Poem of the Week: “The Colonel” by Carolyn Forché

Perhaps Carolyn Forché’s most well-known poem, “The Colonel” was published in her book The Country Between Us (1981) and captures “her now-famous encounter with a Salvadoran colonel who, as he made light of human rights, emptied a bag of human ears before Forché” (from The Poetry Foundation). Forché will visit the RCAH Center for Poetry this Wednesday and Thursday for a reading & reception as well as a talk about her travels and her experience as a poet of witness. More information about her visit here.

%22The Colonel%22 by Carolyn Forche

Courtesy of The Poetry Foundation

RCAH Center for Poetry Hosts Conference for Educators and Writers

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By Kelsey Block

On March 28, 2015, the RCAH Center for Poetry hosted its first-ever conference, titled: “Exploring Our Own Amazement: Learning the Language of Poetry.”

A crowd of approximately 40 people filled the RCAH Theater to participate in workshops and discussions with a number of presenters, including the Center for Poetry staff, associate professor of MSU’s College of Education Laura Apol, and local poet, teacher and coordinator of the Old Town Poetry Series, Ruelaine Stokes.

Laura Apol started out the day with a discussion on how to teach poetry effectively. Ruelaine Stokes followed with a lively presentation on strategies for oral performance. Center for Poetry Assistant Director Linnea Jimison and interns Jenny Crakes, Sarah Teppen and Kelsey Block followed with a panel on community outreach and public relations. Anita Skeen closed the day with her talk on the “compass points of poetry” and helping young writers find direction in a poem. For more information, visit our website.

The Center for Poetry plans to host another conference next year. We welcome your suggestions.

Poem of the Week: “Ice Music” by Terry Blackhawk

Detroit-based poet Terry Blackhawk will join the Center for Poetry for a reading and talk on April 15th as part of our Spring Poetry Festival. You can read more about her visit on our website.

“Ice Music”
by Terry Blackhawk

ice melt ice lace ice
breaking up upstream
coming down from up
north in variegated
quilts of floes
no instant’s act this
crumbling an entire
season sends broken
continents our way
once-miles-wide chunks break
and bob or push up
against the shore in
spun sugar turrets
they rise fall glistening
dissolving ice lace
ice music I seem
to hear a tremolo
in the trees
but it’s March no leaves
no breeze just the score
for the scene
before me silvery
glissandos rising
from a streaming swarm
of glinting
creatures herded
by the current
in a living touching
clinking singing surge

Courtesy of the author

Center for Poetry Holds Edible Book Contest

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On April 1st, the Center for Poetry held its annual Edible Book Contest, inspired by the International Edible Book Festival. Special thanks to RCAH Communications Manager Katie Wittenauer for being our guest judge, and to the Roethke House in Saginaw, Michigan for contributing prizes and a magnificent cake inspired by Theodore Roethke’s children’s book Party at the Zoo. The winners were:

Grand Prize: Charlotte’s Web submitted by Alli Rayburn
Best Literary Classic: Pride & Prejudice submitted by Jean Krueger
Most Edible: Holes submitted by Hannah Warren
Most Creative: Superfudge submitted by Joy Whitten & Aaron Williams
Most Humorous: Julius Caesar submitted by Holly Bronson
Best Pun: Heart of Darkness submitted by Brian Teppen
Best Children’s Literature: James and the Giant Peach submitted by Darby McGraw

You can also read about the contest in the State News.

Spring Poetry Series opens with Michigan poet, teacher Dennis Hinrichsen

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By Kelsey Block

“You’re always in the process of becoming a poet. You keep going on and striving to become that thing,” 62-year-old local writer Dennis Hinrichsen said.

Hinrichsen visited the RCAH Center for Poetry last Wednesday as the first guest in our annual Spring Poetry Series.

Hinrichsen first discovered the pleasure of words in the Bob Dylan song, “Visions of Johanna” with the line: “The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face.”

“I thought, ‘Holy mackerel!’ It created this amazing image in my mind, a cinematic effect, and I wanted to be able to do that too,” he said.

Later, as an undergraduate student Hinrichsen abandoned his studies in math and switched to creative writing. Since then, he’s completed nine works, six of which are books of poetry.

Hinrichsen said his work changed significantly between his second and third books.

“The biggest challenge was recognizing that I didn’t like the way I sounded in a poem and having to completely change myself. It took me nine years to do, but at the end of that, I had developed my own point of view,” he said.

Hinrichsen said he’s always trying to challenge himself as a writer.

“When you’re writing, you’re constantly trying to crash things together. You’re this mad scientist trying to do a fusion and see what happens, if you can sustain something or if you have to recombine to push this stuff. That’s where it’s really exciting for me, because that’s me going into new territory and trying to follow that thing,” Hinrichsen said. “I try to find things I can’t possibly write about, and try to write about it… It’s being brave enough in the act of drafting those things, to find cliff edges and continually jump off them, to constantly risk writing badly.”

Hinrichsen has another book, Skin Music, coming out this fall.

“The poems sort of look at hard things for a variety of reasons,” he said, adding that many of the poems take place in Grand Ledge where he grew up. “When you’re writing poetry, you have no clue what the poem’s about – you write to discover what it’s about.”

In addition to writing, Hinrichsen taught writing at Lansing Community College for a number of years. He said it’s important for students to learn to write with abandon.

“You come into creative writing class and you’re going to be writing for the next four years. It’s going to be the most important writing you’re doing, and you’re going to throw away everything you write,” he said. “It’s just practice to get to the point that you get old enough to have that skill set.”

Hinrichsen said students also need to read as much as they possibly can.

“The reading component is plugging into what’s going on around you. It’s learning how to read like a writer and recognize (writing) is a practice,” he said.

Poem of the Week: “April Midnight” by Arthur Symons

“April Midnight”
by Arthur Symons

Side by side through the streets at midnight,
Roaming together,
Through the tumultuous night of London,
In the miraculous April weather.

Roaming together under the gaslight,
Day’s work over,
How the Spring calls to us, here in the city,
Calls to the heart from the heart of a lover!

Cool to the wind blows, fresh in our faces,
Cleansing, entrancing,
After the heat and the fumes and the footlights,
Where you dance and I watch your dancing.

Good it is to be here together,
Good to be roaming,
Even in London, even at midnight,
Lover-like in a lover’s gloaming.

You the dancer and I the dreamer,
Children together,
Wandering lost in the night of London,
In the miraculous April weather.

Courtesy of the Poetry Foundation

Poem of the Week: “Resurrection Yoga” by Dennis Hinrichsen

In celebration of an upcoming visit by Lansing poet Dennis Hinrichsen, we present his poem “Resurrection Yoga” from Kurosawa’s Dog (Oberlin Press, 2009). Dennis will visit the RCAH Center for Poetry on April 1, and at his reading, the Center for Poetry will release handmade broadside sheets with the poem “Resurrection Yoga” printed in-house on the RCAH Art Studio letterpress.

%22Resurrection Yoga%22 by Dennis Hinrichsen


Poem provided courtesy of the author.

Center for Poetry celebrates women’s history with Robin Silbergleid reading

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By Kelsey Block

The RCAH Center for Poetry and the MSU English Department celebrated Women’s History Month with a reading and workshop by Robin Silbergleid, associate professor of English and director of creative writing at MSU. A small gathering of about fifteen women joined Silbergleid in the RCAH LookOut! Gallery to discuss ekphrasis (the phenomenon of one art form commenting on another) in her work, Frida Kahlo, My Sister, which was published by Finishing Line Press last June.

The title of the book comments on a triangulated relationship between Silbergleid, her sister, and Kahlo. Some of the poems in the book focus on Kahlo’s work, which famously focuses on the female body, while others are written about Silbergleid’s own miscarriages and her sister’s car accident and resulting disability.

In order to make it easy to have a discussion about ekphrasis, Silbergleid presented photographs of Kahlo’s paintings alongside her work at the reading. Still, she said she doesn’t think ekphrastic writing always needs to be accompanied by the piece that inspired it.

“I hope that the poems kind of stand on their own, because they tell the story of the painting,” Silbergleid said, adding that she often talks about ekphrasis in her classes. “Poems should stand on their own as independent works of art, and if I have a student who says, ‘I need to give you this painting,’ the poem’s not working; they haven’t found the language they need to render that image in a new medium.”

Silbergleid said she was first drawn to Kahlo’s work in the early 2000s, around the time she started writing about infertility and reproductive loss.

“They say you read things at the right time, and it was the right moment for me,” Silbergleid said. “I think if I’d seen her work five years before it would have been stunning, but I don’t know that it would have had the same impact on me… Everything was pointing in that direction for me.”

In the conversation after her reading, Silbergleid showed other works of art that focus on the body, such as the work feminist artist Jenny Saville and menstrual art like “Red Is the Color.” In regard to these works, as well as her own writing, Silbergleid said, “There’s no denying that it’s graphic in terms of talking about bodily stuff, but I don’t think it’s excessive or gratuitous. It needs to be there and these are conversations we need to have culturally, but it’s a tricky thing. Art has to take risks, or what’s the point?” she said. Silbergleid’s The Baby Book will be published by CavanKerry Press in November.

Poem of the Week: “The Chairs That No One Sits In” by Billy Collins

You see them on porches and on lawns
down by the lakeside,
usually arranged in pairs implying a couple

who might sit there and look out
at the water or the big shade trees.
The trouble is you never see anyone

sitting in these forlorn chairs
though at one time it must have seemed
a good place to stop and do nothing for a while.

Sometimes there is a little table
between the chairs where no one
is resting a glass or placing a book facedown.

It might be none of my business,
but it might be a good idea one day
for everyone who placed those vacant chairs

on a veranda or a dock to sit down in them
for the sake of remembering
whatever it was they thought deserved

to be viewed from two chairs
side by side with a table in between.
The clouds are high and massive that day.

The woman looks up from her book.
The man takes a sip of his drink.
Then there is nothing but the sound of their looking,

the lapping of lake water, and a call of one bird
then another, cries of joy or warning—
it passes the time to wonder which.

Via Poetry Foundation

Voicing Poetry featured on UCLA’s online journal, “Echo”


Composer Philip Rice talks about the process of creating musical pieces based on original poems in the Voicing Poetry collaboration at MSU. Great article, Philip!

Originally posted on Music at Mt. Parnassus:


This week, UCLA’s online journal, “Echo,” featured a story about our recent collaboration with the Center for Poetry at MSU, Voicing Poetry. The blog is edited by recent MSU graduate in musicology, Patrick Bonczyk. Check it out via the link below!


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"Poetry is life distilled." Gwendolyn Brooks


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