31 December 2013

countdown to new year's: and the winner is ...

Congratulations to Bob Kaufman, the winner of the 2013 Countdown to New Year's Challenge!
First, thanks to all who voted in the Round 4 poll! To those who voted near or after the end of the open poll period (it appears to have stopped taking results at around 11:50pm on the 31st), my apologies. According to the counted poll results, Bob Kaufman and Kenneth Koch tied with three votes apiece, while Jorge Luis Borges came in second with one vote. I did get a few emailed votes (you clever readers!) from some who couldn't vote in the poll; unfortunately, it was still an even split between Bob and Kenneth! The final decision came down to a rather unceremonious coin toss ... which landed in Bob Kaufman's favor.
 
Stay tuned for the winner of the Countdown to New Year's Grand Prize Book Drawing! A big "THANK YOU!" to all who voted, contributed comments, shared the event, and beyond. I hope you each have a prosperous and joy-filled New Year!
 

*****

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!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

***** 

Relive all the 2013 Countdown to New Year's rounds!

countdown to new year's: round 4 – speak to me

Countdown to New Year's: Round 4 -- Speak to Me!
We're down to the wire, folks! The final three poets have been chosen by your votes, and now we are down to three. Out of 24 poets, only three come to you with the same hope twinkling in our own eyes: the hope of a new year, and, in their cases, a New Year's kiss. We've gone on dates, we've studied lines, and now comes one of my favorite parts of this challenge (besides the kiss, that is): Last year, this phase came sooner, but this year Round 4 is the moment in which I speak my love back to the remaining poets!

Here's how Round 4 will work: Below, you'll find three poems, written in response to or in the style of the poems written by each of the three poets who are advancing to this final round. Each poem is my own response to the work of those poets; it's not necessarily a statement on which I "liked" the most (though I think it would be hard to argue that my love of the poems didn't in some way impact the results). Read through each poem, and be sure to read the original poems they were inspired by. Then, cast your vote on which poet you would like to see win the New Year's kiss! Your vote does not need to be based on the poems below. It should, however, be based on the poets, and the poems they wrote. That said, once you've cast your vote for the winner, be sure to answer the "Your Turn" questions for more entries into the Grand Prize Book Drawing! Get your votes in before midnight!

Good luck ... to the poets, and you!


I Choose, I Choose
After “Believe, Believe” by Bob Kaufman

I choose you. The nectar of my plum,
Still rooted to the sky, singing the scent of earth,
The pull of you seasoned
To the blue sheet of sky stretching our horizons.

I choose the melody of sambas,
Thrumming our singular hearts to one rhythm
And back again, the somnambular dance
Taking us across a pillowed plane,
Leave behind the requiem
Of life before your timbre.

Sing in my grottoes, the hollows
Alive with the quiver of your tongue!
You! The gambol of centuries!
The swell of time!
The rise and fall of all this world devours.

This I’ve Known
After “You Know All This” by Kenneth Koch

From the very first dawn
    You held me like a spoon;
A curve within your palm
   A corner of your moon.

From then on in our diurnals
    The days harmonied, orchestras;
I say you fill me up like journals—
     You say, Thus spake Zarathustra.

Prophetess, I promise
     To take you as my one,
To line you as my sonnet,
     To taste you as my plum.

You laugh me like a river,
     Navigate my words again,
And whisper with a quiver,
    This I’ve known, both now and then.

Awake
After “Sleep”  by Jorge Luis Borges

You ask me once who I will be at night when whispers shadow
The dimness of our little room to paint the walls in silence
And now I answer: Once we are asleep, I will be science
That puzzles out the mysteries only sleep and darkness know—
I’ll wake inside a riddle drawing ripples on your spine
To reason out the half-forgotten fragments of your breaking:
To question you if you will still remember when we’re waking
That time in time of timelessness you promised to be mine.
For once upon a dawn you seemed a dream, merely envisioned
Hints of broken memoirs fighting to compose at morn,
And when you broke upon my eyes I swore that you were born
Of sleep, of love-in-idleness—but now sweet shade is fission.
How can we, if we can, re-fuse the marvels waking harms—
The tangoed love untangled when I wake beyond your arms?

Ready to vote? Let's go!


Which poet do you think deserves a New Year's kiss?
Bob Kaufman
Kenneth Koch
Jorge Luis Borges
I can't choose ... I like them all!
None of them :(
Poll Maker

Your Turn: For three more entries into the book drawing, answer the following questions:
1.) Which poet do you think was voted out before his time? Who should have made it further?
2.) Is there a poet you'd like to see in next year's challenge?
3.) If this was a Living Poets Countdown to New Year's, which poet(s) would you like to win a date with?

*****

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!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

***** 

Check out the previous Countdown to New Year's rounds!

30 December 2013

countdown to new year's: round 3 -- lightning round!

Countdown to New Year's: Round 3 -- Lightning Round!
As always, it's hard to believe such a broad and diverse pool of poets has been narrowed down from 24 to just six in a few short weeks ... Nonetheless, it has happened, and after tabulating votes from Round 2, we are down to six poets vying for a New Year's kiss! Today (yes, you read correctly ... in one day!), we'll be whittling it down even further, so that by tomorrow (New Year's Eve, if you can believe it!) we'll be down to just THREE phenomenal poets competing for the (maybe not so grand) prize!

Here's how Round 3 will work: Rather than date pairings, you'll be presented with a list the six "[lines] that says 'I love you'" from each of the advancing poets. You'll then see a poll in which you should vote for your top three line picks to move on to Round 4!

Remember: votes should be based on the poems, not so much on the poets themselves (that, in part, is why no names are listed, though by now I'm sure many of you can figure it out!) ... though, naturally, some personal preference will still slip its way in. Once you've voted, check out the "Your Turn" section for another opportunity to earn entries into the Countdown to New Year's Grand Prize Book Drawing!

Ready? Let's get started. Without further ado, the winner's are (in alphabetical order based on the first word in the line) ...

“And often she wishes that, when they were born, / She had named one of them Bodkin Van Horn” 

“Believe in the swinging sounds of jazz, / Tearing the night into intricate shreds” 

“I held you for a year, / Persistent as a tongue” 

“She to whom this world must it self refer, / As suburbs or the microcosm of her”

“Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads”

“Who will you be tonight, in the dark thrall / Of sleep, when you have slipped across its wall?” 


Ready to vote?! Here's the poll!

Which 3 "lines that says 'I love you'" speak to you most? (Select 3)
  
pollcode.com free polls 

Your Turn: Once you've shared your vote, answer the following questions for three more entries into the book drawing:
1.) Which line above is your least favorite? Why?
2.) If you could have a New Year's double date with any two poets from the challenge, who would you choose? (Click here for the full list)
3.) What are you doing New Year's Eve? Which poet do you think you'd have the most fun doing that with?



*****

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!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

***** 

Check out Round 2 of the Our Lost Jungle Countdown to New Year's:

28 December 2013

countdown to new year's: round 2 - the rain dates

Countdown to New Year's: The Rain Dates
As you may have noticed, the Countdown to New Year’s dates have been a little … overlooked? Here’s what happened, in short detail: I got sick, and then I had to travel, which meant the dates had to sit on a back shelf for quite some time (in fact, quite a bit longer than I meant for them to). So, here (also in short detail) is how we’ll proceed: We’re going to jaunt through the end of Round 2, sans dates, and move on to a “lightning” Round 3 relatively quickly! I’m determined to finish this challenge, not so much because I must have a New Year’s dead poet date (though it would make me very happy) … but because there’s still a prize in it for some lucky participant out there, and I’d like to make sure you still have your chances to win!

So, rather than doing dates for the end of Round 2, we’re going to stick with the same “best lines” format, and simply rely on your votes and comments to pick the winners by Sunday evening! Then, Monday, we’ll have a quick Round 3, and move on from there!

Jean Toomer vs Christopher Okigbo

Jean Toomer’s “Storm Ending
The poem’s “pick up line”: “Dripping rain like golden honey—”
The most alluring word/phrase: “Bleeding rain”
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: “Stretching clappers to strike our ears … / Full-lipped flowers”
The line that says “I love you”: “Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads”
The perfect closing line for a date: “And the sweet earth flying from the thunder.”

Christopher Okigbo’s “The Passage
The poem’s “pick up line”: “Before you, my mother Idoto, / Naked I stand”
The most alluring word/phrase: “In silence at the passage”
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: “Festivity in black … / Column of ants”
The line that says “I love you”: “Lost in your legend”
The perfect closing line for a date: “For we are listening in cornfields / Among the windplayers”

Storm Passage: Which poet's poem won your heart?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

Jorge Luis Borges vs William Waring Cuney

Jorge Luis Borges’ “Sleep
The poem’s “pick up line”: “Who will you be tonight”
The most alluring word/phrase: “broken images of the night’s treasure”
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: “Moments of drowsiness that gild and adorn / The waking mind with dreams …”
The line that says “I love you”: “Who will you be tonight, in the dark thrall / Of sleep, when you have slipped across its wall?”
The perfect closing line for a date: “Why is it so sad to be awake at dawn?”

William Waring Cuney’s “No Images
The poem’s “pick up line”: “She does not know / her beauty”
The most alluring word/phrase: “dish water”
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: “and dish water gives back / no images.”
The line that says “I love you”: “she thinks her brown body / has no glory.”
The perfect closing line for a date: “If she could … see her image in the river, / she would know.”

Sleep Images: Which poem wins this round?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

Mbembe Milton Smith vs Kenneth Koch

Mbembe Milton Smith’s “Reality
The poem’s “pick up line”: “if you live, life will touch you”
The most alluring word/phrase: “always the social in the real”
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: “always some nicotine / gets to the lungs”
The line that says “I love you”: “if you live, life will touch you, / caress you sometimes, slap you others.”
The perfect closing line for a date: “it seems there’s no such thing / only experiences”

Kenneth Koch’s “You Know All This
The poem’s “pick up line”: “My hands, somnambular, / Have kept you like a vow”
The most alluring word/phrase:Scheherazade
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: “Persistent as a tongue, / Infecting you, my dear.”
The line that says “I love you”: “I held you for a year, / Persistent as a tongue”
The perfect closing line for a date: “No matter where you are / We touch each other now.”

The Reality You Know: Which poet earned his place in your heart with his poem?
  
pollcode.com free polls 


Rainer Maria Rilke vs Bob Kaufman

Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Song of the Dwarf
The poem’s “pick up line”: “here, take a look”
The most alluring word/phrase: “staggering”
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: “she merely hangs on my sharp bones, / flapping her terrible wings.”
The line that says “I love you”: “Maybe my soul is straight and good, / but she’s got to lug my heart, my blood”
The perfect closing line for a date: “So often I would itch / to be luminous and free of fog”

Bob Kaufman’s “Believe, Believe
The poem’s “pick up line”: “Let the voices of dead poets / Ring louder in your ears”
The most alluring word/phrase: “Young apple seeds”
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: “Putting it back together again, / In cool logical patterns”
The line that says “I love you”: “Believe in the swinging sounds of jazz, / Tearing the night into intricate shreds”
The perfect closing line for a date: “Listen to the music of centuries, / Rising above the mushroom time.”

The Song We Believe: Which poem's lines touched your heart strings?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

Your Turn: Remember to vote in the polls for each poetic pairing, but for three entries into the book drawing, share in the comments below ...
1) Your favorite poet overall, based on the above poets and lines
2) Your favorite line overall from the above poets, and
3) Which poets you'd like to see paired in the next round!

*****

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!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

***** 

Relive Round One of the 2013 Our Lost Jungle Countdown to New Year's!:

18 December 2013

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

Countdown to New Year's: Round 2, Day 1
Welcome to Round 2 of the Our Lost Jungle Countdown to New Year’s! I apologize for the delay in the start of Round 2 dates … it’s a very hectic time, and there’s so much to get done! In part for that reason, I’ve decided that this round of dates will focus around the “commonplace” … or, rather, the common places. Get ready for dates in supermarkets, doctors’ offices, book stores, break rooms, and other such every day, seemingly mundane locales these poets will work to enliven by their mere presence! Don’t forget to case your votes for this round’s winners!

Romance in Aisle Four: Edward Markham VS John Donne 

Edward and John meet me outside the local supermarket, each already holding a little basket to help carry grocery treasures. I send John off to the deli department and steer Edward down the fruit aisle with me. As we walk and talk, Edward carefully picks up first one round, juice-filled clementine, then another, and carefully drops only the best ones into a small brown bag. As we walk and sniff at apples, peaches, and strawberries, Edward recites his poem “Cracks” for me.

The poem’s “pick up line”: “… how terrifying / To base your philosophy on anticipating surprise and accident!”
The most alluring word/phrase: “Then one morning …”
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: “… this can’t be replaced / As easily as shoes.”
The line that says “I love you”: “So what to do? You vow to take more care of the shoes.”
The perfect closing line for a date: “ … on reflection this is how things happen”

John returns from the deli with three stacks of freshly sliced cheeses and meats, pressing them carefully into the bottom of my basket. I shoo Edward off to the dairy section to snag eggs, milk, and other necessities while John and I head to the bakery. We marvel for a few minutes at the cakes and pies artfully decorated in their displays, and happily accept a few free samples. John helps me pick a few fresh loaves of bread, and we snag a few freshly made cannoli pastries. While we wait for Edward near the checkout line, John recites “An Anatomy of the World” as I pick out a beautiful bouquet of gerbera daisies.

The poem’s “pick up line”: “thou wast / Nothing but she, and her thou hast o’erpast.”
The most alluring word/phrase: “She’s now a part both of the choir, and song”
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: “Her death did wound and tame thee then, and then / Thou might’st have better spar’d the sun, or man.”
The line that says “I love you”: “She to whom this world must it self refer, / As suburbs or the microcosm of her”
The perfect closing line for a date: “Her name defin’d thee, gave thee form, and frame”

Clean up on Aisle Five! Which poet's work melted your heart?
  
pollcode.com free polls 
A “Grande” Gesture: Theodor Seuss VS Oliver Goldsmith 

Theodor and Oliver are already seated at the local Starbucks when I come bustling in. Oliver grins and offers me his seat, informing me that he will “patiently await his turn” at another table. Theodor offers to invest in something to drink for the two of us. I order a cold chocolate-laced drink and watch as the barista layers it with whipped cream and a caramel drizzle. We decide a grande iced water is probably best for the already bouncy Theodor. Even in the relative calm of the coffee cafĂ©, he finds ways to be whimsical. As he recites “Too Many Daves,” he uses everything from the water trace lines of an ice cube to some cream stolen from my drink to sugar snagged from a nearby table to draw several of his renamed Daves!

The poem’s “pick up line”: “Did I ever tell you …”
The most alluring word/phrase: “Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate”
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: “McFate … / But she didn’t do it. And now it’s too late.”

The line that says “I love you”: And often she wishes that, when they were born, / She had named one of them Bodkin Van Horn”
The perfect closing line for a date: “But she didn’t do it. And now it’s too late.”

Oliver waits until Theodor slides from his seat to dispose of our cups to reclaim his spot. He has spent his time ordering us a nice little desert pastry, and suggests we move outside since the sun is out. We cast one last amused look at Theodor (he has somehow made his way behind the counter) as we head out into the cool, crisp air. Oliver points out the various shapes in clouds as they drift by overhead, and wonders at how we go so long in a day without looking up and around in wonder. We decide to sit and just do this for a bit, and after a few minutes I ask him to share his poem again. He recites “When Lovely Woman Stoops to Folly” with yet another mischievous grin on his face.

The poem’s “pick up line”: “wring his bosom”
The most alluring word/phrase: “wring his bosom”
The most intriguing line break/enjambment: “—is to die.”
The line that says “I love you”: “When lovely woman stoops to folly”
The perfect closing line for a date: “What art can wash her guilt away?”

Which poet put the double shot of love in your coffee?
  
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, etc. stood out to you in each poet’s poem, and why? Don’t forget: sharing your vote in the comments earns you a drawing entry for the final book prize! 

(With polls, make sure you vote in the poll and leave comments on the Our Lost Jungle site! You can vote in the poll once a day. Only comments on this site will count toward drawing entries, but please vote in the poll as much as you’d like!)


*****

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!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

***** 

Relive Round One of the 2013 Our Lost Jungle Countdown to New Year's!:

16 December 2013

countdown to new year's: round 1 winners

Countdown to New Year's: Round 1 Winners
And the winners are ...
 
ROUND 1, DAY 1

John Donne
Jean Toomer
Jorge Luis Borges

This round saw one unanimous winner in John Donne! Shakespeare, famed bard though he may be, lost out three to one in his date with Borges. Toomer and Cowper actually tied when it came to votes, so a coin toss decided the winner was "T" for tails ... and Toomer.

ROUND 1, DAY 2

E.A. Markham
Christopher Okigbo
Mbembe Milton Smith

Both Markham and Okigbo beat their competitors with votes of three to one. Mbembe Smith and Lawrence Ferlinghetti tied with two votes a piece; a coin toss determined the winner, and old Washington's head tilted in Mbembe's favor.

ROUND 1, DAY 3

William Waring Cuney
Theodor Seuss Geisel
Rainer Maria Rilke

Two poets earned unanimous votes of approval on day three: both Cuney and Rilke swept their competitors with three to nothing votes! Today's "dark horse" was Dr. Seuss, whose unlikely yet fun place among these poets saw him charming his audience (including me!) to a two-to-one win. (Side bar: It's almost too bad Shakespeare didn't advance with Seuss ... it would have been very interesting to see them on a date together!)

ROUND 1, DAY 4

Oliver Goldsmith
Kenneth Koch
Bob Kaufman

The day four winners were each determined by the toss of a coin!

Day four voting also came with a bonus question about Bob Kaufman and Thomas Gray's date: Why did they ride the Ferris wheel together first, and then opt to go in the order they chose? The answer is multifaceted. First, I personally don't think Kaufman and Gray would much care for each other. Their ride together was a chance to isolate them and their seemingly contrary natures together. Second, in reading both poets' works, Kaufman seemed the more "lively" personality, which--at least in my mind--made him a "better" choice to go first and dispel some of his energy. Third, Gray seemed a more quiet, thoughtful poet, which made him seem better suited for closing out the evening in a calm, deliberate manner. And finally (and this one is really based more in just a personal imagining): I invite you to go read a bit more about Thomas Gray. Once you do, ask yourself: What do you think Thomas would have thought of a Ferris wheel? Personally, I imagine he would have hated it ... if not been at least moderately terrified. So I gave him a little extra time on the ground to "settle" after the first ride with Bob.

So there you have it! I invite you to go back and read the poems of the winners again; this week, we'll be spending more time with the poems, which means looking at specific lines and phrases to help determine the Round 2 winners! The Round 2 dates start tomorrow, and will run on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with winners announced on Saturday!

Your Turn: Of the twelve poets listed above, which would you like to see paired up? Who do you think has the best chances of moving forward? Who may have gone all the further they can in the challenge? Share your thoughts in the comments below! (And yes, these count toward your entries into the final book drawing!)

*****

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!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

***** 

Relive Round One of the 2013 Our Lost Jungle Countdown to New Year's!:

14 December 2013

countdown to new year's: round 1, day 4

Countdown to New Year's: Round 1, Day 4
Welcome to Round 1, Day 4 of the 2013 Countdown to New Year’s Challenge! Today is the last day of round one! Enjoy the last group of dead poet dates for this round; be sure to click to read each poet’s poem and share your thoughts on which poet came out on top! Remember, each poet should be judged only in comparison with the poet with whom they shared a date. Don’t forget: Sharing your votes and thoughts in the comments earns you an entry into a drawing for a work by the ultimate winner!

Johnson VS Goldsmith

For today’s dates, the choice of locale is a Winter Wonderland amusement park, filled with laughing children and tired parents who wander almost aimlessly among roller coasters and carousels all spinning madly in the early evening. A loud and raucous song roars from a nearby twirling ride when I spot Samuel Johnson seated quietly on a bench holding a cotton candy in either hand. We sit and munch on the sweet, sugary treat quietly, until a young boy crosses Samuel’s path and Samuel asks hi, seemingly innocuously, to give him a sentence or phrase. The child complies, and Samuel proceeds to initiate a game of verse based on whatever lines passersby throw his way. Soon he has amassed a small crowd, and impresses us all with his quick adaptations and playfulness.

Samuel informs me that Oliver Goldsmith is already on the ride behind us, and smiles as he explains that Oliver had followed his own small group of new friends onto the ride, at their urging, after initiating the same game just moments before I met them. Oliver disembarks his ride and joins us, and soon has all three of us composing poems together. The two poets share stories of their friendship, evenings spent debating over poems they read and arguing over poems they wrote. Each is free to tease the other about their respective poetic styles.

The two poets lead me to a large spinning carousel to meet my next poetic possibles. As we part ways, Samuel hands me a copy of “Drury-lane Prologue …” while Oliver grins and hands me “When Lovely Woman Stoops to Folly.”

Smart VS Koch

I board the carousel and find Christopher Smart sitting on a bright pink horse. He dismounts and invites me to walk with him in the opposite direction of the ride’s already dizzying turn. We walk between the mechanized prancing horses, taking in the shrieks of children riding along beside us. Christopher tells me of his youthful dalliances, his penchant for careless pleasures and not-so-casual engagements. He wonders as we walk what his chances are at any of the games that spin by us on the ground beyond our ride. I tease that perhaps he should keep his money where it’s safest … in his pocket. He merely shrugs and points out that our third companion is just ahead.

I spot Kenneth Koch sitting on a stationary carriage seat on the carousel. He sits with three other children, who all laugh at some joke Kenneth has just told them. As I wonder aloud how we missed him earlier, one of the children grins and says he had been moving from horse to horse, carriage to carriage, the whole time. Christopher and I sit with Kenneth, who shares his own story of a poetic journey through the “New York School” of poets. Almost everything he says results in laughter, and by the time the ride ends we can barely move from the side-splitting mirth we three have shared.

As we get off our whirling ride, Christopher gives me a copy of “Epistle to Mrs. Tyler” he’s written on an empty popcorn bag. Kenneth admits he’s forgotten to bring his poem, so snatches a few napkins and hastily copies his “You Know All This” onto the flimsy makeshift pages before handing them to me with a grin.

Kaufman VS Gray

My head is slightly spinning by the time I reach the Ferris wheel where the evening will end. As I approach, I am joined by my two gentlemen, but the ride operator insists we can only ride two at a time. The poets ride together first—“to strategize,” they tease—which gives me some much needed time to, ironically, ground myself.  When the poets come back to the ground, they have agreed to let Bob Kaufman go first. As we ascend into the air, Bob snaps his fingers in time to the rhythmic click of the wheel’s motion and begins composing a poem on the spot. I tell him, when he finishes, that I would snap if I could in appreciation of his work; he merely grins and says he’ll gladly take good old fashioned applause. Bob asks how my time with Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg went, and we talk about their shared poetic styles and the founding of Beatitudes. He speaks of his time in New Orleans and New York, before we switch gears and compare blues notes on our shared love of jazz. As we unload ourselves from the ride, Bob hands me a copy of his poem “Believe, Believe” and walks off humming a Charlie Parker tune.

I board again with Thomas Gray, who does not snap or hum but points up at the evening sky as it seems to pour itself over our faces and traces some of the wandering star patterns with his fingers. He fidgets as we ride, and admits he is more than a little uncomfortable in this man-made contraption that brings the heavens so near only to pull them away in the next instant. He tells me of his youth, speaking mostly of his mother and some friends and not at all of his father. He spends to much time gazing down at the people below wondering what they are thinking that we make it into something of a game, deciding for each person where the will go and what they might do after the amusement of the amusement park passes. As we make our final turn and descend back to the ground, Thomas pulls a copy of “Ode on the Spring” from a pocket and presses it into my hand.

Your Turn: Which of tonight’s six poets brought the most amusement to this journey through an amusement park? Was your heart captured by rhyme, or meter, or particular lines? Who do you think won this round? Cast your votes in the comments, and help pick the final group of winners for round one!

Bonus Question: On the last date ... why do you think Kaufman and Gray rode together first, and then choose to go in the order they did afterwards? (Hint #1: There is a reason. Hint #2: It may have more to do with me than the poets themselves ...)

*****

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!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

***** 

Check out these related posts on Our Lost Jungle:

12 December 2013

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

Countdown to New Year's: Round 1, Day 3
Welcome to Round 1, Day 3 of the 2013 Countdown to New Year’s Challenge! We're almost at the end of the first round of dead poet dates! As you read through each date, be sure to click to read each poet’s poem and share your thoughts on which poet came out on top! Remember, each poet should be judged only in comparison with the poet with whom they shared a date. And don’t forget: Sharing your votes and thoughts in the comments earns you an entry into a drawing for a work by the ultimate winner!

Cuney VS Chaucer

Today’s dates are steeped in silent tones as my poets and I meet up at a sprawling yet somehow intimate art and history museum. Upon entering the museum I find myself surrounded by massive paintings and towering sculptures, and it is with a sudden surprise that I realize one of the seeming sculptures is actually William Cuney. He stands silently, a study of stillness, in the middle of the floor gazing with idle awareness at a large painting, what might be a modern interpretation of Van Gogh’s famous starry night. I think William doesn’t notice me until he leans slightly toward me and says, in a whisper, “You could almost dive right in.” We move to gaze at a statue that William says reminds him “of jazz,” and he pauses to tap out the unheard rhythm first on his own knee, then on my shoulder. We move to a bench and sit, and after a few minutes he says, still in his whispered tone, “I don’t mingle with people much these days.” We sit and stare at each other, and the art, and the passing people, in silence. He continues to tap out rhythms, spoken to him by the art, by the meter of passing footsteps, until finally he leans in and says, “That one there was a sonnet.” We both laugh.

Geoffrey Chaucer joins us and sits on my opposite side. He, too, seems drawn in by the art, and spends much of the time wondering at some of the pieces he calls the most realistic sketches he has ever seen—William and I laugh and try to explain the photographs to him, and he laughs, too, calling it all “ridiculous.” Geoffrey is lighter in mood than William, engaging us in his own imagined tales of the stories behind many of the pieces we see. He seems to delight in weaving the tales of why many of the sculptures have been caught in what he imagines to be a shame-faced state of undress, and imagining the unseen tales occurring just below the framed views of the paintings and photographs. Soon we are all stifling giggles.

The playful poets walk me to the entrance of a Hall of Mammals exhibit where I am to meet the next two suitors. As we part ways, William slips a copy of “No Images” into my hand, and Geoffrey pretends to pull a copy of his “To Rosemounde: A Balade” from my hair.

Seuss VS Schuyler

The first thing I see when I walk into the Hall of Mammals is a strangely out of place man frozen in mid-conversation with some kind of stork. I grin and lean on the exhibit barrier, which Theodor Seuss Geisel has clearly ignored. After a few amusing moments of watching him stand so perfectly still, Theodor finally turns his head, gives a little wink, and strolls over to climb back across the little wall meant to separate spectators from the exhibit. As we walk and talk about the various animals—from lions and bears to cavemen to a display of dinosaurs he finds extremely amusing—Theodor is free with his speech, frequently changing the topic so we discuss everything from poetry to soccer and back, with not-infrequent jokes sprinkled in.

We are joined by James Schuyler as we reach an exhibit on lizards; Theodor scurries off, claiming he must have words with a rather large tortoise at the far end of the room. James watches him bustle away with silent amusement before turning and asking if I’ve heard about his “near death experience.” Our conversation focuses mainly on the animals surrounding us, the mildly disturbing gazes of the taxiderms  and sculptures, and poetry in general. I’m not surprised by James turning the conversation outward; I’ve been told by a few who knew him, including Barbara Guest, that he is one who “withholds his secrets.” He asks if I would mind steering us forward toward one of the exhibits of paintings, and I readily agree. We spend some time studying and sharing our critiques of the art while each of us tries to pretend we don’t notice Theodor wandering in the background composing little poems for each of the paintings he passes.

When we say our goodbyes, James gives me a neatly typed copy of “Can I Tempt You to a Pond Walk?” Theodor has half-wandered off before he remembers to run back and hand me a copy of his “Too Many Daves.”

Tolson VS Rilke

The day ends at the planetarium, where  I meet Melvin B. Tolson just as the first projected stars begin to light the domed sky of the exhibit room. Melvin sits with his hands crossed behind his head, gazing up and pointing out constellations as though we sit on a hill outside staring at a real sky. He notes how for all the differences among the people of the earth, we all share the same sky. As the pseudo-sky above us slowly turns and shifts the pallet of stars, he speaks of his time in Liberia, his poetic style, and his views of humanity in parts and as a whole. He recites lines of his work and composes new verses for the changing sky above us.

Rainer Maria Rilke slips in quietly in the midst of one of Melvin’s compositions and listens with soft “Hm”s and “Ah”s as Melvin weaves verse on the spot. Rainer joins the game, crafting a narrative of space and stars that seems to take us through an expansive universe while keeping us pinned to our seats in the small room. After the small game of composition has ended between them, Rainer shares folk songs and stories of Germany and Italy with us. He speaks of art as religion, and drifts into a monologue on natures ever-expanding realm of beauty, wondering often how society can abandon the temple born of trees for the man-made architecture that pales in comparison. We spend what feels like an eternity wrapped in too few minutes just sitting and gazing up at the false stars, before eventually abandoning our indoor shelter for the true night sky just outside.

When we finally part ways, Melvin hands me a copy of “A Song for Myself,” while Rainer gifts a copy of “Song of the Dwarf.”

Your Turn: Which three poets should be this day’s winners? Which poems stood out to you? Which lines, phrases, or words? Which poets’ styles did you find most, or least, appealing? Share your thoughts and cast your votes in the comments below, and help me pick the winners of the day!

*****

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!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

***** 

Check out these related posts on Our Lost Jungle:

10 December 2013

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

Countdown to New Year's: Round 1, Day 2
Welcome to Round 1, Day 2 of the 2013 Countdown to New Year’s Challenge! Today will feature three new dead poet double dates. As you read through each date, be sure to click to read each poet’s poem and share your thoughts on which poet came out on top! Remember, each poet should be judged only in comparison with the poet with whom they shared a date. And don’t forget: Sharing your votes and thoughts in the comments earns you an entry into a drawing for a work by the ultimate winner, so share away!

Nash VS Markham

I decide to meet today’s dates at my favorite urban farmer’s market in Pennsylvania, so that we can mingle with the crowds and walk as we talk poetry. I meet Ogden Nash in a crowd of spectators watching a group of Greek performers execute an elaborate dance beside a stand where a woman dutifully roasts and carves lamb. Ogden turns and gives me a mischievous and sly grin, urging me forward to stand beside him and watch what he calls this great display of humanity. We clap and laugh along with the crowd, and Ogden becomes a delight when he takes the opportunity to try his own dance manouvers … all, he says, part of his joyous engagement in a focus on “the minor idiocies of humanity.” As we talk, he revels in his former critics’ words of him, and recites that he heard one once call him “a philosopher, albeit a laughing one.”

As we march on, mingling where we can and observing almost everything with laughter, we are joined by Edward Markham, who instantly leans in close and urges us to pause and take in “all the many voices” around us. We do so, and pause in the midst of the sea of people pressing in around us, to listen to the multitude of accents, languages, and dialects that saturate the air thicker than the scents of all the food the market holds. He suggests we try on different voices and personas—a trade for which he is known as a poet—as we walk and talk, and we do this as well. Soon we are all laughing at the seeming silliness of the world and our own clumsy tongues. I think back often to Sean O’Brien’s statement that Edward “speaks as he finds, in multiple, unpredictable voices.” I find myself sinking into silence to listen to the two of them battle and play with words as midmorning drifts into early afternoon.

Before we part ways, Ogden delivers a humorously exaggerated bow and, tipping his hat, lets fall at my feet a folded sheet of paper with his poem “Always Marry an April Girl” scrawled on it. Edward stoops to pick it up and hands it to me with an amused smile, along with a copy of his own “Cracks.”

Slessor VS Okigbo

I round a corner, pocketing the poems of the first date, and spot Kenneth Slessor sitting by a small stand where a young Amish boy sells fresh apples and moon pies. Kenneth’s gaze seems fixed upon the child’s small black hat as it bobs back and forth in the booth waiting on customers, and a small smile plays at his lips before he turns and meets my eye. Standing, he leaves a few coins on the boy’s stand and brings us both bright red apples before we move on. As we walk, he guides me gently by the elbow and asks me more than I ask of him. Besides his rich Australian accent, I’m struck most by his curiosity and courtesy and recall how his colleague Hal Porter told me he was “a city lover, fastidious and excessively courteous.” We stop at several stands, and I notice that he tends toward the smaller ones, and lingers at displays of art and craft more than the seemingly thousands of fresh fruit and produce carts to which he pays little mind (with the exception of stopping twice to buy us more fruit).

We are met at a table of flowers and miniature statues by Christopher Okigbo, who leans in so close to the table to stare at the wares both Kenneth and I are almost afraid to interrupt. Christopher rights himself and turns to us with a soft smile, pointing out the intricate designs on the sculptures and handing me a bright purple orchid to smell. As I inhale the sweet aroma, he begins to speak of African legends and myths, the history of some of the different plants he recognizes, and bits and pieces of his own life. When I ask him what he thought of the praise and criticism his work has received over the years, he merely shakes his head and says, with another smile, “I am the sole witness to my homecoming.” This simple phrase is enough to take my breath away, and I am grateful that it simultaneously launches a lovely dialogue between the two poets. As day fades toward early evening, we sit on a bench outside the emptying farmer’s market and reflect on everything from the sunset to reincarnation and the soul.

Kenneth departs first and hands copies of his poem “New Magic” to both Christopher and me. Christopher, in turn, pulls out two copies of his “The Passage,” handing one to Kenneth as Kenneth departs and one to me before he slips off into a small crowd and disappears.

Smith VS Ferlinghetti

The first stars have appeared in the sky as I approach the riverfront just down the hill from the now abandoned farmer’s market. I sit on a cool metal park bench and wait, and soon Mbembe Milton Smith appears and sits beside me. His voice is rich, and he speaks softly of his life in Kansas City and later time in New York. We speak about the art of teaching, and the power of poetry. He gazes up at the sky for a few minutes in silence, and as I watch his eyes wander in the dark I can’t help but wonder what he sees above us. When he finally grounds himself again, I tell him what I’ve been told of him by Gwendolyn Brooks: that he was “one of our most nourishing poets,” and how he “used language deftly, with a lively, affectionate respect.” He smiles slightly at this, but merely shrugs and asks if I’d like to walk a little beside the water.

We descend a hill and, as we walk the narrow stairs that lead directly into the river water’s murky depths, we are joined by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. When he joins us, the three of us engage again in conversation about the act—and responsibility—of teaching and sharing the arts with all people. Lawrence speaks of jazz, and urges us to pause and listen to the rhythm and unspoken meter of the water as it slaps gently against the sinking stairs. As we stand in silence and listen, I recall Larry Smith’s words about him: how “his writing sings, with the sad and comic music of the streets.”

We walk for a while beside the water, challenging each other to compose lines on the spot for the “water song” that plays beside us. When the air takes on a distinct chill and the stars speckle the sky like salt on a sea of black paper, we part ways. Before departing, Mbembe hands me a copy of his poem “Reality.” Lawrence hands me a copy of “London Crossfigured” and walks off in the opposite direction, snapping his fingers in time to the beat of the water.

Your Turn: Of today’s six poets, which three won your heart? What lines and phrases stood out to you, and why? Which poems tugged at something in you? Share your thoughts and judgments in the comments below, and help me pick the winners of the day!


*****

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!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

***** 

Check out these related posts on Our Lost Jungle:

Featured Post

Sankofa: The Power of Known History

I recently took on two challenges in the sphere of political and cultural advocacy: understanding the roots of our democracy and national l...