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A Little Less War, part of the Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk project, Saint Paul, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

A Little Less War, part of the Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk project, Saint Paul, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






A little less war,
A little more peace,
A little less poor,
A little more eats.









I had planned to write another mandala post tonight, but the time got away from me. I’ve been learning to navigate the new WordPress 2.7 release and I think I’m going to like it. It’s faster and more user friendly, and, of course, WordPress support is unprecedented. But it always takes time to learn something new, so I decided to do another short post, more poetry from Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk.

The project, a collaboration between Saint Paul Public Works and Public Art Saint Paul, is the brainchild of Marcus Young, Artist In Residence of the City of Saint Paul, Minnesota. I did a first piece about the project earlier this week (Sidewalk Poetry — Public Art At Its Best) and thought I would post another poem while it’s fresh in my mind.

The untitled poem in the photograph A Little Less War was written by Eyang Wu. If you’d like to take a slow walk down long city sidewalks and view the poetry for yourself, here’s a link to the map of the section of Saint Paul where the poetry is located. And while you are slow walking in the December chill, remember — Awaken, Awaken, Awaken! Do not waste this precious life!


Eyang Wu is a retired Chinese opera artist originally from Hangzhou, China, and now a resident of the United States. His poem was first written on a kite and flown at Saint Paul’s annual Earth Day celebration, Wishes for the Sky.

    — bio from the book Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, December 5th, 2008

-related to posts: Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day)Celebrate Poetry (Let Me Count The Ways

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Sidewalk Poetry, part of the Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk project, Saint Paul, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Sidewalk Poetry, part of the Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk project, Saint Paul, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.









A tourist
in the cathedral
of your silence
I am reverent
for all the wrong
reasons









The untitled poem in the photograph Sidewalk Poetry was written by Esmé Evans. It was taken during a celebration of Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk. The project is a unique collaboration between Saint Paul Public Works and Public Art Saint Paul, and is the brainchild of Marcus Young, Artist In Residence of the City of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

We attended the opening in Frogtown on a beautiful Fall day last October. The project is the first of its kind in this country and is largely due to Minnesota citizens who, in spite of the economic downturn, continue to support and fund the Arts.

We purchased the hand-bound book created and designed by Aki Shibata and Marcus Young, and had many of the poets sign their poems. It’s important to note that the judging was anonymous — poems were chosen on their own merit, without knowing the poet’s age, experience, or background. The poets in the book come from all walks of life, and include children and teens whose poetry is now letterpressed into Saint Paul’s city sidewalks.

I hope to do a future piece with more photographs from the opening. Until then, I’ll continue to post snippets from the Sidewalk Poetry series.


Esmé Evans works for the State of Minnesota. She is married and has two sons. She and her family have lived in Saint Paul since 1984, and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

    — bio from the book Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

-related to posts: Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day)Celebrate Poetry (Let Me Count The Ways)

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The Poets Letter, After Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Poet’s Letter, after Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



One of the highlights of a busy week was our Poetry & Meditation Group on Wednesday night. There was homemade banana bread and a lively discussion about the Presidential election framed by Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes.

There were antique Christmas lights and maps and readings of two poems each. There were gifts of pocket journals and stories from a woman who had just returned from a trip to India and Nepal.

Then it happened, that little surprise. Once again there was a return letter in the mail from one of the poets to whom we had sent a thank you card.

This time it was Minnesota poet, Robert Bly. Now in his eighties, Robert Bly was named Minnesota’s first poet laureate in February of 2008. The fact that he is a hometown favorite who has authored more than 30 books of poetry made it all the more sweet. Teri asked in the thank you card about a poem the group had listened to, but was unable to locate in any of his books.


Here’s what he wrote, tapped out on the keys of a classic typewriter:



October 21st, 2008


Dear Teri Blair,

Thank you for the sweet note you wrote signed by so many other people. It’s very touching that these poems were sweet to you. The poem you mentioned called “The Two Rivers” goes this way:


Inside us there is a river born in the
        good cold
That longs to give itself to the Gulf
       of light.
And there is another river–more like
       the Missouri–
That carries earth, and earth joys, and
       the earthly.


I’m sending you a new CD you might like.

With warm wishes
and thanks,

Robert Bly




The CD was a translation of the mystic poet and philosopherKabir (1398 – 1518), arranged by Robert Bly, in his own voice, and accompanied by music. I felt so much gratitude that the poet took the time to write back.

At the end of the night, in low-light conditions, I shot these few photographs. They are dark and tinted from the reddish-yellow glow of a string of giant Christmas bulbs. Teri shared a story about how she inherited the lights found hidden on top of a rainwater cistern in the basement of a Minnesota farmhouse that has been in her family for generations. I like the graininess and hue; it captures the warmth of the evening.

We become more grateful as each month goes on. Once again, thank you to the poets, and for the poems and groups that keep them alive. I feel thankful to have this place in which to share the poets’ letters.

It’s getting late. I’ll end the post with a Robert Bly poem from the American Life In Poetry series with Ted Kooser (another poet who was gracious enough to write back). May we all be blessed with such humility and grace.




American Life in Poetry: Column 165

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006


In “The Moose,” a poem much too long to print here, the late Elizabeth Bishop was able to show a community being created from a group of strangers on a bus who come in contact with a moose on the highway. They watch it together and become one. Here Robert Bly of Minnesota assembles a similar community, around an eclipse. Notice how the experience happens to “we,” the group, not just to “me,” the poet.



Seeing the Eclipse in Maine


It started about noon. On top of Mount Batte,
We were all exclaiming. Someone had a cardboard
And a pin, and we all cried out when the sun
Appeared in tiny form on the notebook cover.

It was hard to believe. The high school teacher
We’d met called it a pinhole camera,
People in the Renaissance loved to do that.
And when the moon had passed partly through

We saw on a rock underneath a fir tree,
Dozens of crescents–made the same way–
Thousands! Even our straw hats produced
 A few as we moved them over the bare granite.

We shared chocolate, and one man from Maine
Told a joke. Suns were everywhere–at our feet.



American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem (c) 1997 by Robert Bly, whose most recent book of poetry is “My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy,” Harper Perennial, 2006.

Poem reprinted from “Music, Pictures, and Stories,” Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 2002, by permission of the writer. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.



The Essence Of Poetry Group, After Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Letter From Robert Bly, After Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Hand To Hand, After Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Essence Of Poetry Group, Letter From Robert Bly, Hand To Hand, after Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Friday, November 7th, 2008, with gratitude to Teri, the members of our poetry group, and all other writers and artists groups out there keeping our dreams alive

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Postcard From The Edge, note from Gary Soto, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Postcard From The Edge, note from Gary Soto, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Our poetry and meditation group meets again tonight. I’m looking forward to the poetry of local writer, Louise Erdrich. Though I have read many of her books, I am unfamiliar with her poetry.

A few months ago, we read the poetry of Gary Soto. It’s our practice of gratitude to sign a card at the end of the evening and send it off to the poet, a way to give a little something back for their great body of work.


Once in a while, the poet writes back:



Dear Teri & Friends:

I thought my ears were burning a week ago! What wonder news for a poet – – fans! I have a new book under contract & will have to wait a little more than a year before it arrives. I sigh with patience. And I sigh even deeper because we may never meet. ¡Qué Lastima!

Blessings,

Gary Soto



      \'57 Ford, postcard image by Robert Bechtle, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.\'57 Ford, postcard image by Robert Bechtle, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.\'57 Ford, postcard image by Robert Bechtle, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



We are so grateful for the kindness. We stand on the backs of the writers and artists who came before us. They inspire us to believe in ourselves, to better craft our work, to keep going when we want to give up, and to reach high and hard to fulfill our own creative dreams. It is hard to write in isolation. We need community.

If you’d like to start your own poetry group, the details are laid out in the Guest post by Teri Blair, Desire And A Library Card — The Only Tools Necessary To Start A Poetry Group. Or maybe you were inspired by her piece, and your poetry group has already begun to meet. We’d love to hear how it’s going.

The books we devour are mentors. The images, photographs, and words connect us to something much larger. To all the poets, writers, and artists who came before us — Deep Bow.



        The Poet Writes Back, note from Gary Soto, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    The Poet Writes Back, note from Gary Soto, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

           The Poet Writes Back, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by
           QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, July 10th, 2008

-related to post, Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day)

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By Teri Blair


Five months ago I started a poetry and meditation group in my home. And I’ll tell you straight up: if I can start a poetry group, anyone can start a poetry group.

I am not well read when it comes to poets. Before doing this, if called upon to name poets I would have only been able to tick off the most obvious choices: Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson. For most of my life I’ve felt intimidated by poetry. When I’d hear a poem read, I’d usually feel like I didn’t get it. I considered the door to poetry locked and bolted, entered by only a heady few.

But at the beginning of 2008, I began to get an itch to do something to make the world a better place. I know, I know, such a cliché. But I was tired of feeling depressed by the sort of people and events that grab headlines. I was frustrated, feeling like my country was being taken over by things I didn’t like or believe in. I was worried that people weren’t reading like they used to. I wanted to do something to steer the world in the direction I wanted it to go.

The idea for the group dawned on me one day, and I recognized it immediately as something I could pull off. I could invite people over to my house; we’d sit together for an hour, hear good poetry, and be still. And that’s pretty much what we do. It’s not a complicated event.

Each month I pick out a poet. To do this, I browse in a bookstore or library, or go to an online poetry site. I like choosing poets from around the country and from varied backgrounds, but for the first meeting of the group, I picked a Nebraskan poet, just so we could get used to hearing poetry from a Midwestern voice. Since then, we’ve been to Massachusetts, North Carolina, California, and Virginia.

I select poets whose words and voices are accessible. I live in a city with a sensational library system, so I get all the poet’s books with my public library card. I sit on my living room floor with books scattered around me, and slowly page through them. Certain poems jump out at me, and these are the ones I put a bookmark next to.

The people in my poetry group have the option of helping me read, so I email them poems I’ve selected. This gives them the chance to practice reading the poems out loud before we meet. I do a little research on the poets so I can share a bit about their lives and what brought them to writing. I keep this short. I don’t think anyone wants an endless historic lecture.

When we gather, I have candles lit. We get quiet, and I tell everyone what I’ve learned about the poet whose work we’ll hear. I don’t memorize this; I have it written on a piece of paper. I play a song to begin to slow us down, and then we listen to poetry. About one poem every five minutes with silence in-between. Sometimes I can find sound recordings at the library of the authors reading their own works. So at the end, we’ll listen to the writer reading a few of his or her own poems.

So far, our poets have all been living. So we sign a card thanking them and telling them the titles of the poems we heard. I find mailing addresses online and mail the card the next day. Then we drink tea, eat snacks (I ask for a volunteer to bring treats), and hang around. That’s it.



This is what I know so far:

  1. I feel a lot better adding something of decency and substance to the world.
  2. I am getting to know poets, and I am thrilled. If you say the name Maya Angelou to me, I’m tracking with you. If Rita Dove comes to town to read, I’ll be all over her work.
  3. Everyone who comes knows that for at least one hour every month they will get to be still in a busy world.
  4. After the Mary Oliver night, a 26-year-old from our group went and bought all her books. Three people purchased tickets to hear her speak when she came to Minneapolis last March. I’m pretty sure these things wouldn’t have happened if not for the exposure to her work.
  5. We got to participate in National Poem in Your Pocket Day in April. We wouldn’t have known about it had I not been searching poetry websites.
  6. Ted Kooser wrote to our group. I’m here to say I have a postcard from a two-time Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner hanging on my bulletin board. Not bad.
  7. The people who come range in age from 26-55. It feels healthy to be in a cross-age group.
  8. Hosting these evenings is part of my writing practice. It is a tangible way to move my life in the direction I want it to go.
  9. The people who come seem genuinely happy to participate. Someone told me this morning that it feeds her soul.
  10. On Gary Soto night, a young group member (a Spanish major) read her poem twice, first in Spanish and then in English. It was deeply touching to hear another language spoken; it brought tears to our eyes. I don’t know why it did, but it was good. Gary sent us a postcard, too. Part of it is written in Spanish. That Gary.
  11. After deciding that July would feature the poetry of Louise Erdrich, my friend and I saw her a few rows back on the same airplane when we were returning from a writing retreat. It was almost too much synchronicity to grasp. The sort of serendipity that makes your head feel dizzy and your stomach full of butterflies.
  12. When Robert Bly was named Minnesota’s first Poet Laureate, we swelled with pride. Poetry mattered to us.

 

All that. And all I had was desire and a library card.




All The Best From Nebraska, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

All The Best From Nebraska, postcard (back), March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




 Golden Rule, postcard of a painting by Ted Kooser, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 24  Golden Rule, postcard of a painting by Ted Kooser, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 24  Golden Rule, postcard of a painting by Ted Kooser, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 24  Golden Rule, postcard of a painting by Ted Kooser, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 24

Golden Rule, postcard (front), painting by Ted Kooser, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 24″, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Teri Blair is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis. She is currently writing a profile series on teachers who taught in one-room rural schools before, during, and after WW II. They appear monthly in Senior Perspective.



 

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American Life in Poetry: Column 160

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006


I’ve mentioned how important close observation is in composing a vivid poem. In this scene by Arizona poet, Steve Orlen, the details not only help us to see the girls clearly, but the last detail is loaded with suggestion. The poem closes with the car door shutting, and we readers are shut out of what will happen, though we can guess.



Three Teenage Girls: 1956

by Steve Orlen


Three teenage girls in tight red sleeveless blouses and black Capri pants
And colorful headscarves secured in a knot to their chins
Are walking down the hill, chatting, laughing,
Cupping their cigarettes against the light rain,
The closest to the road with her left thumb stuck out
Not looking at the cars going past.

Every Friday night to the dance, and wet or dry
They get where they’re going, walk two miles or get a ride,
And now the two-door 1950 Dodge, dark green
Darkening as evening falls, stops, they nudge
Each other, peer in, shrug, two scramble into the back seat,
And the third, the boldest, famous
For twice running away from home, slides in front with the man
Who reaches across her body and pulls the door shut.



_______________________________________________

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Poem copyright (c) 2006 by Steve Orlen. Reprinted from “The Elephant’s Child: New & Selected Poems 1978-2005” by Steve Orlen, Ausable Press, 2006, by permission of the author and publisher.

Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

_______________________________________________

American Life in Poetry provides newspapers and online publications with a free weekly column featuring contemporary American poems. The sole mission of this project is to promote poetry: American Life in Poetry seeks to create a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture.

There are no costs for reprinting the columns; we do require that you register your publication at http://www.americanlifeinpoetry.org and that the text of the column be reproduced without alteration. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, April 17th, 2007, in honor of National Poetry Month and National Poem In Your Pocket Day

-related to posts: Celebrate Poetry (Let Me Count The Ways), and Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day)

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Pocket Poetry, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Pocket Poetry, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

April 17th is the first national Poem In Your Pocket Day. It’s part of the wider celebration of National Poetry Month. I went to my monthly poetry group last Friday. We talked about the life of Maya Angelou, read her poetry, sat in silence between poems. We listened to her voice. This is the 3rd month we have met.

The first month was Ted Kooser. After the group ended that night, Teri passed around a thank-you card (gratitude to those who came before us). We all signed it; the next day she mailed it off to Ted. A generous man, the former Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner wrote back within the month (look for an upcoming post).

The second month was Mary Oliver. In March, three members of the poetry group went to see Mary Oliver at the State Theater in Minneapolis (here’s Mary with her famous dog, Percy, in Jim Walsh’s MinnPost article, The poet as rock star: Mary Oliver returns for a reading). They shared stories about the funny and engaging Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, who read to a packed house; Mary Oliver is one of the humblest and highest paid poets in America.

April is the month we honor poetry as an art form. “Poetry” comes from the ancient Greek: ποιεω (poieo) meaning I create. It is an art in which human language becomes a palette for its aesthetic qualities. Poetry creates a visual feast from the simplest ingredients — it pares language down to the bare essentials.

 

Poem In Your Pocket (National Poetry Month), Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Poem In Your Pocket (National Poetry Month), Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Poem In Your Pocket (National Poetry Month), Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Poem In Your Pocket (National Poetry Month), Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

New York City is hosting its 6th annual Poem in Your Pocket Day (PIYP) on Thursday, April 17, 2008, with a series of events scheduled to celebrate the versatility and inspiration of poetry. The day was created to encourage New Yorkers of all ages to carry a poem in their pocket to share with family and friends. Now it’s going national.

How can you participate? There is a list of ways to celebrate national Poem In Your Pocket Day at poets.org, which includes:

  • Post pocket-sized verses in public places
  • Handwrite some lines on the back of your business cards
  • Start a street team to pass out poems in your community
  • Distribute bookmarks with your favorite immortal lines
  • Add a poem to your email footer
  • Post a poem on your blog or social networking page
  • Text a poem to friends



       Poem In Your Pocket (National Poetry Month), Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.      Poem In Your Pocket (National Poetry Month), Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

     Poem In Your Pocket (National Poetry Month), Minneapolis, Minnesota,
      April 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

My friend Teri, who started our poetry group, created and handed out Poem In Your Pocket sheets (above) after last Friday’s poetry group. We each copied a poem from over 20 poetry books sprawled over the living room floor. Copying a poet’s work, in my own hand on to a blank page, made it come more alive for me.

Leave your Pocket Poem in our comments if you wish. If you are stuck for ideas of where to find poems, there are tons of websites dedicated to poetry. Check out one of these:


Feeling brave? Write down a poem or haiku you have written, slip it into your pocket (the things we carry), and read it to some friends this Thursday, April 17th. For inspiration, listen to the great Queen Latifah’s version of Poetry Man (she got into rapping from writing poetry). Or maybe you prefer the original from Phoebe Snow (I wore a deep wax groove into Phoebe’s 1974 debut album, Phoebe Snow).

 

            Poetry Man by Phoebe Snow, posted by jassblue on YouTube

 

 

Thanks to Teri, for starting a poetry group and inviting all of us to come along. And to all the poets who have been inspiring us since the beginning of time — thank you.

 

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, April 13th, 2008

-related to post, Desire And A Library Card — The Only Tools Necessary To Start A Poetry Group

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