“November Eyes” from Richard Blanco’s How to Love a Country

 

Do you remember how you felt right after the 2016 Presidential election? How the world as you knew it suddenly upended? I was devastated and filled with such dread — but I never imagined it could get this bad.

In this powerful poem, Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco describes our new reality in painful detail.

 

“Small Town Diner” by Layne Cook

 

NOVEMBER EYES
by Richard Blanco

I question everyone, everything, even the sun
as I drive east down Main Street — radio off–
to Amy’s diner. She bobby-pins her hair, smiles
her usual good mornin’ but her eyes askew say
something like: You believe this? as she wipes
the counter, tosses aside the Journal Times
the election headlines as bitter as the coffee
she pours for me without a blink. After a cup
and a blueberry muffin I remember my bills
are due by the fifteenth — so I cross on Main
to the post office. Those American flag stamps
are all Debbie has left. I refuse to buy them:
a never mind in my eyes which she dismisses
with a gesture of suit yourself. Bills can wait,
but not my dog’s treats or the milk I’m out of
— so I drive up Main again to the Food Basket.
Paper or plastic, Jan asks me at the checkout,
but it doesn’t matter. What matters is this:
she’s been to my bar-b-ques, I’ve donated
to her son’s football league, we’ve shoveled
each other’s driveways, we send each other
Christmas cards. She knows I’m Latino and
gay. Yet suddenly I don’t know who she is
as I read the button on her polyester vest:
Trump: Make America Great Again, meaning
she doesn’t really know me either. We manage
smiles when she hands me my change, but
our locked eyes say: nothing — so I dash off —
go see Tom at the bank to cash a measly check
from some grand magazine for some grand
poem of mine loaded with some grand words
like transcend, as if my inked verbs could bend
a river’s will, shuffle stars, change the fate of
our nation, or the blur in Tom’s eyes thinking
what I think of our reflection on the bullet-
proof window, asking: So now what, Mr. Poet?
I can’t answer. I can only remember today
I’m supposed to buy a rake, lightbulbs, nails
to hang my aging mother’s photos — so I swing
by Union Hardware, see Dan who knows me,
and what I need. He rings me up, doesn’t say
Goodbye, says Good luck, as if his eyes can see
the uncertainty in my own, worried about:
my immigrant cousin, factory jobs, groped
women, hijabs, blacklists, bans, the church,
the deep state, cops, race, and which lives
matter, hacked votes, refugee camps, dead
children, missiles, suicide bombers, carbon
footprints, polar bears, sunk islands, my gay
marriage, the bills for my preexisting ulcer
flaring, guns at malls, guns at schools, guns
at clubs, more guns, more corporate rights,
soulless cubicles, the empty Supreme Court
seats, the border wall, bullying, the demise
of language, news, the silence of suspicion,
the uneasy guessing, the surprise of who’s
who, the cheers and gloating, or jeers and
swearing, the final picking of sides, right or
left, red or blue state, city, or town, but no
grey today except for the November clouds
looming over Main Street with all the rest
of our unrest, arrested in our eyes clashing
against each other’s glares, ready for battle.

~ from How to Love a Country (Beacon Press, 2019)

*

Continue reading

poetry friday roundup is here!

 

Welcome to Poetry Friday at Alphabet Soup!

Today, just for you — sip some tea, nibble on a macaron, and gently savor Charles Ghigna’s heartening and beautifully crafted reflections on creativity.

I am honored to share three poetic pieces from his new book, Dear Poet: Notes to a Young Writer (Resource Publications, 2019).

Described as, “A Poetic Journey into the Creative Process for Readers, Writers, Artists & Dreamers,” this collection of twenty-four spare, unadorned “word-gems” is an insightful gift to all creatives, offering both invaluable advice and spiritual nourishment.

As I enter my seventh decade on this planet, I wonder what words of wisdom I might have written to the younger me. What treasured tidbits have I learned along the way? What could I leave in a letter to young artists and poets searching the world for advice, guidance, and inspiration.

The creative process is a mysterious one, muses can be fickle, and in endeavors where one’s reach almost always exceeds one’s grasp, the life of the artist can be daunting and lonely.

I have always believed that in a sense, you cannot actually “teach” someone how to write, just as you cannot teach someone how to think or how to feel. And while there are many helpful books about honing your craft with suggestions about form, structure, voice, etc., detailing the more technical aspects of writing, sometimes what a writer needs, or craves . . . are simple, enduring truths gleaned from years of experience.

As I read the short yet profound poems, I silently cheered in affirmation. Yes, trust your instincts, speak the truth in your heart, find your authentic voice, get out of your own way and let the work speak for itself. Only write if you must.

Dear Poet is like having a trusted friend nearby, reminding you of what is most important. Though the subtitle is, “Notes to a Young Writer,” these words are for everyone, no matter where you are on your creative journey. Aren’t all artists and writers eternally young (in a constant state of beginning)?

I’m pairing today’s poems with art created by Charles’s son Chip, who also lives and works in Homewood, Alabama. As you can see, artistic talent runs deep in this family (Charles’s wife Debra is also a poet).

Good things do come in small packages. Read these delectable nuggets slowly and ponder  . . . 🙂

*

 

“Hang Onto Your Dreams” (acrylic on canvas)

 

XII.

A silent rhyme
upon the page
is what the poet gives,

gentle words
whispered in trust
to see if memory lives.

*

 

 

 

“Raising the Moon” (acrylic on canvas)

 

XVII.

A poem
is a rising moon
shining on the sea,

an afterglow
of all you know,
of all your dreams set free.

*

 

 

“Crimson Forest” (acrylic and gold leaf on canvas)

 

XXIV.

The answer
to the artist
comes quicker than a blink,

though the spark
of inspiration
is not what you might think.

The muse
is full of magic,
though her vision may be dim.

The artist
does not choose the work.
It is the work that chooses him.

*

 

 

“Bear on a Bicycle”

 

Now, please leave your links with the dashing Mr. Linky below. Have fun visiting all the blogs serving up delectable poetic goodness this week!

 

*

 

 

*

 

DEAR POET: Notes to a Young Writer
written by Charles Ghigna
published by Resource Publications, August 2019
Poetry Collection, 56 pp.

*

 

*

 

 

 

“Autumn” (acrylic, gesso, book pages and leaves on canvas)

 

♥ For information about where you can purchase Chip Ghigna’s amazing art, please visit his Official Website.

*


* Images posted by permission, copyright © 2019 Chip Ghigna. All rights reserved.

** Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

 

nine cool things on a tuesday

 

1. Hungry for a little lunch? Not so fast — you may have a little trouble actually eating this one, since it’s actually — *wait for it* — a purse!

 

 

Yes, Rotterdam based artist Rommy Kuperus is still creating her amazing, over-the-top accessories for fashion forward peeps who enjoy wearing their food.

 

 

 

 

And why not? Rommy’s pieces are handmade, totally calorie free and 100% eye-catching fun. You may remember when we interviewed Rommy a few years back. Glad to see she’s still going strong and bringing out new designs all the time.

 

 

 

I was especially tickled to see her instant ramen purse (having just reviewed Andrea Wang’s picture book biography of Momofuku Ando, who invented instant ramen).

Check out all of Rommy’s delicious offerings at her Official Website or at her Etsy Shop, RommydeBommy. Bring your appetite! 🙂

*

 

2. Look at what I just started reading: Fierce Bad Rabbits: The Tales Behind Children’s Picture Books by Clare Pollard (Fig Tree, 2019). It came out this summer, and so far, I’m really enjoying it!

 

 

What is The Tiger Who Came to Tea really about?
What has Meg and Mog got to do with Polish embroidery?
Why is death in picture books so often represented by being eaten?

We’ve read Green Eggs and Ham, laughed at Mr Tickle and whetted our appetites with The Very Hungry Caterpillar. But what lies behind the picture books that make up our childhood?

Fierce Bad Rabbits takes us on an eye-opening journey in a pea-green boat through the history of picture books. From Edward Lear through to Beatrix Potter and contemporary picture books like Stick Man, Clare Pollard shines a light on some of our best-loved childhood stories, their histories and what they really mean. Because the best picture books are far more complex than they seem – and darker too. Monsters can gobble up children and go unnoticed, power is not always used wisely, and the wild things are closer than you think.

Sparkling with wit, magic and nostalgia, Fierce Bad Rabbits weaves in tales from Clare’s own childhood, and her re-readings as a parent, with fascinating facts and theories about the authors behind the books. Introducing you to new treasures while bringing your childhood favourites to vivid life, it will make you see even stories you’ve read a hundred times afresh.

Clare is a British poet and playwright whom I was not previously familiar with. Now I’m going to have to check out her poetry too! And, in case you’re wondering, the cover art for this book was created by fave British illustrator Emily Sutton. 🙂

*

 

Continue reading

party down, mr. romond!

 

The best things happen at night while we’re asleep. Toys come alive and book characters escape from their pages so they can party. I know this definitely happens at our house because most mornings I smell mint juleps and have this strange compulsion to change my name to “Stella.”

First he told us what English teachers dream about, and then he brought us donuts. Today, Pennsylvania based poet Edwin Romond throws a literary party. What a guy. 🙂

*

 

 

AT NIGHT THE CHARACTERS ON MY CLASSROOM SHELVES COME OUT TO PARTY

by Edwin Romond

Captain Ahab peers in his telescope and yells, “All clear!”
and the rest unpage from the bindings of shelf life.
Gatsby’s first in his golden Rolls, screeching around,
nearly hitting Laura Wingfield, who’s with Stanley Kowalski,
her latest hope from the Literary Computer Dating Service.
And there’s Macbeth lecherously proclaiming, “Tonight
and tonight and tonight!” as he watusis with the witches,
which irritates Jonathan Edwards who’s mingling
and telling everyone to go to hell. The Duke and the King
try to sell Mississippi time shares to Hester, but she’s busy
with my grade book changing all the marks to “A’s.”
And there’s Old Rip scribbling on my desks, “This class
puts me to sleep,” but Blanche DuBois is really in trouble
depending on the kindness of strange Edgar Allan Poe
who’s moaning how lovely she’d look in a casket.
Then “Better Late Than Never” Reverend Dimmesdale
preaches from Planned Parenthood Journal to Oscar Wilde,
who is not interested. The party’s getting hot now
which makes Lady Macbeth tell the fur-coated Jack London,
“Off, off, damned coat!” just as the cast of “The Lottery”
arrives to suggest that everyone get stoned. They all go wild
till poet Emily, who never left the shelf to begin with,
peeks out to whisper, “Homeroom!” and they all scurry back
like illegal aliens. But poor Hamlet can’t find Hamlet
so he jumps into “The Lady or the Tiger?” where he stares
at both doors before turning to the crowd to warn,
“You’d better get comfortable. This might take a while.”

~ from Dream Teaching: Poems by Edwin Romond (Grayson Books, 2004)

 

*

Continue reading

[review + giveaway] Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections by Michelle Schaub and Carmen Saldaña

I literally squealed with happiness when I first heard about and then finally read Michelle Schaub and Carmen Saldaña’s new poetry picture book, Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections (Charlesbridge, 2019).

As some of you may have guessed, “Collector” is my middle name. I’m what you’d call a born collector — it’s part of my DNA. It began with Japanese rice candy sponge animals, Crackerjack toys and Golden books during childhood, and has continued throughout my life: character wristwatches, hearts, rubber stamps, stationery, fountain pens, finger puppets, salt and pepper shakers, pigs (a passing phase), tea and tea paraphernalia, Coach leather bags, doll furniture, music in various formats, Beatrix Potter everything.

And then, of course, my most enduring obsessions: foodie picture books, poetry, literary cookbooks, china and crockery (mostly English), and teddy bears (especially Paddington!). Indeed, we had to move into a larger house just to accommodate the bears. 😀

In Finding Treasure, a delightful story told in 18 fetching poems, our young narrator is feeling a little panicky about a school assignment:

 

My teacher gave us homework
that has me quite perplexed.
He asked us all to bring to class
something we collect.

 

All her classmates have things to share — marbles, arrowheads, teddy bears — but the girl doesn’t have a collection, so she studies the collections of family and friends for ideas and inspiration.

Continue reading