This month I read poems. Well, I always read poems—online, in my various poetry groups, and in assigned readings for the Gauntlet and Draft to Craft. However, given the poetry explosion that is National Poetry Month, I read many more poems than I would in a regular month. Although, I am no longer sure what a “regular month” might actually entail. My sense of time passing has been permanently altered by this whole pandemic experience. I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing.
Since some of my friends have shared poetry through their blogs for National Poetry Month and the Kentucky Arts Council invited writers to make video readings for the Council’s celebration of Kentucky Writers’ Day, I have enjoyed way more new poetry than I would normally read through a daily dose of Rattle. Kim Blum Hyclak, a poet I met through Table Rock Writers in North Carolina, spends each April sharing interviews with poets on her blog. That’s a thirty day commitment to asking thoughtful questions and presenting samples of someone else’s work. Each day, she’s presented some poets I know and some I’ve never read.
As poetry editor for a busy publication, I know this is a labor of love for her. This year she invited me as one of her 30 guests for April. You can read her blog entries about 30 poets at A Writer’s Window. And you can enjoy videos from Kentucky poets at Kentucky Arts Council’s facebook page. And Cincinnati Magazine talked to four area poets, including me, for April’s issue.
For the Poetry Gauntlet, I read Harryette Mullen’s Sleeping with the Dictionary in which she often constructs her poems through an avant-garde literary game called “s+7” or “n+7.” Because my head spins at structuring a pantoum or even a ghazal, I am not yet ready to wade into the waters of another formula for my own writing. In fact, when my husband Gary and I used to keep stats for Simon Kenton Football, I had to make myself something entitled “Roberta’s Remedial Yards Gained Chart” on which I could literally draw where the ball was spotted on my little football field in order to figure out yards gained from the hashmarks. I’m starting to think that I should also create some right-brained visuals for villanelles, sestinas, pantoums, and ghazals. There could be a market there. I did enjoy most of Mullen’s poems even though they were challenging to my “story plus picture” oriented brain. The sound play was phenomenal.
That’s why I was more than happy to read Manuel Iris’ latest collection, The Parting Present. This beautiful new collection from Dos Madres Press celebrates fatherhood. Iris gifts the reader with his poems in Spanish and English, usually on opposing pages for bi-lingual enjoyment. After slogging through the cultural and poetic density of Mullen’s text, I was very much ready for the poetics of silence. Iris believes that some ideas and emotions are difficult to translate from those internal countries of origin. He defines poetry as that language which attempts to translate silence. As one might expect, Manuel Iris writes lyric poems that float to the surface of consciousness revealing all forms of love. Images translate that love through crisp, spare stanzas surrounded by enough space to allow each poem to sink in. It’s a real treat to hear the poet read from his work in both English and Spanish which you can do thanks to an upcoming recording of his recent book launch. I'll share a link when I have one.
By May 1, I need to get going on Ross Gay’s collection, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude since he will join us for the first half hour of the Poetry Gauntlet for May. And many of my local friends stayed very creative during this pandemic with new books coming out from Erica Manto-Paulson, Ellen Austin-Li, and Jerry Judge. At each name, I include links for pre-ordering or purchasing these new books. Both Erica’s and Ellen’s are in their pre-order term from Finishing Line Press, while Jerry’s is ready to ship. I look forward to reading all three in their final packages! April is the fullest month, not the cruelest. Sorry, T. S.