{poetry friday: p7 play “Statues in the Park”}

How on earth is it already August!? This year has seemed to be the longest parade of awful, ever but somehow this summer is flying by like greased lightning. I guess it’s just that the pace of the chaos has sped up…? Who can tell. This week, I’m writing poetry from a new garret, in a house still filled with the odd unpacked box or stack of somethings.

Vacaville 2Vacaville 1

Our August Poetry Project is another Salas Special, wherein Laura gave us the title and let us go hog wild. Well, that’s never a good idea for me. I was stumped for ideas for a hot minute until I narrowed down my Flickr selections of statues to the actual park, and not entryways, old buildings, cemeteries… These bronze statues are in a graveled park, a short cut between a strip mall and a street of shops. The pair of them are gathering pears. The girl is gathering windfalls, while the man takes care of the official harvest. The light and the wet day perfectly captured the ineffable quality of an autumn afternoon:

Statues in the Park, Vacaville

Gather ye orchard’s gleaning
As sun decants to starlight.
The summer leaves no greening
Untouched by autumn’s appetite.
Soft, the season turns, governed by winter’s oversight.

I like that, but still find five-line poems a struggle (if I actually follow the rules for syllables, which I patently did NOT in the final line). Five lines are just not enough time for wordy-old-me to invest a poem with emotion – which is why I deeply respect people who can really make tanka really work. (I keep trying, though.)

I gave up on the quintet form and just went with rhymed couplets — and a statue that stopped traffic for me. Ever been to Treasure Island?

Treasure Island 36Treasure Island 34Treasure Island 30

Statues in the Park: Bliss

Like no one’s watching, dance, they said
Away your fears, take joy instead!
Such glib advice! So hard to take.
(Perfectionists can’t risk mistakes.)

Who wouldn’t choose a bird to be –
All blithe-winged swooping, flying free –
…But, what goes UP must come to grief.
DOWN follows up. Joy’s flight is brief.

Light, soaring thistledown I’d fly
Wind’s fickle dance exemplify,
But plodding, scaredy-self the rope
That leashes whimsy’s gyroscope.

Is fearing, living? NO, say I
If convention we satisfy
And let “tradition” turn our feet!
Take back your drum! Dance to your beat.

They’re watching, but dance anyway
Sing loud. Love hard, life’s cabaret
Plays rarely past four score and five –
You have RIGHT NOW to be alive.

This is “Bliss Dance,” by Marco Cochrane, on the great lawn at Treasure Island. She is forty feet tall, and she literally, the first time we saw her, caused us to hit the brakes and gawk. She. Is. Huge.

Some art you can encounter once and simply remember it. Bliss, I could visit repeatedly. She’s just…there larger than life, and …brings to mind the William Carlos Williams poem, “The Kermess,” another poem I memorized in college. I love the joyous defiance of Breughel’s-great-picture-The Kermess; the poem’s thick shanks and big butts and bellies all swinging round made me so happy. Bliss’ body is traditionally symmetrical, but her nudity puts her on the same level – she’s unashamed and getting her slightly awkward, spinning groove on. She’s probably going to trip over her own feet, in a minute. Do you think she cares?

Treasure Island 31

She does not.


The poetry sisters are in the house! Some of Laura’s statues are just waiting for you to leave. Sara’s diving into the complicated uses of Lincoln’s memorial. Tricia’s managing to write surrounded by family. Kelly’s playing with the idea of release, while Liz is traveling. And don’t forget to wave hello to Andi, who is cheering us on from the bench this week.

There’s more Poetry Friday this lovely early August day! Our hostess kicking off the month in style is Donna@Mainely Write. Put on your dancing shoes, dearhearts, and shimmy through your weekend. They’re all watching. Who cares?

{poetry friday: macaroni}

New Lanark T 24

It always amuses me that whenever my Scottish friends speak of pies, they invariably mean… that which I do not mean at all. Say “pie” and they’ll say chicken-and-leek. Eel. Steak-and-kidney. Mince. Mutton, or something else in Scotch pie. Sweet pies are… um, puddings? So, it gets to be a little confusing.

In view of the fact that today is apparently National Mac & Cheese Day I will raise a …mug to Macaroni Pie. It’s better with fresh peas than baked beans from a tin, to be sure, but it’s one of those ubiquitous quick meal I had when out and about, visiting castles and historical places. I’ve never tried to make one – I truly can’t see the point of adding pastry to pasta when there are perfectly good pumpkins and peaches just sitting around – but macaroni pie was good fuel for a long day of walking in cold climes, so here’s to it.

Dodgy Dinners

When cravings for a piece of pie
Meet diet’s parsimony,
Forget the peach – your fork apply
To tasty macaroni!

A hand-pie makes a lot of sense:
Food without ceremony –
(And, in a pinch, it’s self-defense
And lessens acrimony).

Take my advice and make this meal
With peas and pepperoni,
Complete with pastry’s flaked appeal
A pie of macaroni.

This is a DREADFUL POEM of the worst sort of drivel and I’m well aware of that, but I’m also packing to move, so it is what it is. ☺ The rest of the ACTUAL poetry-ites are over at Tabatha’s blog today.

{pf: p7 in the style of “she walks in beauty”}

It’s the first Friday of the month, and it’s time for a bit of Byron!

For preference, “The Destruction of Sennacherib” will always be my favorite of the poetic stylings of Mr. “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” but “She Walks in Beauty” is gorgeous, too; a lovely example of the poetry of the Romantic era, and a personification of the Beauty that is Womanhood and all of that you learn in Sophomore English. As all Romantic poems do, it deals heavily in hyperbole and is a tiny bit on the ridiculous side, because I don’t know any women in whom all the best of anything meet anywhere, but your mileage may vary. When tasked to write in the style of Byron, I tried to gently capture that feel, going for the over-the-top flowery language and deathless symbolism while still writing something coherent (this may not have worked, but…). Instead of Beauty/Womanhood, I explored truth, via the story of Diogenes and Ma’at.

Calochortus amabilis 2.jpg
By Eric in SFOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Diogenes’s Daughters

Mere Beauty waits to take its bow
Beneath Cardinal Virtue’s gaze,
Seven, the Sisters make their vow
To Veritas, its arts to raise –
And to its Muse – her craft allow
To bright illuminate their days.

Their clear gaze focused on the Truth
Seven set forth their Lamps to raise.
These, undeterred by age or youth
Eschewing private gain or praise,
Sought but to find, by means more couth
Knowledge to set the world ablaze.

Astronomers’ celestial quest
Can no more match this thirst divine
‘Sapere aude!’ Know, and wrest,
From clamor’s call, an anodyne;
Against a world in sore distress –
One honest heart that’s genuine.

In college, there was a yearly competition to find these glorious early Spring flowers, called calochortus amibillis, commonly named Diogenes Lanterns. In the story, Diogenes walked about with a lit lamp because he was in search of one honest man. We never know if he found him, but he should have looked among the women, maybe…? Ma’at is old Egypt’s goddess of truth from which the personification of Justice as a woman holding a scale gets its basis. Though cuneiform tablets and old drawings do not depict her with a scale, her job was to weigh hearts and souls against the ostrich feather she wore in her hair. Only those souls lighter than her feather could go on to the afterlife.

Ma’at

She does her duty – what is right
In desert storms when high winds rise
When taloned carrion birds take flight
– and venturing out would be unwise.
When her gaze finds all clear and bright,
She still permits no compromise.

Though deeds obscure, though lies oppress
The Scales she scries do not displace
A feather’s weight of faithfulness –
True hearts will show their truest face.
No matter if our hearts transgress,
An honest scale’s our saving grace.

She walks ascendant, even now
Though clouds of lies disorient
Her staff in hand, her neck unbowed
Her feather weighs the soul’s intent.
So let it be: let us allow
This lightness, Love to represent.

Sapere aude is Latin for “dare to know.” Humanity has searched for and championed from antiquity various versions of The Truth. Do we dare to know? From myths and gods onward, the search continues…

Here’s Kelly, who started us off, telling us what that cousin really thinks. And Laura’s, which takes a decidedly glittery angle on things. In Sara’s, equine hoofbeats pound in iambic pentameter. Like most of us, Tricia found this challenge both fun and impossible to do while trying to do other things, and Liz skidded in at the finish line – with her usual grace. Andi continues to walk in beauty this month, and will catch us later. For more poetry, check out the Beyond Literacy Link blog.


BONUS ♦ BONUS ♦ BONUS ♦ ~ Next week, July 14th, is National Mac-and-Cheese Day. You know Poetry Friday Must Celebrate, right? Next week’s round-up is at Tabatha Yeats’ blog The Opposite of Indifference. Be there with cheese on – be it Gruyere or vegan cheddar.

{poetry friday: the p7 shovel gold}

When they invented the sestina, indeed, the resultant yowling by Aquitanian poets throughout Europe was no doubt noteworthy… but that was before they invented the Golden Shovel…


The Golden Shovel’s title enlarges the idea of tribute, of “shoveling” the golden bits of another poem for reuse. First, a poet takes an admired line, then, keeping the words in order, uses the words from this line as line endings in a new poem of their own creation. Finally, the poem reveals their new creation, and credits the old.

We chose the hardest poem to work with, Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Pied Beauty.” You remember the tongue-twister that you utterly failed to memorize in the seventh grade for speech class?

Yeah, that one. (What? Was it only me?):

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
        For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
        And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
        With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                Praise him.

~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1877

Once I got over the shrieking horror of How am I supposed to work with compounds like ‘chestnut-falls’??? Is that one word, or two???, I began to figure out what this poem was – and what it was not. Foremost, it was not a rewrite of Hopkins’ original. In Terrence Hayes’ original poem, “Golden Shovel,” based on Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool,” (1959) he took her words and whipped them into a whole new dish. The poignancy and bravado of a nameless black boy cresting the hill of adulthood is certainly there, but he’s not leaning heavily on the bravado of school-skipping adolescents hanging out at a pool hall. Once I stopped trying to rewrite “Pied Beauty,” my process cleaned up a whole lot… though I was still tempted by it. As you can see, I took for use the first line of Hopkins’ exultant poem:

Photos via Wikipedia

lilium fatale

there blooms the lady, gaudy in her glory
as a trumpet blast. Bright freckles massed might be
music, presaging summer’s solo. Oh, to
grace a garden, now that spring is here. Does God
dream in stargazers? Let no beauty be for
gotten: strumpet striped, dewy, sunlight dappled;
dizzy, drenched, these senses! delight in all things.

   ~ after Gerard Manley Hopkins

Moving past my usual squeamishness about blank verse, with its resultant no-rules/no-brakes feeling, I wondered, next, if it was possible to add a little lightness to these poems. Oddly for a tribute form, most I’ve seen are quite serious in content. While the rules in a Golden Shovel freed me from the tyranny of end-line rhyme, I found that thematically, with this poem specifically, thematic variance was nearly impossible. (I’ll be interested in seeing how my other Sisters managed this — I could not.) I’m just not sure how else I could have used these particular lines, although the second half of the poem might have .

star talk

“we’re made of star-stuff.” this, a dazzling sendup of us all;
humanity made luminosity. great, glowy things
reactive (con)fusions, ticking like a Geiger counter,
our radiance cosmic, scintillating & original
yes, we’re stars… but, mostly quarks: odd parts in a box marked ‘spare;’
we broke the mold. we’re distinct, authentic, genuine… strange.

   ~ with genuine affection for the brilliantly strange Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

My one regret is running out of time to try for the last two lines (despite what Laura was told, the last two words constitute no challenge at all, thank you) – but maybe someday!


With such a busy month, we had zero time for collaboration, so like me, I know you’re dying to see what Sara (who is in NM with her kids just now, so may post later next week), Tricia, Laura, Kelly, & Liz are shoveling up this week between commencement, travel, and other ceremonies. Andi’s not with us this month, but we know she is reading and being filled. She will be back. More Poetry Friday goodness to dig your teeth into is found at Buffy’s Blog.

{#npm’17: vicious flowers}

I admit to a tiny bit of fear of mantises. The 2400 species which make up Mantodea all have raptorial forelegs, stereo vision, and massive jaws that make them a fearsome predator for insects (as well as small lizards and frogs, in some areas). I was pinched rather firmly by a mantis one as a child, so seeing them as an adult still gives me a bit of a turn – although my mother, God bless her, still loves to catch them in a jar and find a bunch of children to tell about them. (Once a teacher, always a teacher…) I think the way they stalk things is worrying, and the fact that they pounce – and have stabby claws on their legs — is both fearsome and wonderful. Add to that their sexual cannibalism, and ((O_o))… no. (And we kids are taught that they pray! Hah. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has another take on that, which cracks me up.)

More unnerving than other mantises are the so-called flower mantises. Biologists call what flower mantises do “aggressive mimicry.” It’s when a predatory insect or animal uses something benign as a lure — or when what you think is a gorgeous orchid rips the head off of another flower its just mated, and eats it.

Do you see it? It’s not even trying to not look floral. At all.

Wikipedia Commons photo by Philipp Psurek

The poem below is attributed to Ogden Nash, though I have found no provenance for that – but it’s the sort of doggerel he would write about bugs. Note that if indeed Nash wrote this, he was mistaken, for it is the grasshopper, not the mantis, who is of the phylum Orthoptera… the mantis is Arthropoda. Yes, and now you know.

Praying Mantis

From whence arrived the praying mantis?
From outer space, or lost Atlantis?
Glimpse the grin, green metal mug
that masks the pseudo-saintly bug,
Orthopterous, also carnivorous,
And faintly whisper, “Lord deliver us!”

Indeed!

Poetry Friday today is hosted by Teaching Authors.

{#npm’17: circumference}

(x – h)2 + (y – k)2 = r2

we are all self-centered
it is said
we are all self-centered
but what matters is
how wide your circle


hearing a tale of injustice leads some to make an empathic mistake
instead of an ear, the listener becomes
a speaker whose tale overtakes
the voice of the hurting. shifting the spotlight.
demanding, asserting that they have the right
to stand in the center and speak on their feelings –
but that isn’t empathy, friends, that’s stage-stealing.


we are all self-centered
it is said
we are all self-centered
but what matters is
circumference

{#npm’17: further fakery}

San Diego Zoo 40

Resigned Meerkat is resigned.

Monday I’ll have come to a conclusion about what action I’ll take regarding this manuscript, but until then, I’m working to believe that I wrote something okay to begin with. It’s amazing how hard it is to believe excellence of yourself… aaaand just typing that word ‘excellence’ seems like a bridge too far. ‘Pretty good’ I’m okay with; ‘excellence’ seems dubious – again, peacocking. Ugh. This is the serious work that creators and artists do every day… in addition to creating and making art. What a world, huh?

artist mending

Intuiting that I’m the one
missing a clue in this romance –
(perhaps my overture has run
outside the lines of taste, by chance)
sincerely seeking for my sin I
take a breath. Regroup. Assess
expect that I have gone awry, &
realize I have not transgressed.

So speaks the critic in my mind,
“you’re not so much at writing yet
no lasting words to leave behind, your
debut something to forget” –
Refuse this! Take your writer’s place
Over the noise of doubt’s disdain
Make art from your own knowledge base
Embrace your flaws, your mess, your pain.

Poetry Friday today is hosted @Dori Reads.

{#npm’17: p7, talking back to Rilke}

It’s the first Friday of National Poetry Month, which means a doubly special poetry challenge, participated in by Kelly, Sara, Liz calling in from the road; Laura, and Tricia (Andi is sitting this one out) as part of the Poetry Seven’s Year in Poetry challenge. This month, Sara chose a poem by Rilke for us to respond to directly –

You, darkness, of whom I am born—

I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.

But the dark embraces everything
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations—just as they are.

It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me

I believe in the night.

—Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Stirling Holy Rood Church T 13

We all read this poem a few times, and then a few more, and then decided what to do with it. I tried to write a line-to-line response first, which didn’t work at all. Then I tried to write a kind of …Big Picture Thought about how the poem made me feel. Also didn’t work. As I was trying to work through my daily poem challenges for National Poetry Month, I begin to get a little worried… Rilke, with his usual straightforwardness, was not striking any sparks with me.

And then, I started thinking about sparks… little spangles of light, illumination. And the opposite of said. Sparks don’t actually let us do anything but see that there’s contrast. They don’t help us see anything but the light itself, and what is it, really?

This is a dude who likes the dark. I respect that about him. Few people actually do. Oh, we think we love the dark, the stars. We quote “When I Heard The Learn’d Astronomer,” and gaze up wistfully. But, where most of us live is so much light pollution we don’t actually have dark. I have become acquainted with the night, because I briefly lived way out in the country, in Glasgow. Our neighbors were sheep. It was flippin’ dark out on those country lanes. It was …kind of amazing. And, I knew I was walking right next to spiders. I had to decide how much I was going to let that bother me.

In the end, I decided that I agreed with ‘ol Rainer, because I like the dark, but I also want to like the dark. Being who I am, the literal girlchild who has thought a great deal about the word “black” as reflected in theology and hymnody, darkness is going to mean a little something different to me — and I could see that reflected in the seven’s poetry, as we wrote on our shared Google document. I may be the only one who likes the dark, but I won’t hold that against anyone. I have walked a different (spider-adjacent) road, and I tend to have to reject the experience that “most” people have with darkness – because I am not most people.

Took me long enough to figure that out.

“the absence of color”

from darkness thou art formed & dust thou art
first secreted within thy mother’s womb
deep shadows, holding fast creation’s start
to secret hopes in dreamer’s sleep entombed

(blackness is sin, a moody study’s brown
and white holds light, a purity renown
a Presence stirs, beneath the surface bright
foul fiend, forfend, or wisdom’s erudite?)

before the light can drown thy timid sheen
enlightening with fact that still deceives
hold to thine task: believe what is not seen
and be ye blesséd by the unperceived.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Irene Lantham at her blog, LIVE YOUR POEM. Check it out, for more!

{#npm’17: for sarah}

Mexico City 162

…who tweeted the other day that the most insidious thought she has whilst writing is, “you’re not very good at this.”

writing exercise

no one does it ‘better’
no one does it right
success begins with failure
triumphing over blight.

insidious, the whisper
that tells you otherwise.
deft treachery, these lying brains
sow doubts, and criticize…

but there is no one “better”
there’s no such thing as “right”
there’s only bum firmly in chair,
and you, art’s acolyte.

            Courage.

            ♥t

{poetry friday & p7: villanelle}

February already. What a long, strange trip its been in 2017. Each day I wake and… function. And feel such empathy for those who have to function in public, especially teachers, who have to shine and smile…but how?

Those were the thoughts with which I greeted the second month of the Poetry Sisters’ annual Year in Poetry challenge. This month is Kelly’s choice, and she compelled us to write a villanelle on the subject of brevity/shortness. Now, we’ve revisited the villanelle repeatedly, and it’s actually one of my favorite forms. But, having finished a revision the penultimate week of January, I found myself floundering and the spatter of acidic ink on all of those “orders” – from Hater-in-Chief and the Confederate Cabinet – ate my creativity for lunch. This annoyed me. I am a child of the 80’s who wrote bad poetry all the time in response to the tyranny of shoulder pads. I could do this.

The trick, it turned out, was volume, the same thing that worked in my tween years. I wrote TONS of awful villanelle, a form which easily lends itself to overstating a point. Sneer poetry? Is not nice. And I am so GOOD at it. I screeded, blaming everyone for everything. I showed no love at all. I recently started embroidering thistles, and they were enough to make me write about weeds, thorns, and bleeding (It’s a Glasgow thing. Nemo me impune lacessit, and all that. It worked for me. Don’t judge).

Eventually, after many awful poems marinated in sarcasm and mean wit, I realized that my biggest fears about brief time these days were about myself… and what I feared I didn’t have time for anymore, and was wasting time doing, et voilà. A poem I could live with.

(And then, as ALWAYS happens, when I get something I can work with, something ELSE springs fully formed from the forehead of Zeus, with words I didn’t know I wanted to say which answer my original question of “how” – however, since that poem is wildly off-topic of our theme, I’ll share it later.)

If you’d like to check out themed villanelles from people who probably didn’t have to write ten run-up poems, and who can follow a theme without getting lost in their own heads (!), do see Kelly’s poem, on self-care which has to be a topical first; Tricia’s offering, Liz, in just under the wire; Sara’s “all too brief” rhymes and Laura’s, whose timely tweet to the gang, showing the poem in progress, put the spurs to us! (We’ll wave to Andi from our repeating lines, and see her next time.)


And for more poetry from poets who wrote and write during daily drudgery as well as intense moments of antipathy, don’t miss Poetry Friday, which today is hosted by Penny Parker Klosterman at A Penny & Her Jots.

The bad moon has risen, orange and malignant from the smoke in the air, as the garbage fire roars. Affix your breath mask and center yourself. You’ve got this. Go.