Monday, March 28, 2011

Oprah's Spring Fashions in Poetry

So, the "poetry issue" of Oprah Magazine came out, and the feature is... spring fashions modeled by "rising young poets" (by which she means, rising young female poets). Check out The New York Times essay.

The mind boggles. Take a look.

Poet Suheir Hammad (37, according to the Oprah article-- nice to know how old these poets are), according to the article, writes about "how people maintain their humanity in difficult circumstances." Like, maybe, wearing silly clothes?

--too bad the poets weren't even allowed to keep the duds. I hope they were paid!

(Mary Oliver also gets interviewed, but-- at 75-- apparently she doesn't get the fashion shoot. She does get the "here I am with a celebrity!" picture with guest editor Maria Shriver, though, in which (for the record) she is wearing a quilted fuschia jacket, rose turtleneck, and blue jeans. Very stylish, actually-- bold, yet comfortable. I like it. They should let her design the clothes.)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hey, you all are invited to these workshops and performance out my way at BGSU Firelands College...Three great poets sharing their work and training. Join us. April 20th... larry smith

Saturday, March 26, 2011

52 Cleveland Haiku (10)

orange and blue streaks
neon lights on wet pavement
rivers flowing nowhere.

--Geoffrey A. Landis

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Get KO'd by KNF this Saturday

One-time Cleveland Poetics contributor Kisha Nicole Foster has returned to Ohio and will showcase her prodigious poetic and performance skills at this month's edition of She Speaks at Arts Collinwood. The event will also feature a workshop, open mic and slam. For more details, see their Facebook event page or visit Blasted Press.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

52 Cleveland Haiku (9)

Year of the Rabbit

From the winter hole
just the rabbit's nose peeks out:
How soon until spring?

--Geoffrey A. Landis

Rabbit tracks in snow
photo by Geoffrey Landis, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kuhar Speaks Out!

Local poet, publisher, and guru of the Deep Cleveland Poetry Tribe Mark Kuhar is profiled and interviewed on the "Poet Speaks Out!" website-- in two parts:
"I believe in stream of consciousness, just tapping into the words that are flowing in response to thoughts, feelings, experiences, visions, sights, people, etc. Then after you capture the verbiage, you either let it stand as is (primitive word energy) or you can revise as you see fit."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

52 Cleveland Haiku (8)

Sunny winter day:
birds twittering in my yard,
snow melt drips from eaves.

--Geoffrey A. Landis

Friday, March 11, 2011

Joshua Gage wins Flip Kelly Poetry Prize 2010

Cleveland poet Joshua Gage was just announced as the winner of the Amsterdam Press Flip Kelly Poetry Prize 2010 for his chapbook Bedtime Stories. Congrats to Josh!

His poem "A Mother Speaks," from the book, can be found on the page with the announcement.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Philosophy of Haiku

Since I've been posting to clevelandpoetics a series of "haiku" (one a week) under the heading "52 Cleveland Haiku," I suppose it is incumbent upon me to answer the question of what, exactly, I think a haiku is, and is not.

A haiku is a short nature poem written in Japanese, written as seventeen syllables and incorporating a kireji, building on the form of the hokku as adapted by such haiku masters as Basho and Issa. That's fine, but of course I'm not writing in Japanese (my Japanese is just good enough to say " two beers, please," and " excuse me, where is the bathroom?"). So, what is a haiku in English?.

-- at this point haiku scholars are already jumping up to shout at me for saying that a haiku in Japanese has seventeen syllables. A Japanese poet couldn't even tell you how many syllables a poem has; "syllable" isn't a Japanese word. Rather, a haiku is a poem with seventeen "on," or Japanese sound-units; an on is similar, but not exactly the same as, a syllable. For the most part, though, this distinction doesn't make much of a difference; with a few exceptions, seventeen Japanese "on" is usually also seventeen syllables. But here is a critical distinction: Japanese on are always very short syllables. The Japanese language doesn't have long or complicated syllables; a word like "strengths"-- one syllable in English!-- just can't be transliterated into Japanese. As a result, a poem of seventeen syllables in English says a lot more than a poem of seventeen on in Japanese (in fact, scholars say that twelve syllables in English conveys about the same content as seventeen on in Japanese).

Classically, when haiku were adapted into an English form, they were formalized as a poem of three lines, respectively five, seven, and five syllables, for a total of seventeen syllables. This matches the pattern of a Japanese haiku, to the extent that it's even possible to do so, except that the Japanese poem is typically written in a single line, not three. But it results in a poem that, although short by English poetry standards, is still a lot longer than the elegant minimalism of the Japanese.

Add to this the fact that the Japanese haiku is not merely a syllabic form, but is a nature poem-- in fact, not merely a nature poem, but explicitly a seasonal poem (the "kigo" mentioned early is a season word). Traditionally, a haiku is "in the moment"-- present tense-- without metaphor, but simply observation; and also by tradition is not an imagined scene, but a direct experience by the poet.

Japanese has other forms for poems that aren't haiku-- senryu, for example, are also seventeen syllable poems, but poems of observation of human foibles. (Actually, I'm very fond of senryu, and a lot of the stuff in English that's tagged "haiku" are actually senryu.).

Haiku also have that "kireji" that I mentioned, a "cutting word" that cuts a haiku into two parts of five and twelve syllables (on). English doesn't have explicit "cutting words," but a traditional haiku in English will have a distinct pause, often made explicit with punctuation (e.g., a dash or a colon) at the end of either the first line (assuming it's written in three lines), or the second, thus cutting it into two pieces of either five and twelve, or twelve and five, syllables.

So, what about haiku in English, anyway? Because English syllables say so much more than Japanese on, an English poem of 5-7-5 syllables tends to be rather fat compared to a Japanese haiku. A haiku ought to be an observation that is stripped down to its essentials, but in English, the poet sometimes even has to add syllables to pad out the count up to seventeen. The Haiku Society of America now defines a haiku simply as "a short poem that uses imagistic language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition" -- note the fact that they have given up on the 5-7-5 form, and don't even keep the tradition of writing in three lines (nor, for that matter, the requirement for a seasonal reference.).

OK. Well, even in Japan, modern haiku poets often have given up the explicit seasonal reference-- and don't always write in the seventeen on, either. But, to be fair, they have a few centuries head start on us, and must be getting pretty tired of what can said in seventeen on using the list of allowed kigo and kireji words.

The 5-7-5 form, in English, has become almost a joke-- much of what passes for haiku in English is little more than zappai, "miscellaneous" or joke poems. It's very freeing to write a haiku and focus on stripping the words down to just the essentials, instead of obsessing over syllable count, trying to nail an image clearly and distinctly.

But, on the other hand, when a form is abandoned, something is missing. Despite the difference between English and Japanese, in Japanese a haiku is not just any short series of words, but a series of words in a particular pattern. So, sorry, HSA, but in giving up on 5-7-5, yes, something is gained, but also something essential is lost.

So, all in all, I have gone back to writing haiku into 5-7-5 form, although I have given up on being strict about it. And keeping a pause cutting the poem in two pieces. And, when it's explicitly a haiku (and not, perhaps, a senryu), a seasonal reference. --But the title "52 Cleveland Haiku" is figurative: although many of these (maybe even most) are haiku, I've sprinkled in some senryu, and, yes, probably even a few zappai.

Don't like it? Well, feel free write your own.

--Geoffrey A. Landis

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Public Responsibilities of Poets

Christina Brooks pointed out this article from The University Bookman, "The Public Responsibilities of Known American Poets," and suggested it might be a good post for the Clevelandpoetics blog, saying "It makes some really good points in it about poetry... and a poets role in society."

"But if poetry has a greater purpose because ostensibly it is capable of directly advancing a collective social good, one must commiserate with those sincere poets who are excluded from these inner circles. Under these conditions one hopes that their love of their art will sufficiently inspire them despite their long treks towards probable nothingness."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hessler Street Poetry Competition for 2011

The rules for 2011

Submit up to five original poems. Only selected poems will be included. Each poem must have your name, street address, city, state, zip code, telephone number and e-mail.

Open to ages 14 and up.

Shorter poems of one page or less will be favored.
Poets published in the book may purchase one copy of the Hessler 2011 Poetry and Prose Annual from the Hessler Street Fair Booth at Hessler Rd. & Hessler Ct. during the days of the 2011 Fair for $4.00. Full price is $8.00 at the Fair Booth or at Mac's Backs paperbacks, 1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights, OH - 216-321-2665

Entry must be delivered via U. S. mail and postmarked Saturday April 23, 2011. Poets whose work has been accepted for publication will be notified via e-mail by April 30. Book will be released in early May.

A qualifying round of readings will be held on the evening of Wednesday, May 11 - 7pm at Mac's Backs Paperbacks. About 20 minutes after all poets have read, the winners will be announced and prizes will be handed out. To receive a prize you must read on May 22 at the Hessler Street Fair.

The Top Three Winners will be given the opportunity to read from the stage at the Hessler Street Fair, simulcast on WRUW 91.1 FM during the Fair. Poetry read on air must not include any words designated to be obscene language as stated by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

U.S. Mail (no hand delivery please):
Poetry Contest
2010 Hessler Street Fair Committee
11326 Hessler Road, Cleveland OH 44106


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Local Dzanc Day Listings

This April 9th, Cleveland and surrounding areas will be helping celebrate Dzanc Books’ second annual Dzanc Day, a national celebration of literary workshops from across the country.

Proceeds from these workshops help partially fund many charitable endeavors from the Michigan-based press "including the Dzanc Prize, which recognizes one writer annually for both literary excellence and service to his or her community, and the Writer in Residence Program, which places professional writers into classrooms to provide creative writing instructions to public school students who could not otherwise afford the opportunity."

Ohio’s handful of workshops can be found here, and include Cincinnati, Granville, Cleveland and Akron.

Won’t you?

52 Cleveland Haiku (7)

Wish wish, wish wish, wish:
my windshield wipers
smear winter away

--Geoffrey A. Landis

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tips and Advice for Poetry Editors

Hey, I know a lot of poets, and they all write poems that are way better than the cr*p I see in the lit reviews! I'm gonna start my own magazine, and publish really good stuff! --Ever had that thought?

Well, time was that starting a zine was tough-- you had to know layup, typesetting, printing, distribution... but these days word-processing and the internet, along with print on demand publishing, makes it easy to start a 'zine, or edit an anthology.

Oddly, although there's far too much advice around on how to write poetry, it's a lot harder to find much advice around on how to be a poetry editor. But, if you really wanna be a poetry editor, you might first, check out the wisdom from Elizabeth Barrette's blog The Wordsmith's Forge, with some tips:

Once you've started it, she follows it up with "Affordable ways to attract contributors". (Much of which advice comes down to "treat contributors nicely"-- good advice, I can tell you!) And, if that's not enough, she has a list of links of Resources for Editing Poetry.

Go to it!


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau