Poetry x Pop Culture #1: Dear Basketball; Kobe Bryant says goodbye to the game.

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Kobe Bryant announced his retirement from basketball today–which you probably already know. This announcement doesn’t come as a surprise but the way he announced it does.

Through poetry. Yes, poetry. Some have called it a farewell letter, comparing it to Michael Jordan’s farewell letter. And while Kobe likely wrote this with that fact in mind, his “letter” takes the form of a poem. Which is clear because it is written in stanzas and uses rhyme and rhythm.

I’ve discussed the importance of poetry before, but one thing I haven’t gotten to yet–but will be exploring in this new blog series–is the automatic relevance poetry has in our world. By relevance, I don’t mean that poetry is still being written or that old poems have themes that transcend time (though both are true). No, what I mean to say is poetry creeps into our lives often and always. Whether you openly embrace poetry or keep it at arms length, it is here and it is here to stay.

The following is the first poem I will be analyzing in this Poetry x Pop Culture series, written by Kobe Bryant:


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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 #1: Meditation on a Grapefruit by Craig Arnold

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I will be doing a 40 day poetry reading streak and sharing my favorite at the end of the week. This is the first.There were definitely points in the week where I made reading an after thought, halfheartedly reading my one poem and being done. But there were also moments where I really got in a groove and would read poem after poem with a hunger for more.
The following poem comes from my current poetry read: an anthology called “The Open Door: 100 poems, 100 years of Poetry magazine”. (for the exact formatting click the title)

To wake when all is possible
before the agitations of the day
have gripped you
To come to the kitchen
and peel a little basketball
for breakfast
To tear the husk
like cotton padding      a cloud of oil
misting out of its pinprick pores
clean and sharp as pepper
To ease
each pale pink section out of its case
so carefully      without breaking
a single pearly cell
To slide each piece
into a cold blue china bowl
the juice pooling      until the whole
fruit is divided from its skin
and only then to eat
so sweet
a discipline
precisely pointless      a devout
involvement of the hands and senses
a pause   a little emptiness
each year harder to live within
each year harder to live without.

Grapefruit-slice1I selected this poem because it’s a prime example of what good poetry does: it elevates the mundane. Here Arnold takes something as basic as eating a piece of fruit for breakfast and gives it a new, unfamiliar beauty. I also love this poem because it’s ripe with optimism; the opening line “To wake when all is possible” breathes hope into our day while the poem’s next line balances that with an acknowledgement that this is temporary: “before the agitations of the day/have gripped you”. This poem is honest appreciation delivered through vivid imagery.
The repetition of infinitives (“to wake”, “to come”, “to tear”, “to ease”, “to slide”) forces us, as readers, to take the scenic route on our way to the “action” of the poem. And when we reach that main action: “to eat” (yet another infinitive) the poem shrinks for a moment, its lines becoming so short we can’t help but give it our full attention: “and only then to eat/so sweet/a discipline”.The final two lines struck me immediately; they’re what solidified my love for this poem. Yet it took me a bit of time to come to an understanding of them. The final line, “Each year harder to live without” is as cliche as it comes but the preceding line is what made this line & stanza refreshing: “each year harder to live within”. I asked for my brother’s interpretation of the end and he agreed that the idea of living “within” was peculiar; it’s a different way of saying what we’ve been hearing all our lives: can’t live with it; can’t live without it. With each passing year it becomes harder to live within and without these meticulous/seemingly trivial processes.
This poem shows that a simple, even “cliche” concept can be crafted into something foreign, beautiful, and intriguing. And that’s what poetry is about. You don’t always need to say something new; but you do have to say something well and in a way that its never been said before.