Formal & Rhyming Poetry with Vera Ignatowitsch
Brought to Light
The wind tore through on trash-collection day
and scattered secrets up and down the street.
Our private lives lie jumbled, indiscreet,
though what belonged to whom is hard to say.
An upwind neighbor’s Playboy playmates pose
in Mrs. Jones’ begonias brazenly.
Losing Lotto tickets deck a tree
like anemic leaves where disappointment grows.
Intimate prescriptions and bills past-due
bear names, though none the finder recognizes.
And what if he did? The catalog of vices
shows us almost nothing unique or new.
What’s strange is our capacity for shame
when what we strive to hide is all the same.
Richard Wakefield’s first poetry collection, East of Early Winters (University of Evansville Press), won the Richard Wilbur Award. His second collection, A Vertical Mile (Able Muse Press), was short-listed for the Poets’ Prize.
In the winter of 1636-37, a valuable bulb could change hands ten times a day in Amsterdam.
What elemental hunger grips
the hearts of those who know
the promise of unfurling lips
from that dark bulb below.
Mysterious swirls of amethyst
and scarlet tongues of fire
engorge the narrow garden kissed
by winter’s cold desire.
What crowded caravansaries
the gathered globes suggest
whose silken frills and filigrees
unfold to be caressed.
Embrace the momentary power,
sell everything you own,
possess the pearl, the perfect flower
that blooms for you alone.
Published in Windshift, Kelsay Books 2018.
Barbara Loots is known in The Lyric, Measure, The Formalist, Plains Poetry Journal, Mezzo Cammin, and other places friendly to traditional verse.
Framed in my front slider now,
maples masquerading as giant
forsythias in full bloom
will very soon be revealing how
an early leaf'’s a short-lived flower.
But greater than any loss I prevision
in April’s fleeting golden hour
is a building promise of release
from another eternal winter’s prison,
wide-open doors and the long-awaited
warm luxurious freedom of being
part of the scene again, at least
till its culminant powers unfold a final
tapestry made to fade away . . .
in earth’s perennial pageant of decay.
Poems by Tom Merrill have recently appeared in two novels as epigraphs. His latest book, Time in Eternity, can be purchased from Ancient Cypress Press.
From Gombe’s Chimps
From Gombe’s chimps to interstellar space
We will have war. Sanctioned by the Divine,
Moses first led the Jews to Palestine
Telling his tribesmen not just to displace
But to kill all, and wipe out without trace
Each adult, child, animal, tree, vine.
Genocide’s justified, cleansed ethics fine,
To get resources for your tribe and race.
Believers justify war’s bloody courses:
We’re right, they’re wrong, so therefore they’re to blame.
Conquer through war to grab and keep resources,
Aztecs or Spaniards, everyone’s the same —
Victory to the best guns, swords or horses,
And put defeated scriptures in the flame.
Robin Helweg-Larsen’s poetry is published internationally. His chapbook, Calling The Poem, is available as a free download from Snakeskin Poetry Webzine, issue 236. He is Series Editor for Sampson Low’s “Potcake Chapbooks — Form in Formless Times.”
Ballade of Mysteries
These luminous fluttering flakes of snow
are but a whit to the utterly great
sum of suns we cannot know
in the galaxies which populate
creation. Eyes that navigate
through nights as clear as infinity
itself can’t begin to estimate
how huge it is. How small are we?
What spark made life so long ago,
fashioned nebulae ornate
as dahlias, galactic winds that blow
like blizzards, worlds that whirl, rotate,
makes astral A-bombs detonate,
made stars white, blue or burgundy,
caused all existence to inflate?
How huge it is! How small are we?
Snow swirls like moths in the streetlight glow,
hiding the heavens on this date,
a fiddling date in this riddling O,
an O no mind can penetrate,
where photons never gallop straight,
where clocks can’t tick in synchrony,
where seeming nothingness has weight.
How huge it is! How small are we?
Space seems quite pleased to isolate
us on this rock, yet aren’t we free
to feel the sun and contemplate
how huge it is? How small are we?
Won the “114th Weekly Poetry Contest” Poetry Nook, January 21, 2017.
Martin Elster’s poems have appeared in Astropoetica, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, The Centrifugal Eye, The Chimaera, 14 by 14, Light, Lighten Up Online, The Road Not Taken, The Rotary Dial, Verse Wisconsin, and others.
We kissed; he spat. Apollo’s spite results
in visions that dissolve the future’s veils
so stonework runs like water, time reveals
that chance is fraud, and prophecies turn false.
He knows I see Troy’s butchered men convulse
beside dry corpses as his brilliance pales
on western waves. He suffers no appeals
no matter how I suffer for his faults.
Lush memories decay before my eyes.
I sense which virgin will be raped today,
which nation crumbles. My beheading is
still years ahead. I cannot pray to die
nor alter blood revenge that I foresee;
a blade is always being honed for me.
First published in Angle.
A.M. Juster’s ninth book is imminent and his work has appeared in Poetry, Paris Review, Hudson Review and Rattle. He is the poetry editor for First Things and tweets about poetry, not politics, @amjuster.
Draw the curtains now. The show is done.
The crowd is gone. The empty house, bereft,
is still and blank-eyed as a skeleton.
Draw the curtains. Now the show is done,
the actors, at the end of a long run,
hug and disperse. No trace of life is left.
Draw the curtains now: the show is done.
The crowd is gone; the empty house, bereft.
Susan McLean is professor emerita of English at Southwest Minnesota State University. Her poetry books include The Best Disguise, The Whetstone Misses the Knife, Selected Epigrams (of Martial), and one chapbook, Holding Patterns.
Talking Trey Down
Be lucid a little and listen: Yes,
you’re young but Yikes, man— you’ve been dropping
X for a week now. You won’t stop whooping.
I’ve gotten used to the glowsticks, I guess,
but here’s the sitch: though Smileys and such
are pills for parties, you’re presently tweaking
alone on my lawn— a longhair talking
of joy like Jesus. It’s just too much.
Trust me, to rage a week the way a hive’s
vibe lives, by bombination, or like barm
subliming sugar into lager, drives
the human mind mad as a five-alarm
disaster. Buddy, there must be those slow
hours when the barn bats only hang and breathe;
there must be corners where the cobwebs grow.
There must be intervals that soothe the seethe.
Hush now. No cops are whooping, and the evening rush
is home unwinding. Pray yourself your mind to keep.
Hush now. Because the sun will rise tomorrow, hush.
Tired little guy, it’s time for you to sleep.
Aaron Poochigian earned a PhD in Classics from the University of Minnesota and an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. His work has appeared in such publications as Best American Poetry, POETRY, and The Times Literary Supplement.
On an Arrival
Well, it is true you’ve come a long, long way:
Time was when you had not a thing to say
And said it gracelessly in poems which
Would not have passed for decent prose. Your kitsch
Went on at such great length that you could keep
Us listeners half writhing, half asleep.
You’ve come a long, long way; you now mold word
To meaning; what you say is not absurd,
And now and then a memorable phrase
Appears. Kindhearted folks can offer praise
Without too much hypocrisy. But, wait,
Your self-perception far transcends the state
Of what you have become; the journeyman
Works at his craft and does the best he can
But should not in his own mind so confuse
Reality to think the master’s shoes
Are his to fill when anyone with eyes
Can see his feet are not quite half the size.
The late David Berman was a student of Robert Lowell and Archibald MacLeish. A dedicated Powow River Poet, his work appeared in many top journals and three chapbooks.
in response to “On an Arrival” by David Berman
I have a question as I read and read.
What did you mean? This could be read two ways.
It could be scathing, since you would indeed
excoriate bad verse, and fiercely raze
a reputation that had not been earned.
So this could be directed at a foe,
a poor pretender who had never learned
what every struggling poet needs to know
to be a master worthy of regard.
That’s how I read it first. But now I see
that, quite as likely, you were being hard
on someone else, much closer. Possibly —
I wonder, knowing it could well be true —
this sad offending poet could be you.
Bruce Bennett is author of ten full-length collections of poetry and more than thirty chapbooks. In 2017 Wells College Press published First Reader, a letterpress chapbook of his poems in tribute to David Berman. Bruce’s website is https://justanotherdayinjustourtown.com
“I Wanted to Cry,” the Doctor Said
(Caption to a photograph by Jim Huylebroek of the New York Times, of an Afghan boy, both legs gone below the knee and heavily wrapped in bandages, behind him an iron rail fence, and beyond that, open ground. June 3, 2018)
The doctor said, “I wanted to cry.”
A bomb blew a family sky-high,
Eleven lifting towards that sky,
And four keep rising, while seven fly
Back down to earth alive, though shy
A limb or two, a hand, an eye.
On his stretcher, Bashir questions Why?
And Sky, what say you in reply?
No thunder and lightning? Not a sigh
From your angels muffled in cumuli?
The stretcher boy may want to die.
He won’t, and won’t have to say goodbye
Supine: prosthetically he’ll apply
To medical school. His bro may try
For Engineering. Though we decry
The photographers’ urge to magnify
The facts of Death-in-Life, thereby
We puzzle the bugler’s “‘God is Nigh.’”
Whose God? Mohammed: “I tell you I
Am sent by God, and you are my
Brothers, who on these stretchers lie.
My prophet Jesus, my Gemini,
Overlapping in lands we occupy,
Sends you His Love to verify.
Now sleep, to any lullaby
With which you can identify.”
The doctor said, “I wanted to cry.”
John Ridland, London-born, California-raised, Swarthmore-, Berkeley-, and Claremont-educated, draftee serving in Puerto Rico, translates from Hungarian (Petöfi, Márai, Radnóti) and Middle English (Sir Gawain and Pearl), and writes poems from his own head.
Not cheap, but certain to impress,
My lightweight jacket, I confess,
Has been this season’s great success.
How much its handy pockets hold!
It zips up to defeat the cold;
This garment’s, all in all, pure gold . . .
Oh no, oh no, it cannot be
A ballpoint’s leaked? Oh, careless me,
A blob of ink where all can see!
I grab the special soap I knew
Would one day have a job to do.
My hands acquire some blueish goo.
I scrub and scrape (brush, fingernail)
Determined that I shall not fail
To have it back as when on sale.
It’s gone! My spirits rise . . . then sink.
I now have — this I cannot blink —
A blob-shaped hole instead of ink.
From Herefordshire, Jerome Betts edits Lighten Up Online in Devon. His verse has appeared in Light, The Asses of Parnassus, New Verse News, Parody, Per Contra, Snakeskin, and other places.
The railway station’s towering old walls
where broken skylights shed half-hearted rays;
a few lone passengers, meandering souls,
discarded photographs a wind conveys;
here a machine drops one dim-reddish apple
while my friend’s father gives her meals he brought.
Their laughter echoes off the iron and marble;
I board behind, almost an afterthought.
Her father waves from the fast-shrinking platform,
my father’s absence like a missing hand.
Through houses speeding past, I feel its phantom—
its amputated touch trails close behind
and haunts between the eyes, all down the track
as if he knew I’m never coming back.
First appeared in 14 by 14.
Siham Karami’s first poetry collection is To Love the River (Kelsay Books, 2018). Her poetry has appeared in The Comstock Review, Able Muse, Measure, and many others. Nominated multiple times for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, she blogs at sihamkarami.wordpress.com.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
The alligator slumbers, so it seems,
But we know better—we’re the ones who’ve seen
Such predators bestir themselves from dreams,
Alert to weakness, senses razor-keen.
Three painted turtles, sunning unafraid,
Extend their necks to warm their clammy cores.
We watch them from a cypress tree’s damp shade—
They blink, they yawn. The alligator bores
Them. Yes, they’ve seen him thrash, they’ve seen him bare
His teeth, tear flesh, and vanish in the mists.
They primly hold their ground, as if they dare
The brute, as if mere self-respect insists
We close our eyes to brutish histories
And fail to heed the beast beneath the trees.
Michele Sharpe, a poet and essayist, is also a high school dropout, hepatitis C survivor, adoptee, and former trial attorney. She’s written for The Washington Post, Poets & Writers, North American Review, and lives in North Florida.
Bookworm, A Fragment
Bader’s Drugstore on Kercheval and Gray,
Where I first saw books by Mickey Spillane
And the nude Marilyn issue of Play-
Boy, before puberty drove me insane,
While I still loved the Monteith Library
And the toasted paper smell of old books,
Hugh Lofting, Robert Heinlein, no Harry
Potter for decades yet to come, with nooks
Where I could sit amid the scent of wax
Polish at leather-topped tables, no cares
Except homesickness for Scotland, in Pax
Libris, then return to our place upstairs
From the greasy tavern, three books in hand,
A ten-year-old stranger in a strange land.
Arnold Johnston’s poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and translations have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies. A poetry collection, Where We’re Going, Where We’ve Been, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press; and a novel, Swept Away, will be published by Caffeinated Press.
If you and I were flying like two birds
and I were blinded by your loveliness
as we were close to entering the woods,
I’d fly unsighted, hazarding to miss
the trunks and branches, dodging through the thickets
by listening for, and following, your whirrs,
those whispers from the years we’ve loved, your wing-beats,
because they’d lead to you and would be yours.
And if, careening thus, I hit a tree
and crumpled broken-necked then, broken-hearted,
tumbled to earth, though still I couldn’t see
and lay there paralysed as distance parted
our hitherto inseparable connection,
I’d strain to turn my eyes in your direction.
John Beaton writes metrical poetry. His work has been widely published, won numerous awards, and he recites it in spoken word performance. Raised in the Scottish Highlands, he now lives in Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island.
Oh, must we dream our dreams and have them, too?
— Elizabeth Bishop, “Questions of Travel”
One morning, by design or happenstance,
you know you don’t belong. The nun-black veil
and A-line dress don’t fit. Old dogmas fail
to anchor who you are. Obedience
is not the vow that hurts since you can pray
and walk and work according to the rules
from morning chant until night silence soothes
the steady rhythms of a rigid day.
Nor is it poverty. You know that things
don’t count. It’s chastity that’s hard to bear
when your young heart has never learned to share
a passion or a kiss. Take off your ring
and veil. Lay your black dress aside. Unmake
the bed you made and dream yourself awake.
Mary W. Faust Sonnet Contest, Honorable Mention. Published in their newsletter, August 2015.
Carolyn Martin has contributed poems to publications throughout North America and the UK. Her fourth collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, was just released by Unsolicited Press. For more information, visit www.carolynmartinpoet.com.
On this page we publish selections of metrical poetry from our contributors. Submit your blank verse, metrical rhyming poems, villanelles, sonnets, sestinas pantoums, and other formal poetry to betterthanstarbucks2@gmail. We love both traditional and experimental forms and subjects, and please do submit limericks and lighthearted verse as well! Vera Ignatowitsch
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