Archive for the ‘WIP Series’ Tag

Poet Robert Phillips, RIP   2 comments

“Poetry Lovers” — Image by kenne

Born in Milford, Delaware in 1938, Robert Phillips passed away January 21, 2022

W.H. Auden said of artists, “We were put on earth to make things.” We can do so by being generous
as well as by being creative, by becoming a master class to someone else.  We all have it within us,
the capacity to make someone else’s luck.

One of the first presenters at the Writers in Performance Series, Lone Star College, Montgomery
and one of my favorites, was Robert Phillips. Robert authored more than 30 volumes of poetry, one of
which is Spinach Days. It’s not easy to select a poem for the Capturing the Word series, since I like
most all Robert’s poetry.

Early Lesson

Her mother brought her down
to the laundry room. Picking

through the wicker clothes basket
she explained, “You must separate

the colored from the white.”
Her mother brought her down
And they did. Their black maid,
ironing in the corner, nodded.

— Robert Phillips, Spinach Days

Edward Hirsch — “Green Couch”   1 comment

Ed Hirsch & Yard Photos  9008-collage blogEdward Hirsch Reading at Lone Star College – Montgomery, Writers In Performance Series (April, 2010) — Images and Video by kenne


by Edward Hirsch

That was the year I left behind my marriage
of twenty-eight years, my faded philosophy books, and
the green couch I had inherited from my grandmother.

After she died, I drove it across the country
and carried it up three flights of crooked stairs
to a tiny apartment in west Philadelphia,

Ed Hirsch & Yard Photos  9007 sq blogand stored it in my in-laws’ basement in Bethesda,
and left it to molder in our garage in Detroit
(my friend Dennis rescued it for his living room),

and moved it to a second-floor study in Houston
and a fifth-floor apartment on the Upper West Side
where it will now be carted away to the dump.

All my difficult reading took place on that couch,
which was turning back into the color of nature
while I grappled with ethics and the law,

the reasons for Reason, Being and Nothingness,
existential dread and the death of God
(I’m still angry at Him for no longer existing).

That was the year that I finally mourned
for my two dead fathers, my sole marriage,
and the electric green couch of my past.

Darlings, I remember everything.
But now I try to speak the language of
the unconscious and study earth for secrets.

I go back and forth to work.
I walk in the botanical gardens on weekends
and take a narrow green path to the clearing.

Philip Levine — The Voice Of The Voiceless And That’s The Simple Truth   2 comments

WIPPhotosScanned36 Phillip Levain blog art frameSimple TruthPhilip Levine — Image by kenne

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Writers In Performance Series, Mid-1990’s — Images by Nancy Parsons

Voice of the Voiceless

life is simple,
we make it complicated —
that’s the simple truth.

I found myself reading
the poems of Philip Levine —
blessed with the gifts
of listening and observing;
enabling him to care,
he has called the
“voice of the voiceless”.

Above all,
Levine is a story-teller
of people decaying
in the spoils of the rich,
speaking directly
from the front lines,
bearing witness to
revolutions, faded.

By writing about work,
Levine writes about life.
waiting in the work line.
waiting in the assembly line.
waiting for the next task —
not changed from the last.

I, too,
worked an assembly line.
I, too,
bless the imagination
that have given me
myths I live by —
images created by
my visionary power
to bear witness.

I, too,
sing America —
that’s the simple truth.

— kenne

p. s. The other day I was listening to NPR when I heard that Philip Levine added another award to the many this great American poet has received, the American Academy of Poets life-time achievement award (Wallace Stevens Award). Levine, the 2011 U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner for his book, “The Simple Truth” is one of my favorite living poets. It was not long after this book’s publication that we were honored to have Levine read at Long Star College – Montgomery, Writers In Performance Series.


Laureate Philip Levine, Working Class Poet
by Robin Bates

An Abandoned Factory, Detroit

by Philip Levine

The gates are chained, the barbed-wire fencing stands,
An iron authority against the snow,
And this grey monument to common sense
Resists the weather. Fears of idle hands,
Of protest, men in league, and of the slow
Corrosion of their minds, still charge this fence.

Beyond, through broken windows one can see
Where the great presses paused between their strokes
And thus remain, in air suspended, caught
In the sure margin of eternity.
The cast-iron wheels have stopped; one counts the spokes
Which movement blurred, the struts inertia fought,

And estimates the loss of human power,
Experienced and slow, the loss of years,
The gradual decay of dignity.
Men lived within these foundries, hour by hour;
Nothing they forged outlived the rusted gears
Which might have served to grind their eulogy.


Capturing the Word — Michael Lieberman   Leave a comment

If you were to Google Michael Lieberman of Houston, you would get two hits, Dr. Michael Lieberman, MD, Houston, Texas, (TX), Anatomic Pathology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and Michael Lieberman has published three collections of poetry. As you might expect, they are one in the same.

Michael was the 1995 winner of The Texas Review Southern and Southwestern Poets Breakthrough Series and read at the Writers In Performance Series in the spring of 1996. Until recently reading his book again, A History of the Sweetness of the World, I remember little of his poetry. As with all poetry, the writer’s work and cultural experiences influence the selection of words in shading light on our existence.

As It Was in the Beginning

I raise an alternative from the jug
and bakery shop – yeast, bubbling,
ignoring their conjugal selves

for solitary acts involving
templates, nucleic acids,
replicons and the sizzle of birth—

God releasing Adam a sexually
across the dome of the world,
His index finger flicking Adam off

as we might reject a former lover.
The world budding from spherical deities
filled with DNA and histones—

protrusions on smooth surfaces—
at first less than hemispheres
bulging in apparent stasis, while inside

a potpourri of chemicals churns out
what many believe are perfect copies
of the Lord; later, each set free,

a homunculus rotating in the void,
creating a gravity of its own,
singing hosannahs in a beery breath.

They deserve all manner praise—
cymbals, hymns, prayers and masses,
temples, shrines, cathedrals.

For what is more precise and marvelous
than unequal scission that recites
the whole of creation, perhaps forever?

— Michael Lieberman

Posted August 14, 2010 by kenneturner in Capturing the Word, Poetry

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Capturing the Word — Beyond Forgetting   Leave a comment

Presenters Reading Poetry from Holly Hughe’s Beyond Forgetting (Holly is on the left) — Images by kenne

Last year, Holley Hughe Settle based editor of Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose About Alzheimer’s Disease, and the celebration of the unexpected graces that come with living in the present., was a presenter in the Writers in Performance Series. The following poem by Jan Harrington is an example of the writings in the book.

On July Nights I Stay with My Father

— Jan Harrington

Because he is vehement
and I am tired, I let him wear
his winter boots to bed. Their clasp
of his ankles  calms him – an antidote,
I imagine, to the loose
helplessness of pajamas.

Later he sits up, shaking,
cries out: “Where are mu shoes?
I need shoes.”

“You’re wearing your boots, Dad.”

He stares at me, sees stranger,
not daughter. I am slight ballast
for his night terror.

“How did you find me?” he asks.
“Will we make it out alive? Whatever
happens, stay here.”

He sleeps, I wait,
a sentry at the mouth
of the painted cave, watching
for morning’s pale rim.

This is part of an ongoing blog series base on the poetry of writers who have presented at the Writers In Performance Series at Lone Star College – Montgomery.


Posted August 6, 2010 by kenneturner in Capturing the Word, Photography, Poetry

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Capturing the Word — A New Series   6 comments

Shadows Before the Sky Darkens– Image by kenne

Visitors to this blog know I share images in the series, “Capturing the Moment.” With this posting, I’m beginning a similar series sharing poetry, specifically from my own writings and from the poets that have appeared in the “Writers in Performance” (WIP) Series conducted by the Montgomery County Literary Arts Council since 1993. It wasn’t till our recent move to Tucson that I realize the number of poetry books I have, a collection for which I’m very proud. So, with this posting I will use my blog to occasionally share the WIP writers’ poetry. Not to show any preference, I just reached to the shelves and pulled down a book. The book selected was Different Hours by Stephen Dunn. Stephen presented at WIP November 1, 2000. Here’s the poem I selected from this book of poetry:

Before The Sky Darkens

Sunsets, incipient storms, the tableaus
of melancholy — maybe these are
the Saturday night-events
to take your best girl to. At least then
there might be moments of vanishing beauty
before the sky darkens,
and the expectation of happiness
would hardly exist
and therefore might be possible.

More and more you learn to live
with the unacceptable.
You sense the ever-hidden God
retreating even farther,
terrified or embarrassed.
You might as well be a clown,
big silly cloths, not evidence of desire.

That’s how you feel, say, on a Tuesday.
Then out of the daily wreckage
comes an invitation
with your name on it. Or more likely,
that best girl of yours offers you,
once again, a small local kindness.

You open your windows to good air
blowing in from who knows where,
which you gulp and deeply inhale
as if you have a death sentence. You have.
All your life, it seems, you’ve been appealing it.
Night sweats and useless stratagem. Reprieves.

— Stephen Dunn

Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration   Leave a comment

Image by kenne

“Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration,” is the subtitle of Ed Hirsch’s 2002 book, “The Demon and the Angel.” The above image was taken while visiting family in southern California during the summer of 2002. I read Ed’s excellent book while relaxing on the patio, and have returned to it many times since. In honor of Ed Hirsch being the April Writers in Performance reader, this month’s Society of the 5th Cave book club selection is “The Demon and the Angel” and Hirsch’s National Book Critics Circle Award book of poems, “Wild Gratitude.” Both books are highly recommended.

You can learn more about Ed Hirsch and his writings, plan on attending this Thursday’s Writers in Performance.


Posted April 6, 2010 by kenneturner in Art, Poetry

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“Why I Hate Telling People I Teach English”   2 comments

Wendy Barker & Emily BirthdayWendy Barker — Image and Video by kenne

“Why I Hate Telling People I Teach English,” is a new poem by Wendy Barker. I love this poem! But I feel obliged to point out that the nice thing about being able to answer the question, “What do you do for a living?” with “I teach English,” is not having to explain what it is you do after answering the question. I’ve had jobs that would generate a follow-up question, “So, what’s that?”, which directs the conversation into my answering a question that was not asked with the intention of getting an answer – it’s just “small talk.” It’s the small talk that gets to us, which is why most people should find Wendy’s poem entertaining as well as being very good prose poetry.


Posted December 13, 2009 by kenneturner in MCLAC, Poetry, video

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Wendy Barker – “Nothing Between Us”   3 comments

Wendy Barker , Writers In Performance Series Appearances -by kenne

“We missed you,” I said as we began the drive from the airport.

“It was like missing a major family reunion,” she replied, about her not attending last year’s annual celebration of Emily Dickinson’s birthday. Not having Wendy at our annual party was like not having a birthday cake.

As we talked, we tried to remember how many years she has been a part of the Emily Dickinson panel discussion and the poetry reading at the Corner Pub – most of this decade, we agreed. The conversation continued at a pace driven by so much to share in so little time as if we could make up for time lost.

One might conclude that making up for time lost was why Wendy was arriving the day before the annual Emily Dickinson birthday celebration. To read her own poetry that evening. Even though she had become synonymous with the Writers In Performance Series, Wendy had never read strictly from her own poetry, which was about to change that evening. Now it was going to be Wendy’s turn to do Wendy and not Emily.

On the evening of her solo series performance, Wendy read primarily from her most recent work, Nothing Between Us – The Berkeley Years, a  novel in prose poetry published by Del Sol Press. The book focuses on the late sixties, a period of time that was both explosive and exciting in our culture’s history. Before reading from the book, Wendy provided a synopsis of the times, which set the stage for her beautifully penetrating prose poems.

So impressed with her outline of the sixties, the video I have prepared contains a précis of her preface to the reading and the prose poem, “Teaching Uncle Tom’s Children.”

One of my joys over the years of being involved in the Writers In Performance Series has been photographing almost all the series, which includes numerous Wendy images. With each, I have tried to capture the essence of this talented writer – not an easy task since so much of her work is made more elegant with the combination of skill, ease, and grace of her spoken word. Hopefully, this video will allow you to experience the essence of her elegance.

— kenne

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