Poetry Spotlight #6: Bar Napkin Sonnet #11

Poetry-Foundation-squareAfter a long time of acknowledging that podcasts are something I should get into, I finally downloaded the app. Currently, the only podcast I’m listening to is The Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Off The Shelf but I highly recommend it. The brevity of the episodes really accommodates my life style because they’re usually 8-15 minutes long (though occasionally 20+ minutes) and the longest commute I have is a 15 minute walk. So I can get to where I’m going and get to experience some poetry along the way.If you’ve never listened to poetry on your mobile device while walking, do it. Of course, there’s something really calming about stepping away from devices and into nature. But there’s also a beautiful harmony that can exist between the two. There’s something to be said for combining poetry with movement–it changes the way you experience both.

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Poetry Spotlight #5: Instructions for black boys (from America’s perspective) by Rudy Francisco

I am part of the executive board for Lyrically Inclined (LI), an umbrella organization containing the poetry club and slam team on campus. Earlier this school year LI had the privilege of bringing Rudy Francisco to Cornell College, a poet born and raised in San Diego. “Rudy is the co-host of the largest poetry venue in San Diego and has featured at countless venues […] Ultimately, Rudy’s goal is to continue to assist others in harnessing their creativity while cultivating his own. Rudy Francisco is the 2009 National Underground Poetry Slam Champion, the 2010 San Diego Grand Slam Champion, the 2010 San Francisco Grand Slam Champion and the 2010 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion” (Via).

10976388Scratch is Rudy Francisco’s second chapbook. On Rudy Francisco’s website Scratch is described as “love, fearfulness, confidence, humility, awkwardness and determination compressed into 31 pages of unapologetic honesty” and I couldn’t agree more. After I finished reading Scratch I immediately reread Scratch. Continue reading

Poetry spotlight (revival)/#4: Questions for Godzilla by Paul Guest

It seems fitting to end my blog procrastination with the revival of an old idea: poem of the week. I originally did this as a mini month-long project, the goal was to read more poetry and share those experiences with a larger community (via this blog). It was a great month but when the month was over, like with any 30 day challenge, I found myself falling back into my old ways.

Fishouse_anthoA few months later I took my EDU Methods class and found my recent poetry project extremely helpful when it came to creating my poetry unit plan. It was reminder that, since English and Secondary Education are my practice, it only makes sense to practice them. I admit that recently I haven’t read much poetry but I’ve been listening to the CD that came with the contemporary poetry anthology, From The Fishouse (one of the books for my old Intro to Lit course). Unlike other anthologies From the Fishouse is ripe with writers who only have 1-2 books published. Additionally, they have a website, which is a self-described “audio archive of emerging poets.”

There’s something great about listening to poetry as an audiobook, after all, poetry is deeply rooted in an oral tradition. And as I fill my walks on campus with the words of various poets, there is one poem I keep returning to (for reasons I will attempt to describe in this blog post):  Continue reading

Poetry Spotlight #3: Primer by Laura Yes Yes

71f5lhMlakLAs I mentioned in my last poem of the week (which I admit is happening more like every 1.5 weeks), I recently picked up a copy of “How to seduce a white boy in 10 easy steps” by Laura Yes Yes. Note: when you’re reading a book called “How to seduce a white boy in 10 easy steps” you’re going to get some raised eyebrows on the train and (potentially) a layer of discomfort/awkwardness between you and your peers. There’s almost a need to explain… And fortunately  Laura Yes Yes gives you that explaination in the preface of her book: “In this context, the “white boy” represents the normative or ordinary force whose dominant presence renders other groups extraordinary, or outsider”.

These poems are bizarre, sexual, and social. I’m happy to say that Laura Yes Yes’s intentions for this book certainly come through as it is indeed “…a purposeful bending of self-image, the better to refract the light”.  However, I find this book is more weird than wonderful. Though I can’t help but feel that it’s going over my head and that, in a few years, I will revisit this book with a newfound love. Still, I invite everyone to grab it from the shelf of their book store and read through a few poems because Laura’s experimentalism will surely strike a chord with some readers.

One of the things I appreciate in this collection is Yes Yes’s ability to be both cheeky and hard-hitting: “The whites are growing bigger asses,/so I buy pants off the rack now. Progress is possible” (via “Black Humor”). Additionally, her unique formatting stands out. This can be seen in poems like her Ars poetica “College Transcript” which is from the perspective of the speaker’s brain, cunt, fist, and liver: “Brain | Indulgence can be seen as the path to enlightenment/ Cunt | Always take free condoms from the clinic”. While the poem I selected from the fist half of this collection, “Primer”, is one of the more “ordinary” ones–in terms of it’s form–it’s also one of the most effective ones.

Primer

Asking her the favor
Of her number.

He brands her
Special for her color,

Harbor, certain shelter,
Stepping stone in turgid river,

Saint and sometime savior,
Worry doll to nightmare over,

Sudden molotov of anger,
Steel wool and purple clover

Grove down under
Pooling drool from hunger,

Science project for the clever,
His first of her kind ever.

This poem is pretty straight forward. The rhyming couplets are fitting in the sense that it’s a “relationship” poem and, interestingly enough, almost distract from the dark subject matter. The title can be interpreted in two ways: primer, as in the undercoat of paint or primer, as in the strand of nucleic acid that serves as a starting point for DNA synthesis. Either way, this title plays well off the motif/themes of the poem: this idea that women of color are starting points that are swept under the rug. A mere “stepping stone in turgid river”. And if you’ve read my previous poetry posts, you probably know that a large part of my aesthetic is unique/vivid imagery which this poem provides perfectly: “he brands her… sudden molotov of anger… grover down under/pooling from hunger”. Lastly, I love when a poet turns a cliche on its head–playing with the reader’s expectations. This is given in the last line: rather than her being the first of her kind, she is “his first of her kind ever”. Further driving home the point that this woman is perceived more as an object/fetish than an individual.