SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ABRIANA JETTÉ


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LIES OUR MOTHER TOLD US
By Abriana Jetté


I do not believe in the story of the virgin
but in the value of the human: the body —

because no matter what you were told
that soul is not yours. But the body,

the body is yours. The slight round
of the breast like the sun or the depth of your

toes to your crown: these are the ways
we measure ourselves. I do not want to

believe she was a vehicle. Tell me
there was pleasure; there were moans.

Tell me when she was fully grown
she remembered a wave a release an ecstasy

that entered her, that she could feel it in her
teeth. Motherhood means you are no longer

maiden but Queen. Tell me the story of the one
who smiled at the rustling of her sheets.



Today’s poem was published in the The Journal for Compressed Creative Arts, Spring 2015, and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Abriana Jetté: Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York Abriana Jetté is an internationally published poet and essayist and educator. Her anthology 50 Whispers: Poems by Extraordinary Women debuted as a #1 best seller on Amazon, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Seneca Review, River Teeth, Barrelhouse, The Moth, and many other places. She teaches for St. John’s University, for the College of Staten Island, and for the nonprofit organization Sponsors for Educational Opportunity.

Editor’s Note: And then there was the poet who reimagined the Virgin Mary. Not as virgin, but as human, as woman, capable of “a wave a release an ecstasy // that entered her, that she could feel it in her / teeth.” Advocating for agency, the poet insisted, “I do not want to // believe she was a vehicle.” Reverent of the woman’s transformation, she taught us that “Motherhood means you are no longer // maiden but Queen.” And we saw her as the poet saw her. And it was good.

Want to see more from Abriana Jetté?
Hermeneutic Chaos Journal
Truthdig
Abriana Jetté’s Official Website
Stay Thirsty Publishing
Barrelhouse Mag

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE HEART OF A WOMAN

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THE HEART OF A WOMAN
By Georgia Douglas Johnson

The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
Afar o’er life’s turrets and vales does it roam
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.

The heart of a woman falls back with the night,
And enters some alien cage in its plight,
And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars
While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Editor’s Note: No matter who you voted for in the primaries nor who you plan to vote for come November, there is no denying that this was an historic week in American history.

In this vein, I dedicate today’s poem–written by a black woman in a white age–to Michelle Obama, a black woman running the White House who reminded us this week that: “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.” And I dedicate this poem to the fact that, for the first time in American history, a woman has been nominated by a major party to run for President of the United States of America.

Any (reasonable) reservations you (or I) may have about Hillary Clinton and our two-party system aside, this is a moment to pause and marvel, to appreciate what we have accomplished and to believe that this can–and should–be just the beginning of progressive progress. This is a moment to celebrate that the heart of a woman need not try “to forget it has dreamed of the stars,” for it need not break, break, break “on the sheltering bars.”

Georgia Douglas Johnson: A member of the Harlem Renaissance, Georgia Douglas Johnson wrote plays, a syndicated newspaper column, and four collections of poetry: The Heart of a Woman (1918), Bronze (1922), An Autumn Love Cycle (1928), and Share My World (1962). (Annotated biography courtesy of The Poetry Foundation.)

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: TWO MERMAID POEMS


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Editor’s Note: In response to last week’s feature, Saturday Poetry Series favorites Erin Lyndal Martin and Elana Bell introduced me to two more fabulous mermaid poems. These poems have been swimming through my mind all week, and are too fantastic not to share. Get a taste here, then follow the links below to read each of these stunning poems in full.



from FABLE OF THE MERMAID AND THE DRUNKS
By Pablo Neruda, Translated by Paul Weinfield

But having come from the river, she understood nothing
She was a mermaid and was lost
Their insults flowed down her perfect, smooth flesh
Their filth enveloped her golden breasts
But not knowing tears, she did not weep tears


(Read the complete poem as translated by Paul Weinfield.)



from LATE SUNDAY MORNING
By Elana Bell

I kiss

the puckered lips, taste
ocean breath and remember

myself, slippery and long
under sun-slanted depths, swaying

to the whine of boats overhead.
I did not need you then, my scales

shining in their pristine sea.


(Read the entire poem in Winter Tangerine.)



Want to read more?
“Sunday Morning” in Winter Tangerine
“Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks” as translated by Paul Weinfeild
“Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks” in English and Spanish via Susan’s Place
“Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks” on youtube, as read by Ethan Hawke



Today’s selections appear via Fair Use.

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: TWO SUMMER POEMS

"England - English Summer Woods" courtesy of Jacopo Werther via Creative Commons: http://bit.ly/1qRZ81t
“England – English Summer Woods” courtesy of Jacopo Werther via Creative Commons: http://bit.ly/1qRZ81t


LILY-BELL AND THISTLEDOWN SONG
By Louisa May Alcott

Awake! Awake! for the earliest gleam 

Of golden sunlight shines 

On the rippling waves, that brightly flow 

Beneath the flowering vines. 

Awake! Awake! for the low, sweet chant 

Of the wild-birds’ morning hymn
Comes floating by on the fragrant air, 

Through the forest cool and dim; 

Then spread each wing, 

And work, and sing, 

Through the long, bright sunny hours; 

O’er the pleasant earth 

We journey forth, 

For a day among the flowers.

Awake! Awake! for the summer wind 

Hath bidden the blossoms unclose, 

Hath opened the violet’s soft blue eye, 

And awakened the sleeping rose. 

And lightly they wave on their slender stems 

Fragrant, and fresh, and fair, 

Waiting for us, as we singing come 

To gather our honey-dew there. 

Then spread each wing, 

And work, and sing, 

Through the long, bright sunny hours; 

O’er the pleasant earth 

We journey forth, 

For a day among the flowers.


SUMMER RAIN
By Fannie Isabel Sherrick

Oh, what is so pure as the glad summer rain,
That falls on the grass where the sunlight has lain?
And what is so fair as the flowers that lie
All bathed in the tears of the soft summer sky?

The blue of the heavens is dimmed by the rain
That wears away sorrow and washes out pain;
But we know that the flowers we cherish would die
Were it not for the tears of the cloud-laden sky.

The rose is the sweeter when kissed by the rain,
And hearts are the dearer where sorrow has lain;
The sky is the fairer that rain-clouds have swept,
And no eyes are so bright as the eyes that have wept.

Oh, they are so happy, these flowers that die,
They laugh in the sunshine, oh, why cannot I?
They droop in the shadow, they smile in the sun,
Yet they die in the winter when summer is done.

The lily is lovely, and fragrant her breath,
But the beauty she wears is the emblem of death;
The rain is so fair as it falls on the flowers,
But the clouds are the shadows of sunnier hours.

Why laugh in the sunshine, why smile in the rain?
The world is a shadow and life is a pain;
Why live in the summer, why dream in the sun,
To die in the winter, when summer is done?

Oh, there is the truth that each life underlies,
That baffles the poets and sages so wise;
Ah! there is the bitter that lies in the sweet
As we gather the roses that bloom at our feet.

Oh, flowers forgive me, I’m willful to-day,
Oh, take back the lesson you gave me I pray;
For I slept in the sunshine, I woke in the rain
And it banished forever my sorrow and pain.


(Today’s poems are in the public domain, belong to the masses, and appear here today accordingly.)


Louisa May Alcott: (1832-1888) was an American novelist and poet best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868). Raised by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott in New England, she grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of her day. (Annotated biography of Louisa May Alcott courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Fannie Isabel Sherrick: (Lived circa mid-to-late 19th c.) was a native of St. Louis. Much of her early life was spent in California and Colorado, where many of her best productions in verse were written. Her collected poems were published in 1888, in a volume entitled Star Dust. Poor health caused her–at least temporarily–to give up literary endeavors. (Annotated biography of Fannie Isabel Sherrick courtesy of Evenings with Colorado Poets: an Anthology of Colorado Verse, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: Technically summer is not for another month yet, but here in New York the sun is shining, and Memorial Day weekend is the official start of our summer season, so “O’er the pleasant earth 
/ We journey forth, 
/ For a day among the flowers.” And, while summer rain was not a common occurrence in California–from whence I came–here in New York the sky opens up to quench the grasses, the flowers, the rivers and streams, all summer long: “Oh, what is so pure as the glad summer rain, / That falls on the grass where the sunlight has lain? / And what is so fair as the flowers that lie / All bathed in the tears of the soft summer sky?”

Want to read more summer poetry?
The Poetry Foundation

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: GEORGE MOSES HORTON ON LIBERTY AND SLAVERY

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ON LIBERTY AND SLAVERY
By George Moses Horton

Alas! and am I born for this,
To wear this slavish chain?
Deprived of all created bliss,
Through hardship, toil, and pain!

How long have I in bondage lain,
And languished to be free!
Alas! and must I still complain–
Deprived of liberty.

Oh, Heaven! and is there no relief
This side the silent grave–
To soothe the pain–to quell the grief
And anguish of a slave?

Come, Liberty, thou cheerful sound,
Roll through my ravished ears!
Come, let my grief in joys be drowned,
And drive away my fears.

Say unto foul oppression, Cease:
Ye tyrants rage no more,
And let the joyful trump of peace,
Now bid the vassal soar.

Soar on the pinions of that dove
Which long has cooed for thee,
And breathed her notes from Afric’s grove,
The sound of Liberty.

Oh, Liberty! thou golden prize,
So often sought by blood–
We crave thy sacred sun to rise,
The gift of nature’s God!

Bid Slavery hide her haggard face,
And barbarism fly:
I scorn to see the sad disgrace
In which enslaved I lie.

Dear Liberty! upon thy breast,
I languish to respire;
And like the Swan upon her nest,
I’d to thy smiles retire.

Oh, blest asylum–heavenly balm!
Unto thy boughs I flee–
And in thy shades the storm shall calm,
With songs of Liberty!


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


George Moses Horton: (1798–1883) Born a slave on William Horton’s tobacco plantation, George Moses Horton taught himself to read. Around 1815 he began composing poems in his head, saying them aloud and “selling” them to an increasingly large crowd of buyers at the weekly Chapel Hill farmers market. Students at the nearby University of North Carolina bought his love poems and lent him books. As his fame spread, he gained the attention of Caroline Lee Whiting Hentz, a novelist and professor’s wife who transcribed his poetry and helped publish it in her hometown newspaper. With her assistance, Horton published his first collection of poetry, The Hope of Liberty (1829), becoming the first African American man to publish a book in the South—and one of the first to publicly protest his slavery in poetry. (Annotated biography of George Moses Horton courtesy of The Poetry Foundation.)

Editor’s Note: As Passover is coming up this week, I have been thinking about slavery and freedom. About histories of bondage and those who are still wandering in search of sustainable freedom today. As we remember our own slavery this Passover and celebrate our own redemption, may these words from another Moses help us to also remember the experiences of those who have likewise suffered, and to advocate for those who are wandering the world today in search of life and liberty.

Want to read more by and about George Moses Horton?
The Poetry Foundation
UNC Documenting the American South
Academy of American Poets

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: KEETJE KUIPERS

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GETTING THE BABY TO SLEEP
By Keetje Kuipers


Sometimes the baby can’t reconcile
the self with the self: too hungry
to eat, too tired to sleep. I know

the feeling. O, America, on those nights
when you are too beautiful for me
to continue to forgive you any longer—

for allowing us to kill each other
with your graceless bullets, or exile
our neighbors across your fictitious

border, or argue over the ownership
of each young girl’s body as if its freedom
is a lie she must stop telling herself—

I go out into your radiant embrace.
The baby and I drive through your streets,
over the bridge and its light-chipped

waters, under a moon so big, so full
of itself that though I know it belongs
to the world, it can’t be anything but

American. I hang my arm out the window
and skim the air like touching skin.
I breathe you in, and the baby sleeps.


Today’s poem was originally published in
Blackbird and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Keetje Kuipers has been the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Resident, a Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and the Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College. A recipient of the Pushcart Prize, her poems, essays, and fiction have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Best American Poetry. Her first book of poetry, Beautiful in the Mouth, won the 2009 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and was published by BOA Editions. Her second collection, The Keys to the Jail, was published by BOA in 2014. Keetje is an Assistant Professor at Auburn University where she is Editor of Southern Humanities Review.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem absolutely blows me away. It is too powerful to contain, and yet it is perfectly wrought as if chiseled from marble. It is metaphor and life, politic and country, as near as a closely-held infant and as far as the moon. It is the American affliction: needless gun violence, our backs turned and hearts hardened against immigrants and refugees, our deep seated fear of women’s sexuality, freedom, independence. “O, America, on those nights… you are too beautiful for me / to continue to forgive you any longer.” Absolutely stunning. Heartbreaking. An outcry in the form of a quiet, contemplative drive, cruising America in an attempt to get the baby to sleep.

Want more from Keetje Kuipers?
www.keetjekuipers.com

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: CHANEL BRENNER

Photo by The POD Photography
Photo by The POD Photography


A POEM FOR WOMEN WHO DON’T WANT CHILDREN
By Chanel Brenner


I won’t preach about the rewards of motherhood.
I won’t say it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
I won’t say it’s the best job I’ve ever had.
I won’t say you’ll regret not having a child.
I won’t say you’ll forget what life was like before.
I won’t say it makes life worth living.
What I will say
is my son died.
What I will say
is I would still do it again.



Today’s poem was originally published in Rattle and appears here today with permission from the poet. Hear the poet read today’s poem aloud via Rattle.



Chanel Brenner is the author of Vanilla Milk: a memoir told in poems, (Silver Birch Press, 2014). Her poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Rattle, Cultural Weekly, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Anderbo, West Trestle Review, and others. Her poem, “July 28th, 2012” won first prize in The Write Place At the Write Time’s contest, judged by Ellen Bass. In 2014, she was nominated for a Best of the Net award and a Pushcart Prize.

Editor’s Note: I won’t say it’s because I first read today’s poem while pregnant. I won’t say it’s because three weeks ago I became a mother for the first time. I won’t say it’s because I did not want children myself. I will say that my son is an amazing human being and that I am honored to be in his service. I will say that today’s incredibly moving, incredibly brave poem breaks my heart each and every time I read it.

Want to read more from Chanel Brenner?
Chanel Brenner’s Official Website
Deep Water Literary Journal
Cultural Weekly
Women’s Voices for Change
Silver Birch Press
Buy Vanilla Milk on Amazon

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ALAN TOLTZIS

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FORTY-TWO PLACES
By Alan Toltzis

As time passed,
they didn’t need to study love,
pray for it,
or even speak its name.

Instead,
they lived their love
silently.
Secrets remained secret

as love sank into unbending bones,
fused with supple corpuscles,
and seeped through soft skin
beneath their fingernails.

Only by looking back
and naming each
of the 42 places (in order)
they had journeyed

did they realize they had grown
into an old couple
who survived a long-forgotten stopover
of bickering and concession

and the should-
and should-not-have-saids
they should never
have crossed

leaving only unspoken love
perpetuated by the comfort and intimacy
of taking each other
for granted.


Today’s poem is from the collection The Last Commandment, published by Poetica Publishing, copyright © 2015 by Alan Toltzis, and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Alan Toltzis is the author of the book of poems, The Last Commandment (Poetica Publishing, 2015). His work appears in print and online publications including The Provo Canyon Review, Poetica Magazine, Burningword Literary Journal, Soul-Lit, and Red Wolf Journal. Alan is working on his second book of poems and is developing The Psalm Project, to teach poetry to middle- and high-school students.

Editor’s Note: There is something of a prayer in today’s poem. A thanksgiving. Something quiet, humble, and honest. Something lived, understood, known. What it is to journey throughout a lifetime of relationship. What it is to look back and reflect upon “the should- / and should-not-have-saids … leaving only unspoken love / perpetuated by the comfort and intimacy / of taking each other / for granted.”

Want to read more from Alan Toltzis?
Alan Toltzis’ Official Website
“Miles Away” in the Red Wolf Journal
The Provo Canyon Review
“Noah” in the Red Wolf Journal
“Elegy for 107696” via Poetica Publishing

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: KAREN PAUL HOLMES

Karen Paul Holmes with dog

By Karen Paul Holmes:


VISITOR

A bare branch lounges
in my Adirondack chair
under the Japanese maple–
gray, elegant:
Comforting to me,
now without a husband,
a good omen
in my walled garden
cocooned by snow.


LIFE, ACT 3

Time knows its lines
has spoken them
across our foreheads.
In this stage of living
we censor the critic,
applaud the comedy,
watch the script unfold.
Gravity plays upon
these bodies, while
souls move inward,
heavenward.
The star in me
celebrates the star in you.



“Visitor” first appeared in Town Creek Poetry. Today’s poems are from the collection Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press 2014) and appear here today with permission from the poet.



Karen Paul Holmes is the author of the poetry collection, Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014), which tells a story of loss and healing with a voice that “pushes readers forward into the unknown with confidence, precision, and empathy,” according to Poet Dorianne Laux. Karen received an Elizabeth George Foundation emerging writer grant in 2012 and was nominated for Best New Poets 2014. Publishing credits include Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Caesura, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Every Day Poems, The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol 5: Georgia, and Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poems are full of dichotomies: simple and complex, small and epic. They contain all at once the quiet contemplation of nature, of meditation, of breath, yet their gentile reflectiveness is balanced precisely by the weight of a life lived. This is a life–and a poetry–as simple as a bare branch under a Japanese maple, yet as complex as the comfort of being “now without a husband,” and that being “a good omen.” This is a human experience as small as the lines time “has spoken… across our foreheads,” and as epic as the idea that “The star in me / celebrates the star in you.”

Want more from Karen Paul Holmes?
Blue Fifth Review
Verse-Virtual
Extract(s)
Amarillo Bay
See inside Untying the Knot

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EMMA LAZARUS


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By Emma Lazarus

Thou two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate,
Didst weep when Spain cast forth with flaming sword,
The children of the prophets of the Lord,
Prince, priest, and people, spurned by zealot hate.
Hounded from sea to sea, from state to state,
The West refused them, and the East abhorred.
No anchorage the known world could afford,
Close-locked was every port, barred every gate.
Then smiling, thou unveil’dst, O two-faced year,
A virgin world where doors of sunset part,
Saying, “Ho, all who weary, enter here!
There falls each ancient barrier that the art
Of race or creed or rank devised, to rear
Grim bulwarked hatred between heart and heart!”


Today poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here accordingly.


Emma Lazarus (1849 – 1887): A descendant of Sephardic Jews who immigrated to the United States from Portugal around the time of the American Revolution, Emma Lazarus was born in New York City on July 22, 1849. Before Lazarus, the only Jewish poets published in the United States were humor and hymnal writers. Her book Songs of a Semite was the first collection of poetry to explore Jewish-American identity while struggling with the problems of modern poetics. (Annotated biography courtesy of The Academy of American Poets.)


Editor’s Note: I wanted to share with you today a poem for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of newness, ushered in by sweet wishes of the year to come. But we spend the days that follow in contemplation of those regrets we have from the year past, in asking for forgiveness, and in letting go. When I came across today’s poem I thought of the Syrian refugees, of how the plight of exile has plagued my own people in the past, and how others are suffering from it today.

5776, the Jewish year that begins at sundown on Sunday September 13th, will be a “two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate” for countless Syrian refugees. That fate that my own people have suffered in the past is today their reality: “The West refused them, and the East abhorred. / No anchorage the known world could afford, / Close-locked was every port, barred every gate.”

Emma Lazarus is most famous for penning the words that appear at the base of the Statue of Liberty, wherein the “Mother of Exiles” declares, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” As we celebrate a new year, may the words of the Mother of Exiles find their way into the hearts and minds of ports and borders across Europe and throughout the world, “Saying, ‘Ho, all who weary, enter here!'”


Want to read more by and about Emma Lazarus?
The Academy of American Poets
Jewish Women’s Archive
The Poetry Foundation