Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Poems

Remembrance Day

by Jon Fenzel

Dispossessed voices on vast crossed and starry fields,

Of Luxembourg, Brookwood, Gallipoli, Fort Vaux.

Solaced whispers mingled with tears and convulsed despair.

Final letters sealed before a slow and anxious dawn,

In Shiloh, Le Cateau, El Alamein and Iwo Jima.

Sons and daughters far from home in hushed prayer.

Shrill screams of rockets flying low to high,

Through, Guadalcanal, Inchon, Khe Sanh, Fallujah.

Terrible noise and dust, blood and tears, searing air.

Echoes of Taps voice remembrance of courage and sacrifice

At Antietam, Bastogne, Kandahar, Saratoga

Old men’s souls sit alone—silently, painfully aware.

The End and the Beginning

by Wislawa Szymborska

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall,
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

Read entire poem at

The Sacrifice Continues..

Blazing heat…sand blowing…heart pounding…not knowing

To have that kind of courage and the will to make a change

To live in a place that is distant, dry and strange

I can’t imagine being there to face my greatest fears

Leaving home and family, my comforts and my peers

God bless the men and women who do it every day

Our American heroes, the ones who lead the way

Posted on Caren Libby

Write a Personal Memoir for a Veteran who Died for our Freedom
found on The Story Woman

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the Gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the mornings hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.

Author Unknown

The Story Woman says, “Write a bio-vignette to Honor our sons and daughters who have served our Great Country in the name of Freedom the World over.

As a young boy sitting on Uncle’s lap
My mind was blown as he took me back
With tales of men of valor who
Fought with him in world war two.

Young men, scared men, hearts pounding, guts clenched-
Pushing forward on the front as comrades fell in blood drenched.

The highest prize was at stake,
Our freedom a tyrant wanted to take-
But courageous hearts of those who would be free-
Enough to lay down their lives if need be,

They fought through the terror, the horror of that war
They brought down the giant who would have made us his whore.

My Uncle told stories that no one should have to hear
Let alone to have lived them, he often said with a tear.
Many never made it back to their families and homeland
Some made it back missing arms, legs and hands.

I’ll never forget what brave souls did for me
They cried and they died so you and I could be free.

by Glenn Buttkus of Feel Free to Read

By the bus load
they rolled into Balboa,
their asses shot off,
carried roughly on taunt khaki stretchers.

Weary eyes
that wore a planet’s pain;
their heads shaved,
their underwear stenciled,
their blood spilling in little puddles
in quiet green hallways.

Cripples all,
they limped and wheeled,
hobbled and crept
through all of the limbs
of the gray octopus
military hospital;
within wire fences,
beneath post card palms,
gathering up gobs
of their old selves.

Metal and plastic and airplane glue
became tendons.
Canes, crutches, and chrome prosthetics
became new legs.
Empty pinned shirt sleeves
caught the ocean breeze
like sad May pole streamers,
a melancholy tune.

There were white jagged scars
running over the bodies of menl
ike angry dead veins,
hard to hide,
those inside.

The doctors, nurses, and corpsmen
raged through the sterile wards,
and their insane anger was leveled
like a loaded rifle
at the patients.

For Christ’s sake,
the patients;
that dull thick red river of broken men;
damn goldbrick sonofabitches.
Make sure that those lazy bastards
shined their shoes,
and cut all their hair,
just scrape their heads bald;
filthy germ-ridden hair.
Geld them,
stab them,
break and slice them;
deny them comfort,
harass them,
give them pain
and then give them aspirin,
only aspirin.

They must get their minds right.
Shake them from their fitful slumber,
and stand them at attention.
They are just meat,
infintesimal maimed expendable insignificant
protoplasmal service numbers,
and they are not useful
when bedridden.
Those slackers must not stay.
They must go back,
back to the front…
they must.

The men and boys of pain
absorbed the anger,
heard the words,
suffered the scapel,
took the aspirin,
shined their boots,
cut and recut their hair,
stood at rigid attention,
and they did not

Glenn Buttkus 1968

by Glenn Buttkus of Feel Free to Read

Ferns and creepers rustled softly
as a crisp breeze gently tousled
the hair of the hanging man.

in the mud,
a soldier in a foxhole
peered over the lip
and there in the moonlight
was a man on a cross

The crucified one hung there
in silent agony;
another man on a cross
seekingdown a road of sorrow
in a world of pain;
red pain,
sunset orange, yellow, and deep red.

Rusty railroad spikes in his hands,
the flesh split,
he would not let loose
of life;
though it raced ahead of him
in the darkness.

The soldier had watched
for several days,
but dared not
cross to the other,
over a hundred lethal yards
of barren ground
to the death that crouched there
with the Mongols
that also waited.

the silence was sliced open
with a burst of M-16 rifle fire,
and the thing on the cross
no longer quite a man,
was slashed to ribbons;
the lead searing through
his loin and chest.

The last flicker of life
rushed from him,
red-washing his limbs
and the greasy wood.

The man in the trench
felt himself tremble,
felt the tears on his dirty cheek,
as he heard the blood birds shriek
and the night became full
of their flapping.

Glenn Buttkus 1968


by Glenn Buttkus of Feel Free to Read

Bogie and the Duke
never made a war movie together,
and that’s a damned shame;
it would have been
a proper piece of propaganda.

is always so clean
on the silver screen.
Explosions are intense rainbows,
tramping troops start toes tapping.
Great machines of war on wheels
and tracks of steel,
groan and roll,
clang and bang,
crushing foreign soil
and foreign devils beneath them.

Actors in pancake make-up,
carrying toy guns,
recite bellicose bullshit,
wearing the masks of heroes,
and the blood
on their hands and faces
is merely strawberry jam.

But the problem is,
in those darkened theatres
battalions of boys believed
in the ersatz brutality,
and found themselves
in Viet Nam.

The Freedom Birds,
screaming jet liners,
took them there,
and for those who survived
Tour 365,
and remained somewhat
brought them home again,
with the steaming blood
of the Orient
still clinging to their swollen lips.

to work in their Dad’s
hardware store, lumber yard or machine shop,
with the stench of the ‘Nam
still strong in their nostrils.

They remembered
how proud their fathers had been
sending them off to war;
and how,
their only embrace
was stone silence.

Warriors walking
the streets
of every city in America,
hundreds of thousands of them,
with their fists clenched
and their minds still scrambled
from that Soc Trang overload.

and waiting,
year after year,
clear into their bones,
with society’s spittle
down the front of their dress uniforms.

There it is.

There were no parades,
no handshakes,
no welcome home dinners,
no easy bank loans,
no talk of valor.

The calloused fact is
pain can only be withheld
for so long.

War creates warriors,
and not all of them
are willing to lay down
their weapons.

Glenn Buttkus 1979

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Prestwood School Fifth-Graders take to airwaves with own Earth Day poetry - Sonoma, CA

Teachers at Prestwood School's 5th grade class chose 22 students to read their poems on KSVY 91.3 Sonoma Wednesday; poems the students wrote for the annual River of Words poetry contest. I'm sorry I missed this radio program. Good on you, KSVY 91.3!

Reading and writing poetry are part of a language arts program at Prestwood and students are given 5 poetry lessons a year starting in the 3rd grade! This is great stuff, folks. And get this - this poetry program is paid for by using PTO funds due to budget crunch we're all undergoing these days. So, kudos go to you, too, Prestwood PTO!

Sonoma Valley Sun
is running the following poem by Francisco Cervantes-Escatel (your poem reveals a soul beyond your physical age, Francisco. Super job! Keep writing, honey!) in the article:

Butterflies Soar

All over the world
butterflies are born
Chalcedon checkerspot
drifting through the air
eating from plants
fluttering by
great spangled fritillary larva
hiding from animals.
I gaze down to nature.

by Francisco Cervantes-Escatel, Prestwood Elementary School

Prestwood is also lucky to have poet-teacher Phyllis Meshulam on-board teaching these poetry classes for the past several years. Meshulam is an independent contractor working with California Poets in the Schools, which just celebrated 45 year anni with the school system.

The River of Words poetry contest had the students concentrating their efforts on water and nature themes which tied in to lessons on the environment and earth's watersheds. Watershed art and poetry submitted to River of Words is seen around the world by millions of people in magazines, books, in person, and through other media.

2007 River of Words Monkey's Raincoat Haiku Prize

The Four Seasons

All of the seasons
Are spent mastering the form
None call it easy

Ashley Lopez, age 10
La Ballona Star School
Paramount, Calif.

Response to the Loyalty Oath

I copped this at Feel Free to Read (no, that's not Feel Free to Steal; always give credit to the original author and/or blogger, please. This has been a free public service announcement..;>), the blog of Glenn Buttkus, who is a genius for sifting through the annuls of literary history for the most interesting items for our continued reading pleasure, I swear! Thank you, Glenn, for providing cyberland with a fantastic repository for (most) all things prose & poetry! This piece by Jack Spicer is a brilliant discourse on the nincompoopery of loyalty oaths:

[Response to the Loyalty Oath]

by Jack Spicer

We, the Research Assistants and Teaching Assistants of the University of California, wish to register our protest against the new loyalty oath for the following reasons.

1) The testing of a University faculty by oath is a stupid and insulting procedure. If this oath is to have the effect of eliminating Communists from the faculty, we might as logically eliminate murderers from the faculty by forcing every faculty member to sign an oath saying that he has never committed murder.

2) That such an oath is more dangerous to the liberties of the community than any number of active Communists should be obvious to any student of history. Liberty and democracy are more often overthrown by fear than by stealth. Only countries such as Russia or Spain have institutions so weak and unhealthy that they must be protected by terror.

3) Oaths and other forms of blackmail are destructive to the free working of man's intellect. Since the early Middle Ages universities have zealously guarded their intellectual freedom and have made use of its power to help create the world we know today. The oath that Galileo was forced by the Inquisition to swear is but a distant cousin to the oath we are asked to swear today, but both represent the struggle of the blind and powerful against the minds of free men.

We, who will inherit the branches of learning that one thousand years of free universities have helped to generate, are not Communists and dislike the oath for the same reason we dislike Communism. Both breed stupidity and indignity; both threaten our personal and intellectual freedom.
[c. 1949]

This letter cost Spicer his job.
Published over on the Poetry Foundation
Source: Poetry (July/August 2008).

Student's poetry event will benefit American Kidney Foundation - NY

Tonight, in the Town of Ulster, the Catskill High School Interact Club will put on a "Night of Poetry and Song" at 6:30pm in the Barnes & Noble book store on Ulster Avenue. The students plan on reciting original and interpretive poetry readings in honor of William Shakespeare's birthday.  The poetry and song venue will benefit the American Kidney Foundation and former Catskill High School graduate Jedediah Berry who will read from his novel Manual of Detection at the venue tonight, as well as sign his book that will be on sale at the "Night of Poetry and Song" venue. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tips for Editing Poetry

Angela Saunders, BellaOnline's Poetry Editor, has a great, informative post up entitled, "Tips for Editing Poetry," which is just the kind of how-to information a poet starting-out is likely to find very helpful (as well as those brushing up on their craft.. ;>) Here's a snippet:
"In writing classes, we were bombarded with the five step writing process: prewriting, writing, editing, revising, and publishing. The writing process for poetry is much the same. Write down initial feelings and thoughts; choose a format and begin writing; read and edit; prepare your final draft. The differences in the writing process for stories and poems is in the editing. If you were to write a story, the proofreading would include grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and tense agreement. Additionally, you would take into consideration the flow of thoughts and the details in the story. In poetry, the editing process involves reading for “meter",“tone” , word choice, and style."
Saunders further offers up a poem, The One That Got Away (for a readership of fisherman), for which the author had provided 4 different edited versions!

Before editing:

The one that got away- A Fish Tale

Eased up to my old cypress tree,
hoping the big one was waiting on me.

Hooked one on my very first cast,
taking out line, he was running fast.

Rod was bent, drag was screeching,
Old Mr. Bass was doing the teaching.

He came up top, tried to shake loose
then dove down deep, knew it wasn't no use.

He headed for the timber
and that's the last I remember

about the one that got away.
Not to worry, I'll be back another day.
--Bill Jenkins--

Now, of course, Saunders does provide, in great detail, the process used for accomplishing this poetry "haircut" which you must read! It's (en)lightening! (Less hair - get it? heh heh.. ohnevermind..:)
"If we look at the point of the poem, it is a fish tale about the one that got away. The poem describes in detail how he got away, but it is missing the feeling and the tone that descries the disappointment associated with losing the big one. Its like building up a joke, but the punch line is missing. Additionally, the tone is a bit serious. If we look at the poem and its meaning, we can, as Bill Jenkins, the author of the poem stated- "experiment with words and phrases just as if putting together a jigsaw puzzle." After editing, the same poem became:"
After editing:

Hooked 'em on my very first cast
takin' out line, he was runnin' fast

Ole' Mr. Bass was doin' the teachin'
The rod was bent an' the drag was a-screechin'

A fight did he give as he came up to the top
He shook and then dove, refusin' to stop

To the timber he headed, no more can I say
I'd lost the battle; that one got away

Fear not, I'll return to that ol' Cypress tree
Mr. Bass hasn't see the last of me!
--Bill Jenkins--

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

WE KNOW YOU'RE OUT THERE! - Come out! Come out! Wherever you are! Pretty please?!?

Story running the other day about the 43-year-old literary organization International Poetry Forum being on the ropes. What the Forum needs is a benefactor who will ensure that the Forum doesn't have to close its doors -any time soon. Founder and Director of the organization, Samuel Hazo, last week said that it's "possible that somehow we'll get the support to exist in some form." Right now Hazo is looking inside and outside the Pittsburgh area for support but aside from finishing the season at the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall on Tuesday at 8 pm, he has no next move. Hazo had announced in February that the lack of new funding has forced him to drop plans for a 44th season unless something turns up.

May I
suggest a kind benefactor step out from the shadows to fund the International Poetry Forum - and become a modern-day hero to the Arts?

The Forum's heyday was in the '80s when Hazo expanded beyond poetry readings into musical, dance and plays, starring the likes of Gregory Peck, James Earl Jones, Princess Grace of Monaco, Vanessa Redgrave, Cleo Laine and Michael York to the Pittsburgh stage, and then brought its program to Washington, D.C., including the stage at Wolf Trap. "The 20th anniversary gala sparkled with Jerzy Kosinski as master of ceremonies and former U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy" among the performing poets. Hazo also "launched the long-running Poets in the Schools program that reaches high schools in five counties around Pittsburgh."

During all this time, Samuel Hazo was also writing -- "poems, plays and novels, more than 35 books. In his 80th year, he published two books, This Part of the World, his 5th novel, and The Song of the Horse, a collection of poems."

However, for the past 23 years, the International Poetry Forum has contracted, offering fewer and fewer big-ticket draws which resulted in the cancellation of its Washington, D.C. schedule; but Hazo never lost his mission of showcasing the best poets in the face of growing expenses and shrinking cash for arts organizations.

"This year, it went dry."

Samuel Hazo has devoted the last 43 years to the art of poetry; his office is surrounded by photos of the finest poets in America of the past 50 years, more than 500 readings, including Archibald MacLeish in 1966. This is Hazo's legacy, a remarkable and stellar place in American letters that he built in Pittsburgh that he can look back on with pride and satisfaction.

This is my call-out for a kind, benevolent benefactor to fund the International Poetry Forum to keep POETRY - front and center - in the nation's conscience!

Sketch by Matthew Anderson; annotation is the author's handiwork..:)

Poetry for the People - BERKELEY, CA

Daughter of Puerto Rican sculptor-singer Anna de Leon and African American blues musician Taj Mahal, Aya de Leon is a poet, a UC Berkeley African American studies professor, activist and Harvard graduate. de Leon is also coordinator of a campus-to-community partnership called Poetry for the People (P4P). [Not to be confused with Poetmeister 4 Poets! (P4P), mind you..;>] Poetry for the People at UC Berkeley is an arts activism program started by the late Jamaican poet June Jordan (b. 1939, d. 2002), in 1991. For, de Leon, the gist and heart of Poetry for the People is helping people to express their creativity, which to her means to find your own voice, how to craft strong work and stay true to yourself. The partnership brings nationally known poets in from the East Coast to perform on campus and introduce them to the community.

"I believe everybody has passion about creativity in one way or another. But I know that came from her (mother): the thought that I could do it, that it was a real life. This is part of what I tell my students. A lot of people think, "Oh, well creativity is fine, but then you know, you gotta get a real job. You've got to be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer." And I think, in watching my mom, I understood that art is a real job."

Check out Poetry for the People for their schedule of upcoming events. On her site, de Leon writes that "P4P continued to pursue Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision of a beloved community for all. P4P has an academic focus on the reading, writing and teaching of poetry. The program also bridges the gap between the university and the larger community, working with teens and young adults, schools, community organizations, and activist projects in the greater Bay Area. This Spring, join us at La Pena every Third Thursday!"

Next up is April 16th National Poetry Month showcase: a multi-generational poetry conversation featuring: American Book Award winner, Coptic poet Matthew Shenoda & John Carlos Perea on bass former P4P Director, poet Maiana Minahal, Hip hop artist and activist Ras K'Dee & dj offering (teao-audiopharmacy), DJ Munkee Pants, plus local artists, Poetry for the People poets, and special guests!

B There or B Square!