Tag Archives: poet

New Horizons (A Lads’ Poetry Project Update)

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Well, a lot has been happening in the Lads’ Poetry Project since we last checked in, we have two new additions to the project, both from the UK, and both of a quality that the project doesn’t deserve.

First we have Sarah Connor who gives us the view from the other room where there is a party of a different kind going on, find out more here!

Next we we have Kim Whysall-Hammond who gives us the perspective of the only woman in the room (she uses the word “engineer” in a poem which is a fairly rare occurrence), find out more here!

Sarah and Kim are both fine poets, so be sure to check out their other work when you are over there…and remember the Lad’ Poetry Project criteria are simple:

the poem must start with the phrase (or some variation of it): “Me and the lads…” and the tone must be somewhat less than elevated.

Tadpoles, Dead Cats and Seamus Heaney

 

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Tadpoles, Dead Cats and Seamus Heaney

I wrote a nature poem once
it went like this:
You call yourself a tree?
My bank has more branches!
Not much of a poem really
I wrote it at a time when the Irish poetry scene
was dominated by rural poets
or to be more precise, by Seamus Heaney,
whose childhood memories
of peat bogs, tractors, ploughed fields, hard won harvests
of curlews and corncrakes of snipe and gannets
did not resonate with me
my childhood having been spent
in the newly spawned suburbs of south Dublin
where my friend Dermo and I roamed back lanes,
and vacant lots that promised prosecution to trespassers
a world of nettles, thistles, dock leaves for the stings
crows and magpies, a rumour of foxes
gardens of roses, dahlias, rhubarb, gooseberries
the ubiquitous potato
tadpoles in jam jars,
their embryonic frog legs kicking
and let’s not forget that dead cat we found
half consumed by maggots
in a cardboard box in the woods
behind the cavernous church
where Dermo liked to sit of a Sunday
close to the aisle, listening to the sound
of the women’s girdles as they strode up
for Holy Communion, according to Dermo
this is the sound that the girdles made:
whick whick
whick whick
but I digress…

I met Seamus Heaney once
north of the Liffey
a creative writing class,
this was before academia
and Nobel prizes
he was living in a cottage in Wicklow
he came, read some poems
and joined us in the pub afterwards
where I asked his opinion
of some of my heroes:
ee cummings, “a bit of a lightweight”;
Roger Mc Gough, the Liverpool Scene,
“a bunch of tricksters”;
James Simmons (a firebrand contemporary)
“does not understand the finality of print”.
These judgements were delivered
with a smile in a soft Derry accent,
a nicer man you could not meet
and one of two Nobel prize winners
that I have shared a drink with…
buy hey,
that’s more than enough name dropping for one poem.

 

Taking part in Sarah Connor’s challenge over at Earthweal.

Here’s Sarah’s prompt”

“So, for this prompt, I’d like you to think about how you first felt connected to nature – maybe as a child, or as an adult. Some of those lost words may inspire you, or you may have your own lost word (or world?) that gave you a sense of wonder at the natural world around you. Maybe you collected caterpillars, or watched birds on a bird-table, or squatted down to watch beetles, or looked up to see squirrels in the treetops.”

Dog in a Tartan Skirt (Redux)

 

 

Dog in a Tartan Skirt 

There’s a dog wearing a tartan skirt
outside the window of Starbuck’s;
a tartan skirt, a belt, and a knitted white sweater.
Its little dog legs are moving frantically
on the wet pavement,
while across the slick road
and the sodden green park
the ocean sits
like a slab of lead
having clearly decided
to take some time off,
no crashing on the shore today.
South of the border
America blunders around
trying to remember
where it parked
that big ass car
that everyone admired
and envied.
The people look to God
but God, once again,
is moving in mysterious ways
and I, for one, wish He would knock it off,
could He not for once in His eternal life,
clarify something?
I mean, for fuck sake,
there’s a dog wearing a tartan skirt
outside the window of Starbuck’s.

 

Taking part in Open Link Night over at dverse.

Also taking part on Open Link Weekend over at Earthweal.

 

Bike Ride by the Fraser River

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Bike Ride by the Fraser River

tug boats and log booms
the plaid twock of a golf ball
a band playing soul

the sweet, sweet smell of Purell
backyard wedding, guests on Zoom.

 

The challenge over at earthweal is

“STRANGE WORLD is the theme of this challenge. Take the opportunity to assess what’s become so strange in your world……”

Of Statues and Limitations (Edit)

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Of Statues and Limitations

As we round Lee’s Circle in New Orleans
talk turns to statues
and the topless monument;
the shuttle bus driver tells us
that Robert E. Lee’s statue was removed
under the cover of darkness
by a crew dressed like ninjas,
to avoid recognition.
People woke up the next day
to find the statue had disappeared.
A photograph on Wikipedia
shows the statue being removed
in broad daylight by a crane;
reality is nearly always more prosaic.
She also tells us that she grew up in the neighbourhood;
as kids, they just called the monument,
“The Statue”, they did not know or care
who Robert E. Lee was.

In 1966, the IRA blew the statue of Horatio Nelson
off its pedestal on top of Nelson’s Pillar
in the middle of O’Connell Street, Dublin.
To my parents’ generation
Nelson’s Pillar was known simply as “The Pillar”.
(Dubliners are very fond of the definite article:
“How’s the head?”
“Are you still playing the soccer?”)
To them, The Pillar was a landmark
a place to meet your date
en route to one of the cinemas
on O’Connell Street to catch a film (2 syllables)
and perhaps a humid snog
in the back seat when the lights went out.
To the IRA it was a symbol of British Imperialism
of British oppression,
an insult to our patriot dead;
blah, blah, blah, boom!
The IRA was a particularly unsubtle organisation.

Is all this just facile juxtaposition,
chopped up prose
masquerading as a poem,
or is there a point?
Yes, yes and yes:
see what I think is
there are people who look up at statues
there are people who believe
statues are looking down on them
and there are people
who look straight ahead
and keep moving forward
into the future,
leaving the past
to its state of disrepair.

 

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Top photo taken at the Takashi Murakami exhibition (The octopus eats its own leg) at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Bottom Photo taken in Medellin, Colombia, statues by Fernando Botero.

Luminescence

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Luminescence

The stars are out
luminescence rises
from the surface of the pond
I think of Tommy
Tommy Tumescent and the Hard-Ons
yes you could say
they were big in the fifties
yes you could say
they rose to stardom in the fifties
all pompadour and pointy toe
and to counter this puerile nonsense
I also think of iridescence
finesse
obsolescence.

This is one from the past, Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal

 

One Bison, One Skunk (Close Encounters)

 

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Sherry, over at earthweal, asks “Have you had an encounter with or a visitation from a wild creature?”. Here’s a couple….

Old Bull Bison

an old bull bison,
morning, Yellowstone

(still dark)

caught, out on the move
in the headlights glow

the arc

of life turning down
no seed to be sown

no spark.

 

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Skunk

struts across the lawn
with a cleric’s confidence
tail cocked, sphincter primed

I think I made a mistake

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I think I made a mistake

baselines, fault lines , paradigm shifts
ignorance has been weaponized
what will we do, what will we do
when all the nouns are verbed?

I think I made a mistake
how is there still doubt in that sentence?
A man goes to a party
to get infected with a virus
in order to prove
that the virus is a hoax,
the man dies.
It’s hard not to be harsh.
Is this a new baseline,
a new low?
Is it an intelligence deficit?
Is it lack of education?
No, this is something different
this is a sea change
the beast has left Bethlehem
the malware has been activated
the human race has started to self-limit.
Whatever god, assembly of gods
or conglomerate of alien scientists
malevolent or benevolent
that designed this whole shebang
that opened this can of worms
has had enough
the malware has been activated
the fix is in
it’s past midnight and the eagle has flown
Aunt Mary is hanging out the washing
the human race has started to self-limit.

A man goes to a party
to get infected with a virus
in order to prove
that the virus is a hoax,
the man dies.

 

Brendan over at earthweal poses the challenge: Observe shifting baselines in your world, in climate change, your nation’s governance, the pandemic. 

Dead Seal

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Dead Seal

slumped on the tide line,
mottled pink, exposed,
something has been picking at it;
six city workers
in high vis vests
with a garbage bin, a shovel
and a shroud of clear plastic
discuss the path forward.

 

The challenge from Brian over at dverse is to write a poem …… “capturing a moment in your verse”

ROB (The Lad’s Poetry Project 3)

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Rob

Me and the lads are in the Beagle
carbo-loading after the game
we’ve got pitchers of pale ale
plates of chicken wings
nachos topped with something
that looks suspiciously like cat food.
It’s pulled pork, I’m told,
which seems somehow apt
as I look around the table.
It’s the usual conversation
goals scored, goals missed
an unresolved conflict lingering
like a fart in an elevator.
Two of the lads are saying nothing
engrossed in stroking and poking
small rectangular tablets
as if expecting a message
that will change their lives
a revision to the ten commandments, perhaps,
one that sanctions the pulling of pork.
Whatever it is,
they can’t leave those little slabs alone.
Opposite me, Rob, an uncompromising centre half
with little skill and a liking for the long ball
is tucking head down into a plate of poutine,
fries covered in cheese curd and gravy,
suddenly with uncharacteristic speed and accuracy
he fires a gravy covered fry at the phone boys
“put down your fucking phones”, he says quietly,
and out of nowhere I’m consumed by a wave of emotion
and I realise this is my community
and this is why I come here,
the level of discourse,
this is why I come here.

The challenge from Sarah Connor over at dverse:

This week, I’d like you to think about that balance between the individual and the community. Where do you stand on the spectrum between lone wolf and team-player? How does your community support you? What are the communities you’ve chosen? What are the communities that have been thrust upon you? Can we be human without other humans? What are the threads that stitch us into place? They may be good or bad, or somewhere in between, but they are certainly there.

This is poem number 3 in  a series of poems called The Lad’s Poetry Project. The goal of the series is to give space to a subject that is not normally encountered in poetry, Lad Culture. The only guidelines are: 1) The poem must begin with the phrase, “Me and the lads” 2) The tone must be somewhat less than elevated.

 

 

 

The Fallen (2020)

 

 

 

The Fallen (2020)

Today I thought about Reince Priebus
not so much the man,
more the strange music of his name;
those slender vowels reversing
that echo of wince
the possible meanings
a salve, an ointment
put some Reince on that cut, son;
the Latinate portliness of Priebus
a writ to slap someone with – Habeas Priebus
a complicated skateboard manoeuvre
he executed a perfect reverse Priebus;
then I thought of Anthony, dear Anthony,
Scaramucci, Scaramucci
will you do the fandango,
you were not long with us
but still the smell of aftershave lingers
and it was you who let us know
about Steve Bannon’s auto fellatio,
alas, poor Steve
abandoned on the side of the road
like a rumpled sofa
a rumpled sofa smelling of yesterday’s sweat
and stale doctrine;
and what about Spicer and Huckabee
cartoon characters
Plucky and Angry
your souls will be in the repair shop
for some time to come.
They appear in waves,
the arrested –
Flynn, Cohen and Stone,
the ones who once were serious people –
McMaster, Kelly, Bolton.
In years to come when men and women gather
to talk of greatness
your names will be long forgotten.
The list of the fallen goes on and on
and still Humpty sits on his wall
and still we wait for Humpty’s Great Fall.

A different version of this poem appeared in Oddball Magazine

Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal . https://earthweal.com/2020/07/03/earthweal-open-link-weekend-27/

Writing Poetry for The Times That Are In It (more unsolicited advice)

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Writing Poetry for The Times That Are In It

Avoid the polemic, the rant,
the bromide
be all you can be
avoid the hackneyed phrase
the weak-kneed phrase
the self-consciously poetic line
the moon, a pale orb in the evening sky
never call the moon “an orb”
never call the sun “a fiery ball”
your waves should not
crash on the shore
they should collapse
like marathon runners
avoid foliage
excessive leafiness
too many trees
the reader needs to see the poem
and remember it’s unlikely
that your poem
will be an agent of change
no one is going to march through the streets
chanting your poem
unless your poem is a three word slogan
but your poem can chronicle change
bear witness to change
and one day someone might read it
at a rally in front of a large crowd
if the lines resonate
if the lines generate heat
meanwhile concentrate on
impressing yourself
avoid lines ending in “ution”
the rest will take care of itself.

 

The prompt from Brendan over at earthweal is as follows:

“For this week’s challenge, write about the challenges you face as a poet trying to write sufficiently to the moment. What is most difficult to capture about the time? What new tools or calibrations might be required?”

The above poem is a stab at it. It’s a very interesting question, because is it possible to write sufficiently to the moment? Yeats wrote his poem “Easter 1916”, about the Irish Easter Rebellion, between May and September of 1916 but the poem wasn’t published until 1921 in the collection “Michael Robartes and the Dancer”. Undoubtedly the poem must have gone through countless revisions in the interim period and of course is a better poem because of this. If Yeats had a blog, he might have turned out something more immediate and inferior. But it’s interesting to look at how the first verse ends:

Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

The last two lines are repeated at the end of the second and the last verse, almost like a chorus. I think there lies an answer to how to write more immediate poetry, poetry of the moment – use a form that is close to that of a song, get yourself a rhyme get your self a chorus. It may not turn out like Yeats but hey you don’t have the time for that.

Here’s one from a little while back:

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Drain The Swamp Rag

(Walk that back
walk that back
I know I said it
but I walked that back.)

Attack dog surrogates
inveterate invertebrates
re-stock the swamp
with old white males.

Post logic, post truth,
snake oil and kool-aid
re-stock the swamp
with old white males.

Mike Pence, John Bolton
Rudy Giuliani
re-stock the swamp
with old white males

Inveterate surrogates
attack dog invertebrates
re-mail the stock
to the old white swamp

re-stock the swamp
with old white males.

 

On Reflection…. Donald Trump (again)

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On Reflection…. Donald Trump

America has given birth
to a giant orange child
a zaftig infant Gulliver
striding the ravaged earth
of his own imagination
trampling whole villages
swallowing villagers whole.

 

This poem was published previously in Oddball Magazine. Taking Part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal.

 

earthweal open link weekend #26

 

Tales from the Gym 2 (Two Bros)

 

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On March 16, all community center gyms closed down in Vancouver, drastically altering my fitness level. This is the second in a series of gymcentric poems, looking back at a different time (3 months ago!). As that great gymgnostic , Slim Volume, once said; “A man whos is tired of the gym, is a man who has been to the gym”.

Tales from the Gym….Two Bros

Two bros on a mat
one on his back
hands clasped behind his head
legs bicycling like a capsized fly;
the other,
the one with the green hair
and the tattoos of a religious nature
is grunting weights .
Fly bro, it appears,
is having girlfriend problems
and is experiencing
some kind of vague existential crisis,
green hair bro listens carefully to his tale of woe
and after some reflection says:
It’s life, man,
stop trying to understand it,
no one can
and then, as if startled by his own profundity,
he repeats: no one can.
Out of the mouths of bros….

in the background a bearded jock
in a tight black T shirt
his muscles packed with powdered whey
his eyes a steroid yellow
is down on his hunkers
knees akimbo
moving sideways
across the  floor
like a slow motion crab
across packed sand at evening.

Taking part in Open Link Night over at dVerse. Check them out here:

Open Link Night #269

 

Stepping Out (A Well-Made Thing)

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Stepping Out

and inside the mask
a faint whiff of grease
from this morning’s eggs

stepping out, he finds
the outdoors secure,
still, in its greatness
the sea still open
the sky limitless
the sky, the limit
the sky, off limits.

Brendan’s post over at earthweal (https://earthweal.com/2020/06/22/earthweal-weekly-challenge-culture-and-nature/  ) asks us to write about “the intersection of culture and nature”. He asks:

How do you see yourself as a poet of culture and nature?”

Well, I have never considered myself a poet of nature. I have to come at it sideways. Here is a poem about the intersection of pop culture and nature.

Jerry Seinfeld takes a walk in the park and writes a haiku
Why, when dogs chase birds,
do we see optimism
not futility.

Brendan asks:

“If your life’s work were assembled in one silo, who would it feed?”

Well, I think my life’s work so far, could probably be served as a light snack and I’m happy with that. I am not particularly ambitious. Stephen Hawkins wrote “The Theory of Everything”. I would be happy writing “The Theory of a Few Things”. I read an interview with Leonard Cohen in which he spoke of tending to his garden. He implied modestly that his garden was small but that he took good care of it. He was talking of course of his particular talent and, I think, of how one should take care of what one is good at, know your talent (big or small, major or minor) and cultivate it.

Brendan asks “What is a well-made thing?”

(You really should read Brendan’s post, he poses a lot of questions, and is, as always informative and erudite)

When I first started writing poetry, I wrote mostly free verse. Then when I started blogging, I became more aware of short verse forms, in particular, the haiku and the tanka. I see poetry as being similar to sculpture or wood carving, whereas novel writing is more like architecture. The poet takes a large slab of words or a tree stump of words and whittles it down to a small well-made thing. When writing short poems I find a form is useful. I can’t really write traditional haiku. I can’t summon the required ineffability and the results end up po-faced, self-conscious, weighed down by solemnity. But I do like the arbitrary restriction or the discipline, for example, all the lines in the first poem above contain 5 syllables. I read a book of poems recently by Paula Meehan, the Irish Poet, in which every poem contains nine lines and every line contains nine syllables and amazingly she does this without making it obvious (the name of the book is “Geomantic”). Anyway, here is one more attempt at a well-made thing, and yes, nature is involved.

One Swallow

one swallow does not
one tries to swallow one’s pride
one swallow does not

when it comes to (what else?) Spring
one swallow does not do it.

Who’s That Knockin’

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Who’s That Knockin’

It’s early in the morning
you’re sitting on the can
who’s that knockin’
who’s that knockin’
at your front door, man.

Well it could be Jesus
it could be the Pope
it could be Barrack Obama
carrying a message of hope

who’s that knockin’
who’s that knockin’
who’s that knockin’
at your front door, man

It’s early in the morning
you’re eating some raisin bran
who’s that knockin’
who’s that knockin’
at your front door, man

Well, it could be Angela Merkel
or it could be Miley Cyrus
it could be Sanjay Gupta
with a cure for the virus

who’s that knockin’
who’s that knockin’
who’s that knockin’
at your front door, man

 

Taking part in open link weekend over at earthweal. check them out below:

earthweal open link weekend #25

Tales from the Gym (Gravity, Don’t Fail Me Now)

 

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And your gravity fails and negativity don’t pull you through….Bob Dylan

On March 16, all community center gyms closed down in Vancouver, drastically altering my fitness level. This is the first in a series of gymcentric  poems, looking back at a different time (3 months ago!). As that great gymgnostic , Slim Volume, once said; “Know your gym”.

Gravity, Don’t Fail Me Now.

two geezers
pink and steaming
towelling down
after a shower
discussing gravity
how it is not fixed
how it decreases
with distance from the earth’s core
how, if one was to climb to the top of Everest,
since weight is the product of mass and gravity,
one would weigh less at the top of Everest
and I’m thinking
this is one fucking erudite conversation
and I want a piece of it
so I point out that
one would regain that weight
on returning to sea level
and one of the geezers replies
yeah but you’d probably burn 10,000 calories
climbing up and down the fucking mountain
and a nearby jock encased in breathable fabric
says, shit, I’d burn that in 40 minutes on the rowing machine
and I fire back wryly
keep telling yourself that
and the locker room erupts in laughter
and in that moment
basking in the unbearable lightness of banter
I defy gravity and levitate
above the bacterial swamp
that is the locker room floor.

 

Taking part in open link night over at dverse 

OpenLinkNight #268

Crow Ops

 

 

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Crow Ops

crows chasing eagle
across the evening sky
solidarity

crows chasing eagle
across the evening sky
there’s strength in numbers

crows chasing eagle
across the evening sky
half-moon, scattered cloud.

 

Today the challenge from Frank over at Dverse is to “write three-line poems or poems having mainly three-line stanzas.”

Check out Frank’s post here.  https://dversepoets.com/2020/06/04/tercets/