Tag Archives: Poetry

Dr. Kenneth Pobo’s Loplop in a Red City Engages Audience at Widener University

For those who have an appreciation for the arts, it can often be hard to choose just one form, let alone one single work of art to showcase. The world of artist expression is vast and constantly changing. Fortunately, we do not have to choose. We can praise all art and even weave it together as our own, which Widener professor, Dr. Kenneth Pobo demonstrates in his newest book, Loplop in a Red City.

Released on May 15, Loplop in a Red City is a collection of ekphrastic poetry inspired by artworks old and new, figurative to abstract, Vincent Van Gogh to Leonora Carrington to Max Ernst. The poems are agonized and idyllic, uneasily at home in the surreal, animated, beautiful, and complex.

A large group of students, fellow faculty, and more gathered in the Widener University Art Gallery on October 5 to hear Pobo read from this book of ekphrastic poetry. Anybody who has ever heard Pobo read poetry before can agree there was a draw to be in that room and share in the experience.

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Dr. Kenneth Pobo shares his latest ekphrastic poetry at the Widener University Art Gallery

In Dr. Michael Cocchiarale’s introduction, he mentioned that Pobo became interested in poetry through a love of music. How fitting that someone so impacted by writing would also be impacted by music, painting, and any other artform. When one person has such a passion for art, it can become contagious and that is what happened that day at the reading. By the time Pobo got to the poem “Georgia O’Keefe’s Flowers”, his audience was so engrossed that most of us felt we were indeed collapsing into this magnificent flower that he described

I think a good way to sum up the theme of the experience is with Pobo’s response to the question, “What is your favorite painting?” After some thought, he simply said, “I don’t know.” I think for any true artist that is the only answer. Art can affect all different parts of us and for all different reasons. Though we might be driven, for a moment, to appreciate one work of art above others, the nature of art makes it impossible for any one piece to stand alone as the best.

Loplop in a Red City is published by Circling Rivers and is available for purchase on Amazon.

by Nicole Gray

The National Book Awards Longlists Have Been Announced For 2017

Earlier this week, the National Book Foundation announced the poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and young people’s literature longlists for the 2017 National Book Awards.

Since 1950, the National Book Awards and the National Book Foundation have made it their mission to “celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America.” As a nonprofit organization, the National Book Foundation hopes to “raise the cultural appreciation of great writing” through these annual awards.

Each year a panel of esteemed judges read hundreds of published submissions before assembling a longlist of ten titles for each category. These longlists are then narrowed down to five finalists before a single winner is chosen.

This year’s longlists feature a variety of writers including Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Egan, 2011 National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward, and five-time nominee Frank Bidart as well as numerous first-time longlisted authors and debut collections. Women prove to be a dominate force in the categories of Young People’s Literature and Fiction, while the topics of race and politics set the tone for the nonfiction contenders.

The finalists in each category will be announced on Oct. 4. The winners will be announced following a ceremony in New York on Nov. 15.

If you’re looking for some new reading material, click here and check out the longlists for the 2017 National Book Awards!

Issue 18 is live!

Hi everyone! Please check out Issue 18 of our magazine featuring a variety of great pieces!

Thank you to everyone who submitted and contributed.

Enjoy!

 

Meet Local Writers: Dr. Kenneth Pobo

As part of a blog initiative started by this year’s FUSE conference on literary citizenship, The Blue Route is beginning a series of short author interviews with local writers. Our first interview begins as local as we can get, with Widener University’s own Dr. Pobo!

pobo

Dr. Kenneth Pobo is not only an English and Creative Writing professor at Widener University—he’s our self-proclaimed poet-in-residence! After receiving his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Pobo taught at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville before joining the Widener faculty in 1987.

Throughout his career, Pobo has published more than 25 books of poetry and short fiction in addition to countless poems and flash fiction pieces in literary journals and magazines such as Indiana Review, Mudfish, The Cider Press Review, The Fiddlehead, and Hawaii Review. In 2008, Pobo published Glass Garden with Wordtech Press followed by When The Light Turns Green with West Chester: Spruce Alley Press in 2014, and Bend of Quiet with San Francisco: Spruce Alley Press in 2015. He is the winner of the 2009 Main Street Rag Poetry Chapbook Contest, the 2011 Qarrtsiluni Poetry Chapbook Contest, and the 2013 Eastern Point Press Chapbook Award for his manuscript Dust And Chrysanthemums from Grey Borders Press, and has a new book of ekphrastic poems coming out in 2017 called Loplop in a Red City, from Circling Rivers Press.

Though he is not fond of machines, Pobo notes that he usually writes on the computer, finding it enhances his process. Some subjects are often present: the garden, music, environmental and human rights issues, particularly LGBTQ rights, his past, and art. “Inspiration for me is getting my butt in the chair—something will happen. I rarely have writer’s block, unless I’m just too tired from the day to focus,” he said.

Currently, Dr. Pobo is working on a few manuscripts, one of which, Sore Points, began as an exercise in one of his creative writing classes. In addition, he is revising Loplop in a Red City. “It may be a common misconception that once a book is accepted, the revision process is over, [but] this is not the case,” Pobo said. “Often, the most demanding revision occurs after acceptance.”

To creative writers struggling to find their voice Dr. Pobo emphasizes the importance of reading. “READ,” Pobo said. “Read for improving your thinking process. Read writers who can be guides for your own work, but not only them.” He also urges “to keep writing and don’t get discouraged. Don’t let the voices that say ‘There are many writers who are much better than I am’ block you. You have observations and things that need to be said—and only you can say them.”

A perfect Sunday afternoon for Dr. Pobo involves getting muddy in the garden and topping it off with Widecast Internet music show, Obscure Oldies. His favorite song of all time is “12:30 (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon)” by The Mamas & The Papas released in 1967, however, he recently bought Micheal Bublé’s Nobody But Me. Dr. Pobo is also a tie-dye enthusiast and on the matter says, “I love color and I want color to slide all over me. Clothes should dream in color. No more coffin-esque flat colors afraid of their own energy.”

Learn more about Dr. Pobo’s work on the Widener English blog.

Written by Emma Irving.

(Image courtesy of Painters and Poets)

Forget the Hard Stuff: This is Why You Should Fall in Love with Poetry

And, more importantly, fall in love with your own poetry. Forget what your English and Creative Writing professors have taught you. (I know they’re reading this, and I’m sorry, but do it.) Learn how to write for you.

Hi, me again. The obnoxious blogger who reminded you why Percy Shelley was still relevant.  Today I’m reminding you why you should want to write poetry. Here’s the simple answer: it’s FUN.

Here’s the long answer:

Of course writing for classes and publication are different than what I’m talking about here, but remember that poetry should be an exploration. Play with form. Play with sound. Play with images. Poetry is great in its very few rules, and, when you are writing solely for your own enjoyment, those rules don’t exist at all.

I’m not talking about writing sappy love poems after you share a first kiss with someone—though absolutely write those too. I’m talking about putting one word after another just to see what happens. So many students seem to forget what makes poetry so exciting. It’s discovering what you can create with words and images. Poetry is fun because it’s short—you can write a poem in two minutes, if you must—but also because it’s so sound-oriented.

Play with words! Make them your own. You never have to show anyone. Play with rhyme scheme and meter. Do it on your own time. Don’t worry about your class assignments. It is so vital for writing majors to practice the art of writing for the sound of it. Listen to the way the words move. Feel the way they move you.

Let’s apply this to (of course), an old dead poet. My favorite. Langston Hughes.

In case you haven’t read it (though what English major hasn’t?), here it is.

The instructor said,

Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York too.) Me—who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me NOT like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

Forgetting content for a minute—which is incredible in and of itself—let’s look at what makes this a fun read. The first amazing thing about this poem is how natural it sounds—it sounds like conscious thought. The second awesome thing is the rhyme scheme that totally is intentional but totally doesn’t sound intentional. Cool, right?

But writing polished poetry with an important message and cool internal rhyme and proper metre and all these other things does take time, and it can become more cumbersome. Less about the fun. So let’s look at another poem.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought–
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

‘And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Lewis Carroll’s Jaberwocky is a great example of stretching language to find something new. Carroll is the only one to ever use some of these words, and the poem is fun to read.

Be brave; try new things. Push words around on a page. Speak out loud to yourself. Though something good may come of it, know that you can always write something else later. Poetry for a grade is good, but poetry for yourself, and for the enriching and benefiting of your own mind, can sometimes prove more fruitful in the long run. Remember that poetry shouldn’t be a chore, but something you want to pursue! Remember that you can write poetry for you!

That rhymed. Guess I’m a poet too!

 

 

Why English and Creative Writing Majors Should Acquaint Themselves with Percy Shelley

Here’s the simple answer: Shelley wants to make you cool again.

Picture from poets.org

Picture from poets.org

Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote, among other profound and fantastic things, “A Defense of Poetry.” If you never read a single thing by Shelley after this, it would be your loss, but not the end of the world. Ignoring “A Defense of Poetry” as an English kid should make you question your identity.

Shelley believes that poets are like philosophers, and that they should hold power in society. “Poets, or those who imagine and express this indestructible order, are not only the authors of language and of music, of the dance and architecture and statuary and painting: they are the institutors of laws, and the founders of civil society.” Poets, according to Shelley, “essentially comprises and unites both” the legislators and prophets of the world. How do they do it? “In the infancy of society every author is necessarily a poet, because language itself is poetry; and to be a poet is to apprehend the true and the beautiful.”

Shelley said that people who read poetry “open themselves to receive the wisdom which is mingled with its delight.” When a poem is good, the reader feels like he or she has gained a token of wisdom, which in turn causes the reader to feel pleasure. (For other writing on the power of good poems, “The Limits of Indeterminacy: A Defense of Less Difficult Poems” by Charles Harper Webb is an excellent resource.) Granted, this is not the only way to read poetry; people read poetry for sound, for pleasure, etc. But when people gain something from the poem—when the kicker hits a reader at the end—that moment is so much more likely to be pleasurable for that reader. This is what makes poets so great: They can teach in the best way, for “Poetry is ever accompanied with pleasure.”

Shelley goes on to say that “Poetry, in a general sense, may be defined to be ‘the expression of the imagination.’” Poetry, then, “is connate with the origin of man.” The use of the word connate here is essential; it means that poetry is innate. It also means that poetry has grown out of man, from pieces into a whole form. Shelley describes the ways in which early language played with poetry in sounds and words. Grammar came next in the building of language, followed by form. “Every original language near to its source is in itself the chaos of a cyclic poem: the…distinctions of grammar are the words of a later age, and are merely the catalogue and the form of the creations of poetry.”

So according to Shelley, poets are the greatest teachers we have. They are the best resource to understanding life and love and everything right and wrong with the world. And unlike others of his time, Shelley is willing to open up his definition of poetry. “Yet it is by no means essential that a poet should accommodate his language to [this] traditional form…The practice is indeed convenient and popular, and to be preferred…but every great poet must inevitably innovate upon the example of his predecessors in the exact structure of his peculiar versification.” Listen, creative writing majors of all genres: “The distinction between poets and prose writers is a vulgar error.” Is not a prose writer also expected to choose the best possible word to be used in the best possible place? Some may debate on this, however, ultimately the writers of prose will certainly argue that they’ve written the best piece they could. “The parts of a composition may be poetical, without the composition as a while being a poem.”

Shelley expands on this idea further by saying that “A single sentence may be considered as a whole though it be found in a series of unassimilated portions; a single word even may be a spark of inextinguishable thought.” Some writing is so powerful that it may stand alone, though it is only a few words out of a larger text. In other instances, Ezra Pound’s “In A Station of The Metro” is a mere two lines, but the words stick. Haikus are seventeen syllables total—but we all classify that as poetry.

Why defend poetry? “A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth.” Poets are commentators on our world. Listen to them, for they exist to guide us down the path of moral good. Listen to them; let them pump magic through the veins of our imagination. Listen to poets who lift “the veil from the hidden beauty of the world.” Let them make “familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.” Listen to them as they play with sound and mind and soul.

Listen to us.

By Kelsey Styles