Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Awaken,” by Naima Penniman, of Climbing PoeTree

Join us this week as Climbing PoeTree opens the RCAH Wednesday Night Live series, at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the RCAH Theater, Snyder Hall, 362 Bogue Street, East Lansing.

View a live performance of this poem here.

Awaken

By Naima Penniman (of Climbing PoeTree)

We are in the wake
of a great shifting

awaken

you better free your mind
before they illegalize thought

there’s a war going on

the first casualty was truth
and it’s inside you

the universe is counting on our belief
that faith is more powerful than fear
and in that the shifting moment
we’ll all remember why we’re here

in a world where you’re assassinated for having a dream
and the rich spend 9 billion a year to control our ideas
and visions are televised so things aren’t what they seem

we gotta believe
in a world where
there’s room enough for everyone
to breathe

cause reality is made up of
7 billion thoughts
who made up their minds
of what’s real and what’s not

so I stopped believing
in false idols of war
greed and hate
is not worth my faith

my mind’s dedicated
to justice
my soul is devoted
to love

and love is God
and God is truth
and truth is you
and you are me
and I am everything
and everything is nothing
and nothing is the birthplace of creation
and transformation is possible
and you are proof

we were born right now
for a reason
we can be whatever
we give ourselves the power to be

and right now we need
day dreamers
gate keepers
bridge builders
soul speakers
web weavers
light bearers
food growers
wound healers
trail blazers
truth sayers
life lovers
peace makers

give what you most deeply desire
to give
every moment you are choosing to live
or you are waiting

why would a flower hesitate to open?
now is the only moment
rain drop let go
become the ocean

possibility is as wide
as the space
we create
to hold it


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Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Grace”

Assistant to the Director, Estee Schlenner, chose this week’s poem. She was drawn to the poem’s honesty, imagery, and the concept of grace.

Grace

By Joy Harjo

                                    For Darlene Wind and James Welch

I think of Wind and her wild ways the year we had nothing to lose and lost it anyway in the cursed country of the fox. We still talk about that winter, how the cold froze imaginary buffalo on the stuffed horizon of snowbanks. The haunting voices of the starved and mutilated broke fences, crashed our thermostat dreams, and we couldn’t stand it one more time. So once again we lost a winter in stubborn memory, walked through cheap apartment walls, skated through fields of ghosts into a town that never wanted us, in the epic search for grace. 

Like Coyote, like Rabbit, we could not contain our terror and clowned our way through a season of false midnights. We had to swallow that town with laughter, so it would go down easy as honey. And one morning as the sun struggled to break ice, and our dreams had found us with coffee and pancakes in a truck stop along Highway 80, we found grace.

I could say grace was a woman with time on her hands, or a white buffalo escaped from memory. But in that dingy light it was a promise of balance. We once again understood the talk of animals, and spring was lean and hungry with the hope of children and corn. 

I would like to say, with grace, we picked ourselves up and walked into the spring thaw. We didn’t; the next season was worse. You went home to Leech Lake to work with the tribe and I went south. And, Wind, I am still crazy. I know there is something larger than the memory of a dispossessed people. We have seen it. 

From In Mad Love and War © 1990 by Joy Harjo.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “The Rider”

This poem was chosen by Acting Director of the Center for Poetry, Laurie Hollinger. She was reminded of the new bike lane outside of Snyder Hall at MSU. This poem is also a brief study on loneliness. Loneliness is an isolating feeling, while simultaneously being a feeling shared by many.

The Rider

By Naomi Shihab Nye

A boy told me

if he roller-skated fast enough

his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,

the best reason I ever heard

for trying to be a champion.

What I wonder tonight

pedaling hard down King William Street

is if it translates to bicycles.

A victory! To leave your loneliness

panting behind you on some street corner

while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,

pink petals that have never felt loneliness,

no matter how slowly they fell.

Naomi Shihab Nye, “The Rider” from Fuel. Copyright © 1998 by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Questionnaire”

It’s the beginning of classes here at MSU, and Poem of the Week is back! This poem is very poignant, and I think it gives us all something to think about.

Questionnaire

By Wendell Berry

How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy

In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security;
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

 “Questionnaire” by Wendell Berry from Leavings. © Counterpoint, 2010. 

Posted in news, Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize

Noah Davis wins the 2019 (Emerging) Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize

noah-davis

Noah Davis, an MFA candidate in poetry at Indiana University, has been selected by George Ella Lyon as the winner of the 2019 (Emerging) Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize for his collection Of This River.

About Of This River, Lyon said, “Both mythic and rooted, the poems in Of This River  arrive full of bear and deer, blood and muck. Their beauty is taut, tough, unsparing, like the lives of the people who inhabit this Pennsylvania land. Short-Haired Girl dives, hits her head on a rock, drowns. Lovers are sliced by a train. Meanwhile, life goes relentlessly on: coyote speaks about love for his brother, snapping turtle tells of his loneliness, grandma fries up snapping turtle meat for her grandkids standing by the stove. Of This River testifies to the way all life, for good or ill, is interwoven. We need this visionary voice.”

Davis has won a Katharine Bakeless Nason Fellowship from the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference, as well as the Jean Ritchie Appalachian Literature Fellowship from Lincoln Memorial University. His poetry has been published in Orion, North American Review, The Hollins Critic, Atlanta Review, Water~Stone Review, and Chautauqua among others. Davis has received Pushcart Prize nominations for poetry from both Poet Lore and Natural Bridge. His prose has been published in Sou’wester, Kestrel, Chariton Review, The Fly Fish Journal, Anglers Journal, The Drake, Fly Fishing & Tying Journal, and American Angler.

Davis will receive a $1,000 prize, and publication in 2020.

Finalists for this sixth round are 89% by Sarah Cooper, The Pirate Anne Bonny Consults the GPS by Dorsey Craft, Nothing is Always Moving by Nicole Robinson, and What You Call Falling by Yeskah Rosenfeld.

Established in 2016, Wheelbarrow Books is an imprint of the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU, with publication and distribution by the MSU Press. The Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize is awarded to one emerging and one established poet annually.

 

Posted in news

MSU Professor Laura Apol named Lansing Poet Laureate

“Passing of the Laurels” celebration set for Friday, May 3, at 5 p.m. in Lansing’s Old Town

laura-apol_lg

Professor Laura Apol (courtesy photo)

Source: LEAP

LANSING, Mich. – The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), the RCAH Center for Poetry at Michigan State University and the Lansing Poetry Club, are proud to announce the appointment of Laura Apol as the second regional Lansing Poet Laureate. As Poet Laureate, Laura will engage the tri-county region in the literary arts to promote poetry as an art form, expand access to the literary arts, connect the community to poetry and showcase poetry as a literary voice that contributes to a greater sense of place, which supports the attraction of global talent and business.

“The appointment of a poet laureate is both symbolic and tangible—an element that speaks to the value of this region’s place; connecting arts and cultural experiences into daily life—most certainly an amenity that draws and keeps talent in the region,” said Bob Trezise, President and CEO of LEAP. “The past two years with the inaugural Lansing Poet Laureate were wildly successful, and we are eager to see how Laura uses her expertise to connect our region to the world through poetry.”

This new appointment of the Lansing Poet Laureate will continue to stimulate the transformative impact of poetry, creating excitement about the written and spoken word. The Lansing Poet Laureate will serve as an ambassador for poetry within the region for a 2-year appointment and will receive a $2,000 per year stipend from LEAP.

Laura is a longtime Lansing resident and associate professor of literacy and curriculum at Michigan State University’s College of Education. “It’s an honor to be selected as the incoming poet laureate, and I’m looking forward to working with area poets to bring poetry into areas where perhaps it’s something new,” she said. “Poems are about community—they connect us to one another. So much of a place, and people in a place, can be expressed and understood through poetry. I’d love for poetry to be part of the everyday life of the community, so that poems are encountered in unexpected places, and so people who don’t consider themselves to be poets find themselves enjoying poems and perhaps even writing some lines.”

With this appointment, the Lansing Poet Laureate will offer instructional workshops and readings with the public, working to engage all 3 counties within greater Lansing.

“I’m delighted that Laura will be our new Poet Laureate and will work within our communities to help us create poetry that explores the fabric of our lives and our deep connection to this region,” said Ruelaine Stokes, president of the Lansing Poetry Club.

“Here at the RCAH Center for Poetry, we’re thrilled to see Laura as Lansing Poet Laureate. The selection process was robust, with many excellent choices,” said Laurie Hollinger, assistant director for the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU. “In the end, Laura’s stature as both a nationally renowned poet and her passion for poetry made her the best fit for this role. She will inspire future poets laureate, and I’m excited for our region to have such a gift.”

The community is invited to a celebration of the “Passing of the Laurel” from inaugural Lansing Poet Laureate Dennis Hinrichsen to Laura Apol, who will now follow in his footsteps. The event, which will include a reading by both poets, will take place Friday, May 3, 2019, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. during Arts Night Out in Old Town. This welcoming event will take place at Urban Beat, 1213 Turner Street in Old Town Lansing and will feature a meet and greet with the poet laureates and the project partners.

 

Nothing Begins with Us

By Laura Apol
—not this story or any other.

Andromeda
does not slow her dizzying spin

nor does a field of wheat wait. We catch our plane

in flight; below us, time
fades like a prim border of pines while the sky opens wide as god’s blue eye.

We have far to go, navigating between stars that appear only after dark. The secret names

we were given at birth are cradled in our curved hands.

It is a magic

world now, and we are at
the center, our own lives the map,

our words the edge of a knife we are just beginning to hone.

 

 

 

About LEAP

 

The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) is a coalition of area leaders partnering to build a stronger community for all–working every day to grow, retain and attract business. Learn more about LEAP at www.purelansing.com

Posted in news

First Book Spine Poetry Contest a Success

IMG_1600

“The Boat of Quiet Hours,” built by Cindy Hunter Morgan as inspiration for our first Book Spine Poetry Contest.

 

While you might not be able to judge a book by its cover, it turns out that you can craft poetry with several covers. That’s what friends and followers of the RCAH Center for Poetry learned when they entered our first ever Book Spine Poetry Contest.

The contest, initiated by interim director Cindy Hunter Morgan, challenges readers to build a poem using lines consisting of book titles. Contestants were tasked with choosing 3-7 books, arranging them in such a way as to display the titles to be read as lines of poetry, and submitting a photo of the constructed poem for consideration.

With 46 entries submitted by 26 people from around the U.S., it was difficult choosing only one winner. Cindy suggested narrowing the widely varied and highly eclectic field down to ten finalists.

In the end, Stephen Rachman, a professor in the MSU Department of English, won with his entry, “Underworld.”

IMG_4034“Underworld,” winner of the Book Spine Poetry Contest, built by Stephen Rachman.

About the winning entry, Cindy shared these comments:

“Underworld,” built by Steve Rachman, is the only entry that uses one book (Underworld) to function visually and formally as a title for the poem that follows, and “Underworld,” as that title, serves as an effective set up for the poem. We love the multiple, simultaneous possibilities of meaning in this poem, and we’re all a little worried about this woman. We wish her well on her journey, and we send congratulations to Steve, who constructed something haunting and evocative with this stack of books.

Cindy had this to say about our finalists:

The nine other entries we’ve listed as finalists are not listed in any particular order. We love these poems for various reasons: vivid imagery, wild juxtaposition, a sense of surprise, use of metaphor, or a kind of philosophical statement the “builder” is able to make with very few moves. We’ve also listed one “Special Mention” poem, which did not meet the requirements of the contest (a minimum of three titles) but feels important and significant because of its message. This “Special Mention” poem was submitted by RCAH Director of Communications Morris Arvoy. Thank you for this poem, Moe.

 

To view all 46 entries, visit our Flickr Page.

Posted in poem of the week

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

Posted in poem of the week

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

 

 

Posted in poem of the week

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/