Poem in Your Pocket Day 2009 and Shmoop

I discovered, just in the nick of time (though not enough time to do much about it) that today is “Poem in Your Pocket Day.”  I wrote about this back in May, saying “April 2009 was a whole year away,” and here we are!

I’ll talk for a moment about how I found out about it–it’s an interesting process that shows the power of social networking.  I have a twitter account and have been “tweeting” for just over a year now.  It’s been in the news a lot lately, so if you haven’t heard about it you’re way out of the loop.  When somebody starts to “follow” me (i.e. subscribes to my tweets), I get an email message saying so.  I always take a look at who it is who’s chosen to follow me, to see if they are interesting enough to follow.  Some of them are goofy (e.g. Santa Claus), and some are just promoting a business or a website.  Occasionally, it’s someone who has obviously used a Twitter search tool to seek out people posting on subjects of interest to him or her.  Today I got an email saying helloshmoop is now following me.  Upon checking out their twitter profile, I saw one of their recent tweets mentioning that “Poem in Your Pocket Day” is happening soon… I followed the link and voila!

Who knows how long it would have taken for me to discover shmoop… if ever… and I could easily have let this day slip by.  But now I have a chance to take some of the actions suggested by the poets.org “PIYP” page.

There’s been a lot of bad press about twitter in recent weeks, but like any tool there are good and bad uses.  Today’s Hiawatha Bray column in the Boston Globe talks about how he was won over to the use of twitter as a way to “capture the wisdom of crowds.”  So it’s all about the crowds you choose to join.  Who are you following?  Do they make relevant posts telling you of interesting websites or news items, or are they telling you what they are cooking for dinner? Some twitterers post bursts of tweets that amount to short poems.  I would have enjoyed playing with this twenty years ago, when I was an English student.  Now there’s not a lot of time for it after family and work, but when there is, I often find some useful sites, like Shmoop.

Shmoop is a collective of M.A. and Ph.D. students who have launched a website with learning and teaching resources for literature, U.S. history, poetry, and writing, and it claims to make us better “lovers of life.”  If you’re reading this, you don’t need to be told that poetry will help you love life more and better.  This is my hope and goal for Albatross as  a poetry journal–and has been since we started back in 1985:  to get us to love the environment (life!  all of life!) so that we stop destroying it (as the Ancient Mariner did in Coleridge’s poem–the source of the journal’s title).

Albatross #20 now available

I just posted Albatross #20 at the main site.  The print issue will be out within the next couple of weeks.

There are some amazing poems in this issue.  Some of my favorites include William Keener’s and Lyn Stefenhagens’s.  I hope you enjoy these poems as much as I have.  And the cover art is awesome as well.  While visiting my son in Gainesville, we went to a party at an art gallery, and the owner was selling this woodcut as a card.  I asked him if I could use it for #20, and voila!

I have found other works of art this way.  Another of my favorites, the cover for #10, was done by a professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.  We were sitting next to each other at Dunn Brothers Coffee House, and he was sketching these cool abstract pieces.  Again, I boldly asked to use the artwork, and this is how it came to be on the cover.  This cover for #10, by the way, was featured in the 1998 (I think it was) Poet’s Market.

Preview of Albatross #20

I just finished finalizing the PDF file for Albatross #20 and will be sending it along to the printer.  I like to print 100 copies so that there are some in print out there in the world.  I guess I’m still stuck in the age of print literacy.  But I’ve seen too many poetry websites (and too many of my published poems) disappear when the website becomes a dead link.  This way, the poets, a handful of subscribers, and a few university libraries that archive small press poetry all have a hard copy.  This way, I’ll feel like I’ve left something behind in the world, something of value, something real.

In the process of laying out the journals, I type the entire poem in and then proofread it a number of times, so I come to know the poems quite intimately.  I always have a few that are my favorites.  I posted one by Andy Roberts titled “Standoff” in my last post.   It’s not very profound; it’s a simple poem, with a simple enough message, but I chuckle every time I read the ending, and that’s been a good 10-12 times of late.  Every time I read it I have the same response, so I thought I’d write about it here.

The poem describes an encounter that the persona has with a pair of Canadian geese, who loudly defend their nest, which happens to be on the well-worn path s/he (we’ll call him or her “the poet” from here on out) has been walking regularly for 30 years.  After introducing this scene, Roberts concludes:

I will not win this argument
against pink hissing tongues.
I will not win this argument,
not in a million years.

I love this.  It’s so simple but so true.  We are at present losing the argument with nature, and it will only get worse before it gets better.

This poem could easily have appeared in Billy Collins “Poetry 180” anthologies.  In the introduction to the first one, Collins writes,

The idea behind this printed collection. . . was to assemble a generous selection of short, clear, contemporary poems which any listener could basically “get” on first hearing–poems whose injection of pleasure is immediate.

Collins developed these anthologies to try to reconnect poetry to high school students who too often experience poetry as a painful process of reading dense and opaque writing that doesn’t seem to make much sense.  As Collins demonstrates–not only in these anthologies but in his own poetry as well–this does not have to be the case.

Poetry–like many forms of art–is an act of communication, and Andy Roberts’ poem does a good job of doing just that.