Everyone knows that the United States has a Poet Laureate and that many of the states do as well.
However, more and more cities and towns across the country are getting into the act now as well.
And, why not? As the NY Times has reported, "interest in poetry has gone up, experts say, thanks to efforts by local libraries and arts councils, as well as wider programs like National Poetry Month, Poetry in Motion and Poem in Your Pocket Day."
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah...Cities and Poets Laureate.
Last night I attended the second day of her August poetry workshops, at the central library downtown.
Week 1 was a great start and more photos have been posted on the Poet Laureate Facebook page.
This was a scene, from week 1 (my report), as we worked on the
"scrambled word" exercise.
The session, last night, was attended by 16 people, including several new ones. The subject would exercises in tone and setting the mood for a piece.
We did a timed warm-up where the point was to use similes that are not clichés. We were given a list of 20 partial similes; I managed to complete 10:
In the comments feel free to try your own hand:
1. As blue as a cat’s eyes.
2. As rough as a cat's tongue on your arm.
3. As lonely as a flea with no cat to call home.
4. As happy as a cockroach in a garbage can.
5. As red as ink in a pen.
6. Crying like a bayou.
7. Milling around like cicadas in a forest.
8. As fast as a cat running to breakfast.
9. More nervous than bats just before nightfall.
10. As green as a flower petal.
In another exercise we were given a dozen pieces of writing, songs, poems, to read, and dissect for their tone and mood. We discussed 2, leaving the others for us to look over at home.
We read an excerpt from Burmese Days by George Orwell.
It was a section where he describes the experience of accompanying a Burmese prisoner to his execution while he worked with the British Colonial Police Force in Burma in the 1920's.
We shared observations about how the excerpt was vividly detailed, seemed to begin in a detached manner, clinical, observant, resigned in an ironic way became philosophical, and ended passionate and compassionate.
The 2nd piece was a blues song, by lyricist Lewis Allen based on a poem by Abel Meeropol, called Strange Fruit, written in 1937 that describes the bodies of black Americans who have been killed by racist gangs.
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
The interesting thing here was how, if you didn't know the subject, and just read the piece as written, you would experience the tone and mood entirely different than if you knew what the piece was about, or even if you heard the song performed.
One of our members did a google on her cell phone and found a version sung by India Arie, in 2003.
In reading the piece cold it seems such a happy sounding song, yet India sings it is such a way that it has a seductive beginning that becomes sadder and more jarring as it heads to the end, while still keeping its seductiveness.
Now, here is the fascinating thing, to me; Here at home, after I googled the above video, I went looking for the 1939 original, as sung by the legendary Billie Holiday, for the film Lightning In a Bottle: A One Night History of the Blues.
I found the original, then a version with an orchestra and, finally, one at the dawn of the civil rights era.
The song, maybe even the poem, was considered one of the first anti-racism pieces.
To my ears the tone and mood was different each time she sang the song, and you could really see the difference when you watch her in the last one.
Not just her appearance had changed in 20 years, as she aged, but I think her approach to performing this song did as well, drastically.
Caught up in the budding civil rights movement she sounds more angry; though the soulfulness is still there, all the seductiveness is gone.
You can Google the song and find others singing it, male and female, each with their own approach to performing it.
Another timed exercise we did was was to try to write 10 different tones and subjects related to "a poet who is sad about her broken heart and how she would write to or about the guy she broke up with."
I only managed two. :-D
1. She writes about his habit of picking his nose and how sexy it seemed to her, yet how angry it made her feel that she felt that way.
2. She sadly writes about how she will miss his cat and how she loved the way he whispered sweet nothings to it, while petting her and angry over how he never did the same thing with her!
In the piece I chose Bob Burns, of the Globe, piles on, with everyone else in the nation, in criticizing Geraldo and gloating over how Geraldo admitted what he did might not have been a good idea, and how at least one behavioral expert said more power to him.
I decided this was not the Geraldo I remember from the 80's & 90's, and approached the re-write this way:
Naked Geraldo Says, "Truth? You Can't Handle the Truth!"
Fox commenter Geraldo Rivera has been angered by the reaction to his sharing cool photos of himself posing almost nude on Twitter. He thinks he looks sexy for an old man and can't see what all the uproar is about.
So what if he had a drink! It helped his creativity.
He was not going to remove the photos, Fox bosses be damned!
As for his 5th wife, Erica, she got all hot and bothered when she saw the photos, he'd like everyone to know! Unlike how his previous 4 wives would have reacted.
And his daughter? She's embarrassed? Give it a few years and she will better understand and appreciate them.
A top behavioral expert says that Geraldo had every right to share those photos because he looks fabulous! So what if he lost his inhibitions, he's allowed to at that age!
Everyone is just envious.
All in all another wonderful, educational, evening. I look forward to next week!
Thank you Gwendolyn!