National Poetry Month: Talking of Michelangelo

Selected by Dr. Joan Digby

Talking of Michelangelo

“in the room the women come and go

talking of Michelangelo”

T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

 

Not only women but men also

talking and listening to audiotapes

as they strolled through the rooms

of the Metropolitan Museum’s

Michelangelo extravaganza

five viewer’s  deep to get within

range of a red chalk drawing.

 

For me it was a positive absurdity

between the brown walls

low light macular degeneration

and my paltry height of barely five feet

making me wonder whether

Michelangelo himself was tall enough

to see these drawing hung

at the eye level of a camel.

 

I imagined him there

in a crushed velvet hat and cape

cruising the rooms

wondering what it cost to gather

in one place all the work

of his masters and students

dead these six hundred years.

 

I followed close behind him

too short so see anything

but the bottoms of frames

and the collections

from which they had been borrowed:

the Louvre, Ufizzi, British Museum,

and the Queen’s cabinet at Windsor Palace

places from which he earned not one lire.

 

Unable to see the drawings

I read the endless wall copy

A babel of curatorial jargon

instructing me about

the cost of paper and how

the great artist worked from wax

models and wrote perhaps a poem

perhaps a shopping list—I thought—

on top of the drawings

he intended to throw away

once the real work was accomplished.

 

“Notice the cross-hatching,”

a gentleman clearly an art historian

or wily dealer said to the woman

at his side who turned to admire

the musculature of a floating arm.

It was all, quite literally, above me.

 

Michelangelo stared in disbelief

that all these sketches had survived

his clear intent to toss them out

once his sculptures were complete

and how they had miraculously

attracted people who had

nothing better to do

on a rainy afternoon in New York

a city that did not exist for him.

 

We walked together toward

the quarter scale replica

of his Sistine Chapel ceiling

cheap and stunted as if

it had been designed as a prefab

to adorn Vatican Pizza

Venieros or some other joint.

 

The idea of pizza seemed

to interest him and so I offered

to get him the hell out of

this show right past his mini

Last Judgment and hop a

subway down to 14th Street

to Basile Artichoke where I

could introduce him to

a venerable slice he was

most welcome to draw

in daylight when I might

closely observe and admire

his delicate cross-hatching

and architectural detail.

 

 

 

 

 

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National Poetry Month: The Phoenix and Turtle

Selected by Dr. James Bednarz

The Phoenix and Turtle

by William Shakespeare

Let the bird of loudest lay

On the sole Arabian tree

Herald sad and trumpet be,

To whose sound chaste wings obey.

 

But thou shrieking harbinger,

Foul precurrer of the fiend,

Augur of the fever’s end,

To this troop come thou not near.

 

From this session interdict

Every fowl of tyrant wing,

Save the eagle, feather’d king;

Keep the obsequy so strict.

 

Let the priest in surplice white,

That defunctive music can,

Be the death-divining swan,

Lest the requiem lack his right.

 

And thou treble-dated crow,

That thy sable gender mak’st

With the breath thou giv’st and tak’st,

‘Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.

 

Here the anthem doth commence:

Love and constancy is dead;

Phoenix and the Turtle fled

In a mutual flame from hence.

National Poetry Month: How to Write a Poem

Written by Professor Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan, Long Island Poet of the Year

How to Write a Poem

Begin with the lump in your throat,
the anguish in your heart,
let it simmer, swell, seep into your bones.

Set it aside and look for the proper container:
form, lyrical, free verse. Make sure you wash the
remnants of other poems cleanly away.

Use adjective, adverbs, prepositions and
articles sparingly; these are useless and signal
you do not trust your guest’s discerning taste.

Open your salty rivers, let just enough to
flow into your mixture, allow verbs and
nouns to bring forth clear images.

Stir imagination into the mix deftly until thickened
into a poem which can stand on its own,
and the guest can savor the pain.

Put your creation out to cool on the windowsill.
Be sure to watch out for pecking birds who would
delight in devouring your creation.

After the heat has dissipated give your prize a second look
for any imperfections, dust off, place into a tidy title box,
finally, wrap your name around in the shape of a bow.

National Poetry Month: At a Boring Poetry Reading

Selected by Dr. Dennis Phal

At a Boring Poetry Reading

 by Norman Stock

They read the audience to death.

These poets use live ammunition, their words, to weaken us.

Are they trying to put us to sleep or are they trying to keep themselves up

by droning on and on? Instead of listening, all I’m doing is waiting for them to stop.

The applause will be like glass breaking, the glass they are enclosing us in

It is as if they tied their shoes in front of us just to show us they could tie their shoes in front of us!

O save me from this scatterbrain orderliness, this posture of beheading.

Will this reading never end? Will I have to listen forever

or can I find a chink in the wall of my own mind that I can crawl into, just to get

away from this disaster, this dying, this voicelessness?​

National Poetry Month: The Road Not Taken

Selected by Kainat Cheema

The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost

Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

National Poetry Month: Neutral Tones


Selected by Dr. Wendy Ryden

Neutral Tones
By 
Thomas Hardy

We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God, Thomas Hardy
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
– They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.

Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles of years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
On which lost the more by our love.

The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing….

Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.

National Poetry Month: When Great Trees Fall



Selected by Alecia Miguel

When Great Trees Fall
by Maya AngelouMaya Angelou Painting

 

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of
dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

 

National Poetry Month: you deserve to be

Poem selected by Gabbi Battiloro

From Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey:

Rupi

you deserve to be
completely found
in your surroundings
not lost within them

National Poetry Month: 12:16 after midnight

Selected by Gabbi Battiloro

From r.h. Sin’s book, Whiskey Words & a Shovel:

12:16 after midnight
I was forcedr h Sin
to survive
in your absence
I was faced
with the realization
that I never needed you

National Poetry Month: Everything that Ever Was

Poem selected by Mary Pigliacelli.

Everything That Ever Was

Like a wide wake, rippling
Infinitely into the distance, everything

That ever was still is, somewhere,
Floating near the surface, nursing
Its hunger for you and me

And the now we’ve named
And made a place of.

Like the wind the rains ride in on,
It sweeps across the leaves,

Pushing in past the windows
We didn’t slam quickly enough.
Dark water it will take days to drain.

It surprised us last night in my sleep.
Brought food, a gift. Stood squarely

There between us, while your eyes
Danced toward mine, and my hands
Sat working a thread in my lap.

Up close, it was so thin. And when finally
You reached for me, it backed away.

Bereft, but not vanquished. After it left,
All I wanted was your broad back

To steady my limbs. Today,
Whatever it was seems slight, a trail
Of cloud rising up and off like smoke.

And the trees that watch as I write
Sway in the breeze, as if all that stirs
Under the soil is a little tickle of knowledge

The great blind roots will tease through
And push eventually past.

~Tracy K. Smith