Melodically Challenged: GSU’s Poetry Radio Show by Mike Saye

Every Sunday afternoon from 2:00pm to 4:00pm, students from Georgia State University’s Creative Writing Program compile a program of contemporary, traditional, classic, slam, and avant-garde poetry and indie music and divide all that goodness into two one-hour radio shows; the first hour is a syndicated program that’s pre-recorded and sent across the country to eight (and counting) college radio stations (get in touch with K. B. Kincer at or through the Melodically Challenged website or visit them on Facebook  if you want the program aired on your college radio station – it’s free!) The second hour is a live radio program of recorded poetry and music. The poetry ranges from canonical to emerging, lesser known to infamous, and the music reflects a similarly eclectic range of tastes: blues, folk, hip-hop, indie-pop, jazz, classical, etc.

Melodically Challenged is the brain-child of Robert Morea III, who was an undergraduate majoring in English at Georgia State University. In 2006, he had just been appointed Program Director of WRAS, Album 88, Georgia State’s 100,000-watt radio station, the largest student run college radio station in the country. Morea’s initial programming consisted of a series of Academy of American Poetry CDs that he purchased with his own money and played with a few tracks of alternative music played between stretches of verse. Born with Cystic Fibrosis and the recipient of a double lung transplant three-and-half-years prior, Morea contracted an infection and passed away barely a month after the show first aired. The current director of the show, K. B. Kincer, tries to live up to the vision that Morea created. The program is dedicated to him.


Melodically Challenged’s creator Robert Vincent Morea,  1-6-79  to 6-20-06

 I sat down with K. B. Kincer, the shows current director, a poet, doctoral student, and undergraduate teacher at Georgia State University to discuss Melodically Challenged, its purpose, the production process, and what it’s like to juggle writing poetry, teaching undergraduates, and coming up with two hours of radio-worthy poetry 52 weeks a year.

 Melodically Challenged allows listeners to experience poetry as a living breathing medium every week for two hours. “The people you hear on Melodically Challenged are the poets,” says Kincer. “This is the real deal. This is like you’re at the reading…”  According to Kincer, “The goal of Melodically Challenged is to introduce college audiences to great poetry: contemporary, traditional, historical, and avant garde.I think most people have no idea that there’s this art form that’s accessible and, I think, will improve their lives. When we have a disaster or something we can’t comprehend, we turn to poetry… [but] there are poems for all aspects of our lives: funny, miserable…”

The show does a remarkable job of making real poetry appealing to a contemporary audience. If you click the link above and give some of these shows a listen, I think you’ll find yourself agreeing with Kincer. The great thing about the program is that it isn’t for one kind of listener. Melodically Challenged has had shows devoted to Slam poetry, contemporary southern poetry, the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.  Kincer has hopes of eventually producing a show devoted to Milton, one that’s palatable to a general audience. But regardless of the show’s topic or theme, what the listener experiences is an intimate, personal interaction with the poetic word.

In order to facilitate a connection between the radio audience and the poetry, the format of the show can’t be one random poem after the next, so each episode is set up based on a theme, and the staff searches for the best poems they can find that reflect, directly or indirectly, that theme. Shows have been about dead animals, live animals, cars, sports, cities, the body, states, sweets, rain, food, seasons, trees, music, booze, etc. Sometimes the theme is more abstract: “failed love,” time, pop culture, back-to-school, poems about darkness, spiritual poems, poems related to holidays. The most intriguing themes, for me at least, are about the structure of the poems themselves: “poems that end in questions,” “ends in simile,” “ends with an image,” poems with a literary allusion, and ekphrastic poems.

It takes a lot of work to compile two hours’ worth of theme-centered poetry each week. In addition to her teaching duties, studying and reading for classes, and writing her own poetry, Kincer puts an average of 30 hours a week into the radio show, but the choice of poems, music, and themes for the show is group effort, and Kincer is quick to point out how much work the other student staff members do. I didn’t speak with the other members of the staff about the number of hours they put into the program each week, but between all four members of the staff, it’s at least a full-time job to produce Melodically Challenged.


TheMelodically Challenged crew  working on their Girl Power show

The other component of production that supports the high standards of the show is backing from the administrators at Georgia State. In a world where the arts and cultural programs are tossed to the wayside and artists have to fight and fend for themselves for a public space, the administrators at Georgia State are a light in the darkness. Kincer asked me to include her thanks in this post:“I’d like to thank the English Department at GSU for unanimously voting to sponsor the show. Without their sponsorship, we could not syndicate the show, and Dr. Pearl McHaney [the Associate Dean for the Fine Arts] has also been very supportive, allowing us to use her office, which gives us an official address.”

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Mat Play: On Writing and Yoga by Kathleen Kraft

Photo of author

Photo of the author

I sometimes find writing about the asanas (poses or postures) perplexing because there’s an ineffable quality in the practice, one that feels pre-linguistic. The feeling takes me back to being on a swing when I was young, rising higher and higher. A freedom balanced by the tension of holding the rope, determining the speed and height of the ascent and descent with your leg power, and the gradual slowing down to a stop.

Yoga is a great swing. Bound by gravity and rectangled off by the mat, we experience an amazing number of movements and flight, we flow between them. The mat is a poem of sorts—a long, thin, unpunctuated Merwinesque poem where meaning shifts in the enjambment. One moment we are in a standing split, with one leg high in the air and hands on the ground, then we shift the lifted hip open, stacking it on top of the rooted one and lift the arm of the same side to come into half moon pose… We were facing down, finding ground on one leg, and now we are lifting and opening to the side, further challenging the stability as we gaze skyward.

Writing a poem is like designing a yoga class as you decide what kind of arc you want, which poses to hold, when to flow, and so on. But, as mentioned above, it’s the shifting from one to pose to another that is most resonant for me as a writer and a mover. Part of this has to do with the frequent return to Downward Facing Dog pose. The pose is often used to build heat at the beginning of class but then becomes a place to return to actively cool down. It is the pose that completes the sun salutation cycle, which is itself like a poem. When we rise up in the salute, I tell my younger students, “Reach for the sky and pull some sun rays down into your hearts.” We flow through the shapes and return to Downward Dog, looking at the past upside down through our legs! Let’s face it – it’s fun turning yourself into a tunnel, inverting the order of things. It’s what happens when our writing is going well—that element of surprise, that light or dark rebellion of looking at things from a new vantage point:

Here I am again, in my dog—

upside down, igniting energetic light,
like a child barking in the pose.

Here I am—late-blossomed yogi, finding the body’s levers,
so many rough transitions—
I lunge forward and come back,

press up and back down,
breathing, rolling forward towards
length and strength,
planking smoothly to the ground
and up again to inversion,
suspension of wants—I am held—

in the V of life, quietly barking.



Photo of the Author’s Yoga Space

Much has been written about the transformative quality of yoga, how it brings a practitioner into a greater, deeper experience of themselves. Part of this has to do with the subtle psychological effects of climbing inside the different personas that the poses offer. We are warriors, moons, trees, snakes, suns…mountains. Abstract and specific, we can locate ourselves among them. In short, we play in a universe on our mats, one we create again and again. An example of one of my favorite shifts, one that I feel speaks to me as a writer: When moving from Warrior 2 to Peaceful (or Reverse) Triangle, the front leg straightens, the arms flow up and back, one after another, and the gaze travels to the sky. In Warrior 2 we are looking straight on, proud, rooted and then we unfurl, while still rooted, rolling up towards the heavens, cultivating a pose of devotion to the greatness within and around us.

Kathleen Kraft’s poems have appeared in Anderbo, Gargoyle, Pirene’s Fountain,and other journals and have been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, where she teaches writing, yoga, and creative movement to adults and children. She is working on a book on writing and yoga. (

Her poem “Sometimes Late in the Evening” appears in our recent issue.

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Best American Essays

Five Points is pleased to announce that James Rioux’s essay “Tattoos, Death Metal, Shaving, and other Ironies” has received the title of Notable Essay in the 2013 volume of The Best American Essays, edited by Cheryl Strayed! Rioux’s essay first appeared in Five Points vol. 14, no. 3. This well-crafted and heartfelt essay about loss and remembering those closest to you.


James Rioux
Tattoos, Death Metal, Shaving, and Other Ironies
“Go I.” —M.R.

I still rub at it now and again, as if it might smudge on my wrist, as if I’ve yet to fully accept its epidermal permanence. I must admit I’m pleased it’s not ornamental. God knows, I’ve had to work hard enough to establish any kind of masculine assertiveness; it doesn’t hurt to have rudimentary letters inked into my skin—letters just strange enough to possibly suggest some drunken ritual or mishap, or, better yet, a stint of long-term incarceration.

But it’s rarely exposed to others, as the inside of the wrist is mostly turned toward one’s own body, allowing even wrist-cutters a convenient anonymity. And then there’s always the long sleeve shirt. When I hide it it’s to avoid the awkward questions, or, more specifically, the potentially long and sometimes emotionally tedious answers. Go I? What does that mean?


I drove that day with a friend of mine to a tattoo parlor a couple towns over—a trip that might, on any other day, have created some anxiety. Living with severe agoraphobia is, for me at least, a constant navigation of boundaries that shift according to a complex set of variables (though, I think now, this describes the lives of most of us). On this day, nothing was stopping me from doing what I felt I had to—in this case, it meant convincing myself that my body was the place where my recently dead friend Matt was to be given a voice.

Put simply, Matt, a quadriplegic with severe cerebral palsy, was unable to speak for the thirty-six years of his life. When I met him in his early twenties, Matt was just learning to use a communication device that enabled him, with the use of an infrared head pointer, to activate icons on a screen that were programmed, when triggered in patterns, to generate a computerized voice. In another words, it allowed him some access to communicating his needs and wants. I could go on to mention how we all take this kind of activity for granted, etc. . . . but, frankly, after living so much of my life in the company of Matt, I’ve come to take such revelations for granted.


There’s something you should know about death metal. More specifically, about the way it’s recorded (at least as I’ve been told by some practitioners). Having done a lot of studio recording myself as a musician and engineer, I understand a little something about the rudimentary technical factors involved, and I’ve been able to replicate with some degree of accuracy the distinctive rumbling scream-growl that is typical to this particular genre of music. For the uninitiated, most death metal, or black metal, consists of a bed of distorted bass and pounding drums often played at a speed that requires immense strength and athleticism (I’ve tried!), layered with muscular stabbing guitar riffs, and above (or is it beneath?) it all, these guttural blasts of inarticulate vocals. Which brings us back to my point: these guttural blasts are, in fact, hoarse whispers recorded at incredibly close range with a mess of distortion and an industrial truck load of amplification. There is no other way a human voice could sustain the kind of depth and volume heard in these songs.

One of which was being played the day I walked into the tattoo parlor by a band I can only imagine had some such name as Vikings of the Apocalypse (for some reason unknown to me, the Scandinavians excel in this genre). Anyway, being a migraineur in addition to other neurological challenges, I was not pleased. This was not your typical tattoo shop, however; it lived up to the name parlor. Sleek and modern looking artwork adorned a hip waiting area with dark leather couches.

“Do you guys have an appointment?” a gangly young man with thin arms crazed with colorful animation asked my friend and me.

“No,” I said. “Is that a prob . . .” But he had walked away. I didn’t know if we should leave, and yet I was determined to get this done.

I watched the gangly young man whisper something to someone else behind a desk in front of a computer. The other young man stood, and as he got closer I saw that his arms were covered with what looked like dull smudges of paint. This was not promising (I would learn later, however, while he was tattooing me, that he was having his old ink lased off so he could have a fresh canvas).

“So what is it you guys wanted?” He seemed disinterested. “Just a couple words,” I said. “On my wrist.”


Matt loved hearing stories. Broken down cars, minor bumps and bruises, scrapes with authority, the wide variety of human frustration—these things amused Matt to no end. He was a connoisseur of minor calamity. What I also learned fairly quickly from Matt, however, was that his use of the communication device offered him no opportunity to tell his own stories. This was something I set out, with the help of his unceasing enthusiasm, to change. Before my introduction of narrative devices, a typical string of words from Matt might sound like this: “Go I store drink walk downtown Jim outside people talk walk pathfinder [the name of the communication device] vocabulary stretching home administrative.”

In addition to implementing a wider range of feeling words for Matt to use I wanted to find an easy way to distinguish one event from another and place those events into a sensible order of occurrence. After about a year of hard work (Matt would literally break out into furious sweats as he craned his head around to activate each sequence of icons, several hundreds of which he had memorized), Matt began to insert the simple word “then” to signify where one action ended and another began. The difference, though subtle, began to give Matt a narrative voice: “Van go I Portsmouth. Then go I outside walk downtown. Then people talk pathfinder. Then food drink I. Then go I van home I. Then pathfinder vocabulary. Then TV couch sit Jim. Then drink. Then administrative. Then Jim goodbye.”


Nick Filth (I can’t even make up a name like this, though he obviously did) walked me back to what looked like a dentist’s chair for my time with the needle gun. I tried to break the tension.

“So this is the last song on this album, right?” I asked, referring to the death metal.

“No,” Nick said. “Why?”

“Oh, I get it,” I said. “You guys have to live up to the whole tattoo tough image thing.” I was already regretting my attempt at a joke.

“We play all kinds of music here,” he said flatly.

“I see.”

I kept waiting for him to warm up, to try to make me feel comfortable. That was how I had imagined things transpiring. I had hoped for some kind of question, for instance, about the tattoo I was getting. Nothing. I should have been anxious, but all I could think about was how funny Matt would think this all was. The actual pain of the pulsing needle, kind of like a series of wasp stings of varying intensity, came as a welcome distraction from the awkward social interaction. Before we started he turned my wrist a couple times to get the right angle.

“Like this,” he said. “And try to stay still.”

And then without warning he pulled out a razor and put it to my wrist, scraping clean of hair a swath of skin to get things ready.


The morning of the day Matt died I shaved his face. At this point he was no longer able to communicate with his Pathfinder. A respiratory accident, due to illness and over-medication, had changed his life dramatically. He had been living in an assisted care facility for over four years, in and out of the hospital due to pneumonias, UTI’s, MRSA, bedsores, etc. . . . We had to wear gowns and gloves when in close contact with him—to protect him or ourselves or both I was never clearly told.

And yet on the days I shaved him I broke those rules. I needed the direct contact with his skin in order to stretch it gently to allow the razor a smooth surface. On this morning he was non-communicative. At this point he would answer questions with a sharp up-look “yes” with his eyes (if he was enthusiastic) or by looking at one of two fists we held in front of his face.

This morning I was getting nothing. Blank stares, even when I tried to joke about my dog keeping me up all night.

Until I mentioned a shave. Then his eyes shot up. I had other opportunities to see Matt after his body had gone cold and lifeless that day. I would be invited later into the ICU to “see him at peace.” But I choose to remember him this way:

I remove my gloves. I prepare his face with a hot towel and shaving cream. I turn his head carefully to each side, sliding the razor over tender folds I pull taut on his neck. I ask him if he wants me to leave his mustache. And then it happens—a brief smile and another look-up yes.

“You look like a cop,” I say. Then one last laugh, which now is a fuller smile accompanied by a wheezing from his trach.

Then I re-heat the towel with warm water and lay it around his chin like a soft white beard. Then I dab some loose stubble from around his stoma. Then I look Matt smile. Then tired Matt. Then touch I head soft last. Then go I

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Featured Poem: “A Man’s Little Heart’s Short Fever Fit” by Thomas Lux

It’s been a while since we’ve had a featured poem on our blog, so what better time than today, with the release our newest issue right around the corner? Today’s featured poem is from Volume 15 of Five Points, “A Man’s Little Heart’s Short Fever Fit” by Thomas Lux.

Poor as a dog. Poor as owl scat tufted

with mouse fur and a chipmunk’s hip

bone. Poor as a louse without a valise.

He liked the deepest caves,

the getting to the bottom of them

(the deepest, about 7 mi. down, ending

in not so square three yards of packed sand)

and he liked better: climbing out.

It was harder climbing out: up, up, up,

poor as a used toothpick,

poor as a man evicted from the poorhouse,

poor as a hole drilled in dust.

Did I say he liked the deepest caves?

Small caves breathe, middle caves sing,

the deepest caves roar.

He liked the deepest caves.

Did I say he loved the abseiling, abseiling down,

and the inch-by-inch rock-climber’s winch

up, up to the cave’s agape mouth?

Did I say what, and those, he loved, (and he did love what and those)

even as I knew he made a failure of it?


Image Thomas Lux’s most recent book of poetry is Child Made of Sand (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012). His book of nonfiction From the Southland was also published in 2012 by Marick Press.

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A Literary Announcement!

Lydia Davis, the 2013 recipient of the Man Booker International Award, will be holding a reading at Georgia State October 17th in the Florence Kopleff Recital Hall. Ms. Davis is known for her translation of Madame Bovary, which won the 2011 French-American Foundation Translation Price, as well as her translation of Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, which won the same prize in 2003. Her Collected Stories was named one of the most acclaimed books of 2009. Works by Ms. Davis will also be featured in the upcoming issue of Five Points, which will debut at the end of this month!
Information about Ms. Davis’s reading and how to reserve your (free!) ticket can be found here:

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Obscure Holidays: Great Poetry Reading Day

bullwinkleFinally an obscure holiday that actually fits into our poetry theme! Today, April 28th, is “Great Poetry Reading Day.” As you might imagine, this day celebrates all the incredible poetry out there! “Great” is a relative term of course, so you can take it to mean whatever you like (as long as it involves poetry, that is).

For today’s featured poem, I actually had a tough time figuring out what to pick. After all, there are so many to choose from…Shakespeare, Keats, Tennyson, Frost….but since I have a feeling this may be the last “obscure holidays” post for a long while, I think I’ll go with one befitting of its final installment:

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night
by Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Hope you guys enjoyed all the obscure holiday posts! And enjoy some great poetry today! Find some at or the Poetry Foundation’s site.

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Featured Poem From Our Newest Issue: “At the Degas Exhibit” by Gregory Fraser

As you all know, our double issue of Five Points Vol. 15, No. 1 & 2 is on sale now, and we’d like to give you a little preview of one of the poems you’ll find inside:

At the Degas Exhibit

by Gregory Fraser


The docent wends us to The Dance Class

and it all flits back: the studio downtown,

few bucks an hour, ragging off the finger


grease of toe-shoed cygnets, tutu-ed swans,

scudding hardwood and ignoring both

of me—spray of acne, high-top Keds.


I would clatter on the local after school

(weekends once the Christmas pageant neared),

my face at every stop floating outside


the window beside my seat—a mask

tried on by stars in movie ads, commuters

cooling heels for later cars. Then Windex,


buff, till six, waving hello, farewell,

from glass to glass, plié to pointe—my hand

emitting squeaks, eliding dainty prints and streaks.


In my knapsack: comics, Catcher, lunch

untouched. And never once did I happen on

the courage even to speak to one of those


sugar plums of Rittenhouse, Society Hill.

Degas’s girls, our guide informs, practice

attitudes, inspected by their master


(one Jules Perrot) propped on his staff.

Note the Parisian mothers daubed

on the wall in back. Yet I see only tights


that bear the stamp McDevitt Dance,

hear gripes about third position, giddy talk

of boys. And search the sides and corners


for my Old World counterpart—some

sponge-and-bucket kid from a ragged edge—

undersized, near-sighted, invisible to art.


Here’s a little more info on Gregory Fraser:

Fraser.3Fraser is the author of two poetry collections, Strange Pietà (Texas Tech, 2003) and Answering the Ruins (Northwestern, 2009). He is also the co-author, with Chad Davidson, of the workshop textbook Writing Poetry: Creative and Critical Approaches (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008) and the composition textbook Analyze Anything: A Guide to Critical Reading and Writing (Continuum, 2012). His poetry has appeared in journals including the Paris Review, the Southern Review, the Gettysburg Review, and Ploughshares. The recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Fraser serves as associate professor of English and creative writing at the University of West Georgia.

Purchase copies of Five Points here!

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