Happy Poetry Month to Me!

First Poet Laureate Winner

Prolific writer and longtime resident will serve two-year term
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 1, 2016

CINCINNATI – A Paddock Hills resident whose writing has been published nationally has been selected as Cincinnati’s first Poet Laureate.

Pauletta Hansel was chosen from several applicants to fill the position. Ms. Hansel is a poet, memoirist, teacher and arts administrator who has lived in Cincinnati since 1979.

She is author of five poetry collections, most recently Tangle (Dos Madres Press, 2015). Pauletta’s writing has been featured in The Writer’s Almanac and American Life in Poetry, as well as in literary journals including Atlanta Review, Talisman,Appalachian Journal, Appalachian Heritage and Still: The Journal.

The Poet Laureate was selected by Mayor John Cranley, based upon the recommendations from a seven-person Advisory Committee that reviewed the applications. The appointee will serve a two-year term.

“Ms. Hansel’s writing is exquisite,” Mayor Cranley said. “Her poems evoke the type of emotional reaction and convey rich details that leave a lasting impression for the reader.”

To become the Poet Laureate, the person must have written poetry that exemplifies the characteristics or spirit of Cincinnati. Additionally, the Poet Laureate is expected to promote poetry appreciation, encourage the reading and writing of poetry throughout the city, as well as compose and read poems for special events.

Previously, Cincinnati had an official poet of the city. In January 2015, Vice Mayor Mann proposed reviving the position with a motion, signed by four City Council members, and renaming it as Cincinnati Poet Laureate.

Ms. Hansel has served as Writer in Residence at Thomas More College and is currently Writer in Residence at WordPlay Cincinnati. She leads writing workshops and retreats throughout Greater Cincinnati and elsewhere.

Ms. Hansel holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Human Services from Antioch University; a Master’s in Education from Xavier University; and a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Queens University in Charlotte, N.C. Also, she is managing editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary publication of the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative; is a core member of the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition and serves as a Board Member for Dos Madres Press.

Ms. Hansel lives with her husband, Owen Cramer, in Paddock Hills. A selection of her poems is attached to this release.

A formal Announcement Ceremony will be held 5:30-7 p.m. on Friday, April 15, at the Mercantile Library, 414 Walnut St., 11thfloor. The event is free and open to the public.

 

For more information, contact Elese Daniel in Vice Mayor Mann’s office at elese.daniel@cincinnati-oh.gov or (513) 352-4611

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Writing Image-based poems

Often we are drawn to write poetry because of an intense emotion or the need to explore our thoughts and feelings about a particular subject, person, memory… Rather than beginning with the abstract thought or feeling (anger, loneliness, it was fun, I miss him) try beginning with a concrete image that brings that internal emotion into the external world. By concrete image, I don’t mean only what we can see, though that too, but also what we can touch, taste, hear, or smell. I have heard it said that smell is the sense most connected with memory (and maybe that’s why realtors try to have cookies baking in houses they want to sell!) but other senses can also bring you back to previous times. The summer that song was always on the radio. The nubby couch in your first apartment. The French onion dip that was served at every party you attended in your twenties! Sometimes an image will move you to tears or joy before you are even conscious of the reason. Here are a few of short poems of mine that attempt to let the image do the emotional work. Read them and try one or both of the prompts offered below.

Longing

This morning’s dog,
the no-color of the lake
he circles in his snuffling search
for what he knows has been
before him, will come again
once he is gone. Mist rises,
freezes as it falls.
© Pauletta Hansel 2014
My Father’s Ghost

here, in the stretched shoulders
of this sweater requisitioned from his study closet
even before his death—my parents’ house
that late December cold
for my blood, my father’s
not yet thinned by drugs
and their diseases. Now
his bookshelves line my study walls,
my shoulders, where his shoulders were,
hunch over books
not his; he had small
use for poetry,
except for mine.
I scrawl notes along the margins
as if my hand were his.

Pauletta Hansel from The Lives We Live in Houses, Wind Publications 2011

Becoming My Mother

In dreams I wear your feet, twisted as roots,
each step a wrenching up from earth.

The morning hands that reach to smooth
the years around my eyes are more yours than mine.

When I was five your friends would ask where
I got my curly hair, knowing I’d say,

my mother made it, as you made our
matching dresses, rickrack at the collar and the hem.

Now the skin around our collarbones is
rumpled, its fabric loose against our frames.

Pauletta Hansel from The Lives We Live in Houses, Wind Publications 2011

Prompt 1.

With this prompt, you are working with image as metaphor. Take an abstract emotion (longing, love, joy) and brainstorm images that bring it to life. They can be memories from your own life, or drawn from things you have seen (heard, smelt, etc.) Try: “If (abstraction) were a taste it would be…. If a smell it would be….” Also look at Lisel Mueller’s wonderful, “Imaginary Paintings.

Prompt 2

Make a list of people in your life for whom you have strong emotions. Next to their names brainstorm specific sensorial experiences (images) associated with them. Examples:

Daddy             Bookshelf, easy chair, back of head in the car

Granny           Grease jar, chickens, hummingbirds at her trailer porch

Then start a poem with that image and see where it takes you! You may find yourself moving into metaphor here as well.

About Poetry and the Senses

A poem should not mean but be.” (Archibald MacLeish, Ars PoeticaOne way of understanding this quote is that a poem should allow the reader as close to a direct experience as words are able to provide. Similar, perhaps to a painting, or a piece of music. One of the best ways to do this is to engage the senses through images. Here are some of my favorite quotes about the sensorial nature of poetry:

  •  Our senses note only particular. We never see color, we see particular colors; we never just touch, we touch something….This human preference for the particular is shown in many primitive languages, which may have no word for tree but may have many words such as ‘oak’, ‘pine’, ‘maple’ and ‘elm’.” The Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry by David Mason and John Frederick Nims
  •  “Poetry for me is always a process of inquiry. If I knew what I thought, if I knew what I felt about what compels me in the world, I doubt I would write a poem. That part of our minds which makes metaphor proceeds ahead of us, and the metaphors seem to know more than we do about our emotional lives, about our ideas…. my work as a poet is to…put pressure upon those images that strike me, in order to ask them to yield their meaning. –Mark Doty in Poetry Review . [Vol 87 No 2 Summer 1997].
  •  “I always begin with an abiding image. I sit with that image and I turn it and turn it and look at it from every angle, and I write into the mystery of that image. ..They (the images) are asking something of me. They’re asking me to look beyond the surface to the bigger levels of meaning and metaphor.” –Cathy Smith Bowers
  •  Image’s concentration, like sound’s, is a field where the energies of mind and body meet… Keeping one foot braced in the physical and the other in the realm of inner experience, image enlivens both. — Jane Hirshfield, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry

My next post, Writing Image-Based Poems, will provide some ideas for using images to make poems.