Sunday, April 27, 2008

Poetry contest - I got honorable mention

Every now and then something happens which brings different pieces of my life together. A couple of months ago I went to the Springfield Library to hear poet Martin Espada read-- always a treat-- and while I was there I found out that the library was having a poetry contest for Western Mass. poets. Without much thought or expectation, I picked a poem and sent it in. Lo and behold, I got honorable mention; yesterday the poets read their chosen works to a small band of other poets and friends at the library..

I was honored to get some kind and encouraging words from Magdelena Gomez, a poet whose work I admire very much. I was relieved also that people seemed to think the poem was better than I thought it was.

It's been years since I seriously thought of trying to get my poems published-- but I still write, and I still get pleasure from modeling words like clay to a desired effect. Most of my poems are much smaller than the one I submitted, more precise and not overtly political. But every now and then I write a poem like the one that follows:

The poets gather.
The revolutionary poets gather.
The revolutionary poets gather
on college campuses
where they have come to be heard
where someone else handles all the logistics, thank god
where they will be PAID
because poetry is WORK
aand poets have a right to make a living
form their amazing ability
to pin joy and pain
to the page with the right words.

They have come
riding on aged white reputations
on Spanish surnames and decade-new African names
to talk to fresh young minds.
O dear children, we will let you in
on why poetry is revolutionary
how poetry fights racism and sexism and imperialism.
We will tell you why these small words
have so much meaning beyond themselves
how the teacup leaves are a metaphor for the whole world
and maybe someday you too, you too, you too and if you can't
you can still be a part, you can still be inspired by us.

Meanwhile, across the river and the railroad tracks, three sounds:
almost too low to hear, awakening anger,
laying down the baseline, a soft mutter:
It ain't supposed to be like this,
it's supposed to be better.
It ain't supposed to be like this,
it's supposed to be better.
Then a sound so high, like a scream of horror:
My children, my children,
how did this happen?
My children, my children,
how did this happen?
Then the middle notes, which only need to be louder
to find each other:
I wish I had a job, a home,
I wish the cops would leave me alone.
I wonder if they rape my son
behind the bars when he's alone.
I never thought I'd say this, but
I hate this fucking rice so much.
If she drops out of school, what then?
I went to the shelter but couldn't get in.
We wait in the line. I look in your eyes.
I think we are planning a big surprise.

Choreography will be done
by experts in sidestepping disaster.
Theme provided by necessity,
rhythm courtesy of our hearts.
Soon to be playing everywhere.


deborah wilson said...

Congrats, Michaelann..:)

Tommy said...

You are a gifted poet.