Monday, January 25, 2016

As we near the deadline for our Call for Submissions, Jane and I are so pleased with the submissions so far, and we're hoping for a deluge by the middle of February. Please continue to share this link with other poets whose work you enjoy.

Today I wanted to share Karen Call's "Do Not Take My Truck," another poem of a narrative nature that appeared on Jayne Jaudon Ferrer's "Your Daily Poem" that appears in my mailbox each morning. It fits the "day in the life of..." mode in the same fashion as Viorst's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" to which the poet alludes.

The poem written in direct address to young Conner gives a picture of a small boy's day in which the concept of sharing is pushed beyond its limit.

Is this poem written for children or for adults? 
How do the details of the poem send readers right back into a kindergarten or nursery school setting?
What are the clearest memories you have of your early childhood, particularly in a similar setting? 
Do you have similar childhood memories when others pushed your good nature to its limits?
Who were the bullies you remember? the pushovers? Which were you?
How does this short poem develop the characters?
What clues give insight to Conner's teachers or caregivers? 
Why do adults sometimes fail to recognize the different perspectives of children?

I'll confess that this poem brought me back to Mrs. Powell's kindergarten, which I attended in her basement (before most elementary schools had added kindergarten). I recall my difficulty, when finger-painting, in learning to let my green trees dry before I added my red apples. I remember being cast as Mary in the Christmas play on the day we started rehearsal, but then Mrs. Powell forgot whom she cast and another girl stole my part. (I know I didn't imagine this because I met the girl again when I transferred schools in tenth grade, and she confessed and apologized.) Most clearly, I remember Donnie M., a "bad boy" who was asked to leave our class for some reason. He lived in the neighborhood, and one day we heard a knock on the door. When the teacher opened the door, there stood Donnie. He quickly sang out, "You ain't nothin' but a hound dog!" and then ran away.

I love a poem or story that makes me recall one of my own. I'll bet you do too.

*Thanks to Jayne Jaudon Ferrer for permission to share the poem on her site.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Questions for a Book Club: This Is Not Your English Class.

In a literature class, you might be asked to discuss the use of alliteration, the figurative language, the theme, even the symbolism of "The Napkin" by Cathy Smith Bowers. In fact, when I was teaching high school and college literature classes, poems like this one often opened doors for students usually reluctant to analyze poetry. While English majors thrive on these kinds of discussions, the average member of a book group is looking for a different experience altogether.

By contrast, in a book club I'd expect to discuss these kinds of questions:

How does the setting become real to you in this poem? What details remind you where this incident is set?

Do you ever eavesdrop on others when you’re in restaurants, airports, hotel lobbies? In what ways do you speculate about the people around you?

How would you feel to realize they are also paying attention to you, making guesses about you and those with you?

What does the poet reveal about the characters in this poem? What details are withheld or left to the imagination?

How does the couple being deaf enliven the conflict and the reader’s interest in the poem?  Would the effect have been the same if the speaker had merely discovered the note from the table of people who had merely been whispering?

What images of beauty does the speaker point out?

In what way is this brief incident unusual? How is it ordinary?

How does the suggestion that these two are near the end of a journey affect the poem? Why does she reveal this little detail? Are there other similar small details that pique your interest?

When have you realized you misjudged a situation?

If the speaker had the chance to explain what she had been doing to the couple, what might she say? Does she owe her husband an apology?

What other stories or books does this poem bring to mind? Could this be a vignette in a larger work of fiction? What might have happened before? What will happen next?

Friday, January 1, 2016

NYT Book Review's "The Year in Poetry" Merits a Reminder of Our Call for Submissions

I almost called and had my paper stopped while we were out of town for the holidays, but I wasn't sure they'd get it right. I knew I probably wouldn't read all the daily papers, but the Sunday papers are my guilty (or not guilty) pleasure. It takes me all day at least to work through my favorite parts--the crossword puzzle and word games--and then I save the best for last: The New York Times Book Review.

I was particularly glad I had kept the papers piling up at the neighbors when I got home and found the cover story of the Book Review: "The Year in Poetry." Yes, a whole issue focused on poetry--current poetry by living poets, in fact.

That was just enough motivation to remind readers of the February deadline for our Call for Submissions for our upcoming anthology of narrative poetry for book club readers. If you write poetry, please consider sending us up to three of your best narrative poems.  Whether you write poetry or not, please share the call for submissions with poets whose work you enjoy.

Jane and I feel sure we aren't the only ones who believe plenty of avid readers are missing out of some great writing they would enjoy--if only introduced to it in a way that appeals to them.

They won't be asked to scan metrical lines or any of those English class type questions that can sometimes leave readers feeling inadequate. We just want to share good stories told concisely with words arranged to arouse pleasure, to pique curiosity, to strike a familiar chord.

Maybe 2016 can be another "Year in Poetry."