When I saw the Poetry Sisters’ challenge for the month, I knew immediately what I wanted to write about. It was something I’d already known that I would write about in some way, at some time. Knowing it and doing it are such different things though, aren’t they? I’ve found it difficult to find my way in, and am still uncertain about what I’ve written.
The challenge was to write a poem with a box theme. There was an additional suggestion to consider using a box form of some sort. After exploring a few options, I wound up choosing a quatern, not exactly a box form, but I liked the repetition and movement of the refrain.
One Not-So-Simple Box
One simple box on our doorstep delivered unexpectedly, filled with a spicy balsam scent and a Christmas wreath, evergreen
My stepmother’s annual gift one simple box on our doorstep arriving just as usual but stunningly unusual
This past November, sad and shocked, we celebrated her life. Now one simple box on our doorstep held both explosion and embrace
She’d pre-ordered in late July a holiday present now so reverberant with love and loss one simple box on our doorstep
I love how writing communities spark more poetry, providing writing inspiration and motivation time and again. My participation in this summer’s Poetry Swap poems (Thank you to the fabulous Tabatha Yeatts!!!) provided a welcome nudge to create throughout the summer and an unmitigated delight when I received poems in return, tucked amidst my collection of bills and junk mail.
Earlier this month, Mary Lee sent me this beautiful embroidered haiku bookmark. I so appreciate how she took my love of the marsh and created this hush of a haiku. When I thanked her, I remarked that it felt like a mantra, something to remember as the slow flow of meandering hours transforms into a raging current with the onset of the school year. Reading it centers me and reminds me to breathe. Knowing that each stitch was deliberately placed in a slow and steady process is another soothing layer to this truly lovely bookmark poem.
sun rises, mists lift marsh mysteries magnified in one drop of dew
My process of creating a poem for Mary Lee wasn’t quite as smooth. I started and stopped time after time. I knew I wanted to write something about embroidery, threads, creativity, gardens, plants, flowers, fishing… or a combination of them. Easy, right?
Then, serendipitously, Mary Lee shared a blog post she’d written previously about using paint chips to write curse poems. (I shared the link last week here since it was related to that post, too.) After reading her post, inspiration struck! I decided to use as many of her chosen paint chip words and phrases as possible, but transform them from curse words into a blessing. A garden blessing. The words/phrases I managed to incorporate were: blue suede (-shoes), puddle, genie lamp, seedling, nectar, quicksilver, bull’s eye, tumbleweed, starship, rusty, and deep dark wood. I really wanted to incorporate “cheese puff” but couldn’t stand how it sounded with the rest of the poem. So, I googled and voilà! Gougeres! A delicious pastry also known as cheese puffs and a lovely sounding word to incorporate in my garden incantation for Mary Lee.
As I alluded to earlier, Mary Lee’s original post also served as inspiration when I was faced with some pernicious pests on the home front recently. I shared that curse poem last week and Mary Lee suggested that I share the poem I wrote for her as compare/contrast companion piece. I’ve put in a link to last week’s post and entire poem, but here’s a smidgen to whet your appetite in case you didn’t see it or don’t have time to check it out:
A Curse on the Invading Groundhog
Rise ye gods and cast a spell upon this creature spawned from hell Jinx his scurvy rodent hide taunt him with groundhogicide
Writing blessing and curse poems is a blast! I highly recommend it, and I’d also encourage you to consider incorporating paint chip colors to add another layer of challenge. Another big thank you to Mary Lee for an inspiring post and to Tabatha for organizing and cheerleading the Summer Poetry Swap.
May the rest of your summer be filled with blessings rather than curses!
This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Dave at his blog Leap of Dave.
Welcome to Poetry Friday! It’s been a while since I’ve hosted and I’m so glad to be here!
This month Catherine Flynn chose our Inklings challenge prompt. She asked us to “Write a poem about any sport you have a connection to–one you participate(d) in or love to watch. Use any form you think works best.”
I must admit that I’m not much of a sports lover, but I do have a favorite sports-themed poem: Robert Francis’s “The Base Stealer.” I’m not sure how or when I first stumbled upon it, but it’s also been a perennial favorite with my fourth graders. It’s a short poem and choosing just one section to highlight is HARD! I wish I could share it in its entirety.
To provide some context, it begins like this:
“Poised between going on and back, pulled Both ways taut like a tightrope-walker,”
A few lines later, the midsection is one of my favorite parts:
“Now bouncing tiptoe like a dropped ball Or a kid skipping rope, come on, come on, Running a scattering of steps sidewise, How he teeters, skitters, tingles, teases, Taunts them, hovers like an ecstatic bird,”
Fabulous, right!? It could almost make me believe that, as some say, baseball is poetry in motion. Here’s Robert Francis reading the poem in its entirety:
Or, if you prefer to read the poem yourself, click here.
Regardless of my love of this poem, Baseball is NOT my favorite sport by any stretch. I’m sorry if this offends anyone, but I find it pretty dang boring. I’m sure that’s because I don’t understand the nuances of the game. Regardless, I don’t view it with a favorable eye and I don’t have any warm and fuzzy memories of playing as a child. Still, I opted to focus on baseball for this sports-themed challenge. I’m sharing two responses, from two different perspectives.
I wear no uniform but my heart races My eyes fix on their target blood pounds in my ears My hands grip, twitch and tense The roar of the crowd swells around me I shift on the edge of my seat poised for triumph or defeat
Every year the hydrangea puts on a show in my garden. Even this summer, when much of the state of Maine is in moderate drought, it’s persisted in its effusive blossoming. It looks like it’s in a perpetual state of celebration.
hydrangea blossoms drift in bold cumulous clouds still no rain
After taking a year off last year, I opted to join in the Poetry Swap again this summer. I chose to participate in 3 of the 5 swaps and have enjoyed both creating and receiving. A huge thank you to Tabatha Yeatts for organizing all the fun!
For my first swap, Margaret Simon sent me a clothbound notebook with several of my photos inside, accompanied by her elegant haiku. She invited me to fill the remaining pages, writing, “A conversation perhaps, from poet to poet, photo to poem, and space for your own”– A personal gift and a lovely invitation.
In my second swap, Patricia Franz sent me a dazzling Chagall postcard with a poem inspired by the Chicago skyline and rich with imagery and metaphor.
Chicago – for Molly Hogan
bridges hopscotch a ribboned river emerald green relief for ageing architected towers standing shoulder to shoulder like fellow immigrants in a photograph for posterity
the burly and the refined, both weathered and worn by the same wind that welcomed them, daring to reinvent themselves to do history’s hard work
This month it was my turn to pick the writing challenge for the Inklings. Spring arrives a bit later up here in Maine, so my thoughts turned to the much vaunted “spring cleaning.” Anyone who knows me well, knows that cleaning is not my forte. Still, here was the challenge I posed (perhaps with procrastination in mind): “Spring is finally arriving in Maine, and though, year after year, I turn my back on spring cleaning, I thought it might be fun to write a poem about some sort of domestic task. (Writing a poem = way more fun than cleaning!) “
I also shared a link to a possible mentor poem called, aptly, “Spring Cleaning”.
Spring Cleaning by Ellen M. Taylor
Why are there no poems of the joy of vacuum cleaning after a long
winter? Of the pleasure of pulling the couch back, sucking up cobwebs, dead
flies, candy cane wrappers, cookie crumbs? The sun rises earlier now, flooding
the room with daffodil light, enough to see long unseen clumps of dog hair,…
Once I’d shared the challenge, I realized that I really didn’t know what I wanted to write. All my best intentions to clean and organize scatter every weekend morning when I awake to a vibrant, changing world. How could I write about cleaning? Perhaps more to the point, how can you stay inside when there’s something to exclaim over around each corner?! The bees are buzzing! The alewives are running and the osprey are fishing! There’s a pair of wrens nesting in the tree out back! Lilacs perfume the air! Dandelions transform lawns to wishing field overnight! Spring showers bauble the garden! The warblers are warbling! There’s just so much going on! In Spring the world is on permanent exclamation point! It’s a time of year that invites, almost demands, celebration. I kept thinking of the hymn, “How Can I Keep from Singing?” Finally, I decided to use that song as a sort of parody base for my poem.
You can find different versions of the lyrics, but here’s a choral rendition of the the version I prefer which is more inclusive:
So, as you read, feel free to sing along with my poem. To be honest, I do not know how well the rhythm and the poem itself works without the hymn in mind, because I sang as I wrote this and can’t divorce the melody from the words!
As Winter fades and Spring arrives abrim with new creations the virtuous are locked inside obsessed with dirt predation
But robin’s rockin’ on the lawn an oriole is singing wisteria drips down the vines while they’re inside mop-wringing
I tarry in the shower stall where grout is grim and greening I make one desultory swipe then flee away from cleaning
Although the corner cobwebs grow in silent protestation I can not yield the duster more without loud lamentation
The grass is green, the skies are blue the vernal pools are teeming What foolish person would I be, if I just kept on cleaning?
The meadows burst with newfound life sweet blossoms resurrected Each day unfolds with new delights Spring cleaning is neglected
When flowers tremble in the breeze and birds are hover-gleaning I will not yield to tyrant dirt I will not keep on cleaning
I will not scour, dust and mop and waste these hours, fleeting Spring’s miracles will soon be gone. There’s time enough for cleaning.
Karen Edmisten is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Round up at her blog. Be sure to stop by and enjoy a wonderful poem by Yeats and while you’re there, check out some other posts as well. If you want to check out what the other Inklings did with this challenge, click on the links below:
It has been a year. I’m wishing intensely for the end of the school year, but also wishing for more time. I’m worrying about quite a few things, and excited about a few others. I’m accepting sorrow and seeking joy. It’s all a balancing act, I guess. Some days I manage it better than others. Always I find comfort and solace in nature.
This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Carmela Martino at Teaching Authors.
The closer one lives to the land, the less one distrusts time. Hal Borland
I’ve been feeling scattered lately. Unsettled. Thinking a lot about time, life, choices. Trying to make sense of things. So far, I haven’t made much progress. It’s like I keep trying to walk a straight line on a curving path. I continually feel a bit askew. A bit lost.
About a week ago I stumbled upon David Wagoner’s poem, “Lost“. I’ve read it again and again and again since then. It begins like this:
“Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here, And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,”
I don’t know much, but I do know that anything I do to connect with the natural world yields rich dividends for me. I was struck by the idea that even when I may feel lost, the landscape around me (literal and metaphorical) is not. Whatever surrounds me is “Here” and worth meeting and knowing. My perspective of being lost is simply that, a perspective. As such, it can be changed.
The poem ends with these lines:
“If what a tree or bush does is lost on you, You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows where you are. You must let it find you.”
So, over my much anticipated spring break, I wandered a bit, here and there. To the bay. To the river. To the woods. To the marsh. Seeking to reconnect with the natural world and with myself in some way. Trying to reconfigure the pieces into a cohesive whole. Trying to open myself to knowing the “here” and to letting the world around me find me.
Come sit a while Don’t overlook the simple wooden bench on greening grass Be open to the allure of scudding clouds budding tree and bluest sky Slough off your sorrow Seek joy in blackbird’s call Turn your face to the fledgling warmth of spring sun Let hope spark Open yourself to a deeper knowing Let this place cast its spell Come sit a while
March 2022 SOLC–Day 4 A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow. http://www.twowritingteachers.org
I love quotations. I always have good intentions about collecting them in one neat little notebook. But you know what they say about good intentions…
Still, when Margaret posed our Inkling group challenge for this month, I was immediately intrigued. She asked us to write a poem in response to a quotation or inspired by a quotation or whatever. Somehow other than a little tinkering a week or so ago, I haven’t worked on anything. It’s been a week! So, I’m not thrilled with last week’s tinkering or tonight’s last gasp effort, but here they are:
The first response is a golden shovel with the strike line, “…just take it bird by bird” from Annie Lamott’s wonderful book, “Bird by Bird.”
I am repeatedly saved by the birds
There are some days that just poach your brains. They take aim at ease and whittle away. It all seems hopeless, but then a single bird song ripples the air; something feathered flies by. Thank god for that bird.
The next is a response to one of my favorite proverbs, “Slow and steady wins the race.”
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
He says it’s my mantra It drives him crazy as he’s more of a crash-bash-fly-through kind of guy though I suspect he’ll object to that classification (and to any unintended innuendos some minds might attach to it)
Recognizing my own nature I cheer for the tortoise plodding along making headway bit by bit no flash or dazzle in the race at its own pace just steady and true steady and true.
At some point in the past few weeks, Heidi Mordhorst referenced Mary Amato’s poetry prompt videos for the 12 Days of Christmas. In search of playful writing waters, I decided to check them out. Each day Mary Amato posted a short video prompt highlighting a literary technique based on that day’s line of the famous holiday song. I didn’t manage to complete all of them, but here are two I especially enjoyed.
“Form: In Paris you spy three French hens doing something unusual… Write a 3-line haiku about the hens. “
Three French hens with innate feathered flair catwalk down Paris’s streets
Linda posted this month’s challenge. She said, “Percentages are all around us in recipes, prices, assessments, statistics.” She then asked us to write a poem that “includes the idea of percentage/percent in some way.” When I first read this, my thought was What!? This seemed like such a random prompt and a bit foreign to my ELA-inclined brain. As always though, when pushed into exploring new territory, I found the journey rewarding. Thanks, Linda!
In my college statistics class I learned all about variables: dependent, independent, confounding. The rogue nature of the word, confounding, fascinated me. The way it transformed fact into uncertainty. Transformed causation into correlation.
Last week I saw a bumper sticker “Make The Truth Great Again!” Did you know that 60 % of people can’t complete a 10-minute conversation without lying? But how do you define a lie? And how often do we lie to ourselves? Is there a percentage to capture that? I just said “Fine, thanks” in response to the last three people who casually asked, “How are you doing?”
I recently read that 80% of Soviet males born in 1923 did not survive World War 2 and that 99% of all species that ever lived on earth are estimated to have gone extinct. Such despair, encapsulated in numbers.
We turn to percentages as if to gospel, spouting them with the fervor of converts. As if a number can help us make sense explain tidy up and tuck away all the messy realities. Forgetting the variables forgetting the nuance forgetting to think. Wondering why we still feel utterly confounded.
This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Mary Lee Hahn at her blog, A(nother) Year of Reading. She’ll be sharing a wonderful percentage poem there. To see what the other Inklings have done with this challenge, click on the links below: