Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “White Petals,” by Tim Dlugos

The Republic lies in the blossoms of Washington.  —Robert Bly

White petals

drop into the dark river.

Heedless of political significance,

they ride out to the sea like stars.

 

I’m the space explorer.

I travel to a planet

where there are no plants or animals.

Everyone lives in harmony.

I don’t want to go home.

 

I’m the pioneer man and the pioneer woman,

both at the same time.

I build my house with my own hands,

and it’s beautiful,

with simple, perfect lines.

 

I’m the farmer waiting for the vegetables

to grow, so I can eat.

I’m the hunter aiming at the bear.

I don’t want to shoot it, but my family needs meat.

The bear gives me a long dumb animal look.

We’ll use his skin for blankets,

his fat to light our lamps.

Our cabin will stink all night.

 

I’m the cabin boy who graduates to captain.

Shipboard sex is rough, but it suits my taste.

I’m the man on the steps of the house

where the President’s widow lives.

All night I wait for the stranger

to get out of his car

so I can flash my look of recognition.

 

I’m the cowpoke who sleeps with his horses.

I’m the man who loves dogs.

I’m the cranky President sneaking away

to swim in the Potomac.

 

I’m the black man.

I close my eyes

and it gets dark inside.

 

I feel the sun on my face.

I see the light through my eyelids.

It’s bright, intelligent

free of all cares.

 

I’m the heir of a great American family.

My success is guaranteed.

Unexpected tragedy is all that can stop me.

I’m the popular senator teaching his son to shave.

 

 

Tim Dlugos, “White Petals” from A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos. Copyright © 2011 by Tim Dlugos.  Reprinted by permission of Nightboat Books.

Source: A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos (Nightboat Books, 2011)

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Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Tunnel Music” by Mark Doty

doty subway

Times Square, the shuttle’s quick chrome
flies open and the whole car floods with– what is it? Infernal industry, the tunnels
under Manhattan broken into hell at last?

Guttural churr and whistle and grind
of the engines that spin the poles?
Enormous racket, ungodly. What it is
is percussion: nine black guys

with nine lovely, previously unimagined
constructions of metal ripped and mauled,
welded and oiled: scoured chemical drums,
torched rims, unnameable disks of chrome.

Artifacts of wreck? The end of industry?
A century’s failures reworked, bent,
hammered out, struck till their shimmying
tumbles and ricochets from tile walls:

anything dinged, busted or dumped
can be beaten till it sings.
A kind of ghostly joy in it,
though this music’s almost unrecognizable,

so utterly of the coming world it is.

 

copyright 1994, from Atlantis, HarperCollins, 1995

 

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

Spring Poetry Festival Lineup Announced

msu-spring

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: Easter, 1916

100 years ago on April 24, an uprising took place against Great Britain’s rule of Ireland. Though the uprising was unsuccessful and many of the prominent Irish leaders involved were executed, the uprising exemplified national pride and revolution. Later that year, poet William Butler Yeats composed “Easter, 1916” describing his conflicted emotions towards the event.

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse.
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vain-glorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
Through summer and winter, seem
Enchanted to a stone.

Hearts with one purpose alone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute change.
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim;
And a horse plashes within it
Where long-legged moor-hens dive
And hens to moor-cocks call.
Minute by minute they live:
The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death.
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead.
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse —
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

“Easter 1916,” by William Butler Yeats. As published in The Dial, Volume LXIX, No. 25 (New York, November 1920).

 

 

 

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: Eating Walnuts

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The old man eating walnuts knows the trick:
you do it wrong for many years,
applying pressure to the seams,
to split the shell along its hemispheres.

It seems so clear and easy. There’s the line.
You follow the instructions, then
your snack ends up quite pulverized.
You sweep your lap, and mutter, try again.

Eventually you learn to disbelieve
the testimony of your eyes.
You turn the thing and make a choice
about what you’d prefer to sacrifice.

You soon discover that the brains inside
are on right angles, so the shell
must be cracked open on its arc,
which isn’t neat. The shattered pieces tell

a story, but the perfect, unmarred meat’s
the truth: two lobes, conjoined, intact.
One of two things is bound to break:
One the fiction, one the soul, the fact.

Poem by Jennifer Keith

Posted in news

Center for Poetry, College of Music host Voicing Poetry II

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By Kelsey Block

On Tuesday, March 15, the RCAH Center for Poetry and the MSU College of Music hosted the second performance in an ongoing collaboration that pairs the work of composition students with the work of local poets.

Voicing Poetry II featured ten performances – almost double from last year – by a number of poets, musicians and composers.

See the program below for more information.
voicing poetry II program.jpg

Posted in community outreach, news

Center for Poetry plans to build Little Free Library

This spring, the Center for Poetry is constructing a Little Free Library to be installed in East Lansing and filled with wonderful books of poetry.

The Little Free Library Organization established its roots in 2009, when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin built a small wooden schoolhouse on a post and put it in his front yard, in tribute to his mother. The house was filled with books people could take and exchange for free. Ms. Bol was a lover of reading and learning, and her legacy lives on through the 36,000 Little Libraries, sharing free books across the world.

The Center for Poetry heard about the phenomenon, when director Anita Skeen shared a clip about the fad from The Lansing State Journal and decided books of poetry needed to be added to the mix.

“I originally learned about Little Free Libraries from poet, Jane Taylor, but had never actually seen one. I immediately thought, this is the kind of project RCAH would produce, and East Lansing could use a library of poetry, to help spread an interest for poetry.”

Shortly after discovering the article, the idea was set in motion. Center for Poetry interns Sarah Teppen and Alexis Stark began brainstorming ideas for the structure and what books to fill it with. With the help of Steve Baibak, RCAH professor and LookOut! Gallery curator, the interns were able to purchase supplies from the MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center.

Sarah and Alexis are both students in Steve’s art workshop, “Reclamation Studio”, in RCAH and were inspired to create the Little Free Library out of recycled materials. It would be a work of art, while giving a new life to old materials.

After obtaining licensing from the Little Free Library Organization and the city of East Lansing, the plan is to construct the library during the month of March. Then, the Center for Poetry will install it at the Beal Cooperative House on M.A.C. in April, to celebrate National Poetry Month.

“I was geeked about the idea of opening a little library in the name of the Center, and am so excited for our unveiling later this spring,” said Sarah. “Our stock will start out with mostly poetry, but who knows where how the stock will evolve from there. I can definitely see the Center for Poetry continuing Little Free Library Projects in the future.”

If you would like to find out how to start a Little Free Library in your area, go to littlefreelibrary.org. The website is filled with information on the history of the organization, instructions for buying or building your library and how to register. Plus, you can read stories from other stewards around the world and become a pat of the global community.

If you would enjoy building your own project, or are interesting in creating art out of repurposed materials, visit the MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center, open from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: Going Out In Style

By Carol Barrett

Reckon I’ll be gone in three months.

You never know. I’m trying

a social experiment. The ladies

come to supper all gussied up

well before the appointed hour, 

lined up in their finery like orchids

on a lean branch. But the men,

they come drab as the boondocks

like they just got off their horse

out near Lexington or Castle Rock.

And we all know the farm’s 

long gone, no stallion’s kicked

that field in twenty years.

 

What I’m fixing to do

is wear my bow tie down to dinner,

different one every night, see

if I can get a gentleman or two 

to follow suit, come to dinner

like they are going out on the town,

like they really mean it. The ladies

deserve some civility. We only have

so long.

image: “Luncheon At The Boating Party”, Pierre-August Renoir

Astros y fuentes y flores, no murmuréis de mis sueños,
Sin ellos, ¿cómo admiraros ni cómo vivir sin ellos?
Rosalía de Castro

We’re now accepting readers for the Festival of Listening – An Evening of Untranslated Poetry at (scene) Metrospace on Tuesday, March 1.

Any and all languages are welcome! In the past, we’ve heard Spanish, French, German, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Dutch, Korean, Chinese, Farsi, and more.

If you’re interested in reading, email cpoetry@msu.edu with your name and the title and author of the poem by February 22. Try to keep your selection under three minutes.

Festival of Listening Flyer

Call for Readers – Festival of Listening

Posted in news, visiting writers, workshops

Memoirist Jane Congdon in conversation with RCAH community

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By Kelsey Block

“It’s a shared experience,” Memoirist Jane Congdon mentioned during her visit to the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities last week. “I’ve been a visiting writer before, but I’ve never been an artist in conversation.”

The RCAH welcomed Congdon back in November 2011 to discuss her first memoir entitled, It Started with Dracula: The Count, My Mother, and Me.

This time around, Congdon joined the RCAH as an Artist in Conversation. She attended Professor Anita Skeen’s senior seminar, “Geographies, Journeys, and Maps,” and told the class about her plans to hike the Appalachian Trail. The West Virginia native says she’s spent months reading books, going on practice hikes, and gathering materials for her journey.

“I think it’ll be hard. It’s not a vacation,” she said. “I never thought it was something I would do in the beginning, and I found myself in stores buying gear and I thought, ‘What are you buying this gear for, Jane?’”

Cold temperatures and wild animals top the list of Congdon’s fears on the trail. “The things you can’t control – weather, lighting storms … There’s some things Mother Nature is going to do what Mother Nature is going to do. It’s not a case of you conquering anything. You’re the one that has to adapt. The trail is not going to adapt for you, it’s indifferent,” she said. “I hope I don’t slink off in shame.”

When it’s all over, the retired English teacher and editor said she hopes to end up with another book.

Thursday afternoon, the RCAH Center for Poetry sponsored a conversation with Congdon about the writing of memoir and her newest book, Mr. Joe: Tales from a Haunted Life. Congdon co-wrote the book with her brother, Joseph Barnett.15322796772_2e3e960e16_n

“When we began the project, we had been strangers for most of the last 40 years,” Congdon said of writing Mr. Joe. The siblings had gone their separate ways and “really just weren’t very interested in one another,” until the day Jane received a phone call.

“He called me one evening and he left a message. I hardly ever heard from him, and it said, ‘This is Joe, call me,’ and I thought, ‘What in the world?’ I didn’t call him back for a couple days. I just didn’t get that there was anything urgent,” Congdon said. “We were reunited by a brain tumor.”

Jane said she took her brother into the hospital the day of his surgery. The tumor was not malignant, but Joe recovered well, and after that, the siblings had a chance to become friends.

“We would just go to the movies or meet for lunch and we started discovering things about each other,” Congdon said. “We learned we were a lot alike and that we had assumptions about each other that were not true. Did we really know each other at all?”

According to Congdon, Barnett was the one who originally came up with the idea for a book. She said they would be out at a movie or dinner when Joe would start telling a story.

“He was a night custodian in a school and he started telling me stories about his work. He really loved his work … In the process, we’re getting to know each other better, and I said, ‘I know the name of that book already; it’s Mr. Joe.’ That’s what the kids called him,” Congdon said.

Somewhere along the line, Joe mentioned ghosts. That shifted the whole focus of the book, Congdon said.

“That was a surprise,” Congdon said. “His whole life was a surprise because I hadn’t been there … Writing a memoir can be quite emotional, and not always in good ways. In the process of writing it, Joe had to relive some very dark times talking about them for the book, so it was difficult for him.”

On the other side of things, Congdon was struggling with something a bit different.

“When I wrote my first book, I could just pretty well do whatever I wanted to. I made my own decisions, set my own schedule,” she said. “All of a sudden, in this other situation, the idea of it was great but it was a lot of work. We had to work out a writing process. All of a sudden, there were two opinions to consider, two voices, somebody whose story was being told but they didn’t want to write it themselves.”

At times, Congdon said, both of them doubted whether or not the book would happen. When they reached a point where they felt they needed another opinion, Jane printed off copies of the text to hand out to friends. That was a turning point for Joe, she said, and not in a good way.

“He didn’t think we’d really write a book,” Congdon said. “So when we printed this draft, guess what? There it was! What he said was some of the things he told me, he didn’t realize would end up in the book, but I paid attention. When he saw it, not only did he realize, ‘Yes, there could be a book,’ but he felt betrayed because he thought he had told me some of that off the record, but I didn’t know that.”

Congdon said Barnett was concerned about a variety of things in the book, but mostly he was worried about what others would think about the ghosts.

“The thing he held onto for 50 years was the ghosts, but the first time he ever told anybody was when he told me for that book,” Congdon said. “He was haunted by his personal life, because he had such hardships, he was a single dad. And some of his memories were he thought he had failed – and he really hadn’t at all – so he was haunted by his own life and also haunted by ghosts and it just sort of emerged.”

“He said, ‘I don’t care if we throw it in the fireplace when we’re done. The important thing for me was that we were really working together,’” Congdon said. She confessed her brother’s concerns made her apprehensive.

“That turned me into thinking he was going to chicken out,” Congdon said.

After that, the two worked out a system in which Joe would sign off on the pages.

Despite the challenges of co-writing a memoir, Congdon said, “It was a blast.”

“It helped us to bond,” she said. “We met in person and it was very important to us to have a safe work environment, and that contributed to the fact that it was, overall, a really good experience.”