Billy Collins: poet, bard, rhymer, versifier, sonnetist, parodist, lyricist, rhapsodist

“I am bravery. I am courage. I am valor. I am daring. I am holding a thesaurus.” ~ Demetri Martin

“Amazing” by Mel Bochner (2011)
THESAURUS
by Billy Collins

It could be the name of a prehistoric beast
that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up
on its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary,
or some lover in a myth who is metamorphosed into a book.

It means treasury, but it is just a place
where words congregate with their relatives,
a big park where hundreds of family reunions
are always being held,
house, home, abode, dwelling, lodgings, and digs,
all sharing the same picnic basket and thermos;
hairy, hirsute, woolly, furry, fleecy, and shaggy
all running a sack race or throwing horseshoes,
inert, static, motionless, fixed and immobile
standing and kneeling in rows for a group
photograph.

Here father is next to sire and brother close
to sibling, separated only by fine shades of meaning.
And every group has its odd cousin, the one
who traveled the farthest to be here:
astereognosis, polydipsia, or some eleven
syllable, unpronounceable substitute for the word
tool.
Even their own relatives have to squint at their name tags.

I can see my own copy up on a high shelf.
I rarely open it, because I know there is no
such thing as a synonym and because I get nervous
around people who always assemble with their own 
kind,
forming clubs and nailing signs to closed front doors
while others huddle alone in the dark streets.

I would rather see words out on their own, away
from their families and the warehouse of Roget,
wandering the world where they sometimes fall
in love with a completely different word.
Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever
next to each other on the same line inside a poem,
a small chapel where weddings like these,
between perfect strangers, can take place. 

~ from The Art of Drowning (University of Pittsburgh 
Press, 1995)
“Crazy” by Mel Bochner (2004)

*

Continue reading

a peek inside marjorie maddox’s Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises

 

Clever is as clever does. Poetry lovers, are you hungry for some “mind-doodling, eye-dazzling, ear-bending, new-fangled, old-fashioned fun”?

Look no further than Marjorie Maddox’s fab new book, Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems (Daffydowndilly Press/Kelsay Books, 2020)!

Whether you’re hoping to jump-start your own writing, or are looking for a unique tween or teen classroom resource, you’ll love how this book injects new meaning into the popular writing dictum, “show, don’t tell.”

The 27 upbeat, inventive poems offer “plenty of tips and tricks” by exemplifying the very forms and concepts they are trying to teach. Rather than analyze abstract definitions from afar, budding poets can step right inside each poem for a dynamic, interactive learning experience. What better way to get the lowdown on couplets, for example, than by reading this:

 

COUPLET

Poetic twins all dressed in rhyme
stroll side-by-side in two straight lines.

 

Made you smile, right?

The first five poems are lessons in summoning, appealing to, and heightening the five senses — fundamental advice on how to approach either reading or writing poetry. The practice of quieting the self to imagine and envision what’s “beyond the ordinary,” and listening for “the small sound between breaths that stirs when you inhale” are good places to begin.

When you “inhale deeply and equally,” know that “Your nose, noble and brave,/knows how to adjust to each form of aroma . . . Keep following the trail of scent to sniff out the meaning.” When it comes to touching a poem, we are warned against “an anemic wave” in favor of a forceful clasp, remembering that, “This is a hands-on operation — the more fingerprints, the better.”

This is my favorite of these sensory delights (no surprise):

 

 

HOW TO TASTE A POEM

The table’s well set, but please
come as you are. No need for white gloves
or black tuxedos. Pass the appetizer plate
to your left and try a lightly fried haiku
or lemon-peppered limerick. Nibble away
as you would a jumbo shrimp stuffed with oxymorons.
For an entrée, may we suggest a well-done ode
or an Italian sonnet smothered with marinara sauce?
Now, sit back and savor the syllables
until your taste buds plump with flavor,
but leave room for dessert —
aged alliteration topped with assonance and consonance:
a sugary smorgasbord of simply scrumptious sounds.

 

Sheer pleasure to wrap your lips around the mouthwatering metaphors, to nibble on the nimbly crafted lines. Who would not delight at a meal served up with such wit and finesse, in a voice friendly and accessible, that seems to say, let me show you precisely what I am. Irresistible!

Maddox’s subsequent poems introduce such literary devices as pun, paradox, personification, onomatopoeia, and enjambment, even having simile explaining metaphor in sassy Valleyspeak (I’m, like, totally impressed). 🙂

Poetic forms given the marvelous Maddox treatment include the clerihew, triolet, sestina, villanelle, acrostic, and both the English and Italian sonnets. By the time we encounter “Getting Ready with Iambic,” we’re treated to a “marching, metered day,” with pentameter our “favorite game to play.”

Once readers have enjoyed the poems, they can move on to the Insider Exercises, for a chance to practice for themselves what they’ve just read about: using concrete details based on the senses, writing dramatic monologues or any of the fixed-forms using the instructions in the clerihew, sonnet, or sestina poems as guides. Writers are also able to experiment with line and stanza breaks, and knock themselves out with a bag of fun tricks (puns, paradox, onomatopoiea, acrostic).

Young writers will find Maddox’s ingenious poems entertaining as well as educational. In both poem and exercise, Maddox ultimately encourages readers to approach poems as friends, being open, “faithful and patient,” gently coaxing the muse to reveal her meaning.

She also emphasizes the importance of finding poems on subjects we like, poems we would like to spend time with and get to know better. I think this goes a long way towards dispelling the fear and hesitation many people have (regardless of age), about reading or writing poetry. Too many are turned off because they have been force-fed verses that are too abstract or obtuse, or they’ve been forced to “analyze” rather than experience a poem. When you think of poems as friends, those relationships will naturally engender human emotions, which constitute the beating heart of poetry.

 

 

BEFRIENDING A POEM

Invite him home for dinner
but don’t insist on rhyme;

he may be as tired and as overworked
as his distant cousin Cliché.

Best to offer intriguing conversation
that’s light on analysis.

Allow for silences and spontaneity.
Most importantly, like any good friend,

be faithful and patient;
remember to listen.

Sometimes he’s shy
and just needs a little time and coaxing.

Much of what he has to say
lies between the lines.

 

Inside Out is the perfect way to celebrate National Poetry Month, at home or in the classroom. Do check out this writer and teacher friendly delight, which brims with clever wordplay, refreshing images, and evocative challenges, all presented from a novel vantage point. Turn these poems inside out and back again, and watch your writing flourish.

*

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published twenty collections of poetry and prose, including the children’s books A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry (Philip Huber, illustrator; WordSong, 2008; Wipf and Stock, 2019), Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems (John Sandford, illustrator; WordSong, 2009; Wipf and Stock, 2019), and I’m Feeling Blue, Too! (Philip Huber, illustrator; Wipf and Stock, 2020).

She also has poetry for children in many anthologies, including Paul Janeczko’s Hey, You! Poems to Skyscrapers, Mosquitoes, and Other Fun Things (Robert Rayevsky, illustrator; HarperCollins, 2006) and The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems (Richard Jones, illustrator; Candlewick 2019). In 2002, she was one of five national judges for the Lee Bennett Hopkins Children’s Poetry Book of the Year Award. In 2019/2020, she chaired the jury of judges for the same prize.

In addition, Marjorie Maddox has a dozen collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize; WordTech, 2004; Wipf and Stock, 2018); True, False, None of the Above (Illumination Book Award Medalist; Poiema Poetry Series, Cascade Books, 2016); Local News from Someplace Else (Wipf and Stock, 2013); Perpendicular As I (1994 Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite Press, 2017); Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor with Jerry Wemple; PSU Press, 2005); Presence (assistant editor); and over 550 stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies.

*

 

INSIDE OUT: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises
written by Marjorie Maddox
published by Daffydowndilly Press/Kelsay Books, April 2020
Poetry/Nonfiction for grades 7-12, 62 pp.
*Includes Glossary
**Available for pre-order now from the publisher

*

 

 

♥️ 2020 NATIONAL POETRY MONTH KIDLITOSPHERE EVENTS ROUNDUP ♥️

Once again, I’m collecting links from any poetry-loving bloggers who are doing special projects for Poetry Month. Please send your info to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, and I’ll happily add you to the Roundup. Also, please help spread the word via your social networks or any relevant listservs. Thanks so much!!

*

 

The lovely and talented Michelle Kogan is hosting the Roundup. She’s sharing some wonderful springtime poems from the 2017-2018 Today’s Little Ditty Anthology. Be sure to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Have a good weekend, and stay safe and healthy.


*Copyright © 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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.