Haunted.

That’s what you’ll be if you don’t come to Jane Congdon’s conversation tomorrow at 4 pm in Snyder C304. Congdon will be visiting the RCAH tomorrow, popping into classes and discussing her newest book “Mr. Joe: Tales from a Haunted Life,” which was published last year.

The memoir details the life Joseph Barnett, Congdon’s brother and a school custodian. Throughout his life, Barnett was haunted by spirits along with the ghosts of his past. Congdon will be discussing the story as well as the writing of it, including the challenges that come with telling another person’s tale.

Check us out on Facebook or visit poetry.rcah.msu.edu for more information!

Poem of the Week: “Let Nothing Lie Dormant” by David Dominguez

Let Nothing Lie Dormant
David Dominguez

At the farmer’s market in Rosarito, Mexico,
a man touched my arm.
He sat on a stool at a wooden table,
and in the center,
a blue pitcher of water beaded under the sun.
Hunkered over his lap,
he worked with a gouge on a block of walnut,
and he blew at the dust,
and the dust swirled in the breeze.

Done stripping the sapwood vulnerable to rot,
the man held the heart of the wood,
a purple wood hard against
the chisel’s cutting edge.
He looked up from his work,
and his gray eyes told me I must listen.
“This wood must be strong
or the heart cracks before the real work is done.
See this?” he asked softly,
and he lifted a mallet carved
from a branch of apple, “Strong wood,” he said.
“It wanted to be more than a tree.”

He rubbed fresh walnut dust between his palms.
We drank glasses of ice water,
talked about life in general,
and he used the pitcher,
billowed and wet like the sail of a boat,
to cool his neck.

Later, through the soft meat of an avocado,
I felt the pit longing to be free.

Via Poetryfoundation.org

Call to All Poetry Center Followers!

Call to readers!

Hi everyone,

We at the RCAH Center for Poetry are very interested in our followers. We want to hear from you! Don’t hesitate to write us on Facebook, tweet at us, send us an email at cpoetrymsu@gmail.com or comment on this post below to let us know where you’re from, what you like, what you don’t like, and what you would like to see that we aren’t already providing.

We would also like to take a minute to thank all of you! We’ve published a total of 74 posts so far, and our readership has grown exponentially since the beginning. We’ve had viewers from nearly every continent, and a fairly steady following in North America, Europe, and Australia. It’s amazing! We only ask that you continue to spread the word about our Center and, of course, the importance of poetry in your community.

Many thanks,

The RCAH Center for Poetry Team

Poem of the Week: “The Appeal of Antiques” by Allan Peterson

The Appeal of Antiques
By Allan Peterson

The intriguing comfort of an imagined past
is entered through objects
the same way we continue the present
but without nostalgia
Parents so long for happiness they say
one life is not enough
and live through their children
But children also live backwards through past candles
crank telephones   carriages
the ascendant animals that lived not in imagination
but in Kansas and before
there was an Oklahoma with its spotted sun

In those days a metaphor for Hell was the corn sheller
field corn shriven  shooting out cobs
the grindstone   razor strop   even the ladder of progress
from which Les Westfield slipped
on a mossy rung though his son held the ladder
and fell two stories:
one the feudal structure of the family   two the harmonic
of almost fatal necessity
as the maple stump entered his hip along with the difficult
remission of breath itself
an antique whose furious elaborations mimicked the rose

Via poetryfoundation.org

Poem of the Week: Refrigerator, 1957

by Thomas Lux

Video courtesy TheCreelyFoundation

More like a vault — you pull the handle out
and on the shelves: not a lot,
and what there is (a boiled potato
in a bag, a chicken carcass
under foil) looking dispirited,
drained, mugged. This is not
a place to go in hope or hunger.
But, just to the right of the middle
of the middle door shelf, on fire, a lit-from-within red,
heart red, sexual red, wet neon red,
shining red in their liquid, exotic,
aloof, slumming
in such company: a jar
of maraschino cherries. Three-quarters
full, fiery globes, like strippers
at a church social. Maraschino cherries, maraschino,
the only foreign word I knew. Not once
did I see these cherries employed: not
in a drink, nor on top
of a glob of ice cream,
or just pop one in your mouth. Not once.
The same jar there through an entire
childhood of dull dinners — bald meat,
pocked peas and, see above,
boiled potatoes. Maybe
they came over from the old country,
family heirlooms, or were status symbols
bought with a piece of the first paycheck
from a sweatshop,
which beat the pig farm in Bohemia,
handed down from my grandparents
to my parents
to be someday mine,
then my child’s?
They were beautiful
and, if I never ate one,
it was because I knew it might be missed
or because I knew it would not be replaced
and because you do not eat
that which rips your heart with joy.

Poem of the Week: “A Parisian Roof Garden in 1918″ by Natalie Clifford Barney

We’re excited to be back for the Fall semester! To kick things off, here’s our first Poem of the Week for the 2014-2015 school year.

A Parisian Roof Garden in 1918
Natalie Clifford Barney

As I must mount to feed those doves of ours,  
Perhaps you too will spend nocturnal hours   
      Upon your roof   
      So high aloof 
That from its terraced bowers   
We catch at clouds and draw a bath from showers.  
Before the moon has made all pale the night,  
Let’s meet with flute and viol, and supper light :  
A yew lamb, minted sauce, a raisined bun,  
A melon riper than the melting sun—  
A flask of Xeres, that we’ve scarce begun—  
We’ll try the « lunar waltz » while floats afar  
Upon the liquid night—night’s nenuphar.  
Or else, with senses tuned alike perchance,  
Reclining love will make the heavens dance;  
And if the enemy from aerial cars  
Drops death, we’ll share it vibrant with the stars!

Source: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/parisian-roof-garden-1918

Virginia poet laureate visits RCAH

By Kelsey Block

“What I like most is following the words, following their sounds. A poem for me always starts as a phrase, a couple of words I hear together that just intrigue me,” Sofia Starnes, the poet laureate of Virginia, said. “Where will this word take me? It might open up a memory, something you’re concerned about, something you haven’t resolved inside your heart. And you start following that word through that emotion and through whatever it wants to include.”

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Starnes said she started writing at a very young age, at the encouragement of her mother.

“My mother had four daughters. I’m the second one, and she named me for a great aunt she had who was a writer,” Starnes said. “So I think she decided that of her daughters, I was going to be the writer… I didn’t write poetry at that time, always short stories.”

Starnes said she turned to poetry when she and her family left the Philippines for Spain.

“It seemed like poetry became my best medium because it’s so concise. The same way I couldn’t take my country with me, I couldn’t take people with me, I couldn’t take a lot of words with me,” she said.

Starnes studied English Philology at the University of Madrid. As such, her poems are written in English, a language her mother could not easily read.

“She would say, ‘I am touching the poem, now you tell me what it’s about,’” Starnes said of reading her work to her mother over the phone. “She would understand more than anyone else the kind of world that I wanted to create.

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“I love words so much,” Starnes said. “Words don’t just define – they suggest. And that is a big difference … English is particularly rich because so many of the words are made by connecting words: knapsack, kneecap, ribcage. So you have little poems in the making because you already have the relationship.”

Starnes said it felt like “coming home” when she was named the poet laureate of Virginia.

“My writing career really grew very much in Virginia, and my husband is from Virginia,” Starnes said. “This was the place where the community welcomed me enough to say, ‘You’re a Virginian.’”

The next thing Starnes decided to do was to get to work.

“I said, ‘Okay, I’ve got two years, what can I do?’” Starnes said. “They’re going to listen to me in these two years in ways they haven’t listened to me before… I decided immediately that I wanted to focus on the reader. If we don’t have a reader, it doesn’t make any sense. I wanted to tell [readers] there’s a poem for you – even if you don’t like poems. Everybody has a poem in this world that was written for them, they just have to find it.”

Starnes’ newest anthology, The Nearest Poem Anthology encompasses this idea.

“A poem is not finished until it finds a home in a reader, and I wanted to have a book that would show how valuable the reader was, how the reader gave a poem a new life,” Starnes said. “So the focuse of the book is not so much on the poets, but on the response of the reader.”

The collection of 112 poems was published in early March.

As far as her own work goes, Starnes she deals with things that are universal, rather concepts than specific to a certain time or place.

“You’re so used to reading things that are specific,” Starnes said. “But for me, it’s the opposite. It requires something of the reader the other poem may not require – it requires that you participate in the poem. I am putting some burden on the reader that other poems may not.”

Starnes’ work also focuses on spirituality. As a catholic, she places a lot of emphasis on ideas like the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation.

“Trinity for me is all about relationship,” she said. “It’s the God I know of, it’s a family, a father a son … You look everywhere and there’s a trinity. The moment the two connect, there’s a creation, that’s the third thing. There’s always a third. It’s the underlying thing that I’m writing that will influence the way the poem is going to unfold.”

Still, Starnes said she does not believe in writing to preach. Rather, she believes spirituality is just something from the inside that comes out in her work.

“It’s just in you. It imbues the way you look at things, it colors the way you look at things,” she said.