walls create division, and often lead to feelings of isolation, confusion, and pain.

Yet fortunately there is still optimism in youth. In her mind, the world was open, writes Summerall in “Wasp Hives.” They have questions as in Noah Rich’s “Questions,” but they are patient as in Isabella Gorman’s “I Wait.” Lexy Roberts realizes the great task of caring for our world is uncomfortable as she states in ‘A poem about that one time I held a yoga ball above my head thinking of a god tasked with holding the earth.”

After reading these emerging voices and others I am hopeful, as I often am when I attend a graduation. The world is full of bright, sensitive, and empowered young individuals with voices to be heard and with changes to make.

Thank you to all the students who contributed poems to this special feature and to the teachers and professors teaching the power of poetry.

In conclusion, I’d like to share Marjorie Thomsen’s poem about her time spent with the students of Berwick Academy. Students truly are a gift to our future.

Thanks for reading,

Christine

The Illumination of You by Marjorie Thomsen

To the students and faculty of Berwick Academy using all the paint chips attached to my bouquet

One of you chose maraschino to describe jello and so
your poem sparked, did a jello-hello jig.
And then there was piccololeap, beachsass, and bookbloom—

more delicious than delicious in the mouth. Merging words
with his, Sandburg’s poem became yours: a cupcake
crowned with red velvet icing.

Speaking of red, no one owns strawberry
sunshine; we can all use the new spring sky, the hue
of whale song. You shared your words

the way flowers spread their plum perfect
purple. Maybe poems are really pieces of sea glass, delicate
beauties to collect, allowing us to reminisce. Let’s put coffee-

colored sand or a school bus in a poem or invent
a fresh season—a brain teaser to tap dance
in the world’s head. Keep walking

your forget-me-not walk to the front of the room, keep being
the whole enchilada, an ultraviolet blossom. To me, you are a coin
splashing in a wishing well, the cotton candy stuck to my heart.

 

P2g Summer Quarterly 2019: On Home

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When D.A. Powell’s “The Imaginal Stage” reminds us there are more planets than stars/more places to land/than to be burned, I take this as a hopeful statement, as in more places to stand, more places to call, or at least to feel, like home.

Most clichés reveal an element of truth. After a month-long visit to India, I was ready to return home. My husband and I stayed our last few days of travel in beautiful Goa in the southern region, along the Arabian Sea. Because of its coast, it felt most like home than any other region we had travelled to. We were able to enjoy swimming and surfing there much like we do in our coastal town. I felt a serenity that only comes with the familiarity of home, when you feel your heart at ease.

We met many wonderful, warm, and welcoming people during our stay on campus at O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU) where my husband taught as a Fullbright/Nehru Specialist. After the initial overload to the senses and recovery from jet lag, we found a rhythm and I could sincerely say I’d miss our new friends. Still, I was longing for home. But I learned on that trip how fortunate I was to have a home to return to. At JGU, we met Sonam Tsering, a Tibetan refugee studying for his MA in Public Policy. He’s been in exile for fifteen years and can’t return home since he was smuggled illegally out of Tibet so he could study under His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. He writes of his refugee experience:

“The saddest thing about being a refugee is that there is nothing around you that you own and even the heart and mind choose to run away every now and then towards the homeland.”

Perhaps because I was missing home while curating this summer quarterly’s collection of poems, I found a thread of longing in each one. It was certainly easy to pick up in Lucy Griffith’s poem, “Attention” where its first line reads:

Home—the place of attention.

In her second featured poem, “Queen Yucca”, she imagines the yucca tree as a landmark for the lost, providing for the wanderer what a home often does: food, water, shelter. Then we have “Girl as Birch” by Rebecca Kaiser Gibson. I wondered what home for a girl portrayed as a tree might mean. Could it be a resilience as this poem speaks of? The springing back, after being pushed from the path could signify the insistence to return to one’s rooted place. But does this necessarily mean it’s where our roots are? For Sonam, the answer is yes. He considers Tibet his homeland. For me, it’s the American northeast. And for many of the Indians I met, from all castes, their answer, too, was yes. Given India’s long history of fighting for independence, their homeland pride runs deep.

When the speaker in Elizabeth Coleman’s “The Errand” hears the dialect of a foreign language in a neighborhood filled with pictographs she loved but could not read; the German sibilant obscenities remind her of her ties at home; her toddler grandson’s consonant-clustered thanks. For Samantha Kolber, and her fellow Vermonters, it is written in [their] bones. Though sometimes, the bones are in undesirable cities. As in the Indian poet Nandini Dhar’s “Intimate Ossuaries” a city’s kept bones are chronicled by a young girl, but No one will buy this portrait of a city’s/detritus: no museum will light her way home.

An ancient tribe from the New Mexico region known as the Mimbres depicted their culture’s story in clay with geometric markings. Edison Dupree’s “Paint on Clay: Homage to the Mimbres” tells of  their bowls, often used for burial ceremonies,  with holes cut out, to allow their souls to come and go: Soul could ride on a grain of sand,…or just as happily/fall, in raindrop’s belly,…or drift away and never return. One could say for the Mimbres, home was where the soul was.

The couple, in “Brace’s Cove” by Jay Featherstone, during a walk along the beach, encounter a thigh-high city made of pink and gray granite, home to druid figures piled up from rocks. The speaker muses about the inhabitants, how they tilt their oval shoulders/as if it were bad luck to say: so close to paradise. William R. Stoddart’s paradise in his poem “Through Such Blue” consists of a sky so blue that I ache thinking of that silent/glide through a mute town.

Home is considered more often a feeling than a structure. “It’s where we stand, not where we sleep” says British-born American essayist and novelist, Pico Iyer. Sonam Tsering misses his homeland, but in its absence, he stands among the Tibetan refugees and finds some solace. In India, seven thousand miles from home, I found comfort beside my husband, nearest the sea.

Hoping you, too, find comfort in these poems of longing, wonderment, and attention.

Warmly,

Christine

 

Poems2Go Goes International

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via Poems2Go Goes International

Poems2Go Goes International

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Poems2Go is celebrating National Poetry Month internationally. P2G has found a home away from home at Jindal Global University in Sonipat, India, just outside of Delhi. Above are pictures of me with students of Professor Nandini Dhar at a talk discussing Literary Citizenship: Promoting Poetry in the Public Sphere. Also there’s me with Professor Dhar, and me with Sonam Tsering, a Tibetan student we had the pleasure of meeting with and learning his story; how he came to India, inspiring me to write my very first ghazal as tribute to studying in India. The ghazal originated outside of Arabia, matured in Persia, but was adopted and adored by India, in particular the Urdu poets.

When my husband, Michael, received notice that he would be teaching at JGU as a Fullbright/Nehru Scholar we were excited for the opportunity of travelling to another country. Excited, but admittedly (speaking for myself) also a little apprehensive. India is very far from home. Knowing Michael would be busy with his teaching I had to consider how I would spend my time, except it wasn’t too hard to consider. Given one month of free time and space to create is a gift. Writers relish this sort of freedom. I was lucky, but I didn’t realize how lucky until I started to feel a connection here, and to feel that India doesn’t feel so far away anymore.

Before coming to JGU, I searched through their English faculty list and course schedule. I was surprised to recognize Dr. Nandini Dhar’s name. I had read her poetry. She studied, taught, and has been published in the U.S.. When I was a reader for Sugar House Review, I read her submission. I remember the poems she submitted. For me, this was one of those miraculous “it’s a small world” moments. I contacted Prof. Dhar, and we decided we’d meet for chai when I arrived and go from there. These last few weeks, I’ve sat in on two of her comparative literature classes, Gender Conflicts, and Culinary Fiction. Through literature and through listening to the students, I learned a great deal more about Indian culture than I ever could have in a tourist’s travel book. When a student would say hello to me on campus, I felt I belonged. And when several students showed up for my discussion about Poems2Go and poetry in the public sphere, I was happy to share my knowledge, and talk poetry. I’m grateful to Prof. Dhar for the opportunity, and to the students for engaging with me. These are bright, young individuals who have opportunities to make a difference in whatever is close to their hearts.

I’m thrilled that Poems2Go will now be distributed at JGU. It really is a small world, and poetry gives us the forum to build empathy, to bridge the gaps of understanding between people of all backgrounds.

Namaste

Poems2go Spring Quarterly Edition, 2019

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                        Preservation: What We Keep

 

“This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.”- Maggie Smith

 

My parents are in the process of moving into an assisted-living residence, down-sizing from a home of fifty years, a home with “good bones.” My mother, always the hostess, is insisting on packing and bringing her ten-piece place setting, even though she won’t have a kitchen. Admittedly, I was annoyed at first, but realized that her need for keeping them was not to host a dinner party but to hold on to memories of loved ones gathering around her table.

The term “good bones” is most commonly used in reference to a building with a strong foundation. Maggie Smith extends this metaphor to address the world. It’s a world that can be difficult to live in but one the speaker, a mother, in “Good Bones” believes, albeit questioningly, that despite what it may look like on the surface, can be made beautiful because it is decent at its core. This belief is worth preserving. And could be essential to our survival as Julian Randall’s “Chicago” alludes to. After the confession, “I can only sleep on buses/in shoes I can run away in,” the speaker describes passing by a “road so green/it might convince you/the world is not dying.”

We know the world is not dying when we can taste the “out-of-reach pulp” in Steven Riel’s “Blackberrying.” The lushness of the soft ”u” sounds abound in this poem, begging the reader to quench the thirst of desire, get “drunk” on all that is delicious. Keeping such “plump clusters” of blackberries becomes a must.

And we know the world is not dying when we read of ‘bumblebees guzzling dry/the white blossoms” of spring as David Miller witnesses and writes of in “An Empty Cup, A Flight of Uncarpeted Stairs.” This poem keeps a burgeoning joy as it balances upon the still point of beauty’s “fulcrum moment” relishing in that motionless hovering, that quietude of being neither this or that, here or there, before becoming “frantic for shade.”

For all that is gorgeous about the natural world, what does it mean when we preserve its death? The bee in Martha McCollough’s “Natural History” is a “lone glass bee/thirsty among so many flowers” and the “frayed fawn curled in its case…in its pale twist of grass” showcases our fascination with the dead. Taxidermied animals in a museum, even sorry-looking ones, educate us of a world full of wonder. What we keep reminds us of what we are.

If I had to choose one thing to keep for our world it would be the kindness that Bruce Hawkins speaks of, “kept/ in its cast iron cage” that which “warms the small house, allows/me to undress…”

Akhil Katyal, a poet based in Delhi, reminds us however not to discard grief, because the world is as sad as it is beautiful, because “there will be nights/when you will see even steel/ dissolve under your touch.” “The Father Speaking Through My Son” by Taylor Mali considers this “magic” of grief. Though a loved one may be gone, it’s possible we can hear them.

What greater preservation is there than self-preservation? Camille-Yvette Welsch  describes the traumatic days after giving birth, of feeling “blown apart” and the process of mending, putting pieces back together as if a sculpture, using ‘clay to seal the cracks.” Venus of Willendorf and Semele appear as the speaker “recreates” herself, “this time as mother, watcher.” Though more “fragile than before” with an “echo and omega” of a pitched cry, she marvels at the “holding seam.”

“How does your mother remember her birth?” asks Carolee Bennett’s “Hold On.” Its title urges us to keep our footing in this ‘slippery” world, to picture “tentacles” instead of “ventricles”, to hear the words “prayers” and “mileage” as we travel the winding roads complete with missed garbage pick-ups and raised cable rates. “The situation is fluid” says the chief investigator. Keep our mind’s eye says this poem, so we may “pray to the imagined octopus for a moment of grace.”

What we keep is more than objects in a magpie’s nest. We keep sadness and hope, fear and love, and as Bennett poignantly writes, “All I need to know about anything is how it feels/when I hold it. And the word for that is tend.”

Enjoy!

Christine