Formal & Rhyming Poetry with Vera Ignatowitsch
Riddling tunnels undermine this town.
Intersecting, radiating, down
and down they maze their way away from light,
pursuing heliophobic anthracite.
Nothing stirs down there these days unless
a rotted crossbrace snaps beneath the press
of countless tons of rock. Then in the street
above the people feel beneath their feet
the vaguest rumble, the slightest seismic shift,
as if the winches strained again to lift
their tons of coal through half a mile of earth.
But they know better. What’s left there isn’t worth
the cost to delve so deep and hoist so high.
The semi-trucks and freights that rattle by
the idle terminal where nothing stops
disturb abandoned houses and empty shops.
Sometimes at night when there’s no breeze a whiff
of incense rises from the dust, as if
some curious soul had pushed against the door
of a room that no one lives in anymore.
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. His poem “Petrarch” won the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award.
The Soul Selects Her Own Society, Dan-Style.
Words roll off Dan like rain on rubber; he
absorbs the tickly letters (Dan likes sound),
and lets the sense drop down like pennies. Plunk
the coin drops in, and people want a splash,
but fountains just ignore you.
Dan’s mind is like a dryer clogged with lint
so while his ears hear, meaning bounces off
like Spanish on the sidewalk. So much chat,
the Dan would feel invaded, clogged like sieves
with broken fragments of spaghetti, if
he didn’t have an off-switch. Go ahead,
toss out a strand of conversation; Dan
has made no promises. Another day
he might retrieve one end, but tug of war
has never been his favorite game to play.
Today he’s not inclined to —.
Kathryn Jacobs is a poet, professor, and editor of The Road Not Taken. Her fifth book, Wedged Elephant, was published by Kelsay Press.
Watching young lovers do what lovers do
with eyes shut tightly, you forget the rest,
how time unsays the words, however true.
Watching young lovers do what lovers do
you almost warn them, Stop! As if you knew
some better thing than this by which they’re blessed.
Watching young lovers do what lovers do,
with eyes shut tightly you forget the rest.
Rhina P. Espaillat
You want to tell them, Yes, we did the same,
but why intrude with what they’ll someday know?
To disabuse them now would be a shame.
Why should you tell them that you did the same
when they would pay no heed to such a claim?
Remember back when others told you so?
When others warned you, Yes, we did the same?
Time will instruct them. They will someday know.
Bruce Bennett is Emeritus Professor of English at Wells College in Aurora, New York. His poetry website is https://justanotherdayinjustourtown.com.
The Near East
I looked to them like I was going somewhere.
I was; they found me in the Greyhound station.
Something made me stand out from the rest,
It could have been my mustache, or my book.
(The mustache was a macho, walrus type,
The book was Gerard de Nerval) I thought
That I was good at keeping to myself,
But up they came, politely, to request
A picture for The Journal-Constitution.
I was surprised how quickly I agreed.
They then explained they wanted travelers
Who, by the look of them, could tell a story
And they had chosen me to photograph.
They told me that I shouldn’t strike a pose:
They wanted me to sit just as I was,
With all my luggage, mustache and my book,
But had to ask for my permission first,
That’s why they spoke to me. So there I sat
And tried to be the self that they had seen
Before the rules had broke the spell; it was
As if I’d pulled some kind of stunt for them,
Like I had walked a lobster on a leash.
They thanked me, then left, and there I was
Going no place stranger than my home.
Robert Donohue’s poetry has appeared in Measure, The Raintown Review, The Orchards, 2 Bridges Review, and IthacaLit. His verse play, In One Piece, was given a staged reading by The Red Harlem Readers. He lives on Long Island, New York.
Massive, gray, these leaden waves
bear their unchanging burden—
the sameness of each day to day
while the wind seems to struggle to say
something half-submerged planks at the mouth of the bay
might nuzzle limp seaweed to understand.
Now collapsing dull waves drain away
from the unenticing land;
shrieking gulls shadow fish through salt spray—
whitish streaks on a fogged silver mirror.
Sizzling lightning impresses its brand.
Unseen fingers scribble something in the wet sand.
First published by Southwest Review.
Michael R. Burch has over 5,000 publications including poems that have gone viral. His poems have been translated into fourteen languages and set to music by five composers. He also edits The HyperTexts (www.thehypertexts.com).
One Teacher Knew
for my father
One teacher knew, and brought him every day
a sweet banana. That was all he had
for breakfast, and a single dime would buy
a bowl of soup for lunch. His father died
when he was nine, and something died in Rose
as well. She would forget she had a son
to raise, so suppers were at best thin stews
of garden scrawn and a begged butcher’s bone.
And he was three years dead before I knew—
before by chance I heard mother say
she wondered if his failing sight somehow
was caused by going hungry as a boy.
I hear his words now with added weight:
“My kids will always have enough to eat.”
Jan D. Hodge has had two books of poetry published, both by Able Muse Press: Taking Shape - carmina figurata and The Bard & Scheherazade Keep Company (double-dactyl renderings of Shakespeare, tales from the Arabian Nights, and Reynard the Fox).
Non-being and Real Estate
I live in a place named after a place—
no cove or foxes on “Fox Cove.”
In selling what’s not because it’s been erased,
however fantastically contrived, the names
“Railroad Esplanade,” “Magnolia Oaks Road,”
just seem a place each named after a place
and only suggest a smidgen of grace
mortgaged and inhabited, not bestowed.
This selling what’s not because it’s been erased—
see “Happy Valley” and “Victory Estates”—
provokes a spinal question. What do I prove
when I live in a place named after a place?
Does mine become another life, an adjacent
mirror-self, a slicker someone who’d approve
of selling what’s not because it’s been erased?
Terrain of pseudonyms, a way to face
the no-one-left-to-be, the nowhere-left-to-go
when we live in a place named after a place,
when we’ve bought what’s not, what’s been erased.
Samuel Prestridge is a professor of English and a writer. He plays jazz and ragtime music on a Gibson J-100 guitar and he has a dog that sings along when he plays tunes by Robert Johnson but will not sing when he plays Muddy Waters.
On this page we publish selections of metrical and formal poetry from our contributors. Submit your blank verse, metrical rhyming poems, villanelles, sonnets, 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
On an Observation by Yeats
“No matter what one doubts one never doubts the faeries, for, as the man with the mohawk Indian on his arm said to me, ‘they stand to reason.’”
The man with a Mohawk Indian tattooed
Upon one arm would doubtless call it treason —
Or, at the least, primordial and crude —
To doubt the faeries, for “they stand to reason.”
The man with a Mohawk tattooed on his arm
May sneer at the idea of water-horses,
Or fallen angels or a Hell to harm —
To place unwavering faith in faerie forces.
Jennifer Reeser is author of Indigenous, Able Muse Press. Her writings have appeared in POETRY, Rattle, and The Hudson Review. Her work has been anthologized in Everyman’s Library, Poets Translate Poets, and others.
Women of the Ages
I’m the lass of Invergarry,
singing by the loch alone
of the lad I was to marry,
of the baby in my belly
he begot but would not own.
I’m the mother of Glenfinnan,
feeding sons who gird and go,
dreading battles, ripping linen,
dressing wounds and watching crimson
drench the strips of my trousseau.
I’m the widow of Culloden,
sowed and reaped and left to weeds
till I’m winter-tilled and sodden,
till my tilth and clods are broken
by the cold that kills my seeds.
We’re the women of the ages,
wooed to walk the aisles of grief;
we’re the wear on well-worn pages
where posterity retraces
deeds of men in bold relief.
First published in One Sweet Ride: An Easy Writers Anthology.
John Beaton writes metrical poetry. His work has won numerous awards, been widely published, and he recites it in spoken word performance. Raised in the Scottish Highlands, he now lives in Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island.
To create a brand-new version of woe
One must start from beneath the foundation,
Digging out the roots with a sharpened hoe,
Until one comes upon the very inundation
Souls from ages past; a congregation
On their knees in abject prayer and stone
In an unmoving, dark sea of ancients . . .
Pluck the nearest and bring it to your home.
You must convince him to speak of the years
The thousands spent on his knees beyond speech
Convince him freedom for his brethren nears
If he would talk, all would be within reach
Five minutes recorded is just enough
To make a man shatter all that he loves.
Philip Piarrot hails from Nashville, Tennessee. Deeper roots can be unearthed in Louisiana, but signs of his particular brood can be found as far west as Texas. His work has been previously published in AHF Magazine.
How quickly all the hours add up to days,
The days to weeks, the weeks to months and years!
Soon old Time in the old time-honored ways
Has made mere memories of joys and tears.
There was a time, My Love, when each fleet minute
Was greeted as a new log for Life’s fire;
And each new day with all Love’s promise in it
Dawned on the journey toward our hearts’ desire.
And I remember evenings around sunset,
We two would walk until the summer stars
Were spinning overhead, before the onset
Of troubles and the wounds that left our scars—
As, hand in hand, moonshadows on the grass,
We walked in love we swore would never pass.
Frank Coffman is a retired college English and Creative Writing professor. He has published poetry and fiction in various magazines and anthologies. His poetry collections include The Coven's Hornbook & Other Poems, Black Flames & Gleaming Shadows, and Khayyám's Rubáiyát.
Second Hand Poems
For Kate Light
Today’s mail brings the book of poems I bought
at second-hand because when it was new
I was too broke to buy it, just a short
time back, when she was living. Now I know
how wonderful her writing is, and wish
that I had known her, wish that I was writing
new poetry myself, wish that the world
would learn to love its poets. O my late
new friend, death’s so much closer than I thought.
Gail White is the resident poet and cat lady of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. Her books Asperity Street and Catechism are available on Amazon. She is a contributing editor to Light Poetry Magazine (lightpoetrymagazine.com).
Turn, Turn, Turn
A baby boom is coming this December,
Since nothing’s open now where folks can roam,
And ‘social distancing,’ we will remember,
Had come to mean ‘a lot of time at home.’
We’ll call that generation ‘C-19’ —
A brand-new bulge of babies who will live
With no grandparents if there’s no vaccine.
That means, at least, no dotards to forgive
For votes for an illusionary past
Where all the uppity others know their place
And stay there to be steadily harassed.
Let’s hope the new kids, free from such a base,
Will clean our mess, aware of how they got
Such names as Charmin, Cottonelle, and Scott.
Not much is known about Marcus Bales, except that he lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio, and his work has not appeared in The New Yorker or Poetry Magazine. His newest book, 51 Poems, from Lawrence Block Productions, is available here.
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