Monday, October 26, 2015

COME DANCE UPON THE MOON’S BRIGHT EDGE Contemporary Poets Talk and Waltz…

Contemporary Poets Talk and Waltz…

by Diane Smith

Sure, everyone remembers how Arthur and Ford were tortured with grueling Vogon poetry in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Don’t despair.  Our contemporary poets take us through the Milky Way minus the word-boarding, speaking to new platforms in contemporary poetry—not so distant from glyphs on a cave wall.   Themes and use of language, along with cross-cultural styles shift with the landscape.

Aside from the obvious changes, new platforms for poetry are cropping up daily.
“Installation poetry is displayed on public spaces like subway stations, parks, the side of a building, sidewalks... Poets are branching out,” Doug Holder, Founder of the Ibbetson Review Press and arts/editor of the Somerville News in MA said.

Holder’s poem encompasses elements of the contemporary poetry scene; free verse, eloquent language, strong cultural identity—as reprinted from Grey Sparrow Journal.

The Bronx 1965

All those ancient Jewish women on lawn chairs—as I walked by they pinched my cheeks as if I was a piece of prime meat. "Such a nice boy, he is Minnie's grandson," they crowed. These old women—once their now deflated breasts—fed their children shtetl milk. And in the hall of my grandmother’s building—a waft of Eastern European cooking—I could Daven—like a religious man: "kishka, herring, schmaltz, borscht, flanken, blintzes, chopped liver...amen." My grandmother—senile— scolded my father, "You went all over Europe, you were a playboy!" My father replied: "Ma! I was in the army—World War II!" "A playboy, a playboy," she muttered. Uncle Dave, a rare book dealer, Homburg hat, cane, never cracked a smile, a brilliant bald head under the lights—started out selling books on pushcarts in the Lower East Side— "I had to make a living," he explained—called George Gershwin—"A good kid." He grew up with him—urchins darting up and down the street, roasting spuds in back alleys—there was music—Klezmer, Jazz, the neighs of horses, the come-on from peddlers, prayers on tenement rooftops, the cooing of pigeons on fire escapes...
 —Doug Holder

While installation art is one dimension that speaks to the contemporary landscape, book art offers softer decibels in terms of distribution for the poet.

A poetry or prose book may become a container to hold and to communicate.  How that’s done is a critical issue with book art, Jill S. Weese, former director of youth and community programs, artist and current volunteer at Minnesota Center for the Book Arts [MCBA] explains.

“Book arts include both the traditional crafts that go into making books and the creative art process.  That’s when you may get into the sculptural piece [such as the mushrooms on the wall.] Book art is such a broad field. It presses the boundaries of what a book is perceived to be, Weese said.

While new platforms offer creative space for poets, themes are constant as well as changing.

Poetry has been and continues to be either private (domestic) or public (political), M.J. Iuppa, poet and lecturer in creative writing at St. John Fisher College, said. The landscapes, that is the poetry of place gives us regionalism, whereas the political takes on protest in an inclusive and far-reaching call to action.

“Often, I tell my students that the nineteenth century, especially after 1870, the trend in poetry was “The good will be rewarded and the bad will be punished”; twentieth century’s trend was “Sometimes the good don’t get what they deserve;” and currently, I think the trend is a divide on what is and isn’t authentic, and that in itself is debatable,” Iuppa said. (Iuppa’s poetry follows.)

Nothing Ever Dies

In the middle of autumn
do you hear yellow explosions?
                              ~Pablo Neruda

It’s no longer surprising when summer begins
to crinkle at its pinked edges, and in spite of rain,
nothing smooths out, supple and green as a field
of wheat swelling in wind’s constant indecision.

Over and over, and over, everything appears to be
the same.  Yet, all of our life, it’s been a subtle
expectation— something will change by the way
the sun shifts in the sky. We sense the second

it happens: that gush of light in heady marigolds;
the heavy scent of moss and yellow leaves set
loose in the weight of our steps. We’re pleased
by this ticklish thrill. Nothing ever dies. 
                                                 —M.J. Iuppa

Thomas R. Smith, poet and teacher at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, buzzes on contemporary themes in poetry.

“Though the academics still have a strong hold on the college-based literary journals, the online world is a dizzying profusion of sharply and often cultishly defined styles and movements. Sometimes I think this is a good thing, and at other times a bad thing, and at still other times a neutral thing.   All the tiny new isms of poetry need to find ways to talk with each other if American poetry to live up to its great democratic history.”

Smith’s poetry [in memoriam] in 7 quatrains and a single line, in free verse, offers historical context from 9/11:

People Falling

It¹s one thing to watch the explosions
on TV, the smoke flagging its black
united nations of grief, hydrangeas of
flame in horrible exfoliation,

but another to see the photographs
of the people who chose to jump
rather than suffer incineration in that
relentlessly collapsing inferno.

Thirteen seconds to drop from the upper
stories, hitting pavement not with a moist
meat-thud but the dry, almost metallic
fury of every fiber shattering . . .

During the Cuban missile crisis,
Dylan sang, Let me die in my footsteps
before I go down under the ground.  That song
comes back to me while staring at a Time

Magazine photo in which, very high up
and small, a man and woman hold hands
as they plummet past the windowless, sheer
wall that can do nothing to help them,

that in fact can do nothing to prevent
its own falling, soon to follow.  Lovers?
Friends?  Or merely strangers brought together
by desperation in the last minutes of life?

How your leap, leaving behind everything
but the touch of another¹s hand, tears
my heart open again, that was closed
by fear and anger, my heart that is torn

and held together by your hopeless clasp.

                                —Thomas R. Smith

“People are starting to incorporate more language from the world of computers and the Internet. Daniel Y. Harris, the president of the board of New York Quarterly Books, is a pioneer in the incorporation of computer language,” Holder said.

Harris’s poetry rich with metaphor and contemporary language follows:

The Bug in the Bait File*
An ecclesia of wings
enters ear
and net 

Trojan or worm

deadlock by

a bit rot glitch
of a software

in a handle leak—


fandangos on the core
before a patch
signals to the cargo


*Hyperlinks of Anxiety (Cervena Barva Press, 2013)

-Daniel Y. Harris

Platforms, themes, language have seen major changes along with Cross-cultural poetry.

“There's a beautiful confluence in the literary ecosystem where writers, readers, critics and publishers engage in an unending and exciting conversation on new works, or new concerns pushing at the limits of our literary consciousness,” Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingde, global poet in Singapore said. 

Zhicheng-Mingde’s lyrical prose poem follows:

in aeternum :: into eternity

An awkward plant that tilts out from under the grass.   It looks like the pedestrian on the embankment, keeping unnaturally still.  As if frozen in time, in mid-thought, like Laotzu dreaming of Zhongdian.   “I saw Shangri-La once,” the woman beside him says matter-of-factly.   “I lived in a Tibetan house.   I ate at their table, slept in all day because of the cold.”   This could be Shuodu Hai or Haba Village, no one can be sure.   There are no landmarks.   Only vast tracts of land, and a range of mountains only the locals tell apart, and name, intimately as if calling out to a friend.   The tree behind the guesthouse has drooped its branches to nearly touch the ground, the ground dry and cracked all the way to the pond of ice.   At the edge of the cliff, another tree, an old willow, grows out into the mist.

                                                                                                     Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingde

“This robust dialogue is always welcome.”  Zhicheng-Mingde said.

Diane Smith is the founder of the Grey Sparrow Press and Journal.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:25 PM

    Thanks, Doug, for the space... I enjoy all of these poets--Big Hugs! DS, Grey Sparrow Press