Virtual Poetorium (February 22, 2022)

THE VIRTUAL POETORIUM

February 22, 2022

Paul Szlosek

PAUL: Hello there everyone! Welcome back everybody to the Virtual Poetorium after our month-long hiatus in January. As I peer out into the audience tonight, I have to admit I am very pleasantly surprised. We have a much larger crowd than I expected (definitely much bigger than what we were having lately). I recognize many of the familiar faces of our die-hard Poetorium regulars, as well as people who’ve only been here once or twice before but there are a few brand new ones too. I’m so grateful to you all for taking time out from your busy schedules to be here with us on this warmer than normal but wet last Tuesday evening of this month. We have an outstanding special feature for you tonight, a career retrospective of the poetry of our regular contributor and loyal friend of the Poetorium, the very talented and accomplished poet and writer Robert Eugene Perry.  I will be inviting Bob up on stage in just a little bit, but before I do, I would like to officially open the February edition of the Virtual Poetorium with a poem fittingly entitled “February” penned over a century ago by the British novelist and poet Francis Brett Young that first appeared in his collection Poems 1916-1918:

February

The robin on my lawn,
He was the first to tell
How, in the frozen dawn,
This miracle befell,
Waking the meadows white
With hoar, the iron road
Agleam with splintered light,
And ice where water flowed:
Till, when the low sun drank
Those milky mists that cloak
Hanger and hollied bank,
The winter world awoke
To hear the feeble bleat
Of lambs on downland farms:
A blackbird whistled sweet;
Old beeches moved their arms
Into a mellow haze
Aerial, newly-born:
And I, alone, agaze,
Stood waiting for the thorn
To break in blossom white
Or burst in a green flame…
So, in a single night,
Fair February came,
Bidding my lips to sing
Or whisper their surprise,
With all the joy of spring
And morning in her eyes.

—Francis Brett Young (from Poems 1916-1918)

There is an old saw that Master of Ceremonies like to use when introducing people, saying “Here is someone who needs no introduction…” Well, that actually applies to Robert Eugene Perry. Bob is well-known in the Worcester area poetry community as a talented poet as well as the host of The Monthly Poetry Share at The Booklovers’ Gourmet in nearby Webster, Massachusetts, and a very familiar and beloved fixture here at the Poetorium (in both the virtual and live editions). However since there are quite a few new folks here tonight who may not know him as well as we do, I’d like to let tell you all a little more about him before I call him to the stage to be interviewed….

Robert Eugene Perry

Robert Eugene Perry is a native of Massachusetts. His first novel Where the Journey Takes You, a spiritual allegory combining poetry and prose, was published in 2007. This was followed by three collections of poetry The Sacred Dance: Poetry to Nourish the Spirit in 2008, If Only I Were a Mystic, This Would All Come So Easy in 2011, and Surrendering to the Path released by Human Error Publishing in 2020. Perry hosted a poetry group for disabled individuals at the former New England Dream Center in Worcester MA, and has emceed the monthly Open Mic at Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster MA since May 2017. Three poems were included in NatureCulture/ Human Error Publishing 2021 anthology Honoring Nature. Two of Perry’s poems were published in Poetica Magazine’s 2020 Mizmor anthology. He has had several poems published in Worcester Magazine, and his short story In The Company of Trees was published by WordPeace journal in 2021. A metaphysical poet, he draws inspiration from nature endeavoring to reveal connections between our higher selves and the natural world. He is a devoted husband and father of two grown boys.

Please welcome to our virtual stage, Robert Eugene Perry!

Good evening, Bob! Thank you once again for agreeing to do this Please have a seat…

My first question for you tonight is who or what first inspired you to start writing poetry?

BOB: I was 12, seventh grade English class writing assignment. We had just finished reading some famous poems by Frost, Dickinson and William Carlos Williams. I especially remember “This Is Just To Say”, I had never heard anything like it.

The first poem I wrote was called “Night”. It went something like: “Night is calling/ the bats are hunting/ the owls are hooting/ something is moving/ is it man or beast?/ I’ll never know/ it’s going away.” My teacher loved it. Everyone else gave me a hard time because it didn’t rhyme.

PAUL: Who are some your favorite poets and can you tell us why you like them?

BOB: So I will start with my two favorite poets, both of which I was fortunate enough to do Dead Poets segments at the live Poetorium in Southbridge: Mary Oliver and T.S. Eliot.

On the surface, their poetry may seem to be disparate. Upon closer examination, they both write about faith, connection, and our place in the universe. I discovered Eliot in High School, where I took on The Waste Land out of hubris (the most difficult choice given) and waited to the last minute to start it. My professor gave me a D, which was actually more than it deserved. Through the years I have read & reread most of his other works, and found a depth unlike any other poetry, especially in Four Quartets.

I came late to the Mary Oliver party, only discovering her in the last decade. Her connection to Creation and ability to use language to describe it is beyond compare. These are the only two poets that I have multiple volumes and return to again and again.

I am very fond of poetry anthologies for two reasons: discovering poets who resonate with me, and also hearing many voices not only broadens my perception of the universe, but it also keeps me from trying to emulate anyone else’s style. I am grateful to have poems included in two anthologies over the past couple years: Poetica magazine’s 2020 Mizmor Anthology: Spirituality in Nature and the NatureCulture/ Human Error Publishing 2021 anthology Honoring Nature.

I also receive two daily emails and one monthly to keep up on current poetry: poets.org, Writer’s Almanac, and Gratefulness.org. Poems that move me I will share to Facebook, and so encourage others to discover modern poets.

PAUL: How has your writing style changed and progressed throughout the years?

BOB: As I mentioned earlier, the first poem I wrote did not rhyme. I spent the next ten years or so working on rhyme scheme, meter, and cadence until I reached what I felt was the apex in Cold Seasons of Self. The next decade was honing narrative, finding the cadence in blank verse, finding the correct words to express what was going on inside me. I would define these two decades as my intellectual quest for expression and connection.

My poetry mirrored my faith journey, which moved from Agnostic to Pentecostal (at age 21) to Non-Denominational to Catholic to Episcopalian to Who Gives A Damn About A Label (my current home).

My first two chapbooks were more religious in nature, as that was the way I expressed myself at the time. I have used the term metaphysical poet for the last few years as it most adequately describes the place where I am coming from: trying to see how the divine manifests in creation, and express that through whatever means possible – generally using allusions, symbols and metaphors from nature.

PAUL: How would you personally define “Poetry” and for you what do you feel are its most important aspects (imagery, rhythm, word choice, etc.)?

BOB: To define a thing is to try and put it in a box. Some things should be left wild & free to develop in whatever way they grow. I know that you are an aficionado of poetry forms, so I hope that does not rub you the wrong way!

For me, it is always about the message first. No matter how well crafted, or true to poetic form, if I cannot understand what the poet is saying (on some level) then it will leave me cold. The message does not have to be obvious, but it has to be there.

The next in importance is cadence, it has to have some type of flow to move it along. Imagery is wonderful for getting immersed into the poem itself. A rightly placed word is like finding a gem along the path.

PAUL: How would you describe the poetry you are currently writing?

BOB: I just sent a new manuscript off to Human Error Publishing, called Earthsongs. It is a collection of 50 poems and 50 black and white sketches with my artist friend Ferol Anne Smith. This was an extraordinary venture, because it caused both of us to view our art through the eyes of one another.

The majority of the poems are nature themed, so certain images naturally presented themselves. She used many of my photos from my weekly walks in the woods as springboards, but some were intuitively grasped from the message of the poem.

It was absolutely a labor of love, we would confer about the sketches and we found that we were in sync in almost every instance. I am in awe of her gift, and it moved me as a poet to see how the message came across and translated into the image.

PAUL: Do you recall the first poem you ever had published? Could you tell us where it appeared, and if possible, share it with us now?

BOB: The first poem that won an award was published in an International internet forum called the Poets of Mars. The poem is called Quest, and was the January 2019 winner…

Quest

Restlessness aside, this day is all I own
to try and piece the mystery
of all that’s right in front of me
the passion and calamity
each single heart has known.

Preposterous indeed, to attempt to understand
the music of the spheres
and if god interferes
when the verdict of the years
lies beyond my mortal span.

Indescribable, this joy, that masquerades as pain
the veil of this uncertainty
longing for eternity
deep and wide as any sea
the risk could all be vain.

Ineffable, this grace, which launched a foolish quest
to seek out a connection
between each path’s direction
towards the divine reflection
and find my soul at rest.

Robert Eugene Perry (originally published on the Poets of Mars internet forum)

PAUL: Have you developed a regular writing routine, and if so, can you describe it to us?

BOB: I sit by the French River every day after work, listening to the river flow. I do that in all four seasons, each season has its own beauty and voice. In fine weather I will walk in the woods after work or on the weekends.

Some days a poem will come, some days it will not. I always have pen & paper. I never worry. If I am in the mood to write, I will write even if it does not seem particularly good. Those words are sometimes the inspiration for another poem down the line.

PAUL: What is your actual writing process like, and how do you go about starting and shaping a poem?

BOB: Almost always the title of a poem will suggest itself to me with a basic idea of what I want to write. Sometimes these come out of meditation, walking in the forest, sitting at the beach, or a situation in my daily life.

I write the title down, and if there is a start to the poem I will include that. Most times it is just the title, and writing it down makes a concrete intention to create something. When I was younger, the most important thing was to express that which was deep inside. Now when I write, connecting with others is paramount.

The poem itself takes its shape and form as it is being created. I never start out saying I am going to use this form or that style. The poem has a life & voice of its own, and when it is released into the Universe it will affect people differently according to where they are in their own journey.

For the final edit (and also along the way) nothing is more important than reading the poem out loud. I will catch errors, inconsistencies and rhythm/meter problems easier that way. It is also great practice for reading out at open mics & such.

PAUL: How important do you feel revision is in writing poetry, and how do you know when a poem is finished?

BOB: I know some poets who never revise, and others who edit to the point of distraction. I had one friend who spend so much time on a particular poem she said she thought she “edited all the goodness out of it”!

I think once the poem finds its voice, it is important to edit the structure and cadence so as to reveal the intonation of the poem in the written form. When a person reads it, they should be able to hear the way I would read it out loud in their head.

PAUL: Could you tell us about any poetry or writing projects you are currently working on?

BOB: I mentioned Earthsongs has been sent to the publisher, I anticipate the book being available sometime in March 2022. I have scheduled a book launch party at Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster MA for April 2nd. We will have two sessions 1-2 and 3-4 PM so promote a more intimate atmosphere and to provide smaller crowds. It will be multimedia, with Ferol showing her sketches on a large screen while I read.

The next book of poems I am working on are more confessional in nature, a little more edgy. I think it is important to look for different ways of expressing myself and making that connection with others.

PAUL: What advice would you give to someone who is just beginning to write poetry?

BOB: Read everything you can. Anthologies are wonderful, because you are exposed to so many different voices. If you are just starting out, write every day. Keep a journal, oftentimes your thoughts will turn into poems. Also, when keeping a journal you are less likely to throw away poems that you think are no good.

I used to throw away tons of poems before I came to my current way of doing things. Find your own way of doing things. Crossing things out is a wonderful way of helping the poem to evolve, you can see your progress that way. If you crumple it up and throw it out it is gone forever.

PAUL: My final question of the evening is there any question that you would like to answer about your life, or poetry, or anything else that I have failed to ask you during this interview? If so, please answer it for us…

BOB: Nothing is ever wasted. Every single life experience, no matter how painful or humiliating can be used to help another along the path. Poetry is art, and all art is meant to be expressed and shared with another. We absolutely need each other.

PAUL: Well, I guess that concludes the interview portion of our program. Bob, thank you so much for such thoughtful and informative answers. Now, folks, please enjoy the poetry of Robert Eugene Perry:

BOB: Thanks, Paul! I would like to open with my oldest poem that has made its way into many of my poetry readings. “In Cold Seasons of Self “was written when I was 22 or so. It articulates my longing for the divine and the struggle between the heart and the intellect.

In Cold Seasons of Self

I
It amazes me, Your patience
In times of trouble, seasons of doubt
embedded in my anger
searching for understanding
I forget what you are all about.

II
Could I, in bondage to abstract reason
Deny You, engaged in mental treason
I stumble, waiting for the words I
Fumble into the absurd.

III
A prefabricated defense? An elaborate pretense?
Can I refute the obvious fact
I’m keeping my pride intact.
A misguided rationalization?
A ruse of my own creation?
Shall I succumb to mere temptation
A demonstration of demoralization
Of hard luck stories and allegories
Degenerating into
An avoidance of the issue
At hand.

IV
And can I deny the sin within
Giving in to every whim
Clinging to Your grace
As an excuse for being base?

V
O Lord, forgive my trepidation
These anxious thoughts that overwhelm
When I’m distressed by situation, please
Remind me that You’re at the helm.

–Robert Eugene Perry (from The Sacred Dance: Poetry to Nourish the Spirit)

This and the next two poems are from my first chapbook The Sacred Dance: Poetry to Nourish the Spirit.

The Sacred Dance

If I turn to hear the wind
and let the sacred dance begin
all that binds me to this earth
reveals itself of little worth.

For all that is has been before
and all that was will be again
the dance transcends this earthen floor
we step in time with our True friend
who leads us straight to heaven’s door
in our beginning is our end.

O glorious and blessed Peace
is there a way to find release?

It’s all I have that keeps me poor
and all I need that draws me near
the wolf is howling at the door
I only feed him out of fear
for holy poverty ignores
the locust who devours the years.

The attachment brings the suffering
we are in chains to what we cling
the Master comes, we are set free
and learn to dance synchronously.

–Robert Eugene Perry (from The Sacred Dance: Poetry to Nourish the Spirit)

Black and White

In days of old, the knights came round
To slay the wicked dragons down
The captives freed, the maidens fair
Would sing their praises everywhere

They’d feast on meat and wine and bread
And toast the awful Dragon’s head
Then off to dream about the Grail
They’d wake the morning, setting sail

The knights are gone, their legends left
Within our hearts, yet sore bereft
Are we who struggle with our plight
To see the world in black and white.

—Robert Eugene Perry (from The Sacred Dance: Poetry to Nourish the Spirit)

The next two poems are from my second chapbook If Only I were A Mystic This Would All Come So Easy.

The God Who Hides

The natives looked
for lessons under
every leaf and rock – they knew
you were a God who likes to hide.

We build cathedrals, paint them
immaculate and fill them
with statues, icons, and other accoutrements –
effectively hiding God.

I went for a walk
and sat by a brook, and that
is where I heard
You laughing.

–Robert Eugene Perry (from If Only I were A Mystic This Would All Come So EasyNourish the Spirit)

Damsel in Distress

I remember
when I was younger
I wanted to be
the knight in
shining armor.

I would rescue
every maiden
from their dragon.

I would release
all the prisoners
from their unjust chains.

I would ride in
on my white horse
and save the day.

How disconcerting
to find out
I was
actually
the
damsel
in distress
all along.

–Robert Eugene Perry from (If Only I were A Mystic This Would All Come So Easy)

The next two poems (as well as the previous poems) are included in my full-length collection of poetry Surrendering to the Path, released by Human Error Publishing in 2020.

A Seed Which Changes Everything

When I was young
I went on an adventure
in the woods behind my home.

The memory of it is surreal and dreamlike,
the familiar woods transformed
into another realm.

Walking through the forest
along the well-worn path, something
urged me into a grove of sumacs.

Pushing through
I came to a small clearing
full of light.

I have spent years trying to recall exactly what happened,
have dreamed of this place,
and can still see it vividly.

Returning to the area I have found the sumacs, but
not the clearing. Something otherworldly and inexplicable occurred.
I have never been the same.

Some days I wish I could remember the event,
but I have a suspicion that it retains its power
because of the mystery it presents.

Creator sometimes acts like a secret agent,
infiltrating the ordinary to plant a sacred seed which changes
everything.

–Robert Eugene Perry from Surrendering to the Path

Taking Sides 

the rhetoric a bottomless pit 
in this atmosphere of fear 
entrenched in dualistic diatribes 
the other becomes the enemy 

polarizing attitudes 
aggrandize the issues 
while media complicity 
feeds the hate machine 

dehumanization 
the decline of western civilization 
choking on the bitter fruit 
of manifest destiny 

it is not too late 
is it too late 
it is not 
is it… 

wait. can there be 
a true dialogue between the extremes 
recognizing the inherent dignity 
of every human being? 

there is no panacea 
that will resolve these dilemmas 
no easy road to peace 
among the thorns, yet 

after exhausting all the words 
only one hope remains: 
the idea of the other 
is no more, leaving only 

us. 

—Eugene Perry from Surrendering to the Path

Lastly, I would like to include three poems/sketches from the forthcoming collection Earthsongs, due out in March 2022 from Human Error Publishing.

Everything Belongs

I am a tree, grown up
twisted and gnarled from
bending backwards towards
the light, having spent
too much time
in shadow.

I am a stream, flowing
hither and yon, picking up
stuff meandering through
strange lands, sometimes singing
often murmuring seeking
an ocean.

I am a cloud, pursuing the heights
blown about and set off course
filled with moisture and vapors
stretched out and dissipated
at times reflecting the colors
of the sun.

I am the Universe, born of stardust
a miracle of contradictions
energy and matter, moving and static
constantly changing and adapting
neither created nor destroyed, only
Being.

—Eugene Perry from Earthsongs

“Everything Belongs” by Ferol Ann Smith

Fox Talks

She first showed up at twilight
A kit with her brother stealing glances
Among the stones outside her den.

Our mutual fascination was magic
I returned every night for weeks –
But foxes grow up fast.

Years later my dad passed away
I was alone in my truck at noontime
And fox walked right down the middle

Of the abandoned street. She came
Right up to my door and I asked her why
She was out in the middle of the day.

She winked at me and trotted off
Into the pine scrubs, leaving me
A memory larger than life.

Since then she has taught me invisibility –
How to walk through the forest
Without disturbing its inhabitants

And she has taught me how to stay silent
When I would speak and disturb
The perfection of the moment.

—Eugene Perry from Earthsongs

“Fox Talks” by Ferol ann Smith

The concept that all living beings are connected has always excited and inspired me. An anthology (We Are All God’s Poems: An Anthology of Hope) devoted to that which connects each of us to the larger Life was the perfect impetus to generate the following poem, which will be my final one of the evening…

We Are All God’s Poems

What separates me from you –

Only a thought, a construct the
Mind’s way of sorting things out
Categorizing according to usefulness
Each entity in its path, desperately
Trying to validate its existence when
Truth is incontrovertible, separation
Unnatural. When I breathe the trees
Agree the sky expands and all
That divides creation falls away
Into the illusion it actually is and
We are all one – the two-legged, four-
Legged, winged and finned, each serving
A divine purpose that cannot be fulfilled
Without one another.

—Eugene Perry from Earthsongs

“We Are All God’s Poems” by Ferol Ann Smith

Thank you so much for listening!

PAUL: Bravo! Bravo! That was just fantastic, Bob! Thank you so very much! Everybody, let’s show our appreciation for such a wonderful feature by putting our hands together, and giving a rousing round of applause for Robert Eugene Perry!

We’ll be taking a short intermission in a few minutes before we come back with our virtual open mic, but now it’s once again time to present this month’s Poetorium group poem. This month, the group poem was to be tentatively titled “Top Secrets”. In order to participate, people were asked to send us one to eight lines starting with the phrase “The secret to [fill in the blank] is…” (for example “The secret to everlasting love…” or “The secret to growing giant cacti is…”, or whatever they wanted, letting their imaginations run wild, the weirder and the crazier, the better). All contributions were to be compiled and included in this month’s Virtual Poetorium Group Poem. However, it was really looking like that for the very first time since the Virtual Poetorium began, we weren’t going to have a group poem this month due to a total lack of interest. But happily, in the last few days, we received a pair of contributions from two brand new participants in the Virtual Poetorium, Tom Ewart and Melissa LaFontaine. So thank you so much, Tom and Melissa, for keeping the February 2022 Poetorium group poem alive! So here it is, a bit shorter than usual (with a slightly different title than planned)…

The Top Secrets of Gastronomical Pleasure

The secret to a good cup of coffee is heat.
Coffee, bitter, bold, and steaming hot is naturally a bit too much, you see.
You can tone that down with a cool splash of cream,
So you can drink it fully, without sucking it through teeth.

The secret to enjoying an ice-cold can of Moxie,
Like a true veteran Northern Vermont Yankee, is to learn
To embrace the bitterness of the gentian root with its vague
Hints of dandelions gathered from sunlit fields, savoring
The acrid aftertaste of your first swallow, and the strange sensation
In your tongue as if it was sensuously sliding over the nipple-
End of a D cell battery, while your entire body shudders involuntarily.

The secret to a fine dessert is how much you will crave it.
Warm and flaky, creamy, cold, it must satisfy your palate.
Otherwise, so I’m told, there’s no reason to even try it.

—The February 2022 Virtual Poetorium Group Poem

Well, folks, that concludes the first half of tonight’s Virtual Poetorium. We are going to take a brief intermission (which will be even shorter than normal since we have a really big open mic this evening with eleven poets presenting one or more pieces) so you can get a drink, use the facilities, take a moment to reflect on all the amazing poems you have heard so far or perhaps even purchase a copy of Bob Perry’s many books at our virtual vendor’s table (you’ll be happy that you did). When we come back, I will be starting our virtual open mic.

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INTERMISSION BEGINS

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Click Here to Purchase The Sacred Dance by Robert Eugene Perry

Click here to purchase Where the Journey Takes You by Robert Eugene Perry

Click here to purchase Surrendering to the Path by Robert Eugene Perry

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INTERMISSION ENDS

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PAUL: Welcome back, everybody! Please find a seat…

Before I kick off this extra-long open mic with a poem, I like to mention our Monthly Virtual Poetorium Photo Poetry Prompt Project we launched this January in which I send a batch of five photos each month to everyone on our Poetorium mass email list to hopefully inspire you to write some new poetry. I guess I have to declare it a success since I’ve been informed by quite a few people that they will be sharing some of their pieces tonight that was prompted by either these photos or ones from my two photography blogs. Thank you so much, guys, that is so very gratifying for me.

Anyway, tonight’s featured poet Bob Perry recently told me that the following poem is one of his personal favorites of all the poetry I’ve written. It originally appeared in the Concrete Wolf poetry journal, and I hope you might like it as well…

The Boy Magician

Every Saturday afternoon
at the town library,
the boy magician
disappears into the stacks,
bypassing volumes
promising the forbidden secrets
of witchcraft and sorcery.
Having learned long before
the only true magic is illusion,
he will spend hours
delving through manuscripts
penned a century ago
by long-dead masters
of coin and card manipulation,
memorizing each move, each flourish,
yet to shy of confidence,
too slight of hand
to ever perform these miracles in public,
but he will horde them within his brain,
never knowing when a good French Drop
or Hindu Shuffle might prove essential
in the course of his lifetime.

At 6 P.M., when the darkness
descends like a curtain,
the boy magician,
with a stack of borrowed books
pressed against his hip, will secretly levitate
through the streets on his way home,
his mind held afloat with the dream
of one day being on stage,
mystifying the masses
with a single waggle of his fingers,
manifesting the love and approval
of the crowd out of thin air.

Upon reaching his parents’ house,
the boy magician will quickly vanish
behind the closed doors of his room,
his arms filled with brown paper packages
postmarked Las Vegas, Nevada
and Colon, Michigan, each parcel
containing mystical apparatus
guaranteed to amaze all his friends
and he certainly would,
he certainly could if he had any,
but he’s so busy practicing to deceive
potential audiences,
not yet grasping the lesson
that sometimes the easiest one
to fool is yourself.

–Paul Szlosek (originally published in Concrete Wolf)

PAUL: Okay, first up in our open mic is the Poetorium’s good friend from Tennesee and our featured poet from last September, Diane Puterbaugh…

DIANE: Here is a poem I just wrote, so it hasn’t been published anywhere. The poem was prompted by a week of weird dreams, and I really did see an eagle on our neighborhood lake…

Coat of Constellations

Wear your coat of constellations and
The stars will sing in prepositions
Beyond Between Beside
Convenient lyrics from radio songs
Dream Weaver or Funky Town
Depending on what you ate for dinner

If you went to bed hungry
Your drama is teetering along
The shore and dry land like the
Irony of a raptor perched on that
Chunk of ice in the middle of the lake
I couldn’t decide between a red-tailed
Hawk or bald eagle until it took off
Her wingspan full mercy and grace

—Diane Puterbaugh

PAUL: Thanks, Diane!

Musician, songwriter, and poet Tom Ewart has been a long-time fixture in both the Worcester area music and poetry scenes. Since his name gets mispronounced so often, he decided to take up the pen name “tommywart” (which is the actual pronunciation of his full name). So please welcome to the podium in his debut appearance at the Poetorium, tommywart…

TOM: They say every picture tells a story, and one of Paul’s photo prompts certainly did for me, and here it is for you.

Photo by Paul Szlosek

Joyride

Pull your hand back in the window, Sister,
there’s no more breeze now to surf, given
that BabyGirl here has just seen fit
to drive us into a ditch
while in pursuit of her next victim,
naked and smushed under the right
front wheel, innocent or not.

I don’t know what possessed us
to let her drive down
to the corner store in the heart
of town when she can barely see
over the dash, and now she’s crashed
and, what’s more, mashed
one of our own into near-fetal trash.

I suppose now we’ll have to call
some curbside service, have them haul
us all out of here, to then dispose
of our entire affair in some green fashion;
maybe bundled and barged
into recycled waste, then anchored as reef
at the bottom of some far-off ocean.

–tommywart (01/25/2022)

Paul’s prompt for this month’s group poem, “Top Secrets”, inspired this piece. That, and everything else happening in the world of politics these days..

Reelection Hopes

The secret to nursing a grudge
is what you feed it.

An unrestricted diet
of sweetness and fudge
simply serves to blunt
the edge of its desire
to wreak havoc, to drive a wedge
between what’s offered and needed.
Then, what at first rankled grows fat
and complacent.

To get the grudge to thrive,
offer it malodorous vapors,
false hopes and news,
detailed plots to circumstances
intent on further discontent.

Once your grudge is healthy and strong,
release it into the world,
where it can spread misinformation,
and thus regain recognition
as a dangerous weapon,
even if only a blunt instrument.

-tommywart (02/15/2022)

PAUL: Thank you, Tom! By the way, I am very pleased to announce that tommywart will be our featured poet next month in March.

And now, here is the man who originally suggested the idea of the Poetorium Poetry Photo Prompts, my cousin, Dwayne Szlosek…

DWAYNE: Hello everyone tonight! I hope everybody is doing well and you are all safe.

So here is the latest chapter of NINE GUN BILLY (part of the story was inspired by this photo of a Steamboat 999 ace of spades from my cousin Paul’s photoblog Paul’s Wonderful World of Color):

Photo by Paul Szlosek

NINE GUN BILLY 8

Today’s the 8th day of June. We left Texas 4 days ago.
We are heading for the state of Minnesota,
White Bear Lake near St. Paul.
We’ve heard that the Reapers are in a town called
Birchwood Village, that is where we are heading for.
Right now we’re in the state of Oklahoma.

My cousin and I decide to follow the river
called Newkirk for a while.
The landscape of the cliffs get smaller,
as we ride along, turning into flat grasslands.
We stop to rest the horses,
and grab our canteens out of our saddle bags
to fill up with water from the river.
Then we hear gunshots in the distance,
and yelling like if someone is in trouble.
We look up and see three men on horseback,
they are wearing Reaper colors, dark blue and black.
A wagon and some settlers are being stabbed,
beaten, and kicked around.
We need to come up with a plan,
to save those people’s lives in a hurry.

And we do – our plan is to follow the tree-line
next to the river. We come up to a stone wall for cover,
to get close enough with some dynamite,
and light and throw the T.N.T.
making massive explosions,
creating a monstrous dust cloud
so they can’t see us coming.

We are now halfway up along the stone wall
right where the Reapers are standing.
We execute our plan into play.
Everything’s going without a hitch.
We create confusion on the Reapers.
The settlers duck their heads down for cover.
We jump over the wall, running towards the Reapers.
with our guns blazing, killing all three men in an instant
with gunfire. The settlers are all safe,
They need some medical attention,
the families are going to need stitches and two of them
have broken ribs. But everyone is going to be all right.

While I am looking at the bodies of the three men,
I notice a playing card, a Steamboat 999 ace of spades
sticking out of Charley Thompson’s neck.
I now know this is what killed him, not our bullets.
The other two, Slip Johnson and Mickey Slice,
died by the gun. We all head into Arkansas City.
We leave the setters there to get medical attention…

Nine Gun Billy

—Dwayne Szlosek (Copyright 02\01\ 2022)

I hope you all enjoyed Nine Gun Billy tonight!

Now here is a poem I wrote from another photo posted on Paul’s poetry blog
Paul’s Wonderful World of Color

Photo by Paul Szlosek

Vacationing Feet

A photo of some feet on a beach,
overlooking the calm waters, with gray skies,
and it looks like there was a cool breeze
of air flowing over the feet.
After a long day of walking,
even feet need to have time off at the beach…

—Dwayne Szlosek (Copyright 02/05/2022)

Thank you, Paul, for the use of your photo!

PAUL: As some of you know, I have a poetry blog called “Paul’s Poetry Playground. About a week ago, I wrote a post inviting my readers and fellow bloggers to participate in tonight’s Poetorium. Our next poet graciously accepted that invitation. So please put your hands together for a big first-time Poetorium welcome for the very talented poet and blogger Melissa LaFontaine

MELISSA: Here are a couple poems I wrote with the Virtual Poetorium in mind and also the ideas this long February seem to have provoked. Glad to make all your acquaintances, and hope someone likes these pieces! I don’t know if I’d be brave enough these days to read them into an actual mic. 🙂

Lucid

There is lucid dreaming and there is staring at your face. Your breath, the match of your movements, the fire that beckons beneath your skin.

There is lucid dreaming and all that it could offer and there is you, there, real in front of me.

I can mistake anything else for anywhere else but I cannot mistake you. And the world must fall to pieces around me from the confines of my mind. It must all disappear if it imagines I will allow it to be where you are not.

—Melissa LaFontaine

Robin

I am painting green leaves on the bare, gray branches of the tree outside my window, but just in my mind because anything else would be silly

The winter has extended it’s legs into my heart and anchored me to this spot as if time has finally thrown in the towel

I wonder what it would be like to see water moving again and inhale the smell of green as it erupts from the earth

but for now my mind says “give up!” so certain we will never again feel the silky weft of perfumed purity that only the petal of a flower can provide

The winter has beaten us. The ground has stopped moving. I will close my eyes until I hear the sounds of the robin, it alone to be my savior from this thirst

—Melissa LaFontaine

PAUL: Thanks so much, Melissa!

The next person on our open mic is probably the very last person in the world that I would have expected to be here tonight presenting his own original poetry. He is one of my oldest friends (we were born in the same hospital together only hours apart), and he is always telling me how he doesn’t care for poetry. However he was featured in one of the photos I sent out as a poetry prompt this month, and to my complete astonishment, he wrote not one, but two poems based upon it. Please welcome to the Poetorium Stage, Scott Benoit…

SCOTT:

The Calling of the Sea
(Version One)

A life at sea, that’s the life for me
To wander the world
To call anyplace home
To see new things every day
And not be tied down
With possessions and land
To meet new people every day
And not see the same old faces
Tired, worn, and sad
Adventure would be a daily event
Never knowing what lay ahead
To see, to hear, to feel
Alive with adventure but,
Not to see old friends when need be
Not to have a steady home
Not to have a lifetime of collections
All around me whenever I want
No the sea is no life for me.

—Scott Benoit

Photo by Paul Szlosek

The Calling of the Sea
(Version Two)

If only I could leave this land
And travel the endless seas
Except for this noose around my neck
Stolen from Dr Strange
This cape fears to leave
It stops me from getting on a boat
Why I do not know
Is it afraid of water?
Can it drown?
How can you analyze a piece of material?
Would it shrink in water?
Like a man’s private parts
Does this cape have a sex?
Only questions I cannot answer
As I look at the sea, I think
If only I could get rid of this noose.

—Scott Benoit

PAUL: Thanks, Scott!

Please now welcome to the virtual podium our good friend and loyal supporter of the Poetorium, Karen Warinsky…

KAREN: This poem “Forgotten City” was published in June of 2021 by Circumference Poetry Institute and will be in my upcoming book Sunrise Ruby, to be released this spring…

FORGOTTEN CITY

Life returned
to the stubbled hills
to the ancient stones
though archeologists with lithified hearts bewail:
refugees are moving the rocks!

Who cares about refugees?

Syrians,
pommeled and pounded
ten years now
live among the ruins of Byzantine,
ruined themselves.

Nestling against half-walls
rose-pink in the dawn,
they pen their animals,
prop their tents,
hear the wind call their ancestors;
Nefeli, Justus, Theodora, Kadir,
hear it repeat
old glories of the past in this northwest land,
Assad’s poisoned hand not yet touching this final sanctuary
while cement-filled historians and archeologists
fret about the displacement of the marble,
the zahr, the basalt,
the integrity of the site,
as the people maneuver themselves
inside the consequence of war.

—Karen Warinsky (originally published in Circumference)

Next up is the poet and blogger Kenneth Ronkowitz who graced the Virtual Poetorium once before as a participant in the Poetorium Writing Challenge last March…

KEN: Paul, I just posted this poem and a post that were inspired by one of your prompting photographs…

Photo by Paul Szlosek

Ouija

The magic of oui (Yes) ja (Yes)
opening portals to spirits long dead or
your own wishes and desires unconsciously alive.
The planchette moves lightly spelling out words,
names, answers and big questions forever unanswered.

—Kenneth Ronkowitz (originally posted on Writing the Day)

PAUL: Thank you, Ken! And now please welcome to the stage, a long-time regular, and a past featured poet of the Virtual Poetorium, Meg Smith…

Meg Smith (Photo by Meg Smith)

MEG: This year has begun on some hard steps. My beloved mother-in-law died; she always cheered on my writing and journalism, and loved horror movies, true crime, mystery, and the rock band, Journey. She was a force of life and mystery in her own right. My own mother was hospitalized after a fall. She has severe dementia. Born in Ireland, she is one half of my Irish-American self, so now I keep the memory of our people and their poets, pirates, rebels and nation-builders. Least of all was my own bout with COVID. Got through it in a romp. I wish it had been so for those who’ve struggled so much more.

These poems speak to all these things, and hope for the spring that comes with Imbolc — the season is already here.

Paper Hearts

How to win in love when there is
only summer’s hot breath,
lashing the naked trees and the
flowers in their indifferent twist,
stems locked with no promise —
these, flutters, pink, purple,
red, blue, catching only sunlight,
scattering — fall from elements,
with no burn, no burn at all.

—Meg Smith

Ocean Underground

I’m keeping the things of green
in a safe place, in the rhapsody
of sturgeons and eye worms;
white sand, disturbed, rises
and twists into a dance that is not
the floor but a light-bearing dancer.
Such are the dancers here; sharks
in an eternal commute; sweeping rays,
the flutter of Atlas, unchained.
I can do this only in dreams, but I
link them all in my arms, safe
from the surface, from the hook,
the net, the ship, the hunger.
Oh, to break this perfidious light.

—Meg Smith

The Moon Abides

The Earth erupts, bleeds,
tears away from its own core,
but the Moon abides.

Jupiter and Saturn host
their heavenly hordes of stones
and pebbles and slashes of fire.
The Earth turns,
but the Moon abides.

In even tide, the monks look up,
and fall to the warm June grass.
A fire lights the horns of the sky —
a new wound sears,
but the Moon abides.

How many bruises in twilight?
How much terror in the claws
of the Sun?
In weary orbit, through the haze
of tears, the Moon abides.
Sleep may linger forever,
but the Moon abides.

—Meg Smith

PAUL: PAUL: Next up is a poet who is making his second appearance at the Poetorium – Sam Lalos….

Sotirios Sam E. Lalos Shortly Before Coming to the States

SAM:

Sculpture Trigger

Plein Air Seascape painter, Sharon Bahosh, and I had a show together at Café Espress Yourself Coffee; owned by an Albanian immigrant whose father was Greek and mother a Moslem. Laurent was a fine art painter in his own right and a benevolent host.

Most striking about Sharon’s work had to be the subject matter and her treatment of angels. Her actual subjects were funerary sculptures found mostly in cemeteries. My painting mentor, Sid, and I decided to give mortuary art a whirl.

When I had previously indulged in Iconography, the third dimension was implied; not a blatant reality as in sculpture. My conservative, and in my maturity my interpretation of Moses’ Law was placated by a mental image of taking a 3D photo of a frontal bust. With the 3D generated print, the ability to view the sides of the photo by moving one’s vantage point right left top bottom etcetera and “seeing” depth was confounded by squeezing the paper-thin photo and realizing the photo was two dimensional. The Media Lab at MIT four decades ago was my best observation of this phenomenon. So much for the prohibition of graven images.

Sid and I painted/drew a dozen times in Hope Cemetery. Having satiated our egos and surpassed the morbidity of our subject matter, we were ready to return to plein air painting and sketching naked women in our class, The Worcester Life Drawing Group. We got lost in the old section of the cemetery and in the endless roads with convoluted twists and turns. Sid said, “I can’t seem to find my way out of here!” I responded with a belly laugh, “MOST PEOPLE NEVER FIND THEIR WAY OUT OF HERE.”

–Sotirios Sam E. Lalos (1/20/22)

PAUL: Thanks, sam! Now please welcome, a very popular poet from Worcester and the host of the Poetry Extravaganza reading series, Joe Fusco…

Joe Fusco Jr.

JOE: This piece was written many years ago when I interviewed for a job at Hallmark Cards. They asked me to write a poem about friendship so I wrote ‘A Lost Friend.’ I did not get the job…

A Lost Friend

Why aren’t we friends anymore?
Was it something I said?
When I called you a “freakin’ moron”
I was just being disarmingly colorful.
I meant no harm.
The truth is sometimes like a dagger in your ear.

Why aren’t we friends anymore?
Was it something I did?
When I French-kissed your wife,
I was just being a tad too friendly.
I meant no harm.
The truth is sometimes like a finger on your prostate.

I miss being your friend.
I miss planning to get together, then canceling at the last minute.
I miss diverting your attention, then stealing your food.
I miss splitting everything 70/30 on vacations
because you had more money.
I miss borrowing your stuff ‘till you said
“Don’t worry about it, Joe”
So, I didn’t.

I miss being friends.
Your absence has caused a small hole in my heart,
Like the one by the women’s lockers at the community center.
You know I don’t make friends easily.
Something about being a “freakin’ moron.”

Why aren’t we friends anymore?
Was it something in the stars?
I search the world for an answer,
But pigeons just poop on my head,
So, I wear a hat.
The truth is sometimes like a tug on your nose hairs.

—Joe Fusco Jr.

PAUL: Thank you, Joe! Last, but not least, in tonight’s open mic, please welcome a loyal attendee of the Virtual Poetorium, who was our featured poet for November 2020, Howard Kogan…

HOWARD: This poem was first published in my poetry book, Indian Summer by Square Circle Press in 2011…

King Kong

If I was a more perceptive child
when I first saw King Kong in the late forties,
I might have predicted what the future would bring.
It’s not the moment you’re thinking of
when King Kong climbs to the top of the Empire State
and World War One fighter planes unleash
hail after hail of machine gun fire, though it’s a good guess.
Nor is it a moment later when King Kong lies dying
on the pavement and the cop says,
“Well Denham, the airplanes got him.”
And Carl Denham, Hollywood philosopher, replies,
No, it wasn’t the airplanes; it was beauty killed the beast.”
No, it was the moment before as King Kong was falling,
all around me the other boys cheered, while I cried.

Then for weeks after, all of us, me too,
wedged baseball cards in our bicycle spokes
and rode up and down our street, a squadron
of fighter planes looking for our King Kong.

—Howard J Kogan (from Indian Summer)

PAUL: Thank you, Howard!

Well that concludes tonight’s open mic. I want to thank everyone who read tonight including our feature Bob Perry! As always, you were all completely amazing! I also want to once again thank Melissa and tommywart for rescuing this month’s Virtual Group poem. I have to admit that the group poem has always been one of my favorite segments of the Poetorium (both in its live and virtual versions) so I would like to close out tonight’s show with one that has a very special place in my heart. The following is from our very first Virtual Poetorium in March, 2020. Unfortunately back then, we had a policy that all contributions to the group poems would remain anonymous unless otherwise requested, so I am unable to credit all the wonderful poets who came together to create it…

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.

—The March 2020 Virtual Poetorium Group Poem

Well, good night everyone! Hope that you enjoyed tonight’s poetry show and we will see you all back here again in March when our featured poet will be the one and only tommywart!