Naomi Cherkofsky Contest is set!

Hello friends of poetry! I am writing today to announce the 2018 annual Naomi Cherkofsky Contest, deadline April 1. We love our North Shore poets, but we welcome poets from across the state and the nation. The entry cost is $3 per poem, maximum 5 poems per entrant; the individual must be 18 years of age or older. The poet is free to choose any subject and any style, but there is a maximum of 40 lines.

We award three monetary prizes but, in the interests of spreading the wealth, a poet may only win one. They are: 1st prize ($50), 2nd prize ($30) and 3rd prize ($20). We also choose a number of honorable mentions.

Most importantly, we hope all our participants, their friends and acquaintances who enjoy poetry will join us at our annual National Poetry Month celebration, Saturday, April 21, 11 to 2 p.m., Beverly Public Library. Our winners are invited to read their poems, after which there will be an open mic for interested attendees.

So, there is plenty of time to put pen to paper or computer fonts to screens for this contest, which was funded by the wonderful, generous Naomi Cherkofsky.

May the fires of creativity keep you warm!

P.S. The poems must be original and not previously published or granted monetary prizes in other contests.

P.P.S. Please tell your poet friends!

 

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to one and all!  And Happy Winter!

As in years past, we are not meeting in January or February due to the likelihood of bad weather. We will meet next on March 17 in the Sohier Room, Beverly Public Library, from 11 a.m. until 1:30 or so. Please bring a little food to share. After the presentation, we will have time for gentle critique of one another’s poems, so if you’d like to participate, please bring six to 10 copies.

Please see the Meetings page, above tab, for the latest updates to our schedule. And, while battling cold and storms, we can all delve into the works of new writers or old to help us through.

Here’s a selection — different styles and eras

Lines: The cold earth slept below

The cold earth slept below;
         Above the cold sky shone;
                And all around,
                With a chilling sound,
From caves of ice and fields of snow
The breath of night like death did flow
                Beneath the sinking moon.
The wintry hedge was black;
         The green grass was not seen;
                The birds did rest
                On the bare thorn’s breast,
Whose roots, beside the pathway track,
Had bound their folds o’er many a crack
                Which the frost had made between.
Thine eyes glow’d in the glare
         Of the moon’s dying light;
                As a fen-fire’s beam
                On a sluggish stream
Gleams dimly—so the moon shone there,
And it yellow’d the strings of thy tangled hair,
                That shook in the wind of night.
The moon made thy lips pale, beloved;
         The wind made thy bosom chill;
                The night did shed
                On thy dear head
Its frozen dew, and thou didst lie
Where the bitter breath of the naked sky
                Might visit thee at will.
From “Snow-Bound,” 11:1-40, 116-154 – Poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east: we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.
Meanwhile we did your nightly chores,–
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd’s-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold’s pole of birch,
The cock his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent.

Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro
Crossed and recrossed the wingèd snow:
And ere the early bed-time came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.

….

Winter Trees
All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

 

Shoveling Snow With Buddha –
by Billy Collins

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.

 

Next meeting is Oct. 21

(***Thanks to a comment from Mickey Coburn, I checked on where we will meet on the 21st since the book sale is held that day. We are to meet in the Fogg Room (spelling?). We can’t have any food or beverages, so please come well fed and hydrated!)

The Poets’ Forum starts its new year in September, like school children. Actually, I read somewhere recently that many of us, because of our formative years centered on the school calendar, also seem to begin anew in September. So, we had our first meeting of the new poetical year on September 16.  Jeannette Maes gave an excellent presentation on the new Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, and read all of her four books of poetry as research. There were various opinions about Smith’s style and meaning. Some of us really liked her (me!), others not so much.

Some of us brought poems by other poets we had recently discovered or re-discovered or just simply wanted to share. And, we also had gentle critiquing of member poems.

The food was great, the company superb, and the poetry lovely, mostly! See you all in October when Maggie Harney and Joan George will present a program with a spooky (maybe) theme.

Before I leave, here’s a poem that I brought to the meeting by poet Mary Karr that I saw in Poetry.

A Perfect Mess

        BY MARY KARR
              For David Freedman
I read somewhere

that if pedestrians didn’t break traffic laws to cross

Times Square whenever and by whatever means possible,

      the whole city

would stop, it would stop.

Cars would back up to Rhode Island,

an epic gridlock not even a cat

could thread through. It’s not law but the sprawl

of our separate wills that keeps us all flowing. Today I loved

the unprecedented gall

of the piano movers, shoving a roped-up baby grand

up Ninth Avenue before a thunderstorm.

They were a grim and hefty pair, cynical

as any day laborers. They knew what was coming,

the instrument white lacquered, the sky bulging black

as a bad water balloon and in one pinprick instant

it burst. A downpour like a fire hose.

For a few heartbeats, the whole city stalled,

paused, a heart thump, then it all went staccato.

And it was my pleasure to witness a not

insignificant miracle: in one instant every black

umbrella in Hell’s Kitchen opened on cue, everyone

still moving. It was a scene from an unwritten opera,

the sails of some vast armada.

And four old ladies interrupted their own slow progress

to accompany the piano movers.

each holding what might have once been

lace parasols over the grunting men. I passed next

the crowd of pastel ballerinas huddled

under the corner awning,

in line for an open call — stork-limbed, ankles

zigzagged with ribbon, a few passing a lit cigarette

around. The city feeds on beauty, starves

for it, breeds it. Coming home after midnight,

to my deserted block with its famously high

subway-rat count, I heard a tenor exhale pure

longing down the brick canyons, the steaming moon

opened its mouth to drink from on high ...

Next meeting is Sept. 16

The North Shore Poets’ Forum will hold its  Back to Autumn meeting on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ish, Beverly Public Library. Please join us for an informal discussion of any new poet you’ve discovered over the summer (or before that, even). You may also bring a poem or two for gentle critique.

But, we must leave time to map out the rest of our year, so please be prepared with ideas for presentations that help us in our craft.

I look forward to a great meeting! And, until then, as is my custom, I leave you with a poem I like, this one by John Masefield, called Sea Fever.

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

 

 

And the winners are…

I apologize for not posting these sooner.  Life got away from me a bit. But, I am happy to announce the winners of the 2017 Naomi Cherkofsky contest. If possible, join us at the Open Mic, Beverly Public Library, April 22, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

  1. Otto Laske, Gloucester, Mass, for the poem “July Garden.”
  2. Jennifer Revill, Middleton, Mass, for the poem “Seven Turkeys.”
  3. Richard Samuel Davis, Byfield, Mass., for the poem “Magic Act.”

Honorable mentions, which were not ranked so are simply listed wily nily:

  1. Mark Hudson, Evanston, Ill, for the poem “Ostrich Eggs.”
  2. Linda Werner, Marblehead, Mass., for the poem “For Closure.”
  3. Sandra Thaxter, Newburyport, Mass., for the poem “Geronimo’s Bones.”
  4. Martha Perry, Rockport, Mass., for the poem “Allahu Akbar.”
  5. Jennifer Revill, Middleton, Mass., for the poem, “The Note We Found in Grandma’s Purse.”

 

Thank you to all who entered poems. It was a very good group and a tough competition. Congratulations to those who won!

Remember the Contest!

I do hope that many of you are writing your poems and planning which ones you will submit to the North Shore Poets’ Forum annual Naomi Cherkofsky Contest. The deadline is March 15 — less than two months! See rules under the tab “Poetry Contests” above.

The winners are invited to read their poems, and a few more, during our annual celebration  of National Poetry Month, this year to be held on April 22 at the Beverlly Public Library be, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.

The Forum has been hosting this contest for, I don’t know, maybe 25 years. Naomi was one of the original members of the Forum who had a wonderful spirit and was generous in her encouragement of fellow poets, particularly the less confident (me!).

So, please sharpen your pencils and join us for a wonderful celebration of poetry.

To conclude this post, I am including a poem that I hope you will enjoy.

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of  childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should  consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to  sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear:  the darkness around us is deep.

 

NS Poets’ Forum Meets Saturday!

HI folks,

The new season at the North Shore Poets’ Forum gets started on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 11 a.m., in the Sohier Room of the Beverly Public Library, Essex Street, Beverly. Our eminent founder, Jeanette Maes, will present a program about the renowned poet Donald Hall. He is an elder statesman of poetry, at this point in his life, but still active. We look forward to Jeanette’s presentation.

Fall beckons, and next month will be filled with cooler air and traditional tales of ghostly spirits. Maryanne Anderson will present a program entitled “Hauntings,” on Oct. 22.

Please see Meetings and Events tab for our plans for the following months.

End of summer now, so I will leave you with some end of summer poems.

End of Summer

 

STANLEY KUNITZ

An agitation of the air,
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.

I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones,
Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.

Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was over.

Already the iron door of the north
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.

 

 

XXXIX (from Last Poems)

A.E. Housman

When summer’s end is nighing
And skies at evening cloud,
I muse on change and fortune
And all the feats I vowed
When I was young and proud.

The weathercock at sunset
Would lose the slanted ray,
And I would climb the beacon
That looked to Wales away
And saw the last of day.

From hill and cloud and heaven
The hues of evening died;
Night welled through lane and hollow
And hushed the countryside,
But I had youth and pride.

And I with earth and nightfall
In converse high would stand,
Late, till the west was ashen
And darkness hard at hand,
And the eye lost the land.

The year might age, and cloudy
The lessening day might close,
But air of other summers
Breathed from beyond the snows,
And I had hope of those.

They came and were and are not
And come no more anew;
And all the years and seasons
That ever can ensue
Must now be worse and few.

So here’s an end of roaming
On eves when autumn nighs:
The ear too fondly listens
For summer’s parting sighs,
And then the heart replies.