Tag Archives: #poem

What’s Your Story? Short Prose & Poetry Competition

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If you’ve got two pages of poetry or 1,300-1,500 words of prose (and qualify as a resident of Toronto), get ready to submit!

The Ontario Book Publishers Organization is pleased to announce that submissions are being accepted until January 15, 2018 for the What’s Your Story? Short Prose and Poetry Competition for Emerging Writers.

This writing competition is part of What’s Your Story?, a series of events that celebrates the literary communities in four different community hubs: Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, and East Toronto. In the spring of 2018, literary events will be held in each of these neighbourhoods featuring two winning emerging authors and their works (along with two established writers). There will be a total of eight winning emerging authors and eight winning established authors who have written works inspired by one of the four community hubs: Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, and East Toronto. Short prose submissions must be between 1,300 and 1,500 words and poetry submissions must be a maximum of two pages.

Click here to learn how to submit your story for this contest.

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In Flanders Fields

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In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row, 
That mark our place, and in the sky, 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly, 
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields. 

Take up our quarrel with the foe! 
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high! 
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

John McCrae, 18721918

Lest we forget, this remains one of the most important and poignant poems.

Today, November 11, 2017, marks the 99th anniversary of the end of World War I, the Great War – the War to End All Wars – and is being observed in all member states in the Commonwealth of Nations as Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the U.S.).

This poem is especially close to the hearts of all Canadians, as it was a Canadian, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, who penned these words while treating the sick and wounded in Europe during WW I.

Lt. Col. McCrae never made it home, though. He died of pneumonia in 1918, 10 months shy of the end  of the war. Although his poem has endured – nay, blossomed – since then, he never bore witness to what transpired at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918; it was at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, in the Forest of Compiegne, France, when the Armistice to end World War I signed between the Allies and Germany went into effect.

Elsewhere throughout Europe, church bells rang. It was over.

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Pieces of You: A Poem

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Pieces of You

Still now, I find pieces of myself that belong to you,
Like discovering sand in my pockets long after a trip to the beach,
They burrow in old wounds like grains of salt.

Most of the time, they are quiet, wallflowers amongst the party of my memories.
Introverted, as if they are ashamed to exist;
She’s suffered enough, they must think.
Letting her forget we’re here, this much we can do for her.

Other times, they are confused,
They ask after you-
Why they have not seen you in a while,
If you’ve been well, when you’ll be back,
But I don’t know how to tell them you’re not returning;

So instead, I talk about breaking up,
How it looks like the place we met, the one that has since closed.
Sounds like your favourite song, the one the radio loves to play.
Tastes like your name, and anyone who shares it.
Smells like my lobby, where someone else wears your cologne.
You were the first one to touch my lips, after all,
And every time I kiss now it feels like break-up.

Then there are days when they unravel, snake around my lungs;
On hazy mornings after waking from a dream about you,
When I have never been more disappointed to see sunlight,
They dig their nails into my brain like an archaeologist willing for the past to reignite.
When you post a photo with a prettier girl who shares my smile,
One my wilted muscles have long forgotten how to write,
They sink their teeth into my heart like canines who have just learned how to bite.

There are evenings when I bump into you on the street,
Almost as if we’d planned to meet,
And they plead at me to reach out and hug you.
On nights when I cling to tequila like a lifeline,
They scream at me to call you,
Reciting a series of numbers I’d long since forced myself to forget,
And every time I pull me back into myself, I know I have won a battle
But somehow, this feeling is anything but victorious.

You see, I don’t know how to open the door to these pieces without letting your smile leave too;
The one, I am ashamed to admit, I still use to keep warm on bitter winter nights.
I don’t know how to cut these pieces out without tearing myself apart in the process.

On better days, I sing lullabies to the pieces of you as I tuck them in at night;
About love, about how it’ll return someday.
It may have a little less height, but hug a bit more tight, smile a fraction more bright, and feel oh-so more right.
Sometimes love can adjourn, take a turn, leave a burn, but love will always return.
And sometimes, I can almost believe it myself.

–Melody Chen 

I love this poem from fellow blogger and poet Melody Chen: Word-Experimentalist, especially the part in italics.

Check out Melody’s poetry and her site when you have a chance. It’s well worth the visit.

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“Who Am I?”

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Who am I you may well ask
I really wish I knew
If I am not myself at all
Then maybe I am you
To discover who I really am
Is really quite a task
Maybe I am someone else
Who wears a funny mask
I strive so hard to know myself
To discover the “real me”
My thoughts and feelings all confused
Yet still I cannot see
What makes me tick?
What makes me feel?
So very special and unique
My purpose in this glorious world
Is what I truly seek
I wish I could be creative, self confident and smart
Not quiet, shy and insecure
Emotional at heart
I wish I had the confidence to say what I really feel
Instead of fearing criticism
Uttering words that seem unreal
Why at times do I feel so alone
And just yearn for a friendly face
While at others I just long to be
In some far off distant place
With no one else to bother me
And disturb my rambling thoughts,
Until my conscience brings me back
To do the things I ought
And so I continue on my way
On this journey they call life
I try to do the best I can
Though at times the goings tough
I’ll do my part to refine the world
And make it a better place
By being “me” to my capacity
With each trial I have to face

–Faigie Rabin 

Sometimes you get lucky and just blindly stumble on something nice while cruising along the I-interweb. Such was my fortune earlier when looking for something else and taking a completely different off-ramp. The above poem is what I ended up “surfing” into.

I have no idea who Faigie Rabin is, and apparently she has no Twitter handle (the gall!), but wherever you are, Faigie, you did good and goodly with this one.

For those who recognized the name of this poem from Carl Sandburg, here’s his version under the same title:

My head knocks against the stars.

My feet are on the hilltops.

My finger-tips are in the valleys and shores of universal life.

Down in the sounding foam of primal things I reach my hands and play with pebbles of destiny.

I have been to hell and back many times.

I know all about heaven, for I have talked with God.

I dabble in the blood and guts of the terrible.

I know the passionate seizure of beauty

And the marvelous rebellion of man at all signs reading “Keep Off.”

 

My name is Truth and I am the most elusive captive in the universe.

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Quote of the Day

“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.

I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.

When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

Unknown monk, c. 12th century

I’ve always loved the above quote and for reasons unbeknownst to myself, thought of this morning in conjunction with another one of my favourite quotes from a movie about a woman who is pretty:

Vivian: “Tell me one person who it’s worked out for.”

Kit: “What, you want me to name someone? You want like a name? Oh, God, the pressure of a name… I got it. Cindafuckin’rella”

Ha ha ha.

How are those two quotes connected? Beats me. But I like ’em both and don’t have to apologize for nuttin’, honey!

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The Original Italian (Poet) Stallion

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This lonely hill has always
Been dear to me, and this thicket
Which shuts out most of the final
Horizon from view. I sit here,
And gaze, and imagine
The interminable spaces
That stretch away, beyond my mind,
Their uncanny silences, Their profound calms;

It was always dear to me, this solitary hill,
and this hedgerow here, that closes off my view,
from so much of the ultimate horizon.
But sitting here, and watching here,
in thought, I create interminable spaces,
greater than human silences, and deepest
quiet, where the heart barely fails to terrify.

This solitary hill has always been dear to me
And this hedge, which prevents me from seeing most of
The endless horizon.
But when I sit and gaze, I imagine, in my thoughts
Endless spaces beyond the hedge,
An all encompassing silence and a deeply profound quiet,
To the point that my heart is almost overwhelmed.

I’ve always loved this hermit’s hill,
the hedgerow here that mostly hides the view
of where, far off, earth meets the sky.
But sitting, gazing, I can dream
unbounded spaces past that line
and suprahuman silences,
a final depth of quietness,
where for a little while the heart
is not afraid.

Giacomo Leopardi, “L’infinito”

So if you read my last post, “Beware: Artistry Kills,” you’ll be familiar with the name Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837) now. He’s the smooth-talking operator who wrote himself into the grave through his poetry.

I was curious, though, was his stuff any good? Although I feel more comfortable being Judgy McJudge when it comes to fiction and non-fiction, I always go with my gut when reading poetry. And my sense with this poem is that it’s got a voice and a viewpoint, two critical things every decent artist requires.

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Poetry Contest

 

Got a poem in you? Would you like $500 for your effort? Then click here and check out Realistic Poetry International’s poem contest. Note: entry fee is $4.00 per submission.

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Ode to the Night, Ode to Gord

 

Insomniacs of the World, Good Night.

I can see the line of your brassiere.

I can contemplate it from here.

There’s no need for breathlessness

when we’re so far apart

I see us writhing in a phone booth

or laid back in the dewy grass of our youth

and gathering our sweetnesses

and wishing on the Neverstar.

And happy days of electrical smiles

and loving evenings falling down in piles

and not imagining a restlessness

that could keep us apart.

If I could sleep there’s a chance I could dream

and reconjure all of those vivid scenes.

O insomniacs of the world, good night.

No more wishing on the Neverstar.

— Gordon Downie (1964-2017)

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“A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra”

 

Something about the title of this poem just makes me think of The English Patient, as a troubled yet humane Hana helps carry the man known as the EP up from the train and towards the bomb-damaged Villa San Girolamo.

But this post  isn’t about Michael Ondaatje. It’s about another glowing star in the sky of wordsmiths and lyricists, Richard Wilbur. As Daniel Lewis reported in The New York Times – “Richard Wilbur, Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Winner, Dies at 96” – Mr. Wilbur died Saturday.

Per the NYT article:

“[Wilbur] received his first Pulitzer in 1957, and a National Book Award as well, for “Things of This World.” The collection included “A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra,” which the poet and critic Randall Jarrell called “one of the most marvelously beautiful, one of the most nearly perfect poems any American has written.”

So, without further ado, here’s the poem in its entirety:

Under the bronze crown
Too big for the head of the stone cherub whose feet   
      A serpent has begun to eat,
Sweet water brims a cockle and braids down
            Past spattered mosses, breaks
On the tipped edge of a second shell, and fills   
      The massive third below. It spills
In threads then from the scalloped rim, and makes
            A scrim or summery tent
For a faun-ménage and their familiar goose.   
      Happy in all that ragged, loose
Collapse of water, its effortless descent
            And flatteries of spray,
The stocky god upholds the shell with ease,
      Watching, about his shaggy knees,
The goatish innocence of his babes at play;
            His fauness all the while
Leans forward, slightly, into a clambering mesh   
      Of water-lights, her sparkling flesh
In a saecular ecstasy, her blinded smile
            Bent on the sand floor
Of the trefoil pool, where ripple-shadows come
      And go in swift reticulum,
More addling to the eye than wine, and more
            Interminable to thought
Than pleasure’s calculus. Yet since this all   
      Is pleasure, flash, and waterfall,   
Must it not be too simple? Are we not
            More intricately expressed
In the plain fountains that Maderna set
      Before St. Peter’s—the main jet   
Struggling aloft until it seems at rest
            In the act of rising, until   
The very wish of water is reversed,
      That heaviness borne up to burst   
In a clear, high, cavorting head, to fill
            With blaze, and then in gauze   
Delays, in a gnatlike shimmering, in a fine
      Illumined version of itself, decline,
And patter on the stones its own applause?
            If that is what men are
Or should be, if those water-saints display   
      The pattern of our aretê,
What of these showered fauns in their bizarre,
            Spangled, and plunging house?
They are at rest in fulness of desire
      For what is given, they do not tire
Of the smart of the sun, the pleasant water-douse
            And riddled pool below,
Reproving our disgust and our ennui   
      With humble insatiety.
Francis, perhaps, who lay in sister snow
            Before the wealthy gate
Freezing and praising, might have seen in this   
      No trifle, but a shade of bliss—
That land of tolerable flowers, that state
            As near and far as grass
Where eyes become the sunlight, and the hand   
      Is worthy of water: the dreamt land
Toward which all hungers leap, all pleasures pass.

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Quote of the Day

Pale amber sunlight falls across
The reddening October trees,
That hardly sway before a breeze
As soft as summer: summer’s loss
Seems little, dear! on days like these.

Let misty autumn be our part!
The twilight of the year is sweet:
Where shadow and the darkness meet
Our love, a twilight of the heart
Eludes a little time’s deceit.

Are we not better and at home
In dreamful Autumn, we who deem
No harvest joy is worth a dream?
A little while and night shall come,
A little while, then, let us dream.

Beyond the pearled horizons lie
Winter and night: awaiting these
We garner this poor hour of ease,
Until love turn from us and die
Beneath the drear November trees.”
Ernest Dowson, The Poems and Prose of Ernest Dowson

Today, in honour of the first real autumn day here in Toronto, I thought it appropriate to make the QOTD something poetic and fall-like. Therefore, I chose a poem called “Autumnal.” It just made sense.

Ernest Dowson was a talented writer in all genres: fiction, short stories and poetry. He was also a dreamer, a romantic, and prone to bouts of blue and gloomy sadness. Considered part of the Deacadent movement, “a late 19th-century artistic and literary movement, centered in Western Europe, that followed an aesthetic ideology of excess and artificiality,” Dowson now holds the record for youngest author to drink himself to death according to my research, accomplishing this “feat” by age 32 after shit completely fell apart in his life and everyone around him seemed to be dying.

But let us not focus on the negative. Sometimes the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, as appears to be the case with young Mr. Dowson. In those years he did bequeath us pages and pages of literary nuggets, perhaps it’s best to remember him for the words that still resonate with us, the living, as autumn descends upon us in the Northern Hemisphere, and trees shed their spring/summer garments on their short-lived journey to becoming naked orphans once again.

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