Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Category: poetry (page 1 of 16)

Poems, thoughts about poetry and links to places that have published my poems

The Man Who Spoke the Law

Old folks will tell you there was a time when there was no poetry. Not around here anyway. Maybe back east or some place where time was more available, but breaking this land took all a man had and didn’t leave anything for him at the end. Certainly, no time for pretty words.

Some will even tell you that there was laws against it, but I don’t hold with that story. Still, I had this idea for a poem, back in ’08 or so and I didn’t want to run afoul the sheriff so I figured I needed to have a looksee to find out if there was any laws about poetry one way or the other.

I won’t tell you all my adventures because there were too many and most of them weren’t really worth the telling, but I saw a fair bit of Dallas and Houston and even El Paso on one occasion I’d just as soon forget.

It was in Austin, down in the fluorescent-lit subcommittee caverns beneath the capitol building, where I found my answers. I’d been walking around admiring all that pink granite and the grounds with all the fat squirrels and pigeons and lobbyists and all when I met an old guy mopping the floors after all the senators had left. He’s the one who told me these poems I’m about to share.

He said he found them. Now, I don’t usually go in for poems people say they found, but these two I’m about to relate are the closest I ever come to finding any kind of answer. I guess you could say they were found twice.

He told me, the Texas State Legislature said, “Let There Be Poetry.”

He told me it was all written down in a big old leather-bound book like the ones you might of seen witches reading their spells from in the movies. It was called Texas Administrative Code,

and if you turned those musty old pages over to

Title 19, Part II, Subchapter C §110.31. English Language Arts and Reading, English I (One Credit), Beginning with School Year 2009-2010. (b)  Knowledge and skills. (3) Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/

you’d find it.

He closed his eyes and started reciting in a low whisper. He said it was

Poetry.

Students understand,
make inferences

draw conclusions
about the structure

& elements of poetry,
provide evidence from text

to support their understanding.
students are expected to analyze

the effects
of diction

and imagery

(
controlling images,
figurative language,
understatement,
overstatement,
irony,
paradox
)

in poetry.

He stopped saying his poem, and I stood there taking it all in for a long time. I could hear footsteps echoing through those marble corridors like the sound of generations of people coming up from their final resting places just to hear what this janitor was saying, but those footsteps were just regular folks going about their evening, leaving work, unaware that there was some poetry right there in the middle of all that law.

I told him it sounded like that about covered reading poems, but what about writing them. He nodded and told me all those powerful senators and legislators thought of that too and so he shared another one he found, but it was under some different subsections and letters and what have you.

This one was shorter, kind of like one of those Japanese poems that never got a title and  tells you a lot without using very many words so you have a lot of things to think about and maybe don’t know exactly what the writer meant.

write a poem
using a variety of
poetic techniques

and a variety
of poetic forms

He let it sink in  a moment or two and smiled and kind of leaned on his mop a little and told me he might of left some parts out, some commas and conjunctions and parentheticals and whatnot.

I don’t know. And I don’t know if those were any good or not either, but it sounded something like what I might be looking for.

The next morning, I headed back toward home and didn’t stop until I got there.

This was first published in qarrtsiluni (Words of Power issue, Oct 2009). Thank you to editors Dave Bonta and Beth Adams .

Two Videopoems and Two Poems Published

I’ve been remiss in updating this here blog, so, here’s some cool stuff…

Below (videopoem)

This is a video Marie Craven made for my poem “Below” found at The Poetry Storehouse. Needless to say, I was blown away by this and am very grateful for the time and effort she put into remixing my poem.

This is the second of my poems to be remixed into video lately (the first was a remix by Nic Sebastian of “A Necklace for the Goddess of the Empty Sea”) and the experience is fascinating. I don’t always feel like I know where my poems come from and sometimes I’m surprised to see what I’m thinking. It’s interesting, then, to find out what another artist sees in my work.

I’m filled enough with gratitude when someone takes the time to read what I’ve written, but it’s a humbling thing to know that someone has taken the time with it not just to read it but to try to know it and then bring it to life in a whole new way. So, thank you Marie for “Below” and also to Nic for “Empty Sea” and for creating the soon-to-be-phased-out Poetry Storehouse. These are truly gifts that left me speechless.

Marie wrote up some process notes about the video on her blog, along with notes for two other videos she’s recently done. Three of Marie’s videos have appeared at Gnarled Oak, and you can see even more on her Vimeo page. Or explore her website, pixieguts.com, where you can check out her musical work too.

///

flower (videohaiku)

A few weeks ago, Dave Bonta put out a call for haiku based on a video clip with which he intended to experiment in an effort to develop a new approach to videohaiku. He wound up using lines that I supplied and we worked on editing and revising them to come up with the above video.

Dave wrote extensive process notes at Moving Poems, and I don’t have much to add other than that the collaboration was fun and produced an interesting result. Here’s Dave:

This collaboratively produced videopoem with text by James Brush represents a new approach to videohaiku for me: one in which the first part of the haiku is represented by film footage, which freezes and transitions to text roughly where a mid-poem kireji or cutting word would occur in a Japanese haiku.

[…]

James had started with a rather high-concept idea and pared it down in the course of three drafts. I suggested two further edits. What finally emerged was this:


how your hands burn
for the sun

with the ellipsis standing in for the footage of the baby in a meadow waving a daisy around. (One could even make it fit into a line: babe with a flower, say, or toddler in the yard.)

As I mentioned above, it’s a kick to have one’s words envideoed, and I’m grateful to Dave for taking the time to play with a few of mine. I’ll have to try this technique for myself sometime.

///

Two Poems Published

As mentioned yesterday, my poem “Sorrow” is in Right Hand Pointing Issue 82: an absence at the center. This is the second time I’ve had a poem appear at RHP and it is quite an honor to be there.

And finally, my poem “Trigger” was included in the anthology/prompt book/workbook Poem Your Heart Out (Words Dance Publishing anthology, Dec 2014). “Trigger” was the winner for April 29 in the Poetic Asides Poem-a-Day Challenge back in April. The book contains the 30 winning poems for the month. My Poems “Sticky Note” (April 3) and  “The Summer Forecast” (Apr 18) were finalists on their respective days.

Ok. Enough about me… go read Gnarled Oak.

A Necklace for the Goddess of the Empty Sea (Video Remix)

This is a video remix of my poem “A Necklace for the Goddess of the Empty Sea” made by Nic Sebastian. The poem can be found at The Poetry Storehouse, Nic’s site that collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix” including a few of my own.

This is the first video made from one of my poems, and I was quite thrilled to see it. How fascinating and wonderful a thing to release one’s work and then have it come back like this. Truly, it made my day.

For those who may be interested, the poem was first “officially” published in August 2010 at Poets for Living Waters (along with two others) and was written in response to a prompt at the now-defunct Big Tent Poetry. Here are the process notes I wrote at the time:

This is for Big Tent Poetry’s weekly prompt. The form is called pantoum, and this is my first crack at one. I liked the repetitive spiraling nature of the form, which seemed an interesting fit for another of my post-apocalypse myths and legends poems (for want of a better term), though, I suspect pantoums are best kept short. The idea was to write in form about something that makes us angry so there’s some BP oil spill in this as well as a little bit of influence spilling over from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Stephen King’s The Gunslinger. Using form to tame emotion is a good idea, I think. I’ve tried to write about the BP spill, but its hard to maintain control. Form helps. So does 3rd person narrative and walking so far down the chain of effects that I’m in a different world by the time I begin to write.

Thanks again to Nic Sebastian for creating The Poetry Storehouse and for taking the time and care to create this beautiful video.

Along the Forest Parkway (Videopoem)

This is a video I made for a Tim Suermondt poem at The Poetry Storehouse. The readers are Nic Sebastian and Amy Miller. The music is “Simple Delayed Guitar + Violin Loop” by Candle Nine from Soundcloud. All of the pieces that comprised the video had been released under a Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license (the same one used here at Coyote Mercury). That license makes projects like this possible.

The video came about quite by accident. I was playing with Hyperlapse on my phone while at ACL Fest, just experimenting during Gaslight Anthem’s set. Later I came across the Suermondt poem and thought that some of the images might work with the poem.

I also liked the fact that the poem had multiple readings because I wanted to see what would happen with two different and distinct voices. I tried them both, and opted for Nic’s as the front in part because it was shorter, and I didn’t have much footage.

I edited to the rhythm of the words and the video. Then went searching for music. I wanted something with guitars, and the Candle Nine piece at Soundcloud worked well, and was the correct length. This was a fun one to put together, and I’m pleased with the result.

My Poems in Other Places

Over the past few days, I’ve been fortunate to have had two poems published. Red Wolf Journal published my prose poem “Walking Down the Night” as part of their Fall 2014: Celebration & Ritual issue, and Austin-based journal Carcinogenic Poetry published “Ghazal for Seven Goddesses.”

I also recently learned that three of my April NaPoWriMo poems made the daily top ten lists at Poetic Asides Daily, and one, “Trigger”, even won the day (Day 29: Realist and/or Magical Poem, chosen by guest judge Adam Fitzgerald). The two that made the short lists are “Sticky Note” (Day 3: Message Poem) and “The Summer Forecast” (Day 18: Weather Poem). Each days’ winning poem will be published in the upcoming anthology/prompt book Poem Your Heart Out (Words Dance Publishing).

“A Ghazal On Birth Of The Buddha” Videopoem

This is a video I made based on Uma Gowrishankar’s “A Ghazal On Birth Of The Buddha: Bardo 3″ from The Poetry Storehouse.

I had recorded a reading of the poem the previous week (along with a few others) with no intention of making videos because I didn’t have any time or ideas. But then while searching for some footage on Videvo for something else entirely, I came upon that clip that imagines an approach to the Milky Way. I’m an astronomy nerd and ever since traveling with Carl on the Ship of the Imagination, I’ve always liked this sort of thing.

I watched the clip a few times and started thinking about the poem, about the soul approaching the womb and how the stars in that footage move so fast that (I would think) the clip could encompass millions of years and so the whole thing started to seem like something that was completely outside of time and space. That reminded me of a line from the finale of Lost (which I’m re-watching): “There is no now here” which made me think of souls outside the body and outside time and space which led me back to Gowrishankar’s poem.

I had the reading and the footage so I put them together, but thought I needed something less spacey and metaphorical, which is why I added the audio of the fetal heartbeat. It seemed to ground the thing and make it more earthly, which is one thing I really like about the original poem.

It’s funny to me how things like this just kind of happen, and maybe this is the main thing I have to say about my creative process: I don’t always intend to write a poem or make a video, but then one thing leads to another: experience, image, something I read, something someone says and then the next thing I know there’s a poem or a video or something waiting to be written or made. I guess it all comes down to being open and willing. And then, as Stephen King says, showing up at the keyboard.

On Reading for The Poetry Storehouse

Recently, I spent some time learning and reading poems from some other poets whose work I admire. I found the poems at The Poetry Storehouse (where a few of mine can be found too) a site created by Nic Sebastian and dedicated to bringing poetry off the page and into new venues. There’s a bunch of work licensed under the creative commons license, and it’s all available for remix–audio, video, whatever–so long as it’s for noncommercial use.

So, I went and did some looking and read the following poems:

A Ghazal On Birth Of The Buddha: Bardo 3
 by Uma Gowrishankar
Skimming by Janeen Rastall
Horses by Kristine Ong Muslim
my days are flocks of starlings by Nic Sebastian

I recorded a couple last spring and again, this was a cool thing to do. It is one thing to read a poem, even read it over and over again to oneself, but to say the words, over and over and then to hear yourself say them and then to say them again (the repetitions required to get a satisfactory reading) is to go farther into the poem than you might have imagined was possible. Suddenly, you start to see the things between the lines and letters. Sometimes, you stop in your tracks mid-read and realize you have to start over. That’s a good thing.

In each case, I started by just recording the lines in my classroom while I have it to myself during lunchtime. But with each subsequent reading, I found myself feeling the poems more as the speaker rather than an outside reader. I suppose it must be a bit like this for an actor learning a character, moving from reader to this other self that exists in the lines of the poem.

I don’t know if this is how poetry reading should be done, but it makes sense to me to think of a poem as something that is said or told as if letting the audience in on some secret rather than recited or pronounced (in the sense of pronouncement). When I read to my students, this approach seems to work best for them. They actually listen.

The best thing about this is that by the end, when I sit back and listen, I feel like I’ve come to understand the poem in a way I hadn’t before. As if now, I’ve really walked that mile in the other’s shoes. This came about most especially when I was working on Gowrishankar’s poem. It’s one thing to get the idea of reincarnation of the soul as an outsider, but reading the poem aloud and then listening to it helped me feel it in a more personal way.

So, thank you to Nic for creating the Storehouse and to the poets who’ve posted their work for others like me to experiment with. And if you’re reading this, consider paying a visit and listening or watching what’s been done, and perhaps even add your own contribution.

Ripping Off Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams depart
Life is a worn-out athlete
With a failing heart

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams vanish
Life is an iron prison
Bleak walls and anguish

NaPoWriMo #8: Rewrite a famous poem

I like to have my students analyze “Dreams” by Langston Hughes and then write their own stanzas following his pattern. When we’re finished, everyone reads them aloud following the original. If it’s done right, if sounds like one long poem. The kids usually have fun with it, and some come up with some really cool metaphors. Much better than my weak attempt above, which I’m sharing in response to NaPoWriMo’s prompt to rewrite a famous poem.

Made or Just Happened

They say Voyager crossed the heliopause
last summer with thirty thousand years to go
to clear the sun’s gravity. Our plutonium
spark, a flicker of human warmth returning
to the stars like that first purple martin
returning again in the spring to the place
where he was hatched or the salmon
swimming up blue streams. We are called
home to where our atoms first began,
the water, the sky, the stars. The silent iron
in our blood aches for the supernovae
and so lying on our backs beneath
the wind-swaying oak trees, we hold
hands and watch the stars, imagining that
long journey whose end we’ll never know.

PAD 2014 #2 | We Write Poems: We Wordle #12

In the Kettle, the Shriek by Hannah Stephenson

I’ve been enjoying Hannah Stephenson’s blog, The Storialist, for several years. She posts a poem every day, usually inspired by someone else’s artwork. They’re quite good, amazing really, when you consider she does this every weekday. So I was happy to read her collection In the Kettle, the Shriek (Gold Wake Press, 2013).

These poems are full of warmth, wit, and so many questions. I really like the way she asks questions in her work. I found myself stopping in my tracks, sometimes doubling back after a few pages as I realized my thoughts weren’t keeping up with my reading. Go slow, with this book. Too fast and you’ll miss something. I suppose many books are like that, but In the Kettle, the Shriek rewards that doubling back.

Many of the poems seem to throw a bunch of vivid images and intriguing ideas out there, and I wonder what will stick, where is this going, and then I think, who cares, I’m enjoying the ride. But at the end, the poet often manages to both tie it all together and reveal something new in a single line that is often a question. This is the genius of the work, I think, and what I found so compelling, so interesting.

This is a very positive book. There is darkness, death, panic, extinction, in these pages, but there is light too. A gentle reminder that things will often work out if we are strong, if we are brave. I was especially struck by “Pressing Ghosts,” in which the speaker shares her own fears that her work is unremarkable and dull (it isn’t!) and concludes with:

Even so, I keep creating, I am capable.
I will calmly allow its heaviness
and stand when it goes. It will.

Strong work here, and I look forward to rereading In the Kettle, the Shriek one day. In the meantime, I will keep reading Hannah’s work at The Storialist.

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