Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bruce Weigl is a Pulitzer Prize finalist for poetry

Lorain poet Bruce Weigl is a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his book The Abundance of Nothing.

Congrats to Bruce!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The book of cats: "On Velvet Feet"

Cover of book "on Velvet Feet"
On Velvet Feet, available from Poet's Haven
Our cat
sprawls on the rug
like ink scrawled on parchment
composing a poem I'm too human to read.
 --Joshua Gage

There's just something about poets and cats.
Sure, there are the odd poets that love their dogs (and write about them), but from ol' possum Tommy Eliot through to Marge Piercy and on, there's been something about the mystique of the feline--simultaneously a purring ball of fur sleeping in a patch of sunshine, and a sleek and efficient predator hunting in the night shadows--that brings out the poet.
Well, for cat lovers, Poet's Haven has just published a mini-book of cat poems, featuring a number of Cleveland poets: check out "On Velvet Feet" edited by Vertigo X. Xavier (part of the "Poet's Haven Digest" series).
OK, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that yes, I have a handful of haiku here. Still, this is a great little book, small in size, but well worth the minor price of $6.00-- go buy copies for all your poetry-loving and cat-loving friends!

Thick-whiskered Buddha,
rolling belly of the world,
your mantra is purr.
--"Cat on a Zafu"
Melissa Studdard 

Photo by Geoffrey A. Landis

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Academic poetry, versus slam poetry, versus underground poetry

Azriel, over at the Writing Knights roundtable blog, comments on the difference in feel between what he calls "academic" poetry, versus "slam" poetry, versus a third category, "underground" poetry-- and then is challenged to define what he means by the categories.

"What are "slam," "academic," and "underground" poems...how are you defining these terms? I'm going to make the argument that there are some craft techniques that are universal to all of these styles of poetry, or make all of these styles of poetry stronger or weaker through their use or lack thereof."

Ah, I love categorizing things. It's a game you can just keep on playing.

Of these, slam poetry is the easiest one to nail down-- it's the poetry you get in a poetry slam.  A slam poem isn't really about the poem in itself-- it's all about the performance.  And, more to the point: a slam poem has to get its reaction immediately. It's not one where, hours later, you wake up in the middle of the night realizing you can't stop thinking about that one image, or working through some train of thought the poem had kicked off.  A slam poem kicks you in the gut fast.

"Academic" poems (I think he means what I would call "page" poems-- poems that are meant to be read on the page, not necessarily performed), can work slow.  They can layer on imagery, can take multiple readings.  Many page poems, of course, read very well-- the rhythm and poetry of language can work in readings as well as on the page.

"Underground" poems, I guess, are the ones that don't fit either category-- the true underground poems are edgy, want to make you think or react or feel, want to break rules just for the sake of getting a rise. 

Which, I suppose is as good a segue as any to mention that the Lake Effect poetry team, Cleveland's own slam performers, will be doing their Lake Effect Poetry 2013 GRAND SLAM, the final competition to see who will comprise Cleveland's National Poetry Slam team this year, on Saturday, May 11th at 7:00 PM at 4700 Prospect Ave, Cleveland, OH 44103. There will be a $5 entry fee at the door to attend the Grand Slam. Half of the money collected at the door will go towards getting our team to NPS, the other half will go to the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.

You want to see slam-- here's the place to find it!

Poets who will be competing in the GRAND SLAM are:
AKeemjamall Rollins
Eris Zion Venia
Caira Lee
Azriel Johnson
Skylark Bruce
Arianna Cheree
Christine Howey
Joshua Gage

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hessler Street Fair is looking for poets! {UPDATED]

2013 Poetry at the Hessler Street Fair

Celebrate the 45th Anniversary of the Hessler Street Fair!!!
2013 Hessler Street Fair Poetry Contest & Book
  • 1st Place Winning Poet receives $100
  • 2nd Place Winning Poet receives $50
  • 3rd Place Winning Poet receives $25
Mac’s Backs on Coventry road will host the Poetry reading of entries for the 2013  Hessler Street Fair Poetry contest.
The rules for 2013 – Newly edited 2/21/2013
  • Submit up to 5 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 address.
  • 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 2013 Poetry and Prose Annual from the Hessler Street Fair Booth at Hessler Rd. & Hessler Ct. during the days of the 2013 Fair for half price. Full price will be charged for additional copies at the Fair Booth or at Mac’s Backs paperbacks, 1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights, OH - 216-321-2665
  • Emailed entries are strongly preferred. Email entry deadline is April 19th, 2013.
  • Entries delivered via U. S. mail deadline is April 19th, 2013 . Poets whose work has been accepted for publication will be notified via e-mail. Book will be released in early May.
  • A qualifying round of readings will be held at Mac’s Backs -Books on Coventry on May 8th, 2013 at 7pm. About 20 minutes after all poets have read, the winners will be announced and prizes will be handed out. If you have won in the last three years you can submit to the book but will not be eligible to win a prize. To receive a prize you must read on the designated day during the Hessler Street Fair.
Poetry has always been an integral part of the Hessler Street Fair, sometimes having its own stage on the street and sometimes combining with music on the main stage, but always doing something new. This year we continue to provide space for local poets to speak. Check back for the schedule of events.
The Top Three winners will be given the opportunity to read from the stage at the Hessler Street Fair, simulcast on live radio and the web, 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
2011 Hessler Street Fair Committee
11326 Hessler Road, Cleveland OH 44106

  • check out their facebook page here

Mac’s Backs ~ Books on Coventry
Celebrating 34 Years 1978-2012
1820 Coventry Rd.
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118
2012 contest winners:
  • 1st place: B M Stroud
  • 2nd place: Carla Thompson
  • 3rd place: Nancy Nixon
2011 contest winners: On Wednesday May 11, 2011 the Hessler Street Fair Poetry finalists read their entries at Mac’s Backs on Coventry. The judges selected the following winners.
  • 1st Place – Vladimir Swirynsky for “Already The Sky on Bent Knees”
  • 2nd Place – Shelley Chernin for “Rise and Shine”
  • 3rd Place – Andrew Line for “Catalyst (In Memoriam)”
  • Honorable Mention – T.M. Gottl for “On the Feast of Snow and Shadow”
  • Honorable Mention – Michael Bernstein for “what it does”
The Hessler Street Fair Committee would like to thank this year’s judges:
  • Jill Riga
  • Mary Turzillo
  • Geoffrey A. Landis
Special thanks to Joshua Gage for putting the 2011 Hessler Street Fair Anthology together and conducting the reading. Our sincere appreciation is extended to Suzanne DeGaetano at Mac’s Backs for hosting the reading and her ongoing support of the Hessler Street Fair, and to the Hessler Street Fair, for their long-running support of poetry.
2013 Hessler winners
the 2011 winners

reading on the main stage at the Hessler fair 

Update (May 9 2013):

Congrats to the winners! 

  • First place, "Bird's Nest," AKeemjamal Rollins
  • Second place, "Wine of the Lost Child of the Lost Child of the Sixties," Batya Weinbaum
  • Third place, "The Mermaids of Lake Erie," Marie Vibbert
  •  Honorable mention: "The Bison Speaks," Jacob King
We're looking forward to your performance on the main stage at the fair on Sunday!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

When that Aprill, with his showers sweet, the drought of March has pierced to the root...

It's April!

"April showers bring May flowers."  Or, as Geoffrey Chaucer says:

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
 Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
 Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages)

(Around here, I'd say it's more like "April, with his showers frigid...")

It's also National poetry month.  What to do?  Well, try this:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Billy C reads at Kent U, and other Wick-ed Stuff

It's April, and the poetry news is coming fast and furious.
Here's the latest issue of the newsletter from the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State:

Wick poetry center logo
Poetry Reading: Billy Collins
Former U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, will visit Kent State as part of the Wick Poetry Center’s annual U.S. Poet Laureate Reading in celebration of National Poetry Month. The event will take place on Thursday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Ballroom of the Kent Student Center. The U.S. Poet Laureate Series is a collaboration between the Wick Poetry Center and the Kent State University Library with sponsorship from the Honors College, Department of History, and Department of English.
Billy Collins, U.S.Poet Laureate (2001-2003), is the author of several books of poetry, including Ballistics; Nine Horses; Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems; The Art of Drowning, which was a finalist for the Lenore Marhall Poetry Prize; Questions About Angels, which was selected for the National Poetry Series; and most recently horoscopes for the dead. Collins’ new and selected collection of poems (2003-2013), Shouting Over the Machinery of Time, will be available March 2013. His poetry has appeared in anthologies, textbooks, and a variety of periodicals, such as Poetry, American Poetry Review, and The New Yorker. Collins has edited Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, an anthology of contemporary poems for use in schools. Collins’ other honors and awards include fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation.
The 12th Annual Performance of Giving Voice
This year's Giving Voice will take place on Wednesday, May 1, at 6:30 p.m. in the Ballroom of the Kent Student Center.
Giving Voice features local students (grades 3-12), senior citizens, veterans, and medical care providers and patients from area hospitals, performing original poetry. All material is created in Wick outreach programs, including workshops led by Kent State University undergraduates enrolled in the service-learning course “Teaching Poetry in the Schools.”
Robin Scheuerman, senior Speech-Language Pathology major and Wick intern, is one of the students in the course this spring. When asked about her experience in the class, she was eager to talk about her students: "I have had the wonderful opportunity this semester to teach poetry to 7th graders at Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts in Akron, and also to 3rd graders at Walls Elementary School in Kent. The creativity and excitement shown by the students have been inspiring to me in my own writing and life. I am very much looking forward to Giving Voice, when the students will have the opportunity to share their hard work and wonderful poetry with family, friends, and the community."
The Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize
Submissions are now open for the first book contest. This prize is offered annually to a poet who has not previously published a full-length collection of poems. Michael Mlekoday was the 2012 winner, chosen by Dorianne Laux, for his manuscript The Dead Eat Everything.
The 2013 winner will receive $2,500 and will give a reading at Kent State in 2014 with prize judge, Mark Doty. The deadline for submissions is May 1, 2013.
Click here to enter your manuscript to the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize.
National Teen Writing Contest
To celebrate National Poetry Month, the Wick Poetry Center is hosting a teen writing contest for High School students throughout the nation. The entry fee is $5 per submission.
The winning poet and the poet's school will receive $500. The Wick Poetry Center will bring the winning poet & guest to Kent State University in September 2013 to read during our yearly event, Celebrating Our Own. The second place winner and their school will receive $250. 
Click here to submit a poem to the contest, which will run from February 15 through April 30, 2013.
Poets William Pitt Root and Pamela Uschuk visit KSU campus
By Daniel Dorman, Undergraduate Intern
The evening of William Pitt Root and Pamela Uschuk's reading had a pleasantly intimate atmosphere. Felt through their welcoming presence and bolstered by their obvious love and friendship with poet and professor Maj Ragain, the poets settled into the Wick event with ease and comfort.
After an inviting and gracious introduction by David Hassler, Maj read an embracing piece about Bill and Pam, the friendship they share, and their poetry. He smoothly entered the audience into the immensity of Bill and Pam's poems. Bill and Pam both showed their appreciation for being welcomed through their excitement and by reading for their dear friend. Before she began to read, Pam said in the spirit of the evening, "Afterwards, let's go roll in the snow together!"
As Maj said of the couple: "They meet every day." It seems to me that they meet poetry every day, as well. During dinner the poets decided to change the usual poetry reading scheme. Rather than divide their time in half, the poets took turns reading one or two pieces at a time. The back and forth interactions of the poems and the wide worlds they formed together made for an intriguing and stimulating event. The poets read selections from a number of their titles, including "White Boots," "Reasons for Going It on Foot," "Crazy Love" and "Wild in the Plaza of Memory."
The reading drove through the evening a sense of love for poetry, fellow poets and time spent together. Even as the night came to a close, Bill and Pam remained, conversing with students, faculty and poets alike.

Want to keep up with news from the Wick?  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cat Paws


 Inky paw prints presumably left by a curious kitty on a 15th century manuscript.


Why Do We Hate Certain Words?


To Anyone Who’s Ever Written a Poem or Even Is Just Thinking about Trying It Soon: A list of DOs and DON’Ts


 Participating publishers will give you a free book of poetry for every book of poetry purchased via their Web sites.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Haiku-bot writes "haiku" at NYT

images of New York Times newspapers
Ok, everybody, repeat after me: just because it's written in seventeen syllables 5-7-5 doesn't make it a haiku.
But, the New York Times "senior software architect" Jacob Harris just wrote a software bot that trolls through the NYT, and extracts 5-7-5 syllable fragments-- "The New York Times has built a haiku bot," as Justin Ellis phrases it.
OK, you know my fascination with auto-poetry.  Few of these really rate as actual haiku. Still, here's one:

The buzzing of a
thousand bees in the tiny
curled pearl of an ear.

--well, that one's unfair.  It's from the book review of Kate Atkinson's novel Life After Life, and the part that the haiku-bot found and chose to extract for the haiku is a section that is quoting a passage from the novel.  So, as a novelist, Atkinson has quite a poetic ear.  Bravo, but no kudos for Mr. haiku-bot.

So, no, not really haiku.  Even the author, Harris, admits as much:
"...That's a lot harder to teach an algorithm, though, so we just count syllables like most amateur haiku aficionados do."

A few might be called relatively pretty decent senryu, though:

or,  more sinister:

or even insightful:

I guess the haiku-bot a bit better at writing senryu than haiku.

But, looks like robots are starting to take over the business of writing poetry for us, and pretty soon we'll be out of a job.  I guess all that's left for us humans is to watch youtoobs and check out teh lolcats.  So, with that thought: have a happy National Poetry month, everybody!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Books so good you can eat them. Really.

The Lorax, by the Winslow Girls, youth entry, 2014 winner, Most Literary

Sometimes there's a book that's just good enough to eat... and then there are edible books.

That's not an April Fools joke.  This  Saturday, Loganberry Books on Larchmere is sponsoring the Edible Books Festival.

Saturday, April 6, 2013-- set-up begins  at noon, with viewing and voting at 1:00, awards announced and books consumed at 2:00.

Make your own edible book, and win!
Or just go for the show.  Viewing is free, but there's a $3 fee for voting and eating of the Edible Books. Oh, and hey-- it's a bookstore, so you can buy non-edible books (the paper kind) while you're perusing the edible kind.  What could be more cool than that?
Loganberry Books and Strong Bindery
13015 Larchmere Boulevard, 
Shaker Heights, OH 44120

--if you miss it this year, mark your calendars: Loganberry's been having an edible book festival on the first Saturday of April every year since 2004, so mark your calendars for next year!


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Best Cleveland Poem Competition 2013 (UPDATED!)

The Best Cleveland Poem Competition 2013

Writers in Northeastern Ohio are asked to turn their thoughts and their pens to Cleveland and compete in the first ever Best Cleveland Poem Competition during April, National Poetry Month.
Submitted poems must be themed on some aspect of Cleveland. This may include Cleveland sports (Browns, Cavaliers, Indians, OSU, etc.), politics, landmarks (Severance Hall, Tower City, West Side Market, etc.), local celebrities, or personal memories and associations with Cleveland. Poems must be a minimum of 30 lines and a maximum of 200 lines, and poems containing profanity and/or inappropriate language or topics will be disqualified.

All poems should be submitted to initial judge Ray McNiece, English department lecturer at John Carroll University and award-winning national poet, at buddyraymc@aol.com. Ray will select the Top Ten Best Cleveland Poems. These top ten poets will perform at the competition’s concluding event for the grand prize.

A host of local celebrity judges will judge the final competition at the end of April. Final competition date, location and judges are TBA. The final competition will feature an opening performance by Ray McNiece and the band Tongue in Groove, an open mike session and the performance and judging of the Top Ten Best Cleveland Poems.

Prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers. First place will receive a plaque of recognition as the Best Cleveland Poem winner and $100. Second place will receive $50. Third place will receive $25. All winners will also receive additional items from the venue.
This event is being sponsored by Tim Misny.

Update: The Cleveland Poetry Contest final competition will be at Willoughby Brewing Company this Sunday (May 5).  It's kicked off with Ray McNiece at 7:30, the open mike at 7:45, and then the Cleveland poets at 8:30pm.  It will be epic!  Be there!

More imporant information (from Ray McNiece April 3):
  • you can submit up to three poems. 
  • deadline is april 21st;
  •  the top ten poets via email submission must attend the final "out loud" reading which will be judged, slam style, by a panel of celebrity judges. 
  • All poets are welcome to read in the open mic portion of the program. It will be held most likely at the Willoughby Brewing Company on may 5th, 4 till 7

Monday, April 1, 2013

Most contemporary literary stuff is awful...

In response to Cleveland Heights writer Dan Chaon's suggestion that new writers should read more contemporary literature-- the literary magazines, best-of-the-year anthologies -- J. Robert Lennon of Salon replies, no: "most of it is really bad."

"most contemporary literary fiction is terrible: mannered, conservative and obvious. Most of the stories in the annual best-of anthologies are mediocre, as are the stories that populate most magazines."

Wow, I love it when essays pander to my personal prejudices!  Thanks, JR.

He does suggest that it may be good advice for poets:
"Chaon’s argument is perhaps stronger when applied to the world of poetry, which is smaller than that of fiction, and more dependent upon a robust dialogue with itself. The world of poetry is also less risk-averse than that of fiction; poets are more naturally experimental, less embarrassed about strong and unpleasant emotion. Poets aren’t bothered by the same career anxieties fiction writers are — they don’t presume there is any money to be made doing what they do. And poetry is less concerned — not unconcerned, certainly, but less concerned — than fiction with the common idioms of storytelling. Poets are constantly reinventing language. A poet ignores new writing at his or her peril."

 Nah. "Hackneyed, insular, boring" --no, not all of it, but far too much.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let's hear it.

(Of course, maybe it's just Sturgeon's law ("90% of everything is crap.").  It's just that, when we talk about poetry from a century ago, the really awful stuff has mostly been forgotten.)

[with a shout-out to Charles Oberndorf for pointing me to this essay.]


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