Poems in a Pandemic: My Turn?

MY TURN?
by Jane Muir

My mother, as a child, was sick one weekend and didn’t visit her grandparents.
That weekend their house was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.
Both grandparents died in the fire.
I grew up with a fear of lightening.

My father, as a very young man in Scotland went to sea
As a cabin boy or whatever lowly job was available.
When one voyage finished, he took another
But missed the one to India
That boat sank before it reached Gibraltar
The whole crew perished.

And now I and all my children
Face our own dire threat—
Not a lightening strike
Nor a leaky boat

But someone
In China who
Ate a
Bat.

Poems in a Pandemic: Pandemic Epic

PANDEMIC EPIC
by Norman Thomas Marshall

A POEM IN WHICH THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC IS HAILED AS A

VISITATION UPON A WORLD OF SIN NOT YET READY TO RECEIVE

THE MESSIAH OPENLY AND FREELY SO THEREFORE THE WOLRD

STUMBLES BLINDLY– IN, AMONG AND AGAINST EACH OTHER AND

WE HAVE SOMETHING TO CONSTANTLY TALK ABOUT WITHOUT

ANYTHING GETTING SAID.

That’s it?

No shit?

Gotta git.

Poems in a Pandemic: Awake

AWAKE
by Patricia Horn O’Brien

Despite my bamboo blind
clattering up, despite my elbow
seeking my fallen strap

to send it to my shoulder’s
angled quest, despite my eyelids,
aflutter with my window’s

close offer of a sparrow’s
still curiosity, she and I stare
each other into the speck of this hour,

neither she nor I adding anything
but the slender tether we allow. I
awake to how the sparrow

and I are in it
together. She, awake,
and without a word about It.

Ekphrastic May: Poems from Home

Stuck at home during COVID-19, members of the Guilford Poets Guild recently engaged in an ekphrastic exercise of writing poems inspired by works of art in their own homes. Similar to seeing rooms on Zoom, these poems offer a unique and intimate glimpse into the lives of these local poets.

Ekphrastic poetry is a response to a visual work of art, often a vivid, dramatic work that takes a painting, sculpture, or other artwork as its inspiration.

In June, GPG poets will be writing about COVID-19, and their reflections on the pandemic. Stay tuned!

 

Ekphrastic May: Heist

Heist
by Jen Payne

I drove the get-away car that day,
left it on idle in the parking space
closest to the electronic OUT door
of Porter’s Grocery there in Alpine.

It was a bright Texas day, hot,
the car angled in shade enough
for a clear-on view of the lobby,
bulletin board, handbills, and tacks.

We’d scoped out the joint before,
cased the aisles for jerky
and a bottle of wine for dinner
back in Marfa at the Thunderbird.

There was a nice patio
outside our room with blue lights
like the alien spaceships
you could see there sometimes?

Funny things in that part of Texas:
spaceships and meteors,
a roadside Prada shoe outlet,
Chinati’s take on art, and ours.

Ours was her, Viva Terlingua!
in her sunset-red cowboy hat,
hand-strung turquoise beads, and
that witty West Texas smile.

It’s a smile that says just about all
you want to say about West Texas,
about the wild Trans-Pecos
and its wide expanse of stars.

It’s a promise of whiskey at La Kiva,
or hot coffee while the sun rises
over Terlingua and Study Butte
over Big Bend and the Rio Grande.

It’s a smile that remembers solitude,
the promise of oddity and isolation,
of community, maybe, companionship —
two friends on the road laughing.

It’s the awesome sound a car makes solo
on a nighttime desert highway,
or peeling out from the Porter’s,
Viva Terlingua! rolled up in the back seat.


Viva Terlingua! was featured on a 2010 poster from the Original Terlingua Chili Championship. The artwork is by Texas-based artist Frank X. Tolbert 2. You can see more of his amazing work on his website, here. The Original Terlingua Chili Championship ( link ) was started in 1967 by his father Frank X. Tolbert Sr. and a group of local men. Special thanks to his daughter, Kathleen Ryan, for filling in these details on a recent serendipitous Saturday.

Get Ready for Poem in Your Pocket Day!

TOMORROW IS POEM IN YOUR POCKET DAY!
Poem in Your Pocket Day takes place every year on a day in National Poetry Month. On this day, select a poem, carry it with you, and share it with others at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, street corners, and on social media using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

It’s easy to carry a poem, share a poem, or start your own Poem in Your Pocket Day event. Here are some ideas of how you might get involved:

  • Start a poem giveaway in your school or workplace
  • Urge local businesses to offer discounts for those carrying poems
  • Post pocket-sized verses in public places
  • Memorize a poem
  • Start a street team to pass out poems in your community
  • Distribute bookmarks with your favorite lines of poetry
  • Add a poem to your email footer
  • Post lines from your favorite poem on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest
  • Send a poem to a friend

Poem in Your Pocket Day was initiated in April 2002 by the Office of the Mayor in New York City, in partnership with the city’s Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took the initiative to all fifty United States, encouraging individuals around the country to participate. In 2016, the League of Canadian Poets extended Poem in Your Pocket Day to Canada.

Poet Elizabeth Possidente

In celebration of National Poetry Month, members of the Guilford Poets Guild were invited to share their thoughts about poetry and the life of a poet. Here’s what Elizabeth Possidente had to say:

How did you come to being a poet?
I think “being” a poet was underlying everything I have done with my life and I suppose that wasn’t practical. While I identified myself in other ways over the years, poet was always lurking in the shadows, lifting me along. My mother read and sang poems all the time to us as children and I have done the same with mine and my grandchildren.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
I wish I could. I have a very bad memory. I made up songs to my cat and others.

What else do you write besides poetry? Do you have other creative pursuits?
Hmmm. It seems I am writing all the time something, be it a letter an email, poem elements. I wrote all the time in my work life. I love to putter in my garden, be in nature, to play my flute and sing with others. I play chamber music with a wonderful group, and have sung in various choruses since childhood. I am learning to play guitar a bit and bass recorder as an adjustment to my hearing impairments. I teach Yoga still, dance, do Chigong, Tai’chi. I draw some, but gave my paints to my daughter-in-law.

What has been the defining moment in your life as a poet/writer?
Although I had thought college was my leap to becoming a writer, I went in other directions. In my professional life I wrote all the time and used poetry as one modality to help others express or frame their experiences. Joining some poetry workshops later in life convinced me that this was how I wished to express myself in a less ephemeral way than dance/movement or music. Then, having the opportunity to read my poems at a memorial for a dear poet friend slid me into saying to myself that perhaps I really was a poet. How grateful I am to Edwina Trentham whose presence and workshops inspired and enlightened me. Presenting my poems at readings at the Clinton Art Gallery and the Guilford Library for GPG have been real boosters.

How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
I think I have been a member for three years now. This is an injection of plasma and red blood, mixed with laughter and intrinsic tears. Challenges. I love these people. Rising chi always. Arms around them all.

What inspires your writing today?
Life life and life. Ordinary, lush and tragic life. My own history, nature, family, and people around me. Everything and anything. Witness. Reflection.

Describe your poem-writing process. Where do you like to write?
Moments. Sensations. Feelings. Words. Memories. It can happen any time. Or not. Over coffee, on a walk, in the shower or off to bed. Paper scraps are essential, backs of envelopes. I write by hand in a journal, and after some reflection and composting the poem will evolve to my computer, and then another part of my brain steps in. It is like my cooking. Messy. And when a poem isn’t there, it just isn’t.

Where do you like to write? With what?
I write most at my kitchen/dining table in a sort of greenhouse where the light is wonderful and nature is just a glance away. I am surrounded with papers of all sorts, plants and the smells of kitchen and sometimes bustle. But otherwise I write anywhere on anything. I use a found pen to write and an old MacBook Air which I am afraid to update. Computer space is outer space as far as I am concerned but connects with another part of my brain

Who are you favorite poets and authors?
This may depend on the season or the year. Emily of course, G.M Hopkins, Naomi Shahib Nye, Wm Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, Dr Seuss, Rumi and Tracy K Smith. Barbara Kingsolver, Sy Montgomery and others.

What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)
I am always reading several:
The Overstory by Richard Powers just finished
As well as The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery
Writing About Your Life by William Zinsser
The Open Heart A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus by Dali Lama
Writers and Lovers by Lily King


Elizabeth Possidente, MA has returned to poetry after many years of jotting on envelopes, paper scraps etc while she worked as a Creative Arts Therapist and raised a family. She has published articles in her field and in the Connecticut River Review. She is a member of the Guilford Poets Guild.

Poet Gordy Whiteman

In celebration of National Poetry Month, members of the Guilford Poets Guild were invited to share their thoughts about poetry and the life of a poet. Here’s what Guilford Poet Laureate Gordy Whiteman had to say:

How did you come to being a poet?
I was aware of poetry from when I was a little child. My mother wrote poetry and published some of her poems in local papers. She was also a really good piano player and wrote songs — some, of which, my siblings and I still sing. I have only one of her finished poems, but many first and second drafts of many of her poems.

I took a creative writing course at Southern Connecticut State University when I was about 30 years old and wrote my first poem — it was a nature poem and I think I received a mark of B. The poem is in one of my many binders. After that, I wrote a number of poems until, at age 55, I joined The Shoreline Poets which was the forerunner to The Guilford Poets Guild.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
I looked up the first poem, which I made reference to above and here it is:

A HARVEST

Squirrels and I were gathering today,
storing up for the barren cold;
the abundance that rain, heat and farmer folk
have given Autumn to hold.

And we took, each in our way

(cautious and creeping)
the nut of the hickory and oak

(waiting and watching)
the gleam of the maple, the dogwood so bold,
strong tulip tree covered with gold.

What else do you write besides poetry? Do you have other creative pursuits?
In my “bring home the bacon” work-a-day-world, I had jobs that required writing. I wrote much advertising copy ( I sold over 800 homes in twenty-odd years as a real estate broker) and as a manager in the dairy business (15 years) one of my responsibilities was the presentation of on-going training programs to around 45 managers and supervisors. Critiquing other managers required my acquiring some diplomatic skills while still getting my point across.

For years, my love of painting ( pastels, oils, charcoal and colored pencil) was my main pursuit. I really enjoy drawing the human face. So much is there in the expression, the eyes, the wrinkles, although when I have drawn Andrea, she has warned me, “no wrinkles !”

Singing — Guilford, for many years, had a choral group The Guilford Community Chorus I sang in that group for, I would say, about fifteen years. When I was in high school, I was honored to be chosen to represent Guilford in Connecticut’s All State Chorus. A great experience.

What has been the defining moment in your life as a poet/writer?
I would have to say when I published my first book, Whitfield Crossing. It came out less than two months after the terrorist attack on New York’s Twin Towers. I think the Guilford public needed something that would bring them back to normal. I gave several readings over the ensuing weeks. I sold over 600 copies; most within the next six months. Other defining moments — being named Guilford’s Poet Laureate. Having been born in Guilford and, aside from US Air Force time and college, I have lived here my whole 90 years. Also, having been asked to serve as president or co-president three times by The Guilford Poets Guild. I do not want to leave out of your question the honor of being a founding member of The Connecticut Coalition of Poets Laureate. When the Coalition was founded, there were five known town or city poets laureate in the whole state. Now, there are well over 35 laureates plus another 15 or so that are emeritus.

How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
I joined the fore-runner of The Guild, The Shoreline Poets, in 1985 and became a member of the Guild almost immediately after it was formed, by Katrina Van Tassel, into an on-going community-minded organization. One way to measure the value of any group is to look at how often its membership changes. The Guild has had an unchanging, rock-solid membership for years. We would like to have new members but, at this time, simply do not have the room to accommodate any additions. Therefore, we encourage would-be members to participate in our meetings that are open to the public. There are various ways that non-members can become involved.

What is it like? Since 1985, when I became a member, it was expected that I and the other members would show up at the twice-a-month meetings with a poem that would be critiqued by the other members. We meet twenty-four times a year for these sessions so, you can do the math..- lots of poems — lots of poetry books, many of which are in the stacks at the Guilford Free Library. And (this is a big and) The Guilford Free Library has been generous in making room for us to hold our Second Thursday Poetry Readings where we usually have a well-known poet from Connecticut or some other northeastern state as a featured guest poet — and an open mic for poets who might not otherwise have an audience.

What inspires your writing today?
I am inspired to write about my fellow men and women of all ages — the goodness – the quirkiness — the history — the heroism — the quotidian — the love

Describe your poem-writing process. Where do you like to write?
I have found that certain rooms in our house are good for doing certain things. Just as when watching TV, if one is used to snacking, then snacking becomes habit. Likewise, when I sense that a poem is coming forth, I go to my den (Andrea also has a den). That is my habit. I will write one-liners on subject matter, anywhere from a half dozen to a dozen. Then I will concentrate on the opening line and the opening stanza. If I don’t have words that are going to inspire the reader to continue down the page, then why go any further? So, a lot of thought goes into the opening. Then I go to my list of one-liners and I write. More often than not pure creativity takes over and the first draft comes to life. The next part, the rewrite, I just thoroughly enjoy. Here, to use an analogy, its like the sculptor who has gotten beyond the lump of clay, beyond the rough form and, if lucky, can see something of worth beginning to take shape. At some point the poem goes before the Guild for a friendly, but serious, critique.

Who are you favorite poets and authors?
My favorite poet is Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely. She is a poet who has a unique way with words, and that, coupled with true insight into the human condition, has made my heart sing on many a reading of her poetry. To be a great poet, one has to have, among many other things, courage to say it like it is. She has that quality also. Other poets high on my list are Gray Jacobik (genius qualities there) and W.S. Merwin for form and always a good story.

What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)
I usually have five or six books going at the same time. Andrea and I have a pretty good library to choose from. Downstairs I am reading Gray Jacobik’s Banquet and upstairs, in my den, I am reading Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott. If I run out of a good tale, I will happily read the encyclopedia or the dictionary.

What’s your favorite poem to carry around and share with others?
Shakespeare’s soliloquies are pretty good. Portia’s “The quality of mercy …” has stood up well for a few hundred years. But for a modern-day poet, I don’t think any poet can top Robert Frost — snowy woods — two roads diverged — some say the world will end in fire – birches — stone fences make good neighbors — and on and on.

Any last words?
And finally  –  “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world”


Gordy Whiteman was born in Guilford in 1929. He is a member of the Guilford Poets Guild. Whiteman is the author of two volumes of poetry: Whitfield Crossing and Home Town Guilford. He is a founding member of The Connecticut Coalition of Poets Laureate and currently serves as Guilford’s Poet Laureate. If he can keep his short-term memory intact, he hopes to complete a third book of poems in the sometime soon.