{december lights: pf – in memoriam}

Oh, Tennyson, how I loathed you in college. Through no fault of your own, of course. You did write such beauty, but when one is helping a desperately overbooked loved one finish a massive seventy-five page paper (probably was only thirty pages, but it felt like seventy-five. TRUST ME.) for ALL the final grades in an independent study project that has gone on three months too long and has switched professors twice because the first gave the assignment and then had a breakdown, and the second professor told you your interpretation of the first project was all wrong when it was already almost done, and sent you away with a new assignment which was nothing at ALL like the first and gave even less oversight than the first professor — well. It is far too easy, then, to resent you, poor Tennyson, and your massive work IN MEMORIAM.

And yet, there is such loveliness within.

Because of yesterday’s reminiscing on my days in the vast green of Glasgow (Glas cu, the city’s name in the proto-Brythonic language indeed means a green hollow) I’m still thinking on their coat of arms, and bells. Tennyson’s Ring Out is often resurrected around the new year, so I’ll indulge myself with a bit of it today.

Dunkeld Cathedral 40

In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells]

Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1809 – 1892

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Dunkeld Cathedral 57

(To the left, the bell tower of Dunkeld Cathedral, Scotland, which has a tiny, scary spiral staircase to get up to it.) Poetry Friday hosted today at Random Noodling. Arise and ring.

{december lights: p7’s poetry friday lai}

…or the stars, as the case may be.

It’s Poetry Friday, and the last month of the year, huzzah! The Sisters have once again persevered and come through! Yay, us! And here we are with another poetic form! This one… I’ve never done before, and it was both simple and hard. Simple is sometimes really difficult, I find. The Lai is a form from France, and this nine-line poem uses an “A” and “B” rhyme scheme with A lines being five syllables, and B lines two. The pattern is AA B AA B AA B. See? Simple. But… also ridiculously hard.

As always, the Sisters did it justice. Don’t miss works by Sara,
Laura, Tricia, Kelly,, and Liz.

Fortunately, our theme was “hope, peace & light” which ties nicely into December’s theme as a whole, right? I gave it a go, and after some technical difficulties under the heading of, “I started to enjoy just writing a poem, forgot there were rules about end rhyme and ended up with some weird hybrid,” I came up with this little poem in three parts – moving from dusk to midnight to dawn… it’s not so much about hope or peace or light, and more about… determination to find such:

I. Waning Light
Darkest time of year
Dusk seems always near;
It waits.
Autumn days austere
chill the atmosphere.
By eight,
Day time’s souvenir,
moon, will disappear.
II. Will The Dawn Return?
Let the dark gestate
That which we await
And fear.
Though we may debate,
seasonal dictates
are clear:
Let us celebrate
Life, as its due date
draw near.
III. Dragging In Darkness
Daybreak’s slow premiere
heralds blue skies, clear
roads straight.
Borne, we cannot steer
Our celestial sphere.
Our fate
mutable, unclear –
But, we persevere,
create.

Vacaville 191

2017 has been… a ride over Niagra in a barrel – and if you’ll recall, Annie Edison Taylor said of it, “If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat…. I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the Fall.” Yeah… it’s just been that kind of a year. But! While days may be dark, the moon may be dim, and our nerves on edge, remember that the spirit of creativity is its own spark, dear ones. Don’t let your hands be idle. Even if it’s putting stickers on a piece of paper and making bookmarks for a school library, it’s doing something to feed you. Keep finding your feet, holding your candle, and lighting your world.

Arise and shine.


Poetry Friday today is hosted by Cousin Mary Lee at A Year of Reading. Please pop over for more lovely poetry today. Thank you for dropping by, and we hope you join us – the Seven Sisters – for whatever poetic hijinks we get up to next year! We’ll see you in January.

{p7 does pf: triolets}

Oakland Museum of California 105

Ay! November already. Here, have some colors of the season. This is from the gorgeous altar display at the Oakland Museum of California. Their combination of migration – the Monarchs – and the passing of life as commemorated and celebrated during the Dias de los Muertos – was among the more memorable and beautiful that I’ve seen. Well worth a trip.


At some point, this form will become easier. At some distant date, all we’ll need is to hear a form and, with a graceful flourish, we’ll pull out a pen and produce said form with grace.

That day is obviously not yet come, at least not for me.

Last attempted in 2015, the triolet remains the more problematic of the repeating forms for me. I think it’s the awkward rhyme scheme, which never gives me a feeling that the poetic statement is complete. Like a song which closes with an unresolved chord, I find myself… stopped, but not…finished. I’m never quite sure if I’ve yet said what I’ve meant to say – or if it was coherent. Nevertheless, I applied myself to this month’s task set by the lovely Liz, which was to use two autumnal words from a list comprised of orange, fall, chill, light, and change.

Autumn Colour

The poet warned us gravely ‘nothing gold can ever stay,’
Persimmon’s orange a honeyed warmth ephemeral as mist.
You’ll sooner find a treasure in a vacant alleyway,
The poet warned us, gravely. Nothing gold can ever stay
Bright. Tarnishing, the light fades into winter’s shadowplay.
Drink down the days at autumn’s end on memory’s mailing list.
The poet warned us gravely ‘nothing gold can ever stay,’
Persimmon’s orange a honeyed warmth ephemeral as mist.

Oakland Museum of California 106

Technically, red is the more ephemeral color, but I just had to play with that… because orange is a hard word to include in a poem, since nothing rhymes with orange. I also like to play with using fourteen syllables occasionally.

Combustion

White-hot, our spirits rising through the heat,
The flame renewed with passion’s fiery light,
Destroyed, we fall. We signal cold’s defeat,
White-hot. Our spirits rising. Through the heat
We radiate – our frantic dance complete –
Collapse as ash, with sated appetite.
White-hot, our spirits rising. Through the heat
The flame renews our passion. Firelight.

Now here, I was only writing about fire. I’m told Other Interpretations May Apply. *cough* I take no responsibility.


There’s more poetry on the horizon from Liz, Laura, early bird Kelly, and Tricia. Sara and Andi are still on busy lady walkabout, but may rejoin us presently. *waves*

Also, happy Books and Blogging Weekend to all those gathered in Hershey, PA for the 2017 Kidlitosphere Conference. Poetry Friday today is hosted at Teacher Dance. Sometimes, when you’re feeling blah, the Friday poetry round-up is just the thing. Read on for a little lift of your spirits.

{p7 on poetry friday: autumnal hymns}

Well, it was either this, or Emily’s poem to the tune of The Earworm We Shall Not Name…

It’s been a week… but despite the erratic nature of human nature, the seasons tick on; seedtime and harvest, summer and winter. And today we celebrate the steady metronome of the natural world with… hymn meter.

Isaac Watts, the mad rhymer, pretty much invented it, and Emily D perfected it. Not to be confused with the meter of hymn music, this deals with text, and is a fairly simple form. There are three categories of hymn meter: common, which is alternating lines of iambic tetrameter with iambic trimeter; long, which is iambic tetrameter the entire stanza; and short meter, which is two lines of iambic trimeter followed by a single line of iambic tetrameter, and finally returns to iambic trimeter for the fourth line. It’s actually more complicated to explain than to compose.

Because hymn meter was well loved by Emily Dickinson whose 236th poem, “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church” has ever been used by earnest poets to get out of leaving the house at the weekend, I thought I’d dash off a quick nod to her. Of course, this effort isn’t true short meter, because the third line is not short by any means, and to make it even more hymn-like, I added a distinct refrain. This was me not trying to quite go with the rules just yet:

Keeping Emily’s Sabbath

cathedral light abounds
through old growth canopy
as crows produce a raucous sound, as fog’s damp surges all around
and we breathe autumn’s ease, in redwood panoply.

(no sermon, no sexton. birdsong, from every direction
the quail’s quiet sageness is truth for the ages, and never is service too long)

leaf-fall means death. Rejoice
in every dying tree
for autumn leads to winter’s choice. Then, ending, winter gives spring voice
and brings the honeybee, renewal’s guarantee.

(no chalice, no cantor: listen to the blue jay’s banter
the woodpecker’s rapping, its beats overlapping, and never is service too long)

scythe down, like autumn’s weeds
what binds you to the pew
no dome nor chorister a need, that “all are loved,” be that the creed
which Sabbath-hearts pursue; may Light be found in you.

No vestments, no hymn book. Take to the woods. Change your outlook.
Your body will thank you – the dogma will keep – and the sermon won’t put you to sleep.

Somewhere, my mother is perhaps despairing of my church attendance. *cough*

The next two poems I tried a little harder to both keep to the theme (why, oh, why is it that the minute someone mentions theme, poems spring forth from the forehead of Zeus on thoroughly different topics? I have the most contrary brain) and to the rules of form. This one in common meter goes out to the people who I annoyed on Twitter when I told them not to talk to me about pumpkin spiced anything until November… when I’m spicing pumpkins for pie:

There’s More To Life (Than Pumpkin Spice)

(There’s more to life than pumpkin spice
In autumn’s short-lived hoard,
Than cutesy “hygge” merchandise
You really can’t afford.)

Crabapples, crisp, without a doubt
When kissed by nighttime’s rime
Are twice as sweet, and Brussels sprouts
when roasted, are divine.

Bright hops, persimmons, leafy kale
Meld autumn’s rustic hues
Gold cannot stay, and fog’s exhale
Bronze streaks the sunset’s blue.

There’s more to life. Though pumpkin’s nice
Sing autumn’s fullest song —
Praise for short days in paradise
Laud nights, knife-crisp and long.

Hops really are gorgeous – Click if you’ve never seen them. There was a hop farm up near where we used to live, and though we don’t brew beer, it was A Big Deal to the many who do. Apparently the in-thing for decoration this fall is not hops, but… cotton bolls. Meh, I’ll pass. Give me that glorious hoppy green.

Finally, this is long meter, and while it’s definitely less… sparkly and dance-y than the rest, it likely lends itself to four-part voices and pipe organ beautifully.

Bulletin

Contrails streak skylines, white on blue,
Crossing guards heed the avenue,
Breath makes its halo misty cloud,
Fog folds the land within its shroud.

Schoolyards burst forth with raucous noise
Squirrels scold unheeding girls and boys
Bees labor long on winter’s hoard
Markets display their festive gourds

Landscape takes shades of orange and gold
Ocher and azure, tawny, bold
This serves as notice: time runs on
In this seasonal marathon.

Bright as a coin, the harvest moon
Draws down the drapes of afternoon
Last gasp of summer’s bright caprice
Leaves pass out autumn’s press release

This has been kind of a fun meter to play with! Enjoy more autumn-flavored selections from: Tricia, a this-girl-ain’t-growing-old ode from Liz; Sara brings the beauty to the dying season and Laura’s adorable tribute to Jack made me smile. Now, here’s Kelly‘s take on the form, and hugs to Andi; we’ll catch up with her later.

Even MORE autumnal poetry is found in Violet Nesdoly’s pumpkin patch!

{poetry friday: p7’s ekphrastic: on the rocks}

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Because “mistakes flower/every hour,” this anthology of middle grade poetry will look at mistakes from as many angles as possible, including (but not limited to) mistakes that result in discoveries/inventions, grammar and etiquette mishaps, historical and fictional blunders, funny/silly/embarrassing missteps, ways to make things right, and forgiveness.

Visit the link for details. Submission deadline November 1, 2017. Send poems to mistakesanthologyATgmailDOTcom.


It’s the first Friday of September, and the countdown to autumn begins in earnest. All hail, the gathering of the Poetry Sisters, as they come in from balmy, sticky summer days, too-short vacations, garden grubbing, housekeeping, art-making, school year preps, and conferences.

All hail, the gathering up of the brain cells.

I will now skip my usual song and dance about “Already!” and “Good grief!” and any number of other folksy expressions of shock, and just admit that 2017 feels, each month, as if we’ve lived a full year in the past thirty days… and yet, time keeps on shoving us onward, into the future. Hurrah.

(I mean, it’s not like I would like time to stop or anything, but the shoving just seems rude. I would like the days to pass without a cattle prod, thank you.)

Ah, well. The world is full of short, sharp shocks, is it not? Fortunately, there’s always poetry.

This month, we’re back to the ekphrastic, which means that the form was up to us, and the prompt was the rather lovely picture above, taken by Sara, along a path at the Highlight Foundation retreat center near lovely semi-rural Honesdale, Pennsylvania. I and several other sisters were taken by how the stone etched with the word ‘wish’ was snapped in half – rather like a wishbone – through the pressure of cold and weathering. We also noted how some of the words are obscured. Can wishes be broken? Are the things we wish for, or that make us individual, hidden, even from ourselves?

2 Princes

Snap)(ped like cold stone
two paths. one wish.
No way, except my own
I choose. I walk alone.

Two paths. One wish.
Fated, to Rule of Three
I ch(o)se (to) walk alone,
faithless. [Set free.]

Fated to rule. Of three
wishes, I wasted two –
Faith, let set free
desire’s detainee.

Wishes, I wasted. Two
snap ped like cold stone.
Desire’s detainee?
No (one’s), except my own.

I love how a pantoum can be… about any number of things at all.

In the spirit of the Poetry Sisters trying to think through and talk more about our process, I’ll admit that my brain has to flush itself with a sing-songy, drivelicious piece of nonsense first before I can come to grips with poetry of any kind of Serious Form. True to form, I messed about for quite a bit with this and that, then ran out of time on a sonnet I felt was suitably difficult enough To Appear Serious. The truth is? No matter how much I whine, these are just fun, and I’m grateful to have the outlet for this kind of fun, to let my brain run along paths other than flash floods and garbage fires, war wounds, weeping, and wailing. Wordplay is the best play, right now, anyway.

Once Was Is Past

once was is past: snapped clean and cleaved in twain
time’s pulse a timpani that marches on,
relentless, in this lifetime marathon;
all paths converge and seek out this refrain.

with restless adaptation, time’s campaign
seeks but to better life’s phenomenon:
streams seep, then oceanward surge thereupon
meek molehills strive – to steeper heights retrained.

as all things change, yet changing, keep the time
and dance to day’s distinctive martial tune
what changes least, you’ll find, still dies too soon.
that’s paradox, in living’s paradigm.

the past, a path wayfarer’s quests elude,
ahead, horizon’s trackless latitude.

And, OKAY, since Liz doesn’t think it’s actually drivel – here’s the first thing that fell out of my brain for this project:

WARNING, or DO NOT WISH UPON A STAR

with no apologies to Disney whatsoever

When you’ve wished upon a ROCK
You’ve wished, at least, on sturdy stock,
& tethered it to solid ground –
(not vague celestial hopes unsound).

Wishes on stars are ill-advised;
A heavenly-body’s VAST, in size
You wish might land… or, go astray,
Become some wind-tossed castaway…

But plant your heels on cobblestone,
‘Wish’ turns to ‘deed’ with your backbone.
Persist, and dreams you’ll undertake,
That starlight’s whimsies cannot make.

(Full disclosure; this is the Poetry Sister polished version of this poem; first out of the gate had a much bootstrappier final stanza, and with a mighty vengeance I detest and loathe hoisted-upon-yon-bootstraps poetry – #sorrynotsorry Rudyard Kipling/Robert Service. This ending has both stars and stones to root it, and thank-you, Sara.)

There’s more poetry all over: first, check out Laura, Sara, Tricia, & Liz, and see what they’re doing with this particular ekphrastic challenge this month. Be sure to wave to Andi, and welcome her back!

Next, head on a short flight to Oz, and visit the blog of Kat Apel. Check in and add your links to the rest of the Poetry Friday roundup today.


And now, a little plug for the Cybils Awards: Since 2007, the Cybils have long been a place for those who care about children’s literature to get involved. Especially this year, when it may feel that nothing we do changes anything (cattle prod notwithstanding), highlighting good books for children, tweens & teens is a hopeful imperative. If you read and write about children’s literature, between now and September 11th, there’s an open call for judges in all categories. Better to open a good book – which is, its own way, lighting a candle – than to curse the darkness.

{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 [email protected] 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.