Poeta Mundanus

Boys reading their poetic fortunes at the Red Fern Festival

Boys reading their poetic fortunes at the Red Fern Festival

The academic world of poetry has never interested me as much as the mundane world of poetry. Some people might balk at putting “poetry” and “mundane” in the same sentence, but let’s look at the origin of a word that in the popular imagination means a bunch of negative things: common, ordinary, banal, unimaginative. Continue reading

Harness Up The Day

The door at the Woody Guthrie Center

At the Woody Guthrie Center

Oklahoma has created some stellar poets, to name a few–John Berryman, Joy Harjo, N. Scott Momaday, and Kevin Welch.  Our fly-over state has also produced some first-rate songwriters who have the musical poet strong inside them: Garth Brooks, Roy Clark, Wanda Jackson, Reba McEntire, Leon Russell, Dwight Twilley, Bob Wills, and Kevin Welch again, among them. But our greatest poet has to be Woody Guthrie. And yes, he was a poet. Just read the lyrics to “Harness Up The Day”: Continue reading

Poem for Lewis Black

Lewis+BlackNOTE: I am going to a Lewis Black concert in Tulsa tonight and will attempt to give him this poem. Wish me luck.

Oklahoma Welcomes Lewis Black

We’re angry, too.
We have teachers judged by the highest standards
Making the lowest pay in the nation.
We embody Labor Omnia Vincit
Because we are cowboys and girls, waitresses,
Truck drivers, teachers and artists, dreamers
And pharmacists, customer service minimum-wage
Fast wood workers and tractor repairmen, beauty
Shop Labor Conquers All Things operators. Continue reading

Poetry Machines

I had an actual dream about opening a museum that was full of poetry machines. In the dream, the museum was in my grandparents’ old home, which we had turned into a used bookstore and then when it closed, my nephew and his friend moved into it while they are going to college. But the house was also an amalgamation of a psychiatric museum I had visited in St. Joseph, Missouri.     Continue reading

Oklahoma’s True Poet Laureate: Woody Guthrie

My students have been studying the life and work of Woody Guthrie. It’s his centennial, and good old Oklahoma is finally coming around to see what an important man this guy from Okemah really was. My fellow Okies tend to hold a grudge for way too long, and in this case it was never warranted—to think someone was a communist (which he wasn’t) and a socialist (which he was, though didn’t care for the tag) is not a decent reason to deny his value. Continue reading