SOLC Day 4: SOL and PF Roundup

March 2021 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

This post serves double duty for SOL and the Poetry Friday Roundup.

On the way to school on Wednesday, I let my mind wander aimlessly from one idea to another. Usually, I listen to the radio or to an audiobook. (I just finished “Once Upon a River” by Diane Setterfield and highly recommend it!) In recent weeks, I’ve more often opted to turn off the stories and allow my mind to free range. This is very unusual for me, but I don’t really have the capacity to take in any more information these days. I find that allowing my brain to skip around as it wants is a helpful way to clear some of the debris out of the way before the day begins.

Today, my mind was happily skipping along until…OMG! I suddenly remembered that my critique group challenge post was due this week. And I hadn’t even started. I hadn’t even thought about it. Oops. (Hmmmm….I’ve said that a lot lately.)

So, when I got home from work, I looked up the challenge. It was from Margaret Simon and based on an Amanda Gorman poetry prompt that she called “Book Scavenger Hunt.” The prompt directs you to choose a book, choose three random page numbers, turn to each of those pages and choose one word that appeals to you. Then, with those three words, create a poem.

I opted to use the book “This Book is Anti-Racist,” in part because, despite my best intentions, I still haven’t read it. (To be honest, it was also in part because the book was easily accessible at the moment I thought about working on this.) For no reason in particular, I chose pages 15, 45, and 60. At any rate, I opened to each page and considered my options. By chance, two of the page numbers I chose, were title pages, with very few words. I’m not sure if that was good or bad, but it certainly expedited the process. On the other page, I tried to let my eyes skim the page and choose a word quickly. While I don’t think this is necessary, I liked the idea of the words being somewhat random. Interestingly, my words felt like a set. I ended up with identity, sense, and history. Here’s my very quickly written, drafty poem:

When I write

When I write,
most often, 
I’m not writing stories.
Instead, I’m trying
to make sense
of my own story–
sifting through my history,
creating my identity,
building myself, 
one
word
at
a
time.

©Molly Hogan

This is such an accessible prompt and I’m sorry that I had a very limited amount of time and brain power to work with it. I’m looking forward to revisiting it some other time. You can visit the following sites to check out what the others in my group did with it:
Heidi Mordhorst
Catherine Flynn
Linda Mitchell
Margaret Simon

This week the Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by my warm and wonderful Aussie friend, Kat Apel. She’s celebrating the release of her newest picture book, “The Bird in the Herd.” Head on over to her blog for a sneak peek at this newly released treat!

Dawn After the Ice Storm

I’ve been participating in Laura Shovan’s February Poetry Project on Facebook. The theme is “Bodies” and the prompts have been fabulous. One recent prompt from Rebecca Brock focused on the brain. Inspired by a recent ice storm, here was my response:

Dawn After the Ice Storm

Any second now
the sun will clear the horizon
low rays will spark
the ice-laden branches
into fiery life 
Light will ricochet
like fireworks
A complicated relay
of electrical 
and chemical impulses
will shoot between synapses
My mouth 
will drop open
to emit
a quiet
delighted
gasp

©Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Karen Edmisten at her blog. She suggests a dose of Billy Collins and provides one, too. Her post leaves me wondering…what am I as old as?

In Search of Optimism

It’s been a delight to have more time to write this week during Winter Break. I especially enjoyed taking up an Ethical ELA challenge to revisit sonnet-writing. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy writing sonnets. They’re a lovely brain puzzle to occupy me on icy winter days when going outside seems to risk life and limb.

In Search of Optimism

Outside the window, winter still holds sway
new fallen snow conceals the grass below
Too early, dark invades the cold midday
’tis only drifts and icicles that grow.

First snow that fell enchanting, soft, serene
has mutilated to an icy scrum
We yearn for something tender, soft, and green
these endless days of winter leave us numb.

But is it just a passing trick of light
or is the finch more golden by the day?
And look! The sun climbs higher, warm and bright
and sends the ice retreating on the bay.

The warbling call of finches on the wing
ignites a feathered hope for coming spring.

©Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Ruth at her blog, There is no such thing as a God-forsaken Town. Her beautiful photos and poems often feature tropical birds and flowers and always provide welcome light during the dark days of winter.

PF: Two short poems

Every week, Margaret Simon of Reflections on the Teche, shares a photo prompt and invites others to write a short poetic response. This week she shared two photos of butterweed flowers and some background information about them. She also mentioned that her husband mows around these flowers in their yard, because he knows she likes them. That inspired my response:

Photo by Margaret Simon

Outside the window,
spring dawns with jaunty blossoms.
Her spirits rise.
He mows around each cluster,
a gesture sweet as a kiss.

©Molly Hogan

I also was inspired by this morning’s lovely sky — variegated clouds and an almost-full moon. I only had my cell phone and it was still quite dark, so the picture I took looked a bit grainy or diffuse, more like a watercolor than a photograph. I loved the storybook illustration feel of it.

wolf moon skirts clouds
shelters in pine’s embrace
storybook morning

©Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Jan Annino at her blog BookSeedStudio.

Balm for the Soul

In these troubled times I’ve been finding solace at the beach.

At the beach

hours ago
I stood
feet braced
in shifting sand
buffeted by the wind
marveling at collaged clouds
and feeling the growing light
like a pulse
prickling my skin
Westerly gusts
sent currents
of fine, dry sand
streaming over wet
I walked as if within
a flowing hourglass
bent into the wind,
breaking dawn
with the turbulent sea.

Now as the final sands
of this day slip by
I sit at my desk
casting back
to the beach
still feeling the push
and pull
of the wind
hearing the echo
of the churning surf
tugged outward
by moon’s invisible lure
as surely as I
am pulled toward
that tumultuous shore
time and time again

©Molly Hogan

Like so many others, I was transfixed listening to Amanda Gorman recite her poem, “The Hill We Climb”, at Wednesday’s Inauguration. I’ve listened to it again and again. With my classes. With my family. By myself. Every time I discover something new. So many have already said it, but what an amazing young woman! She gives me hope.

The day after the inauguration, the sunrise was especially stunning. I thought immediately, “Ahhhh. This must be the new dawn blooming.”

Poetry Friday this week is hosted by Laura Shovan at her blog. She’s sharing information about her February Poetry Project with the theme of “Bodies.” I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of this group for several years now and am looking forward to participating again. Laura is opening up the project by sharing prompts on her blog this year, too. Check it out!

January Challenge: Finding Nestlings

The New Year begins with a new challenge from Heidi Mordhorst. She suggested that we: “Write or find a nest poem: a longer poem of a dozen lines within which you find at least half a dozen nestlings, à la Irene Latham.”

If you haven’t encountered Irene’s latest book, “This Poem is a Nest”, you are probably not familiar with the concept of nestlings, a version of found poems. True to her brilliant, innovative style, Irene has written a poem and then used that poem as the source for smaller found poems, or nestlings. The only hard-and-fast rule is to use the words in the order in which they appear in the original source poem. Titles do not need to come from the poem. It’s far more challenging than it sounds, but it’s also a lot of fun!

Initially, I thought I was going to work with a poem I’d written that was inspired by Robert Frost. I ended up changing my mind and choosing a piece by Frost for my nest. This might be cheating, but I prefer to call it improvising. I chose Frost’s poem, “A Prayer in Spring.”

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

No photo description available.

Here are my nestlings (though I didn’t quite make it to the requisite half dozen):

Oh, spring!
pleasure by day
by night

And then hummingbird departs

darting meteor
thrusts 
off a blossom

In this second year of the pandemic…

far away
uncertain harvest
need, loss

A Sudden Haunting of Memories

ghosts swarm
make us 
suddenly 
stand still

A Heartfelt Plea

oh, not to think!
uncertain by day
ghosts by night

To see what other Swaggers have done with this challenge, visit their blogs:
Linda Mitchell: A Word Edgewise
Catherine Flynn: Reading to the Core
Margaret Simon: Reflections on the Teche
Heidi Mordhorst: My Juicy Little Universe

Then be sure to stop by Sylvia Vardell’s blog, Poetry for Children. She’s hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup there this week and she’s sharing a sneak peek of 2021 poetry for young people. What a resource!

Poem Seed Poems

About two weeks ago, I received an unexpected gift from Linda Mitchell — a delightfully crafted packet of Poem Seeds! What a treasure! (Thanks again, Linda!) I’ve played with them several times since then and here are a few of my seedling efforts.

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Irene Latham at her blog, Live Your Poem. She’s sharing her last ArtSpeak: Red poem of 2020, inspired by a charming Christmas Bird.

A Gift from Robert Frost

The Ethical ELA prompts are a gift each month. Even when my time to participate is limited, I look forward to each prompt, and spend time noodling about with them in my notebooks. They always get me thinking in new ways and sometimes lead me to surprising discoveries.

This month’s prompt from Jennifer Guyor-Jowett was “Create a poem of titles from a poet, whose words are a gift to you (much like book spine poetry). Feel free to pretty the titles up with as many of your own words as you’d like or add words sparingly. “

I have been spending some time with Robert Frost lately, so I celebrated the gifts of his words in my poem.

The Aim Was Song*

Long After
The Last Mowing,
I wander through
A Dust of Snow,
regretting attention not paid
during Blue-Butterfly Days
and to The Cow in Apple Time.

The Rose Family
has long moved on and
The Fireflies in the Garden
long ago flickered
one last time
then departed.

Did you notice?
Did you hear
The Last Word of a Bluebird
before it took flight
into Fragmentary Blue
with Love and a Question
for us all:
Why do we save
Our Singing Strength?

Look! See!
Find The Courage to Be New!
A Late Walk
is better than none.
Add your voice
to the chorus.
Let it pour forth
vulnerable and beautiful
like The Exposed Nest.
For ultimately,
always,
The Aim Was Song.

©Molly Hogan

(*Title Poetry From Robert Frost)

Michelle Kogan, poet, artist, and activist, is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at her blog. Be sure to stop by!

December Challenge

This month I was in charge of selecting our writing group challenge, which in itself can be a challenge. I considered, rejected, pondered, fretted and finally browsed around a bit on the internet. Ultimately, I discovered a new-to-me site and this prompt:

Go to a book you love. Find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.”

Mass Market Paperback Dandelion Wine Book

I liked the feel of this prompt–open to many interpretations and any forms. I also loved that I’d get to revisit a favorite book. How irresistible is that?

Hmmm….now which book to choose? I considered a number of favorites, but ultimately, I opted to revisit Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. This book is an outlier in my reading history. I bought it as a teenager and it took me at least three or four false starts and a decade or more before I finally read it. When I put it down, I announced, “This is one of the best books I’ve ever read.” I have no idea if it would resonate with me as powerfully now. Perhaps it would feel “overwrought” as some critics labeled it. Or perhaps once again I would be deeply moved by the lyrical language and the delight of immersing myself in a young boy’s small town summer adventures in 1923. I intend to reread it soon to find out.

In the meantime, here are a few gems from Dandelion Wine, not necessarily short, to give you a flavor.

“And some days, he went on, were days of hearing every trump and trill of the universe. Some days were good for tasting and some for touching. And some days were good for all the senses at once. This day now, he nodded, smelled as if a great and nameless orchard had grown up overnight beyond the hills to fill the entire visible land with its warm freshness. The air felt like rain, but there were no clouds.”
(and how sad I am that the word trump has been so irrevocably tarnished as it’s used to such great effect here…)

“Way out in the country tonight he could smell the pumpkins ripening toward the knife and the triangle eye and the singeing candle.”
(Oh, how I wish I’d written this line!)

Here’s a longer passage I love about the power of new shoes.

And finally, here’s the line I finally chose to work with: “Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”

Unintended Consequences

On drowsy summer days
when air thickens,
potent and heavy,
industrious bees
drone to and fro.
I halfdoze on the patio,
envision them
tiptoeing across cosmos
phlox and bee balm,
accumulating spicy floral notes
on their tiny bee feet.

As they rise
in bumbling flight,
I fancy the notes sparkle
sun-lit,
until
yielding to gravity’s tug,
they tumble
down
down
down
a glimmer of fairy dust
released by busy bees
keen on making honey
unaware of their legacies,
buzzing vectors
nudging reproduction
into motion
and setting a sweetness of
unintended consequences
blossoming
in the spiced summer air.

©Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is over at A Year of Reading today. Make sure to stop by and check out the sneak peek into Irene Latham’s newest book–a middle grade dystopian verse novel. Wow!

If you’re interested in seeing how the other Swaggers interpreted the challenge I posed, check out their posts by clicking on the links:

Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise

Pantoum

My dad’s 80th birthday was earlier this month, on November 3rd. My youngest sister, who lives near my dad and stepmother in Ohio, was able to spend some time with them. The rest of us had been planning for well over a year to drive in from Maine, New York and South Carolina. Unfortunately, we realized months ago that this was no longer going to be an option. We shifted our plans, collaborated and did our best to make the day special for my dad from across the miles. It felt like a pale imitation of a celebration.

I know that having to recalibrate a birthday celebration isn’t a huge hardship in the scheme of all-things-Covid, but still, it made me sad. Lingering sad. I had so looked forward to seeing my sisters and celebrating with my dad.

On the Occasion of My Father’s 80th Birthday

We couldn’t be there
to celebrate eight decades
to gather in candlelight
to circle in and sing.

To celebrate eight decades,
we’d planned to reunite but
to circle in and sing
became unwise, if not forbidden.

We’d planned to reunite but,
grieving, we cancelled journeys that
became unwise, if not forbidden.
We created a long distance celebration.

Grieving, we cancelled journeys that
promised hugs, love and laughter,
We created a long distance celebration.
Love rimed with loss.

Promised hugs, love and laughter
deferred by disease.
Love rimed with loss.
We couldn’t be there.

©Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Carol at Carol’s Corner.