Sunday, May 17, 2015

Baseball Poetry and the "Slush Pile"

A couple of quick notes:

I did my part and just finished wading through over 700 poems from one day of the Poetic Asides Poem-a-Day Challenge in April. It was a bit daunting, but I was able to eliminate at least 85% of the entries by the first read-through. That still left me with nearly 100 poems, which I had to pare down to a maximum of 60 to send to blogmeister Robert Brewer. He will, in turn, pick what he thinks are the 10 best and forward them to a guest judge, who will pick the winner for that day, to be published later this year in the anthology/craft book Poem Your Heart Out, from Words Dance Press.  I have some personal favorites from that batch that I will be rooting for, and of course I hope one of my poems from the other days will make it too.

Secondly, I just got my copy of the new issue of Spitball Magazine, which contains my poem "Randy Johnson Kills a Bird, March 24, 2001".  My Facebook friend Pat Myers (a.k.a. "The Empress", redoubtable leader of the Style Invitational weekly humor contest for the Washington Post), requested that I post the poem on Facebook, but instead I decided to post it here with a Facebook link:

Randy Johnson Kills a Bird,
March 24, 2001

Pity the unlucky dove that decided
to swoop down between home plate
and the mound, just as Johnson released
a ninety-mile-an-hour fastball.
Halfway between origin and destination
for both bird and ball, one could plot
the intersection of two curves,
 one graceful and inverted,
one flattened out by sheer speed,
and at that intersection,
an explosion of feathers. 

People laugh at the video today
but I'm sure Johnson was shaken up
when the bewildered ump called "no pitch".
What else was there to do but clean up
the mess and continue the game?
The odds against such a meeting
were astronomical, but the universe
is a cruel and funny thing.
We plot our own parabolas every day
not really knowing what will intersect them -
drunk driver, aneurysm, asteroid.
All we can do is move along
and avoid fastballs when we can,
as we try to complete the arc.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Five Poems from April

My friend Shana Ritter (whom I met at Marge Piercy's workshop on Cape Cod a few summers ago) responded to my open Facebook challenge to pick your five favorite poems that you wrote in April.  She posted them together on her blog last week - they are all really good, and you should check them out here.  I thought that was a good idea, so I'm taking a cue from her and posting my five favorites on today's blog post.  This way, dear reader, you won't have to scroll through thirty days of blog posts to find what I think were my best of the month. Of course, feel free to explore, because you may think there are up to five others that you like better. (And if you wrote five or more poems in April and have a blog, you can do the same as Shana and I.) Anyway, here they are. Not coincidentally, I guess, they all are in some form or other - a terzanelle, a "fourteener", an abecedarian, and two Shakespearean sonnets.

April 16:
Science Fair Volcano

As a teacher, I've seen them many times
the peaks of conical and homemade plaster
backed up by the obligatory signs.

It doesn't take a lot of skill to master
this impressive demonstration - inside
the peaks of conical and homemade plaster,

a vinegar-and-baking-soda bromide
two strong conflicting forces that react -
an impressive demonstration inside

the gym.  Fourth-grader Tyler did, in fact
make a project like this. Under pressure,
two strong conflicting forces did react,

exploding from his model house.  He'd measure
all the damage done, but didn't keep a chart.
He made a science project under pressure

of a home about to blow itself apart.
The damage done, nobody kept a chart.
As a teacher, I've seen it many times,
backed up by the obligatory signs.

April 3:

April 14:

Last Bouquet

Love's promise in cellophane lace
Or dead giveaway?
                - Nick Lowe, "Stoplight Roses"

My dear, come see these flowers that I brought
for you - I thought you'd like a special treat.

I have no love for roses that you bought
from homeless guys who sell them on the street.

How can I gain your trust, how to preserve
the spark of passion both of us could share?

You can't, because I've nothing in reserve;
that spark was snuffed before your last affair.

Will you have  feelings if I go away?

Just  for the flowers, strangely, I feel sorrow.
We'll live to curse and fight another day,
but like our marriage,  they'll be dead tomorrow.

I always thought our love could be much more.

Just leave - and take those roses to your whore.

April 6:
Robin's Aubade

The sun, that warm alarm, has caught me waking -
I see your sleeping form curled in our bed.
The view from here at daybreak is breathtaking -
the budding trees, the pink clouds overhead.
I hear the neighbors too, their music drifting
in on chilly air. So rise, my lovely mate -
I'll sing a morning song, something uplifting.
I'll take you out for breakfast - don't be late! -
a place whose owner puts out quite a spread.
I've got an early flight, and true to form,
I'm all decked out, as usual, in red,
and you've our unborn children to keep warm.
I will return with worms, and straw and string -
I'll spread my wings, but you're my everything.

April 10:
How a Toddler Learns the Alphabet

Carried around,
Druidic runes on
Each page,
Fascinates her.
Grandpa reads, she
Hears words.
In time,
Just a little
Knowledge starts to
Loosen the code:
Mmmm goes the M,
Nothing is rounder than
Picking them out,
Quick study,
Reading's not far away:
Snaky S goes ssss,
Tongue-staccato T.
Under the influence of
Vocabulary, growing
Wiser every day.
X marks the spot where a
Young mind consumes with

Friday, May 1, 2015

April PAD in Review

What a month!  Writing poems every day just seemed to make it go by faster. My final tally was 41, not counting five more short poems that were part of two groups.  Of these, I wrote a "fourteener",  two "palinodes", a Fibonacci, an abecedarian, a Sapphic verse, an acrostic, a terzanelle, four "landays", only one haiku, some rhyming couplets, three clerihews, a "hay(na)ku sonnet", and five regular sonnets. I wrote about science fair volcanoes, burying a gerbil, a skywritten apology, the Oklahoma City bombing, London Bridge, the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, a toddler learning the alphabet, money as a girlfriend, tornadoes, sweet potatoes, and many other subjects. 

Now all I can do is hope that at least one of my poems I posted on Poetic Asides is picked for the next edition of Poem Your Heart Out. It would be especially sweet if one of the guest poets with whom I've worked in the past (Marge Piercy, Molly Peacock, and Dorianne Laux) picked my poem as a winner, but the odds of that happening are pretty slim.  In fact, the odds of getting any poem in the anthology are slim, when you figure there are about 10 to 20 thousand entries and only 30 get picked as winners. That reminds me: my next job is to slog through all of one day's entries on Poetic Asides (I'm not saying which one), then send what I consider the best 30 to 50 to Robert Brewer, who will pick a top 10 to send to the guest judge, who will pick the daily winner.  By the way, thanks again to Robert, and NaPoWriMo's Maureen Thorson, for 30 days of inspiration!

Before the guest judges and the anthology, Robert used to ask us to send what we thought were the best five poems we wrote during the month, and he would compile a top 25 or top 50 list of what he thought were the best of the month. (I had one selected as #2 one year.)  So last year, and this year too, I compiled my own list of what I think was my best work of the month.  I also invited fellow poets who are Facebook friends to do the same. (My one regret about April is not having time to read more of my friends' poetry.) I decided this year to do a "top 20", since I was pretty pleased with at least half of the poems I wrote in April. You can find them all here on my blog.

Here's my top 10 (numbers in parentheses are the days on which they were posted):

1. Science Fair Volcano (16)
2. Deus Ex Machina (3)
3. Last Bouquet (14)
4. Robin’s Aubade (6)
5. How a Toddler Learns the Alphabet(10)
6. My Brain, the Junk Drawer (20)
7. For Love of Money (7)
8. Suburban Pastorale (22)
9. The Man Peeling Sweet Potatoes on Easter Morning (5)
10. Handyman (12)
And here are the ten honorable mentions, in order of when they were written:
The Stars Obliterated (2)
Domestic Departures (4)
The Gleaning (11)
Storm in a Violin (12)
Disavoweled  (17)
Empty Chair (24)
Transatlantic Crossings (25)
26 (27)
Public Apology (29)
Bury the Gerbil (30)