Story Chairs, Pocket Poems, and the Fickle Flame of Inspiration

Story Chairs

I was honored a while back when Tina Hoggatt invited me to participate in her intriguing Story Chairs project, and I’m thrilled to have two poems included in the installation:

Story Chairs, a project of artist and writer Tina Hoggatt, is an audio installation featuring the work of 32 writers, musicians and readers. Two chairs feature over an hour of audio each. As the listener sits, audio plays over speakers concealed in the chair cushions. When the listener stands the audio stops, progressing to the next selection as the  chair is sat in again…

The installation, in the newly remodeled lobby of Jack Straw, 4261 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle 98105, will  be installed for several months.

If you aren’t in the Seattle area, you can listen to the audio at her website instead, and enjoy an eclectic mix of work. My two poems are Breathless, a live recording from my old stomping grounds back in 2003, and Handmade Memories, the titular poem from my e-chapbook, as read by Raymond Ussery.

Put A Poem In Your Pocket

I’d never paid much attention to Poem in Your Pocket Day in the past, but this year, it not only invaded my Twitter feed, it made its way into the day job, too, where I was given two new-to-me poems, both of which were inspiring reads.

One was by John Ashbery, an untitled poem that’s permanently (and creatively) “installed” as part of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge in Minneapolis. The other was Kenneth Koch’s excellent One Train May Hide Another, which has been wandering around my brain ever since I read it.

One injustice may hide another–one colonial may hide another,
One blaring red uniform another, and another, a whole column. One bath may hide another bath
As when, after bathing, one walks out into the rain.
One idea may hide another: Life is simple
Hide Life is incredibly complex, as in the prose of Gertrude Stein
One sentence hides another and is another as well.

That passage pretty much describes the past week.

I shared one of my favorites by Willie Perdomo, A Poem for a Woman Named Rose, one of only a handful of poems I was fortunate enough to have published, in print, AND PAID THE POETS FOR while I was publisher of Horticulture Magazine back in 2008-2009. Their website does an awful job of presenting it, though, so along with the link above, I’m also going to re-post it here:

It’s hard
to write a poem
for a woman
named after a flower,
a plant, a tree, a season.
You feel like whatever you write
has to be beautiful,
smell good
drink sun that
you need to be gentle
when you touch it
see it shake, dance
when you talk to it &
wherever you place it,
everything around it
looks better

Oh, Fickle Muse…

It’s been years since I’ve written a new poem, and even more years since doing so was a regular and pleasurable activity. At some point between 2003 and 2005, the drama of the slam scene combined with my not having anything new to say (in verse, at least), and my relationship with poetry faded to to chance encounters and missed connections.

Every now and then I get a spark, a flare of inspiration, and think I might feel a poem coming on, but it usually fades as quickly as it arrived, and I carry on.

Perhaps it’s just the drama this week offered — from the tragic and inspiring events in Boston, to some big things finally starting to shake loose at the day job — combining with the unexpected introduction to a couple of good poems, but I’m getting that feeling again, a tentative spark that danced unusually bright in my brain throughout my run this morning.

It wasn’t a full-fledged poem, just the beginnings of one, words and ideas tap-dancing to a vaguely familiar beat, a lucid dream that lasted for a couple of miles before threatening to fade if I didn’t write them down. So I did, cheating my cooldown and stretch to get to the computer as fast as I could.

Will it lead anywhere this time? Who knows.

But far more than previous times, I feel like I’m open to the possibility in a way I haven’t been in ages.

Go with what is. Use what happens.

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4 thoughts on “Story Chairs, Pocket Poems, and the Fickle Flame of Inspiration

  1. So glad to have your work a part of the Story Chairs project. You should encourage that little flame and get poetry kindling again. I love the energy in your work and your storytelling and hope you make more of it.

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