What better way to spend the first full day of fall but among the trees! Thanks to everybody who came out to Everbody Let’s Write! at Everybody’s Treehouse, and to Ellen Austin-Li for sharing her lovely poem on her blog, and letting me share it here: House of Trees. Perhaps there will be time for an early spring repeat before my tenure as Cincinnati Poet Laureate ends on April 1, 2018.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to write with a fine group of artists at Dunham Recreation Center, just about a year after my first visit to the to the center’s afterschool program. Founded by Arnelle Dowin 2006, Art4Artists is a group of novice, semi-professional and professional women artists who meet regularly to support each other’s creative endeavors and explore new techniques and ideas. For more information and to join Art4Artists, please call the Dunham Center at 513-251-5862. The group is filled with talented practicing and retired art teachers, artists and arts enthusiasts. And some fine writers, too! We used former Kentucky Poet Laureate George Ella Lyon’s prompt, “I am from,” and will be sending our group creation off to her “I AM FROM project,” which aims to build a quilt, a scroll, a multimedia display, a swell of voices, a collection of poems in celebration of the diversity and beauty of who we are.”
We Are From: Art for Artists, 2017
I am from a blank canvas,
from the typewriter set up
in my mother’s kitchen,
from bright colored fabric and shiny beads,
from the country attic where
obsolete treasures lived,
from the vegetable garden in the summer,
from a hand gliding over big boards,
flour dust flying in the air.
I am from that girl,
the one who called herself
writer, artist, gardener, cook,
from the space she held to grow into.
It is like a trail through my memories,
which shoots straight and sharply
through my town, my life, my thoughts.
I am from struggling children
and a nation divided,
from tall scary people all in black,
So long ago, it seems familiar.
The streets are filled with too many ghosts.
What a strange journey through time.
I am from a life reinvented,
floating in and out of fog and clarity
and plunging in again,
from a long hard slog to make my way
through scrambled streets with cul-de-sacs,
from a towering blue spruce
that mocks my journey.
I am from many steps,
the ones I tumbled down
grabbing life, reclaiming fears,
pursuing and abandoning perfection.
I am from the nest of peace
I have made of my home,
from the joy of dirt and rocks,
the delight of sun and moon,
from quiet Friends and deep meditation,
from the “see you later, welcome home”
barking of the dogs,
from the sweet shade of the same old trees.
All in all, a pretty good life.
I am here.
Now in my 50s,
By Art4Artists Participants: Sue Brungs, Pat Bruns, Mo Conlan, Carole Douglas, Arnelle Dow, Mary Hennigan, Vivian Kline, Sally Murray, Pat Ostenkamp and Carolyn Stewart with Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel.
Dunham Recreation Center
August 15, 2017
Composed by Pauletta Hansel
What’s up next for the Poet Laureate (you may ask)? Everybody Let’s Write at Everybody’s Treehouse in Mt Airy Forest, Ohio’s only wheelchair accessible treehouse, on Saturday September 23 from 10-noon. More info here and on Facebook.
If you happened to be driving around Hyde Park on April 10, you might have seen a swarm of students with notebooks roaming the streets. That was teacher Andrea Rotter’s Creative Writing Class doing a Cincinnati Walking Sonnet Walk! The poem that follows is composed of lines each of us wrote as we wandered through the neighborhood. We hope this inspires you to write your way through your own or any of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods. Click here to read other examples of Cincinnati Walking Sonnets by other poets. Instructions for composing your own Cincinnati Walking Sonnet can be found here.
Keep an eye out for an announcement for a “Cincinnati Streetcar Sonnet” workshop on some steamy July or August Sunday—an air-conditioned version of the Walking Sonnet, wherein we substitute streetcar stops for blocks to get our eight blocks forward before the “volta” and six blocks back. In the meantime, as Clark students head off on summer break, we hope you enjoy our poem:
Clark to Clark—A Sonnet Walk x 2
Beginning in the east, ending in the west,
us kids are powerwalking through her hood.
We speed past, missing the house for sale,
smell of sweet flowers, musical wind chimes,
plastic bag flying through the air, trash all
the way. Some sidewalks are like people, cracked,
broken and damaged. A drum tempo makes
a heartbeat in the wind when you 180
back the way you came. Ivy creeps closer,
threatening entangled ankles, rosebud trees
rising up against the unknown. April
is the cruelest month, says the man waving
American flags, the white stark against
the parade of blue shining in the light.
Trees without leaves give the leaf blower no
job. Birds chirping a weird birdish sound, cars
driving, children playing and water sprinkling
the blue blob drawn in chalk on the playground
blacktop. Redeemer Preschool, not a kid
in sight, but a dead mouse on the sidewalk.
We’re in Hyde Park, so of course it is Black,
the wind that made me feel powerful too
as if I was the one to change the world.
A nice, neighborly man with sprinklers
to help the heat tells me of poems I don’t
recall. This is me leaving my high school.
Nothing will stop me from wanting to be home.
Wherever I go, this is where I’m from.
Andrea Rotter’s Creative Writing Class
Compiled by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel
Ars poetica poems are a time-honored tradition within poetry. What is this thing we call “the art of poetry”? In what particular way does poetry matter to us? For the final day of Cincinnati Poetry Month, I offer three explorations of the subject, by Deborah Jordan of East Price Hill, Chuck Stringer of Union, Kentucky, and by me. It has been an honor sharing the poetry of greater Cincinnati with you. Remember that Poetry Month is not the only time of year that we make poetry happen! I hope you will continue to use the Poet Laureate of Cincinnati Events Group to connect to poetry and through poetry. I look forward to hearing your words at a reading soon.
Poetry is about words
encased in feathers and cement.
Poetry is pulling the blinds up on the unexpected
to stare in wonder at a moonlit-shrouded day.
Poetry lies in wait,
invites us to see what’s missing,
barges into our precious privacy,
dissolving it into particles.
Poetry can electrify, stupefy, mortify, and soothe.
Poetry is proof
that we’re practicing being human
Of What We Make Our Poems
Ink, of course, and flecks of skin
on paper remind us who we
are is hatched from who we were,
this film of self now covering
who we will be. Locks of our
mothers’ hair; whiskers plucked,
roots intact, from our fathers’ chins.
And too, our poems are like
our houses. They want more of
us than we had planned to give
them—this one begs for a new
room, a door where we’d framed a
window; another pushes against
rafters, opens us to sky.
No matter what we say, our
poems are not our children.
They quicken outside our bodies,
run from us before they speak.
One poet I knew made his
of river rock and the black
longing between stars. I’ll make
my poems of silence stitched with words.
Pauletta Hansel, from Tangle
(After Jean Nordhaus’s “Of What Do We Make our Homes”)
For this, the penultimate day of Poetry Month, I offer three celebratory poems, two by Greater Cincinnati Writers League members, Jerry Judge of Finneytown and Bea Wissel of Mt Lookout, and one by the late and much missed Aralee Strange. Jerry’s poem is a palindrome, in that it is the same poem backwards and forward, with a lovely twist of meaning in the final stanza’s reversal. Bea’s poem is a sort of jazz poem—I suggest you read it (and all poems!) aloud for the sheer joy of language. And Aralee’s poem–what can I say? It is a dance with the Muse.
How to Celebrate Life
Dance in the wind like a freed butterfly,
drink from your childhood cup, and
race with the legs you remember.
Ask what you always wanted –
listen with ears that can hear.
Close your eyes and erase
all the shame, all the anger.
Imagine yourself praying.
All the shame, all the anger,
close your eyes and erase.
Listen with ears that can hear –
ask what you always wanted.
Race with the legs you remember,
drink from your childhood cup, and
dance in the wind like a freed butterfly.
Jerry Judge (Previously published in Best of 2010 Ohio Poetry Day)
Aloha from the Liminal Lua!
All this largeness, it’s a headwrecker.
Rinky-dink days not even breaking a slouch.
Fritos and fancy-free, foxtrotting in furry slippers,
making pink boudoir eyes, painting on silky slink,
why howdoyado, so pleased to be of pleasure—
note my husky dipping tenor; I’m dripping like honey.
I fritter prettily, play possum, swan around
in a terrycloth turban, bathed in floating
dust motes winking like sequins, I bubble effusively
and inspect the fridge at regular intervals-the almond milk
won’t dare make a run for it on my watch.
Then, ashing away the afternoon, releasing
slow poison in showy smoke streams—
me and the dog, shrill, barking at the sockets, hearing
the electricity snickering in the walls, we are rampant,
wandering, sockless, a restless recipe.
The mirror quibbles, disastrous hair frizz
protests my kinesis, has decided to picket.
I window whittle ‘till I’m woozy and the trees
wave back warning or winking—it’s never easy to decipher.
Violently still or softly speeding?
Surrounded or safely sealed in plastic?
I’ve lost the wrapper.
Where precisely in space is the locus
of my leaching reach? Meandering, cryptic,
accordion noodle of time on the rocks, unfurling hinky,
crumbling within my grasp. I’m starting to suspect
these instruments of meter and measure
have always been defective and I’ve got a bad case
of immensity. In other words, a lemon kind of feeling,
like sucking on a lightbulb—
bright slice of a bitter bud blooming
acerbic slurpy sunshine, acid-slap
ray of pucker up, buttercup.
Darn this laughter volcano of nothingness,
threatening to warp the blackness in me
with a dayglow beam of pure blind might.
spelling it out
you enter through the start of something intuitive
it’s what stirs under every starry-eyed experience
lights with a breath you can’t help
the emerging narrative
you need some avid minds around
you need mass illusion and myth
time/space & detox
and in one miracle minute blinding light!
you can can write stuff
you maintain top safe speed momentum
you are all ova that mind reeling what if infusion
rising from uneasy dreams looking for your voice
the eye of unmitigated ramifications
step into the center
shall we dance?
in this corner in all black go-go coda
mouthing the words Out Loud
the one secret life you’ve been missing
boldly going where things are happening one more time
that far downtown
get a Ha-ha to survive the encounters with One Way
suffer all the turn-ons engaged in phony today
who teaches you?
teeth on the real
all you can see is resistance to the loss blooms at night
the deep breath hands-on muse pool magic hour sayonara
the essence of near intrepid rescues from the crowd
prepare to cave
frame by frame
admit one rude thing
get fiercely unstrung
if you’re lucky
bada bing bada bomb
you go mmmmmm
could be happy now
Aralee Strange (Originally posted on the Athens Word of Mouth site. Cincinnati’s monthly Word of Mouth Open/Feature Reading, last Tuesday of the month at MOTR Pub, was founded in Aralee’s honor. We miss you, dear one!)
Annie Hinkle of Pleasant Ridge is a poet, memoirist, essayist and teacher whose poetry chapbook, Composition Studies came out last year. She offers this timely and timeless poem about immigration.
Across the Atlantic
— 1945 —
sailed to become an American woman
to wear white gloves and pearls,
to shop, work, and marry
in a city
on a river
promised to look like the Rhine,
which never did
I could tell
from the look in her eyes
to the photos
she kept of people
boarding the boat,
suspended on paper
in her dresser drawer.
despite no mother to accompany her
and the eventual burn of my birth,
she gave me everything
ice skating in parks,
and everything she couldn’t
time in the kitchen.
Only dark mornings,
her head in her hands,
over a cold bowl,
I stock my own kitchen
with everything we did not have
peelers and graters,
ricers and sifters,
the seder plate,
everyone can come,
my own children and theirs
returning to the table
I always set for them.
are in the oven
sugared under the foil.
Soon, they will reach
a red jewel stage,
and I will lift the silver,
add the brandy
to create the sudden popping
and waft of sweet
my head over the pan,
thick and dizzying
a faint train
across a continent.
Published in Blue Lyra Review
Are you looking for a poem for “Poem in Your Pocket Day”? Here is a fine one by poet and teacher Richard Hague of Madisonville. Dick Hague shines bright among Cincinnati’s many poetry treasures. I have lost track of the number of his books of poetry and prose, but we are in double digits. This poem, a sort of blessing for dark times, is from his newest Beasts, River, Drunk Men, Garden, Burst, & Light: Sequences and Long Poems (Dos Madres Press, 2016) He is also the editor of the anthology, Realms of the Mothers: The First Decade of Dos Madres Press. Come hear him read alongside Dos Madres publisher Robert Murphy, Karen George and me on Saturday, April 29, 3 pm at the Downtown Library.
Nothing remains so. Even
soul-splitting darkest night is daily
transformed. The gun
held on me
becomes a brilliant
braceleting the arm
of the robber.
doubt that nothing
has to be the way it is:
even the gnats
a-hover over the mown toad
in the yard
spin a great veil of grief
which at any moment
may be jerked aside