We might not all be powerful, but we all have a voice. Poetry is the river our voices ride and like water takes many shapes; gentle, loving, probing, raging, meandering, dry, gushing. Varied are the voices that carry us. These are the voices which carried me this past year.
BY DENISE STOUGHTON
The Absurd Man Poems by Major Jackson
Late one evening in January, I had the distinct pleasure of spending an hour and a half with Major Jackson via a Zoom classroom through an online course at The Writers Studio in NYC. He is one cool dude, and I don’t think he’d mind the description. In this collection, Jackson “savors the complexity between perception and reality, body and desire, accountability and judgement.”
Two poems from the volume that spoke to me were “Major and I” and “Double Major.” Our class explored the technique used in “Major and I” in which he employed a first-person narrator to describe the self usually kept hidden. If anyone would like to read the poem I wrote for my exercise, please scroll down.
Every Shut Eye Ain’t Asleep: An Anthology of Poetry by African Americans Since 1945
I simply cannot express how eye opening, insightful and moving this anthology was for me at a time when racial injustice has come to the fore (again). I found myself saddened to know that many of these pioneering voices including Robert Hayden, Gwendolyn Brooks and Sonia Sanchez are just as relevant and necessary today. I was transported, and I fell in love with each of these poets as I wove in and out of each narrative, each story, each life.
Failure by Philip Schultz
Can it be that this book was published 14 years ago? I feel like it was just yesterday Philip signed a treasured copy to me after a Writers Studio reading in NYC in May of 2007. Shultz is dyslexic, the founder of the Writers Studio and the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize. Generous by nature, he signed: “To Denise, wish you warm wishes and success for your own words” – PS
I am enamored of the deceptively simple manner in which Philip Schultz writes of everyday stuff. One of my favorite poems from the volume appears on page 17 simply titled, “My Dog.”
Denise Stoughton – Major Jackson Exercise, Major and I. Use a first-person narrator to describe the self usually kept hidden.
Denise and I
wake up in the same body but
the other Denise prefers to
luxuriate in bed; she is a fan of
caresses from ardent lovers
and crepe de chine whose
silky machinations provide
the grist for her gist which is
to say they meet her requirement
for elevated living and by their
sinuating touch she is anointed
more special for the feel of it.
Which is to say she has wholly
rejected the practical approach
to living that keeps me
up at night.
I let Denise awaken to sun-kissed
mornings and cop daydreams while
I toil in the boiler room of our breast
wild with the worry of ruinous columns
that don’t add up. They never do.
I prefer meat and potatoes and
employing these hands to work.
I stock up on non-perishables
and recycled feelings. I envelope
myself – return to sender. I am a single
page of straightforward text.
Denise is exquisite in her need
for men and women alike to
become blossoming oysters on
her shimmering shores, yearning
to be pried open by the alluring tide
of her charm, the water-splash
tingle of her laugher
coaxes them open and
their ruffled shells yield to the
competent articulation of her probing
fingers, she is a siren of sea and land.
I shoulder the weight
of the continents we carry,
the unrelenting memory
of airless rooms, broken toys
and unloved dolls, I pay
homage to Gods of all things
ordered and reliable and
tangible and of this world, this world.
I work double time paving
gold pathways beneath her feet as she
skips and pirouettes to bell tunes.
Might that I be crushed but
Denise pulls her weight
getting us out of speeding tickets,
we often feast for days on the booty
of her oceanic treasures, I delight
in pearly strands of her friends
and lovers (true) and vignettes
of her vanity (not true).
She boldly walks among
beds of emeralds and onyx
beneath crystalline skies
carefree and free
soaking up the elements
that wash away her loneliness
and quench the thirst for
a love not known to us.
OTHER ARTICLES BY DENISE:
Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor Gloom of Night (…but mostly snow)
History, Community and Art Converge at Pleasant Beach Village
New Sculptures in Familiar Places: Public Art Installations on Bainbridge Island
Green Light Garage: The Motherboard
Denise’s Favorite Virtual Gallery Tour: The National Cowboy Western & Heritage Museum
ABOUT DENISE STOUGHTON INSPIRED by globe-trotting, day tripping, found objects and high fashion, Denise has been designing home decor for two decades. Originally from the island of Manhattan, she traded concrete and glass skyscrapers for skyscrapers of the deciduous and coniferous variety and now lives happily on Bainbridge Island with her Chihuahua, Tula. Interior Design has and always will be her first love. She studied (and later, taught) at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. Denise writes a blog for Mercury Michael and is also a member of AHB’s Public Art Committee – placing public art in public spaces.