Sunday, September 18, 2011


Listen to me!

They have no idea how wonderful you are.  You are the most incredible person.  You deserve love letters and poetry and slow dances in the rain.  Every minute that goes by is carrying us away with it.

Like a snapshot with lemon yellow light flooding exposure, I am frozen in time and space.

I have. I am. I thought I’d die. But I didn’t.

Two radiating
posed, fac
ing each-
other, in
the open
air. The spa
ce sur-
them clear-
ed of
things. Fig-
ure 1 see
ks the orb-
it of
Figure 2—
not ful
ly grown.
Both ex
ing the
same cloth
es looking
able from one
another, like lit
tle bits of viv-
fied matter try
ing to stand
their ground.
Figure 1 gent-
ly touches
the slope of
with affect-
and says,
     “That is what you are to me.”

                                                Joanne Leva

Sunday, September 4, 2011

How to prepare & give a poetry reading (part 3)

Write it out

When you write - hand-write - your poems on a sheet of paper with an ink pen or a sharp pencil.  Words and their truest intrinsic meanings become known through the simple act of writing it out.  Sometimes the shape of your poem will reveal itself or an area that needs definition will come to light.

Writing your poem on the page as you would say it out loud helps to organize and define its story line and structure. These elements surface when you think of the page as your medium.  A clean page is more than a piece of stationary.  It is the vehicle for the telling.  It is the surface that refines the art of the poem.

                                           [   UNTITLED  ]

Meg McFarland was one
year older than me
and when you’re
in kindergarten
that’s huge.
Meg would talk
back to her mother
so much that her mom
would routinely straddle her
on the floor in front of me and shove
a bar of ivory soap
in her mouth
as I look-
ed on.
had no fear.  I
remember the day
she and I decided it would
be good to lay in the street and
wait for a car to come along, just to see
if it would stop.
Meg really got it for
that one.  I don’t remember
too much about Meg’s mom except
for how she used to yell in her crackly voice, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph!"
                    Joanne Leva


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How to prepare & give a poetry reading (part 2)

Show them your world

This is your landscape.  Talk about your journey. What is not happening is just as important as what is happening.  You are creating space with your poems and with your words.  Your poems have substance.  Images and metaphors have tangible qualities that engage and fill the the room with impressions.

It is important to go slow when you read your poetry.  Take time to pause and look at your audience.  Listen carefully, you will know your listeners caring hearts by their stillness.  You will hear them listening.  Their silence has sound.

As the medicine

goes through your blood
you lie still
apparatus around you beeps
and you jump
we jump
at the thought of it

your belly is red
the tubes are clear
your arm taught
from needles and tape
and cotton

and your mother
like cotton
comes to you religiously
she stands over you
and sings

her music
echoes in your ears
and in the room
the whole room becomes full
of you and your mother

she touches you
and you feel her softness
she holds your hand
you feel her gentle fingertips
she comes closer
and your pain disappears
when she is near
your world changes

Joanne Leva

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How to prepare & give a poetry reading (part 1)

Consider Your Audience

As you would invite a friend into your home, invite your audience into the body of your work.  They want to know who you are and what is important to you, so begin with a poem or two written by a poet who inspires you. Maybe you have an absolute favorite poem, that whenever you read it you get goose bumps or you find it calls you to write your own story.  This sets the emotional tone of your reading.  

Try to remember your audience is a living, breathing body in and of itself, and they want to inhabit the images, metaphors, and situations you explore in your work, so don't leave them at the front door.  Bring them in.  Open the door.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

The Essential Rumi
Translation by Coleman Barks with John Moyne