PF: Unrepentant

This month Margaret posed a doozy of a challenge to our group, or as my grandfather would have said, “It was a real lulu!” Margaret suggested that this month we write ghazals (pronounced “guzzles”). Apparently, she’d been having a hankering to write one and thought she’d invite us all to come along for the ride. And what a ride it was! It definitely pushed me right out of my comfort zone–always a good, if not comfortable, thing!

I’d written what I called a quasi-ghazal once a year or so ago, and all I remembered was that the form was darned challenging. This time I was determined to get closer to fully adhering to it. I found a post on Tweetspeak that offered some guidance. It outlined step by step how to write a ghazal (click the link if you want more details) and also shared a mentor ghazal by Patricia Smith.

Hip-Hop Ghazal

Gotta love us brown girls, munching on fat, swinging blue hips,
decked out in shells and splashes, Lawdie, bringing them woo hips.

As the jukebox teases, watch my sistas throat the heartbreak,
inhaling bassline, cracking backbone and singing thru hips.

Like something boneless, we glide silent, seeping ‘tween floorboards,
wrapping around the hims, and ooh wee, clinging like glue hips.

(click the Tweetspeak link above to read the rest of this poem)

After reading this, I was more than a bit daunted. I couldn’t make up my mind what I even wanted to write about. I started and stopped. Started and stopped. I just couldn’t find my way. In the end, let’s just say it wasn’t a pretty process, but I persevered. I still don’t think I’ve hit 100% of the requirements, but I’m getting closer. Once it finally started to come together, it was kind of fun. Borderline brutal, but kind of fun, and definitely satisfying.

Unrepentant

I confess, I enjoy a glass of wine at night.
Lips to glass. Upright to supine at night.

I prefer Cabernet to Merlot, seeking body
in spirits that linger with moon’s shine at night. 

Come, join me, drink to dreams deferred
and days gone by. Liquid anodyne at night.

Half-remembered words circle while I sleep —
a haunting or a visit more divine at night.

When shadows lengthen, intoxicated by starlight,
will you turn into my arms and be mine at night?

©Molly Hogan

Wine seems to be a theme for me this month. Not sure what’s up with that, but I’m going with it, so I’m also sharing a tetractys inspired by one of Kat Apel’s recent posts.

Wine
eases
new school year
preparation.
I quaff my red with no hesitation.

©Molly Hogan

Finally, I offer you this find from our local village store:

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Heidi Mordhorst at her blog, My Juicy Little Universe. She’s sharing her most-amazing ghazal there. You can visit the other Inklings at their blogs to check out some more ghazals.
Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
Mary Lee Hahn at A(nother) Year of Reading

Cheers!

PF: Zentangle Poem

In the midst of classroom unpacking chaos, between bouts of frantic worry and frenzied optimism, a page from a book appeared on my classroom floor. I picked it up. Hmmmm. Where had that come from? After reading through it, I was pretty sure it had come from a copy of “The Phantom Tollbooth” (which, I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve never read though it’s now in my towering TBR pile.) I did know enough to recognize the character names: the Humbug and Milo. Knowing I didn’t have a copy of that book in my classroom, I figured that at some past point, I’d probably rescued a few pages from a discarded copy and intended it for some blackout poetry. I tucked the stray page in my bag.

Days later, at home, that page tumbled out of my bag with a mess of other papers. Always willing to indulge in a bit of procrastination, I decided to try a blackout poem. Once I found the poem, I transformed it into a Zentangle–a first for me. The resulting poem surprised me a bit. I will say that regardless of how this poem sounds, I really am looking forward to being with my new class. My worries are based in a wider world.

Graceful sky
Sunlight leafslid
dropped luminous
clear and close

Ahead and soon
serious difficulties
continual crashing
wild dashing

STOP

a breath

We’re lost.

©Molly Hogan

This week’s poetry Friday is hosted by Elisabeth at Unexpected Intersections.

Responding to Miss Rumphius

This month our writing group changed its name to Inklings, and Catherine challenged us to write an ekphrastic poem. She suggested writing in response to an illustration in a wordless picture book, but left the prompt open for us to choose other illustrations, photos or artwork. Catherine was inspired by the current wordless picture book exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. (I’m supremely jealous that she was able to visit this exhibit in person, but those of us further afield can still get a sneak peek here.)

I had a tough time deciding what image to use. I checked out the Eric Carle exhibit highlights and also ran through books in my mind: The Girl and the Bicycle, A Boy a Dog and a Frog, Sector 7, etc. But even though it wasn’t wordless, my thoughts kept returning to one of my favorite picture books, Miss Rumphius, and to this picture in particular:

Miss Rumphius Notecard Collection – The Bowdoin Store
illustration from Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

Miss Rumphius, set on the coast of Maine, has long been a favorite in our family for the heartwarming story and the wonderful, often familiar, illustrations. Barbara Cooney, the author/illustrator, was a local resident in the last town we lived in. She was a familiar site around town, a slight woman with her long white hair braided into a coronet upon her head. She occasionally read aloud to children at the library.

In the late 1990s, Ms. Cooney was instrumental in funding the new town library. In addition to donating a significant sum of money, she allowed the library to sell numbered prints of the above illustration from Miss Rumphius. We scraped together the money to purchase one, and it’s been hanging on our wall ever since. No doubt that’s a big reason why the picture came to mind and wouldn’t leave. I gave in to the inevitable.

Knowing the story so well, I wondered how to respond creatively to something already so imbued with meaning for me. How could I separate the illustration from the story? Did I need to? While pondering and looking at the illustration, my eye was drawn over and over to Miss Rumphius’s hand, reaching out to touch a lupine. I went with that focus.

The Lupine Lady Contemplates

Her hand
supplicates
brushes the delicacy
of a single blossom
considering her legacy
as she
the creator
approaches her end

©Molly Hogan, draft

If you’d like to see what others did with this challenge, check out their sites here:

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

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Mary Lee Hahn at A(nother) Year of Reading (here). She’s sharing a rich villanelle and an invitation/reminder to contribute a line for Christie Wyman’s Roundup next week.

P.S. While writing this post, I discovered some things I hadn’t known: Barbara Cooney donated the illustrations for the book to Bowdoin College, lupine isn’t native to Maine and Miss Rumphius is based on a real person! Long ago, there really was a woman, though her name was Hilda Edwards, who planted lupine seeds all around Christmas Cove, Maine. She was clearly the inspiration for this wonderful story and you can read more about her here.

A glimpse of Maine's famous wildflowers. Photo: Down East Magazine
photo of coastal Maine lupine from Down East Magazine

Poetry Friday is here–and Summer is, too!

“Summertime and the living is easy.”
George Gershwin

“We might think we are nurturing our gardens, but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us.”
Jenny Uglow

Summer in Maine is a gift, and I enjoy every moment of it. Back when I signed up to host, July seemed like a far away dream. Now spring blossoms are memories, the month is half over, and the specter of August hovers on the horizon. As much as a big part of me misses being at school with kids and colleagues, another part of me cringes at the thought of the start of the school year and the end of summer. There’s much I love about teaching, but the relentless pace of the days is NOT one of those things. “Autumn days and the living is easy,” sang NO teacher ever!

This week I decided to revisit an earlier prompt from Linda Mitchell and use Pat Schneider’s The Moon, Ten Times as a mentor poem again. I thought I’d put on my half-full glasses (half of July remains!) and focus on what I love about summer. It was tough to limit myself to ten things, and I omitted many much-beloved aspects of summer (fireflies, beach walks, birds, dragonflies, frogs, etc.). I’m also uncertain about the order–it’s rather haphazard, but perhaps that mimics the luxury of disorganized summer days, right? Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Summer, Ten Times

  1. Morning transformation
    bird song displaces
    the radio alarm
  2. Time warp
    hands rummage in rich earth
    hours vanish
  3. Baby Boom
    each day a new arrival
    in the garden
  4. Eau de Summer
    plush floral tones, fresh-mown lawns
    the scent of sun-dried sheets
  5. Verdant woods
    air shifts and pulses
    in sun-shafted spectrums of green
  6. The sweet tyranny
    of ripe berries
  7. Sparkles of laughter
    arc as high
    as the sprinkler’s spray
  8. Surprise!
    Dance parties
    in the center of the zinnias!
  9. Sun-lit windowsills
    dotted with geraniums
    and the occasional sleeping cat
  10. An ending and beginning:
    Spring’s coda
    Fall’s prelude

©Molly Hogan

So, what would be on your summer time list? I’d love to know! If you want to share, add your thoughts in the comments. In the meantime, thanks so much for stopping by the Roundup today. You can add your link here to participate:

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!Click here to enter

I’m posting this early as I am out of town until Friday evening. I may be able to read and comment here and there before then, but mostly I’ll be reading and commenting over the weekend.

From My Notebook

This summer is moving jaggedly for me, sometimes rushing by and at other times, lingering unexpectedly. I don’t seem to get to choose which moments fly by and which rest with grace (Now that would be some super power!). Still, I’m enjoying the overall luxury of less-scheduled days. Then, somehow yesterday was Thursday before I knew it was even approaching… and Friday quickly followed (as it’s wont to do…). I’ve been scribbling this and that in my notebook, but hadn’t thought about a post for Poetry Friday. Here are two poems I’m still tinkering with.

Forgotten

After I left
I remembered the cantaloupe,
the one I was supposed to cut,
still resting on the counter
where I had left it.

There’s a poem in there somewhere,
cushioned within
the skin, the seeds, the pulp,
woven from
the initial, careful selection
the good intentions
and now the inevitable
slow, steady
decomposition.

There’s a poem in there somewhere,
but I still can’t find the words.

©Molly Hogan, draft

Seeing the Light

Not long
after her husband died
she brought me a candle,
intricately wrought from beeswax,
the kind you hesitate to light.

“Be sure to burn it,” she said.

©Molly Hogan, draft

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Margaret Simon at her blog, Reflections on the Teche. Be sure to stop by and check out her poetic contributions to a recent anthology.

July Challenge–Two Responses

This month Heidi posed our group’s challenge. She shared a poem that Tabatha Yeatts had recently shared on her blog: “What Pain Doesn’t Know About Me”, by Gail Martin. It begins like this:

“How I visualize him as a rooster. How I nickname him Sparky.

My rabbit-heart. How it looks motionless in the bank of clover
but secretly continues to nibble.”

It’s a wonderful poem. You can read the rest here.

Heidi proposed that we use Martin’s poem as a mentor in some way, and she also suggested we might try using some anthimera, which thankfully she explained. It’s essentially using a word in a new grammatical shape–a noun as a verb, a verb as a noun, etc.

I’ve really struggled with this prompt. Heidi left it nice and open, but I couldn’t seem to find a way in. At the moment, I’m in Ohio, helping out my stepmother and dad as he begins palliative cancer treatment. I’m so glad to be here, but needless to say, I’m distracted and a lot more.

My first effort was sparked by the idea of anthimera:

Rough Country (working title)

These days we’re cancering
though I hate to verbify the word
since it’s already damn active
and more than aggressive enough
I’d like to recruit some more verbs
like pummel, throttle, pulverize
and group them
into an active verb posse
ride out together
lasso in that tumor
and administer swift, vigilante justice
leaving cancer broken-backed and beaten
then ride off triumphantly
with a nice sunset in the background
or better still, a sunrise
and the promise of another day.

©Molly Hogan


Then I tried to work with Gail Martin’s poem as a mentor. This was tough. I wasn’t quite ready to delve into Fear, Anger, Grief and couldn’t turn it around and find another entry point. I ended up focusing elsewhere. Sort of. Over the past days, I’ve spent a fair amount of time on the back deck of my dad and stepmother’s house. It looks out over a small pond, and the frogs, dragonflies, ducks, geese and occasional heron are a welcome distraction.

What Frogs Don’t Know About Me

How their croaking calls and banjo twangs are a lifeline, pulling me out of the darker pools in my mind.

My nervous eye. How it scans edges and boundaries, constantly searching for anomalies.

I’m benign.

They needn’t fear my touch. I have no intention of invading and prefer the distance of the lens.

My out-of-proportion delight when I do spy them. Two bumps recast as two watchful eyes. The possibility of transformation.

My understanding–I get their “on-alert” stance. How they are ever ready to jump and splash away at the slightest disturbance. Real or imagined.

We are united in a perpetual state of vigilance.

Even now I hear their long low croaks and can’t help but smile in response.

We inhabit this place together.

©Molly Hogan, draft

If you’d like to see what the other Swaggers did in response to this prompt, check out their posts:

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


This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Laura Shovan at her blog. Make sure to stop by and enjoy some poetry.

Poetry Friday is Here!

I’m participating in an on-line group working through Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way. As one of our first assignments, we read through the book’s Appendix. There was an Artist’s Prayer included there, beginning “O Great Creator.” I’m not fully comfortable with faith and prayer, and this felt a bit uncomfortable to me. Julia Cameron is quite clear that one shouldn’t allow the “semantics” to become an issue; The concepts of God, or flow, or spiritual electricity work equally well. I was able to roll with that, but still, the Artist’s Prayer felt like a bit of a stretch.

Then about two weeks ago, one of the group members shared her Artist’s Prayer, adding before she read it, “all my prayer is praise.” Those words and her lovely prayer lingered in my mind. The next week, another group member shared her beautiful Artist’s Prayer in a group chat. I carried this with me as well. 

This past Saturday I drove down toward the ocean, timing my arrival to shortly before sunrise. En route and while there, I watched the sky shift and change. As the world gradually lightened around me, I felt the inner quickening that always lifts me on such morning wanderings.

This time though, I found myself awkwardly, tentatively turning over phrases like “O Great Creator.”  I felt a yearning to compose my own Artist’s Prayer. My own prayer of thanks. When I got home, I jotted a few lines in my notebook. Maybe I’ll work on that later, I thought.

Then, on Sunday, I finally captured a picture of the Carolina wren that’s been visiting our house this winter. I shared it on Facebook and Linda Baie replied, sharing a Mary Oliver poem I’d never read before—“The Wren from Carolina”  

The second and third stanzas  popped out at me, 

“Now he lifts his chestnut colored throat
and delivers such a cantering praise–
for what?

For the early morning, the taste of the spider, 
for his small cup of life
that he drinks from every day, knowing it will refill.”

That’s it! I thought. “and delivers such a cantering praise” What a glorious line!! That’s what I want to express–my gratitude for my own “small cup of life” that refills to overflowing–so often on my morning expeditions, but at other moments as well. 

So I started writing my own Artist’s Prayer. It’s still a work in progress, but the journey toward writing it has been so interesting.

Artist’s Prayer

O Great Creator
Thanks be for opening my eyes
to the wonders of this world
To the bountiful gifts
that surround me
Thanks be for the dawn
that quickens my soul
that pulls it like a boat
into river’s flow
Grant me the courage
to be open
to the current
that tugs me
from the bank’s safety
into the fullness of the river
Let me, trusting,
lean into that power
on the tide of each day
May I travel in kinship
with the trees,
the creatures of sea and land
May I glory in the journey
as much as the destination
Thanks be
for this cup of gladness
for the growing certainty
that as I hold it aloft in my hands
each day it will be filled.
May I capture these moments,
share this joy
May my creations
reflect my gratitude
and my dawning understanding:
the closest I come
to holy
is at the break
of day.

©Molly Hogan (draft)

Please share your Poetry Friday offerings at the link below. I’m so looking forward to enjoying them over a long, leisurely weekend!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

PF: My Home

This month Catherine Flynn posed the challenge for our group: “Copy a mentor poem (or other text) word for word, then replace [that poet’s] language with your own.” She was inspired by an article that she’d read in the NYT entitled, “How E.L. Doctorrow Taught an Aspiring Writer to Hear the Sounds of Fiction. I decided to try this with a wonderful poem by Renée Watson: “This Body II.”

This Body II

My body is
perfect and
imperfect and
Black and
girl and
big and
thick hair and
short legs and
scraped knee and
healed scar and
click for the rest of the poem here

Here’s my poem. I struggled with the ending two lines and ultimately deviated from Watson’s original form. I’d still be fiddling if it weren’t Friday already.

My Home

My house is
inviting and
imperfect and
red and
old and
big and
slightly crooked and
terribly cluttered and
horsehair plaster and
cobweb corners and
walls sheltering and
laughter that echoes and
generations that whisper and
doors to step through and
windows that frame and
my parent’s loveseat and
my in-law’s chair and
my grandparent’s buffet and

my house is coalescence
my house is my home.

©Molly Hogan

If you’d like to see what some others have done with this prompt, check out their blogs at the following links:

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

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Jone MacCulloch at her blog.

Revisiting a Halloween Summoning

I haven’t been writing much lately, so I turned to a Halloween-themed poem that I previously shared here. Sadly, the state of our world seems even more dire than when I wrote this poem in 2017. I made some minor revisions to the final two stanzas to focus on more current woes. Unfortunately, many of the original ones remain. Scary, indeed.

Halloween Summoning

I summon ye, spirits and spooks and sprites
and tip-tapping branches on moonless nights
Arise headless horseman and grisly ghouls
and bleak haunted houses where terror rules
Awaken ye witches, ye wizards and djinns
and mad-grinning pumpkins aglow from within
Come forth ye black cats and specters and crows
and clink-clanking chains from dank caverns below
I summon ye, yearning for simpler days
when you were the frightening things on parade
when you were the terrors that filled up my head
that kept me awake and that filled me with dread.

Rise spectors! Rise phantoms! Rise foul-smelling fiends!
Come, take back the night from our nightmarish dreams
Come, banish the darkness, the stygian gloom
the madmen now flirting with chaos and doom
and whipping up festering cauldrons of hate.
Come vanquish these forces before it’s too late.

I’d rather face phantoms about at all hours
than criminal leaders who hunger for power,
vanishing glaciers, electoral threats
pollution, pandemic and civil unrest
And mad spinning storms of apocalypse size
and “leaders” who bully and taunt and despise.

So, rise all ye spirits of Halloween night!
Come harrow us all to your black hearts’ delight!
Treat us to hauntings, and foul apparitions
Bedevil our sleep–it’s no imposition!
Tis better by far to have monsters aprowl
than the man-made disasters that torture us now.

©Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by the one and only Linda Baie at her wonderful blog, TeacherDance. Be sure to stop by and check out this week’s poetic offerings, spooky and otherwise!

Limericks to the Rescue!

It was a long week. Hybrid Model. Group A. Group B. Daily Agendas. NWEA Testing. F&P Testing.

I barely squeaked out this limerick.

The Tale of the Fashionable Carrot

There once was a carrot by chance,
whose roots grew to look like orange pants.
He capered, cavorted,
his root legs contorted,
creating his own harvest dance.

©Molly Hogan

And since writing limericks is such fun, I was inspired to try another in response to Jone’s invitation to write a math-related poem today.

Standardized Testing and Vocabulary Enrichment

When math testing wouldn’t resume
I started to fret and to fume.
Technological glitches
unfiltered my lipses.
The F-bomb went off in my room.

©Molly Hogan

Ok, the f-bomb was dropped. But actually only after students had departed for the day and I couldn’t get the next day’s test session set up. Talk about aggravating! It was one tech testing snafu after another all day long. Ugh.

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Jone McCullough at her new blog site. She’s invited participants to share math-inspired poems and is highlighting a few from a soon-to-be-released anthology by Janet Wong and Sylva Vardell.