For this posting, sixteen poets display their responses to the magical call to write poems. Their answers originate from many different parts of the world, including England, New Zealand, Peru, Iraq, both coasts of the United States, plus the heartland of this vast country.
Though the poetry offered here springs from diverse locales and cultures, it is written in one language – English. The perspectives necessarily cannot be the same, but the motivation to create a piece of language art is universal. The drive to make something with words crosses all man-made boundaries.
Sometimes the urge to write a poem
comes on strong like rushing wind.
It shows up sudden with lightning
striking the center of the page
as clouds converge to consume
the edges. Other times the poem
appears in clear skies drawing
closer from a distance like a gull
slipping over the ocean with no
discernible destination. But it’s
there in the heavens giving pleasure
as we experience the immediacy
of being – the now of a creation
that has been written on the wind.
Charles H. Johnson
READING HOPKINS IN PALOS VERDES
Words in concurrence by a swift inlet.
Poetry entering, river-tinted.
To sift and sieve gravity's spiritual
particles. Ten lines create piety.
Even the obligatory trout fin,
an inscape, was implicated. One phrase
gurgling through the stone-tumble of things.
The sinuous excrement of language,
an opulence strung between the islets
of rhyme. The relief of its ornaments
sprung against each other, earnest and free,
a correspondence of fecundity.
Andrew Demcak lives Oakland, Calif., has an M.F.A. in English/Creative Writing from St. Mary's College in Moraga, Calif.. and is a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. His work has been published and/or anthologized by Pearl, Plainsongs, Poetry Midwest, DMQ Review, Elimae, 4am Poetry Review, CQ, Lily, Obsessed With Pipework (U.K.), Andwerve, Language and Culture.net, The Argonaut's Boat (Belgium), The Chiron Review, and The Wisconsin Review, among others.
REFLECTIONS ON WRITING
A poem by Jann Burner
There is something to the concept of paperness,
That somehow just demands to be either read--or
After all, what is a tree, if not a slow poem?
There is something thrilling and somewhat pornographic
In imagining someone, in isolation, picking up
The remains of a long dead tree and examining
The stains contained thereon for
Some sign of my mental spoor…
Poetry is not unlike getting a hard-on.
I have no idea where it comes from and likewise I am
As to where it goes!
Its presence though, is graciously appreciated,
And with luck, shared.
Jann Burner lives in Willow Springs, Mo., and has been published in The San
Francisco Chronicle, California Living, Sea Kayaker Magazine, Rolling Stone, Spirit Seeker, Path Finder, The Healing Path and Dag Od Tid ( a leading newspaper in Oslo, Norway). He has a CD book available on Amazon.com about a shape shifting dolphin who dreams he is human, called The Last Wooden House. He has lived in a mansion in San Francisco as well as on a sailboat in Sausalito. Jann is currently living in a log house, in a park like setting in rural Southwest Missouri's Ozark Mountains. He has articles on the Internet featured in sites as varied as Identity Theory and The Exquisite Corpse.
A poem by Lily Bower
THEY BUILT A WALL AROUND THE OCEAN
They built a wall around the ocean,
as if it is not the sea, but the American Embassy
I run my hand along it as we walk
and I can hear the ocean
and I can smell it.
I can smell it even when we are back in the city
because it has pushed itself into my hair and skin.
It is on everyone around me too,
rubbed down into their pores and wrinkles so that they
taste it on every breath the way I do.
The fog here is also the sky,
it's also the sea and the houses,
built out of clouds like drywall,
so that the ocean never needed to be hidden behind
Children already grew up believing in a ceiling above
and an invisible sea.
Invisible whales and pirates and ocean liners that no
one will ever
get to see.
The embassy is silent every morning when I pass,
and the baking bread and gasoline that brush against
it will never get
because it doesn't have skin or hair to hold on to.
The fog is so tight that you can't see the cut and
and the houses that rise up behind it,
not even from the very top floor.
You can't see the waiting people curled like roots
around its base,
or Lima's dirt floors spread out in front of it like a
Lily Bower is a senior at Connecticut College in New London, majoring in International Relations and English. She has studied in Managua, Nicaragua, and is currently living in Lima, Peru. She interns with Acción por los Niños, a Peruvian children's rights group. She has been published in The Apprentice Writer, an annual publication by Susquehanna University.
VISITING CAVE CREEK
A poem by Nicholas Messenger
You lose a tooth, your tongue works in the hole.
There’s no more disrespect in it than this. A stroll
along Cave Creek, where, back in nineteen ninety-five
all those young people tumbled to their deaths.
In all this time I haven’t visited: Because?
...of a conviction that I would find nothing here.
The precipice is only high enough for one intake of
though eighteen people taking it at once draw out
the agony of falling out of adolescent nonsense, over
Life clutches, tries to climb back up through urgency.
And that it fails in such a charming place, with a
hush in the forest and a fervent threnody from the
doesn’t dissipate the violence. Excluded, waiting with
the rescue teams,
I know they fell from a much greater height than it
Nicholas Messenger lives in Hokitika, New Zealand, and is a painter. He teaches English in Japan.
Two poems by Benjamin Bucholz:
This is a work of fiction.
It does not exist.
called to mind are merely
I would like to thank Ego
for the whisker-rub last night,
for the mouth of a man devouring me,
the ginger grin of Sun Ng
beeping in the ICU
movement, a movement
like ice-skating --
all of you,
I would not be
where I am today.
Benjamin Bucholz is currently deployed in Iraq. His screenplay "Wolf Mountain" has just been optioned by a Turkish
production company. He is a 2005 Pushcart Prize nominee and has had a nonfiction piece accepted by Identity Theory.
THERE IT IS
A poem by Hannah Price
There’s a window at the far end of your room,
You opened the blind,
I made you bring music, and said you were boring,
Made you light up the room.
You smiled at me from above and I cried.
I tried not to let you see.
I made faces, you laughed, so you did.
Something was changing.
Across an office of silence and secrets,
Of corner gossip and kitchen lust
Tenuous tea breaks
And frightening pretence
What can only be called
Across a country and much too far north
In pubs with tatties and neeps
G and T
With your mother
I find there’s another
Affair to be had
Hannah Price lives and works in London, England, and is a theatre director and writer. She currently is free-lancing in TV, working on the Richard and Judy Show.
GEOMETRY AND A LETTER
A poem by Laura McKee
The silver bowl walked to work this morning.
Along the way, many were so captivated by the silver
they could not help but exclaim, 'There goes the
You have a remarkable bowl.
The hula hoop rolls down the street without origin
like the inscrutable word that appears occasionally in
printed on the page, recognizable and undecipherable.
All those years
on penmanship. What use the 'W'?
Dearest A., I write to you, B., from exile.
See another end to a burning day at the end
of my hand. The dirigible steers madly for the
Laura McKee works at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Wash. Her work has appeared most recently in Denver Quarterly, Nimrod and Campbell's Corner. She is currently putting the finishing touches on her manuscript, the Truck Combinations.
A poem by Holly Day
I wish that I had the kind of faith
that welcomed the idea of death, of being sent
to some supreme being, Supreme Being, some God, that
supporters some just, divine reward. I wish I could
death with the open arms I’ve seen people in movies
do, but to
me Death is nothing but an End.
Known my grandmother is facing her own death, still
her love to me from over the phone, it’s
making me crazy, how can she greet
the end of everything she is so nonchalantly, as
say, “There is nothing so glorious as the period in a
sentence.” Her faith
has always humbled me, but now it just makes me
want to pull out my hair and scream
Holly Day lives in Minneapolis, Minn., and is writing a biography of Columbian pop star Shakira, a guitar tutorial book,
and a Minnesota tour guidebook. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have most recently appeared in January, Philadelphia Poets, and California Quarterly. She is a reporter and a writing instructor in Minneapolis and lives with her two children and husband.
A poem by Kathryn Wagner
of a preemie
by a father's
the rattlesnake hidden
in the folds
of a Nigerian first-aid tent,
heard but not located,
seen is minute –
the villagers upright
as fast as the un-
that brought forth
the doctor who has paused,
scalpel in hand.
Kathryn Wagner has a B.A. in Neuroscience from Mount Holyoke College and an M.F.A.
in creative writing from the University of Arizona. Her work has previously been published in North Dakota Quarterly, Adirondack Review, Tucson Weekly, and Nidus. She is the editor of the Sonora Review, and a contributing editor to the Adirondack Review.
DEFINITION OF A TREE
A poem by Christine Hamm
when climbed, gives a view
of other trees, houses, the street
next door, and the next
is not pleasant to lick but
feels good on your palms
leaves light green near the stem
yellow near the edges
like glass held to light
shaped like spear heads
not good to eat
branches the size of your waist
precarious for balancing
beetles crawl up your shorts
leaf cluster at the end of
branches make good
whips for a younger brother
bark gets in your hair, knots it
when you shimmy up the trunk
canopy sways at the top
rocks back and forth like a rowboat
mothers scream when they see you
In it you might be Tarzan
Christine Hamm lives in Astoria, N.Y., and is a getting her Ph.D in English Literature at Drew University. Her work has been published in many journals, including the Adirondack Review, Pebble Lake Review, Lodestar Quarterly, Poetry Midwest, MiPoesias, Rattle, Snow Monkey, and the Absinthe Literary Review. Little Poem Press published
her chapbook, The Salt Daughter, and another, The Animal Husband, came out from Dancing Girl Press in
April of this year. Her full-length book; The Transparent Dinner, is due out from Mayapple Press in the fall. She is on the editorial board of several literary journals, including Vernacular. She teaches literature at the College of New Rochelle and poetry writing at Women's Studio Center in Queens, N.Y.
AFTER MY NAME IS SPOKEN
A poem by Meridith Gresher
There is a blade of grass so thin in my hand
it is translucent. I see the sky and cut it into
to take into my lungs. Through these eyes of green
and the stalk of
the clouds accumulate
interested in why I watch.
They suppose I might wish dandelion seeds into the
Instead I close my eyes to the terror of death
and open them to colors so real they must be pure.
The sky must mean that life and breath can float
beyond our bodies.
I see through the canopy of oak trees that reach like
triumphant confident. Oaks will not fail but will
erect and honorable long after my name is spoken.
The sky knows
I turn to you and ask for your hand.
Your fingerprints will not stain but will last long
to make me warm, human.
though the sun is stagnant, high at noon.
Meridith Gresher lives in Roswell, Ga., trained as a classical dancer at The Atlanta School of Ballet and apprenticed with International Ballet Rotaru. Ultimately, she traded point shoes for pen and legal pad before the days of her laptop. She has been published in Edifice Wrecked, The Journal of Modern Post, and most recently in 2River and BLAST. Current work can be found in the Marginalia section of Poems Niederngasse and more work is forthcoming in Snow Monkey and FRiGG.
SHAPES IN THE AIR
A poem by Carolyn Syrgley-Moore
Gardening, early autumn, I hear the crack of a root
as it surrenders the earth, its realm in
like torn knots of memory,
I am unable to pray, my tongue growing numb, my
begin drawing demon shapes in the air,
what mortality cannot transform into ash,
of void, the indigent tenderness of a one-night stand,
sleep imbues then eludes me, above me is
the weightlessness of fact, the tinny chime
of the town belfry, the scar tissue
that is our self in the end, romancing space,
a breathless wait for consummation that is
brief, perhaps, yet all of time.
Carolyn Srygley-Moore lives in Ballston Spa, N.Y., and has been published in The Antioch Review, The Pennsylvania Review, and other journals. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University's Writing Seminars, and has won awards for her poetry. She currently lives in upstate New York with her husband and daughter.
NEITHER FISSION NOR FUSION
A poem by Ed Tato
there’s a bug stain on my windshield
that’s like the birthmark
on your breast:
barbed and vivid at the edges
where the splatter points burst past the
there’s a hand of twenty-one
in the Black Jack Diner,
where the tar meets gravel:
the ace of hearts and the jack of hearts.
there’s a camel on a farm in the county,
sprawling in the field.
it is the focus of a flock of sheep.
there’s a wall in the prairie
stretching from a trailer,
a wall of piled limestone
or corded firewood.
there’s a library
with pictures of coronas and eclipses.
Ed Tato lives in Lawrence, Kan., and has an M.A in Urban Planning from the University of Buffalo and a B.A. in English from the University of Rochester.
A poem by Hank Kalet
What we thought was a crack
Was a slow cleaving split,
The long bough of white birch
At the yard’s farthest point
Crashing to the creek bank
With a dead hollow thud;
Separation had set
In, a pulling apart,
The interior rot
The sinewy base and
Heavy white bark until
It snapped and down it came,
Snapping the fence rail and
Leaving the wood exposed,
A jagged scar, exposed.
Hank Kalet is editor of The Other Half, the literary arm of Voices of Reason, an arts organization working to raise money for groups working to aid the homeless and hungry in Central New Jersey. He is managing editor of the South Brunswick Post and The Cranbury Press, both in New Jersey. His poems have appeared in several dozen small-press magazines and online journals. His first chapbook, Suburban Pastoral, was issued by Voices of Reason Press this year. His blog, Channel Surfing, can be found at www.kaletblog.com.
A PILGRIM’S PROGRESS
A poem by KC Wilder
went like gypsy davy
traipsing hazy fjord and forest,
knee deep in mudfields.
stood tall on
the hills and mountains
craned my neck but
could not see.
in this way
unfortunately netted little.
so in time
i had to blow,
my beat up bike,
through nameless woods
and lit out
on demanding hikes.
went through towns
he must have blown through
and not left a trace.
jupiter and mars,
in my beat up black sedan
i circled round the seven stars,
checked out beantown
broke in charleston
have you seen him?
i believed somebody had.
almost tearing off my hand,
she blew smoke out from her ears
and warned of wild mystery man.
through a thousand towns
i motored in
my stratospheric van.
i scraped across
the bleeding edge
from portland to afghanistan.
the howling mad
empire of experience
and found heaped on outsized plates
the unmistakeable pointed reek
of my own
<maria ouspenskaya — crusty, diminutive, wizened-faced
actress who played clairvoyant trannsylvanian gypsy in
1930s classic films “frankenstein” and “the wolfman.”
It was she who warned Lon Chaney Jr. He had “the sign
of the pentagram” in his hand. “When de moon is full
and de volfbane blooms … ”>
KC Wilder lives in San Francisco, Calif., has authored five books of poetry and dozens of chapbooks, and has been published in The Seattle Review, Poetry New Zealand, Soma Literary Review, Auckland Poetry Review, and The Iconoclast, among others.
WHAT YOU WOULD CALL A LOOSE GHAZAL, I REGARD AS
ANOTHER SMALL, BUT NECESSARY, STEP TOWARD RECOVERY
A poem by James R. Whitley
As sharks near, the herring school into an agitated
If grief strikes, spread among a group, it must be
easier to bear.
The emptied home has its concerns as well: now who
the ice trays, the deserted bed? And who needs so much
Daily, I find a fresh victim under every gaunt fable,
Goldilocks who I think was framed by that shifty baby
The crotchety miser in me wants to let nothing
moldy bagels, this spare penny, that dream, this
Finally, the lesson flits in, stays: given time, every
can heal, no matter if stitched through with loss or
James R. Whitley lives in Boston, Mass., has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared or is forthcoming in several publications, including Barrelhouse, Can We Have Our Ball Back?, Gargoyle, Mississippi Review, Pebble Lake Review, Poetry Southeast, River City, and Texas Poetry Journal. His first book, Immersion, won the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award. His second book, This Is the Red Door, won the Ironweed Press Poetry Prize and will be published in 2006. He also has authored two poetry chapbooks: PietÃ and The Golden Web.