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: 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


Emma_Lazarus


1492
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

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: NICOLE ROLLENDER

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THE FORMS OF SEEKING
By Nicole Rollender

Behind my father’s house, the lake is stained
with floating water lilies, where deep marsh grass smells

like want. Where we’re always returning. Swan wings extended,
a flash of white and water. My father, now blind in one eye,

doesn’t know what chartless world he’ll enter tomorrow.
These flowers, here now, will die by week’s end. I understand why at night

they close so slowly, sinking under moon drift and leaf fall. He watches
a snapping turtle cross the lake, a slow, even trailing – its weighted body

knows how to cross waters, unsinking. Yet, my father’s journey
still ripens. Unmoored, he walks the yard, seeking the self

who has already walked up the mountain path toward a village,
its gate festooned with red flags and bells. And a woman holding a wash

basin filled with oil and flowers, a bread basket. He creates and creates
these streets, hung with paper lanterns, windows open, fountains flowing

with the passage of time. From the gates, what man will emerge?
Will he always wonder how his life was chosen for him?

Underwater, the lilies’ stalks will curl up, submerging and holding
the pollinated flower heads. As something beautiful dies,

it makes another kind of rapture: From bees’ flight, the flower petals
browning into thick seed pods (oh, the memory of their fragrance) will burst

into the lake, the old lily falling apart and drifting. His chance
for survival is remembered joy: Live your life as if pulling from a well

inside yourself. For you are alone, and within you is all of your past
and all of what will come. Live your depths over and over with gratitude.

Behind the shed, he finds a deer skull resting on moss, stippled
with evening light, and then rain. Here now, he’s swept away,

swept away.


“The Forms of Seeking” appears here with permission from the poet.


Nicole Rollender is the author of the poetry chapbooks Absence of Stars (forthcoming July 2015, dancing girl press & studio), Little Deaths (forthcoming November 2015, ELJ Publications) and Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications). She is the recipient of CALYX Journal’s 2014 Lois Cranston Memorial Prize, the 2012 Princemere Journal Poetry Prize, and Ruminate Magazine’s 2012 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize for her Pushcart Prize-nominated poem “Necessary Work,” chosen by Li-Young Lee. Her poetry, nonfiction and projects have been published or are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly Review, Creative Nonfiction, Radar Poetry, Ruminate Magazine, PANK, Salt Hill Journal and THRUSH Poetry Journal, among others. She received her MFA from The Pennsylvania State University, and currently serves as media director for Minerva Rising Literary Journal and editor of Stitches Magazine, which recently won a Jesse H. Neal Award.

Editor’s Note: I suggest you curl up with today’s poem as you would with a good book. Read and reread until its thick layers enfold you. Read once for sound. For music and alliteration. Read once for story. For the father and the momentary windows that open into his life. Read once for structure. For form. Then read several times for beauty. Because “As something beautiful dies, // it makes another kind of rapture.” Because this poem wants you to “Live your life as if pulling from a well // inside yourself.” Give this poem enough of yourself to discover all that it offers in return. Then go forth and “Live your depths over and over with gratitude.”

Want more from Nicole Rollender?
Nicole Rolldener’s Official Website
CALYX
Heron Tree
Thrush
Quail Bell Magazine
Hermeneutic Chaos

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: KAREN PAUL HOLMES

Karen Paul Holmes with roses

By Karen Paul Holmes:


DRAWN INTO CIRCLES

Last evening, I placed fresh towels on both dog beds
heard scratching and rearranging in the night.
This morning, each dog lay curled
into a circle of towel
like a bird’s nest.

How life loves
a circle:
the sun
cups of tea
pizza, roses, embraces
wedding rings, cathedral domes, bells
with notes radiating like ripples from skipped stones
the egg, the womb, the opening, downy heads
suckling mouths, breasts, eyes filled
with delight for bubbles
and bouncing balls.

Why do we box ourselves into corners
put our babies into rectangular cribs
build square houses and boxy buildings
drive cars to perpendicular crossroads
stare at newspapers, monitors, dollars
go to our rest in hard-edged coffins
slowly lowered into matching graves?

It’s a comfort
to imagine our rounded bones
becoming round bits of the globe
our spirits rising to orbit among spiral galaxies
joining those who completed the circle before us.



TEACHING MOZART IN STONE MOUNTAIN PRISON

I didn’t know what crimes they committed,
didn’t want to: those 12 guys glaring at me,
wondering what I had in store.

No female had taught there before
so I wore a calf-length, shapeless dress;
no make up; tortoise shell glasses instead of contacts.

Twice a week, iron gates banged behind me,
paperwork shuffled, an armed guard took me down
a warren of halls. He stationed himself by my door.

I needn’t have worried–soon knew, just as told,
if one prisoner caused trouble, he’d be jumped
by the others grateful for the chance of a college degree.

This was music appreciation. None knew the classics,
but one had played William Tell Overture in band.
All began to embrace opera, symphony, sonata—

I think the music transported them, comforted
even as they struggled to study in noisy rows of bunks.
One evaluation stays with me 30 years later,

Thanks be to God for blessing us with Mrs. Holmes.
But I felt blessed early in the semester:
We arrived at Mozart Piano Concerto Number 21.

Their books covered just the first movement, yet
I left the record playing into the second, saying,
You’ve got to hear a bit of the andante.

Muted violins conjured the ethereal melody while
repeated notes in the violas mesmerized.
After the pianist took up the solo for several bars,

I reached out to lift the needle… Twelve students
—no longer thief, mugger, murderer—
sang out in unison, No, leave it on!



“Drawn into Circles” was first published in Poetry East and appears in the collection Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014), and “Teaching Mozart in Stone Mountain Prison” was first published in POEM. These poems 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 grace, humor, self-awareness and without a dollop of self-pity,” according to Poet Thomas Lux. Karen received an Elizabeth George Foundation emerging writer grant in 2012. Publishing credits include Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Caesura, POEM, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Every Day Poems, The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol 5: Georgia, and the forthcoming anthology of Georgia poets from Negative Capability Press.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poems shed new light on existence, demanding that we reconsider our human condition. “Drawn into Circles” deftly considers both the concept of the ‘circle of life’ and the roundness of nature versus the right angles of the man-made world. “How life loves / a circle: / the sun… the egg, the womb, the opening.” So “[w]hy do we box ourselves into corners / put our babies into rectangular cribs / build square houses and boxy buildings”? “It’s a comfort / to imagine our rounded bones… joining those who completed the circle before us.” While “Teaching Mozart in Stone Mountain Prison” engrosses us in a moving narrative that forces us to forfeit our assumptions and accept the beauty of being human. Both poems demand a second read, and a third, and neither poem leaves us quite the same as we were before we encountered them.

Want more from Karen Paul Holmes?
Buy Untying the Knot from Amazon
simply communicated, inc.
Interview with Karen Holmes on NetWest Writers
Reality Show: Save This Marriage on SoundCloud
Kentucky Review

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: JACINTA V. WHITE

JVW by John H. White

STANDING IN COURAGE
By Jacinta V. White

Dangerous, wanted
Endangered, hunted
             Majestic
Beauty protected
Enraged
             You, young
                          Black man
Stand in courage
             In love
             In honor
                          Resurrected
             In glory
Forget put upon shame
Young man stand
             In beauty
             In strength
             In dignity
Stripped and threatened
Generations down
                                       Hands down
Young black man
             Brother, father, husband, son
Stand in your weariness
Stand in your strength
             In your courage
             In your truth
             In your faith
Stand knee high in the depths of your passion
                          Take your crown, young black man
             Wear your crown
Young black man



“Standing in Courage” was originally published by New Verse News and appears here today with permission from the poet.



Jacinta V. White is a NC Arts Council Teaching Artist and the founder of The Word Project. Her chapbook, broken ritual, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012. Most recently, she has had poems published in Typoetic.us, Prime Number Magazine, and What Matters, an anthology published by Jacar Press.

Editor’s Note: “A wild patience has taken me this far…and when freedom is the question it is always time to begin.” So says Adrienne Rich, and your faithful editor agrees. It is time to begin. Speaking up. Speaking out. For freedom, and against injustice.

There is a rich history of poetry in social justice. Of outcries from the poetic heart of humanity for human rights. Since time immemorial poets have used their words to demand equality, whether based on race or class or gender, and from time to time they have even been heard.

Today’s poem takes part in this critical tradition, demanding the world pay attention and that the world order be reversed. It cries out for the oppressed to rise up, not in violent retribution, but in glory. It requires us to admit and to remember, while allowing us our outrage, our grief, and a new hope alike.

Want more from Jacinta V. White?
Jacinta White’s Official Website
Typoetic.us
Prime Numbers Magazine
The Word Project
Jacinta White on Facebook

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ALLIE MORENO

photo (1)

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING
By Allie Moreno

I have been stretched like
skin to dry in the sun
I am a blanket
I’m a tightrope
a staircase
a palace of forgotten
photographs
a sandcastle exposed in the wind
I love and
cover you

I have filled all the glasses
on the table
I have eaten what is
left on every plate
to be free of it

I have swallowed your
skeletons on cue
I should probably apologize
for complaining
but I’m the parade and the rain


“Too Much of a Good Thing” appears here today with permission from the poet.


Allie Moreno spends her daytime hours writing for a large tech company in the San Diego area. She received an MFA in Writing from UC San Diego and sometimes writes poetry from the confines of her cubicle. Allie tends to write about identity, belonging, and her experience as a trans-racial adoptee.

Editor’s Note: Simple, straightforward, and full of evocative imagery, today’s poem takes us inside the world of one who has lived for another. Stretched tight, walked upon, now disappearing grain by grain, “a sandcastle exposed in the wind.” To give love is not enough, when in so doing we give too much of ourselves. In end end we are almost left with a woman’s tendency to apologize for herself, but instead we are left with a counterweight. A provocative image slightly obscured. What is a woman when she is “the parade and the rain”?

Want to read more by Allie Moreno?
Allie Moreno’s Blog
Interview: Allie Moreno’s Adoption Experience