Rhythm of Race


Photo by JM Olivieri

Saturday afternoon three of my fellow Living Poets and I wrote poems on demand at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Rhythm of Race event. We only worked for a little over an hour but earned $41 for the museum by writing to the following prompts offered by our customers:

  • aloha
  • biotechnology
  • broken
  • butterfly
  • chaplain
  • complexity & sin
  • compromise
  • emerald
  • faith
  • fluorescent
  • happiness
  • hope
  • Michael Jackson
  • octopus
  • oyster
  • patience
  • paws
  • perseverance
  • plant
  • poetry
  • precious
  • science
  • second anniversary
  • soul
  • swizzle stick
  • siblings
  • Themyscira
  • vindicated
  • wonder
  • you

My favorite was writing “Science” and while I don’t remember it all, I closed with the lines “Science is the art of learning. Science reveals the poetry of life.”


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Edgar Allan Poe



Note, I did not lay the roses pictured above. They were there when I arrived.

Once upon a midnight dreary,
while I pondered weak and weary…

I have paid my respects at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe and while I would have preferred to visit at midnight after a long night drinking wine, it would not be possible. They lock the gate to the grounds at dusk.

I have been to Baltimore many times before but always on the way to somewhere else so this was my first chance to visit his grave. Rather than drive downtown, I took the light rail from my hotel out near the airport and was delighted with the service. There was an Orioles baseball match that evening so the train was full of orange clad fans but I took comfort in knowing that most, if not all of them, would recognize the name of this poet who died over 150 years ago. I doubt they’d know the name of many other poets, if any.

I arrived just as the sun was setting behind the buildings near the Westminster Burying Grounds. His grave is right at the entrance, at the corner of Fayette and Greene. The monument is not from the time of his death in 1849 but was laid about 25 years later and he was moved to this more prominent spot from a plot around back.

Of course, his original resting place was more to my liking being further away from the 21st century traffic and under some trees with white drooping blossoms, now spent and falling like snow. I asked the uniformed gentleman who asked me to leave because he was locking up but he didn’t know the species.

I had some dinner and a glass of wine a few blocks away and worked on revising a troublesome poem that I want to include in my chapbook. By the time to train delivered me back, twilight had deepened and the trees were darker than the sky, making for an appropriately ominous walk back through the shadows to my hotel.

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

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Month End Report

20170427_192524The goal of National Poetry Month is survival and after participating in three poetry workshops, reading at two events, attending another reading, writing poetry on demand, writing while kayaking on the Haw River, writing while taking the Poet’s Walk and hosting one open mic at a wine shop, my lovely audience pictured above, I can claim not just survival but a modicum of success. I produced 20 poems over the 30 days, my favorite appearing below. It will almost certainly appear in my upcoming chapbook, Milkshakes and Chilidogs and other food poems. Now I just have to put the poetic pieces together.

West End Wine Bar of Durham

The sweet melody
of the grape dances
with my tongue
as the aged Merlot
spins down my throat
leaving a bassline
humming with dryness.

Some wines are simple,
a solo acoustic guitar,
others a string quartet.
Serve me a symphony
of purple in a glass.
I want vintage Mozart.
I want Beethoven plucked,
fermented and poured.

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A cardinal, an owl and a raven walk into a bar…


Photo from the Poet’s Walk page at the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust website.

This morning some of my fellow Living Poets and I visited Ayr Mount in Hillsborough and followed the appropriately named Poet’s Walk. Amongst the trees along the Eno River, I was thinking about today’s prompt but was also considering something left unwritten from the Science Cafe Thursday night. I guess today was my own little March for Science. Happy Earth Day!

For today’s prompt, write a fable poem. A fable is a story that conveys a moral, usually told with animal characters.

A cardinal, an owl and a raven walk into a bar.

Cardinal puffed out his chest, most impressive, and said to Owl, “Our magisteria do not overlap. I rule the light, you the dark. I explain what you cannot: the before the beginnings and after the endings of life and the universe.”

Owl, timid and nerdy, replied, “I agree. Though my universe began billions of years before God’s work week and has continued two thousand years since the apocalypse of Jesus’ generation.”

Cardinal shrieked, “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist!”

Owl shrugged, “Who says I don’t need to? As Occam’s Razor slices away the unnecessary, your god is banished to slighter and slighter gaps.”

Raven sat quietly, sipping his wine, scribbling in his book, watching Owl grow in stature as Cardinal shrank away.



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Science Cafe: Critical Thinking

20170420_200227Tonight was the Science Cafe on Critical Thinking. It’s always a fun challenge to write a poem in “real time” and my fellow Living Poets, Tara Lynne Groth, Angie Kirby and Anna Weaver were well up for the task while I stole lines from a 80’s comedian.

Since I had to write something based on the presentation anyway, I thought I’d also incorporate the daily prompt which, fortunately, was fairly generic.

For today’s prompt, write a task poem. The task can be some glorious duty, or it can be a seemingly small and insignificant job. Or the poem can take someone to task. It’s your task to figure it out and write it.

A Brain’s Task

Our brains weren’t designed.
Their sole task is to make little brains
and scientists don’t get the girls
in short skirts
and wide hips.

We see faces in the clouds,
patterns that aren’t even there
but better see a predator in the grass
that isn’t there than die
from a false negative.

As Emo Phillips once said, the human
brain is the most remarkable organ

but think about what’s telling you that.

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Bucket List

20170415_102621Today was the National Poetry Month Pen & Paddle organized by my fellow living poet, Tara Lynne Groth. We spent about five hours on the water and took four writing breaks. The poem below emerged during our second when I considered the today’s poem-a-day prompt.

For today’s prompt, write a “one time” poem. This poem could be about a once in a lifetime experience. Or it could be about something a person wants to try just one time (good or bad). Or take it where you will–as always.

Bucket List

Just one time before I die
I want to swim in the ocean.
I grew up a farm boy in Ohio,
corn as far as the eye can see,
and can’t imagine waves
all the way to the horizon.

Just one time before I die
I want to visit Scotland,
to walk the same paths
as the Ploughman Poet
and enjoy the hospitality
of the daughters of his muses.

Just one time before I die
I want to be married.
To share my life so intimately
that we cannot testify
against each other, a true
partner in crime.

But when I root through these memories,
like a pig searching for truffles,
I find that I’ve visited Burns’
Mausoleum in Dumfries twice
and recall two wedding rings
tarnishing in a box in my closet.

So all that’s left is for this Atlantic
riptide to carry me away.

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Follow_Kokopelli_to_Starbucks!_(2528745001)Tonight I hosted a prompt workshop where five poets and I wrote to random prompts supplied by glow-in-the-dice. We had enough time to write eight poems to the following prompts: family, intellect, Taurus or amethyst or February, Parade Amoureuse, words starting with KO, Earth, thick promotion motion and sober.

For the words starting with KO prompt, I chose to write about Kokopelli.

Dance through your abandoned village,
your family dead
from blankets
or gunpowder
or alcohol.

Play your pipe and dance
while the pale invaders
turn your land
into mini-malls
and subdivisions

and you into a registered trademark.

Thank you to my fellow prompt poets. We got some good work done tonight!

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How to Vacation

For today’s prompt, write a travel poem. Your poem can be about the process of traveling, planning to travel, vicariously traveling through television programs, or however else you’d like to take this prompt.


How to Vacation

If you could eat that food at home
or watch that television program
from the comfort of your bed
why bother to move?

Enjoy the strange accents
and incomprehensible tongues.
Order the restaurant’s daily special
without knowing the ingredients.
Dance with the locals
without knowing the steps.
Stare at the skyscrapers
or the snow caps
or the horizon
beyond the ocean.

Do something you can’t.
Be someone you aren’t.
That’s how you vacation!

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So Hoagland

9781555977184.pngThis afternoon was our monthly Living Poetry Book Club meeting and we discussed Tony Hoagland’s 2015 book Application for Release from the Dream. Unlike some of our recent selections, these poems mix humor and pathos in simple yet evocative language. Here’s my favorite stanza from A History of High Heels:

… because today is one of those days when I am starting to suspect
that sex was just a wild-goose chase
in which I honk-honk-honked away
three-quarters of my sweet, unconscious life.

I also noticed some Buddhist themes in reaction to the absurdity of life but I may be reading too much of myself into his poetry. So for today’s poem-a-day, I steal a bunch of his best lines. Enjoy!

For today’s prompt, take the phrase “So (blank),” 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: “So Cool,” “So Stupid,” “So Not What I Would’ve Done,” “So Sweet,” or so many other possibilities.

So Hoagland

I too have felt my life crushed
like an aluminum can
by a woman,
and the need to sink into literature
instead of flipping and flopping
around inside myself
like a poor armadillo or raccoon
that doesn’t know it’s been hit
by a car.

His metaphors communicate
deeper than water
because we’re both white males,
firmly ensconced in middle age,
trying to make sense
of social life
and misunderstandings,
and searching for the precise word
that hasn’t been discovered

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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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