Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Snow Theory” by Neil Hilborn

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“Snow Theory”

Neil Hilborn

When you hear the phrase Winter Weather Advisory
you imagine a guidance counselor and snow
that is unsure what it wants to do with its life,
don’t you? Don’t you see skills tests
about its life before it rebecomes
water? The name plate on the counselor’s
desk reads Felipe Rios. Señor Rivers,
as Snow calls him, has a constant supply
of green highlighters. No one knows
how he gets them, because rivers can’t walk
to the store or be guidance counselors,
duh. If snow can drift, so can leaves
and dust and responsibilities. You can have
a light dusting of feathers. Snow is a sentient being
that hates when people drive in straight lines. Snow is
migratory. Snow is a dog that wants
all the sidewalks to be covered
in salt. Snow therefore is a happy dog.
Imagine if fire extinguishers were full
of snow. Imagine the fun we could have.

Copyright © 2015 by Neil Hilborn. Image by Philip Schwarz.

Posted in news

RCAH Center for Poetry, Lansing Poetry Club, LEAP seek Lansing Poet Laureate

This spring, the RCAH Center for Poetry, in collaboration with the Lansing Poetry Club and the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), will appoint the first Lansing Poet Laureate. Applications from tri-county area poets are being accepted through March 3 for this culturally significant position. Not only does this appointment honor the selected poet, it also provides increased opportunities for the community to engage with poetry.

The Lansing Poet Laureate will serve as an ambassador for poetry, holding a 2 year term while receiving a $2,000 per year stipend from LEAP. A minimum of three readings and/or workshops will be offered in the tri-county area’s schools and communities, with the intent to foster a love of poetry.

“At a time when so many in this country seem to be focused on technology, trade, and business investment it’s important to realize that not all investment is calculated in dollars and profits,” according to Anita Skeen, director of the Center for Poetry. “We have under-invested in the arts and humanities for years, and as the winds of change threaten both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, it’s very important that we here in the Lansing area who believe that poetry enriches our lives in ways that nothing else can take delight in and support the coming appointment of the first Lansing Poet Laureate. I look forward to the work that our poet laureate will do and to hearing how poetry is reaching new audiences and finding new venues.”

The state of Michigan is currently one of six states without a Poet Laureate. The first and only holder of the position, Edgar A. Guest, served from 1952 until his death in 1959.

Last year, the Lansing Poetry Club and the Center for Poetry were involved in efforts to pass House Bill 4763, introduced in July 2015 to establish a state poet laureate. The efforts were stalled when the bill did not make it out of committee.

The establishment of a Poet Laureate representing Michigan’s capital city is expected to raise awareness of the issue and increase support for a state poet laureate.

For more information and to apply, click here.

The Lansing Poetry Club is hosting an application workshop, Sunday, Feb. 4, from 3-4:30 p.m.

View press release here.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “It would be neat if with the New Year” by Jimmy Santiago Baca

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“It would be neat if with the New Year”

Jimmy Santiago Baca

for Miguel

It would be neat if with the New Year
I could leave my loneliness behind with the old year.
My leathery loneliness an old pair of work boots
my dog vigorously head-shakes back and forth in its jaws,
chews on for hours every day in my front yard—
rain, sun, snow, or wind
in bare feet, pondering my poem,
I’d look out my window and see that dirty pair of boots in the yard.

But my happiness depends so much on wearing those boots.

At the end of my day
while I’m in a chair listening to a Mexican corrido
I stare at my boots appreciating:
all the wrong roads we’ve taken, all the drug and whiskey houses
we’ve visited, and as the Mexican singer wails his pain,
I smile at my boots, understanding every note in his voice,
and strangers, when they see my boots rocking back and forth on my
feet
keeping beat to the song, see how
my boots are scuffed, tooth-marked, worn-soled.

I keep wearing them because they fit so good
and I need them, especially when I love so hard,
where I go up those boulder strewn trails,
where flowers crack rocks in their defiant love for the light.

Copyright © 2004 by Jimmy Santiago Baca. Art by Loui Jover.

Posted in Balocating Prize for Poetry, news, Spring Poetry Festival, visiting writers

Spring Poetry Festival Lineup Announced

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The Center for Poetry has confirmed the spectacular lineup of poets for the 2017 Spring Poetry Festival. Funded in part by the MSU Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, three poets known world wide will be visiting campus for afternoon conversations and evening performances during the month of April.

Tina Chang, born in New York City, is the first female to be named Poet Laureate of Brooklyn. She currently teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence College and she is also a member of the international writing faculty at the City University of Hong Kong.

A Michigan native, Toi Derricotte‘s poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, the Paris Review, The New Yorker and Poetry. She also co-founded Cave Canem in 1996, a summer workshop for aspiring African-American Poets.

Mark Doty is the author of three memoirs and nine books of poetry, one of which won the 2008 National Book Award. Doty’s performance will also be coupled with the announcement of the Annie Balocating Prize for Poetry.

Each visiting poet will have an afternoon conversation at 3 pm in Snyder Hall’s LookOut! Gallery and an evening performance at 7 pm in the RCAH Theatre.

For more information on Spring Poetry Festival and the poets, visit the Center for Poetry’s website. 

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “What Changes” by Naomi Shihab Nye

doha-rainy

 

What Changes

Naomi Shihab Nye

 

My father’s hopes travel with me

years after he died. Someday

we will learn how to live.  All of us

surviving without violence

never stop dreaming how to cure it.

What changes? Crossing a small street

in Doha Souk, nut shops shuttered,

a handkerchief lies crumpled in the street,

maroon and white, like one my father had,

from Jordan.  Perfectly placed

in his pocket under his smile, for years.

He would have given it to anyone.

How do we continue all these days?

 

Copyright ©2015 Naomi Shihab Nye

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Why is the Color of Snow?” by Brenda Shaughnessy

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Why is the Color of Snow?

~Brenda Shaughnessy

 

Let’s ask a poet with no way of knowing.

Someone who can give us an answer,

another duplicity to help double the world.

 

What kind of poetry is all question, anyway?

Each question leads to an iceburn,

a snownova, a single bed spinning in space.

 

Poet, Decide! I am lonely with questions.

What is snow? What isn’t?

Do you see how it is for me.

 

Melt yourself to make yourself more clear

for the next observer.

I could barely see you anyway.

 

A blizzard I understand better,

the secrets of many revealed as one,

becoming another on my only head.

 

It’s true that snow takes on gold from sunset

and red from rearlights. But that’s occasional.

What is constant is white,

 

or is that only sight, a reflection of eyewhites

and light? Because snow reflects only itself,

self upon self upon self,

 

is a blanket used for smothering, for sleeping.

For not seeing the naked, flawed body.

Concealing it from the lover curious, ever curious!

 

Who won’t stop looking.

White for privacy.

Millions of privacies to bless us with snow.

 

Don’t we melt it?

Aren’t we human dark with sugar hot to melt it?

Anyway, the question—

 

if a dream is a construction then what

is not a construction? If a bank of snow

is an obstruction, then what is not a bank of snow?

 

A winter vault of valuable crystals

convertible for use only by a zen

sun laughing at us.

 

Oh Materialists! Thinking matter matters.

If we dream of snow, of banks and blankets

to keep our treasure safe forever,

 

what world is made, that made us that we keep

making and making to replace the dreaming at last.

To stop the terrible dreaming.

 

 

 

From Human Dark with Sugar, Copper Canyon Press, 2008.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Who Said it was Simple,” by Audre Lorde

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Who Said it was Simple

Audre Lorde

 

There are so many roots to the tree of anger

that sometimes the branches shatter

before they bear.

 

Sitting in Nedicks

the women rally before they march

discussing the problematic girls

they hire to make them free.

An almost white counterman passes

a waiting brother to serve them first

and the ladies neither notice nor reject

the slighter pleasures of their slavery.

But I who am bound by my mirror

as well as my bed

see causes in colour

as well as sex

 

and sit here wondering

which me will survive

all these liberations.

 

 

 

Audre Lorde, “Who Said It Was Simple” from From a Land Where Other People Live. Copyright © 1973 by Audre Lorde.

 

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “On the Pulse of Morning,” by Maya Angelou

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ON THE PULSE OF MORNING

As delivered at the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony, January 20, 1993

                        ~Maya Angelou

 

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon,
The dinosaur, who left dried tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

 

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.

 

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spilling words

 

Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out to us today, you may stand upon me,
But do not hide your face.

 

Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song. It says,
Come, rest here by my side.

 

Each of you, a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace, and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the rock were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.
The River sang and sings on.

 

There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.

 

They hear the first and last of every Tree
Speak to humankind today. Come to me, here beside the River.
Plant yourself beside the River.

 

Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, you,
Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet,
Left me to the employment of
Other seekers — desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot,
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought,
Sold, stolen, arriving on the nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am that Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.
I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours — your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

 

Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.

 

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands,
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For a new beginning.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

 

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out and upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.

 

Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, and into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope —
Good morning.

 

 

 

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Kissing in Vietnamese” by Ocean Vuong

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Kissing in Vietnamese

Ocean Vuong

 

My grandmother kisses

as if bombs are bursting in the backyard,

where mint and jasmine lace their perfumes

through the kitchen window,

as if somewhere, a body is falling apart

and flames are making their way back

through the intricacies of a young boy’s thigh,

as if to walk out the door, your torso

would dance from exit wounds.

When my grandmother kisses, there would be

no flashy smooching, no western music

of pursed lips, she kisses as if to breathe

you inside her, nose pressed to cheek

so that your scent is relearned

and your sweat pearls into drops of gold

inside her lungs, as if while she holds you

death also, is clutching your wrist.

My grandmother kisses as if history

never ended, as if somewhere

a body is still

falling apart.

 

 

Copyright © 2014 by Ocean Vuong. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database, via poets.org

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: Elegy for Idle Curiosity, by Lucia Perillo

Out of this whirl: The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) and companion galaELEGY FOR IDLE CURIOSITY

by Lucia Perillo

 

 
I used to ask aloud such things as: why is the moon round,

buffed only by the chamois cloth of space?

But now I hold my tongue, or else people start to tap

apparatus they’ve strapped to their hips

as if they were knights.  They are knights,

assailed by the uncertain.  When it stands to reason

that we must be somewhere on the map: the self

tends to be the only one not knowing where it is.

 

No more paddling the murk of pointless speculation,

wondering if the force that stirs the whirlpool

also winds the spider’s web.  A person can’t just wobble

with her mouth open–it arouses

the surveillance.  Instead we’re supposed to be

like traffic lights, vigilant in every season.

No more standing like a chanterelle, spewing out ten thousand spores,

penetrating the substrate, laying a fiber everywhere.

 

From Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones, Copper Canyon Press, 2016.