Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mountain verse – December 13, 2014 (12/13/14)

I took the wrong turn –
or missed my turn –
but still reached the bakery,
the destination.

It’s easy to get all caught up
in structure and technique
when you are writing/reading prose –
but with poetry, anything can happen.

A friend – of a new friend,
and an old friend, and a distant relative,
and a classmate – introduced himself
to me. The world is so small.
You’d better not mess up!

And a homeless man sat at my table,
gathering change for a bus ticket
to Charlotte. I shook his extended hand,
but shushed him –
it was during the poetry reading –
as any good librarian would.
Though I had no change,
I thanked him for his company.

There are plenty of gypsies
and monks – like me – in these hills.
And I am learning to love
their bending, curving, never-ending ways –
they speak to the centripetal forces
already in my soul, and carve
a path of least resistance
through their mountain home.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Randomized sonnet lines for November 22nd

United endlessly in time and space;
I write it out in long hand,
before that smile. Our spirits span the miles
your presence left me longer. I forgot,
it matters not. I worship at your feet,
or at least switch out the soundtrack
in blood and tears: and all the while our fears
on an urban starry night
the heavy downpour, like clockwork,
except for their perfection.

Hungering for freedom from the wretched pain,
and smile and grin and laugh with joy untapped,
we wring our hands and weep, the punks we are.
The hereafter far surpasses the present.
A man carrying a large book on the outside –
we’d reap in joy what we had sown before –
and reasons for a friendship come and go.
The poems you’ve sent: they are my prayers, my hope,
though other things fall through the cracks of space.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Randomized sonnet lines for November 21st

We need something dramatic,
to soothe digestion and aid regularity.
Whole peppercorn and clove buds
are sounds, simple wavelengths colliding off.
Now your daddy and his sister were just –
but the sparrow compensated for the zig-zag
nor constricted by its strait jacket.
She dead. House fell on her ass.
Standing water still stinks,
Or is it only the individual?
Drank a little, too, more towards the end.
A few notes from my morning walk - Rock Creek Park,
as men and women we thought we knew his pain:
but I move it to Word
and fado I have known –
the rhapsody of love and hope. Revive
to the sweetness of stolen waters.
The rhythm, the beat of the music determines
that I betrayed my teachers and
yet as we speak, I pace the halls
by the single light they think that we emit.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lisbon notes that almost got lost

August 23rd

caracois and caroleta
the cobblestone sidewalks
are quaint, but the cracks
between the stones are filled
with cigarette butts and dog-shit

August 27th

Filomena bought me
a dozen handkerchiefs in Lisbon
only in Portugal
can one find “quality” stuff, you know.
Two weeks worth –
for life’s little messes

August 28th

Major bank failures in Portugal –
Marina on the move in Brazil –
Al-Nusrah holding peace-keepers
hostage in Golan Heights –
The tin man needs a brain.

Final day in Lisbon (September 5th)

Early bus ride to Marfa
self-guided tour through the Palace
lunch – frango no forno
librarian walk through the library
chat with the single restoration contractor
bus ride back to Lisbon

subway to Rossio
½ kilo Cape Verdean coffee
½ kilo Angolan coffee
tea from the Azores
postcards for next year’s poetryfest
rendez-vous at Martinho de Arcada

coffee and pastries with old friends
photo at Pessoa’s table
too tall Super Bok

the pen ran out of ink
about the same time that
the page ran out of space
on which to write
I wrote on the back
of a boarding pass

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bonus: 14 randomized sonnet lines

in the seeking and the striving
a something that just won’t fit in
for a man like me
distrustfulness and self-suspicious fear
Was crowded out by bills and laws and hate
about where it all came from, deep inside.
my favorite part.
Total impunity at the top.
And you accommodate, first haltingly,
In what is otherwise a boring, gray
Is it a mistake, a crime to feed it, to allow
resisting silently
misplaced the way back, through the years, of all
a poetry-writing man. I digress.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bonus from the archives - Experimentation in Standard Time

Experimentation in Standard Time

Autumn urban afternoons
get shorter and sweeter -

standing in the middle of Eye Street
I await a very specific angle on the bow,
as my ship called Earth comes about:
a unique perspective on how time passes –

in the distance you can see Virginia:
how many beats per measure
are there in Standard Time?

the future is reaching back to join us,
to warn us, to help us alter course
to starboard so we can pass port to port –
the present and the future,
like two ships,
passing in a storm.

We post to a blog or sing a song:
we write some non-rhyming words
we call poetry –

and time is a social construct
a contractual agreement we accept
from fear of things we don’t know –
dawn to dusk, high noon
to the darkest part of night –

a 24 second shot clock.
I sink a three pointer
that leaves a vacuum in its wake –
the chain nets echo its refrain.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bonus from the archives: End of ModPo - Final words

Final words

Goodbye but not farewell.
We will continue our conversations
and social media chats –
with new friends,
with old friends.

And we will continue writing poems:
together in small groups,
and at home, alone,
in the midnight hour that is not
midnight, but that
floats between isha and fajr -
the darkest part of night -
when passions die,
and distractions fall to the side.

The songwriting teacher said all I needed
was a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary –
but it hasn’t proven sufficient –

and there are no final words, anyway,
no bridge, no chorus, no refrain,
just a tight hug, a soft sigh, a tender kiss,
and a throw-away “see-you-tomorrow,”
maybe, if you’re lucky. And all my
countrymen are poets, and sailors.

Friday, November 14, 2014

14 randomized lines that begin with the definite article "the"

the forms, the rhythms of your loveliness,
The passion, pain, excitement of the day.
The hull, the shell wherein no true love thrives
The eager group, polite despite, is dressed
The legends say something happened in Chaneysville.”
The chilled sweet wine, fermented, aged and pure.
the peace and calm you brought me, the silence
the buildings that house all our livelihood
the answer to this question.
the recognition,
the future is reaching back to join us,
The love we almost had lives on, and waits
the direction for our deliverance
The ladder: an escape; a rescue;

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lines that begin with "this"

This cautionary tale includes one plea:
This earthly form of dirt and dust and clay,
This flesh that toiled and suffered on the earth,
This frame that housed a spirit and a mind
This is the Captain, this is a strategic launch!
this lynching - as ordered, as planned.
This morning I watched videoed reading The Raven.
this morning I’m bubbling over
this morning. Stay in open, well-lit places.
This pause affords me time to write to you
This plan, this life so fraught with strife, so full
This poem started its life as a sonnet,
this random moment, our lips may never meet,
This same Spirit appears infrequently,
This sonnet owns no ending, just a star,
This vessel that once breathed the breath of life.
This word is all that I possess to give,

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

14 more randomized lines


When passing passions blue bid me adieu,
My heart and soul in pain are drenched.
To guide, to entertain, and to enthuse.
Our friendship, our love is a complex being,
but truth shouts out despite the dirt and dust.
Revealing my ill soul’s intent
that makes it a noun, a name that describes  
old songs all night long –

I’ll search the constellations for that star
has transferred
I cannot sleep.  For days on end I'm just    
to bend us at its will
Of everyday travail, I take a pause
Until today. We meet again.

Monday, November 10, 2014

14 more randomized lines


My wife said I should write a poem
along this trail –
But quality of intellect and
a knight in shining armor - this is Second Life, silly.
Sharing with us our laughter, and our fears.
sip some scotch with it,
My friend, my lover, object of my quest,
of war’s battles, of the fray;
Georgetown sidewalks packed with shoppers, tourists
conjured you up and breathed into you life?
a concert I attended night before last –
that there is no birth or death,
their leaves too long,

Saturday, November 8, 2014

14 more randomized lines

quiet, flat. Where were all the shoppers?
need to conjure up my parents and my grandparents,
are gaps in time, that soon take flight –
like blood coursing through America’s veins.
And blossoms tantalize our eyes; in haste
and scale the highest peak –
and sweet, but I can’t remember
Remember years ago when we first met?
the same old routine…
as defined by classic standards)
El Gusto, playing Chaabi,
an emptiness that is shrinking
My passion source has wandered far from joy;

and shopping sprees and pundit prophecies

14 randomized lines...a sonnet!

We exist independent of the filth
and every opportunity
Oolong’s second infusion tastes much smoother than the first,
I thought it was a clever argument, but one that was closed
We grew, became adults with his success
Music and Harvest” is says at the base
like dew, early, early
I struggle to preserve.  The touch, the taste
the crystal ball:
festers, breeds ten plagues –
or a pull of reefer.
cowers and hides behind a mother’s skirt,
Sit down, sit down…
A wistful word,

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bonus: "if"

if accurate, we hit the mark,
If deer could speak
If Grandma Lena were here today,
if I am early or late …
if I could write a song of love
If I were a sculptor
if I were you – the dictionary –
If only I could rap to you
If reading sonnets opens up your vision,
If so, then they will die for you,
If so, then you will die for him,
If the goals we set are true.
if their internal energies allow it –
If there was a command out of order
If this continues through the night
If we choose
if we could only find the entrance…
if you don’t cook it right…”
If you don’t, we won’t like it. And you won’t like it either."
if you want me to –

Bonus: "after"

after a late Saturday night
after a long day of work, classes, whatever,
after all the parades and football games
after all, a possessive lover without gender who
after calculus class,
after human death –
after the end,
after the migration,
after the party was over

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bonus: “Before”

before dawn breaks
before daybreak –
before getting wiped away –
Before I fall asleep each night I read
before I killed myself at the end
Before I learned to read and write
before I started school
before I wrote a poem
before Sunday’s resurrection.
before sunrise…
Before that smile. Our spirits span the miles
before the Chinese built the bridge –
before the final hour ...
before we get to Danville -
before, in 1862, in 1861? Who advised
before, we have to change the narrative


Today's bonus looks at occurrences of the preposition "through."

through another day of passage
through cracks in the wall of time
through generations of Americanization.
through generations of race-mixing
Through life's transitions.
through my eyes, down my arms - muscle memories
through ordered words
through our arrogance
Through our ignorance
through our lives
through our willful rejection of truth
Through poetry
Through positive values, like happiness
through the classics, the epic works
through the frequency of my heart
through the night
through the rush
through the woods
through this night of nights

Monday, November 3, 2014


So, in observance of aleatory poetry week at ModPo, I am blogging on a different site lines of poetry starting with the preposition "to," but on the flip side, the preposition "from" is also interesting.  Here is a list of "from" lines:

from 88five to 103five
From a dark and distant past
From a distant shore
from a market in Afghanistan
from a pure source.
from a state of bondage
from complex reality   
from deep within
from fear of things we don’t know
from feeling the fear they already bought
from her brown-green pods
From hoping that this dream will soon come true.
from inside the nested circles
from leaving
from mechanical mosquitos 
from my childhood
from my heart is all my fault.
from North Carolina
from one end of the line
From our loved ones.
From places strange, from shores untold.
from Songwriting, another Coursera
from that magical place 
from that office the next time 
from the far side 
from the flock and
from the neck up
from the outside crass
from the realm of nothingness
from the right path 
From the Shenandoah
from the Strategic Studies Masters program
from the swamp below 
from the waist down
From this latest dusk we begin
From time to time he visits
From time to time I feel
from time to time, like water
from total triple darkness 
From troubles, closer still to hopes ideal.
From two to ten.
from walking too long 
From what we sense and feel and know to be
From which to understand
from yesterday’s yesterdays
From you I understand loyalty
from you

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Post-strike Analysis" by ModPo'er Lowell Murphree

The gunman was intercepted delivering
flowers when the missiles struck

Surgically separating
pistil from the stamen

Let me say before the commercial break
that we hit what we were aiming at.

We have partners in

His red petals
flew up like larks

into an infrared

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014

epistemological and ontological assumptions

We need time and space to unpack our lives –
condensed, compressed, repressed, concentrated
for far too long on trivialities,
technicalities, false flag theatrics –
Let’s touch the core of what we call our truth:
shall we preserve the status quo, believe
objectively this love will conquer all?
Or should we seek to transcend (abolish?)
the dead-end that’s approaching
for a different, enlightened way?
Or is it only the individual
that matters in the end, the beginning?
Or maybe just break all the rules,
and then, unshackled, unrestrained, renew?

Monday, June 30, 2014

Recent poems

June 18, 2014
An evangelist spoke to our class today.
Liked my questions and offered me a job.
Told him my last job
was in a bureaucracy
with a corrupt hard drive
and a virus-laden operating system.
He wrote that down in his note pad.
It’s all poetry, I told him.
Didn’t know he was also a poet!

June 22, 2014
21 years in a lockup, black passport
cancelled, holes punched in the cover:
I never felt bound by its darkness,
nor constricted by its strait jacket,
but always freed, liberated, emancipated
by the song of curiosity in my soul.
Let us not disdain the leaders
of the instruction manual factory –
Jesus said feed all the sheep –
but don’t forget that among them
are whores who will turn a trick
at the drop of a dime,
and pimps who’ll sell their own
mothers if the price is right.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Open letter to a MOOC doubter about ModPo


​Dear Professor MOOC doubter:
     I was one of the 30,000 students enrolled in ModPo, Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, via Coursera, hosted at Penn.  I am a living witness that there is human interaction in a large MOOC course, and there is one-on-one contact and individual attention between the student and the instructor and staff.    
     In ModPo, it was not unusual for Prof. Filreis to plug himself into a discussion group or even to send a personal e-mail to students in far-flung locations.  Many can attest to that, and to the fact that it seemed that Prof Filreis never slept during the course!  He was everywhere and in everybody’s conversations and discussions.  Additionally, his seven teaching assistants were equally engaged with students via the discussion groups.  And in the second year, he designated 25 community TA’s, in the US, in the UK, in India, in France, and in Phillippines, (and others) and they multiplied the interaction effect.    
     In weekly live webcasts, many of us met up in Philadelphia (a small contingent always travelled up by MegaBus (cheap tickets)) for face-to-face discussions.    
     In DC, we formed a weekly meet-up at a local bookshop for additional face-to-face discussions.
     So you see, there was lots of individual attention for those who sought it out, as well as for those sought out by the instructor and his staff.  But you have to do the work, both students and the instructor and staff.  Doing the work is what makes the difference, not the structure or the size of the classroom.    
     Thanks for reading this note.    
Raymond Maxwell

Monday, April 14, 2014

MOdPo'er Lowell Murphree is donating proceeds from the sale of his book of poems, Bindings, to ModPo'er Jamie Givens health fund.  Please buy the book and please donate to the cause, because ModPo is not just a poetry class, it is a movement.

Ok ModPo, THIS is it!
BINDINGS by Lowell Murphree is now published and let loose on the world!
Here is a FREE pdf for all our wonderful community to enjoy! Lowell and Jeremy will not take any financial reward from this enterprise, all we ask is that if you like the book you will make a donation to Jamie's health fund – let's see what a difference poetry can make!
Brigitte Pellat Here is the link
Our dear friend, Jamie Givens, is on a two year journey to wellness after being ...diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer this year. The sole owner of a licensed massage therapy practice, Jamie hasn't been able to work since October 29, 2013 due to the cancer and treatment. Covering daily expense...See More
BINDINGS by Lowell Murphree
The book can now be downloaded at Dropbox, here is the address.
Please share it with any of your friends outside this group who may enjoy Lowell's work. Poetry has raised nearly $100 for Jamie's health fund, and it would be fantastic if we can generate more interest and more donations


Monday, April 7, 2014

DC Poetica, April 6, 2014.

Counterclockwise from bottom left: Lori, James, Treva (on computer), John, Susan, Ray, Kelleyanne.  Ursula is the photographer. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

NaPoWriMo 2014!

Cross-posted from


Get set . . .

On March 31, 2014
Tomorrow is the first day of NaPoWrimo. I hope you are feeling excited and inspired.
Today’s poetry resource is the Big Poetry Giveaway. Now in its fifth year, the Giveaway celebrates National Poetry Month by giving participants the opportunity to get books of poetry, for free!
I know that by the time I post the first “official” prompt, it will already have been April 1 for a while in some parts of the world, so here is an extra little prompt (totally optional — as all our prompts are) for those of you who are experiencing NaPoWriMo earlier than me.
The prompt for all you early birds is an ekphrastic poem – a poem inspired by or about a work of art. There’s no rules on the form for an ekphrastic poem, so you could write a sonnet or a haiku or free verse. Some well-known ekphrastic poems include Rilke’s Archaic Torso of Apollo and Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn. But ekphrastic poetry is alive and well today, too, as your efforts today will reflect.
Happy writing!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Poems by ModPo'ers published in Filipino anthology

Poems by ModPo'ers T. De Los Reyes and Dennis Aguinaldo are included in the book, Verses Typhoon Yolanda: A Storm of Filipino Poets, which has just been released today. 

The official press release can be read here:

The anthology was created for fundraising purposes. If you buy a copy, profits from the sales of the book will go to the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Langston Hughes poems posted in February, 2014

Langston Hughes poems posted in February

2/1      Youth
2/2       I too, Sing America
2/3       I Look at the World
2/4       Let America Be American Again
2/5       As I Grew Older
2/6       Daybreak in Alabama
2/7       Dream Variations
2/8       Theme for English B
2/9       Negro Speaks of Rivers
2/10     Love Song for Lucinda
2/11     Afro-American Fragment
2/12     The Weary Blues
2/13     Pennsylvania Station
2/14     Harlem Sweeties
2/15     Midwinter Blues
2/16     Cubes
2/17     Montage of a Dream Deferred: Dream Boogie
2/18     Montage of a Dream Deferred: Children's Rhymes
2/19     Mississippi - 1955
2/20     Advertisement for the Waldorf-Astoria
2/21     Freedom's Plow
2/22     Open Letter to the South
2/23     I Dream a World
2/24     Mother to Son
2/25     Militant
2/26     Old Walt
2/27     Harlem
2/28     Hope for Harlem


Sunday, February 2, 2014

DC Poetica discusses two Rilke poems Sunday, February 2, 2014

L to r: back row: Lori, James, John, Ray.  Front row: Kelleyanne, Susan.
Joining us on Skype (internationally): Treva, Carol, Moshe, and Kent.  

Friday, January 31, 2014

Poems by ModPo'ers: Lalarukh Lasharie

Let Us Name The Dead

I have walked among the dead
My eyes shut
We are the dead
Let us name the dead
They are you and I

2537 dead
Trust us!
These are bad guys we are killing!
Only militants
No combatants
No collateral damage

Let us name the dead
Sakina, Bano, Amjad, Gul Mohammad...

These deaths will haunt us
As long as we live
No boots on the ground
No tanks, no seals
Only hawks raining fire
No humans, just robots

Let us name the dead
Zainab Bibi, Fatima, Imran, Fazal Jan...

Single strikes are obsolete
Doubles are all the rage
Just to make sure, you see.
How pathetic, they congregate
For rescue and mourning!
Strike again! Just to make sure

Let us name the dead
Baby Noor, Faiza, Ayesha, Afzal Khan...

Reaper Drones
We weep when we sow
The grimmest reaper.
Surgically precise
And an effective tool.
This is a false narrative!

Let us name the dead
Ayub, Khadija, Ejaz, Dilawer, Zarina...

I have walked among the dead
My eyes shut
We are the dead
Let us name the dead
They are you and I

©2014 January.
Lalarukh Lasharie

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Amiri Baraka on his poetry and breaking the rules

"...My hope is that the great poets that have existed in America will find their voice in a collective way and that we will be able to rescue all of the lost and the obscure, the willfully hidden poets in Poetry....the powers that be hide that literature which speaks against their rule, and they have done that since the beginning of time, and they will do that as long as they can, they will do that until, finally, we are in charge, the people are in charge of what needs to be published..."