“Valentine”

The mail has come, as I was thinking of you

I was wondering about the man that delivered your letter

 

when the dogs barked, I didn’t think anything of it

was his day suddenly made inexplicably better

 

but I meant to say earlier that I didn’t miss it

when your letter fell into his bag 

 

when you said I should watch for the mail,

perhaps his shoulders suddenly happy and relaxed 

 

only I didn’t know quite what you meant

and the dog down the street didn’t jump the fence 

 

I just held onto it, slipped it into my pocket carefully.  Now

I bet his wife suddenly called and said something kind

 

I have a sweet mouth that is a little on fire –

the rain held off and he could even turn off the heat 

 

it must be all the way up into my eyes as I write this.

because it warmed up more than predicted.

 

Chocolate, chilies, cherries.  I can hardly write.

Now his feet don’t hurt and he’s even humming a tune

 

But if I could get to you right now, if I could get to you,

he hasn’t thought of in years- probably jazz– 

 

I would surely kiss you all the way to next week,

and he hums and smiles and maybe whistles, too

 

until your lips were raw, ‘til you begged me to stop

even when he turns the corner

 

to let you breathe, to let you eat, or speak

he keeps smiling, his heart light

 

and you will taste like chocolate and chilies and cherries, too

all the way, all the way, all the way home.  

 

***

First published in Pine Song. Winner of first place for the 2016 Thomas H. McDill Award, judged by James McKean, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

***

 

 

 

Congratulations to Iman Dancy, 2017 North Carolina Poetry Out Loud Champion

I’ve just gotten back from the 2017 National Finals for Poetry Out Loud, held on April 25-26, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at the Renaissance Dupont Circle and Lisner Auditorium on the GWU campus. What an incredible event.

With Sharon Hill, Arts in Eduction Director at the NC Arts Council, Iman Dancy, Juliet Shepard.

Our North Carolina state champion, Iman Dancy, did an excellent job performing her poems. (“Learning to Love America” and “On Virtue.”) In the regional semi-finals, she made the first cut and had the chance to recite her third poem, “I am Offering This Poem.”

I was inspired to select “Learning to Love America” because it really allowed me to step into the shoes of someone vastly different than me. As an African-American sixteen year old living in twenty-first century North Carolina, it can be difficult to imagine or relate to the experiences of an immigrant mother living in California during the latter twentieth century. But getting to recite Lim’s poem gives me a look into her life that I would not be granted otherwise. I selected “On Virtue” and “I Am Offering this Poem” because the light, positive writing styles (and beautiful simplicity of the second poem, especially) really drew me in. — Iman Dancy

She did not advance to the finals but did an outstanding job in the regional semifinals. For a first appearance at nationals, she held her own with her tremendous talent and poise.  We look forward to many great things from this amazing young person, and also congratulate Samara Huggins, the national winner from Georgia.

Watch Iman recite “I am Offering This Poem, by Jimmy Santiago Baca.

Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. There are many, many partners who work together to support this transformative program, and the kids who get involved often say that the experience touches so many places in their lives, helps build their confidence and gives them opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

We are already thinking toward next year’s state championship. If you are a North Carolina high school English or theater teacher, consider this worthy program for your students. Read praise for this incredible program, and here’s a handy FAQ to see how Poetry Out Loud can fit in your classroom and lesson plan.  Feel free to contact me with your questions.

 

 

Reading GNOMON, by Cynthia Huntington

In the car rider line with a book of poetry, I find the world shifts into a slightly better frame for me. The beautiful Gnomon today, by Cynthia Huntington (Jacar Press, 2017).
A gnomon is “the projecting piece on a sundial that shows the time by the position of its shadow.”
From the title poem: “The apples are sour and hard./ The trees are dreaming/ the shape the teeth tore from the flesh./ Gnomon. The part taken away,/ shape of absence — mirror/ to the missing piece. You would know your beloved/ even turned away.”

 

The themes of love and longing appear over and again within the book; and this kind of love is next to the holy, and “there is no joy beyond this.”

 

“– we go on under stars, under the darkest/ clouds, we climb and descend, our feet heavy;/ we are tired — but everything is so astonishing,/ each moment so new. We go on; stepping forward,/ we ask: Are you here? The grass says yes./ We step into God every moment, stunned, dumb-/ founded, we meet him however we go, so how/ can we bear to rest, to cease discovering him/ over and over, in the next moment, opening …”

 

This whole chapbook works like this. “… climb and descend, climb and descend” … seeking and finding God at each unexpected turn, from a green star to a horse alone in a pasture. Love and sorrow, the sweetest loves, the sweetest joys — and every poem in this chapbook is a door.

Honestly, this is poetry I wish I’d written.

And just like the hike through the woods that you wish would last longer, this is a short read — only 20 pages — but what a lovely journey. And the poems, like trees, clear our heads, somehow remind us who we are.

The blurb on the back by David Rivard: “After experience is done teaching us just about everything it thinks it needs to teach us, we come back to desire, the one thing worth knowing. This time around desire shows up as a wild calm, dead center of whatever picture in which we find ourselves. These marvelous, subtle poems go deep, deep, deep into that wild calm. So subtle, so moving! I don’t believe anyone but Cynthia Huntington could have written them.” 

If you pick up this chapbook, let me know what you think.

Purchase information here.

Poetry Readings, An Interview, and much Gratitude

Deep, deep appreciation and admiration goes to Abigail Browning and Ray Crampton, for the tremendous job you guys are doing over at Tate Street Society, and for inviting me to come by last month and talk about Women Writers of the TriadSable Books, and some of the projects and work I’ve been honored to be a part of.  (You can listen to the podcast here, if you are so inclined.)

What a generous interview and you do such a professional job.  Thank you, thank you.

Also note that along with their literary interviews, In The Margins is also working on Robert Pinsky’s Favorite Poem project. Watch Sandra Beasley read one of my most favorite poems, Sonnet 43 (How Do I Love Thee), by Elizabeth Barrett Browning here.

Poems and loves forged during distance can be really powerful.
— Sandra Beasley

You can catch Sandra this Friday night at Scuppernong Books here in Greensboro, reading from her own work, Count the Waves, alongside Dan Albergotti and sponsored by Cave Wall. I’m looking forward to this. (NC Poetry Lovers: she’ll also be at Flyleaf this Thursday and at McIntyre’s Fine Books on Sunday.)

And along with being Managing Editor at Tate Street Society as well as an accomplished dancer and dance instructor, you can catch Abigail reading her poetry alongside Janice Fuller at Second Saturday at Tate Street Coffee House this weekend at 7:00pm.  Open mic follows so bring a piece to share.

With a lush thunderstorm as backdrop, the reading July 1st at Scuppernong Books with Richard Krawiec, Debra Kaufman, Kevin Boyle, and Ralph Earle was wonderful —  fun, engaging, relaxed — and we had a terrific crowd. All around, it was a beautiful evening.

Also a quick report that things here on the homefront are as difficult and beautiful as ever, but at the end of the day there is a back porch with a cross-breeze, a glass of wine, music coming from inside the house, and mostly blessings in the form of the amazing people who grace or touch our lives in their myriad ways — whose paths run somewhere near or right alongside mine — I am filled to spilling over with gratitude for you, especially my beloveds, who have my back or my children’s backs — who tell my children they are good people, those who welcome, inspire, and love them, who treat us like family — I thank you with my whole self. You know who you are.

With much love, always.

m.

 

“At the End” wins Honorary Mention in the 2014 Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition

I am thrilled to share with you that my poem, “At the End,” won Honorary Mention in the Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition, from the North Carolina Writers’ Network.  This year’s judge was Jillian Weise.

At the End was first published in the beautiful poetry & art journal, One, from Jacar Press. I would be honored if you clicked the link to read it there.

I am humbled to find myself in the company of the esteemed winning poets:

Alan Michael Parker of Davidson is the winner of the 2014 Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition for his poem, “Lights Out in the Chinese Restaurant.”  Parker has won the Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition two years in a row. Maureen Sherbondy of Raleigh was named First Runner Up for her poem “After the Funeral.”  Kathryn Kirkpatrick also received Honorable Mention, for her poem, “Visitation.” Sherbondy also received an honorable mention in 2011.

 

Women Writers of the Triad Hosts Poets and Open Mic with Tate Street Coffee

GET THIS ON YOUR CALENDAR!3_Wordpress_WWOT_Logo_White

Second Saturday, September 14th, at Tate Street Coffee House, at 7:00pm.

Featured poets are Ann Deagon and Michael Gaspeny. This is going to be WONDERFUL.

Michael Gaspeny won the 2012 Randall Jarrell Prize for “Shore Drive.” His latest chapbook Vocation is available from Main Street Rag.

Ann Deagon

Ann Deagon‘s work includes There is No Balm in Birmingham, The Polo Poems, Carbon 14, and Poetics South. She was named Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for 2011-2012.

After the reading, an open mic follows. Bring a poem, bring a song, or just come and grab a coffee or a glass of wine and listen. We had a huge turnout for open mic last month so space may be limited. Bring your best work and get there early!

Join here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/698475600169186/

For June, a writing and art workshop on gratitude

On the theme of gratitude:

Saturday, June 15, 9:30 am-4:00pm.

A visual and writing arts workshop on the theme of Gratitude, with Kim Goldstein and Donna Anthony guiding the group in making soul collages and Judith Behar and Melissa Hassard guiding the group in writing prose or poetry about their soul collages.

Place: Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, 501 S. Mendenhall St., Greensboro.
Cost: $10 to Women Writers of the Triad and Writers Group of the Triad members; $25 to non-members.

Pre-registration is required: Contact Judith Behar at jbehar@triad.rr.com or (336) 294-4904.

You may bring your own lunch or pre-order lunch (cost: $10) at time of registration. Coffee and tea will be provided.