A Poem About Poems — Naomi Shihab Nye

Thank you to Amy Sorensen, a.k.a. The English Geek, for bringing this poem to my attention in her post, Why I Love April.  It’s by Naomi Shihab Nye and was written in response to one of the poet’s students asking her to write him a poem:

Valentine for Ernest Mann
by Naomi Shihab Nye

You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, “Here’s my address,
write me a poem,” deserves something in reply.
So I’ll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn’t understand why she was crying.
“I thought they had such beautiful eyes.”
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

We Swallow(ed) Spiders in our Sleep

The latest edition of Word Riot is out, and a review caught my eye because of the title of the book:  We Swallow(ed) Spiders In Our Sleep.  The book is a collection of poems by Zachary C. Bush, and you can read the review here, which includes a few excerpts.  I gather that the reviewer, Christopher Cunningham, is a bit of a poet himself, judging from the opening sentence of his article:

“Zachary C. Bush’s hallucinatory poems, riddled with unexpected word choices, strong images, the occasional foray into surrealism and the razor edges of a hard young life being lived are the songs of an adventurous poet determined to squeeze each drop of lyrical imagination from the sun-burned, needle-pricked, aching skin of existence.”

Wow.  If I ever manage to get a collection of my own poetry together, I’ll have to remember to send a copy to him for review.

Unfortunately, like most poetry chapbooks, it’s not available on mass market sites like amazon.com.  The book is published by Pudding House Publications, but is not listed on their early 90’s-style webpage either (frames? really??) for some reason.  The author advises in his blog to contact Jen@puddinghouse.com to order a copy.

Following are pieces of poems I found by Bush in online magazines.  I’m not sure if these poems are published in his book or not, but these should give you a feel for his writing style.  The first excerpt is from Expelling Angels(s) as published in The CommonLine Project:

Love was spending Sunday
Mornings in bed wrapped in you,
Laughing at the weeping angels
Blanket curled, leaned against
The grey brick corner of my mind, holding
Soggy cardboard signs that read:

[Will Work for Some Pity]

And this one is from a poem called 18. as published on the  cleverly named site, Unlikely 2.0.

Blindfold her        tight, not to allow light.
Strip her               slowly.
Lay her                on granite couches clothed in velvet.
Tie her                  limbs with maroon sash.
Offer her              drinks flavored with peppermint and sweat.

I will be keeping my eye on this talented writer and also keeping my fingers crossed that his next book is a little easier to get my hands on.

Scott Poole — Poet and Silly Man

Poet, Scott Poole, gives a terrific interview over at the literary journal, Slow Trains.  When asked “What is your writing routine like,” he replies:

“Well, first I drop into a cold sweat. Then I lie on the floor and wonder if I’m dying. Then I see if there is anything on television that I can steal. Of course, there never is. Then I sharpen a #2 Ticonderoga pencil and throw it into the swimming pool. After that I consider becoming a Barista or Phlebotomist. Then I panic again. Then I watch the movie Barfly, if I haven’t done so in the last month. Then I drink a six pack of Fat Tire ale and fall asleep under the living room rug. When I wake up hungover I do seven hundred jumping jacks and then prepare a meal out of nothing but extra virgin olive oil, leeks, and the latest issue of Sports illustrated. Then I eat a box of cookies and read a few lines out of The Old Man and the Sea: “I have seen lions on the beach…” Then I burst into tears and roll down the stairs. At this point I’m just about ready…”

This issue of Slow Trains features several poems by Poole, which are just as entertaining and off-the-wall as his interview answers.