A Poem Created Just for You at “A Poem for You” to Celebrate National Poetry Month

Terry Wolverton holds magnetic poetry in her hands. Photo by Angela Brinskele.

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Skylight Books teams up with Writers At Work to bring you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: Five widely published and highly regarded poets — Brendan Constantine, Yvonne M. Estrada, Peter J. Harris, Lynne Thompson and Terry Wolverton — will create “A Poem for You,” an original poem written spontaneously and just for you or a designated recipient.

Just think — an original poem to give your loved ones; congratulate friends or colleagues on a new job, a marriage, a baby; commemorate a special moment. You can even request a curse poem for someone who did you wrong.

Here’s how it works: Come to Skylight Books on Sunday, April 6, 2014, between 2-4 p.m. You’ll be matched with one of the poets and have the opportunity to tell them the content you’re looking for. The poet will go to work while you browse the store, and within 20-30 minutes, you’ll receive a signed copy of your poem.

Poem-seekers will be assigned to poets on a first-come, first-served basis. Poem-seekers will give input, but poets will maintain their poetic license to interpret as the muse guides them. Poets will retain the copyright to their work (they can publish it; you cannot).

Skylight Books is located at 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, Calif.

Participating Poets

Brendan Constantine is the author of Letters to Guns, Birthday Girl With Possum and Calamity Joe. He is poet-in-residence at Windward School and has brought poetry workshops to libraries, hospitals, foster-care centers, correctional facilities and shelters for the homeless. He is also proud of his work with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project. He currently curates a reading series in partnership with the Craft and Folk Art Museum. www.brendanconstantine.com

Yvonne M. Estrada is a poet and photographer. Her recent chapbook, My Name on Top of Yours, features both poems and original photographs. Her poetry has been published in Emerging Urban Poets Workshop Anthology (vols. 1-3), … and in fact there was no ceiling fan, (en)closures, San Gabriel Valley Quarterly, Catena, Mischief, Caprice & Other Poetic Strategies, Pulse Magazine, GuerrillaReads, Verse Wisconsin and the Poem of the Month 2011 Calendar.

Peter J. Harris is founding director of The Black Man of Happiness Project, a creative, intellectual and artistic exploration of Black men and joy. He has published poetry, essays and fiction in national publications; worked as a publisher, journalist, editor and broadcaster; and been an educator and workshop leader for adults and adolescents. Bless the Ashes, a book of poetry, will be published in fall 2014 by Tia Chucha Press. He’s author of the joyful book The Vampire Who Drinks Gospel Music: The Stories of Sacred Flow & Sacred Song. www.blackmanofhappiness.com

Lynne Thompson won Perugia Press’s First Book Award for Beg No Pardon, which was also awarded Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including Sou’wester, Ploughshares, Crab Orchard Review and the anthology New Poets of the American West. Her latest collection, Start With a Small Guitar, was published by What Books Press in October 2013. She is the reviews and essays editor for the literary journal Spillway.

Terry Wolverton is the author of ten books of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, most recently, Wounded World: lyric essays about our spiritual disquiet. She is the founder of Writers At Work, a creative writing studio in Los Angeles, and Affiliate Faculty in the MFA Writing Program at Antioch University, Los Angeles. She is currently collaborating with composer David Ornette Cherry to adapt her book Embers as an opera. www.terrywolverton.com

For more information, contact Terry Wolverton, 323-661-5954, wtrsatwork@aol.com.

February Poem of the Month — Ruth Nolan



—Kelso Sand Dunes, East Mojave Preserve

My ten-year-old daughter is feeling brave, so
we go rock hunting today, explore far beyond
the last dirt road, just she and I, no dad.

We see the sand dunes from miles away,
some hallucinogenic scene from the Sahara,
camel humps rising from the flat desert floor.

My daughter wants to climb them, but
there’s no sure way to guess how far away
they are, no sure measure to tell how tall,

I tell her it’s not safe to hike mountains so
unstable, hills that shift in light winds,
our boots would fill with sand and we’d

sink like thirsty prospectors come to find
buried treasure, lured by promises of silver
and gold, the rattlesnake’s hypnotic charms.


“Mirage” was previously published in “No Place for a Puritan: the Literature of California’s Deserts (Heyday Books, 2009.)

Ruth Nolan is poet and writer living in Palm Desert, where she teaches at College of the Desert. She blogs about the desert for KCET Artbound LA and Heyday Books  Her poetry has appeared recently in Rattling Wall Issue 4.

December Poem of the Month – Yvonne M. Estrada


From My Name on Top of Yours

Read the writing on the cinder block wall:
Joker, Jasper, Dopey, Termite, Tokes, Crow.
It’s not an “is it art?” debate, at all;
these are the monochromatic zip codes
of my gangster, tattooed, sharp-creased, cousins.
Scribbled in black on a bus bench, strangled
names crossed out, over names crossed out again,
red under yellow under green tangled
like wire. Memo, Cowboy, Flyboy, Topper.
Neil Armstrong planted a flag on the moon;
it can’t be seen from their clearly marked world
where, if you don’t live there, you better run.
Tight fence of paint, like barbed wire that’s hidden.
Trespassed borders end lives, I’m not kidding.


Yvonne M. Estrada’s recent chapbook, My Name On Top of Yours, features both poems and original photographs: http://tinyurl.com/mzx7fd9. Her poetry has been published in Catena; Mischief, Caprice & Other Poetic Strategies; Pulse Magazine; GuerrillReads.com, #8; Verse Wisconsin; and 2011 Poem of the Month Calendar.


Apologies for being CRAZY LATE with this, and no disrespect intended to the poet or the poem. — TW


November Poem of the Month — Kim Dower





She hears it in her sleep
Ruining each dream like
The punchline of a bad joke
Sweeping of Santa Anas
Branches flying over the roof
Sparrows driven from their nests
Patio furniture tossed like confetti
Garbage flying like chunky crows
She wakes up to the drain pipes moaning
Remembers a night of falling through
Noise, shaken through her dreams
Let’s go see, she tells her dog
Let’s go look. Let’s see
What the wind did

Kim Dower’s new collection, Slice of Moon, in which this poem appears, was published in September this year.  Her first collection, Air Kissing on Mars appeared on the Poetry Foundation’s Contemporary Best Sellers list. Kim’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, The Seneca Review, Barrow Street, Eclipse, and Two Hawks Quarterly. http://kimdowerpoet.com.



October Poem of the Month — Mary Fitzpatrick




The heart of the spirit world
lives and churns and its wake
is a house of smoke rising
and billowing out of the ground
The walls of the house
are scrim for the pantomime
silhouette — folly, vanity, lust —
and a little box is lit
like a lantern at the heart
of the house of smoke. The box
flickers and wavers, stays lit,
is tended by my fox, fox
color of smoke, fox whose tiny
fine features belie
a boundaryless burst of tail. What
in the spirit world wants us
this badly? over and over to come
churning up from the ground?…
I carry the little box lantern
from place to place in the house;
It shows shapes that build
then dissolve in relenting
intentions. Smoke heaps
and gathers, then loses
resolve. I clean my whiskers,
lick my paws
hold the lantern, snap
my jaws. I want
what the spirit world wants:
another chance, another chance.

Mary Fitzpatrick’s poems have been featured in Mississippi Review, Agenda, Dos Passos Review, ASKEW, Georgetown Review, as well as in A Bird Black as the Sun (Green Poet Press) and Cancer Poetry Project 2 (Tasora Books). She holds a BA from UC Santa Cruz and an MFA from UMass Amherst. wordfitz@aol.com

September Poem of the Month —Alicia Vogl Saenz



It started during the fires.
Northeast city crested in flames.
Door to your house is open, you stand
framed, shock of white hair.
Smoke has infested the walls,
we’re slightly light-headed. And
in the blue of your bed, we fall just how
I fall into that Sam Francis painting
I’m in love with. Toward Disappearance.
Wall of canvas, mostly white, except
a vertical movement of blue,
with moments of red and green thrown in.
It does seem Sam threw paint in one simple
gesture. But it is never as easy as that.
Oil paint translucent as the blue glass
of water you hand me. Or the deep saturation
of paint in cell shaped forms moving on canvas.
It had to have taken months.
Which is how long it feels this afternoon,
us here, in this house of refuge while the hills
burn and the fan overhead moves September heat.
I have loved you for fifteen years,
you say. I know that isn’t true and I don’t care.
You’re here to end the dormant years, just
how last time you woke me in the sad years.
There’s a low murmur from your yard,
barely audible. Blue agave is witness.
Out of the black char on the hills, seeds germinate,
burst painfully from their hulls, reach for the sun.

Alicia Vogl Saenz’s poems have appeared in Grand Street, Blue Mesa Review, and Mischief, Caprice, and Other Poetic Strategies. She authored the chapbook, The Day I Wore the Red Coat. Most recently, her translation of Spanish poet Mariano Zaro’s book, Tres Letras, was published. She has been a practitioner of Shambhala Buddhism for 7 years.

August Poem of the Month — Pam Ward




        For Trayvon Martin
        with respect to Cypress Hill   

Here is something I can’t understand.

I’m just walking home from the store
Crazy Ass starts a civil war
Hoodie’s on cuz the street is chill
Seventeen, trying to get some Skittles
But, here is something I can’t understand.

Crazy Ass thinks black skin is whack
Calls the cops, they tell him, “Stand Back!”
Girlfriend tells me to “Run away!”
“Hell no,” I say, I ain’t afraid!
But, here is something I can’t understand.

Duck and hide, ditch behind a tree
Don’t want no Cracker tracking me!
Finds me, fight but he won’t let go.
Neighbors Watch but nobody shows
“Come on, man why you sweating me?
Daddy lives in this community!”
Struggle hard when I hear
Blam!   Blam!    and…
Zimmerman just kills me, man.
Zimmerman just kills me, man.
Zimmerman just kills me, man.

Pam Ward, author of “Want Some, Get Some,” and “Bad Girls Burn Slow,” Kensington, is a writer/designer. Her “My Life, LA: The Los Angeles Legacy Project” documents black Angelinos in poster/stories. www.pamwardgraphics.com