Ember: Found Poems

I’m proud to announce that my latest collection of poems, Ember: Found Poems, is now available for order.  (Free shipping from Amazon!)

For those not familiar with the idea of found poetry, the idea is to select words from another poem, story, article, song (the list is endless really) to create your own original work. Here is an example from a workshop I took earlier this summer. I had a pretty good response from that found poem, so I decided to embark on a bigger project.

Photo by Rob Long / Nickie Altamorano (2013)

Jason Stocker
Photo by Rob Long / Nickie Altamorano (2013)

My dear friend Jason Stocker recently released his second CD, The Color of Hope, produced by Ben Wysocki of The Fray. The CD covers Stocker’s journey of losing his father at a young age, the subsequent grief, the testing and maturation of his faith, and of course falling in love. I first met Stocker in August of 2000. He was the new youth worship intern at the church where I was on (unpaid) staff as director of youth discipleship. We took a staff retreat to the mountains in early August, and of course, the two tallest guys on staff were assigned roommates.  What was unique about getting to know Stocker was that he had lost his dad about 15 months prior to that retreat. I would lose my own father two months after that retreat. I remember asking Stocker if he’d be willing to work through this whole losing-your-dad thing with me. He didn’t know me, but he promised to be there for whatever needed, to ask whatever I needed to ask.

So many of the stories on The Color of Hope parallel my own journey of losing my

Available on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon

dad, wrestling with my faith and with God, trying to figure out marriage without the help of a father, and more. Jason Stocker is one of three men who have stood beside and encouraged me through the grieving process. It goes as no surprise then that listening to this CD takes me on quite a journey. So I decided to write poems that explained my own journey, but because our stories are so closely interwoven, I decided to use Stocker’s lyrics as the basis for my poems. Thus, the found poems. (Yes, Stocker has given me permission to use his lyrics. This is all legit, folks.)

To compose each poem, I spent time listening to each track of the CD on repeat. I took the lyrics from all the songs and put them in one document. I then chose words (in the order that they appeared) that recorded my own experience, and it turns out that the poem matches the tone of that song. I then moved on to the second track, set it on repeat, and found a new poem. The result is a juxtaposition of two similar journeys, unique in their own ways. The book is in two parts. The first part shows Stocker’s lyrics in gray, and my chosen words in black. This way you can see the subtext of the two works. The second section is just the poems, as it’s easier to read that way. Here is an example of how it’s laid out in the book. This poem is called “Roses, Inside Out”, which accompanies the track “When I Close My Eyes“:


Click to enlarge

And then here is the text of the poem by itself (with line endings and punctuation):


Perfect heartache:
ocean days
an empty place
tomorrow shadows,
vanishes the way
my age did.
Believe me,
I’ve tried to fit
answers in the excess cold
leaving fate too heavy
to hold on to. Emptiness
isn’t a dream to love.

Losing hope,
you disappear
with broken words.
I see roses
inside out,
frail, and old.

I bow,
my burden
into doubt.

In a way, this project is a collaboration. I am extremely thankful for Stocker’s friendship and his willingness to let me use his work as an inspiration to my own. I hope I’ve done it justice.


The Art of the Very Short Poem: Riddle poems

This week I took a class at the Lighthouse about writing very short poems. I am a fan of twitter poems, so my hope was to learn a few things. I did. It was a great class. We talked briefly about riddle poems, poems that describe an object or present it in metaphor. My riddle poem isn’t that hard to figure out, but I like the way it sounds. Leave your guess in a comment. Here it is:

This morning it was a mess,
but with a blur of innovation
it whirred into a helicopter.
For now. And tomorrow–
a tractor, a transformer, a skyscraper,
a whim from the fast fingers
of a child.

The Art of the Very Short Poem

I recently took a class on very short poetry at the Lighthouse Lit Fest. One of the prompts Lynn Wagner had us do was to highlight words from longer poems to create our own very short poem. Fun exercise. I’m not normally a fan of found poetry, but this one turned out okay. I chose to use Emily Dickinson’s 788. Dickinson’s words are in gray, and I’ve highlighted my choices. I’ll post a few more later this week. Enjoy!

Publication – is the Auction
Of the Mind of Man –
Poverty – be justifying
For so foul a thing
Possibly – but We – would rather
From Our Garret go
White – unto the White Creator –
Than invest – Our Snow –
Thought belong to Him who gave it –
Then – to Him Who bear
It’s Corporeal illustration – sell
The Royal Air –
In the Parcel – Be the Merchant
Of the Heavenly Grace
But reduce no Human Spirit
To Disgrace of Price –

The Teacher Poet: A (very) Short Tanka Series

The gurus at Tweetspeak Poetry have issued the challenge of writing a resume as a poem. So here’s my resume, in case anybody is hiring:

The Teacher Poet by Joel E. Jacobson

high school student
interprets literary classics
said English teachers
I loved to hate

knowing little
about myself or careers,
the college plan
changed and changed and changed,
rough drafts to discover purpose

desert wanderer
working as a corporate trainer–
a teaching mirage?
Shouldn’t drinking be a symbol
for knowledge and a full life?

English teacher
responsible for classics
he read in his youth;
these graduates’ embrace
years later, understanding

Kindle Book on Sale!

To celebrate National Poetry Month, my chapbook, “Water the Mud (Kindle Version)” is on sale for $0.99! (I tried to make it free but the system would have nothing to do with that…sorry! I tried!) Search for “Water the Mud” on your Kindle (or Kindle App) or click here. The sale is good for the month of April. Tell your friends!

Thanks for supporting your local poet!

Clear Gospel, Ambivalent Art Part 1

Jackson Pollock's Mural #631

Last summer, I was asked to join a team that would be responsible for creating a monthly night of worship, called First Wednesday. Our goal is to provide a moment for people to refocus their faith and respond in some way. We attempt to accomplish this goal through music, storytelling, scripture, and…art! My role is twofold: (1)to take the ideas of the group and write a script for the storyteller and (2)to help lead a team of artists that creates original work based on the theme of the night. The art is on display for people to observe as they show up and leave, and then it’s moved to be on display for a month. Incorporating art into the worship experience is a new idea at our church, and I’ve already learned quite a bit about artists, non-artists, and folks who have no idea what to do, say, or think when coming face to face with art.

One of our church’s goals is to share the clear gospel message at every event. And by gospel, I mean the message that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, resurrected from the dead to give us his gift of grace and salvation, and all we have to do to receive that gift is to believe that Jesus, the son of God, died and rose again. There are many philosophies, theologies, and opinions out there that vary from this stance, so we are intent on being crystal clear regarding the words, teachings, and grace of Christ.

However, if we approach art in this same black and white fashion, either as viewers/readers or as creators, we end up with trite, superficial, closed-off works that fail to move/inspire/provoke/challenge.

Why is that?

Because everyone who has approached the cross and walked away from the cross has their own story. If I wrote a poem about my father’s death being the catalyst for developing my own faith, and the poem concluded that in order for you to experience God or to develop your faith, your father would have to die too. That’s ridiculous. For some people, the death of a parent equals liberty and release. For others, relief.

The best art provokes its viewers/readers to walk into the intersection of self, expression, and introspection, to get run-over (or at least honked at!), and to fly away a changed person. All without ever leaving the street.