Video

Weather Eye

It’s not that we’re fat (tho many are), or a little less sharp of movement than East Coasters, or more uptight than West Coasters (tho many are), or more racist than either (tho many are) — it’s that we’re obsessed with weather. We go to Istanbul and talk about the weather.

In CUNY’s  Lost & Found collection of poets writing on poetry or to each other, Baraka and Dorn exchange notes mostly on getting poems published and Baraka’s young journal off the ground. I can tell Dorn is the Midwesterner in this dialogue. No matter where he is, the letters include long sections on the weather, remarks on the snow, dryness, the oppression or lifting of conditions, season. Dorn, it turns out, is from Illinois. He watches his atmosphere minutely, with some love but mostly a kind of background trepidation.

Midwesterners think inside a farming culture. MW hipsters will deny this, but their false consciousness is another post. Our cities, surrounded by 100s of miles of crop & herd. Eastern cities are surrounded by other cities, US NightLightsand Western ones by wildland of myth and monster (to hear them tell it — it’s just wolves and indigenous people they’re freaking out about).

Weather is not conversational filler, it’s vital gossip about a bad cop. If you live in a town whose name starts with a J (Jarrell, Joplin) you are in trouble from go. The Ring of Fire Derecho of 2012 was born in Iowa at 9:30 in the morning, and was pounding Virginia, DC, and Maryland ELEVEN HOURS later. It moved 2 days worth country in half a day.

Michael Stipe is a MW’er & complained about our serious small talk in “Pop Song 89“, but he was really on about a flat kind of interchangeable human insufficiently engaged in their world while Reagan & Co. burned the 20th Century down to wee green shoots. He had a point.

In LatinX and African American cultures, polite conversation gets quickly to asking after family, everyone’s grandparents, cousins. In the MW, we call long-distance to ask after the weather there, guessing whether a storm will break N or S or just smash thru everything with all of Canada behind it. I live in the East now, so when Mamma calls we compare weather in every conversation while we both have apps & know perfectly well what’s up with the atmosphere.

Little House on the Prairie? The whole plot of those novels turn on a hail storm leveling the Engel’s wheat crop. So, I’m in grad school in the early 1990s, this is before the flood of ’93, with my dad who’s helping me move into my first apartment. We get the mattress in (this is all true) and sit on the trailer with a couple of beers, it’s late June, we are made of sweat at this point and chatting about the homegoods I need to score at the Goodwill, when the sky goes gunmetal and green and the sirens wind up

that cats-fucking-in-the-alley wail, and I realize this apt has. no. basement. 20 min later, it’s over, sunny, shiney streets and glittering oaks rise & shake their crowns in the after-breeze. “Sky turned over,” Papa says,”not seen that in a few years.” Radio that night reported a tornado on the edge of town — yes, that edge of town, always. This was a sunny day.

We’re like sailors this way. Not for nought it’s called a sea of wheat. That swath of Mississippi Watershed is the size of an ocean & builds up heat and damp like the Tropics do. It teaches us how the old gods still dance at their children’s weddings.

 

Video

Split This Rock :: Poem of the Week

Jennifer Bartlett

to walk means to fall
to thrust forward

to fall and catch

the seemingly random
is its own system of gestures

based on a series of neat errors
falling and catching

to thrust forward

sometimes the body misses
then collapses

sometimes
it shatters

with this particular knowledge

a movement spastic
and unwieldy

is its own lyric and
the able-bodied are

tone-deaf to this singing some

falling

is of its own grace

some

falling

                         rather occurs

out of laziness or distraction

here, the entire frame is shaken

these are the falls

where I tell myself

you shouldn’t have fallen

I mean to inflict

while the critic of the world watches

o stupid, stupid world

* * * 
This poem is an excerpt from Autobiography/Anti-Autobiography (Theenk, 2014). Used with permission.
* * *

Jennifer Bartlett was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and educated at the University of New Mexico, Vermont College, and Brooklyn College. Bartlett is the author of Derivative of the Moving Image (UNM Press, 2007), (a) lullaby without any music (Chax, 2012), and Autobiography/Anti-Autobiography (Theenk, 2014). Bartlett also co-edited, with Sheila Black and Michael Northen, Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. In December 2014, she co-edited, with Professor George Hart, a collection of the poet Larry Eigner’s letters and participated in a “roundtable” on disability and poetics for Poetry Magazine. Bartlett has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Fund for Poetry, and the Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut. She is currently writing a full-length biography on Eigner, and recently had a residency at the Gloucester Writer’s Center. Bartlett has taught poetry and disability awareness at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, United Cerebral Palsy, the MS Society, and New York Public Schools. Bartlett has had mild cerebral palsy since birth.

* * * 
If you have difficulty reading this poem, please visit the poem at our site.
Please feel free to share Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this post, including this request. Thanks!  To read more poems of provocation and witness, please visit The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database at SplitThisRock.org.
* * *       * * *       * * *
Video

Nov 1st. Deadline. Poetry Contest.

SplitThisRock.Submittable.com

Prizes: $500 & Registration for the 2016 festival; $250, and $100. Entry fee of $20 raises funds used to bring on the 4 day social justice and poetry festival, in DC April 14-17.

Judge: The inimitatible Rigoberto González.

Split Rock Park, Lake Harmony, PA. Photo by MF Simone Roberts.

Split Rock Park, Lake Harmony, PA. Photo by MF Simone Roberts.

Spirit: Submissions should be in the spirit of Split This Rock: socially engaged poems, poems that reach beyond the self to connect with the larger community or world; poems of provocation and witness. This theme can be interpreted broadly and may include but is not limited to work addressing politics, economics, government, war, leadership; issues of identity (gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, disability, body image, immigration, heritage, etc.); community, civic engagement, education, activism; and poems about history, Americana, cultural icons.

Visit Split This Rock’s website [www.splitthisrock.org] to read past winning poems for examples of themes.

Rigoberto González is author of four books of poetry, most recently Unpeopled Eden, which won the Lambda Literary Award and the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets. His ten books of prose include bilingual children’s books, young adult novels, and Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa, which received the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. He edited Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing and Alurista’s new Xicano Duende: A Select Anthology. The recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and many other accolades, he is professor of English at Rutgers-Newark, the State University of New Jersey. In 2015, he received The Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Publishing Triangle.

FOR QUESTIONS OR MORE INFO: info@splitthisrock.org | splitthisrock.submittable.com/submit

Two Poems Recently Loved

Both can be found @ The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database. The .org, Split This Rock, encourages sharing poems from The Quarry everywhere — just please credit the author, Split This Rock, and link to the poem. You know, be cool.

I love that Jones’s poem spares us nothing, takes us into this vulnerability directly. (Note that WordPress corrupts the format of this poem. Please view the original at the link to see how goo this really is.)

Ode to the Chronically Ill Body
by Camisha Jones

This body        is one long moan

My feet                a landscape of mines
My legs                two full pails of water I spill
at the weight of
My back              where the sharpest knives are kept
My hands            a scatter of matches     ready to spark into flame

This body       is lightning
Strikes the same place      more than twice

This body       is a fist                         pounding its own hand
This body       crumples like paper
I crumple     like paper           because of this body
This body       just wants        and wants         and wants
This body
Says stop
Says go
Says stop
Says run
Says stop
Says STOP
This body is        a stubborn traffic light           stuck on red
This body will
have what it wants       Or it is
blasphemous        tantrum down every grocery store aisle
This body            makes an embarrassment      of me
This body is
an embarrassment
Then pleasure               Then hunger
Then defender             Then defendant
Then carriage
Then coffin
This body is      Tupperware with its secrets        sealed tight
This body             scrapes              and falls
Then gets back up        again      and again
It’s all I got      to get back up with         again
This body         is an ocean        of oil spill        all over me.

*

What I love in Chin’s poem is how it participates in a contemporary form of metta, the Buddhist practice of extending loving compassion into the world.

The Last New Year’s Resolution
by Kazumi Chin

The very last mammoth was just like the others,
except more lonely. The very last tortilla chip
makes me feel guilty. The very last line
of the poem changes everything about
what came before. On the very last day
of any semester, if I liked my class, I buy them
cookies. Every year, someone hears the very last
words of any given language, and then
it sinks into the mud of colonialism. White
soldiers gave every last Indian at Fort Pitt
a blanket, to keep them warm. The very last
samurai was white. The very last thing
I wanted this poem to be about was white
people. But that didn’t last too long. Last
year, I wavered between whispering
and screaming. The very latest from
the western front: a lasting quiet. The radio
was never much of a conversationalist.
The very last tape I ever listened to
scrambled like an egg at brunch
in Pittsburgh on a Sunday, with
the very last people I’d ever expected
to be at brunch with. Who knew I’ve love
so many white people. The very last story
my grandmother told me was about a boy
named Tsutomo. He was born from a peach
called America. The very last place his father
thought he’d ever be. The very last ornament
we hang from our tree each year is a face.
The very last year I spent Christmas with
my whole family was in 6th grade. I hated
my whole family that year. To the very last
drop of blood in my body, I wanted them
out. Now I want to bring all these Pittsburgh
people home with me. Take them to meet
my family. With every pixel of every word
I bleed. I never wanted to hate my family.
Or anything at all. I want last year to be
the very last time that I ever hate anything.
Even when white people are killing black
people and sealing off the street. I will hold
so many hands. To the very last finger
resting on every last trigger of every
last gun. Listen to me, I am loving, I am loving,
I am giving so much fucking love to you.

*

Call for Proposals: 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Festival

CALL FOR SESSION PROPOSALS:
Workshops, Themed Readings, and Panel or Roundtable Discussions

DEADLINE: June 30, 2015

COMPLETE GUIDELINES AT BLOG THIS ROCK.

Submit online:
www.splitthisrock.submittable.com

CONTACT US AT INFO@SPLITTHISROCK.ORG IF THE FORM IS NOT ACCESSIBLE TO YOU.

Split This Rock invites proposals for workshops, panel and roundtable discussions, and themed group readings for the fifth Split This Rock Poetry Festival, scheduled for April 14-17, 2016, in Washington, DC.

More and more, we understand the ways that issue areas converge: earth justice requires economic and racial justice; LGBT rights and gender equality intertwine; freedom is indivisible. We’re particularly interested this year in seeing proposals that address these intersections, examining the ways that poetry can help us understand the connections and build the alliances necessary to imagine and construct another world.

The festival prides itself on being a place for community building. Interactive proposals that open unique opportunities for participants to connect with one another are of particular interest. When proposing panel discussions and readings, we request that time be set aside for dialogue or a period of questions and answers.

Split This Rock is not an academic conference, but a gathering of individuals from many backgrounds. Please, no academic papers and avoid jargon of all kinds. Thank you!

Call for Proposals: 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Festival

Split This Rock Poetry Festival:
Poems of Provocation & Witness 2016
 
CALL FOR SESSION PROPOSALS:
Workshops, Themed Readings, and Panel or Roundtable Discussions
 
DEADLINE: June 30, 2015
Submit online:
CONTACT US AT INFO@SPLITTHISROCK.ORG IF THE FORM IS NOT ACCESSIBLE TO YOU.

Split This Rock invites proposals for workshops, panel and roundtable discussions, and themed group readings for the fifth Split This Rock Poetry Festival, scheduled for April 14-17, 2016, in Washington, DC. 
More and more, we understand the ways that issue areas converge: earth justice requires economic and racial justice; LGBT rights and gender equality intertwine; freedom is indivisible. We’re particularly interested this year in seeing proposals that address these intersections, examining the ways that poetry can help us understand the connections and build the alliances necessary to imagine and construct another world.

The festival prides itself on being a place for community building. Interactive proposals that open unique opportunities for participants to connect with one another are of particular interest. When proposing panel discussions and readings, we request that time be set aside for dialogue or a period of questions and answers.

For complete details, visit the blog here.