Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Another Saturday Night

Here's a poem I drafted with my Tuesday morning Poetry Writing class after the September 17 explosion on 23rd Street (and unexploded device found on 27th Street). Dan Shefelman heard me read it at FIT's Academic Open Mic, and we ended up having some of our words included in the ChalkFIT exhibit.

Another Saturday Night

and I got nobody never
never no how no way
no day do I wake up 
in the green of a Sunday
next to a body that is not me.
No, sirree, I'm F-R-E-E
and blowin' in the wind
no sin    no ramifications
of our stepping out, stepping in
with someone who may or may not
have our best interests at heart
no tart horning in, no spin
no twisting to look thin
no morning-breath grin
and gee-willikers it's been
a mighty long time since
the lane was clear for me to pass,
keep sass, and break the fast
in the L-A-S-T gasp of a blast--
Ahem. That was it, the time we had
no alternative but had to walk past
the site, the fright of shrapnel, and we might
glaze over it's been so long
since we felt safe—
we are never safe, never safe 
never safe wind up for the throw
and place your javelin dart,
arrow, expert archery will
get you nowhere, whether or no
and I solemnly swear I will    I will
I will    I will    I will care
every time I see another news
report of the dead, stripping us bare
and elemental it’s elementary
welcome to the Twenty-First
Century where everything happens twice—
in real time and online and over
and over and over and over
it rhymes these men    these men
and boys these guns used like toys
these cries not tears of joy and when was
the last time you heard a politician
who was not a ploy? The brazen brazier
of the plain plaisir another Saturday night
and the ladies are feeling right,
the car gave us an awful fright,
the first responders are outta sight
and that is what and where and when we
must begin and end
the ever-loving better-living fight.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Poetry Jump-Starts (for my classes and whoever else needs them)

It's Wednesday, which means that Mary Biddinger is tweeting a new Summer Poetry Prompt, as she is doing every Wednesday this summer. I thought I would post the prompts I give to my FIT students here, too.

Poetry Jump-Starts
Here are some prompts to get you started on a poem! 
·      Write a poem in the voice of another person, a creature, or an object, using first person (dramatic monologue).
·      Write a letter in verse form to a famous person.
·      Write a verse letter to someone you know very well.
·      Is there a piece of art or music that you admire, or even dislike?  Write about it—describe it, but try to say something beyond the mere description.
·      Look out your window at the scene you see every day.  Observe it for some length of time.  Try to imagine you’re seeing it for the first time.  Do you see anything new?  Use your imagination.  Then write.
·      Go somewhere you’ve never been before, and write about what you see there.
·      Write about an image from a dream. Describe it as specifically as possible, just as you remember it, without interpreting or explaining it.
·      Write about a specific, detailed memory.  Using sensory detail and/or figurative language, try to “show” the significance of that memory to your reader, rather than “telling” it. (Try to use all five senses—sight, sound, smell, touch, taste)
·      Take two lines from poems by someone else.  Write one at the top of the page, and one at the bottom. Write your way from the first line to the last.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

NaPoWriMo: Lost My Mojo

This year for the first time I thought I'd try NaPoWriMo--National Poetry Writing Month, writing a poem a day and posting on my blog. That lasted until the 15th, at which time I took the weekend off (busy with kids and such) and then never got back to it. Maybe I went to too many poetry readings--this National Poetry Month was a killer! I focused too much on the online class I'm teaching now (yes, while on sabbatical) and the 3 I'll be teaching during the summer session (argh). Bobby needed attention, Stella's IEP meeting happened, and life intervened. In short, one thing led to another, I got out of the habit of lowering my standards and steeling myself to draft and post a poem every day. I kind of started to forget what it felt like.

On the plus side, I'm happy with having drafted 15 poems so far, and I think I'll try to eke out a couple more before May is upon us. Anything that gets me stringing words together is a good thing. Stay tuned, folks!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 13

Ohio Steel

     Floyd O. Lemmon 1912-1982

He didn't need college to be a success,
started in the foundry, moved up to foreman
and then got into sales, traveling with a suit and tie
a smart hat and an expense account
a crystal paperweight a medal a retirement prize

*   *   *

Started in wartime
fires kept burning
dehumidify the ore
hollow casting
war again
wartime contracts
cold war defense
mosaic of parts
and fabrications

*   *   *

He roamed the property
in search of arrowheads
protean bones and stones
fields with feed corn   seed corn
straw and hay fodder for the cows
creekbed always moving

*   *   *

When the company was sold
they moved his job to Pennsylvania
but he stayed on his land
traveling man
restaurants and homey motels
amateur shutterbug
photos and photos
a slideshow every weekend

*   *   *

Foundry Craft Grillery       historic Lebanon Steel Foundry
     sounds of metal on metal       heat of fire     dedicated workers
successful player         industries                simplicity        
old world           grilleries and butcheries
fire forged the iron and steel         past               eight foot custom wood-fired grill
 leaders and laborers           private dining space               founded City      1750s

*   *   *

Steel the company that kept him
Steel the blade that cut the lawn 
and chopped down weeds in the meadow
Steel the wheel that ground the meat for Gran's ham salad
Steel with copper bottoms the pots and pans where supper cooked
the lid rattling beef and noodles
All those dinners she had to eat alone
after he was gone

Amy Lemmon
April 13, 2016

Monday, April 11, 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 11

Signs for C. S. Lewis

It's just not that simple, Jack,
you can't pop in and out of large
furniture and expect to be transformed.
You know the grubby hub of life
(though perhaps I'm mixing you up
with Wystan) and you've known grief,
God knows, but really your life is too contained,
sequestered, for your insights to mean much
to me now. Caught as I am in this city,
rubbing hips and elbows with a variety
of my fellow humans, hustling in the bustle
grist ground in this public transport mill
the rapture surely will be televised
or at least YouTubed. Stand clear of the closing
doors, we won't be spirited away to Heaven
on holiday. Hoping that Hell has all the fire
of a defunct pizza oven. You got right
that any good intentions go to light,
any bad to dark. The problem of pain
is the fear of it, merely wise, merely human,
merely seeking the everlasting truth.

Amy Lemmon
April 11, 2016

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 6


The nights I wash my face are the good nights
when I feel pure and virtuous and calm
the children both in bed, the dishes draining
no sleeping on the couch, the teevee blaring
after an endless binge-watch marathon.
Even if I've downed a glass or two of pinot
or snuck a half-pint of Haagen-Dazs
the cleansing ritual somehow unstains me
enough like saying prayers in bed, the call
of pillows, flannel sheets and layered blankets
the lure of dreams that could bring some relief
or close encounters with my movie idol--
it's all fair game before the old alarm
wakes me, alone again, yet clean at least.

Amy Lemmon
April 6, 2016

Friday, April 01, 2016

We Don't String Popcorn Necklaces, but We Do Have Creativity Resources!

On Saturday, April 2nd, at 9am,  I'll be presenting on a panel at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference, "We Don’t String Popcorn Necklaces Here: Brain Science and Assessment Beyond Craft." 

The panel moderator, Laura Valeri, has created a Google doc with a list of resources about creativity, brain science, and more, gathered by Laura, Brendan Constantine, and me. Go here to view the document!

It's National Poetry Month--and NaPoWriMo Starts Today!

Image from
Today for the first time I'm participating in NaPoWriMo, a month-long challenge for poets to write a poem every day for the month of April (National Poetry Month). I'll be posting my daily poem here, then probably deleting it, so keep checking back if you want to see what I'm up to!

Also check out the Bloof Books blog, where Shanna Compton is posting a selection of NaPoWriMo work.

Join me, and wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Cave of Making and Making the Most of Time

I haven't been much of a blogger for a very long while, so when Superstition Review asked me to write a guest post on their blog leading up to the AWP Conference in Los Angeles, I jumped at the chance to force myself to write prose. And force myself I did, pushing past all levels of procrastination and distraction to send the post to the editor, only a few days after I had originally promised.

Cueva de las Manos, Argentina
The title comes from the phrase that started rolling around in my head while I was working on poems, and poems were working on/in me. I ended up talking a bit about my writing process and the image of the cave for creativity (borrowed, I discovered, from dear Uncle Wystan--I am on sabbatical, so I am actually writing for the first time in a very long time--and also about the panel I'm on with Laura Valeri, Brendan Constantine, D. Gilson, and Zohra Saed.
Go here to read it!

I love the image at left, which I found by Googling "cave" and "creativity." According to this article in the Smithsonian, experts now believe that most cave art was made by women, based on the measurements of the handprints and stencils like these.