shared emotion: by Ken Gierke

thought, emotion
in a relay race
through body and mind
each lap igniting sparks
firing across synapses
spoken, unspoken

thought, emotion
facing a tsunami of
slowly seeping away
leaving behind
sodden ash

thought, emotion
in a dull glow
re-firing to
bridge a gap
commune with
the outside world

To hear the poet’s reading of the poem, click on the player below:

Ken Gierke is a retired truck driver who started writing poetry at 40 as a way to sort through his thoughts. He’s been honing his writing skills over the last 3 years at his Wordpress blog and you can find more of his work HERE.

Sonnet on Descartes’ Vinyard / Sonetto sul Vigneto di Cartesio: by Bonnie McClellan


Paesaggio trascrive in polvere il fantasma del tempo
Tratto manomesso; friabile, reticolo evidente.
Maledizione di Jahweh, o di Minerva fatidico dono
Nudo frutto d’Eden, nel lavoro ridefinito.
Asse cartesiana della mente ben ordita
Contro il caos verdeggiante; la ruota della ragione.
EGO SUM dell’uomo tirato in campo ardente
Morbida, intransigente linea infinita.

Cosa abbiamo perso in questo mondo ben composto,
Arato dalla nostra razza divisa e consapevole?
Beatitudine incolta, dura, senza nome;
Primo bacio selvaggio tra Adamo ed Eva d’ossa fine;
Frusciante betulla sbiancata, mai scritta;
Panno primale della lingua, tessuto ma ancora spiegato.

*****     *****     *****


Landscape writes out in dust the ghost of time
Well-fingered tract; friable, forceful grid.
Yahweh’s curse or Minerva’s fateful gift
Naked fruit of Eden, in labour, redefined.
Cartesian axle of the ordered mind
Brought against verdant chaos, reason’s wheel.
Man’s own I AM scratched out in burning field
Soft, intransigent infinity of line.

What have we lost in this well-structured world
Ploughed out by our sentient, divided kind?
A hard, unnamed, uncultivated bliss;
Adam and fine-boned Eve’s first savage kiss;
Clattering, chalky aspen undescribed;
Primal cloth of language, woven, yet unfurled.

Click on the player below to listen to the podcast:

Per ascoltare allo podcast in italiano, premete qui sotto:

Orphan Poetry or Paradise Lost: IV. The Vinegar Scripture

The Vinegar Scripture

I am blue in the face
words unexhaled;
sky’s edge, distant,
cracks and curls.
Ozone’s filthy fingers
ruck parched dusk.
I drink;
water and vinegar
think of Christ
Roman soldiers,
rough sponge,
cracked lip:
“E’-li, E’-li, la’-ma sa-bach’-tha-ni?”
After that
this same
amber thick, sour smell
slaps against our Savior’s sense.
Now he’s off –
Hard business for him to harrow hell;
Hard business for me,
just sitting still.

To listen to the poem, click on the player below.

Cultural Atlas: You Are This (the periphery and the centre)

“Since a map is a reduced representation of the real world, map symbols are used to represent real objects. Without symbols, we wouldn’t have maps.” – Compass Dude

map key

In my previous essay I talked about mapping the terrain, the “You Are Here” aspect of a Cultural Atlas. That, and a response to the post by Brad Frederiksen, got me thinking about another aspect of maps, the key. I have always loved those little boxes at the bottom of a map, the ones that tell you what those mysterious hieroglyphs printed across the terrain mean. Even their names are inviting, intimating the possibility of deciphering and understanding unknown territories both physical and cultural: The Map Key. The Map Legend. Without this key, the caption to the photo, a physical or cultural context, where are we? Who are we?

We all have our own cultural ‘legends’ which help us read and interpret the surrounding terrain. Often, one is unaware of what these symbols are  until we are called upon to function in a situation or a place where our internal ‘key’ is not consonant with the one in which we’re operating. These legends and keys tell us not only: ‘you are here’ when they align (or don’t) with our external circumstances; but also ‘you are this’: these recognized symbols can place us in the centre or on the periphery of nations, professions, spiritual communities, families and historical epochs.

The language in which a poem is written can place it in the realm of ‘fully accessible’ only to people who understand our cultural or even personal keys and legends. Each reader in the center or on the periphery of a language group, a professional or family environment will give a new reading, using their own symbols and associations to navigate a poem – superimposing their Map Key upon the poet’s – or they may give up, the two keys too dissonant to be reconciled.

Starting at the end of this week (Feb. 1st), IPM will be presenting poems that map territories both broad and intimate, urban and rural, topographies of nations, family relationships and internal landscapes. I invite you all to come and read, bring your keys and re-map the territory of the coming 28 days of poetry…who know’s what you’ll discover about your own territory:

You Are Here?

You Are This?

“Being in a foreign country means walking a tightrope high above the ground without the net afforded a person by the country where he has his family, colleagues, and friends, and where he can easily say what he has to say in a language he has known from childhood.” – Milan Kundera from The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Cultural Atlas: Mapping the Terrain

"You are Here" installation sculpture in cut grass at the airfield of Vespolate in Novara by Matthew Broussard
“You are Here” installation sculpture in cut grass at Novara’s Vespolate airfield by Matthew Broussard as part of the exhibition: Clicking the Territory

The time has come for the introductory essays for International Poetry Month 2013, a project I started 5 years ago in an effort to create a dynamic space for poetry around the world to be read and heard. Each year has had a theme and this year’s theme is ‘Cultural Atlas’. I admit, I stole this theme from The Sketchbook Project 2013. As I started working on my sketchbook I began to think of all of the ways this theme dovetailed nicely with what IPM is about: making cultures accessible to one another, sounding the similarities and marveling at the differences.

The photograph to your right is of an installation sculpture that my husband, Matthew Broussard, did for an exhibition called ‘Clicking the Territory’ in 2009 (the first year of IPM). It’s titled “You are Here” and is an image of the ‘clicky hand’ – that we all know and love from the virtual world – mown into the grass of Novara’s Vespolate airfield. So, you are here but where is here? Without google maps and panoramio how would you ever know how find or even be able to imagine the dirt runway and green grass of Vespolate if you’d never been there?

So, where am I? The ‘location’ box to the right of my screen says gemonio, varese italy; but I feel my internal, physical and cultural map of Texas bumping up against Gemonio’s every day. This is not a bad thing, it’s just noticeable. As a poet I appreciate the fact that it makes me think and inspires me. The interesting part is how often I need to superimpose these two maps to orient myself both internally – culturally and historically – and externally, for others who don’t have an internal map of Texas for reference.

As a Texan living in Italy, “Where are you from?” is a question I get asked a lot. It’s an easy answer; I grew up in Dallas and I have yet to meet an Italian who doesn’t know that it’s the city where either:

  1. JFK was shot, or
  2. the TV series Dallas was made.

I fall into this nebulous terrain on an Italian’s mental map, though few of them could indicate Texas on a map of the U.S. I am often, when describing where I’m from, constrained to superimpose a map of Europe over my internal map which results in comparisons like:

“Texas is about as big as France / Texas è più o meno la stessa grandezza della Francia.”

Or, time/distance equations with multiple variables:

“It takes the same amount of time to drive from Dallas to the border with Mexico as it does to drive from Liguria to Calabria / Ci vuole lo stesso tempo di guidare da Dallas al confine con il Messico, come fa a guidare dalla Liguria alla Calabria.”

The same size(mic) translation is required for my family and friends in Texas when trying to contextualize media frenzy over Italian earthquakes.

In blog land we are all in an ever evolving here, no matter how far apart we are. Here is where we begin our IPM exploration.

Where is your here? If you’ve written a poem that touches on mapping your cultural territory (interior or exterior) I’m interested in reading. Check out the submission guidelines HERE.

Stay tuned! Up next: Cultural Atlas of the Periphery and the Center…

Cultural Atlas of a Displaced Life: El Pescador / Fingerprint:Ring

Cultural Atlas of a Displaced Life: Il Pescador / Fingerprint:Ring
El Pescador/Fingerprint: Ring – a multimedia collage from “Cultural Atlas of a Displaced Life: Embroidered Errors.”

This will make more sense if you take a look at the previous pages of the Cultural Atlas of a Displaced Life: Embellished Errors

The title El Pescador is from the Mexican lotteria card (that somehow emigrated from Texas to Italy tucked between the pages of a book) included in the mixed media collage on the left hand page. Behind it is another hand print in marble dust on tissue painted round with lampblack. The hand print reaches towards a neon-pink sticker with my mother’s handwriting, towards an unreachable past from a composite future represented by El Pescador – the fisherman – who must always be anchored within in order not to be lost. Ironically, although the image is taken from my Texas cultural roots, the landscape on the card looks surprisingly like that of Lago Maggiore with the Alps in the background, a landscape I’ve addressed in two poems: Monte Rosa or the Picturesque and the Sublime, and Lombard Spring / Rondeau á Lago Maggiore.

The left hand page is connected to the right by a coat of white paint that covers (on the center left) an image of a person who has just opened a box (Pandora’s?), and is holding instructions for what to do with the contents but looks doubtful – again from IKEA. Living in a different cultural context with a different language and only the cultural map from my ‘mother-culture’ to navigate by was a bewildering sensation that I explored in Testimonio.

I found myself searching for constants, strangely comforted by being near the Mediterranean sea whose waters – in some slow, circumnavigation through white clouds and shifting currents – must have once broken on the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. Fingerprint:Ring expresses that unity through another universal language: hardware (no, not the computer kind). A pencil drawing of a hose clamp, comfortingly the same in any country, neither metric nor standard, adjustable with a flat-head screwdriver, a slender coin, or the tip of a butter knife. At the top left of the page, my pale, smeary fingerprint, an intentional error, both unique and universal.

Cultural Atlas of a Displaced Life: Embellished Errors – (Pax Texana)

Pax Texana - copyright 2012 Bonnie McClellan all rights reserved

The inside cover of my Cultural Atlas is covered with Italian shelf-paper. I used it because when I tore up the front cover, I thought that the inside should be stabilized (another embellished error). This paper is still made in this country; a lovely, heavy, egg-cream ground with black, red, dark blue, or green patterns. When I had first moved to Italy, I lived in a rural valley outside Florence; I was trading work for a place to stay with an American-Italian couple. One of the first things Adele asked me to do was strip off the old paper from her kitchen shelves and re-cover them with new paper. It marked one of my first trips into the treasure-palace that is the Italian ‘whatnot’ store. While I was living there I was in the process of a separation that turned into a divorce and a cultural shift that involved re-evaluating the (then) 38 years of my life in Texas.

The poetry/story of this can be found in my Orphan Poetry series; however, later, I also made, from the empty tissue paper ‘books’ that remain after one has used up the thin sheets of gold leaf, a series of impressions of my left hand made with white marble-dust and gum arabic. In these two ‘books’ there is one page and one hand-print for each year of my life with the year written in pencil on the bottom-left and my age on the top-right. They overlap and stick, they are messy (as my life has been) and made of the dust of rocks that were once marine fossils, our common calcite frame.

PAX TEXANA - detail (copyright 2012 Bonnie McClellan, all rights reserved)

This attempt to make peace between my Texas past and my Italian present is included in the collage on the first page of the Cultural Atlas. The envelope from the gold leaf (delivered from Italy to Texas and then repatriated when I moved here) holds the book. Above the envelope is the word PAX – which speaks to the common Roman/Latin cultural roots between the two places – from the instructions for an IKEA shelving unit – representing a more recent, consumer empire that uses those common roots to try and make clients feel ‘at home’.

sexta-feira, 20 de maio de 2011: by Angel Raiter

I am making an exception to the normal practice of IPM in which all of the text versions of the poems are deleted on March 2nd.
The following English translation of the poem was made by the poet, Angel Raiter, just two days before his untimely death on 3 February 2012  at the age of 33.
His voice will be missed.

Jesus Saves: by Adina Richman

The written version of this poem has disappeared, to listen to a reading of this poem, click on the player below:

copyright 2012 Adina Richman, all rights reserved

To hear more poems by Adina Richman, click HERE.

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