Sunday, April 7, 2013

Thanks for the Beauty, Poetry. Thanks even more for the Truth!

“There are two ways to worry words. One is hoping for the greatest possible beauty in what one has created. The other is to tell the truth.”
--  June Jordan

Poetry reminds me of what’s possible, rejuvenates my faith in myself and all the other selves that crowd this ravaged planet, in those times when my faith stretches thin. This month, I give thanks to poetry for all it has given me. Yes, I should give thanks every month, as Kwame Dawes so sagely reminds us, but there are so many things for which to give thanks in this life. 

To celebrate poetry this month, my friend (a gifted poet) Susan Rich is curating the annual Big Poetry Giveaway. I’m happy to participate, giving away three books of poems that I love. All three tell the truth, and manage to be beautiful, too. (I think June would approve.) A few words about each one:

While I was in the MFA program in Bennington, Vermont, at one January residency, photographer and poet Star Black joined us. She documented several days of what is affectionately (and sometimes derisively) called “the vortex.” At the time, I knew nothing more about Star Black than this: she came from a military family (like me) and she wrote stellar sestinas (most decidedly not like me). On our last day together, she shared her visual documentation. In that vortex of sentences and fragments and punctuation marks (usually ?? or !!), Star created a (both beautiful and truthful) narrative and lyric representation of the place, without using a single word. And so, as part of the Big Poetry Giveaway, I want to share Star Black's 1995 book of poems, Waterworn.

One summer while I was in college, I fell in love with a boy from a small town near Ponce, Puerto Rico. In the dead of the following winter, I visited his island for the first (and, so far, only) time. Our romance disintegrated before winter had melted, but the visit stayed with me. During the 1990s, I devoted many hours to activism on behalf of Puerto Rican independentistas, honored to be part of a network that stretched from Chicago, Boston, and New York to San Juan. I thought a lot about the distance between Gringolandia y la isla. For these reasons, Naomi Ayala’s 1997 collection Wild Animals on the Moon & Other Poems spoke deeply to me. (You can read four poems from the collection at In Motion Magazine.) I hope her words might speak to you, too.
Yael Flusberg in Sarasota, Florida • WLC 2010

I was introduced to Naomi Ayala’s poetry by my dear friend Yael Flusberg, whose own 2010 collection, The Last of My Village, shows how love and wisdom can shimmer through pain. (You can read a poem from the collection and also see how beautifully she reads its title poem.) I’ve written about Yael’s poetry before. Twice I’ve invited her to come and share her poetry (and luminous self) with my students, once at New College of Florida and once at Pacific Lutheran University. Both times, the results were magical. I look forward to sending some magic in the mail, perhaps to you?

If you would like to be in the running to receive one of these gifts of poetry in the mail, please just leave a comment below, saying you'd like to be in the running for one, two or all three of the books. I'll pick from three hats at the end of the month, ask the winners for postal addresses, and send out the poetry books on May Day!  

Happy National Poetry Month!