Ready For Their Close-Up: A small sample of poems

Curated by Suzanne Lummis


In the American Heritage dictionary close-up is defined as:  1.  A photograph or a film or television shot in which the subject is tightly framed and shown at a relatively large scale. 2.  An intimate view or description. 

FROM THE GARDEN OF FREE VERSES

 (A small sample of poems from the many fine ones written during the Santa Fe Springs two-week art & poetry camp at Heritage Park and The Clarke Estate, co-sponsored by Friends of the Junior Arts Center)

Reader, poetry connoisseur, I already know what you’re thinking,  ‘who wants to read the work of people who’ve only been studying poetry for four to ten days, especially considering some of the participants had read little serious poetry before plunging into art and poetry camp?’

 

Well let me set you straight on that point.  You won’t find any careless, tossed-off poems from my group, and no doggerel either.  My student poets revise carefully.  Sure, their first drafts aren’t always brilliant – but, heck, whose are?  Like all good poets they start by getting something down on paper, then they return to it, searching for monotonous repetitions, dull verbs or adjectives, and predictable phrases, which they then replace with livelier words.

 

Now, people say poetry’s a solitary process, but that’s not always the case; sometimes it can be a collaborative process. (In fact my poets quickly added the word “collaborative” to their expanding vocabularies.)  For example, say the art camp poets read a James Wright poem, then venture out into the rich environs of Heritage Park or the Clarke Estate to note everything they see, hear and smell. When they come back, however, they discover many of their poems include the same predicable adjective and noun pairing: “beautiful flowers”.  I ask them, “Is this good?” 

 

“No!” say the poets. 

 

“And why not?” 

 

“Because,” returns the group, “poets are supposed to be original!” 

 

And so we write some of the poems on a big palette and the group brainstorms, helping each other revise by suggesting more interesting, less expected words.  And, believe me, my poets know what a synonym is and can name a lot of them.  Each poet, though, gets to choose the revisions he/she wants to make, saying, “I like ‘soar’” or “I want ‘peaches’ to go right here.”

 

That’s not to say the student poets don’t evolve most of their best lines all on their own.  The second of the poems below, by Danny Guevara, contains a line some might imagine came – at least in part – from a professional poet, but it was all his. 

 

As it happened, we’d been discussing similes, and many in the group knew that a simile is  “a comparison using ‘like’ or ‘as’”.  I told them, “That’s true, and there’s something else about a simile that your teachers might not have told you.  A poetic simile is no ordinary comparison.  It involves an imaginative leap.”  “Imaginative leap,” I said, “write that down.”

 

Then that same day, when I was helping Danny with his poem, I noticed a particular image.  I suggested to him, “Right here – if you can think of what that sunlight on water reminds you of, you’ll have a simile”.

 

He hesitated for only a moment.  Then he made the leap. 

- Suzanne Lummis


Many thanks to my assistant Naomi, my comrade in the arts, Ellie, and all the outstanding emerging poets.  I regret that I can represent here only a few of them.  For information about the annual August art and poetry camp, call Heritage Park: (562) 946-6476.

POETS AGES 7 - 10

 

 (Two or more participants can create a spine poem, each taking turns adding a word at time.  The only rules are these: 1) the poets must not have decided ahead of time where the poem is going and, 2) they must wind up with a grammatical sentence. )

 

Jamie Becker and Levi Gutierrez

UNTITLED SPINE POEM

 

Wisteria

spreads

around

the

playground

and

whispers

to

the

children.

 


 

(inspired by Billy Collins’ “Looking West”)

 

Danny Guevara

I TRAVEL THE WORLD
 

I start at the Clarke Estate next to purple,

red, silver flowers.  I take off

 

past the bamboo, over the aquatic center.

Then I hustle over to Kaiser, where my mom’s

doing computer work. I fly

over Las Vegas and the dummies gambling

their money away.  I soar

over North Dakota and gaze at Mount Rushmore.

Tourists ride jet skies across the Great Lakes.

I stop at the splendor of the Statue of Liberty,

then pass over the Atlantic, Africa,

Indian tribes, and red tailed parrots – then

over Beijing and Mount Fuji. I spot

people riding bikes.

In Japan I look at Toyotas and Hondas.

 

I pass the Pacific where the sunlight on the water

is like my mom when she’s happy.

 

Then I rush back to Santa Fe Springs and

the Clarke Estate, where I sit

next to the fountain

writing

this

        poem.

 


 

(inspired by Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day”)

 

Jamie Becker

QUESTIONS FOR

THE GOLDEN PHEASANT

                       
Do you like your vivid feathers?

Do you have a girlfriend?

Why do you have stripes on your neck?

What kind of seeds do you eat?

Where do you like to go most of the time?

I have two sisters, one fourteen and one thirteen.

You and me have something in common.

We both like to run and jump.

 


 

(inspired by James Wright’s “Outside Fargo, North Dakota”)

 

Levi Gutierrez

TINY FIG

.                                                          

The sharp grass and fire flowers

surround the peace lilies.

The clear, cold water is smooth

as the cement floor.

The roots of the rusty leaf fig

rise from the ground, and         

just now

a tiny fig fell on

me.

 

 

POETS AGES 10 – 13

 

Jessica Bellamy

SERENITY

 

Warm sweet air of the sycamore tree

   enchants me.

Bubbling jets of water dance

  into the crystal pool.

Sometimes I’m cradled

   by the gentle wind.

The smell of nectar makes my tongue tingle.

Golden moths hop on purple lupine.

 

I hear the light scrape of a sycamore leaf

as it flutters to the ground. 

 


 

(The following poems we say are “after” Sandra Cisneros because the poets incorporated the basic structure of “You Bring Out the Mexican in Me”.   We looked at only a section of her long poem.) 

 

 

Amanda Bixler

YOU

 

bring out

the string on my shirt,

the stain on my pants,

the extra homework.

You bring out the Medea in me,

the tossing and turning all night in me.

 

You remind me of licking my teeth

instead of brushing,

smeared mascara,

nail polish on my finger,

lost lip-gloss.

 

tick-tock.  puke green.  late for school.

warm coke.  beets.  jumping.  seaweed.  frogs.

 

 

Daniela Cannata

TO MY MOM

            - After Sandra Cisneros’ “You Bring Out the Mexican in Me”

 

You bring out the music in me,

the jewels in me, the karate moves in me.

 

You bring out the dark red roses in me,

the white fluttering butterflies in me,

 

the art in me,

the sparkling sun in me,

the firelight in me.

 

Baby blue.  Birds of paradise. Petunias.

Peace lilies. Tulips.

 

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