Sunday, February 19, 2017

Poetry Pantry #341

Late Winter Sky

Happy Sunday, Poets.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I am getting a bit of spring fever.  Once February starts winding down I am ready for a breath of spring.  In actuality we are going to have a warmer than normal winter here.  I personally love it, but it definitely is a sign of the global warming which isn't all that good for the world.

Please do look back at Rosemary's "I Wish I'd Written This" feature, if you haven't. I always enjoy Rosemary's features, but this one (in my opinion) was one of her best.  She shared "Asma Unpacks Her Pretty Clothes" by Clive James, a poet I want to read more from.  If you like thought-provoking poetry, don't miss this one.  And....leave a comment for Rosemary as well.  We ALL like to know that our work is appreciated.

Susan had a wonderful prompt this past week....LOVE.  And this coming week Sumana is inspiring us with her prompt...... NOSTALGIA.

Be sure to return on Monday to see a a really nice blog-of-the-week feature...with someone VERY familiar to you here at Poets United.  Smiles.

With no further delay, let's share poetry.  Link your poem below.  Then leave a comment.  Truly it is nice to see comments....seems like more a a community that way!  Visit others who link.  And come back a few more times to see who else has posted.  And....please for sure be sure to visit those who visited you.  Enjoy your poetic day!

Friday, February 17, 2017

I Wish I'd Written This

Asma Unpacks Her Pretty Clothes

Wherever her main residence is now,
Asma unpacks her pretty clothes.
It takes forever: so much silk and cashmere
To be unpeeled from clinging leaves of tissue
By her ladies. With her perfect hands, she helps.

Out there in Syria, the torturers
Arrive by bus at every change of shift
While victims dangle from their cracking wrists.
Beaten with iron bars, young people pray
To die soon. This is the middle ages
Brought back to living death. Her husband’s doing.
The screams will never reach her where she is.

Asma’s uncovered hair had promised progress
For all her nation’s women. They believed her.
We who looked on believed the promise too.
But now, as she unpacks her pretty clothes,
The dream at home dissolves in agony.

Bashar, her husband, does as he sees fit
To cripple every enemy with pain.
We sort of knew, but he had seemed so modern
With Asma alongside him. His big talk
About destroying Israel: standard stuff.
A culture-changing wife offset all that.

She did, she did. I doted as Vogue did
On her sheer style. Dear God, it fooled me too,
So now my blood is curdled by the shrieks
Of people mad with grief. My own wrists hurt

As Asma, with her lustrous fingertips –
She must have thought such things could never happen –
Unpacks her pretty clothes.

– Clive James  
(From Sentenced to LifeLondon, Picador, 2015)

Expatriate Australian Clive James has lived in England since 1962, with occasional visits home. I heard him speak in the Writers' Week segment of the Perth Arts Festival in 2003. He was urbane, witty, pleasant, and quite lacking in self-importance despite his celebrated erudition.

He is sometimes described as a Renaissance man. As Wikipedia tells us, he is 'author, critic, broadcaster, poet, translator and memoirist, best known for his autobiographical series Unreliable Memoirs, for his chat shows and documentaries on British television and for his prolific journalism.'

You can find out a lot more detail about him in that article, and if you Google his name you'll find many other articles about him as well as speeches and pieces of journalism by him, and interviews in which he is the subject. He has been a prolific writer; his Amazon page runs into several pages.

His latest and probably last poetry book, Sentenced to Life, which this poem is from, is written in the consciousness of his impending death. He has been diagnosed with terminal leukemia as well as kidney failure and emphysema. Many of the poems raise issues about life and death – in general, and his own in particular. 

This poem, though, is not about himself but the wife of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: Asma, who was born, raised and educated in England. It is also, of course, a poem about death – many deaths. It reflects the horror and disillusionment most Westerners felt about Asma a few years ago, when her husband started looking like a dictator rather than the reformer he at first appeared to be. Since that time Asma, who had had a well-publicised reformist agenda herself, working with women's groups for instance, and encouraging education, has stood by her husband and spoken publicly in support of him.

Well, Middle East politics are complex; also it is impossible to know if she is coerced into saying these things or really believes them. At the time James wrote the poem, and even now, there is little doubt that her husband is indeed a brutal dictator and she does indeed justify him.

I chose the poem because I think it's an excellent example of a political poem. I like that it's not a rant but makes its points rationally, almost satirically. He shows us the dreadful everydayness of the evils he describes, with the torturers arriving by bus for their shifts. 

Asma was initially lauded in an article by Vogue (which later withdrew it from publication in the light of her current stance, which it declared at variance with Vogue's  principles). So we do know that she has lots of pretty and expensive clothes, the device James uses to show her distance from the lives of ordinary citizens.

Understatement can make an even more powerful poem than expressions of rage. I would almost say this is a poem of understatement – except that the second verse describes torture so unequivocally. But it is also described baldly. No need to apply extreme adjectives; the bare facts are quite frightful enough. James doesn't shirk them.

It's not a nice poem. It's not reassuring, comforting or hopeful. But, at a time when many of us are in despair about politics, perhaps it shows us an effective way to use our poetry. 

James often, it seems to me, writes primarily from his brain. But I look again, and see that his heart is also very definitely engaged. Consequently he can engage the hearts and brains of his readers too.

Asma and Bashar al-Assad

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Love

Fraternal love (Prehispanic sculpture from 250–900 AD, of Huastec origin). 
Museum of Anthropology in XalapaVeracruzMexico

“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, 
how much the heart can hold.” 
― Zelda Fitzgerald

“I don't trust people who don't love themselves and tell me,
'I love you.' ... There is an African saying  which is:        
Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.” 

“Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone, 
it has to be made, like bread; remade
 all the time, made new.” 

"Ai," the traditional Chinese character
for love (
) consists of a heart (, middle)
 inside of "accept," "feel," or "perceive," (
which shows a graceful emotion.
It can also be interpreted as a hand
offering one's heart to another hand.

Midweek Motif ~ Love

Would we be poets and never speak of love?  

Yesterday some of us celebrated Valentine's Day.  
I celebrated my BFF's birthday.  She collects Birthday/Valentine cards, but so few are made that I rarely find one.  
But LOVE!  Is that rare too?  
Can we celebrate it daily?  What do you wish 
you had said to someone yesterday?  

Your Challenge:  Deeply and with a few pointed words, speak of love in a new poem.

Comment by Dorothy Parker

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania.

                                  A Red, Red Rose BY ROBERT BURNS

O my Luve is like a red, red rose 
   That’s newly sprung in June; 
O my Luve is like the melody 
   That’s sweetly played in tune. 

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass, 
   So deep in luve am I; 
And I will luve thee still, my dear, 
   Till a’ the seas gang dry. 

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear, 
   And the rocks melt wi’ the sun; 
I will love thee still, my dear, 
   While the sands o’ life shall run. 

And fare thee weel, my only luve! 
   And fare thee weel awhile! 
And I will come again, my luve, 
   Though it were ten thousand mile.

Parkinson’s Disease  BY GALWAY KINNELL
While spoon-feeding him with one hand   
she holds his hand with her other hand,   
or rather lets it rest on top of his, 
which is permanently clenched shut.   
When he turns his head away, she reaches   
around and puts in the spoonful blind.   
He will not accept the next morsel 
until he has completely chewed this one.   
His bright squint tells her he finds 
the shrimp she has just put in delicious. 
Next to the voice and touch of those we love,   
food may be our last pleasure on earth— 
. . . . 
(Read the rest HERE.)

Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty According to my bond; no more nor less.
Good my lord, You have begot me, bred me, lov'd me; I Return those duties back as are right fit, Obey you, love you, and most honour you. Why have my sisters husbands, if they say They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed, That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry Half my love with him, half my care and duty. Sure I shall never marry like my sisters, To love my father all.
Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community—  
(Next week Sumana’s Midweek Motif will be ~ Nostalgia)

Monday, February 13, 2017


This week, my friends, we are flying into New Orleans to visit the poet/musician/composer, DS (David) Scott, who writes at Feral Thing. David has described his city as being “endearing to my eccentric nature.” Smiles. This young man is deeply involved in the music scene, so he is in the right spot on the planet for developing his career. Let’s stop by his studio and see what he’s up to today.

Sherry: David, will you tell us a little about your life in New Orleans?  A snapshot of the poet/composer at home?

DS: I spent a lot of time on the music scene around here, playing in bands until I got bored, and eventually built my own studio where I can write and record my own music. This gave me the opportunity to begin licensing my work to film companies, video game developers, and other multimedia projects around the world. I also have a solo music project called Nounverber where I release my own music, but I have put that aside as of late.

Sherry: Nounverber looks like a very happening site. (Kids, I urge you to explore. There are many samples of David's music on this site, as well as on Feral Thing.) David, you are also very talented with animation, special effects, and putting these videos together. They are amazing, and impressive. 

Did your creativity show itself as a child? What came first, music or writing?

DS : Music really is my main passion, but I considered myself a writer long before I wanted to be a musician. In elementary school, I would write stories in my notebook, just letting my imagination run wild, while entertaining myself. I loved to read, and this was a way of creating stories that catered specifically to my own interests.

Around this time, a few of my teachers noticed that I was slightly more creative with the written word than my academic counterparts, and they would encourage me to use that skill whenever possible. I don't think it really hit me until an assignment was given in sixth grade and my teacher followed up with "And I can't wait to see what David comes up with." That moment of recognition was a catalyst that made me want to pursue writing in some form or another, though shortly after this my love affair with music would begin, and eventually consume all of my time.

Writing then took the form of song lyrics, which were often written as poems and then mixed with a vocal melody. Then I developed an interest in more complex forms of instrumental music and the lyrics stopped. At that point, I felt that everything that could be said in words had already been covered by other musicians over time, so the only way to say something new was to not feature lyrics at all and let the music create the story.

Sherry: At nounverber you describe your music as experimental electronic jazz, which sounds very intriguing. Tell us about this, won’t you?

DS: A lot of the music that I write for myself has the complexity of jazz, but it is composed using instruments and sounds that most people would associate with electronic music. This juxtaposition is the result of living in New Orleans but having an interest in computers and the technology that is available to musicians today. I wrote a short album titled The Unjazz a while back that sounds like several musicians jamming in a room together, but it was all composed, performed, and recorded on a laptop.

Sherry: You are extremely talented, my friend. Let's take a look at one of your videos. 

DS: This is a music video for my single, titled "Receiver", on Swedish Columbia Records. 

Sherry: David, this is seriously cool! How does one go about having a song produced on a music label? That seems remarkable, in such a competitive industry.

DS: Thank you! My record label guy did the editing, and I gave him ideas. I supplied some of the footage (which was some Creative Commons thing we discovered on a video site.) I wrote all of the music, and yes, that is my voice going through a digital vocorder. The song needed a dark, robotic vocal track to complement all of the other digital things happening in it.

I met the head of the label through a mutual friend whom I collaborated with on his own album a few years ago. We were both on the soundtrack to a popular computer game in 2015, and decided to write some music together. His label guy (his name is Shelby Cinca) liked my music and wanted to work with me in some capacity. Then I was offered a chance to write a small soundtrack for another video game that was coming out, so we made it into an album with a video. The game has been put on hold indefinitely, so we are selling the album as a stand-alone piece of music.

Sherry: Innate talent, and wonderful connections, based on a shared love of music. A perfect combination. Would you give us a glimpse of your musical influences and loves?

DS: I grew up on rock music, then when I hit my teens I felt that punk rock was closer to what I was feeling as an outsider in school. I went through different periods of interest as time went on, feeling out different genres and bookmarking the ones that had the deepest impact on me. In the end, I found that anything can affect me in any style if the melody says something to me. I really do love music as a whole, except when it is created for the sole purpose of affixing a price tag to it in order for a marginally talented individual to become a household name.

Sherry: Oh so very well said. You are a true musician. Is there one person you would say has been a significant influence on you as a poet/composer? Someone who encouraged your gifts?

DS: After I stopped writing lyrics for a decade or so, there was an event that occurred in my life and I had a lot of emotions that I had to sort through. It
was difficult to examine them as they swam around in my head, so I decided to write something so that I could see them in front of me. Put them on paper, make them tangible, process them. It didn't start off as a poem or anything specific, but when I felt that I had put enough down on paper it resembled a poem more than anything. I wondered if I could do that again, and before long I had filled up a few pages. I have no idea what made me think that other people would be interested in reading them.

Sherry: Poets are often talented in more than one area. You are a fine example of this. You mentioned you have resumed writing again only recently, after a six year hiatus. I assume you were busy with your musical career during those years. What brought you back to poetry? What are the particular joys of poetry for you?

DS: After so long of not saying anything, you find that you have everything to say. Whether or not these things are important to other people makes no difference, since the act of writing and creating small collectives of ideas are the rewards themselves. However, when I come up with a line that feels like a gunshot and someone reads it and says "That line hit me right in the heart," that is an added perk. Knowing your aim is true enough to strike people the same way is gratuity.

Personally, I really enjoy poetry that comes from an unexpected angle and shines a new light in a corner that I didn't know was there. The artist Bob Ross had an amazing technique and I enjoyed watching him paint, but I would never want to own a Bob Ross painting. I know what a tree looks like. The thousandth mountain looks a lot like the first one. The last thing I want people to visualize is me writing in a black room with a light blue button down shirt and a giant afro, jotting down all the happy trees on yet another one of my mountains.

Sherry: I am cackling. I happen to be a tree-and-mountain kind of poet. But I adore the new eyes with which young people see and describe the world. On that note, let's take a look at one of your poems, my friend. Show me your trees!

V Or Bunny Ears Or…Some Awkward Exit

I find company where no children live; 
laughing with barren mothers, admiring 
the shadowy trees my left hand shapes 
of fingers stretched at less than perfect 
angles - a sad cigarette dangles - drinking 
what is left of the best blood around town. 
Chasing a spark that may have never been 
lit, I follow my senses through the faint 
smoke in the endless fountain of city air 
& waiting for me is an old vacant stool 
next to a Rottweiler named Zoey & 
her handler for the evening. We were all 
cool inside of the sudden pressure as the 
barometer struck midnight (may someone 
help us if our lungs are lulled to sleep). 
This all plays across my fuzzy pupils as I 
felt the drool seeping through my left sleeve 
& Zoey was resting on my sleeping arm now, 
abandoned by a man she never quite knew 
(clinging to another that she never would) 

& as humidity forced my sudden departure, 
I tied her leash to her chair, frowned a smile 
& said "Don't worry. Someone's gonna find 
a way to love you" & flashed a peace sign 
goodbye, my arm still warm from the release 
of her thick broken heart, elbow to wrist 
and every sensitive spot in between.

Sherry: Oh my goodness, I can see Zoey and my heart breaks for her. I love what you said to her, and hope someone does find and love her patient, disappointed heart. You have a gift for painting a scene so clearly the reader feels right inside the poem.

DS: This is a true story. It was at a bar in the French Quarter and we were celebrating someone's birthday, but the overall vibe was just kind of sullen. This guy put his dog on the stool next to me and went on talking to his friends down the bar. I sat there smoking and drinking and watching this animal as if I had just inherited it. You know how a dog's eyes can look like they are holding an infinite amount of sadness? I just felt so bad for her in this place where she didn't want to be, listening to voices she couldn't understand while people indulged in things she couldn't enjoy. She put her head down on the bar and her mouth was on my arm, so I just let her enjoy that human contact for what it was worth until I couldn't be there for her anymore.

Sherry: You gave her the kindness and companionship her oblivious owner seems incapable of. Sigh. I love that you were there for her until you couldn't be. Tell us another?


a p o l o g i e s.

We cannot call the deceased author's collection a posthumous


After reviewing




there is absolutely 



evidence that 


was ever 

i t a l i c s

p e r i o d


Sherry: I love it! Humorous and very wry.

DS: This is just something that I enjoy doing. I like to take a singular point and make a spectacle out of it. In the field of poetry, my all-time hero is ee cummings, whose manipulation of language and structure blew the roof off of post-modernism. I have never seen such complex ideas be forged from so few words. Now and then, I'll play with structure like it is a new thing that I have yet to grasp, though I am not so naive as to think that I am doing anything groundbreaking. Call it a tribute, call it a mockery, call it what you will. I'm no cummings, but I do enjoy making a mess of things.

Sherry: What are your hopes and dreams for the years ahead?

DS: I would like to compile all of the things I have written into a book. Maybe accompany it with an album of unreleased music. If only I could learn to paint, I could create my own album artwork as well and hit the trifecta in one single package. Maybe a crayon sketch would be suitable.

Sherry: I hope you do it all, kiddo! How did you find us at Poets United? Is there anything you’d like to say to us?

DS: Honestly, I have been lurking here for so long that I don't recall how or when I ran across the site. I enjoy the diversity of all the contributions to each prompt. I feel that I have learned a lot about how contemporary writers think, what channel they're tuned into, and what areas are getting too much or not enough attention. This is truly the pulse of what we do.

Sherry: Thank you, David, for this wonderful visit. I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes glimpse of a composer at work.

We hope you enjoyed this feature, friends. Do come back and see who we talk to next. (Hint: one of our wonderful staff members is sharing some breathtaking poems. You won't want to miss it!)