Tag Archives: April

Yet Another Final Poem

Floor waterIn a blogging tradition that dates to the early Enlightenment-era philosophers, I post one poem on the last day of April to celebrate the end of Poetry Month. This poetry month, I wrote fourteen poems, a record mediocrity (which is the title of an upcoming collection). In any case, the following poem is dedicated to the Floor Water Collective (or my graduate cohort who shared/trashed an office this past year). They will be missed, by someone, probably.

Dear Future Occupants of Our Office,

A word of caution: the doors are untrustworthy
and you might get locked out, or worse, locked in,
or better, locked in with people you trust.

The coffee is best made from a garbage can
if you don’t want to stain our office (we
did), and the kettle is closest to an outlet
on the floor, which you should lie down on
listening to music when the world boils.

That will happen a lot, in and out of the office.
Our decorative rhetoric has remade it
a pilgrimage site for the curious and passionate,
as a reminder of what we used to be.

The office is exhausted inside and out,
but like us it’s used to being used as a means
of production, a clogged factory,
a closet of disconnected cogs, an easy target,
and inside the doors break, the floors are ant-trodden,
and everything is stained one way or another
with blood, sweat, coffee, tears, pizza sauce,
the list goes on. Whatever bright shine the office had
a year ago is now replaced with a language
that will be scrubbed away over summer.
It will look perfect again for you, but the flaws
are well-hidden in the design.

This office is a good place to go when the world
slams its many doors on you. It’s a good place
to have your heart and idealism broken,
to be comforted alone during your worst thoughts
on an uncomfortable couch under a friend’s blanket,
Future cohort, we dare you to match our worst days, to survive
the way we did, together, while our worlds boiled.

-jk

List: 30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

Umbrella Brick Wall 2.JPGApril is National Poetry Month, so here is a nifty list of things to do to celebrate poetry, nationally.

  1. Read a poem every day.
  2. Write a poem every day.
  3. Go to a poetry reading.
  4. Stick a poem in your pocket.
  5. Having already exhausted the ways people traditionally celebrate Poetry Day after four activities, think briefly about going back to prose, then read more poems or something.
  6. Write a poem and tape it to your office window so people outside can enjoy it.
  7. Read poetry you found on a sign or a movie poster.
  8. Take down your window poem after somebody complains to your boss, then passive aggressively write sequel poems to it.
  9. Try to write a haiku in under 140 characters.
  10. Realize that writing twitter haiku is too hard, and instead tweet a picture of your haiku written on a page in your moleskine notebook.
  11. Write poetry on the sidewalk in chalk before vindictive bicyclists run you down while humming the music from Jaws.
  12. Submit your poetry to journals until those $3 Submittable fees match the amount you spend on wine per week.
  13. Speaking of wine, Holy Week is in April, so you could write a poetry suite using Catholic imagery to talk about your feelings even though you are not Catholic and you have no feelings.
  14. On Good Friday, write another poem that pretentiously uses commas to somehow represent the nails in crucifixion.
  15. Realize that fourteen people online have misinterpreted your religious poem and want to know why you are taking away their right to choose.
  16. By Easter, lose fourteen of your Facebook friends over that one poem you posted.
  17. Share your favorite poems online, checking seven times to make sure you spelled each poets’ name correctly, because you really only read their work during April, even though you insist on how much their work means to you the rest of the year.
  18. Read early drafts of poems you wrote three National Poetry Months ago and die a little inside after counting the number of times you used a flower metaphor.
  19. Go to an open mic night and sit through four harmonica soloists before the poets get on stage.
  20. Research poets whose work you have never read. Chances are high that there are at least several.
  21. Go to a reading of new or recently published poets. They could use the moral support, especially if they’re grad student poets.
  22. Buy a new collection of poetry, then make time to read only half of it.
  23. Read poets recommended by your friends.
  24. Read poets recommended by your enemies.
  25. Write poetry in a coffee shop.
  26. Realize that “writing poetry in a coffee shop” requires four hours of sipping a latte and people-watching before writing down any words.
  27. Revise the thirteen poems you wrote in the past twenty-seven days and call it a statistical success.
  28. Find the good poem out of the thirteen you’ve written (the chosen Messiah of your poems) and revise it again.
  29. Select the Messiah poem as the best of your poems and post it on your blog on the last day of April, then take it down after worrying about its quality, then resurrect it back onto your blog three hours later.
  30. Relax. Poetry is about a lot of things, but first and foremost, it’s about paying attention to the small details around you. You could sporadically write many poems, but you need things to write about: the way your shirt smells like smoke the morning after a campfire, the way the smell clings to you as you listen to the seesaw of traffic over the hill. Or something like that.

-jk

One More Final Poem

In a blogging tradition going back to the early 1840s, every April 30th I post one of the poems I wrote in the preceding thirty days to mark the end of National Poetry Month. Unfortunately, because I’m a grad student, I had to spend most of my time writing research papers (all about Canada), and did not reach my goal of thirty poems. But I don’t want to skip this beloved tradition, so I wrote one more final poem this morning. It’s the first thing I’ve written in two weeks not about Canada.

GalwayAfter Galway Kinnell

“We lie close,
as if having waked
in bodies of glory.” -Galway Kinnell, “The Last River”

I ignore the news of floods and wind this morning
in favor of another kind of news, certainly not gospel
but written with another kind of good news,
this aged copy of Body Rags I haven’t read in years.

A more clinical approach to wandering bodies might be useful today;
I could take on a diagnostic demeanor to dissect
the way bodies fall in motion beyond my control,
spinning down a river with fickle rapids
knocking back and forth, back and forth,
away and towards a rumbling unknowing,
but Galway keeps winking at me from the page
to find the glory in the body. Maybe

that’s all there is to us: we are meandering
collages of bone, blood, stretched tissue

and bird-shy nerves emailing sensations to one another,
quietly demanding more sunlight on skin, more rivers to listen to,
more poetry to see in the clouds, all these furtive microselves

gossiping to each other the full extent of the body’s glories
back and forth, back and forth. How else does good news spread?

I hold onto this dying copy of Body Rags
tracing my fingers down the pages, like deep beaches
with thin blue streaks where a friend underlined her favorite lines.
Maybe there’s enough gloriousness to go on here,
some secret, hushed process of bliss that saturates
when I’m closer to the sunniest people I know,

but even my god-obsessed metaphors go overboard,
so here I stop to underline my own favorite line with blue ink,
adding one more river to the desert-tan pages
rocky with broken sentences.

-jk

Copyright, Keene Short 2016. Photo: I asked Lost Compass Photography for a photo of Galway Kinnell, but those dorks gave me a photo of Galway, Ireland, which is why the senior photographer isn’t getting his twenty bucks.

 

Juggling Poetry and Prose

IMG_2158

April is National Poetry Month, and by tradition I dedicate this month to writing thirty poems, one each day. I may never have reached that goal, but it’s still an opportunity to write forward. Poetry is a nearly religious part of my life, but I treat every other form of writing the same way.

As long as I’ve written I’ve juggled poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, but in grad school I’m unofficially designated a fiction student. My master’s thesis will (probably, maybe, don’t ask me) be a collection of short stories,  but I’ve never thought of myself as a specialist. Most writers do specialize, though, and as April begins, I can understand why writers might want to dedicate themselves to mastering only one form.

During March, I pushed myself to the writerly limits. I churned out four short story drafts and seven poems, and started a nonfiction essay. While planning my Fall schedule, I schemed ways to take both a poetry tutorial and a creative nonfiction class. The few publications I can claim have ranged from poetry to prose to drama. As a result, my overall portfolio increases steadily, but my skill as a writer continues to be scattered across genres, and while all forms have some things in common, they each require different kinds of effort.

I probably should focus on just one form. I could master fiction, inhabiting characters and pushing plots, or poetry, and improve how I carve roads out of language. Mastering nonfiction would force me into my own head, and theater would confine my characters to the concrete realm of the stage. Or I could shock the world by submitting a series of interconnected Foucauldian pizzas to my committee for cooking competition-style judgment.

The truth is that I simply don’t want to specialize. I started writing because I loved reading and wanted to make others feel what I feel. If my prose suffers for my poetry, or the other way around, so be it. I know the consequences of being scattered, and I’ll write forward in spite of them.

-jk

One Final Poem Again

By tradition, I try to write a poem every day during April, and by tradition, I always fail but nevertheless end up with a stack of pretty good poems. Last year, though, my final poem for the month accompanied a stinging cloud of rejections; this April is different. Tonight, a ten-minute play I wrote will receive a staged reading at Firecreek Coffee in downtown Flagstaff;  two days later, a short story I wrote will be published in Garbanzo Literary Journal. At the beginning of this month, I attempted a poetry slam, though my poetry simply cannot be slammed. So to conclude National Poetry Month, by tradition, here is one final poem.

Tray of Flowers

In Which the Love Poem Deconstructs Itself

This is only a love poem
no different from the ones that grow every Spring
along the spindly fingers of trees pointing in all directions.

This is only a love poem
that wishes to drop the word “only” from its rank.

This is a love poem longing to separate itself
from all the other love poems,
green with confident cliches.
This is an autumn love poem, blushing red
at the realization that it has slipped
from the branch in deliverance.

This is a love poem
that wants to be more than everything
love poems are expected to be,
wanting to be a knotty hurricane of flowers
pulled from the oven when its recipient
expected only a mediocre cake.

This is a love poem that wants to evolve
and move the genre entirely
from its obsession with nature imagery
and comparison of love to concrete things,
usually in long, organized lists,
moving swiftly from leaves in Spring
to leaves in Autumn to flowers in the oven;
it wants to subvert itself, come out of its cocoon,
but keeps falling into the trap of its own patterns.

This love poem wants to be a nightlight
that keeps its recipient warm at night,
or cold if its recipient so desires,
but this love poem is going places,
it’s creating a makeshift bed of compassion,
but is still dissatisfied with its direction.

This love poem wants to be a nightlight
but one that only glows laughter,
because this love poem is on the cusp of an epiphany,
realizing that no matter how deeply a love poem plunges
into a spiraling pantheon of epiphanies,
no matter how many times it reinvents itself,
this love poem will only be able to convey
its own simplicity, its deep green reduction
of twelve quasars of emotion to a single four-letter word;
its stanzas, like bricks atop one another,
will eventually fall into a pile,
making love poems a fleeting matchstick,
but the love inside this love poem,
the poem slowly begins to realize,

will st ill b e there

af ter

lan               gua                  ge

in     evi         tab       l      y

f           a               i                  l                       s

-jk

30 Days of Poetry

Today in Flagstaff, it is likely to be another windy Spring day. One hundred trains will pass through the city and frustrate drivers on Beaver Street on their way to Macy’s. Today, people will drink their coffee, polish their motorcycles, steal away a quick hour of yoga, and hopefully realize that it is the start of National Poetry Month.

Writer's Day Off

For me, poetry is already a fundamental property of my structure. It’s a religion for me. It’s a way to orient my life toward a deeper understanding of myself and my place in the world. I am the first to admit that I am not a great poet, and probably never will be. But most poets are not great. Most write privately for their own purpose, like prayer or meditation, a quiet ritual done in secret. Nevertheless, I strive to become a better poet because I believe it will improve myself as well as my relationship with the world around me. It may not be real magic, but it’s as close to magic as we can get. Stephen King once called good writing is a kind of telepathy. Poetry, to me, is no different.

I cannot become a better poet in a month, short of miracles or cheating. But I can improve my devotion to it. This month, I intend to read and write more. I hope to write at least one poem every day. I’ll be lucky if I get two or three good ones out of thirty, but by the start of May, I’ll have written two or three good poems. Statistically, that would be an improvement. I also hope to spread more poetry using this blog as a venue, certainly not ever day, but regularly enough that people discover a few new poems.

So I wish you a happy April and a good, long month of poetry.