Free Speech for April

Raise your hand if you’re slogging through April’s Poem a Day Challenge. I don’t care if you have only done a few, or if you have one for every day of the month so far. Just one poem written in April qualifies you to raise your hand.

I wasn’t sure how many I would be able to eek out but I’m doing better than I thought. I’ll post a tally when the month is over. In the meantime. Here’s an April poem for the prompt: “write a superhero or supervillain poem.” Mine was inspired by recent events.


You’re a mean one, Mr. M
Buying billion-dollar tech toys
shooting rockets into space
while ignoring the poverty
that your money could erase

Your brain is full of rocket fuel
Does your heart even beat?
You’ve got greed in your soul Mr. M
I wouldn’t talk to you with a
two-hundred-forty-character tweet

Do you heat your fortress
with hundred-dollar bills?
You’re a mean one Mr. M
in your house up in the hills.

If you ask the homeless and hungry
or anyone without money
none of them would deny
you’re a vile one, Mr. M
I hope someone spits in your eye

Poetry and Math and Friendship

I have writer friends and non-writer friends. No surprise there. Life would be a bit dull if all of my friends were exactly like me. Some (many) of my friends are not big poetry fans. When people tell me they don’t like poetry, they usually rush to add, “But I like yours.” It makes me laugh. I’m always happy when someone tells me they like my poetry, but it’s certainly not a requirement to be friends with me. I also hear people tell me that while they like some poetry they could never write it. Meh. I don’t agree. I think anyone can write.

Math, however, is another story. Math is hard. Math gives me agita. So when I’m asked to combine math and poetry, I sweat a bit. Yet, I did write this one to Robert Brewer’s April 11 PAD prompt: Write a prime number poem

Oh god not another math poem!

I never worry or balk at my age.
More birthdays. More cake.
But I think I will stop at 59.
Instead of years
I will Level Up.
This way every trip around the sun
will be a victory lap
towards Mastery of my life.

Speaking of Math and Poetry, I have two very dear friends who are “Math People.” One of them, Bartholomew Barker, is the rare Math Person who also writes poetry after working his day job as a programmer. (Click his name to read some of his work.) My other Math Friend, Tess Fisher, just so happens to be an extraordinarily gifted sewist. She can sew anything from underwear to formal wear and anything in between. She sews for people of all sizes and shapes and even pets. She also makes wonderful costumes and turned herself in to Fawkes from the Harry Potter series last fall. I’m amazed by her talent. She is also one of my “poetry is not for me” friends. But as it turns out, despite her claims, she can indeed write a poem. With her permission:

If I Had a Pen, by Tess Fisher

If I had a pen,
Would I write a poem?

Or would I sketch a design,
Do some math,
Or twirl it like a baton?

If I had a pen…
I would,
Anything…but write a poem.

Can’t get enough poetry? Need something to do next Monday, April 26, 2021? Join me and 9 other poets who will be reading some poems and discussing their work at the annual Poetry on Your Plate events sponsored by the town of Carrboro, Parks & Recreation. It’s normally held in person but since Covid is still around, it’s virtual. Anyone can attend. It goes from 6pm to 8pm EDT. on Zoom.
Meeting ID: 999 0536 9763
Passcode: 918850

Rage against the spoons

Rage against the spoons

forks, knives that she insists
have to be divided into their own set
when they come out clean
even though they are used interchangeably
from whichever drawer is closest
when cutlery is required.

Rage against the overflowing shelf
of food storage containers
and pile of extra lids,
so many glasses
dishes, duplicates.

I couldn’t wait to leave home
so I could do things My Way
And now here I am
with family again
but the zip code and the territory is new.

Rage against the quirks of a plaque-addled brain.
Why must she…
Why can’t she…
This is mild! It’s only going to get worse.
Remembering how we were then
how it is now
with a senior-parent/child.

Rage against the new reality.

Poetry at the Miss America Pageant

Sunday night, 9/9/2018, I tuned into the Miss America Pageant a little more than half-way through the program. There was POETRY! Ellery Jones, Miss Colorado, performed an original spoken word poem in the talent portion of the show! My geeky poet heart SQUEE’d!

As usual, the talent portion of the show was a mixed bag. There were singers and pianists among the 10 performances with various degrees of talent. There was the obligatory ballerina, and one contestant gave a Ted Talk-esque original monologue. The other top performance for me was Miss Connecticut. She wowed the audience with her Irish step dance/moonwalk combo.

Was Miss Colorado’s performance the best spoken-word piece I’ve ever heard? No, not by a long shot. But it was good and America got to see poetry as entertainment that requires talent. (Now if we can just get the Washington Post entertainment journalists to understand that spoken work poetry is NOT a “monolog!”)

Just for fun, I looked up “weirdest talents at the Miss America pageant.” In 2016, Alayna Westcom, Miss Vermont, mixed chemicals on stage during a science demonstration. Check out the bit on YouTube. The one that really took takes the cake, though not the crown, was Carol Jennette, Miss Maryland, who in 1955 packed a suitcase as her talent. I have already checked. It’s not on YouTube darn it.

Beyond my snarky critique of the talent competition I feel compelled to touch on the snarly political aspect of this beauty pageant and it’s almost 100-year turbulent history. The civil rights movement, the rise of feminism, and even the MeToo movement have taken their toll and the pageant has lost popularity. They are struggling to remain relevant in today’s aggressively competitive media market, hence the launch of the Pageant 2.0 with no swimsuit competition.  I have not been a regular viewer in a long time, but I had to check it out.

At first the changes I saw all seemed to be in the wardrobe area. Contestants wore more casual clothes for some of the interviews. Then I realized, there was a lot more talking. That’s a good thing, as is the continued, though gradual, increase in ethnic diversity.

I’m no longer the starry-eyed little girl that watched faithfully all through my formative years. Neither am I the budding, self-righteous feminist railing against the tyranny of this barbaric practice. I’ve long since settled into a neutral pragmatism. I never had the high ground and despite my cheeky assessment of talent and gown choice, I will not judge these women for choosing to be part of this event, and this life. I support women. If a girl or woman feels empowered by this environment, whether she does it for fun or for a shot at the prize money, then she should go for it! There’s nothing wrong with putting on a pretty dress and stepping out with your best foot and face forward. Congratulations to all of the ladies and especially to Nia Imani Franklin, our newest Miss America.

What’s your word?

Happy New Year! 

A few years ago a friend introduced me to the One Word project. The idea is to replace new year resolutions, which are all about doing, with a guiding word for the year, which is all about being. A resolution is a nagging reminder of what you should be doing. The right One Word, however, is your inspiration and encouragement for being who and what you really want to be.

That year, 2011, we got together and made posters for ourselves with our word on it. My word was Discipline. It wasn’t the best choice for a word. Since I’m not a disciplined individual, it felt like just another failed resolution. My 2012 word was a little bit better, but not much, Action. I was still trying to push myself to be someone other than the low-energy, slow-moving person that I am. I must have known this, because the large poster had been replaced with a sheet of paper decorated with some stickers.

In 2013, I cheated and used a phrase: Whole and Complete. This was better, although looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking because the Complete is redundant. It’s a good thing to feel like a whole person but the next year I thought I’d aim higher. My 2014 word was Grace. Now, I am a klutz, but I had a different idea in mind. In the spiritual sense, grace is favor and blessing received from the Divine, such as forgiveness and redemption. I made a nice mini-poster, and then… meh. I still wanted to aim high though, so my word for 2015 was Serenity.  I never did feel serene that year which ended on a particularly low note with the death of my beloved cat, and my car totaled by an uninsured driver.

I put the One Word project on hiatus in ’16 and ’17.

However, I think the time is right to try again! This year I’m picking a word that I know I can Be, Do, and Have. POETRY!  Yes, I am going for the low hanging fruit, and no, there is no shame in the game here. There is only doing whatever we need to do to get by in the world.

I hope this year brings you happiness, health, prosperity, and lots and lots of poetry!  Please share your One Word for 2018 in the comments below.

If you are interested in learning more about One Word, check out these pages:

Holidays: We’re halfway through

Do you love the autumn and winter holiday season, or do you just bide your time and wait for them all to be over? Where are you on the love-the-holiday spectrum?  I’ve been up and down the scale from mushy, gushy, sappy, holiday love to seething resentment and distress. As I age though I find myself relaxing into acceptance.

Halloween was my favorite holiday as a child. Candy! Costumes! Later it was alcohol and costumes. Now it’s just about the cool weather, the decorations and enjoying other people in costume, especially children, babies and pets.

As an innocent kid, I thought Thanksgiving was a pretty basic holiday: food, family, pie.  It’s still that, but it’s also political, a gateway to consumerism, and a platform for dysfunctional family dynamics. Eat. Enjoy. Be happy to be home again.

So now it’s December which brings Hanukkah, Christmas, Solstice, Kwanzaa, and Ramadan. (Did I forget any?) It’s time for my annual gift buying and exchanging anxiety, and, POETRY! There are five poetry events on my calendar this month. Now that’s the way to spend the holiday season.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, and even if you don’t celebrate at all, I hope the season brings you good food, fun with people you love, and a touch of joy.

Day 1 – April 2016

I’m moving! It’s not a new place, or a different place. But it’s a newly refurbished place, two buildings away. Look. It’s a thing, OK? I don’t want to get into it. I just want to explain to you, well, to myself really, why I just do NOT have the time to write now. I should be packing, or getting my mail forwarded, or doing my taxes. But instead of doing all that, I’m considering the April PAD Challenge.

*raises fist in air*

Yeah, I see you April.
You’ve got your jester’s hat on today.
Don’t tease me.
I don’t like pranks.
I’m all about the sarcasm.

Yeah, I see you April
with your “National Poetry Month” swagger.
Don’t flirt with me.
I have no time
for the Poem-A-Day.

Take your showery clichés
and tell it to someone who cares. But
I have always said
I do my best work when
I should be doing something else.