Poetry at the Post: Void and Compensation by Michael Morse

Iris persica, a bulbous iris
Iris persica, a bulbous iris

I had the good fortune last night to be at the Marfa Book Co for a reading by poet Michael Morse, which was prescient as today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a “review poem.”

Instead, of writing a review of the reading (which was terrific) or Morse’s new book Void and Compensation (Don’t you just want to read the book for its title?), I decided to assemble a modified cento poem—a poem composed entirely of the words of other authors arranged in a new form or way.

For me, Morse’s lovingly haunting lines stand as their own review.

Void and Compensation* 
                         —After Michael Morse

So you are related to the iris, in and of its family.
April, the meadowlark back on his post, 
I led wayward bees to open windows.

We had put our hearts down on paper.
Since when did keeping things to ourselves
help us to better remember them? 

void and compensation

*All lines are from Void and Compensation by Michael Morse, Canarium Books, 2015.

Poetry at the Post: Anne of Cleves Has Her Say

Anne of Cleves In Exile by Alice-Catherine Jennings

Anne of Cleves, by Hans Holbein the Younger 4th Wife of King Henry VIII
Anne of Cleves, by Hans Holbein the Younger
4th Wife of King Henry VIII

Day 26 of NaPoWriMo: Write a persona poem.

My poem is told from the point of view of Anne of Cleves, the 4th wife of Henry ViII—his wife, however, for only 6 months.    The marriage had been arranged abroad by Thomas Cromwell as, at this point, Henry was no longer thought to be “a catch” and the young eligibles were fearful of being wed to a king who had three prior wives dead—one exiled, one beheaded and one dead from childbirth fever.

Anne was brought to England from Flanders and Henry upon seeing her was dismayed by her looks. Since a commitment had been made,  the wedding went forward but, soon thereafter, Henry found a legal way out of the marriage.

Anne knew what had happened to the Queens before her so she did not object. As a consequence, she enjoyed the King’s future favor and friendship and stayed a member of the royal family as”the King’s Beloved Sister”.

I have not been well handled. I, of noble birth,
sent to this barbaric land to wed a king, one
with a small show of man, his member a wet twig
underneath white mounds of fat, gangrenous toes.

My eye that saw him did not enchant the mind.
A king who left a trail of dead wives across England

The broken bosoms that to him belong.

Yet he so calleth me the Flemish mare.
I, full and sensuous, of tawny complexion,
not full-pale like the English maids.

Trained to please, I tried to catch his passions,
his whims. In love, I was rejected, in friendship
not. Feat and affectedly in my chambers each
nigh, we sharen spit-roasted meats, black pudding

w/ ale over a match of chess. I’d harvest the most
wins or so say I until Friday twelfth night ago when
forth with I must quit with my ladies to Richmond
Castle. I did not list his double voice.

The gardens are sorrow’ winds and rains.

Note:  Quotes and certain phrases are from various Shakespearian sonnets.




Poetry at the Post: A Clerihew? Say What?

A Clerihew by Alice-Catherine Jennings

Chaucer as a pilgrim from the Ellesmere manuscript
Chaucer as a pilgrim from the Ellesmere manuscript

NaPoWriMo Day 25: Write a clerihew—a short poem consisting of rhymed, humorous quatrains involving a specific person’s name.

Ok! I’m game but today all roads lead to Chaucer as it is Day One of THE CHAUCER READING GROUP. Check it out! It’s not too late to join. It’s totally free—even the book can be downloaded for free online.

Geoffrey Chaucer
became an author
after war & prison
& his return to England 

Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer

Poetry at the Post: “I Am Walt Whitman”

I am Walt Whitman
You are an idiot.
O intellectual ingurtilations of creeds!
To such I am antiseptic.

Walt Whitman as photographed by Mathew Brady
Walt Whitman as photographed by Mathew Brady

Day 24’s  NaPoWrioMo directive is to write a parody.

Parody? I don’t know… I’m feeling a bit under the weather so all I can offer today is an “in-the-spirit” post.

Perhaps things will change as the day progresses.

Meanwhile, I’ll be in my bed reading some passages from Song of Myself. 

Have you reckoned a thousand acres much? Have you reckoned
the earth much?
Have you practiced so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems

Portrait of Whitman by Thomas Eakins, 1887–88
Portrait of Whitman by Thomas Eakins, 1887–88

PS Ingurtilations? What the heck does that mean?

Poetry at the Post: Wealth Is Power But Knowledge Is Better

After  “The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs” by Alice-Catherine Jennings 

Georges de La Tour French (1593–1652) 17th century c. 1630-34 Oil on canvas Kimball Art Museum,  Fort Worth, TX
Georges de La Tour
French (1593–1652)
17th century
c. 1630-34
Oil on canvas
Kimball Art Museum,
Fort Worth, TX

Look not upon the wine when it is red. There’s the trick of the eye, the trompe l’oeil. We think it’s one way but is it another? My eyes focus on the red of the courtesan’s hat,  then circle to the sheen of the jeweled collar, the gold threads of the young man’s cloth. How  light filters through the feathers of his headdress! Tilted. Ah! There’s the cheat dressed in yellow, the color of deceit, eyes level with the maidservant’s breasts, bared at the bodice of her crimson dress. The ruby-colored wine just poured. The glass suspended among the hands of the connivers as the cheat slips the secret card from his belt. We are complicit. We see what the young man cannot. The trick, the one played every day—the Ace of Clubs.


#NaPoWriMo Day 23: Pick a card.  

Poetry at the Post: #NaPoWriMo Day 20—Just The Facts

"Mururoa lagon" by Georges Martin - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
“Mururoa lagon” by Georges Martin – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Just the Facts (a found poem) by Alice-Catherine Jennings 

Texas changed nationality three times between 1821 and 1836.

In September 1995, the French nuclear weapon tests on the Mururoa atoll were launched.

Fairfield Porter was born in 1907 in Hubbard Woods, Illinois.

The Texas Revolution lasted only about six months. The plural of English words are generally formed by the addition of the suffix -s or –es (laws, taxes) but there are exceptions (e.g. children, halves, mice, sons-in-law, and bison).

The Worker-Peasant-Student coalition of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (COCEI) emerged in 1973 and by 1980 was strong enough to ally  itself with the Communist Party and run one of its leaders for mayor of Oaxaca’s second largest city, Juchitan.

As a young artist, Donald Judd was impressed by the paintings of Barnett Newman, Clifford Still, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock.

A book with no edition number or name on its title page is usually a first edition.

Maximilian, the only Emperor of the Second Mexican Empire,  and his wife, Carlotta, arrived in Mexico in June 1864.

Donald Judd declared in 1993, that material, space, and color were “the three main aspects of  visual art.”

Vorrei prenotare un posto sul treno delle dodici per… means I’d like to reserve a seat on the 12 0’clock train to…in Italian.

Juchitán Municipal Palace
Juchitán Municipal Palace

Poetry at the Post: Landays—The Voice of Afghan Women

How much simpler can love be?
Let’s get engaged now. Text me.

—a landay from the district of Rodar, Afghanistan, as translated by Eliza Griswwald

Afghan women at a textile factory in Kabul
Afghan women at a textile factory in Kabul

Thank you to  NAPOWRIMO for introducing me to the world of “landays’— 2-line poems,  generally rhyming, used—sometimes in secret—by the women of Afghanistan.

Looking for something interesting to do this Sunday afternoon? Then read this awesome investigative article on the landays of Afghanistan and then watch “Snake,” a 15-minute documentary by Pulitzer Center grantees Seamus Murphy and Eliza Griswold, which showcases the photography and video behind their Afghanistan landay project. You’ll be moved, delighted, saddened and sickened but ultimately inspired.

Climb to the brow of the hill and sight
where my darling’s caravan will sleep tonight.

Khogyani district, Afghanistan
Khogyani district, Afghanistan

Thinking of Afghanistan, I could not stop considering war so here is my landay with a nod to Thucydides and The History of the Peloponnesian War.  

Sixteen triremes sit in the harbor.

Men shiver. Their gums are gone. 

And, in the words of Thucycides, “So this winter ended, and so ended the fifteenth year of war.”

Poetry at the Post: The Loss of Innocence or The Trans-Pecos Pipeline


There is nothing more innocent
than the still-unformed creature I find beneath soil,
neither of us knowing what it will become
in the abundance of the planet.

Sundown Over Blue Mountain  Photo courtesy  of John M. Jennings, 2015
Sundown Over Blue Mountain
Photo courtesy of John M. Jennings, 2015

It’s Day 18 of NAPOWRIMO and today’s challenge is to write a poem of warning. It could be about something fictional, mythical, historical or real.

I decided to go for the real as there is a real threat right now to the pristine lands of the Big Bend Area of Texas—a natural gas pipeline.

Confused by the who, what, where of it all, instead of writing a poem of warning, I’ve posted some informational links about the pipeline. This is not an exhaustive list—but a start.

San Antonio Express News: Pipeline Bound for Pristine Big Bend

San Antonio Express News: Big Bend ranchers, landowners will fight planned pipeline

Houston Chronicle:Pipeline plan raises hackles in land-loving Big Bend

Marfa Public Radio: Opposition to Trans Pecos Pipeline Gets Underway in the Big Bend

Fox Business: Big Bend ranchers, landowners will fight planned natural gas pipeline to Mexico

Big Bend Now: Opposition grows to the Trans Pecos Pipeline

Texas Standard: New Border Pipeline Creates an Array of Issues

 Newswest9.com:Two Natural Gas Pipelines Headed to West Texas

Alpine Avalanche: Residents pack pipeline meeting

Midland Reporter Telegram: Big Bend pipeline proposal has residents riled up

Hudspeth County Reporter:Survey Work Begins for New Natural Gas Pipeline Through Hudspeth County

And check out the Big Bend Conservation Alliance’s FB Page for updated info.

The flip side of the conservation argument is that the pipeline will bring jobs.

“In a fact sheet issued last week, Energy Transfer said the pipeline will provide millions of dollars of financial benefits to local communities in construction jobs, goods and services and taxes.”

I’m skeptical and believe that the damage to our natural lands will be irreversible and will outweigh the financial benefits to our communities. As a consequence, I’ve signed the petition to Reject the Waha-Presidio Texas to Ojinaga-El Encino Mexico Pipeline and I hope you will too. Deadline is May 5, 2015.

mp 6

Poetry at the Post: Finding Salmon in El Centro


It’s Day 17 of NAPOWRIMO and today’s prompt is to try to write a “social media”-style poem. We were to raid FB, Twitter and blah blah blah. I started with a line from a FB post but then found inspiration reading Octavio Paz.

Finding Salmon in El Centro by Alice-Catherine Jennings

We are in the city without
four rivers, larger than three
yards square, but not endless
like a galaxy. Salmon swim

in the waters of time. We await
their arrival in streets, busses
taxis, pigeon coops, and catacombs,
in the fish markets near Merced,

where time ceases to flow
and so do the four rivers


Poetry at the Post: Terzanelle Thursday with Charles O. Hartman

Terzanelle by Charles O. Hartman

In Pandemonium the vases stand
Blue-venied as breasts, still bloomed as finger bowls,
Ready to hold the orchids of the hand.


"Blue and white vase Jingdezhen Ming Yongle 1403 1424" by World Imaging, 2009. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
“Blue and white vase Jingdezhen Ming Yongle 1403 1424” by World Imaging, 2009. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

NAPOWRIMO’s prompt for Day 16 of National Poetry Month is to write a terzanelle—a cross between a villanelle and terza rima. Think Dante on steroids. Here’s what I have so far.

—After Octavio Paz

Monkeys with red asses scream. Crackling rain,
the clumps of people and animals on the ground.
God, men and beasts eat from the same plate.

Neither here nor there through that frontier of doubt,
I am one. I am not. I walk among the images,
the clumps of people and animals on the ground.

To be continued…


Delhi, India January 2014
Delhi, India
January 2014