After solid contributors Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer, and Sasheer Zamata left Saturday Night Live final season, the comic strip display has crammed their spots with 3 new featured gamers: Chris Redd, Heidi Gardner, and Luke Null.

You would possibly recollect Chris Redd, a stand-up comic,

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as the rebellious younger rapper Hunter the Hungry from Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping who perhaps, or maybe did now not, or maybe did, make Connor’s penis disappear on stage.

 

Heidi Gardner, a Groundlings performer, has an upcoming function in Melissa McCarthy’s new film Life of the Party and has written for Bryan Cranston’s animated display SuperMansion. And Luke Null is a comedian from Chicago who has exactly one film credit score and performs musical comedy, admittedly my least favored form of comedy.

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In the Red Engine Press January 2006 newsletter, “Yarn spinners and Wordweavers,” Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of Tracings, writes:

“Auden thought the purpose of poetry is to disenchant. That, my reader, may be why I am not much for rhyme or pretty, though I do like food images, especially sweets. I prefer melancholy, wistful and if a song is sung, let it discord to keep the reader alert make him reconsider. Nursery rhymes are for nurseries, sunsets to be viewed firsthand from a bluff, preferably while holding hands with someone handsome. The tendons of the best poetry are politics, introspection, and the abominable snowmen among us tempered–occasionally–by a look back at where we’ve been. Oh, and irony. That’s better than tiramisu and latté for keeping people talking late into the night.”

In the preface to One Hundred and One Famous Poems, published in 1929, editor Roy W. Cook talks about the great need for poetry in a modern industrial age.

While the modern age, with podcasting and blogs, has made poetry more accessible, poetry is also considered frivolous–and certainly not lucrative. It’s a shame because Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s poetry can make an air raid sound still and hushed. She can let us stand beside an uncle who smells of Barbasol and is on his way to war. The subtle message is clear: Stop. Pay attention. Listen.

Most of us wrote poetry in high school that included protests against parents, petitions to teenage crushes, or the usual “my life stinks, what’s the meaning of it all” poems. As adults, we may dribble our wine-and-cappuccino-soaked angst onto the page. As private therapy, poetry often can’t be beaten, and it certainly helped poet Dessa Byrd Reed heal after a car accident. But Reed turned her recovery writings into a passion for poetry that took her to China recently.

Poetry is relevant in today’s text-messaging high-tech world, as evidenced by all the poetry Web sites. It speaks of love, as in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnets. It relates eternal epic truths, as in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. It captures the cry of a generation, as in Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.” It reflects, as in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. It makes a cinematic statement about freedom behind bars, as in the movie “Slam.” It speaks of the Divine, as in the poetry of Thich Nhat Hanh. I agree with Carolyn Howard-Johnson that poetry moves us–or it must if we want to move others. Howard-Johnson’s poetry moved Compulsive Reader editor Magdalena Ball to name Tracings to The Compulsive Reader list of “Top Ten Reads of 2005.”

Howard-Johnson pokes fun at portraits of poets on poetry magazines, but clearly, loves poetry:

“So long before you took up a pen, wrote pictures, 

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you imagined them in liquid blue, the stories of others,
your own.”

It’s easy to get caught up in our own stories without understanding them. Howard-Johnson peppers her poetry with images of travel, not just global but time travel. She remarks in “Poetry, Quantum Mechanics, and Other Trifles” that her critique group warns her she complicates her poems with too many layers:

“my ingredients, they say, are concealed
behind an opaque pottery bowl;
their matrices misunderstood.
Children we are. No one tells
us the truth of such a grand
dessert.”

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke pointed out the truths of existence in Sonnets to Orpheus, showing us that a young ballet dancer, dead, is not forever gone, but is not visible to us. That’s “the truth of such a grand/dessert.” That’s what poetry is about–revealing, evoking, describing, thought-provoking. Poetry connects the past with the present and future. Howard-Johnson can visit the historic, the war museum in Oslo, and reflect on war as it affected the world:

“Norway’s fjords shed salty droplets on
faces like my father’s. Round faces. Eyes dilute-blue
like the pale skies above them. Men who fought

as Churchill’s  Featured voice crackled through Night Players smuggled vacuum
tubes.”

Howard-Johnson considers war as it now affects her family:

“Only days before
I reached this spur, I saw my grandson off to war, alone.
A sacrifice. A trade. For my father, who never marched.”

We feel the sense of place in poetry, but the place is fluid, as in Howard-Johnson’s work–a flight from LAX to Salt Lake City can take her through her own childhood home where her mother washed a slip every night. The unities of time and place in good drama or in a short story can be tweaked in poetry–although often the poet, like a painter, wants to concentrate attention on one time, one place, one concept. Good poetry can tell a story or capture a mood both ways.

Dr. James Ragan, the director of the University of Southern California

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of Professional Writing Program where I graduated in 1999, says in an interview quoted on the Master of Professional Writing Web site:

“You want to challenge yourself. Ask yourself, is my time here going to have the meaning I need for it to have? Poetry has given me that meaning. But then I had to write on the level that allowed me to cross borders as well as time, and that’s the challenge of creation.”

Ragan, like Howard-Johnson, strives for universal themes. The personal and the universal are not mutually exclusive. A poem may be peppered with personal details, but may capture a common history (World War II), the need for tolerance (a favorite theme in Howard-Johnson’s work), aging, the fear that a poet has started too late in life, which Howard-Johnson captures in “A Reel Left Running”:

“Now age obscures images, pulled taffy,
whisked meringue, they melt, struggle to be named.

So much there is to say, your craft left idle for years,
tools lay fallow, and now, now there is so little time.”