“To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.” Robert Graves, a response to a questionnaire in Horizon, 1946.
I am without computer for the moment and will have to publish the responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt later in the week. This is about as much of a post as I can manage on my cell.
The June edition of Mbizo Chirasha’s Womawords Literary Press will post on Monday. Search it out. Thanks to all those who submitted work. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Meanwhile, everyone can read the ten poems selected for publication.
Hope your hearts are filled with joy and peace and that you are staying safe and healthy.
In the spirit of peace, love (respect) and community, Jamie
The multiple interconnected crises facing our nation have forced us to reimagine our norms and institutions from the ground up,” said poet and PEN America Trustee Gregory Pardlo. “As individuals and organizations, we have had to call on the ingenuity of our foremothers to ‘make a way out of no way,’ as Zora Neale Hurston puts it, ingenuity that yields opportunity where, previously, there had only been struggle.
PEN America today announced the opening of submissions and nominations for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards. Publishers and agents can submit books between now and August, and PEN America Members can nominate writers for the organization’s landmark career achievement awards.
Opportunity Knocks For
WRITERS OF COLOR
This year, PEN America announced it has increased the cash purse for the PEN Open Book Award to $10,000. The award is offered annually to a writer of color. It’s meant to challenge the lack of diversity in publishing by championing literary voices that traditionally do not see wide media coverage, encouraging the development of these talented writers, and recognizing the exemplary publishers and small presses who discover, nurture, and publish writers of color. Past winners of the PEN Open Book Award include Claudia Rankine, Meena Alexander, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, among others.
“The multiple interconnected crises facing our nation have forced us to reimagine our norms and institutions from the ground up,” said poet and PEN America Trustee Gregory Pardlo. “As individuals and organizations, we have had to call on the ingenuity of our foremothers to ‘make a way out of no way,’ as Zora Neale Hurston puts it, ingenuity that yields opportunity where, previously, there had only been struggle. Strategic alterations to the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards demonstrate PEN America’s resourcefulness in pursuit of real structural change. Through the reimagined Literary Awards, PEN America redoubles its commitment to celebrating the talent and voices of the poets and writers most often marginalized by business as usual, and marshals its influence to counter inequities that distort the American literary landscape.”
PEN/Voelcker Award for
The literary and free expression group will also offer a newly reimagined award, the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection, for the best poetry collection of the year. In partnership with Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, PEN America will confer an increased cash purse for the 2021 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. PEN America will additionally confer two PEN/Jean Stein Grants for Literary Oral History, with increased cash prizes of $15,000 each.
The role literary awards play in diversifying the American literary canon;
How PEN America’s awards have changed careers over its half-century history;
And what PEN America’s enhanced awards program will offer emerging and established writers at a moment of acute financial difficulty for writers nationwide.
The 2020 PEN America Literary Awards, held March 2, conferred some $330,000 of transformative support on writers and translators. Hosted by Late Night’s Seth Meyers, it was the largest ceremony in the Awards program’s 56-year history. Honorees included Yiyun Li, Tom Stoppard, Tanya Barfield, M. NourbeSe Philip, and Rigoberto González, among others.
Click here to learn more about the PEN America Literary Awards.
A mile behind is Gloucester town
Where the fishing fleets put in,
A mile ahead the land dips down
And the woods and farms begin.
Here, where the moors stretch free
In the high blue afternoon,
Are the marching sun and talking sea,
And the racing winds that wheel and flee
On the flying heels of June.
Jill-o’er-the-ground is purple blue,
Blue is the quaker-maid,
The wild geranium holds its dew
Long in the boulder’s shade.
Wax-red hangs the cup
From the huckleberry boughs,
In barberry bells the grey moths sup
Or where the choke-cherry lifts high up
Sweet bowls for their carouse.
Over the shelf of the sandy cove
Beach-peas blossom late.
By copse and cliff the swallows rove
Each calling to his mate.
Seaward the sea-gulls go,
And the land-birds all are here;
That green-gold flash was a vireo,
And yonder flame where the marsh-flags grow
Was a scarlet tanager.
This earth is not the steadfast place
We landsmen build upon;
From deep to deep she varies pace,
And while she comes is gone.
Beneath my feet I feel
Her smooth bulk heave and dip;
With velvet plunge and soft upreel
She swings and steadies to her keel
Like a gallant, gallant ship.
These summer clouds she sets for sail,
The sun is her masthead light,
She tows the moon like a pinnace frail
Where her phosphor wake churns bright.
Now hid, now looming clear,
On the face of the dangerous blue
The star fleets tack and wheel and veer,
But on, but on does the old earth steer
As if her port she knew.
God, dear God! Does she know her port,
Though she goes so far about?
Or blind astray, does she make her sport
To brazen and chance it out?
I watched when her captains passed:
She were better captainless.
Men in the cabin, before the mast,
But some were reckless and some aghast,
And some sat gorged at mess.
By her battened hatch I leaned and caught
Sounds from the noisome hold, —
Cursing and sighing of souls distraught
And cries too sad to be told.
Then I strove to go down and see;
But they said, “Thou art not of us!”
I turned to those on the deck with me
And cried, “Give help!” But they said, “Let be:
Our ship sails faster thus.”
Jill-o’er-the-ground is purple blue,
Blue is the quaker-maid,
The alder-clump where the brook comes through
Breeds cresses in its shade.
To be out of the moiling street
With its swelter and its sin!
Who has given to me this sweet,
And given my brother dust to eat?
And when will his wage come in?
Scattering wide or blown in ranks,
Yellow and white and brown,
Boats and boats from the fishing banks
Come home to Gloucester town.
There is cash to purse and spend,
There are wives to be embraced,
Hearts to borrow and hearts to lend,
And hearts to take and keep to the end, —
O little sails, make haste!
But thou, vast outbound ship of souls,
What harbor town for thee?
What shapes, when thy arriving tolls,
Shall crowd the banks to see?
Shall all the happy shipmates then
Stand singing brotherly?
Or shall a haggard ruthless few
Warp her over and bring her to,
While the many broken souls of men
Fester down in the slaver’s pen,
And nothing to say or do?
“Poetry empowers the simplest of lives to confront the most extreme sorrows with courage, and motivates the mightiest of offices to humbly heed lessons in compassion.” Aberjhani, Splendid Literarium: A Treasury of Stories, Aphorisms, Poems, and Essays
“Angora Poets World Caffé. Sundays at 8 p.m. Paris time. Our mission is to demonstrate a global fraternity of literary and musical artists of divers styles and backgrounds. Under the nearly worldwide confinement the caffé is attracting artists who are now traversing borders and cultures. The caffé attracts poets, prose writers, singers and musicians from the 4 corners of our planet. To date we have presented artists from France, USA, U.K., Canada, Berlin, Serbia,Tibet, Sri Lanka, Lesotho, Sudan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Abu Dhabi, Russia and China Our artists present mostly in English, French and Arabic. We also listen to participants voicing in a number of other languages which is very well received by our listeners. We ask of our artists to be developed, young and old, published and unpublished, so we enjoy a high caliber of artisan quality.” Founder and Moderator, Moe Seager (Moe Seager- Paris Calling)
“…whenever a new, especially successful form of an infection emerges, it will spread rapidly around the globe.” William H. McNeill, Plagues and Peoples
The current pandemic is a disquieting influence, but an influence it is. COVID-19 is inspiring dreams that are wishful, fearful, and often surreal. Such is Clarissa’s dream reported in this poem. It reflects the yearning, anxiety, and concern we all feel and, not unlike our experience of this pandemic, it contains elements of the surreal. / J.D.
Two wings touching
Dark and light
Not very opposite
Never did they fight
The archangels Raphael and Lucifer
Walked into a bar together
Both ordered Southern Comfort Rocks
Needing respite from frantic Root Workers
Overworked simplers and herbalists
Calling upon Raphael for assistance
In the healing of an ailing global populace
While Lucifer himself was busy with
Contracts multiplying each day
Contracts from desperate parents
Willing to pay anything
As long as their child lived
Giving him no pleasure because of
The sheer volume of sad work
They drank deeply and then
“As a healer, what do you think about me
Getting my tail surgically removed?
It’s an old image I want to escape
Along with the pitchfork. I mean, come on,
That old agrarian image just won’t work
I’m thinking of a taser or AK-47
Although I have no desire to harm anyone”
Raphael sighed and said,
“Not wise to go into the hospital during a pandemic
Who do you have in mind to do the cosmetic altering?”
“You, of course. Your power is stronger than mine…”
“You, the demiurge,” laughed Raphael
“Controlling the material world.
Not much different than I am”
Answered Lucifer, “They confuse me
With cousin Satan
I should stop working for him
Hate contract law”
Gasping aloud and peering into the
Six o’clock dawn
Me, not a dreamer
At least when sleeping
Has dreamt the beginning of a joke
But glad I awoke
Because I’ve been living with
Raphael’s name for the last month
Lighting white candles
Looking for iron fish charms
Asking his help
In keeping us all alive
But in the dream
Are wings of cream and gray
Friends despite what we’ve learned
And I wonder
About this scenario
About the jokey dialogue
What dreams are these?
Two wings touching
Dark and light
Bouncing off daylight…
CLARISSA SIMMENS (Poeturja) is an independent poet; Romani drabarni (herbalist/advisor); ukulele and guitar player; wannabe song writer; and music addict. Favorite music genres include Classic Rock, Folk, Romani (Gypsy), and Cajun with an emphasis on guitar and violin music mainly in a Minor key. Find her on her Amazon Author Page, on her blog, and on FacebookHERE.