Field Notes, Week of 12-21-21

Arthur Russell‘s recap of The Red Wheelbarrow Poets’ Workshop of December 21, 2021

We had a great workshop.  

Jennifer Poteet
‘s “Bird in a Box” compares good poems to skating, to eels, to electric current down the spine, to the thrill of being undressed by a first lover, to crashing a bike after learning to ride one, and the pounding of the heart in the chest after that crash, to a bird in a box. Then the poem screeches to a halt:  Why? Because, it is revealed that the lover, the who one who unbuttoned of the speaker’s blouse, button by button, was a real person, one who, “after a third marriage” tells the speaker “the doctor gives him six months to live.” It is the boldest sort of strategy, in which the poem is pulled out of its conceit by reality and the crash of the bicycle morphs into a real life catastrophe.  Bravo, Jen.

John J. Trause brought a movie commentary sort of poem called “Craning to See a Hotel Room” that mixed references to the movies “Psycho” and “Touch of Evil” to delve into the issues of exploitation and voyeurism.

The title of Frank Rubino‘s poem, “Days of rogation,” refers to meatless feast days in the Catholic calendar, and to a larger meditation on the modern meat industry, but at its best, it slides, meditatively, into a consideration of the unaccountable pain and solace of love:  “no one/ will love my ear-wax, love my funny toe…./ no one / should be allowed in there, but here you are!/  One time you… showed me guyswith giant cocks and… I cried/ inside but …/I come from people with zucchini heads/ some of them… gnarled beautifully like mountain cedars…”

You can’t teach talent like that.

My poem, “Her Silver Rings in the Dish by the Bed” was a sonnet-length domestic love poem.  Frank saw it as a sonnet.  Yana said it changes the sonnet tradition by paying attention to an older woman. Frank liked the fact that it “starts with a thesis and proves it out,” somewhat metaphysically.

Susanna Lee‘s poem was also about domestic romance.  It was called “Poem for the Rising of the Winter Solstice Moon.”  It spoke in a “room of one’s own way” about maintaining private space in the home, but veered towards the sadness of isolation in life later in marriage, with couples sleeping apart and the speaker’s parents “gone.”  Then, somewhat miraculously it slouched towards communion of a deeply mature sort, when the vibrant moon seen separately gave the couple something to talk about.  Deft work.

Preeti Shah‘s poem, “My Name” was a purely lyrical piece in the form of a personal history. When she was young her “Name/ caught light the wet riggings/ of palak in some hesitant throat.” In India, it “comforted/ as Maa’s home dish…”  In America, she comically compares it the Heimlich maneuver.  And finally, in along lyrical passage, she conjures the feeling of her name in her own mouth as a beautiful meal “aching to be tasted/ by all tongues/ that still missed their homes.” Beautiful.

Speaking of foreign locales, Carole Stone‘s “Down Mexico Way” imagines the figure of Death in several disguises: as a guitar player, an American tourist, as a cyber researcher peeking at her “Facebook” page, and as a waiter at a Mexican restaurant, where her deceased parents show up and “light up cigarillos.”
 
Yana Kane‘s “The Doll House” takes dollhouses to task for their lifelessness, their obscuration of “any flaws:” for example the “mother in the kitchen” who is always and forever pulling “a blueberry pie from the oven.” And the father in the parlor, who “never tires of reading the same newspaper.” It was a creepy poem, for sure, something between Twilight Zone and Stepford Wives.

Raymond Turco‘s “Verona” creates a vibrant tonal sketch of the town with a curious allusion to an unproven theory that the name “Verona” is a bastardization of “Vera Roma” meaning “the one true Rome.”

JJT called Brendan‘s poem, “Waterfall in Winter” “high Romantic,” and “Tennysonian.” It depicts the hidden space behind a waterfall where a kind of shrine is maintained, literally maintained, as its “drooping lilies” are replaced —by the speaker—with “fresh ones” and the old ones are cast into the “crashing water.”  Yet, when he leaves he swears he will never be back.  Mysterious, and somber.

Janet Kolstein‘s “The White Bird” (not in the package) is either a dream, a surreal vision, or just another day on the Lower East Side.  It presents a bird perched on the speaker’s shoulder that talks, shops for clothes, takes a bath in warm water, and is grabbed by barber who wakes up after sleeping on the street outside his shop. The speaker then pats the bird dry with a “paper towel, to avoid his getting chilled/ when he turns into a cat.” I’m voting for ‘just another day on the Lower East Side.’

Thank you all for coming; see you at the next workshop.

—Arthur Russell

RWB 14 Soft Launch featuring the Red Wheelbarrow Poets

If you missed our virtual, soft launch of The Red Wheelbarrow #14, here is the recording of the event. Arthur Russell emcees as poets from The Red Wheelbarrow read their poems from the book. Frank Rubino is the featured poet.

Order The Red Wheelbarrow #14 here.

WCW—Jennifer Franklin—May 1st

Williams Readings-JFranklin-May2019.indd

For the month of May, the Gang of Five is excited to feature Jennifer Franklin, a NYC poet of exceptional talent.

Please join us on Wednesday, May 1st, 2019, 7:00 PM at the William Carlos Williams Center, One Williams Plaza in Rutherford NJ to hear Jennifer.

About our feature:

Whether ekphrasis or autobiography, Jennifer Franklin‘s hard-hitting poems make personal heartache universal through her choice of detail, imagery, and deep compassion. Her work has a hypnotic quality so breathtakingly immediate in its ability to engross the reader, one almost forgets how startlingly beautiful the visuals, the metaphors, and the language are, line after line.

Please note: We must now pay $100 per month rent for the use the Williams Center for our readings. This is in addition to the $100 per month rent the Red Wheelbarrow workshop must pay for the use of their space in the Williams Center.

We need your help to survive and continue to hold our monthly readings. We will be asking for donations. A $5 per person donation is suggested. If we all contribute, we can pay the rent!

You can follow everything about the Red Wheelbarrow, its events and poets at these sites:
Blog – https://redwheelbarrowpoets.wordpress.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RWBPoets
Twitter – @RWBPoets.

WCW-Lynn McGee & Kryssa Schemmerling— April 3

Williams Readings-Lynn-Kryssa-Apr2019.indd

For the month of April, the Gang of Five is excited to co-feature Lynn McGee and Kryssa Schemmerling, two NYC poets of exceptional talent.

Please join us on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, 7:00 PM at the William Carlos Williams Center, One Williams Plaza in Rutherford NJ to hear Lynn and Kryssa.

About our features:

Lynn McGee‘s latest book Tracks (Broadstone Books, 2019) draws on observations along her daily commute on the New York City subways, and she captures both the urban landscape and her fellow riders with great sensitivity. Most importantly, it speaks of the tracks we leave in one another’s lives in moving poems about her sister whose memory haunts her commutes. These are poems of passage, through space and time, light and dark, through life and beyond it, and McGee exhorts us to breathe in each moment along the way.

Kryssa Schemmerling‘s collection Iris In (Broadstone Books, 2016) is inspired by her memories growing up in California in a place where the boundaries between film and real life were truly blurred, personal history and Hollywood history bound inextricably together. Schemmerling retains her childhood sense of wonder and joins it with an encyclopedic knowledge of the cinema. The result are poems that capture the reader, as mesmerizing as the images flickering on the screen in a darkened theatre. You can almost smell the popcorn.

Please note: We must now pay $100 per month rent for the use the Williams Center for our readings. This is in addition to the $100 per month rent the Red Wheelbarrow workshop must pay for the use of their space in the Williams Center.

We need your help to survive and continue to hold our monthly readings. We will be asking for donations. A $5 per person donation is suggested. If we all contribute, we can pay the rent!

You can follow everything about the Red Wheelbarrow, its events and poets at these sites:
Blog – https://redwheelbarrowpoets.wordpress.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RWBPoets
Twitter – @RWBPoets.

RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Mar 19

Bobbie O’Connor

Maywood Memories

It wasn’t illegal to burn leaves
or have open fires, back then.

Every once in a while,
we’d rake up a huge pile of leaves
from our big oak trees on Fairmount Ave.

We’d bring them
to the end of the dirt driveway,
on the Coles Street side:
no sidewalks there.

The grownups would light the leaves
for a big bonfire.
It was usually early evening.

The neighborhood kids
would begin congregating there.

Soon, a few of the moms
would appear with lawn chairs,
one or two with a cup of coffee.
A couple of dads would meander over.

Someone would show up with a few hotdogs,
and some would bring marshmallows.

Quite a few would disappear
and be back shortly with a couple of potatoes,
which they’d stuff into the leaves
around the base of the fire, to bake.

The grownups would sit around,
talking a little.
We kids would hang around,
poking the leaves with sticks,
listening to the grownups talk.

Every so often, an acorn would pop.

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Blog – http://redwheelbarrowpoets.org
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RWBPoets
Twitter – https://twitter.com/RWBPoets

GV—POW 3 Celebration—March 29

Gv-collage

IRISH, LATINX, AND POETIC CULTURES COMBINE AT GAINVILLE ON MARCH 29!

The Magic Circle series returns to GainVille Café Friday, March 29, at 7 PM. We speak all kinds of creative this time! Our musical feature is Irish piper BRENDAN FOGARTY and Irish vocalist FIONA CONWAY in a popular St. Patrick’s Day encore. Latinx poet and prose writer REBECCA CARVALHO will demonstrate her focus on relationships/sex, wellness, food, and travel/leisure. And workshop poets from the POEM OF THE WEEK 3 anthology will share their best-in-show poetry. Also featuring the Red Wheelbarrow Poets’ Bring-Your-A-Game open mic.

A $9 cover includes coffee/tea, dessert.

7 PM, GainVille Café
17 Ames Avenue, Rutherford
201-507-1800

RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Mar 19

Mark Fogarty

IN THE RANDOM HOUSE

5. Warm

It’s warm in my house, overwarm even.

That makes me remember the raw day we visited the Wilson Ranch.
The Wilson Ranch is where Wovoka lived in Nevada
as a boy, under the Christian name Jack Wilson.
It was so generous warm in the sitting room I commented on it.

“The ranch is always warm,” said the lady of the house.
“I attribute that to Wovoka having lived here.”
Jack Wilson had lived at the ranch more than one hundred years before,
a long time to keep a place warm.
From there he proved out to be Wovoka, a great medicine man, a rain maker,
a bit of a trickster wearing a big hat until struck by a dream
that made believers call him the Messiah.
People came from all over to his part of Nevada to see him,
even me, eventually. They brought back his prayer dance to where
the soldiers gunned down his dreamers at Wounded Knee,
false-gold soldiers scared by a dream
that joined the Native and the Christian soul so beautifully.

They couldn’t tell it was a miraculous dream rather than a war dream.
Twenty of the soldier-butchers won the Medal of Honor.

The buffalo have come back, I have seen them,
he didn’t misdream that. His ghost dance
may be used again, some day. The great flood Wovoka saw,
to carry off the base invaders, to bring back the ancestors,
could happen any year now, with the climate change.
Maybe we should dance to ward it off,
feet bloody in the snow until we fall down spent.
Maybe that devotion would save the world we have,
that is on the point of ending as surely as the one the Indians knew.

I think we should; I think we should pray.
I should like to see my mother again. I should like to see my father.

They say if you looked inside Wovoka’s hat,
you could see the entire universe.
I don’t think he was bogus,
though he might have seeded the trees with ice
before he made the rain fall.
I can say I will call a white horse
down from the mountain, as he did,
but I don’t know if one will come, as one came to him.
I have felt his warmth one hundred years later,
a miracle if you like, and I take my hat off to him.
White horse, white horse. That
was a powerful dream, a warm dream for a cold day,
a dream that would make us all one people.

It is sleepy warm in my house this morning.
But that’s from the radiators, not me.

Maybe God is a magic God, a trickster God,
who zaps us with dreams so vivid
we rise into the air and know our true purpose. Maybe he likes
white horses and the warmth
of an oasis in the Nevada desert.
Maybe creation is only clear when we dance.
Maybe the old people do come back, and see through our eyes.

 

The Paiute medicine man Wovoka (ca. 1856-1932) had an apocalyptic vision in Nevada around New Year’s Day, 1889, inspiring the Ghost Dance religion which spread rapidly through the indigenous tribes of the West until its Lakota adherents were gunned down in the Wounded Knee, SD massacre of Dec. 29, 1890. The frenzied devotional dancing of the Indians made authorities believe they were planning an outbreak of hostilities. Wovoka (the name means “cutter” or “woodcutter” in Paiute), was also called by his Christian name, Jack Wilson, and was often referred to as the Paiute Messiah because he believed the proper performance of the Ghost Dance would resurrect the ancestors of the Native peoples. He is remembered by modern Paiute as a transformational holy man, and the Ghost Dance remains one of the most powerful manifestations of religious spirit ever seen on this continent. I once had the honor of hearing his granddaughter sing songs Wovoka taught her when she was a little girl.

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Blog – http://redwheelbarrowpoets.org
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RWBPoets
Twitter – https://twitter.com/RWBPoets

RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Mar 12

Janet Kolstein

Uber Man

Perhaps he wasn’t expecting
a woman in a wheelchair,
a puffy down coat thrown over
a pair of burgundy-red
plaid pajamas.

Leaden sky above, Hudson to the East;
it was a quick lift, a half-mile up the street.

The Uber driver could not read the sign
that said “Ambulences Only,”
and so he tried to decipher
the esoteric code for the keyboard
on the wall by the doors
which, of course,
would not open.

“Around the corner,” the ailing woman
repeated and repeated,
“Pull around the corner,” she said,
hand gestures and all,

so, he got back in the car
and drove to the other
“Emergency Entrance”
where he kindly offered
to wheel his fare
up the slight incline
which, at first,
she thought to decline,
not wanting to be
a bother.

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Blog – http://redwheelbarrowpoets.org
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RWBPoets
Twitter – https://twitter.com/RWBPoets

RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Mar 5

Claudia Serea

The clarinet

When my grandfather walked into the room,
shorter and much older
than I remembered him,
playing the clarinet
with a group of musicians,

I was cooking six large mums
in a sweet and sour heart sauce.

I couldn’t see their faces
obscured by their woodwind
and brass instruments,
fat saxophones,
oboes, and duduks,
trumpets, trombones, and tubas,
gleaming like gold teeth.

When did you learn to play the clarinet?
I asked,
but he didn’t answer.

I served him the mums
and the bleeding hearts
and went outside to hang
silhouettes of unborn children
on the clothesline.

It was early spring,
freezing and raw.

My grandfather and the musicians
played their wind instruments
at the funeral of the century

and walked slowly over the hill
behind the truck with the coffins
until they disappeared.

Only the clarinet kept wailing
in the cold wind.

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Blog – http://redwheelbarrowpoets.org
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RWBPoets
Twitter – https://twitter.com/RWBPoets

RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Feb 19

John Barrale

My Mother’s Cancer

All the years
of her unhappiness
finally blossomed,

the wild flowers spreading
in sepia clusters,

in sepia clusters,

in sepia clusters,

(so many clusters)

(so many clusters)

the wild flowers spreading

from the soft pockets
of her bones,

from the soft pockets
of her bones,

(so many pockets)

(so many bones)

all her summer coins

in the pockets,

in the pockets,

in those pockets.

The light,
so many colors,
so many coins,
she whispered.


Frank Rubino

THE BLUE FAMILY

Our four, you never knew what was next.
We made our house twice as big and gave them all rooms
when we got married. We added bathrooms too.
When I was their age, we had one bathroom
for five people. A small nook with a tub
and toilet crammed in. A plunger in the corner.
I remember the narrow door, how I used to
bastion myself in there for hours with books.
I still read many of the same books
in the bathroom: I kept them all these years.
My mother used to say of the poetry,
“You are so much better!”

Dad’s aluminum coffee pot was three pieces stacked.
I could draw you a diagram today of the pourer
on the bottom with its nose-sized spout,
the basket set on top of it
where we’d scoop Maxwell House,
and the topmost piece, the dripper reservoir
that set in the basket pressing down the grounds.
I believe an understanding of this coffee process and its equipment
trained my mind to create global computer networks.
Most people can understand coffee,
but they don’t think they know
anything about computer networks.
Somehow I do. Somehow, they do.

With the drywall off, we found the original studs of our house
were all stained blue. The builders had never seen that
on any other job: I think that is what they said, in Spanish.
Barbara expected me to understand them.
Now we know every day there is a blue skeleton,
blue heartbeat. It makes sense for this family.
Our son went out this morning for new tires.
He’s going to expect a zoomy, new-sneaker feeling
like when he first tried skating, expecting to fly around the ice,
but his knees shook and his legs collapsed and he cried.
It took him years to try again; he showed me
a phone video, him finally steady on rented skates
at South Mountain Arena, his girlfriend’s voice in the background.
I put my hand on his shoulder, felt his strong chest: “You skated!”
Right now, he’s driving home on new tires.

Something else during construction: we had a big soft cat
who liked to hide in clever places. One wall that had been open
to blue studs was closed that day and the cat was missing,
and putting my ear to the closed wall I discovered
she was hiding back there behind the nailed in, spackled
dry-board. With claw hammers, we cracked through to free her.

The workmen saw the ragged hole next day and laughed,
making cat jokes in Spanish I only half-caught.

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