Friday, March 29, 2013

Found Friday: Jesse Parent - 'Hooked Cross'

Welcome back for another Found Friday! Hopefully you've all had a pleasant and enlightening week. If your week has been a bit of a drag, I've got a doozy of a poem that is sure to be the derriere-exploding boot you need to kick off your weekend.

If you need a bit of a refresher, Found Friday is the I, Mosaic way of bringing new and potentially obscure poetry to you, the loyal reader, because being a poet isn't just about generating's about supporting the brilliance of others too.

So to that end, I bring you a poem sure to knock you into your weekend with all the gentleness of an atom bomb. Here is "Hooked Cross" (also known as "The Swastika Poem") by Jesse Parent.

 From Jesse Parent's official website:
I have been a professional improviser since 2001, first dipping my toe into the water in 1992 while in college. I’ve also been a performance poet since 2007, when I first competed in the National Poetry Slam. On top of that, I have worked as a software engineer since 1995, which pays the bills and keeps my left brain well fed.
This poem is precisely what I love about poetry. Jesse takes something small here, the swastika, and makes it universal, writing a poem that reaches way past the item in question and addresses a bigger picture, and to shattering effect. The horror of the settings he unfolds from the swastika's perspective, contrasting the symbol's original and appropriated meanings, and the way he turns the spotlight around on the cross of Christ with that devastating gut-punch of an ending, is executed with a cleverness and conviction that hits me in all the right places. The power and emotion in his tone remind me quite a lot of Corbet Dean, another poet you will inevitably be encountering at a later point.

So what impression did this poem make on you? Love it? Hate it? Leave a response in the comments section!

And go do something fun this potentially sunny weekend. No need to be isn't winter that's coming! *ba-dum PSHH*

The Inquiry

An old poem from the perspective of Pontius Pilate, the man who sentenced Jesus Christ to crucifixion.

What fault called Barabbas from his procured vault
While flaying this other with legal assault?
What sin hidd’n within could this rabble have spied
For which this Nazarene so grotesquely died?
Why came no word to his accusers confound? –
Silent even when his blood a sea made the ground.
Never such a quandary in Rome have I seen;
Never have I held a gaze of such stellar sheen.
What was it inside me that stirred at his strength? –
Such power! Though stifled…seemingly somber at length.
Never in my multiple lustrums’ observance
Has my seat been regarded as so void of substance,
So free of performance beyond the taut strings
That seemingly brought to fruition these things.
These proceedings I ordered, the procession I sent –
What cause drove this swited scapegoat as he went?
As he staggered through the Via Dolorosa, the way,
More than just that gnarled cross upon him did lay.
What was it he bore that garnered such spite,
When every limb of the law found him naught but aright?
Did ever one such as this arise, come to preach? –
Speaking of a lone, loving god in our reach?
Oh, the thousand questions, to god, had I asked!
With what purpose was this man from Galilee tasked?
Any hope, any answer, I now only see
As a thin silhouette – Yeshua nailed to a tree.

Like Pilate, you may have some questions about the whole Easter thing. Coming up on Easter weekend, today is Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday when we collectively commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. People tend to wonder why anyone would call something so grievous 'good', and even though it has been heard before, the relevance of John 3:16 bears reiterating.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
We remember and celebrate the crucifixion because it is the point in history when God proved His love for humanity. We all have an inherent brokenness that no amount of human effort has been able to mend. Humanity has been struggling with the effects of Eden's PTSD throughout all of history, looking for happiness and fulfillment everywhere, finding it nowhere. C.S. Lewis put it well in Mere Christianity when he wrote:
All that we call human history--money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery--[is] the long terribly story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
Can anyone really deny humanity's brokenness? There is something askew in our wiring, and it is not within our power to fix. If it were, we would have done so by now. The fact that we continue to repeat the same troubles and damages throughout all of recorded history proves that this problem is beyond us. Meditation is a booboo-kiss, religion is a band-aid, even humanitarianism in all its beneficence does not fill the God-shaped fragment missing from our construct. Humanity is broken, and no, that is not something we were ever meant to accept. When is settling for less ever a good thing? We were meant for more than...all this.

Thankfully, the God who made humanity loved us too much to leave us in our brokenness, doomed to eternity divided from Him and all He is (life, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness, love, energy, blessing, goodness, justice, mercy...). Thankfully, the one who has the power to fix our brokenness - our sin - began and ended that redemptive process with the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

In Golgotha's bloody display, God denounced every thought and rumor of a distant, uncaring creator.
In the crucifixion, God brought Himself to a human level so He could bring humanity to a Godly level.
In the figure of Jesus, God took our brokenness to the grave, returning three days later with victory, renewal and perfection for those who choose to accept it.
God died temporarily so that we would live eternally.

This is the purpose of Good Friday, and precisely why it is indeed very 'good'.

Please, think on these things. If you feel even the slightest twinge of curiosity, inclination or even indignation after reading this, contact me in whatever form you choose. Comment, Facebook, email...have at it. The Christ's offer is as open to you now as it was when He spoke it:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Big Poetry Giveaway 2013

We're only a few days away from the beginning of NaPoWriMo, and I just found something that makes it truly worth celebrating (well...aside from the Fort Knox-ian wealth of poetry we're all on the cusp of...obviously.).

Susan Rich and Kelli Russell Agodon are heading up this giveaway that I am particularly thrilled about and excited to take part in. The Big Poetry Giveaway 2013 is essentially a chance for you, the reader, to stock up on some fantastic books of poetry while I, the blogger, get to give away fantastic books of poetry (and possibly acquire some myself in the process).

Read here for all the details, but what it boils down to is each participating blogger will give away two books of poetry to two lucky readerse once NaPoWriMo is completed, so at the beginning of May. The cool thing for me is that one of the two books can be your own book of poetry, and as I just so conveniently have one (Ars Golgothica: A Collection of Poems), this is quite the lovely opportunity for me, and for you, dear reader!

So, what will I be giving away?

Book one: Ars Golgothica, my aforementioned book of poetry, a collection long in the making and one I am particularly proud of.
Book two: Sunrise O'clock by Hillary Kobernick. Her poetry is like worship drifting from the whorled mouths of nature, transcendental and reverent, spirited and wise, like Hypatia taking communion. In other words, her writing is awesome, and you should want this book much more than mine.

The way to enter yourself is to comment on this post with your name and email address at some point throughout NaPoWriMo. It will be a random draw at the end of the month, one of the two books to two lucky readers who have commented here.

So, stick around throughout April! And don't just hover around my blog, there are a nice handful of other bloggers participating as well. If you're the luckiest person on the planet, that could mean about 12-15 books of poetry coming your way! You'll never know unless you enter...

Soli Deo Excelsior!

The Sign in Your Hand ≠ The Cross on Your Necklace

It's sad how the Gospel of love,
coming out of the wrong mouth,
can land on the ear
with all the love of a racial slur.

Would you mind closing your mouth?
There is no redemptive Saviour in your speech.
Your tongue has forgotten the taste of Golgotha's wine,
communing instead with acid and bile.

Please, refamiliarize yourself
with the face of the one you represent.
So long you've served a caricature of the Christ
tucked beneath your eyelids,

I wonder if you would actually recognize Him
if you opened your eyes and looked.

There is no ground for the leather-bound bludgeoning
you give those most in need of their Saviour.
The only thing Christ told you to do is love.
Love your God
and love your neighbor.
Love your neighbor
and trust their salvation to God,
remembering that love
is what cracked wide the stony tomb,
shaped stone into Edenic flesh.
No heart is too petrified for love, so love.
Love with the love that saw Christ turn away crowds
with stones in hands and adultery in mind.
Love with the love that made a banquet out of a basket;
give all that God has given you and know that
He is capable and willing to provide the rest.

Your God is love.
Please...prove it.
There is a world looking desperately for reasons
to refuse the offer of Heaven.
Do not be one of them.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

'The Lover's Return' Published in Tales of the Talisman

It dawns on me that, in all of last autumn's holiday-straddling haste, I never took the opportunity to announce the publication of my poem "The Lover's Return" in Tales of the Talisman, Volume 8, Issue 2.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon has posted a thoughtful review of the release at his blog, commenting on my poem in particular saying:
...despite its obvious imperfections in rhyme and meter, [The Lover's Return] still managed to move me with its macabre tale of love zombified.
As I try to write through my still-thrilled publication-high, I encourage you to pick up a copy of this issue. Not just for my poem (which is obviously hair-raising), but for the entire product. There is some fantastic literature here, especially if you have a proclivity toward speculative sci-fi and horror.

I am honored to have had one of my absolute favorite poems published by Tales of the Talisman, and I'm sure, if you have enjoyed my writing in any capacity, you will surely enjoy the clanking and gibbering tales you'll find nestled betwixt the publication's pages.

You can buy a physical copy here, as well as an e-book version here.

All My Friends Will Be There...

"He loved to pronounce a curse-- may it come back on him.
He found no pleasure in blessing-- may it be far from him," (Psalm 109:17).

Those who want nothing to do with God in life certainly would not expect to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. You wouldn't want to be there, so you won't be. You'll go somewhere else. Just keep in mind that everything good is in the God you have refused, and this other place is complete division from Him - from everything good. It is Hell for a reason. God won't be there, thus no light, no life, no air, no water - the source of all that is good will be at the party whose invitation you declined.

Do not let yourself be convinced of an uproarious, jubilant afterlife away from God, surrounded by friends who equally spurned the Gospel in life. Hell is for those who did not want to spend their eternity with God, but the alternative is not what the world would have you believe. There will be no liberty or friendship in Hell; those are characteristics of God. Suffering, no matter how many may endure it, is an entirely isolated condition, and you will be alone in it.

Do not let this eternity befall you.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Song of Erebor

Sing with me of Erebor,
the kingdom 'neath the lonely mount,
the falls, the dark and glistering halls
where Thrór sat paramount.

Sing with me of Erebor,
the stronghold hewn in green and gold,
Durin's keep, where riches sleep,
magnificent and cold.

Sing with me of Erebor,
the plunder clutched by blood-red claw
when strew Smaug a seething fog
from twixt his dripping maw.

Sing with me of Erebor,
the mithril splendour of that home
unforgot but ever-sought
while khazâd wend and roam.

'til we claim it back from flame,
ever will we roam.

Monday, March 25, 2013

One Week to NaPoWriMo 2013!

By some time-bending alchemy, we are coming up on April again, and that means it's almost NaPoWriMo time (National Poetry Writing Month)! It feels like I just got done with last year's thirty-day writing challenge and here we are again, but that's a feeling threaded through all of my life lately. Time is passing faster, with or without our acknowledgement. Anyone else feel like they're stuck in a Futurama episode?

But yeah, NaPoWriMo! If that odd concoction of syllables doesn't mean anything to you, let me give you a bit of a refresher.

From the NaPoWriMo hub:
NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month, is an annual project in which participating poets attempt to write a poem a day for the month of April.
NaPoWriMo was founded in 2003, when poet Maureen Thorson decided to take up the challenge (modeled after NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month), and challenged other poets to join her. Since then, the number of participants has gotten larger every year, and many writers’ organizations, local, national and even international, organize NaPoWriMo activities.
Thirty poems in thirty days may seem a daunting obelisk to surmount, but, as I told a close friend recently, it isn't about creating masterpieces. NaPoWriMo is, more than anything, an opportunity to jump-start your creativity and force your brain into a "feed off anything" mentality. It is great for anyone who would like to write more but never can get in the "right place" to do so.

If you have been trying to find an excuse to write some poetry, or are just curious what that magical space where your brain and imagination collide is capable of, I encourage you to take up the challenge. There are currently 190+ blogs, deviantArt accounts and Facebook pages committing to the challenge, and that number will only increase as the days to day one count down.

So, if you want to write some poetry, or just want to sit back and absorb the participants' collective juices like Philip J. Fry with a barrel full of Slurm (I'm really stuck on Futurama today, aren't I?), I strongly encourage you to stay tuned to NaPoWriMo this April. Find some blogs to follow, or create one yourself and get ready to press those mindgrapes.

Poetic brain-wine is the best, we can all agree.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Poetry Experience

About a month ago I read a poem at my first open mic. I would have been glad to have read under any circumstances, but this particular night was so ideal I wonder if I'm secretly dreaming in some goo-bath matrix.

The open mic was part of a feature for Andrea Gibson. If that name doesn't trigger something in you, I recommend this and this immediately.

I had spent a good week beforehand preparing my poem 'A Letter to the Dance Pole' for performance, and my memorization paid off. After a slew of quality readings by other poets, I read my poem in an experience I only wish had been recorded in some way. Performing without slip-up or error, I left the stage elated and exhilarated, a feeling magnified by Andrea Gibson's encouragements afterward. The fact that my debut reading was in the presence of a poet whose work has contributed so much to the shaping and maturation of my own voice was unbelievable.

Needless to say, I've been itching to perform again. Which brings me to my question of the day: how do you prefer to receive poetry? Are you taken with spoken word, or do you stick with written poetry? Studio-recorded audio? Live performances on YouTube?

What is your ideal poetry experience?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Found Friday: Taylor Mali - 'What Teachers Make'

I'm starting something new here on I, Mosaic. Starting today, every Friday is going to be 'Found Friday', where I pull something poetically awesome from the world of the interwebz and share it with you, my loyal and verse-hungry readers. I can't promise it will all be new to all of you, but maybe at least some of it will be new to some of you...and that's not bad.

So, first up for the first official I, Mosaic Found Friday... "What Teachers Make" by Taylor Mali.


From his official bio:
New York City native Taylor Mali is one of the most well known poets to have emerged from the poetry slam movement. His life, words and mission speak of inclusion, not exclusion, which makes him an unexpected force among dissimilar wordsmiths.

After nine years of teaching in a regular classroom, Mali sought out a larger one, and he has performed and lectured globally ever since. Still a staunch supporter of educators and the art of teaching, Mali’s New Teacher Project has a goal of attracting 1,000 new people to the field of education through “poetry, persuasion, and perseverance.”

He is the author of two books of poetry, The Last Time As We Are (Write Bloody Books 2009) and What Learning Leaves (Hanover 2002), and four CDs of spoken word.

A past president of the nonprofit Poetry Slam, Inc., Taylor is one of the fortunate ones who make his living as a spoken-word and voiceover artist. He has also narrated several books on tape, including The Great Fire (for which he won the Golden Earphones Award for children’s narration).
This is one of my favorite poets doing what he does best: speaking truth to and about those who desperately require it. This poem grabs me every time I listen to it, and the revealing light it casts on both the realistic function and nonappreciation of teachers in our country is staggering. You probably thought of one or two of your own teachers while watching this, didn't you? I know I did.

Have a great Friday, everyone! If you happen to be a student, give your teacher/professor/instructor your best. They probably appreciate your efforts more than you'll ever know.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

World Poetry Day

It's World Poetry Day today! So, for those of you without the time to curl up with a nice volume of poems, or not able to stick some Indiefeed Performance Poetry podcasts in your ear-holes, let me leave you with a few lines to nest amongst your gray matter.

The pen longs to waltz

across the blue-veined ivory,
scuff its inky soles in struts

unlike any ere or after.

The pen longs to waltz
with vagabond digits

holding it like a trysted lover,

their tales wholly their own,
the synapses leaking down your limbs.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

For K.

Michelangelo, picking imperfections
from the
Pietà's lauded robes.
Da Vinci, grieving unseeable sins
in the strokes of his Last Supper.
Raphael, combing the Christ's contours
in singular displeasure.
Like any masterpiece, the reflection
bears no cruelty like its own,
possessing eye.

You saw age drag its talons
through the snow of your countenance,
convinced vampiric tendrils
were siphoning the spirit
from cheeks like supple peaches.
You felt coarse and brittle qualities
in those falls of raven silk,
locks whose softness yet lulls
my swimming fingers.

You saw skin robbed of its luster,
swore the sun had set on you
as if the star's blazing sway
was never followed by the moon's.
I won't negate your sorrows, but
trust, love, that your loveliness
exists deeper than the stained glass
of your swathing.

You are light shining through a kaleidoscope,
the sun dressed in marbles,
beauty made all the more so
by the brilliance illuming your universe.
You are bloody-Bathory lovely,
a beauty immune to time's gravity
shining from neath crimson makeup,
told by the cold, bemused mirror
in radiance and lust.