Thursday, April 15, 2010

Poetry Contest and Review of Telling Tales of Dusk

Erickson's book is available at Amazon, Barns And Noble, and Press 53.

Spring in North Carolina came on this year like a tiger pouncing on its prey. There was no comfortable easing-in to the warm weather. The pine trees have come alive in this heat, blanketing everything with a fluorescent yellow coat of pollen. Pine tree sex happens in the air we breath, and the evidence is everywhere. Walking down the driveway to my mailbox, a ghostly trail of yellow-lined foot prints appears in my wake.

This is my home; poetry exists in the air. I have the privilege of being the new poetry editor here, and every time I hear someone talk disparagingly about poetry, a little bit of me is always surprised. I usually say, “You just haven’t found a poet who speaks to you yet.” I have been lucky enough to stumble on quite a few poets who speak to me.

Poet Terri Kirby Erickson is no exception. I was introduced to her work through a mutual friend, and I’ve had the pleasure of reading her latest book, Telling Tales of Dusk. This collection of poetry feels like being around people I’ve known. Maybe because Erickson is a North Carolinian as well, but I suspect it is more than that. Telling Tales of Dusk is a warm, sensuous stroll through memories and conventions on the verge of slipping away into the darkness of time.

From Butter Mints “She wore floral patterned dresses with buttons white and round as moons…” I remember full boxes of buttons in my great-grandmothers house, counting and examining each one. Button collections like that belong back in a time when women wore floral dresses every day. In Queen Anne’s Lace “Queen Anne’s lace dandies up a ditch, like embroidered hankies in a farmer’s pocket.” I love that, and it reminds me of how my grandfather still carries an actual handkerchief in his pocket. Who does that anymore? I wouldn’t know how to blow my nose on an actual hankie. It would feel irreverent, somehow. From Salesman “Maybe death is like a door to door salesman. Not the eager boy with spit-shined shoes, but a middle-aged man in a brown Derby hat. His tie is egg-stained and crooked, shirt frayed at the cuffs.” The door to door salesman has long since given way to television infomercials and 24/7 Internet retailers. It adds to the defeated image of a middle-aged salesman of death. “Taking note of how tired he looks, face droopy and creased as an old hound dog’s, you feel kind of sorry for him, for what he’s there to do, but sorrier for yourself—unless you’re very sick or in pain, which makes it easier on both of you.”

There is a sense of security (for me) in having these images preserved so beautifully. There were also scenes, hauntingly familiar. In Grandaddy’s Ghost, I was reminded of a late night phone call when my own mother found out that her father had died, the line “Her knees hit the floor, loud as gunshots.” brings me to tears every time I think of it. And in Time I could relate to the feeling of desperate elation at finding a lost child, “I found you at the playground, You were laughing, your feet so high in the air, God could have grabbed you easily, by your loose sandal. Instead it was me pulling your off the swing, my arms holding you so tight, you came out the other side of me, grown.”

I loved this collection of poetry. It was beautiful and comforting and it made me feel at home. Now it is your turn to tell me about what feels like home to you. How do you know you’re home? What takes you back there when you’re away? What part of your home do you miss? What sensory elements remind you of home?. Is home a place or an idea for you? Terri Kirby Erickson has generously provided me with a copy of Telling Tales of Dusk to give away for a little poetry contest. The subject is home, whatever that means to you. First place will receive Erickson’s book. Second and third place will receive embroidered handkerchiefs. There will be no limit to the number of entries.

Email entries via the OWC poetry submission email address with the subject line “home, poetry contest” and the title of your poem. The deadline for this contest will be April 29th. Thank you for participating!

This article can be found at:

Black A poem, by Asher Smith

Asher asked me if we could write poetry for journals today. How could I refuse? I don't know where it came from, but I'll take it. This was Asher's poem:

Black is good
Black you can't see.
Black is weird.

I am going to encourage poetry from now on. This was the first time I've ever gotten him to compose something on his own without feeling like I was pulling teeth.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Who would you like to trade places with right now?

A few months ago, maybe a year actually, my dad pointed me to an article by journalist Michael Yon. I loved it. Black gloves? Of course. If I were going to trade places with anyone in the world right now, I believe it would be Michael Yon. It would have to be "Being John Malkovich" style though, a female journalist just wouldn't cut it, unfortunately. My favorite line from Pedros, the first article I read of Yon's, was "Afghanistan is the land of a million Alamos." He was referring to the fact that Afghans build walls first and then they build their homes inside. Little compounds can be found in the middle of nowhere, miles from anything. This kind of first-hand observation is the kind of thing I envy more than anything. I am happy with my life, the choices I've made. But If I were to trade places, even for a short while, I would give anything to observe the kinds of things Yon is observing.

A few weeks ago, I started following Yon on Twitter. Some of my favorite pictures of the past few weeks:

A few hours ago during the mission, this guy was trying to tr... on Twitpic

Seedy little smile, I've seen that before.

Camel Viagara.  Afghan and Iraqi villagers like Viagara.  Via... on Twitpic

Camel Viagara? The plant observations are the most interesting to me. I wouldn't notice, or think to ask about them. It seems Afghanistan is still a place where people know the medicinal value of plants.

Wearning my eyepro this morning...Notice his shirt with missp... on Twitpic

Nice. English spelling rules are a pain.

Just got back from a 2-day mission with Charlie Company 1-17t... on Twitpic

Look at that place.

We slept in the desert that night.  A couple of illumination ... on Twitpic

Look at that photography.

Sometimes in the middle of doing the dishes, or folding the laundry I'm thousands of miles away in my mind. Walking through desert terrain through the night, Staring at the moon over Afghanistan and wondering about the local plant life. I'm thinking about foreign faces, tiny Henna stained hands and feet, dusty little curious faces. I'm taking it all in through a camera lens. I'm making poetic observations a long way from home...

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Hurt Locker

I love this. I loved the movie and I'm glad it beat out Avatar for best picture, it seems that once in a while the Academy gets it right. I'm glad that this poem exists, that it came to mean something to somebody, and that that somebody did something about it.

The Hurt Locker
by Brian Turner

Nothing but the hurt left here.
Nothing but bullets and pain
and the bled out slumping
and all the fucks and goddamns
and Jesus Christs of the wounded.
Nothing left here but the hurt.

Believe it when you see it.
Believe it when a 12-year-old
rolls a grenade into the room.
Or when a sniper punches a hole
deep into someone’s skull.
Believe it when four men
step from a taxicab in Mosul
to shower the street in brass
and fire. Open the hurt locker
and see what there is of knives
and teeth. Open the hurt locker and learn
how rough men come hunting for souls.

I loved how Kathryn Bigelow dedicated her Oscar to the men and women in the armed forces. I hope she continues to find success with her career. I hope she continues to see the beauty in complexity. I love this.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Have Faith

"Have faith."

When he said it, the words pressed into my palms, like coins. Since then I've measured all virtuous currency. I've checked it against a balance sheet. I know how much it costs to cross the line. I know how much I earn for grieving. Annuities paid out for never questioning. Nose to the grindstone, I'll have enough by the end of next year.

When I have enough, I will cross the Rubicon. All my rabid sins will find me.

Monday, January 25, 2010

This is Port-au-Prince tower

When you envision air traffic control what is the first image that comes to mind? I'm thinking, tower, radar screens, chain-smoking near suicidal controllers with endless supply of coffee, right? Okay, maybe I colored it a bit. I do think that air traffic control has a pretty high suicide rate though, but I haven't checked that fact. So, what happens when an earthquake hits and the tower gets destroyed and you have hundreds of airplanes trying to scramble in to a dinky little airport to provide relief for one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent history? What you do is call in the United States Air Force. And what they do, is mobilize a special forces team of combat controllers. And what they will do, within 20 minutes of landing, is establish order in a really messed up chaotic situation.

The airmen have been here since the evening after the earthquake, when they found that aid planes were landing randomly. They brought enough landing lights for the 10,000-foot runway, although the existing lights were still functioning. The control tower, however, was too badly damaged to be used. So the airmen put their table out next to the runway and, within 20 minutes of arriving, they began contacting airplanes with the message, "This is Port-au-Prince tower." They have been there since, working and sleeping in 12-hour shifts.

They landed about 50 planes that first night, and guided 35 or 40 to take off. There were only 10 parking spots by the main terminal, so aircraft stacked up quickly, blocking each other's movements. Small planes are sent to park on grassy fields. Helicopters are restricted to one side of the runway so that they don't interfere with arriving jets.

At times, an airmen jumps on a motorcycle to escort planes to their parking spots.
Thats right, ya'll, forget the radar screens and tower. All you need is a folding table and a CCT team and the job gets done. Hooyah.