David Stone

Love Lines for Your Valentine

Still need to write your Valentine? Use lines from a local poet.

Someone seeking clarification about another’s romantic intent and who enjoys the use of lowercase letters like e. e. cummings might appreciate a line from Cindy Rinne’s “Another Park Poem.” Inspired by a walk in Riverside’s Fairmont Park, Rinne wrote, “did you try to carve the bark/ leave a heart…” Rinne lives in Redlands. Her next work is titled “Quiet Lantern.”

Courageous individuals who are willing to be vulnerable might use lines from Cati Porter’s poem “Clearly.” “Look at me/ and tell me that you want me, that you want to heart/ the distance and that you cannot in the object see/ a flaw, and though I am (flawed) I am for you, and/ there is a small tight thought that is wound in me,/ that knowing that you love, a lightning, a lightning/ on the inside: so that you see; so that you know.” Porter lives in Riverside. Her latest book “My Skies of Small Horses” comes out this month.

Seasoned lovers may like to use lines from “Litany” from Claremont poet Lucia Galloway’s latest chapbook “The Garlic Peelers:” “O love, what is your wish?/ We’ve half again as much to say as we have said./ Set down the goblet, and the carmine wine/ sheets down its sides to pool in the bowl./ Let’s drink our words instead of hoarding them.”

Sweethearts who remind you of characters from the The Big Bang Theory should appreciate lines from Marsha Schuh’s “You and Me in Binary.” Appropriately published in the computer textbook Schuh co-wrote with Stanford Rowe, Schuh imagines a world based on four, considers the dominance of the decimal in our world and closes her poem with pondering the numerical effects of becoming a couple: “Then we unlearn it all /learn to speak binary,/ a better way,/ two as opposed to eight or ten,/ the most significant bit,/ the least significant bit/ one-two, on-off, you-we,/ binary.” Schuh resides in Ontario.

Lovers in a more ambiguous relationship may resonate with lines from the Palm Springs poet and writer Ruth Nolan. In her forthcoming book, “Ruby Mountain,” she writes, “shouldn’t I pretend you did it for love/ shouldn’t I believe it was a mistake/ shouldn’t I wonder why not/ shouldn’t I wonder why. . . .”

Those pained may appreciate the words of the title persona in Nikia Chaney’s “Sis Fuss.” The poem “Syllogizing Sis Fuss” closes: “we all hurt. And if we all/ hurt then we all hurt/ each other and the next.” Chaney lives in Rialto.

Jennifer and Chad Sweeney from Redlands are a couple, who are both accomplished poets. Jennifer provides profundity and striking imagery in her book “Salt Memory.” She writes, “As water poured into the heart flows out the palms, so does love return, as thirst, as satiation—the shape the lost ocean has carved onto the salt brick desert.”

With characteristic quirky humor in his book “White Martini for the Apocalypse,” Chad writes, “It was love./ She taught me to drive her bulldozer./ I taught her to forge my signature!”

In earthier lines from his poem “Effects,” first published in Caliban, Chad writes, “The best sex in the world happens during conjugal visits. I’ve gotten myself into prison twice, just to have it. That’s why I’m calling. Happy Valentine’s Day!” Chad Sweeney teaches creative writing at Cal State San Bernardino.

The longing and transformative power of love comes through in the closing lines of Judy Kronenfeld’s “Listen” from her forthcoming collection, “Bird Flying Through the Banquet,” 
“Let your eyes rest/ on my face. Arrest me/ in turn. I will burst/ from the seed/ of myself.” Kronenfeld is professor emerita from UCR.

Ontario poet Tim Hatch gives words to the desire to comfort one’s dearest when he or she is gone: “Scatter my memory where my memories are sweetest. Gulls cry, salt breeze carries me away. When you’re there you can breathe deep, take me inside and remember.”


For a wider array of classic poems to use for Valentine’s Day, search the Poetry Foundation’s website for “Poems for Valentines” or the poets.org site for “love poems.”

Poetry Month Scouts: A Guest Post by Marsha Schuh

Since the Academy of American Poets first established National Poetry Month in 1996, poets and poetry lovers have celebrated the month through readings, workshops, festivals, and “poem-a-day” challenges. Each year, the number of events seems to grow. Each year, I begin a poem-a-day challenge with the intention of writing 30 poems during the month of April, but I’ve never been successful—until 2015.

In March of this year, I stumbled upon a particularly inspiring challenge called PoMoSco, short for Poetry Month Scouts. PoMoSco was sponsored by the Found Poetry Review, and 213 poets from 43 states and 12 countries around the world took part. By its conclusion, they produced more than 6,000 poems, and I was one of them! Each participating poet had the possibility of earning 30 digital merit badges for the month’s creative work. The prompts were divided into five categories named for the method of their generation: remixing, erasure, out and about, conceptual, and chance operation. You can read all about the badges and more at PoMoSco.com. Each category provided six distinct badges that varied in their level of difficulty. Poets chose their own source texts and venues from which to craft their poems.

One of my own favorites was “First in Line” according to which we were to choose a published book of poems and craft our own poem using select first lines, keeping the wording of the original intact, and organizing them in any order, thus creating an original “cento.” I chose Barbara Crooker’s wonderful book, Gold, and after the experience of creating my cento, I was hooked. Two other badges that I especially enjoyed were “Crowd Source” and “Survey Says.” In the first, we were to choose a concrete noun (I chose “doorway”) and ask at least ten people to either define the word or explain what the word made them think about or feel. From the gathered words alone, we had to create a poem that did not mention the original word. The second badge entails making up a questionnaire of eight to ten questions and asking several people to answer them in writing. The words we collected from their answers constituted the word bank for our poem. Not only did this challenge result in a pretty good poem, but it also helped me learn some fascinating things about my friends.

I think this poem-a-day challenge was so much fun and so motivating for me because of the quality and inventiveness of the prompts. Jenni Baker, Editor in Chief of the Found Poetry Journal, and her team of scoutmasters and badgemasters did a great job of creating the challenge, motivating us, and maintaining the very professional website. Poets who took part in PoMoSco were forced to write outside their comfort zones and to experiment with new ways of thinking and writing. We discovered new tools and learned to let go of our own techniques and favorite ways of doing things; this sparked more creativity. We also met and learned from the fellow “scouts,” made new friends, and created a close and supportive community of writers.

PoMoSco is the Found Poetry Review’s fourth National Poetry Project, and this one was, in the words of one of the other participants, “the best poetry month project yet.” She wonders how they will be able to top it next year. Be sure to check next March for the 2016 challenge. If this year’s project is any indication, it should be great fun, highly original, and exceptionally motivational. You may still visit the website—PoMoSco.com until May 31, 2015 to read this year’s great—and sometimes wild—collection of poetry.

Walking Other Paths of Inspiration by Marsha Schuh

If you write, what is it that gives you ideas?

The first question most poets and writers have been asked is: “Where do you get your ideas?”

When I’m asked this, I usually answer by saying either, “ideas are everywhere,” or “I don’t know.”

Neither answer are very helpful, are they? It is a question that novice writers ponder. Even experienced writers sometimes wonder where others find their inspiration. When I listen to powerful writers read their work, the same questions scratch at my brain: “Where did that come from? How did you ever think that up?”

Consider a few possibilities.

Writers often find inspiration while walking. Several of my own poems have grown from my morning walks around Ontario.

Walking also was a favorite pastime of writers, such as: Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, and, of course, Henry David Thoreau and William Wordsworth.

Authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Wolfe, Joyce Carol Oates and Will Self have praised the benefits of long distance walking. The exercise not only provides ideas, but also has a calming effect while at the same time stimulating the brain – both conducive to good writing. Studies have shown that walking boosts creative inspiration by as much as 60 percent.

The prolific poet Mary Oliver says, “Think for yourself. Trust your own intuition. Another’s mind isn’t walking your journey; you are.”

True, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to understand what journeys have inspired other writers? What sparks their mysterious ordering of words that are able to stir and inspire us? Each person is a storehouse of feelings, memories and ideas. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to peer into those storehouses?

Realizing this fact, I propose to interview perhaps 10 to 20 poetry and prose artists in the Inland area and combine their insights into a book, one that includes the input of several Inlandia/PoetrIE writers along with my own.

Contributors would discuss some of the things that have triggered their own creativity, perhaps offer a couple of examples from pieces they’ve written and maybe suggest prompts for other people who aspire to write.

As an example, think of Dru Sefton’s piece published on Current.org on May 30 concerning the book edited by poet Robbi Nester: “The Liberal Media Made Me Do It: Poetic Responses to NPR & PBS Stories.” It features the work of 56 poets reacting to segments and programs aired by public stations.

What a great and unexpected source of inspiration!

Elizabeth Kostova, author of novels “The Swan Thieves” and “The Historian,” finds inspiration from William Carlos Williams’ admonition, “No ideas but in things.” She writes a delightful essay on the subject in the January/February issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, and the object she chooses to write about is a set of metal measuring spoons she remembers from her mother’s kitchen. Consider the possibilities in “First Objects.”

Kostova says, “For writing it seems important to me that the objects we grow up with help form our sense of the world.”

Her essay provided me with a possible prompt: Think of a few early objects you remember that were your gateways to life and learning. Write about one of them, recalling the many vivid images it stirs up in you. Allow your mind to follow the flights of fancy it takes you on.

What is it that inspires you? Since the question has been discussed by authors through the ages, one aspect that intrigues me in this project is how contributors will add to the conversation.

When I suggested the topic of inspiration to fellow Inlandia poet David Stone, he had some questions of his own: “Will the writers you interview affirm ideas from the past? Will they find major or fine points of contention/difference with earlier writers? Will they bring in ideas from unexpected fields of study?”

Here is a conversation that has the potential to enrich all of our writing lives.

Based on the number of writing books and “how to” books both online and in bookstores, I believe there would be a considerable market for such a book. What do you think? Would you like to participate?

Would you like to join our conversation? Leave a comment here on the Inlandia Literary Journeys blog.