Posted in news

“Fall”ing in love with poetry

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

Welcome back readers, writers, lovers of poetry and all those in between. The Center for Poetry is back with a fully loaded calendar this fall semester. Check out our “Calendar of Events” page for more information on dates, places and times.

Our Fall Writing Series of visiting writers kicks off Wednesday, October 24 with Russell Brakefield. He will be giving an afternoon talk in the LookOut! Gallery in Snyder Hall at 3 p.m., entitled “Poetry from the Archives,” and a reading in the RCAH Theater at 7 p.m.

Our Annual Used Book Sale will be held on campus at the corner of Farm Lane and North Shaw on Thursday, September 27. We will be open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and encourage all to stop by and browse our extensive selection of books.

Through the end of this week, we will be accepting donations of books for the sale. Email cpoetry@msu.edu to arrange for drop off.

 

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Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Try to Praise the Mutilated World,” by Adam Zagajewski

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Center for Poetry intern Estee Schlenner selected this week’s poem, and said this:

I chose this poem because I really appreciate the message that Adam Zagajewski is sending. In this poem he is expressing that the world is “mutilated”, damaged in some way, but that we should still appreciate the beautiful memories that it gives us too. Even if there are bad events happening in the world, this poem reminds us to remember the good that it brings too. The beauty of strawberries, acorns in autumn, or gentle light, these redeeming qualities that encourage optimism in a sometimes pessimistic world.

 

Try to Praise the Mutilated World

 

by Adam Zagajewski

 

Try to praise the mutilated world.

Remember June’s long days,

and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.

The nettles that methodically overgrow

the abandoned homesteads of exiles.

You must praise the mutilated world.

You watched the stylish yachts and ships;

One of them had a long trip ahead of it,

while salty oblivion awaited others.

You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,

you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.

You should praise the mutilated world.

Remember the moments when we were together

in a white room and the curtain fluttered.

Return in thought to the concert where music flared.

You gathered acorns in the park in autumn

and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.

Praise the mutilated world

and the grey feather a thrush lost,

and the gentle light that strays and vanishes

and returns.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Cuttings,” by Theodore Roethke

hybrid-willow-12-inch-2

Cuttings

by Theodore Roethke

 

This urge, wrestle, resurrection of dry sticks,

Cut stems struggling to put down feet,

What saint strained so much,

Rose on such lopped limbs to a new life?

I can hear, underground, that sucking and sobbing,

In my veins, in my bones I feel it —

The small waters seeping upward,

The tight grains parting at last.

When sprouts break out,

Slippery as fish,

I quail, lean to beginnings, sheath-wet.

 

Posted in news

2018 Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize (Emerging) Winner Selected

KBrace2Kristin Brace, winner of the 2018 Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize (Emerging).

Congratulations are in order for Kristin Brace, the latest winner of the Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize.

Brace’s collection, Toward the Wild Abundance, was selected by judge Sarah Bagby. “Toward the Wild Abundance conjures emotions initiated by the frailty and wonder of our lives,” Bagby writes. “The multifaceted nature of this work demands that it be read for voice and validation.  A second reading reveals a deeper commentary on the nature and value of art and the artist. These kaleidoscopic poems also shine brilliance on themes of memory and the passage of time.  They fluidly transport us from past to present and into the imagination to pose questions about how our experiences inform identity and meaning.”

Kristin Brace writes poetry, fiction, and children’s literature. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks Fence, Patio, Blessed Virgin and Each Darkness Inside (Finishing Line Press, 2018). Brace earned an MFA in Writing from Spalding University and her work has appeared in journals such as Fiction Southeast, The Louisville Review, Water~Stone, The Chariton Review, and The Other Journal. She serves as executive director of the Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center, where kids become published authors. Brace plays the accordion, studies Italian, and loves Lake Michigan in every season. She makes her home in West Michigan with her husband, the entrepreneur and inventor Neal Brace. She can be found online at www.kristinbrace.com.

Finalists for this round are Emily Calhoun for Under Long Rains, Ann Miller for The Direction of Flight, Jacob Oet for Inside Ball Lightning, and Heidi Seaborn for Cleave.

In addition to publication in late 2019 by the MSU Press, Brace has been awarded a prize for $1,000. She joins previous winners Cortney Davis (2016), William Orem (2017), and Gary Fincke (2017).

Wheelbarrow Books is an imprint of the RCAH Center for Poetry at Michigan State University, with distribution by MSU Press. It awards two prizes annually, each to an established and an emerging poet. For more information, guidelines, and to learn more about previous selections, visit http://poetry.rcah.msu.edu/wheelbarrow-books-poetry-prize.html

 

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Rain,” by Claribel Alegria

RAIN

Rain

                                ~ Claribel Alegria

As the falling rain

trickles among the stones

memories come bubbling out.

It’s as if the rain

had pierced my temples.

Streaming

streaming chaotically

come memories:

the reedy voice

of the servant

telling me tales

of ghosts.

They sat beside me

the ghosts

and the bed creaked

that purple-dark afternoon

when I learned you were leaving forever,

a gleaming pebble

from constant rubbing

becomes a comet.

Rain is falling

falling

and memories keep flooding by

they show me a senseless

world

a voracious

world—abyss

ambush

whirlwind

spur

but I keep loving it

because I do

because of my five senses

because of my amazement

because every morning,

because forever, I have loved it

without knowing why.

 

From Casting Off by Claribel Alegría. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. Copyright © 2003 by Curbstone Press.

 

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “The White Poet Wants to Know Why I Don’t Write More Arab Poems,” by Leila Chatti

The White Poet Wants to Know Why I Don’t Write More Arab Poems

Because, while a war blooms at the margins

of the other country that claims me, still

 

I am here with my ordinary grief and its language.

 

Because every time I open my mouth

I am an Arab opening my mouth

 

and the poem is, and isn’t, responsible.

 

Sometimes I have to shake

the sand from my story

like a shoe by the side of the road.

 

I have lost nearly everyone I love, and all

to mundane tragedies.

 

I have never felt in my bones a bomb’s

radius of light.

 

The truth is I can only write about God

so many times

 

before he starts listening.

 

The truth is, like you

some days I am struck

 

by pleasure so simple and insistent

I can’t resist—the sun offering indiscriminate

 

brightness against my window, on the table

an empty glass glittering

 

—or sometimes, too, I am unwilling

to mention the wild

 

flowers staked in the field like flags.

 

Previous published in the Summer 2017 issue of The Georgia Review 

Please join us Wednesday, April 18 as we welcome Leila for a reading at 7 p.m. and as she announces the winner of the Annie Balocating Prize. Details at Poetry.RCAH.msu.edu

Posted in poem of the week, Spring Poetry Festival

Poem of the Week: “Tapestry,” by Carolyn Forché

Please join us this week in welcoming Carolyn Forché for our Spring Poetry Festival. For full schedule, visit our website.

Millefleur-Tapestry (1)

Tapestry

There is no album for these, no white script on black
paper, no dates stamped in a border, no sleeve, no fire,
no one has written on the back from left to right.
Your hair has not yet fallen out nor grown back—
girl walking toward you out of childhood
not yet herself, having not yet learned to recite
before others, and who would never wish to stand
on a lighted proscenium, even in a darkened house,
but would rather dig a hole in a field and cover herself
with barn wood, earth and hay, to be as quiet as plums turning.
There is no calendar, no month, no locket, but your name
is called and called in the early storm. No one finds
you no one ever finds you. Not in a small grave
dug by a child as a hiding place, nor years
later in the ship’s hold, not in the shelter, nor high
on the roof as the man beside you leapt, not
in a basket crossing a vineyard, nor in a convent
kitchen on the last night, as a saint soon to be
murdered told you how to live your life,
never found you walking in the ruins of the blown
barracks, wading in the flooded camp, taking cover
in the machinist’s shop, or lighting every votive
in the Cathedral of St. Just, with its vaulted
choir and transept, a wall of suffering souls.
It was just as Brecht wrote, wasn’t it? “You came
in a time of unrest when hunger reigned.
You came to the people in a time of uprising
and you rose with them. So the time
passed away which on earth was given you.”
Gather in your sleep the ripened plums.
Stay behind in the earth when your name is called.

Carolyn Forché

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “April,” by Anita Skeen

Mountain-avens

April

April is the cruelest month….

–T.S. Eliot

 

April is the killer month,

the month of late frost smothering

apple and cherry blossoms,

the month of too much blooming

too soon in too many colors.

How many shades of pink

exist, how many constellations

of purple in the grass, how many

galaxies of pear petals twinkling

in the field after last night’s storm?

The jonquils in their symphony

of yellow, each one claiming

to be First Trumpet, the tulips

holding high their bowls for rain.

The smiley-faced dandelions

are back, ready to take over

the world. There’s too much

happiness out there. The birds

can’t keep their mouths shut,

tweeting us before the sun

is even up. Lilacs show some

restraint, as do the azaleas,

not flaunting their hallmark

flowers until later. Bees lunge

dizzy with pollen, bumping

into walls, dropping from gutters

like bungee jumpers. For some

of us, spring’s not all that nifty.

Not all things return to life.

Graves will not open to give back

captives. Persephone does not

come home. All this floral hoopla,

too funereal. We’re relieved

when it’s time to flip the switch

to nightfall where just shapes

and silhouettes border the path.

Stars remain their constant selves,

a comfort they’re so far away.

 

                                                      ~ Anita Skeen

 

Join us this week as we celebrate ten years of the RCAH Center for Poetry with founder/Director Anita Skeen, and original assistants Stephanie Glazier and Lia Greenwell. Visit our Facebook event for details.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: i come to the city, by Cheryl Clarke

Tailored-Tomboy-Kicks-Up-The-Dust-In-Tomboy-Style-Fashion-7

i come to the city

 for protection
and to witness the thick transactions
of women
and women
and dance with my head.
My turns are calculated
to end on the right foot
to subdue the hip movements.
The city fumes with expectations
and the smells of women
wanting women.
I been in love
six times in the last six months
and ain’t done tryin yet.

Cheryl Clarke

 

Join the RCAH Center for Poetry as we welcome Cheryl Clarke, Wednesday, March 28, for a 3 p.m. talk in the LookOut! Gallery: Gwendolyn Brooks: “Bad Woman” Poet in the Streets and at the Margins, and for a 7 p.m. reading of her own work, in the RCAH Theater.