Sunday, August 9, 2015


Great news! Five of my poems have been published in the brand-new online magazine, The Syzygy Poetry Journal, a new star in the literary galaxy.

There's an excellent interview with Kelly Cherry, the inaugural issue's Syzygyan Poet. Cherry says, "Chaos permits creativity. It gives us a space in which to make mistakes . . . essential in science and in art. Chaos lets seedlings – and that's a metaphor – grow where they will." Yes, indeed. Refreshing to find a poet who incorporates chaos into her sense of order.

And there are many, MANY fine poets and poems. Congrats to The Syzygy Poetry Journal for an auspicious beginning.

Click on the screencap image above to go straight to my poems, if you like, but be sure to browse this fine issue and enjoy the wonderful views and writing.

Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Phone Booth? More Little Free Libraries in Cedar Falls, Iowa

Wait, is that a phone booth over there? You sure don't see too many phone booths around these days. Nope, it's a Little Free Library!

As you may know, I've been exploring the Little Free Libraries in my area. In my previous post, a few days ago, I gave a virtual tour of the Little Free Libraries of Waterloo, Iowa, our neighboring "big city."

And the time before that, I did the same with my city, Cedar Falls. The big highlight of that tour, according to the Facebook response, was the Little Free Library north of town that looked like a miniature TARDIS from Doctor Who.

Well, it seems that there are yet more local LFLs! I found three more in Cedar Falls, and Jeremy Prouty, the Waterloo middle school teacher whose students built six LFLs — story here — will let me know as those six are installed around Waterloo and on the University of Northern Iowa campus in the next few weeks. Exciting stuff!

Okay, let's get on to today's topic, visiting MORE Little Free Libraries in Cedar Falls.

The only LFL featured in the city's official website is in Neighbors Park in the North Cedar area. It's a repurposed phone booth in the corner of the park's picnic structure, as seen in the top right picture below (circled in yellow). At the bottom right picture, you can see that someone (the steward of this LFL?) has a delightful sense of humor: there's a phone book in this not-a-phone-booth phone booth! Fun.
Neighbors Park at 2200 Center Street
(At the corner of Cedar Street)

The second LFL of the day is a cheery blue box decorated with whimsical rune-like symbols. Beside the box the steward of this LFL has provided seats: a dark blue folding chair and a sturdy dining chair painted in many bright colors. A very welcoming set-up!
1610 Starbeck Circle
(off Panther Lane)

The last LFL for today is, I believe, the oldest one in the city. In the official LFL directory at LFL headquarters, the description of this LFL says that there are no others in Cedar Falls. Also, it doesn't look like a miniature house, as LFLs often look. It's made of a small packing crate turned on its side, with plexiglass walls installed inside. You can see pretty clearly the sides of the packing crate in the top right picture below.

Also unlike the usual LFL, this library is attached to a tree and not mounted on a pole. This is quite unusual in this area; of the thirteen LFLs I've visited in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro area, this is the only one that's mounted onto a tree.

Anyway, this "grandfather" of an LFL is pretty charming. Go to Garden Ave. and check it out.
2424 Garden Avenue
(between Rainbow Drive and Cottonwood Avenue)

Okay, that makes nine Little Free Libraries in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Sometime soon, there will be a tenth one on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa. The installation of this new LFL has been delayed by construction nearby. I hope it will go up before too long. When it does, I'll let you know.

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Ingat, everyone.   

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Take a Book, Return a Book: Little Free Libraries in Waterloo, Iowa

Last time, I gave you a tour of Little Free Libraries in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Today, let's visit the Little Free Libraries in the city next door: Waterloo.

The Little Free Library worldwide movement champions literacy and the love of books and reading. Each LFL is, according to the HQ website, "a 'take a book, return a book' gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share." As we saw last time, my own city of Cedar Falls has an interesting assortment of LFLs, particularly the one that looks like a small TARDIS from the TV show Doctor Who.

Okay, let's get started checking out the Little Free Libraries of Waterloo, shall we? To see any picture larger, just click on it.

This first Waterloo LFL is no-frills, for sure. This is a pretty new library; a placque on the door says that it was started in April 2015, just three months ago. One thing that sets this apart from other LFLs is that it has no window. Which could be a blessing because it keeps the books inside from fading because of the sun. Another thing I like about this LFL is how it was designed to look just like the LFL steward's house. Both of the houses — the big one and the little one — are painted the same shade of maroon and are roofed with gray shingles. Cool, huh?
1929 Baltimore Street
(at corner with Easton Avenue)


Second, in a tree-shaded neighborhood — which was a relief because it was darn HOT when I was on my LFL quest yesterday! — is this LFL also painted maroon. This library has the usual front window. Very handsome.
709 Magnolia Parkway
(between Bismark Avenue and Rock Island Avenue)


The third one is in a suburban setting. The guy next door was meticulously mowing his lawn with a riding mower. Hey, I should have gotten him in these photos!  This LFL is brightly painted red, blue, and yellow. Cool idea I haven't seen in an LFL before: the steward of this library has included an equally colorful bound journal marked "Leave a note!" Nice cheerful greetings from neighborhood folks thanking the steward for their LFL.
4750 Clover Lane
(between Country Lane and Mary Ellen Drive)


The fourth LFL I visited yesterday is in a forested area near Rainbow Drive. The stewards of this library have made some cool innovations. As with the Clover Lane LFL, there's a bound journal for people to leave greetings. Very cool, though, there's also a little plastic container of dog treats. There's a stack of bright, colorful bookmarks — that's a very nice touch. There are several copies of the Cedar Valley Trails and Recreation Guide, a fold-up map. And there's a stick-up little light for night visitors. You can see all of these in the picture on the right below.
2035 Grand Boulevard
(between Niagara Drive and Four Seasons Drive)


There was one library I couldn't find. According to the LFL website, there should have been a library in downtown Waterloo, at 505 Walnut Street. I suspect this LFL may no longer exist. However, it may have been moved inside somewhere nearby. On Monday, I'll make some inquiries. Faith Temple Baptist Church is right there and may now have the LFL. The Boys and Girls Club is just down the street, too; they might have the library in their building. So stay tuned, okay? Check back the next day or so, please.

Okay, that's the end of our Waterloo LFL tour. For now. Hope you've enjoyed it. Why don't you visit one (or all!) of these LFLs? Bring a book or two to leave. And take a book to read.

Oh, one more thing: earlier this year, students from Waterloo's Hoover Middle School built some LFLs and are looking for stewards to install them in Waterloo neighborhoods. Here's a newspaper article about this story. Pretty exciting. Congrats to the students and to their teacher, Jeremy Prouty. If you are interested in becoming a steward of one of these LFLs or would just like more detail about this project, visit their website, H.E.L.P. LFL.
Added 20 July 2015: I found out today that the Hoover students' LFLs have all been assigned to stewards already. So, do not apply for one at the H.E.L.P LFL website.

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Ingat, everyone.   

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Tiny TARDIS and More: Little Free Libraries in Cedar Falls

Do you know what a Little Free Library is? It's a really fun thing!

Little Free Libraries (LFLs) are grassroots collections of books and other reading material accessible to everyone, maintained by citizens and sometimes nonprofit groups. The Little Free Libraries are generally little "buildings," so to speak, like outdoor dollhouses, out in neighborhoods where anyone can walk up and borrow or drop off something to read. In an honor system, borrowers bring back books or bring new books or bring them to other LFLs. (Check out the LFL website.)

I just love the idea of the Little Free Library, helping to boost literacy and the love of reading in our neighborhoods! I bet you have one or more LFLs in your area. Here in Cedar Falls, Iowa, we have six. Well, five, actually. (That will become clear later.)

Shall we go on a tour?

Right outside of Cedar Falls, to the north a couple miles, there's an LFL that's memorable because it looks like the TARDIS from Doctor Who. That's the time machine / space ship of The Doctor . . . uh, just google. Wait, click here. Anyway, it's a very cool LFL made from a newspaper vending machine. Here, take a look.

8227 Buckridge Road


This next LFL is, like the last, also out in the country. It looks like a high-end log cabin with a fancy green front door that has a picture window in it.

2126 West Lone Tree Road


In the middle of town, this next LFL is the first one I ever saw. I was out for a walk and saw what looked like a little blue house on a short pole, in a sleepy neighborhood not too far from downtown. When I looked inside it, I was amazed to see it contained books. And right next to it, a park bench. So cool.

823 West 8th Street
at College Street

I saw that this 8th Street LFL had a plaque on it, with an internet address. When I checked that website later, I found out there's a huge network of thousands of these libraries. The website features a map and photos of all the LFLs. I quickly located the other ones in my town.

This next LFL is a block away from the high school. I wonder how many students walking home have noticed it and stopped to borrow books. I certainly hope they have.

1203 West 12th Street
near Division Street


In the bottom picture above, you can see the cover of a book I borrowed from the 12th Street LFL, The Girl Who Became a Beatle by Greg Taylor. With my interest in rock & roll and pop culture, I really enjoyed this fun YA novel. The front cover is very cleverly designed; the characters from the novel are posed and lit like the Fab Four on the cover of their LP Meet the Beatles.

This next LFL is a different type. As you can see below, it's very close to the ground. In fact it rests on the ground. It is on the grounds of the Cedar Valley Preschool and Child Care Center. It's a library of books for the children of the center. It's a little different from other LFLs because it's not accessible to the public. The cool thing about it is that these kids learn about libraries and the fact that libraries have books just for them!

724 Lantz Ave
at Fern Ave

This last one is technically not an official Little Free Library because it is not registered with LFL Central. But it works exactly the same way. It's a bright purple color, which helped me spot it when I was driving through the neighborhood. It features not just books but also magazines and CDs. Very cool. Architecturally, this little "building" is distinctive because it has clerestory windows that help to light up the inside of the library.

2219 Sunset Blvd
between Willow Lane and Rownd Street

I hope the people who run this last free library will register it with Little Free Library HQ. That way, their library will be listed on the website and also appear on the LFL map. And anyone around the world can find them by address.
Added 19 July 2015: I saw today
that this library is now a registered LFL.
Congrats to the stewards of this LFL.
Well, that's our tour of Cedar Falls Little Free Libraries. Hope you enjoyed that. If you live nearby, check out one — or all (!) — of the local LFLs. Take a book, leave a book, enjoy!

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Ingat, everyone.   

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Help Amanda Gotera Bring "Middle Witch" to Life

Hello, everyone. Have you recovered from National Poetry Month? And Cinco de Mayo?   

A little over a half a year ago, I blogged about my daughter Amanda Blue Gotera, who is working on her MFA in filmmaking at the University of Texas, receiving a prestigious film award to support the completion of her thesis film, Middle Witch. In her application for that Princess Grace Foundation award, she wrote, "I intend to tell a fairy story that keeps its teeth sharp and features heroines who are neither charming nor easily digestible but human and messy and dark."

Well, that fairy tale with "its teeth sharp" is about to start shooting, and you can help make Amanda's dream come true. She and her crew have started a Kickstarter campaign to raise the rest of the funds they need to complete the film:

Would you please click the image above to go to the Kickstarter page and watch the pitch video? It's a really wonderful pitch (yeah yeah, proud dad talking . . . but actually it is). As you can see from the image above (which I pulled off a few minutes ago), they're almost 50% funded just a week into the campaign. And Middle Witch has been chosen as a Kickstarter Staff Pick. Could you donate to keep the momentum going and bring Middle Witch to the big screen? Even five bucks will help!

You can also go to the Middle Witch facebook page at to keep up with news about the campaign as well as the progress of the film. (You can see this page even if you are not a member of facebook, but you can't interact with it.)

Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Day 30 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Thirty. Another National Poetry Month for the history books. I hope, if you were writing a poem a day, that you succeeded. If you didn't, that's perfectly all right. You'll be able to do it next time!

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "I’d like you to try an odd little exercise that I have had good results with. Today, I challenge you to write a poem backwards. Start with the last line and work your way up the page to the beginning."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: "take the phrase 'Bury the (blank),' replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Some possible titles include: 'Bury the Hatchet,' 'Bury the Body,' 'Bury the Past,' 'Bury the Hate,' and 'Bury the Acorns.'"

I made my Thorson upside-down poem an abecedarian to keep control of the composition. I would know that the first line would start with a Z and then I would have to lead somehow to a Y and then to an X, etc. For some reason, I decided to up the ante by making each line only one word long. I started writing the ZYX words at the bottom, working backward, but then simultaneously worked on the ABC words to make sure it made sense going down the page. I found myself essentially writing two poems that would meet in the middle (around M and N), even though they were the same poem, the same column of words. So I had inadvertently doubled Maureen's prompt. Turned out I had upped the ante a bit.

The Brewer prompt entered in with the poem's sense-making. I'm a fan of The Walking Dead show and comics, and Brewer's word "bury" somehow brought "zombies" into the poem, even if the word doesn't appear. I didn't plan to do that; it just somehow happened. Fun, I hope.

Bury the Zombies
— a somersault abecedarian
    read first down left column
    and then down right column
    same words, new punctuation


—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

At first I typed the draft poem out A-Z, with instructions to the reader to also read the poem from bottom to top. I left off punctuation so as not to limit sense-making in the two directions. Then I decided to make it easier on the reader by also typing out the word list flip-flopped (Z-A, in a second column). But then I noticed that the lack of punctuation made the meaning ambiguous in places. Eventually, I realized that punctuation had to be inserted and different in both columns in order to guide flow and meaning.

I call the form a somersault abecedarian because of how the A-Z sequence is turned over in the second column. You should try to write one. They're fun but also the devil to carry off.

Okay, on to Alan's last poem for National Poetry Month. "I went a bit rogue with this one. Brewer's prompt about burial suggests that a literal burial was not necessary; I was thinking about what gets revealed when cleaning out a drawer. Why this poem turned out a sonnet, I don't know."


A bottle smaller than my thumb, tucked back
behind the various home cures, old gauze
unwound and yellowed, lozenges of Halls
Mentho-Lyptus, Band-Aids, liquorish Black
Draught, and, just hidden in a paper sack,
some “rooster pills,” four rolling loose moth balls,
dull dried-up Paregoric, Dr. Scholl’s
bunion cushions, liniment, half-smoked pack
of Salems, picture of my infant wife
still swaddled, in her sleepy mother’s arms,
the last of five, who spent her childhood life
among Republicans, scared false alarms
from Birchers, Auburn fans, Braves’ twisted knife
of fandom, what we hope will cure still harms.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

These details bring me back, Alan. Mercurochrome was the first-aid wound treatment I preferred because the other option, Merthiolate, stung. A lot. A LOT. I also remember Paregoric, for gastric distress and other ailments. Another item I could imagine in this drawer is Vicks VapoRub, though Mentho-Lyptus is reminiscent of it. Also, at the dinner table sometimes, my dad, a devoted Democrat, would rail against John Birchers. I used to think when I was little that Birchers had something to do with tree branches.   

Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

NAPOWRIMO / PAD 2015 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day 29 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Twenty-Nine. Looking online for something to say about the number 29, I found these interesting facts: According to USA Today, 29% of married couples share a toothbrush. It would take 29 million years for a car traveling 100 miles per hour to reach the nearest star. And April 29 — today — is International Dance Day!

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "write a poem in the form of a review. You can review either animate or inanimate things, real places or imaginary places. You can write in the style of an online review (think Yelp) or something more formal that you might find in a newspaper or magazine. (I imagine that bad reviews of past boyfriends/girlfriends might be an easy way to get into this prompt, though really, you can 'review' anything in your poem, from summer reading lists for third graders to the idea of the fourth dimension)."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: "write a what nobody knows poem. It’s easy to write a poem about what everybody already knows, though it may be difficult to write an interesting poem about such things. Still, use today’s prompt to explore things people may not know — secret stories, locations, and so on."

Since Kathy and I live 1000 miles apart, I occasionally take a selfie to show her my look for the day. This afternoon's selfie was from the side and in it I found something to write about.
I hope I've been successful today in combining the "official" prompts for a review and the topic what nobody knows.

My Father Reviews My Hair Style

                        —a hay(na)ku sonnet

nobody knows
looking straight on

I’ve got
a baby ponytail

bantam swashbuckle
serpentine of black,

how iconoclastic —
rebellious! — I am.

Papa, long dead,
shakes his head.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Here's Alan's segue into his poem. "Today, I attempt to blend the Thorson prompt of a review with the Brewer prompt of what nobody knows. I spend a great deal of time writing about literature, of course, but I also write about music — I co-edited with Roxanne Harde a collection of essays about country music, Walking the Line: Country Music Lyricists and American Culture — so I was at one time drawing some distinctions between AM pop and contemporary music. I sort of put myself to the challenge of getting copies of some of the most sickening pop of the era, and I discovered this album on one of the online retailers. The problem was that it was listed by the wrong title. If you get a copy of the CD, the title on the spine is ’70s Party Classics, but the title on the cover is ’70s Party Classics with the word Killers written over the last word of the title. That made finding the album a bit more complicated."

’70s Party Classics

You may not realize it, but the spine
on this CD is full of lies — it’s meant
to drive adults away though treacly hits
they might remember from the seventies,
when AM pop began to eat itself.
I swear a deli down in Knoxville played
this disc to drive its customers to gulp
food down and clear the seats for turnaround.
I will not mention songs — this festered nest
of earworms almost breaks a man like me,
who built his tolerance bits at a time,
but I will name the culprits: Dawn, Clint Holmes,
Bo Donaldson, Dan Hill, and Paper Lace.
If Terry Jacks were on this disc,
the ATF would confiscate it, but
Paul Anka’s here, the Captain & Tennille, and Rupert Holmes
(no relative to Clint that I can tell),
Sammy Davis, Jr., Morris Albert,
the Starland Vocal Band, a dirty joke
sung straight by someone named MacGregor — how
I wound up with this disc I cannot say.
I’m shamed to see my surname shared
with two offenders on this ugly thing.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Alan tells us, "As indicated in the poem, the worst of the '70s earworms, 'Seasons in the Sun,' is not on the CD, but this one disc is a useful tool to create a noxious pop mix to clear rooms, void appetites, and extinguish all romance in any group. It's the saltpeter of albums, I assure you. If you are so unfortunate as to have a frat house next door to you, get some amps, some mighty speakers, and let loose."

Alan also says, "There's a trick in this poem. I made the two worst songs not fit in the rest — the line that mentions Sammy Davis, Jr., and Morris Albert is trochaic instead of iambic."

If you're not familiar with poetic meter, what Alan means is this: the poem is made up mainly of iambs (dah-DUM). So the preceding line — "no relative to Clint that I can tell" — has an iambic pattern (i.e., made up of iambs): "no REL- | a-TIVE | to CLINT | that I | can TELL" . This iambic pattern is predominantly used throughout the poem.

But the line about the worst songs and singers on the CD — "Sammy Davis, Jr., Morris Albert" — uses not iambs but rather trochees (DUM-dah): SAM-my | DAV-is | JUN-ior | MOR-ris | AL-bert | (a trochaic pattern). So essentially that line is upside-down from the rest, if you will, calling attention to itself by its opposite rhythm, and thus calling attention to the worst singers. Clever, huh?

Thanks so much, Alan. Very entertaining poem, especially that bit of metric magic. Friends, here's the cover of this invaluable CD, showing the title "full of lies."
Hang on to that one, Alan. If it becomes a collector's item, you could retire in comfort! At present, though, you can buy it from Amazon for $1.46.

Incidentally, Alan, one of the unforgettable earworms on this CD, "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)," by your "cousin" Rupert Holmes, hit number 1 in the 1979 Billboard Hot 100. Bet he made a pretty penny with that song and still gets royalties every time it's played on the radio. Maybe Rupert's the one retiring in comfort.

Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

NAPOWRIMO / PAD 2015 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Day 28 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Twenty-Eight. At the end of this day, exactly four weeks — 7 x 4 — of National Poetry Month will have passed. And two days left in which to write poems for NaPoWriMo or PAD.

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "write a poem about bridges. A bridge is a powerful metaphor, and when you start looking for bridges in poems, you find them everywhere. Your poem could be about a real bridge or an imaginary or ideal bridge. It could be one you cross every day, or one that simply seems to stand for something larger — for the idea of connection or distance, for the idea of movement and travel and new horizons."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: the last "Two for Tuesday" Poem-a-Day prompt till next year: "(1) Write a matter poem" and/or "(2) Write an anti-matter poem."

Probably no surprise I'm attempting to meld all three prompts: bridge, matter, anti-matter.

                          — for Kathleen Ann Lawrence

Kathy, you are my bridge between what matters
and what doesn't matter. My very own
Golden Gate Bridge. What matters: flesh and bone.
What doesn’t . . . well, wait. Everything matters.
Spring blossoms. Alices and Mad Hatters.
Octopi. A fallen ice cream cone.
The child crying from dropping that ice cream cone.
Flags of countries, brand new or in tatters.

Kathy, you are my bridge . . . let me start over.
You connect me to the finest version
of myself. You are my moonbow, my sun
dogs. You are the cloud of quicksilver shooting stars.
You are the rhyme with orange. Lawrence. See?
You are the whole poem. A to Z. Infinity.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Friends, I've always kinda thought it was silly of poets to title a poem "Poem" but I find myself in that very situation. And it's not silly — it's frustrating. Any help you can provide with this quandary I'd appreciate very much.

P O E M   R E M O V E D

while being submitted for publication.


Please come back later. The poem may
return at some time in the future.

Thank you!


Great job with the blank verse, Alan. Also I love the specifics of the fish fry, especially the "grease [that] traces shiny spots / where we have touched the tablecloth to wipe / our hands just clean enough." Well-lived, well-observed details.
Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

NAPOWRIMO / PAD 2015 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Monday, April 27, 2015

Day 27 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Twenty-Seven. As a child, I found 27 enchanting, as I said about 24 recently. The number 27 is equal to 9 x 3, and the digits 2 and 7 in 27 add up to the 9 that's a factor of 27. I'm sure there's something about the number 9 and base 10 that makes 9 so interesting: 9 x 2 = 18 and the digits 1 and 8 add up to 9;  9 x 4 = 36 and the digits 3 and 6 add up to 9;  9 x 859,472 = 7,735,248 and the digits 7, 7, 3, 5, 2, 4, and 8 add up to 36, and then the digits 3 and 6 add up to 9. So 27 is not alone in that adding-up-to-9 thing. I'm sure a mathematician could explain those cool 9-effects clearly. To me it's all glorious mathematical magic.

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: Write a "hay(na)ku [which] consists of a three-line stanza, where the first line has one word, the second line has two words, and the third line has three words. You can write just one, or chain several together into a longer poem. For example, you could write a hay(na)ku sonnet." Thanks so much for suggesting the hay(na)ku today, Maureen, and also for the shout-out to me. I appreciate it!

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: "write a looking back poem. Of course, some people just glance over their shoulders, and others stop and turn all the way around. Some look back in time and weigh their successes and failures, evaluate things they could do better. Some claim they never look back. Whatever your stance on looking back, capture it in a poem today."

Since I wrote a hay(na)ku sonnet on Day 15, I'll write a longer hay(na)ku poem today, of course looking back to combine the two "official" prompts.

Looking Back to the Stars

child eyes
adored starships, SF,

Mercury, Gemini, Apollo.

Neil Armstrong’s
astounding moon landing.

Rice Burroughs’
visionary Barsoom novels.

Space Odyssey.
Flash Gordon

utopias, dystopias:
Magnus, Robot Fighter,

Marvel debut
battling space aliens.

Duck Dodgers
in the 24½th

The Jetsons,
Termites from Mars.

always nonpareil,
matchless . . . Star Trek.

grown up,
I ask you,

my jetpack?
My commuter spaceship?

Penny Robinson,
my spacegirl crush?

were promised
a space future.

we got
runaway climate change.

fighting Demos,
progress always retrograde.

Dale Arden,
Princess Dejah Thoris,

Janice Rand,
let’s fly away.

eerily undulating,
let’s fly away.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

I realize it's overly sentimental, even mawkish. But where are our Jetson flying cars? To my girlfriend Kathy . . . they're all fictional women!   

Marvin the Martian and Duck Dodgers
in Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century.
Okay, on to Alan's offering for the day. "I have written a hay(na)ku 'looking back' poem," Alan tells us, "matching both prompts and finally writing one of Vince's favorite forms."

P O E M   R E M O V E D

while being submitted for publication.


Please come back later. The poem may
return at some time in the future.

Thank you!


That's both haunting and lovely, Alan. Since it's a sonnet — a hay(na)ku sonnet — the connections to love and human desire are unavoidable, simultaneously sweet and sad.

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Day 26 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Twenty-Six. Is today an especially unlucky day? Maybe even doubly unlucky? The numeral for today's date, 26, is 13 x 2, after all. Are there still people who believe the number 13 is unlucky? In my hometown, San Francisco, what would be Thirteenth Avenue is instead named Funston Avenue. That probably changed, or began to change, around the time of my birth; one of the bands that had a hit when I was 13 was called The 13th Floor Elevators, one of the earliest psychedelic bands. That hit song was "You're Gonna Miss Me." I wonder if one were to send a letter to, say, 1313 Funston Avenue but addressed it to 1313 Thirteenth Avenue, if it would arrive. Or maybe, you're gonna miss me, baby.

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "Our last two prompts have been squarely in the silly zone — this one should give some scope to both the serious-minded and the silly among you. Today, I challenge you to write a persona poem — a poem in the voice of someone else. Your persona could be a mythological or fictional character, a historical figure, or even an inanimate object."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: "take a word or two invented by William Shakespeare, make it the title of your poem, and write your poem. Click here for a link to some words coined by Shakespeare, who was baptized on this date in 1564. If the link doesn’t work, here are a few: advertising, bloodstained, critic, dwindle, eyeball, hobnob, luggage, radiance, and zany. He invented more than 1,700!"

I was a teenager during the old psychedelic hippie days. Living in San Francisco, I was right there when it was happening. I was 15 years old during the Summer of Love in 1967. In fact, my family happened to live in the Haight-Ashbury district, just 5 or 6 blocks from Haight St. Something I remember very clearly from those days was the artwork of hippie rock concert posters, which would be stapled on light poles and taped onto walls in the street. One of the most memorable hippie artists was Rick Griffin.

Here's one of Griffin's posters, perhaps the most famous and iconic one, showing a flying eyeball with reptilian tail and claws holding a skull, advertising a February 1968 series of concerts starring Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, and Albert King. According to collector Eric King, "This image has been found painted on tribal buffalo skulls in the jungles of Thailand, printed on T-shirts in the Chilean desert and tattooed on Japanese punks in Osaka" and "is Rick[ Griffin]'s vision of the all-seeing eye of God the father, the Old Testament 'jealous and angry God' before whom Rick felt we are all wanting, all guilty, all unworthy sinners doomed to burn forever on a lake of fire."
Rick Griffin, Bill Graham Poster, 1968
I am melding today's two "official prompts," the NaPoWriMo persona poem and the PAD poem with a title made from two words Shakespeare coined. The persona speaking is the flying eyeball from the Griffin poster.

Bloodstained Eyeball

You see me every single day
on your dollar bills, eyeing
you from the highest point
of the Illuminati pyramid.

But this is how I truly look,
children, with my tentacle tail
and claws. Alas, poor Yorick
with sunglasses, this is you.

All of you, this is YOUR head.
You cannot escape me. I shall
break through sky with flames
and angel wings to find you.

Bloody veins may stain me but
I see you. I see you. I see you.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Wow, a complete surprise how that poem turned out. I thought it was going to be a light-hearted poem but it asserted itself in a totally different way.

Here's Alan's poem for today. "Shakespeare coined pedant," Alan tells us, "and I am a happy reader of Robert Browning. Combining the two prompts seems to work all right today."


That’s my last project, lying on the desk,
looking as if it still matters. I risk
debasing my work now; two dozen chairs
of various departments spent long hours
to fill these forms to suit my tastes. I said
“my tastes” by my design, for none have read
these papers through, administrative stance
reminding them of my significance
when funding issues rise and I am asked
to offer what I’d recommend. I’m tasked
to make these leaders fall in line, who’d teach
as if they have some mastery to reach
their students, having researched, studied years
while holding classes. “Interference” wears
upon them, they complain, as if some words,
a lab, a lecture moves this school towards
desired political expedience.
Of course, we do not sell degrees. Why chance,
however, inciting alumni who
suspect progressiveness is working through
the lectures? Legislators read the news
and ask in public forums what’s the use
of languages, art history, or art
itself, and should their criticism start
on women’s studies and diversity,
then I’d find life more difficult for me.
You don’t think I’d be some officious fool
who’d try to kill these programs through a rule?
Why should I make my motivation clear
when I can make my troubles disappear
by claiming viability’s at stake
and draining their resources? I can make
departments spend uncompensated time
in drafting papers, ream by ream by ream,
and find some point that still will need revised.
Ironically, the more I am despised
by lower ranks, the more I grow endeared
to regents, boards, alumni, too, prepared
to quantify the universities
and measure their success through earned degrees
with standards rooted in the politics
of prejudice and fear. There’s no quick fix
when something sinks, especially when one
who sees the breach controls how something’s done
to mend or mitigate when we’ve begun
to head for shore. Assure the governor
the labor leader’s speech will not occur
because accreditation work is due
too close to any open date. As you
can see, the stadium has broken ground,
and we are certain he will be around
to dedicate it on its opening day.
Our provost’s health is good. I’ll let him know
that you were kind enough to ask. Please go
through here and see the model of the bust
commissioned by the man we’ve just discussed!

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Ah yes, the Duke of Ferrara is indeed a fascinating role model. Bravo, Alan!

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Day 25 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Twenty-Five. Today is the end of the fifth group of five, with one more group of five to go. Five more days. Five more poems. Though today, both Alan and I really up the ante and the numbers.

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "It’s the weekend, so I thought we might go with something short and just a bit (or a lot) silly – the Clerihew. These are rhymed, humorous quatrains involving a specific person’s name."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: write an across the sea poem. This could be a love letter, an electronic submission through cyber space and time, or a travel poem (by air or sea, though probably not car). Modern travel or back in the days of rugged explorers. Wandering or wondering, your choice.

Combining Robert's "across the sea" prompt with's clerihew prompt. Here goes.

Clerihews for a Famous Literary Sailor

Herman Melville
Was into whale kill,
So he wrote the famous Moby-Dick
Although harpooning was not his schtick.

Herman Melville
Couldn't spell well.
The real guy's name was Israel,
But Herman misspelled it as Ishmael.

Herman Melville
Didn't sell well.
Thousands of Moby-Dick copies left over,
In his attic, his basement, and his mom's, moreover.

Herman Melville
Fished for bluegill.
He said it was almost as fun as whale,
If you don't consider matters of scale.

Herman Melville
Visited Nashville.
Where Moby-Dick didn't get him too far
'Cause he couldn't sing or play guitar.

Herman Melville
Scared a Paris demoiselle.
She said, "Mon cheri, with you it's wrong.
Your Moby-Dick is just too long."

—Drafts by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

If you've been following Alan's bravura poeming all month, the cornucopia of clerihews below probably won't surprise you. Alan says, "The first two fulfill the two prompts. The rest are extra."

Crossing the Sea Clerihews

Annabelle Ridgeway
began her day
by taking a lone three a.m. bus trip for a Slushie
and thereby became (albeit briefly) more well-known than Salman Rushdie.

Vince Gotera
wished to emulate Peter Cetera,
and single-handedly brought about a Midwest embargo
on touring bar bands who cover Chicago.

Billy Collins
is no Henry Rollins,
but he’s sold a zillion
volumes at Books-a-Million.

John Boehner,
the Orange Complainer,
has proven himself no smartier
than the average Tea Partier.

John McCain,
what your next war
is for.

Dick Cheney
belongs in American political miscellany
for being calculating though artless
and for living while being literally heartless.

Mitt Romney,
in spite of his bum knee,
ran for months
just like a dunce.

Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz
is bound to lose
if he runs out of wingnut sloganeering ammunition
and contributes to GOP voter attrition.

Scott Kevin Walker,
the Koch brothers’ stalker,
has moved from their position on immigration
and compromised his bid for the GOP nomination.

Marco Antonio Rubio
screwed up in the studio
by lunging for water while delivering a GOP response
like a kindergartener who discovers his pants are unzipped during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mike Huckabee,
is the most effective thing you can say
is that folks should eat at Chik-fil-A?

—Drafts by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Some of those are really quite hilarious, Alan. Depending on which side of the aisle you're on, so to speak, I guess. Well, since you wrote a clerihew for me, I am only too glad to reciprocate.

Associate Dean Thomas Alan Holmes,
of ETSU’s administrative catacombs,
got royally — as the British say — pissed
with his buddy Thomas Crofts, medievalist.

Thomas Alan Holmes,
associate dean, writes poems
that rhyme and scan and chiefly consist
of the exploits of Thomas Crofts, medievalist.

—Drafts by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Thomas Crofts,
If you're not familiar with Alan's poems about Thomas Crofts, medievalist, click here. There are quite a few of them here on the blog as well as out in the world, both online and in print. At right is Thomas Crofts, medievalist, himself, brandishing his favorite blade, with which he doth smite all miscreants. Click on the image to see it lo! full magnified.

I got a bit of help with these two clerihews from my girlfriend Kathy. She came up with "catacombs" to rhyme with "Holmes" — a brilliant word given what Alan often says about administration. Wait, did I say that? And also "exploits" for the storied derring-do of Thomas Crofts, medievalist. We both hope to "goon on pilgrimages" to Tennessee — mayhaps this summer? — to finally meet in person Thomas Alan Holmes, associate dean, and his estoc-wielding sometimes-accomplice sometimes-literary-character Thomas Crofts, medievalist.   

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