… and a sonnet for a Sunday

We need time and space to unpack our lives –
condensed, compressed, repressed, concentrated
for far too long on trivialities,
technicalities, false flag theatrics –

Let’s touch the core of what we call our truth:
shall we preserve the status quo, believe
objectively this love will conquer all?

Or should we seek to transcend (abolish?)
the dead-end that’s approaching
for a different, enlightened way?

Or is it only the individual
that matters in the end, the beginning?
Or maybe just break all the rules,
and then, unshackled, unrestrained, renew?

hot July Saturday

July 12, 2014

you reach a point
where everything you write
is metaphor –

and if you’re lucky,
each poem you write is about
some lost, forbidden love -
or some other outlawed thought.

A Tea Poem

July 5, 2014

the bitterness of green tea
makes it a special brew –

tastebuds awaken
when they sense it
in their space –

we add a bit of honey
to take the edge off,
but that only really works
in our dreams –

the second infusion
may be smoother –
but traces of bitterness
yet remain…

August Poetry Postcard Fest

Cross-posted from Paul Nelson e-mail:

It is almost August once again and this means POSTCARDS!

The August Poetry Postcard Fest is an exercise in responding to other poets. You write a poem a day for the month of August, write it directly onto a postcard and send it to the next name on your list. When you receive a postcard poem from someone, the idea is that the next poem you send out will be a response to the poem you just received, even though it will be sent to a different person. Ideally you will write 31 new poems and receive 31 postcard poems from all over the place.

To participate, send your name, mailing address, and email to splabman@gmail.com. Use the word “postcard” in the subject line.

Again, one long list will go out this year this year instead of individual lists of 32 names. You can send postcard poems to the 31 names below your name, please do not use this list for advertising or for any other purpose than postcard poems. DO NOT SPAM THE LIST.

I will send out the list twice. Our international participants often require an earlier start due to longer delivery times, so I will send the incomplete list out on July 16th and the final version around July 26th. The 26th is the cut off date, I will not be adding any more names to the list after that, the list sent out on the 26th will be the final list for this year. Really. I’ll be out of the U.S. myself. Please be sure to send in your information before that. I will email the list to the participants in a google document as well as in the body of the email.

If you know anyone who would like to participate, feel free to forward them this message! Hope you enjoy the Poetry Postcard Fest!


On or about Sunday, July 27th, look at the list to see the three people listed below your name. Write them each an original poem on a postcard, put their address on the card and affix the necessary postage. $1.15 for international cards leaving the U.S. Consider scanning your cards or photographing them to document each poem/card before you send them out. Do not recycle old poems for this. Do not compose a long poem in advance and cut it up into hunks for this. It is an experiment in composing in the moment and your poem has an audience of one. This is designed in part as a conversation.

(If you are near the bottom of the list, send a card to anyone below you then start again at the top.) Ideally, you would write 3 different short poems — remember they are being composed on a postcard and please keep your handwriting clear. If your handwriting is lousy, typing the poems is ok. If you have folks outside your own country on your list, you can start sending poems early…)

Write about something that relates to your sense of “place” however you interpret that, something about how you relate to the postcard image, what you see out the window, what you’re reading, a dream you had that morning, or an image from it, etc. Like “real” postcards, get to something of the “here and now” when you write. Present tense is preferred… Do write original poems for the project. Taking old poems and using them is not what we have in mind. You may want to use epigraphs. One participant last year used his daily I Ching divination to inform his poems.

This is also an experiment in community consciousness. Try to respond to cards that you get with subject, image or any kind of link if possible. Often newsworthy events happen in August. How would our community respond? Letting a card that you receive linger for a while before you respond to the next person on your list is the preferred method. When you go to your mail box each day, put the bills aside, read the poems you get and think about them as you compose to the next person on your list.

A GREAT story about one man’s conversion from being a postcard CHEATER is here: http://changeorder.typepad.com/weblog/2010/08/sending-postcards-to-strangers.html

A workshop handout for the poetry postcard writing exercise is here: http://paulenelson.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Postcard-Exercise.pdf

You may also view that handout at this link: http://paulenelson.com/workshops/poetry-postcard-exercise/

The “Sable Orator” and Poet, George Moses Horton

Originally posted on This Day in North Carolina History:

The cover of The Hope of Liberty. Image from UNC Libraries

On July 2, 1829, Raleigh printer Joseph Gales published George Moses Horton’s The Hope of Liberty, the first book by an African American in the South. Horton’s life story, and how he became a published poet while enslaved, is compelling.

Horton was an infant when his owner William Horton moved from Northampton County to Chatham County. By all accounts, and given the fact that he could travel freely, George endured a relatively mild bondage.

Horton walked on weekends to Chapel Hill where he sold fruit and was prodded into reciting poems for UNC students. Over time he came known as the “sable orator,” as he signed his works and made friends.  Among those friends was UNC President Joseph Caldwell, and it was Caldwell’s wife who helped Horton first get published.

Other volumes of his work appeared…

View original 131 more words

BBC on Frank O’Hara as a Poet of Our Moment

Originally posted on Locus Solus: The New York School of Poets:

O'Hara 2

The recent surge of attention to Frank O’Hara and the 50th anniversary of Lunch Poems continues with a substantial BBC piece by Jane Ciabattari.  Don’t be scared off by the attention-grabbing headline — “Frank O’Hara: Poet of the Mad Men era”  – and photo of Don Draper reading Meditations in an Emergency.

This is, thank god, not another piece proclaiming that Mad Men rescued O’Hara from oblivion (we’ve had enough of those, thank you).  Unlike many other recent pieces, it even makes the obvious point that “O’Hara’s work has remained consistently popular with readers for six decades and has never been out of print.”

It’s an intelligent, informative piece, complete with good quotes from Brad Gooch, Robert Polito, Stephen Burt, and Adam Fitzgerald.  (Among other things, it passes along this exciting bit of information: Gooch’s biography of O’Hara, City Poet, “is now being developed as a film by producer Donald Rosenfeld”!).


View original 586 more words

My poetry has taken an interesting turn; no excuse not to share it, though…

June 18, 2014

An evangelist spoke to our class today.
Liked my questions and offered me a job.
Told him my last job
was in a bureaucracy
with a corrupt hard drive
and a virus-laden operating system.
He wrote that down in his note pad.
It’s all poetry, I told him.
Didn’t know he was also a poet!


June 22, 2014

21 years in a lockup, black passport
cancelled, holes punched in the cover:
I never felt bound by its darkness,
nor constricted by its strait jacket,
but always freed, liberated, emancipated
by the song of curiosity in my soul.
Let us not disdain the leaders
of the instruction manual factory –
Jesus said feed all the sheep –
but don’t forget that among them
are whores who will turn a trick
at the drop of a dime,
and pimps who’ll sell their own
mothers if the price is right.