Good Links (National Poetry Month Edition)

Last night, the black, gray, and white clouds swirled on top of each other while the radio screeched the National Weather Center warning. "This is not a test," it said before indicating that a Tornado watch was in effect. I pulled into the drive, where Amber and the boys were standing, watching the clouds roll against each other like ocean waves. Titus pointed to the sky, "pormado, Dadda," he said. I told him it'd be okay, that we were protected by a sturdy Ozark ridge (as if he understood the interaction of meteorology and geology). He smiled, pointed again, and said "pormado, pormado, pormado." Some words are just fun to say, I reckon. Titus is learning that. (And worry not; the fact that you are reading this is an indication that my home was not swept away to Oz.)

Speaking of fun words, I've been digging into a few this week. Check out this week's list of good links.


Breaking convention, I'm leading with a video segment from Jimmy Kimmel's interview of Bill Clinton. In it, the forty-second president speaks of alien visitation: "I just hope, that it's not like Independence Day, the movie," he says.


Did you know it's National Poetry Month? The good folks at Tweetspeak Poetry have a Poetry Dare for you. Pick a poet and read his or her work every day through the month of April. Lyla Lindquist is reading Polish poet Wisława Szymborska. Check out her piece and take her up on the Poetry Dare. If you could pick one poet to read this month, who would it be? (I'm reading John Ciardi.)

Speaking of picking a poet, last night, I picked a few Facebook poets and followed links to their words. I ran across James Scott Smith's poem "Weaver's Prayer." He writes, in part:

...we, cloak ourselves in the love of one day’s worth of revelation, of a simple reckoning with faith, enough to warm our faces in the dawn and thank the One that fires up the rising sun for this wondrous and mysterious consciousness of being in the world.

Visit his place, By Way of the Dog, for the rest of the poem. It's a good one.

Yesterday, Hilary Sherratt writes on the connection between writing good poetry and voracious reading. By reading poetry, Hilary learned to read the world, learned to see the poetry all around her. She writes:

It is this way with the man who shovels snow too early in the morning to talk back to the silent trees. It is this way with the woman I see making her way nervously, heels-clicking, down the sidewalk towards the post office on Saturday, the way it is with the bird chatter or the dog and his patient tail thumping the song of our mornings.

Hilary's piece is one of my favorite of the week. Make sure you check it out.


Over the last year or so, I've collected some of my favorite poetic songs in one extraordinary playlist (if I might say so myself). Enjoy.

Happy National Poetry Month! I hope you take the opportunity to delve deep into verse!

Good Links (The Embodied Edition)

*Why the photo? Just because. I think it's funny.  I've been asked more than once these days, "why are you stretching into so much poetry?" People don't read poetry anymore, they say. It's antiquated, anachronistic, out of date. It's too hoity toity, they say.

I don't suppose I agree with these accusations against poetry in large part because I've found  it to be a useful processing tool these days. Perhaps it's something about the form, how it helps me distill an idea or emotion down past the dregs, down to the ethanol of the matter. Perhaps there's something about building a smaller free-standing structure, something less monstrous or grandiose. Perhaps there are times that require the offering of only pared-down word sets, seasons that ask us to step away from our largess.

Seasons, yes.

I think poetry is about seasons. Like autumn, poetry comes in quick and cold, drives me simultaneously to the flame-mapled woods and the home hearth.

These days, if you asked me what I thought about God, I'd likely point to my psalms series and say, "here's a good start." Sure, we could talk about creeds, and modes and methods of worship. We could pour ourselves steaming cups of tea and discuss whether God would or wouldn't do a particular thing. We could discuss a great many things about God, but if you want the straight-skinny of my thoughts of God? I'm working it out through my psalms, and I've been finding great freedom (and revelation) in the process. It's a season of poetry for me, and I'm glad to be in it.

Today, I'm sharing poetry at Suzannah Paul's place, and I hope you'll visit. The piece is about the state of our being, of passing from birth to the summing up of all. Care for an excerpt?

We move first through the rail thin hope of light, potential coming through the needle’s eye and into the growing, breaking, blinding dawn of the first day. From water to air, pushed or pulled I do not know which, we come to the great magnet that is this living, this undulating of ocean tides and carnal impulse.

Follow me to Suzannah's place for the piece in its entirety. And then, follow the links below to find my most recent ghazal. "A ghazal?" you ask. Yes, a ghazal. And no, that's not something that lions hunt on the Serengeti.

And with that, I bring you to the weekly link roundup.


Come visit me at Suzannah Paul's place today. Really. She has been so gracious to share her space with my words. I hope you enjoy my latest piece, "embodied."

I'm also trying my pen at an Arabic poetic form, the ghazal. Granted, I don't speak Arabic, but I took the form and fashioned it around my native tongue. "November Pyres," is a poem about life, faith, and the prying apart of the two. It is, perhaps, one of the more honest poems I've written in a while. Thanks to Tweetspeak for hosting me today.

Did you catch "Fold Your Hands {On Teaching Consent to Pre-Schoolers}," this week? In it, Suzannah Paul shares about teaching her children the power of consent. She writes, "Conversations about personal boundaries and “no means no” don’t start in middle school. We have them now, every day." Listen, folks (and I don't say this often), this is a must read.

A.J. Swaboda nails it this week with his piece "Taking off Masks: God's Grace to Deconstruct Social Pornography." In it, he writes, "[t]his leads to a second problem—that version of ourselves that we float into public domain is a lie; the lie of the perfect life. Facebook is social pornography." When a fella drops dimes like that? Yup, you need to check this one out.


We've had a good run of musical releases lately, haven't we? (Thanks, Johnny Flynn and Patty Griffin!) But this week was the capstone. The Avett Brothers released their new album, Magpie and the Dandelion, and it's a worthy offering. Don't miss "Morning Song," a song (in part) about the brothers' beloved aunt and her bout with cancer. In it, they sing, "It’'s alright if you finally stop caring, just don'’t go and tell someone that does. 'Cause even though I know there’s hope in every morning song, I have to find that melody alone."


Today, I'll take you out with a little more of the Avett Brothers.


As I considered material for our last purple poetry prompt, visions of Barney–that short-armed, purple, sing-songy dinosaur–haunted me. He, dancing in my mind’s eye, musing that classic children’s standard, “I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family.”

“Shut up, Barney!” I thought. “There are serious poets that visit these parts and they want serious prompts.”

He was unrelenting, kept singing his song, like a drill bit boring into skull.

Determined to write a prompt involving something more substantive than a dancing dinosaur, I wracked my brain for purple material, settling, finally on exploring the historical context of the nursery rhyme of Little Jack Horner. Remember Mr. Horner, that precocious boy with a knack for extracting whole plumbs from a pie using nothing but his thumb? The oft-forgotten back-story of the nursery rhyme finds its roots in bribery, treachery, and King Henry VIII’s quest to subvert the Catholic Church and take its gold. And just as I was beginning to tease out the nuances of this plum poetry prompt…

“I love you, you love me….” Barney usurped the story with his own utopistic notions.

*For more about the manner in which Barney's intrusions cramp my style, follow me over to Tweetspeak today. And jump into the mix!


Battle of the Beverages (Another Coffee Prompt)

coffee poetry promptThere is no doubt, we are becoming a coffee culture. Across America, soccer moms have traded Diet Coke cans for paper cups of their favorite double-shot lattes. Working stiffs pull single servings of barely palatable stuff from the Keurig. Hipsters eschew all other permutations of joe for a mug of single-batch Harrar (chemex brewed, of course). It's intriguing, I think, the way our various subcultures have adapted the drink to their own particular styles. This nationwide trend is felt acutely in my medium-sized university town, where we boast no less than thirteen coffee shops, the majority of which opened their doors in the last ten years.  We have local artisan roasters, expert cuppers, and graduate students who prepare well-researched papers regarding the socioeconomic effects of corporate coffee plantations on local farmers. Here, the university has influenced us, so we mostly take our coffee with a bit of cream and a spoonful of pseudo-academic sweetener. And we take it by the jugful.

*If you ever enjoyed a writing prompt, today's your day to participate. Visit me at Tweetspeak for more. (This is a fun one!)

Ralphie's Haiku

holiday haiku On Christmas Eve, I sat with my entire family in my grandfather’s sitting room. My uncle, the cool fraternity boy who was home on Christmas break from the state University, had rented what he dubbed “the greatest Christmas movie of all time.” My grandmother, who was particularly fond of Jimmy Stewart, assumed that he was speaking of It’s A Wonderful Life, and expressed her disappointment when the words A Christmas Story appeared in the opening credits. ”They don’t make Christmas movies the way they used to,” she said. But my uncle chided, “Give it a chance, Mom.”

*Visit Tweetspeak for the text of my haiku tribute to A Christmas Story. It's good fun over there.