National Poetry Month 2023

I usually do something to mark National Poetry Month, so here we go again.

In the 2021 edition, we talked about form, structure and experimental works. While that post didn’t share any examples, I did recommend a number of poets whose work I was reading at the time. The post prior to that I shared some of my poems, and wrote about which of my influences or life experiences led to the inspiration to create them. One of those posts was before my first collection was published, and for this blog I’ll try for a bit of both approaches with some examples from Counterfeit Collective. So, to start off, here is “New Words” inspired by a Robert Frost poem, but contemplating what happens when an idea inspired by an old poem takes a new form and collides with technology.


A poet once walked by a place

and noticed windblown papers

from days past piling up outside.

He knew he must have read some

of the words they contained

on other days in another place,

but he also recalled the days

he had missed the paper,

only talked about the weather

or by chance hadn’t seen

another living soul.

Nowadays when I read the poem,

I wonder, where do the new words go

when our will-o’-the-wisp gazes

scroll past them on whatever device

we have handy while we wander

our attention past

everything around us,

fast becoming relics of an age

we can’t see passing until it’s gone…

There is no corner of the Internet

where all the news articles and

blogs, editorials and advertisements

can be blown by the wind into

piles of memories waiting to be

clipped or recycled

The most commented upon comment

or retweeted tweets are as

ephemeral as any other that

were never liked or shared

Where do any of them go

when we power off the PC

or drop our phones

or find the host has vanished?

Perhaps now they have come full circle;

they were all always just words on a page,

but now that pages are not necessarily things

we can hold in our hands, but ideas

that require other ideas to access,

we may be right back where we started.

Needing scribes and translators

just to scribe and translate

what everyone was thinking and saying

on these virtual platforms

that will inevitably really crumble

as stone tablets did before them.

With all these ideas that need

other ideas just to be able to

parse the data and cast these

hieroglyphs onto our screens,

how theoretical are we becoming?

All those words on stone

that could be deciphered

were dutifully translated

and discussed on paper.

Now everything on paper

is being translated into

the matrix where everything

we know is electrified

Our new words

will need new scribes,

new archaeologists,

to carefully sweep away

the dust of code and formats

caked over digital fossils

and the scrawls of sentience.

I hope it’s as messy

and haphazard as the last

few leaps of evolution…

Even if only virtually so.


It is a little ironic that this poem is available only in the ebook format in Counterfeit Collective, and you literally cannot access it without an e-reader! If that collection ever sees print, it will be the first time this poem ever appears on a printed page. The formatting looks a bit off in this block quote, but the words are the words. “The scrawls of sentience” is one of my favorite bits in that one, but there was a lot of good wordplay in the piece.

For a more spare idea, here is one poem that came from a challenge I made up one day. It’s called “threes” and that was the challenge idea. Three words. Three lines. Three stanzas. Take that as your structure and try to paint a picture. It can be about anything, but those were the rules, so this is what I came up with on that day:


A longing gaze,

looking to nowhere

often these days


what minds wander

why wonders mind

where none ponder


They aren’t real–

things we want

We are real.


That one reminds me of e.e. cummings. It can’t elaborate beyond the third word, so it naturally is a little limited in what it can convey. It is still possible to create a scene and make us think though, so that one actually made it into the collection.


To keep to that theme of “threes”, here is one last example. My editor liked the title of “sCrying” so at least one person is fond of my puns.


You don’t know where it started

and you don’t know where it’s going

but the genies are out of the bottle,

the rumor mill has disincorporated

and our social lives are evaporating

into a kaleidoscope of mirrors.

Back in the day we had to show up,

find the most happening place,

work the room, show some grace.

Now there is no room, it’s nonstop

from every angle in cyberspace

that magic once reserved for cinema

scattered everywhere.

We don’t know where it’s going

and we don’t know if it can be stopped

All the world’s a stage, it was said

when plays required you to attend.

Now illusions sustain themselves,

with every hack at the helm

and every actor in the lead.

If the sage of his fabled cave,

or the bard with his vaunted quill

could see the Paragon of Animals

vie to go viral in an outbreak,

sharing his licking the toilet seat

with the world watching the world

wondering what will break the spell…

But we don’t know where it’s going

and they don’t know if it can be stopped.

That one also was pondering technology and its impact on us and our society. It an illuminate, or obfuscate. It creates more stages for presentations of anything at all, which can lead to more opportunities for connection, or it can be fragmented and awkward in a dozen ways on myriad platforms. Recently, I found out that this website and all my posts were part of training an AI, which was not something I opted in to do. In the future, if we set things up correctly to opt out of such things, that only works on ethical participants in this world wide web. Any of the probably many, many unethical operations will likely still scrape the site and take my words and the words of any other website, blog, forum, or other social media to instruct their budding artificial intelligences no matter what any of us might think about that. We need to set some standards to discourage that kind of thing.

The other day, I saw a campaign announcement video. Someone in the media commented that it seemed to them to be the first such campaign video aimed directly at the “Tik-Tok generation” in its editing. It was very fast moving, with lots of different footage from various scenes, so I can see where they are coming from in that description. And then, their political opposition released a response video…featuring mainly AI generated video. I’m not going to get into their content, or who I endorse, or anything like that…but I will say that Tik Tok itself and some of the trends and things that did go viral was what inspired “sCrying” among a couple other poems.

These technologies are amazing, and how we use them is very telling. It’s like the light and dark sides of the Force. One is using words and images to inspire connection, creativity and encourage others to get involved, either in the cause, or to create things as well. That’s where the poetry is. The other side is using AI to do your homework for you. Or write your song, or generate video for your commercial so you don’t have to. The quick and easy path to the Dark Side,  is using this tech to stifle creativity, to avoid paying artists, cinematographers, editors, to discourage connections by generating dystopian imagery to fill the viewers with fear, anger, and hate. It’s damned easy to tell which is which.

I hope you have read some great poetry in this National Poetry Month. I know I’ve seen a lot shared in different places on social media and in forums. Some of the poets I’ve been reading this year include Leonard Cohen, e.e. cummings, (as always!) Langston Hughes, Edward Arlington Robinson, Herman Hesse (a favorite novelist) and many others. See my previous posts for those I’ve read and recommended. Go write some yourselves!

National Poetry Month 2021 Edition

“Truth is like poetry…and most people fucking hate poetry.”

–Overheard in a Washington, D.C. bar


The above quote was the tagline of a meme I saw online and it made me laugh. It has also been said that “even poets hate poetry”. I don’t know who said either of these things, but they make a point. Like Captain America exclaiming “Language!” to admonish a team mate’s choice of words, we are all always editing what we are hearing or reading. We might fixate on a word or turn of phrase that is problematic for us and miss a point that we might not grasp at first glance, but might come to better understand later if we reread the piece, or talk about that topic again.

These statements can’t be literally true, of course. Take song lyrics for example. Songs are simplified poems, and vocal music is hugely popular and influential in every culture. Songs that resonate with people express things that many of us can relate to. So while poetry as a genre in publishing these days may be a niche market, it is still poetic language that drives a lot of what defines our popular culture. Everything from songs by our favorite musicians, the jingles that are still apparently a thing in advertising, great dialogue in movies and television, rhetoric in speeches that are aimed for mass appeal, they all take something from poets. Rhymes, alliteration, similes, the mechanics of the language in these compositions or productions are poetic.

It is interesting that there is this sort of dichotomy, we rarely see a book of poetry on the best seller list among other works, but it does influence so many things. A few years ago I read about a self published volume of poetry entitled “The Princess Saves Herself in This One” and how it had then gone on to be published by Andrews Mcmeel publishing and placed in bookstores. I bought a copy at a Barnes and Noble when I saw it and enjoyed much of it. Those poems were about resilience among other things, and the author clearly worked through some traumas to compose her work. I’ve read glowing reviews and criticisms that completely dismiss that book as bad poetry. The thing is though, it resonated with a lot of people.

What else is there? I can agree with some critiques of a lot of the poetry that I see posted online (and printed in some journals), but I’m also a big fan of e.e. cummings, whose free form shenanigans are well known. Ultimately, all poems are just words on a page. Sometimes I’m just playing with words. I doubt I’m alone in that. But whether it is just wordplay that gives the spark to an idea, or if it is a much more personal experience that the poet is trying to relate, they are still just thoughts put into whatever form seemed most evocative at the time. Dreams given form, as another saying goes.

That includes experimental forms, in my opinion. In some of my e.e. cummings inspired poems, I’ve tried all kinds of things that are way outside the bounds of traditional rhyme schemes. Some have featured backwards text, words spaced out all down a page, some verses left aligned, some right, some centered, some very much not-even-verses, etc. But even in those cases, the idea was the thing. In those cases, what I wanted to do was experiment with the form as much as I wanted to get whatever idea I had across. In some other cases, form brings out better word choices, more interesting detours that you may wind up taking to express the idea in the more fixed format of some rhyme schemes.

As my other favorite poet once said:

“I’ve always been interested in form, maybe because I don’t trust my own spontaneous nature to come up with anything interesting, and form imposes a certain opportunity to get deeper than your first thought. There’s a school of poetry that believes first thought, best thought. That would have condemned me to an inauspicious superficiality if I had followed that, because I don’t have any ideas. Irving Layton once said to me, ‘Leonard is free from ideas.’ I don’t have an idea and I don’t trust my opinions. I think my opinions are second-rate, but when you submit yourself to a form, then something happens and you’re invited to dig deeper into the language and to discard the slogans by which you live, the easy alibis of language and of opinion. And if you’re looking in the Spenserian stanza, for instance—which is a very, very intricate verse form—you have to come up with many rhymes of the same sound; you’re invited to explore realms that you usually don’t get to in ordinary, easy thought. I’ve considered my thought stream extremely uninteresting, and it’s only when I can discard it that I find I can say something that I can get behind.”
–Leonard Cohen

So, either way can lead to magic. Some ideas just catch fire and become something interesting in a flash, some we have to struggle with over and over for many days/weeks/months/years. …decades. However long it takes. Sometimes I’ll borrow a conjoined word from you know who, sometimes I’ll make up my own word. Other occasions may find me on Rhymezone at 2 A.M. while also flipping through an actual thesaurus to find just the right word for one line. You never know. But the idea is the thing.

I mentioned a few of the poets I was reading last year at this time, so I’ll do so again. Be sure to look into some of their work during this years National Poetry Month: Fatimah Asghar, Andrei Codrescu, Billy Collins, Ilya Kaminsky, Amanda Lovelace, Eva Xanthopoulos, Erin Belieu, Sandra Hochman. Also be sure to listen to some songs by Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot and Bob Dylan.

National Poetry Month

In the spirit of National Poetry Month, I’ll share a few of mine, what ideas or situations inspired them, and which poet’s styles influenced them. When I was growing up, there were books by e.e. cummings, Leonard Cohen, Edgar Allen Poe, Yeats, Frost, Kerouac, Basho, Rumi and others lining the bookshelves. So many styles of poetic expression to explore and learn from. Add to that the books of songs from many of my parents favorite musicians, and the poems and songs in the Lord of the Rings books I started reading at an early age, it’s no wonder I dabble in all these things.

Here are a few of my own, some previously published and others not.

time delay

had I had a handy handle

on anything at the time
my i might have missed
the fallout from the line


without the wherewithal
to withstand

the demented demolitions
in psycho culture landmines


I was quite concussed.


“Time delay” received some positive feedback from a literary journal, but was never published til now. It is probably the most obvious which of my influences is at work here. There is a poem in the book “100 Poems” in which e.e. cummings describes a slow motion explosion and that was the part of that poem which inspired this bit of wordplay. In mine, I’m toying with words that begin with the same letter or sound, and describing my allergic reactions to the culture in my country in my younger days. Now, it is safe to say that I do have a handy handle on things. TD was written in 2016.


the ghost that walks

through this venerable house

is long past gone

–yet it walks on


the places it made for itself

fallen into ruin, crumbling day by day

it dreams old dreams, retraces old steps

where other spirits fade away


the deep bells toll

the cemeteries fill

with every other soul

it strides onward still


the haunts change

but the fabled weight of ages

finds the stubborn wight unchanged

where other spirits fade away


the ghost still roams

through this weird world

it’s long past gone

–yet it walks on


the dreams it dreamed for itself

fallen into ruin, crumbling day by day

it finds new places, learns new steps

where other spirits fade away

Intangible first appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, and later on Instagram where I posted a picture of the poem in print. It is harder to say which of my favorites influenced this one, and it is about the feeling I’ve sometimes had as I’ve grown older. As friends or family members or people I’ve known pass away, and I’ve somehow kept going, despite some serious situations that might have gone the other way.


Though it flows in the course of honeyed words
Or silent, certain gestures ever thus made
Akin it is to fabled springs in enchanted wards
Ambrosia in our cavernous world of shade
There are two truths that define it forevermore
It may flow from lie and return to lie
It flows in spite our desire that it die
Felt, unfelt--it writes all our tearful lore
In all the days that will define our time
Its storm rolls in, and passes beyond
Ere the days diminish, this much is clear
Hold fast thy course, or by phantom lights steer
Onward, ever onward where thou desires't remain
Above all, have a care, in thy travels here
That thee does it thine way!

“Sonnetra” was one weird idea. The last line came to me first, and the title is kind of a pun. I don’t know where these ideas come from, people…I just roll with them. I’ve only written a few of these in my life, and there is not much call for sonnets these days. It is the age old observation that love sucks, and you might as well just love yourself first and do what you need to do for you. For this one, I really tried to channel Edgar Allen Poe for the style and just to carry the idea to its conclusion. It is obviously a riff off Sinatra’s “I did it my way” and it amused me to imagine either Chris Hemsworth or Tom Hiddleston singing this sonnet to that tune in full Thor regalia. It is almost as “out there” as the poem “Contrast” which appeared here some time ago.

So, there you are. Just some poems to celebrate National Poetry Month. One day, they will all be part of a collection, even the weird ones. Until then, I recommend some of the other poets I’ve been reading lately. Billy Collins, Andrei Codrescu, Erin Belieu, and Sandra Hochman.

Poetry can be profound in a few lines. Three, or one hundred and three. It is also sometimes just fun to play with words. It is great to read at any time, but is especially helpful if you find yourself in a rut. Then you can turn to the mystical musings of Rumi, or just experience the raw thoughts of someone else, and see your own humanity reflected in whatever kind of fun house mirror that person has going on. If nothing else, it will probably give you ideas.