31 December 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!
Happy New Year 
from the 
Lost Jungle!

There's more to this photographic "story" than meets the eye. Want the rest of the story? Visit my Facebook Page to see why champagne and I might be breaking up by 12:01!


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countdown to new year's: bring out the champagne

First of all, thank you to all those who have participated in this month's "Countdown to New Year's" ... This was such a fun experience, and I'm glad to have shared it with you.

And now the moment we've all been waiting for ... The winner of the 2012 Countdown to New Year's. Drum roll, please ...

And the Winner Is ...
A New Year's Kiss from me to Mr. Pablo Neruda
From the very beginning Pablo Neruda was the Pittsburgh Steelers or New York Yankees of this competition ... Already known as one of the greatest poets of all time in any language, it seemed he would be hard to beat. Yet it was by no means a sure bet, and there were some debates as to whether, had he matched up with a different set of poets, he would still have come out on top. But all the maybes and what-ifs and wonderings don't mean anything now, because your votes have spoken! It's Pablo Neruda for the win!

But that's not the only winner who needs to be announced tonight! Earlier today I took the names of everyone who left comments between yesterday and 3pm ET (12pm PT) today and put them into what seemed like the most appropriate receptacle for the the ocassion:

Winner selection ... Goes great with wine.

A "Room with a View"
... and then I picked one ...
So exciting!

Holding the winner in my hands! (That, by the way,
was my New Year's nail color of choice)
And the winner is:

S.E. Ingraham

Congratulations! I'll be in touch soon.

And thank you, all, again for making this such a fun project! Happy New Year!


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30 December 2012

countdown to new year's: round 4

Welcome to the fourth and final round of the Our Lost Jungle Countdown to New Year's competition. The pool of dead poet contestants has been whittled down from 24 contestants to just three ... and now comes the really hard part! Of the three phenomenal poets who have made it this far into the competition, only one can be declared the winner.

This fourth round is in your hands; the winner will be decided based on your votes and comments. And that's not all! One voter, who also leaves a comment (whether simply indicating her or his vote or explaining who he or she voted for) in the comment box, will also be a winner. Everyone who votes and leaves a comment, whether they select the ultimate winner or not, between now and noon Pacific Time (that's 3pm ET) tomorrow (Monday, December 31, 2012) will be entered into a raffle for a book by one of the three final contestants (in the case of Neruda and Senghor, a book of poetry; Bontemps would likely be either an anthology or a novel as much of his poetry is limited in contemporary circulation). The winner will be notified in the same post announcing the winner of the poet competition, and will have until Saturday, January 5, to get in touch with me to confirm and provide a shipping address! Good luck to you all!

And good luck to these poets:

Arna Bontemps (October 13, 1902 - June 4, 1973) 
Arna Bontemps, 1939, photographed by Carl Van Vechten
U.S. Library of Congress (Public Domain)

 Arna's "Reconnaissance" delivered winning strokes against the competitions other surprising poets, William Wordsworth, Dylan Thomas, and D.H. Lawrence; his victories helped support Kirkland C. Jones' claim that he was a poetic "Renaissance Man."

Pablo Neruda (July 12, 1904 - September 23, 1973) 
Pablo Neruda, 1966, by U.S. Library of Congress
(Public Domain)

 Pablo's "Tie Your Heart at Night to Mine, Love" led him to victory against poets T.S. Eliot, Claude McKay, and Langston Hughes; it is hard to overlook Gabriel Garcia Marquez's description of him as the "greatest poet of the 20th century in any language."

Leopold Senghor (October 9, 1906 - December 20, 2001) 
Leopold Senghor, 1975, photographed by Roger Pic (1920-2001)
(Public Domain)

Leopold's "Night in Sine" helped him to defeat fellow poets Robert Browning, Shel Silverstein, and W.B. Yeats; early in the competition he was described by K. Anthony Appiah as a poet whose work represents "one of the models of African and Afro-Caribbean literary achievements."

Your Turn!
Cast your vote in the poll below! Don't forget to leave a comment in the comment box below* to also be entered to win your choice of a book by one of these three authors!

Which poet, through his work in this competition, has earned the New Year's Kiss Award?
pollcode.com free polls 
* Note: Please leave your comments on this page, not the Pollcode.com poll comment box. You can comment in both locations, but only comments on this site will be considered entries into the contest!

** CORRECTION: Thanks to S.E. Ingraham for catching a typo; you have until 3pm ET tomorrow (Dec. 31st) to vote, not 3pm today! (This has been corrected in RED above) 


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Check out every round of the Our Lost Jungle Countdown to New Year's!

29 December 2012

countdown to new year's: and the winners are ...

Good evening, all! Wondering who the winners of the third round of the Countdown to New Year's are?

Well, you're about to find out ... but not in this post.

Tomorrow will see Round 4 of the Countdown to New Year's! The last three poets will face off in a vote-only round. What does that mean? It means that all you'll see is a picture of each poet, a link to the poet's poem, and a poll asking you--that's right, YOU!-- which poet you think should be the winner of a New Year's kiss!

But that's not all! Our Lost Jungle is also having it's first official give away! Everyone who votes tomorrow and leaves a comment in the comment box will be entered to win a copy of the winning poet's work. A vote for a chance at a free book? Huzzah!

If you don't want to wait on the Round 4 contestants, you can stop by my Facebook Page for links to books by the gents moving forward.

See you tomorrow!


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28 December 2012

countdown to new year's: round 3, day 3

Today is the final day of poems for Round 3. Just three days out from New Year's Eve, it's a pretty exciting time in the Lost Jungle. There's a lot of buzz going around (okay, so some of it is imaginary buzz) about the six competitors who remain in this challenge and their chances of not only making it into the fourth and final round, but also taking home the "grand prize" ... a New Year's kiss!

Today's competitors are D.H. Lawrence and Arna Bontemps. This is an interesting match-up because while I was unfamiliar with Arna Bontemps before this challenge, I was never much of a fan of D.H. Lawrence either. Both these gents, as poets, have surprised me considerably over the past month, and so I was interested to see what kind of poetry each would inspire.

So, without further ado, let's get started!

D.H. Lawrence vs Arna Bontemps

After D.H. Lawrence's "Almond Blossom"

This is the age
of looking beyond your own navel, love.

Beyond the core,
life peels and fruits--
seeding space with blossoming experience,
those pearls of knowing, and knowing
that pearls against the rusted roots of sycamore.

The peach tree knowing,
the clementine and nectarine knowing of earth.

The citron tree knowing,
that fingers the sky in yellowed
and greened touch, the knowing of the Buddha--

There is wisdom that stems
beyond the sphere of your navel, love.

Look and see the trees that fight against the world,
those reaching palms exiled from cool air and mercy
with lips that never touch to kiss those frail rivers--
non-native trees in non-native spaces, and see
how they blossom, resilient, rebellious
spirits of blossoming,
the dream of flower and fruit within each sheathing pericarp.

Each shell a soul, each seed a tongue.
Blooming into the knowledge of your mouth, love,
the knowing of your fingering tongue,
wrapped in ecstasy against each membrane, each thread
you dare to suck in the dry days and long nights when the moon, too,
is a seed for you to suckle.

I have known the world beyond your navel, love--
and let me know you more, the seed of you,
the pith and membrane. How you blossom, succulent,
upon my tongue. Let me know the tangor age
in you.

After Arna Bontemps' "Reconnaissance"

We rode on the backs of waves,

And once, too, we lapped
up the spheres of the sky
like milk-- but no more, no,
no more--

Only in dreams do we touch the four winds,
wade the embankments of the shore
where storms roll in and touch us
at our feet, bend to the calamity
blooming in the change within us.
Only there do the cacao beans become blossoms.

Remember the merging of the sea with your bones,
the sigh of revelation, the silent shifts
weaving your becoming--
How long will you wait to step back
into your promise?

Now--now I call you forth once more,
summon you to the shoreline.
There will I heave you, up upon my back,
press you once more into the sky,

into cloud banks where fortunes rise and fall.

Your Turn: This round has been all about responding to the inspirational "call" within the works of other poets. I encourage you to play with that call in the works of the writers you admire. Which writers have the voice that you cannot help but follow into the trench of written words? What does it take you fire you up and get your mind reeling with new ideas? As always, feel free to share your thoughts, writing, or links in the comments below!


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Check out the original poems that inspired the poems above

26 December 2012

countdown to new year's: round 3, day 2

I hope you all had a very happy Christmas on Tuesday. If you haven't had a chance to yet, please stop by my Facebook Page for a special holiday greeting from the "House" of Our Lost Jungle to yours.

Today's competitors are Pablo Neruda and Langston Hughes, a fun combo if only because I adore both these poets so much it makes it extremely hard for me to seem them "against" each other. As a quick reminder, the way this round is working is that instead of dates, the poet's poems will be pitted against each other based on their "inspirational power": in writing a response to each poet's poem, form, content, and/or style (often a combination of all these, and more, elements), I'll be looking to see which poems inspire or "speak to/through me" the most.

Let's get to it!

Pablo Neruda vs Langston Hughes

Bone of My Bones
After Pablo Neruda’s “Tie Your Heart at Night to Mine, Love”

Bone of my bones, this night I feel you a part of me—
apart from day’s membranes, we beat the night
with kindred blood, we root and tree
dreams heavy as the crush of winter boughs.

Woven lines: born of stock and stone desires
that render this worldly realm inert in spheres
dancing slow waltz motions pulling time along a track
that traces our lines back into eternity.

My marrow, within your clustered core I swim, I cleave,
to that singular string that binds you,
to that quivering bird,

That chickadee winging us upon the stars
where questions whisper and answers sigh,
where with one breath we hinge ourselves behind unopened doors.

That Winter
After Langston Hughes’ “April Rain Song”

That winter warned you.
That winter warmed your copper palms upon my brow.
That winter hummed you to sleep.

Winter that quivers and quakes old autumn’s bows.
Winter that tames the dragon fires.
Winter that tricks our pillowing heads into dreaming—

How I loved that winter in you.

Your Turn: Write a response to one of your favorite poems, a poem that inspires and speaks in/to/through you. (For fictioneers or nonfictioneers, you might write a response to a favorite short story, or an imitation of a favorite writer's style.) What elements of the piece you respond to stand out to you, inspire you, or otherwise engage your creative mind? Feel free to share your thoughts, writing, or links in the comments below!


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Check out the original poems that inspired the poems above

24 December 2012

countdown to new year's: round 3, day 1

Yesterday, as I started to think about the next few days and the engagement I wanted to have with the poems that remain in this challenge (Can you believe we started with 24 poets and are now down to just six?!), I had a change of heart. Not about this challenge ... But originally I wanted to do a "deeper analysis" of the poems remaining through close readings. (If you don't know what a close reading of a poem is, or have never done one, I recommend you check out this article from U Penn describing how to do a close reading, and this sample close reading of an Emily Dickinson poem from Poets.org.)

But then I decided ... I wanted to feel the poems, not dissect them.

Don't get me wrong, I know the value of tearing a poem apart to get at its heart. One of the things I try to emphasize when teaching poetry (or creative nonfiction, or any writing really) is the importance of spending time with a piece you are trying to understand, looking at it bit by bit, inch by inch, to figure out what's going on below the surface. But you know what ... I've spent two weeks with these poems now. I've looked them over. I've let them speak to me on a heart and mind level. Now I want something more. I want to let them speak through me. So that's what I've decided to do. Rather than a dissection, I've opted to do written responses to the poems, to see which poets and poems "speak to me," and how they play with my own poetic. I think it's a little more fun ... and leaves a little more room for fun for anyone who's been following this challenge (hopefully you'll see what I mean in the "Your Turn" section).

With that said ... On to Day 1!

W.B. Yeats vs Leopold Senghor

When We Were Young
After W.B. Yeats' "When You Are Old"

When we were young and dressed in sable days,
And all the world born fresh, before your eyes
The world was but a lover in disguise
And mystery was written in your ways.

So many loved to gaze upon you then,
When there upon your brow beauty was scribed;
But I loved, not your living, but your life,
And all the shadows scribbled in your skin;

And I would raise you up against the stars,
To sing a sable song and name you mine
And leave this sundried sordid world behind
To hide us in a place where time was ours.

Nights Inside
After Leopold Senghor's "Night in Sine"

Man, with pressing fingers on my spine,
Press me softer than snow.
Beyond these walls the pines, gently whispering
Against twilight. Call this our night song.
Me cradled in your arms. You cradled.
Feel the breeze between us. Blood pulsing against,
Within, that river Nile course laid by of our veins.

Hear the moonbeams call your name against the hills
The pearls of secrets hushed in shadowed silence, and how ancestors
Wilt into quilted sleep, moldered, the fine grains
Souled, their souls, pushing in against like babies in the womb
Too heavy now to hold back any longer.

Hear the river wandering the territories of dreams,
Cradling a bed of clay, drenched in its own sweet kiss.
Our roof a star field – How many of our wishes
Cling and cleave that plaster? And here, we burn
Each pining for the bones we know and cannot touch.

Man, remember the rhythm of Ancestor
Love, conversing with rose colored hips, hushed locked doors.
Do the dance of the Euphrates , inching further inland, crushing the shore
With each exiled breath. Do not let them die, not their voices,
Not their dreams. Let me feel their song in you, a shimmering trace—
Soul lingered in your mouth. Let me lean my head
Into your bones, your cavities, as warm as fire embers pressed into dust,
Let me gather myself in you, gather the remnants of the dead,
Speak in tongues. Here where I learn and relearn and relearn
To live, to die, to soak you into my skin
As though you were always mine.

Your Turn: I encourage you to write a response to a poem that really "speaks to you"-- one that touches you, inspires you, or just always manages to "get you." What, in poems that you consider particularly memorable, is it that draws you in and keeps you there? Feel free to share your comments, thoughts, interpretations, and poems in the comments below!


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Check out the original poems that inspired the poems above

23 December 2012

countdown to new year's: you, me, and round three

Are you wondering about the lineup for Round 3? Check out the graphic below (yes, one more "bracket"-type graphic) with this week's pairings. For Round 3, the boys will be out and I will be staying in (what with it being Christmas and all) with their poems. These "dates" with the poems will post on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. (Because it's Christmas, they have been "pre-recorded," so to speak, to allow for a more leisurely holiday.)

I look forward to taking a close look at the six poems we've got left, and engaging in conversation with you to figure out which poems (and poets) will be moving on to the final three-person round on Sunday, December 30th!

For now, here's the Round 3 Line Up:

Your Turn: Who do you want to see move on to Round 4? Which poet(s) do you think has the best chance of winning the whole competition? Why? I'd love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below!


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Check out all the Countdown to New Year's dates below!

21 December 2012

countdown to new year's: round 2 results

Thanks to all of you who took part in this week's dates through voting, commenting, and/or sharing! This was a fun round, and the results have me extremely excited and anxious for Round 3. Check out the winners below and be sure to let me know what you thought of the poems, how you related to and/or read them, and so forth in the comments below!

:Day 1:

You said …
D.H. Lawrence & William Butler Yeats

I say …
“I agree!” As mentioned, I believe, in a comment earlier this week, I have never been a huge fan of D.H. Lawrence, but something in his poem was very powerful to me. Lawrence has the power of surprise when it comes to sensuality (more so I’d say in his poetry than his fiction, where it can be pretty blatant); while Countee Cullen’s “Lines to My Father” had what I might call more depth (in reading his history, you learn that his biological father was absent, and his adoptive father was a Methodist pastor; both histories lend fascinating lenses into the meaning of the poem), “Almond Blossom” reached into my heart and tugged through its use of repetition (the word “iron” is used more than 15 times, for example), bizarrely beautiful imagery (“Knots of pink, fish-silvery”), and so forth. What really struck me (and part of what, hopefully, the next round of “dates” will pursue further) is the way in which Lawrence both allows the reader to lose her- or himself in the poem, and seems to lose himself within its stanzas and rippling lines.

As for William Butler Yeats … This was a prime example of the serendipitous paths of pursuing poems I had not read before. Yeats falls into the category of poets I was supposed to have studied but stubbornly avoided. As an undergraduate I preferred skipping “the Classics” and examining the course of modern poetry and prose. Robert Creeley, for me, represented some of the best of the Moderns—his poem titled “The Language” is one I both love and teach.  This is one of a few cases in my own poetic history where I’ve admitted the defeat of Modern to Classic. In Yeats, the rhyme did little to sway me (when it comes to rhyme in poetry I much prefer surprise and slant to the “expected” rhyme a la sleep-deep, true-you, etc.), but the language of a love endured, the image of that “one man [who] loved the pilgrim soul in you,” was too powerful to ignore.

:Day 2:

You said …
Langston Hughes & Pablo Neruda

I say …
“We must be riding the same wavelengths.” Robert Hayden’s poem speaks of an unappreciated love, and a strange form of love shared between father and son. What draws me into that poem is the clever use of “official” language: the distance between father and son is both paralleled with and countered against the relationship between employer and employer. Think of the multitude of readings within the phrase “love’s austere and lonely offices.” Such belayed appreciation of what love means and does reads so relatably. How many of us, in youth, truly appreciate what our parents do out of love … and how many of us, when older, look back and wish we had seen that love for what it was. Despite this, it was the softer language and haunting rhythmics of Hughes’ “April Rain Song” that got me. I’m surprised, actually, because I’m not usually such a big fan of repetition; this week it’s gotten me at least twice. It’s an oddly lulling poem because there is such force behind the phrase “the rain” and yet the poem itself is almost a lullaby (it is, after all, defined as a “song” by Hughes). The poem is a contrast in sonic qualities and rhythmic effects: many of the words are strongly punctuated (rain, kiss, beat, makes, plays) yet they are softened the pulse the rhythm of those words gives the poem. And I, like Hughes, love the rain.

Selecting Pablo Neruda as the winner almost feels like a cheat. He is, after all, Pablo Neruda. His name and “love poems” seem almost synonymous. The battle between Claude McKay and Neruda was one between reality and dreams. McKay’s “After the Winter” paints a vivid world. I kept having the sense of smelling cocoa butter and tasting cool water while reading that poem. Neruda, on the other hand, painted a dreamscape. His is a perfect example of what often allures me in a poem. Oftentimes I find myself in want of words to describe how I relate to a poem; in workshops I often have to dig deep to go beyond the “I loved how this poem made me feel” comment. Yet, as a poet, it is that striving for real feeling that I often pursue. Many of my own poems are written out of an attempt to elicit not a meaning but a sense. That is what Neruda accomplishes in “Tie Your Heart at Night to Mine, Love.” There is, of course, “meaning” there—but it is the sense of the poem, the inexplicable, indescribable sensory feel of it, that let it win the day.

:Day 3:

You said …
Leopold Senghor & Arna Bontemps

I say …
“You all must be psychics.” I worried for Shel Silverstein from the very beginning. Unfortunately, despite the beautifully simplistic profoundness of “[turning] off the lights,” it was Leopold Senghor’s night scene that beat out Silverstein’s darkened rooms. Senghor’s language is sensual; lovers cradle as silence cradles as the Night is cradled on a “hill of clouds.” His poem nurtures, soothes, and surprises. It’s always funny to me how sometimes bizarre images make sense within a poem. There’s nothing all that beautiful about the image of fur-hands; “hands softer than fur” creates both a bizarre image in my mind (picture: Sasquatch), and I prefer hands a little less gentle (I don’t mean that as intimately as it might sound … I just find soft hands a little creepy). But the language, the lulling f’s and s’s, works so well. The poem is propelled by linguistic resonances: “balance” to “barely” to “breeze,” paired with the inter-lined rhyme of “trees” to “breeze” and the “image rhyme” of “hands” (appendages) to “palm” (trees), etc. It’s irresistible.

Arna Bontemps is a poet I honestly had never heard of before this challenge. I’m going to skip discussing Dylan Thomas’ poem, but what I will say is that this pairing was interesting in that both had a feeling or mention of love, but I would hardly define either as a love poem. Thomas’ poem, by its end, struck me as less memory than memoriam, an almost harsh sense of remembrance. Bontemps poem, on the other hand, seemed to speak of a haunted experience, almost nightmarish, but did it in a “softly haunting” voice. The poem speaks of a journey, and it is far from a simple or easy one. Interestingly, a lot of other readers and critics of this poem claim it is about slavery. Given the timing of the poem, however, I’d say it much more likely reflects the dawn and times of the Great Migration, the onset of the Harlem Renaissance, and the push for a deeper sense of cultural identity: there is revelation and miracle, or the prospect of it. The poem begins and ends with a storm, and they each breathe differently. The precursory storm is dark, lamented, leading into a dawn. The second is marked by “latitudes”: new places, new beginnings, freedom. It’s a poem that, for me, is so complex it haunts.


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Check out all the Countdown to New Year's dates below!

19 December 2012

countdown to new year's: round 2, day 3

Welcome to the third and final day of the second round of dead poet dates.

Yesterday, a reader made a comment that led me to really think about what it is with each of these twelve poets' poems that speaks to my personal poetic "dynamic": that thing that determine what I like--and love--in both my and other poets' poems. This particular thought arose out of a brief discussion--and later more deeply thought out pondering--of Claude McKay and Pablo Neruda's poetry. While tracking down McKay's poem, I found myself struck by the degrees to which so many of his poems were carried by vivid yet simple language painting realistic scenes and images. This is something that I love in both modern and classic poetry: a real engagement of simple, every day language and creating from it something new and beautiful with it. When it came to Neruda's poetry, I was similarly struck by his ability to play with sound and language to paint a fantasy world, albeit based in the physical (and sometimes, I do mean, *ahem*, physical) world. The challenge has been figuring out which elements of my personal poetic both stand out more in the selected poets' works and impact me more; I might be drawn to simplistic language but what tends to really "woo" me is a creative engagement of language. It will be interesting for me to see what elements of poetry have the greatest influence on the final winner. (It will also be interesting to see what, for you, matters the most when it comes to the poets who continue on through this "challenge.")

So, let's get started with today's dates!

The Touch, The Feel: Leopold Senghor vs Shel Silverstein

Leopold and Shel meet me just outside Philadelphia's Please Touch Museum. Known as the Children's Museum of Philadelphia, it's certainly not a typical locale for a serious poetic discussion; we each must casually ignore the looks of subtle confusion we receive from the parents and museum employees as we enter. Yet there's something strangely appropriate about the idea of "learning through play" for us as poets, and as we make our way through the exhibit halls, we are soon laughing as we experiment and play along with our surrounding children "peers." Leopold grabs a miniature shopping cart in a grocery exhibit and takes me on a stroll picking out over-sized plastic broccoli and bananas. As we "shop," Leopold recites his "Night in Sine", accompanied by the giggles of the children who "help" us fill our cart.

The poem's "pick up line": "Woman, place your soothing hands upon my brow"
The most alluring word/phrase: "milky pagne"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "Now the stars appear and the Night dreams / Leaning on that hill of clouds ..."
The line that says "I love you": "Hear the beat of our dark blood"
The perfect closing line for a date: "Let the rhythmic silence cradle us. / Listen to its song."

Shel spends more time playing with some of the children than with Leopold and I. It's fun to watch him let some of the smaller children climb over his shoulders to reach some of the exhibits. Eventually he guides me to the Flight Fantasy exhibit, where we stand back for a moment watching the kids engage with an interactive blue screen to explore the galaxy. As the exhibit quiets down, Shel stands us in front of the blue screen and takes us from the moon to Pluto. We stand on the rings of Saturn as he recites his "No Difference".

The poem's "pick up line": "We're all worth the same / When we turn off the light."
The most alluring word/phrase: "turn off the light"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "So maybe the way / To make everything right"
The line that says "I love you": "We all look the same / When we turn off the light"
The perfect closing line for a date: "We're all the same size / When we turn off the light"

Which poet has what it takes to "touch" your heart?
pollcode.com free polls 
Into the Wild: Arna Bontemps vs Dylan Thomas

I think the flight from Philadelphia to Phoenix will make me drowsy, but as Arna, Dylan and I travel to the Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde I find myself getting more and more excited. The three of us debate the merits and morals of such an animal preserve; while we all agree on the conservation efforts, there is some debate on whether or not these animals actually "belong" in this Arizona home. Arna shares the story of his work creating a history of the black race from Egyptian civilization forward and wonders how these creatures--which he says figure as part of that story and mythos--might serve as a symbol of African diaspora. It is just as we begin seeing the first signs for the park that he recites "Reconnaissance", for which he receives a small round of applause from the others sharing our transport.

The poem's "pick up line": "there were we // in latitudes where storms are born"
The most alluring word/phrase: "fronds of silence"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "and the tried moment waits, its courage gone-- / there were we"
The line that says "I love you": "we cried for the new revelation / and waited for miracles to rise."
The perfect closing line for a date: "Alone with the shore and the harbor, / the stems of the cocoanut trees"

As we enjoy the preserve, Dylan reads aloud the story of a rescued tiger housed at the refuge that was, as he puts it, saved by relearning how to play. He asks, half to himself, if it isn't an accurate picture of the writing life, too, to discover life as writers by relearning how to play. As we roll by various animals in our tour bus, Dylan recites his "This Is Remembered". Like Arna, he receives a gentle applause from the other patrons who ride along with us.

The poem's "pick up line": "The smelling of roses; the first cigarette;"
The most alluring word/phrase: "the first womb"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "In the beginning / Was the word, the word began / In sleep ..."
The line that says "I love you": "This is remembered when the hairs drop out; / Love, like a stone, that struck and hurt;"
The perfect closing line for a date: "Remember sleep ..."

Which poet has your heart roaring like a lion?
pollcode.com free polls 

Your Turn: After reading each poet's poem, which ones struck you the most? What lines, words, and phrases stood out to you? How do these poets play with your sense of what makes poetry "good"?


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Check out (and vote for!) the previous dates of Round 2 in the Our Lost Jungle Countdown to New Year's:

18 December 2012

countdown to new year's: round 2, day 2

Welcome to day two of the second round of dead poet dates!

One thing I must confess before I go any further in this post ... I have a wildly vivid imagination. I don't say that to brag or anything; it just happens to be the truth. I don't just mean I daydream, although I do quite a bit of that. My imagine is vivid ... wildly so. As an example, to get to the downtown area of where I used to live, I had to cross a bridge over a train station. I once had an imagined scene of a wind so strong it blew me off the bridge and into one of the train cars carrying coal; it was so vivid that, as it ended, I found myself actually clinging to the side of the bridge.

That kind of imagination.

So when I'm going on these dead poet dates, it's all in good fun, but it's also extremely vivid for me. I've picked places I would actually like to go so that I actually have fun "going" there. I picture these men's faces (as they were when they were living, of course) as we dine out or sail away and what it would be like to actually be in the presence of these poetic titans. I share this not to give you a major introspective into my life, but to let you know ... When I share this, I'm not just sharing good fun (though, hopefully, that's what you get from it), but also a vibrant poetic experience, a "day in the life" sort of escape. I hope, in other words and simpler terms, that you enjoy this as much as I do.

So, with that, let's dig in to today's dates!

My Funny Valentine in Winter: Robert Hayden vs. Langston Hughes

I meet Robert and Langston at the Blue Note in Greenwich Village. Robert ushers me inside as Langston leans carelessly against the building's facade, telling us he wants to drink in the moment a bit before joining us inside. He joins us just inside the door a moment later, just as we are being led to a small, intimate table. Langston confesses that Jazz, especially the Blues, inspired much of his poetry, and so the music that filters in softly around us carries him a little away. Robert takes the time to lean in close and share how jazz carries him away at times, too. He waits for the next song to begin--a gentle instrumental rendition of Billie Holiday's "You're My Thrill"--and recites "Those Winter Sundays" gently over the flickering flame of the tea light candle centerpiece.

The poem's "pick up line": "him, who had driven out the cold"
The most alluring word/phrase: "banked fires blaze"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "fearing the chronic angers of that house, // Speaking indifferently to him,"
The line that says "I love you": "then with cracked hands that ached / from labor in the weekday weather made /banked fires blaze."
The perfect closing line for a date: "What did I know, what did I know / of love's austere and lonely offices?"

As a singer takes to the stage, Langston offers his hand for a dance, and I gladly accept. We move slowly on the floor, and the room's glowing atmosphere is almost enough to make me forget the reason for the outing. It is Langston who brings things back into focus, asking if I am ready to hear his poem. He barely waits for me to nod before reciting his "April Rain Song".

The poem's "pick up line": "Let the rain kiss you."
The most alluring word/phrase: "pools"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night-- // And I love the rain."
The line that says "I love you": "Let the rain kiss you."
The perfect closing line for a date: "Let the rain sing you a lullaby."

Which poet would win your heart's last dance?
pollcode.com free polls 

What You Will: Claude McKay vs Pablo Neruda

Later that same evening, as the jazz notes are replaced by cricket serenades, I meet Claude and Pablo at a small stage in the park where Twelfth Night is about to be performed by a local Shakespeare in the Park troop. The intimate staging area is warmed by high torches and bodies bundled together on the grass. Claude has brought a blanket and wraps it twice around my shoulders as we listen to some of the performers play a little pre-show interlude music, setting to tone for the performance. As the music plays and the people around us chatter, Claude laughs lightly and says the title of his poem seems oddly appropriate considering when and where we are. He then recites his poem "After the Winter".

The poem's "pick up line": "We'll turn our faces southward, love / Toward the summer isle"
The most alluring word/phrase: "droning bee"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near, / And ferns that never fade."
The line that says "I love you": "And we will seek the quiet hill / Where towers the cotton tree,"
The perfect closing line for a date: "And we will build a cottage there / Beside an open glade,"

Pablo helps me to my feet at the intermission, jokingly suggesting we give up Twelfth Night for a "fourth meal" somewhere warmer. We find a small coffee and tea stand and soon warm our hands around small Styrofoam cups. As we return to the area where the play will soon resume, Pablo hands Claude a steaming cup of coffee and helps me sit back down before joining us on the grass. The players are back at their intermission music as Pablo recites his "Tie Your Heart at Night to Mine, Love".

The poem's "pick up line": "Tie your heart at night to mine, love,"
The most alluring word/phrase: "Night crossing: black coal of dream"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "black coal of dream / that cuts the thread of earthly orbs"
The line that says "I love you": "... tie me to a purer movement, / to the grip on life that beats in your breast,"
The perfect closing line for a date: "So that our dreams might reply / to the sky's questioning stars / with one key, one door closed to shadow."

Which poet is the player upon your heart's stage?
pollcode.com free polls 

Your Turn: Once you have read each poet's poem, please feel free to share your thoughts on the poems of the day, and which poet stole your heart with his verse. Which lines, phrases, and words stood out to you and why? Also: How vivid is your imagination?


Want to stay connected? I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please also sign up for the free email updates from Our Lost Jungle!


Check out (and vote for!) the previous dates of Round 2 in the Our Lost Jungle Countdown to New Year's:

17 December 2012

countdown to new year's: round 2, day 1

First, I know I said I would post this week's date lineup over the weekend. However, considering the events of last Friday, I opted against some of the frivolity of this event over the weekend, in deference and respect to the tragic events that happened in Newtown, Connecticut.

(Please see the post on the tragedy in Connecticut for a few ways to show support to the people of Newtown.)


So, before we begin today's dates, I thought I'd share the lineup. The dates were created by randomly assigning last week's winners a slot numbered from 1-12. The date locales were also randomly assigned, after a "painstaking ordeal" of coming up with six places I personally would love to visit on a date. The date locales will remain, for now, a mystery ... There must be some surprise for you all! Each "date" will consist of a description of what we do on the date, and a look at each poet's poem based on five criteria. As for the lineup of the gentlemen ... Day One will feature a date with D.H. Lawrence and Countee Cullen, and a date with Robert Creeley and William Butler Yeats. Day Two will see Robert Hayden versus Langston Hughes and Claude McKay versus Pablo Neruda. Day Three will have Leopold Senghor competing against Shel Silverstein and Arna Bontemps competing against Dylan Thomas.

Let's get started!

A Day at the Park: D.H. Lawrence versus Countee Cullen

I have never been a huge fan of amusement parks, but I have had a love affair with the Tilt-A-Whirl for at least the past fifteen years. David and Countee meet me at the entrance to Hershey Park (my personal favorite amusement park, located in the heart of Hershey, Pennsylvania), and we make a beeline straight for the rollicking, whirling ride. I find myself comfortably squeezed in between the two gents on the first ride around. I can't help but let out shrieks of laughter as we slide around in the seat, pressed heavily first into one side, then the other, of our small circular enclosure. For the second trip, I take only David, and at my request he recites--in a somewhat quivering voice as the ride takes one wild turn after another--his "Almond Blossom".

The poem's "pick up line": "Oh, honey-bodied beautiful one, / Come forth from iron, / Red your heart is."
The most alluring word/phrase: "the ancient southern earth"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "Open, / Open, / Five times wide open, / Six times wide open,"
The line that says "I love you": "Something must be reassuring to the almond, in the evening star, and the snow-wind, / and the long, long, nights,"
The perfect closing line for a date: "Oh, give me the tree of life in blossom / And the Cross sprouting its superb and fearless flowers!"

Countee rides next. He holds on to the thin iron bar that keeps us from flying from our seats, but his face shows no fear. His voice is a bit more steady as he reads his "Lines to My Father".

The poem's "pick up line": "The many sow, but only the chosen reap"
The most alluring word/phrase: "soothe the smart of grief"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "provokes a shout / Of praise"
The line that says "I love you": "So has the shyest of your dreams come true, / Built not of sand, but of the solid rock,"
The perfect closing line for a date: "So has the shyest of your dreams come true"

Which poet takes home the carnival prize after this date?
pollcode.com free polls 

Up, Up, and Away: Robert Creeley versus William Butler Yeats

If there's one thing I'm less fond of than the roller coasters of an amusement park, it's heights in general. Thus is somewhat surprises me that I am willing to follow Robert and William into the helicopter that will take us on a birds-eye tour of the Grand Canyon. William speaks and listens to the tour guide as Robert and I engage in a discussion of nature's inspirational power. Robert holds up a sign that tells me he has made a recording of himself reading the poem, so I won't have to suffer his attempts to shout over the sound of the chopper. Graciously, I accept an old voice recorder and, with headphones nestled in my ears, listen to Robert read his "A Wicker Basket" as I gaze out over the breathtaking majesty that is the canyon below.

The poem's "pick up line": "There are very huge stars, man, in the sky,"
The most alluring word/phrase: "the street like a night"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "and I eat it-- // Slowly."
The line that says "I love you": "I step in the back, / and we're gone. / She turns me on--"
The perfect closing line for a date: "Comes the time when it's later / ... and very soon after / rings out the sound of lively laughter--"

When we land, William steers us away and we find ourselves at the Petrified Forest. Robert hangs back--the helicopter ride, he says, left him a little "sky faint"--so William and I stroll alone into the sand and mysterious forest of trees turned to stone. As we stop to gaze out at the expanse of strangely beautiful dust and stone, he pulls out and reads his "When You Are Old".

The poem's "pick up line": "How many loved your moments of glad grace,"
The most alluring word/phrase: "shadows deep"
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: "how Love fled / And paced upon the mountains overhead"
The line that says "I love you": "But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, / And loved the sorrows of your changing face;"
The perfect closing line for a date: "When you are old and grey and full of sleep, / And nodding by the fire, take down this book, / And slowly read, ..."

Which poet has you soaring away with his poem?
pollcode.com free polls 

Your Turn: Once you have read each poet's poem, I'd love for you to share your thoughts on why you voted for who you selected as the winner. Which lines, words, phrases, et cetera stood out to you in each poet's poem, and why?


Want to stay connected? I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please also sign up for the free email updates from Our Lost Jungle!


Check out the Round One dates in the Our Lost Jungle Countdown to New Year's:

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