Saturday, October 10, 2020

Your Muse - Poem - The Word from the Corner

The Word from the Corner
There is something I really like about artists who - no matter how amazing their gifts or abilities - are most in touch with what inspires THEM. And find ways to express that. Last fall we saw Brandi Carlile at Madison Square Garden. When she took the stage with her band, she bounded to center stage in front of the cheering crowd - and before a note was played - she knelt down, facing the audience, and kissed the stage. What a beautiful act! She paid respect to the place, the history of the performers before her, the audience, to the art of performance, to the music. I have a poem in the works about that night last September (hey, what's the rush), but yesterday evening this one came to me, inspired by the same thought. To echo a great teacher, in life, may you be inspired, and be inspiring!
PS Don't forget to vote. Early voting in North Andover Oct 17th thru Oct 30th

Your Muse

I bow before no one
Though I worship the ground
On which you walk

As you step onto the stage
I will not bow
Before you

But I wish to bow
Before the god
That you bow before

Who is your god?
Who is your muse?
Let us pray

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Connected - Poem - The Word from the Corner

The Word from the Corner

posted on Facebook North Andover Poets Corner

Writing poetry is simply about paying attention. It's like praying, except you're praying to the world. Sometimes the world prays back. Here's a poem that I wrote in 2017 that got lost in my papers, and for some reason I thought about it this week. Luckily, I found it. The world prayed back.
Don't get distracted. Pay attention. We're going to need our full attention. You know what I'm talking about. Strength. Resolve. Peace.
Every pore
every cell
every breath
every heartbeat
connects me to all that is.
When I spin
is it I who turn
or is the entire world turning
around my stillness?
I am here with all my kin
only separated by this thin veil of time
only separated by this thin veil.
You touch the whole world
the whole world touches you.
You are inseparable.
You are one.
Go forth and act
knowing the power you have
--Mark Bohrer August 2017

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Introduction - The Six Grandfathers

Introduction - The Six Grandfathers

Where This Poem Started

On this Independence Day 2020, I'm thinking about what it means to be an American. Is there a way for all people who live in this country to come together on common ground?  I wanted to share a poem I wrote a few years back about Mt. Rushmore and the mountain it was carved from - The Six Grandfathers. It captures my thoughts, my hopes.

This all started many years earlier with another poem I wrote titled “Ozymandias In Reverse”. That poem told of a person traveling in the desert who came upon great carved stones lying about on the land, and a tower built of these stones. The person wondered how these great building stones and tower came to be. The poem was an attempt to take the idea of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias” and turn it on it’s head. It wondered if a great structure, rather than falling into wreck and decay with the passage of time, could somehow come into being, could come to greatness with the passage of time. 

The narrator in this poem comes to realize that the reason the great stones and tower are there may not be due the power of the hand that shaped and built them – they may only be there because everything else around them had worn away. The stones that remained had withstood the test of time.

Then I saw a beautiful picture of Mount Rushmore, a picture taken from the air, showing Washington’s face in profile. His face was like the prow of a ship, gazing out onto America. 

I had visited Mount Rushmore many decades before and had an image of the monument in my mind, but this picture struck me differently. Instead of us looking at the figures on Mount Rushmore and wondering about them, what do those figures think when they look out at this land? And then another question came to mind – what about the figures that are missing from this monument? What about those who lived on this land for millenia before the Europeans arrived?  

These great figures from our past – whether they are present in granite or in spirit – what do they see when they look out at their country, when they look at us? That’s where I started.

July 4, 2020   North Andover, Mass.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Open Mics, Climate Strike - and Great Barrier by Barbara Kingsolver

The Word from the Corner
published on North Andover Poets Corner

Go to an open mic poetry show when you have a chance. Why? Why do I go? These shows have taught me - reminded me really - of one thing. It's strange that I needed to be reminded, but I learn again that we are all feeling, thinking beings. We all have so much going on inside, all the time. 

 That's why I say there's no bad poetry, only honest or dishonest poetry. Or maybe only honest and not-fully-honest poetry. 

Great good poetry leads us to feel and think. It opens doors. It let's us step through. And we find ourselves standing in the same room as we started, but we see it for the first time. And we clearly see who and what we love. We feel and think. That's what poetry can do. 

Come out to the first Tuesday4Poetry Open Mic of the new season at the Stevens Memorial Library, this Tuesday, 7PM. Poet Blaine Hebbel from Ipswich is the feature, "Protest Poetry" is the theme. 

I went to the Climate Strike yesterday. Here's a poem by Barbara Kingsolver that speaks to the place where we find ourselves, behind a great barrier. Only Love will help us across. This is a kind of protest poem. Hope to see you Tuesday.

Great Barrier By Barbara Kingsolver The cathedral is burning. Absent flame or smoke, stained glass explodes in silence, fractal scales of angel damsel rainbow parrot. Charred beams of blackened coral lie in heaps on the sacred floor, white stones fallen from high places, spires collapsed crushing sainted turtle and gargoyle octopus. Something there is in my kind that cannot love a reef, a tundra, a plain stone breast of desert, ever quite enough. A tree perhaps, once recomposed as splendid furniture. A forest after the whole of it is planed to posts and beams and raised to a heaven of earnest construction in the name of Our Lady. All Paris stood on the bridges to watch her burning, believing a thing this old, this large and beautiful must be holy and cannot be lost. And coral temples older than Charlemagne suffocate unattended, bleach and bleed from the eye, the centered heart. Lord of leaves and fishes, lead me across this great divide. Teach me how to love the sacred places, not as one devotes to One who made me in his image and is bound to love me back. I mean as a body loves its microbial skin, the worm its nape of loam, all secret otherness forgiven. Love beyond anything I will ever make of it. (from Time Magazine, September 23, 2019)

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Word from the Corner - Summer in a Small Town - Tony Hoagland

Poetry outdoors this week! This Tuesday, we're going to be at the Stevens Estate at Osgood Hill in North Andover. The theme for this month's open mic is "Summer Stories". You can go a lot of different directions with this one. Bring one of your own or one by a favorite author. We are meeting on the lawn by the big tent at 6PM, we start at 6:30PM. Park in the lot behind the estate.

Here is a summer poem by Tony Hoagland, who passed away last year. He was a great observer, with a wry sense of humor. His poems are worth checking out.

Enjoy summer.


from "Summer in a Small Town"

This is the kind of town where the rush hour traffic halts
to let three wild turkeys cross the road,
and when the high school music teacher retires
after thirty years

the movie marquee says, “Thanks Mr. Biddleman!”
and the whole town comes to hear
the tuba solos of old students.

Summer, when the living is easy
and we store up pleasure in our bodies
like fat, like Eskimos,
for the coming season of privation.

All August the Ferris wheel will turn
in the little amusement park,
and screaming teenage girls will jump into the river
with their clothes on,
right next to the No Swimming sign.

Trying to cool the heat inside the small towns
of their bodies,
for which they have no words;
obedient to the voice inside which tells them,
“Now. Steal Pleasure.”

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Word from the Corner - 2 poems - The Path Disappears, Tell Why

The Word from the Corner

Mysterious, curious, glorious, or furious - Sometimes I know where my poems come from. Sometimes I don't. Here are two short poems that are in the second category. Two from the twilight zone. For you to consider on this mysterious summer day, a summer day like any other...
PS Don't forget, we are outdoors at Stevens Estate next Tuesday for this month's open mic! Tuesday 7/23, 6PM. See Events on FB group North Andover Poets Corner.

The path disappears
I am suddenly in fear
I am in fear
I stand here revealed
The way to safety has turned narrow
I cannot pass or fly like the sparrow
There is no path forward
The one road goes onward
Through the valley of steel knives
Cold in the hand, they greet me
The other road rises high above the valley floor
It meets a bridge high above the valley floor
Where is the path?


Tell Why
But I write it because it’s beautiful
But I write it because it hurts
But I write it because it hurts less when I do
But I write it because it’s the only way out
But I write it because it’s the only way in
But I write it because it’s the only way to know what I know
But I write it because
It’s beautiful

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Word from the Corner - Where There Were Steep Riverbanks (poem)

The Word from the Corner 
The feeling of Summer is here - a few days before it's official. These past few weeks, it's been so beautiful to be out in the day & evening, on these days before it gets too hot. Here's one that comes from South America but it felt like it came from my childhood growing up on the lakes & ponds in NW Pennsylvania. Written by Uruguayan poet Circe Maia, translated by Jesse Lee Kercheval. Enjoy summer.
PS Found this one on the Tracy K. Smith's podcast "The Slowdown". This is #136.
Where There Were Steep Riverbanks
by Circe Maia 

Once again the memory rises up
of the oar beating against the water. The river shines
and leaves tremble in the shade.

Wet hair, smiling eyes watching. Above
blue and sun and blue…watch the black
and broken tree trunks, listen to the water.

I still feel warm wood in my hand
and at every dull beat my blood makes
the oar sinks again in green cold and algae.

Like a stem, firm and green, June came rising.
There came from wind, from love
and life
red wings in flight, the days of summer.

Row, rower
and do not listen to the black
beat of the oar.

The oar strokes cut time into pieces,
equal pieces, almost clockwork
and all you think about is where each is falling,
a beat and another beat together as the day flies.

Look how the white hours grow black
and the wanting to stop them almost hurts.

Blows fall on the soul, cold and ashen,
the blows of the oar on the water.

And behind, you can see the flat surface of the river,
the face of summer, blue and smooth.
This poem was translated by Jesse Lee Kercheval.
"Where There Were Steep Riverbanks," from THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE by Circe Maia 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Word from the Corner - My First Home (poem)

The Word from the Corner
posted on Facebook North Andover Poets Corner 

Thursday before last, I got a text from Justin Smalley, Director of the North Andover HS Band:
"Last year I read a poem for the seniors titled last days. Was wondering if you had anything original that you have written that would be appropriate for the last days in the band room?"
"No, I don't", I texted back. "I could find something. Or I'll write it. :-)" He replied, "I like your last option, if you have time."

It would be for the spring concert, coming up the following week. Justin said I could have one page in the program. I had 4 days. 
So I went to work.

To get things rolling, I sent out a request to close friends, other parents with kids in band, for ideas, memories, memes. Boy, did that help. After my two kids went through the wonderful music program we have in North Andover - after many years supporting them in the North Andover Middle School and High School music programs - you have a lot of memories. I tried to distill it down. I got the theme from what I heard over and over again from the kids. Here is what came out. 

Go Scarlet Knight Marching Band!

My First Home

Dut-dut-dut-dut, I feel the beat, I hear the voice. How do I explain?

We’re the ones who put on a show – making music is our choice, our DNA –
Dut-dut-dut-dut, I feel the beat, I hear the voice. How do I explain?
We’re the ones who start a show – while lying in the dirt –
lying there on a cold wet field in a white compression shirt!

I started that first day, a little scared, when I entered that holy room.

Mr. N and Mr. I prepared us – Mr. “e” was friendly – why did I feel such doom?
I knew I could make sounds, but would I make music or just a sonic boom?
What would it be like to perform together, in this symphonic playroom?

Mr. Smalley started with “Be Inspiring”; something happened as the magic spun.

We had our roles in Brass and Reeds, in Woodwinds, Percussion and Drums.
We had our roles in Color Guard and as drum majors; we made music, we made fun.
We became more than a bunch of kids, we became a family, we joined as one.

Black socks. Cream Crew. Mr. Smalley remembers my name!

An American in Africa, Primary Colors, We The People, Checkmate!
Hey band! Hey what? Let’s sing “Hey Baby” in the pouring rain!
Bright lights. Chess pieces. The national anthem on the bus. A 93.8! That’s 93 Point 8!

We played concerts, Pep Band and Jazz Nights. We marched in town parades.

At Williamsburg and the LA Festival of Gold, we worked to make the grade.
We played for the school. We played for the town. We played for all America.
Wow, that Encore performance in Nashville! Get ready, next year, it’s Antarctica!

Off that backstage corridor, I became one of many, one of the chosen few.

In a plain room, my home away from home, something here was new.
In the band room, we made harmony rhyme.
Making art, making music, we also made family time.
At home you find your family – something happened as we rehearsed –
The band room is not my second home, I tell you, it’s my first.

by Mark Bohrer, Poet Laureate of North Andover

North Andover is the home of the Scarlet Knight Marching Band

PS One of the best things about the Spring concert night was that my son Nick read this poem from the stage at the concert that night.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Word from the Corner - Ilya Kaminsky

The Word from the Corner
posted on North Andover Poets Corner 5/19/2019

I don't write many political or protest poems, just a few. Given what's going on these days, everything I write should go that way. I've been listening to The Slowdown, a poetry podcast hosted by outgoing US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. Besides picking cool poems, she has a great voice and delivery. 

Here's one that Tracy read from earlier this year. A good poem can make you feel alive. A good poem can also make you dissatisfied with yourself. For me, this one hit on the latter. It's by Ilya Kaminsky. He came to this country from Russia in 1993 when he was 16, when his family was granted political asylum.  He now teaches creative writing at San Diego State. He has a local connection as a faculty member at The Frost Place Conference on Poetry, in Franconia, NH.

When I post a poem, I always say "Enjoy" although in this case, I'm not sure if that's the right word. But here it is.


We Lived Happily During The War

by Ilya Kaminsky

And when they bombed other people’s houses, we


but not enough, we opposed them but not

enough. I was

in my bed, around my bed America

was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house⏤

I took a chair outside and watched the sun.

In the sixth month

of a disastrous reign in the house of money

in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,

our great country of money, we (forgive us)

lived happily during the war.


"We Lived Happily During The War," from DEAF REPUBLIC by Ilya Kaminsky.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Word from the Corner - Moonset by Carl Sandburg

The Word from the Corner

published on The North Andover Poets Corner:

Not quite spring, is it? My early mornings up for work are still dark. We had a short season of mud, but now we're back to frozen ground. Which is not all bad.
A light in the darkness is a symbol of hope, even salvation, but does that mean the darkness is bad? Does the night give its own guidance?
One of my poems has this line: " if I needed the dark to see in front of me." Are there times when this is true?

Here's a poem by Carl Sandburg that somehow touches on this. It's from his collection "Cornhuskers", published in 1918.
The Tuesday4 Poetry open mic is this Tuesday! Going with these thoughts, the theme will be "Darkness, Shadow, Night". Bring a poem on this theme, or another that speaks to you. Tues 7PM at Stevens Memorial Library, North Andover.
In light or dark, may you find your way. Peace.
PS Next month is National Poetry Month. I hope you can come to our "Spring Into Poetry" event on April 26 at The Stevens Estate!

Moonset by Carl Sandburg

Leaves of poplars pick Japanese prints against the west. 
Moon sand on the canal doubles the changing pictures. 
The moon’s good-by ends pictures. 
The west is empty. All else is empty. No moon-talk at all now. 
Only dark listening to dark.