Friday, October 28, 2011

Poet for President

Big news for verse-lovers today: Ireland's next president is a poet. Michael D. Higgins, referred to simply as Michael D on his website (and no, he's no relation to the Beastie Boys' Mike D), is a long-time civic leader and politician who just happens to author a few books of poetry, including An Arid Season and The Season of Fire. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any examples of his poems online, but you can listen to him read here and here.

Of course, there's no chance of this type of thing happening here in America. But this makes me wonder...why do the "literary" types keep themselves so separate from politics? Poetry and politics have a long and strong tradition of co-existing in Europe and other countries. In communist controlled central Europe, for instance, poetry was a way to speak out against the government through metaphor.

Here in the good ol' US of A, however, we like our poetry and politics to stay separate.
But given the chance, would you vote for a poet-president? Maybe a Billy Collins/Yusef Komunyakaa ticket? Rita Dove for governor, perhaps? Hey, we've had actors crack the glass ceiling of government...why not give a poet the chance?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Workshop: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

It's that time of the year when leaves turn orange and the morning fog can be seen settling in the vineyard rows. That means it's time for Halloween, my favorite holiday, and the telling of scary stories.

My favorites came from the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series of books, by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. If you're near my age, you probably grew up reading these books as I did, and found yourself simultaneously fascinated and terrified. The pictures alone can haunt your dreams, and the stories are of the classic horror/urban legend type that can be easily recalled around a campfire or underneath a blanket with a flashlight held to your face.

The challenge is to take one of these classics and reboot it. Tell it from another perspective (that of the ghost, perhaps) or change the setting. Modernize the details at will, change the cast of characters, but keep that spooky, spine-chilling atmosphere.

I’m waiting in this car
still warm from bodies’ crush
for your return.
What was that sound?
A creature’s rustle, raccoon
in the weeds? Out there,
an owl screeches
and the hazard lights blink
warning, warning

lighting red the windows
fogged by a last moment’s kiss—
your fingers in my hair,
a nail scraped my neck.
I sucked in one
long, wet breath. Tongued
my swollen lips
as the car rocked
with your exit, your palm's
smack against the hood—
Hey, keep it locked.

You won’t be long. I felt
the need beneath your clothes,
the way your hand
became a fist
around my waistband.
What was that sound?
The swick of a lighter’s flint, a key
searching for the lock?
Your belt, undone, the buckle
dragging past the driver’s side
as you come back to me
in the back seat, waiting,
ready. No, not long.

Thanks to my monthly poetry group for inspiring this post. This workshop is cribbed and slightly altered from this month's prompt, of which the above was my result. Happy Halloween!