Every April the Humanities Institute participates in National Poetry Month--an initiative started by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 to "celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture." NPM has become a Humanities Institute tradition and this year's calendar is packed with exciting readings and events. Here you can find the complete list of events, biographies for each of the guest poets, and read all the submissions for Poetry Matters at USF.
Florida 2013 Poetry Competition
This year the Humanities Institute ran its first poetry contest and we will be presenting the finalists throughout the month of April. High school students and USF students, faculty, and staff submitted over 100 poems on this year's theme: "Florida 2013." The top three poets in both the High School and USF catagories will receive special awards presented by Jorie Graham at her reading on April 2.
15 high school poets and 5 USF poets were selected as finalists and will have their poems featured on the NPM@USF website. New poems will be posted Monday - Friday. Check back during the week to read each poem.
Ryan Cheng: 1st Place
Graduate Student: English
Unlock the Door, Let the Moon Come in
After Bashō and Wallace Stevens and John Berryman
It is wet & heavy & humid & she is not
alone. The chatter & hum of screens
exchange voice with emptiness in her throat:
When did the sun become so boring?
Breezes whir above
walls become diluted mustard & then
starless. Even the wisteria
withers & she can’t
hear the crack in the grackle’s throat.
In my memory, her hair
adorned with orange
now she mistakes sandalwood for vinegar.
The night unfastens & stars stagger.
Branches creak, shake,
old doors & wooden
floors groan at her step.
The dust mites scurry & look—
a shell, the cicada sang
Gloria Muñoz: 2nd Place
Graduate Student: English
Your Biome Has Found You
And who will kiss open the spine of the resurrection fern
that’s hunched like a widow, like a shamed child?
How it locks and hides and browns under the sun
—a laborer’s hands picking blistered tomatoes,
or a pile of bones, perhaps bird bones—small, dry, silent.
Here is the damp and thickest marsh
of your interior wetland. And here, begins your tundra
of moss, rock and shrub. Here is the thing you lost,
perhaps the saddest or loveliest thing—remember?
It was taken, as a fish spine is plucked from its open body
on an open plate. And who will pry apart the arms of the praying
mantis who preys on her lover’s head?
Who will resuscitate the tiny bird whose head rests
on a fallen nest? You are helpless and wild here,
a murmuration of starlings pulses in your chest,
the soundtrack of breeding amphibians seeps
through you, cicadas scream petrified from tree tops.
The feral sounds of wilderness sharpen your teeth.
It is November, goldfish scales crunch under your soles,
the autumnal scent of a fire inhales you,
the aerials are coming and going.
While adding up all the dead things you carry,
you realize, there is so much dirt in you.
Still, your nautilus ears listen, waiting
to hear your native sea.
Brook Sadler: 3rd Place
Associate Professor: Humanities & Cultural Studies
Florida Ghazal Laid Back
Ravenous with bougainvillea blooms, day
breaks and memory clicks, a turning padlock—
At the dirt pecks a silent ibis flock.
Past and present move through a revolving door—
A filigree of ferns covers the sinkhole floor,
whispers green secrets to the ground—
Live oaks sprawl without a sound,
limbs of lovers stilled and slaked—
The mind lies coiled, a rattlesnake
in densely spiked palmetto brush—
High cypress boughs nod and hush, hush.
Below, the bent river flows with alligators—
Stealth ushers glide along the corridors
of time, and sunset again bleeds its fuchsia stain—
The self, with lizard eyes, waits, watches for rain.
Heavy clouds pant, underbelly of a panther sky—
Stars, numerous as coquina shells, on the black beach of space die.
Night-blooming hope laps and laps at peninsular tides—
Through open windows, a breeze of sorrow blows from all sides.
Birds in flight, thoughts, in unexpected vectors, turn—
Love, a paradox in lockbox, strikes its lightning burn.
Full and round, solitude rises above the sea—
If I had a hammock, there’d be no end of me.
All the idle sun-warmed hours would recall our combination—
Hannah Feig: Honorable Mention
USF Undergraduate: Anthropology and Chemisty
Florida, I Haven't Left You
why have I stayed here for so long
is it how you whisper in my ear
conch ritual desires
or is it sky-blue eyes
peeking out from palm leaf shadows
fragile beings rest upon your shores, hiding,
like clumps of sand in rain
my fingers heavy and uttering nonsense until
the sun comes out again,
warm on my back, warmer, warmer.
what makes your breath so sweet
is it low-croak gator smiles
swish-crash ant trails on dead leaves
birds before I wake
crickets when I sleep
frog-calls after rain
piles of shell and earth for centuries
juggling mouths of overflowing eau,
salty sweat and pure clean lime,
garlands of sugar sweet climbing flat land
between toes the white sand
tangled in my hair like fish in mangroves
waiting, humming, green white brown blue
love-hymns in the summertime
sing about why I haven't left you.
Cameron McNabb: Honorable Mention
USF Alumna: Ph.D., English Literature, 2012
Buck's Roadside Stand
The whack-a-mole gator heads
Shed of their milky eyes,
With their jaws perched open,
Hoping like baby birds before a worm.
Disemboweled coquinas, drawn and quartered,
Thwarted on the tentacles of a wind chime.
All time, ticked out, slowly
Slowing to the highway breeze.
‘Boild pnuts’ in their crockpot cauldron
Scalding the world as they plot an escape
Into the orange crate, fruit deflowered
But them empowered to slough off their tattered coats.
Tawny man, with deep crow’s feet
Seated on an oak-hewn stool,
In alligator lethargy, too hearty,
Too tardy to see me as I wave.
John D. Mullen: Honorable Mention
USF Alumnus: B.A., Philosophy & Political Science, New College of USF 1989
An anhinga spreads wings, unhinged
to allow the setting sun to dry;
The wood stork stumbles forward
prehistorically, in search of dinner's catch;
Two roseate spoonbills glide to shore
and quizzically graze the shallows;
A family of ordinary ducks paddles
impertinently, but in rhythm.
A retention pond turned inadvertent refuge
Hemmed in by Target left and Publix right
The recent arrivals, transient, human,
Flock to park, shop, bicker, depart:
The natives take their sustenance
How, and where, they can
Clinging to a foothold, a bare grasp,
To lingering, to hanging on.
Evelyn Diaz: 1st Place
12th Grade, Howard W. Blake High School
She runs with the sun at her honey glazed hum
beating down by the Bay Shore where the melted huffs
of tireless waves lick low the sky soft brown days
She moves with the moon’s silent rise
past the spilling smell of coffee shops
dripping busy hands by the clock
She’s grown weak for the warm curls
that tease the neck line at spring
The cold no longer leading her to sing
of love and other things
Sadie Briguglio: 2nd Place
11th Grade, Howard W. Blake High School
It was natural
to see a Willow,
dip its feet in
and sway its
hair in the humidity.
It was natural,
to extend your
reach into the sun,
and be left with
a singed arm,
hurt, and alive.
It was natural,
for the bright
colors of Florida,
to entrance a
victim into its
beauty, and warmth.
Shelby Brown: 3rd Place
10th Grade, Howard W. Blake High School
The Place of Flowers
Golden eyes mark the way
They are not subtle, nor meek
They have watched this land
Since the tides clawed it into shape
Scanned every leaf and danced
On every wave that broke the shore
Guarding so desperately the treasures
They have held since dawn
Sometimes, they open their doors
And let their world flow out
A hundred shades of petals scattering
As pines whisper tales of oceans
As the wind sighs through the hair
Of children who have not yet lost
Their clear eyes
It is the world’s job to guide them
From the stepping stones to the bank
Before the sky is eclipsed with night
The sun is perched on their shoulders
Pulling their clothes
Sweet lips murmuring, crying
“This is home.”
Pulitzer Prize-winner Jorie Graham read from her critically-acclaimed work “PLACE”
as part of her week-long visit to USF.
By Barbara Melendez
TAMPA, Fla. (April 3, 2013) – Poetry fans were poised for a rare treat Tuesday evening. Jorie Graham, one of America’s premiere poets would read from her latest work and autograph their books.
To a hushed and appreciative audience she delivered selections from her critically-acclaimed “PLACE (2012),” accentuating her words and phrases with graceful yet emphatic hand gestures – the urgency in her voice conveying the gentle command to pay attention to the details in her stream of imagery. She transported her listeners into as many emotions and time periods as geographic places and left them deeply moved.
She once told the Paris Review, ““A poem is a private story, after all, no matter how apparently public. The reader is always overhearing a confession.” With each of her poems, she set the context for its creation, letting listeners in on the deeper levels of her private stories that were inspired by the important people and places in her life.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet is the USF Humanities Institute‘s second distinguished scholar-in-residence and will devote the rest of her week to spending time in English honors and graduate classes and conducting graduate workshops. She will present a lecture on Thursday at 6 p.m., “Why Poetry Matters.,” an event that is free and open to the public at the Marshall Student Center Room 2708.
As Elizabeth Bird, Humanities Institute director pointed out, Graham’s reading of her work showed quite well why poetry matters best of all, but encouraged the audience to hear what more she has to say.
“When she introduced her beautiful and complex poems with stories about how the poems came to be written, the audience was spell-bound as I’m sure they will be on Thursday,” she said. “Her visit, and the whole Scholar-in-Residence program, is important because it offers the opportunity for our students, faculty, and staff to interact directly with inspiring humanities scholars and artists. They may have read their work before, but the personal insight and engagement are priceless. In addition, the program helps put USF on the map as a university where the humanities are valued and supported, as they are at all truly great institutions.”
Graham set the tone for National Poetry Month’s celebration at USF – a profound appreciation for words and imagination – as soon as she arrived in Tampa. She visited a Modern and Contemporary Anglo-American Poetry class taught by English Department Chair Hunt Hawkins a few hours before her reading.
She was gracious enough to start the program by presenting awards to the winners of the Humanities Institute first ever poetry contest. High school students and USF students, faculty, and staff submitted over 100 poems on this year's theme: "Florida 2013." The top three poets in both the High School and USF categories received special awards (winners listed below).
The 15 high school poets and five USF poets selected as finalists are being featured throughout the month of April on the institute’s NPM@USF website. An additional 12 high school students and two additional USF poets received honorable mentions and will be featured on the website as well.
Graham’s global background blends well with USF’s emphasis on preparing students for global leadership. Born in New York City, raised in Rome and educated in French schools, she studied at the Sorbonne before attending New York University and then the University of Iowa for her undergraduate and master’s degrees.
Her book “The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994” won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In addition to her critically-acclaimed works, notably "Sea Change" (2008), "Never" (2002) and "Swarm" (2000), Graham has also edited two anthologies, "Earth Took of Earth: 100 Great Poems of the English Language" (1996) and "The Best American Poetry 1990."
Described by the U.S. Poetry Foundation as “perhaps the most celebrated poet of the American post-war generation,” Graham is the Boylston Professor of Poetry at Harvard. She was the first woman to be awarded this position, following in the footsteps of the renowned Irish poet Seamus Heaney and all the way back to John Quincy Adams. Seamus Heaney and a chair whose occupants date back to John Quincy Adams. She was the first woman to be awarded this position. Seamus Heaney and a chair whose occupants date back to John Quincy Adams. She was the first woman to be awarded this position.
Her many honors include a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She was the first American woman to receive the prestigious British 2012 Forward Prize for “Places (2012).”
A position previously held by Seamus Heaney and a chair whose occupants date back to John Quincy Adams. She was the first woman to be awarded this position. a position previously held by Seamus Heaney and a chair whose occupants date back to John Quincy Adams. She was the first woman to be awarded this position. She has also taught at the prestigious University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and served as a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1997 to 2003.
For more upcoming poetry events, click to download schedule of NPM