Saturday, September 19, 2009

American Life in Poetry Project

I recently stumbled upon a fabulous project, American Life in Poetry. The project, a pet child of Ted Kooser, is aimed at promoting poetry. Each week, a new poem is posted. I have three main reasons to love the project:
  1. It's free!
  2. The poems are brief!
  3. It's contemporary poetry from all ranges and talents of poets; anywhere from a 12 year old beginner to a budding college student to a middle aged old pro.
Below, I have posted the link as well as the column of one week. Feel free to check out the project for yourself. And forgive me if I post a few more of these poems. I, for one, am a fan!

Self-Portrait by Zozan Hawez : American Life in Poetry

American Life in Poetry: Column 198


This column has had the privilege of publishing a number of poems by young people, but this is the first we’ve published by a young person who is also a political refugee. The poet, Zozan Hawez, is from Iraq, and goes to Foster High School in Tukwila, Washington. Seattle Arts & Lectures sponsors a Writers in the Schools program, and Zozan’s poem was encouraged by that initiative.


Born in a safe family
But a dangerous area, Iraq,
I heard guns at a young age, so young
They made a decision to raise us safe
So packed our things
And went far away.

Now, in the city of rain,
I try to forget my past,
But memories never fade.

This is my life,
It happened for a reason,
I happened for a reason.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2007 by Seattle Arts & Lectures. Reprinted from “We Will Carry Ourselves As Long As We Gaze Into The Sun,” Seattle Arts & Lectures, 2007, by permission of Zozan Hawez and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
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Friday, September 18, 2009


10 Things I Have Collected In my Past (And some in the present)
  1. Quotes: I have pages and pages of quotes on every topic imaginable. I don't know what it is I love so much about quotes. Perhaps it is the view of a quote as the best possible use of a sentence.
  2. Book lines: You know those lines that you hit when reading a novel that just wow you? Those lines that linger on your mind after you've put the book down? I write those down in a small book. I'm selective in my book lines. It's got to really be something to make it into my book.
  3. Books: There are few things I love more than books. I am not a particular fan of buying new books, and not just because of the cost. There is a certain thrill in finding the well-loved book you've been searching for amidst cluttered shelves of used books. It is nice to know someone else loved the book once too (or at least I'd like to believe). I am picky about my books. I want my shelves to be filled with books I have not only read, but loved. It's a beautiful lifetime project.
  4. Rocks: What child didn't collect rocks? And with my father being a geologist, it was my fate. I was always pretty choosy when it came to my rocks. Nothing boring or ordinary in my collection. I think I've still got my rocks on a shelf somewhere. Thinking back now, I realize the best ones were probably actually discovered by my dad, who was kind enough to let me claim them. Parents are great.
  5. Sea shells: I still collect sea shells. Since I've been to the beach so little, the few shells I have are memories of good times. In my collection I also have a few collected by good friends, and those mean even more.
  6. Stickers: As a child I loved, loved, loved stickers. The odd thing is I never actually did anything with my stickers. I found stickers to be messy and difficult to remove when off of their original sheet. So, I just had pages and pages of unused stickers. Long after my collecting days were over, I eventually used my stickers in craft projects with kids. I gave some away to kids I babysit, and some to a friend's little sister who collects stickers. What was the appeal of those things?
  7. Erasers: Another really odd childhood obsession of mine. I actually did use the erasers. I wonder what happened to all of those... I think I donated them to a thrift shop or gave them away to some little kids. The stupidest one I owned was an enormous pink eraser that read, "My Dad Never Makes Mistakes. This Is only A Paperweight." I didn't know what a paperweight was. I'm finicky about erasers. So many are too rubbery or leave unattractive streaks across the page. For years I have preferred the soft pink erasers found atop a good Ticonderoga #2. They don't call them The World's Best Pencil for nothing.
  8. Butterfly hair clips and assorted hair accessories: I was a victim of the nineties. I plead silence.
  9. Stuffed animals: I had the whole dang animal kingdom. There are still teddy bears on my bed (great to cuddle with). My favorite stuffed animals are in a drawer in my closet. Someday, they'll go to my kids. ]
  10. Barbies: Raise of hands please, who hates the Bratz dolls?
What is it about human nature that compels us to collect?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Poetic Snippets

Snippets, because who says you have to like the whole poem?
From "Song of Myself"
Walt Whitman

Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.

From "Why Regret?"
Galway Kinnell

Doesn't it outdo the pleasures of the brilliant concert
to wake in the night and find ourselves
holding hands in our sleep?
Yeah. That's all for tonight.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Something in me...

Millay tonight, because I'm in the mood. This is a particular favorite of mine--primarily the first two stanzas. I have often felt that urge to get out, to go, anywhere, just go. I always return. Unlike Millay, I have no romantic notions of a lonely death. I never desire not to return home. I only need an hour or so alone. My preferred method of transportation is the car, as it is the fastest way to escape the city. But this fall I am without a car. The roads are calling to me and I am itching to drive, to explore, and to go. For now, I retreat on foot to the groves and gardens nearby, grateful for trees, river, and the solitude.

Photo by: Valerie Owens

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

It's little I care what path I take,
And where it leads it's little I care;
But out of this house, lest my heart break,
I must go, and off somewhere.

It's little I know what's in my heart,
What's in my mind it's little I know,
But there's that in me must up and start,
And it's little I care where my feet go.

I wish I could walk for a day and a night,
And find me at dawn in a desolate place
With never the rut of a road in sight,
Nor the roof of a house, nor the eyes of a face.

I wish I could walk till my blood should spout,
And drop me, never to stir again,
On a shore that is wide, for the tide is out,
And the weedy rocks are bare to the rain.

But dump or dock, where the path I take
Brings up, it's little enough I care;
And it's little I'd mind the fuss they'll make,
Huddled dead in a ditch somewhere.

"Is something the matter, dear," she said,
"That you sit at your work so silently?"
"No, mother, no, 'twas a knot in my thread.
There goes the kettle, I'll make the tea."