Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Ars Poetica by Deborah Jordan, Chuck Stringer and 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

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
Poetry is.

Deborah Jordan


Stringer, Chuck Ars Poetica, A Shadow Manifesto***

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”)


Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Poems by Jerry Judge, Bea Wissel and Aralee Strange

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.

Bea Wissel


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
be quiet
who teaches you?

teeth on the real
saying grace
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
Trust Jesus

no crybabies

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!)

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Across the Atlantic by Annie HInkle

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 —
my mother
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,
a dream,
which never did
I could tell
from the look in her eyes
she gave
to the photos
she kept of people
boarding the boat,
suspended on paper
in her dresser drawer.

Despite this,
despite no mother to accompany her
and the eventual burn of my birth,
she gave me everything
she could

theatre, dance,
books, art,
ice skating in parks,
my piano,

and everything she couldn’t

time in the kitchen.

Only dark mornings,
her head in her hands,
over a cold bowl,
while staring
into silence,
her sustenance.

I stock my own kitchen
with everything we did not have

nesting bowls,
measuring cups
and spoons,
peelers and graters,
ricers and sifters,
bread pans,
muffin tins,
fine china,
the seder plate,

This Thanksgiving,
everyone can come,
my own children and theirs
returning to the table
I always set for them.
The cranberries
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,
tart fruit
thick and dizzying

a faint train
across a continent.

Annie Hinkle

Published in Blue Lyra Review

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Broken by Richard Hague

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
repaired, all
the monsters
transformed. The gun
held on me
becomes a brilliant
green snake
braceleting the arm
of the robber.
Do not
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
by beauty.

Richard Hague

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Downtown Walking by Preeti Parikh

Did I mention I loved sonnets? Yes, I believe I did! Preeti Parikh of Blue Ash wrote this lovely poem while participating in a Cincinnati Walking Sonnet workshops, starting off from the Mercantile Library. I invite you to read more of these at my page devoted to the Cincinnati Walking Sonnet Project and to try one on your own. Keep an eye out for upcoming workshops—I’m scheming up a Cincinnati Streetcar Sonnet Workshop for the summer. In the meantime, come hear Preeti read this poem tonight, April 26, 7 pm at the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading  at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine.

Downtown Walking

Hot dog stand-smell, a red and white canopy;
up in the wrought iron balconies, four ashen-
faced figurines in white robes and shawls,
their long skeletal fingers beseeching;
a sign on a storefront says–Safeguarding
the children–elsewhere–Divine love always has
met and always will meet every human need;
a homeless man, an etching in a stone facade;
a pink lotus on a green leaf (Saigon Subs and Rolls);
cascading rows of seats in the Paul Brown Stadium;
mounting traffic noise, a well dressed man asking
for spare change. I balk, clam up, walk back past
four porcelain doll jars with fancy hats for lids, and
balloons at the Square–primary colors, primary needs.

Preeti Parikh

Previously published online here.


Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Dear Heroin by Connie Murray

Here is a poem by Connie Murray (soon Hughes) of Florence, Kentucky on the difficult issue of addiction in our community. It is forthcoming in Connie’s second chapbook, The Mirror.


Dear Heroin

Thank you
Thank you for taking
the pain away
Our beloved
have happily succumbed
to your relief
The train track is
very clearly
spelled out
across our arms
We have reached
our destination


Dear Narcan

Your appearance
brings hope
it is only
a temporary
to a definitive
the grass
is SO
much greener
on the other side
Please step aside

Bob Marley

Connie Hughes

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Ghazal of the Lutanist by John Drury

Yesterday a sonnet, today a ghazal by poet and University of Cincinnati professor John Drury, also of North Avondale (and our sonnet writer LaWanda Walter’s husband.) John will read his poetry at the Cincinnati Library’s Poetry in the Garden Series on April 25, 7 pm in the Downtown Library.) Notice how each couplet’s refrain is made fresh with each repetition.

Ghazal of the Lutanist

Ever Dowland, ever doleful, the lutanist says come again
to melancholy, whether he’s silent or plays “Come Again.”

Invitations that mention “deadly pain” and wail “out, alas”
won’t seduce anyone but a masochist who prays Come! Again!

Torches at court leave shadows for uneasy liaisons,
dark rooms where ladies-in-waiting, in silent lays, come again.

Courtiers whisper on back stairs, place notes in ruffled sleeves,
but the lutanist can’t catch the phrase. Come again?

The page rubs his eyes before stretching gut strings along the lute
and poking around for the tuning peg’s eye. Dark days come again.

When panes of leaded glass fill like goblets with tinted light,
John is fingering scales on his lute as sun rays come again.

John Drury

The poem first appeared in Able Muse (Summer 2011) and was reprinted in John’s most recent book, Sea Level Rising (Able Muse Press, 2015). The book’s website includes a video in which the poet’s reading of the poem is accompanied by lutanist Rodney Stucky playing pieces by Dowland. Here’s the link.

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine