Posted in news, Uncategorized, visiting writers, workshops

Read a Poet, Write a Poem 2014: William Stafford

For the last few weeks, the RCAH Center for Poetry has been busy with our annual Read a Poet, Write a Poem workshop. The two-part workshop focuses on the work of a particular poet, in this case, William Stafford, and then uses that poet as a springboard to encourage attendees to create new work of their own. Below are some photographs of the event, as well as poems from two of the participants, Marianne Forman and Dorothy Brooks.

attendants  Laurie  whole grou 942491_584187014995159_400232325_n  Anita

Posted in Uncategorized, workshops

“Remembering Anna” by Marianne Forman (from the Read a Poet, Write a Poem workshop)

Her fingers always smelled of cabbage,
Not like my mother’s hands
From the raw bacon she’d wrap
Around the Halupkis,
But like the boiling water she’d plunge
Her hands into after slivering out
The core of the cabbage,
Unafraid of the blade.

I used to think her fingertips
Must be callused hard scalded beyond
All sensation
The way she manhandled those cabbage leaves.

Her fingernails were stubbly squares
And I wondered how she’d managed
To wrap them around that bottle of boilo,
That boilo that burned my nose hairs
When I took a whiff
That boilo that she slugged down
Between folding the ground pork and sticky rice
Into a cabbage bundle, raw pig in a blanket.

She was a young widow, once,
A presser who smoothed out the blood clots
Her husband hacked up
With her heavy old iron.
The checks for the Black Lung
Came on the first of the month.
Used to find them, damp,
In her apron pocket.

She told me it was
Damn hard
To fall asleep once he passed.
She used to parcel her going to sleep
Into measures of his wheezing.
She could count on that syncopation
She told me
To soothe her off to sleep.

She became an insomniac
After he was dead and buried,
Recycled his handkerchiefs
Into rags
To polish the toaster,
To spit shine her shoes,
To dab at her lipstick that oozed
The corners of her mouth.

They found her
One fine summer morning
When the mountain laurel was in bloom.
She’d gone picking huckleberries
Up the side of the mountain,
Collected them in rusted tin coffee can.
She used to like the sound of the berries
Clanging into that can.
Counted them till the sun
Made her dizzy and she climbed back
Down the mountain.
Her old sundress, all covered
In closing-go-to-sleep flowers,
Was hung on the bathroom door
Over her acetate powder blue nightgown.

They found her
In the bathtub,
All sunk down and comfortable
With a cigarette still
Burning on the edge of the tub
And a glass of boilo
Rippling through the bathwater,
Her fingers still stained
Bluish purple,
The huckleberries
Still on her hands.

January 27, 2014

Posted in Uncategorized, workshops

“Bisti Badlands, Northwestern New Mexico” by Dorothy Brooks (from the Read a Poet, Write a Poem workshop)

I told no one I was going, I remembered too late
as sunset cast brooding shadows
on the ancient sea of rock with hoodoos
rising like carved cobras in the advancing shadows.

Impossible to find, remote—
spinner of mysteries, keeper of quiet,
the vast expanse spoke its own tongue.
No landmarks, I noted, easy

(Photo by author, 1985)

to be lost. Gripping my camera, hoping
for one last shot, I reached
to steady myself at the next rise—
its layers of shale imbedded

in contours of waves.  My hand
landed on something solid—not
the scatterings of old coal sprinkled
across the ledge but something

larger than my fist.  Glancing down,
I wedged my thumb under
a protruding rock—no, a
knuckle bone.  Fossil now,

the frozen motion of some prehistoric being
turned to stone as it loped through
lush tropics, skirted a swamp abloom
with tall palms sprouting whole coconuts of voodoo.

January 27, 2014

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “You, If No One Else” by Tino Villanueva

You, If No One Else
by Tino Villanueva
                                     Listen, you
who transformed your anguish
into healthy awareness,
put your voice
where your memory is.
You who swallowed
the afternoon dust,
defend everything you understand
with words.
You, if no one else,
will condemn with your tongue
the erosion each disappointment brings.
You, who saw the images
of disgust growing,
will understand how time
devours the destitute;
you, who gave yourself
your own commandments,
know better than anyone
why you turned your back
on your town’s toughest limits.
Don’t hush,
don’t throw away
the most persistent truth,
as our hard-headed brethren
sometimes do.
Remember well
what your life was like: cloudiness,
and slick mud
after a drizzle;
flimsy windows the wind
kept rattling
in winter, and that
unheated slab dwelling
where coldness crawled
up in your clothes.
Tell how you were able to come
to this point, to unbar
History’s doors
to see your early years,
your people, the others.
Name the way
rebellion’s calm spirit has served you,
and how you came
to unlearn the lessons
of that teacher,
your land’s omnipotent defiler.
Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Your World” by Georgia Douglas Johnson

Your World
by Georgia Douglas Johnson

Your world is as big as you make it.
I know, for I used to abide
In the narrowest nest in a corner,
My wings pressing close to my side.

But I sighted the distant horizon
Where the skyline encircled the sea
And I throbbed with a burning desire
To travel this immensity.

I battered the cordons around me
And cradled my wings on the breeze,
Then soared to the uttermost reaches
With rapture, with power, with ease!

Source: Words with Wings: A Treasury of African-American Poetry and Art (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 2001)

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Upcoming Events

Mondays, 18/25 7 p.m.
 Read a Poet/Write a Poem:
featuring the work of Maxine Kumin
MSU Horse Teaching and Research Center, 3327 Collins Rd.
This two-part workshop presents a detailed introduction of an acclaimed poet and their work in the first part, with a related writing assignment. This assignment is then work-shopped in the second part.

Thursday 28, 7 p.m.
Brian Gilmore
(co-sponsored with Dept. of English and MI Writers Series)
MSU Main Library, Green Room (4th floor, West wing)

Wednesday, 17, 7 p.m.
Sheila Kay Adams
(co-sponsored with Ten Pound Fiddle)
RCAH Theater, Snyder Hall

Saturday, 20, 1-3 p.m.
First monthly Haiku Study Group with Michele Root Bernstein
3rd Saturday monthly
Snyder C302

Monday, 22, 7 p.m.
Translation Conversation
Snyder C303
In advance of the Festival of Listening, the translation conversation features study of various translation projects. This year we welcome Nesreen Akhtarkhavari, director of Arabic Studies at DePaul University, and translator for Desert Sorrows: Poems by Tayseer al-Sboul (MSU Press), with live nye music by Nadim Dlaikan.

Tuesday, 1, 7 p.m.
Festival of Listening 7 p.m., (SCENE) Metrospace
An evening of poetry readings in languages other than English.

Tuesday, 15, 7:30 p.m.
 Voicing Poetry II
Cook Recital Hall, College of Music
The second annual collaboration between the RCAH Center for Poetry and the Composition Studio at the College of Music features original poetry and musical compositions created in response to, and in concert with one another.

Monday, 21, 7 p.m.
 Matthew Gavin Frank
(co-sponsored with Dept. of English and MI Writers Series)
MSU Main Library, Green Room (4th floor, West wing)

Saturday, 19, 1-3 p.m.
 Haiku Study Group with Michele Root Bernstein
3rd Saturday monthly
Snyder C302

Thursday, 31, 12 p.m.
Edible Book Contest
2nd Floor Snyder Hall

Wednesday 13, 7 p.m.
Spring Poetry Festival: Tarfia Faizullah
(Co-sponsored with Dept. of English)
RCAH Theater

Saturday, 16, 1-3 p.m.
Haiku Study Group with Michele Root Bernstein
3rd Saturday monthly
Snyder C302.

Sunday, 17, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Haiku Hike
MSU Science Festival

Wednesday, 20, 7 p.m.
Spring Poetry Festival: Lindsay Tigue,
with 2016 Annie Balocating Undergraduate
Prize for Poetry Presentation,
RCAH Theater

Wednesday, 27, 7 p.m.
 Spring Poetry Festival: Robin Coste Lewis
RCAH Theater

All events free and open to the public

For more information, contact us at

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “My Ambition” by James Laughlin

For Wade Hall

is to become a footnote
in a learned work of the
22nd century   not just a
“cf” or a “see” but a sol-
id note such as Raby gives
Walafrid Straho in Christ-
ian Latin Poetry or Ernst
Robert Curtius (the most
erudite German who ever
lived) devotes to Alber-
tino Mussato in his Euro-
päische Literatur und La-
teinisches Mittelalter   I
hope the scholar of the
22nd will lick his schol-
arly lips when he finds me
in some forgotten source
(perhaps the Obloquies of
Dreadful Edward Dahlberg)
and think here is an odd-
ball I would have liked,
immortalizing me in six
turgid lines of footnote.
October/November 1987
Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “The Darkling Thrush” by Thomas Hardy

The Darkling Thrush
By Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.
The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.