The International Imaginarium For Word & Verse (July 26th, 2022)

Paul Szlosek

PAUL: Welcome, welcome one and all to our very first edition of the International Imaginarium For Word & Verse (formerly known as the Virtual Poetorium). As you probably already know, the reason for the name change is that we recently restarted the live Poetorium shows at the newly reopened Starlite Bar & Gallery in Southbridge, Massachusetts, and we wanted to be sure to avoid confusion between our live and virtual reading events. And by the way, speaking of the Poetorium at Starlite, I'm happy to announce the next live show will be this Thursday with the amazing Wayne-Daniel Berard as the featured poet (if possible, I'd love for all of you to attend). But getting back to the Imaginarium, I have received many comments from folks complimenting our new name and inquiring about its origin. The reason we chose it is because I wanted something that retained the flavor of the original name yet was quite distinguishable from it. Imaginarium obviously was lifted from the title of the Terry Gilliam film "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" (which is probably most remembered as the last movie that the late actor Heath Ledger made). Imaginarium as opposed to Poetorium turns out to be an actual word that can be found in dictionaries and means "a place devoted to stimulating and cultivating the imagination" which I hope we do, although in our case, the place itself is also imaginary, existing only in our heads. I don't think I need to explain the "For Word & Verse" part, but I added International because we have grown from having just folks from our local area contributing to participants from all over the United States and the rest of the world including England, Latvia, Japan, and India. And speaking of England, I am so pleased to announce that tonight's feature, the very talented and funny writer, poet, and blogger John Ormsby has traveled all way from the United Kingdom to share his hilarious light verse with us this evening. I will be inviting John up to our brand new and extremely impressive Imaginarium stage in just a few moments, but before I do, I will continue the tradition I started this year at the Virtual Poetorium, and officially open the show with a classic poem from the public domain about the month we are currently in. For example, I opened April's program with the poem "April" and May's with "May Night" (both coincidently by Sara Teasdale) so tonight I will open with a poem simply titled "July" by the once popular but now forgotten early 20th-century nature poet Madison Julius Cawein then commonly known as "the Keats of Kentucky":

July

Now 'tis the time when, tall,
The long blue torches of the bellflower gleam
Among the trees; and, by the wooded stream,
In many a fragrant ball,
Blooms of the button-bush fall.

Let us go forth and seek
Woods where the wild plums redden and the beech
Plumps its packed burs; and, swelling, just in reach,
The pawpaw, emerald sleek,
Ripens along the creek.

Now 'tis the time when ways
Of glimmering green flaunt white the misty plumes
Of the black-cohosh; and through bramble glooms,
A blur of orange rays,
The butterfly-blossoms blaze.

Let us go forth and hear
The spiral music that the locusts beat,
And that small spray of sound, so grassy sweet,
Dear to a country ear,
The cricket's summer cheer.

Now golden celandine
Is hairy hung with silvery sacks of seeds,
And bugled o'er with freckled gold, like beads,
Beneath the fox-grape vine,
The jewel-weed's blossoms shine.

Let us go forth and see
The dragon- and the butterfly, like gems,
Spangling the sunbeams; and the clover stems,
Weighed down by many a bee,
Nodding mellifluously.

Now morns are full of song;
The catbird and the redbird and the jay
Upon the hilltops rouse the rosy day,
Who, dewy, blithe, and strong,
Lures their wild wings along.

Now noons are full of dreams;
The clouds of heaven and the wandering breeze
Follow a vision; and the flowers and trees,
The hills and fields and streams,
Are lapped in mystic gleams.

The nights are full of love;
The stars and moon take up the golden tale
Of the sunk sun, and passionate and pale,
Mixing their fires above,
Grow eloquent thereof.

Such days are like a sigh
That beauty heaves from a full heart of bliss:
Such nights are like the sweetness of a kiss
On lips that half deny,
The warm lips of July.

---Madison Julius Cawein

And now on with the show! Since I'm sure many of you may not be familiar with tonight's feature John Ormsby, I’d like to let tell you a little more about John before I call him to the stage for his official Imaginarium interview that will precede his feature...

John Ormsby

John Ormsby was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. After graduating from university, he first worked as a copy editor before moving to the UK where he somehow ended up teaching high school. Other interests include pushing the car home, fighting the dog for meat and writing to Cher on her birthday.

Please welcome to our virtual stage, John Ormsby!

PAUL: Well, John, please have a seat, and make yourself comfortable. Thank you so much for being here! My first question for you is who or what first inspired you to start writing poetry?

JOHN: I need to thank my mother for instilling in me a love for wordplay because I grew up in a family where humorous banter was encouraged. As a kid, I loved the snap of a Bugs Bunny cartoon along with British comedians like The Two Ronnies, whose cheeky poems and acrobatic lyrics had us crying with laughter. My friends and I would recite comedy scripts on the way to school until one day I decided it was time to start writing down some of my own.

PAUL: Who are some of your favorite poets and writers and can you tell us why you like them?

JOHN: In Sixth Grade, I came across an article about Ogden Nash in The Reader’s Digest which featured some of his poetry. Needless to say, I was hooked. Here was a guy who used rhyming satire to lampoon everything from the human condition to noisy neighbours - and he made a living from it. This was a revelation to me as a kid. I was amazed how he could tell a story using only a handful of carefully chosen words. To me, his poems were intelligent, cadenced and highly entertaining. My favourite writer however, is Victoria Wood, a British comedian, composer, and lyricist who died far too young. In my opinion, she eclipses Ogden Nash because her command of the English language would leave Noam Chomsky shaking. I also enjoy Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Margaret Atwood, and Fran Lebowitz, all of whom are masters of satire. At the other end of the spectrum, I enjoy real twisty-turny thrillers with loads of characters and sub-plots right up until the end. I loved Stephen King’s earlier stuff before he went weird, especially Salem’s Lot and The Stand. Thomas Tryon’s The Other and Harvest Home gave me nightmares while reading them which, to me, is a sign of a good thriller. I like writing that explores dark histories, spirituality, and the human psyche but I don’t do zombies, sorry.

PAUL: How has your writing style changed and progressed throughout the years?

JOHN: When we’re young, things seem more earnest and this thread appears in my earlier writing, which I’ll forgive. I used to hold that poetry, even when humorous, needed to contain a universal truth due to its noble nature, but this can come across as quite preachy and moralizing so I try not to lecture. Actually, that’s not being completely honest because Laverne, a recurring character on my blog, now does this for me by proxy. Okay, forget all that and just know that writing farce can be just as rewarding. Over the years I’ve become braver at writing much more sobering stuff because I’ve lived a little and find it just as rewarding to write. Finally, I don’t feel the need to defend my poetry because it rhymes. To those who look down their nose at it, I say: you try coming up with an idea worthy of sharing with the rest of the world, find the right words, sort out your imagery, structure it coherently, make it entertaining and then make the damn thing rhyme. Yeah, good luck with that…

PAUL: How would you personally define "Poetry" and for you what do you feel are its most important aspects (imagery, rhythm, word choice, etc.)?

JOHN: Poetry is how we wish everyone would speak at times. Maybe even all the time.

PAUL: How would you describe the poetry you are currently writing?

JOHN: When I was in primary school, I remember a teacher giving us a poem entitled “I Walk Alone” whose one and only line was: ‘I walk alone’. How would you describe that? While she raved on and on about its deep meaning and cultural significance, we were all looking at each other thinking it was a total crock. One reviewer called my first collection of poetry “eclectic, with a little something for everyone.” I like that. If we’re being technical, the greater part of what I write today could be described as light verse using various meters with AABB or ABAB rhyming. I’m also a real history buff with a growing collection of poetry covering everyone from Judas Iscariot to Henry VIII while another side of me writes poetry I’m hoping will break your heart.

PAUL: Most of the poems that I have read of yours are so very funny. How would you describe your particular sense of humor, and how important do you feel humor is in your poetry?

JOHN: My sense of humour will differ from the next person’s because it’s so subjective but being raised by two cynical Scots in Toronto certainly makes me a hybrid. As a result, I enjoy irony and innuendo just as much as a good wisecrack or seeing a stranger walk into a lamp post. I’ve always viewed life with a satirical eye and this definitely influences my writing because sometimes I can’t help myself, even when I know I should.

PAUL: Do you recall the first poem you ever published? Could you tell us where it appeared, and if possible, share it with us now?

JOHN: The first poem I ever published was called “Seasoned Greetings” which appeared in last winter’s edition of The Caterpillar, a children’s literary quarterly. If that seems quite recent it’s because I only ‘went public’ with my writing in December 2019 with my first ever blog…

Seasoned Greetings

When greeting guests in Tokyo
The custom is to bow down low
While in Tibet both old and young
Say hi by sticking out their tongue.
In France it’s chic to peck the cheek
And friends will clap in Mozambique
Though Greenlanders will sniff your face
Before they help you with your case.
Most Eskimos rub nose to nose
In India they touch your toes
And Zambians will squeeze the thumbs
Of visitors considered chums.
Through handshakes, winks and nods we say:
I’m pleased that you dropped by today!
And bless those friends who always know
The sign for when it’s time to go…

---John Ormsby (originally published in The Catapillar)

PAUL: Can you tell us something about the dark fiction that I understand that you also write, and how that process compares to writing poetry?

JOHN: I suppose it’s a relief from the funny stuff. I’ve been writing a novel for over twenty years – I wish someone would finish it for me – which is a spiritual thriller based on the First Nation peoples of Canada. It’s creepy all the way through and when I posted the first chapter on my blog it got quite a reaction after writing about the sex life of porcupines and my weirdo neighbours. And true, I have posted some dark poems: one about a vampire who won’t kill his love in order to spare her the same fate as his own; another about a swimming teacher whose students tend to drown. I think this side of my writing derives from a fascination with religions, history, and folklore which are all closely linked. The apocryphal intrigues me and I enjoy researching these cracking yarns before writing about them. I only hope I do them justice.

PAUL: Have you developed a regular writing routine, and if so, can you describe it to us?

JOHN: At first I could only write until lunchtime at weekends, by which time I was spent. Gradually, I learned to write after work and now I’m able to write late into the night. I write on a laptop with the dog stretched out next to me on the sofa. And I need silence, not throughout the entire house because that wouldn’t be fair, but just where I’m working. If I’m struggling, I take the dog for a walk and go over the poem in my head without looking at it. By the time we return I usually have the solution.

PAUL: What is your actual writing process like, and how do you go about starting and shaping a poem?

JOHN: When I come up with an idea for a poem I look for identify those keywords which will make the biggest impact at the end of each line. This is because they’ll need to rhyme. I love the hunt for their partners but it can be frustrating when there isn’t one (so I wouldn’t write about oranges). I’ll spend days trying to find that one word before conceding defeat, which I rarely do. After I get the first draft down, I then edit and edit and edit. People who read my blog sometimes remark that a post has changed slightly although it’s only ever a word here or there. This probably comes from years as a copy editor in a previous life. I’ll re-read posts which are a couple of years old and make a slight edit. Again, it will only be a word, maybe two – I don’t change entire poems. And when I do find that perfect rhyme, that perfect fit, there’s feeling like it. I go to bed smiling. Regarding the meter of each poem, this is determined by the syllabic stress of its keywords and here’s the rub: my two perfectly rhymed words may not fit rhythmically. I consider this an unforgivable betrayal.

PAUL: Could you tell us about any poetry or writing projects you are currently working on?

JOHN: I hope to publish a second collection of poetry and other writings in the autumn which, like the first, I’ll self-publish through Amazon. When I’ll finish my novel is anyone’s guess.

PAUL: My final question is what advice would you give to someone who is just beginning to write poetry?

JOHN: Don’t use it for the wrong purposes and soil it.

PAUL: Hahaha... I never heard anyone give that advice to a beginning poet before. It's perfect, I just love it! Thank you for such fascinating and entertaining answers, John! Well, I guess that concludes the interview portion of our program. Now, folks, please sit back and enjoy as John Ormsby presents his very funny and clever verse...

JOHN: All these poems are from my blog: mrormsbyatlarge.com. I hope you like them…

Cat Nip

The difference between cats and dogs?
Hold each in an embrace
Your dog will share a loving nod
A cat will scratch your face

---John Ormsby

Soup for One

I don’t remember what I wore
Or who sat next to me
I don’t remember who cried more
And who came just to see
I don’t remember hymns they played
The readings that were read
Or why he paused before he said
That you weren’t really dead
I just remember how you looked
When you slept next to me
The Sunday dinners that you cooked
And how you sipped your tea
Those corny jokes you always told
Which rarely made me laugh
How next to you I looked so old
In every photograph
I don’t remember telling you
To leave me all alone
I don’t remember telling you
I'd be fine on my own
I don’t remember

---John Ormsby

Mind The Gap

Ever go upstairs and not remember why you did?
Or take the groceries out the car but then forget the kid?
Ever open up the fridge and find the teapot in it?
Forget to play the lottery then curse when others win it?
Lose your keys? Kill the grass? Return home to check the gas?
Fail to find your car though it’s right next to where you are
So then you verbally abuse it while more shoppers watch you lose it
Now if you were on the booze it might excuse it…
(let’s defuse it)
Scientists would say your frontal lobe is disengaged.
You won’t remember that, so write this down: you’re middle-aged

---John Ormsby

Constellation Prize

The figure on the mountain knew
Far higher than the eagle flew
Beyond the sun and past the light
Were men who crossed the sky by night.
Soon after dusk their fires appeared
Then slowly, once a course was steered
Their caravan set out en masse
To make its empyreal pass.
Like beasts migrating on the plains
Like swarms that form to greet the rains
He found no word for the amount
Of travellers he sought to count.
A gallery would pass him by
Whose outlines seemed to signify
Proud emblems of a noble clan
Led by an even a greater man.
The bearing, always east to west
Suggested they were on a quest
Or maybe searching for a door
They’d passed through in a time before.
And so each night he danced and prayed
Around the fire he had made
In hope his kin might see its glow
Then show him all he wished to know.
So, with the last beat from his breast
Great Spirit granted this request
And drew his outline in the sky
That men as he should never die.

---John Ormsby

Sphere Anxiety

Those folks who claim the Earth is flat
Can't tell us where the edge is at
Perhaps a flat brain can’t absorb
As much as one shaped like an orb

---John Ormsby

Over, Lord

I bade my love compose an ode
To prove her heart was true
Reciting To Him All Is Owed
She blushed the whole way through

I bade my love prepare a feast
Befitting of her lord
She cooked for me the finest beast
Her dowry would afford

I bade my love take out a boat
And clear the moat of trolls
She caught each one and cut its throat
Then stuck their heads on poles

I bade my love tend to my aches
With liniments and oils
She rid my skin of every flake
And lanced a string of boils

Then comes a time when passions end
When leaves droop with the frost
I bade my love invite her friend
That’s when she said Get lost!

---John Ormsby

Bushwhacked

We have a hedge – when I say we
I’m merely being neighbourly
Which separates us from next door
We’re Number Two, they’re Number Four.
The hedge is green and not too tall
And forms a living, breathing wall
Which houses hedgehogs, snails and toads
Who are no match for busy roads.
The problem is, our neighbour’s plans
Involve a wall where our hedge stands
Three times its height and twice as thick
He’s done all the arithmetic.
Just think how private it will be!
I won’t see you, you won’t see me!

To me, this sentiment offends
Because I’d thought of us as friends.
His plan to rip the whole hedge out
This ‘eyesore’ he could do without
We thought he had it all in hand
Until we learned it’s on our land.
So now he doesn’t speak to me
Which happens when folks disagree
Their house is also up for sale
A sorry ending to this tale.
As for our hedge, it’s still intact
And here’s an interesting fact:
He’ll get his wish without a wall
For soon we won’t see him at all…

---John Ormsby

Glamour Puss

The platypus unsettles those
Who organise their socks in rows
Who’d never sport a check with stripes
The this-goes-better-with-that types.
Is it both mammal and a bird?
The mere suggestion is absurd.
A beaver that can lay an egg?
Now try and pull the other leg…
Although it doesn’t quack or cluck
At first glance, it might be a duck
But if so, what's with all the fur?
And is that venom in its spur?
This oddity that broke the mold
Still has the boffins in its hold
Yet, while we mock the platypus
One wonders what it thinks of us…

---John Ormsby

River Bottom

The word for hippopotamus
Ain’t half big as its bottom is

---John Ormsby

Rhyme & Reason

The critics ask from time to time
Do all your poems have to rhyme?
If not the case, my esteemed friends
How would I know when each one ends?

---John Ormsby

PAUL: Wow! That was just so great, John! Everyone, let’s show our appreciation for such an incredible feature by putting our hands together, and giving a rousing round of applause for John Ormsby!

Normally we would be taking a short intermission in a few minutes before we come back with our virtual open mic, but since we only have five poets in our open mic tonight, we will be skipping the break tonight.

Yet before we start the open mic, it's now time for me to present this month’s International Imaginarium group poem. For our first Imaginarium group, we tried something a bit different, and attempted to write a group ekphrastic cento (ekphrastic meaning inspired by a work of art such as a photo, painting, or sculpture while a cento is a patchwork poem consisting completely of lines taken from other poems or writing). To participate, people were asked to write and send us a six-line poem inspired by the following photo:

Photo by Paul Szlosek

My plan was to take at least one line (but probably more) from each submission and reweave them into one long seamless, flowing poem that hopefully could stand on its own. Unfortunately, since we only received two submissions, this month's group poem turned out rather brief. Here are the two original poems, the first by Noah Sweet who originally posted it on his blog Madman Philosophy:

Land-of-the-Free Lottery

Land-of-the-Free lottery & unlucky
Bucky bullied by Basic Bethany who
Has surgery sight like Lasik light
For acting friendly, pretend buddy
But her changing face forming just
Too late, her fate, a missing case

---Noah Sweet (originally posted on his blog Madman Philosophy)

And here is the second poem submitted by Angela Wilson AKA Poetisatinta which first appeared on her blog Let's Write...

Waiting

What is life but a lottery
an empty yellow bag
clinging onto a broken branch
a bully mismanaging time
missing every crucial possibility
yes, I am ready, waiting for love to find me

---A. J. Wilson AKA Poetisatinta (originally posted on her blog Let’s Write…)

And now here is the Imaginarium group poem which is a mash-up of lines from each (please note that I usually also contribute to the group poem, but this time I felt that the lines I wrote did not mesh well with Noah's and Angela's, so I made the editorial decision to leave them out):

What is Life?

What is life but a lottery?
I am clinging onto a broken branch,
missing every crucial possibility,
waiting for Love to find me
but her changing face
forming just too late...

---The International Imaginarium Group Poem for July 26th, 2022

I want to thank both Noah and Angela who came to my rescue this month and saved our very first Imaginarium group since without their contributions it never would have happened. You guys are the best!

Okay, folks, I am now going to do what I usually did with the Virtual Poetorium and kick off tonight’s open mic with a poem of my own. Normally I would choose one of my so-called funny pieces, but I know they would pale in comparison with tonight's featured poet John Ormsby's hilarious verse, so I decided to go in the opposite direction and go with a supposedly serious one. And since John is living in the UK, I've decided to present one of the two poems I wrote that actually appeared in a British publication, the online poetry journal Contour as part of “the Worcester Tale of Two Cities Poetry Project”:

The Sons and Daughters of Farmers

Perhaps feel the pull of the earth more than most,
having spent their early lives on hands and knees
pulling weeds and planting seedlings in fields of upturned dirt,
as the scent of fresh loam lodged in their nostrils,
their lungs inhaling almost as much fine silt as air.

Dark clay continuously coated their faces and fingers,
embedding itself in palms and soles of bare feet,
from which no amount of scrubbing could erase its traces.
Their loose hair, dead skin mixed with the humus, decomposing,
becoming part of the land, while the land became part of them.

Some thrive and stay rooted to the farm, but others
(finding the bond too binding) flee to the city or even the sea,
yet still knowing, at the end of their days, their bodies
will return to the soil, as if heeding the voice
of an insistent lover calling them back to a cold bed.

—Paul Szlosek (originally published in Contour: A Tale of Two Cities Special Edition)

Okay, first up on the open mic is Ami Offenbacher-Ferris (known to her close friends and relatives as Gypsie) traveling all the way from Southport, North Carolina to present a poem inspired by a photo from the June batch of The Virtual Poetorium Poetry Prompt Photos...

GYPSIE:

Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

Closed Permanently

Not this way
turn yourself around
the way to my heart
is closed permanently now

No more heart aches
no more pain
I don’t want this to ever
happen again

Pay heed to the sign
it’s dangerous up there
much safer to play
down here without care

Let broken hearts suffer
alone no more
keep moving and shuffling
right on out of the door

Leave my sign hanging
untouched and unmarred
lest tomorrow I’m forced
to seal it shut with metal bars

---Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris (originally posted on her blog Gypsie’s Writings, Musings, Quotes & Poetry)

Photo by Paul Szlosek

PAUL: Thank you, Gypsie! Our second poet on our open mic tonight was scheduled to be our featured poet at our first live Poetorium reading in over two years at the Starlite Bar & Art Gallery in Southbridge on Thursday, June 30th, but unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute due to automobile problems. The good news is that we were able to reschedule her to be our feature at our Halloween-themed Poetorium at Starlite show this October. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Meg Smith…

Meg Smith (Photo Coutesy of Derek Savoia)

MEG: With the approach of Lughnasadh, I reach within my Irish heritage. Many ancient Celtic holidays are now taken from their original context; here, I observe the traditional harvest celebration and commemoration of the warrior hero Lugh, who is associated with harvest.

Here, I invoke Lugh's spirit in the historic tragedy of the Irish mass starvation of the 1840s -- and in the present, when food insecurity can be found right here, as well as worldwide.

The Feast of Lupines

Purple creeps from the hillside;
I abide by nothing. The sun recedes
in a blur, a premonition of sleep.
I have only this; such flowers
that are no one's flowers,
no one's gift of sweethearts,
or anything more than
the laughter of a night of rushes.

---Meg Smith

Rabbit’s Eye

Dark light among clover,
do not forsake me,
do not cover me with
your night. You have
already devoured me --
vessel of a dark crescent,
leaping across the
midnight road and a terrible arc.

---Meg Smith

Morning of Lughnasadh

Sun-colored leaves will unfold
in a stolen holiday.
My warrior of harvest
is not the one paraded on a pole
in a mask of paper streamers.
Mine is the one who caresses
the greenest earth, and weeps.
A ship rises, bearing ghosts,
ragged in days when soil sighed,
"Enough," and gave nothing.
On Aug. 1, dances will weave
pentagrams and candles,
and songs that do not hear
an old and angry god
picking up his shield at dawn.

---Meg Smith

PAUL: Thank you, Meg! Now please welcome to the Imaginarium stage, trekking in all the way from the great state of Tennessee, Diane Puterbaugh…

Diane Puterbaugh

DIANE: The Jackson (Tennessee) Writer’s Club met at the library on Thursday, and we had fun with the following prompt: Go to a shelf anywhere in the library. Choose the 7th book on the shelf. Flip to page 7. Use the 7th sentence on page 7 as the first line of a 7 line poem or story. The book I got was The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler…

Why I Only Had One Child

I didn’t think I could do it all over again
Putting the soil in the pot, the pretty one with seashells glued around the edge
A scalloped edge of scallops or cockle shells or those abalone with the iridescent insides
Growing something so beautiful just to have it burst forth and swim away at high tide
No, I didn’t do it again
I planted those pretty shells in soil and all the while people asked, “What are you doing?”
I answered, “Growing an ocean.”

---Diane Puterbaugh

PAUL: Thank you so very much, Diane! That was great, I can't wait to try using that poetry prompt myself...

Now please welcome the host of the monthly Poetry Extravaganza poetry reading series at the Root & Press Bookstore and Cafe in Worcester (which is currently on Summer hiatus but will be back in September), Joe Fusco Jr....

Joe Fusco Jr.

JOE: Here's a couple of new, short pieces…

The Smallest of Things

Suddenly, there’s a spring in your step as you walk the neighborhood this cloudy morning.

You nod, even smile, at the passersby you would normally ignore.

Maybe it’s the memory of the new perfume you could sniff behind her ear last night, or the craziness of doing it on the family-room floor like the two of you were thirty again in a studio apartment with no furniture, or the hilarity of a left knee-pad because your meniscus is torn so you’re naked except for a left knee-pad.

Suddenly, the passion of thirty-six years together re-ignites over the smallest of things.

Suddenly, there’s Romance!

---Joe Fusco Jr.

Lunch with Chopsticks at the Worcester Senior Center

Oops!

Damn it!

Oops!

Maybe I shouldn’t try this for the 1st time with Turkey Supreme.

---Joe Fusco Jr.

PAUL: Thank you, Joe! Last, but not least, in tonight’s open mic, please welcome Howard Kogan to the podium…

Howard J. Kogan (Photo Courtesy of Dan Tappan)

HOWARD: Kitsilano is a beach in Vancouver, Canada. I visited it with my family while George Bush was pursuing the war in Iraq. The contrast between Canada and the United States at that point was very stark and is implicitly the subject of this poem...

Kitsilano

Women in black burkinis, gather on the sandy beach,
watch their children learn how to clam at the water’s edge
from other children whose only common tongue is childhood.

Nearby lithe young women sunbathe topless, chatting,
listening to music. Teenage boys tossing a Frisbee
edge closer working hard pretending not to notice.

Young mothers breastfeed infants discreetly under cover,
while older ones casually lift a breast out of their swimsuits,
brush off sand, and nurse eager toddlers nestled in their laps.

A young Sikh couple on their honeymoon takes selfies with an old
35 mm camera on a tripod. He, in turban and sports jacket, sets up
the time delay shot, then hurries to the side of his modest wife

taking shot after shot blushing and laughing, their joy embarrasses them.
An aged Asian couple defeated by rented beach chairs, is rescued by
a pair of dashiki-clad men from Ghana twice their size.

In the late afternoon mothers and grandmothers yell at their children
to come out of the water in English, Hindi, Farsi, Korean, and Tagalog.
The children resist in every language and plunge deeper into the sea.

---Howard J Kogan

PAUL: Thank you, Howard! Well that concludes tonight’s open mic. I want to thank everyone who read tonight including our feature John Ormsby! As always, you were all completely amazing! I also want to once again thank Noah and Angela for rescuing this month’s Imaginarium Group poem. 

I've been thinking a lot about my mom and dad recently, especially because their 63rd wedding anniversary would have been just a bit over a week ago on July 19th. Like in my poem which I started the open mic with, they really were true sons and daughters of farmers, both born, raised, and living on farms for most of their lives. They both passed quite a few years ago, my father in 1993 and my mother in 2013. Although I don't know if my father did (he was fairly secretive, and might have hidden it from me), my mother wrote poetry throughout her life (so like John who credits his mom for his love for wordplay, I must thank my mom for my affinity for poetry). In fact, she was often my co-host when I ran my first poetry venue The Poet's Parlor. So instead of closing tonight with a poem of my own, I'd like to present one of hers. This is probably her most popular poem and one of my personal favorites with many people remembering it and requesting her to read it at The Poet's Parlor throughout its thirteen years of existence (I'm pretty sure that you will all enjoy it too):

My War on Slugs

I have declared a war on slugs,
not bugs or drugs, but slugs.
You know those nasty things
that look like snails without a shell?
At least, you can eat snails
(if you like that sort of thing).
I can’t see much purpose for slugs.
They leave a slimy goo behind them
everywhere they go. Even on your hands
if you touch them. It won’t wash off,
even with soap and water.
The stuff has to be scraped off.
Every time I pick cherry tomatoes,
I get a handful of slime & slugs,
and have to throw away all
the tomatoes that they touched.
I tried picking the slugs by hand
into a tin can, but it’s real messy
even with a plastic bag covering my hand.
One day I picked over 250 slugs,
but there was still hundreds crawling around.
I figured there had to be a better way,
finally deciding to try a friend’s advice.
“Get a quart bottle of the cheapest beer”
She said. “Go to the discount liquor store,
it’s cheaper there than the grocery store.
Put the beer in a pie tin,
and watch the slugs go at it."
So at the age of 72,
I bought my very first bottle of beer.
I didn’t know what to ask for.
Rather embarrassed, I asked for
the cheapest, biggest bottle they had.
I tried to explain what it was for,
but the cashier, a young man, just stared at me
A customer told me where the beer was.
I picked up one bottle, paid for it,
then got out of there fast, my face burning.
First I tried a couple of shallow pans.
The slugs soon found it, drank & left.
It seemed to me they were much happier.
Then I used narrow deeper bowls,
sinking them down into the ground.
This time they drank, fell in, and drowned.
In a couple of days, the little bowls were
packed like sardines with dead slugs.
I then needed more beer. This time I marched
into the discount liquor store, my head held high.
I went right to the beer, picking up two bottles.
Two young men and several customers
were at the check-out counter. When I paid
for my beer, I didn’t even explain
what the beer was for. As I was leaving,
they said “ Have a good evening, Lady,
have fun!” I really didn’t care this time
what they thought because the beer really works!
Although the battle isn’t over,
I’m sure I’m winning the war:

"The slugs ate my tomatoes.
They just ate and ate.
Because of that,
they sealed their fate.
I threw a party
and served them beer.
So now, the slugs
are no longer here."

---Pauline Szlosek

Well, good night everyone! I hope that you enjoyed our very first edition of the International Imaginarium For Word & Verse, and we will see you all this Thursday at our live Poetorium at the Starlite show in Southbridge on July 28th, and then back here again for the Imaginarium in August when our featured poet is scheduled to be the very talented & accomplished poet, originally from Worcester, but now currently residing in New York City, James B. Nicola

Comments