Commandos

You might expect someone who writes poetry to like long poems. More is better, right? Not for me. I feel like less is more when it comes to poetry. My favorite poems are presents of ideas and feelings the reader can unwrap by pulling on a ribbon. Otherwise, you’re really just writing a book that rhymes (or doesn’t).

I know, I know…epic poems have their place. But I rarely read them. Most of the time (and I am not making this up) if a poem is more than two pages, I don’t read it. (Cue the scandalized gasps of epic poem lovers everywhere).

Below is a poem called “Commandos” I wrote to commemorate my love of brief poems. It is written in Rubaiyat form. This is a classic form known to many readers through Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Lines 1, 2, and 4 rhyme. Line 3 sets the rhyme for lines 1, 2, and 4 in the following stanza so that the rhyme scheme is as follows:

A
A
B
A

B
B
C
B

(and so on)

“Commandos” will appear in my book, Event Horizon, which I plan to self-publish this year.
Commandos

Poems over a couple pages
long go on and on for ages. 
Epic poems aren’t my preference
even if composed by sages.

I deny a lack of reverence.
This is my sincere defense: when
ranks of metric feet slow-march for
miles, I lose all sense of reference.

Then my blank mind wanders wretched
desert wastes of sere words, parched for
lack of fluid meaning.  Poems
need to be commandos, which are
in and out before you know they’re
placing charges.  Then they blow ‘em,
and concussions come with waves of
flame that leave the landscape glowing.

Post-Modern Sketches

(The painting for the post is “Retroactive II” by Robert Rauschenberg)

Poetry has sometimes been a medium for social critique, as all art forms have. My poems are no exception, and some comment on the world we live in.

One of the poems in my book, The Wind and the Shadows, is called “Post-Modern Sketches.” I attempted to write this poem using mostly words derived by combing two words. My aim was to evoke three meanings in each word: the meanings of each combined word plus a third meaning created by the combination of the words.

For example, the first word in the poem is “Empyrrhic.” This is a combination of “empiric” and “pyrrhic.” “Empiric” refers to knowledge limited to sense observation. “Pyrrhic” refers to a victory that is so costly it wasn’t worth winning. “Empyrrhic” acknowledges the victory of empiric knowledge in our society but questions whether this victory was worthwhile because of the losses we incurred.

The title “Post-Modern Sketches” references post-modernism, a movement which continues to impact culture. In post-modernism, meaning is often created through eclectic combinations; the word combinations I use are a nod to this. I call them sketches because they are just impressions or roughed out portraits of today’s world.

I will own that these are among the densest and most difficult of my poems to read. While writing them, I often felt like I was having a mental melt down! Still, I hope a few people out there will find them interesting and worth noodling on.

I.

Empyrrhic victory 
left us fall-owing
jejuneiversity profets of
polymeism,
divisionaries
who vassalate between
lieght and night
as the whirled 
twists 
in the solar wind.

II.

Technologenies
grant wishescape:
realiTVs
where marionetworks dangle 
distr-actors,
self-centertainers,
apalliticians,
and scavenjournalists

deadwood
on dys-play 
for denihilists.

III.

Mobnoxious
apeerance pressure
cult-ure
en-forced
on the splinternet
by the torch and pitchforked tongues
of so-shall mediaccusers
whose tyranknee-jerk reac-shuns
make demockracy their
free speechless
libertease.

I Know the Moon

Writing doesn’t happen in a straight line, at least not in my experience. Some poems are like slipping on the ice; others like digging out of prison with a spoon. Most poems fall somewhere between these extremes.

My first book, The Wind and the Shadows, has at least four poems of the “digging out of prison with a spoon” variety. One of them is, “I Know the Moon.” My best guess is that I started writing this poem in 2008. It dramatizes an experience I had but I couldn’t get past the first six lines. I worked at it for I don’t know how long before putting it on the shelf. Every few years, I’d run across it again while looking through old notebooks; I’d work on it a bit but still couldn’t get further than the first six lines.

In 2020–twelve years later—I finally finished it. I still can’t tell you how, except that it came together after a lot of praying, staring at the page, and re-writing. This isn’t even the longest I’ve spent trying to finish a poem. There are a couple (also in The Wind and the Shadows) that I didn’t finish for about 20 years.

These marathon writing experiences have taught me not to give up on poems, just to put them away for awhile. I’m glad I didn’t give up on “I Know the Moon,” and I hope readers will agree it was worth the wait.

I Know the Moon

I know the moon.

There’s a man in it.
The cow jumped over it.
The moon is a planetary satellite
reflecting the sun...

Tonight,
a faceless, pallid orb
floats
in the edgeless 
obsidian vacuum
surrounding everything
and diffusing into me
as the blood drains
from my face
and I struggle to breathe
in a world stripped 
of stories.

Aliens—Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell is considered one of the leading figures of the Imagist movement in poetry. The Poetry Foundation describes Imagism as “An early 20th-century poetic movement that relied on the resonance of concrete images drawn in precise, colloquial language rather than traditional poetic diction and meter.”

I recently read Amy Lowell’s poem, “Aliens.” The title intrigued me, and I found it is a bittersweet, even ironic, reference to children. The poem is brief—only five lines. In that small space, Lowell perfectly captures the paradox of parenting, a venture as full of enjoyment as of costly sacrifice.

The key image she uses to convey this is “the water-drops which slowly wear the rocks to powder.” This shows the power of imagist poetry—with one picture, she is able to convey so much about the experience of parenting. People who have been parents will be able to interact with the imagery more richly. But because the image itself is universal in human experience, it allows anyone a window into how parenting feels from the inside.

As a Christian, I further frame “Aliens” in the context of Christ’s death and resurrection. His death gives life to anyone who spiritually joins to Him. Paul, the apostle, said, “Death works in us but life in you”; Christians can mystically participate in the death of Christ in such a way that spiritual life is imparted to others (2 Corinthians 4:12). Parenting is a way to know Christ in His death and to release spiritual life to our children.

You can read “Alienshere. I hope readers will take a minute to enjoy the full poem. As I said, it’s very short! And that is my favorite kind of poem 😉

“Anxiety” Published!

In a previous post, I shared that I’ve been submitting poems to journals and that one journal has agreed to publish one of my poems. I’m happy to say that my poem “Anxiety” has been published in this month’s edition of Better than Starbucks.

“Anxiety” uses the image of a spider and its prey to explore the experience of anxiety.

If you look at the online edition of Better than Starbucks, it’s divided into categories of poetry. “Anxiety” appears in the free verse section.

If you prefer a print version of November’s journal, you can visit their “Shop” page. They have a couple different print options to choose from.

Either way, I hope you’ll check out my poem and others published this month by Better than Starbucks.

Moving the Goal Posts

After self-publishing my first book of poems, The Wind and the Shadows, in December of 2020, I set a goal to self-publish a second book of poems in a year. It seemed like a challenging but do-able goal.

In 2020, while praying, I felt prompted to be more intentional about writing poetry. Putting out a second book of poems within a year was a way to make that purpose concrete.

In the midst of 2021, however, I decided to start submitting poems to journals. So far, I’ve submitted to five or six journals and will be published in the November edition of Better than Starbucks.

Submitting to journals has taught me a couple things. First, many journals only want poems that haven’t previously been published; publishing often includes posting a poem on a blog or even social media like Facebook. This means I can’t submit anything from my first book or that has appeared on my other blog, The Voice of One. Most of the poems I’ve submitted have been new ones that I plan to publish in my next book.

Second, journals often take months to tell you whether or not your work will be published. This meant re-evaluating my goal of self-publishing a book in 2021. In weighing the value of sending poems to journals against self-publishing another book, I decided to delay my second book in the interest of approaching journals.

Self-publishing and traditional publishing each have their value. I am grateful to be able to self-publish. It’s nice to put your work out there without being beholden to anyone else. Still, there is something about submitting your work and having someone else say, ”This is good and should be shared.” To many, traditional publishing venues are still the gold-standard of quality.

All this to say that my second book of poems, Event Horizon, will probably come out sometime in 2022. I’ve decided to submit to a few more journals. After I’ve heard yea or nay from all of them, and after my poems appear in the journal or journals that accepted them, I’ll be free to self-publish Event Horizon.

Despite the delay, I am happy to say that I still met my original goal in a way: I’ve collected enough poems to be able to publish a second book this year. What is more, 2/3 to 3/4 of the poems are new—a sign that I have in fact been more intentional about writing this year. So while I’m moving the goal posts so to speak, I think it’s for a valuable reason. Plus, my original goal was still productive in the way I hoped.

If any readers have ventured into the realm of being published, I’d love to hear any tips you have. Feel free to leave a comment if you have some experience to share.

A Fly Buzzed Me before It Died

Poets can take themselves too seriously. That’s why I enjoy reading, and sometimes writing, light verse. Humor—in life and in writing—helps us keep perspective. In a world too often caught in a morass of self-importance, a good laugh can be a life line.

Awhile back, a fly buzzed past my face while I was brushing my teeth. An ironic reversal of Emily Dickinson’s poem, “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died,” flashed through my mind and led to this poem.

I would encourage you to read Dickinson’s before mine. One, it is a classic poem worth knowing. Also, when I parody a piece, part of the fun is staying close to the original, so it is recognizable even as I have fun with it. In any case, I hope my revision doesn’t bug any Dickinson fans 😉

A Fly Buzzed Me before It Died


A Fly buzzed me before it died - 
The Stillness when I Raised
My hand Was like the Stillness before
The Lightning’s jagged Race -

My Eyes ran ‘round pursuing that fly -
My Fist was gathering firm
For that last Onset - when its Strike
Would fall with thundering Boom -

I steeled my Will then Slapped away
But missed with every try 
Until, by chance, I hit it in
Mid-flight—-I got you, Fly!

With Blue - uncertain - stumbling Buzz -
Down through the light - it fell -
And bounced from a Window to the floor -
Just one stop short from Hell.

MCMXIV—Philip Larkin

One of the poets I’ve been reading lately is Philip Larkin (1922-1985). Larkin has many striking poems, but one that stands out to me is “MCMXIV”. MCMXIV is, of course, 1914 in Roman numerals. The title suggests the beginning of World War I. Larkin begins the poem by talking about long lines of men, then moves to speaking of “the shut shops” and other images of vacancy.

The poem ends with the lines,

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word—the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

With these lines, Larkin perfectly captures the sense of loss: loss of normalcy and of life, certainly. But also loss of the entire world as it was.

If you like the few lines above, I encourage you to read the whole poem here: https://allpoetry.com/Mcmxiv. Alternatively, you can listen to Philip Larkin read the poem here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=26SaY6s3IaM.

The Fence

The Fence is a poem I wrote in 2020. It’s about a fence (surprise, surprise) and the property behind it that I passed while walking to high school. It’s funny how mundane things imprint on our psyches. I can’t account for it except that it’s one way everything can point to ultimate meaning. Plato said particular things suggest the reality of those things. So if I see a horse, it hints at what a horse truly is. Maybe things in this reality hint at something that is more deep and full, like the early reflections, the pre-echos, of a coming sound. Anyway, I hope readers enjoy The Fence. It first appeared in my book The Wind and the Shadows.

The Fence

My route to school
took me past a fence:
tall, knotted boards
flecked with moss,
crowded together
like old growth forest.

Fir trees just behind the fence
completed the appearance
of woods
and crossed their limbs
against anyone
looking in
or out.

Beyond the trees,
a rooster gargled; 
clucking popcorned;
cows groaned;
a donkey had a fit
of braying.

A farm
in the middle of the suburbs....

Who knows how long 
the farm was there
before houses metastasized

before it buried its face
in a row of gnarled, 
wooden fingers.

Welcome

Welcome to my poetry site. My name is Teague McKamey, and I’ve been writing poetry since the early 1990s. However, I wouldn’t say I took writing poetry all that seriously until 2020. While praying in the spring of 2020, I felt moved to put more focus on writing and reading poetry. That led to self-publishing my first book of poems, The Wind and the Shadows, toward the end of 2020. I am currently working on a second book of poems, Event Horizon, which I hope to publish in late 2021 or early 2022. I am also in the process of submitting poems to journals and will be published in Better than Starbucks for the first time in November 2021.

For this blog, I plan to update readers on the progress of Event Horizon and if I am published in other journals. I will also post my poems or poems by others I enjoy from time to time.

Please share this site with people you know if you enjoy my poems or any of the other content. Thank you for taking the time to stop by!