Paul Szlosek was born in Southbridge, Massachusetts, but currently resides in the nearby metropolis of Worcester. He was co-founder and host of the long-running Poet’s Parlor poetry reading in Southbridge and Sturbridge, as well as a past recipient of the Jacob Knight Award for Poetry. His poems have appeared in various local publications including the Worcester Review, Worcester Magazine, Sahara, Concrete Wolf, and Diner. He’s probably best known in the Worcester poetry community for his fanatical obsession with obscure poetry forms, and has invented his own including the ziggurat, the streetbeatina, and (most recently) the hodgenelle.
I am so excited to announce that this month, in addition to our regular edition of the Virtual Poetorium, I am working on a very special poetry project. Although we may be too late for Mother’s Day, there’s still time to celebrate our fathers this year, and so the Poetorium, with the help of my good friend Dee O’Connor, is organizing two ways to do that (and would like to invite you to participate):
1.A Group Ode: To contribute, please send 2-8 lines inspired by the prompt “I Remember My Father” (the phrase may or not be included in the lines). The lines will then be compiled and edited by myself who has prepared many similar group poems for the Poetorium in the past (bear in mind your lines may be split up and recombined with others to form new stanzas). This ode will be modeled after a similar poem by national poet Kwame Alexander who released “The Ceremony of Giving” on Mother’s Day (you can find his poem and read the full story behind it here @ https://www.bonappetit.com/story/kwame-alexander-mothers-day-community-poem).
2.Father’s Day Virtual Reading: Join us for a poetry reading honoring fathers on June 20th. Up to 20 poems will be selected and posted in a Father Day’s Poetry Anthology on the Poetorium’s website AND will be read by their authors on Zoom starting at 7:00 p.m. (ET) on Father’s Day.
We’re hoping to have a diverse representation of poets and poetry forms, so please pass this invitation on to anyone anywhere (but especially those living in the Worcester County area of Massachusetts) who may be interested. The group ode, along with up to 20 poems about fathers will be read on the 20th. Please submit one or both of the following either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of your email by June 13th at the latest:
· A poetry stanza inspired by the prompt “I remember my father …”
· One original poem about a father/father figure (be sure to include where your poem has appeared if it was previously published)
You don’t need to submit an entry to participate in the virtual event, but registration in advance is required. To register, please send your name and email address along with any submissions by June 13th to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are submitting a contribution to the group ode and/or a poem, please be sure to include a short bio.
If you have any questions about this special Father’s Day Poetry Project including the group ode, the Zoom reading, the Father’s Day Poetry Anthology to be published on the Poetorium website, or anything else, please leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to answer them right away.
Thank you so very much for reading, my friends! I appreciate everyone’s continued support of this blog, and hope that you will join me and your fellow poets in participating in this special Poetorium Father’s Day Poetry Project!
However, I have come to a decision not to repost the entire Virtual Poetorium here on this blog like I have done with previous editions in the past, because I feel that in its entirety, it would probably be too long a read and thus far too overwhelming for most readers. As a result, some really excellent poetry would probably be skipped, and that would be a real shame. So instead, I will just post the opening poem, which originally appeared in Street Signs: A WorcesterAnthology complied by David Nader and published by BatCity Press over twenty years ago. I sincerely hope you like it….
Poet or Stripper
If I ever have a seventeen-year-old daughter, (I admit the possibility is becoming quite remote) and one morning, as we are chowing down together on Pop Tarts and Coca Cola, she tells me she can’t decide on a career, wavering between poet and stripper, I would have to advise her to choose the latter.
Now, not even considering economics, and I heard a good stripper call pull down a couple thousand a week, but as a poet, she’d be lucky to see half that in her lifetime, stripping is obviously the much more moral, much less degrading profession. All you have to expose is skin. And the audiences are always so enthusiastic and responsive, filled with respected members of the community, like businessmen and politicians.
But as a poet, you got to perform in sleazy run-down dives reeking of amaretto and hazelnut and cater to the whims of all those underground, on the fringe, alternative lifestyle types. You know who I mean: Environmentalists, Liberal Thinkers, and the like. And they are usually so indifferent to the poor slob on stage. You practically have to beg them on hands and knees for them to listen, to pay any attention at all, and if they do, they are never satisfied. They keep demanding “Take it off!! Take it all off…” – the pretenses, the false facades, the masks you wear in public.
And you oblige, teasingly peeling away all the layers, one by one until your soul is laid bare, your essence revealed and you’re left standing there with your psyche hanging out for a room full of strangers to gawk at.
Well, if you ask me, you have to be an attention-craving fool with no self-respect to want to do a humiliating thing like that.
—Paul Szlosek (from Street Signs: A Worcester Anthology)
In today’s post, we will be discussing the Kindku, a newly invented poetry form inspired by both traditional Japanese forms (like the haiku and tanka) and Found Poetry. Co-created by Cendrine Marrouat and David Ellis, here are the rules for writing onetaken directly from their website, Auroras & Blossoms @ https://abpositiveart.com :
“The Kindku is a short poem of seven lines. The syllable pattern is 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 or 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5.
The Kindku must include seven words that are taken from one specific source — a poem, a book, a newspaper article, etc. In the case of a book or long piece of writing, those words must come from the same page.
Words must be used in the order they were found. Their placement also depends on the line:
Line 1 starts with word 1
Line 2 ends with word 2
Line 3 starts with word 3
Line 4 ends with word 4
Line 5 starts with word 5
Line 6 ends with word 6
Line 7 starts or ends with word 7
Kindku poems can have titles and punctuation. No matter the topic covered, they must sport a positive tone.
Kindku poets are encouraged to credit and link to the inspirations behind their pieces.”
I’d also like to add that I was curious if the seven keywords had to be exactly how they appeared in the original source material or could they be in a modified form. For example, if one of the words was a noun and was plural in the original, could it be singular in your kindku, or if it was a verb in the past tense, are you allowed to use the word in the present tense? I contacted Cendrine, one of the co-inventors of the form, and she told me the words, indeed, have to be exactly as found in the original text (which does make writing a kindku a bit more of a challenge).
Cendrine, also graciously gave me permission to reprint two of the first kindkus ever written (one she wrote, and the other by David, her co-creator) on this blog as examples (I also need to note, if you wish, you can emphasise the seven words taken from the original source material by highlighting them in bold, like Cendrine and David did in the following kindkus, but that is totally optional):
Art Writes Itself
Art writes itself in the heart before other things; intent lingers for a while inviting practice, lost hope to find a new map. on this continent you are the only master.
Like in all my posts about poetic forms, I am also including my own humble efforts at writing some for you to use as models. I must confess that I did find the Kindku at first extremely difficult to write. Surprisingly, it wasn’t sticking to the exact syllable counts or word order that gave me problems, but the primary rule about the tone of the poem. I wouldn’t say that my first two attempts (one based on Robert Frost’s “The Witch of Coos” and the other from “The Fish” by Marianne Moore”) were exactly negative in attitude, but I wouldn’t describe them as positive and upbeat either, just rather neutral and detached in tone. According to the Auroras & Blossoms website, one of the main purposes of the kindku is to be “an invitation to promote kindness, positivity and inspiration through poetry” (as you can see, the word “Kind” is even a part of the form’s name), so I must emphasise that in order to write a true kindku, you should try to follow this rule as closely as you possibly can, even though what one considers positive probably varies from person to person. Hopefully, in these later efforts, I was able to achieve that goal, but I will let you, dear reader, be the judge:
Isn’t it Obvious?
Visible things often change from invisible, fluctuating in between. Like a magic charm, your own sense of perception detects and opens surrounding unseen doorways.
There is a technique I discovered while working on the above kindkus that I feel makes them easier to write which may prove helpful to you too. Instead of randomly deciding on which seven words to use beforehand, just go through your source material, and choose a word to begin. As you finish the first line, scan for a succeeding word that will work in your second as your train of thought develops, and so on and so on, making sure to use the words in the order they appeared in the original work. You will find this way provides flexibility and flow, and you won’t be forced to stick in a predetermined word that just won’t fit in your poem.
If you are like me, you may even find that writing kindkus will become addictive. As you grow more confident in writing them, here is a variant you might like to try using an entire (or partial) line from one of your favorite works (be it a poem, a song, a short, a quotation, etc.) as the source of your seven words. For an example, one of my favorite lines ever from poetry is the final line of “Refrigerator, 1957” by Thomas Lux – “You do not eat that which rips your heart with joy.” Using its last seven words, I came up with the following (which I found quite pleasing):
That unexpected feeling in your stomach (which rips away complacency, thoughts of despair), your heart pounding in pure delight (each thump pulsing with love), is known, dear friends, as “Joy“…
So I hope you enjoyed today’s post on the Kindku, and will try writing some for yourself (it is a wonderful way to pay tribute to some of your favorite poems or other written works). Remember, even if you do find the rules a bit restrictive and intimidating at first, don’t give up. Keep going, and I can almost guarantee you’ll be more than satisfied with your results. And please don’t be shy about sharing them, either with me, or the kind folks at Auroras & Blossoms. I am sure they will be thrilled to see them!
I am pleased to announce that this month’s Virtual Poetorium will be marking the second year anniversary of the Poetorium (some of you might be a bit puzzled right now, thinking “Wait a minute, Paul, didn’t you guys just have a first anniversary edition this March?” Well, yes, we did, but that was celebrating the anniversary of the Virtual Poetorium, while this month will be two years since we launched the very first live Poetorium show at the Starlite Bar & Gallery in Southbridge, Massachusetts on May 28th, 2019). I am happy to say our featured poet for this month’s edition will be fittingly the person who started it all – our very own Poetorium co-founder and co-host, Ron Whittle!
Like I did in previous months, we’d like to once again open up this May’s Virtual Poetorium for anyone who would like to participate and invite all my fellow bloggers and faithful readers (or just anyone just happening to read this) to be a part of our unique online poetry gathering in print. However, I have come to a decision not to repost the entire Virtual Poetorium here on this blog like I have done in the past, but instead just post a link to the Poetorium website so you can read it there if you like. I feel the Virtual Poetorium in its entirety is probably too long a read and thus too overwhelming for most readers. As a result, some really excellent poetry will probably be skipped, and that would be a real shame. So as a solution, I hope to break this edition of the Poetorium (as well as others) up into more easily digestible segments, and perhaps post them here sometime in the near future.
To be part of our virtual open mic this month, please send us one of your own original poems or stories (under 2000 words please) either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of an email along with your name, any opening remarks you care to make, and where your poem has appeared if it was previously published to email@example.com by Friday, May 22nd. Also if you like, you can send us a photo of yourself to be posted above your poem, but that is totally optional.
Once again, we also need contributions to the Poetorium Group poem which this month will be tentatively titled “A Multitude of Blessings” To participate, please send us a blessing (or a wish) consisting of one to six lines with the first line starting with the word “May” such as “May you always have peace in your heart.” or “May your smile be your umbrella.”. All contributions (which will remain anonymous unless otherwise requested) will be compiled to create our group poem which be included in this month’s Virtual Poetorium. Once again, the deadline for submissions is the night of Friday, May 22nd.
For this month’s Poetorium writing form challenge, you are all invited to write an American Sentence, a poetry form invented by the American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in the mid-1980’s as a twist on traditional haiku. Like haiku, American Sentences consist of 17 syllables, but instead of being arranged into three lines, they are written as a single line or sentence. They also may or may not have a title. As far as the other rules of the form, there seems to be varying opinions. Many seem to feel the poem should be just one complete grammatical sentence, while others have written them as two, three, or four or even just as series of phrases. Paul E. Nelson (the poet most associated with the American Sentence, besides Ginsberg) emphasizes the use of concrete images though ones written by others often deal with abstractions. Ginsberg, himself, stated that the poem, if possible should mention either a time or place (or both) and the use of articles such as “a” and “the” should be avoided. But even he didn’t always follow the last suggestion as seen in these four of the original American Sentences composed by Ginsberg:
Nov 1991 N.Y.
Put my tie on in a taxi, short of breath, rushing to meditate
Tompkins Square Lower East Side N.Y.
Four skinheads stand in the streetlight rain chatting under an umbrella
On Hearing the Muezzin Cry Allah Akbar While Visiting the Pythian Oracle at Didyma Toward the End of the Second Millennium
At sunset Apollo’s columns echo with the bawl of the One God
Approaching Seoul by Bus in Heavy Rain
Get used to your body, forget you were born, suddenly you got to get out!
In comparison, here are four American Sentences I wrote that originally appeared on this blog:
The ham slices squeal on the smoking grill like the ghosts of dying pigs
The Sad Truth About Aging
To grow old is to witness your world being dismantled around you
The Gambler’s Mantra
Luck is a middle finger waved in the face of probability
An Urban Stroll a Week After a Winter Storm
Propelled by my feet, chunks of frozen snow skitter down gritty sidewalks
Using the above poems as models, please try writing some for yourself and send us your best efforts by Friday, May 22nd to be included in this month’s Virtual Poetorium.
If you have any questions about submitting to the virtual open mic, the group Poetorium poem, the writing challenge, or anything else about the Virtual Poetorium itself, please leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to answer them right away.
Thank you so very much for reading, my friends! I treasure everyone’s continued support of this blog, and hope to hear from you soon with your contributions to this month’s edition of the Virtual Poetorium!
Thinking it would be an appropiate follow-up to my recent post on the Octo, today I decided to write about the Enneao, a poetry form I invented that was directly inspired by it. While the octo consists of 8 lines of 8 syllables, the enneao (which name was derived from the prefix “ennea” meaning nine) has 9 lines with 9 syllables each (however these 9 lines are divided into 3 stanzas of 3 lines apiece). Also like the octo, the first three lines are transposed as the final three lines of the poem, but in this case, the first line becomes the ninth line, the second becomes the eighth, and the third, the seventh. The fourth and sixth lines rhyme together, while the fifth line rhymes with the second (and eighth). The rhyme scheme (with capital letters representing the repeated lines and small letters the ones that rhyme) can be expressed as ABC dbd CBA.
To demonstrate how close the enneao is to the octo, I thought it would be fun to take one of the poems I wrote as a model for the octo, “Our Seemingly Unending Journey”, and rewrite it as enneao.
So first, to refresh your memory, here is the original poem:
Our Seemingly Unending Journey (The Octo Version)
Where we will precisely end up? I don’t think we shall ever know. Seems a long time since we started. In which season? I don’t recall. Perhaps Winter or maybe Fall. Seems a long time since we started, I don’t think we shall ever know where we will precisely end up.
By just adding an extra line, and an extra syllable to each of the pre-existing ones, you can see I was easily able to convert it into an enneao:
Our Seemingly Unending Journey (The Enneao Version)
Just where we will precisely end up? I do not think we shall ever know. Seems like a long time since we started.
In which season? I cannot recall (I do remember there was some snow… so perhaps Winter, or maybe Fall?).
Seems like a long time since we started, I do not think we shall ever know just where we will precisely end up.
And now here is another example of an enneao I wrote:
Yes, There’s a Vacancy…
No one stays at the Ritz anymore, most folks don’t realize it’s still open. This old hotel has seen better days.
Once it was the hippest place in town. People flocked here, but that was back then. Now the owners pray it’d just burn down.
This old hotel has seen better days. Most folks don’t realize it’s still open. No one stays at the Ritz anymore…
I sincerely hope you enjoyed learning about the enneo today, and might even try writing one yourself (and if you do, please share!) Thank you so much for reading as well as your continued support of this blog!
Here is the April 27th, 2021 Virtual Poetorium reposted from the Poetorium website @ poetorium.home.blog. I want to thank my fellow bloggers Brad Osborne& Diane Puterbaugh for graciously accepting the invitation to participate which I previously posted on this blog. As as extraspecial bonus, I am also including including a link to a video of myself performing this month’s Poetorium group poem ” Well, Just What Is a Poem, Anyway?” here. I hope you will enjoy both my performance and this edition of the Poetorium…
The Virtual Poetorium April 27, 2021
RON: Hey, hello everybody! Now that everyone has found a seat, it’s time again for me to start the Poetorium show. Believe it or not, this will be the ninth of our pandemic series (the tenth, if you count the special holiday Ho-hoetorium that Paul baked up last December). And speaking of baking, you’ll find Anne Marie Lucci, the Poetorium’s official caterer, really outdid herself this evening with her delicious freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. If you haven’t tried one, you better get one soon before I gobble them all up. So tonight we have as our guest speaker Eugenie Steinman, an amazing poet, all the way from the West Coast. Genie has graced the Poetorium stage before in previous virtual open mics, so if you are a regular, you might remember her. I have no doubt that we’re all going to love her feature!
Once again, I am going to dispense with the rules of the show. I believe we all know what they are by now. And as I usually do, I’m going to kick off the show with one of my own poems…
Between January and March
About the only thing you can count on in February is Valentines day red red roses, a box of chocolates and twenty-eight days to the month The weather is iffy Could be snow Could be cold Hell, it might even rain The sun only shines when it’s raining on the west coast and the mock laughter is on the east coast Winter isn’t over not by a long shot and it has no bearing on whoever sees there shadow and for how long Winter’s length is only determined by the length of the icicles that hang on the roof eaves of airports and the wings of airplanes readying their seasonal flights south so says the farmer’s almanac I’ve never known spring in New England to arrive until long after February is gone and the icicles and my thermal underwear, have been put away in the closet for yet another year We keep the snow shovels out because you can never trust the weatherman’s predictions in March when a dusting could be a foot and a half of the white stuff
—Ron Whittle (2021)
Okay, Paul, its time to once again for you to do your spiel, the microphone is all yours…
PAUL: Thanks so much, Ron! I think tonight I am going to take a cue from you, and keep it short and sweet, skipping the “Mystery Poet” segment I usually present at this time, so we can hurry up and bring Eugenie Steinman up to the stage for her interview and feature. But before we do, I’d like to let you know a little more about Genie…
Eugenie Steinman, originally a native of Brooklyn, New York, but now living in Northern California, is a poet, former teacher, radio programmer, and the host of both the popular call-in radio program Radio Jail as well as the Poetry and Prose show (part of the Word Weaver radio series) on KPFZ 88.1 FM, Lake County Community Radio in Lakeport, California. Her first book Persimmon: Poems and Recipes, a collection of poems about people, places, and the beyond with corresponding recipes has been reprinted twice (first in 2008, then as an e-book in 2011). Eugenie is currently working on her second, Chinese Apples.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together and give a big Virtual Poetorium welcome to Eugenie Steinman!
RON: Welcome to the Poetorium stage, Genie! Please take a seat, and make yourself comfortable. The reason we interview the guest speaker at the beginning of the show is to let our audience get to know them a bit better before we hear their work. So with that in mind, here is my first question for you tonight … Who is Eugenie Steinman?
EUGENIE: Who am I? Well, I call myself the president of the Bleeding Heart Liberal Party – a joke that kinda describes me. I live alone in the woods here in north California. I am a loner who will go to a party any chance I get. My friends and I agree on one thing. Let’s have fun. And make things better for the needy people, e.g., we make food and have free meals in the park.
RON: Could you please tell us a bit about about Radio Jail, the radio program you host, such as why and how it first got started?
EUGENIE: I have always wanted to help those who need help. I taught poetry in our local schools until I realized that the children who could benefit the most were in our local juvenile hall. That’s where I taught poetry for seven years. I had been a programmer on KPFZ for several years when I heard about a program in Texas where people could call into a jail. I knew I had to do that with my time on the air. Andy Weiss, the Station Master, and I streamed that show. We knew ours would be different. Jail is not a joke and we would not present it that way. With Andy’s support, my next task was to convince our sheriff. After many pleading phone calls, he let it happen as did his successor! This was an impossible dream. It couldn’t really happen and it did. It’s been almost ten years. This show is more meaningful than I could have imagined. Inmates write from jail telling how important the calls are that come in every Sunday from their friends and families. It changes the jail experience for the better. People I meet recognize my voice and thank me. It’s a one way conversation, but they make contact and reassure inmates that they are there for them and love them. Every call has the word love in it. Many calls are from ex-inmates who say they miss them. “I’m doing great there’s lots of work out here. I’m making decent bucks. Call me when you get out.” Or they will even say “I put money on your books” which means inmates can go to the commissary for a treat. I say I am filling a need, my need. I am thankful to be doing Radio Jail. This show can be streamed live every Sunday 6pm-7pm Pacific Time at http://www.KPFZ.org. My son Rob Jaret developed a podcast which can be accessed through Facebook.
RON: What do you call the type of poetry that you write?
EUGENIE: My poems are spontaneous. I am really not a disciplined person. When I feel a love that I have to share, a poem arrives. For example, one I wrote for Queen Elizabeth which I will include. One I wrote for my sister “To Diane“. I love science and several short poems I hope express that I sometimes have a thought or an idea that I need to share. That comes out in poems I feel are liberating, e.g. “Asana”, “To Mind”. When I found out that Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe actually met, I had to write a poem about what I imagined took place that’s called “Le Rendezvous”. So I guess I call my poetry “spontaneous”. They are inspired by love, liberating ideas, and need to comment. I don’t actually plan to write a poem.
RON: Who are your favorite poets, and why?
EUGENIE: I like Allan Ginsberg for his clear crisp observations, e.g., a bird perched on a cross atop of the roof on the church across from his apartment. I like Robert Frost’s “Mending Fences” because in a class I can use it for interpretation, e.g., “How does Robert Frost feel about fences?” I like e.e. cummings for his good cheer and blatant disregard for capital letters.
RON: What is your favorite poem (this could be one of yours or someone else’s)?
EUGENIE: Rumi’s The Guest House. Taking on the mind, I appreciate that endeavor.
RON: What is your favorite recipe from your book Persimmon: Poemsand Recipes?
EUGENIE: My favorite recipe from Persimmon is Cashew Soup. Cashews are the base. My friends love it!
RON: Do you have any other books available?
EUGENIE: I have no other books available yet, but I’m working on Chinese Apples.
RON: Paul, do you have any questions you would like to ask Genie?
PAUL: Yes, thanks, Ron, I do… Genie, how and when did you first get started writing poetry?
EUGENIE: I was about 25 when I wrote my first poem. It was about a woman who came to visit my mom and she seemed like a caring person. I sent it to Seventeen magazine, and they sent me a nice letter, but they didn’t print it.
PAUL: As you probably know, Ron and I definitely consider you as a vital part of our Poetorium family, but do you have another community or group of poets & writers that you belong to back in California, or is writing poetry for you mainly a solitary endeavor?
EUGENIE: I belong to the Writers’ Circle. We meet once a month at the Lake County Arts Council. At first, I attended to recruit writers for my Word Weavers radio show Poetry andProse. Then I became a participant. It is so much fun! At first, we are given a subject and for ten minutes we write about that. Then people read their work. Only positive criticism is given. I am amazed at the dedication these people have to their writing. They are serious writers who diligently work every day. They make inspiring guests for my show.
PAUL: What do you feel is your primary motivation for writing?
EUGENIE: I think I am motivated by my need to communicate, and by my interest in Buddha and books about him, and a Sutra – the Lankavitsra Sutra.
PAUL: Could you tell us something about your process for writing a poem (especially how you usually begin)?
EUGENIE: I have an idea [for the poem] usually while walking in the woods near where I live, or while running like “Time and Space”. The poem is in my head before I write it. “The Third World Rides the Subway” was written on the Subway. I am also motivated by an idea, and when that happens, I have a need to tell people about this thought, e.g,. “The Baby.” Or if I love or admire a person, I have to write a poem about that person, e.g., “The Practically Perfect John Kirby”.
PAUL: I guess my final question of the evening for you, Genie, is do you have any advice for beginning poets?
EUGENIE: I tell a writer to always have a pen and paper without failure. And there is no such thing as writer’s block. Write anything, just write. [Write] a list of your favorite words or simple rhymes. As long as you’re writing, there is no block.
PAUL: Wow! That is great advice! So unless someone in the audience has another question… no?…well then, I guess that concludes our interview for tonight. Genie, you were fantastic! Thank you so much for such thoughtful and engaging answers. Now, everyone, let us put our hands together and give our featured poet Eugenie Steinman a humongous round of applause while she walks to the podium to present her poetry…
EUGENIE: I was really excited to hear about the meeting [between Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein], and I feel the characterization of Einstein was informative.The Freudian slip in the beginning showed his desire is alive. Yet he had to identify the Reaction in scientific terms first. Well, we know he is an energy freak. He was able to accept no answer, and change what he thought he knew. And he has students who he cares for…
It’s been said through the ages, you will find The more beautiful the woman, the more she’ll seek the perfect mind. Logically Marilyn, beautiful to the core, Said, “There’s only one man in this whole world who will not be a bore.” She put In a call to to Einstein, who happily said ”Of course you can come to visit me to get Into my bed… I mean head, I mean head.” When Marilyn entered his study, there was Bim Bam Boom all around. Though Albert was happy to see her, he had to identify the force that was sweeping him off the ground. He sat down at his table where letters and numbers abound, But even his favorite formula did nothing but confound. “I cannot find the answer, nothing will equate, This must be some kind of an incalculable state.” He threw away his papers, into the fire went his pen. He sat down next to Marilyn and said, “This must be the end. Notify my students. I don’t want to let them hang. Tell ’em from everything I can gather, it all seems to end with a bang.”
—Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)
Listen, ladies and gentlemen, you’ve caught the greatest catch. You have run the distance, you have won the match. You can go where the mind can’t go, where there is no shadow. You can go where the mind can’t go, Beyond the shadow of a doubt.
—Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)
Buddha sat under the enlightenment tree, and said,”Something is going to happen to me, And until something does happen to me , I won’t eat or sleep, just sit under this tree. Then all of a sudden, he saw so clearly What some of us have yet to see, That the birds and the flowers and all creatures have as much personality As you, me, and he. At last, he said, “Something has happened to me. To think I can see what I could not see. The people all said, “Who is he? He says he’s enlightened, who would agree?” “The earth,” said he. ”And so will the tree.”
—Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)
Time and Space
Running along the lake side When the redbud blossoms Where the mallards reside When Konocti disappears from view For another curve or two When the sun is barely over the eastern hill Where I can see the blackbird’s red wing quill When the purple iris and the wild flower match When new duck eggs are about to hatch Where as I keep running I elongate the place When summer comes closer as I continue to race. The earth and I run through space And time is the measurement of the pace.
— Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes*)
*Originally published in the Lake County Record-Bee
One day when I went to see mother to talk about what’s new, She said, “Look out the window, do you see a garden view? That lot belongs to Richard. There are apple trees, take what you need.“ Mother looked at Richard, and Richard agreed. On an afternoon in November, I went there just to be Among the apples, grapes, and walnuts, And under the persimmon tree. Veiled by branches of persimmons looking out from under the tree, I saw a Garden of Eden surrounding me. There I tasted an apple, No snake predicted my doom, It is truly Eden where there’s not a hint of gloom.
— Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)
To the Queen
I know she’d be the Queen If her father had never been King.
I know by the way she treated the intruder, So loving.
I know because she chose Bob Geldof for honoring.
And because she’s against apartheid, Even if it means sanctioning.
Her crown does not symbolize riches, But that humanity is the thing.
I know that she’d be the Queen, Had she never known a King.
—Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)
I was taking a walk when it occurred to me that there may be a shared space between the unborn and those who die. The following poem “The Baby” was never published anywhere, but will be in my book Chinese Apples, another poetry and recipes book…
I always wondered where people go when they die. I ask those who are supposed to know, but they could only opine. I figured I better go straight down the line and ask someone who recently came from a place that may be the same. To the baby, I said, ”Do you have any recollection of where you were before your conception?“ She giggled and gurgled and with a face full of drool, looked at me as though I’d never been to school. She lifted her arms. I held the little dear with her cheek next to my cheek, her mouth to my ear. She said in a voice surprisingly clear, “I’ve always been here..” Back in her crib, she gave her mobile a kick. I said, ”That’s a good trick.” She said, ”Bye-bye.”
PAUL: Thank you ever so much, Genie. That was really fantastic! Everyone, now let’s show our appreciation for her amazing feature, and give a rousing round of applause for Eugenie Steinman!
Okay, it’s now that time once again to present this month’s Poetorium group poem. This month, in order to keep it fresh, we changed it up a bit, and asked people to send us three separate lines with each starting with the phrase “A Poem Is… “. The end word of each of their lines also had to rhyme with the words ” tea” or “fee”. The reason we requested three separate lines was in case we received duplicate or very similar lines and needed to make substitutions. It turned out I had a bit of foresight, because we ended up getting a lot of similar lines using the same end words, for example, six lines ending with the word “free” and two with “Waikiki”. I also decided to edit a few of the lines such as changing “The Poem can…” to “A poem is…” to keep the lines uniform, or substituting synonyms such as “liberty” and “released from captivity” for “set free”, as well as making other alterations such as merging two short lines into one. I do apologize for this, but be assured, I used at least one line from every contributor (if not all three). Actually, I am very pleased with the way the poem turned out (and hope you will be too), and want to thank all the contributors including Diane Puterbaugh and her husband Ron (whom Diane told me also “wanted to get in on the act”), Dwayne Szlosek, Joan Erickson, Karen Warinsky, Brad Osborne, Mishelle Goodwin, and Howard J Kogan, along with the others who wish to remain anonymous.
So here now is the finished Poetorium group poem….
Well, Just What Is a Poem, Anyway?
A poem is a melody, a song to be. A poem is a dream set free. A poem is a passageway to liberty.
A poem is often read while sipping tea. A poem is a little brie, glass of chablis read on my deck in West Tennessee. A poem is warm bread, we’ll all agree.
A poem is best composed by the sea. A poem is a word jubilee best read on the beach in Waikiki. A poem is a force pulling on the human spirit like gravity.
A poem is always giving like a gift when it is given freely. A poem is being put up and taken down every year like a Christmas tree. A poem is like putting up a decoration that you’re meant to see.
A poem is pleasing to a large degree. A poem is a vital respite from the troubles of a harsh reality. A poem is a window to the soul, or possibly a colloquy.
A poem is often about a memory. A poem is walking through the woods one day, and seeing this serpent lunge at me. A poem is literately a literary lock, and the reader’s mind is the key.
A poem is like the scream of a banshee. A poem is wild words tamed in the poet’s head, then released from captivity. A poem is dangerous sport like slipping and sliding on only one ski.
A poem is a flower whose best friend is a bee. A poem is a solitary heart’s soliloquy. A poem is linguistic calm amidst verbal calamity.
A poem is sometimes written from sorrow, but sometimes from glee. A poem is often someone’s sole outlet for creativity. A poem is (for all intents and purposes) a single unit of poetry…
Normally, we would be taking a short intermission at this time in the show, but tonight we are going to do like we did last month and completely skip it. So onward and forward…
Ron will be beginning the virtual open mic in just a few minutes, but first, I’ll be presenting the submissions we received for this month’s Poetorium Writing Challenge, the segment of the Virtual Poetorium in which each month we challenge you to write in a different flash fiction or poetic form. This month’s challenge was to write some New-Style Twitterature, which are short stories written in 280 characters or less (for our purposes, this includes letters, numbers, and punctuation marks, but not spaces) – the same limit length of the most recent version of a tweet (as an alternative, you could also write Old-Style Twitterature which are just 140 characters or less which was the length of a tweet before Twitter changed the rules). Like a lot of flash fiction forms, twitterature may or may not have a title.
Unlike the contributions for this month’s group poem, we received very few submissions (just four, including one by myself). The sole example of old-style twitterature was from longtime Poetorium regular, Dwayne Szlosek…
The Origin of the American Revolution
The British are coming, the British are coming. They want to tax my tea for a fee, bad British just wanting my fee..
Brad Osborne kindly sent us some untitled new-style twitterature:
Aoccdrnig to a uinervtisy study, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
Karen Warinsky’s submission was in the new style and with a title:
Broad daylight, 3 p.m., and the second- hand furniture store was closed. Disappointed, walking back to my car a voice said, “Turn around.” “That’s odd,” I thought. Then louder. “TURN AROUND!”
Spinning about I saw a man coming at me, crazy grin on his face. I danced away, kept my purse, and he walked up the hill.
And last and least, here is my own humble effort…
An Ever-Present Scent of Artemisia
I’ve heard tales of ghostly creatures, a phantom dog, cat, or even horse, but I believe I’m the first to be haunted by wormwood, an herb. I keep glimpsing those velvety green-grey stalks that grew in my granny’s garden out of the corner of my eye. Each day I wake with that familiar bitter acrid taste on my tongue and a craving for absinthe…
Thank you so much Karen, Brad, and Dwayne for your submissions and keeping the Poetorium Form Writing Challenge alive!
Now please welcome, Ron Whittle, back to the Poetorium stage so he can host our open mic…
RON: Thanks, Paul! As you probably know, I usually begin the open mic with a poem of own. Tonight is not going to be any different…
Don’t Leave Anything Unattended – The Stars Are Always Looking For Souvenirs
I knew better than to share my secret The moon can never be trusted Once I told him how beautiful you are! and every night since the stars come out, just to take a peek at you If you listen closely you can hear them whispering in agreement with one another Every once in a while one or more will shoot on by just to get a closer look and later on, tell their tales of wonderfulness Please, I beg of you Close your curtains at night just as a precaution as they gather in your front yard while you sleep, just to worship the universe you walk on
I heard they take photographs and God only knows what they do with them
—Ron Whittle (2021)
First up on the open mic is Joe Fusco…
The Good-Humor Man (for Jack McCarthy)
When the Good-Humor ice cream truck drove slowly by our triple-decker, my Dad would often challenge my cousin Alex and me.
If we could catch three balls in a row that he would throw to us in the backyard, he’d buy us ice cream.
He always threw the first ball right at one of us.
The second toss was always difficult to catch but well within the range of two athletic ten-year-old boys.
He would then launch the third ball over the fence into our neighbor’s garden or just drop it casually by his feet.
Alex and I would loudly lament the unfairness of the third throw but Dad would chuckle and say the same words:
“Getting you ready for the real world.”
One Saturday afternoon, my cousin anticipated the third throw would be a long toss, ran through the neighbor’s fence, and caught the tennis-ball while sprawled in her garden.
Alex had a toasted-almond ice-cream bar and I enjoyed a strawberry-shortcake.
Dad never played the three-ball challenge with us again.
—Joe Fusco Jr.
RON: Next up is Dwayne Szlosek…
DWAYNE: Before I present my own piece, I’d like to do a poem written by my late mom, Hazel Szlosek:
I Was a Cat…
I was a cat. Then I was a rat. Then I found a bat, so I can hit the cat and squish him flat to stuff him underneath the welcome mat. Then once I did all that, I think I will pay a fee for some tea, and that is that…
And now, here is the latest installment of Nine Gun Billy…
Nine Gun Billy #3
It’s the day after. I clarified my killing with the sheriff of Brownwood. The barkeeper said it was a fair fight. I also found out the owner of the saloon did not like Lucky or Bison, he was glad that they were both dead. They never paid for their drinks. They owed 4 dollars and 35 cents to the saloon. I sold Lucky’s and Bison’s horses and saddles, I took what money they had between them, it was 45 dollars. I decided to pay the bill that Lucky and Bison owed. The bartender was grateful.
I started to head back to Frisbee, back to the family ranch. Along the way, I thought about Bison, a clean cut and shaved man. A scar across his forehead like if someone tried to cut his head off sometime ago. He wore a brown derby for a hat, a dusty white shirt, black pair of pants, and black shoes. He was a thin man, very tall with white pearly teeth. He looked like he was in his early twenties.
It took me 7 days to get back home. Once there, I saw my shed that did not burn to the ground. I cleaned it out, set up a bed inside to sleep in. Once I settled in, I knew I had to get ready for a fight by getting good with my pistols. I had to learn to shoot, my life depended on it. Because once they know I killed two of their friends, they will be gunning for me…
Nine Gun Billy
—Dwayne Szlosek (Copyright 04\08\2021)
I hope you all like “NINE GUN BILLY”. There is still more to come…
RON: Now please welcome Mishelle Goodwin to the Poetorium podium…
The Affair of Butt Kiss and Turkeys
He is bad. I only destroyed his pride and rewind his ego only if I had that ego. It was too late. It was not meant to be watching on the machine, the noise took me as I continued. I kept betraying him. What would he do then? I couldn’t leave him there. I remembered when it was our back yard where we played games, it was so easy until then. I did not really care.
With the statement Boone and “She is too young to have sex” and too young too cheat. Instead she would run off to go to see me, Gallian, instead. To the last chance – a scene. “Breaking the bank” Terrorizing Japan, Tokyo, and China. Instantly is partying with the president , while having sex, and Miami-vice encounters the same hubbub.
Meanwhile there is nothing but Acer is a loser. By breathing fire and putting it out. Acer did not like them; it gave him too much power over them and disturbed him as a person, a whole person who was as a man. You could do wonders just by being yourself and not to worry what someone else did. Crimes were hate crimes just trying to start when I finished. On your own you are impossible to finish and can become impossible but where did you go for help?
But Kick is in charge of the duty roasters. Making jokes all day long for three months makes you feel like giving someone a knuckle-sandwich as well as a total disaster. A joke of the man outside on the porch was living with three blondes that want to play hookie and likes playing hockey. Decides to kill him on sight.
While he is in his study he hears a knocking of his cellar door. It doesn’t say much to start it up. When both mom and Dad can learn how to take two weeks to Paris. Both they love us and the same while some things cannot change. I do love “you don’t I. “ Great news-The program came with the equipment. Telling whether the contents should be used.
He meanwhile is telling about snakes and monks, apes, and other monks can wish them to steal if you do not exchange them all. A form against what comes within him to win. Sometimes we’re going to earth after the death star puts out a fire so that they won together. Should they go there, Rome it got kicked out and put out a fire.
Jousting and putting them out onto the sales floor every day 9-2 pm. While all of the clothes were on a 50% sale rack. Also not a very good one but it would do. For now anyways. More than likely he said “ Thanks” for putting the padlocked into and shipping them out. Maybe laying low would work for them and now. U R not scared.
Without realizing a robotics drone bot is the cause of a fifty million heist. As well as the disturbance over the loss of appetite. Always lying in the sun. It was just his style, Torture! How much more can I take before I realize trying to relax? I live for hating her and missing you. Makes you wish that you can “ When hell freezes over”
Over and you’re eating jelly beans black rum good try one . Eating ice cream with a spoon until it is all gone. Love isn’t enough it never is. I’m just so sick and tired of all of this sex a Clambake. “Pass” then go hungry. and not another word. If your death is not horrible then who is she? Mangled by a car, stubbing your toe, and having a cramp in your foot is your lumbago to cause you to even to look like a slob not lunging around outside.
Like forgetting to look like a crook, ever again. You don’t and can’t give a fuck in this facility this house. or the other house. Telling them you don’t. “ Want a marshmallow” Watching the news, “It fits our life.” It is our problem. Another dirty rotten Mother F****r that is mistaken for our girl friend. Thursday left and venture always the same and starting to get real?
Finally it’s gone, swearing then saying,
“That is ok she won’t get two there. A turkey in three of them if you had too. Needing to feel better and the other at home. The death at 9am. Put me in a bad mood or call for my help. Let me help you.”
Although the Queen’s death never went lightly because she never knew him before his own death. Nobody ever told you and I had building 19. Working there I broke my nose, my glasses, and a cheese cake. Oh, Boy, here the cookies that I made for my mom. So don’t take or put my love on a shelf called 6 dollar.
He should have kept his mouth shut. To X’s and O’s. It is not too sweet and you should have kept that lover for yourself. Why? The # 1 reason is revenge over the special person in your life. So sludge here you are. OH; My new wallpaper and you wonder why I blow your brains out and like to see the new me and is even a stupid mother to want to take those bad boys on.
“ Hey, That N****r is Rich!” What will I think of next? He is in the middle of reading a book, cooking supper, and watching the news. He’s a crime. Damn him can’t stay out of trouble for one minute. And if I can’t get it back I’ll be swindled. Be good, no blowing jobs all day today. O.K, Oakey Do key Pops. What do you have in mind? Something I want to do, We’ll meet her somewhere. Then we can beat him up that’s how.
It doesn’t matter Macbeth. You don’t believe in me at all. If they did I would not be here. Don’t like it do you? Maw, it’s lonely and nothing to do. Only watching T.V., listening to music, cooking, and activities during the day. But that’s like therapy.
I mean what do you do during the day? Like I said. I guess you could say I clean the house. Why? Curious that’s all. OK. talk to you later. I hope you feel better. We don’t need any more accidents. Especially around this time of year. OK, Pops, later. He pulled up in his Vega the one he built himself. Next to me he needed help. I did not respond. I ignored him then it was late. I walked past that home too many times. I did not expect it then. Now I panic. I took out my gun, put it on silent and loaded it repeatedly. Shooting them calling out they octroyed. Thinking to be like they would be one more round alone.
He was just curious making sure that he himself gets that chance some day. He did not respond; it was only a dream. My guns were still and loaded. I had to make it back. Hated leaving them here. After everything they did. The only thing was when i made it back the lights were on and if this was the chance i had i took it. They would not come back; they had a curse and I was going to play it all.
Hating those bastards it was really them where I left it. Dick is just tired, cold, and nowhere it makes me angry. That way some body could know how. Not me. Silence Henry and a foreigner who had come bye saw him the night before last. So how many times does he take the bull and they get the shit. I was wondering why it was fun but did they know how to do anything else.
Just left as taking up a request. Sex huh. What you do best, well your best was never enough. Henry went to jail. Just last night. Dad stopped, bye. I was making a living that was just their style until they met death, maybe a veggie sandwich. Why, Henry fancy meeting you hear. Well it was a painting of Madonna painted in charcoal. Yuta be on my wall. Good luck in everything you do nursing you do? Wild horses drive yah nuts. She got what it takes with a body of a venues demolished. What Cha thought made them myself when he was getting dressed his aunt did that’s how fights started. Actually he figured as much. I was selling what he was buying and that is not all folks. Picked up on my planetoid you need a chance and maybe next time keeping a simply kissed her life back to reality. Anytime danger sounds like giving. Welcome to my place. He doesn’t live like that but he might get you there.
Henry tries crazy. Actually it was ornery like a war on the highway with the gang. As Henry braces himself and he turns his head and slowly keeps driving. Henry gets punched in the face and the patrol car’s officers grab at a bunch of kids when his song comes on the radio. Henry just finished his coffee. Needs to use when he gets home he thinks to himself Get The F T and totally forgets to meet friends and family when he was supposed to. Dragging a body from the lake, “yup you did this why well I had to say an unkind word to the cooks uses dental floss and just because I built my own private bathroom, I just pulled over and he gets a ticket.”
RON: Our next poet will be Diane Puterbaugh…
DIANE: Hi! I am Diane Puterbaugh, and I live in Jackson, Tennessee, where I just planted tomato plants and dahlias while continuing my grandmother’s wishful chant, “Now you dear things grow.”
This poem first appeared in Visitant Lit. in August 2019…
Toast With Jam
Toast with jam is bread with berries. Browned bread with boiled berries is toast with jam. Browned bread with boiled berries is breakfast. Bread toasted turns brown. Berries boiled turn brilliant. Toasted brown bread with brilliant boiled berries is breakfast.
The gold finch is green in the winter. In the winter the gold finch is a green finch. A gold finch that is a green finch in the winter is eating thistle seed. Thistle seed is breakfast for the gold finch that is green. My husband asks why the gold finch is green in the winter. I say, “Eat your toast with jam.”
—Diane Puterbaugh (originally published in Visitant Lit.)
RON: Next up is Brad Osborne, who was our featured poet last month…
Is it cloud that falls so gently When mountain top is kissed Or does it rise from the valley This cold and haunting mist
All pale shapes and grey shadows now Sight rendered all but blind Like whiskey drunk too fast somehow A fogging of the mind
Unknown fears in every crease The fears of never knowing My will cannot command you cease And keep my fears from growing
Being trapped in ghostly blanket Suffered your icy chill Yea sun would come I’d thank it And temper failing will
If but scant rays could break rampart And glimmer added hue A warmth to spirit and to heart Gained strength to see this through
Should graced light fail and hope abide My journey will not stop All my fears must be put aside If goal the mountain top
So, taunt me now you evil mist You cruel, sadistic haze Battle you, my will exist Earning my brighter days
Set upon me your eerie wrath You may have chosen me But I the chooser of my path Will choose my destiny
RON: Now please welcome Karen Warinsky…
KAREN: This poem was read for the first time on the April 25th edition of Rattle Online and can be viewed on Rattle.com.
Life returned to the stubbled hills to the ancient stones though archeologists with lithified hearts bewail: refugees are moving the rocks!
Who cares about refugees?
Syrians, pommeled and pounded ten years now live among the ruins of Byzantine, ruined themselves.
Nestling against half-walls rose-pink in the dawn, they pen their animals, prop their tents, hear the wind call their ancestors; Nefeli, Justus, Theodora, Kadir, hear it repeat old glories of the past in this northwest land, Assad’s poisoned hand not yet touching this final sanctuary while cement-filled historians and archeologists fret about the displacement of the marble, the zahr, the basalt, the integrity of the site, as the people maneuver themselves inside the consequence of war.
Worry about the consequences of refugees living there, worry about the integrity of the…….
RON: The next poet in the open mic tonight is Joan Erickson…
JOAN: This is from my group of poems from A to Z, where every word begins with the same letter…
Environmental Ecological Experiences
Elephants eat enormous entrees. Eagles encounter environmental elements especially explosive enemies.
RON: Paul, I think you might want to introduce the next poet yourself…
PAUL: Thank you, Ron. Yes, it would be my pleasure! Please welcome back after several months’ absence from the Poetorium, poet and the love of my life, Ariel Potter!
The Nightmare Artist
Every night I dream of brushes Oozing with oil paint, Huge canvases and floods of color, Pigments scratched, dotted, and glazed. I am entranced by the developing image – The figures grow and grow until they are wall-size, Huge women dancing, castles burning, Sea green waves crashing. During my sleep, I am an artist.
Every night a malevent figure, Demonic and chaotic, a familiar unknown Comes to me and interrupts my work, Ruining my efforts. I see the paint fade And dissolve everytime I touch the palette. My acrylics become muddy, The lines become broken and tangled, The gessoed paper degrades and tears As if it is my fragile heart itself. If I can’t make what’s in my mind’s eye, I will die. Never making a picture again Is like never eating again. The flavors of ebony black and enveloping yellow, Pink hues and whites so clean, I want to feast upon them like a starving wolf.
Every night I am startled out of sleep And the frustration chokes me up. My grief arrives like a haunted package Delivered by creativity thwarted. Will I never stand back, Taking in the tones and shades again? Let me breath; let me paint.
RON: And our final poet in the open mic tonight is our featured poet from last November – Howard J Kogan…
HOWARD: Of all the poetic forms, I’m drawn most to dramatic narratives. Poems you could imagine as scenes in a play. I think of two Robert Frost poems as examples, The Death of the Hired Man and Home Burial, but, of course, there are many others.
This poem in particular fell into my lap since the incident that forms the kernel of the poem was told to me many years ago when we lived in a rural area of upstate New York. It’s written as a dialogue between a couple, Lily and her husband Calvin.
Cal, you got to shoot me.
Lily, what are you saying?
I’ve been thinking and thinking; it’s the only way.
I’m not shooting anybody; shoot yourself!
I can’t do it; don’t you think I would if I could?
And if I shoot you, what do you suppose they’ll do to me?
I thought of that, you’ll need to shoot yourself next.
You’re talking crazy. I swear you’ve lost your mind.
I can’t hardly get across a room even with the damn walker and you’re not far behind. I see you struggling with your cane, the look on your face like a man on hot coals. How long before you can’t walk or drive? You shouldn’t be driving now. I thought it out. You know I’ve always beenthe sensible one.
Lily, what brought this on?
The Visiting Nurse come today. She said she spoke to Dr. Cleary, they both say it’s time to think about the nursing home. Of course, I said, No! She got insistent, said it was something we had to do, and sooner not later. I said, it’s up to us, isn’t it? She had the nerve to say, it is today, but the next time either of us ends up in the hospital, we won’t be let out to anywhere but the county home. Her and Dr. Cleary agree we’re not capable of caring for ourselves. I couldn’t believe it, her sitting at my own kitchen table talking to me like I was a child.
It’s come to that?
It’s come to that. You have to do it.
Why do I have to do it?
It’s a man’s job. Women have the pain of childbirth. Killing is men’s work.
Jeez Lily, I believe you mean it. You could ask your sister, could we come.
You know I won’t. It’s not that way between us. If Nancy hadn’t passed so young, it’d be different. A child is different than a sister.
It wouldn’t be different though; you never asked anyone for help, you’re tooproud or too foolish. I don’t know which.
I’m asking you for help right now though I wish I didn’t have to.
I’d ask kin for help if I had any.
Things are easy to say if there’s no doing them. I tell you we need to do this.I won’t see us in a nursing home with those pathetic old people, sitting there drooling, out of their minds.
It might be better than you expect.
I tell you I don’t want to go where they’ll put us; I want to end it now!
Lily, it’s not something I can do, we’ve been married sixty years.
It’s more like seventy and it’s more than enough. I’m tired of pain and now they got me scared to death. You know I’m right, it’s merciful, that’s what you said when you put down Patch, the last of the beagles. The poor thing couldn’t walk and you carried him out back of the barn and shot him. In an instant all his pain and troubles were over. I remember your very words; you said it was a kindness. How dare you not show me that same kindness!
—Howard J. Kogan
RON: Okay, folks, before we close out the show, Iet’s bring back to the microphone, my co-host and cohort, Paul Szlosek…
PAUL: Thanks, Ron! Although this poem was written over twenty years ago, it was only published 3 years ago in Contour as part of “the Worcester Tale of Two Cities Poetry Project”:
He could barely conceal his astonishment when his mom revealed his birth was the result of planned parenting, always figuring his origin was an accident like the rest of his life.
In grade school, the child no one wanted to babysit, not because he was a mean-spirited hellacious brat but the source of potential lawsuits, hapless victim of habitual broken bones and bloody noses.
In high school, voted “Class Klutz: Most Likely to Be the Epicenter of a Disaster of Global Proportions”. Avoided by others in hallways, invisible clouds of chaos swirling around him as he stumbled through corridors.
In the science lab, the forces of entropy flowing through his fingertips, the glue between molecules disintegrating, shatterproof beakers shattering with his touch.
Have you ever witnessed such grace as a clumsy boy slipping on a patch of black ice? Arms flailing, fingers fumbling, books and balance lost and caught, caught and lost. His untied sneakers continuously slapping the ground In a choreography of precision awkwardbatics.
The one lesson life taught him? To keep his distance, to be careful to never get too close to glass or people (and other breakables), feeling, fearing that when he leaves this plane of existence, he’ll take a small chunk of the surrounding universe out with him…
—Paul Szlosek (originally published in Contour: A Tale of Two Cities Special Edition)
Before I turn the microphone over to Ron, I just want to thank everyone that participated in tonight’s program including our feature, Eugenie Steinman, and everyone in the virtual open reading as well as the contributors to the group poem and the form writing challenge. You are all amazing and without you, there would be no Poetorium!
And now, back to Ron so he can close up the show…
RON: Well, folks, this is the last poem of the night, and it goes something like this…
The Old Cape Cod Farmhouse Not Far From the Beach
With its old age this old house creaks and groans with any movement within the scope of its walls The floorboards the noisiest when walked upon The old door hinges squeal and growl as they are opened or closed and will challenge the most horrified of minds in the midnight darkness Even the old furniture has something to say about being sat on I’m left to wonder if the beauty of its age is objective or subjective or waving furiously somewhere in the middle I’m in the kitchen making friends with the bottoms of golden brown beer bottles and this sixty year old church key The damp and dusty odor permeates all that will absorb the ocean’s moisture creating that nightmarish scent neither a vile stink nor an aromatic scent The chatty front porch deck announces the arrival long before the doorbell is rung While the weather on the other hand sings up a storm of pitter-pattering as the roofs runoff, splashes on the ground creating a noise that is comforting and soothing My smile is both unconvincing and unnerving in my wait for the others to come I have joined the sand in the hourglass unraveling one grain at a time letting the imagined story of this old farmhouse unfold in my thought filled mind
—Ron Whittle (2021)
As much as I always hate to do these close-outs and say goodbye, it’s that time again. God bless, and please be safe – we need you back (I’m waving)! Until next time that we meet, have a great evening and keep on writing.
In today’s post, we will talk about the Octo, not to be confused with a host of similar-sounding poetry forms such as the Octameter (a form we discussed previously on this site), the Octain, the Octet, and the Octopoem (which is also often referred to as an Octo). Created by James Neille Northe, the octo is a poem of eight lines consisting of eight syllables apiece (like my own invented form, the streetbeatina). The first three lines of the poem is repeated as the last three, but in reverse order. In other words, line 1 becomes line 8, line 2 becomes line 7, and line 3 reappears as line 6 (the exact words and their order must remain the same, but the punctuation can be altered). Also lines 4 and 5 rhyme together, thus the rhyme scheme can be expressed as ABCddCBA (with the capital letters representing the repeated lines and the small letters the ones that rhyme).
If you would like to try your own hand an writing an octo, here are a couple examples I wrote which you can use as models:
The Agony of Parting From You
You don’t even dare think of me. Dream of good times, as long as your precious life keeps going on. Perhaps we shall meet up again, yet it’s best to forget. Til then, your precious life keeps going on. Dream of good times, as long as you don’t even dare think of me.
Our Seemingly Unending Journey
Where we will precisely end up? I don’t think we shall ever know. Seems a long time since we started. In which season? I don’t recall. Perhaps Winter or maybe Fall. Seems a long time since we started, I don’t think we shall ever know where we will precisely end up.
So what do you think of the octo, dear readers? Like always, I sincerely wish you will try writing one for yourself, and if you do, please don’t hesitate to share. I hope you enjoyed this post, and thank you so much for reading!
I am so pleased to announce that my interview with Chrystal Rice Cooper about the creation of my poem “A History of Hardtack (in One Sentence)” has been featured on her blog as part of her wonderful ongoing series called “BACKSTORY OF THE POEM” (being an uninformed idiot, I just discovered it has already been published for almost a month in the wee hours of this morning). Having interviewed poets myself as part of the Virtual Poetorium, I have to say it was such an honor and a delight to be finally on the other end of the process. You can check out the entire interview along with plenty of relevant photos on her blog here:
In order to entice you to click on the above link, I’m posting the poem here which was the subject of the interview: “A History of Hardtack (in One Sentence)” that first appeared in Silkworm 12: Survival in 2019 (I’m hoping after reading it, you will be intrigued enough to want to learn more about it’s unusual origin)…
A History of Hardtack (in One Sentence)
Centuries ago, twice, thrice, or quadruple baked rock-like slabs of flour, water, and sometimes salt known as hardtack, brewis, pilot bread, sea biscuits, ship’s crackers, (or disparagingly) sheet iron, molar breakers and worm castles filled the holds of most seafaring vessels (along with daily rations of beer or rum), sustaining royal sailors and merchant mariners, pirates and privateers, whalers and fishermen, sea dogs and old salts, the hardiest of men, who endured perilous ocean voyages lasting multiple fortnights crossing the Atlantic and Pacific through squalls and dead calm, while I now stand rubber-legged on the bow of a ferry, clutching a wax paper sleeve of their frail descendants, unsalted saltines, which I nibble as I sip from a can of flat Coke in an attempt to quell a tsunami of queasiness in my stomach, praying to both Neptune and Nabisco that I be allowed to survive this hour-long excursion across the bay from Boston Harbor to George’s Island.
—Paul Szlosek (Originally Published in Silkworm 12: Survival)
In honor of Poetry Month, here is another invented poetry form of my own creation (in my own biased opinion, along with the Streetbeatina and the Hodgenelle, probably one of my best), the Ziggurat…
The Ziggurat is a 14-line poem of 4 stanzas. Like the hay(na)ku, it is isoverbal, meaning its lines’ lengths are measured by the number of words instead of syllables or meter (thus my original name for it was the “Isoverbal Sonnet”). The first stanza is two lines of two words a piece, the second is 3 lines of 3 words apiece, the third is 4 lines of 4 words apiece, and the fourth and final is 5 lines of 5 words apiece. Each stanza uses a different monorhyme, thus the rhyme scheme can be expressed asaa bbb cccc dddd.Also another rule is the title must always consist of just one word.
The form derives it name from its shape when centered on a page, which somewhat resembles a ziggurat, the terraced step pyramid found in ancient Mesopotamia. I am no longer a fan of that style of presentation for a poem, but here is one of my ziggurats in that format so you can get the idea.
King Kong’s singing songs
of unrequited love like a dove perched high above
the congested city traffic. His audience – half hick tourists, half urbanites, photographic opportunists who laugh, click
snapshots. Their catcalls, derision increased until crestfallen Kong’s crooning ceased. Today, all across the Northeast, headlines proclaim “APE BARITONE – DECEASED! BAD REVIEWS KILLED THE BEAST!”
The very first and so far the only ziggurat to appear in print is the following which was originally published last year in Star*Line, the Journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (the editor even included a note explaining that the poem was a ziggurat, a form of my own invention):
To reverse any curse,
you simply bless the resulting mess that occurs, unless
things get really drastic. Suppose Time becomes elastic and alternative pasts stick together like cheap plastic
toys fused by intense heat. Unique events begin to repeat themselves. Parallel chronologies collide, compete. Ain’t any way to defeat Chaos. My expert advice? Retreat!
Due to the apparent comical nature of its monorhyme, I originally thought that the ziggurat was only suited for light verse and humorous subjects. But after reading “Forget-Me-Not” by John Hodgen (one of my favorite poets), and seeing how masterly he used the monorhyme for great effect in his heart-breaking poem about the death of his brother from cancer, I have had a change of heart. Here are two I wrote about “Death” and “Depression”, probably two of the most serious matters I can think of (please let me know if you feel these two poems work or if the ziggurat should just be reserved for Ogden Nash-style frivolity):
No surprise- everybody dies,
even me, you, the President too. We can’t sue,
stop Death by force. Like a thoroughbred horse, Life runs its course. The finish (a source .
of sorrow for our friends) is certain, although one pretends it’s not, that it depends on changeable circumstances, unpredictable trends. A good story always ends.
Not only The lonely
Suffer the blues. Even joyous news Can often confuse
Us make us cry. Don’t ask me why. Psychological mysteries that lie Unexplained aren’t solved by
Scientific process or rational thought. Melancholy is a battle fought Within the soul, a shot Of emotion, cold then hot. Sometimes we’re happy – sometimes not.
This last one was written many years ago as part of “Poets in the Gallery” project at the Worcester Art Museum during an exhibit on Abstract Art & Expressionism:
Let’s subtract the Abstract
from all Fine Art and redefine Color and Line
as simply tools meant to help artists represent Reality, not to invent some pretentious, psychologically bent
vision of Heaven or Hell. Arguments for Abstraction don’t jell. What? You’re trying to tell me Pollack (splattering paint pell-mell) was superior to Norman Rockwell?
So what is your opinion of this form, my friends? Do you agree with me that the ziggurat is one of the best that I have created or did I truly miss the mark this time? I sincerely hope that you enjoyed reading about it along with my humble examples today, and that perhaps you will even try the ziggurat yourself. If you do, I can practically guarantee you will have a great deal of fun, and be pleasantly pleased with your results.
I am very pleased to announce that this month, my co-host Ron Whittle and I will be producing our ninth edition of the Virtual Poetorium (the tenth, if you count our special holiday Ho-hoetorium last December) with the one and only Eugenie Steinman (author of Persimmon: Poems and Recipesand popular host of the call-in radio program Radio Jail) as our featured poet. Like we did last month, I’d like to once again open up this April’s Virtual Poetorium for anyone who would like to participate and invite all my fellow bloggers and faithful readers (or just anyone just happening to read this) to be a part of our unique online poetry gathering in print.
To be part of our virtual open mic, please send us one of your own original poems or stories (under 2000 words please) either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of an email along with your name, any opening remarks you care to make, and where your poem has appeared if it was previously published to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, April 23rd. Also if you like, you can send us a photo of yourself to be posted above your poem, but that is totally optional.
Once again, we also need contributions to this month’s Poetorium Group poem, but to keep it fresh, we are changing it up a bit. To participate this month, please send us three separate lines with each starting with the phrase “A Poem Is… “. The end word of each line also must rhyme with the words ” tea” or “fee”. The reason we are requesting three separate lines is in case we receive duplicate or very similar lines and we need to make substitutions, but be assured at least one of your lines (if not all three) will be compiled and included in this month’s Virtual Poem. As always, all contributions will remain anonymous (unless otherwise requested). Like in the open mic, the deadline for submissions is the night of Friday, April 23rd.
We will also be continuing our monthly writing challenge in which we invite you to write in a different flash fiction or poetic form each month. This month’s challenge is to write some New-Style Twitterature, which are short stories written in 280 characters or less (this includes letters, numbers, and punctuation marks, but not spaces) – the same limit length of the most recent version of a tweet (as an alternative, you can also write Old-Style Twitterature which are just 140 characters or less which was the length of a tweet before Twitter changed the rules). Please send us your best efforts by Friday, April 23rd to be included in this month’s Virtual Poetorium.
If you have any questions about submitting to the virtual open mic, the group Poetorium poem, the writing challenge, or anything else about the Virtual Poetorium itself, please leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to answer them right away.
Thank you so very much for reading, my friends! I really appreciate everyone’s continued support of this blog, and hope to hear from you soon with your contributions to this month’s edition of the Virtual Poetorium!