Sentimental Poetry with Anthony Watkins
Featured Poems of the month
for the children of the Holocaust and the Nakba
Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.
Something uncapturable is gone—
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
Something unforgettable is past—
blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less,
which finality has swept into a corner, where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.
Michael R. Burch’s poems have been translated into nine languages and set to music by the composers Alexander Comitas and Seth Wright. Burch’s poems, essays, articles and letters have appeared more than 2,000 times around the globe in publications which include TIME, USA Today, BBC Radio 3, The Hindu, Kritya, Gostinaya, Light, The Lyric, Measure, Angle, Black Medina, The Chariton Review, Poet Lore, The Chimaera, Poem Today, Verse Weekly, ByLine, Unlikely Stories and Writer’s Digest—The Year’s Best Writing. He also edits and publishes www.thehypertexts.com.
Another Myth About The Garden
Her husband thought of her a sturdy oak
which would bear the mighty blow of his axe.
Though she, a mere sapling, a toothpick stuck
in his teeth, could not bear his reprimands.
Abusive, he tried to pluck her blossoms
to fill his empty vase with their fragrance.
Thorny, she bloomed for her own happiness
and struggled to avoid a flowerpot.
Then tired at last she showed her thorns to him
and teased him with rose hips beyond his reach.
But with one swing she collapsed at his feet
and then in his garden outstretched she lay.
He tilled her yellowing leaves into mulch
and prepared the soil for another bush.
Anum Sattar is a sophomore studying English at the College of Wooster in Ohio, USA. Her poems have been published in the American Journal of Poetry (Margie,) Off the Coast, Strange POEtry, Between These Shores Literary & Arts Annual, The Cannon's Mouth, The Journal (i.e. The Journal of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry,) Wilderness House Literary Review, Poydras Review, The Wayne Literary Journal, Deltona Howl, Poets Bridge, The Ibis Head Review, Rabbit Catastrophe Press and Tipton Poetry Journal. She won the third Vonna Hicks Award at the college. Whenever possible, she reads out her work at Brooklyn Poets in New York City.
Steve Pottinger, has published four volumes of poetry, and videos of several poems can be found on Youtube. In 2014, a letter he wrote to coffee company Caffe Nero (about their tax avoidance) went viral. He adds, "I love getting up in front of an audience whenever I can!"
He has co-written the autobiographies of two UK punk legends, and has a new book coming out this autumn. Steve lives in the Black Country (an industrial area in the heart of the UK) and says of himself, "I am a little bit feral."
BTS: I stumbled across your work because of John Sevigny, the incredibly earthy and talented photographic artist. He mentioned that he was extremely impressed with your work and thought I might be, too. He was right. You seem to be almost a throw back to the 1960-1970s type of artist who keeps politics front and center, yet, you don’t seem like a left over hippie. How did you come to your activism?
SP: How long have you got? The short answer is that old saw, the one that says if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. The longer answer just expands on that. Seeing friends on the receiving end of racism, or homophobia. Thatcherism. Watching the powerful choose to brutalise those below them (I could give you countless examples from the UK, but I suspect US readers with an awareness of events in Ferguson, Cleveland etc, will be able to find their own). Against that, you can set my curiosity about the world. That led me to find out more about those individuals and groups who challenged and/or subverted authority. That includes political thinkers, punk rock, people like Rosa Parks, the liberation theology of Sandinista priests, and — deserving an honourable mention despite their faults — the hippies.
BTS: Do you consider yourself an "angry poet"? if so, do you see yourself as the proof that your poem "No One Likes an Angry Poet" is more ironic than factual?
SP: The title of that poem came about in part as a response to hearing yet another performance poet decide the only way to tackle a subject which made them angry was to shout at their audience. Stuff that. It’s a crude way of addressing things, and ignores one fundamental point, which is that you rarely change people’s minds by shouting at them. Usually, when poets do that, they’re preaching to the choir, performing to an audience of equally liberal, right-on people who’ll pat each other on the back for having the ‘correct’ views, and being that little bit more sophisticated than the common herd. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for morale-boosting doggerel, but all too often it turns me off. Am I an angry poet? Yes, and no. I’m passionate about our species’ capacity to do a lot better than we do now, to structure our society more fairly, to treat each other and the planet with a little more respect, and a lot more love. I rail against inequality and injustice. But I do it with a smile on my face. I’m not some middle-aged bloke with a chip on his shoulder and a deep well of resentment. I can’t be. I live in the Black Country, and while I take the world seriously, I’m too steeped in our humour and our love of self-deprecation to apply that same seriousness to myself.
BTS: When I first saw a video of one of your political poems, I thought of you as a comedian who wrote poetry. I wonder how much you think of yourself as one or the other, or can they even be separated?
SP: If you want to change people’s minds, get them to consider a point of view they would normally reject, then you need to tunnel under their defences, or go round them. Humour is as good a way as any. It’s also a great counter to the perception of poetry as being incredibly po-faced (and yes, poets do have to hold their hands up and admit that the ‘poetry voice’ really didn’t do much to help rebut that). We can learn a lot from comedians about flights of fancy and daring to dream, about using the platform your art gives you to identify, challenge, and ridicule the sacred cows of the status quo. If anyone reading this has never seen Bill Hicks’ skit on the first Gulf War, trust me, you really need to. It’s a consummate lesson in genius. I’m not a comedian, though. No way. I’m a poet who keeps humour in his toolbox. The difference is huge.