Claudia Poet’s Ideas for Random Acts of Poetry

October is a fairly decent month: the calm before the winter freeze, the color before the bare landscape. It is host to Northern Virginia’s Fall for the Book literary festival and to Random Acts of Poetry Day.

Random Acts of Poetry (RAP) falls on October 4 this year.

Legend has it that RAP Day arose in the early 80s, following a Canadian writer’s scribbles on a restaurant mat. That writer was Anne Herbert.  In the U.S., the writer Dylan Barmmer may have woken up Americans from their slumber. Whatever the origins, RAP Day is a holiday we have all much been waiting to discover.

On this day, the key thing is to commit to surprise people with poetry. (Read a beginner’s guide to poetry here.)

RAP-French-Pin-Poetry.pngFollowing are unexpected spots and ways to find a poem:

1. Library Book
Have you ever found an abandoned bookmark in a book and felt a little wave of discovery? Make that happen for someone else. Write a line from a poem on a sticky note or bookmark, pick a page in a library book, and be done.

Estimated Discovery Point: unknown, it could take years for the book to be opened
TIP: pick a New Arrivals/Hot Pick book for a faster discovery rate

2. Bathroom Stall
Leave a poem on a bathroom stall, where a stranger won’t have much of a choice but to read it! Be bold, make it a long poem.

Estimated Discovery Point: within hours.
TIP: Print out or write on colorful paper.

3. Bus or Metro Newspaper
Write fortune-cookie size poems and leave them inside newspapers. Imagine the surprise on strangers’ faces when they realize the day’s news has a poem.

Estimated Discovery Point: within hours.
TIP: use tape so that the poem doesn’t get lost.

4. Hashtag Poem
Ever wonder if people are reading your hashtags? Chances are they at least sneaking a glance. Surprise them with #onelonghashtagpoem.

Estimated Discovery Point: within minutes of post.
TIP: choose a mundane photo. Use #Raopoetryday or #RAPDay2017

5. Balloon
Write “POETRY” in big letters on a balloon, leaving room for a short poem. Release it into the air. Repeat.

Estimated Discovery Point: unlikely.
TIP: take a picture. Throw a party.

Want more ideas? Check out TS Poetry’s idea booklet.

Questions? Thoughts? Send me a poem? Follow me on Instagram, @Claudiapoet or Twitter, @Claudiadocumented

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1,000 miles: step 83

Firstpublication

Issue 15 of Canadian magazine, Poetry is Dead

It’s been difficult to separate my personal life from the political world.

Every morning on my way to work, I’ve made it a habit to search for news articles about the future of TPS (Temporary Protected Status). I’ve been sharing these articles on social media and with friends.

Most of the time, I feel like I am speaking into a vacuum, as if no one is listening and no one is caring.

I have to remind myself that people have lives, and on a given day, one thing or another has more priority.

Some friends do check up on me, and I am as always, grateful. I do have a hard time expressing myself when it comes to the question, how am doing? My first instinct is to push people away because I am obviously not doing well–how could I when my future, life as I know it is on the line? I want to pull some kind of tantrum; of course, I don’t. All I want out of friends and allies is that, friends and allies, people to be there for me.

Time is better spent than lingering over the uncertain future.

Though, if you, reader, are interested in supporting immigrants, you should. The most important thing is to show up, speak out.

I am lucky to live in Northern Virginia and near Washington, D.C. Life still goes on. Over the past few summer months, I have become a festival go-er. Street festivals and book festivals are all fair game. The National Book Festival earlier this September was my favorite. I spent most of the time in the ground floor chasing childhood nostalgia.

Fall for the Book, a literary festival sponsored by my alma mater, George Mason, is coming up in October. I have a line up of poetry events on my itinerary.

I’ve been getting around metro and bus, with the occasional car coordination.  This past weekend, I worked on a poetry project with a friend and poet. It is a poem that speaks about our shared experience with learning the English language. When I first proposed the project, I had no idea what to expect, though I tried hard to keep organized.

I can’t wait to share the poem with the world. Collaboration is fun and challenging; it fosters understanding of the self.

There are no poetry publication news other that in August, my copy of Poetry Is Dead finally arrived. My poem, “Losing words,” selected for publication since late last year, is now being read in one corner of the world.

My inbox is otherwise filled with rejections from poetry magazines. To name a few: American Poetry Review, Meridian, and 2River. I’d like to say the sting of rejection eases with each rejection but that isn’t the case. Rejection makes you question the worth of your art. Rejection can make you angry. Rejection simply hurts. I am grateful for the summer campaign I ran, as through the funds raised, I have felt brave and supported.

I hope to find my poems small homes and my poetry larger homes through the forms of a chapbook or a poetry book. I am trying, so, so hard.

With everything that is going on, all I can do right now is fight on.

A Beginner’s Guide to Poetry, 21st Century Edition

My college professors, as is expected, knew their stuff. They had areas of specialties, and in the English department, this meant people and time periods. I expanded my knowledge of poetry and poets by taking classes like “Forms of Poetry,” “African American Poetry,” and “Recent American Poetry.” I haven’t become an expert in poetry–that’s not what my English degree means. Instead, I know more about things I don’t know.

In hopes of bringing everyday people out of the darkness of not knowing poetry, I have compiled a list of 7 types of poetry everyone should know exist. These could come in handy.

1. Free Verse

This is a point of resistance for young children, who are confronted with the idea that poetry doesn’t have to rhyme. Free verse is about breaking structure: down with meter, down with rhyme scheme, and down with form. Free verse follows the internal rhythm of the poet.

I Hear America Singing” – of patriarchy, but with rhythm, Walt Whitman

Still I Rise” – a celebration of self and perseverance, the Maya Angelou way

Home Wrecker” – memory, love, and family from contemporary poet, Ocean Vuong

2. Form

Sometimes called fixed form, these types of poems follow a structure, contrary to free verse. The structure can be small or big: a poem written without one or two letters from the alphabet, the lipogram; a poem using 14 lines, rhyme scheme, and iambic pentameter, the sonnet; a poem that repeats lines or words in calculated places like the pantoum, villanelle, and sestina.

My Brother at 3 A.M.” – a pantoum about addiction by Natalie Diaz

Mad Girl’s Love Song” – a villanelle about nothing other than mad love by Sylvia Plath

When I consider how my light is spent” – or Sonnet 19 on life and faith, John Milton

3. Experimental

2014-04-17-18-49-26.jpg

This category could easily be broken into subcategories to include the kind of art redefining poetry: composing a new poem using math formulas to replace words in an old poem, cutting out words from random places to create a collaged masterpiece, erasing words in a book to leave behind poetic lines. Experimental poetry is all about experimenting with words in new ways.

The Lady” – a quick little something about death, Guillaume Apollinaire

Sonnet III” – a collaged sonnet, Ted Berrigan

a leaf falls” – an initially illegible poem, e.e. cummings

4. Prose

Prose is text without lines. Novels. Short stories. News articles. Poetry uses what’s commonly known as a line or a verse. Prose poetry is what happens when poetic elements enter the prose genre. Of course, this blurs the lines of prose and poetry, and that’s just what prose poetry aims to do. Test the borders.

The Objectified Mermaid” – a mermaid tells us about the modeling industry, Matthea Harvey

Girl” – a short story about growing up girl, Jamaica Kincaid

The Prose Poem” – a poem about the landscape of the prose poem, Campbell McGrath

5. Visual

Through space on the page, photograph or cut outs, or rearranged words, visual poetry reminds us that poetry is an art.

haiku #62” – a collage mimicking the haiku form, Scott Helmes

Silence” – repetition with a message, Eugen Gomringer

Women” – a protesting and moving poem, May Swenson

6. Spoken word

Spoken word feels relatively new, but it’s only been made more accessible through video sharing platforms like YouTube and Vimeo. In the past, spoken word existed in the confines and ephemeral moment of the poetry cafe. A blending of performance, musicality, and poetry, spoken word is memorized by the poet(s) and performed instead of recited. This could mean the use of accompanying music, a short film, or the presence of a finger-snapping and encouraging audience.

When Love Arrives” – a duo about patience and love, by not-a-couple Sarah Kay & Phil Kaye

Love Drought” – poet Warsan Shire’s verse sprinkled over Beyoncé’s Lemonade (2016) album

The Last Poem I’ll Ever Write” – not the last, bless their soul, a touching piece, Andrea Gibson

7. Micro-poetry

Poetry meets the internet age, from 140-character tweets to Instagram’s short verse. Micro-poetry is just that, poetry that hits the stomach or lungs with a quick punch. Instagram in particular has rejuvenated the poetry world and resurfaced the typewriter. This kind of poetry is practiced by anyone from skilled poets like Rudy Francisco or Rupi Kaur to your average Jane.

1,000 miles: step 79

The fall semester is now over.

I have submitted “finals,” known as projects to the English major. Grades are coming in. I have gaps of time–yes, time. It has all gone by so fast.  This semester I made a savvy choice, and I took all poetry classes: a small-sized workshop, a course taught in Spanish, and a course covering African American poetry from the 50s and beyond. I’m grateful for the semester; I gained exposure to an unbelievable range of poets and interesting perspectives from classmates.

At school, I ate a waffle in the library, learned a little salsa, attended a few open mics, carved a pumpkin, and started a gym routine. I didn’t plan some of these things; they just worked themselves out. I also attended two literary festivals in September: the Library of Congress National Book Festival in DC and Fall for the Book events on campus. In November, I spent three hours at the African American History and Culture Museum. Time spent well, all in all.

In the spring, I’m once again taking poetry classes. I want my final days as an undergrad to be full of poetry. When I think of the future, it is still scary, but I’m more willingly to get there.

2016 has been good to me. There have been bad days. I’m not going to lie: I spent post-election day crying–mourning to be precise. This week wasn’t entirely good either. Tuesday night I was upset with news of Aleppo. Wednesday morning I woke up further into sadness with this tweet still in my mind:

And it is because today I am alive, and yesterday I was alive, that I am thinking of everything–support, laughter, art, growth– that 2016 has offered me.

Thank you, world.

fall2016

Hey, Poet: World Poetry Day Awareness

March 21st marks the 16th anniversary of World Poetry Day. First observed in 2000, World Poetry Day is an initiative taken by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to celebrate poetry as an art form and a cultural phenomena.

If you’re thinking poetry isn’t your thing or it’s a waste of time, I have a few words for you: you are a poem and poetry pays.

pay_with_a_poem_2016-731x1024

Julius Meinl Coffee‘s 2016 Pay With a Poem Poster

Julius Meinl, a global coffee and tea provider based in Europe, started celebrating World Poetry Day last year by using poems as currency, and this year, Pay With a Poem will be observed in over 1,000 locations across 30 countries. Currently, two U.S. cities located in Florida and Illinois are on Pay With a Poem’s location finder, though if you happen to be around Italy, Austria, Romania, or Germany, expect several coffee shops to hand you free coffee in exchange for your handwritten poem.

Dear America,

let’s start loving us some poetry and getting ourselves some free coffee. Doesn’t this Pay With a Poem promotional video make the smell of coffee ciruclate your nose and the sound of poetry kiss your ears?

Robert Frost says it best when he says “A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love sickness.” Poetry can dig a nest into our hearts, but it’s often treated as a second class literary form in school curriculums. When poetry is taught in high school, it’s the type of poetry that makes people cringe. Those epically long poems, those tritely rhymed and metered sonnets, and those exceptionally esoteric word choices have some people fed up with poetry when we should actually be engaging with poems.

"Journal Entry"

Journal Entry” Joel Montes de Oca CC BY-SA 2.0

Everyone has a different taste, but there is a poem waiting for all of us. Whether you need therapy, a laugh, a dose of politics, or a mental workout, poems have you covered.

Here are 14 poems that will have you rethink the meaning and medium of poetry:

1. [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] by e. e. cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

2. Story XI. The Lion who Hunted with the Wolf and the Fox by Jelal al-Din Rumi, translated from the Persian

A lion took a wolf and a fox with him on a hunting excursion,
and succeeded in catching a wild ox, an ibex, and a hare. He

3. For Jane: With All the Love I Had, Which Was Not Enough: by Charles Bukowski

I pick up the skirt,
I pick up the sparkling beads

4. Scars/To the New Boyfriend by Rudy Francisco

5. Are All the Break-Ups in Your Poems Real? by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

If by real you mean as real as a shark tooth stuck
in your heel, the wetness of a finished lollipop stick,

6. The Ballad Of The Landlord by Langston Hughes

Landlord, landlord,
My roof has sprung a leak.

7. Accents by Denice Frohman

8. wishes for sons by Lucille Clifton

i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town

9. Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation by Natalie Diaz

Angels don’t come to the reservation.
Bats, maybe, or owls, boxy mottled things.

10. A Letter to My Dog, Exploring the Human Condition by Andrea Gibson

11. This Room and Everything in It by Li-Young Lee

Lie still now
while I prepare for my future,

12. I Stink by Roque Dalton, translated from the Spanish

I smell like the colour of mourning on those days
when flowers wilt due to their price

13. The Beloved by Paul Celan, translated from the German

She is standing on my eyelids
And her hair is wound in mine,

14. Buffet Etiquette by Hieu Minh Nguyen

Photo by Tyler Menezes CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo by Tyler Menezes CC BY-SA 2.0

Start small this World Poetry Day by sharing a poem or go big and campaign for a poet’s freedom of speech. Poetry can be dangerous: poets around the world are threatened and silenced for writing poems deemed too political or blasphemous.

Take over social media or write letters on behalf of poets like Ashraf Fayadh, who was almost sentenced to death in 2015 for sharing his poetry in Saudi Arabia. Find other dissident poets on Pen.org and help save a poet.

Need more time to find the rhythm of the poetry that runs through your blood, the lovely pump in your heart, the gentle wind chimes in your laughter, and the captivating hold of your stare?

April marks the 20th celebration of National Poetry Month in the U.S. Find your inner word genius and get to celebrating.

 

Cinquain n. 2

Girly,
resist the mold
shock and resuscitate
the steel she society shunned:
flee script.

Cinquain n. 1

Breathing

outside the glass,

hands outstretched, hands reaching:

to our daughters rising stronger

women.

am I here?

here I am,

my eyelids weigh,

drag me down. . .

the hours

the hours

the hours I have slept

escape me. . .

though my soul is voiceless

it is restless

from all the steps

the sole of my feet take

to nowhere, over and over.

save me

from forgetting how to be

what I claim to be

I am, I am poet

turns to I was, I was poet.

I am, I am alive

turns to I was, I was alive.

pull out the matches

and turn ablaze my inspiration

a stroke of illusion

that someone hears

my heart’s beat,

through these words

I matter.

I am matter.

I am here.

permeable

You scan a catalogue and find options. I wake up the neighbors knocking on doors.

You know all the inside scoops. I dive into trial and error.

You call your thoughts masterpieces. I label my work in-progress.

You sound and look flawless. I stumble across words and wear my closet.

You got the world backing you up. I got the world pulling me backward.

You talk like you know about life. I talk of nothing and say it all.

When our dreams deflate, I’ll be first to float.

 

self-effaced

It’s not about you. It’s about me, always.
This is me: hopelessly lost, hopelessly self-consumed
in irrational ideas about how
if I knew you, then I would know myself.

It’s been hard pinning down my existence,
so I try to find a you to define,
someone to know forwards and backwards,
looking for the possibility I’ve been effaced
into the stare of glossy eyes that can never see me,
into the grip of hands that can never hold me,
into the warmth of a body that can never love me.

It’s not you. It’s always me.
every luscious and unpalatable
shade of my being.