April 12, 2016

Thursday, April 11, 2013

National Poetry Month 2013: Making Global Connections with Poets & Artists

I met Maryland-based poet Regina Sokas several years ago, when I was editing an anthology of Maryland poets, Life in Me Like Grass on Fire.

I have a Facebook group where Life in Me contributors can keep in touch, make announcements, and share news. That is where I learned that Regina's brother, Patrick Sokas, M.D., had passed away at age 55. It was March, 2012.

The next time I saw Regina, it was summer. She was planning an anthology of poetry to honor her brother, who was a journalist before he focused his career on medicine. Her idea: the book would be composed entirely of found poems, each based on one of her brother's articles.

Regina and I discussed a couple of sites and list-servs where she might place a call for submissions. It's just over a year after Patrick's death, and Regina has collected found poems from around the world, honoring her brother's work.

Here is the story of how the TechnoVerse helped Regina's vision for an anthology become a reality:

This journey started in that very private, primitive space created by grief. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of his condo, sorting through papers my brother left behind when he unexpectedly died, I read his old newspaper articles and heard his voice.

If you have grieved, then you know how I wanted more than just a time-frozen, one-way conversation. (Not that Patrick had anything against a good monologue, mind you.) How do you converse with a text written thirty years ago? Maybe with found poetry – poetry that takes an existing text and extracts/manipulates/creates something new.

A caricature of Patrick Sokas.
First, I needed to make articles available for ‘finding.’ A blog was free over on Blogspot, so I loaded articles up onto

Next, I needed poets. I sent out emails and pimped it on Facebook. I stuck a toe in LinkedIn. Duotrope agreed to list me, as did the Creative Writers Opportunities List Group on Yahoo ( [Highly recommended for those of you looking to submit work to literary journals.]

Poems began arriving from across the United States, then Canada and the UK. People were reading my brother’s words and responding. Australia I snagged by accident when I got a sales email from an Australian poet and emailed him back. (Australia was Patrick’s favorite place on Earth.) John Holland responded in verse.

Thanks to the Internet, I built a collection of found poems that started in that private space and grew into a conversation taking place around the globe and across the barriers of time, space and mortality.

I started to crave artwork. Here is where I crossed over into really unfamiliar territory. “Where,” I asked, “are the Duotropes and CRWROPPS to reach artists?” No one that I knew could tell me. So I incessantly Googled.

And I discovered the websites deviantART and ArtWanted. Browse by subject. Browse by medium. Wade through everything in search of a gem. Make note that poets and artists live in different countries – no matter where they physically live. Adjust your communication accordingly. I learned to look for artists that had their own web pages containing at least some English language since I am monolingual.

In this way, I found work from nearby, but also from Bosnia and India. I found Jarek Kubicki, (, a Warsaw-based artist of formidable talent. One of his pieces I acquired was a haunting study of a man watching a meteor shower that I knew belonged with Patrick’s article on the Superbowl. (You learn to just start trusting the connections that present themselves.)

Art by Jarek Kubicki
I had known that I would need to end my conversation with my brother. I knew now that I would end it with this meteor shower from Poland and a poem. I had struggled a bit to get enough distance from my brother’s words and found that if I imposed a fairly rigid structure on myself that it helped. I ended up writing this pantoum taken from the Superbowl article in response to this artwork:

The Chase

Prepared to chase across the skies
Just to be near to you,
One thing stuck out:
You broke me.

Just to be. Near to you
Only one last razzle-dazzle and
You broke. Me?
I’m foggiest with a motley heart.

Only one last razzle-dazzle, and
Strange, a land with no living you.
I’m foggiest with a motley heart,
A performer in your new story.

Strange, a land with no living you.
One thing stuck out:
A performer in your new story
Prepared to chase across the skies.

By Regina Sokas
Published with permission of the author.

And here is Patrick Sokas's 1984 article "A pilgrimage to Disneyland: It was good." The piece appeared in the Oakland Tribune, December 4, 1984.

Regina Sokas's profile photoRegina Sokas’ articles appeared in newspapers across the country, from the Portland Oregonian to the Staten Island Advance and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The latter is particularly wonderful to say aloud. Most recently, her poetry and short stories have appeared in the anthologies Life In Me Like Grass On Fire, That One Left Show and in June 2013’s forthcoming Found Patrick, for which she serves as editor. Regina is currently shopping a novel, Crazy Like Heaven. She is a Johns Hopkins-trained psychotherapist. (One word. Not two.)

Regina says: A bit about Patrick. He died last March at the age of 55. He lived all over the world, but most recently in Towson, MD,

The book covers a particularly productive 10-year period between 1974 and 1984, age 18 to 28. In those years, Patrick earned a B.S. from Penn State and an M.D. from Jefferson Medical College, writing for the school newspapers. Then he was a reporter at The Kansas City Times and The Oakland Tribune.

Patrick eventually elected to focus on medicine rather than journalism, although he continued to contribute to journals. He was a fan of politics, movies and the habits of human beings -- and adored giving his opinions on all these things and more.

Thank you Regina. I loved how this project allowed you to continue a conversation with your brother during this grieving time. What a beautiful way, also, to encourage others to engage with his voice.

Tomorrow is Poetry Friday. April Halprin Wayland will be here to tell us about one of her favorite poetry websites.


Tabatha said...

Fantastic idea! So glad Regina was able to pull this book together. Her pantoum is great.

Author Amok said...

Tabatha, I'm amazed at how quickly Regina was able to pull this project together. It's encouraging to see people create something positive out of grief. I like that she chose a form poem to express her loss -- the form acts as a container for the overwhelming feeling of loss.

skanny17 said...

I think this is just a really amazing thing. I love the poem and all of the background to Regina's poetry and tribute to her brother. I also love everything about this post, Laura. I am new to the technoverse and this is very helpful to me. Did you see my guest blogpost at Irene's on Sunday?
PS Saw the ELL teacher who as in the room when I shared your parkas on the fence notebook and poem!!! He agreed how he could visualize the way they were hanging with their arms down. But he did agree that there was NO photo, just the one in my mind. I am going to recreate this some day and send it to you. It exists, truly, someplace. I will need a few colorful spring jackets and a fence near a field...I think I can do this.
Janet F.

Linda B said...

It's near to me, that loss, and wonderful that Regina responded to this idea, and found a way to complete this tribute to her brother. "Prepared to chase across the skies Just to be near to you". That feeling, real, she did it! Thank you for sharing this story, Regina, and Laura, for your wonderful posts this month. They get better each day! The internet can be a wonder of a place!

laurasalas said...

Wow. What an amazing tribute to her brother. And what a fabulous example of how poetry can heal us. Not get rid of the grief, but at least use it in the service of something beautiful and powerful.

(Just a note--only the image of Regina shows for me. The other two are just red xs.)

Author Amok said...

Hi, Janet. I'll have to top by Irene's to check out your post. Thanks for the recommendation.

I'd love to see a work of art or a staged photo of my poem "In Early Spring." I'm flattered!

Author Amok said...

Thanks, Laura and Regina -- I think I've fixed the photo problem!

Diane Mayr said...

I never cease to be amazed at how small the internet has made the world. We are all neighbors, and friends, and can help each other through the hard times. Great post!

Regina Sokas said...

Thanks so much to you all for connecting with me in this effort. I am deeply grateful.

Regina Sokas said...

Thanks so much. Every person who thinks a thought of him for a moment plays a role in this memorial.

Barbara Morrison said...

Amazing post! Love the idea, the artwork, the poem. I'm so impressed, Regina with how you pulled this together. Thanks for sharing your sources & I second what you said about CRWROPPS-B.

Regina Sokas said...

Thanks, Barbara. The bold face emphasis on CRWROPPS-B was thanks to Lauara.