poem

The Carnival Barker

Our Woodstock poetry group, Atrocious Poets, was brought in to interact with our local and amazing art show, 4th Fridays. Artists come from far away to show their stuff. 

We read some poetry inside, some outside. Some poems were our own and some from famous poets. Our fearless leader, Sophie, was sitting at an old Royal typewriter and writing "Atrocious Poetry While You Wait." The response blew us away. She wrote dozens of poems. My specialty was reading outside at an entrance point where everyone who entered funnelled in. I wrote one poem in particular I was excited to use and it really only served the purpose of this event. Here it is for you, and it should be read aloud in the style of a carnival barker.

For an event like this I wanted the poem to be quick to grab attention but not for long. It's an introduction to the rest of the show. 

Ladies and gentlemen
boys and girls, 
welcome to the greatest show
on earth.

Come one, come all
come short, come tall
step right up and pay the price
to see these wonders captured
by untamed imaginations,
by hearts enraptured. 

Enter the scenes
these artists have made,
leave the week’s work
and worries behind
and find in what
you see displayed
beauty and truth
for heart and mind.

Now go, enjoy,
drink deep this night
we hope in art
you may see light.

The night was a huge success and it was really just us dipping our toes in the water in preparation for a few other things we want to do the next show we participate in. Can't wait!

NPM2016 - Acquainted with the Night

I heard Dana Gioia read this poem at a lecture and fell in love with it. I have a particular fascination with issues of darkness and light when it comes to writing, and the darkness particularly associated with the night. 

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rainand back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. 
I have been one acquainted with the night.

NPM2016 - God's Grandeur

Especially for my Christian friends, the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins is a great place to go for devotional poetry. And it serves as a nice bridge toward enjoying poetry for Christians who only know the poetry of hymns. Also listen.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast

I just want to give this a hug. Follow the poem below.

I ATE THE COSMOS FOR BREAKFAST
—After Thich Nhat Han

It looked like a pancake,
but it was creation flattened out—
the fist of God on a head of wheat,
milk, the unborn child of an unsuspecting
chicken — all beaten to batter and drizzled into a pan.
I brewed my tea and closed my eyes
while I ate the sun, the air, the rain,
photosynthesis on a plate.
I ate the time it took that chicken
to bear and lay her egg
and the energy it takes a cow to lactate a cup of milk.
I thought of the farmers, the truck drivers,
the grocers, the people who made the bag that stored the wheat,
and my labor over the stove seemed short,
and the pancake tasted good,
and I was thankful.

Melissa Studdard

Carl Sandburg's "Chicago"

Chicago has been on my mind and the mind of America with injustice and pain and protests. And so for me Carl Sandburg's poetry has been on my mind and his his famous poem "Chicago." A reminder of the stormy, husky, brawling, city. The city of the big shoulders.

Sandburg said of himself, "I am the people—the mob—the crowd—the mass." He wrote poetry that everyone could read and understand, he wrote poetry of understanding the common man, and yet scholars read and respected Sandburg. His collection, Chicago Poems, is still widely read today and available cheap. I read again through the first dozen or so poems last night I was moved near tears, both for what he said and the fact that he said such beautiful things so simply. We should aspire to do the same. 

CHICAGO by Carl Sandburg

     HOG Butcher for the World,
     Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
     Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
     Stormy, husky, brawling,
     City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
     have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
     luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
     is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
     kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
     faces of women and children I have seen the marks
     of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who
     sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
     and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
     so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
     job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
     little soft cities;

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
     as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
          Bareheaded,
          Shoveling,
          Wrecking,
          Planning,
          Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
     white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
     man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
     never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
     and under his ribs the heart of the people,
               Laughing!
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
     Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
     Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
     Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

NPM2014 | Every Riven Thing

Christian Wiman is a poet I've only started to check out the last couple of years. I first heard of him because he was the editor of Poetry (until 2013), the oldest American magazine of poetry. Wiman has been diagnosed with an incurable cancer of the blood and his poetry reflects his suffering, a God who knows suffering, and messy faith. You should check out his bio, read the Christianity Today interview from 2012, and see the PBS Religion & Ethics Weekly discussion (video embedded below) from last October. 

Wiiman has numerous books of poetry as well as a recent book of essays, My Bright Abyss (Kindle). This poem, "Every Riven Thing," is from his book of poetry, Every Riven Thing. You can also listen to Wiman read it.

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he's made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he's made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into a stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he's made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He's made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he's made.

National Poetry Month 2014

It's April 2014 and that means another National Poetry Month (NPM) is upon us. Let's travel together on the journey of slowing down to the land of verse and occasional rhyme and find there distilled truths and feelings. Or something like that. 

Click on the graphic below to learn more about NPM at Poets.org and learn 30 ways to celebrate. Read my article "3 Reasons to Read Poetry." But most of all, read a poem today. After enjoying a Cubs loss on Opening Day, I give you "A Ballad of Baseball Burdens" by Franklin Pierce Adams...

The burden of hard hitting. Slug away
    Like Honus Wagner or like Tyrus Cobb.
Else fandom shouteth: "Who said you could play?
    Back to the jasper league, you minor slob!"
    Swat, hit, connect, line out, get on the job.
Else you shall feel the brunt of fandom's ire
    Biff, bang it, clout it, hit it on the knob --
This is the end of every fan's desire.

The burden of good pitching. Curved or straight.
    Or in or out, or haply up or down,
To puzzle him that standeth by the plate,
    To lessen, so to speak, his bat-renoun:
    Like Christy Mathewson or Miner Brown,
So pitch that every man can but admire
    And offer you the freedom of the town --
This is the end of every fan's desire.

The burden of loud cheering. O the sounds!
    The tumult and the shouting from the throats
Of forty thousand at the Polo Grounds
    Sitting, ay, standing sans their hats and coats.
    A mighty cheer that possibly denotes
That Cub or Pirate fat is in the fire;
    Or, as H. James would say, We've got their goats --
This is the end of every fan's desire.

The burden of a pennant. O the hope,
    The tenuous hope, the hope that's half a fear,
The lengthy season and the boundless dope,
    And the bromidic; "Wait until next year."
    O dread disgrace of trailing in the rear,
O Piece of Bunting, flying high and higher
    That next October it shall flutter here:
This is the end of every fan's desire.

ENVOY

Ah, Fans, let not the Quarry but the Chase
    Be that to which most fondly we aspire!
For us not Stake, but Game; not Goal, but Race --
    THIS is the end of every fan's desire.

Poetry & the New Year

NPM.jpeg

I've written an article at Gospel Centered Discipleship on the importance of reading poetry. I've added reading and writing poetry as a discipline for the new year, not just something to do occasionally. The truth is, you already consider poetry as an important part of your life (Psalms, hymns,etc). I think reading the poetry of the culture is important too. I talk about three great benefits to the regular reading of poetry...

  1. The Importance and Power of Words
  2. Slowing Down
  3. Seeing and Feeling

Go and read my whole article, "3 Reasons to Read Poetry" over at GCD. Make poetry a part of your year. It offers many blessings.

National Poetry Month 2013

It's here again! Always look forward to National Poetry Month (NPM). It's a good yearly reminder to consider our words and make the most of them. May our words be pregnant with meaning! It's a good reminder to see the world thorugh a poet's eyes. In a world of abbreviations, texting, and Twitter we would do good to say more with less. And it would be good in the hustle of life to slow down and digest something beautiful in slow meditation, seeing every word in its place and with its purpose.

Who are some poets you like? It's ok if you don't know the book sort. What songwriters do you like?

For more info on National Poetry Month, go to The Academy of American Poets website (Poets.org) (also Twitter | Facebook). They founded NPM in 1996.

NPM 2013