“I would like my poems to be windows, not mirrors. A window frames a scene which has its own strong and independent life; the personality of the poet both shapes that scene and is subordinate to it. The frame, however, is important. A window cuts a shape, and I am fascinated by structure, harmony, balance – all those qualities which give definition to the view which the window elects to show.”
– Peter Scupham
Monthly Archives: May 2009
Carrie Etter’s The Tethers
Cult of the Eye
Then I glanced over the treetops, the miles of pasture
the window shows me again and again,
and soon I began to believe the window –
I became a votary in the cult of the eye and the cult
of transparency, because after we spoke
I used a form of to be as an equal sign: you were transparent.
I gleefully forbore the scepticism of seemed.
Admittedly, I nearly said you appeared transparent,
but I put my ear to the window’s mantra
and asseverated your sincerity without reserve.
If this is a love poem, that’s because I’m ready to love everybody.
I’ll gaze on the miles of pasture as the sun descends
and never think I must kneel in the dampening grass –
and you’ll refrain, just for now, from remarking on my naiveté.
First published in Poetry Review and included in The Tethers
Read more about Carrie and The Tethers here.
Visit Carrie’s blog.
Purchase The Tethers at The Book Depository.
Geoffrey Philp’s ‘Erzulie’s Daughter’
It began with the usual insults
about her nose and hips,
and the belief that her true-true mother
lived on a coral island protected
by sunken galleys and man-o-wars.
her therapists said, were drawing her
toward a different future
than her parents had wished for
when they punished her
for not reading the books they’d studied,
and sent her away on Easter egg hunts
dressed in starched, pink dresses, white bonnets,
and blue bows in each braid of her stubborn hair.
And when she began cutting her wrists,
arms, legs, and belly, her parents
agreed with the psychiatrists
to the prescriptions of pills, potions,
and poisons to keep her grounded in this life.
But then, the scabs became scars became scales,
her hair grew wild and untamed,
and a garden of yellows, blues, and reds sprouted
on her arms, legs, and back –
her ears and lips studded with gold –
and almost overnight she changed into something
she had always resembled in her own dreams,
in the mirror of her mother –
something beautiful and fearsome.
Geoffrey Philp is the author of a children’s book, Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories; a novel, Benjamin, My Son; a collection of short stories, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien, and five poetry collections, including Exodus and Other Poems, Florida Bound, hurricane center, xango music, and Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas. Who’s Your Daddy?: And Other Stories was published by Peepal Tree Press in 2009. Geoffrey lives in Miami, Florida.
Read Rethabile Masilo’s interview with Geoffrey at Poéfrika.
Visit Geoffrey’s blog.
Angela France’s Occupation
The Florist Explains Mimesis
It begins with the cut. Not secateurs,
never scissors – only a blade can slice
a good angle through the stem.
See how my knife fits my hand:
its heel snugs into my palm, shows
me where to snip, where to cleave.
Its stubby sharpness has perfect balance,
guides my selection of leaf and bud,
knows which will be coaxed forward
or held back.
Picky brides and blind lovers
only care about shape and colour.
They don’t know what brings blooms
to such integrity nor do they see
how their choices measure depths
and futures. Mourners think
they can make flowers speak forcing
them into wire frames to spell names.
Deaf to the petals’ curve,
the eloquence of sweeping vine,
they never notice, nor ask why,
I leave a single thorn to nestle
under the calyx of the rose
they drop into the grave.
From Occupation (Ragged Raven Press, 2009).
Occupation is available for pre-publication order.
Angela’s collection will be launched at the Ledbury Poetry Festival on Friday, 10 July 2009, at 11h00. Take a look at the 2009 Festival Programme.
Top 100 Poetry Blogs
I’ve received an unexpected email from Suzane Smith of the Online University Reviews website. Peony Moon has been included in their list of Top 100 Poetry Blogs.
I don’t know how the list was compiled or what criteria were applied, but do take a look at the links. You’re bound to spot a few familiar names and discover some interesting new blogs.
Now seems like a good time to thank the poets who have kindly allowed me to post their work on this blog and to thank Peony Moon’s readers for their time and support.
Andrea Porter’s A Season of Small Insanities
The drivers on New York arteries are blooded
by the necessity of cut and thrust, but holding
our ground is something we know how to do.
We rant in unison at those that fail to read
the signs. You shun your horn, unlike some,
who play the two-tone shuffle through the toll.
We get the lone finger, the mimed arse-hole
from New Jersey plates, he reads windscreens,
faces, he sees our future in a muscle twitch.
Don’t they understand what bloody yield means?
No answer is required but it settles on the car
with the puddle dirt, the billboard shadows.
I keep trying to master the art of the verb,
how to read it, the road behind us and ahead.
“I specifically chose ‘Yield’ to bridge the first 41 poems in A Season of Small Insanities and the final 17 poems which form the ‘Marrying Richard Harris’ sequence about the fatal accident caused by a drunk driver I was involved in that led to the death of my partner and the subsequent premature birth and death of my twin sons.
‘Yield’ grew out of a road trip I took on the East coast of America with a very old friend. It was triggered by an incident at a toll to get into New York over the river. This poem for me resonates with the final poem in the collection, ‘Crossing’, which is also a sonnet. I find the sonnet in all its forms a wonderful small casket in which to place heightened emotion of any kind as it drives you to exercise a tight discipline, just fourteen lines to say what you want to say. ‘Crossing’ refers to a bridge, a passing over and through something, grief and loss, and ‘Yield’ takes a side long look at what you need to give in to and what you feel cannot be yielded.”
‘Yield’ is published in A Season of Small Insanities (Salt Publishing, 2009).
Read about Andrea and A Season of Small Insanities here.
Read more poems from Andrea’s collection here.
Visit Andrea’s blog, We Liked It but not Quite Enough.
You are invited to the launch of A Season of Small Insanities on
4 June 2009 at The Maypole Pub, Portugal Place, Cambridge, from19h30 to 22h00. The Maypole Pub is next to the Park Street multi storey car park behind the Round Church in central Cambridge.
Help Andrea celebrate, listen to her and other great poets read and generally enjoy yourself.
“Poetry is an antidote to the poison level at which we often consent to live. We are, many of us, amnesiacs. We forget the amazing things that happen to us. Poetry remembers them. Also, what is given shared articulation can never hurt so much as whatever remains unuttered.”
– Penelope Shuttle
Four wonderful new Modjaji poetry collections go to the printer this week. The volumes are available at the special offer of R100 each if you buy one this week. They will sell for R120 plus in the shops when they are out. The books are:
Please, take photographs by Sindiwe Magona;
Burnt Offering by Joan Metelerkamp;
Oleander by Fiona Zerbst;
Strange Fruit by Helen Moffett.
All four collections are available for R300, if you buy them this week.
If you’re interested, contact Colleen Higgs at Modjaji Books: email@example.com.
About Modjaji Books
Modjaji Books was started in 2007 by Colleen Higgs. Modjaji is a new independent press that publishes the work of South African women. “Modjaji – which means rain queen – is a press that will make rain and generate spaces for new voices to be heard that otherwise may not find a platform.”
“One is always writing the “first poem””.
– Anne Waldman
“I remember an early (second?) reading at the St. Marks Church in-the-Bowery parish hall circa 1966/1967. I was nervous. I was seated at a wooden table. I wore a yellow and blue striped dress and my head was bent over my “works”, hair probably in my face. I remember hearing my young woman – more like a girl – voice and thinking “This isn’t the real voice”. The real voice was deep inside in my hara – and it was a deeper, more seasoned and musical voice – an ageless voice. I realized I would eventually have to find the words to match it – the words would have to grow up to the voice and the wisdom of that voice. This is maybe my life’s work. It’s not that I have to “find my voice” – it’s already there waiting for me.”
– Anne Waldman
Vanessa Daou’s Joe Sent Me
“For me, music is a response to the world, and the voice imbues the words with life and gives them breath. I’m especially interested in the idea of recording as an act of preservation of experience. To be a recording artist is – quite literally – to make a record of sounds, voices, words, and breaths. Every record I create, I plunge into the depths of life in all aspects of experience: sound, images, dreams. Music is a time capsule, capturing, distilling and preserving the essence of what it means to be alive. The role of poetry, of words and language, is to remind us.”
– Vanessa Daou
Soon life’s knowing will come, it will dust the mind
like talcum. Meanwhile, everyone will dream at least
once of times they tried to run but their legs got stuck
in the ambivalence of love’s mud, in the imagination’s
straining. Our days are drenched by hurricanes
entering sideways in our minds with no warning.
It’s gray where the thinking thinks, where the
radar blinks. It’s the surge of you that burns me
crimson. I am asleep, asleep all day, blood running,
an accident of treason. ((My mother was the one
who laughed from other rooms while I cried,
the division between us multiplied a thousand times))
You say (and I quote) “Don’t do the math” (end of quote),
italics mine. (Quote again) “just come here” (end quote).
So what if I do? I go nowhere with you, and everywhere.
I am subsonic, plutonic, woebegone, forlorn, language
forgotten, towel shared. I am scared, scarred, scarlet
letter ‘A’, hermit, Hamlet, tragic, victorious. I am soldier,
souvenir, medal of honor attached to your pocket. I am
intrinsic, entropic, order, chaotic, limited to this word
I have just finished, conception of the infinite. Masculine,
feminine, everything is division; days, dollars, mortgage
rates, bequeathed estates. Leave me with nothing more
than your essence. Invisible lover, indivisible number,
only then will I remember, remember with my lack of logic.
With you I am myth maker, glass breaker, soul taker,
hip shaker. I am techtonic, ironic, sardonic. With you
I am purified, pornographic, protean, prolific; for you
I am problematic, acrobatic.
Yes, like I said, every crevice that cracks in me I spread
for you since that first night in my bed when the flash
of my life turned your blue eyes red. And so the story
always goes, ending before the author knows. Our days
are drenched by hurricanes entering sideways
in our minds with no warning.
From Vanessa’s album, Joe Sent Me.
Joe Sent Me is available here.