Friday, November 21, 2014

Poem of the Week: Karen Skolfield


























Art Project: Earth


Balloon, then papier mâché.
Gray paint, blue and turquoise, green,
a clouded world with fishing line attached
to an old light, original to the house, faux brass
chipping, discolored, an ugly thing. What must
the people of this planet think, the ground
knobby and dry, the oceans blue powder,
the farmland stiff and carefully maintained.
Sometimes they spin one direction,
then back again. How the coyotes howl.
How the people learn to love, regardless.
The majesty of their own towering hearts.
The mountains, which they agree are beautiful.
And the turquoise – never has there been
such a color, breaking into precious
and semi-precious stones. They build houses
from them, grand places of worship,
and there is much to worship. Look up,
for instance. Six suns. The wonder of it.
First one, then the next, eclipsing
the possibility that their world hangs by a thread.


***
Used with permission.
***
Karen Skolfield’s book Frost in the Low Areas won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry and the First Book Award from Zone 3 Press. She is a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council fellow and the winner of the 2014 Split This Rock poetry prize. Skolfield is the poetry editor for Amherst Live and an associate editor at Sundress Publications; she teaches writing to engineers at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts.
***
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Friday, November 14, 2014

Poem of the Week: Pages Matam

  


register now for freedom

ever seen the smile of a brown child
so loud it leaves Jericho shakin' in its overpriced boots

ever seen the smile of a brown child
so late the rest of the world still wanna catch up to its wind

ever seen the smile of a brown child
so wet it makes the hydrants bow in a glimmering reverence

ever seen the smile of a brown child
so coarse a thick forest grows in its name

ever seen the smile of a brown child
so bright it could photosynthesize a heart

ever seen the smile of a brown child
so heavy done turned gravity into a tattle tell

ever seen the smile of a brown child
so fast it got enough horsepower to chariot the sun

ever seen the smile of a brown child
so agile it got its own two step, gave jazz a run for its money

ever seen the smile of a brown child
so dark make all of the brown mamas weep a gospel

ever seen the smile of a brown child
so luminous turns tragedy into a cluster of praise

ever seen the smile of a brown child
make you wanna write a poem

about it not being taken away? 

***



Used with permission.
Photo by Yveka Pierre.

***
Pages Matam is a multidimensional touring artist, residing in the D.C. metropolitan area, but originally from Cameroon, Africa. He is author of Heart of a Comet (Write Bloody, 2014), a playwright, a 2014 National Poetry Slam champion and holds various other awards. His passions are in the field of education, violence and abuse trauma work, and youth advocacy. As a teaching artist with the national poetry non-profit Split This Rock, Pages is a coach for the DC Youth Slam Team. Pages is a proud gummy bear elitist, bowtie enthusiast, professional hugger and anime fanatic. When he takes stage -- as a performer, educator, or activist -- be prepared to be taken on an experience of cultural, socially conscious, and personal discovery unapologetic in its silly yet visceral and beautifully honest in its storytelling.  pagesmatam.com

Friday, November 7, 2014

Poem of the Week: Jody Bolz

  

BLACK SITE

"It's one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever," an outside expert familiar with the protocol said. --The New Yorker

First, take away light.

Leave time-but make it dark,
disordered. Make it sleepless.
Not day, not night.

Leave space-but make it small.
Make it dark,
a place that is no place.

Leave time-but make it sleepless.
Make it dark and hourless.
Not life, not death.

Leave space-but make it cold.
Keep it small, comfortless.
Make it dark. Bury it.

Leave time-but make it senseless.
Make it cold and sleepless.
No guilt, no innocence.

Leave space, place that is no place,
then bury the evidence, the implements
of torture. Bury the horror--

but don't bury it here.

***



Used with permission.


***
Jody Bolz was born in Washington, DC, and attended Cornell University, where she studied with A.R. Ammons. After receiving her MFA, she worked as a journalist and editor for two major conservation organizations (The Wilderness Society and The Nature Conservancy) and taught creative writing for more than 20 years at George Washington University. Her poems have appeared widely in such magazines as The American ScholarIndiana Review,North American ReviewPloughsharesPoetry EastPrairie SchoonerSouthern Poetry Review, and the Women's Review of Books-and in many literary anthologies. Among her honors is a Rona Jaffe Foundation writer's award and an individual artist's grant from the Maryland State Arts Council. She edits the journal Poet Lore, founded in 1889, and is the author of A Lesson in Narrative Time (Gihon Books, 2004) and the novella-in-verse Shadow Play(Turning Point, 2014).

***
Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.  

Friday, October 31, 2014

Poem of the Week: Abdul Ali




Amistad


My father and I run into each other at the edge of Lower Manhattan,

                            World Trade Center, where there's a movie house.

                          

                    We tiptoe down the slope, making our way to our seats.



We don't exchange pleasantries. Cinque is stolen from his native land.

         A body of water separates Cinque from his home.


                      We have front row seats inside the belly of the ship,

History so close it hums.



                    the rush of water      now spilling in my lap.



I close my eyes, blink--

          water breaking through the screen,  water rising from the floor,

                         how the past revolts against the present.




  I lift both feet.                 We're in this   together,

our own Amistad        headed somewhere,

                    a meeting place      captive.




 ***

Used with permission.


***
Abdul Ali is the author of Trouble Sleeping which won the 2014 New Issues Poetry Prize and teaches at Towson University. His poems and art criticism have appeared n GargoyleGathering of TribesNew Contrast (South Africa), The Atlantic, and the anthology, Full Moon on K Street, among other publications. He has received grants, awards, and fellowships from The DC Commission of the Arts and Humanities, American University, and the Mt. Vernon Poetry Festival at George Washington University. He is a member of the board of directors of the Hurston/Wright Foundation. Ali was also an organizer for the second Split This Rock festival.

***

The Poetry Contest Deadline Is Tomorrow!!!

Contest judge this year is the inimitable Natalie Diaz, author of When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press, 2012). Diaz has been honored with the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from Bread Loaf, the Narrative Poetry Prize, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. She was a featured poet at the 2014 Split This Rock Poetry Festival.



First prize $500, second and third prizes $250 each.




Sam Taylor is very kindly offering a copy of Nude Descending an Empire for up to three poets selected for honorable mentions in this, the 8th annual Split This Rock Poetry Contest.

For contest details and to submit your poems of provocation and witness, visit our website here

Contest Deadline: November 1st, 2014
at 11:59 pm!!!

 ***


Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Poem of the Week: Sam Taylor

 
Past Tense

In the Great Depression of 2047,
a time of sorrow rivaled only
by the Global Unification Wars
of Spring 2029 to 2033,
in the Merlona Plague of 2104,
in the year of the forest die-off,
after the atmospheric hue reduction,
in the year of the last rebellion,
after the rise of the freeze gun,
after the Earth Liberation Army
went into hiding, after sorrow
was renamed, after the Ethiopians
became immune to cancer-
someone was born, and someone loved
in their names like grass
where the river sleeps
and the sky's tears were
a private thing
touched only in solitude.

And four out of five full bellies believed. 
And nine out of ten hungry mouths agreed.
And the ancient books that had never made sense
made no sense again and at last
ceased to be printed.  And all the words
fell out of the bibles in the night.
The pages were filled with a rain of leaves.
And the words that were left could not be read,
and so they acquired an air of sanctity
which they had never, in truth, possessed
in the daylight in the presence of men.

And someone in a field found an old car
from the year black with beetles, eaten like lace,
and the sky fell into it, a private thing.
And everyone had a kitchen or a fold-out bed
and a chair beside an open window,
and no one knew the hour, and no one knew the day,
but behind locked doors and curtains, they danced
to the music pumped through the walls
that no one could escape, and to that other music
that rose off the blood, that could not be silenced-
and so on and so forth-
and the seed of hope still had not vanished
from the face of the childless earth.

 ***
Used with permission.
From Nude Descending an Empire (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). 

***
Sam Taylor is the author of two books of poems, Body of the World (Ausable/Copper Canyon Press) and Nude Descending an Empire (Pitt Poetry Series), and the recipient of the 2014-2015 Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, as well as other honors.  His work most frequently explores themes of mysticism, sexuality, ecology, politics, suffering, and the mystery of the world.  His recently released Nude Descending an Empire develops the lyrical voice of a citizen-poet engaged with politics, history, and the urgency of our contemporary moment.  Taylor is currently an Assistant Professor in the MFA program at Wichita State University.  See more at www.samtaylor.us.

***

The Poetry Contest Deadline Fast Approaches


Contest judge this year is the inimitable Natalie Diaz, author of When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press, 2012). Diaz has been honored with the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from Bread Loaf, the Narrative Poetry Prize, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. She was a featured poet at the 2014 Split This Rock Poetry Festival.


First prize $500, second and third prizes $250 each.

Sam Taylor is very kindly offering a copy of Nude Descending an Empire for up to three poets selected for honorable mentions in this, the 8th annual Split This Rock Poetry Contest.

For contest details and to submit your poems of provocation and witness, visit our website here

Contest Deadline: November 1st, 2014.

 ***

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks! If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Poem of the Week: Joseph O. Legaspi























Amphibians

Amphibians live in both.

Immigrants leave their land,
hardening in the sea.

Out of water.

In Greek, amphibian means
"on both sides of life."

Terra and aqua.  Shoreline.
In fresh water:

amphibians lay
shell-less eggs;
immigrants give birth
to Americans.

Tadpoles, polliwogs
metamorphose: gills
in early stages.  On land,

amphibians develop lungs.
Immigrants develop lungs.

Through damp skin
amphibians oxygenate.

Immigrants toil
and sleep breathlessly.

Skin forms glands. 
Eyes form eyelids.

Amphibians seek land; immigrants, other lands.

Their colors brighten, camouflage.

They've been known to fall
out of the sky.

Fully at home in the rain.

***
Used by permission.
Photo by Emmy Catedral.

***
Joseph O. Legaspi is the author of Imago(CavanKerry Press) and two chapbooks: Aviary, Bestiary (Organic Weapon Arts), winner of the David Blair Memorial Prize, and Subways (Thrush Press). Recent works appeared in Poets.org,jubilatThe JournalPainted Bride Quarterly,BLOOM, and the anthology Coming Close (Prairie Lights/University of Iowa Press). He co-founded Kundiman (www.kundiman.org), a non-profit organization serving Asian American literature.
***

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks! If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Poem of the Week: Jennifer Chang





















Dorothy Wordsworth

The daffodils can go fuck themselves.
I’m tired of their crowds, yellow rantings
about the spastic sun that shines and shines
and shines. How are they any different

from me?  I, too, have a big messy head
on a fragile stalk.  I spin with the wind.
I flower and don’t apologize. There’s nothing
funny about good weather. Oh, spring again,

the critics nod. They know the old joy,
that wakeful quotidian, the dark plot
of future growing things, each one
labeled Narcissus nobilis or Jennifer Chang.

If I died falling from a helicopter, then
this would be an important poem. Then
the ex-boyfriends would swim to shore
declaiming their knowledge of my bulbous

youth. O, Flower, one said, why aren’t you
meat? But I won’t be another bashful shank.
The tulips have their nervous joie-de-vivre,
the lilacs their taunt. Fractious petals, stop

interrupting me with your boring beauty.
All the boys are in the field gnawing raw
bones of ambition and calling it ardor. Who
the hell are they? This is a poem about war.



Previously published in The Nation and then Best American Poetry 2012.
Used by permission.
Photo by Evan Rhodes. 

Jennifer Chang is the author of The History of Anonymity. Poems from a new manuscript have appeared in Best American Poetry 2012, Kenyon Review, The Nation, Poetry, A Public Space, The Rumpus, and have been featured on NPR's Morning Edition and the arts and culture blogs of the Chronicle of Higher Education and PBS NewsHour. She also writes about poetry for the Los Angeles Review of Books and is completing a critical study on race, pastoral, and American modernist poetics. She co-chairs the advisory board of Kundiman and is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at George Washington University. She lives in DC with her husband and son.  

***
Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!
If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.