Vol. 7, No. 7   An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society    July 2008



This summer it appears will not be the summer you visit the Queen at Buckingham Palace.  What with fuel prices taking more and more of our pesos and shekels just to drive around the neighborhood, we will have to find inspiration to write poems from vicarious travel.  Poems such as "Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where Have You Been?" may be the extent of reported pleasure for us.  I am not sure, however, that we will be content with a poem of a cat's frightening a mouse under a queen's chair, but we do  have some options.  To get an idea for a poem, we may remember a trip we took in former years, we may recall a trip our neighbors took and showed us their 300 or more slides, we may read a travel book we haven't read before, or we may forget the idea of taking a trip at all and catch a different spark from our "Pussy Cat" poem, such as try a poem about an animal.  Or try a dialogue poem with more than one speaker.  Or if worse comes to worse, settle for any children's poem.  So even if you do not get to London to visit the Queen this summer, you can surely make one of these ideas work for your travel poem of 2008.  -- Tom Padgett


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Poems by Members

Missouri State Poetry Society

Summer Contest

Spare Mule Online

National Federation of State Poetry Societies
Strophes Online


John Asbery's latest collection of poems was reviewed in an April issue of the New York Times Book Review.  The reviewer, Langdon Hammer, attempts to help readers understand the work of this extremely difficult poet.  Read parts of the review here.

A new collection of the poetry of Robert Creeley was reviewed in February in the New York Times Book ReviewGet the highlights of the review here.

The annual report of the Poetry Foundation in its first year online [see] reveals the sort of content the website features: items from Poetry journal, an archive of 6000 poems all freely downloadable, a poetry newspaper with reviews of poetry events and podcasts, even a poetry best-seller list.  Read more about this report here.   

Joel Brouwer in his review of Robert Pinsky's new collection, Gulf Music, derides the readers who state contemporary poetry is "about as approachable as an alligator with mommy."  Brouwer sets out in this review, "The Civic Poet," New  York Times Book Review, 3 February 2008. pp. 14-15, to prove Pinsky is one of  "a number of skilled American contemporaries [who] write books of general appeal that sell thousands of copies."  According to Brouwer, Pinsky, three-term poet laureate, also has this unique distinction: "No other living American poet . . . has done so much to put poetry in the public eye."  His seventh collection, Gulf Music, may be "his most valuable contribution yet."  The poet "decides to remember and what to remember," Pinsky has written.  The gulf is the distance between one poet's memories and those of other persons.  The music is the physical sounds a poet makes in common with the physical sounds of other persons to overcome that distance.  A poem is both an idea and its sounds.  Pinsky chooses free verse but regular sound patterns to communicate his ideas to readers, states Brouwer.

The first volume of a two-volume biography of Ezra Pound, Ezra Pound: Poet I: The Young Genius 1885-1920, was published in England in November and in the U.S. in December by Oxford University Press.  The author, A. David Moody, is generally accepted as one of the most highly regarded authorities on Pound and his friend T. S. Eliot, founders of modernism in poetry in English.   For the most part, the book has garnered praise, sometimes even when the subject does not, which reminds me of a letter to the editor in the February 2008 issue of Poetry by James Matthew Wilson commenting on Pound: "The poet and critic was simply not as good as he pretended to be. . . . But even the name 'Pound' still captures my imagination; with many others, I perpetuate his centrality to modern poetry despite knowing full well it is mostly an empty center" (p. 443).

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Our state president is encouraging us to enter the MSPS Summer Contest.

Visit our MSPS Bulletin Board for news of events and contests in our area.



Ted Kooser, former U. S. Poet Laureate, in response to an interviewer for National Public Radio, stated that his "project" as laureate was to establish a weekly column featuring contemporary American poems supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska.  This column appears in online publications (such as Thirty-Seven Cents) as well as hard-copy newspapers.  Poets are asked to contact their local newspapers to inform them that such a column is available free to them and to relieve the editor by explaining that all of the poems that will appear week by week are accessible, not obscure, poems. 

American Life in Poetry: Column 165

In "The Moose," a poem much too long to print here, the late Elizabeth Bishop was able to show a community being created from a group of strangers on a bus who come in contact with a moose on the highway. They watch it together and become one. Here Robert Bly of Minnesota assembles a similar community, around an eclipse. Notice how the experience happens to "we," the group, not just to "me," the poet.

Seeing the Eclipse in Maine
Robert Bly

It started about noon. On top of Mount Batte,
We were all exclaiming. Someone had a cardboard
And a pin, and we all cried out when the sun
Appeared in tiny form on the notebook cover.

It was hard to believe. The high school teacher
We'd met called it a pinhole camera,
People in the Renaissance loved to do that.
And when the moon had passed partly through

We saw on a rock underneath a fir tree,
Dozens of crescents--made the same way--
Thousands! Even our straw hats produced
A few as we moved them over the bare granite.

We shared chocolate, and one man from Maine
Told a joke. Suns were everywhere--at our feet.

American Life in Poetry: Column 167

Among young people, tattoos are all the rage and, someday, dermatologists will grow rich as kings removing them from a lot of middle-aged people who have grown embarrassed by their colorful skins. I really like this poem by Sharmila Voorakkara of Ohio

For the Tattooed Man
Sharmila Voorakkara

Because she broke your heart, "Shannon"'s a badge--
a seven-letter skidmark that scars up
across your chest, a flare of indelible script.
Between "Death or Glory" and "Mama" she rages,
scales the trellis of your rib cage;
her red hair swings down to bracket your ankles, whip
up the braid of your backbone, cuff your wrists. She keeps
you sleepless with her afterimage,

and each pinned and martyred limb aches for more.
Her memory wraps you like a vise.
How simple the pain that trails and graces
the length of your body. How it fans, blazes,
writes itself over in the blood's tightening sighs,
bruises into wisdom you have no name for.
American Life in Poetry: Column 166

Texas poet R. S. Gwynn is a master of the light touch. Here he picks up on Gerard Manley Hopkins' sonnet "Pied Beauty," which many of you will remember from school, and offers us a picnic instead of a sermon. I hope you enjoy the feast!

Fried Beauty
R. S. Gwynn

Glory be to God for breaded things--
 Catfish, steak finger, pork chop, chicken thigh,
   Sliced green tomatoes, pots full to the brim
With french fries, fritters, life-float onion rings,
 Hushpuppies, okra golden to the eye,
   That in all oils, corn or canola, swim

Toward mastication's maw (O molared mouth!);
 Whatever browns, is dumped to drain and dry
   On paper towels' sleek translucent scrim,
These greasy, battered bounties of the South:
                        Eat them.

American Life in Poetry: Column 168

So often, reading a poem can in itself feel like a thing overheard. Here, Mary-Sherman Willis of Virginia describes the feeling of being stilled by conversation, in this case barely audible and nearly indecipherable.

The Laughter of Women
Mary Sherman Willis

From over the wall I could hear the laughter of women
in a foreign tongue, in the sun-rinsed air of the city.
They sat (so I thought) perfumed in their hats and their silks,

in chairs on the grass amid flowers glowing and swaying.
One spoke and the others rang like bells, oh so witty,
like bells till the sound filled up the garden and lifted

like bubbles spilling over the bricks that enclosed them,
their happiness holding them, even if just for the moment.
Although I did not understand a word they were saying,

their sound surrounded me, fell on my shoulders and hair,
and burst on my cheeks like kisses, and continued to fall,
holding me there where I stood on the sidewalk listening.

As I could not move, I had to hear them grow silent,
and adjust myself to the clouds and the cooling air.
The mumble of thunder rumbled out of the wall
and the smacking of drops as the rain fell everywhere.


Faye Adams

I love the sound of it
whether near enough to rattle
my bones or far and faint
my ears pay attention

At the sound
my imagination stirs
emotions flood
surroundings fade
In an instant, I am transported
into an unknown realm

Though we travel far above it
on silver wings
or beside it on rubber wheels
my heart races as hot metal
glides over iron rails
and the train whistle blows

It speaks to my deepest longings

Proverbs 25:24-28
Megan Parker

I sit in the attic alone
with old boxes and trunks
full of past sins and regret.
The dusty photos of those I loved fervently
and hurt the most,
records filled with songs of words I never meant to say
now warped and scratched.

The honey that once tasted sweet
has become stale in my mouth and I
must learn to live on the plain bread of wisdom,
raw truth and good news.

The fountain outside is muddied and filled
with the dirt of failure, following deception
and lessons not quite learned.

So until I have dusted and trusted and

I will sit in the attic alone.

Dewell H. Byrd

A male robin hops about on the lawn
cocks his head side to side
plays a gritty tug-of-war
with a night crawler
bobs his tail
chirps a challenge

He hops on the rim of the goldfish pond
wigwags his head.

Goldfish duck for cover.

Robin hovers over the pond
wingtips touch water
tail flips a wet spray.
Shower complete,
he perches on the pond’s rim
shudders, preens, struts
flies away singing.

A young sparrow on a swaying twig
watches the entire performance
from his balcony seat.

He lands on the rim
cocks his head
wings and tail submerge.
Feathers fly
squawks fill the air.
He butterfly strokes to the rim
breathes hard
shudders and shakes
flies erratically to his seat.

Goldfish emerge slowly.

Pat Durmon

I look
my husband in the eye
and do not stutter
when I repeat the quote-unquote words
of our youngest son about his daughter,
. . . mentally two-years-old.

After the grandchildren and son
leave our home,
after picking up toys,
after a long soak in a tub,
I climb into bed and read
a copy of black insights
by a psychologist
in a sprawling children’s hospital.
I come nose to nose with her findings.
It hits me hard: our Haven—
labeled as mildly retarded.
Though she has had her struggles,
this was never imagined.

Her birthday, just around the corner,
will not be for a six-year-old,
though six candles will alight
the crown of her cake. I open a catalog
and tear out the pages of gifts
suggested for two-year-old children—
so I can get a grip on it,
so I can tell the imagined part
of our first grandchild

Jennifer Smith

“People are so very strange,”
To herself said the cat.
“They haven’t the beautiful fur I have
And that is so very sad.”

Each morning (oh the horror!) they get wet in a little stall
But first they strip down to their skin–
I can’t imagine the pain I’d be in
Each day to lose my fur and grow it back again!

They stand with a terrible noisemaker
Aimed at some fur on the top of their head
Though it makes their fur a tad fluffy indeed,
To aim it at me is something I’d dread!

So I sit here and I groom myself
And I lick where they’re appalled to think
And I thank the Lord He made me a cat
With such beautiful fur they can brush
                                  — perhaps.


Bobbie Craig

Oh, scourge of summer, plague of skin
who let that mosquito in?

Close the door
invite no more!

Scourge of summer, plague of skin
stay out, you and your buzzin' kin.

Away from my head, away from my ear
please, oh, please go away from here.

Scourge of summer, plague of skin
I'll gladly end your summer din.

I'll grab the spray, I'll use the bomb
I'll soon repel you and your mob.

Scourge of summer, plague of skin,
I cannot, will not let you win.

I'll reach and bend, swish and swat
to gladly give you all I've got.

Scourge of summer, plague of skin,
Swish, smack, splat. Goodbye, I win!

Parallel Poem
Pat Laster

            100-year old “blanket”     a quilt

consuming    a labor of love
clothing    scraps
     into pattern
                                   stitches     intricate

warmth     for useful

                                        over time
                                heirloom     memories


Tania Gray

A thousand Stations of the Cross
     are on the ground
the fragile shroud of purest white
     covers the green
the bloody edges fade, decay
     or drift away

This brightest blizzard’s all too brief
     intensely stuns
a solemn beauty, burst of joy
     sadly gone
When dogwood petals come, then fall
     I think of Thee

Valerie Esker

I tossed last night. I couldn't sleep
when roused by dreams from recess deep.
I shivered in the room dim-lit
by lunar glow, where sorrows steep.
Through prayer and curse, guilt wouldn't quit.
It looped around inside my head,
foul vulture tracking dying prey,
awaiting signs that hope was dead.
(Damned sharp-beaked thing won't fly away.
In daylight too, it shrieks in flight.)
This chilling call my conscience fears,
will surely shrill again tonight:
"How little time from sun to sun,
to right the wrong cruel self has done."





Laurence W. Thomas

My dreams of late have taken such a twist
I can’t determine origins of such scope
as they encompass, ranging as they do
from childhood recollections, tears and joys,
to futuristic, garbled scenes of such
befuddling twists and turns that I,
upon awaking, wonder what they mean.
I know a little how they interpret dreams
who study Freud, explaining them in terms
of digging up the past, so when I dream
about my mother baking cookies, I
conclude I must be hungry--or obsessed
by guilt or love repressed but so complex
I’ll never understand. Finding myself
in some exotic city naked and cold
must stem from things related to my past
but I cannot determine clearly what
they are. I must conclude that dreams
of past or present, things--familiar, strange,
or in between--delight the dreamer when
amusing, or thought provoking,
find no explanation in reality.
And so I’ll dream whatever comes and bore
my friends recounting all the lurid parts.

Dave Gregg

the elation of before fades into a lamentation of now
every parade must end, each song conclude, their
echoes fade into broken waltzes, composers conceive
in background music where notes are neither sharp or flat
even if Christ passed this way, His tunic a tonic for plague
and disease, what of those two hills over, with lesser terms
and longer leases, those who pass the plate like God Himself
waits and there is neither a coin nor a fish to produce one?
pointless, like an attractive cousin, or a good idea after the
meeting ends, history will tell her story, will we live to hear it
when they find our bones entombed millenniums hence, will
they wonder how we lived or ponder where we went?

Henrietta Romman

“He came unto his own
and his own received Him not.”
His heart was torn.
Royalty bled! His blood He shed
To tell the living, the dead,
of that pure love so true!

They never knew that Jesus died,
to save them from their sin,
to cleanse them from within,
both spirit and soul!
Jesus rose with dignity,
He paid their debt,
forever to set them free!

O light of the whole world,
today, I pledge my life to thee.
Make me to live and tell of Your
greatest love . . . and care
for them and for me.

Harding Stedler

We planted color
along the walking trails
that wrap the lake,
preparing for the moods
of summer.

After all, not every
summer day is yellow.
Nevertheless, we planted
for the days
when sunflowers
would raise their hilltop heads
and pay homage
to the sun,
when snapdragons
would open their mouths
to drink morning's gold.

We planted for the red days
as well, when poppies
would burst forth crimson
in partial sun
and bleed along the water's edge.

We even planted
for the stark white days
of rainless August
when tropical suns fry dreams.

Hikers can pick their seasons
to reflect their moods,
and summer will be, for them,
a never-ending rainbow.

Diane Auser Stefan

hot pants
or Bermuda,
walking or bicycle,
no matter what the style is,
knees show 


(To Mark)
Todd Sukany

Your email hints that one of my poems
is a closed box--with a snap
at the last line, the proud announcement
"Now I can be abandoned."

As I read your email of adulation,
thoughts hop in my head like multiple guesses.
Most swirl downward in the drain of praise
but one seems reluctant to go quietly.

Who holds more honor: Billy Graham
or the Reverend Ham speaking to Charlotte?

I imagine Betty Jones, now Betty Jones-Smith.
She who, in junior high, quietly flirted
with young Graham as he dropped his pencil
to the floor during math class. Long division

would have to wait for a longer look
at sinless Betty's prickly legs. She
who first stole Billy's heart and promised its return
during Vacation Bible School week, when a baby

blue bible would be given to the one
with the most visitors showing up
on "Pack a Pew" Sunday. The bible
summed up her attention on Billy, who remained

with nothing but a puzzled look on his face
and three fewer nickels.
You have put your three nickels
in my box of encouragement.

Steve Pentcuff

The story of natives
perplexed on the beach,
their brains registering
strange, new waves
but not the actual ship
of Columbus
anchored off shore.

Fast forward: a teenage
girl with a cell phone
on Maui's Kaanapali coast,
a girl whose mind should
have found (but didn't)
Molokai and Lanai
in the distance. If she felt
like it, though, she could
tell a whole ten-day tale
of text messages sent
and received in the sand.


Jean Even

We as American’s just celebrated our Independence Day.
What a day it was for those who went out of their way
To remember the day that ended a war for freedom!
It is better to remember the day we were free in Your Kingdom.
Willingly, I raise up my dire clamorous voice to sing
In a lionization way unto You, O Lord and King.
You, above all, sitting in Your heavenly realm are awesome in    
And worthy of all your children to defend in a fight.
You, O Lord of the most high, are wonderful in persona
Your ways are much higher, definitely more so than any krone.
O holy King, how magnificent you are in power
To have created something as delicate as a flower.
A majestic host, O God, who is so worthy of my praise in song
Even if my voice, no longer young, is noise gone all wrong.
I will celebrate, in You, for my spiritual liberty.

Tom Padgett

An old friend came to town last week,
a friend not seen for thirty years.
Except for gray, he looked the same

and began again where we left off.
The tales we told recounted times
we both recalled in part but not

alike in all the small details.
We philosophized a bit
on what life was, the way we had

before--still not too much to lose
the flavor of old friends who shared
a gratitude for things the way

they were those years ago and things
as they were now between two friends
life brought together one more time.





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