Tag Archives: Poems

Quotes of the day, from sundry folk

1. “You’d be surprised how few people are willing to pay for theatre tickets when they aren’t your friends and family and have no personal connection to you whatsoever.” (Source.)

I am reading this advice as also applying to all forms of one’s art. I don’t see this as a bitter statement, just a matter-of-fact one.

2. “In truth, every great line of a poem contains a poet’s last words,” said Andrei Codrescu in an NPR commentary broadcast today. He was writing about poet Seamus Heaney’s last words and the speculation thereof.

3. “Many, many poems are too long; hardly any are too short.” — A quote from Lemony Snicket’s editing of a portfolio of poems in the new issue of Poetry magazine.

‘Punk rock is not my dear Aunt Frank’: More Exquisite Corpse Poems (2nd of 2)

For introductory explanation, see previous post.

Her origami smells like your love of dogs.

Fast running is not very reliable.

Now is the time for score, and seven years until my cat dies.

Money is my favorite thing, with some stuff, and then the cops came home like I never say you can’t.

A healthy unicorn ate my baby girl that no one notices.

Old ladies love old men.

Love is admiring something’s beauty, and the beast is Miley Cyrus, cried the young son.

Who will watch your mind? I have no mind.

The man-eating bunny is just a rabbit.

Time is always poorly wasted.

Easy does it, but hurry up now, you child of mine. You are my sunshine babe.

My shiny bicycle, wobbly and shaking — it’s hard to define this section.

Youthful old people still die.

Yum is what candy tastes like, heaven with sin.

Amazing things always happen never.

The one who has the pirate once said, “this is so long, bro.”

“Me scurvy is acting up” is the way where the wild things dance like nobody is watching you pee while eating away at my insides.

Distorted TV pictures make me or a tiger wild and dangerous.

Breathing like I’ve been running makes me very unhappy.

My domain name is nothing but letters.

The everlasting time traveler gets lost at Petro.

I don’t care to explain yourself.

Sometimes the dog can whistle your problems to someone.

Monkeys fling poo towards me because I want yogurt.

“Off with his head and toes” are in LeBron James’ poetry.

Music is the worst thing that I like most of the time here and now.

“Bro” is the name he lives in.

Here lies the body. Of course I like salmon.

A sweetie told my mother to say “that is good riddance; I hate going to the air balloon.”

Overrated is rated too overly.

An overly ambitious cab driver has smells that are lightly crisp, and remind me of Kit-Kats.

Hate is not nice love.

Big tigers are very big; Europe is not so.

Cows never loved you.

Punk rock is not my dear Aunt Frank.

Turtle beats the hare every time I see you are my nemesis now.

Kittens will kill you hard enough to scratch glass.

As it always seems, you’ve broken the black cat of me.

One flower is all left turn on Second Street lights dangerously placed.

Was the chicken really worth anything anymore? And that I need to know about the chupacabra in the bathtub, yo. How are you, man?

You punched my big nose is what I smell.

Two dolphins walked into bars and held on tight.

Another plane of existence is futile, ye wench.

You are beautiful, no matter of fact.

Will you sign your name and find yourself there?

Word is a stupid word.

Dinosaurs blame the government, twisting words and alibis.

Words are sometimes very weird-beard on your face.

“Rawr” is what a lion is the phrase for.

Mandatory that you have fun time to sleep in a pool of vomited words like sour and sweet mixed together.

Number the amount of children [who] are becoming new elders.

The grand piano sounds heavenly in silence with really big bells.

The gingerbread man I’m behind now: Thanks for not being there.

Elsewhere must be near.

The kindergarteners are not the best of all I get me out of hell.

Hell has cookies, apparently, so has come the lion.

Upset emotions were lacking with her old blue shoes that I want a dog in.

The Jonas Brothers’ rock is the best music, is my life-blood, is a gross sacrifice to my grandpa’s parrot.

Murder is a serious crime like stealing someone’s lipstick.

What are you really saying that he doesn’t want to know many more?

More than words can describe this thingy-thing-thing, what is this thing that is a noun, for they can always degrade.

Fire burns things I love is a beautiful thing.

“Bing bong” went the door and indulged our interests in having many things like syrup.

I think of songs [that] make me sad about that one day in this room there, blue-azul-rojo like no other ocean [that] has all sorts of the beautiful autumn day.

Songs that are very good habits die hard.

I feel the same as the carrot that is quite ridiculous, sir.

A treacherous life in water comes from my mouth.

Mouth to mouth makes life a beautiful thing.

Body [is] just cyberwire essence of the mind’s thoughts I’m having. Right now is the time for the love of God who never was there.

Sometimes life sucks as much of your knowledge lies!

I dislike the fact that unicorns are scarier than goblins.

I hope you find yourself a new beginning-end-middle era that begins too soon.

Too soon I will be free puppies on my street next to Wal-Mart.

Always will my hair be as big as you plus me equals love.

Last chance to waltz alive on the inside like potato chips and bologna.

Leg hair flowing like goddess divine is a key to success in Halloween costumes.

This morning arrived late today.

The squid thoughts: squishy movement, tanky, tall, buff, skinny, short, but tall enough to look at her sadly.

Tiger Woods’ prose is a true novelty I can’t read.

The wind is messy little kids that ruin the moment by saying things like “ooow weee” all the way home.

Home is where I live like you are never ever deal[ing] in absolutes.

Math is not my strong-suit of my body armor.

Amazing grace, how sweet the trees are saying stuff and things to do what you want whenever.

Click here to see a longer listing.

‘My metaphors are all elephants’: Palate-cleansers for the mind (Part 1 of 2)

Using the “Exquisite Corpse” method described here, my students and I last week made some new texts that have parts that, like these below, are like palate-cleansers for the mind.

Live is just a verb for I was just young.

Bananaless lunches are so horrible, taste of chocolate cake.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed to be very small world after all.

Mangoes fall from the tree huggers.

My metaphors are all elephants.

Feel like I was hit by a big bus that ran over a person who knows nothing.

This right here is my swag is off.

It really does suck oiling the tires on a flower.

Let’s go swimming with me and you at the movies with mom.

Kill me very slowly please. Help me find my parrot.

Very thrillfully I lunged toward a big house on the left, haunted.

America is the opposite of somewhere over the rainbow.

Money makes me sad like the wind I ran across.

Love can be fake, although peanut butter is delicious.

“Pen” is my pen-name.

Why try to change your ugly face? Please show what you are.

Everyone got annoyed smiling at what no chimpanzee made out of copper.

Today I will wash my words are nonsense banana.

Sky rhymes with words like a fish out of the dead horse.

the McDonald’s parking lot of cats

Violently beat a man to make food right now.

That was not what I was expecting a bakery to have.

Work with what you own, a waffle cone.

Rocks are hard like metal hospital garage roof kittens get eaten by ants.

Piano is the dumbest instrument of your utter demise.

Morons are really dumb. I never knew that. I now know.

I could be anything, all you need. You will fight me now.

Life is like a story gone wrong because of mice and men.

I chose the right egg, Jimmy.

House is a word like a unicorn because yeah.

Tomorrow is the day when I get older.

Now the fighting began because Harold lost his pants.

So now I am your favorite mouse.

Love is a four letter to my lover, Bob.

Stop yourself before you need to stop talking to my wallaby.

How do you spell the world’s longest word of the great man who is also a pig in a pen full of blood?

A longer listing is here. Last semester’s poems made by similar method are here and here.

Links: Place-name etymology, etc.

1. A map of the U.S. labeled by etymological place-name (Illinois is labeled as “Land of Those Who Speak Normally.” Original website here.

2. A particular case of language difficulty — a person who, after a stroke, can abstractly describe a term he cannot come up with. I’m often fascinated by what these injuries say about how our brains process language, how the words that just appear in my mind-voice just come to me. Original here.

3. Messy poems. Original post here.

Poems: Noses smell like other noses (Exquisite Corpse, 2 of 2)

Here are some more lines I took from the Exquisite Corpse poems we, my students and I, made this semester. Minor changes (punctuation, appropriate word endings) were made to improve readability. I know this is a long list, but there were many creations that amused me. I love how poems created somewhat randomly, unintentionally, end up being so wonderfully surprising.

Noses smell like other noses.

Observation: Simple bliss in yogurt is good when frozen yogurt is the best time in Creston ever.

Upon lobsters, I demolished buildings because their water is not tasteful, bland.

Pedestrians are worth ten people in the room for all of us. We don’t speak Klingon.

During the old times of people being themselves, people are liars, liar liar pants on the bottom shelf.

I don’t have a lurking motion towards home.

The quick brown fox jumps into the kitchen sandwich.

In this classroom, rows are blindingly straight, like my peace pipe

Please send that message to me, myself, and I, or be forgotten like the Pythagorean theorem of a dead dog.

Stupid is what stupid was.

Everyone thought they were driving in the car that we all hate.

Heads will roll, for this life is not ordinary folks eating brownies.

Yesterday was today in future tenses.

I will be known to whoever should hold this hammer.

His head is full of stuffed crayfish, red with anger.

Ugly horse can become beautiful barbecue.

Evilness makes me puke where no one stands.

Hippopotamus is a small animal that punches puppies willingly, as a doctor should, dancing under the rain.

Earth can be hardened by not showing off the bees that filled the air when I was a boy.

At Mississippi is a wood chuck who could chuck a peck of peppers skipping through the grass.

This person is one but what is two?

Pink bird, flower, orange you glad I didn’t know her well?

Loving people dearly endure the teasing of antelopes.

Obesity is a big problem like a cat that has to have fingers on its hands.

Puke smells bad and is green; everything green is good.

I’m used to being sly foxes who don’t deserve fish that are very colorful.

You have a huge shoe size, which varies depending on the same level as a level-nine sorcerer making coffee for grandma, and I cried until I couldn’t even think about it.

Cheerios are as tasty as a pear tree in a large cup of the birch tree skies colored blue.

Everyone is real talk, big ears, flying in the blue sky.

Magenta and the young rapper Pink Tree have red bears that are often red sky in the morning.

The 5 of us as humans rule life.

Green leaves in the trees surround me like A, B, C, one, two, three.

It’s impossible to resist the smell of the interesting problems with a genius outside town.

Slowly he saw everything, its big ears flapping on the ground.

Today I ate my own stop sign, drop and roll.

“Up” is a movie about a really slow caboose.

Daylight brings out the bright and shiny new day, when everyone was going to sleep on a sloth.

Go off a cliff and into a sea of cows’ milk and cookies, which are really good to fly away like mosquitoes.

Poems: Power corrupts and absolute Power Rangers are very cool (Exquisite Corpses, 1 of 2))

Here are some lines I took from the Exquisite Corpse poems we, my students and I, made this semester. Minor changes (punctuation, appropriate word endings) were made to improve readability. I know this is a long list, but there were many creations that amused me. I love how poems created somewhat randomly, unintentionally, end up being so wonderfully surprising.

Power corrupts and absolute Power Rangers are very cool.

Rain, rain go away, come to the octagon today and get clobbered, bro.

We have to write me a love poem and get arrested at K-Mart.

Fear is sneaky, lurking around folks who are weird things happening on Thursday.

Ouch, say the little boy and girl kissing Romantic poems.

Become one with silence, like a wet sponge was wet from water.

A black hole in one is hard to punch in the face.

In my shoes, I have nothing more to say.

At home, I can be yourself, no matter what.

You dream like an ice cream cone for my grandma because they are actually aliens we’re living in.

We died peacefully in their sleep.

Skinny things blind me sometimes because I am graciously throwing a brick at Barbie.

Who can tell me how the fish jumped over the hill and under the influence of love?

Kindness is an awesome quality furniture and many antiques like grandpa! Oh, snap of tea that moves like Jagger on the floor shook like a cat is on me.

America is the place where the flowers are smashed.

Men were looking at her body, which is not a zebra.

Big ears help you hear the bear play trombone, and the orchestra exploded.

You can be whatever you can’t know.

You should go canoeing like a one-armed bandit who snatches the pigs dance near the starlight.

Hell is very hot like my twin sister who has eleven toes painted pink and green.

I am ready for sleep so deeply that you— yes, you; no, you— have no exciting features.

The best man fell down the street on the spiraling seas of mystery like a missing sofa.

Poor people like me get rich or die trying to sleep.

Weaponized baloney smells like ten men in a sandbox.

Yes, said the woman: are not men and women making up the yellow brick roads everywhere today?

We can’t all have a giraffe fighting penguins.

Shirtless, the penguins swam swiftly.

Dominate the pomegranate distribution trade.

Come fly with magic birds eat birds because cannibalism.

Cool beans, said someone who is not you.

The girls head south, bear left, and a monkey leapt out about on the streets.

Death is not the end of my little finger.

Poems: Exquisite Corpse method

In my high school creative writing class, we write poems in the exquisite corpse fashion, this way:

In class: Each student gets a piece of ruled paper and a piece of scratch paper (for covering up the writing on the ruled sheet).  On the ruled sheet, they write some random 4-word phrase, putting the 4th word on the following line, as such:

all the best


And then they cover up the first line, revealing only “luck,” as they pass the sheets to the person next to them (while students are in a circle).  The next student sees ONLY the last word – in this example,  “luck” — and adds to it:



and then covers up everything on the sheet except the word on the new line, “WHO,” and so on, around the room, for about 20 minutes.  At the end, students remove the cover sheet and read the entire thing like a continuous poem, or maybe they just pull out some unique lines.   It can lead to some interesting lines of potential poems.

We then use these Exquisite Corpse sheets to write additional poems: 

Poems #1 & #2: Take words and phrases from your Exquisite Corpse sheet and combine these into a poem freewrite. Minimum 25 words.  Do this twice.

Poem #3: Write down the words from a column of words on that sheet.  Write 20 words as a poem.

Poem #4: Take the words from #3 and replace each word with a word that sounds like it.  Write as a poem.

In this post, there are some samples taken from Exquisite Corpse poems created in my classes this semester.

Link: Rhythmic novelty and repetition in Brubeck jazz, poetry

An article at Salon.com discusses how the unique rhythms in some of jazz musician Dave Brubeck’s work engage listeners:

“[Professor of music at Carleton College in Minnesota Justin]London says that Brubeck’s rhythms can play with the listener’s innate toe-tapping ability—the technical term is entrainment. “Whenever you start doing anything in rhythm the whole motor center of the brain starts lighting up.” He notes that musicians and nonmusicians do equally well on tests of this ability. It appears to be an innate skill, part of the way we interact socially. Asymmetrical meters may be appealing because they test people’s native entrainment ability and keep the brain more active while listening and performing. “The asymmetrical meters do make you work a little harder to make you stay along with them, and that’s part of their appeal, attraction and charm,” London says.

And this:

David Huron, a music professor at The Ohio State University, researches a variety of topics in music cognition, including the emotional effects of music and what makes tunes memorable. He says that musicologists tend to focus on novelty when discussing musical appeal, but in reality, “people prefer things that are familiar.” He says that in order to make songs such as “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk” compelling, Brubeck had to balance the novelty of the rhythm with familiarity, particularly through repetition. “If you want to make things accessible to listeners, repetition is key. If he had just done a more Stravinsky-esque thing, playing around with these rhythms and not repeating them, then what we know from the research is that would be much less appealing to the listeners.”

Reading this article, I thought about how this rhythm interpretation could also apply to poetry: how the rhythm activates our brain (including the “motor center,” as it says above — we feel rhythm in our bodies, with poetry as well as music, I’d assert) and how much we like repetition — why else would there be so much rhyme (defined as repetition of word sounds) in poems?

And I’ve been wondering lately if the writing of poems — from a sound-sense — is mainly about repetitions. Regular repetitions of meter, of rhyme patterns — of course, free verse subverts this, but as the second quote above says, we like patterns. Patterns stick with us, they are often picked out by our brains even without us consciously noticing these patterns, and these patterns are often what stays in our memory. Yet as an artist, I’m skeptical of this hegemony of patterns. I’d like to question this, consider it a little, even if I’m not sure what I’d replace it with.

Poems From My High School Days

In the name of being thorough and keeping myself humble, here are some poems I wrote when I was in high school, 20+ years ago:

Ode to Writing a Poem

poetry can be full of Imagery

but it also can be a place for

things that don’t go in Prose

Ode to the Quadratic Formula

i wish i

knew it last week,

about friday

Ode to Writing in the Margins of Notebook Paper

this one



Ode to Cool Stuff

the shoe tree at Boot Hill

an acid trip to the battery store

why not?

Elephants Eating Cotton Candy Through Straws with their Toes (written sometime in the fall of 1990)

my dad got the paper last sunday morning

i read it sunday night

i was going to bring it to school monday

but i forgot it monday

so now it’s tuesday

and I’m going to write a poem now.

Iraq, recession fears push economy to edge

Budget crisis over; Bush to sign bill

How local abortion foes size up election

I think I’ll go do something else now


if i knew what antithesis meant

i might say that this poem was

the antithesis of good poetry.

it’s a good thing

I don’t know what antithesis means.

So: I’m not claiming these poems are as good — as interesting — as poems I’ve written in more recent years. Then why put these out for public view?  I mean, there are many other poems from this same binder (poems written and compiled during a creative writing course) that were far too embarrassing to share; these are perhaps the few that I felt were worth commenting on, the few that seem interesting to me now as a 38-year-old, but a 38-year-old who also remembers, incompletely, being the 16-year-old who wrote them.  I can see that I made some grammar errors  — errors I now despair when I see them in my students’ writing — but which errors I have learned to correct, and this reminds me that my students may one day learn this as well.

I can see a rather absurdist, perhaps smugly clever, perhaps preemptively self-criticizing, sense of humor here, in the Quadratic Formula, Margins of Notepaper, and Antithesis poems. I like that I had a sense of humor. I still like to point out things I find humorous, but I find it all too easy to make things that are merely clever. Much as I enjoy reading clever things for entertainment — The Onion, say — merely clever things don’t feel interesting enough (they’re too often merely reactive, not original enough, not surprising enough) to be art I want to be engaged in making. And then there’s the aspect of cleverness that is smug, that rhetorically positions itself as smarter than the object of ridicule. It’s kinda tedious; it’s not open and honest.

I find here also a sense of self-righteousness in my ideas of what poetry could be, in the Writing a Poem and Elephants Eating Cotton Candy poems. This sense of wanting to write poems that my writing teacher, who seemed to have a traditionalist sensibility, would not appreciate may have been inspired in part by my reading of Richard Brautigan‘s poems in The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster. It strikes me now as odd that I encountered that book as a teenager; I got it from my mom’s bookshelves, which had a lot of books but few by avant-garde writers.  But that book wouldn’t have influenced me had it not resonated with something in me ready to take in those ideas, those modes of expression. Cool Stuff and Elephants Eating now strike me as poems clearly influenced by my reading of Brautigan; perhaps I was even aware of wanting to write in a voice like Brautigan’s, a whimsical-yet-melancholy voice. When I’ve read Brautigan in recent months, I still enjoy the looseness I find there, his willingness to publish unconventional works, but I also sense he was somehow limited in his conception of what his poems should/could be. I don’t sense that he was trying to go beyond his early conceptions.

But my criticisms of Brautigan aren’t the point, except to show how I have, as maybe we all do have, a flexible, perhaps ongoing, relationship with those artists whose work influenced us at an early age. I can see my high-school writing self as precocious — as a teacher of 16-year-olds now, I see few who are interested in similar things. But I was still a young person with a limited sense of what was possible. I see myself as being a bit too clever, as not being willing to let things work out, to become who I was to become. But then, what young person wants to wait to find him/herself?  We want to know some of these things. And we don’t even know the process by which we will find ourselves — I seem to recall thinking that I had to will some of these things.

And in fact, I liked the idea of poetry better than actual poetry, for a lot of years. I thought I should be A Writer, but I didn’t know what kind of writer, or what I should be writing. I picked up other influences through college and after — Kerouac’s On the Road, Gary Snyder’s poems, David Foster Wallace’s essays, Wendell Berry’s essays, James Carse’s essays, and other influences I’m sure I’ve forgotten or wasn’t even fully aware of. Part of me now thinks, who would I have become if I hadn’t had these influences, and if I hadn’t had the other experiences (jobs, etc.)  that led me to being who I now am? But not only is that unknowable, it doesn’t really matter. It’s all too easy, of course, to create a narrative that seems to lead to now. (I’m imagining that scene where Bugs Bunny falls asleep — or is drugged — and somehow the world colludes to provide him with safe passage back to his bunny-lair: things rise up for Bugs to step on; water delivers Bugs back to bed, etc.)

And maybe this post likewise has been leading me to say the following, which following thing I didn’t even know I wanted to say when I started this post: that when I look back  at my old poems, I see things I remember vaguely, and through the memories of these poems, I construct an image of myself as a writer at that time, which image is also tempered by the judgment of my adult perspective. I feel pride at what I see (it’s better than I remember), but also some shame (what I then thought was good, I now don’t). I’m thinking now of some lesson learned, some summary thesis, but I don’t know if there is one. Perhaps the most I can say here is that our past works, our past selves, are things we must come to terms with, things we must try to understand and try to live with, as we try to understand and to get along with everything and everyone else we encounter in life.

As a writing teacher, I’m often reminded that the poems my high school students write are not as likely to surprise and amuse me (though they sometimes do) as are poems written by other adults — adult writers are, let’s say, more in control of their craft, and/or, adults are more likely to withhold poems they write that don’t meet a certain standard. Maybe adults are also more aware of being more accessible, in some ways, to their readers. Maybe as a teen, I was more eager to write poems that annoyed adults and peers because I wanted to provoke and/or exclude those readers. This prompts the thought that poems written by younger poets might be so different from adults’ poems as to be a different genre, to be considered differently. One thing I’m pretty sure that I did not consider as a teen poet was the sound of my poems. I remember thinking that poems were pretty much just different from prose, as Writing a Poem above says pretty literally. That was more or less a pissy manifesto I wrote in answer to the prodding by my teacher to write fewer three-line “odes” — those titles themselves were an intentionally mock-artsy step. I was aware enough to be clever, as some of the bright students I’ve had are, but I was not wise enough to be open. I wanted to assert my freedom from the traditional English-teacher sensibility, and I wanted to ally myself with Brautigan anti-traditional types. And I suspect I would be annoyed, as a 16-year-old, to be analyzed by a 38-year-old.

Post-Script: One of the things that still amuses and amazes me about looking at writing I did 20 years, or even that of 20 minutes ago, is that it came out as well as it did. I have a sense of having been an idiot at every moment in my life up until this current moment. That’ s a ridiculous thought (of the type not uncommon to us obsessives), and yet maybe it’s related to a feeling that I’m in control now and I may not have been fully aware of what I was doing then — which, clearly I was aware enough to pass my classes and otherwise do what needed to be done to survive to the age of 38. Of course, the corollary is that I’m not fully aware of what I’m doing at any moment in life — how much I get by on instinct, on luck, on acting on imperfect knowledge, etc.

Link: Paradoxical Nouns: Why is abbreviation such a long word?

A link contains the following about word sounds/lengths and their meanings:

pulchritude. A paradoxical noun because it means beauty but is itself one of the ugliest words in the language. Same goes for the adjectival form pulchritudinous. They’re part of a tiny elite cadre of words that possess the very opposite of the qualities they denote. Diminutive, big, foreign, fancy (adjective), colloquialism, and monosyllabic are some others; there are at least a dozen more. Inviting your school-age kids to list as many paradoxical words as they can is a neat way to deepen their relationship to English and help them see that words are both symbols for things and very real things themselves.  (Entry written by David Foster Wallace)