Sunday, February 24, 2019

Welcome to Hiram Larew!

Photo by Chris Thomas/President's Malaria Initiative

Tonight I'm posting the poems that Hiram Larew, a DC-area poet, sent me a while back.  Enjoy!  Thank you, Hiram, for sending these poems.


Mark my words --
cakes are cakes
and there will always be someone
who’s better than you.
Of course
that’s why we have years on years
to cast about.
It’s also true that
as surely as you won’t you will change
like grass does at any fence.
I know because I know.
Up on top remember this --
children never notice the weather
because really all that days do 
is float by.

Here is a lovely poem!

Image by www_AMP_watch on Pixabay


When I know exactly what to say
In ways that hum even better than trees
Then I’ll step up to woo you
But for now what I do  
very badly
Is a dazed is-that-so look --
All I’m good for is just staring

And in case it matters
My legs are like mud 
So I can hardly imagine moving or doing or really even trying

But in fact I do take take heart from  
this Spring breeze called maybe
and from that somewhere that has hardly sung
in years
I feel a future coming that will stop at least
long enough to wink --
Blink is how I love you
Don’t make me tell you in any other way. 


Music can live alone
Water does run uphill
October’s leaves will blow into piles
Battles somehow dissolve into fernshade.

Take courage as you crack these eggs --
No, what happens isn’t fair 
But I promise
It’s ten times juicier than the moon. 

Larew's poems have recently found page space in Contemporary American Voices, The Wild Word, Viator and Voices Israel.  On Facebook at Hiram Larew, Poet and at Poetry X Hunger.

As for music, since my husband and I just came from listening to Delfeayo Marsalis' quintet, I'll post his music.

This is "Autumn Leaves" where Marsalis is joined by his father, his brother Jason, and his bassist.

Here is a live version of "Cantelope," so you'll get some of the club experience.  

I'll finish with his Uptown Jazz Orchestra's version of "Skylark":

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Bruce Hodder Returns

Photograph by Lynn M. Reid

I apologize if this is your school, but I thought that this picture goes well with Bruce Hodder's first poem.  As it turns out, one of the roofs to the right is that of a prison.  The sky is oppressive, too.

The Hierarchies of School

At my school, punks were bullies.
Like society in microcosm,
they reinforced convention
and they reified the dumb.
They preyed like wolves on the clever kids.
They were always knocking glasses off
and smacking small kids in the corridors.
They mercilessly mocked a boy
who walked on crutches from the NHS,
and Indians were ‘pakis’
in their lexicon of spite.
The punks made school life miserable
for anybody who they could isolate;
but they didn’t touch the black kids.
When the black kids were around,
the punks were timid, like their victims.
Only one boy who years later
joined the Army, took their leader on.
He was being the biggest thug in school,
but such a posh kid no one noticed.
They noticed it that day though,
when he bounced a Rastafarian
like a dead weight round the bandstand
in the park, while fifty watched and jeered.


A lemon sun drooping in the evening sky
is casting long shadows across the flattened ruin
of the old bus station. I had a seizure there.
I am riding the number two from home to town.
My mission is to catch another bus to work
ten miles away, in Wellingborough’s biggest warehouse.
On the Drapery, two tiny Asian women struggle
with a shopping trolley carrying a huge tv.
An old teddy boy in a black fedora
watches me get off and climb the hill towards him.
He’s smoking in the doorway of the old Bear pub.
I want to look at fliers for the gigs this month.
They have them in the window by the big kebab shop.
My friend’s black metal band Denigrata
should be playing soon. Sure enough, the flier’s there.
The flier, and the lazy summer warmth this evening,
get me thinking of the Beatles, when they played Northampton
in the building that is owned now by the Jesus Army.
I imagine screaming girls. I see the fab four’s flight
through the back, to a limo on St Michael’s Road.
There were decoys at the front, so the legend says,
in black suits, ties and bouncing mop top wigs,
who were paid to be accosted by our mums and aunties.
My vision of the past makes the night ahead
seem easier to face. It makes me young again.
The end was just a rumour that I paid no mind to
in the days before the lunatic that cut down John.


They had a Cotes-du-Rhone bottle and some plastic cups.
The wine freed tongues, and eased Mum’s nerves a little
as they laced white doves made out of card along
a stretch of fencing at the air force base.
Sitting on the grass beside the rusty peace bus,
singing Bob Dylan songs, Mum said she felt alive,
as she had not for decades, and she wondered why.
She thought, perhaps, it was those fearsome missiles,
monsters in their cages, with the power to end
a million lives like that, in just a finger-snap.
It might have been the big guns that the guards all carried.
Danger thrills. Perhaps it was the repercussions
that they might face. Someone took their photographs,
no doubt to send to somebody at MI5.
I think it was the company that made Mum buzz.
Big Linda, with her green DMs and spindly roll-ups,
old Les, with his Merlin beard and pony tail,
in the Thatcher years, when shaving til you bled was law.

Bruce Hodder lives in Northampton, England with his wife Michelle. 
He has been a poet since he heard Bob Dylan singing ‘The Ballad of 
Hollis Brown.’ His list of publications is wide but he hasn’t written many 
of them down over the years, so he can’t share them with you. He can 
say he was a featured poet in ‘Other Voices’ (Crossroads Press) and 
has recently placed several poems about Donald Trump in John 
Grochalski’s Winedrunk Sidewalk. 

I feel like I should be posting some British folk songs to go with 
Bruce's poems.  Here are Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger singing 
"Dirty Old Town":

This is her version of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face":

I'm going to add her version of "The Leatherwing Bat":

I'll finish with two songs from Richard Thompson's Strict Tempo, 
an album of instrumentals.
First is "The Knife-Edge": 

The other is "Banish Misfortune":

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The ModPo Poets Pay Tribute to Aretha Franklin

Shortly after the great Aretha Franklin died, the ModPo poets paid tribute to her in rengays (collaborative poems) and individual poems.  Here are a few for you to enjoy.  Let's start with a rengay.

her magnificent voice: Aretha Franklin Tribute #1

By Benita Kape, Dee Aubert, 
Julie Naslund, Ingrid Bruck,
Michael Peck & Leslie McKay

the greater performance
her magnificent voice               

brave words of courage
power and a brand new me      

opens her mouth
sings the soul of ache and joy
into our bones                              

queen of r/e/s/p/e/c/t
put her life on the line
marching with King                       

sunlit vision in a dark world
transforms black and blue souls   

her voice of God
from the beginning                         

her imprint: Aretha Franklin Tribute #2

By Ingrid Bruck, Leslie McKay,
Michael Peck, SE Ingraham,
Dee Aubert & Julie Naslund

the ocean
another sky
blues bend and soar

her imprint on the horizon

sun mirrors her soul
night reflects her skin
her voice weaves them

this gospel diva
rode pink Cadillac style
live and to the end

touched by gods and angels
ring of joy, empowerment

sings out longing, promise, hope
that impossible hat

Don’t Play That Song, Play All Those Songs
For: The Queen of Soul

Sunday morning tribute

Every Baptist Church in America
Say A Little Prayer For Me

Gospel Choirs Sing, Yes they sing
Sing the power of the Queen of Soul
Voice of the Century: Sister Aretha Franklin

Rock Steady
And we remember you
Wind down the car window

From Rock Steady
to Spanish Harlem                                                                                                        

In songs, willing to forgive.
How could you touch her? The song said.
In your hands the pain grows and grows
And your soul and your lines increase

Going further back
A Nineteen Seventy release

Don’t Play That Song

Sitting beside Bergen (Candice)
You gave us stunning comedy and diva

That was a long time ago

Your mastery at the keys
When in Charlotte
You pay tribute to Whitney Houston
Long, long time to get here
If I walk a little taller
If I speak up when you’re wrong

Lyrics we all understood
Words, and the many transposed

And it grew a new kind of free


Re – re – re -  respect

Give me my propers
Wrote Otis Redding

You – you – you
Earned it well Aretha
Aretha, to you the respect

You were releasing
One Step Ahead in Nineteen Sixty Seven

Then came The House That Jack Built

Rushing to your side, song writers
Bobby Lane and Fran Robbins
That was Nineteen Sixty Eight


Don’t Play That Song
Again: and again and again

Play all those songs

A Change Gonna Come, Amazing Grace
You rush to the side of Martin Luther King
“Black People Will Be Free”

How many songs and how many writers?

Dozens and dozens
All wrote for you

So long as it’s Soul, Soul, Soul,
Soul: give us the Queen of Soul
Such strength and power in her incredible voice

Sunday morning tribute

All over the world
Say A Little Prayer For Me

Gospel Choirs Sing, Yes they sing
Sing the power of the Queen of Soul
Voice of the Century: Sister Aretha Franklin

Benita H. Kape © 19.8.2018


Cherita form:: Cherita in Malaysian means to tell a story. Usually written in 1 line – 2 lines – 3 lines. When written in other variations of those lines, these are known as Cherita Terbalik. Terbalik in Malay means to reverse. This poem Don’t Play That Song, Play All Those Songs”begins with Cherita and continues with variations, Cherita Terbalik, ending again with a Cherita.

Aretha Franklin 

she sang from her heart 
words so full of love and pain 
those who listened left with wet eyes 
knowing they had heard 
what they felt in their heart 
everything about Aretha was big 
her voice, her endurance, her strength 
she knew the blues inside and out 
her smile bursting with the glory 
of one who consumed the pain 
of the blues 
turning that pain into complete faith 
in herself and her love of life © 

~ by Michael Peck

I like to think of Aretha Franklin

birthing a son before she was a teen,
singing “Natural Woman”
for all the child-women who doubted 
they had the right to feel like a woman.
She claimed Respect” for herself and all Sisters. 

I like to think of Aretha Franklin
demanding her place in line
when she marched for freedom with King.
She crumbled when MLK was shot, 
when racial hatred flared and cities burned. 
She despaired for common women,
the Black ones and whites like me. 

I like to think of Aretha Franklin
feminist icon, activist and Vietnam protestor
singing “Chain of Fools”, 
broadcasting war follies, 
challenging white generals’ incompetence, 
lamenting senseless deaths of young soldiers. 

I like to think of Aretha Franklin
devoted to her large family
going home to care for her father
when he was too sick to know it. 

I like to think of the Queen of Soul
singing gospel and faith,
singing blues and protest
her voice, grand
her songs, jazz.

She started poor, got rich, 
proved a woman can do it. 
I like to think of Aretha Franklin. 

* Inspired by I like to think of Harriet Tubman” by Susan Griffin

~ by Ingrid Bruck 

Writer’s Group Bio:

HowModPoWritesPoetry is a global group of writers from five countries with a shared interest in haiku and short forms. We met taking ModPo (Modern American Poetry), a massive free online MOOC. The connections we made in the class were so strong, we didn’t want to lose them and formed our closed online writing group. We’ve been together for four years. One of our favorite forms to write is rengay, a collaborative haiku form in six stanzas developed by Gary Gay (American). Our group discovered many shared interests, one of which is jazz. When singer and song writer Aretha Franklin died recently, our poets wrote her tribute poems (collaborative rengay & sole author). 

A Selection of Rengay & Individual Tribute Poems to Aretha Franklin: by writers from the United States, Canada, Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand

Dee Aubert is a Mexican poet who resides in Switzerland.
Ingrid Bruck lives and writes in Pennsylvania Amish country, US. 
S.E. Ingraham is a Canadian poet from Edmonton. 
Benita Kape is a New Zealand poet with an interest in Japanese short forms and the Western devised, (though based on haiku) rengay.
Julie Naslund writes in the high desert of central Oregon. She feels that poetry is an act of translation.
Leslie McKay is an Aotearoa/New Zealand poet and writing teacher.
Susanne Margono, a German poet, lives in upstate New York, US.
Michael Peck is a US poet and playwright from Utah.

And now for the music!

Let's start with "Don't Play That Song":

Here she performs "Rock Steady" on Soul Train:

I have to add "This is the House that Jack Built":

Have to include "Freeway of Love" as well:

This is her "Bridge Over Troubled Water":

I don't know how to top this, so I won't.  Enjoy!