Tag Archives: Marty Moss-Coane

sometimes i write poems (because i love poetry)

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If you ever loved poetry but got away from it, I encourage you to spend some quiet time letting it unfold inside of you. The world needs more good poets and memorable, evocative poems.

a borrowed expression of what poetry feels like to those who write or listen.

A borrowed expression of what poetry feels like to those who write or listen.

Everyone had a poem inside. It’s just a matter of writing it down. This past year I wrote three. (posted below if you’re feeling impatient)

Each came to me at an incredibly fast pace, without much premeditation. Which to me, is the best way to capture a feeling in a poem, though admittedly, not exemplary of sound craftsmanship. Like any art form, poetry has its rules for proper execution.

However, when rediscovering any form of writing, it’s always more productive to go at it without inhibition. “Write now, edit later” is how I was taught and my mantra when working with the students at Mighty Writers where I tutor and mentor. Unless you have the words, there’s no where else to go, right?

My impetuousness aside, after hearing Nikky Finney read aloud on Radio Times (thank you, Marty Moss-Coane for the introduction) last year, and finally reading Love That Dog, I am taking my reignited love of poetry more seriously and looking to re-learn the craft in a more legitimate fashion. So if any of you have courses, books, etc. to recommend, I am all ears.

I have no shame in sharing the raw versions because they were all written with clarity of mind and heart, and if there is one thing all poems should be built on, it’s emotion. (Think about all those classic poems from Yeats, Keats, and Brontë.)

The relevance here is that somebody asked me the other day what I was doing when the news that John Lennon had been assassinated broke. I knew instantly: writing poetry in my journal in my rainbow-, album cover-adorned bedroom. Being able to go back to something I loved so much as a teenager, and that soothed all that standard-issue angst, feels really fun and comforting at age 51, especially after a rough year.

without further ado… 

Tears fall inside out,
bittersweet tea
and broken glass.
Sandpaper across my heart.
Dust mixes with blood,
veins turn from blue to gray.
Not enough concrete
to block the pain.
—22 May 2014

gentle hands caress
trails of trust between two skins
his shoulders a raft
—21 November 2014

and my most recent…

cold air pushes through the tightly woven scarf
this one morning carelessly coiled around her neck
just enough
too much

her skin fights back, goosebumps and taut muscles
don’t move she commands her shoulders and
her eyes

mistakes happen this way

her soldier stance is no match for the frigid fingers
trying to claw their way between the layers of her scarf
and the layers of her skin

her half-mittened hands tug at the fringed edges
pulling in
pushing out
forgetting in that instant, her own exposed thumbs, pointers and pinkies

in that instant
the arm-length gloves lying dormant in her dresser

in that instant
winter’s sharp edges scratching at her unpainted fingernails

in that instant
i am unprepared

she waits eyes closed, heart, breath and mind still
frozen in fear wishing it away
this feeling
any feeling

she can hear the determined chill forcing its way through her body
popping cartilage and tendons
bursting through blocked veins and capillaries

leather digs into concrete but she can’t push herself down
away from this feeling
any feeling

even before it happens she feels the cold air hitting
the space inside
the place where no one goes anymore

take me anywhere but here she pleads

she feels the cold air settling
wondering, is it just resting?
noticing, the pain sounds different this time
hoping for a fissure not a fracture

she’s barely breathing now, afraid of what’s coming
of what’s not coming
of who’s not coming

please, she asks the sky above: get me out of here

still she waits

everything has a crack
that’s where the light gets in
—6 December 2014

rediscovering poetry

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Head Off & Split

Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand all weekend, you’ve witnessed some degree of reaction regarding the acquittal of George Zimmerman. And, whether through social media posts or during face-to-face conversations, you’ve probably absorbed a range of emotionally charged responses. Some may have resonated, others perhaps offended or surprised you. The latter describes my sentiment when stumbling upon a friend’s Facebook post featuring this poem by Harold Pinter. However, this post isn’t about the Trayvon Martin case. (I don’t have the guts to take that on, but am very happy others do.) This post is about poetry, lost and found. Here is where today’s post started:


God looked into his secret heart
to find a word
To bless the living throng below.

But look and look as he might do
And begging ghosts to live again
But hearing no song in that room
He found with harshly burning pain
He had no blessing to bestow.

As I savored both my friend’s decidedly unique way of expressing his dismay over Trayvon Martin’s death, and the ethereal words penned by Mr. Pinter, my heart started purring.

The poem, with its subtlety and melodic cadence, stirred my senses in a way that was far different than the quips, barbs, reflections and rants I’d been reading since the announcement Saturday evening. It was the thrill of poetry, a literary genre that once captivated me, but somehow grew less important over the years. As a mother, I turned my kids on to Shel Silverstein practically at birth, but I woefully admit that poetry is something they learned more about at school than at home. But again today,  I was reminded about the power of a well-crafted poem. Perhaps your own passion for poetry needs to be reignited.

I reread “God” several times, then visited Mr. Pinter’s website to see what else I could find. Then the wires in my sleepy brain connected, and I recalled a recent conversation with my writing mentee regarding haikus and poet Nikky Finney, who I only discovered last year.

Finney, winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry, had been a guest on one of my favorite radio talk shows, Radio Times. Not only was she an engaging interviewee, with her straightforward, yet eloquent and clever responses to Marty Moss-Coane’s always excellent questions, her on-air poetry readings were delicious. If you can’t begin to imagine what I mean, listen for yourself. If you’re a writing instructor looking for a fresh repertoire of lively descriptions to share with your students, or need to work on improving your use of language in all forms of creative writing, you must get your hands on a copy of Head Off & Split stat.

I also learned that she’ll be speaking at Penn State on October 26th, as keynote for a “Celebration of African American Poetry.” I don’t know the ins and outs of attending university events as a non-student, but you can bet I am going to find out. Between her two 2012 NPR radio interviews and her National Book Award acceptance speech, it’s hard not to be inspired by and in awe of this incredibly bright, talented, passionate and compassionate writer and woman. I wonder what SHE is thinking about the Trayvon Martin case, and how she would weave her words to express her thoughts.

I hope that you will find a connection to her poetry just the way I did: fast and furious. And, if you’re not already a fan, Radio Times is your ticket to all kinds of memorable interviews, and people and topics to learn about on an elevated and intimate level.