Poetry on Demand

17855421_10158505759845301_1733133889877371344_oLast night I wrote Poetry on Demand at the SAFE Haven for Cats’ Tuxedo Cat Ball with four of my fellow Living Poets. PoD is kinda like selling your art at a street festival except you haven’t drawn or painted it yet. We sit behind a table and convince innocent bystanders that they need to buy a poem. They offer a word as a prompt and anywhere from $1 to $5 and we write the poem there and then. It’s an interesting exercise, good practice and lots of fun. All told, we earned almost $200 for the cats.

Our words included non-profit, forever home, kind, memory, obfuscate, two auctioneers, New York, wife’s birthday, love, birthday,  twins, poets, brisk, monotony, voluptuous, Guinness, forever mine and inappropriate urination. (We each wrote a poem to that!)
look back

Since I don’t have an event tonight, here’s my poem-a-day.

For today’s prompt, write a panic poem. There are any number of things a person can panic about, including severe weather, military invasions, or what to wear to an event. And while some may be more life or death than others, that feeling of panic is just as real for a person who has to get up and speak in front of a crowd of smiling strangers as it is for a person hiding in the basement of their house as a tornado approaches.

Poetry on Demand

Last night I dreamt poetry.
Really, it was a nightmare.
I was writing Poetry on Demand
alone, in my underwear
and all my customers
were women offering prompts
like childbirth, parenting
and happy marriage.
All things I am unqualified
to write about unironically.

Wouldn’t you prefer
a nice cat poem instead?

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The Wine of Love

wine-1328360Come celebrate the last Thursday of National Poetry Month with me and other Living Poets at the Hillsborough Wine Company, 118 South Churton Street, beautiful downtown Hillsborough, North Carolina. We’ll enjoy wine tastings starting at 6:30pm and see who can compose the most poetically absurd description of the flavors, like “hints of burnt acorns and moral absolutes” before the open mic kicks off at 7pm which will feature truffles from Matthew’s for all poets who read. Bring a new wine poem to entertain the drunken poets in the audience.

In that spirit, here’s today’s poetry prompt:

Take the phrase “(blank) of Love,” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles could include: “Water Bottle of Love,” “Smart Phone of Love,” “Toothbrush of Love,” “Tweet of Love,” or any number of blanks of love. I actually kind of love this prompt and am surprised I’ve never done it before.

The Wine of Love

Love is cliche.
It’s been done
so many poems,
so many songs,
there’s nothing
new to be written.

Just like wine,
which has served
as muse to poets
for as long as grapes
have fermented
in casks.

But the thrill is undeniable
when opening a new bottle
chosen mostly by pretty label
only to discover a delightful
taste left on the tongue,
a warmth in the core
and giddy anticipation
of the next glass.

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Painting the Porch

I won’t be doing a poem-a-day every day this year but I will be writing a poem-some-days. The prompt is from Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog.

For today’s prompt, write a reminiscing poem. In my mind, this means a poem that remembers something (a moment, a relationship, etc.). The poem could be kind of nostalgic or sharing lessons learned. But for those new to these challenges, you should know that I consider these prompts open to interpretation–so if you have another take, go for it.

Painting the Porch

PaintThePorchI’d paint the porch
when I was bored
on summer boyhood

My mother gave me this job,
when I was pestering,
hand me a paintbrush
and pail of water
for the smooth concrete
baking in the sun.

I took the wet brush
and darkened the glaring
surface without painting
myself into a corner

Some days before I’d finished
the parts painted earliest
dried under blue Ohio skies
so I’d start over,
spend all afternoon
working the problem.

Unthinkable to dump
the bucket and cover
the slab instantly,
precise patterns of brushstrokes
were required to conform
to the geometry
of the front porch.

If my mommy asked,
it must be important,
so I did my best.


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The Cruelest Month


Official National Poetry Month Poster

National Poetry Month begins Saturday and that means I’ve got a busy thirty days ahead. In addition to two critique workshops, I’ll be occupied by various other public events:

  • Thursday the 6th, I’ll be reading as part of the Poems from the Heron Clan IV Book Party at Oasis, a lovely little coffee shop in the Carr Mill Mall, Carrboro.
  • Friday the 7th, I’ll be writing Poetry on Demand at the Tuxedo Cat Ball, a fund raising event for Safe Haven for Cats. Bow ties are cool.
  • Sunday the 9th, after poetry book club, I hope to make the list at the Tongue & Groove Open Mic in Raleigh, one of the best open mics in the Triangle.
  • Thursday the 13th, I’ll be hosting a Poetry Prompt Workshop at the Panera Bread in Brier Creek, Raleigh, where the dice will offer up poetry prompts and everybody writes.
  • Thursday the 20th, I’ll be appearing at the Science Cafe in the NC Museum of Natural Sciences’ Daily Planet Cafe where my fellow poets and I will write poems during a lecture on Critical Thinking and then present them to the audience.
  • and save Thursday the 27th because I’m putting together an open mic for that evening. Details to come!

I’m exhausted already and that’s just a sampling of what’s happening in the Triangle. Check local listings for events in your area.


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The Globe Inn


On my trip to Scotland last summer, I visited The Globe Inn in Dumfries, once frequented by the Bard of Ayrshire, the Ploughman Poet, the great Robert Burns. I wrote a poem while enjoying the Haggis, Mashed ‘Neeps and Champit Tatties, and posted a rough draft that evening. After a couple of workshops the final version now appears on dine AND rhyme, the premier restaurant and poetry website. Check it out!

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Two poetic friends of mine, Kelly Lenox and Pamela Taylor, started a project to “transform the language issuing from the White House in the hopes that it will encourage and inspire other transformative actions” with erasure poetry.

Erasure poetry is an fun way to take an existing text, for example an inaugural speech, and by removing words, transform it into poetry. I jumped at the chance and my poem was posted to the ERASE-TRANSFORM website today. It turned out a little darker than I intended but when I saw the word “factories” repeated three times in the speech, I thought that would make a good metaphor.

I trust all my other poetic friends will have some fun with erasure poetry and submit their results too.


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Poetry Workshop Results

img_1331Saturday I helped lead a poetry workshop at the 2017 Holly Springs Arts Festival with my friends and fellow poets Tara Lynne Groth and Chris Abbate. Tara Lynne passed around some old postcards to inspire our poems and I demonstrated how to use dice and a Roget’s Thesaurus to get random prompts. Chris told us about autobiographical poetry and had us make a memory map which we then used to write a poem.

Here’s what I wrote with minor revisions. It’s as true as any of my poetry.

My appendix perforated
and it was worth the pain
to miss two weeks
of high school
in January 1981
extending Christmas vacation.

I recuperated in pajamas
and a recliner,
playing Circus Atari,
thick pixel clowns
smashing square balloons,
8-bit splats when I failed.

To my surprise
I felt a strange
damp warmth in my lap
and found viscous fluid
the color of aged leather
oozing from my incision.

Home, alone, afraid to move,
for fear my guts would spill
out if I walked to the phone,
fixed to the wall, and rotated
the clickety dial to call
for help.


Obviously I survived.
The wound resealed
after the goo had gone.
My scar remains
and the story
was worth the pain.

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World Without Consequences

“Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”
~ Barry Switzer

They had every advantage
and took them all.

Every birthday car, provided.
Every speeding ticket, fixed.
Every drunken accident, forgotten.

They never worked a day
they didn’t want
to at daddy’s company.
Strolling in whenever,
comfy corner offices
where they play businessman
over long lunches with cocktails
and go home when bored,
while their underlings,
promoted on merit,
make them more money.

They grew up in a world without consequences
and believe it’s the nature of the universe
but Daddy won’t fix the overheated climate
like he did the bad grades and damaged hookers.

Their birthright silver spoons
have tarnished their tongues.
Who’s going to finally spank
these spoiled rich kids?

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Hero’s Lament

Andromeda by Paul Gustave Doré

Andromeda by Paul Gustave Doré

The rail lies cold against my ear,
listening not for a train
but hoping to hear the muffled
cries of a damsel in distress.

Sensing none, I follow the tracks
to the industrial warehouses,
hoping to find a brave and beautiful
reporter suspended over a vat of acid.

But these days the trains don’t run,
villains silence the press with lawyers
and I’ve learned that gratitude
fades with the morning dew

and a hero’s scars are just plain ugly
in the harsh light of every day.


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Ancestral Fudge

15644675_10154929608664429_1013541167_nMy grandfather Barker fell seriously ill when my father was just a boy and while he survived, he did not recover sufficiently to go back to work thus my grandmother got a job and Grandpa did the cooking for the family. He taught my father and my father tried to teach me but I don’t have much interest in the art of food preparation, just consumption.

There is, however, one exception, so last night I finally spent time learning how make Barker’s Peanut Butter Fudge at the side of the Master. That batch turned out great, smooth, chewy and peanut buttery. So to reinforce what I learned I tried again, this time solo. The results (pictured) were not as promising but still a tasty failure. I’ll try again soon.

This little episode is only mentioned as an introduction to my new Genealogy page, which also appears in the blog menu above. The links therein will take you to a human readable form of my genealogical data. While I am keeping track of all my living relatives, the links only reveal information about dead ancestors. It is my hope that distant cousins will stumble across this site and we can exchange data.

I’ll be adding to the files as my research progresses but, just like with fudge, there’s always more to learn.

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