Thursday, April 30, 2015

Psalm 4: Lord of the Exploding Universe

Answer me when I call
Lord of the exploding universe.
My memories live in my body.
You set me free when I was in distress,
for I carry that exploding day in my body.
Be gracious to me now and hear my prayer.

How long, O mortals will you defame my honor:
All is coming apart in this Age of Terror
how long will you love what is worthless and seek after lies?
All is coming apart, all is exploding

Know this, that the Lord has chosen,
has chosen those who are fearful,
has chosen those who are righteous:
I struggle to live with righteousness
but the Lord hears me when I call.

How well we remember.
Will we remember what it means?

Stand in awe; we live in the shadow,
in the shadow of the April 19 Bomb:
commune with your own memories.
My memories dwell in my body.

Offer the sacrifices that are appointed:
The past may be smoke, but it can return in an instant.
Put your trust in the Lord of the expanding universe.
This building of brick has expanded by a foot;
Can our hearts expand as well?

There are many who say,
You weren't there, but you were present
in the shadow of the April Bomb.
Lift up the light of your face on us O Lord.
O Lord of the exploding universe.

But you have put gladness in my heart:
bringing order out of chaos.
The world has shifted.
They may revel in the madness
of mutually assured destruction.
I put my trust in you, O Lord.

The world has shifted, but
I lie down in peace and sleep comes at once:
For O Lord , it is you only
who make memories dwell in my body.

Found poem; Sources:
“Psalm 4.” A New Zealand Prayer Book = He Karakia Mihinare O Aotearoa: The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia. San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco, 1997. 200. Print.

Back, Rt Rev George. “On the 20th Anniversary of April 19, 1995.” St. John's Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City. 19 Apr. 2015. Sermon.

I've completed 28 prompts for the Poetry Scout Month Project; looks like I won't make the last two. So, to have a full 30 poems for the month of April, I've done a repeat of one challenge (see Beautiful Renewal), and created a challenge of my own. This explores the communication between a psalm and a sermon delivered on the same day the psalm was read.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Rolling Stone Series

Two poems for the Poetry Scout Month project used the April 23rd issue of Rolling Stone as a resource: Down the Rabbit Hole and A Terrifying Band for Our Children When You Look Back. A friend gave me a subscription to Rolling Stone (prior to the campus rape hub-bub), and this project gave me a chance to put a back issue to good use.

“Down the Rabbit Hole” was in response to the Pinch an Inch prompt.  The instructions direct you to select a column inch anywhere on the x-axis of the page.  This was interesting to do with a magazine, since all the magazines I have handy (Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Outdoor Photographer) are divided into three columns of  ~inch each per page.  So, all I had to do was decide what article to use, and which of the three pre-determined column inches to select. I thought a music review would be the most likely to have “poetic language”, so I selected the lead review, which was in the far right-hand column.  Just to make things interesting, I selected two more reviews on the opposite side of the page - both also in the far-right hand column. The poem takes its title from the third of these reviews.

“A Terrfying Band” was in response to the Picture It prompt.  I had a hard time groking the instructions for this badge, until I reviewed what other poets had done in response.  I finally decided the easiest method was to simply doodle on the page and black out any words that might mislead the reader.  The result still did not reflect my intent, so I typed out the version of the poem I intended.  The source text was an interview with Peter Townsend.  He's been somewhat on my mind, as I've been obsessively wood-shedding “Pinball Wizard” whenever I wasn't working on this project.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Their Testimony

Report on my progress through the Poetry Month Scout Badges continues.  “Their Testimony” was written in response to the “Interloper” prompt. The goal was to go to a public speech (preferrably something specialized and unfamiliar to the writer). I fudged a bit by taking notes at my church – during the sermon and during the presentation for adult education.  Both presentations were related to the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19.

Based on the editor's response to others (on Facebook), I suspect they would consider this choice “cheating”.  I feel very at home at my church, for one thing, and “April 19” has meaning and familiarity to anyone who has lived in Oklahoma for more than a few years. In fact, there's Reflections of April 19, 1995 linked immediately to your left.

The handbook warned writers many of these prompts would push our comfort level.  The thought of being in a strange place, among strangers, was way beyond my comfort level. So, I strove to honor the spirit of the prompt – the words and phrases of the poem come entirely from the two presentations offered at my church on April 12.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Riot of Souls

Two more for Poetry Month Scouting: for the Haiku Anew and Interrogator badges.

First, the Haiku: I selected a haiku from a collection titled Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart by Patricia Donegan. It's a source I dip into every so often, haiku being a sort of stout ale best appreciated in sips.  I entered the haiku text (by Hekigodo Kawahigashi) into the recommended on-line discombobulator, which rearranges letters as well as words. It seemed to come up with extra words, so I picked the ones that seemed to work the best. I titled the collection of five haiku Moonlit Riot. The instructions say to create a poem that “fits the haiku structure while still making sense.” At first, I assumed "haiku structure" meant the common 5-7-5 syllabic construction (first line 5 syllables, and so on).  In reading other examples, I don't think many other participants have felt bound to this restriction; I think the editors really meant "a poem of three short lines."

This proved to be an interesting exercise, one I might repeat. I think I'd loosen the bonds a bit more, though.

You Who Question Souls was my response to the Interrogator prompt. I still had Leonard Cohen on my mind (he has yet another live album coming out in May), so I pulled out my copy of Book of Mercy. My goal was to gather about two pages worth of questions from the book.  These questions were rearranged into a new poem. I'm rather pleased with the end result; with the exception of a couple of lines, one might not guess the source was a modern collection of psalms.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Babel Broke Down

Poetry Month Scouting, continued. My poem “Babel Broke Down” was in response to the “First in Line” prompt. As the referenced page mentions, this type of poem is a cento, a form I've tried once before, using the index of first lines from selected poems of Emily Dickinson.

My first impulse was to use first lines from Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen, which happens to be next to the chair by my writing desk. It also happens to have an index of first lines, which includes the titles of his drawings throughout the book. The index goes on for several pages, and felt too overwhelming. So I picked up a chapbook which also sits near my chair, Lexicography, by my friend Carol Hamilton.  Although her chapbook had no index of first lines, it was less intimidating – being a little over 81 pages.

Chapbooks tend to be collections of poems along a common theme, in this case Words, and their meanings. After only a few pages, I was struck by how frequently the first line on the recto page seems to comment on, or reply to, the first line on the opposing page.  In a sense, the poem seemed to write itself.

In my mind, it seems to have a plot.  As a friend said, “It almost makes sense.” As such, I think it is one of my more successful attempts in this project.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Poetry Month Scouting

As I mentioned on March 25, I am participating in the Poety Month Scout project, sponsored by the Found Poetry Review.  “Found Poetry” is an interesting concept, challenging the writer to create something new out of a pre-existing work.  The editors of the Found Poetry Review have crafted 31 prompts intended to be a fun way to introduce poets to this process. I've managed to complete nine prompts, or badges.  In effect, I've written a poem a day.

Some of these attempts have been more rewarding, some have been frustrating.  For example, the "Redacted" badge required the poet to use an on-line tool to black out words on screen; the remaining words would constitute the "poem".  I found the on-line tool very hard to use (especially in Firefox).  However, after reading the experiences of other poets, I decided to give it another go, this time using the Chrome browser. I'm happier with this result; the source text is a meditation on the resurrection narrative from the Gospel of John.

Crumpled is a Verb” is possibly the most popular of my attempts, at least judging from the number of positive comments it has received. To quote from the Scount Badge Handbook:

To earn the “On Demand” badge, start by coming up with an unlikely word combination. You can make up your own, choose words at random from a source text, or use a generator like the one at JimPix to come up with your words. Examples:

  • Foolish Ninja
  • Calamitous Rock
  • Hurry Pork
  • Jugular Magnet

Visit Google ( and do a search on your chosen word combination (no quotes around the terms)..

Google will display a list of pages, as well as short descriptions for each site. Compose a poem using only these page titles and short descriptions — do not click into the sites themselves to grab more text. You can use multiple pages of search results if necessary.

I used the Jim Pix tool, and got "“Crumpled Change” as the word combination.

Working On Doodles” was in response to the “Spaced Out” prompt.  It's possible I didn't select the best source text for this challege: a one-paragraph blurb on “Ally McBeal” from Entertainment Weekly.

The irony in all this, of course, is that I was a wash-out as a scout; never made it past cub. Don't know what the editors would call a person who completes 15 or more of these prompt badges, but I hope it's better than cub. Padre would be amused, if not proud.

Idée d’jour

Bad weather always looks worse through a window.
— Tom Lehrer, singer-songwriter and mathematician (b. 9 Apr 1928)

Friday, April 03, 2015

Bones of Bashan

Third in the PoMoSco series. The source is Psalm 22, as rendered in the New Zealand Prayer Book.

The guidelines were to select words and phrases by a means of rolling dice. I had done a similar poem using the I Ching. The editor-in-chief of the PoMoSco project gave me permission to use the I Ching for this project as well.

The I Ching didn't give as much variety as I had hoped, and using a method similar to what I did for A Loveless Marriage (linked above) would have been too time-consuming, so I also applied an on-line dice rolling site — using six twelve sided dice. Each die would determine which line I would select; the line of the trigram would determine whether I would select the first half or second half of the line. I think the end product is rather interesting.

This poem also marks the third in my personal “Holy Week” series. The PoMoSco Handbook has a suggested calendar, but I respond to do this prompt out of order. “Roll the Dice” immediately made me think of a line from Ps 22: “they cast lots for my clothing”. “Casting lots” is similar to rolling dice. A connection!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

In remembrance of her

A cut-up from the Gospel According to Mark, 2nd in the series for Poetry Month.

This picture demonstrates the process: I cut out a paragraph from the Passion according to Mark from my church bulletin. I sliced out words and phrases with the Exacto knife, put them in the glass bowl, and shook vigorously. Tiny slips of paper flew everywhere! Being a slow learner, I put them back in the glass bowl and shook more gently. Fewer slips of paper were lost. I painstakingly pulled them out of the bowl and stuck them on the blank page. This was hampered by the fact that just a sliver of Glue Stick was left, and it was almost dried out.

Yet, if you go to the PoMoSco site, you'll see a scan of that same page. Although cut-up is often associated with William S. Burroughs, the PoMoSco Handbook attributes the process to Dada poet Tristan Tzara. Gotta say, I ended up with something like word salad, so I've got to wonder how Burroughs made any sense.

The poem has received a positive comment: “It’s fascinating how the main character becomes female here and the voice of the teller fades into the background. I had to look up the verses to see what was shattered — this is that interesting!”