Our Parents/Ourselves

Considering it is just after Mother’s Day, with Father’s Day looming on the horizon, I thought I’d talk about writing poems about parents. We get a lot of those type of poems at Gyroscope Review. It’s an important topic as poets work through their feelings about parents and the past – and sometimes the future. It’s a deeply personal topic, and there is a fine line between the danger of lapsing into sentimentality or letting the poem explore the theme. Writing about the loss of a parent, or a parent with cancer is a tough topic. Look for the universal in the subject. People will care a lot more about the poem if they can see themselves in it. They might be indifferent about your pain, but let them see how it’s everyone’s pain and they are on board.

Other parent poems we get are about the act of raising a child with all the cliches of childhood. Skinned knees, first dates, learning to ride a bike. How do you open that up? Approach it from a father’s point of view, or a sibling, or the skinned knee itself. Take us somewhere new. Make us see the subject in a different light, one we haven’t thought of before. What we don’t see is enough poems about the intricacies of being a parent. What it’s like to raise a special needs child, or a gender fluid child. Or a bullied child. Or an autistic child navigating the everyday world. Put us in your sneakers. As a parent, how do you approach these topics without echoing breathless news headlines?

Here are some Gyroscope Review poems and the issues they are in to explore:

My Bi-Polar Bear by Paul Strohm             ISSUE 18-1 WINTER 2018

Candy Colored Dreams by Deborah L. Davitt                  ISSUE 17-4 FALL 2017

Sketches of my Mother by Samuel Salerno                                   ISSUE 17-4 FALL 2017

Grendel’s Mother by Sally Zakariya                                             ISSUE 17-3 SUMMER 2017

Every Day is Mother’s Day by Alexis Rhone Fancher      ISSUE 17-1 WINTER 2017

The Man Who Explained Maps by John Grey                  ISSUE 17-1 WINTER 2017

Memorial for Miriam’s Dad (and Miriam) by Sandy Feinstein  ISSUE 16-1 WINTER 2016

Waking Daddy by Akualezli Hope                                     ISSUE 16-1 WINTER 2016

Letting Go by Barry Charman                                           ISSUE 16-1 WINTER 2016

Mother’s and Father’s Day make everyone hyper-focus on tradition—cards, ties, a bouquet of flowers.  Dig deeper. What if, as a parent, or a child, you never gave or received any gift on those days? How would you feel? Does acknowledgement matter? Has it torpedoed a relationship? Is it revenge for an imagined slight? Self-preservation?

Parents aren’t as simplistic as we remember them to be. They have lives outside of their children. We often are exploring through poetry our relationship with a parent, and how it’s changed now that we’ve gotten older (and so have they). We should no longer look back with nostalgia, but with the critical eye of the poet, ready to write the truth, no matter how unpleasant it might be, or what it might reveal about ourselves. That’s a tough order. But poets are up to the challenge.

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Proletarian Poets for May Day

Today is May Day, an international spring holiday in the Northern Hemisphere. People dance around May poles, leave baskets of flowers on doors, generally celebrate the return of warm weather. There has been plenty of poetry about spring, flowers, the giddiness of the season after a long winter. And those are poems that we all need from time to time, poems that make us feel like rushing out and falling in love.

International Workers Day is another May 1 holiday first observed in 1890 to honor people killed in the Haymarket affair. The Haymarket affair refers to the labor demonstrations of 1886 when Chicago workers united in Haymarket Square in favor of an eight-hour workday with better working conditions. Violence broke out, a bomb went off. People died. And labor kept pushing for better conditions.

Plenty of literature evolved from the labor movement, some written by workers and some written by those who sympathized with workers, which makes for entirely different audiences. One genre that developed in the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s was proletarian poetry, which offered the working-class perspective. The New Masses, a leftist magazine established in 1926, played a large role in promoting and defining proletarian poetry, as well as in encouraging working-class writers.

For this May 1, we offer you links to a bit of proletarian poetry. We suggest that this poetry has plenty of relevance today, with ties to current movements like the breakbeat poets who also take on capitalism among other things. Whether you are a worker or you sympathize with workers, there is truth and history in this literature. Take a little break, follow the links, feel these voices.

Happy May Day. Happy International Workers Day. And happy reading.

Poem in the American Manner by Dorothy Parker 
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/58188/poem-in-the-american-manner

The crowd at the ball game by William Carlos Williams 
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45498/the-crowd-at-the-ball-game

Brass Spittoons by Langston Hughes 
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47879/brass-spittoons

Dirge by Kenneth Fearing
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52625/dirge-56d2313f3dcd7

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National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet Jacqueline Jules

Each day in April, in honor of National Poetry Month and our third anniversary issue (find out how to get a copy HERE), we are running an interview with a poet who has been published in Gyroscope Review. With this interview, we wrap up our series and thank our participating poets. And we thank you, too, for reading and sharing these interviews. We hope you found them inspiring; perhaps they encouraged you to pick up a new poetry publication for yourself.

And, now, for the final interview in our series for 2018.

National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet Jacqueline Jules

Poet Jacqueline Jules

How will you celebrate National Poetry Month? I will attend local poetry readings and be involved with a local initiative called Splendid Wake which celebrates the history of DC area poets.

Pen, pencil or computer first? Usually, computer.  I often use images which require a bit of research before I begin. I like to focus my poems on a concrete image so I will Google the image or idea first.

Who/what are your influences? Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.  I remember reading this book in high school and being very intrigued by the way this series of free verse poems created an atmosphere akin to a novel. Since then, I have always enjoyed collections of linked poems, which carry a particular narrative.

What topic is the hardest for you to write about and why? While being outside in nature feeds my soul, I don’t write a lot of nature poetry. It is hard to describe the natural world without cliché or imagery used more successfully by big name poets.

What was the worst writing idea you ever had? There are no bad writing ideas. Some ideas are simply waiting to mature into the best arrangement of words.

What authors do you love right now? I recently read What Blooms in Winter by Maria Mazziotti Gillan and totally fell in love with it.

What is the most important role of poets in 2018? We have become an impatient society. We like soundbites. We like to read on our phones. Poetry can offer a literary moment readers can experience while standing in a grocery store line. Poems should be brief and accessible to the average reader. We shouldn’t need a key to unlock the meaning of a poem.

Where do you go when you need to recharge? I take walks around the neighborhood or at a nearby park. When my legs move, my mind does, too. I love to write poetry when I walk. I always carry a small notebook.

What is your favorite end-of-the-day drink?
 I like coffee in the afternoons. It perks me up and gives me a few more hours of energy to work. Fortunately, it does not keep me up when I am ready to go to sleep later in the evening.

Jacqueline Jules lives in Arlington, Virginia. Her most recent publication is Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String (Evening Street Press),  winner of the Helen Kay Chapbook Prize. Visit her website at www.jacquelinejules.com or follow her on Twitter  @jacquelinejules.

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National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet Kate Bernadette Benedict

Each day in April, in honor of National Poetry Month and our third anniversary issue (find out how to get a copy HERE), we are running an interview with a poet who has been published in Gyroscope Review. Read on.

National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet Kate Bernadette Benedict

Poet Kate Bernadette Benedict

How will you celebrate National Poetry Month? Curled up with my cat, writing.  And helping to host a glorious reading on April 8th at Carmine Street Metrics featuring the superlative poets Moira Egan, Erica Dawson, and David Yezzi, and co-hosted by Wendy Sloan and Anton Yakovlev.

Pen, pencil or computer first? Computer. I’ve been “penning” my poems on a computer since the days of Wang word processing, when the screen was black and the font was bright green.

Who/what are your influences? The poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins seduced me into our “craft and sullen art”—and Dylan Thomas, too (whose quote that is), and Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton and Richard Wilbur.

What topic is the hardest for you to write about and why? Er, s-e-x, maybe because I’m still a good Catholic girl? Still, one must force oneself if one is to be honest.  One must be that . . .

What was the worst writing idea you ever had? A poem about boiling water in a pot.  Really, it was so boring!

What authors do you love right now? I keep rereading the works of James Hillman, the late, great maverick psychoanalyst whose work gave me courage to write a full manuscript of archetypal dream poems.

What is the most important role of poets in 2018? No matter what the year, no matter what the political situation, poets use ringing language to bring us deeper into experience.  Poems pour forth from the human soul—and if we can mine the human soul, then we can get through the bad times and even move forward as a species

Where do you go when you need to recharge? I take walks in the leafy parks of my neighborhood (Riverdale) and for a major “recharge,” I travel to the south coast of Maine to walk by the sea.

What is your favorite end-of-the-day drink? Manhattan cocktail, straight up!

Kate Bernadette Benedict lives in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx, New York. Her most recent publication is a series of poems in Peacock Journal. Visit her website at http://www.katebenedict.com/ or follow her on Twitter @Poeta_Non_Grata.

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