“The Night is Our First Language” Published

This is a poem inspired by a poetry reading by Li-Young Lee in Chicago.  When I heard  Lee read, I immediately wrote this poem on my train ride back home.  During the reading, the audience was stunned silent.   We listened intently and even stopped fanning ourselves on a desperately hot summer afternoon.

Lee is not active on social media, and that’s okay–he is probably busy writing more poetry!

The poem’s title came from something Lee said toward the end of his reading, that “the night is our first language.”  That stuck with me.

My poem is published here: Willowdown Books, The Poetic Bond VIII.

And here is the poem:

The Night is Our First Language
(after Li-Young Lee’s poetry reading)

Chicago, hot afternoon
packed reading room.
We wait as sweat drips down
faces, onto blouses, shirts–
unpoetic bodily functions.

A slight man, black ponytail,
black boots, turtleneck, blazer,
dark round rim glasses,
shuffles papers at the podium,
asks quietly:  Is the microphone on?
Thank you for coming. I will
read from new poems,
these are not finished.
It takes me so long to write
in English, not my first language.

Can you hear me know?

We sat forward
nodding, yes, yes,
we can hear you, we are listening,

His voice soft but clear
a slow low bell
of three countries
as he read a love poem to his sister,
who at eight
held the family keys and
held the duty
to keep the family together
while Mother
waited at the prison daily,
hoping for a glimpse of Father,
and he remembered sister’s screams
when father was beaten while arrested.

Sister, I will not tell your secrets.

He looked up, startled
that we were there,
as he went on to
talk of his mouth, not
suited for certain sounds,
of a river of escape,
so swollen with dead bodies
their boat could not move.

Finished, quietly, the poet
started away from the podium
as we sat in stunned silence,
a room packed, doubly packed,
while he said in parting,

The night is our first language.

 

From: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/li-young-lee

Li-Young Lee was born in Djakarta, Indonesia in 1957 to Chinese political exiles. Both of Lee’s parents came from powerful Chinese families: Lee’s great grandfather was the first president of the Republic of China, and Lee’s father had been the personal physician to Mao Zedong. In Indonesia, Dr. Lee helped found Gamaliel University. Anti-Chinese sentiment began to foment in Indonesia, however, and Lee’s father was arrested and held as a political prisoner for a year.

 

Thank you for reading.

Laura

Brief Bio

laura gym picture    Hello, readers.  I never added a bio here, so–better late than never!

I am a reading specialist; reading, English, and ELL teacher as well as a poet and fiction/ nonfiction writer.  My graduate coursework is  in Reading, Education, and ELL.    I’ve attended many colleges and universities, including:

* Elmhurst College (Bachelors degree, English, Sociology, Psychology, Education)
* College of DuPage (English, Spanish, music, writing, and more–over many years–as part of being a lifelong learner)
*National-Louis University (graduate degree in Reading and additional coursework in ELL and Education)
*University of Chicago (creative writing and art)
*De Paul University (started a Business degree program–what was I thinking?)
*St. Xavier University (graduate coursework in Reading)
*Benedictine University (graduate coursework in Reading)
*Concordia University (graduate coursework in Reading)

I think I am missing some; needless to say, I am a lifelong learner.

I began my professional life working in publishing (minimum wage!), banking, and insurance–those student loans had to be paid off! Eventually I was able to pursue my dream of being a teacher and writer; by then I was well into my “late” middle age years. I never regretted this decision to leave a well-paid business job to enter teaching and writing. Not one regret.

Not too many years ago, I “retired” from full time teaching.  I now teach at the college level part time and write part time.

I love nature and people and literacy.  Lifelong passions!

I’m also a volunteer adult literacy tutor with Literacy DuPage.  I also volunteer with Elmhurst College and work with English majors to help them navigate college.

One of the most meaningful things I’ve done is to be a Mentor Coordinator for a high school with a significant gang presence,  matching youths who had been arrested for or received discipline warnings for in-school gang activity and then completed a gang avoidance program with adult mentors.  This mentor program helped our students stay in school.  For me, I used to wonder out loud: What am I doing? I have no training in this field? What if I mess up?  But I learned that I had considerable skills in interviewing people and predicting who would get along/ work well together.

I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for decades.  I am very fortunate.

Thanks for reading.

Laura

PS For a list of my publications, look here: Publications.

 

 

Poem Being Published in Headline Poetry Soon

512px-Sarajevo_Skenderija_Sniper_Intersection    I am pleased to learn I will have a poem published in Headline Poetry soon, a poem I’ve been writing for years and didn’t want to let go of…for years. It’s a dramatic monologue–in two voices.  A double dramatic monologue if you will. 

Thanks @headlinepoets
More to follow.

And while I am not very radical at all, here’s what the journal is about:

Headline Poetry

Current Event Inspired Poetry, and other radical artistic commentary

 

Photo:Christian Maréchal [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

 

 

 

 

Publications, Updated

 

pexels-photo-997721 Publications, Laura Lee

Some of my poems, short stories, and nonfiction articles are included online and in print books and magazines published in the UK, Greece, India, New Zealand, and the United States. Many thanks to the staff at these publications. 

“Devastation,” a poem, August 2019, in Headline Poetry.Details to follow. 

“Havishammed +1,” a poem, August 2019, High Shelf Press.

“Where You Are Not,” a poem, June 2019, Esthetic Apostle.

“Swamp Pearls,” a poem, May 2019, here at: Prometheus Dreaming.

“Not Sleep,” a poem, in Cagibi: A Literary Space, April 2019, here: Cagibi.

“The Professor and the Gravel,” a poem, 2019, at Wingless Dreamer.

“Saltwater Faces,” an ekphrastic poem inspired by paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, High Shelf Press, 2018, https://www.highshelfpress.com/saltwaterfaces.

“Click,” “The Night is our First Language,” and “They Left the Bed,” poetry published in The Poetic Bond VIII print issue, December 2018. Available at Poetic Bond VIII.

“Moving Gravel” a short story at Crack the Spine – Themed Anthology Submissions, “Routine”, print edition, 2018. Available at Crack the Spine Anthology.

“Walk with Child” at https://www.snapdragonjournal.com/  September 2018 Issue, “Here and Gone.” http://pub.lucidpress.com/9b90935e-82ec-4edd-a09e-725a9cf574b8/#Vu72fBijlewR

Coffin Bell Journal,2018, “Herstory,” October 2018. https://coffinbell.com/herstory-lesson/

Spillwords Press, “Stopped,” 2018, http://spillwords.com/stopped/.

Tuck Magazine, June 2018, “Teach to Kill” http://tuckmagazine.com/2018/06/06/poetry-1528/.

Tuck Magazine,  May 2018, “Refuge,” http://tuckmagazine.com/2018/05/29/poetry-1511/.

 Southernmost Point Guest House (UK), poetry.

Journal of Modern Poetry 21 (Volume 21), “Hell, No,” a poem at JOMP Volume 21 Dear Mr. President.

Journal of Modern Poetry 20 (Volume 20), “Moonlit Awakening,” JOMP Volume 20 Poetry Writer’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Journal of Modern Poetry 18 (Volume 18), The Official Poets Guide to Peace, two poems: “Open” and “After Poetry Class.” 2015. Purchase here.

Journal of Modern Poetry 17 (Volume 17), JOMP Volume 17. 

Cram Volume 12: “White Board Clown,” 2011. Chicago Poetry Press 2011.

Magazine (New Zealand) , Raewyn Alexander, Publisher, nonfiction and poetry.  Raewyn Alexander NZ.

Fiction in: http://staxtes.com/2003/ “Between the Sunlight and the Skipping” in English Wednesdays

Poetry in: https://poetsagainstthewar.org/ archives.

Illinois English Bulletin, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English, nonfiction article about teaching in an alternative education program.

 Poetry in Marginalia, Elmhurst, IL.

August, Poetry Challenge Month?

6 wordle         For decades, August has been my strongest “urge to poetry” month. Something about the light, the sounds, the smells–all is so REVVED UP. Poets, agree?

I used to be in vibrant online writing communities, and every August we would have a poetry challenge.  We would write a poem a day, no editing allowed, just to “rev” up our creativity.

It was glorious.

We (I!) wrote a lot of bad poetry, but I am still finding some snippets of good poetry on old flash drives and in old posts.

Hmm…perhaps it is time to reinstate an AUGUST POETRY CHALLENGE?

It couldn’t be here, on a public blog, I fear, for that would preclude subsequent publication.  Perhaps back on good old Facebook, with a private account only friends can access.

There’s an idea!

Readers, writers, what do you think?

Thanks for reading.

Submissions this Week and Writing Outside my Usual Genre

marketing-man-person-communication   I do enjoy tracking my submissions via submittable.com.  If you are a writer, this site makes it quite easy to submit your writing and to track it: Submittable

If you don’t yet have an account, you can set up a free account and enter your author bio in a matter of minutes.

Yesterday I wrote outside of my genre and submitted a peace poem and a short nonfiction piece written totally in dialogue.  Six submissions this week, three rejections.

It was fun to try writing entirely in dialogue; good thing I’ve listened to teens talk over the years!

How are your submissions going?

Thanks for reading, writers!

Laura Lee