Because We Come From Everything: Poetry & Migration

Academy of American Poets Chancellor @professorea

More than one year ago, in November 2015, more than 20 nonprofit poetry groups came together for a singular purpose. Now 26 member organizations strong, the Poetry Coalition, seeks to “promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.”As a poet, this is a mission near and dear to my heart. It lines up 100% with any proposal initiated by the U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress.

This month, the Poetry Coalition is launching its first initiative, Because We Come From Everything: Poetry & Migration.Check out either of the two links for more information on the Poetry Coalition, its member organizations, and the migration-themed events they are hosting this month. Both links will take you to pages on the Academy of American Poets’s website. The Coalition encourages participation in any of the programs member organizations are holding throughout the month. Additionally, they invite like-minded organizations to host their own events. The Coalition has one simple request, and that is that you use the hashtag #WeComeFromEverything to share your efforts across social media platforms for anything related to this project. Get creative, get out there, and get involved!

Keep Writing!





As well as being National Poetry Month, April is also celebrated by some brave individuals as NaPoWriMo. NaPoWriMo? National Poetry Writing Month! Similar to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), just don’t get them confused! If you want to know more about NaPoWriMo specifically, check out their FAQ.

The Academy of American Poets inaugurated National Poetry Month in 1996 and have sponsored it ever since. Throughout the month of April, you can find all kinds of material and resources to celebrate National Poetry Month. The Academy has a page dedicated to the annual celebration along with links to other pages, projects, and events. Scholastic’s website has great resources for teachers, students, and any other poetry lover. Read Write Think also offers several lesson plans for grades K-12 on their website. Last year, Poetry Foundation made their April issue of Poetry magazine available as a pdf download.

I haven’t found much material for 2017 yet, but then it is still March. Through a quick search, I found several references to National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo from 2016. Everything posted for 2016 is still valid, but I hope they begin posting information for 2017 soon. I have that poetic itch and it can only be cured with more cowbell. No, that’s not right. I am excited to see what comes of National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo this year!

I am debating whether I am going to attempt to write one poem every day in April this year. I haven’t done it in the past because I just learned about it. I am still heavily engaged in finishing my Master’s Thesis for my MFA. I thought I would have enough poems for the thesis, but I am writing more to achieve the requirements. Actually, NaPoWriMo may provide the inspiration I need to foster my brilliance. ;-l

I should point out you can also find opinions against National Poetry Month because, of course, there are radicals on both sides of every fence.

With only 27 days remaining until National Poetry Month, keep writing!



TED Talks Poetry


Who is TED? Why is his name in ALL CAPS? Why should I care what he has to say about Poetry? If you aren’t already familiar with TED Talks, it is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. From their website at

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

I have heard of TED Talks and I was introduced to TEDx this past week. If you were already familiar with TED, maybe you thought like me, “what would TED have to do with Poetry?” This morning I decided to look up Poetry on TED and I was surprised by the results.

One of the 11 MUST-SEE TED Talks is about poetry. Poet Sarah Kay gave a talk around 18 minutes long entitled “If I Should Have a Daughter…” Kay is a spoken word poet, a performance poet and her presentation was eloquent. She is doing great things to further poetry in the modern world and ensure its accessibility for everyone. I’m attaching a link to her website here.

Former Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress, Billy Collins, has a TED Talk entitled “Everyday Moments, Caught in Time.” Collins’s talk is slightly shorter at around 15 minutes wherein he introduces five of his poems in animated form. He concludes by reading a sixth poem. I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm and support from the large audience. Two or three times, Collins references the period he served as United States Poet Laureate, he laughs as he clearly enjoyed that time in his life and the audience laughs along with him. It’s a refreshing exchange between a contemporary poet and a demographically diverse audience. Collins maintains his own website here.

According to one of their tags, TED has 48 talks on Poetry! Additionally, they have around seven articles on Poetry! I feel like I’m using exclamation points excessively, but I get excited when I talk about Poetry and when I find new Poetry resources! This afternoon I typed “poetry” in TED’s search bar which returned 323 results! I hope you take a minute to watch some of the TED talks on poetry. Some of them are poets reading their material whiles others are poets talking about the craft and furthering the art form.

And as always, keep writing!



Contests and Submissions

One of the promises I made to myself as I am in the final stretches of attaining a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is that I will submit my poems to contests and literary and poetry journals. These are all steps on my journey to my ultimate goal of becoming U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.

In my last post I wrote about joining organizations I feel are beneficial to furthering your appreciation, education, and quality of writing poetry. Some of the organizations I mentioned are state poetry organizations, the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, the Academy of American Poets, American Poetry Review, Association of Writers & Writing Programs, the Poetry Foundation, and the Poetry Society of America. Many of these organizations offer contests and while many of them are open to the public, there are a few only open to members. If you do some research, you can find several “free to enter” contests, while others require small submission fees. The prizes range anywhere from publication on the organization’s website to chapbook publication offers and even thousands of dollars in prize money.

I encourage you to take the next step and research some contests that appeal to you. Don’t like sonnets or villanelles or you feel that you are unable to write them? There are plenty of contests out there for contemporary, free verse poetry. There are contests for ekphrastic poetry. There are contests for haiku and lunes and landays and zip odes and spoon river poems. There are rhyming poetry contests and themed poetry contests for just about anything you can think of. Many of the contests available open and close on a rotating basis annually. The National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ submission period generally runs from January 1st through March 15th. The Florida State Poets Association submission period is open from May 1st through July 15th annually. Other contests are run weekly or monthly.

I was going to put together a comprehensive list of every contest I found in Microsoft Excel and sort by deadline, but it turns out there are websites which do just that. Trish Hopkinson’s blog, A Selfish Poet is one of the best I’ve seen. Recently she featured a site called Submishmash which lists countless contests by poetry, fiction, nonfiction, visual art, or all. It further sorts the content by deadline or “random.”

My only word of caution is to not overwhelm yourself and burden yourself by attempting to take on too many submissions. This should be fun! Make your own small list of contests you are interested in and focus on those. Expand your list if you want, but always enjoy the process and the rewards!



Poetry Organizations

I am a member of the United States Armed Forces and one of my closest friends made a remark a few years ago that stuck with me. “Bryan,” he said, “Professionals join professional organizations.” He was talking about entirely different organizations, but what does that mean? Well, it might mean different things to different people and several things to several people. If you are not out there actively championing your cause, who is? As a poet or even as a person with an appreciation of poetry, there are several organizations who fight for the validity and relevancy of traditional and contemporary poetry. When you join these organizations, your membership pays for them to lobby and forward the poetic agenda. That came out sounding a little too political and I do not want to discourage you from considering membership in any of them.

I am no expert at this, so in my humble opinion, the best place to start is the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (homepage linked). Their website can point you in the direction of your state’s poetry group. Just go to the menu on the left and click on “State Links.” A vast majority of states have poetry organizations and many of them are linked on this page.

Beyond those, there is the Academy of American Poets (linked) and Poetry Foundation (also linked). These are two of my favorite organizations. Their websites are chock full of poetry information and resources. Any time I want to look up a poem, a poet, or a poetic term, these are the first two places I check.

Some of these are not so much membership-driven organizations, but organizations with magazine subscriptions. I encourage you poets to check out American Poetry Review, American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI), Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), Poets & Writers (another favorite), Poetry Society of America, Poets House, and Writer’s Digest to name just a few. And these really are just a few of the many poetry focused organizations out there. I could write individual blogs on each of these sites and more going into great detail on what they have to offer.

I am a member of the Florida Writers Association, Florida State Poets Association, National Federation of State Poetry Societies, Academy of American Poets, and American Writers & Artists, Inc.. I currently subscribe to American Poetry Review, American Poets, The Florida Writer, Poetry, Poets & Writers, and Writer’s Digest.

If you have the time, also look into the National Endowment for the Arts. They do incredible things for all of the arts!

Keep writing!



Library of Congress Magazine, the Poetry Issue


I am a long-time practitioner of rabbit-holing, mostly voluntary. I’ll feel a particular curious itch and start some cursory research which leads me to another topic and another website and multiple articles. This is a near-daily occurrence. I love to learn and, only to a slightly lesser extent, I enjoy research.

One of my favorite things to research is poetry. Whether poetic forms, new and old poets, poetry contests, lit magazines specializing in poetry, poetry chapbooks, local poetry groups and readings, et cetera. I find and learn more every day whether about the craft itself, or organizations I didn’t know about, or resources to further my understanding. Poetry is not dead.

I have sort of a plan for what I want to write about and publish on this blog from week to week, but then I find something else and I have to write about it. I found this gem recently through the Library of Congress‘s website. If you haven’t checked out the Library of Congress as a resource, you are missing out. I discovered the Library of Congress all over again because I stumbled across their magazine. Not only that, but I found that they published a beautiful 30-page edition all on poetry! The March/April 2015 edition is subtitled “POETRY NATION”. Of course in all caps, poetry is significant! The following link will take you directly to the catalog of magazines: Library of Congress Magazine, Vol. 4 No. 2: Mar.-Apr. 2015. The short description accompanying the pdf is:

The Library has been a repository and patron of poetry throughout its history and is the home of the Poet Laureate. Also: Rosa Parks and the struggle for racial justice, Walt Whitman, Billie Holliday and more.

You can download a pdf of the issue at 2.25MB, OR, you can contact the Library of Congress staff to request a physical copy. I am writing this blog because I e-mailed the Library of Congress to request the poetry issue. I wasn’t entirely a believer when I e-mailed them, but sure enough, I received mine within a few days. Here is all of the information you need to contact their Public Affairs Office:

For More Information

Office of Communications
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave., S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20540-1600
Voice: 202.707.2905
Fax: 202.707.9199

As always, keep writing!



Open Mic Events

If you are into poetry at all, I encourage you to attend an open mic night near you. I have read at four poetry readings since I began taking the craft more seriously last year and I am addicted.

The first read was more than a little nerve-wracking. I believe my right leg punched a hole in the venue floor jack-hammer-style. I had all of the common fears of public speaking when I stood up, but the crowds quickly put me at ease. I hope that you will find poets and poetry connoisseurs to be just as welcoming, gracious, and supportive as I have. There is something crisp and pure and freeing about reading your poetry or other poets to a crowd.

With an event tomorrow I want to add a bit of humor. I found this post on The Best American Poetry blog. I’m not sure if Daniel Nester has been to many poetry readings, but he is spot-on accurate with his observations. This is meant to be humorous. I hope no one takes offense, I mean, come on, we all know this is true and if we can’t laugh at ourselves…

20 Things Not to Do at an Open Poetry Reading

by Daniel Nester, November 05, 2015

  1. Write your name illegibly on the sign-up sheet.
  2. Complain to host when he/she can’t read/pronounce your last name.
  3. Go over the allotted time, so much so that you are mistaken for the “featured” reader, who has traveled three hours on an interstate to promote her most recent book, and has advertised the event on her personal website, Facebook author page, sent announcements college alumni listserv (undergraduate and graduate), as well as posted to Twitter and Snapchat accounts.
  4. Go over time by reading a poem that combines several short poems into a single, multi-sectioned SuperPoem®, which uses different voices (precocious child, mermaid, Muddy Waters) and which features with an epigraph, a joke in Latin, which you do not translate and yet giggle to yourself before proceeding with main body of the poem.
  5. Tell host you need to read first, last, or “when my friends get here.”
  6. While onstage, complain about how bad most poetry is then fail to realize the mountain of social privilege and assumed power required to proclaim oneself the final gatekeeper of what counts as good or bad poetry.
  7. Complain about writing workshops.
  8. Then lead one yourself.
  9. Read poem you just wrote about being outside at a coffee shop, which addresses your thoughts about how hard it is to write a poem in a coffee shop, what with all clanging of porcelain and milk getting frothed.
  10. Mention journal your poem was published in before you read it, as if to say, you better like this poem.
  11. Complain about poetry slam’s format and hip-hop MC style, being competitive or too showy or adhering to some random, three-minute limit.
  12. Proceed to perform a poem, in hip-hop MC style, that clocks in at two minutes, 57 seconds.
  13. Plan another open mic with the same people at the open mic where you are reading.
  14. Prick thigh with ballpoint pen every time anyone says the following words: “darkness,” “loamy,” “gleam,” “amongst,” “nevermore,” “nothingness,” “kumquat,” “capitalism,” “shame.”
  15. Complain about the exclusiveness and ivory tower mentality of colleges and all those student-types who take creative writing classes.
  16. Talk about how you first discovered poetry with professor X in college.
  17. Avoid speaking into the microphone provided by your host, then ask if people can hear you.
  18. Read narrative lyric poem about any of the following: 1. your dog; 2. going out into the woods and feeling vaguely religious; 3. Sharing hummus with your lover.
  19. Precede your poem by explaining everything about the poem—the story, inspiration, place it was written, time of year the action takes place—and then repeat this same information in the title of the poem. For example, your poem might be inspired by your going to art galleries with an ex-lover in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, in the middle of winter. Explain all this, and then introduce your poem entitled “Visiting Art Galleries with Ex-Lover, Chelsea, Mid-Winter, 2009.”
  20. Promote an open mic at another open mic.

I hope you get all the laughs that I do out of Nester’s tongue-in-cheek post.

I can’t be any more excited to attend tomorrow’s event after a nearly two-month hiatus. We did not hold a reading in December due to the holiday so we have had plenty of time to prepare new work. Tomorrow’s reading is themed “Brave New World” and I have two poems to read.

Keep writing and get out there to read your work!



Magnetic Poetry

I ordered The Magnetic Poetry Book of Poetry with an Amazon gift card I received for Christmas. I have enjoyed Magnetic Poetry for as long as I have dabbled in poetry and this book is a great new edition to my collection!

As I read through Robert Pinsky’s introduction to the book, I couldn’t help but think about the words of my professor and mentor at National University, Frank Montesonti. In the week 6 lecture for MCW640B Advanced Workshop in Poetry II, Frank wrote of “associative leaping” and Dean Young.

“What Dean Young does in poems, I call “associative leaping.” After all, his movements through a poem are not random.

Robert Bly describes leaping: “in terms of language, leaping is the ability to associate fast. In a great poem, the considerable distance between the associations, that is, the distance the spark has to leap, gives the lines their bottomless feeling, their space, and the speed (of the association) increases the excitement of poetry.”

Sometimes Young’s associations may feel random, and sometimes he misses his mark, but where the excitement lies is in “the distance the spark has to leap.”

The pleasure in associative leaping is like the pleasure in feeling out the third term of a metaphor. The poem becomes an associative exercise–the poet takes you somewhere unexpected.”

I have found that many times the magic of magnetic poetry is in the associations that arise. The words wait impatiently in a mob on my refrigerator door. They wait for my poetic hand to sculpt them into a meaningful order, or is it further disorder? So often I look over the words and two or three of them catch my eye in an amusing, unexpected, and unique sequence that makes sense in the poetic context.

Currently, my wife and I use the refrigerator to write and rewrite magnetic poems back and forth. It’s a fun and engaging way to send each other modern love notes.


Montesonti, Frank. “Dean Young.” MCW640B Advanced Workshop in Poetry II, 22 June 2016, National University, La Jolla, CA. Lecture. Blogging University Day Fourteen Assignment: Create a Regular Feature for Your Blog

Today marks the final assignment for me in’s Blogging University and the end of a fun and information-packed two weeks! Many of the helpful posts and support pages I have read over the past two weeks were not published when I initially thought I’d start a blog in 2011. Maybe it was a good thing that I waited to invest myself in this commitment. There is so much more available to help the newbie blogger.

Just like with goals, creating a regular feature ensures that I will continue with a little more certainty, a little more oomph, if that makes any sense. I have been talking with many of my coworkers lately and any time they mention attaining their goals, they have all heard and can attest to similar sentiments. The person who writes their goals down is more likely to achieve them. The person who reviews and revises their goals on an annual, semi-annual, monthly, weekly, even daily basis is most likely to surpass them. Daily and weekly reviews seem over-the-top to me, but I have reviewed my own goals bi-monthly and I find myself revising them constantly as I achieve them. It’s exciting to see where you have come from and how much more you can and will do!

I will be back in class in the next few weeks for my final two capstone courses in my Master of Fine Arts program. In light of an impending busy schedule full of thesis revision, I would like to limit myself to one weekly post on my blog for now. I don’t want to commit to any particular feature at this point, although I am still learning and this final assignment taught me about “Category Pages”. I think now, rather than publish my poems as pages, I will publish them as regular posts and categorize them by poetic form. We’ll see. There is so much more to learn and write about and I am just getting started!


Bryan. Blogging University Day Thirteen Assignment: Add a Blog Icon

Good afternoon (or morning or evening)! The first blog icon I added was a simple deathstar-by-twombieDeath Star icon from STAR WARS. I didn’t quite understand the blog icon’s purpose and looking at this assignment, I believe the intent is something of a personal branding. For now I think I’ll use a blog icon I created in a University of North Florida class called ENC 3250 Professional Communications – Business. It is an amalgam of the Greek letters for Alpha and Omega.alpha-omega

From my white paper during the sixth week of class:

“The Greek symbols Alpha and Omega are representative of the Pitchford Brand. They are simple. They are easy to draw and easy to remember. They are also drawn together to create a unique symbol. Alpha and Omega allude to deep-seated historical memories of The Bible when Jesus Christ proclaimed, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” I want people to subconsciously tie my brand with Biblical values.”

The assignment talks about PicMonkey, “which lots of you have already tried for custom headers.” I did not use PicMonkey for my header (yet) and I already designed my blog icon with simple editing tools in Microsoft PowerPoint and Picture Viewer. I may alter this icon in the future, but I don’t want to change it up regularly and end up with severe brand confusion.