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.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Are Carbon Offsets Part of the Solution? The Answer? A Qualified Yes, If You Do It Right...

Climate Change. What A Big Ugly Problem We've Got Here.

Climate change. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling it, and it's not a good feeling. I hear voices of worry from my green-minded friends. Weather disasters everywhere. Floods. Droughts. Fires. Storms. We talk about how much trouble we're in. Trouble that is now already affecting all people, everywhere, although not evenly. How some really bad things are on the horizon for all of human society. We share feelings of despair and depression about how little is being done.

The only way I know to fight feelings of despair is to get together with other like-minded people, share ideas, and see how we can together and separately take action. I always come away feeling better. Hopeful.

You can meet these people and groups in many places. I found my group in my church, South Church in Andover: South Church Green Team. Two other local churches that I know about are active: West Parish in Andover has a Green Team (West Parish Community Action). North Parish in North Andover has the Climate Justice Task Force (North Parish Climate Justice).  All three churches have large solar PV arrays generating their electric power!

Most towns have environmental or sustainability committees: North Andover Sustainability CommitteeAndover-Green-Advisory-Board

You can get involved in activism with national environmental action groups like, Sierra Club or The Nature Conservancy. You can take action by participating in political protests on the streets. Vote. Encourage your friends to vote. Always vote with climate change at the top of your list. (On that last point, I could go on with a whole discussion on why climate change is the only issue that really matters, both for your future and your kids. BTW, "your future" applies even to people in your 80's and 90's!.)

Direct action starts with our own life choices. Drive an energy efficient car. Or even better, take public transportation whenever you can. Switch to GreenUp electricity. Make efficiency upgrades or install solar panels on your home.

The Problem Of Where We Are Now

But when thinking about our life choices - what we buy and how we live - here's the problem - 

Our own actions to reduce our carbon footprints can only go so far, given that the US is an energy intensive consumer society.  Even if you personally use very little, the entire structure that supports your life in this country has a significant per-person carbon footprint. The average American adult has a carbon footprint of 16.6 metric tons. Even an adult with a very low carbon footprint is still going to have a carbon footprint in the 6 to 8 metric ton range.  (See details here:

The problem is that the safe emission level is just 0.6 metric tons per person!  (MIT study Science Daily Apr 2008),

As an American, it is almost impossible to make changes in your life to meet that level. But before you change your life, here are two big things to do first:

1. Vote with climate action as your #1 candidate priority. Political action is the only way to make large scale societal systems change. As Bill McKibben put it: "As individuals, the best action we can take is to stop acting like individuals!"
2. Don't be afraid to bring it up, when the opportunity presents itself, with family and friends. Gently, since it is often a sensitive topic politically, but some discussion is the way to make #1 above start to happen.

Now back to the few big things you can do in your life:
1. Choose the "all renewables" option from your electricity generator.
2. Go vegan or vegetarian, or eat meat less often. I started with vegan lunches for several years, before going almost all vegan (I eat eggs, and meat on holidays with family).
3. If you're buying a car, make your next car a more efficient hybrid or an electric.
4. Fly less or not at all.
But these changes would still leave most Americans far above the 0.6 metric tons per person allowance. What else can we practically do? 

How Carbon Offsets Can Make A Difference

The only solution I see in the short term is to buy carbon offsets. I've now started doing this on an annual basis. It turns out it's not that expensive. Here is how you can do it too.

Here is my research on carbon offsets. I found these reputable offset options, with links below. I'm sure there are more.

Part 1: Carbon Offsets for the Average American Family

Here are three organizations that support carbon offset investments. These organizations follow a rigorous international  standard the projects have to adhere to, as part of documenting and tracking the benefit of the offset.

I used to estimate my family's household and yearly living usage. I came up with approximately 25 metric tons. This is a good deal lower than the average American household. It's about half since we have solar panels (PV and hot water), a super insulated house (the addition is constructed with insulated concrete forms, all new windows, a high efficiency boiler), a hybrid car, etc. We don't fly much, most years not at all.

The cost to offset this carbon footprint is around $217. That's it! Even for the average American household of 4 that produces 45 or 50 metric tons, it would still only cost around $400-$450 to offset their usage. 

As a step to protecting a livable world, for ourselves and our children, this sounds like something all of us could do.

Part 2: Carbon Offsets for an Airline Flight 

If you want to just start by focusing on airline flights. Here's an example for a round trip flight from Boston to London.

The miles calculation shows that the effect of this example flight generated approximately 1.3 to 1.7 tonnes equivalent of CO2 (per person). The "tonnes" is a metric ton, 1000 KG or 2200 lbs. Some sites give slightly different numbers, but they're in the ballpark to each other.

These sites have a couple of choices for funding projects that will remove this from the air. The removal part is over time, of course, calculated by the number of tonnes of CO2 removed per project per year.  

It's actually not that expensive to offset this example flight. The choices I found are $12 to $16! The variability is due to the different projects or how the exact CO2 number is calculated.

But not very expensive!

There is talk of making every flight offset the impact. Hopefully that will happen soon.

At Cool Effect, you can type in the number to get it to calculate the offset cost. Based on hours this site calculated 1.32 tonnes for a 7 hr flight.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Word from the Corner - Poetry is my sugar - Gideon Cecil

The Word from the Corner
published on "The North Andover Poets Corner" March 17, 2019

What is your sugar? What makes your life sweet? What helps you recover from the day, the week? My favorite time for writing and reading and recovering from the week is Saturday mornings. Here's one poem that did it for me: "Poetry Is My Sugar", by Gideon Cecil. It was published in the Chachalaca Review and in the collection "Extreme: an anthology of social and environmental justice" edited by Mark Lipman. Enjoy some sweetness today. We all need it.

Poetry is my sugar
Gideon Cecil
Poetry the sugar in my
tea I drink daily
as I go
to sleep at nights
to dream of my
muses hidden
in the invisible
roof of my soul.
My muses comes
like a sudden
shower of rain
writing in the blank
pages of my immortal memory.
I drink a Shakespearean
A Dante’s Tercet,
A Homeric Ode,
A Virgil’s Epic
And a Milton’s Blank verse;
As ‘Poetry Sugar’ into my tea
that set’s my soul free
invoking my muses to
write in my fragile mind
so free.
Modern inventions
brings terror to
our souls; hatred of nations
bombing of the innocent
hacking into banks
spying us like an invisible
God in our homes.
Poetry is the sugar
In my tea
The balm of my soul
The mirror of your
Eyes that shows you the
Destiny of your life
In the garden of your

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Word from the Corner - Jean-Paul-Fozzy-Bear Sartre

The Word from the Corner
Posted on North Andover Poets Corner 01-27-2019

No poem today. Just a story, remembering a good friend.

What is Life?

I was thinking about my late friend, the philosopher Jean-Paul-Fozzy-Bear Sartre. Of course you’ve heard of him. The name just trips off the tongue – Jean-Paul-Fozzy-Bear Sartre. I remember how he pondered the deep questions of life, meaning…and leftovers.

I remember when he asked me that existential question “What are we to do if life serves us nothing but cold leftovers? How are we to respond? How are we to live?”

Well, I remember, he looked at me and said something that stuck with me - “The cold leftovers given to us by life can leave us cold and empty, or we can look at them and say, ‘Hey, how nice, someone cooked! I’ll warm it up. Those vegan meatballs look delicious. I think they’re in curry sauce.’”

Those words changed my life. So if life serves you nothing but cold leftovers, remember to keep his words in mind: “How nice, someone cooked! I’ll warm it up.” May it bring you solace.

PS It's hard to find a good picture that captures the man (or bear as some have called him) so I'm sharing two that capture the two aspects of his essence.

It Happened At The Open Mic (poem)

It Happened At The Open Mic
   Or a dip into the stream, the stream, the stream, this dream, this dream…

This –
Why are we doing?
This –
Why do we need?
Hah! Already! An old trusty trope,
Words inverted, the phrase transposed,
Improper English, to speak clearly?
This rusty old trope, how can I make you shine like new?
Oh anastrophe! Oh anaphora! Oh epistrophe!
Inversion, repetition to start, to start, and end, and end!
These are but three! So many poetic tropes, so little time!
A trope, a trope, my kingdom for a trope…
A trope, a rope, why here’s a length for you master, ‘tis enough, ‘twill serve,
You may hang yourself now, sir.

I’ll make it here to order, re-order, invert, transpose,
Transmute, translate, morphose, meta-morphose,
Transform, transfigure, transmogrify!
Generate, regenerate, make everything new,
Step into the transmogrifier, and flip the meta-switch!
Welcome to the open mic!
The poems are yours, the poems are mine,
the poems are theirs, the poems become all of ours,
All of ours to share, share, share.

What’s going on inside of you?
Crack the husk, crack the husk, reveal the tender green shoot inside.
Crack the husk? Crack the husk? 
What if it’s nothing but husk, all the way down? What then?
Has life burned you, left you roasted and charred, 
burned out and beaten, beaten, beaten?
Until you forget, forget, forget
That something is living inside
That something is growing inside
That something, that something needs
Something needs water, words of life for this tender shoot?

Why have I let it wither? Why did I forget?
Is it too late? So much drama! Inside of me? Inside of you?
Even that person who looks like nothing but husk?
Husk all the way through? You’re telling me it’s not true?
When you leave, I still want you
When I leave, can I stay with you?
Will I understand? Will I understand you?
Will you know? Will you know me? Will we know one another
A little better?

I want. I want us.
I want us all. I want us all to say
Something. Say something. I want us all to say
Something just happened. Something just happened at the open mic.
I’m sure of it. I’m sure of it. (PAUSE)
This is why. (PAUSE)
It happens at the open mic.

P.S. “How nice, someone cooked. I’ll warm it up.”

  • anastrophe. Inversion of the natural or usual word order; Paradise Lost 3.142: "Love without end, and without measure Grace"
  • anaphora. Repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginnings of successive clauses; Paradise Lost 1.242-3: "Is this the Region, this the Soil, The Clime,/ Said then the lost Arch-Angel, this the seat?"
  • epistrophe. Repetition of the same word or group of words at the ends of successive clauses; Paradise Lost 1.105-6: "What though the field be lost?/ All is not lost"

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Word from the Corner - Make the revolution by Adrian Arias

The Word from the Corner (shared on the Facebook group North Andover Poets Corner)

I'm turning into a radical. Except I haven't changed. How can both be true? I stand in the same place, and my country has moved underneath me, to a place I don't recognize. Not even halfway through January and so much to worry about!
I am enjoying the poetry collection "Extreme: an anthology of social and environmental justice", edited by Mark Lipman. Wow! It has some good stuff! Here's one (in English and Spanish) by Adrián Arias, originally from Peru, who lives and writes today in California. As another poem in this anthology says "Keep your eye on what keeps you whole". Peace. Resolve. Friendship.
Make the revolution
by Adrián Arias
Make the revolution
it is an act of faith in our form
to see to touch to smell to feel.
Today my body moves
to the rhythm of my grief
and my grief grows to become a wall
and the wall explodes in the abyss
of contradictions
and I fall I fall until I feel
that my body can rise and resist
and fight to remain
cloud bird song kiss idea
because this is how this world was built
with clouds birds songs kisses ideas
and so we will continue standing.
Hacer La Revolución
Hacer la revolución
es un acto de fe en nuestra forma
de ver tocar oler masticar sentir.
Hoy mi cuerpo se mueve
al ritmo de mi pena
y mi pena crece hasta convertirse en muralla
y la muralla explota en elabismo
de las contradicciones
y caigo caigocaigo hast sentir
que mi cuerpo se puede levantar y resistir
y luchar para seguir siendo
nube pájaro canción beso idea
porque así se construyó este mundo
con nubes pájaros conciones besos ideas
y así seguiremos de pie