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.

Dazzled by Autumn Gold

“Nothing gold can stay.”
Robert Frost

“Ô, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.”
― Roman Payne

For the past couple of months, I’ve been awestruck by the golden tones of autumn. I don’t know if the color is unusual this year or if I’m simply more tuned in or more willing to be swept away. Regardless, over and over, I’ve been stopped in my tracks by varying tones of gold.

Autumn Gold

Gold dazzles in autumn.
It skims the river
and shimmers in luminous fog.
Gold whispers
in the rustle of marsh grasses
and in the quivering heart
of the gilded maple.

Gold can be brassy and bold
or soft and tawny.
It collects in the eye of a blackbird,
creeps along craggy stone walls,
knits patchwork quilts
on the wide boards
of an old pine floor.

Gold bookends the days,
rising in greeting,
then spilling from windows
on dark winter nights
to welcome you home. 

Gold promises.
Gold delivers.
Gold takes my breath away.

©Molly Hogan, 2020 (draft)

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted at Teacher Dance by Linda Baie. Be sure to stop by to check out the bounty of poems and poetry-related posts.

Finally, I’m sending you off with one of my all-time favorite golden songs– Eva Cassidy’s rendition of “Fields of Gold.”

Photography+Poetry=Balance

Taking pictures helps me stay balanced. It forces me to slow down, to notice, to appreciate. It gets me out of my house and out of my head. It reminds me that even when things are ugly, there’s so much beauty in the world.

I rarely take photographs of people. I prefer to focus my lens on the wonders of nature. But on a recent walk with my husband and daughter, we stumbled upon a hillside meadow filled with bursting milkweed plants. I struggled to capture the wonder of the glowing milkweed strands in the lowering autumn light.

And then I saw my daughter doing this.

a hopeful breath
one generation seeds the next
thistledown wishes

©Molly Hogan

This week I also found time to respond to another photo, shared as a prompt in Margaret Simon’s weekly “This Photo Wants To Be A Poem”.

Photo credit to Laura Purdie Salas

November’s steady amber gaze
transfigures feathered grass
autumn alchemy

©Molly Hogan

And then, as it so often does, my drive to work provided me with another moment to savor.

autumn morning
fog rises to greet the sun
day breaks in collage

©Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Robyn Hood Black at her blog of all things poetic and artistic, Life on the Deckle Edge. And what a post she has today! She’s highlighting a poem by Margaret Simon (Reflections on the Teche) and shining the light on a bountiful array of new books and possible gift ideas. So many poetic folk have all sorts of other artistic talents! It’s a perfectly timed post for those who have yet to start shopping (or even thinking about shopping) and have some book loving friends and relatives on their list. Be sure to check it out!

An Aubade (sort of!)

When Linda first posted our November challenge form, an aubade, I had to look it up. The first description I came across was, “A love poem or song welcoming or lamenting the arrival of the dawn.” Well, as I’m a lifelong lark, that sounded do-able. Feeling optimistic, I researched a bit more and discovered this Wikipedia definition: “An aubade is a morning love song (as opposed to a serenade, intended for performance in the evening), or a song or poem about lovers separating at dawn. It has also been defined as “a song or instrumental composition concerning, accompanying, or evoking daybreak”.” I liked this broader definition and started considering my options. Unfortunately, I didn’t get too far.

Then, not too long ago, at a store with my daughters, I noticed a display of small charms. Each was shaped differently and was accompanied by a small card with “Advice” from that creature or being. I was charmed by the idea, and it struck me that the rising sun would have some advice to impart. That could fit with Linda Mitchell’s November challenge to write an “Aubade.” Maybe… Sort of…

Advice from the Rising Sun in Autumn

Remember you always have choices:
make a bold entrance
or tiptoe in with muted steps,
but don’t forget to show up.

Be kind.
Take time to warm the breast
of the patient heron
who lingers at water’s edge.
Spotlight leaves in their final fall,
cushioning their spiraling descent
with your elongated golden rays.

Work your magic when you can.
Turn dust motes into fairy dust.
Conjure tendrils of mist from the river.
Bejewel the frosted grass and
kindle a rich amber glow
in the heart of a leaf-laden maple.

Do your part
to banish threatening shadows,
push back winter’s encroaching chill, and
usher in hope on the wings of a new day.

Finally, don’t forget
to look on the bright side–
an adversity of clouds
may just be the perfect opportunity
to create a spectacular scene.

©Molly Hogan, 2020

If you’d like to check out what the other Swaggers did with this Aubade challenge, click on the links:
Heidi (My Juicy Little Universe)
Linda (A Word Edgewise)
Catherine (Reading to the Core)
Margaret (Reflections on the Teche)

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Susan Bruck at her blog, Soul Blossom Living. She’s sharing a delightful whimsical romp of a poem and some lovely accompanying art work. Be sure to stop by and check it all out, along with links to lots of other poems.

#Poemtober

I’ve been dabbling in #Poemtober this month. It’s a challenge to use the daily word prompts from “Inktober” to inspire poems. Much to my dismay, many, if not most, of my efforts have been invaded by the political climate and my disgust for our current president. I feel like I need a brain rinse. Sigh…

Day 3: Bulky

Growing weight of worries
a bulky woolen sweater
itching at my skin

©Molly Hogan

Day 6: Rodent

King Rodent
hosts scores of feasting fleas.
Nourished by his dark blood,
they scuttle off
to spread his plague
throughout the land.

©Molly Hogan

Day 7: Fancy

With his fancy resorts
and fancy casinos,
he fancies he can have
whatever he wants,
do whatever he wants,
say whatever he wants.

He’s grounded in greed
mucked deep in the mire
of his own malignancy
with his fancy sycophants
dancing attendance.

I do not fancy him.

©Molly Hogan

Day 9: Throw (inspired by Linda Mitchell’s “Untitled Duplex” and the line, “Poets throw lines to clear the wreck”)

Throw me a line
a perfect image
or refrain
a lifeline of verse
to pull me
from the treacherous waters
of this new reality

©Molly Hogan
(inspired by Linda Mitchell’s “Untitled Duplex” and the line, “Poets throw lines to clear the wreck”)

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Janice Scully at her blog, Salt City Verse. She’s sharing a wonderful quote from Thomas Carlyle, autumnal celebrations, and a heartfelt poem about stopping time and holding on to a lovely moment.

Here’s a recent lovely moment of my own–its own form of brain rinse:

Night Sounds

Night Sounds

Sometimes
in the deep-dark-between hours,
when curdling worries
and prickling fears
pinch and poke me
from sleeping to sleepless,
I find comfort in the night sounds.

Sometimes I hear
the distant hoots
of a barred owl calling,
“Whooo cooks for you?”
threading through the trees,
the merest whisper of a sound.

Sometimes two owls
swoop in closer,
engage in a spirited duet,
a raucous whirlwind
of cascading calls, 
grumbles and hoots.

Sometimes I hear
the far-off yipping cries
of a pack of wandering coyotes.
Or only the crickets
chirping in the night,
setting the air abuzz.

Then sometimes,
there are nights when I wake 
to silent darkness
beyond our windows, and
the soft rhythm
of you,
breathing beside me.

I turn and nestle
into your warmth
and slowly,
my inhale mingled with yours,
our exhales twined,
I drift back to sleep.

©Molly Hogan, 2020 (draft)

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Bridget Magee of wee word fame at her blog, wee words for wee ones. She’s sharing a delightful post filled with all things orange.