Friday, October 25, 2013

Poem of the Week: Myra Sklarew


Infinite Regress of War

            for Sinan Antoon born in Baghdad

In the mirror of infinite regress
go back. Go back to Vietnam. To a man
who can spot a trip wire fine as a hair,

thread to explosives, who keeps his body
close to an escape route. Only Dante
can help him find his words. In the infinite

regress of war, start anywhere. Try Rwanda,
Baghdad, the Persian Gulf. Try
Phnom Penh: a man left an eye

in a jungle there. Try Korea. Or a man
shot down over Germany. We welcomed
back the parts of him that survived. Sepulchre

of repeated images. Won't someone shatter
the pure reflection of glass? Here
comes the poet who sees a mother

weaving a shroud--not Penelope
staving off her suitors for Ulysses's
eventual return--but a shroud

for another war. A shroud for the dead man
still in her womb. Poet, if I put your words
inside my poem, have we not crossed over

into one another? Escaped the endless
hierarchy of war? Or must we stumble
against the mirror at noon?

-Myra Sklarew

From Harmless (Mayapple Press 2010). 

Used by permission. 

Myra Sklarew's numerous collections of poetry include Lithuania: New & Selected Poems, The Witness Trees, Harmless, and If You Want to Live Forever. She is co-editor of The Junk Dealer's Daughter, The Journey of Child Development, and has a forthcoming book: A Survivor Named Trauma: Holocaust and the Construction of Memory. Her poems are housed in the Contemporary Poets Archive at the Library of Congress. Honors include the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award and the National Jewish Book Council Award in Poetry. Sklarew was the founding director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at American University and is professor emerita of literature. From 1987 to 1991, she served as president of the Yaddo artist community. She is a founding board member of The Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD, and currently serves on the advisory board of Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University and The Center for Israeli Studies at American University.  She is also a key organizer of "A Splendid Wake," a documentation project of poets and poetry activities in DC from 1900 to the present.
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If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Poem of the Week: Tim Seibles

Poet Tim Seibles    

Zombie Blues Villanelle 

There are days I believe there ain' nothing to fear
I perk up for green lights, my engine on call
But it could be the zombies are already near

That sleep that we feed every day of the year
What's up with your friends when they circle the mall?
There are nights when I think I have no one to fear

My Mom watches Oprah to brighten the drear
You can keep your eyes open, see nothing at all
But it might be the zombies are already near

You think life is s'posed to be lived in this gear?
I been askin' that question till my brain has gone raw
Certain days I believed I had nothing to fear

I have dreams that I'm driving with no way to steer
You can growl like a cello; you can chat like a doll
Don't it seem like the zombies are already here?

I think fear itself is a whole lot to fear
I have watched CNN till it made my skin crawl
I might be a zombie that's already here

I been pounding this door but don' nobody hear
You can drink till you think that you're seven feet tall
There were midnights I danced without nothin' to fear

You can fly through your days until time is a smear
Maybe blaze up the bong   or blog out a blog

There'll be days when it feels like there's nothing to fear
But you could be a zombie    that's already here.

-Tim Seibles 

Used by permission. 

Born in Philadelphia in 1955, Tim Seibles currently lives in Norfolk, Virginia. He is a member of the English Department and MFA in Writing faculty of Old Dominion University, and is a teaching board member of the Muse Writers Workshop. His honors include an Open Voice Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. His poems have been published in literary journals and magazines including Callaloo, The Kenyon Review, Indiana Review, Ploughshares, Electronic Poetry Review, and Rattle, among others. Seibles is the author of five books of poetry, including Fast Animal (Etruscan Press 2012), 2012 National Book Award Finalist. He will be a featured poet at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2014.    

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If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Poem of the Week: Susan Scheid

Photo by: Kelsey Weaver        

When We Ruled the World

There we stood, dressed like Egyptians
or what we thought Egyptians should look like
from all our National Geographic magazines.

Wrapped in old curtains, jewels, tulle,
prancing around like we built the pyramids
while life in our sleepy Ohio town
rolled by on its way to middle America.

Men went to work at the refinery
spewing invisible gas and smoke in the breeze
while women ironed shirts and watched television.

But we did not notice the quiet turning
because we were too busy inventing pictograms,
enslaving younger brothers in our game
of carving scarabs and conquering the desert.

Ancient worlds so enticing because
the glossy pictures were clean-- 
unlike the paint peeling from too much sulfur,
the houses abandoned when factories closed.

There being no room for Egyptian princes
or pyramids in this Republican county
known for its prized cattle, corn and soybeans.

-Susan Scheid 

Used by permission.

Susan Scheid is the author of After Enchantment, her first book of poetry. Her poetry has appeared most recently in Tidal Basin Review, RequiemRose Red ReviewThe Unrorean, Bark! and the chapbook, Poetic Art. Susan currently serves on the Board of Directors for Split This Rock. As Artist-in-Residence at the Noyes School of Rhythm in Connecticut, Susan studies dance and teaches daily writing workshops for one week each summer. She lives in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC, where she has been a community organizer for thirty years.  Susan helped open a community-owned grocery (Brookland Co-op Community Market) and also served on its board of directors.  

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If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Poem of the Week: Reginald Harris

Photo by: Ocean Morisset         

Baltimore Uproar by Romare Bearden 

Upton / Avenue Market Metro Station, Baltimore, Maryland

Get off here. This is a story you've
been told: these streets before the trash,
the rats, the crack-heads nodding to ghost
music. That past a distant gleam of notes,
sound-magicians dreaming, rising
from these streets: diminutive
personifications of the beat, rhythm
made compact flesh; flamboyant
fly-brimmed hipsters high on hi-de-ho,
lexographers of jive; and Our Dark Lady,
transformed from turning tricks to
trickster by the music, through her songs.

From The Avenue to the after-hours you
could hear it in the changes, the shift from
working day to glittering night. Shattering
twists of phrase calling out, the turn of a gloved
hand sheathed in silver from fingertip to elbow
to hide the tracks beneath. Rising from the
platform, the scent of gardenias is in the train's
retreating roar, leaving departing commuters
in spangled shards of sound. These multicolored stones
are her petals, a frozen music always calling,
calling back, urging on -- Rise up. Get off here. Rise

-Reginald Harris 

(From Autogeography, Nortwestern University Press, 2013)  
Used by permission.

Reginald Harris is the Poetry In The Branches Coordinator and Information Technology Director for Poets House in New York City. He won the 2012 Cave Canem/Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize for Autogeography. A Pushcart Prize Nominee, recipient of Individual Artist Awards for both poetry and fiction from the Maryland State Arts Council, and Finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and the ForeWord Book of the Year for 10 Tongues: Poems (2002), his work has appeared in numerous journals, anthologies, and other publications. An Associate Editor for Lambda Literary Foundation's Lambda Literary Review, he lives in Brooklyn, where he pretends to work on another manuscript. 

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If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Announcing the Inaugural Winner of the Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism

Photo: Antonin Kratochvil

 Awarded to:
Eliza Griswold 
for her work collecting and introducing the folk poems of Afghan women to America  
Please join us in honoring Eliza and her essential work:
Friday, November 1, 2013 
812 7th St, NW 
Washington, DC 20001
Reception * Awards Ceremony * Reading

With special performances by the DC Youth Slam Team

Sponsorship opportunities available.
Contact: (202) 787-5210

The Freedom Plow Award, made possible through the generosity of the CrossCurrents Foundation, recognizes and honors a poet who is doing innovative and transformative work at the intersection of poetry and social change. Judged by Martha Collins, Carlos Andrés Gómez, and E. Ethelbert Miller, it is being given for the first time in 2013. Finalists for the award are Jorge Argueta, Elana Bell, Tim Z. Hernandez, and Wang Ping.

Eliza Griswold received a Guggenheim Fellowship for her ongoing work on water and poverty in America. Her first non-fiction book, The Tenth Parallel, was awarded the Anthony J. Lukas prize and was a New York Times bestseller. Her poetry and reportage has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, among many others. She's held fellowships at Harvard University and at the New America Foundation. Her collection of reportage and translations of Afghan folk poetry, I am the Beggar of the World, will be published in the Spring of 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux with a second collection of her poems to follow. 

In 2012 Griswold began traveling to rural Afghanistan with the photographer Seamus Murphy to collect landays, two-line folk poems written and recited by Afghan women. The landays, Murphy's photos, and Griswold's writings about the experience have introduced rural Afghan women -- an otherwise invisible population, despite more the than 10 years our two countries have been entangled in war -- to American readers and television viewers. Poetry Magazine devoted an entire issue to the landays and published Griswold's long essay on the documentation project, with photos, on their website.  She's written about the project for the NYTimes Magazine and it was profiled on the PBS NewsHour.