Saturday, April 24, 2010

First Found Poem

Experimenting with found poetry is particularly easy, so to speak. It's comprised of pieces from speeches, plays, random conversations, internet articles, other poems, notes, letters, posters, essentially whatever you deem poetic, and collaged/arranged/organized how you'd like. So you can take random pieces from different sources or you can work exclusively with one source, editting that as you'd like. It's an especially good type of poetry if you find yourself stuck completely. Like can't produce a word, sort of stuck. Found poetry cheats for you, it gives you the words, your job is then to arrange them in a fashion that conveys a different, more unique, or an off-shoot message not necessarily in the original source. Of course that's not a requirement but I personally believe it ought to be considering you didn't produce any of the words. It's the least you could do.
The found poem below, I took from Barack Obama's speech on the U.S. question of race during his campaign, "A More Perfect Union." The myriad of negative media gleamed from his former pastor, Reverend Wright, and the question of whether America was ready for a black president precipitated the speech. Furthermore (another issue in itself) but one of the reasons I thought to use an Obama speech was because of his eloquence. Aristotle would surely be pleased with his oratical and rhetorical skills. In addition when read, "A More Perfect Union," is an impeccable essay. It's arguably one of Obama's best speeches, in my opinion, though definitely one of his more memorable. With that, here is draft one of "I Am the Son."

of a black man from Kenya
and a white woman from Kansas
raised with the help of a white grandfather
who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II
and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line
at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas
[M]y white grandmother -
woman who helped raise me,
woman who sacrificed again and again for me,
woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world,
but a woman who once confessed her fear
of black men who passed by her on the street, who
on more than one occasion
has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

"We the people, in order to create a more perfect union."

Of course
the answer to the slavery question was already
embedded within our Constitution -
a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice,
and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment
would not be enough
to deliver slaves from bondage,
or provide women of every color and creed
their full rights and obligations as citizens
of the United States.

Most working- and middle-class white Americans
don't feel privileged by their race.
Their experience is the immigrant experience -
"No one's handed [me] anything, [I've] built it from scratch.
[I've] worked hard all [my] life, only to see jobs shipped overseas
or [my] pension dumped after a lifetime of labor."
They are anxious about their futures,
their dreams slipping away;
in an era of stagnant wages and global competition,
opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game,
in which your dreams come at my expense.

This is where we are right now.
It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years.
We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism.
We can tackle race as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial -
or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina -
or as fodder for the nightly news.

We can play
Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day
and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question
in this campaign whether or not the American people think that
I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.

We can pounce
on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as
evidence that she's playing the race card,

we can speculate
on whether white men will all flock to John
McCain in the general election regardless
of his policies.

We can do
that. Or at
this moment
in this election

we can come together and say, "Not this time."

we want to talk about the crumbling schools stealing the future
of black children white children Asian children
Hispanic children Native American children
we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn;
that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem.
The children of America
are not those kids'
they are our kids

Not this time. This time we
want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room
are filled with whites blacks Hispanics who do not have health care;
who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests
in Washingston. This time we
want to talk about the shuttered mills
that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race
the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans
from every religion every region every walk of life. This time we
want to talk about the fact that the real
problem is not someone who doesn't look
like you might take your job; it's that
the corporation you work for will ship it overseas
for nothing more than a profit. This time we
want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed
who serve together fight together bleed together
under the same proud flag. We want to talk
about how to bring them home from a war that never
should've been authorized and never should've been waged,
and we want to talk
about how we'll show our patriotism by caring
for them, and their families,
and giving them the benefits they have earned.

In the end what is called for is that common stake we all have in one another,
and politics reflect[ing] that spirit.

For we have a choice in this country.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Knowing & Not Knowing Excercise

The following excercise and resulting poem came from A Poet's Companion. I recently had to repurchase it after it was viciously taken from me during boot camp reception. I plan to utilize it a lot this upcoming week for the sake of producing a lot of poetry before the end of Poetry Month, especially since I haven't done much writing this month. And I call myself a writer. I'm rather shamed actually. But nontheless, it's one of the best sources for writing and technique development that I've come across since I began writing seriously.

One of the authors, Kim Addonizio, has become a muse for me. I find her not only talented but from her work I get the feeling that she herself is an interesting person. As Wendy Williams would say, Kim Addonizio is a friend in my head. Her work deals with relationships in unconventional language and challenges the reader to essentially not be taken-aback or offended by the language of her work. Particularly good examples of this are "Washing" and "First Kiss" from her first collection of poems, What is This Thing Called Love? I took the title and decided to make it the jump-off for the following excercise. So far the excercise has done it's part; that is, gotten me to open a pathway to something, though as of right now this is merely a first draft.

Begin a poem with a question word: Who, what, where, when, why, how. Ask a big question about life, and then try to answer it from your own experience.

"Every good poem asks a question, and every good poet asks every question. No one can call herself a poet unless she questions her ideas, ethics, and beliefs. And no one can call himself a poet unless he allows the self to enter into the world of discovery and imagination. When we don't have direct experience to guide us, we always have our imagination as a bridge to knowledge."

--Addonizio & Laux

"Good writing works from a simple premise: your experience is not yours alone, but in some sense a metaphor for everyone's."

--Addonizio & Laux


How will I know I'm ready
to love? Will the lavender of new cherry blossoms
appear more vibrant, or seem ecstatic,
bursting to white flurries when I discover
the sudden tartness of love? I know kisses -- all
sorts. I know sex, bodies displaced in a bed
of tawdry passion but love --
(but) love is another thing. an
experience as old as the grooves in the palms;
yet still so far, as foreign as where my soul
lies, its core empty and graying...

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Age Hayes Blues

I began writing a post on Terrance Hayes (and many other poets for that matter) only to not complete it. This particular post began as a comparison between Hayes and a West Indian poet, Roger Bonair-Agard, which was prompted solely on their similar haircuts at the time, (I'm not sure what style either might be sporting at the moment.) Nevertheless, Hayes is a particularly innovative poet, I believe I first stumbled upon his work on From the Fishouse (, a site which features emerging poets reciting their poetry along with interviews via Quicktime audio feeds. I decided to follow through with my post on Hayes after coming across one of his poems, "The Golden Shovel" featured on Poetry Daily (

One of the reasons I became drawn to Hayes was the seeming effortlessness of his language. What poet doesn't love to hear this? It's the beautiful end result of what may have been a tumultous wring here and there of syntax and word choice. One of my favorites and also a good example of this is "The Blue Terrance," (Caveat: Hayes has a few poems by this title, the one I'm referring to I'll include below.) Probably the reason why Hayes creates such effortless language is the way in which he orders his poems often in neat stanzas, effecting the line breaks in such a way that the poems create an unpredictable but rhythmic beat.

Interesting note about Hayes is how he conceives of the blues poem. While the blues poem is a viable free form genre of poetry, Hayes uses it in a rather innovative way. Though he respects the history of the blues poem, he seeks to take them out of their historical context, which ties to their form and song-like reading as well most notably the repetition and refrains and attempts to make it contemporary by creating a blues poem in which readers consider other references for blue such as the Blue Picasso or a melancholy state. "I wanted to depart from what would be an easier or more accessible notion of what the blues are for black people, for Americans, for Southerners...Obviously there's a relation to the music, [in addition to] other sorts of ideas that come out of what the color blue means," notes Hayes at a Cornell University interview.

Definitely check out Terrance Hayes, he's a writer that is continually trying to give readers a run for their money regarding what they think they know about black writers. He is definitely fond the creative, and the unlimited extent of the literary contemporary. Hayes is currently a professor of creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Blue Terrance by Terrance Hayes

If you subtract the minor losses,
you can return to your childhood too:
the blackboard chalked with crosses,

the math teacher's toe ring. You
can be the black boy not even the buck-
toothed girls took a liking to:

the match box, these bones in their funk
machine, this thumb worn smooth
as the belly of a shovel. Thump. Thump.

Thump. Everything I hold takes root.
I remember what the world was like before
I heard the tide humping the shore smooth,

and the lyrics asking: How long has your door
been closed? I remember a garter belt wrung
like a snake around a thigh in the shadows

of a wedding gown before it was flung
out into the bluest part of the night.
Suppose you were nothing but a song

in a busted speaker? Suppose you had to wipe
sweat from the brow of a righteous woman,
but all you owned was a dirty rag? That's why

the blues will never go out of fashion:
their half rotten aroma, their bloodshot octaves of
consequence; that's why when they call, Boy, you're in

trouble. Especially if you love as I love
falling to the earth. Especially if you're a little bit
high strung and a little bit gutted balloon. I love

watching the sky regret nothing but its
self, though only my lover knows it to be so,
and only after watching me sit

and stare off past Heaven. I love the word No
for its prudence, but I love the romantic
who submits finally to sex in a burning row-

house more. That's why nothing's more romantic
than working your teeth through
the muscle. Nothing's more romantic

than the way good love can take leave of you.
That's why I'm so doggone lonesome, Baby,
yes, I'm lonesome and I'm blue.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

New Space

I have been in Fort Huachuca, Arizona for two weeks now. There are these lush mountains that surround the entire post, watching the sun rise over them is one of the most majestic sights. The sky is ablaze in red and orange, and the city below is nuzzled alive by the sheerness of the early morning light. Coupled with the desert terrain that gives the city a somewhat eerie feel (Tombstone and Cochise -- two historical, and for the most part to this day remain, ghost towns lie not too far from here), it appears a place you would come to visit such as on a family vacation but not a place where you would choose to live, at least in my opinion. The concept of living in a landlocked state would never cross my mind, not because I like the beach so much but more so because access to it, is itself invaluable. For the past two days, the sky has been overcast as though it might rain but so far nothing. One of our instructors says despite how gray and rain-imminent it might look, there was only a twenty percent chance of rain. Then he added that we may not even see rain until August. Apparently it's monsoon season. Bizarre isn't it. So I've also been wishing it would rain here to no avail, but of course it's a desert and more realistic hopes should probably be tried first, like acclimating I suppose.
Either way, I've finally produced something that primarily sums up the experience of the last two weeks with the help of a writing prompt from Chloe Yelena Miller, which I found through the PoetsOnline blog that I'm following. The prompt asks to start with a description of your current location, however specific such as your desk, which I decided to use, or some other place where you began writing and then expand to your surrounding location, expounding on your experiences or sentiments regarding that locale. "new space" is the result of this prompt. It is also a stream-of-consciousness write, having no punctuation or clear end, which I'm fond of for this particular prompt.


its a common space

index cards appointments letters from my mother

hang haphazard from colored pushpins

its a space ive been trying to make my own but

something in the mix of it runs the color

straight out of my cheeks its a melancholy space

perhaps im going about its decoration the wrong

way perhaps there should be less things i ought do

and pick-me-ups and more about me is that self-indulgent

that i need to see more of myself in my work space

i havent been able to write how tragic is that for a so-

called writer were in the new millennium and theres

been a memorandum put out writers block is no longer

a viable excuse for under productivity theres so much

to write about here but im caged stifled by the space ive

created all around this city are mountains capped with

snow that i do not know the name of so close you can

reach forward and seem to touch them the air is thin

about here its as though the beauty is slowly seeking

to choke me now that im here and ive decided to be a

part of it live withinit

Sunday, April 4, 2010

February 14th Past

This past Valentine's Day I was in basic training. I don't remember feeling as though I was missing anything. I take that back perhaps I did. I contemplated my last relationship. I thought about us as though I'd never be with another man again; the way lovers do when they're blinded by the sunset of their past relationship. I suppose though that in most cases, an ex has made a major impact on you -- you can't help but be hesitant about where to go next.

February 14th

I want to return to that place
a shit hole one-bedroom apartment

where we rinsed love from our clammy
pores, feeling for the other's rhythms

in the slant light of midnight. I know you
by your colors: the black for the guerrilla,

the gold for the accents about your skin.
You were king I served with my whole

heart. I capture your voice in my memory,
it's inflections steadying my pulse to a soft halt.

Where are you now? Do you ever think of me?