Poems For Sale

I love this story (on NPR)

Zach Houston runs his Poem Store (on any given sidewalk) with these items: a manual typewriter, a wooden folding chair, scraps of paper, and a white poster board that reads: “POEMS — Your Topic, Your Price.”

For five years now, this has been his main source of income. Not that it’s necessarily a steady income, mind you.

I don’t think I could do what he’s doing. There are a few times when my verses flow out as fast as I can type them, but when you work in rhyme and meter, a typewriter is a bit intimidating. Give me a delete button, or better yet, an eraser. Actually, I don’t generally erase–I cross out, and put arrows on the page to move things around. Once in a while, I re-write something I have crossed out, which suddenly fits two stanzas later than I thought it would. But a typewriter? I’d need two drafts, and Zach Houston is putting out poems in mere minutes (at least, the examples in the story).

But he’s not starving, which is nice.

Ironically, I got a payment from Lulu today–two people bought my book last month! That brings the number of books sold in 4 years to 161. (Greta Christina broke a thousand in a few hours; PZ will probably have a few thousand pre-orders already.) But hey, Zach Houston shows that hope springs eternal, perhaps particularly during poetry month. So…

Take a look! (And if that doesn’t work, just look to the “Cuttlestuff” tab at the top of this page, or go to Lulu and look for “Cuttlefish Omnibus” if all my methods fail.)

Poetry Out Loud

So I walk the Cuttledogs, return home, turn on the idiot-box, and am transformed.

By stroke of luck, it just so happens to be Maine’s 2012 Competition Finals of Poetry Out Loud. My goodness, what a wonderful thing.

When I write my piddling little verses, I hope that the best of them are, above all, fun to recite out loud. My favorite poems are those that I cannot read just once–I am compelled to repeat them, aloud, no matter how much it annoys the cats. Poetry–real poetry–is meant to be spoken, to be felt, both in the speaking and in the hearing.

A couple of years ago, a reader asked to read one of my verses for Poetry Out Loud (or some local variant). Maybe some year, I’ll hear one of my poor verses on a state or national stage. For now, I’ll be satisfied knowing that someone thought my verse was worthy of the effort.

After the jump, the finals: [Read more…]

A Question For Stephen Fry

Like pretty much all of us, I just love Stephen Fry. And no, I am not going to attempt to laud him in verse or song—that’s been done, and wonderfully, and in person—but rather, am hoping to use his expertise. You see, he wrote the book. And some day soon, I am going to have a long post (or series) here singing its praises.

I heard Susan Blackmore, at some conference, say something to the effect of “if you want to learn all about something, write a book on it.” She was speaking of consciousness, and her journey led her to write, now, several books on it. But that’s not what I need help with. I need to know if I have, as I suspect, come up with a brand-new verse form worthy of its own name and everything. It has structure. It has rules. It has examples. What I don’t know is, has it already been done? And who better to ask than Stephen Fry, the man who wrote the book?

Dear sir: I am not a real poet, and know it,
I read lots of stuff, and I comment in verse;
It’s not that my words are much sweeter in meter
And rhyme, but the truth is they can’t be much worse.
Because my obsession’s impassioned, I’ve fashioned
A form that, as far as I know, is unique;
I missed, though, some critical knowledge from college,
So yours is the expert opinion I seek.

I hope that a simple example is ample
To show you the structure, to help you decide;
I’ve other ones, too, that I’m thinking of linking
In lieu of some sort of a technical guide
The scansion is simple, both rhyming and timing
With eight lines per stanza, two stanzas in all;
But that’s all I’ve got; it’s still nameless—but, shameless,
I’m hoping you’ll help me, and answer my call.

(by the way, this is probably the clunkiest example of the form, but once I decided to ask Mr. Fry, I couldn’t help myself… nor could I wait and edit it until I got it just right.)

A bit more, and links to many more examples, after the jump: [Read more…]

Why I’ll Never Be Asked To Be NPR’s NewsPoet

A poet’s job—to find the words to say
To translate into meter, into verse;
To write about the stories of the day

Of course, there ought to be a better way,
But there it is—a blessing or a curse,
A poet’s job—to find the words to say.

To find the turn of phrase to best convey
(Though poets’ minds are sometimes too perverse
To write about) the stories of the day—

So editors are heard to softly pray
“Please, find me someone else who can traverse
A poet’s job—to find the words, to say

So much.” The job description reads, “You may
Be asked to fill in here and there, or worse,
To write about the stories of the day”

It’s only one of many roles to play;
The part is yours—it’s time now to rehearse
A poet’s job—to find the words to say
To write about the stories of the day.

More: [Read more…]