Group Poems From the Poetorium

June 25th, 2019

Our new tradition of creating a group poem each evening at the Poetorium was started on this night. Inspired by the surrealist game of Prophecies, members of the audience were asked to contribute both a phrase beginning with either “if” or “when” and one that was either in the future tense or a command. These phrases were shuffled and randomly paired together, resulting in the following poem which was read out loud by co-host Paul Szlosek right before the intermission:

Prophecies from the Poetorium

If the sky turns a bright purple, please be seated.

When we go together again, I will go before I am ready
(but at least, it will not be too late).

When the fireflies come out to dance, there will be war.

When the sky and the earth exchanges places, plant the garden.

If it should come to pass that man is his own undoing,
we will get this thing moving.

When God tumbles from the clouds, get up and make breakfast.

If the stars all go dark, then we will not fulfill the destiny
(we’ve all fought to avoid).

If I were younger, she would step out into the thunderstorm.

When I publish my first book, I will love more.

If I had one, go ye therefore and be yourself!

If something changes, I will be a guest on Oprah.

If all relationships actually have a point,
policemen will turn somersaults in the streets.

July 30th, 2019

Our second group Poetorium poem took its cue, not from the Surrealists like the first one,  but from Hollywood. imitating Tinseltown (which is constantly remaking and rebooting movies and television shows), we rewrote the classic Wallace Steven poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (if you are not familiar with the original poem or need to refresh your memory, you can read it here). Members of the Poetorium audience were asked to contribute to our group poem by writing one to seven lines containing either the word “blackbird” or “blackbirds”. The various segments were then collected, numbered and compiled into one poem in the order they were received, and read on stage right before intermission by co-host Paul Szlosek:

Fifteen New Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
(After Wallace Stevens)

I
As the bright sky steadily fades away,
I realize that it’s not the end of another day.
Rather it’s an army of blackbirds who have taken to the sky
And darken the afternoon as they fly by.

II
When I gaze down upon
My black pointy-toed boots,
I am reminded of a pair
Of battered blackbirds.

III
The blackbird dove and swooped
And suddenly pooped
all over my car’s windshield.
He wasn’t going to make it to the field
And it happened to be that time of day
When it was just, bombs away.

IV
All that was left
In Mother Goose’s cupboard
Was a rancid slice of blackbird pie.

V
Nature’s photo negative –
An albino blackbird
In a field of soot-covered snow.

VI
Is it its ebony plumage
Or its dark heart
Which makes a blackbird
The blackest of birds?

VII
Paul? He loved Magritte,
You know, and a biographer
Named his biography
of McCartney “Blackbird”.

VIII
This morning, the blackbirds were attacking.

IX
If I could fly
Away from here
On blackbird wings
And leave behind
My tortured fears,
I’d learn
To sing.

X
Blackbird darkening
The sky above me.
Shoot it down!
I don’t need hope
In the form of a raven.

XI
Birds!
Blackbirds!
The night calls
Them and
They are black.

XII
Black against the night,
The fat blackbirds fight.

XIII
Inkblot blackbirds
Squatting in
Black scribble trees.

XIV
-Listening to the red-winged
blackbirds trill

-The blackbirds sing by
the stream

– The ugly speckled blackbirds
walk funny

XV
Blackbird, bleed out!
Spill the living warmth within you.
Blackbird, bleed out!
Coat my table a sordid brown.
A slit of the throat will lead you,
Red from blue will gently leave you.
Blackbird, bleed out!

August 27th, 2019

Our third Poetorium group poem was created fairly simply. An opening line was written at the top of a sheet of paper, and members of the audience took turns adding their own lines. Some chose to read everything previously written, while others read just the previous line before writing theirs, thus resulting in the finished poem’s rather surrealist nature. This night, Paul Szlosek broke the previous tradition of reading the group poem out loud right before the intermission, and instead presented it immediately after co-host Ron Whittle’s opening remarks at the start of the show:

A Title (in Search of a Poem)

This is not the poem I meant to write.
This is the poem I am going to write instead
(I wish I was half the genius I think I am).
A poem about the moon would be lovely,
All the stars singing their songs into the night,
But a poem about the sun would be the brighter choice.
We could sit underneath palm trees, sipping soda & lime,
And ice cubes rolling like scree, rolling uphill,
Rolling away and toward, and there around the corner
Is the church  (which doesn’t know me)  filled with sugar
To the top of the cross. I can’t breathe, so singing
Is no longer a possibility but a froggy croak-
What was heard was “If only I had more money”.
Oh, money, money…. but who truly needs it?
Essentially it is but a phantom,
A ghost choking the throat of the world.
The throat of the world is a black hole healing,
And Spring will come, rabbits jump, birds sing.
Turtles run amok at high speed
And ant farms open for business…

September 24th, 2019

For our fourth Poetorium group poem, audience members were asked to write something a “true poet” would never say. Their statements were then randomly compiled into the following poem which was read out loud right before the intermission by co-host Paul Szlosek :

Things a True Poet Would Never Say

“Pucker up, Buttercup!”

“Eat my shorts, you dog!!”

“The boogers from my eyes were nearly
as salty as the jam from betwixt my toes.”

“I’m only in this racket for the big bucks, baby!”

“I would rather be a stripper!”

“There is no way to romanticize this.”

“Words have no meaning – hidden or otherwise.”

“I am a great poet.”

“I am the greatest ever, anyone who says
otherwise is spewing fake news and has no clue,
I invented poetic thought – forget everyone but me.”

OCTOBER 29TH, 2019

Our fifth Poetorium group poem was Halloween-themed with members of our audience writing one to six lines starting with the phrase “Halloween is…”  on pocket notebook-sized sheets of bright yellow paper which were then shuffled and read as the following poem before the intermission by co-host Paul Szlosek :

Halloween Is…

Halloween is creepy sweet.

Halloween is a circus car of delighted kids
Tumbling from cars on suburban streets,
Orangy grins on lighted porches dark
And deserted on our country road.

Halloween is hauntingly special –
The celebration of Samhain,
The worship of all darkness.

Halloween is a mighty wind
Of ghosts and gast
Of night dark memories.

Halloween is a time marked by the consumption
Of confection, commercialism crass as Christmas,
A season of contradictions when the so-called innocent don masks
to extort their neighbors, where the ominous and the whimsical
Dance cheek to cheek at a costume ball, and you never know
Either to expect a sack of candy corn or a bag of human bones.

Halloween is black cats, witches boiling bodies.
Soup is on for me and my cat named Hazel.
We will have our fill because it is Halloween.
HA HA HEE HEE HA HEE…

NOVEMBER 26TH, 2019

Since this was the final Poetorium of the year, the theme of our sixth Poetorium group poem was fittingly the year 2019 with members of the audience each writing one to a dozen lines beginning with either “This was the year of…”  or “This was the year that…”. All the contributions were then collected and shuffled to form the following poem which was read by co-host Paul Szlosek right before the intermission :

2019

It was the year of Trump.

It was the year of bad politics,
more Mother Earth scars
& you & me saying
“me too” more.

It was the year of possession
and nightmare.

It was the year of our lord 2019
when it was no longer cool to be
associated with either political party.

It was the year of the pig
outwitting the dog that chased
the rooster which woke up
the monkey who lassoed
the goat who headbutted
the horse that stomped
the snake which gave birth
to the dragon that befriended
the rabbit who stalked
the tiger who stampeded
the ox that sold out
the rat who harassed
and belittled the pig.

It was the year of the monkey
gesticulating with his wooden
pointer finger at the sad
wreckage of the moon.

It was the year of changes,
happy changes,
freeing changes,
a year to
celebrate
freedom.

It was the year of beginnings
and endings, sorrow and joy,
old things falling away,
looking for new paths
among the shadows.

It was the year that I felt like a baby
banana at the bottom of the ocean,
seeking shelter from the rain,
worrying about sea monkeys eating me.

It was the year of the cyclone bomb-
a bomb of snow, of wind, of stalled rain
making us grateful for tv, a roof
and the last cold Miller in the fridge.

It was the year of troubling transmutations,
irrevocable reactions that registered on
our mass consciousness like a slow motion
blur dissolving into the white noise
of every inconceivable outcome.

It was the year that was unpronounceable
and indeed it was called the year
of the Trumping of America.

January 28th, 2020

For our seventh Poetorium group poem (and the first one of the new year), a question was written on a sheet of paper which was answered by a member of the audience (in one to three lines) who then added their own question which was answered by another audience member and so on until the entire audience had participated. The last question written was then answered by the person who wrote the first one thus completing the following poem which was read out loud right before the intermission by co-host Paul Szlosek :

Interview

Who are you?
I am and always been a bag lady!

Why do you carry bags?
It reminds me of Bagdad,
me and my rucksack.

So who’s your daddy?
Do you ask me this because
you’d like to be my daddy?

Do you like a windy night?
Yes, it sets my spirit soaring.

What is it that gives your heart wings?
Fast foaming beer, secret chocolates,
notes from my friends.

When are you apt to dance?
When lights are low
and licorice is in the air,
when dancing makes you sweat.

How do you find a new partner?
Howdy, Partner! Do your duty,
and ride on!

If one leg is shorter than the other,
how long will it be to here?
The asymmetry of the universe will be
resowed by walking along speed bumps.

If there is bed and bath, what lies beyond?
A memorable massage.

What is your most relaxing moment?
When the door closed for the last time.
I was alone, but I was free.

When will the sun come out?
Never again (if you should ever leave me).

FEBRUARY 25TH, 2020

Our eighth Poetorium group poem was a group variation of the blitz poem, a 50-line stream-of-consciousness poetry form invented by Robert Keim. A member of the audience started the poem by writing two short lines beginning with the same word, then wrote a third and fourth line, each starting with the last word of their second line. Then another audience member wrote two lines beginning with the last word of the last line of the previous person, and then two more lines beginning with the last word of their own second line. This process was repeated until 48 lines had been written. To finish the poem, the last word of the 48th line was repeated as the 49th line while the last word of the 47th became the 50th and final line.  The title was derived by joining the first word of the third line and the first word of the 47th line with a preposition. The completed poem was then read out loud right before the intermission by co-host Paul Szlosek :

Mind to Inspire

Time flies
Time out of mind
Mind your business
Mind your manners
Manners are overrated
Manners are boring
Boring is relaxing
Boring is not me
Me decade
Me and you
You are the best
You are the worst
Worst is meat
Worst in the show
Show me justice
Show me kindness
Kindness is hard
Kindness is expensive
Expensive is volunteering
Expensive is cheap
Cheap date
Cheap wine
Wine and dine
Wine and roses
Roses in fisted gloves
Roses just die
Die a little more each day
Die but try
Try to rise
Try to scream
Scream in rooms
Scream in ever green
Green trees
Green leaves
Leaves are falling
Leaves are bright
Bright as your eyes
Bright was our love
Love that faded
Love that had to transform
Transform as a cell at the rate of lichens
Transform other days as a bolt of lightning
Lightning of light
Lightning of inspiration
Inspiration rules
Inspiration inspires
Inspires my life
Inspires the love
Love
Life

March 31st, 2020

The theme of the group poem for our very first Virtual Poetorium was “what poetry means to us” with people being asked to email us one to six lines starting either with the phrase “Poetry is…” or “Poetry means… “. All contributions were then compiled into the following poem which I personally believe may be our best one yet:

What Poetry Means to Us…

Poetry means straight and true
With a twist of smooth,
And to the point.
It takes us to places
We’ve never been before.

Poetry is the sky
Covered in salmon pink
Like the silk of a lady-in-waiting’s dress.

Poetry is paper and pen
And an August dream.

Poetry is a sword
For many silent souls
In a world where introverts
Must carry their shields daily.

Poetry is like reaching out onto a distant port-
The closer you come towards it ,
The sweeter your journey becomes after that.

Poetry is like articulating a dream,
But in an interesting
(Not a boring to listen to) way.
In a poem too, a shoe that can talk
On a red table while Prince
Does the dishes makes sense.

Poetry means giving in to the words
Inside your head, then giving them all away.

Poetry means the soul
Still dances at dusk
Beneath an indigo sky.

Poetry is the ability to speak
The truth in cypher, to prance naked
Behind a wall of words
And not get arrested
Or most likely even noticed.

Poetry is an outcry to complex, voiceless thoughts.
Meaningful poetry composed with raw expression
Leaves dog-eared pages on bookshelves,
Being sent into the universe to heal wounds
And shed warm light into cold darkness.

Poetry is a peephole into our true hearts,
A rosetta stone to a secret language,
A lost saga in our forgotten history,
Our own private Book of Revelations.

Poetry is about letting go
Of all the things you think you know
Embracing that which feels unreal
Inviting the invisible
Becoming indivisible
Learning what it truly means to feel.

Poetry is but a verbal version of a two-way mirror.
On the poets’ side, what they are trying to say
Is transparent, the meaning clear as plate glass.
Yet to an average reader or listener, its surface
Often remains opaque, never glimpsing beyond
The reflection of who they are or what they already know.

Poetry means leaving lasting footprints
On our (now) untouched welcome mats.
Someday we will stand together again
And I will hear you tell me
What poetry means to you.

April 28th, 2020

This month’s Poetorium Group poem was based on the surrealist game of Prophecies (also known as Conditionals). Participants were asked to write and send us four lines including one each of the following:

1. A short phrase in the present tense starting with the word “When” such as “When the oceans begin to boil,”.

2. A short phrase in the present tense starting with the word “If” such as “If your right elbow itches,” .

3. A short statement in the future tense using either the word “will” or “shall” such as “The President will sprout horns.” or “Hamsters shall rule the world.” .

4. A command written in the imperative such as “Lock the doors and hide beneath your bed”.

People ‘s lines from 1 & 2 were then randomly paired with someone elses lines from 3 & 4 to form brand new lines for our poem. Since 13 people contributed (and I want to thank all the amazing poets that chose to participate), the result was the following 26-line poem:

More Strange Prophecies and Surreal Advice From the Poetorium

When stars begin to fall, I shall live or die.

If I should wear a gas mask, be in better temperment!

If you ever know a New England April that leaves you cold and wet and sometimes covered in snow, this too shall pass, only much more painfully, like a kidney stone.

When dinosaurs fart, pour yourselves another round,
for none of you are saved.

When the sea forgets to listen, the kingdom of Gilead will rise up.

If you are not a ruminant, wash your hands with soap and hot water
for at least twenty seconds.

When dark despair washes over this land like India ink,
the beasts of the ocean shall rear up and wail.

If ants rule the world, they will fall from grace
and never wake before hitting the bottom.

If there’s a bond here built on shared demise,
you will leave your doors unlocked and travel to the sea.

When the moon waxes lavender, learn what it is like to grow old
and appreciate even a butt-destroying park bench which feels
like a second home to every ass thats sit there in the dead of winter.

When experiencing stomach upset,
Meek Mill will drop a polka dot and inherit Mars.

When the ladies start to wear leopard hats,
sink your hands into the broken earth.

When I finally shave my legs,
embace yourself and feel the relief.

If a pope and an antipope ever happen to accidentally make physical contact with each other, hide beneath my bed to get away from the smell.

If penguins sing madrigals at sunset,
take your children by the hand.

When crows fly backwards, their wings urging forward,
the women will rise from their melancholy.

If the teenagers refuse to blast music,
be sure to consult with a qualified career counselor.

When trumpets toll and trolls extoll the fair and balanced truth,
go get gophers and pre-empt the Wright Brothers’ first.

If browbeaten beetles decide to go bald,
we shall know the answers we are not permitted now.

If as a nation, we change out of these pajamas,
the world will wonder why we went and willfully obeyed.

If people partly possibly pretend to be aloof,
stay the hell at home.

When yellowjacket wasps begin to wear life vests,
you will find yourself withdrawing socially.

If feathers fall from the sky darkening the ground,
eat your orzo and practice playing the hautboy.

When you make a snow angel in April,
the gods will offer a blessing.

When night falls, and they become moon shadows in the corners,
capybaras shall surely surpass cats as the most popular animal
on the internet.

If the moon bends over your shoulder, suddenly the world shall go dark, and the last of the wordgasms and poetry porn will be exposed in broad daylight.

May 26th, 2020

The theme of this month’s Poetorium group poem was “what we miss” with people being asked to email us one to six lines starting with the phrase “I miss… “. All contributions (which will remain anonymous) were then compiled into the following poem:

What We Miss…

I miss leaving the house without a mask.
I miss freely walking in the park without social distancing.
I miss having my hair trimmed.
I miss going to Church.

I miss crowds of happy people.
I miss Friday afternoon traffic.
I miss sitting down at a restaurant.
I miss handshakes and hugs.
I miss faces without masks.

I miss people watching
as I sip coffee
at a local coffee house.

I miss my marbles.

I miss my mind more than anything else
(I think I lost it sometime over the past
couple of months in lockdown).

I miss elevator doors closing, we seven
breathing slowly with syncopated gulps
of trapped air, hoping, beyond ourselves
that this box will hold us, that gravity
won’t let us down.

I miss the sweetness
of deer each morning
gathered in small groups
where yard meets verge
before they ease forward
to steal windfall apples.

I miss the sight of barn swallows swooping low
over cornfields at dusk, the distinctive shape of their crescent wings
and forked tails silhouetted against a darkening sky in the pursuit
of mosquitoes before flying away, only to be replaced by
a steady stream of little brown bats (as if nature’s night shift
was arriving to relieve the denizens of the day).

I miss those lazy summer days
with my cousin Paul, going yardsailing
and exploring cemeteries.

I miss riding in my girlfriends ‘ cars
while smoking and drinking coffee,
listening to the radio and laughing.

I miss so much who we once were.
I stare longingly at our past like a voyeur.
That couple in the photo – you’re not him, I’m not her.
When did we both grow so old? My memory’s a blur.
Of only this, I’m absolutely sure –
I miss so much who we once were.

June 30th, 2020

Consulting with previous contributors, we decided to try something different and much more ambitious this month, utiilizing a variation of the TAPESTRY POETRY collaborative technique developed by Avril Meallem, a poet living in Israel and Shernaz Wadia, a poet living in India. Participants sent us a six line poem inspired by the following title: “Eggshells & Icicles”. The lines of all the poems received were then taken and rewoven into what was supposed to be one long seamless, flowing poem that hopefully could stand on its own by myself acting as the editor (it will be up to you to decide how successful I was).

Here is a further explanation of the rules (which you will see I ended up not following very closely):

1. Each contributor’s poem was to be six lines (in the original version of Tapestry Poetry, the poems were of nine lines, but there were also only two participants).

2. To avoid repetition, only the editor (in this particular Tapestry: myself) were to have the option of actually using the title in the poem ( this rule was apparently not very clear, and most of the contributors did end using either or both “eggshells ” and “icicles” in their poems).

3. The majority of words of the original poems were to be kept but grammatical changes could be made by the editor, e.g. singular to plural, verb tenses, etc. (I tried my best, but I am afraid I wasn’t very successful following this rule).

4. Adjectives and adverbs could be replaced with others more befitting the Tapestry but retaining the original flavour ( once again, I did not strictly adhere to this rule either).

5. All 6 lines (or at at least a portion of them) from each poem were used in the Tapestry. The length of the resulting poem depended on the number of participants, so in this case we had 7 contributors, so our Tapestry ended up with 42 lines.

6. The amount of stanzas and lines per stanza in the finished Tapestry could be variable, and depended solely on the decision of the editor.

7. Our usual policy on anonymity for the Poetorium group poem was optional this month. All poets could receive credit for their contributions and they also had the option of having their individual poems published along with the Tapestry poem if they wish.

I have to confess I had a very difficult time weaving this Tapestry poem together into one cohesive and coherent poem. My eventual solution was to break up many of the lines of the original poems into separate segments and then merge these together, forming brand new lines with brand new imagery that may be almost unrecognizable from the originals. I know this may be cheating but hope you will be surprised and satisfied with the results. I want to sincerely thank the other 6 contributors (besides myself): Robert Eugene Perry, Jonathan Blake, Howard Kogan, Gail Schuyler, Ron Whittle, and Dwayne Szlosek.

First, to demonstrate how different and diverse the original poems were, here are four from the poets who consented to have their poems posted:

Fragility

so many things cannot be mended
careless words cut to the quick
leaving a wound like an ice pick
hard to see, yet running deep
coloring our wake and sleep
leaving so many lives upended.

—Robert Eugene Perry

Eggshells & Icicles

The eggshells were ground and mixed into
the oatmeal mash as a winter treat for the hens
the icicles watched from the window as
the boy struggled with his galoshes knowing
he would break the largest off and be King Arthur
carrying the mash to the hens, bringing their eggs back

—Howard Kogan

Eggshells and Icicles

Fragile and Icy
Dripping and cracked
Ivory and luminescent
What’s in common?
Hard to say
Opposites attract?

—-Gail Schuyler

Eggshells & Icicles

Lies and hand grenades
are all befitting today’s lifestyles
of stepping on eggshells
under melting icicles
while lying about sitting on
a hand grenade waiting for it to hatch

—Ron Whittle

And now is here is the resulting Poetorium group poem:

Eggshells and Icicles (a Tapestry Poem)

Eggshells and icicles,
Lies and hand grenades,
Blossoms and blooms,
A downy feather, a cold shoulder
One does not feel good about,
careless words hard to say
cutting to the quick.

The boy struggling with his galoshes
Knowing he would break his bicycle
Carrying oatmeal mash
Ground and mixed into
Mother nature’s sweet nectar
As a winter treat for the hens
While they were lying about, sitting on
A hand grenade, waiting for it to hatch,

Tires spinning O so slowly
Like a carny barker’s clicking wheel,
A dark silhouette
Against the pale shell
Of the laughing moon
(Ivory and luminescent)
Watching from the window.

What’s in common?

These are all delicate, brittle things
That cannot be mended,
Fragile and icy,
Dripping and cracked.
Opposites attract, their beauty
And appeal lies within their frailty,
their fleeting, disposable nature
befitting today’s lifestyles.

Who among us has the strength to resist
The temptation to pulverize, to destroy
Just because we can so easily,
Leaving so many lives upended
Leaving a wound like an ice pick,
Hard to see, yet running deep,
Coloring our wake and sleep?

Be King Arthur
And get the freaking hint –
No person should ever step on,
Walk on eggshells…

July 28th, 2020

The theme of this month’s Virtual Poetorium group poem was “Last Tuesday Evening” with people being asked to email us one to six lines starting with that short phrase. All contributions (which will remain anonymous) were then formed into the following poem:

Last Tuesday Evening

Last Tuesday evening, I saw this strange flying object in the sky
shaped like a banana, hovering in front of me.
There was two white dots appearing on top of the craft,
then a brown one and a red one on top of that.
I realized then it was just a reflection of a banana boat being made
in the window of One Finger Joe’s Ice Cream Shop across the street…

Last Tuesday evening it rained cats and dogs
And I thought I saw some leaping frogs
C’mon sun – be gone clouds
I’m looking for a brighter day
Though the rain lasts through the night
I watch for morning’s ray of light.

Last Tuesday evening the value
of the sky plummeted and the moon
rose to a pale trembling on black water.
At dawn – a small murder of crows complaining
in the tall pines of the far shore isn’t a killing –
O, how loud the oracles of the new day!

Last Tuesday evening,
Abraham sacrificed Issac
And the Stock Market rose
To new heights.
Where is the angel
Of our better selves?

Last Tuesday evening was no exception
it dully followed Monday
then drifted into Wednesday
another dreary Covid day
in this time of pandemic exception.

Last Tuesday evening, I emerged from a premature slumber
and walked out into the night for the first time in months,
strolling past discarded face masks and latex gloves
illuminated by the pale glow of street lamps
as they lied clustered in gutters like the fallen leaves of Autumn.

Last Tuesday evening, with a strange sense of uncertainty
wafting through my mind like a threatening storm front,
I slumped to my knees and prayed
it would not be our last Tuesday evening.