a poem for every occasion

North Carolina Poetry Society’s treasurer, Bill Griffin, adds a poem to each of his financial reports. Presented at every board meeting, it serves as a reminder of a what we’re working for.

Think of how different the world would be if this was true of all kinds of communication. Every menu, all the brochures, each billboard with its own poem. Poetry at the start of every press conference and in the middle of every political debate. A poem when you go to a news site.

A noble goal.

I’ll start.

The Pinesong Awards for 2021 submission window opens November 14 and runs through January 9.

Now, may I present a poem by NCPS member and Pinesong Award winner Eric Weil:

A Confederate Time Capsule

Egyptians put treasures in pharaohs’ tombs
for their use in the afterlife, knowing

that grave robbers would likely exhume them.
When North Carolina removed its Monument

to the Confederate Dead, which had stood
on the Capitol grounds for 115 years, workers

found a time capsule inside the granite base,
a rusted cocoon without a butterfly, just

Lost Cause relics: uniform buttons, money,
newspaper clippings, and hair both human

and horse. A faction said that the statue
should be permanent, but they forget:

nothing stands forever, as wind-blown sand
will erase even the pyramids. A time capsule

argues for a briefer expectation,
that the glorious dead must someday

be allowed to let go of their defeat, releasing
their descendants from pride’s shackles.

sonnet and traditional forms judge

Pamela Johnson Parker is our judge for the Joanna Catherine Scott Award for sonnets and other traditional forms. Her poems and lyric essays have appeared in journals such as Iron Horse Literary Review, Gamut, Spaces, and Muscadine Lines: A Journal of the South. She serves as an editor of the literary magazine, Alligator Juniper.

She’s sent us the first poem in her new manuscript:

(originally published in Blue Fifth Review)

Pamela has opted to answer all five of my inquiries. Regarding the first poem she ever fell in love with, she says:

I’m pretty monogamous—the first poem I fell in love with is still a poem I love. I was eight years old, sitting in a window seat in front of a mullioned window at the Goodnight Memorial Library, when I discovered “maggie and milly and molly and may” by E. E. Cummings. Suddenly, those four little girls at the beach were me, and I was each of them. I’d never seen the ocean, but I was chased by a crab, sung to by a shell, and carried a stone home that day. It’s still an amazing poem. I’ve wanted to write poetry ever since.

This is how she describes her ideal writing day:

A fine-point pen, a sharp pencil, my journal, a never-ending cup of coffee, and my cats bookending me on the loveseat. No phone, no tv, and no computer. Bliss.

Her most fulfilling achievement:

I was awarded an Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship by the Kentucky Arts Council in 2018. That gave me more time to write.

And her favorite poet:

I love the work of Judy Jordan, for its musicality and lyricism, for its shapeliness in the way the lines turn and return on the page, and also for its subject matter. Her concern with poverty, hunger, violence, and class as part of the American experience is unparalleled in poets who are writing now. Also, her descriptions of the natural world are stellar. I could go on and on, but read her work for yourself.

Finally, how she refills the well of her creativity:

There’s a four-letter word that works for me: READ. I also combine it with a pair of two-letter words: NO TV. Eventually I’ll get bored and start writing again. I also think that it’s normal to have fallow periods, when work is gestating. I also write prose, so when I’m stuck there, I’ll read poems. When the poems aren’t coming, I’ll read essays. This has worked for me since 2009, when I finished my MFA and couldn’t write poetry for a year.