Poetry For Our Time

Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason. -Novalis

Author Archive

Writing with STYLE a la Kurt Vonnegut

with 3 comments

Aww, has this blog petered out again?  I love this community, and I hope we can keep it thriving!

For now, here is a link  ( http://literature.sdsu.edu/onWRITING/vonnegutSTYLE.html ) to an awesome article about writing with your own style, via Kurt Vonnegut.  Maybe this will inspire you!


Written by Ashley

May 19, 2009 at 1:14 am

Posted in other

Brake Lights

with 2 comments

At fifteen, when I was learning how to drive,
before I stomped into my house and yelled to my mom
that I would never drive with my father again
because he told me I should be able to drive
so that the cylindrical bottle on the floor
wouldn’t move
before I realized what a privilege it was
what a necessity it was to drive a car,
Before all that, my dad gave me a piece of advice. 
It was the only piece of advice he ever gave me,
and it was the best piece of advice I’ve received since.

“Always be sure to look two cars ahead of you for brake lights.
That way, you can see what’s coming.”
Even before that, though, when I was very little, my father told me 
something else that will always stick with me.  He said,
“If you don’t ever have a wedding,
I will buy you a car.
Any kind of car you want.” 
At three years old, I thought
that Daddy wanted me to be his little girl forever.
That he didn’t want me to get married and be in love
with some other man.

But before he could buy me a car, I had to learn
to drive one, and I didn’t want to learn 
from him.  He didn’t want to teach me, or if he did
he had a funny way of showing it.
Teasing incessantly, yelling while we were on the road,
not letting me rest until I was perfect.
I figured as long as I didn’t crash into someone in front of me
while he was in the car
I’d be perfect enough.  So I kept looking
two cars ahead to see the brake lights, to see
what was coming.  And I didn’t hit anyone.

It wasn’t until he left us that I really started
playing it safe, trying to predict the outcome
of everything – Where would I get a job?  Where
would I meet a man?  Where
would I be accepted to graduate school? Where
would that man decide to live?  Where
would I decide to live?  Where
would I get enough money to feed myself?  Where
would that man break up with me? Where
would it  all come to a screeching halt?

Instead of looking two cars ahead, I started looking
three, then six, then ten, then a mile or two –
so focused on what could happen up there, I didn’t notice
what was happening in front of me.
By predicting the crash, I caused it.

It looked like my dad was going to buy me that car after all,
since my relationships all crashed and burned.

But then I fell in love.  And we talked about rings and family
and weddings.  And we talked about how much weddings cost.
And we talked about saving ourselves.  And I joked about my Daddy
buying me the car of my dreams if I didn’t
have a wedding. 

I paused.  

If I didn’t have a wedding.  Not
if I didn’t get married.  Daddy realized paying for a car
would be less than paying for a wedding and made an offer.
Daddy’s little girl was his car, which explained the teasing incessantly,
yelling while we were on the road,
not letting me rest until I was perfect.
Which explained why his advice was never
about life or love, but about his car. 

I took a deep breath.
I smiled, and resumed talking and planning 
and started saving, so I could create my own memories
right in front of me.

But I always keep an eye out for that car
two cars ahead.
Just in case.

Written by Ashley

May 15, 2009 at 3:14 am

Posted in Poem


with 2 comments

I’m not sure how I feel about this one, and it definitely needs some work, so all comments are welcomed!

The howl of the wolf at night
is a hollow sound
that carves at your soul
like a dark, winter night.

The magnolia bush blooms
before the last frost,
its scent fills the air
with the life of spring.

But it is not quite spring,
the earth has not warmed,
our toes are left chilly.

And on a not-quite-spring night
the wind can sound like the wolf’s howl,
slowly scraping away at your soul.

Written by Ashley

April 28, 2009 at 2:13 am

Posted in Poem

Comment Reply

with 18 comments

Hey Poets!  Happy Friday!

This is not a poetry-related post at all, but I just wanted to let you know that you can now reply to your comments on this blog straight from your e-mail.  When you receive an e-mail notification that you have a comment, instead of logging back in to WordPress to reply to the comment, just hit reply to the e-mail and type out your reply and send it.  It’ll show up on the blog in a few minutes, and even in the right place in the thread (under the comment you are replying to).  Pretty cool, huh?

This doesn’t work with past comments, only future ones.

I tried it with my iPhone yesterday, and it didn’t work.  Molly, maybe the next comment you get, you could try it to see if it’s just me?

If you want more info on this, check the WordPress Blog here: http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/comment-reply-via-email-open-to-all/

Happy Poem-ing (and Commenting)!

Written by Ashley

April 24, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Teaching Poetry: The High School Version

with 10 comments

The poetry I will post this week is not written by me, but was brought about by me, so I think that counts. 🙂

First, the story:
Teaching high school students poetry can be a daunting task.  Most teachers hate doing it, partly because they hated poetry themselves in high school and college, and partly because they know off the bat that most students don’t delight in language the way we English majors do.  For two years, I taught “basic” English 1 (I put that in quotes because the students I encounter should never have been put in a basic English class, they are wonderfully intelligent if you can tap into what makes them tick and play from that), and this year I was assigned an English 1 GAP class, which was comprised of students who had been at the school for two years, but had failed English 1 previously.  With my students before this, I always had an easy time with poetry.  Our curriculum was a little looser at my old school, so I could pick and choose the poems I wanted and teach that way.  Here, it was a little bit different, so we got off on the wrong foot, focusing more on terms they would need for the test than the lovely language and “real life” situations one encounters with poetry.

Encountering much boredom and apathy from my students in learning terms they all probably knew from the year before, I changed my plan and started teaching poetry I liked: “Hanging Fire” by Audre Lorde, “The Fury of Overshoes” by Anne Sexton, “love poem” by Linda Pastan, “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll, etc.  The kids were enthralled.

So, the other  day was a half day, and my students were particularly riled up, so I decided to scrap the poem I had planned to teach, and to try some of Dr. Theune’s pedagogy in a fun, in-class activity.

Second, the process:
I had to alter the process from Dr. Theune’s a little bit, because I find high school students do better with REALLY concrete directions, and they create better poems with shorter lines because it is easier for them to focus on fewer words.  So, first, we did the Exquisite Corpse activity.  For those of you who are not familiar: Exquisite Corpse is a Surrealist parlor game that explores unexpected combinations of words into a sentence.  This is also a great excuse for a grammar lesson.  On the board, I wrote: The exquisite corpse drank the blood red wine.  We briefly discussed subject and predicate, along with the parts of speech present: article, adjective, noun, verb, article, adjective, noun.  We also discussed “good” adjectives and “good” nouns – ones that will be amusing or complex in any situation.  I’ll spare you the whole grammar lesson.

Then, I asked them to each write  a subject in the format: article, adjective, noun.  Then, they folded their paper up so no one could see what they wrote, and switched with someone else in the room.  Without peeking, they needed to write a predicate in the format: verb, article, adjective, noun.  Then, they could look at the whole sentence.  After a few rounds, we had a great discussion about what words are powerful no matter what you pair it with, so we moved to the next step.

I asked them to each write a subject on one piece of paper and a predicate on another piece of paper.  They folded them up, and put the subjects in one box and the predicates in another box.  We shook them up and had two students randomly draw papers from the boxes.  What we ended up with was language that delighted the students, and poetry that they could take ownership of, as well as really good adjectives and nouns. 🙂

Third, the results:

I saw a bully
eat a green potato chip

The crusty feet
chased the mischievous kids

The hairy mouse
smelled like Fritos

The smelly bear
eats fingernails for a living

The wild zebra
sat on the baby head

The crusty toed biker
ate the ugly duck

The fat cow
ran from the fish

The pastor’s wife
goes to play with her smelly dolls

The ugly-haired person
ate next to me

The angry old man
makes me happy

The musty man
ate up the furry cat

The president of the USA
cried like a little girl

The jumping cat
ate the celery-green piece of bread

Written by Ashley

April 18, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Poem

This I Believe

with 6 comments

For this week’s poem, I was inspired by the “This I Believe” essays from NPR.  It needs some editing, and isn’t really a poem, but… oh well!


I believe that people learn the best and most important things when they are not being assessed, and I believe the best and most important thing we can learn is love.  Love has no rubric save for the opinions of others, and until we have learned love ourselves, we can be harsh graders.  

It is so easy to see the young couple, the beaming bride walking down the aisle to her nervous groom, and think, They are so young.  They have no idea what is in store for them; they haven’t explored all of their options yet.  Perhaps we do this because we see ourselves in that young, happy couple, and our experiences tell us that the happiness most often ends in sadness.  But we forget about life’s ups and downs, and that the sadness will eventually give way to happiness once again.

We all know of the transient nature of relationships; we have experienced it ourselves, and trust in a relationship is not something that is learned easily.  It takes test after test, lesson after lesson, to make us believe that a lasting love exists, and can withstand those tests and lessons that life throws at it.  Once we learn that lesson, though, our hearts and minds are opened to endless possibilities.  Love, whatever its manifestation, however old, experienced, or tested, is the most important lesson life has for us.  This I believe.

Written by Ashley

April 13, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Poem

Revival of the Poetry Challenge!

with one comment

Hello fellow poets!  I am very excited to be participating in this community again with you!  The best motivation to keep this going is for people outside the community to read and comment, so publicize your participation on Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, etc.  If you’re going to write it, people might as well read it!

I’ll write a killer poem later this week, but I thought I’d kick us off with one of my favorite poetry-related quotes:

A poem should not mean
But be.
~Archibald MacLeish, Ars Poetica, 1926

So beautiful; so true. 

Written by Ashley

April 7, 2009 at 3:09 am

Posted in other