#LGBTMonth: When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities

For LGBT Month, we are focussing on the works of lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, transgender, and queer poets:

 

When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities

- Chen Chen

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To be a good
ex/current friend for R. To be one last

inspired way to get back at R. To be relationship
advice for L. To be advice

for my mother. To be a more comfortable
hospital bed for my mother. To be

no more hospital beds. To be, in my spare time,
America for my uncle, who wants to be China

for me. To be a country of trafficless roads
& a sports car for my aunt, who likes to go

fast. To be a cyclone
of laughter when my parents say

their new coworker is like that, they can tell
because he wears pink socks, see, you don’t, so you can’t,

can’t be one of them. To be the one
my parents raised me to be—

a season from the planet
of planet-sized storms.

To be a backpack of PB&J & every
thing I know, for my brothers, who are becoming

their own storms. To be, for me, nobody,
homebody, body in bed watching TV. To go 2D

& be a painting, an amateur’s hilltop & stars,
simple decoration for the new apartment

with you. To be close, J.,
to everything that is close to you—

blue blanket, red cup, green shoes
with pink laces.

To be the blue & the red.
The green, the hot pink.

Illustration by Peter Urkowitz!

Illustration by Peter Urkowitz!

 

About Chen Chen

Born in Xiamen, China, Chen Chen grew up in Massachusetts. A PhD student at Texas University, Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017), Kissing the Sphinx (Two of Cups Press, 2016), and Set the Garden on Fire (Porkbelly Press, 2015).

When I Grow Up won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and was long-listed for the National Book Award. He is a Kundiman Fellow. He is the winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize (2014), New Delta Review's Matt Clark Award in Poetry (2014), the Joyce Carol Oates Award (2011), and a finalist of Narrative's 30 Below Contest (2014).

 

Further Reading

ChenChenWrites.com

Academy of American Poets


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#PoetryMonth Why Poetry (with Matthew Zapruder)

In honour of Ntional #PoetryMonth Matthew Zapruder is a poet, editor at large for Wave Books, guitarist in the rock band The Figments, and associate professor in the Saint Mary’s College of California MFA Program in Creative Writing. His recent book, Why Poetry is a call to reignite our love affair with poetry. He argues that the way we have been educated has stopped us from being able to enjoy poetry. Our misconceptions prevents us from engaging with poems leading us to feel confused and incapable of connecting to the work. 

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Zapruder has written several collections of poetry and his poems are represented in several anthologies. Adaptations of Zapruder's poetry have been performed at Carnegie Hall, he collaborated with painter Chris Uphues on For You in Full Bloom (2009), and co-translated, with historian Radu Ioanid, Eugen Jebeleanu’s collection Secret Weapon: Selected Late Poems (2008). He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the May Sarton Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

 

Matthew Zapruder discusses poetry and his book with Jacke Wilson on The History of Literature.

April Snow - Matthew Zapruder

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Today in El Paso all the planes are asleep on the runway. The world is in a delay. All the political consultants drinking whiskey keep their heads down, lifting them only to look at the beautiful scarred waitress who wears typewriter keys as a necklace. They jingle when she brings them drinks. Outside the giant plate glass windows the planes are completely covered in snow, it piles up on the wings. I feel like a mountain of cell phone chargers. Each of the various faiths of our various fathers keeps us only partly protected. I don’t want to talk on the phone to an angel. At night before I go to sleep I am already dreaming. Of coffee, of ancient generals, of the faces of statues each of which has the eternal expression of one of my feelings. I examine my feelings without feeling anything. I ride my blue bike on the edge of the desert. I am president of this glass of water.

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Writing Wednesday: Amy Lowell

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Amy Lowell was born on February 9,  1874, at her family's a ten-acre family estate of Sevenels in Brookline, Massachusetts. The youngest of five children, Her family was considered in the upper echelons of Boston society. Initially tutored at home, Amy went on to attend Boston private schools and traveled to Europe with her family. At the age of seventeen, she couped herself in Sevenels' immense library and studied literature. 

With her mother and sister, she wrote Dream Drops or Stories From Fairy Land by a Dreamer in 1887 printed privately. Her poem “Fixed Idea” was published in 1910 by the Atlantic Monthly and several other poems were published in journals. In October of 1912 Houghton Mifflin published her first collection, A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass.

Lowell was outspoken and controversial, building a career as a poet, publicity agent, collector, critic, and lecturer, joining the imagist movement and working to promote its principles. 

 

Imagism

A reaction in part to romantisicm and Victorian poetry, Imagism was a movement in America and England that utilised specificity of language to evoke clear images for the reader.  Haiku and tanka poetry were often influential for imagist poets as they too sought to freeze a moment in time. Adjectives are employed conservatively, selected to enhance the emotions and images evoked in the poem.

Ezra Pound is credited with being the founder of the movement however, its ideals were first developed by T.E. Hulme by 1908. Hulme spoke of the words of a poem being more than merely decorative but comprising the poem's essence.   

Writing in the March 1913 issue of Poetry, F. S. Flint, quoting Pound, defined imagist poetry as:

  • Direct treatment of the “thing," whether subjective or objective.
  • To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
  • As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome. -  published “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste.”

By Spring of 1914 disputes arose within the movement and Pound distanced himself. Amy Lowell became the leader of the movement between 1915 and 1917 publishing three anthologies of poetry all under the name of Some Imagist Poets. Eventually, Amy Lowell also distanced herself from the Imagists and the poetry movement became part of the larger modernist movement. Lowell died on May 12, 1925, at Sevenels.

 

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A Fixed Idea

- Amy Lowell

What torture lurks within a single thought
When grown too constant; and however kind,
However welcome still, the weary mind
Aches with its presence. Dull remembrance taught
Remembers on unceasingly; unsought
The old delight is with us but to find
That all recurring joy is pain refined,
Become a habit, and we struggle, caught.
You lie upon my heart as on a nest,
Folded in peace, for you can never know
How crushed I am with having you at rest
Heavy upon my life. I love you so
You bind my freedom from its rightful quest.
In mercy lift your drooping wings and go.

 

 

 

 

Sonnet

A sonnet is a 14 line poem with a variable rhyme scheme and traditionally in iambic pentameter. Here, Lowell uses the Petrarchan rhyme scheme ABBA ABBA CDCDCD. With such confinements, a sonnet is likened to a box and the aim is to transcend such confinements. The Petrarchan sonnet has a feeling of balance to it, being almost equally weighted into halves through its rhyme scheme.  You will notice that Lowell isn't bound to the iambic pentameter rhythm. More contemporary poets have experimented with ways to push and bend the sonnet form to varying degrees. How might this form of meter convey the meaning of the poem?

 

Your Turn...

What occurs when a classic form is used to explore less typical subject matter?

Choose aspects of the sonnet form that you will use. Pick a specific emotion or moment in time and write your own sonnet using precision in your language. How can you make the rhythm of your poem like a musical phrase?

for other examples and more contemporary takes on the sonnet, see “Voiced Stops” by Forrest Gander and “Incandescent War Poem Sonnet” by Bernadette Mayers.

 

 

References and Further Reading

Poets.org: Amy Lowell

Poets.org: A Brief Guide to Imagism

Poetry Foundation: Learning the Sonnet

 

 

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#WritingWednesday Cowboy Poetry and the National Gathering

Photograph: K. Usayed

Photograph: K. Usayed

Cowboy poetry emerged from the tradition whereby workers on ranches and cattle drives would gather together at the end of a day, sit around a fire and decompress by extemporaneously composing and sharing songs, stories, and poems.

It is important to recognise that this is a contemporary, evolving poetic form as cowboy culture is still alive and well. It is not a historical form such as Victorian, Renaissance, or Romantic poetry.

Romantic in style, cowboy poetry retains its realism. Thematically, cowboy poetry may describe funny events, the work of cowboys, tales of people and events from the past, expressions of cowboy values, criticisms of new technologies and culture and Western landscapes, livestock, and lifestyles,.

Photographer: Maria Itina

Photographer: Maria Itina

Structure: Traditionally a cowboy poem is: 

  • Written by cowboys, ranchers or those familiar with the lifestyle  
  • Rhymed, metered verse often in couplets  (free verse is uncommon)
  • Written to be recited aloud

Keep in mind, these aren't hard rules, poetry isn't formulaic and cowboy poetry is evolving. Once you understand the form, you will appreciate exceptions to it. 

 

Photographer: Lena Ivashinka

Photographer: Lena Ivashinka

No Rest for the Horse - Anonymous

There's a union for teamster and waiter,

     There's a union for cabman and cook,

There's a union for hobo and preacher,

     And one for detective and crook.

There's a union for blacksmith and painter,

     There is one for the printer, of course;

But where would you go in this realm of woe,

     To discover a guild for the horse?

 

He can't make a murmur in protest,

     Though they strain him both up and down hill,

Or force him to work twenty hours

     At the whim of some drunken brute's will.

 

Photographer: Brett L. Erickson

Photographer: Brett L. Erickson

Look back at our struggle for freedom—

     Trace our present day's strength to its source,

And you'll find that man's pathway to glory,

     Is strewn with the bones of the horse.

 

The mule is a fool under fire;

     The horse, although frightened, stands true,

And he'd charge into hell without flinching

     'Twixt the knees of the trooper he knew.

 

Photographer: Alessandro Passerini

Photographer: Alessandro Passerini

When the troopers grow old they are pensioned,

     Or a berth or a home for them found;

When a horse is worn out they condemn him,

     And sell him for nothing a pound.

 

Just think, the old pet of some trooper

     Once curried and rubbed twice a day,

Now drags some damned ragpicker's wagon, 

     With curses and blows for his pay.

 

I once knew a grand king of racers,

     The best of a cup-wining strain;

They ruined his knees on a hurdle,

     For his rider's hat covered no brain.

 

Photographer: Andrej Sevkovskij

Photographer: Andrej Sevkovskij

I met him again, four years later,

     On his side at the foot of a hill,

With two savages kicking his ribs,

     And doing their work with a will.

 

I stroked the once velvety muzzle,

     I murmured the old name again,

He once filled my purse with gold dollars;

     And this day I bought him for ten.

 

Photographer: Anneke Paterson

Photographer: Anneke Paterson

His present address is "Sweet Pastures,"

     He has nothing to do but eat,

Or loaf in the shade on the green, velvet grass,

     And dream of the horses he beat.

 

Now, a dog—well, a dog has a limit; 

     After standing for all that's his due,

He'll pack up his duds some dark evening, 

     And shine out for scenes which are new.

 

But a horse, once he's used to his leather,

Photographer: Samantha Whitelaw

Photographer: Samantha Whitelaw

     Is much like the old-fashioned wife;

He may not be proud of his bargain,

     But still he'll be faithful through life.

 

And I envy the merciful teamster

     Who can stand at the bar and say:

"Kind Lord, with the justice I dealt my horse,

     Judge Thou my soul today."

 from Songs of Horses, 1920

 

The Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Elko, Nevada) started 33 years ago as a place for cowboys and ranchers to gather and a love of poetry. It was later renamed by Congress as the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. This annual event has become a destination for thousands of folks to gather and share in a love of the West and cowboy culture over six days of poetry, music, dancing, workshops, exhibits, discussions, food and friendship. The event blends tradition and history with contemporary rural culture.  

Photographer: Marklin Ang

Photographer: Marklin Ang

This year's event will take place January 29-February 3, 2018, with the theme "Basques & Buckaroos: Herding Cultures of Basin, Range and Beyond.”

Also, mark you calendars as the 17th annual Cowboy Poetry Week falls on April 15-21, 2018 (April is poetry month)!

 

Sources and Further Reading

 

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Cowboy Poetry

Images from: National Geographic: Horse

 

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#WritingWednesday with Bruce Weigl

I love to discover a new writer who leaves me feeling as if I have just unwrapped a precious new gift. This is one of the reasons I enjoy reading anthologies of short stories or poetry. It's like speed dating or a tasting menu, you don't have to worry about the consequences of a long-term commitment, trying to find a convenient excuse to go home or staring longingly at your friend's meal.

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Say it clearly and you make it beautiful, no matter what
— Bruce Weigl

Discovering a writer that I had not read before is unwrapping an unexpected and valuable gift. Bruce Weigl is a recent discovery of mine. I read one of his poems, and then another, and I knew I wanted to read all of his work. I see in his poetry an economy of words that belie the richness of images he creates. I like to form an idea of the writer through reading their work, then learn about them. It is essential to engage with the person, their background and aims in order to fully engage with their work.

I formed an image of a poet who contemplates, sees things clearly, and acts with deliberation. The word "Buddhist" sprang to mind. Imagine my sense of satisfaction when, in conducting a cursory research into Weigl, I discovered that he does have a Buddhist practice. According to him, his experience fighting for the American army in Vietnam as an 18-year-old both, "ruined my life and in return gave me my voice” The Circle of Hanh, 2000), and I certainly hear the "wounded warrior" throughout his work, a perspective with which I am familiar as some who has lived and worked with veterans. 

In admiration, here are a few of Bruce Weigl's exquisite poems. Look at how Weigl uses language, builds imagery, employs repetition, and evolves his theme over the poem. Pick an element of his writing that you will incorperate into your own this week.

 

Home - Bruce Weigl

1zoom.me/

1zoom.me/

I didn’t know I was grateful
            for such late-autumn
                        bent-up cornfields


yellow in the after-harvest
             sun before the
                        cold plow turns it all over


into never.
            I didn’t know
                        I would enter this music


that translates the world
             back into dirt fields
                         that have always called to me

Renatures.com/

Renatures.com/


as if I were a thing
              come from the dirt,
                          like a tuber,


or like a needful boy. End
             lonely days, I believe. End the exiled
                           and unraveling strangeness.

 

 

 

 

wideopenpets.com

wideopenpets.com

Dead Man, Thinking - Bruce Weigl

 

i.
Snow geese in the light of morning sky, 
exactly at the start of spring. I was
looking through the cracks of the blinds at my future which seemed
absent of parades, for which I was grateful, 
and only yesterday


I watched what an April wind could do
to a body wrapped in silk, 
though I turned my eyes away, 
the way the teacher says, 
once the beauty was revealed.

sputniknews.com

sputniknews.com

ii
How long it takes to die, in the fifty-fifth year
is what I thought about today. 
I told some truths so large, no one could bear to hear them. 
I bow down to those who could not hear the truth. 
They could not hear the truth because they were afraid
that it would open a veil into nothing. 
I bow down to that nothing. I bow down to a single red planet
I saw in the other world’s sky, 
spinning, 
as if towards some
fleshy inevitability.

I bow down to the red planet. I bow down
to the noisy birds, indigenous to this region. 
Only sorrow can bend you in half
like you’ve seen on those whose loves have gone away. 
I bow down to those loves.

https://twitter.com/sundayfundayz

https://twitter.com/sundayfundayz

Your Turn

A valuable way to develop as a writer is to be a voracious reader and devourer of creative work. Take the week to "supplement" your creative diet by intentionally seeking out and soaking up art over the next few days. Read aloud a poem or selection by a writer you admire before sitting for 5 minutes and commencing your writing practice.

 

Further Reading

Poetry Foundation: Bruce Weigl

Academy of American Poets: Bruce Weigl

 

Whatever your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us: