Poem: Expectations


Anyone may “find” a text; the poet is he who names it, “Text”.
–John Hollander [1] [2] [3]


The very heavens
rupture — news of Pontiff’s decision
to abdicate.


Somewhere in America,
for nearly a week, film and
fiction collide — Rambo-like
manhunt ends as expected.


She sings, When you get
to Asheville send me
an email…. 

Will she tell me that
the President is
coming to town?

Will a hollywood
celebrity greet
him when he arrives?

Will he retire
to the Paris of the South
after this whole
presidency thing


Whether it comes from
above or snakes its way through
the dark depths below,

the number one regret on
the lips of the dying is
to have lived true to one’s self

rather than by the
expectation of others.

[1] From the archives of this blog.
[2] The poem was composed from and of news headlines and related blog posts. John Hollander wrote in Vision and Resonance: Two Senses of Poetic Form that “anyone may ‘find’ a text; the poet is he who names it, ‘Text’.”
[3] Annotated version of this found poem was published Feb. 15, 2013 and originally titled “The courage to live”.

Found poem: The courage to live [annotated]

POET’S NOTE: As an exercise to try something new in composing a poem, I wrote this short piece as a found poem based on news headlines and related blog posts. John Hollander wrote in Vision and Resonance: Two Senses of Poetic Form that “anyone may ‘find’ a text; the poet is he who names it, ‘Text’.” With that introduction, I offer this found poem.

The courage to live


It seems like the very heavens [1] rupture [2]
with news of the Pontiff’s decision [3]
to abdicate the Holy See.


Somewhere in America, for nearly a week,
film and fiction collide with a John Rambo-like [4]
manhunt [5] that ends as expected. [6]


She sings, [7]
When you get to Asheville
send me an email…. 

Will she tell me that the President is coming to town? [9] [10]
Will there be a hollywood celebrity to greet him, [11]  when he arrives?
Will he retire to the Paris of the South [12] after this whole presidency thing[13]


Whether it comes from above [14] or snakes its way through the dark depths below, [15]
the number one regret on the lips of the dying is
to have lived true to one’s self rather than the expectation of others. [16]

[1] Phil Plait, “BREAKING: Huge Meteor Blazes Across Sky Over Russia; Sonic Boom Shatters Windows [UPDATED],” Slate, Feb. 15, 2013 accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/02/15/breaking_huge_meteor_explodes_over_russia.html
[2] CBS/AP, “Meteorites slam into Russia as meteor seen streaking through morning sky,” CBSNews.com, February 15, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57569551/meteorites-slam-into-russia-as-meteor-seen-streaking-through-morning-sky/
[3] Mark Memmott, “Pope Benedict XVI Is Resigning,” NPR’s The Two-Way, February 11, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/02/11/171680715/pope-benedict-xvi-is-resigning.
[4] “Christopher Dorner manhunt: police hunt ‘Rambo’ cop killer” The Week, February 8, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.theweek.co.uk/us/51429/christopher-dorner-manhunt-police-hunt-rambo-cop-killer.
[5] Halimah Abdullah, “L.A. manhunt reminiscent of D.C. sniper case,” CNN, February 9, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/08/politics/lapd-attacks-dc-sniper/index.html?iid=article_sidebar.
[6] “Dorner manhunt: Charred human remains found in burned cabin,” Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2013/02/dorner-manhunt-charred-human-remains-found-in-burned-cabin.html.
[7] Jennifer Saylor, “New single from Steve Martin and Edie Brickell: ‘When you get to Asheville’,” Ashvegas.com, February 14, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.ashvegas.com/new-single-from-steve-martin-and-edie-brickell-when-you-get-to-asheville.
[8] Alec Wilkinson, “EDIE BRICKELL AND THAO NGUYEN,” The New Yorker, February 5, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2013/02/listen-to-new-albums-by-edie-brickell-and-thao-nguyen.html.
[9] Jeff Willhelm, “Obama in Asheville,” The Charlotte Observer, February 13, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/02/13/3852979/obama-in-asheville.html.
[10] Jennifer Saylor, “Obama in Asheville, Part 1: Fourth visit,” Ashvegas.com, February 13, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.ashvegas.com/obama-in-asheville-part-1-fourth-visit.
[11] James Franco, “Obama in Asheville,” Yahoo! News, January 21, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://news.yahoo.com/president-obama-in-asheville-a-james-franco-poem–231846640.html.
[12] Jennifer Saylor, “Obama in Asheville, Part 2: President says he might retire here,” Ashvegas.com, February 13, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.ashvegas.com/obama-in-asheville-part-2-president-says-he-might-retire-here
[13] Donovan Slack, “Obama on barbecue, life ‘after this whole presidency thing’,” Politico 44, February 13, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.politico.com/politico44/2013/02/obama-on-barbecue-life-after-this-whole-presidency-156963.html.
[14] Joel Achenbach, “Asteroid’s pass near Earth a close call in cosmic terms only,” The Washington Post, February 14, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/asteroid-to-pass-near-earth-but-you-dont-need-to-duck/2013/02/14/615d5848-73cb-11e2-aa12-e6cf1d31106b_story.html.
[15] Mark Wilson, “Infographic: The 550,000 Miles Of Undersea Cabling That Powers The Internet,” Co.Design, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671777/infographic-the-550000-miles-of-undersea-cabling-that-powers-the-internet#1.
[16] Susie Steiner, “Top five regrets of the dying,” The Guardian, February 1, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying.

September 16, 2012: poetry at Malaprop’s

Writers at Home – Sept. 16th

This Sunday at the Malaprop’s cafe at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 16, join the following poets as they read from their recent books: Holly Iglesias (ANGLES OF APPROACH), Sebastian Matthews (MIRACLE DAY: MID-LIFE SONGS), and Katherine Soniat (THE SWING GIRL). More details here. Link.

Peace Is a Flower: A Night of Poetry and Music

Peace is a flower – poetry and music

Tomorrow, 8:30 p.m. join James McKay, Laura Hope-Gill, Caleb Beissert, Pasckie Pascua, and Aaron Price at Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, 1 Page Avenue, Asheville on SEPT 11, 8:30 to 11PM. This event is free to the public. Read poet and musician bios as well as other information on the Facebook events page. Link.

Poetrio, this Sunday, at Malaprop’s Bookstore

August Poetrio — 2012

This sunday, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café continues the monthly poetry reading series, Poetrio, with Meta Commerse, Cassie Premo Steele, and Pauletta Hansel.

In an email from Virginia McKinley, of Malaprop’s, here’s a write up about August’s featured poets:

Meta Commerse. . . is the author of six books, including a novel intended to be a book of hope for middle-school-aged black girls.  That book began as her culminating project for the MFA degree in creative writing at Goddard College.  RAINSONGS: POEMS OF A WOMAN’S LIFE is her most recent book of poetry. . . .

Cassie Premo Steele’s poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies, magazines, and journals, including such publications as Sagewoman and Calyx. Her work has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize. . .  Her most recent book of poetry, THE POMEGRANATE PAPERS, is based on the Persephone/ Demeter myth and addresses the themes of mothers, daughters, creative cycles, loss, healing, and living in harmony with the seasons. . . .

According to Jackie Demaline of The Cincinnati Enquirer, Pauletta Hansel has been “an arts administrator and an unflagging arts advocate, [but] doesn’t like to talk about herself.”  Yet she seems happy to talk about the work she finds most interesting: “community organizing and community arts.”  . . . . Pauletta Hansel has published poems in . . . journals . . . and . . . has three previous collections of poetry, Divining, First Person, and What I Did There; at Malaprop’s she will read from her most recent book, THE LIVES WE LIVE IN HOUSES. . . .

Hope to see you Sunday, August 5, at 3:00 p.m. for Poetrio!

Last Night, Poetry at the Altamont – Featuring Evie Shockley

Evie Shockley reading at The Altamont Theater, Asheville, NC

If it is possible to be drunk on poetry, than I am still sobering up from last night’s event Poetry at the Altamont featuring Evie Shockley. It was quite a special night as Evie Shockley read selections from the new black and a half-red sea as well as some new poems in progress.

Other highlights include poems read by notable poets including Lee Ann Brown, Jeff Davis (who also hosted the event), Eric Steineger, Caleb Beissert and many others whom I have forgotten there names, but not their words. There were verses read about five drinks at a bar with reflections of a homeless man in a cardboard box home and another poem about bees and honey and lazy hippies squatting in someone’s home all summer.

I also read some poems last night. Earlier in that day I had mailed off a manuscript to a publisher and had intended to read selections from that manuscript, but I changed up what I read. I can’t tell you what I read. You’ll have to ask someone who was there last night at The Altamont.

It was such a pleasure to join this gathering of poets and share works in progress in sort of literary laboratory. Looking forward to the next gathering.

Asheville Wordfest – a reflection and a video

Asheville Wordfest – Reading at The Altamont Theatre, May 4, 2012

It was truly an honor to be invited to read a few poems at this year’s Asheville Wordfest. When I received the invitation I thought it was a mistake. So, I direct messaged the director using Twitter saying: “my twitter acct is wonky today. i received something from you re: wordfest… how can i help?” Previously, I had helped with audio during a previous Wordfest featuring the poet Li-young Lee. She direct messaged me on Twitter with a note of confirmation. So, I began selecting poems for the event.

Since I haven’t read my poetry publicly in more than a year, I was a bit anxious about the invitation to read at this year’s Wordfest. Last year was a busy year of readings at bookstores, [1] a literary salon, [2] and a featured guest at the Mountain Xpress poetry show. [3] Then employment for me became tricky and I endured the challenges of a transition to a new job, lay off, unemployment, and another job transition with a three-hour round trip commute. I kept writing new poems, but the new out-of-state job prevented me from participating in the active literary scene here in Asheville.

There were more than a hundred new poems I wrote last year to consider for the Asheville Wordfest poetry reading. I selected four or five new poems, but I didn’t feel confident enough in their craftsmanship to read publicly. One manuscript I have been developing for awhile had the strongest work that best fit this year’s Wordfest theme, “HOME: Place and Planet.” I started it when I took a writing workshop taught by Ashveille Wordfest Director, Laura Hope-Gill, a few years ago.

Two practices help me decide what poems to read. First, it is my practice to put a poetry manuscript in a presentation book with sheet protectors. That way pages don’t fall to the floor during a reading. You can usually purchase presentation books of that nature at office supply stores. I select a variety of poems on various subjects or themes. Further, it is my practice at an actual poetry reading featuring multiple poets to listen closely to the other poets. While the reading takes place, I select poems that speak to other poets’ work as a way to have a literary conversation. So, I brought four working manuscripts hoping that I might find a poem that might play off a poem read by Ronald Reginald King, DeWayne Barton, and Katherine Soniat.

As I walked to the podium after a very generous introduction by Laura Hope-Gill, I still hadn’t decided what poem would complete my reading. I knew the poem I would lead off with and I knew the one to follow, but the third and final poems I hadn’t quite decided. Improvisation is something I am developing in public readings, because each night the audience is different, with individual needs, interests and mood. A bar room poem might work in one setting and audience, but not work another night with a different audience. So, after I clumsily introduced myself, I knew by the time I finished reading the second poem where the narrative of the poem selection would lead. For better or worse, the reading was videocast and a recording is available. Here’s a link to the video [link here].

When I sat down next to my wife after completing my reading, I noticed a couple mentions on Twitter regarding the live videocast. One person [4] tweeted, “Goosebumps: poem dedicated to Jenny.”

NOTES: [1] As a member of the Rooftop Poets, I read with Barbara Gravelle and Brian Sneeden at Accent on Books in February. Barbara Gravelle and I read at the May 2011 Poetrio at Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café. That was my last public reading until last Friday night, May 4, 2012. [2] After a very successful book launch and poetry event, the Rooftop Poets presented Poet’s on the Roof: A Literary Salon. [3] The Mountain Xpress invited Brian Sneeden and myself to read on behalf of the Rooftop poets as featured poets at the 2011 Mountain Xpress Poetry Show [4] @anorawrites

Tomorrow night – Juniper Bends Literary Reading

The afterglow of Asheville Wordfest 2012 has barely faded. In truth, I’m still recovering from the rich, full weekend, but excited to announce tomorrow night’s literary reading.

Friday, May 11th at 7:00 p.m. the Downtown Books and News (67 North Lexington Ave., Asheville, NC) hosts the Juniper Bends Literary Reading featuring poets and prose writers: Abigail DeWitt, Anne Maren-Hogan, M. Owens and Mesha Maren. More details on the Juniper Bends Literary Reading Facebook events page: link.

Tonight at @FirestormCafe Songs of the Strong Heart (Source: http://instagr.am/p/OxYjT/)

Virtue on Lexington.