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'Muses And Metaphor' Series Returns For Poetry Month


You might have noticed that it is April already and here at TELL ME MORE that means we are kicking off our annual tribute to National Poetry Month. For the third year in a row, we are starting our series we call Muses and Metaphor. We combine two of our passions, poetry and social media. We would like you to go on Twitter and tweet us your original poetry using fewer than 140 characters. Poet Holly Bass is going to help us once again pick out our favorites that we will air and she is with us now to tell us more.

Welcome back, Holly Bass. It's so good to see you again.

HOLLY BASS: Oh, it's great to be here. It's a thrill. I look forward to this.

MARTIN: Why do you look forward to this? I mean, I was thinking that you might find this particular form rather frustrating.

BASS: It's challenging. I won't lie. It is challenging, but I feel like I'm always up for a good challenge and it's sort of fitting for spring as we're transitioning, you know, from the winter, theoretically. It's been pretty cold lately over here. So it's just like a nice, like, oh, yeah. It's that time of year again and, like, gearing up and getting everyone's poems.

MARTIN: Well, what have you liked about the poems that you have seen over the couple of years that you've been doing this already?

BASS: Well, I think they get better and better and what's also interesting is that there's more of them and so, this year - and I try to read - I really try to read every single one of them, and this year I'm like, oh, I don't know if I'll be able to, you know, hang with it this year. But just the sort of variety of poems and how even after people may have been selected to record a poem and have it broadcast, they still keep contributing because I think it's fun and then people re-tweeting and commenting, I really liked that one. So it's just a really nice little online community.

MARTIN: You know, this year, we have already heard from a pretty eclectic group and we just started. We've already heard from a translator, a Filipino translator, an author, an Egyptian-American, a DJ, even the well-renowned poets Nikki Giovanni and Elizabeth Alexander have contributed poems.

What are the ones that - and I know this is just - it's so hard to pin this down, but the ones that stand out for you, the ones that rise to the top for you right away? Do they have any common element?

BASS: Yes. You know, it's interesting. Just recently, I went to a writing workshop with the poet Jericho Brown. He's a fellow (unintelligible) poet and he had this great explanation about what characterizes a good poem; is that it goes from ground to sky or sky to ground. And what he meant by that is that a good poem usually has something concrete and everyday and tangible in it, but then also something ethereal and transcendent. And it's that kind of contrast and juxtaposition to position that really, I think, is what's so exciting and delicious about poetry.

MARTIN: All that in 140 characters. We can do it. But we know we can do it. If you're just joining us, we are launching once again our Muses and Metaphor poetry series in honor of National Poetry Month. That's where we ask you if you would like to tweet us your original poems of 140 characters or less. I'm joined by poet and writer Holly Bass, who helps us to curate our series. She reads the poetic tweets that come our way and she selects the ones that we put on the air. You are going to read all of them, Holly. Come on, now. Don't discourage...

BASS: Yes, yes. I will read every single one.

MARTIN: You are going to read all of them.

BASS: Even those people who've already posted 40. There are some.

MARTIN: Wow. OK. Well, I hear that you have written a poem to start us off, a Twitter poem to start us off. Will you read it to us and tell us about it?

BASS: I will. (Reading) In Paris, I pass Patisserie Laduree. Macaroons stacked like brilliant bijou in Easter hues, a ring for every finger.

MARTIN: Now, those go by awfully fast. I'm going to ask you to read it again.

BASS: Sure thing. (Reading) In Paris, I pass Patisserie Laduree. Macaroons stacked like brilliant bijou in Easter hues, a ring for every finger.

MARTIN: OK. So now you've told us that you went to Paris and you didn't invite us, but thank you.


BASS: But I thought of you when I was eating those macaroons. I really did.

MARTIN: But did you bring me any? But, having said that, yes, so tell us about the poem. And it's lovely.

BASS: Yeah.

MARTIN: And I'm already hungry.

BASS: Right. I was in Paris last January for a conference called Black Portraitures and so I said, you know, I'm going to go. And it was really fantastic to have that mix of the City of Lights and then all of this good, you know, intellectual sort of stimulation. But I was on my way to the lecture hall and I passed the most amazing window, the most amazing window and it really did look like jewelry and I was like, that has to be Laduree. That has to be. And it's something that, like, if you're a dessert person like me, that's like a fantasy place to go to and so I - you know, I made an appointment with myself and I had tea and macaroons and then I feel like, OK. I can cross that off my bucket list.

MARTIN: Well, that sounds wonderful. Well, what was the ring for every finger that you enjoyed?

BASS: Oh, just like picking each little flavor. I think I got a plate of five, which honestly is enough to put you in a sugar coma. They're tiny, but they're very intense and it just felt like, you know, little jewels. The green one, the light pink one, the dark pink one and so that was the imagery that came to mind.

MARTIN: Before we let you go and send you back to read all the tweets that come in...

BASS: All the tweets.

MARTIN: All of them, every single one of them. Do you have any advice for someone who feels a little bit hesitant? I mean, we have some very experienced poets who have sent things our way, but one of the ones that we've really enjoyed are people who really consider themselves amateurs, people who have whole other lives and write poetry on the side or maybe even just started. If you're a little bit shy, but you want to participate, do you have any advice for somebody who just would just like to try it?

BASS: I do. My main advice - and I probably said this last year - is to write the poem, write the idea without worrying about the 140 characters first. I think that can be a little bit daunting if you're constantly counting the little letters. And then go back and look at what you've written and pull out the part that sparkles or has the most sort of fresh, unique quality, and then do the editing and counting, just as you would with a large poem. You want to write the poem and then revise, and those rules hold true for Twitter poetry, as well.

MARTIN: All right. Well, we will see you very shortly. You'll be back with us with some poems. We're looking forward to it.

BASS: Absolutely.

MARTIN: Holly Bass is a poet, writer and performer. She hosts the open mic at Bus Boys and Poets in Washington, D.C. Remember, go on Twitter and tweet us your original poems using the hash tag #TMMPoetry.


MARTIN: Just ahead, there are more and more apps and games on computers and tablets for even very young children.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Tap the letter and see what's under it. K, K is for king.


MARTIN: And P is for our parenting roundtable and we are going to ask them, how soon is too soon to have your toddler playing on a touch screen? That's ahead on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.


MARTIN: The African Film Festival is opening in New York. It celebrates its 20th year of bringing new stories and storytellers from Africa, like Ghana's Frances Bodomo, who presents her short film, "Boneshaker." We'll hear more next time on TELL ME MORE.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.