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: NOMI STONE

Stone headshot

By Nomi Stone:


WAR GAME, AMERICA

The war scenario has: [vegetables stalls], [roaming animals],
and [people] in it. The people speak

the language of the country we
are trying to make into a kinder country.
Some of the people over there are good
others evil others circumstantially

bad some only want cash some
just want their family to not
die. The game says figure

out which
are which.


WHAT IS GROWING IN THESE WOODS

Green in here, gleaming like
being inside a fable but with
stalls of fruit you can’t eat.
To go home, leave crumbs.
When the wood circles you
back here instead, let the lost
and the impossible ripen in
you, ripen and go.


US AND THEM

“I would make love to one of our

whores before I
would fuck one of their
bourgeoisie.” There was a proverb,

like this: Don’t trust a         if
he becomes a         even though
he remains a       for

forty years. And the sister opposite
proverb: Don’t trust a       even
though he has been in the grave

for forty years. It was a difficult day,
a bomb had spun open
a bus, and children

had been crushed down by
a machine. Each wondered if he was born
too soon, if later would have been better, if 40

+ 40 + 40 + 40



War Game, America” and “What is Growing in these Woods” previously appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, and “Us and Them” previously appeared via The Poetry Foundation. These poems appear here today with permission from the poet.



Nomi Stone is the author of the poetry collection Stranger’s Notebook (TriQuarterly, 2008), a PhD Candidate in Cultural Anthropology at Columbia University, and an MFA Candidate in Poetry at Warren Wilson. She previously earned a Masters in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from Oxford and was a Creative Writing Fulbright scholar in Tunisia. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Memorious, The Painted Bride Quarterly, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poetry, at The Poetry Foundation, and elsewhere. She is currently researching and writing a book of poetry as well as a book of non-fiction about combat simulations in mock Middle Eastern villages erected by the US military across America.

Editor’s Note: Nomi Stone’s poetry is a veritable minefield of experience. Politics, war, violence, history, proverbs, culture, peoplehood, nationality, borders, mythology, folklore, fairy tales, and biblical referentiality lie in wait for the keen and unsuspecting reader alike. The unsaid is as present and powerful as what is written, so that her poetry echoes the Bible’s black fire written on white fire. This is a poetry rich and blooming. Thick with the sights and smells of Near Eastern markets, yet heavy with human tragedy. Herein lies the old world. Herein lies the Levant. Herein lies the wild woods of our imagination set against the all-too-real world of war. If you cannot find your way out, “let the lost / and the impossible ripen in / you, ripen and go.”

Want more from Nomi Stone?
“Many Scientists Convert to Islam”
“Trapped on Djerba, Island of the Lotus Eaters”
“Purim, Spring Festival: How to Escape Massacres”
Interview with Nomi Stone with poems: “The Notionally Dead” and “War Game America”
An interview about Nomi Stone’s research on war games

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE MOONS OF AUGUST

Lameris Cover-1


FROM THE MOONS OF AUGUST
By Danusha Laméris


EVE, AFTER

Did she know
there was more to life
than lions licking the furred
ears of lambs,
fruit trees dropping
their fat bounty,
the years droning on
without argument?

Too much quiet
is never a good sign.
Isn’t there always
something itching
beneath the surface?

But what could she say?
The larder was full
and they were beautiful,
their bodies new
as the day they were made.

Each morning the same
flowers broke through
the rich soil, the birds sang,
again, in perfect pitch.

It was only at night
when they lay together in the dark
that it was almost palpable—
the vague sadness, unnamed.

Foolishness, betrayal,
—call it what you will. What a relief
to feel the weight
fall into her palm. And after,
not to pretend anymore
that the terrible calm
was Paradise.



LONE WOLF

On December 8, 2011, the first wolf in nearly a hundred years was seen
crossing the border of the Sierra Nevada from Oregon to California.

A male, probably looking for a mate
in this high wilderness
along the cusp of Mount Shasta.
Already there are ranchers waiting, armed.
True, it’s only one wolf.
Except that a wolf is never just a wolf.
We say “wolf” but mean our own hunger,
walking around outside our bodies.
The thief desire is. the part of wanting
we want to forget but can’t. Not
with the wolf loose in the woods
carrying the thick fur
of our longing. Not with it taking
in its mouth the flocks we keep
penned behind barbed wire.
If only we didn’t have to hear it
out in the dark, howling.



THE BALANCE

She was at a friend’s apartment,
my mother, a third floor walk-up.
It was summer. Why she slipped
into the back room, she can’t recall.
Was there something she wanted
fro her purse…lipstick?
a phone number?
Fumbling through the pile
on the bed she looked up and saw—
was this possible?—outside,
on the thin concrete ledge
a child, a girl, no more than two or three.
She was crouched down
eyeing an object with great interest.
A pebble, or a bright coin.
What happened next
must have happened very slowly.
My mother, who was young then,
leaned out the window, smiled.
Would you like to see
what’s in my purse?
she asked.
Below, traffic rushed
down the wide street, horns blaring.
Students ambled home
under the weight of their backpacks.
From the next room,
strains of laughter.
The child smiled back, toddled along
the ledge. What do we know
of fate or chance, the threads
that hold us in the balance?
My mother did not imagine
one day she would
lose her own son, helpless
to stop the bullet
he aimed at his heart.
She reached out to the girl,
grabbed her in both arms,
held her to her chest.



Today’s poems are from The Moons of August, published by Autumn House Press, copyright © 2014 by Danusha Laméris, and appear here today with permission from the poet.


The Moons of August: “Danusha Laméris writes with definitive, savoring power—in perfectly well-weighted lines and scenes. Her poems strike deeply, balancing profound loss and new finding, employing a clear eye, a way of being richly alive with appetite and gusto, and a gift of distilling experience to find its shining core. Don’t miss this stunning first book.” —Naomi Shihab Nye

“This book of motherhood, memory, and elegiac urgency crosses borders, cultures, and languages to bring us the good news of being alive. With language clear as water and rich as blood, The Moons of August offers a human communion we can all believe in. Reckoning with and grieving for the past as they claim the future, these poems are wise, direct, and fearless. “What’s gone / is not quite gone, but lingers,” Laméris reminds us. “Not the language, but the bones / of the language. Not the beloved, / but the dark bed the beloved makes / inside our bodies.” —Dorianne Laux


Danusha Laméris’s work has been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, The Sun and Crab Orchard Review as well as in a variety of other journals. Her poems have also appeared in the anthologies In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare, A Bird Black as the Sun: California Poets on Crows and Ravens, and Intimate Kisses. She was a finalist for the 2010 and 2012 New Letters Prize in poetry and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poem, “Riding Bareback,” won the 2013 Morton Marcus Memorial prize in poetry, selected by Gary Young and her first book, The Moons of August, was chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the Autumn House Press poetry contest. She lives in Santa Cruz, California and teaches an ongoing poetry workshop.


Editor’s Note: I first discovered Danusha Laméris when I featured her stunning poem “Arabic” in the fall of 2013. When I read that her first book was forthcoming this year—and chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the Autumn House Press poetry contest, no less—I begged the poet remember me when the book was released. When it arrived I read, devoured, re-read, explored, breathed, bled, and grew whole once more within the boundless confines of its pages.

Through Laméris’ words I was the first woman born; I knew the burden—and relief—of being Eve. I was as old as time and as all-encompassing as nature. I was as helpless and as grieved as a mother, and as powerful. The Moons of August is small and light and fits effortlessly in my hands. Yet it reaches far back to human origins and delves deep into the human experience and the complex soul of (wo)man. “With,” as Dorianne Laux so aptly states, “language clear as water and rich as blood,” this is a book to read when you want to feel alive, from the very atoms that comprise you to the farthest reaches of your white light.


Want to see more by Danusha Laméris?
Author’s Official Website

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: PAUL NEMSER

4.28.13
MEETING YOU AFTER CHERNOBYL
By Paul Nemser


The last frozen day had come and gone, and we were
sleeping in the elbows of trees in the elbow of a town,
our sutures all sunken together as if we shared one wound,
as if we had climbed from a single pit

like a race of dinosaurs grown from a fused lump of eggs
that had slept in valley ice for three shifts of the North Star,
as the leaves undecorated the last few branches
which were skinny as bat bones or the bones of a squirrel.

There were cattle blotched with waning alphabets.
And there were eyes that had seen too many lights,
so we didn’t recognize the wells
we had drunk from all our lives, nor

the creek that flowed with clothes and flesh,
nor the seeds brought from all over the countryside,
from knived sacks in waterlogged barns, from pods
trembling on grotesque grasses.

We talked to each other until we could not talk.
It was gobbledygook, was joy, nothing to remember:
We would not be overrun like ants by a larger horde of ants.
The darkness would not come closer.

A dog would lift its howl to where the wind left
the tablecloths—crumpled, clawed up, drying in the sun.
A phalanx of trucks that had jostled our vertebrae
would sound like bubbles in a bottle.

I never missed you so much as waking from that sleep.
And I dream of you now lingering barely below ground,
all your twenty fingers warbling together as on flutes.
My pores open to you as to rain.

Years give way to lakes of white dust, to unyielding dirt-land.
The snouts of oxen stain pale as marble
when the beasts haul blades through the hardness that remains
of what decades ago had been garden.


(Today’s poem originally appeared in AGNI, and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Paul Nemser’s book, Taurus, chosen by Andrew Hudgins as winner of the 2011 New American Poetry Prize, will be published by New American Press in November, 2013. His chapbook, Tales of the Tetragrammaton, will be published by Mayapple Press in summer, 2014. Nemser’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, Blackbird, Fulcrum, Per Contra, Raritan, Third Coast, and elsewhere. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife Rebecca and practices law in Boston. Some of his family came from Chernobyl.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem is one of those thoughtful, emotive, beautiful lyric poems that better expresses itself than I ever could. Some days the poems just speak for themselves. Are you listening?

Want to read more by and about Paul Nemser?
Read poems from the forthcoming Taurus on Blackbird
Two poems in White Whale Review
Poem in Unsplendid
After publication in November, 2013, check out Taurus on Google Books

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: PRAYERS LIKE SHOES

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FROM PRAYERS LIKE SHOES
By Ruth Forman


STAND

why so afraid to stand up?
someone will tell you
sit down?

but here is the truth
someone will always tell you
sit down

the ones we remember
kept standing



PRAYERS LIKE SHOES

I wear prayers like shoes

pull em on quiet each morning
take me through the uncertain day

don’t know
what might knock me off course

sit up in bed
pull on the right
then the left
before shower before teeth

my mama’s gift
to walk me through this life

she wore strong ones
the kind steady your ankles
i know
cause when her man left/ her children
gone/ her eldest son without goodbye
they the only ones keep her
standing

i saw her
still standing

mama passed on
some things to me
ma smile   sense a discipline
ma
subtle behind

but best she passed on
girl you go to God
and get you some good shoes
cause this life ain’t steady ground

now i don’t wear hers
you take em with you you know
but i suspect they made by the same company
pull em on each morning
first the right    then the left

best piece a dress
i got



THESE HIPS

these hips ripe plums
don’t believe
come
taste

these midnight moons
made a sugar’s juice
know how to curve a line
make a knife shiver
in anticipation

these hips ripe plums
don’t believe
run yr hand long this

n tell me

God did not know what She was doing
when She
gentled her hand
in a half moon
two times
smoothed
the most perfect
fruit
on earth



THE AIR ABOVE OUR TONGUES

We do not speak. afraid
of what might happen to us

the air above our tongues
prays for us to speak. afraid
of what might happen
if we don’t



Today’s poems are from Prayers Like Shoes (Whit Press, © 2009 Ruth Forman), and appear here today with permission from the poet.


Prayers Like Shoes: Whit Press, in partnership with Hedgebrook, presents this magnificent collection of poetry from highly acclaimed writer and poet Ruth Forman. “Ruth Forman’s Prayers Like Shoes is a book you will carry with you for life, give to people you love, and turn to in times of joy and sadness. Her words are as natural as grass and air, and the stories they tell will travel from the page to your heart.” — Gloria Steinem


Ruth Forman is the author of three award-winning books: poetry collections We Are the Young Magicians (Beacon, 1993) and Renaissance, (Beacon, 1997) and children’s book, Young Cornrows Callin Out the Moon (Children’s Book Press, 2007). She is the recipient of the Barnard New Women Poets Prize, The Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award, The Durfee Artist Fellowship, the National Council of Teachers of English Notable Book Award, and recognition by The American Library Association. She provides writing workshops at schools and universities across the country and abroad, and has presented in forums such as the United Nations, the PBS series The United States of Poetry and National Public Radio. Ruth is a former teacher of creative writing with the University of Southern California and June Jordan’s Poetry for the People program at UC Berkeley and an eleven-year faculty member with the VONA-Voices writing program. Also an MFA graduate of the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television, she frequently collaborates on film, music, dance, theatre, art and media projects. Her latest collection is Prayers Like Shoes (2009) on Whit Press. When not writing and teaching, she practices a passion for martial arts: classical Yang family style tai chi chuan, tai chi sword, bo staff and karate. Ms. Forman currently lives in Washington, DC.


Editor’s Note: Today’s feature is more than a book of poetry, it is a gift. When my father passed away I found myself more determined to go on, to function, than to break down and mourn his loss. It was a book of poems that enabled me to weep, to grieve. It is a rare book that allows you to access the real human being who dwells within you, beneath the surface of what you imagine to be your ‘real life.’ This is such a book.

On the strong recommendation of a friend I bought Prayers Like Shoes. Because time is a luxury in my life, I began reading it while waiting for the bus. By the time the bus arrived—by the time I reached the bottom of the first page—I was in tears.

I read from cover to cover, on bus and train, first on my way into the world, then on my way home again. At times I felt the Woman inside me awaken, celebrate. At times I felt inspired to speak up in the name of peace. I wondered at love, at the nature of man. Throughout—within the delicate, vibrant, intricate fabric of Forman’s weaving—my heart was so close to the surface that the tears fell when they would.

I wondered what the people on the bus thought of me with my book of poems and my well of tears, but, mostly I was inspired. I was reminded of what I love in poetry. Experience. Connectivity. Reading someone else’s words and feeling that I am not alone, that I am part of a community, of a human world. That life is beautiful and painful and hard and that it is poetry—honest, vocal, unapologetic, lived, felt, lyric poetry—that makes the living more bearable, that gives us permission to experience emotion while offering us an outlet for the same.

I chose the quote above by Gloria Steinem because, first of all, what poet is touted by Gloria Steinem?!, but also because it speaks the truth about this book. I want to give a copy to my mother, to my Sisters, to the people I love and admire who engage with poetry as I do. I will turn to this book when I want to feel, and also when I want to remember why I write poetry. I cannot imagine a greater gift than that.


Want to see more by Ruth Forman?
Ruth Forman’s Official Website
Buy Ruth Forman’s books

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EYES, STONES


                                   Cover illustration of Eyes, Stones: Threshold, by Kate Quarfordt


FROM EYES, STONES
By Elana Bell


LETTER TO JERUSALEM

To hold the bird and not to crush her, that is the secret. Sand turned too quickly to cement and who cares if the builders lose their arms? The musk of smoldered rats on sticks that trailed their tails through tunnels underground. Trickster of light, I walk your cobbled alleys all night long and drink your salt. City of bones, I return to you with dust on my tongue. Return to your ruined temple, your spirit of revolt. Return to you, the ache at the center of the world.


YOUR VILLAGE

Once in a village that is burning
               because a village is always somewhere burning

And if you do not look because it is not your village
               it is still your village

In that village is a hollow child
               You drown when he looks at you with his black, black eyes

And if you do not cry because he is not your child
               he is still your child

All the animals that could run away have run away
               The trapped ones make an orchestra of their hunger

The houses are ruin        Nothing grows in the garden
               The grandfather’s grave is there        A small stone

under the shade of a charred oak        Who will brush off the dead
               leaves        Who will call his name for morning prayer

Where will they—the ones who slept in this house and ate from this dirt—?


HOMELAND: A FABLE
             Michalya

They are the trees and we are the birds.
The birds have conquered the trees.
Now we’re saying to the trees:
We were trees before you were trees.
And the birds are saying: Well,
you’re birds now. You’ve been birds
for a really long time. And
you’re shitting on us.


Today’s poems are from Eyes, Stones, published by Louisiana State University Press, copyright © 2012 by Elana Bell, and appear here today with permission from the poet.


Eyes, Stones: In this debut collection, Elana Bell brings her heritage as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors to consider the difficult question of the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

The poems invoke characters inexorably linked to the land of Israel and Palestine. There is Zosha, a sharp-witted survivor whose burning hope for a Jewish homeland helps her endure the atrocities of the Holocaust. And there is Amal, a Palestinian whose family has worked their land for over one hundred years—through Turkish, British, Jordanian, and now Israeli rule. Other poems—inspired by interviews conducted by the poet in Israel, the Palestinian territories, and America—examine Jewish and Arab relationships to the land as biblical home, Zionist dream, modern state, and occupied territory.
(Description of Eyes, Stones courtesy of ElanaBell.com, with edits.)


Elana Bell is a poet, performer, and educator. Her first collection of poetry, Eyes, Stones was selected by Fanny Howe as the winner of the 2011 Walt Whitman Award and was published by Louisiana State University Press in 2012.


Editor’s Note: I would like to present today’s post to you as a love story. Imagine one day a young poet sees a post come across her facebook news feed announcing the winner of the 2011 Walt Whitman Award for poetry. Imagine this young poet loves Walt Whitman and wonders what sort of poet wins such a prestigious award. Imagine this young poet follows a link to the poem “Letter to Jerusalem,” reads the poem, and knows her life will never be the same again. Such is the power of poetry, I propose. I read the words “the ache at the center of the world,” and knew I was forever changed.

“Letter to Jerusalem” inspired me to dedicate an entry in this series to Israeli-Palestinian Peace Poetry. Through community—an idea crucial to the existence and flourishing of poetry—I reached out to Elana Bell and began a correspondence. This led to my featuring Elana on the series, and our friendship, which grew out of my unending awe of and respect for this immensely talented and dedicated artist, resulted in my attending the book release party for Eyes, Stones this past week in Brooklyn.

What I witnessed at the book release party was no less than true genius. Elana Bell has collaborated with theatrical, musical, and dance artists to transform Eyes, Stones into a performance piece of unrivaled beauty. The book itself, now officially released by Louisiana State University Press, is a heartbreaking work of true art in its own rite. This is a book that everyone should read. Poets, artists, performers, lovers of poetry, and those dedicated to bringing about peace in the middle east should read this book. But so, too, should Palestinians and Jews alike, no matter their political stance, because this is a book crafted to inspire and bring about peace. This is a book meant to open eyes, minds, and hearts, and I, like Elana Bell, hope that this is a book that will change the world. In its newest incarnation as a performance piece, Eyes, Stones has the ability to speak to new and greater audiences, and with my whole heart I look forward to seeing this work reach the far corners of the earth.

When selections from the live performance are available in video form, and when dates are announced for live performances of the work, I look forward to sharing the work of Elana Bell again, in yet another format, and continuing my dedication to promoting one of the most important pieces of political art of our time. It is an honor to share with you today the release of Eyes, Stones, and to feature the poem that made me fall in love and changed me forever.


Want to see more by Elana Bell?
Buy Eyes, Stones from Amazon.com
Elana Bell’s Official Website

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: PEGGY SHUMAKER

BEYOND WORDS, THIS LANGUAGE
By Peggy Shumaker

The morning I was born
                       you held my hand.

The morning you died
                       I held your hand.


What’s left
                       to forgive?



Today’s poem appears in Gnawed Bones (Red Hen Press, 2010), and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Peggy Shumaker is Alaska State Writer Laureate. Her most recent book of poems is Gnawed Bones. Her lyrical memoir is Just Breathe Normally. She’s at work on Toucan Nest, a book of poems set in Costa Rica. Professor emerita from University of Alaska Fairbanks, Shumaker teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop. She is founding editor of Boreal Books, publishers of fine art and literature from Alaska. She edits the Alaska Literary Series at University of Alaska Press.

Editor’s Note: I recently had the extreme pleasure of seeing Peggy Shumaker read with Amber Flora Thomas and Li-Young Lee at New York’s Poets House, at an event sponsored by Red Hen Press. It was one of the most moving and charged readings I’ve attended, and Peggy Shumaker delivered a deliberate, thoughtful performance. Today’s poem was recited from memory—Shumaker’s eyes locked with the audience—and tears ran down my cheeks.

On my way into the world, my father held me. On his way out, I held him. This was a gift. Being a reader and writer of poems is also a gift; an entry into shared experience, an outlet for the personal.

Want to see more by Peggy Shumaker?
Peggy Shumaker Official Website
Purchase Gnawed Bones from Red Hen Press
Read, Watch, and Listen to Peggy’s work online