12 April 2014

Spring Villanelle

Thanks to the Kellogg-Hubbard Library and Montpelier Alive for hosting my Modern Villanelle Writing Workshop today as part of PoemCity 2014. We had four participants: poet and poetry therapist Mary Rose Dougherty, Indiana transplant & writer John Fox, film instructor and Sestina master Rick Winston, and Veteran and Vermonter George Druin.

We had a lively discussion of the form, its history, and its contents, while also reading a few great poems by Sherman Alexie, Dylan Thomas, and Ursula K. Le Guin, to name a few.

Books about Villanells I recommended and used as a reference are Villanelles edited by Annie Finch and Marie-Elizabeth Mali (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012); and The Teachers & writers handbook of poetic forms, edited by Ron Padgett (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 2000).

Thanks to our poets who participated today, five new Villanelles have been birthed into the world (I wrote one, too).

Here I'll share with you my own villanelle I wrote this morning, and also here is the form to give you a sense of how to write your own:

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Spring Villanelle 
        by Samantha Kolber


It's been too long since we've seen the sun.
We stumble blind
as if out of the dark cave we've come.

Ready for laughing and fun,
warmth on our skin.
It's been too long since we've seen the sun.

Ready for fingers in dirt, planting a garden.
The ground not harsh, but kind
as if out of the dark cave seeds come

up, released from Hades. Not a son
but a daughter reunites.
It's been too long since she's seen the sun.

And as for mothers and fathers you only get one.
If your childhood's been unkind
it's out of the darkness you've come.

Winter breeds darkness, and spring the growing season.
Mom, dad, I'm really trying
to see the sun.
Out of your dark cave is where I've come from.

10 April 2014

Modern Villanelle Writing Workshop with Samantha Kolber: a PoemCity Event

It's that time of year again: National Poetry Month! To celebrate, I have joined the PoemCity 2014 movement in Montpelier, Vermont.

Not only do I have a poem displayed in the window of Julio's restaurant on State Street...


....but I am also teaching a free Modern Villanelle Writing Workshop on Saturday, April 12. Here is the program description:

Come learn about villanelles, and write your own!

“The villanelle is one of the most fascinating and paradoxical of poetic forms, quirky and edgy…prone to moods of obsession and delight; structured through the marriage of repetition and surprise… No wonder it is currently enjoying such a powerful, post-modernist blossoming,” from Villanelles: Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets


We’ll read aloud examples by poets such as Sherman Alexie and Sylvia Plath to get inspired; then we’ll get busy creating our own villanelles. All levels and ages of writers are welcome.

Hayes Room, Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main Street | 10 AM


Hope to see you there!

07 October 2013

Walk Poem at Norwich University

for ENV 299, thank you

I wish I had sunglasses
on these short
annoying stairs.

I see Meg's dark eyes
much worse, the sun shines
and her smile still sparkles.

Looking up is fruitless.

The wind makes the leaves dance
and I wish they wouldn't
distract me so.

Stark shadow on the ground
is me getting out of my own way.

The bark eye of the tree
is underneath all things.

I smell asphalt on the wind.
I wish I didn't smell asphalt
but I wish I could smell wind.

Vibrant colors too clean and
bright and if we go down the stairs
I'll fall or not write as much.

The poet's obstacle course
can't make me jump the hoops
of all time.

Smelling green grass that grows fake
seeing gold chairs that feel hollow
why is it man-made life and
nature can both be so beautiful?

The newness mixed with the old
means nothing ever really dies.
It just changes shape.
Like this path that changes
from cement to dirt back to
cement again. Which one is the
true path? The way for poets?

I crashed my snowboard on this--
more stairs
steeply down
if I could wander down stairs,
across fields, in the sun toward a
glowing mountain of autumn leaves
forever, then I'd always know
I am alive. This heat gives life. This
bright green grass beneath my feet
that sparkles here and there with
leftover dew, tethers me to the ground.
Without ground, I'd float off
into an abstract sky.

Why call this fall when all we do is
stay? Stay here on the earth with
its crunchy leaves underfoot. Stay here
on an endless train track, forever
in both directions.

Moving into nature
say hello. Question.
Why this dirt?
Why that pile of hay?
Why that dead birch right there off
the path? Why do we veer off the path?

Listen! There's a sewer and underneath
a river flowing, I can hear it
shushing and lulling like a waterfall.

The crow caws, the sun makes me
glint and it hurts my eyes.

I run to catch up.
A gun shot far off in the hills.
I take a deep breath
a thousand breaths to make
this afternoon last forever.

Grab a hold of that light bulb
one flash and it's over.

17 August 2013

I just found a poem I wrote in 2005 on an old hardrive, and I revised it into this new poem. What do you think?

-->
I want the weight of you,

not just your hand like a delicate shadow
on my belly;

Not just your open mouth on mine,
your scruff on my neck,  no

this won’t do.
I don’t want pieces of you.

I want the cool finger of vision,
your hands down my spine.

Our bodies wading shallow,
naked in a reflective pool. Two

puddles coming together,
the meniscus of our crescent

figures like droplets
returning from the waterfall.

On your lips I tell you this,
taste our stolen kiss.

You don’t hear me
through the rush.




© 2013 Samantha Kolber


26 March 2013

A Poem for When I am Not Writing Poems


In fiction, I must ask:
What’s my character’s problem?
And not: Why aren’t I outside looking at the moon,
singing to her and pining for all things light and dark
to touch me in ways I can only dream of being touched?

In fiction I must write silence into my dialogue without saying
“Insert awkward silence here.”
Who knew?

Who knew that a life of nothing much would
lead me here, to a keyboard in the middle of the night,
to a man dancing parallel lines to my groovy hips?

And now I’m driving toward a one and only future,
one I can’t imagine but somehow have known,
at least I’ve known to write it down, to document.
I document for those who dare not speak, but what do I have to say for them?
I have no problem, hence
my character has no problem, unless you count
a general problem with the way the world works
as a central problem to solve. Why have we come this far
and not solved rape?
Why have we come this far to debate on
who can and cannot be married?
Why have we come this far?
It’s not very far at all, is it?

But we are far – far from the one, the one true point
I don’t even believe
we’ve really ever come from: that garden, that snake. Nope. Don’t buy it.
Everything will change, but how
have we evolved so far from divinity? So far from light and truth
and justice and peace for all? Who will you pledge your allegiance to
when the moon doth not shine? Who will you side with
when there is no light to see any sides? Because that light is gone
as far as I can tell,
and I’m not even a poet.
Anymore.

**

What it’s like to give up writing poems:
I’ve given up my camera,
I am unable to take pictures of your thoughts,
snap snap
I just took your heart
snap
an eyeball’s core with that image of
your brother’s bleeding wrists you had wanted to forget
snap
not even bandages cover up what my camera can capture.
I miss it. The darkness like my own private dark room,
the way my heart reached out to it
in negative phototropism.
The way my whole being would turn to it
in order to get the poem.
Poems come from dark and silent places,
and also light and fluffy ones.
But mostly dark.

Poets Know:
it’s not an attitude, it’s an attunement.
It’s not always about line breaks and enjamb
ments. Nor is it always about witnessing. Rhyming,
definitely not even close to being about rhyming.
But what? That question
says it all.

12 March 2013

Fuck You, Depression

I.

I have stood where the wind
touches no one.

I have let her hollow cry
brush my ears.

And when she made me cry
from sheer bitterness

I went on pretending,
forced a plastered smile.

II.

I dress in black
and walk in snow,

rise tall like a shadow
or a ghost.

People say “Fuck
you, depression.”

I say nothing at all
and fall.

So tired and so awake
I recall whistling

to a dog in a sunny
park.

Was that my childhood
or just the one I wanted?

I lay with piles around
me—heaps and stacks I

never put away.
There’s just no room for it all.

I’m craving sunshine
big sky, curvy land,

vast ocean.
But I have snow, a grey sky,

city lights bounce off the
snow-covered streets.

Nothing much to anchor me
or help me feel.

III.

At home? Happy? Fulfilled? Who
ever really feels like that? I’m
hungry now, I always have
been. And this sucks, the
way I write now is always
looking for the good line, always
editing it down, even before I
write it to get the poem. I
can’t write the poem: it has
to write me. Oh I’ve forgotten
my tools. These are my tools.
Why am I filling my head with
fluff? Wasting my time with empty
entertainment? When I should be
carting my tools around
crafting stories and life from
the details I see.

I have always loved words.
Words are delicious.

Fucking depression. I will ninja
kick you back to hell.

Fuck you, depression. I will take a
Samurai sword and chop
your head off. Maybe even
borrow my dad’s machete. 

©2013 Samantha Kolber 

06 March 2013

Clothes Shopping: Love/Hate Relationship with my Body

I just want to talk for a minute about women's bodies and shopping. Now, I have what I have always considered a normal body. I am not overweight, nor am I too skinny. I have some cellulose (perfectly normal) in my thighs, my calves are thick from sports, and I still have a waist (at my age and after having a kid). And I love my body--it grew and birthed a child, it has ran marathons and hiked up mountains, it has danced and laughed and repaired itself from illnesses and injuries--but I hate clothes shopping. The thing is, while trying on clothes and seeing how nothing fits even though I pick my size off the shelf, I start to loathe my body. Love body while not clothes shopping; hate body while clothes shopping. Tough equation.

In the dressing room while stuffing my all-of-a-sudden sausage legs into a size 10 pair of pants--damn "skinny" pants!--I start to feel fat. In a size 10. Scary double digits. I wonder, if sizes came in letters, A,B,C,D and so on, would I feel the same about my body? Or would I equate the letters with school grades and think I have failed if I wear a size F? Yet the numbers serve to tell me that the higher I go, the bigger I am. When in fact I am not big. I am just me. My body is perfectly sized exactly right just for me. So how is it nothing ever fits? Why aren't the clothing companies making clothes that actually fit my body? If one pair of pants is too small in the legs, they're too big in the waist. If another fits in the waist, they are two feet too long in the legs. Trying on endless pairs of pants, I find myself longing for the days where people made their own clothes, or had their own tailor.

And don't even get me started on those mirrors and those lights! While the clothing may make me feel fat, the lights and mirrors make me feel ugly! Blotchy, pale, discolored, wide, out of proportion--it's like a fun house mirror. If the companies do that on purpose to try and disorient us into making bad purchases, oh wait, it's working. I bought a royal blue blazer at the store where it looked awesome on me in their mirror, but when I got it home it looked like a Wal-Mart cashier  blazer! Sigh. Why do I even go shopping? Oh yeah, I usually don't shop at big box stores. Tonight was an exception. I think I'll stick to my local downtown stores who have signs on their regularly lighted mirrors that say "I am beautiful! I love my body." No more exceptions. No more cheap short-cuts to big box stores. Back to thrift stores and saving up for weeks to buy one item at a clothing boutique! You can't really win with clothes shopping, can you?