Thursday, August 14, 2014

Crackles of Speech: Poems by Steven Withrow is here!


BIG NEWS: My first collection of poems, CRACKLES OF SPEECH, is now available for purchase (along with a preview) at this secure link through Lulu.com. 

This book is a gigantic milestone for me -- more than a decade of work and play -- and I am grateful for your support!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

POEM: Spyder



One for nature’s femme fatale:



Spyder


Patient spider,
plain-sight hider,
eavesdrops
down her
slender thread.


She’s a lover
of the undercover,
and any bug
to cross her
ends up dead.


©2014 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Monday, February 10, 2014

POEM: When I See a V



When I see a V
of Canada geese

I picture it as
a single piece

of a larger shape,
first letter in a word

spelled out southerly
bird by bird.

V is for vivid,
velocity,

vicissitude,
victory,

vociferous,
vertigo,

visitors from
vales of snow,

a vanishing
vocabulary,

vaporous,
or is it very

vigorously
visionary?


©2014 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

POEM: Snapping Turtle



Snapping Turtle

An animal of minimal means,
He owes no frog,
He holds no debt.
For travel, he’s a mobile home.
For music, he’s a metronome.
He’s blissful in a bog
And wet.

Counting time in a snarl of greens,
He cara-paces,
Ages slow.
In summer, he’s too somber to snap.
In winter, sleeps in a muddy gap.
His blood thinks,
Enough?
His dream says,
No.



© 2013 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved




A note of scientific interest:
My daughter and I recently spent time with a biologist from the Audubon Society of Rhode Island and learned a good deal about our local snapping turtles. While snappers live about 50 years at the extreme—nowhere near as long as the Gal├ípagos tortoise—they hibernate by burying themselves in mud and leaves and by slowing their bodies so that their hearts beat once every few minutes. They don't need much oxygen in this state, absorbing it from pond water through specialized skin cells just inside the tail opening. In essence, they "breathe" through their tails. Freshwater turtles can stay like this for two or three months! The more details like this I learn about a subject, the more I want to include in a poem. My ear is the judge, as I always strive toward musicality. If a word doesn't sound right to me, if it doesn't harmonize with (or counterpoint) every other word, then it's best left out, or kept in prose.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

POEM: Rocking Chair


I am a devoted reader of the poems of the late, great Valerie Worth, and though I lack her mastery and grace, I often try to write "small poems" of my own, attempting to give an extraordinary level of imaginative focus to an ordinary object.


Rocking Chair

No easy chair,
This seat befits
A sea captain,
A rolling throne
For sitting
Through catnaps,
Lordly and rapt,
Stirred by swells
And the blows
Of storms,
Adoze, yet
All-aware.
A fine recliner,
It doubles
As a rocker
Knocked together
For landlubbers
Settled like
Ships docked
On becalmed laps
Of mothers, half
Keeping time,
Half asleep.


© 2013 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I have poems in two groundbreaking books


Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong have released an amazing anthology of poems and classroom activities for grades K-5, and my poem "Green Sea Turtle" is part of the fifth-grade section.



J. Patrick Lewis chose my "Moray Eel" and "Mussel" for this beautiful collection of poems and photographs. It's an honor to be published alongside many of the greatest poets for children (and for anyone) of all time: Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, David McCord, Valerie Worth, X.J. Kennedy, Carl Sandburg...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What It Means to Be a Poetry Advocate, or How a Poet Is Like an Egret

A short essay/mission statement for my new organization, Poetry Advocates for Children & Young Adults:


Poetry is pronounced dead, and reborn, so often that a phoenix metaphor springs too easily to mind. Poetry's fiery demise and ashy reincarnation might be the oldest news in literature; Sumerian scribes must have jived about it in cuneiform.

A more complex metaphor, and the one I prefer, is to see poetry not as a rising firebird, but as a wading waterbird.

Take the egret, for example. Its French name, aigrette, means both “silver heron” and “brush.” During breeding season, long filamentous feathers waterfall down the egret’s buff back, and these decorative plumes, prized by hunters and hatmakers a century ago, nearly brought about the egret’s extinction.

But the egret kept on, standing long-legged in liminal space—that transition point between land and water, past and present, life and death—stirring wavelets with its wings and harpooning breakfast with its bill.



Poets, too, live on this threshold: colonial or solitary, motionless or migratory as it suits us. This has always been our way.

In creating a grass-roots, not-for-profit organization devoted to advancing poetry for kids and teens, I am not concerned with staving off poetry’s passing or reinventing poetry’s purpose for a new generation. Rather, I am celebrating poetry as a living thing—as many living things at once—and I’m sharing it with everyone I know or hope to meet.

To advocate for poetry, in my view, is to live with an intense love of written and spoken language and a willingness to tell and show others (especially the youngest) how you feel and why.

Each day new poets are born.

There’s no phoenix flash or gunpowder delivery.

Just the raised voices of hatchlings, their musical, crook-necked cries.