Featured Poet for August on Twitterization Nation

I am proud to announce that Twitterization Nation selected me as one of their featured poets for August! They chose me along with five other poets for their website series and subsequent online literary magazine. The five other poets are Carrie Danaher Hoyt, Richard Green, Charika Swanepoel (@CharikaSW), Elisabeth Horan, and Ken Woodall. If you are not familiar with Twitterization’s work, I enjoy their description and call for submissions:

“We are seeking “Twitterized” poems that are 140 characters or less (however, we have already accepted longer poems) to be featured as a weekly guest through our Twitterization Nation blog, Twitter, and Facebook sites. In addition, we plan to use this collection as our “Preview” Issue for our online literary magazine.”

I first came across Twitterization Nation during Rattle magazine’s Monthly Ekphrastic Poetry Challenge for June 2017. The art was Ryan Schaufler’s photograph “No Name #2” for which I wrote a piece entitled, “Good Hope Road [or, Nostalgia is a Fond Memory]”. I did not win, but I pressed on and submitted seven poems to their website. The poems they are using August 1-7, 2017 are “Red City”, “Eyes”, “Paint by Numbers”, “Scratch Hill”, “Surfin’ Byrd”, “Wet Puppy”, and “Bus Stop”.

Follow Twitterization Nation on WordPress (https://twitterization.wordpress.com), Twitter (@NationOTwits) and Facebook (https://facebook.com/twitterization.nation).

Keep writing and seeking publication!

Cheers,

Bryan

Poet Brian Bilston

 

I had no idea this week what I was going to write about. I decided to focus on a unique poet I found recently. Unless I write it down, I never remember how I discover particular poems or poets. It may have been that someone posted or shared on Facebook or reTweeted on the Twitters. I saw the poet’s name attached to an old-timey picture of a pipe-smoking gentleman and I thought nothing of it. Then I saw another post and that, too, passed. Later I tried to remember the name as best I could so I could look him up. I wanted to find him again because of a visual poem I remembered.

One of Bilston’s most recent poems, and the one that I saw, is “Cell”:

 

Bilston, Brian - Cell

I’m not here to critique the individual poems so I will let you read for yourself and make your own judgments. I am impressed how Bilston uses everything at his disposal in fresh ways. To use Microsoft Excel and play with the language in the cells is fun!

Here is another poem in which Bilston plays with Venn diagrams. A Venn diagram, named after John Venn (1834–1923), an English logician is “a diagram representing mathematical or logical sets pictorially as circles or closed curves within an enclosing rectangle (the universal set), common elements of the sets being represented by the areas of overlap among the circles (Google)”.

Bilston, Brian - At the Intersection

Finally, here is a third poem in which Bilston used of the layout on the page to play with words making them look like falling rain. E. E. Cummings used similar techniques with typography. Check out “(IM)C-A-T(MO)” and “l(a” if you are interested. Here is Bilston’s “A Leaky Weekend”:

Bilston, Brian - A Leaky Weekend

I haven’t found much biographical information on Bilston, but that is part of his allure. Actually, Bilston may not even be a male poet, she may be a poetess! Bilston has a WordPress site and this is directly from his “About” page:

“Frequently described as the “Poet Laureate of Twitter”, Brian Bilston is a poet clouded in the pipe smoke of mystery. Very little is known about him other than the fragments of information revealed on social media: his penchant for tank tops, his enjoyment of Vimto, his dislike of Jeremy Clarkson.

In 2014 he became the first person to retain the title of Pipe Smoker of the Year [Poetry section] and, over the years, he has won numerous awards for cycling proficiency, first aid, and general tidiness. He won the 2015 Great British Write Off poetry prize for a poem disguised in a Venn diagram.

His first collection of poetry You Caught the Last Bus Home will be published later this year with Unbound. You can find a short film about it, how to support it, and get your name in the back of it, here:

https://unbound.co.uk/books/brian-bilston

Writing about his own verse, he says:

I write about Waitrose.
And the pitta of Waitrose.
The poetry is in the pitta.

You can find Brian most days on Twitter (@brian_bilston) and also on Facebook (www.facebook.com/BrianBilston/).

I don’t know where all of these titles came from. Robert Lee Brewer was ceremonially dubbed the Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere. Now we have Brian Bilston dubbed the Poet Laureate of Twitter. I checked his social media sites to hunt for an origin story. I found these facts:

  1. Bilston has been blogging since at least November 2013 on WordPress!
  2. He has been on Twitter since August 2013. His short bio on Twitter simply reads: “Ceci n’est pas un poème,” which translates to “this is not a poem.”
  3. The oldest Facebook post I can find from him is November 22, 2014.

I am looking forward to purchasing his book You Caught the Last Bus Home soon!

Have you come across any poets you would like to share?

Cheers,

Bryan

American Life in Poetry

KooserFellow Poets! Last week I published a post about Juan Felipe Herrera, the current Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Mr. Herrera is currently in his second term as Poet Laureate. I wanted to write about him because I read an interview The Washington Post published in March 2017 just prior to National Poetry Month.

This week, I am inspired to write about Ted Kooser and American Life in Poetry. Mr. Kooser served two terms as the prestigious U.S. Poet Laureate when he was appointed the 13th Poet Laureate from 2004-2006. It was Kooser’s own National Poetry Project, American Life in Poetry, which first drew my attention to him. According to the website,

“American Life in Poetry is a free weekly column for newspapers and online publications featuring a poem by a contemporary American poet and a brief introduction to the poem by Ted Kooser.”

Like any great project, Kooser presented a mission and a vision for ALP which is simply to promote poetry. I subscribed to ALP in May 2013 when they were in their ninth year and they are still going strong. On Monday, May 15th, they published their 634th column!

Some background on Ted Kooser. He’s got his own poet website: The Official Website of Poet: Ted Kooser. Here you can read his personal biography detailing his collected works, listen to him reading and talking about his poems, read some press reviews, and more. Mr. Kooser currently features only six poems on his site and lists the works they are published in as well as linking them to where you can purchase those works. Mr. Kooser also has an extensive couple of pages on The Poetry Foundation’s website. The Foundation’s biography is even more extensive than on Kooser’s site. Additionally, the Foundation has 26 of Kooser’s poems, 1 article, and 17 Audio & Podcast files. The Academy of American Poets has a sizable biography page for Kooser as well as four poems. Fortunately, they are four different poems than on the Poetry Foundation. Since he served as a U.S. Poet Laureate, you can also find loads of information on the Library of Congress’ pages. There is a brief summary of Kooser’s tenure as Poet Laureate, a page listing all Poet Laureate Projects including Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, and several articles and blog posts about Kooser and his work.

On The Poetry Foundation’s biography, they quote critic Dana Gioia who described Kooser as a “popular poet”—not one who sells millions of books, but

“popular in that unlike most of his peers he writes naturally for a nonliterary public. His style is accomplished but extremely simple—his diction drawn from common speech, his syntax conversational.”

Poetically, Kooser reminds me of Philip Levine and Billy Collins. Incidentally, they both served as Poets Laureate, Levine from 2011-2012 and Collins from 2001-2003. Perhaps I will write more about them later.

One of the things I like best about Mr. Kooser is that he is approachable and helpful as a poet. On August 8, 2016 I wrote to Mr. Kooser for advice on breaking into the poetry world. I have my own ideas and I have written about them on this blog. Mr. Kooser graciously replied that same morning. He suggested to focus on the task at hand, focus on the poem you are writing at the moment. Submit to quality literary journals and continue to submit. Get noticed and keep moving forward, keep progressing. I like writing to poets I admire and sending them compliments on my favorite poems of theirs. It is always a pleasant surprise when they write back!

If you care to check them out, three of my favorite Kooser poems are “Abandoned Farmhouse,” “Look for Me,” and “So This is Nebraska.” You can find all three on The Poetry Foundation’s website.

Keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

It’s Always Dark When I Put on My Lipstick

It’s Always Dark When I Put on My Lipstick

      For love of Stuart Dischell’s “She Put on Her Lipstick in the Dark”

Oui, I met a man in Paris once,
not the only man I’ve ever met
in Paris. It was in a museum
in a garden. I was looking

at the statues; getting a feel
for them with my fingers. Men
want to walk me to the café,
to the entrainer, and to the boutique.

They want me with coffee
and they want to help me
to cross several rues.
He sidled up to me, asking

which statue I favoured.
He said he would steal it for me;
just say the word. I told him
he needed a new line. I felt his

metal security guard badge
and his nightstick. I kissed him
anyway and leaned my head
on his warm chest. Paris was

cold and I wore my aquamarine
scarf. We sipped lovely cups
of coffee near loud machines.
I couldn’t see and I couldn’t

hear. I nearly missed my train,
Paris to Grenoble, seven hours
and 45 minutes. I never saw him
but I remember his face.

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.

WordPress.com Blogging University Day Eleven Assignment: Use a Writing Prompt

Do I title this “… Day 11 Assignment:…” or do I break the convention of only spelling out numbers ten and under to title it “Day Eleven Assignment:…”? I’ll keep to spelling it out through Day Fourteen.

WRITING PROMPTS! I KNOW THIS! I have countless (only because I haven’t physically counted them) books of poetry and writing prompts! I also subscribe to Poets & Writers “The Time is Now” poetry, fiction, and nonfiction writing prompts! Writing prompts are everywhere in the unfortunate event you find yourself pinned down by writer’s block or just can’t find the inspiration. Sometimes I use writing prompts even when I am full of inspiration. I might see a prompt for poetry, fiction, or even non-fiction that is particularly striking and I am compelled to use it.

This picture below is for Rattle’s monthly ekphrastic poetry challenge. This photograph is for the January 2017 challenge running from January 1st-31st. You can find a more scholarly definition of ekphrasis on The Poetry Foundation’s Glossary of Poetic Terms or The Academy of American Poets’ Library. In short, an ekphrastic poem is a poem directly inspired by a visual work of art – a painting, photograph, sculpture, etc.

ec17jan

Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge

Experience

Inspired by Harry Wilson’s image “Ileen’s Dance of the Old Year #1, San Francisco, 1984

by Bryan Pitchford

 

Tomorrow is not promised today, still, I wait

to claim the future as my own.

 

I am the god of yesterday.

I am the Old Year,

though not so old

as Father Time.

 

I am the last days. The lost days

and with each passing day I grow,

a record of history.

 

Let me not serve as a reminder of what is lost,

but of knowledge gained.

 

I hope you find some inspiration today whether you are compelled to seek out a writing prompt or are working on a piece you haven’t been able to finish. Today is the day for you to complete it!

Cheers,

Bryan

a better place to be or, she, part i

i lie in bed making snow angels
her sheets are white
like a frozen tundra

like a bridal gown
the assumption of purity
she loved the absurdity

im sprawled out
my left arm and leg hanging off the side

i woke up on the wrong side of this bed
the wrong side of the tracks with
the wrong girl

falling asleep and waking up
feeling trapped in some place
less exciting than
it was the night before

some nights i wish i had just stayed home
stayed up late
writing about girls
rather than putting up with them

she woke before i got up
i had been watching her
thinking of whirlpools
and tornados
but it’s my life
spiraling down

who is she
i wrote her name on my hand so
i wouldnt forget
but who is she

you can leave now she said
trying to salvage small self-respect

thanks for your permission i said
already headed toward the door

are you coming back she said

something’s got to give