By Annie Newcomer:
Po-Art represents the angel who takes us to the bus stop, waits patiently, and then hops the bus with us on a journey of exploration into Poetry, a place where we can find solace and joy even in difficult and inconvenient times.
Po-Art is a concept that reminds us to cherish our histories.
Encouraging one another to pick up our pencils and begin writing our stories and creating art is my vision for Po-Art. The many unique ways we discover to share is the journey. This idea stems from my belief that our individual life’s work is blessed when we inspire others to share their stories too.
Begin reading the Po-Art Series here.
If you look carefully at this beautiful art piece, a textile mosaic by Sharon Tesser, you will find the Po-Art Angel symbol subtly embedded in it. Do you see it?
Po-Art is a philosophy that invites each of us to take time to look for the talents in our friends that may or may not be readily visible on the surface.
While dancing in their possibilities, Po-Art delights in finding beauty and is the spirit in which we choose to interact poetically with others. This requires an artistic literary life-path and involves reciprocity, for it takes time to observe and listen to others—searching for the unique talents we each possess and a hope that others will notice ours too. Like Love, Po-Art strives to be patient and kind and hopes for all things.
The pandemic has forced us to look at both old and new ways, and the new in old ways as we try to understand how to sort out our lives going forward. Writing helps us do this.
During difficult times, poetry has always served as a way of entering hearts and minds in unexpected ways. We are living in a Poetic Renaissance and not tied down solely by status quo rules. For example:
A poem doesn’t always have to rhyme.
A poem can be a narrative, a conversation even. Try having one with yourself on paper. Poetry isn’t intended to be stiff and abandoned in a cold, empty classroom. She wants to be understood and, yes, liked, perhaps even loved.
Therefore, I have chosen three poems to share with you that invite you to listen, observe, and process with a compassionate heart in this difficult time.
The first poem, "No Time To Write a Sonnet," was written by Trish Miller. In it, she explains how her life has taken on new purpose during the pandemic by sewing masks. The way the sonnet ends, on an abbreviated couplet, emphasizes the panic she feels and the needs she is trying to meet.
No Time to Write a Sonnet
By Trish Miller
I sit at my Bernina, a fancy new
sewing machine, sewing a straight seam.
Yards and yards of green stretch out before
me, a hundred percent cotton path.
It’s not a wedding gown I sew, nor
a baby’s christening gown; nor
a quilt with complicated stitching. Today
I sew, not for fun, but because I ought.
Nine by six-inch rectangles, quarter inch
elastic, to make the recommended
face masks. Can I make a difference?
I’ll never know. Pandemics
In this time of despair,
every mask is a prayer.
Backstory for "No Time To Write a Sonnet":
"I am home alone. Eleven o’clock Thursday night. My sewing machine needle just broke; I burned my finger with the iron an hour ago—it still hurts. Amazon is out of pellon. I just spilled the last of my Coke with no place to get more! Why am I doing this? I stop, pray, and reflect. Then I offer my sacrifice of a Coke at 11 P.M. and continue to sew face masks."
The pandemic strangles. Has there ever been a time when we were more aware of the rhythm of our own life’s breath? Breathe in and observe those around us. Breathe out and notice the global pieces of our world.
I met Brooke Herter James in Key West. We are members of the Key West Cigar Factory Poetry Critique Group. The images in her poetry are vivid, direct, and pure. Her poem, "Sheltering," explores the reality of awareness and how the pandemic has brought us emotionally closer although physically farther apart. Take a deep breath and notice our world.
By Brooke Herter James
Still life day 28
here in Vermont
a solitary junco
sitting on the branch
against a backdrop of pond
black rimmed with white
thank goodness for
the small red barn
in the lower right corner
of the scene
I imagine painting
over this canvas
puffy clouds a woman
in the foreground
faded yellow robe
leaning out her second
to hang blue towels
and flowered sheets
on one end of a
that travels from this hillside
to Milan then Barcelona
Wuhan Jerusalem Sydney
Seattle New Orleans New York
An endless clothesline
adorned with the fabric
of the world billowing
outwards music spilling
from all those unshuttered
windows wafts of coffee
baked bread squeals of children
running down hallways
pinging marbles on bare floors
I imagine painting
parakeets in wooden cages
singing while we wait
Backstory for "Sheltering":
Because I live on dirt road in a tiny village on a small hillside in the rural state of Vermont, life during the pandemic shut-down has not felt particularly different. Because of that, I have tried every day to enter a meditation in which I visualize what the rest of the world is experiencing. Photographs in the news have helped to guide my thoughts. One in particular: an Italian woman leaning out a window up above a deserted cobblestone street. She is hanging laundry.
This poem was born from that image – life going on as best it can, infused with unexpected moments of color and joy.
—Brooke Herter James
I met Stephany Hughes at a Kansas City Voices journal reception years ago. At the time, she was a poetry editor for the magazine. She invited me to participate in her Poetry Café and selected me as a judge in her children’s poetry contests. We became dear poetic friends. So many will be hammered with grief during the pandemic. Stephany’s poem, "Hats at a Garage Sale," is an exemplary poem on the subject of loss.
Remember, just as in Sharon’s art piece, sometimes the Po-Angel, hidden so well, is really difficult to find. Have you located this symbol in the Poetess yet? If you have, then it is time to sit back and embrace these beautiful poems.
Hats at a Garage Sale
By Stephany Hughes
Twenty-six years later
I’m giving them up.
his hats sit
at a garage sale.
He was seventeen.
his life ended in a car.
I moved his hats
three times with me.
Two western hats.
he wore straw one
at county fair,
shoveled horse manure.
Two junior softball caps.
One says Porto Rotundo.
bought in Italy
with exchange student,
spread his wings.
Two KC Royals caps.
he cheered for them
he left us.
will be worn by others.
twenty-six years later
I remember his hats…and him.
Backstory for "Hats":
Finding her son's lost hats after many years was like a treasure for this mother. Each hat brought back memories of his childhood, which led to the creation of this poem.
Annie's Writing Tip #2:
1. Consider your writing tools. Jolene Paul, one of my lovely poetry students at Turning Point, made me this bookmark and the notebook in this photo. I intend to place my special poems in it. Every time I look at this treasure, I am grateful.
2. The bright pink pen next to Jolene’s gift reads, "The Future is Bright." Find a pen that fits just right in your hand. Some writers like special #2 pencils.
3. I enjoy dressing up my daily work notebooks by selecting photos from magazines of beautiful, interesting scenes and/or phrases and pasting them to the cover of the notebook.
4. My daughters gave me a pen for Mother’s Day inscribed with the words "The Poet." Poets search for the right words to feel like “real” poets. So that acknowledgement means a great deal.
5. Learn and work hard at your craft but always find ways to enjoy the process.
About the Poets
Trish Miller is an emerging poet who resides in the Greater Kansas City area. She placed third in the Heart of America Sonnet Contest, is a member of Turning Point, and a graduate of University of Saint Mary Leavenworth, Kansas. The poem in this article was recently published on the Kansas Poetry Laureate emeritus Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg’s 150 Poems Heartland! blog.
Brooke Herter James is a poet and children’s book author. She has published two poetry chapbooks—The Widest Eye (Antrim House, 2017) and Spring Took the Long Way Around (Antrim House, 2019)—and is currently at work on a third. Brooke lives on a small farm with her husband, two donkeys, four chickens, and a dog.
Stephany Hughes is a lifelong writer and creator of poetry. For many years, she taught and inspired future writers through classes in her local schools, and Stephany is one of four founders of the Poetry Café that hosted poetry readings, poetry workshops, and poetry contests for adults and students in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. "Hats" was originally punished in Interpretations, Columbia, Missouri.
Bruce McClain: www.brucemcclainartworks.com
Annie Newcomer teaches poetry classes at the University of Kansas Medical Center's Turning Point—a place for hope and healing for people suffering with chronic health problems. Her North Stars series shares interviews with poets and writers and Annie's own experiences through writing.