A short, but excellent, poetry lesson

Jeffrey S. Hillard, writer, poet, editor of RED!webzine and professor at the College of Mount St. Joseph
Jeffrey S. Hillard

I’ve mentioned Jeffrey S. Hillard here before. He was one of my professors when I returned to college at Mount St. Joseph University for an English degree in the early 2000s. I took two creative writing classes from him: Short story, and Poetry.

Jeff is a gifted poet. I think you’ll agree when you read it. It is accessible, and it sings. This year he received the honor of being named the Cincinnati Public Library Foundation’s Writer in Residence. You can read all about it here.

He is also an inspiring teacher.

This week Jeff published a blog post on the library site entitled, Anatomy of a Poem (1). If you have any interest in reading good poetry, understanding poetry, or writing poetry, this is a must-read. This is where Jeff really shines.

 

 

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When shadows are long

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The shadows are long at the start of day

when the earth moves to greet the sun once more.

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At the edge of the night filled with dreams and desire

the rays of the sun strike through

and light up the earth

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and shine through the leaves

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and shoot past the trees.

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The shadows are long when day first begins.

By noon they will be gone.

A beautiful place to rest – Spring Grove Cemetery

“If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.”
  Khalil Gibran ~ On Death

Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati is one of the largest nonprofit cemeteries in the United States.

It is a National Historic Landmark with graves of both revolutionary war and civil war soldiers.

“When the hours of Day are numbered,
And the voices of the Night
Wake the better soul, that slumbered,
To a holy, calm delight. . .”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Footsteps of Angels

Spring Grove is a beautiful cemetery and is famous for its lawn plan, unconventional at the time of its creation, but now a model for many other cemeteries.

The designer, Strauch, “believed in developing the landscape to harmonize with nature. He re-routed roads to follow the natural shapes of Spring Grove’s hills and valleys.

He built lakes, islands, footbridges, protected woodland areas,

and brought hundreds of trees and plants from other parts of the world,” (Spring Grove Cemetery).

“Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy! ”  John Keats ~  Ode to a Nightingale

The varied landscaping transports you from what might be a mysterious Louisiana swampland

to a stately Georgian plantation.

“Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
And Immortality.” Emily Dickenson

Gravemarkers range from the elaborate—

buildings made of marble and stone,

this one boasting flying buttresses—

to the simple.

“Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so . . .”  John Donne

“I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.”   W. B. Yeats ~ An Irish Airman Foresees his Death

“Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.”  Christina Rossetti ~ Remember

Float Away — A ghazal in honor of National Poetry Month

While in college the second time, this time for an English degree, I took several creative writing courses from Jeffrey S. Hillard, a professor who was an excellent poet and writer, and also was well-loved by the students. After graduating, I worked with Jeff on web editing RED!webzine, a publication Jeff initially started to share stories of transformation in the lives of prisoners and individuals reentering society and of innovations making it happen.

Jeff is an excellent poet and recently won a poetry contest sponsored by the Cincinnati Public Library. I wrote the following poem in Jeff’s Poetry class at the College of Mount St. Joseph in 2004.

I post it here in honor of National Poetry Month.

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Float Away

White airy puff balls leave flower stems to float away
over grass where I lie and watch how clouds do float away.

Squirrels and rabbits scramble for food, a spider clings to a twig.
Geese, like an arrow, in the sky slice through, float away.

Fresh sprouts shoot up, a delicate green mist covers the wood.
Fragrances of jonquils and hyacinths wrapped in blue float away.

A breeze of warm air carries whispered voices of
mothers, sisters, friends, lovers, who float away.

I plant a seed in the rich black soil of the earth and watch
as the children born from my womb float away.

A cricket chirps and so do the restless birds
who chatter of morning but soon float away.

For more about the ghazal poetic form see Poets.org.

“After the Flood” by Jeffrey S. Hillard wins Cincinnati Public Library Garden 2012 Poetry Contest

Congratulations to teacher, mentor, and friend Jeffrey S. Hillard of Cincinnati for writing a winning poem in the Cincinnati Public Library Garden 2012 Poetry Contest. The contest was held as part of the 2012 Poetry in the Garden series sponsored by the Friends of the Cincinnati Public Library.

A panel of published poets and literary professionals selected four winners from among the nearly 300 entries in this inaugural contest, co-sponsored by the Grailville Retreat & Program Center.

Jeffrey Hillard’s “After the Flood,” one of four winners In the Garden 2012 Poetry Contest, is a poem from Jeff’s unpublished manuscript called HAVANA RIFFS: Poems on Cuba, based on his three trips to the country in the 1990s.

The other winners included “Father’s Day” by Leslie Clark of Clifton, “Crowning” by Karen George of Florence, and “Paean” Mary-Jane Newborn of Winton Place. You can read the winning entries  online at http://www.cincinnatilibrary.org/news/2012/poetrycontestwinners.html.

The winning poets will read from their work on Tuesday, April 17 at 7:00 p.m. as part of the Main Library’s (800 Vine St., (513) 369-6900) 2012 Poetry in the Garden series which is being held on the Tuesday evenings in April at 7:00 p.m.

It’s a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month.

After the Flood by Jeffrey Hillard

at La Casa de las Americas, Havana, Cuba

In a painting the curator wipes dry,
the wet, bedraggled condor, now a dark blue,
lifts its wing into the shape of a mountain.
The wing’s shine, gone. On her knees, the curator
pins the painting to a blanket in the courtyard
outside, pats dry each delicate inch of painting
thick with floodwater stain. She dries rooms
of floating colors
and clips wet books dangling
like tents from wires strung across the courtyard,
her knees reddened raw, the sun continuing to cook
the ground, mud wrapping around her ankles.
After twenty straight hours
of no sleep, one recurring dream now balances
her on a bank as she plunges both feet
into a swift
river to plug its flow.
Up and down, on and off
her knees, with days yet to scrub and dry,
she once even dozed on a charcoal drawing.
When she woke, the river had ebbed
before she could drown.

Jeff is the publisher and editor of RED!Webzine.  He has also contributed numerous stories to the local Cincy Beat street newspaper. From 1989 to  2005, Jeff  published or served as editor for five books of poetry. More recently Jeff has self-published a youth book for readers 9 to 14 years old,  A Bunch in a Month – seeing Bible, imagining lives .  Available on Smashwords, A Bunch in a Month is a devotional created to be read and re-read over and over, with flash-fiction stories connected to a Bible verse that inspire the reader to reflect on the story – and his or her day.

For more information about the 2012 Poetry in the Garden series, visit www.CincinnatiLibrary.org.