my poetry collection is now available for kindle!

A Constellation of Shadows by Amy Rousseau now available!

Free today, my poetry collection is available for kindle and kindle app for phones (on other platforms the formatting is a little off for an inexplicable reason).

available here on Amazon

i hope you enjoy it.

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poem: i rise

collude with me

on the topic of

regeneration

after the fall.

i can’t sit tight

after a midnight convergence with

god.

i rise

like a damned fire crow

i rise and rise

and if i stop

then put me out of my

synergy.

i am the sky

i am the great beyond

and the resonance

of cosmic sloshing

on the steps

of a sludge deep covenant

with traitors in honey domes.

i warble as a stark vision

in the palisades of warped bygone

counterfeits.

nothing here is endless

except

nothing.

so call out the studded beaks

and make a feast of mutiny

in a solid caustic temper

of loss.

i rise,

i rise,

and i’ll burn from the inside out

before you can blink.

i am risen.

i am a foundling of barbaric energy

in an expanse of

flammable harpsichords.

when i burn,

i burst into a galaxy of electric stars.

when i burn,

i howl a diatribe of burning prayer.

i am the incendiary messiah of meatloaf.

i am the undeterred misfit child of metallurgy.

i am,

a tornado of goose flesh.

i was fallen first,

born in a well,

had to claw my way up.

and the earth was high enough,

for a time.

but now.

now

i rise,

and burn.

 

 

This poem was one of my entries in the living-room poetry slam we threw a couple days ago. Because it was meant to be spoken word, I wonder if the strength comes across in this format. I think some of it does. I had a lot of fun writing this one and even more fun performing it with a little theatricality.

my poetry rule #8: throw a poetry slam in your living room

This rule is about sharing my work and learning the difference between reading a poem and hearing a poem.

I know it sounds silly, but having mini poetry slams in my living room has been hugely beneficial, not to mention fun. There aren’t any public slams in my area, so I figured out a way to bring the experience closer. So far they have just been between myself, my husband, and my sister, and they’ve been wonderful. Tomorrow I’m inviting a poet friend over to join in the session.

Our poetry slams have rules though — we don’t bring our finished, polished work into the ring, instead we write on the spot.

The way we do it is: there are three rounds, each with a topic word/sentence/lyric. For about 15 minutes everyone involved scribbles away as fast as they can to create an impromptu poem. Then, when everyone is done, we take turns standing and reciting in classic slam fashion. I’ve found that even though it’s only in front of my loved ones, standing up to share my work in spoken word form gives me anxiety. I tremble a little and have to speak louder to cover my voice shaking. But it’s also thrilling. And it’s educational beyond measure.

Not only does speaking a poem aloud bring to light the natural cadence, but it forces me to slow down, pause, and emphasize certain words. I get to hear my poem as I read it, and see both its strengths and weaknesses. And then of course, to hear others’ poetry, and how they utilize the same set of tools in very different ways, is enormously valuable.

I would urge anyone to try this really exciting and spontaneous kind of poetry. It’s great among friends and family, and I feel confident that kids would love it. And though I don’t have the luxury, I’d of course suggest attending a public slam, just for the sake of the experience. I can’t wait to see one, and maybe one day be up there reciting alongside the participants.

Spoken word poetry is powerful and captivating. It is taking practice to learn the ropes, but it is well worth it.

poems: preamble and sonnet

preamble

the page glowers at me

daring me to attempt

what it doesn’t believe i can do.

it almost convinces me

to walk away.

i set my jaw.

today, page, i will accept

your challenge.

i will draw my sword

and etch a poem

out of a dead tree.

 

That was my warm-up today, getting into the right headspace to tackle something bigger. And here’s the sonnet that came afterwards (kind of a dark one for my tastes but it’s what came out):

 

But It Didn’t

Banished and torn, I suffocate my pride

I miss you when they battle, sun and snow

What once was done cannot be rectified

And how I wish that no one had to know

The tables turned so many times, I spin

Unsure of why I once would gladly sell

My soul to remedy this doubt within

For everything done in love is done well

At least I thought so once upon a time

And yet now I know better, have evolved

Because of my transgression I resign

To loving you from distant, pained resolve

I once believed forgiveness would impart

A much desired lightness of the heart

poetry prompt #1

There are so many kinds of prompts. Some are one color, or a phrase, or even sometimes a descriptive set up to a potential story. Personally, I like poems and songs to be my prompts. They stir up emotions in me that I then want to try and convey in words of my own.

Today’s prompt is a beautiful short poem that I cannot for the life of me find the original author of. The internet has failed me in this regard (the web is littered with this quote, but no definitive ownership), so, if anyone knows the true author please let me know so I can give them credit.

I would run and fall into my loves arms he probably would drop me but it's ok cause I love him and when I'm drunk everything is funny especially falling so we'd be good

I admit this one could be a bit gut-wrenching. I don’t really know yet because I haven’t begun writing, and once I do, from there, I’ll just have to let my poem guide me wherever it wants to go.

So I’m going to try this prompt today. Join me if you like!

inspirational poet #3: Dylan Thomas

“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

This is the way that Dylan Thomas’s (arguably) best-known poem ends. It is often interpreted as a call to arms against the end of life; a battle cry against death.

However, I want to talk about a different poem, one that has a great personal significance to me.

Years ago, for a short span, I was in a mental health institution for symptoms related to depression. This is not something I ordinarily talk about, though in a lot of my older poetry it shines through. In my upcoming collection this portion of my life will be highlighted, alongside the shift to where I am now.

Dylan Thomas’s poem, “Love in the Asylum,” was a great intrigue and comfort to me during that time. Here it is.

“A stranger has come
To share my room in the house not right in the head,
A girl mad as birds

Bolting the night of the door with her arm her plume.
Strait in the mazed bed
She deludes the heaven-proof house with entering clouds

Yet she deludes with walking the nightmarish room,
At large as the dead,
Or rides the imagined oceans of the male wards.

She has come possessed
Who admits the delusive light through the bouncing wall,
Possessed by the skies

She sleeps in the narrow trough yet she walks the dust
Yet raves at her will
On the madhouse boards worn thin by my walking tears.

And taken by light in her arms at long and dear last
I may without fail
Suffer the first vision that set fire to the stars.”

The last stanza is absolutely captivating to me. It speaks of grief and longing and madness.

I think that a personal connection to poetry is paramount. This poem I’ve shared with you feels almost as personal to me as sharing something of my own. It captures such a deeply singular moment of my life, and yet, because it is already written, and has touched so many other lives, it becomes clear to me that it is hardly singular at all. My experience is somewhat universal. Others have been through it, others have been touched by mental illness, either in their own minds or in the minds of those they love.

There is something about poetry that evaporates the separateness between us.

So, I share with you a vulnerability today, and a wonderful poet who put something intangible into words in a way I admire.

His work is compelling and speaks to me. I believe we can all find a piece of ourselves in any poem. And to me, Dylan Thomas is a poet who touches the heart.

 

 

my poetry rule #7: push yourself

This rule is about style.

One of the most helpful tips I ever received about writing poetry (and indeed, creating art in general) was to try out other styles. This made me read other work, for one thing, which was itself immensely valuable. But it also gave me the freedom to mimic others’ movements and learn from inside their poetic process.

Some styles that are commonly used as teaching tools are rhyming, haiku and sonnets. I don’t claim to have mastered any of these, though I find rhyming fun nowadays (and in the beginning it used to seem very difficult). I’m making headway on sonnets. Haiku is an art form that I respect very much, but haven’t devoted much time to yet.

Here is an example of a sonnet I’ve been working on — unfinished, because I believe I can improve it.

Shuffling on new piano keys, a paw

Warm prints against an ivory ladder

As dust settles, the sound soon turns too raw

Only daylight clamoring to counter

Until death parts us I am yours to leave

And radiant is love upon our lips

As lovers do I can’t help but believe

Our time will slowly empty out in sips

I used to fear the passing of the years

As I looked on, they fell too soon behind

And yet I now see what the sun reveres

One day, a lifetime, stretching out in kind

I felt the tug of tangents pulsing free

But none can pull asunder you and me

 

The first quatrain isn’t very strong in my opinion, and all-in-all, it’s a second draft. It will change. Sonnets can be a challenge, and forcing myself to stick to very strict rules (14 lines, 3 quatrains, one ending couplet, iambic pentameter, etc.) means I have to get creative in my wording to achieve a poem worth reading.

I do love sonnets, but depending on my mood the rules can feel like muzzles. Here is an example of trying out a different kind of style that is, in some ways, the opposite approach.

“Howl,” as you may well know, is Allen Ginsberg’s most famous poem. Ginsberg wrote it in 1955 and it is a whirlwind.

Here’s a taste of the beginning:

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night…”
Wow.
So one of the things I like to do, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, is take a line from a song or, in this case, another poem, as my inspiration. I will start my own poem with the same line and just see where it goes. This is a great way for me to practice and grow. So I started the following poem with, “I saw the best minds of my generation…” and went from there.
Here is a section of my poem in the style of “Howl.”
“The wound-weary juggernaut of pulsing burgundy, browning in the air.

The din of maddening spirits assaulting the streets, cawing as a dawn crow the names of those who should die, the nautical spinal fluid of an unbalanced circuitry.

I saw the mirrored catacombs and daring caterwauls

I saw the narrow beds and barred windows hiding cats

I saw the raining, cursing, litany of barricaded willpower ebbing through the atoms as exhaled dust.”

Let me tell you — trying out his style was fun.

And while I do try many different styles, I also keep in mind rule #6 — writing what I know. Both things can happen concurrently. A sonnet is a style I didn’t create, but the subject matter in the one I wrote is directly from my own life. The same is true for my Ginsberg-ian attempt — all of the words are true to my experience.

Be fearless, dare to try a completely different style than what you’re used to. The nature of poetry is that you can’t help but make it your own.

I’ll be starting a series on prompts soon, too, which I hope will be inspirational.

The possibilities of poetry are absolutely limitless. Try something new, and watch how much your work grows.