This is Your Brain on Poetry

When I first read this article, I couldn’t help but think of that old TV public service announcement “This is your brain on drugs.” While poems don’t fry our brains, there’s something peculiar going on inside our heads when we read them, infecting us, in the words of Nabokov, with  “the telltale tingle between the shoulder blades.” 

Wish I could find a picture of what your brain actually looks like on poetry. Meanwhile, read more to see what science tells us. this-is-what-happens-to-your-brain-when-you-read-poetry

Emily Dickinson Puppet Show

There were so many memorable events at the recent Tucson Festival of Books. I wanted to share this delightful performance by my local poet friend Jeanne Missey Osgood, a fellow docent at the University of Arizona Poetry Center. She has now memorized a hundred of Emily Dickinson’s poems – a feat which astounds me. I can’t even memorize one of my own poems. Jeanne seamlessly recites Dickinson’s words through her charming puppet, bringing this beloved poet (and her dog) to life on the stage. Bravo, Jeanne!

Praise for Trash Picker on Mars

My first poetry collection has just been published by Aldrich Press (an imprint of Kelsay Books).TWARONITE COVER 1 (2)

Read an advance review: “The poems in Trash Picker on Mars, as the title suggests, range from the concrete to the abstract, from Pascal to mythology, from the homeless, represented by weeds, to a trans-gender person in a gym. What stands out in this collection is Twaronite’s attention to the details and textures of ordinary life as he presents us with reminders that the ordinary—the working man, the sleeping woman on the train, are not to be forgotten when seeking the sublime.  In “The Container Store” the poet longs for “just the right vessel/to store your thoughts/and emotions in safe/and accessible places”—a wish many of his readers will certainly share.”

Nancy Owen Nelson, PhD, author of Searching for Nannie B: Connecting Three Generations of Southern Women.

Available from my online store or at  Amazon

Advance Review of Trash Picker on Mars

TWARONITE COVER 1 (2)Written with wit and compassion, Gene Twaronite’s amazing poems give readers a whole new view of many ordinary experiences of our culture. Nothing can ever be seen the same way again. A few lost keys “Scattered across the pavement/they lay, like shiny petals/plucked from their flowers” become windows into their imagined former owner’s soul. In “Mannequin,” Twaronite’s compassionate view of what was once a semi-human form now become only “eyeless sockets in an empty face–/all that remain of the life/she once possessed” and manage to suggest the way we are all seen by corporate commercial interests. With metaphors embodied in gritty, graphic images, Twaronite sometimes makes astonishing hairpin turns of meaning in his poems as he does in “Trash Picker on Mars,” where this planet seemingly “defrocked of its canals/and green men by Carl Sagan” ends up to pose a chilling potential indeed.

Susan Lang, Faculty Emeritus at Yavapai College and author of the novel The Sawtooth Complex as well as a trilogy of novels about a woman homesteading in the southwestern wilderness during the years 1929 to 1941.

My first poetry book Trash Picker on Mars, published by Kelsay Books, will be coming out in late September.

Lizard Light

My short poem, “Lizard Light,” was just published by Poetry Porch. They featured it as a sonnet, which was news to me, since I did not set out to write a sonnet. This type of poem is supposed to have fourteen lines following a set rhyme scheme. My poem has twelve lines and no rhyme whatsoever. So I was a little mystified when the editor told me that she wished to publish it as a sonnet. Mine is what’s called a curtailed (or curtal) sonnet. Basically it’s a sonnet that has been shortened and whose last line is very short. The sonnet is a very old literary form, which has been the subject of much modification and experimentation over the years. Apparently the form is still evolving.You can read the poem here:     

Waiting for the Bus (in Henderson, NV)

It’s just a hole-in-the-wall convenience store

Doubling down as a bus terminal

On the road to the El Dorado.

Beyond a wall of warehouses and power lines

Projects the hazy image of Las Vegas

Against a screen of blue desert mountains.

It is already ninety and, with still half an hour

To kill, I go inside.

A decrepit office chair announces

The waiting room of damned passengers

Forced to sit for eternity wedged

Between bookcases of DVD porn

With titles like Drop Your Drawers,

Ass Candy and BodASScious

And a long showcase stocked like a

Museum of the tawdry with marijuana

Papers, bongs and pipes of all colors,

Detoxifying products like Urine Luck

And Ready Clear, a Venus de Milo-shaped candle,

Dagger paperweights and CO2 cylinders,

Radar detectors, gargoyles topped with

Little glass plates to serve up snort,

Long knives with silver and gold

Handles shaped like cobra hoods,

Even a corn cob pipe and bronzed shoe.

Over my head is a rack of Hustler, Playboy,

Penthouse and others harder still. 

There is no escape.

I try to pass the time with the local

Entertainment rag laced with

Lusty leather-strapped women advertising

Cabarets and gentlemen’s pleasures.

I put down the paper and clutch my book,

Reading it deliberately as if to

Cleanse myself of these primal images

With a baptism of pure words.

Just in time the bus comes.

I scan the islands of passengers

Scattered among the mostly empty seats:

A tidily-dressed retired couple,

Two young women in silver-sequined

Running suits, and a gray pony-tailed guy

With frazzled beard and vacant eyes.

Gazing at my fellow voyeurs,

I wonder what vices

And passions they harbor.

Together we travel in darkness

Afloat in a wanton sea of desire

That defies my sensibilities

As I delight in being part of it all.                                                                             ©Gene Twaronite 2013

Originally published in Wilderness House Literary Review, Summer 2013


Four O’Clock Light

Introductory Note: This is my first published poem. Though I usually write my poems in free verse, I decided to try writing something more formal. While reading a book about literature, I came across a French verse form called a villanelle. It employs a complex and somewhat artificial form of 19 lines to create an impression of seemingly effortless simplicity and lightness. I was intrigued by the fact that it was the same form used by Dylan Thomas in his powerful poem, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” which conveys a message that is anything but simple or light. I also found that writing a villanelle is not nearly as effortless as Dylan Thomas makes it appear. Anyway, here is my poem, which explores both my childhood fascination with Norse myths as well as that certain quality of light one sometimes sees while wandering through cemeteries and ancient stone ruins.

Four O’Clock Light

In the four o’clock light of a fall afternoon
The realm of reason gives way to wonder.
The vision of old is gone too soon.

Stone lichens read like an ancient rune
Of Odin casting my thoughts asunder
In the four o’clock light of a fall afternoon.
Do I dare emerge from my sane cocoon
To mine the ruins of a mythic world under
In the four o’clock light of a fall afternoon?

Is it Loki who tricks my spirit to swoon
And feeds this phantasmagoric hunger?
The vision of old is gone too soon.

I wish to ride in Mani’s chariot moon
And wield the mighty hammer of thunder.
The vision of old is gone too soon.

For an instant the solid rock is hewn
As the inner child is freed to wander
In the four o’clock light of a fall afternoon.
The vision of old is gone too soon.                                                                                         © Gene Twaronite 2012

Originally published in the online journal Eternal Haunted Summer, Winter Solstice 2012 issue