Some of you know this, others may not, but there is a lot of labor involved if you put your hand to the practice and turn of poetry. There was a lot of hard work and late nights at cafés, open mics and taverns and copious amounts of coffee and hours of mic time that provided me the opportunity to read poems at an art gallery — the Flood Gallery Fine Art Center.
The Flood Gallery Fine Art Center organized a poetry reading series that featured local poets. That evening marked a milestone — in my mind. Before that night at the Flood Gallery, the poets — Britt Kaufmann, Brian Sneeden, Barbara Gravelle and myself — were barely familiar with each other. But something alchemical happened during the reading.
Britt Kaufmann’s Belonging was published sometime after that reading. I remember Britt emailing me drafts of the poems prior to publication as well as discussing the nuances of navigating publishing challenges. Barbara Gravelle has published several books of poetry. Her collection of Greek island poems came together before my eyes. One afternoon we looked at illustrations and poems side by side to consider the flow of art and poetry. Brian Sneeden has several forthcoming books of translations and poetry. The first time I heard him read his work was at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe for a Traveling Bonfires event.
Barbara, Brian and myself went on to form a poetic collective called the Rooftop Poets. We collaborated on an invitation-only event of music and poetry at the private ballroom of the Historic Battery Park Apartments. Attendees were given a commemorative, limited edition anthology of our poems. There were a few more public gatherings of the Rooftop Poets, but for me the treasure was sharing our compositions privately. Discussing everything from modern Greek poetry to religion to archeology to feminism to poetry to local gossip as well other aspects of life. I greatly miss that face-to-face time with these friends.
Shortly before my departure from Asheville, I sat in a side room of a wine bar on a Sunday afternoon. The room was filled with aspiring and novice poets. We went around the room reading poems. At the conclusion of the readings I overheard a few people commenting about the Rooftop Poets. They discussed — even mythologized — who the Rooftop Poets were, what they did, how many people attended a private reading, what happened at that reading and so on and so forth. The eavesdropping made me smiled. I did not correct factual errors. I walked to the main bar. Someone bought me a beer. We talked about employment and jazz and all things Asheville. And I left.
These poets and friends made in impact in my life — as well as the local and regional community.
 Read more about Britt Kaufmann and her work as a poet and playwright. http://www.brittkaufmann.com/poetry
 Some of Barbara’s books are out of print, but worth the read if you can find them. Here’s a link to one of her published poems: http://www.salomemagazine.com/search.php?search=1
 Originally published May 1, 2017 https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2017/05/01/poetry-reading-list-for-national-poetry-month-part-two/
Poetry continues the Great Conversation. What is truth? How do we know it? Who are we and how should we live? Often reserved for philosophers, these surface questions are the result of the friction from winds of poetry.
What came first? Philosophy? Or Poetry? Since Theogony pre-dates many philosophical writings, I submit that poetry came first. Poetry is the wind that troubles the water.
But I am no scholar. Only a modern-day peasant who watched as twelve- to eighteen-foot waves battered the rocky Lake Michigan shoreline this weekend.
On a gray, stormy afternoon, I retreated to the public library in Racine. A book of translations of Han Shan needed to be renewed for the fourth or fifth time. And the children needed to get out of the apartment. Besides, the more you check out books of poetry the more funding the library gets based on your activity and/or interest in certain subjects. Or so I am led to believe by local librarians.
I was introduced to the Cold Mountain poems during one of the library’s writers groups. Since then I have read and studied several books of translations from Wang Wei, Ryokan, Han Shan, Basho and others.
During the last few years, I find my writings turning toward dialogues with these poets. Here is a sample Cold Mountain poem from Han Shan, a Taoist/Buddhist hermit, as translated by Red Pine:
Since I came to Cold Mountain
how many thousand years have passed
accepting my fate I fled to the woods
to dwell and gaze in freedom
no one visits the cliffs
forever hidden by clouds
soft grass serves as a mattress
my quilt is the dark blue sky
a boulder makes a fine pillow
Heaven and Earth can crumble and change
A quick read reveals a surface feast of images and imagination. After reading and thinking about this poem for a few months there are things inferred and/or referenced. Is the An Lu-shan Rebellion referred to in the third line? Is there a reference to the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara? Heaven means the emperor. Earth means the empire. Is the last line political? Or philosophical?
While Han Shan wrote this poem on rocks or trees, elsewhere in the world Beowulf was composed. Charles Martel expanded the Frankish Empire. What do I say to Han Shan? Why did you flee? What and/or who did you leave behind?
Earlier this year I shared poems with a high school group on invitation of the tutor. Han Shan was one of the poets I recited (among other poets like Ghalib and Akhmatova). After the class, one of the tutors thanked me for visiting the class. She was grateful that the young men in the class saw a man engaged and enthusiastic about poetry and literature. The tutor asked how I became interested in poetry. My answer was that poetry is part of the Great Conversation.
NOTE: Originally published April 12, 2011, https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2011/04/12/poem-theres-a-place/
NOTES: Originally published in Rapid River Arts & Culture Magazine, April 2004.
Last night at the New French Bar, was published in Crab Creek Review.
As stated previously, the poetry reading list for National Poetry Month is designed to encourage you to seek out the influence of living poets — where they live and and where they read. Allow me to introduce you to a few of the living poets I met at the open mics and coffee dens of Asheville, North Carolina.
One of those souls is an editor, poet, journalist and friend, Pasckie Pascua. He has published several chapbooks and collections of poetry and prose. We first met at a coffeeshop in West Asheville and later haunted Beanstreets and other places from North Carolina to New York City. He left the back door to the poetry scene open for me and allowed me to grow and mature as a poet and writer. He also published many of my early writings. Lines from his poems still echo in my mind, like this one:
“The color of my poem
is also the color of my brother’s soul,
the color of my friend’s heart.”
Another poet I wrote with and read alongside is Jessica Newton. She facilitated a writers group when I first moved to Asheville. We gathered at the UNCA library or other spots around Asheville to write and read our compositions. Sometimes she brought writing prompts or other sources of inspiration. We shared prompts and poems. One night Mara Leigh Koslen brought examples of haibun. She introduced the poetic form and then we wrote. It was that night that I composed the first draft of a poem that would later be published. Several other poets and writers visited the writers group.
My poetry reading list is really an introduction to friends and poets who I have met face-to-face. We read and wrote poetry together. We drank coffee at sidewalk cafés until dark-thirty. We shared wine after a moonlit poetry reading. Met in cafés and coffeehouse, taverns and art galleries, bookstores and basements and rooftop ballrooms. We did life together.
When I introduce you to poetry, I introduce you to friends.
I’ll continue the reading list, introductions throughout this month. 
Read the full poem, “Red is the color of my night” and other poems. http://pasckiepascuawords.blogspot.com/p/poetry-red-is-color-of-my-night.html
Mara Leigh Koslen bio: https://palimpsestgarden.com/about/bio/
“The last American chestnut tree on Forest Street” https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2017/04/18/poem-1-the-last-american-chestnut-tree-on-forest-street-2/
Originally published April 28, 2017 https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2017/04/28/poetry-reading-list-for-national-poetry-month-part-one/
Poems well composed haunt readers. Like an old injury, they return with an ache during inclimate weather. It is April. Yet snow covered the ground earlier this week. Along edges of many fields near Whitewater, small mounds of unmelted snow still remained.
It is National Poetry Month. Like the season, it is time to celebrate in spite of the frosty conditions.
An open mic I visited this week featured one young poet amid a variety of singer songwriters. The poem shared was morose, hurried and full of mixed metaphors. Nothing wrong with that. I dare say a lot of my early work resided in that landscape. I hope to hear more of her work.
A prominent poetry publication arrived in the mail a couple weeks ago. I read nearly midway through the publication searching for a memorable line or image. Nothing. A lot of doleful activism and academic rubric. Maybe it was the reader’s fault. Maybe after more rest I will pick up the publication, reread the poems and find something notable.
This weekend, while rearranging a bookshelf I noticed a stack of books, newspapers and magazines. Included were old issues of The New York Times, books of poetry translations, a couple American poetry books and a copy of the May 2011 edition of Poetry magazine.
The publication featured a Dana Gioia poem with a haunting opening line “So this is where the children come to die, . . .” How can you not keep reading this poem? It is so good. In the second part of the poem, the speaker reflected, “I’d lost one child/and couldn’t bear to watch another die” and ended that part of the poem with “But there are poems we do not choose to write.” From the first line of the first part of the poem to the last line of the third part, the poem “Special Treatments Ward” was exceptional.
A poem that possesses a reader like Dana Gioia’s poem “Special Treatments Ward” will survive long after the April snow has melted.
1) Originally published April 5, 2011, https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2011/04/05/poem-never-look-a-doughnut-dealer-in-the-eyes/
2) This is a rough draft and includes typos, erroneous grammar and other literary warts. In this case, perfume is intentionally misspelled to represent a unique American accent.