Rattle poem #1

July 24, 2014

Gotta get me some postcard stamps tomorrow –
I got poems to write:
tonight children are going to bed hungry
in the land of the plenty,
while politicians get fat and greedy,
promising to solve the problems come November –
tonight childrens’ childhoods are being wasted,
in holding cells on the southern border,
while elected officials twiddle their thumbs,
wondering who will pay for the next campaign –
tonight children, by the hundreds, are being buried,
in the land where our Lord was born in a manger,
because their skin is the wrong color –
I gotta buy me some postcard stamps tomorrow –
I got poems to write;
I got wrongs to right.


this one started off as a sonnet, then became what it wanted to become…

July 20, 2014

The words we write, the lines,
the notes, the rhymes
are always seeking their destination:
a landing place, a comfort zone,
a peace inside a peace.

Sometimes they find their place,
and sprout like seeds,
but sometimes they fall in sandy soil,
on stones, or disappear
into a hollow pit of nothingness.

But even then, like seeds, our words
await their chosen moment,
their time most opportune
to germinate and take root.

Everything in its own time,
the old folks used to say.

… and a sonnet for a Sunday

We need time and space to unpack our lives –
condensed, compressed, repressed, concentrated
for far too long on trivialities,
technicalities, false flag theatrics –

Let’s touch the core of what we call our truth:
shall we preserve the status quo, believe
objectively this love will conquer all?

Or should we seek to transcend (abolish?)
the dead-end that’s approaching
for a different, enlightened way?

Or is it only the individual
that matters in the end, the beginning?
Or maybe just break all the rules,
and then, unshackled, unrestrained, renew?

hot July Saturday

July 12, 2014

you reach a point
where everything you write
is metaphor –

and if you’re lucky,
each poem you write is about
some lost, forbidden love –
or some other outlawed thought.

A Tea Poem

July 5, 2014

the bitterness of green tea
makes it a special brew –

tastebuds awaken
when they sense it
in their space –

we add a bit of honey
to take the edge off,
but that only really works
in our dreams –

the second infusion
may be smoother –
but traces of bitterness
yet remain…

August Poetry Postcard Fest

Cross-posted from Paul Nelson e-mail:

It is almost August once again and this means POSTCARDS!

The August Poetry Postcard Fest is an exercise in responding to other poets. You write a poem a day for the month of August, write it directly onto a postcard and send it to the next name on your list. When you receive a postcard poem from someone, the idea is that the next poem you send out will be a response to the poem you just received, even though it will be sent to a different person. Ideally you will write 31 new poems and receive 31 postcard poems from all over the place.

To participate, send your name, mailing address, and email to splabman@gmail.com. Use the word “postcard” in the subject line.

Again, one long list will go out this year this year instead of individual lists of 32 names. You can send postcard poems to the 31 names below your name, please do not use this list for advertising or for any other purpose than postcard poems. DO NOT SPAM THE LIST.

I will send out the list twice. Our international participants often require an earlier start due to longer delivery times, so I will send the incomplete list out on July 16th and the final version around July 26th. The 26th is the cut off date, I will not be adding any more names to the list after that, the list sent out on the 26th will be the final list for this year. Really. I’ll be out of the U.S. myself. Please be sure to send in your information before that. I will email the list to the participants in a google document as well as in the body of the email.

If you know anyone who would like to participate, feel free to forward them this message! Hope you enjoy the Poetry Postcard Fest!


On or about Sunday, July 27th, look at the list to see the three people listed below your name. Write them each an original poem on a postcard, put their address on the card and affix the necessary postage. $1.15 for international cards leaving the U.S. Consider scanning your cards or photographing them to document each poem/card before you send them out. Do not recycle old poems for this. Do not compose a long poem in advance and cut it up into hunks for this. It is an experiment in composing in the moment and your poem has an audience of one. This is designed in part as a conversation.

(If you are near the bottom of the list, send a card to anyone below you then start again at the top.) Ideally, you would write 3 different short poems — remember they are being composed on a postcard and please keep your handwriting clear. If your handwriting is lousy, typing the poems is ok. If you have folks outside your own country on your list, you can start sending poems early…)

Write about something that relates to your sense of “place” however you interpret that, something about how you relate to the postcard image, what you see out the window, what you’re reading, a dream you had that morning, or an image from it, etc. Like “real” postcards, get to something of the “here and now” when you write. Present tense is preferred… Do write original poems for the project. Taking old poems and using them is not what we have in mind. You may want to use epigraphs. One participant last year used his daily I Ching divination to inform his poems.

This is also an experiment in community consciousness. Try to respond to cards that you get with subject, image or any kind of link if possible. Often newsworthy events happen in August. How would our community respond? Letting a card that you receive linger for a while before you respond to the next person on your list is the preferred method. When you go to your mail box each day, put the bills aside, read the poems you get and think about them as you compose to the next person on your list.

A GREAT story about one man’s conversion from being a postcard CHEATER is here: http://changeorder.typepad.com/weblog/2010/08/sending-postcards-to-strangers.html

A workshop handout for the poetry postcard writing exercise is here: http://paulenelson.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Postcard-Exercise.pdf

You may also view that handout at this link: http://paulenelson.com/workshops/poetry-postcard-exercise/

The “Sable Orator” and Poet, George Moses Horton

This Day in North Carolina History

The cover of The Hope of Liberty. Image from UNC Libraries

On July 2, 1829, Raleigh printer Joseph Gales published George Moses Horton’s The Hope of Liberty, the first book by an African American in the South. Horton’s life story, and how he became a published poet while enslaved, is compelling.

Horton was an infant when his owner William Horton moved from Northampton County to Chatham County. By all accounts, and given the fact that he could travel freely, George endured a relatively mild bondage.

Horton walked on weekends to Chapel Hill where he sold fruit and was prodded into reciting poems for UNC students. Over time he came known as the “sable orator,” as he signed his works and made friends.  Among those friends was UNC President Joseph Caldwell, and it was Caldwell’s wife who helped Horton first get published.

Other volumes of his work appeared in…

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