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A poem inspired by Yi-Fen Chou :

Call me Yi-Fen Chewbacca (Chewie for short)

This will be a poem in translation:
growl growl grumble howl
a collection of raw, wet throat sounds
that others might recognize as music,
and some might know as a soliloquy
saying, My name must be remembered.

I carry a crossbow firing red lasers,
you’ll find my brown lips curled
into a snarl of contempt. I’ve been called
a walking carpet, a thing, a companion
for scoundrels. I made my way
from the jungle planet Kashyyyk
to this star-smeared cockpit,
keeping my wits away from my temper.
Sure, a few arms were pulled from their sockets,
but you do what’s necessary to win.

You might be tempted to bite your own hands,
you might want to yodel through a Tarzan swing.
You might think skin a luxury instead of fur,
except when hunting probe droids
across the harsh iced surface of Hoth.
But you haven’t lived inside this animal,
this forest-scented flesh, cloaked in rage like musk.
You haven’t chased down bounty hunters
with nothing to gain except a criminal’s trust.
You haven’t watched entire planets explode.

So, let me grumble, growl, snort mumble howl,
let me punch up coordinates
for speeds you’ll never reach,
the stars are still bleeding
in those constellations of mortal shapes,
just more targets
for the arrows of your dreams.
I’m hoping maybe some day you’ll learn,
a name isn’t given, it’s not something you take,
a name is something you earn.

Two exciting updates:

A couple of exciting things to report. First, my poem “Live Man Dead Man,” a response to the Maya Angelou poem “Caged Bird,” is in issue #3 of EXPOUND Magazine. You can read the entire issue here. Many thanks to the editors for letting me be a part of this issue, which features a ton of stellar work.

Second, I just found out that my poem “The Artist” was featured this past week on Verse Daily for their Weekly Web Feature. This poem originally appeared in FRiGG. I was ecstatic to see my work featured there, so thanks to Verse Daily for that wonderful surprise, and thanks again to the editors of FRiGG, Ellen Parker and Dennis Mahagin, without whom that would not have been possible.

Thanks for sticking around.

This is not an offensive poem

This is not an offensive poem

l o v ee v o l
s t o p ss p o t s
l o v ee v o l
h u r tt r u h
l o v ee v o l

d r a ww a r d
s p i tt i p s
l o v ee v o l
w e t ss t e w
g u m ssm u g

s t u c kk c u t s
f i t ss t i f
l o v ee v o l
b u tt u b
s t r a ww a r t s

g u n ss n u g
g n a ww a n g
l o v ee v o l
r a g ee g a r
s k i nn i k s

l o v ee v o l
s t o p ss p o t s
l o v ee v o l
h u r tt r u h
l o v ee v o l

This is not an offensive poem pt. 2

( a lifetime of breath )

Asleep on the shore

No life lived to flash before his eyes,
every experience still new to his senses.

No fear of the dark held beneath the sea,
just a boy, a buoy caught in the wake

of much larger vessels,
every destination still new and unknown.

The red shirt picked out by his father,
worn like the promise of freedom,

wet, it turned the color of blood,
tiny hands curled to cradle an empty sky.

The hard-packed sand a shimmering bed
of waves that whisper and then recede,

a beach absent of his footprints.

~JS

Featured poet in September CALLIOPE

The September issue of CALLIOPE Magazine has just been released. I am in there as the featured poet, with eight of my poems included. Thanks again to Robert Olson for this opportunity. I would ask anyone who thinks that all my work is filled with some form of hatred (an accusation that honestly makes zero sense whatsoever) to please read the work presented here and find something to be offended by. There are several familiar faces in this issue, including Heath Brougher and Barrett Morrison. Do check it out and thank you for being a friend to poetry, something that has to continue to prove its relevance to the world.

 

Jane Hirshfield Lecture Notes: Revision, Collections, Etc

This year I had the privilege of attending a lecture by poet Jane Hirshfield. In the span of about two hours, the poet shared with us some great insights, some stunning work, and a revision checklist that I think could help any writer with their poems. I thought I would share the notes I took from that lecture, and hopefully provide the insights I gained that might help any writer out there willing to read through them.

 

While artistic intent matters, it is important not to dwell too much on it, as it is up to the reader to find meaning in the work.

What else? This is the question that must drive poems that don’t abduct you. Poems are capable of carrying the poet away with inspiration.

Allow yourself to say things that aren’t 100% true 100% of the time.

Find the entrance point of an unreachable idea!

In writing collections/projects, you can approach this in different ways, either a cumulative project written in one time span, or grouping individual poems. The coherence doesn’t have to be obvious. When ordering, find the linear. Open strong and close strong. It is important to hook the reader in the first five poems.

 

FOR REVISION:

Revision takes place from the inside and the outside.

Important for the author to know WHY the poem was written, and ask if the poem fulfills its purpose.

Outside revision requires outside readings, get assistance from workshopping it.

Read the poem wholly and assess what is found on the page. Look for grammatical unintentional errors, typos, etc.

Ask the poem these questions:

1. What does the poem actually say, as in the literal words on the page?

2. Does the poem say what it wants, or is it confused?

3. Does the poem follow its own impulse more than its original intent?

4. Does the poem go deep enough, take a risk? Can more or less be said to strengthen it?

5. Does the poem know more than before? Did it make a discovery?

6. Does it contain joy, depth, is there muscle in the music?

7. Does the poem want more music?

8. Does its rhythm, structure, etc help the piece achieve its meaning?

9. Does its visual structure support its meaning?

10. Is it true? Is it ethical? Does it feel?

11. Are there things that don’t belong? Are digressions in the poem’s best interest? Are awkward or smooth sections its best interest? Do any moments confuse the reader?

12. ARE THERE CLICHES?

13. Is the poem self-satisfied or predictable?

14. Is it precise? Precise is better than vague?

15. Does the poem allow itself to be strange, but not overtly strange?

16. Is the grammar correct where it is not intentionally unnatural?

17. Does the diction fit?

18. Is the poem in its most effective order?

19. Is the poem in the right voice?

20. Walk through the poem tediously, examining every phrase, every word. Make sure everything matters. Does every movement, every word, usher the poem forward?

21. Does this poem want to be seen, or is it merely a seed to move you to the next poem?

22. IS IT FINISHED? Time is the best editor.

 

These are the notes that were taken from the lecture. I hope you find them helpful. Many thanks to Vanderbilt University and to Jane Hirshfield! Get her new book: THE BEAUTY. It is fantastic.

New poem at New Verse News!

Today I am happy to have another new poem selected and published by New Verse News. Today’s poem is a reaction to how the media and public treated the deaths of Cecil the lion and Samuel DuBose. I hope that the meaning behind my poem is clear. Please, check it out and let me know your thoughts. Big thanks to James Penha again for this opportunity.

New poem published and happy surprise!

This week my poem “Nashville, TN” was published in the August issue of Calliope Magazine. Calliope is a great local magazine run by Robert Olson here in Nashville. It is given out freely to the public. Next month I am the featured poet and they will be showcasing 8 of my poems. I owe a lot of gratitude and appreciation to Robert, who not only nurtures local poets, but helps provide venues for their voices to be heard through open mic night events. Robert does all this despite health concerns of his own that have been a challenge for him financially and personally, so thanks for everything you do, sir. You are something special.

Calliope is in the running for best magazine by the National Poetry Awards. You can vote for them at the link provided.

 

In other news this week, I found out my poem “Disco Ver(ses) in the key of American Hustle” was nominated for Best of the Net by Change Seven Magazine. Thanks to Sheryl Monks and staff for this honor.

NEW chapbook released and a new venture undertaken:

This week I released my second chapbook of poetry. It’s called Confessions of a Porn Addict. It’s 30 pages of poems dealing with desire, guilt, and human relationships. This collection was initially accepted by another press, but was withdrawn due to a misunderstanding with the contracts. I could not find another publisher to take it, so it becomes the second Crow Hollow Books title. I’m proud of this book and especially love the cover art, generously supplied by Martin de Pasquale.

Since I decided to go this route, I went ahead and plunged head first into another idea I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of for a while now. I got a domain and started the groundwork for Crow Hollow Books to begin publishing other writers. It seems I am capable of making decent books, using Amazon and SPD, and so why not help other writers get work out into the world? I’m also starting a quarterly journal, called Crow Hollow 19. Every quarter I will publish 19 works of bone-splitting poetry, poetry with such honesty it blisters the eyes. Submissions for the quarterly journal open August 1st. Since the theme of the journal revolves around Crows, each issue will be called a Murder. I hope to have a reading period for chapbooks in October. Stay tuned. This train is just getting rolling.

 

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