This month is busy with many poetry events, most occurring online. Jersey City Writers has a free poetry festival coming up on Friday, Oct 16 through Sunday, Oct 18, with the FUTUROLOGY festival starting out on Friday night with a competition with cash prizes!

The Writer’s Hotel is happening, with a free online poetry reading on Friday, Oct 23 at 5:30pm EDT featuring Jenny Xie, Deborah Landau, Alexandra Oliver, Tim Seibles and Terrance Hayes.

And last but not least, the Dodge Poetry Festival 2020 is meeting online on Thursday, Oct 22 through Sunday, Nov 1.

For lists of other literary events, check out the Poets & Writers literary events calendar.

Since so many parents are trying to provide some schooling from home right now, I’m providing a free PDF of 7 kids poetry exercises, for ages 5 – 9, depending on their literacy level. Note that I am not a teacher, just a volunteer poetry instructor, but I have taught using these exercises for Big Brothers Big Sisters and at Word Bookstore in Jersey City, NJ. I think they are relatively self explanatory, but here are the instructions for each page: 1. Kids can write an acrostic poem with one word for each letter in their name (e.g., Sweet Apples Ran Away, Hiding). 2. Kids can try completing a classic “roses are red” poem, with the fourth line ending in an “oo” sound (eg, zoo, shoe). 3. Kids can fill in the blanks (you might need to explain the prompts to them- encourage them to be creative in choosing animals and animal actions). Exercises 4-7. Kids can write a sense poem for each season of the year, focusing on things that they typically experience during each season.

These exercises will help kids practice their letters (you may need to spell out some words for them) and use their imaginations. Encourage them to illustrate their poems, too, with crayons or pencils. If you have a 3-hole puncher and 3 hole punch folders, you can easily have them create mini-poetry books for themselves (or simply staple the pages together). The most important thing is to be encouraging as they develop their verbal skills. I hope these exercises help some parents or schoolteachers struggling to provide activities for kids. Also, if you want to read some poems good for kids, try Jack Prelutsky’s Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face, and Shel Silverstein’s Sick. Feel free to contact me with feedback.

As this pandemic is spreading, and I’ve been going to work at the hospital Monday through Friday, I’ve been carrying around with me two pocket books by Pema Chödrön that have offered me great guidance. In them, one of the concepts that she talks about is bodhichitta, a softness of the heart that appears when one stays open to suffering and pain. It is so important for us, during this crisis, to stay open and kind, and not react in fear. We also must be kind to ourselves when we fail to do these things.

I’ve been searching for poems to read that speak to this. The concept of bodhichitta, whether intentionally or not, appears to be present in Jason Shinder’s poem, Arrow Breaking Apart. I’d also like to think it’s present in Toi Derricotte’s poem Not Forgotten. This is a time to read and share poems of hurt and healing. I’m organizing online workshops to replace the in-person ones I’ve been running for years, so reach out and contact me if you’d like to be a part of an online poetry workshop.

I should also mention that I have news of an upcoming publication of a poem of mine in Rattle’s June 2020 Postcards issue. The work is a collaboration between the artist Adam Douglas Thomson and myself, featuring a drawing by him and a sonnet in response by me. I’m very honored because I consider Rattle to be one of the best literary journals today. I recommend you consider subscribing, or if you are writing pandemic-inspired poetry yourself, consider submitting to their weekly Poets Respond feature.

Baby Yoda, his ears are oversized.
I feel a pull of massive gravity.
Bigger than twin black holes are his new eyes.
The Child is born, where’s his nativity?
Disney, where have you hid the merchandise?  
I find your lack of plans for Christmas Day
disturbing. I’ve already paid the price
for the plushie, why wait to ship til May?
A long, long, time ago, historians
of Star Wars will tell you, Lucas sold toys.
Now, in desperate search, Mandalorians
are scouring the Earth. Pre-order destroys
my gifting plans! Disney, how rude! How mean
to take our cash and not deliver green.

I’m enjoying reading an online/print literary journal I recently discovered: Cider Press Review. The journal was founded in 1999 by Caron Andregg and Robert Wynne and currently publishes online issues quarterly and an annual “Best of” print edition. The Press also publishes at least two full-length manuscripts each year, so for those of you looking to submit either a few poems or a book of poetry, see their submission guidelines. I also want to point out two poems I love from their most recent issue, Protest by D M Gordon and How Mom Quit Saying Shit by Benjamin Cutler. Check it out!

Subhra Bhattacharya is providing a blog post this week on William Carlos Williams and his definition of variable foot. Come join us on Saturday March 4 2017 at 11am for an exciting workshop on this topic in Jersey City.

William Carlos Williams elevates the notion of poetic measure to the status of philosophical category. “… what is reality? How do we know reality? The only reality we know is MEASURE” he writes in his essay The poem as a field of action. Though an ardent proponent of free-verse, he disagrees with contemporary wisdom and the false connotation of ‘free’ in free verse, arguing that since measure is an intrinsic feature of poetry, no verse can be truly free, that would indicate lack of measure. Free verse, he says, is synonymous to verse with variable measure, as contrasted with traditional verse having a fixed measure.

Continue reading

image2In 2017, I’m focusing more on featuring writers who have influenced me personally, in addition to posting weekly poetry prompts. For the first feature, I’d like to share some great news about my Full Story partner Subhra Bhattacharya. With a little help from me and Duotrope, he landed a few publications recently, two poems and one short story. First, Plum Tree Tavern published a nature poem of his. Second, Rat’s Ass Review published his latest love poem. Third, Enchanted Conversation, a fairy tale magazine, published his beautiful story New Leaf (thanks to Rachel Poy who provided some excellent critique on this piece!). As many of us endeavor to turn over new leaves and set goals in the new year, I’d like to encourage all you writers to push yourselves as Subhra is doing, not just to write, but to edit, refine, and publish your work. Continue reading

I’d liIMG_1658ke to write a little about my instructor at The Writer’s Hotel earlier this month: Tim Seibles. He teaches literature at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He is a poet who truly believes that poetry can change the world, and after hearing him read from his upcoming book due out in January 2017, I believe it, too. There were so many lyrical lines I wanted to write down and post by my mirror, or on the wall. Tim writes: “Poetry does not have the power of an army or of a rich nation’s economy, but poems can keep a certain set of whispers alive in a culture until they become loud enough to engage more than the community of poets…” In one of Tim’s poems, Delores Epps, he writes about a schoolboy crush. “Even / the gloss on her lips sighed / Kiss me and you’ll never / do homework again.” Tim was a supportive instructor, giving equal time for all, and he was able to help steer us toward naming exactly what was missing in the poems we workshopped. I’m very thankful to have been in his workshop, and I hope you’ll consider checking out some of his work, either online, or by ordering his latest book, Fast Animal.