Friday Night Writes… Tonight!

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You’re invited to Friday Night Writes!

Here’s the drill: come home tonight, do whatever you need to do to get the stink of the day-job off you, make a snack, make some coffee, whatever you need, then pull up a chair and write.

Write late into the night. Write til the lead breaks or the ink runs dry. Write til you can’t hold your head up anymore. Don’t worry about the rest of the world. They’ll go out and party without you. And they’ll go to sleep without you. Just write. That’s all you have to do.

Good luck! I’ll see you at the 3 am paper shuffle. Post, if you feel like it, at #fridaynightwrites.

 

 

One Poem. One Planet.–Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib

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TWILIGHT IN DEHLI

To my eye the pleasures of the world are nothing but dust.

Except for blood, what else flows in the guts?

 

Turned to dust, the wings are now a spent force;

They might even blow away on the winds.

 

Who is this coming towards us with the very face

of heaven, his path strewn with roses, not dust?

 

I should have been kind to myself, even if she wasn’t.

How I have wasted my breath for nothing!

 

The mere thought of spring makes them drunk;

what had the tavern walls and doors to do with it?

 

I am ashamed of the violence of my own love.

In this ruined house how I had hoped to be a builder!

 

Today our verses, Asad, are only an idle pastime.

What’s the use of flaunting our talent, then?

 

 

–Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, (1797-1864) Persia

–Translated from the Urdu by R. Parthasarathy, Poetry, April 2006

 

 

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One Poem. One Planet.– Hiromi Ito

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COYOTE

My grandmother was a medium
My mother was a magician
My mother’s older sister was a geisha
My mother’s younger sister had tuberculosis
My mother’s other younger sister was barren
All were wonderfully beautiful
The spells mother taught me
All required saké, rice, and salt
We were afraid of snakes, water, and the east

My daughter began speaking baby talk at two months
When the coyote speaks to her
She smiles and always responds
The coyote: A dry plain, plain, plain
My daughter: Plain, plain, plain
The coyote: No lying
My daughter: No lying, no lying, no lying
The coyote: Hungry, hungry
My daughter: Hungry too
Coyote: Hah, hah, hah
My daughter: Haaaaaaaa-ohh
My daughter’s father, my father: I wanted to concentrate just on the coyote 
I wanted to isolate myself, insulate myself, see nothing other than the coyote
And I wanted to trade places with him

The milk flows from my breast bountifully
To fatten my daughter it flows in overabundance, much too much
My grandmother’s milk also flowed bountifully
With it she fattened her four girls and two boys
My mother’s older sister’s milk also flowed bountifully
With it she fattened her three boys
My mother’s milk also flowed bountifully
With it she fattened just me, and the leftover milk flowed out
My mother’s younger sister’s milk also flowed bountifully
With it she fattened her two boys
My mother’s other younger sister nursed and nursed her adopted child
With her milkless breasts until eventually
The milk began to flow from her body
There is so much rain
Everything and anything gets soaked
Inside a damp frame, grandmother’s beautiful smiling face with no eyebrows or teeth
My mother’s older sister’s beautiful face with no chin, teeth, or hair but with large lips
My mother’s younger sister’s beautiful face with fleshy, hairless lashes and no teeth
My mother’s younger sister’s beautiful face with spots and no teeth
My mother’s beautiful face with sagging cheeks, crow’s feet, and no armpit hair nor teeth
But all of them do have breasts that sag

The women all enjoy fondling the babies in the family
My daughter
Is the only female grandchild
Is the only female niece

The words of the women who fondle the babies in the family
Slowly turn to baby talk before our eyes
The women from age ninety to fifty gather
(The ninety-year-old has been dead for a decade)
The women sit together and
Begin to speak in baby talk
Gyaaatei
Gyaaatei
Haaraagyaatei
Harasoogyaatei

My grandmother was a medium
My mother was a magician
My mother’s older sister was a geisha
My mother’s younger sister had tuberculosis
My mother’s other younger sister was barren
My grandfather was a paralytic
My mother’s older brother died young
My mother’s younger brother did not speak at all
My father was related to none of them
My mother’s husband and my husband
Vanished right before
I gave birth to my daughter

Coyote: Gyaatei
My daughter: Gyaatei
Coyote: Haaraagyaatei
My daughter: Haraharagyaatei
Coyote: Gyaagyaagyaatei
My daughter: Haragyaatei

The precipitation and humidity this time of year
My mother chants her magical spells
Cursing the humidity
Saké and rain
Rice and rain
Salt and rain
Ordering the water
To flow to the east
Forgive us, oh honorable snake

Saké and rain
Rice and rain
Salt and rain

 

–Hiromi Ito, (Japan) from On Territory 1

 

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One Poem. One Planet–Anonymous (Greenland)

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INUIT HUNTER’S SONG

Little gull, high in the air,
fly down to me,
settle on my shoulder,
rest in the hollow of my palm.

Little gull, high in the air,
splitting the wind,
fly down to me,
fly down to me.

Your wings glow
up there in the red cold.

 

–Anonymous, Greenland

 

 

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One Poem. One Planet.–Keorapetse Kgositsile

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ANGUISH LONGER THAN SORROW

If destroying all the maps known
would erase all the boundaries
from the face of this earth
I would say let us
make a bonfire
to reclaim and sing
the human person

Refugee is an ominous load
even for a child to carry
for some children
words like home
could not carry any possible meaning
but
displaced
border
refugee
must carry dimensions of brutality and terror
past the most hideous nightmare
anyone could experience or imagine

Empty their young eyes
deprived of a vision of any future
they should have been entitled to
since they did not choose to be born
where and when they were
Empty their young bellies
extended and rounded by malnutrition
and growling like the well-fed dogs of some
with pretensions to concerns about human rights
violations

Can you see them now
stumble from nowhere
to no
where
between
nothing
and
nothing

Consider
the premature daily death of their young dreams
what staggering memories frighten and abort
the hope that should have been
an indelible inscription in their young eyes

Perhaps
I should just borrow
the rememberer’s voice again
while I can and say:
to have a home is not a favour

 

–Keorapetse Kgositsile, South African Poet Laureate

 

 

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One Poem. One Planet. –Wislawa Szymborska

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THE END AND THE BEGINNING

After every war

someone has to tidy up.

Things won’t pick

themselves up, after all.

 

Someone has to shove

the rubble to the roadsides

so the carts loaded with corpses

can get by.

 

Someone has to trudge

through sludge and ashes,

through the sofa springs,

the shards of glass,

the bloody rags.

 

Someone has to lug the post

to prop the wall,

someone has to glaze the window,

set the door in its frame.

 

No sound bites, no photo opportunities,

and it takes years.

All the cameras have gone

to other wars.

 

The bridges need to be rebuilt,

the railroad stations, too.

Shirtsleeves will be rolled

to shreds.

 

Someone, broom in hand,

still remembers how it was.

Someone else listens, nodding

his unshattered head.

But others are bound to be bustling nearby

who’ll find all that

a little boring.

 

From time to time someone still must

dig up a rusted argument

from underneath a bush

and haul it off to the dump.

 

Those who knew

what this was all about

must make way for those

who know little.

And less than that.

And at last nothing less than nothing.

 

Someone has to lie there

in the grass that covers up

the causes and effects

with a cornstalk in his teeth,

gawking at clouds.

 

-Wislawa Szymborska, from View With a Grain of Sand, Selected Poems, 1993

 

 

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One Poem. One Planet.

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April is National Poetry Month here in the US–strange to celebrate an endeavor that knows no boundary, nor does it pledge its allegiances to any flag or political doctrine. Poetry exists because of and for the people of this planet, the entire planet.

To celebrate, I’m going to spend the next 30 days looking for poems from around the world. Russia, New Zealand, China, Iraq, Sweden, is there a poet from Antarctica? I don’t know, but I’ll look for one.

No literary discussion or lengthy biographies. Simply, the abundance that is one poem.

One poem. One planet.

 

 

#onepoemoneplanet

 

March 31, 2016–Kara Lee Corthron, Playwright and Inspiration

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Playwright Kara Lee Corthron

Kara Lee Corthron started this. I’m so happy she did.

“My hunger for knowledge is practically pathological,” writes Corthron.

So is her passion for storytelling and sharing what she learns with her fellow travelers on this big blue marble.

Every day for this past month, I have been profiling a different woman to celebrate Women’s History Month, along the way enlarging my world and finding connections to positive role models. I got the idea from Corthron who did the same kind of thing in February on her blog, Things I Think About.

“For each day of February, I’m going to feature a Black individual on my blog who falls into one of the following categories: 1) someone who rarely or never receives any attention during Black History Month, 2) someone whom I’d like to learn more about, or 3) someone I’ve only just heard of!” writes Corthron in her introduction to the project.

“Keep in mind that these entries will be very casual—I’m not a historian or a biographer—so please feel free to add other facts that I’ve left out or to add your own discussion questions/topics in the comments section. I want this to be an interactive project so I hope readers will be inspired to contribute.” Read More

March 30, 2016–Bell Benton, Teacher and Poetry Editor

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Yearly poetry anthology started by Bell Benton in 1970 featuring the poems of Anchorage School Children.

Today’s profile begins with a triggered memory about the first time I ever had a poem published. While I don’t remember the poem, I remember my third grade teacher–or was it fourth?–announcing my name to the class as one of that years’  poets in Pencils Full of Stars.

Oh, I was thrilled!

She asked if I wanted to read it out loud to the class.

Then I was mortified.

Every year, the Anchorage School District published a book of the students’ poems. I haven’t thought about that little slim volume in years. I do still have my contributor’s copy somewhere. I need to go back and find that first little poem. I bet it was about trees.

I started wondering last night who had started the Pencils Full of Stars so I went on line looking for my first poetry editor. Her name was Bell Benton.

In 1969, teacher and poet Bell Benton conceived the idea for Pencils Full of Stars, a collection of poetry by young writers.

“One day I said to my first graders: ‘You write such beautiful thoughts, your pencils must have stars in them!’ They laughed with delight, and one little boy held up his pencil and said, ‘Look! My pencil’s full of stars!’ I hugged him and said, ‘You’ve just named our poetry book!’ And Pencils Full of Stars was born,” said Bell Benton.

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Bell Benton

Written by elementary children across the Anchorage School District, in Anchorage, Alaska, the collection was compiled and published following each academic year. For the next 29 years, Benton guided the pencils, discovered the stars, and kept Pencils Full of Stars alive through its yearly publications.

Bell Benton passed away in 1998, after which the Eta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma International, a society of women educators, set up the Bell Benton Memorial Poetry Award. The Award works to honor excellence in poetic expression and honor Bell Benton, founder of Pencils Full of Stars.

I never met Benton. I wish I had. I’d like to tell her that she made a huge difference in my life. I knew I wanted to be writer from the moment I learned to read and Benton encouraged me in that dream and today I am a published poet and playwright.

I wonder how many other writers she helped foster and start on their way?

 

March 18, 2016–Eliza Cook, Poet

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Eliza Cook, English poet, circa 1860s.

I first read one of Eliza Cook’s poems in an old poetry anthology (We Who Are the Quick) I bought from an antique shop. The book, falling apart and smelling of history, has an inscription in it from the 1890s to two young girls, Ruby and Garnet, from their grandparents. Now when I read from this book, I feel like I’m sitting with my long ago sisters, Ruby and Garnet, reading to each other by the light of a lantern in an attic somewhere.

One of our favorite poets in the book is Eliza Cook.

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