Monday, June 28, 2010

Two Acclaimed Writers to Lead Workshop at Poetry Hickory

Two Acclaimed Writers to Lead Workshop at Poetry Hickory

Raleigh, NC, writers Maureen Sherbondy and Richard Krawiec will offer a workshop on publishing poetry as part of the monthly NC Writers’ Network Writers’ Night Out, held at 5:00 on Tuesday, July 13, at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory. The workshop will cost $10 per person and will be followed by Poetry Hickory’s Open Mic, beginning at 6:30 and then readings by both Sherbondy and Krawiec. The readings are free and open to the public.

Sherbondy is the author of two collections of poetry and has a third due out this year. She is also the author of a collection of short stories. Krawiec is author of two novels, a collection of short stories, and a collection of poems, and is editor of a collection of poetry about cooking. Both have taught workshops and formal classes in a variety of locations and have received numerous awards for their writing. For more information, visit or contact Scott Owens at 828-234-4266 or

Here is a sample poem from each author:

“Dorothy Discovers Sex and the City” by Maureen Sherbondy

After the tornado she thought
life would be dull and grey as Kansas
but on the new color screen
she watches Samantha bedding
a plethora of men. She relates
to Carrie, lately Dorothy’s been daydreaming
about a career in journalism,
she writes columns in her head
about storm preparation, the meaning
of dreams, archetypal figures, red shoes.
She’s contemplating a change of hair
style, maybe like Charlotte’s -- men
don’t seem to be drawn to ponytails
anymore. Aunt Em passed years before,
but Dorothy is certain she wouldn’t have
approved of the show. She turns to
the Weather Channel and monitors storms,
the forecaster’s smooth voice soothing
away her twister anxieties
even as she dreams of Oz.

Excerpt from “Judging the Worth” by Richard Krawiec

my son hunches into my chest
it toooowl he says I agree
it is cold but his breath warms
my shoulder his chest protects my own
he burrows his arms between us
one hand pops free his fingers slide
over his thumb as if testing fabric
the weight and weave judging the worth
of this life he throws his head up laughs
his teeth small and bright as stars
the cherubic firmament of his face
around us hidden in the dark branches
of pines and hardwoods birds
chorus a greeting the cacophony
of their song edges towards clarity
if I can only stand still long enough
to listen

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Poetic Response to Jessie Carty’s Paper House

A Poetic Response to Jessie Carty’s Paper House
Folded Word, 2010, 90 pages, $12
ISBN: 9780977816743

I have written reviews of each of Jessie Carty’s first two collections of poetry, At the A & P Meridiem (Pudding House, 2009) and The Wait of Atom (Folded Word, 2009), so when her new collection, Paper House, came out a couple of months ago, I knew I’d read it, I knew I’d like it, and I knew I wanted to do something besides write another review about it. I had no idea what that something might be, but then almost as soon as I started reading the poems, it became clear to me that Carty had given me a metaphor that I simply couldn’t resist stealing. So, in lieu of review of what is, by the way, a very enjoyable book of poems, I offer the following “reflection” along with my sincerest encouragement for you to order your copy of Paper House now.

Paper House
after Jessie Carty

What is a poem but a paper house,
every word a window or door,
the title a welcome mat,
every image a family portrait,
photo album, or home movie,
an endless possibility of rooms
furnished with the finest internal
rhyme, alliteration, conceit,
illuminated by epiphany,
kept clean through catharsis,
the only walls the printed page,
inhabited by people you know, family,
old friends, some you’ve missed,
some you hoped you’d forget.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Review of Rob Abbate's "Courage of Straw"

Review of Courage of Straw
by Robert Abbate
Main Street Rag, 2010, 90 pages, $14
ISBN: 9781599482354

In The Wizard of Oz, the Straw Man needed a brain, but he didn’t lack what the others did, the Tin Man’s heart, the Lion’s courage. It is the presence of these things that embodies the speaker of Robert Abbate’s poems in his new collection, Courage of Straw, and by implication it is the presence of a heart that feels and a courage that confronts that enables us to experience life as fully-realized human beings.

These are not easy poems. Not that they are difficult to understand -- they are, in fact, quite accessible -- but they are difficult, or perhaps painful would be a better adjective, to accept, to synthesize. If a successful poem is one that has a palpable effect on the reader, then the discomfort and subsequent catharsis these poems inspire mark them as successful. If a successful poem is one that changes the reader, then the ability to empathize that these poems create or at least enhance mark them as successful. If a successful poem is one that engages with the entire spectrum of human experience and utterance, then the historical, philosophical, and spiritual contexts of these poems mark them as successful.

Woven throughout these poems are references and allusions to Dante’s Inferno, a fact which asks us to consider the ways in which contemporary violence make our world like that Dante imagined below. The pains explored here range from suicide attempts to institutionalized corporal punishment: “My meeting with Jesus / is the birch rod pronouncing / its tearful percussion, when needed” (“As Needed”); from electroshock therapy to the story of a boy being sodomized: “the boy stood apart from his body, he . . . / could see himself bent forward, / survival’s mask frozen on his face” (“Tree-Fort Tale”); from the pastoral molestation of children to terrorist attacks: “What comfort, what comfort was there to find / when I realized the children may have wakened / to trapped moments of screaming engulfment?” (“Song of the Three Young Men”); from the inhumane treatment of laborers to the inhuman, nearly unimaginable torture and execution of Matthew Shepard:

the Gay Shepard boy
pleads for his life,
and executioners pound
his marred head beyond
any human semblance.

Abbate boldly goes where poets often fear to tread and where we all need to go if we will ever understand and through understanding move closer to prevention. Out of this journey into the heart of human unkindness and the resultant human suffering, Abbate creates a book-length existential metaphor unlike any I’ve encountered before and perhaps best stated in his title poem: “No greater love has straw than / to be flailed of life for hay.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

For the Love of Words

I've been away on vacation, but I'm back now, and here is column that was first published in "Outlook." More reviews coming up next.

“Musings” for May 27, 2010

For the Love of Words

I wonder if everyone has a favorite word, or if it’s just weird people like me -- people that others call names like egghead, verbophile, poet. I’ve always had certain words that I’ve found fascinating, although which ones they are have changed over time. My mother tells me that when I was quite young, I would rhyme tirelessly, starting with a single word and then creating as many rhymes as I could, only stopping when I ran out of possibilities or got in trouble for some stumbled upon obscenity: buck, chuck, cluck, duck . . . you get the idea.

I remember falling in love in 1st grade with a girl named Zebra. Not that she wasn’t beautiful in a 1st grade sort of way, but it was her name that really endeared her to me. I mean, how could anyone resist the opportunity to say, “This is my girlfriend, Zebra”? The same thing happened in 3rd grade when I met Autumn, and the year after that with Dawn. I’m not sure I remember any of their faces, but I certainly recall their names and the romantic associations inspired by them.

At some point hormones properly took over the role of motivation in regards to opposite gender attraction, but the appeal of words never went away. I recall in high school creating a virtual book of lists of fascinating words. I had words for different manias and phobias; my favorite was arachibutyrophobia, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth. I had palindromes, words that read the same forward and backward: mom, dad, kayak, madam, level, rotator, and my favorite, deified. I had what I called “echo words,” words that almost seem to rhyme with themselves: hubbub, chitchat, abracadabra. And I had hundreds of other lists of interesting (at least to me) words.

Once I discovered how much I enjoyed poetry, my favorite words changed to those related to poetry in one way or another. Like a lot of readers of Edgar Allen Poe, I loved the sound of “tintinnabulation.” And I loved the adjective used to describe the effect of a word like tintinnabulation that sounds like its meaning: onomatopoetic. And I loved the world’s best word for hangman, the only 6-letter word I know of without what most of us think of as a vowel: “rhythm.”

And as I continued to discover new words, for reasons I probably can’t understand or explain very well, three of them seemed to linger as my longterm favorite words: crepuscular, the epitome of “betweenness,” a concept I find very useful; pulchritude, a word that sounds nothing like what it means, beauty; and defenestration, the act of throwing something out a window (I just love that we have a word for that). It was one of my many pointless goals to use each of these words in a poem, and over time, I did. “Crepuscular” is the title of a poem about avoiding labeling; “defenestration” is used in a poem about the Holocaust; and “pulchritude” is used in a poem about the damaged offspring of emotionally abusive parenting.

And recently, I managed something I had never even thought to attempt. I used all three words in the same poem. The poem is called “Resume,” and here are a few key lines:

Myself the writer unfolds himself
in public, empties his pockets on the page,
worries about words that don’t get used
enough, crepuscular, pulchritude, defenestration.

I hope everyone has a favorite word, or if not, gets one, and uses it often. It’s just another way to engage with the world, to make it more the way you want it to be, perhaps to make it more pulchritudinous.