April Poet Profiles: Rhoda Monihan

Rhoda Monihan is an atheist poet and writer and has most of her poems on the PoetrySoup website. They span from being about religion, politics, and technology to being about science, evolution, and WW II. She believes that all people are of equal inherent worth and understands humanism to give the best view of life that can be supposed. She believes in evolution, as she has found it of great help to her as a young teen when she read Darwin having had a few tragedies in her life. She has a number of disabilities, but the physical one is Cerebral Palsy. In her spare time she likes reading, watching DVDs, and going to the cinema. She offers this poem:

I Wish I Was a Wandering Tree

I wish I was a wandering tree because then I’d make lots of relationships. The sun, so startling with glamour, the sky, just a wee distance away, with chlorophyll and the weather, my partner. He’s all around me and so very affective. I am happy when he’s bright, and his cold is my down. I would bring the sun down to earth by respecting his beams and running with all his memes until he was on my side, in my living room relaxation time which would be energised by solar power. I’d analyse the clouds for precipitation causation and I’d multiply the chlorophyll found inside plants and inject the extra amount into us humans to change all skin colour to green. Then we’d know just normally and not just when we are in education classes that we’re all related to nature, and that how we interact with it determines each of our futures, not god or imagination. And maybe the chlorophyll would even make us fly!

April Poet Profiles: Travis Lau

Travis Lau is a Franklin/Fontaine doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania Department of English. His research interests include eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature, the history and theory of the novel, the history of medicine, disability studies, body studies, and gender and sexuality studies. His dissertation, tentatively titled “Prophylactic Fictions: Immunity and Biosecurity,” explores the British literary and cultural history of immunity and vaccination beginning in the eighteenth century. His academic writing has been published in Journal of Homosexuality, Romantic Circles, and English Language Notes (forthcoming). His creative writing has appeared in Atomic, Feminine Inquiry, Wordgathering, Assaracus, Rogue Agent, and QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology (Handtype Press, 2015). You can read more of his work here. He offers two poems:

Intended

“I seem to myself, as in a
dream, 
An accidental guest in this dreadful body.”
–Anna Akhmatova

A scan with closed
eyes bears witness
to lines of knots,
ropes for counting
the matter out of
place – a body and
its discontents,
dreadful as only
fathomable in the
ligatures of a dream.
Accidental, she once
did call it, a matter of
error with no trial
or the sin of generation:
what her grandmother
paid for with queer bones
and left for me to clear the
debt. Yet I remain the
interest, what remains
of transits (of genes, of
prayers) unmoving like
a bind that cannot be
breathed through.
So to be is to overstay,
to be the guest who
refuses every comfort
to become host – no
longer accident but
intent.

Disorientation

How it is
to live askew –

but a step
away from awry,

the ruthless tui na
of the world,

other to me, hard
upon pressure points

until I am left
impressed:

the residue of
disorientation

in space that
holds itself

hard against
me despite

its songs
of innocence.

April Poet Profiles: Andres Rojas

I am honored to present the work of my friend Andres Rojas. Andres  was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. at age 13. He holds an M.F.A. and a J.D. from the University of Florida, and his poems have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in Barrow Street, Colorado Review, Massachusetts Review, New England Review, and Notre Dame Review. Andres is also the poetry editor for Compose, an online journal.

Andres reads a lot, when he is not spending time with Melinda, his wife of 23 years. They like to revisit their favorite spots (New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston, and St. Augustine);  during spring and summer, they go for walks on the local beaches. For the past couple of years, Andres has become addicted to MOOCS, and has completed about 15 of them—varying on topics from cosmology to history to poetry. He loves to hike. He has recently completed all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and is approximately 45 miles into North Carolina.

Andres wrote his first poem at age 13, emulating his father (who didn’t really like that first poem). He wrote song lyrics in high school, and took creative writing courses in college, intending to write fiction. He wrote the poems required for his course, and he is still writing poetry 30 years later.

Though Andres loves creative activities (acting, playing the guitar, singing in a band, and writing fiction and nonfiction), he is drawn most to poetry. He says, “I love to work towards the pleasures of writing poetry, which I vaguely define as striving for elegance, precision, discovery, and catharsis.” He believes in the power of poetry to enhance empathy and awareness. Poetry challenges a reader’s intellect and emotions, preparing them for other difficulties—whether on the page or in person. His favorites include Eliot, Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, Adrienne Rich, Carolyn Forche, Eduardo C. Corral, Ada Limon, Natalie Diaz,  and Ocean Vuong.

Andres was a finalist for this year’s Andres Montoya Poetry Prize. In 2017, his essay on Latino/a poetics and immigrant identity will be coming out as part of a University of New Mexico anthology. You can find more of Andres’s work at his blog. Today he offers three poems:

ONE

Loss isn’t hard.
It comes uncalled,
a side effect

like chills or thirst,
makes room for more,
wants little else

but what is lost,
what artifice
burns to restore,

can’t fail to try.
Write them, again:
door keys, notebooks,

that first time, hours
poorly spent, words
fine without me.

My mother’s watch.
Her last-worn dress.
Your voice. Your hands
that I love. You.

HEADWATERS
          Chattahoochee Gap Spring

Breached in stone,
fig-leafed with lichen,

a baptismal font
enough to keep its share

of future skies — how new,
exactly, this trickle? The Adam

and Eve orchids too
bespeak something

other, as the bird skull
alit on deer droppings,

as — miles downstream,
hours back — the tubes

on the river, asters
alkene and slick: ancient,

if not older than themselves,
rarer than stars, yes, and ordinary.

OSCEOLA FOREST
          …damit mehr Licht hineinkomme

Night is more than what longleaf pines
have gathered here, voids leaning in
as for a look, the sky not their opposite

but something else: of stars,
light may abide longest.

June brings out few fireflies,
three, four per hour, if that. One
lights my chest, my head,

all I can see now, this spark
in so much forest, calling.

I close my eyes to absence older than stars.
They and the fireflies still shine, I’m sure —
I, who walked four hours to them

knowing what light can mean
even to one who means nothing to it.

Sources:
“One” originally in Luna Luna
“Headwaters” originally published in Colorado Review
“Osceola Forest” originally in Bridge Eight

April Poet Profiles: Trish Hopkinson

Trish Hopkinson has always loved words—in fact, her mother tells everyone she was born with a pen in her hand. She has two chapbooks Emissions and Pieced Into Treetops and has been published in several anthologies and journals, including Stirring, Chagrin River Review, and The Found Poetry Review. Trish is co-founder of a local poetry group, Rock Canyon Poets. She is a product director by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and their two outstanding children. You can follow her poetry adventures here. Today she offers three poems. Click on the first two titles to hear Trish read her work, and click on the third title to see the artwork that inspired it.

Waiting Around

It so happens, I am tired of being a woman.
And it happens while I wait for my children to grow
into the burning licks of adulthood. The streaks
of summer sun have gone,

drained between gaps into gutters,
and the ink-smell of report cards and recipe boxes
cringes me into corners. Still I would be satisfied
if I could draw from language
the banquet of poets.

If I could salvage the space in time
for thought and collect it
like a souvenir. I can no longer
be timid and quiet, breathless

and withdrawn.
I can’t salve the silence.
I can’t be this vineyard
to be bottled, corked,
cellared, and shelved.

That’s why the year-end gapes with pointed teeth,
growls at my crow’s feet, and gravels into my throat.
It claws its way through the edges of an age
I never planned to reach

and diffuses my life into dullness—
workout rooms and nail salons,
bleach-white sheets on clotheslines,
and treacherous photographs of younger me
at barbecues and birthday parties.

I wait. I hold still in my form-fitting camouflage.
I put on my strong suit and war paint lipstick
and I gamble on what’s expected.
And what to become. And how
to behave: mother, wife, brave.

Footnote to a Footnote

Jacuzzis are holy.
Garage door openers are holy.
Back-up cameras and recycle bins—all holy.
Putting the red flag up on the mailbox, waving at the elderly
getting my toes wet with dew—holy, holy, holy.
Keeping my eyelids open and trying to sleep like fish,
signing my name with less letters and more scribbles,
counting crows feet, counting yellow toenails,
counting haircuts, counting plucked whiskers,
counting constantly.
Bookshelves are holy.
Missing dust covers are holy,
magicians and black and white T.V. shows,
Penn Jillette theories and Andy Griffith justice,
Uncle Walt songs and Ginsberg poems—holy, holy, holy.
Drinking beer before noon, drinking liquor right after,
drinking it warm (or on ice) with a friend (or not).
Waking up drunk, waking up sober,
waking up tired, waking up hungry,
waking—always holy.
Table wine is holy.
Candle sticks are holy,
dishwashers and cloth napkins,
the folk art cricket made from wire and a railroad nail,
rock salt from the salt flats in a salt cellar—holy, holy, holy.
Opening an empty cedar chest to still moths and crumbs,
staring at stretched cobwebs immersed in the sun,
swallowing nests, swallowing nectar,
swallowing chimes, swallowing saliva,
swallows—always holy.
Self-portraits are holy.
Ceramic urns also are holy.
Tape recorders and keyboards,
drawing pads and gold-plated ball-point pens,
calligraphy and stipple—holy, holy, holy.
Unfolding a letter, unfolding a chair, unfolding
into downward dog, from child’s pose, into corpse pose.
Picking apricots, picking green grapes,
picking out a husband, a shower curtain,
selection—always holy.
Twist-off caps, dresser drawers, remote controls,
carpeted stairs, revolving doors, product recalls,
keycodes, passwords,
restaurant reservations,
last-minute invitations,
cell phones, voice recognition,
land minds, and secrets—holy,
holy word, holy water, holy book,
holy soap boxes, bathtubs, soap dishes—holy,
holy drains and draining, empty.

Eurydice’s Cardinal

Mornings are when it hurts most,
like bruising wind bending
the horizon sideways.

Lying on my side, the sunrise twists
in the window, the glare reaches
to the right and into the dawn.

This is the storm before the calm,
the waking state that splits you
from me. You turned to see

me, a step too soon and my organs
plummeted, brick-heavy and distant
into the depths of the mundane.

I sleep through it all, but it’s only at night
you visit me in visions. You come
as a cardinal, your crimson

wings striking against the dark, your heart
behind you, trailing morsels
of tenderness lost.

April Poet Profiles: Kelsi Hasden

I’m excited to offer you the work of my friend and colleague Kelsi Hasden. Kelsi writes poetry on life. Love life, rage life, race life, gender life, and experiencing life. She is an adjunct instructor in Rhetoric and Composition in Jacksonville, Fl, and she adopts stray cats in her neighborhood. She has published in Bridge Eight magazine, worked as a managing editor for Fiction Fix, and writes and edits articles for Metro Jacksonville. Her poems below pivot on a common theme:

Grandparents

1.
She told me they rolled you over
and then you took your last breath.
They looked at you in shock
in spite of knowing
that your time was drawing near.
I cried for over an hour
my face scrunched
in such anguish
that my forehead cramped.
I couldn’t get all the sobs out
the torrent of tears
wouldn’t cease.
At one point
I couldn’t tell
if I was crying
or laughing.

My tears weren’t falling
because you were so recently gone,
they fell because you were no longer
the you I had known in my childhood,
you hadn’t been for years,
but now that change was permanent
-an irrefutable fact-
you weren’t the pillar
that held up so many memories,
that carried so many years.
Old age had gathered you up in his fingers,
causing me to mourn your loss
years ago.

She told me that you’re in a better place
that you aren’t suffering anymore
but I can’t get my head
wrapped around the fact
that you’re still gone,
you’re just
away –
as though you simply stood up
and walked out the front door.

2.
silence all the telephones,
the televisions, the announcements,
stop all the callers,
hold your questions.
He is dead.
He is dead.
I see it everywhere
on license plates, billboard signs,
and in cloud formations.
The grass is quite a bit browner,
the air a bit drier.
His death has halted everything.
I can still feel his touch
I can still see his smile
I remember his voice
and it makes me shudder,
shudder.

Granddaddy’s Poem

Together we sat watching the casket
    Of our estranged grandfather.
He was very much alive
    in our memories and our tears;
      the smoky scent of his living room,
      the dead grass in his garden,
      his broken fence,
      how quiet his laugh was compared to mine, dad’s, the family’s.
Our mourning was alive and present.

The Honor Guard performed
    A Twenty One Gun Salute.
Each of our cousins received a shell casing
    that was handed to them
     by white gloved hands
    as did our father and his siblings.

We two, were the only immediate family
  who did not receive a spent shell
We did not have 
a hunk of golden metal
to hold in our hand
    to soften our sadness

Instead
we sat off alone
and whispered
childhood memories
as young girls with their grandfather.

April Poet Profiles: Jillian Weise

The next poet in our series is Jillian Weise. Jillian Weise’s most recent work is the satirical series “AWP Tips for Writers” on YouTube. Her books include The Amputee’s Guide to Sex (2007), The Colony (2010) and The Book of Goodbyes, which won the 2013 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. She offers this poem:

The Responsibility of the Poet in the Voice of Ray Bradbury as Channeled by the Cyborg Jillian Weise

If you want to be a poet, Jesus God, make a list of ten things you love the most in the
world. And write about them. Plug your leg into the wall and hop to it. Jesus God, you
don’t need legs to write poems. Have you read the poems they publish? They’re awful. Nothing happens. A dog gets shot. I love dogs as much as the next Wendell Berry. But
why did the dog have to die? If you want to be a poet, write a poem every day. I defy you
to write 365 bad poems. All this talk about the responsibility of the poet as if it’s a job.
Does it wear a watch? Does it clock-in and clock-out? Does it time your lunch? Does it
fire you for insubordination? I see you, the Cyborg Jillian Weise, thinking ahead to
whether readers will like this poem, and wondering if — in order for them to like it — you
need to go back and cut out all the leg parts. Jesus God, stop thinking.

April Poet Profiles: G.M. Palmer

The next poet in my April Profiles series is G.M. Palmer, a Jacksonville high school teacher and adjunct instructor. I first heard him read his work at the FSCJ Annual Writers’ Festival in October, 2015, and his lines have been running ’round my brain ever since.

G.M. Palmer writes literary and pop culture criticism. He plays the guitar, sings, and directs the music at the Jacksonville Church of the Brethren. With his beautiful wife and four amazing daughters, he raises standard poodles under the name Rivendell Standard Poodles. His literary influences include Eliot, Plath, Dante, Milton, Homer,  Michael Hofmann, A.E. Stallings, Ernest Hilbert and Jill Alexander Essbaum.

G.M. Palmer says that poetry offers people a power to share in experiences and emotions that they may not find on their own. He says that song lyrics devoid of their context are often stripped of their power and a passage in prose is almost never as beautiful as a well-turned verse. Art is uplifting and should be experienced as often as possible. He describes his initial ventures in writing as “terrible imitations of Stephen King.” Alongside his fascination with particle physics and marine biology, he experimented with songwriting. After discovering poetry through a purloined copy of Scribner Macmillan’s American Literature (1984 edition), he continued his imitations—Pound, Stein, Plath, Williams, and Elliot. And once he discovered that girls liked poetry, he never looked back.

G.M. Palmer is currently working on a verse novel about a high school murder.  Follow him on Twitter and find his book With Rough Gods on Amazon. You can also read more of his work at his website. Today he offers us 3 poems:

I Look for Love in Loss

*

When my daughter died,
I could have
frozen up inside;
it was a close shave.

Instead I was saved
by my daughters
who went on living; braved
by their laughter

I am living after
the loss of love.
Now that the broken raft
her 
body was proves

her spirit has moved
to the life that’s best,
it’s the memories grooved
inside of me I miss:

how her perfect fist
fit in my hand,
the happy face I kissed
while I was her dad.

For the Homeless

I wish to God that I were burning two
oak logs on this bickering flame.  It whips
in the wind as if windy arms could steal into
the heat and oxygen shine of the fire’s lips
to take embraces that leave sparks without breath.
More wood, more heat, more crackling hands that grab
the ice that flows on streams of airy death
sticking on faces frozen white and grey and drab;
faces that stare my way as I throw a scrap
of abandoned lumber on red tongues that scream
with the stench of creosote fumes.  They lap
the lumber like a tepid bowl of cream.
They miss their mother’s milk of virgin wood.
I would gladly give it to them, if I could.

Pyramus & Thisbe

Entombed in stone that glints
like voices in a hall
of bright and timbred tile
we touch in broken tangents,
shaking some warmth together,
our words and glances lost,
our laughter fending off
the context and the weather.
Travel is a dream
that we can never live.
But seeing through the seam
I treasure what I’ve missed,
for nothing’s as enchanting
as your lips unkissed.

*”I Look for Love in Loss” was originally published at eVerse Radio.

April Poet Profiles: Emily K. Michael

April is National Poetry Month! Even though poets and poetry-lovers will find any excuse to celebrate poetry, it’s fabulous to have 30 days set aside, especially since there’s a popular idea that poetry is dead. So even though we love poetry every day, let’s treat April as a feast-month, a sacred space to honor poetry!

To that end, this post is the first in a series of brief poet profiles. I’ll be sharing a short bio and a few poems by poets local and distant: some friends, some distant colleagues, some strangers. I hope you enjoy this series—and take this chance to let poetry into your life.

As this is my blog, I’ll go first…

*   *   *

Emily K. Michael is a blind poet, musician, and writing instructor from Jacksonville, FL. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Wordgathering, Breath & Shadow, Compose Journal, Bridge Eight, Artemis Journal, Disability Rhetoric, and I Am Subject Stories. She recognizes poetry as an ethical and aesthetic challenge—as a place to express her experiences and to question cultural silences. Her favorite poets include  Rainer Maria Rilke, Adrienne Rich, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Seamus Heaney. She offers two poems:

Cello

It captures the sound of the earth,
creaking with the burden of revolution,
and the roots of great trees reaching deep inside,
curling round the axis. It sounds the dappled,
the luminous golden-green of thick foliage, of sunlight
lapping against wide, aged trunks. It rises,
richly sonorous, and pulls at each filament
of the spirit with familiar notes – the soft mellifluous timbre
sliding like warm honey into perception. Thick, supple,
sweet, an old voice lives in the wood and the strings,
a cantor of primal invocations, of heart-melodies.
Tracing the gnarled bark and the wandering roots
to set the earth reeling for rebirth.

Green time

Soft sun, wool coat, warm coffee, crisp wind.
Raucous laughs – two distinct
     greetings.
          Strangers in passing.
     Voices
          I don’t know.
Golf cart loud music lawnmower
     spilling leaves.

Inside a swell of familiar sounds
we sit close
     on a wooden bench,
     damp
          with morning dew.
I lean into your orbit
     and inhale
          woodsy cologne
             hints
             of orchid and plum.
Through my shades,
     your blurry outline
          ripples as you toss
          your head.

Sources:

“Cello.” Artemis Journal 21.1 (2014): 19. Print.

“Green time.” Bridge Eight 1.1 (2014): 63. Print.