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Poem of the Week: “Somewhere I Have Never Travelled, Gladly Beyond”

rose

Center for Poetry intern, Amy Potchen, explains her choice of poem: ” A friend showed me this poem last week and I have been in love with it even since. I love the imagery of the rose and the different ways that it is used in this poem. The first flowers of the spring time mentioned in the poem remind me of the flowers that are beginning to pop up around East Lansing.”

Somewhere I Have Never Travelled, Gladly Beyond

By E.E. Cummings

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

Find this poem online at  www.familyfriendpoems.com

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Poem of the Week: excerpt from “Perihelion: A History of Touch”

 

treeThe following poem is an excerpt from the poem “Perihelion: A History of Touch.” The excerpts below are the third and fourth stanzas out of twelve in the poem. This poem is from the book Soft Science (Alice James Books, 2019) by Franny Choi. The original version of this poem is double justified but has been formatted due to the restrictions of this website. You can read the first two parts of the poem on a broadside given out at a reading by the poet on Wednesday, April 17th at 7:00pm in the RCAH Theater, in Snyder-Phillips hall. 

 

Perihelion: A History of Touch

By Franny Choi

                                               Worm Moon

Like any girl, I pulled myself into shreds to test the rumor that

 something with blood like mine could be halved and still whole.

And what did I learn? I buried myself all over the garden, but the

 pieces only sprouted into new riddles: squid leg, spaghetti squash, a

jerking thumb. Their names still sounded like mine; everyone in the

 same dress, chewing dirt to avoid each others’ eyes. I lay down next

to the one beneath the porch, hiding among the oyster shells. Don’t

 cry, I said, but she cried anyway. Her tears fell straight into my eyes.

What a lesson—to watch them float back and forth between us until

we knew each one’s shape. Until we knew, finally, what to do with

them.

 

                                                  Pink Moon
Outside, the colors leapt from the trees. Here, inside, some new

 word was blooming in my underwear—darker than I’d expected. I’d

expected something pink; a slow, sweet trickle. Not this wet tar,

 treacle, dark, like the blood had been stretching inside me for years,

slow-building into a sticky chord, the first falling away. Soil’s been

watered; come play. First stuck, first gum, first hum of pollen,

 calling in the bees and readying to wilt.

 

Find this poem online at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/144599/perihelion-a-history-of-touch

 

 

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Poem of the Week: “Blind Boone’s Pianola Blues,” by Tyehimba Jess

piano keys

RCAH Center for Poetry intern Amy Potchen discusses this poem: “I love the way Jess uses imagery in this poem. I feel like I’m there with the person playing the piano. This is a poem from Jess’s Pulitzer Prize winning book “Olio.” This Wednesday, April 10th, listen to Jess read his work in the RCAH Theater at 7:00. While there, pick up a free broadside of Jess’s poem “Mark Twain v. Blind Tom.”

Blind Boone’s Pianola Blues

They said I wasn’t smooth enough
to beat their sharp machine.
That my style was obsolete,
that old rags had lost their gleam
and lunge. That all I had
left was a sucker punch
that couldn’t touch
their invisible piano man
with his wind up gut-
less guts of paper rolls.
And so, I went and told them
that before the night was through
I’d prove what the son of an ex-
slave could do: I dared them
to put on their most twisty
tune. To play it double-time
while I listened from another
room past the traffic sounds
of the avenue below.
To play it only once,
then to let me show
note for note how that scroll
made its roll through Chopin
or Bach or Beethoven’s best.
And if I failed to match my fingers
and ears with the spinning gears
of their invisible pneumatic piano
scholar, I’d pay them the price
of a thousand dollars.

And what was in it for Boone?
you might ask…

Might be the same thing that drives men
through mountains at heart attack pace.
Might be just to prove some tasks
ain’t meant to be neatly played
out on paper and into air,
but rather should tear
out from lung, heart and brain
with a flair of flicked wrists
and sly smile above the 88s…
and, of course, that ever-human
weight of pride that swallows us
when a thing’s done just right…
But they were eager to prove me wrong.
They chose their fastest machine
with their trickiest song and stuck it
in a room far down the hall from me.
They didn’t know how sharp
I can see with these ears of mine—
I caught every note even though
they played it in triple time.
And when I played it back to them
even faster, I could feel the violent
stares… heard one mutter
    Lucky black bastard…
and that was my cue to rise,
to take a bow in their smoldering
silence and say, Not luck,
my friend, but the science
of touch and sweat and
stubborn old toil. I’d bet
these ten fingers against any coil
of wire and parchment and pump.

And I left them there to ponder
the wonders of blindness
as I walked out the door
into the heat of the sun.

 

Find this poem online at https://bombmagazine.org/articles/two-poems-17/

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Poem of the Week: “Hammond B3 Organ Cistern,” by Gabrielle Calvocoressi

iced green tea

Amy Potchen, Center for Poetry Intern, discusses this poem: “The poet is able to express a dark topic in such a poetic way. Interns in the Center have recently transformed this poem into a letter-pressed broadside to give out at Calvocoressi’s reading.  Get your broadside on Wednesday April 3rd at 7:00 in the Snyder-Phillips basement theater at the reading.”

 

Hammond B3 Organ Cistern

by Gabrielle Calvocoressi

 

The days I don’t want to kill myself

are extraordinary. Deep bass. All the people

in the streets waiting for their high fives

and leaping, I mean leaping,

when they see me. I am the sun-filled

god of love. Or at least an optimistic

under-secretary. There should be a word for it.

The days you wake up and do not want

to slit your throat. Money in the bank.

Enough for an iced green tea every weekday

and Saturday and Sunday! It’s like being

in the armpit of a Hammond B3 organ.

Just reeks of gratitude and funk.

The funk of ages. I am not going to ruin

my love’s life today. It’s like the time I said yes

to gray sneakers but then the salesman said

Wait. And there, out of the back room,

like the bakery’s first biscuits: bright-blue kicks.

Iridescent. Like a scarab! Oh, who am I kidding,

it was nothing like a scarab! It was like

bright. blue. fucking. sneakers! I did not

want to die that day. Oh, my God.

Why don’t we talk about it? How good it feels.

And if you don’t know then you’re lucky

but also you poor thing. Bring the band out on the stoop.

Let the whole neighborhood hear. Come on, Everybody.

Say it with me nice and slow

      no pills       no cliff       no brains onthe floor

Bring the bass back.          no rope         no hose        not today, Satan.

Every day I wake up with my good fortune

and news of my demise. Don’t keep it from me.

Why don’t we have a name for it?

Bring the bass back. Bring the band out on the stoop.

Hallelujah!

 

 

Published 11/19/2018 in The New Yorker

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Poem of the Week: “In Which God Shows Me Their Dress,” by Dalton Day

 

sunflower

Center for poetry intern, Lydia Barron, expresses why she chose this poem: “I chose this poem because Dalton Day was my first real experience with queerness, concrete form, and surrealism in poetry. These themes were all things which have influenced me as a poet to look at the world differently and write in a style I feel is more my own, even to make new forms of poetry which are my own.”

 

In Which God Shows Me Their Dress

by Dalton Day

         

Hair reaching into the wind

which isn’t you

          but something

you possess                               and your

                         throat              its

apple hidden in the dirt

which isn’t you

              but something you

                                                     grew out

from                  how it permits

              you to hold the many birds

you breathe into

                               like song

                               like bleeding

                here in this field of sunflowers

you would let me                   die

           here in this ballroom of moons

you would let me                   walk

                                there are beasts

                                 in these woods

                with paws capable of more

noise than yours

This piece was published online in PANK, but Day also has many other collections available for purchase such as Exit, Pursued; Spooky Action at a Distance; and Alternatives. You can find the poet on twitter @lilghosthands and online at tinyghosthands.com.
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Poem of the Week : “Spring Sunshine,” by Ellen Ni Bheachain

sun
Center for Poetry intern, Amy Potchen, describes why she chose this poem: “Every day for the past few weeks I have been checking the weather forecast to see if my day will be blessed by sunshine. The sunshine of the spring feels warmer to me than any other season because my Michigan body has been deprived of it for so long. This poem seems fitting to how I, and many others living in a cold climate, feel when the sun returns, as it seems to have this week. I enjoy that this poem is lucid and perfectly depicts the feelings surrounded by the beginning of spring.”

Spring Sunshine 

by Ellen Ni Bheachain

After all the chills and winter blues, 
The staying warm and staying in, 
Meetings indoors for outside is cold, 
Then comes the spring sunshine, 

The sun breaks in like a door open wide, 
With the burst of sunlight, 
That lasting and warm, 
Bringing smiles back on peoples faces, 

While in the chilling season it brings, 
Us all to hibernate and stay in, 
Not getting out much as weather is cold, 
Until the spring sunshine brings us back outdoors, 

It is the time for new growth, 
It is the time for new beginnings, 
It is the time for buds to bloom, 
It is the time for nature to sound its sounds of nature again, 

For all the while when we shelter from the chills, 
Winter is chilling, 
And springs getting ready, 
For all the new beginnings, 
Brought forth from the old, 
Of last seasons blossoms, 
Spring will bring new growth from its roots, 
And bloom again with spring sunshine rays, 

Spring will start again, 
And a new year to begin it with, 
That starts with first, 
The spring sunshine, 
Of first days of spring, 
That brings the smile back, 
To all our faces, 
With warm sun rays, 
Of spring sunshine.

found on http://www.poemhunter.com

 

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Poem of the Week: “Jubilee,” by Gabrielle Calvocoressi

A note from the RCAH Center for Poetry’s interim director, Cindy Hunter Morgan: “I love where Calvorcoressi finds music in this world, and I love how (and where) she sees the possibilities for music: in snare drums, yes, but also in hubcaps, trash can lids, and car springs. What are the instruments of this world? Surely there are more available to us than we sometimes realize. This poem is tightly constructed, and in some ways it ghosts the sonnet form. Sonnets are famous for their arguments, of course, but what does Calvocoressi argue for here? Joy.”

NOTE: Gabrielle Calvocoressi will kick off the RCAH Center for Poetry’s Spring Reading Series Wednesday, April 3 with a 3:30 talk in the LookOut! Gallery and a 7 p.m. reading in the RCAH Theater.

 

Jubilee

by Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Come down to the water. Bring your snare drum,

your hubcaps, the trash can lid. Bring every

joyful noise you’ve held at bay so long.

The fish have risen to the surface this early

morning: flounder, shrimp, and every blue crab

this side of Mobile. Bottom feeders? Please.

They shine like your Grandpa Les’ Cadillac,

the one you rode in, slow so all the girls

could see. They called to you like katydids.

And the springs in that car sounded like tubas

as you moved up and down. Make a soulful sound

unto the leather and the wheel, praise the man

who had the good sense to build a front seat

like a bed, who knew you’d never buy a car

that big if you only meant to drive it.

 

“Jubilee” by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, from “Apocalyptic Swing,” © Persea Books, 2009.

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Poem of the Week: “for the poets who gather here,” by Grace Carras

The RobinThe Robin Theatre in Lansing’s REO Town neighborhood, and home to The Poetry Room. Photo by The Poetry Room

This week’s poem is by our own Grace Carras, currently in her third year as an intern here at the RCAH Center for Poetry, and co-founder (with Masaki Takahashi) of The Poetry Room, a wildly popular open mic now in its second year. We’re celebrating Grace this week in light of the news that she is the winner of the 2019 Ritzenheim Emerging Poet Award (administered by the Lansing Poetry Club and judged this year by Robert Vivian of Alma College), which includes publication of a chapbook of her poems by Finishing Line Press. For now, you can also find this poem down the street from the Robin Theatre, etched in the sidewalk at the northeast corner of South Washington Ave. and East South Street.

 

for the poets who gather here

with thanks to The Poetry Room and The Robin Theatre

 

this is for you,

who overcome the trembling

dance of your own pulse

to blossom in the stage light.

you, who dig your roots in deep

and sprout from rock bottom.

go forth and devour, you

conquerors of concrete,

who put the we in weeds,

you brilliant bouquets of breath;

i’ve seen you carry explosions

in your mouths.

you hungry poets,

i’m in love

with the shrapnel of your bravery,

with the way you become the light

that you need to grow.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “I Remember the Carrots,” by Ada Limón

carrotCenter for Poetry graduate fellow Alecia Beymer said this about this week’s choice: “I chose this poem for a number of reasons: I’m taken by the promise in the first line; I don’t know exactly what the poem means or even endeavors to mean and I’m grateful for that uncertainty; I have begun to repeat the line, ‘Why must we practice / this surrender?’ over and over again as if the resuscitation will yield a quenchable answer. I think I am always negotiating the space where this poem was written, ‘I haven’t given up’ and ‘I still want.’ I’ve always been enamored by Limón’s poetic move of renaming and the conjuring of the confession; she makes a swift, but gentle turn towards the end, ‘What I mean is:’ and there we have it, our ears pressed to the page, ready and waiting for someone to tell us just how and why we practice this day-to-day surrender? Never knowing what truly compelled us into the predicament in the first place. Also, I love her book Bright Dead Things and cannot recommend it enough. She also has another book out entitled, The Carrying. I am only halfway through and already on the floor.”

 

I Remember the Carrots

by Ada Limón

I haven’t given up on trying to live a good life,
a really good one even, sitting in the kitchen
in Kentucky, imagining how agreeable I’ll be –
the advance of fulfillment, and of desire –
all these needs met, then unmet again.
When I was a kid, I was excited about carrots,
their spidery neon tops in the garden’s plot.
And so I ripped them all out. I broke the new roots
and carried them, like a prize, to my father
who scolded me, rightly, for killing his whole crop.
I loved them: my own bright dead things.
I’m thirty-five and remember all that I’ve done wrong.
Yesterday I was nice, but in truth I resented
the contentment of the field. Why must we practice
this surrender? What I mean is: there are days
I still want to kill the carrots because I can.

 

 

“I Remember the Carrots” by Ada Limón, from Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Ada Limón.

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Poem of the Week: “The Coffee Aisle,” by Graham Barnhart

Beans (1)

“I chose this poem because I believe in the healing, transporting power of a cup of coffee,” said Center for Poetry intern Grace Carras. “Graham Barnhart writes often about his experience as a medic in the US Army. I thought that this was a touching poem that raises an interesting question; what flavors do we use to mask the old tastes in our mouth? What flavor could be strong enough to ground us in the ordinary present, when our minds keep slipping back to memories of trauma or conflict? (To answer, if that flavor isn’t coffee, then I don’t know what it could be.) I really enjoyed this poem, as I enjoy all of Barnhart’s poetry. Let’s face it; with all this ice and snow, the thought of a hot cup of coffee feels healing.”

 

The Coffee Aisle

by Graham Barnhart

 

You step back always to boiling

black froth in a tin cup

to the density of flak curtains

heavier at least than the wind

 

stirred up by whatever

is outside exploding,

whenever you arrive

among these stone-ground beans

 

labeled Colombian Supremo

Jamaican Blue Mountain

robust with floral notes and balanced

blends of pleasant acidity.

 

After disheveling homes

with tracks of finger-size holes

left open to let a little sunlight in,

or kneeling through blood rinsed

 

truck-bed surgeries

while ceramic armor plates

clamped your legs to sleep

your fingers in torn rubber gloves

in someone’s torn leg—

 

anything that didn’t taste

like dust was saffron or jasmine

under the tongue—even dirt

sometimes, even blood.

 

But now which of these

mild to moderate sharpnesses

counterfeit best that flavor

when tamped into a cannon-mouth

 

French press here at home

in your un-demolished kitchen?

 

 

Source: https://tinderboxpoetry.com/the-coffee-aisle