Archive for January, 2009

Inaugural Poems

January 23, 2009

A few days ago I put together a collection of links to inaugural poems.  I posted this on the PoetryInBaltimore.  But my post is hidden in a reply, so I will post them here as well.  In general, poems written to mark an event by an official poet leave me cold.  No matter how good the poet the insipiration can be lacking in made for order poetry.

Prior inauguration poems

Elizabeth Alexanders poem

Below are a number of poems written by established poets both academic and slam about or for Obama’s inauguration:

AP collection of inauguration poems

NPR’s collection of inaurguration poems

My favorites of these is Baltimore’s own Gayle Danley’s poem “Why Barak is ours”  and “The land was never ours” by Julia Alvarez.  (Her poem is the second under the AP collection.)


Third Friday PreVerse – January 16th

January 19, 2009

Another benefit for Hearts Place Shelter.  Lots of folks reading, there were 9 featured poets and about the same number of open mic poets.  There was a good turn-out as well.  The poet of the night, in my opinion, was Mary C. Reilly.  Not only did she do several nice pieces, but Alan Barysh did one of her pieces and a tribute poem to her as well.  I liked an open mic poem that used the Chicago Loop as the setting of a break-up.  Suzanne X. did a poem on poetry that I liked.  A bunch of poems on the sexual abuse of young women. 

I did the first poem of the night.  (Open mic poets go first.)  I did my poem, Christina’s World, to honor Andrew Wyeth, who had died the night before.  That morning before I heard about Wyeth, I decide I wanted to practice Christina’s World even though I was not planning to read it that night.

Barack Obama in Baltimore

January 18, 2009

I made it to Obama’s “Whistlestop” today.  Here is a poem I wrote.  It is still raw, but tomorrow never waits.

Baltimore Whistlestop,

January 17th, 2009


Crowds stream from Light Rail & buses

            Golf cart lane down Baltimore Street.

Coldest day of year

            Strange light of mid-winter late afternoon.


Barricades everywhere

            Buses blocking roads

Police of every agency & uniform

            Clumps of unarmed soldiers

The big line

            The metal detectors

Secret service on roofs

            Scoping the crowd


Then the plaza

            Where did the homeless go?

Standing in the middle of Fayette Street

            Amidst the crowd

All races, all classes


Only seen at Artscape

Or maybe a ball game


Then the moment

            No one had foreseen

With a thousand cameras & phones

            Held over heads

A black man taking the legacy

            1776, Fort McHenry

On streets

            Where black folks were chattel.


A recreation of Lincoln’s

            Inaugural train

Except without the disguises

            And the sneaking


First blood of the Civil War

            Spilled blocks away

As rioters

            Attacked northern volunteers

Rioters still honored

            In our state’s anthem

“Avenge the patriotic gore

            That flecked the streets of Baltimore”


The next day rail bridges burned

            On our mayors command

Telegraph lines to DC

            Torn down

Then occupation

            Federal Hill cannon turned

So many things have turned

            And turned again


Are we truly

            A people

Of common hopes

            Of common dreams?


Eleven minutes from the crowds roar

            To “God bless America”

Then the magic ended

            And music resumed


Marching back

            Watching family portraits taken

I spoke with a fifty-something black couple

Who on a normal day I would never meet

They missed the speech

            “How long?”

“Only 10 minutes”

            “We were expecting more”

I play them the speech

            Recorded on my phone


You can tell the poet

            Everyone snapping pictures

And this fool

            Recording words and dreams

Everyone will say “you should have seen it”

I will say “you should have heard it”


Borders Open-Door Poetry

January 11, 2009

One topic that I plan to blog about is poetry and poetry resources on the web.  I plan to have one or two posts per week on this topic. 

Today I would like to point out Borders Open-Door Poetry.  This is a video magazine that consists mainly of well-known poets reading and reciting their work.  There is about an equal mix of Slam Champions poets and Pulitzer Prize/Poet Laureate poets.  There is also a pretty good racial/ethnic mix of poets. 

So now you have something good to do instead of doing laundry and paying the bills.

VERBATIMondays January 5th

January 8, 2009

The features on Monday were Green Tea and Archie the Messenger.   Green Tea was an instant hit with the crowd.  And I felt the same way.  She sang a-capella with a percussionist.  Green Tea combines strong jazz / blues influence with her own lyrics and songs. 

Archie the Messenger returned to Baltimore for this week.  His performance poems/ spoken word pieces were so well known that a number in the audience kept up with him reciting his pieces.  He has a powerful presence and incredible timing.  But I will need to see him again to know how I feel about his poems.  Keeping track of the performance, the words, the sense of what was straight vs. irony left me feeling that I was only scratching the surface of his work.

Another highlight of the night was the host, Rebecca Dupas, who did four pieces including a new piece that I liked.  There were a number of strong performances at the open mic, but not nearly as strong as last month.  I don’t like the come on strong sexually-explicit pick-up poems disguised as love poems.  Perhaps this is a cultural issue, but the women listening did not seem impressed either, especially when it went over the top. 

I did Letter from the Future  at the open mic.  I think it touched some people.  I would not be surprised if it turned a few people off.  It will be interesting to see what the response to this poem is as I read it to different audiences.  There certainly is alot of room to either touch alot of raw nerves or inspire people.    I was hoping to do a new Spoken/Chanted piece “Never Forget”, but I did not have time.  This piece may answer the question that is on the minds of alot a folks at VERBATIMondays and The Art of Conversation, “what is this wierd white guy doing here?”.  I will post it after I have a chance to perform it.

Letter from the Future

January 6, 2009

My eight year old girl

                knows more than the Pope;

more than the elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints;

more than the Anglican Church of Uganda and Rwanda;

more than Dr. James Dobson, Doctor of Divinity.


For she has seen the divine in families with two dads;

knows her friends with two mommies have lives and homes like her own;

sees her friends cared for and loved.


She would not understand why her friends cannot get health insurance

                because the wrong mommy was covered. 

                or are not able to visit the wrong daddy in the hospital

                or are sent to live with a barely-known relative

 when the wrong mommy dies

                or why their parents pay more in taxes

                while their family is not recognized by the state.


No what my daughter sees is Suzanne’s dad

                struggling to care for Suzanne’s disabled brother;

                sees him give up his career to create a good life for his daughter and son.


When was the last time that a pope cared for a disabled child;

                or even changed a single diaper?

                An unfit Papa if you ask me.


Do the elders of the Temple of Mormon think

                that bashing families will make them forget their century of humiliation;

                or make us forget their legacy of polygamy

and their stone age views on women?


Why in Uganda and Rwanda lands splattered with damp human blood

                does the Anglican Church spend its time focusing on the sexual practices

                of those 10,000 miles away?


And for Dr. James Dobson, Doctor of Divinity, I too have a letter from the future. 

It is from 2036.

                Focus on the Family has issued an apology

for decades of hatred of gays and lesbians.

                A Lesbian evangelical Christian has been elected

President of the United States.


This letter is for you, America, with postage due.


Three Herons

January 4, 2009




Whiter      Snow

                Noon      Sun

Sneaking       S-neck


All      Patience

                Balance      Spring

Strikes      Swallows







                Not yet



Young poet’s


                                Now mine



                The same

                                As before




Heron hunting                                                   So close.

Gator sunning                                                   So close.


To eat

To be eaten