NaPoWriMo#10: Pantoum for 1979

afrika bambaataa
Originally uploaded by Foxtongue

I’m really not entering new territory here with this pantoum but it was one of the writing exercises from my poetry class today at Berkeley City College and I feel it works well on its own.

We started today’s class by talking about “Speech Act” and the fact that two-thirds of the class needed to be enlightened about how what we say and how we say it can impact the world around us has me wondering how people can enter a poetry class and not think about its consequences.  We then moved on to a discussion of Kim Addonizio’s pantoum “My Childhood.” I wasn’t exactly feelin’ this poem.  It was way too vague with the details and didn’t do what I like my pantoums to do: wrestle with memory.  Addonizio’s poem felt more like a passing encounter with memory.

My memory still wrestles with how hip-hop actually became hip-hop. I also gotta say that Tara Betts’ AWP speech on how Hip-Hop is a part of the Republic of Poetry and hearing John Murillo read selections from his debut collection Up Jump the Boogie are both still with me and have me digging deeper into how early hip-hop is such a deep part of poetic aesthetic.

Pantoum for 1979

[Poem was here now published in Bestiary, Issue Two: Hip-Hop.]

NaPoWriMo #9: City of Ash, View from the Corner

AWP has me behind on my Poem-a-Day challenge but I’m sure I can catch up. Here is a poem written after María Luisa Artecona de Thompson’s “Ciudad de cielo, a las cuatro.” I’ve done an extended translation of the refrain “por un instante” to mimic the density of City. If it stays or not will be a question of revision but here is the poem for now:

City of Ash, View from the Corner

[Poem was here.]

NaPoWriMo #7: An Open Letter to AWP

Poetry isn’t all about writing poems. Revision, reading other people’s work, having a happy life, working on oration, enjoying some sun outside, and a brunch at the fabulous Dottie’s True Blue should also be a part of the poem. Well, I try to make it a part of my poetries.

Oops, forgot one thing: continuing education. All the best poets I know are always trying to make themselves better poets in some way or another. In that same vein, I’m heading to AWP to continue on with my education. Let me stop know and jump to the poem (of sorts) for today:

Dear AWP,

What up! I’ve heard lots about you over the years, some good stuff and some bad stuff, but my father always told me believe only half what your eyes see and nothing you hear. With that dicho in mind, I’m heading to you this year to find out for myself what you are all about.

Some things about me, I’m a poet in the process of composing a manuscript that will be published by a sound press with good editorial feedback, keen attention to layout and typesetting, and a crack art team that will help make literary art into artifact. All this so I can have my poems be available in a variety of public libraries so teachers from various education levels can share my work with their students. I know, it’s a big order to fill which is why I’m coming to you, AWP, so you can help me get to the publishing stage of the poetry game.

I’m coming to Denver so I can have more access to published writers and learn more about my chosen craft. Here is the tricky part, poets are not wonderful, beautiful, perfect artists with all the answers to enlightenment. No, they’re regular people; a few are truly special, some are just asses and most are somewhere in between. It’s not your bad, AWP, you are just the big open playground and the poets are the schoolkids playing inside of ya. You can’t tell em how to act write or even decent, you can only give em a chance to be who they are.

So I best address some of those poets and lay down some of the rules in my part of the sandbox. AWP poets, I know who I am and where I am at in my development. I know who some of you are and what your work is. In some lucky cases, I know a few of you really well and I can’t wait to reconnect–talk smack, see how we’ve grown as people and, oh yeah, talk poetry.

For the ones I don’t know personally, it’ll be a pleasure to meet some of you in person. I’ve read your work and maybe even read your blogs and am a big admirer. I know AWP is a busy time but it’d be nice if we can connect for just a second so that I can place a face with a reputation.

Now if you don’t have time, cool. Maybe next time. But if you try to blow me off or try to shake me down for credentials first, we are not going to be cool. If you try to pressure me into buying a book, I’ma say “No.” It’s not cuz I don’t want to support other artists, it’s only cuz I come from the land of 100 used bookstores and SPD. I also have a super long To Read list, it’s embarrassingly long so I’m not going to add to it. I also can’t really afford it, I’m going to AWP on my own dime (no program to help pay my way) and need to save money so I can partake of Denver’s good eateries.

AWP poets, please don’t perpetuate the bad stuff I’ve heard about AWP. Don’t be going around asking editors why they didn’t publish your work in big open spaces- it’s rude. Don’t be smug cuz you don’t want to waste time with someone who doesn’t have the right pedigree- it’s elitists. Don’t be a random hater who’s pissed cuz your entitlement dreams haven’t come true- it’s delusional. Don’t base friendship on books bought and sold- it’s capitalist and inherently unpoetic. Don’t dance poorly on the dancefloor- just move left and right with a little arm shuffle; it’ll be a’ight. Don’t polarize poetry into two simple base camps in constant war- see Season Four of LOST for more info. Don’t think being a poet gives you some special rights- it’s crass. Do share your knowledge, do make some time, do be open to differing opinions; live up to the title, be a poet.

I’ll try to do the same and if we can, I wouldn’t mind sharing some work with y’all. I have chapbooks I’d love to trade in kind for. Gift economy is the new black, ya know.

AWP, let’s have some fun, let’s learn together, let’s make more poetry. I believe all these things can happen. Besides, if they don’t, I’ll out you on heavy blast with names, dates, and places marked down on this blog. Name the harm, it’s what’s for dinner.


NaPoWriMo #6: Aubade–Anywhere Avenue

Piece of free advice for everyone participating in National Poetry Month’s Poem-A-Day challenge: When in doubt, let form be your friend.

This would be my first attempt at an aubade, probably because the division between day and night in the NYC of my memory can be a real thin line. Thinking about it now, I should probably write an aubade based around all the times I would go out dancing with my friends and keep clubbing until we heard the strains of three songs that said it was time to go. In order, it would probably be Aly-Us’ “Follow Me” then Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and the song that said You don’t gotta go home but you best get outta here was Heatwave’s “Always and Forever.” If you heard these three songs in sequence, then it was time to either find the underground after-party or a good diner for some Disco Fries.

On the same musical note, I think it is high-la-ree-us that Wikipedia’s definition of aubade includes references to Eagle Eye Cherry’s “Save Tonight” and Jack Johnson’s “Banana Pancakes”. You best believe that if I get a chance to teach some formal poetry, I will be including both those songs in my curriculum.

And now, the poem:

Aubade–Anywhere Avenue

[Poem was here.]