Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Poet United Midweek Motif ~ Moon

lunar eclipse AP
A Lunar Eclipse Glows Red

“Just like moons and suns,
With certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.”
                                                       ― Maya Angelou

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. - Buddha

“The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore?" 

"Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon, that look down upon your brothers and sisters, and which they see as they look up to them, though they are ever so far away from us, and each other." 


Midweek Motif ~ Moon
Today is a special day for the moon:  

Today you may witness a "Super" blue moon, coinciding with a lunar eclipse for the 1st time in 150 years.  Moonlight and lunacy, light and shadow, ever leaving and ever returning ~ 

Your Challenge: Does today's convergence magnify or change the moon's character?  Make a new poem  for the moon, using a perspective new to you.


by Ted Hughes

A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket -
And you listening.
A spider's web, tense for the dew's touch.
A pail lifted, still and brimming - mirror
To tempt a first star to a tremor.

Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their warm
wreaths of breath -
A dark river of blood, many boulders,
Balancing unspilled milk.
'Moon!' you cry suddenly, 'Moon! Moon!'

The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work
That points at him amazed.

After dark
Near the South Dakota border,
The moon is out hunting, everywhere,
Delivering fire,
And walking down hallways
Of a diamond.

Behind a tree,
It ights on the ruins
Of a white city
Frost, frost.

Where are they gone
Who lived there?

Bundled away under wings
And dark faces.

I am sick
Of it, and I go on
Living, alone, alone,
Past the charred silos, past the hidden graves
Of Chippewas and Norwegians.

This cold winter
Moon spills the inhuman fire
Of jewels
Into my hands.

Dead riches, dead hands, the moon
And I am lost in the beautiful white ruins
Of America.


Full Moon by Du Fu

by Claude McKay
The moonlight breaks upon the city's domes,
And falls along cemented steel and stone,
Upon the grayness of a million homes,
Lugubrious in unchanging monotone.
Upon the clothes behind the tenement,
That hang like ghosts suspended from the lines,
Linking each flat to each indifferent,
Incongruous and strange the moonlight shines.

There is no magic from your presence here,
Ho, moon, sad moon, tuck up your trailing robe,
Whose silver seems antique and so severe
Against the glow of one electric globe.

o spill your beauty on the laughing faces
Of happy flowers that bloom a thousand hues,
Waiting on tiptoe in the wilding spaces,
To drink your wine mixed with sweet drafts of dews. 

Monday, January 29, 2018


Today we are meeting with one of our newer members, Barry Dawson Jr. IV, who writes at the intriguingly titled HEPHAESTUS’ WASTE AND COSMIC RUBBLE. Every poet has a story, and Barry's is an amazing one, which includes service in the Navy. Pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee, and draw your chairs in close. You won't want to miss a single word.

Sherry: Barry, it is so nice to be meeting with you. First, I have to ask the meaning behind the name of your blog.

Barry: I feel a bit silly discussing this, mostly because creating the title was a pretty absurd concept, but I’ll give it a go. First, I’ll share a poem I wrote for 2016’s NaPoWriMo:

Hephaestus’ Waste

Hephaestus strained,
stumbled on lame foot
while smithing
warhammers for
warring gods,
blowing bellows
into the kiln,
spark begetting
cosmic inferno,
fusing hydrogen
into helium-ash,
photons flying
in all directions,
consumed by flora,
discarding oxygen
inhaled by man,
exhaled into
a poem

Hephaestus was a Greek god. He was the son of Zeus and Hera and served as the blacksmith of the gods. Hephaestus also served as the god of fire, masonry, metalworking, kilns, and the arts (specifically sculpture). He is often depicted as lame and ugly. I’d go on, but you could probably read his Wikipedia page as well as I can. :)

For my title, I was going for an oxymoron; something grandiose and insignificant. I liked the idea of poetry being created accidentally, as some inconsequential spillage of a clumsy, dorky god too focused on his primary task to notice the mess pooling at his clumsy, lame feet. Poetry, as cosmic rubble, if you will. I know it sounds silly, but my previous blog was titled My Libido Wears a Tuxedo, which is pretty self-explanatory. And even before that, when I was doing mostly humorous essays, my old blog was called Trite ClichΓ©s and Inevitable Truisms. I know my way around a silly title or three.

Sherry: Very creative indeed. Where do you live, Barry?

Barry: I live several minutes northeast of Seattle, Washington, nestled in the bosom of a temperate rainforest, with my wife, Erin, and our children, Danielle and Robert. I also have a daughter, Dana, who lives with my ex-wife. I am an IT Support professional. By day, I worked in IT tech support for a US federal agency before the contract ended in November. I promise that my day job adventures aren’t even as remotely interesting as I’ve written here. I’ll try not to bring it up again.

Sherry: Smiles. You are a hop, skip and a jump from me, on the wonderful West Coast. You have such a beautiful family!

Where did you grow up, Barry? When you look back at that boy, can you see any hints he would become a writer? Was there someone who you feel was a significant influence in you following your dreams? 

Barry: It’s difficult for me to know exactly how much to share here without either getting too dense and negative, or leaving it too shallow and glib, so I’ll just wing it and see where things land. I was born on the West side of Chicago to a lower-middle-class family. I was first-born. My brother, and closest confidant, Phil, came six years later. There was love, struggle, and pain in mostly equal parts. My parents were young and didn’t have many healthy emotional support resources at their disposal. They both made mistakes and poor choices in their youth, but they did the best they could by me and Phil.

Barry and Phil

My parents separated when I was six years old after something terrible happened, and I spent my remaining childhood with mom, bouncing between rent-controlled slums, my maternal grandmother’s home, and several housing projects. We struggled to survive in poverty conditions, and never really put down roots anywhere. As a natural introvert, I soon became weary of struggling to make friends, only to have them ripped away from me when we had to move within a year or two. To cope, I built an emotional firewall around my already natural reclusiveness. I also learned to use humor to parry and counter external threats encroaching upon my inner world. I had exclusive adventures mostly within my imagination, and often by extension via books, poetry, and later videogames. I struggle with this quirk even today.

Sherry: How touching it is, to see the closeness between you and your little brother. You look like his protector. And I think most poets have a somewhat reclusive streak. I certainly do.

Barry: Mom gets all the credit for helping me to enrich and fortify my young imagination, by exposing me to life beyond what was happening on our block. She filled my formative years with a love for reading, science, and museums. We would sometimes skip school and go to museums and planetariums together. Dad lectured me on setting my sights higher than his trade as a printing press operator, but Mom did the heavy-lifting.

I cannot recall the first time I put pen to paper for myself, but I felt like a poet long before then. Probably because of an active imagination, I’ve always felt displaced from my circumstances; like I was observing rather than participating in my own life. 

My first poem was probably a diss-rap aimed at one of my cousins when I was 12 or 13. My dad’s girlfriend found it, and that was pretty much the end of my hip-hop career. She liked how it flowed, but didn’t appreciate all the colorful cuss-words sprinkled through it. It’s for the best, as I was a shy kid and there’s no such thing as a timid rapper. I wrote love notes in high school, and I tinkered here and there, but nothing serious. 

My poetic voice truly found a footing in my late twenties, after an ex-girlfriend broke my heart. Oh yeah… I “Taylor Swift-ed” her big time. That was fifteen years ago and we’re cool now, but yeah, I was the emo, purple-prose kid for quite a while after that.

Sherry: I can see you. I am smiling. Been there. The teen years are hard on sensitive poets.

Barry: A few years later, in 2003, I found a website called okayplayer. The Freestyle Forum section is where many aspiring MC’s, “net-cee’s” (a playful, often pejorative term for guys like me who write rap lyrics, but don’t perform), and poets sharpen their skills and share their written art. I was intimidated at first, but I soon found myself honing and sharing my craft as well as workshopping with others. My fondest memory is being asked to participate in a ten-artist collaboration. I felt like I finally belonged somewhere, which is a pretty big deal for me. I’m still friends with poets and artists from the site, and I poke my head in there from time to time, but for the most part, the core group that I associated with has moved on to other projects. In 2005, I collected many of my poems from Freestyle and self-published a poetry collection. That was pretty neat. It got rave reviews from my former hairstylist.

From there, I branched out into freelance writing for sports blogs and film reviews. It was a short stint for me, as sports blogs became saturated with insightful writers and YouTube became flush with dynamic reviewers. Plus, my stuff was pretty mediocre and mostly terrible, so no big. I was a hacky review guy and a pretty wack sports guy, but through all of that, there was always my poetry. I’m probably not there yet (wherever “there” is), but I guess I’m an OK poet now.
Sherry: Yes, you are, and we're happy you found us! Barry, we'd love to hear about your years in the Navy. And thank you so much for your service!

Boot Camp

Barry: I joined the Navy in 1991, shortly after graduating from high school and marrying my high school sweetheart and future ex-wife (let’s call her “P”). I reported for duty in February, 1992. I served for six years as a Fire Controlman in the advanced electronics field. I trained to perform preventive and corrective maintenance on radars and missile/gun fire-control targeting computers. I helped decommission the USS Jouett in 1993/94, and I served my last three years on the USS Ingraham, ported in Everett, WA. This concludes my military summary. Thank you and have a fine Navy day.

I’d like to say that I heard the call of the warrior or that I felt the need to defend my country, but the truth is far less patriotic. I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I didn’t have a plan. My relationship with my mom had deteriorated, and I was living day to day in survival mode. I was 16 and I just happened to be at P’s house while her Navy recruiter stopped by to give her a practice exam. He encouraged me to test as well. His eyes boggled at my score, and after that, he wouldn’t leave me alone. He followed me through high school hallways, telling me about the great adventure ahead of me that was so much greater than my current struggles. As I had nothing going on, it didn’t take much convincing to get me to swear-in. (only the University of Iowa sent me a college packet, but I knew I needed money first, education second.)

(P never qualified for the Navy and chose to live out her dreams vicariously through me – a guy who was seemingly effortlessly qualified, and only joining the Navy in lieu of starvation. Let’s just say there was plenty of friction, envy, and resentment within our sham of a marriage. There was love, but fear was the major motivating factor in us eloping. Fear of being alone. This and other mitigating factors doomed our relationship and friendship years later.)

My recruiter may have oversold the adventure part, but he was proven to be right about everything. I was still a kid when I finished bootcamp and apprentice school. I was essentially an immature child playing sailor when I reported to the USS Jouett, so I was lucky to report to a ship that was decommissioning (BTW: The Navy sent me to a six-month technical school to learn an obsolete weapons system, and then they sent me from the east coast to the west coast just to help unplug/box-up a fire control computer and turn off the lights. Your tax dollars at work.)

Reporting to the USS Ingraham was when my true Navy career began, three years into a six-year enlistment. The senior staff and leadership structure of the USS Ingraham finished off my parenting, and boy did I make things harder than they had to be. I was a knucklehead, but they straightened me out. I learned a great deal about personal accountability and formed the building blocks of adult-me on the deck of that ship. I struggled and failed, but I also exceled and had lots of fun. I even had two greenhorns reporting to me before I was honorably discharged from service. One guy was super-naive like I was near the beginning of my career, and the other was a corner-cutting slacker like I was at year three. I bet my superiors had a good ironic laugh at how frustrated those two made me at times.

Sherry: I'll bet! Smiles. Barry, what do you love about poetry?

Barry: I love the way poetry connects me to my emotions, and the way it connects me to other poets and readers. Words written by people thousands of years ago moved and helped inspire me to transcend childhood poverty and eventually share my own unique thoughts with others. Thoughts that are uniquely mine can inspire others today, and vice-versa. Perhaps thousands of years from now, a kid growing up in poverty will be uplifted by words written by me, sitting here in my study in my pajamas, being annoyed and enriched by Erin’s hug-interruptions. It is mundane and amazing. It is trivial and essential.

At Leavenworth

We are collections of molecules using chemical-electrical impulses to create abstract concepts, beautiful ideas, and complex emotions to understand and/or bond with other collections of molecules. The practice of poetry, if not immortality, is at least a special kind of alchemy. We are all alchemists, some of us cheating death in our own way.

My God, when did I turn into such a freaking crystal-hugging, pretentious hippie? I swear, they never should’ve legalized marijuana around here.

Sherry: LOL. Would you like to choose three of your poems? And tell us a bit about each?

This was more difficult than I imagined. I think this first one is a good start, in keeping with my naval-gazing naval-nostalgia…


I was a small child the first time I saw a sailor
It was on an elevated train in the Chicago Loop
His dress blues made him resemble a Greek deity
Though I couldn’t determine which one
He smiled, winked, gave me a Fonzie thumbs-up
I could see my wide-eyed reflection in his shoes
Sometimes, I can see the future
But I don’t always know it when I see it

Seawater can be used to exchange heat for cooling
Seawater will dehydrate you if you drink it
Dolphins love playing in the wake of warships
Flying fish exist; they aren’t just suicidal birds
King Neptune sings the greatest lullabies
I am numb to the buffeting sea wind
The salty sea-spray preserves my youth

I allow kids to find their own reflections

** *

Sherry: I love that closing line especially. 

Barry: Looking back, I do a lot of confessional poetry. I look at it as a form of self-therapy, validating my existence by reminding myself who I was, who I am, and where I’m from. Consider this more self-therapy:

Crown Prince of the Stoop

I am from concrete and asphalt
Twisted metal vines and closed doors with keyholes
A brownstone with address etched in memory
Of cookouts and clarity of purpose lost to history

I am from wood-paneling and artistry
The Zen of autumn leaves and spring breeze
I am from structure and superstructure
I am the discipline in its absence

I am from invisible blood-soaked tenements
Where we feared both the criminal and the lawman
Where my little bro learned to draw homes
With iron bars over the windows

I am from a sociology experiment gone awry
Stacked atop one another like animals
Sprinkle a few magic rocks through the hood
And laugh as it burns itself to the ground

I'm from a woman who was raised in the slums
Who raised me and my little bro in the slums
But she was not of the slums
Her heart was molded from foreign rare gems
Forged in the heart of stars billions of years ago
She carried herself with a galactic grace
And demanded the same from her princely sons
She is from where potential becomes kinetic
She is from where daydreams dare to scream
"Why not me? Why the fuck not, us?"                       

I'm from a man forged in iron-rich Mississippi mud
A man who I ain't never seen lose a fight
A man who endured painful burdens with a smirk
With a backbone fortified with calcified pride
Never bent, always elongated, stretching to the heavens
Filling my head with starships, multiple realities
Alternate possibilities of existence, taking the lead
Defending myself, little brother, family, and country
With a quiet swagger and my own smirk, slurring
“Why not me? Why the fuck not, us?”

I am from a place of problematic punchlines
Where opportunity is denied, violence decried
Knowing we can never commit to peace eternal
Where working men are gunned-down
And vilified for living

But I am from a place of princes and kings
Scowling unapologetically at social constructs
Dancing to the beat of our own choosing, because
Why the fuck not us?

** *

Me and my Bro

Sherry: This is so moving. I love poems like this, that look back at childhood and begin "I am from...." I can see those two young brothers very clearly. Saddened that your little brother learned to draw bars over the windows. I adore the "galactic grace" of your mother! Her strength inspired your dreams.

Barry: I was looking for a poem I wrote as a fantasy/tragic fairy tale. I searched for a week, but couldn’t find it. Perhaps I only dreamt of the poem and never actually wrote it? Yeah, they probably shouldn’t have legalized weed around here. Anyway, here’s another fantasy poem inspired by an anime I watched:

The Sin that Played Us

She whispered her envy of the stars in the sky
And so she whispered her want to myself,
and many more
She whispered, and so the bodies began to pile

Treasures pirated, black flag betrayal
Disguised as other deadly sins,
and even masquerading as virtue
Compelled me to act against my nature

She whispered, and so the bodies began to pile
Beneath my feet, they pooled, stagnant

She whispered to fools that I must be stopped
Before I dimmed each star that shined

She whispered, and so am I betrayed
My vision inverted, and soon I pooled beneath
The sandals of other fools who listened

Unable to move as crows descend upon me
Their inverted faces masked and mute

She whispered, but I can no longer hear
For I am floating among the murder of crows
Flying their processions around me

She whispered, and now I must decide
To follow the procession beneath the waves
Of blood spilled by others, by me,
and by new fools

The crows pay respect, awaiting my choice
I growl at them,
I’m not yet ready
And so one by one, they slowly disappear

I gasp, the cool oxygen a shock to dormant lungs
Mortal intent rendered but a glancing blow
She whispered, and I’d outlived my usefulness

But I ain’t dead yet, bitch.

** *

Sherry: Thank you for these, Barry. Your voice is strong, and your writing wonderfully alive and vivid. When you aren’t working or writing, what other activities do you enjoy?

Barry: I am a Chicago Bears fan, still, even now, in spite of myself, good taste, and reason. Bourbon helps. I’m also a sci-fi fan, a Trekker, an anime nerd, a former comic book guy, a Star Wars guy, and a huge Steven Universe fan. My mom said that all she had to do was give me books or sit me in front of the TV. That premise remains unchanged well into my 40’s.

I was also way into flag football for a decade or so until I lost perspective, became overcompetitive, and nearly killed a baby on the football field. But that’s another story…

Sherry: I am intrigued at all the stories we have not had time to get to. I want to include a link to your book, Barry, "Blind Eye Turning". 

Good for you, getting a book out, Barry. Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Barry: I enjoy reading the talented poets of Poets United. I must admit, I was a bit intimidated about sharing my boring life and poetic process here, but wifey convinced me to push through my apprehension as therapy to let others get a peek at the man behind the words. That’s still a silly notion to me. I mean, anyone who has waded through the words vomited upon my blogs already knows what I’m about. This was good therapy though… and fun!

Sorry for being so long-winded, but us old-salts love spinning a good tale. Sorry for all the bad words too. I tried limiting them to my poems already written, but I do tend to cuss like a… well, you get the idea.

Sherry: Thank you to Erin for encouraging you, for we love getting to know the poet behind the pen, and this has been a total trip! Thanks for persevering, Barry, and helping us get to know you. We enjoyed it, and look forward to reading many more of your poems.

Well, my friends? I told you this would be good. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Poetry Pantry #388

Aurora in Estonia

Good morning, Poets.  I don't know about you, but I find it  nice to see it getting lighter a bit earlier in the morning each day.  I feel as if winter has turned a corner, and spring is nearing.  We can live in hope. The photo above from Wikimedia Commons is beautiful, I think.  I have never seen the Aurora.  Maybe someday.

Thanks to those of you who took part in Poets United's offerings this past week.  We are always glad to see people comment on varied weekly features, participate in Sumana's and Susan's Midweek Motif topics, and Rosemary's Friday features with timely topics and interesting poetry.

Next week's Midweek Motif topic will be Moon.

Be sure to take a look at Rosemary's I Wish I'd Written This feature of Kevin Hart's poem "Dark Bird."

Monday Sherry will share an interview with one of our newest poets.  It is always nice to get to know those who post alongside us each week.

Now let's share poetry.  Link your poem below.  Stop in and say hello.  Then make the rounds visiting others who link.  Be sure to come back a few times to see who is new!  Looking forward to seeing you on the trail!

Friday, January 26, 2018

I Wish I'd Written This

Dark Bird

What do you want with me today, dark bird?
Why are you flying low, beneath that branch?
I know your shadow: you were long since gone,
My killdeer, tough-winged swallow, mourning dove,

Death plays its flute with all your bones, dark bird,
You brood within my nest of breath, dark bird,
Your razor claw is in my eye, dark bird,
Sweet finches are in blossom here, dark bird,

My father’s dying now, dark bird, you know, 
He feels your shadow now, dark bird, you know,
His bones are hollow now, dark bird, you know,
He’s turned to feathers now, dark bird, you know,

Take to another land, dark bird, fly now,
Go snap sweet sunflower souls, dark bird, fly now,
A thousand deaths await you there, dark bird,
Fly fast dark bird fly fast fly past dark bird.

– Kevin Hart
from Morning Knowledge, University of Notre Dame Press, © 2011.

In Australia we like to think of Kevin Hart as an Australian poet, though he was born in England and didn't come here until he was 12, where he did the rest of his growing up in Brisbane, Queensland. He is usually referred to by critics, reviewers etc. as a British-Australian poet. He also has strong connections with America (though obviously is not to be confused with a US comedian of the same name).

He was a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Monash University, Melbourne from 1991 to 2002, when he left for the United States to become Professor of Philosophy and Literature at the University of Notre Dame until 2007. He then took up his present position as the Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Christian Studies at the University of Virginia. 

Since his move to America his poetry, not surprisingly, often contains references to that environment – such as the mention, above, of the killdeer and mourning dove, birds not found in Australia. I suppose we must now view him as an international poet.

In an interview following the publication of Morning Knowledge, he is asked:

You are considered an Australian poet, and yet you were born in London, lived there until you were 11, and have now lived in the US for several years. How has this international perspective informed your work and in what way do you consider your poetry Australian?

He replies:
I live inside my poems, like a pip in a ripe pear, taking little notice of what goes on in the world of poetry. I read poems all the time, though I don’t do much to ‘keep up’ with American or British poetry. I hear myself as Australian, as someone who comes after Ken Slessor, Judith Wright, Alec Hope, Frank Webb, and David Campbell …
He is equally distinguished as a philosopher, theologian and literary critic, but it's as a poet that I know him. I can't claim any real acquaintance, though we sometimes ran across each other in our Melbourne days. I mean that I know him through his work. He's a beautiful poet – as I exclaimed in delight when a friend recently gave me this book; and as you can judge for yourself by this poem.

Harold Bloom, the eminent American literary critic and Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale, is a great admirer of Hart's poetry, calling him, on the cover of this book, "The most outstanding Australian poet of his generation". With all due respect, I think I might be better acquainted with Australian poets than the Professor, and I believe that is excessive praise. I wouldn't presume to give anyone the guernsey, but I do think there are other contenders. However, Hart is certainly very good indeed, and has won numerous prestigious awards for his poetry over the years. (From what little I know of him, he seems to be a nice person too, and not big-headed as someone so greatly admired might easily have become.)

You can find out more about his career at Wikipedia and in this YouTube special.

The book this poem comes from, though it also includes love poems, nature poems and others, is largely concerned with his father's dying. (So the book's title is a play on the word "mourning".) These poems are deeply moving.

I like this particular one for its mystery – which nevertheless becomes all too comprehensible by the end of the poem. I love the culmination, and the way he makes that last, unpunctuated line move fast, as he begs the bird to do.

Mystical and religious themes might be expected of a theologian. It's worth noting that he is also known for intensely erotic and sensual poetry. The back cover blurb of this book refers to his "unique interlacing of the spiritual and the sensuous."

You can find this and his other poetry books at Amazon, including his next volume, Barefoot, which is due to be released on 28 February and is available now for pre-order.

I'd like to show you what he looks like, but I can't find a photo that is clearly free of copyright; and although I can post poems here "for purposes of study and review", I don't believe the same applies to photos. However, you can see his pleasant face if you follow the links (above) to the interview and/or YouTube.

There is a photo of him as a young man with this article on Poetry International Web, as well as a clickable list of several lovely poems that I'm sure you'll enjoy reading.

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.

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