{npm22: 29~ bloom!}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

You’re invited to our challenge in the month of May! After such a big month for National Poetry Month, we’re taking it easy for now. Our simple task is to write a poem with the theme of string, thread, rope, or chain. Any poetic form, rhymed or unrhymed, but we’re including one of those four items. Plotting? Good! You’ve got a month to string your line(s), then share your offering on May 27th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

This month the Poetry Peeps wrote poems in imitation of Taylor Mali. For Laura, that meant this poem – short(ish) and sweet. Tricia explored her ideas here. Sara’s meta poem ON the poet is here, Cousin Mary Lee enfolded climate greening into her poem, Liz’s project, plus a bonus poem is here, and Andi’s popped in here. More Poetry Peeps may pop in with more words and thoughts as the weekend continues, so stay tuned. I may be very slow doing the roundup (as in finishing it next week), since I’m away from my usual haunts (and time zones) so bear with me.

I started out with the best of intentions to flatter poet Taylor Mali by imitating “Totally Like Whatever, You Know?” Alas, the longer I spent with it, the less I found flattering to say. Published in 2002, soon after the 1998 “Ebonics” conversation the talk show circuit, this poem is reflective of the social critics of that time, which is to say it hasn’t aged well. Mali’s mocking contempt echoes still of American society’s knee-jerk tendencies to mock and belittle the young, especially young girls, for the way that they speak, act, the media they consume, the bands they love, and the clothes they wear. When devaluing fully 51.1% of the population becomes automatic, misogyny persists, and follows girls into adulthood. More importantly, it leaves a mark. And men aren’t the only people who belittle and begrudge the young; it’s an American past time, which is why this poem so needled me.

I remember running into my 8th grade English teacher as a college student. She quizzed me on my activities and my GPA, and then, as I was proudly telling her my news, she interrupted. Reaching forward, she fiddled with my collar, smoothing it. “You know,” she said in a low, confiding voice like she was revealing a secret, “You’d sound so much smarter if you didn’t say ‘um, okay’ quite so often.” Well, that was me told that I wasn’t up to her level! Rather than enjoying my weekend home, I spent the rest of the time listening to myself, wincing at each “um” and “okay” and wondering desperately how people ever learned to change their speech.

I look back on that incident and seethe.*

My NPM project this year was sticky-note proverb poems. They are proverb-based and SHORT, but Taylor Mali doesn’t lend himself to short, so today I’ve creating two poems, first, the freestyle, unrhymed imitation (not my favorite style; feel free to suggest revisions in the comments), using the words of consent and consensus which are so often dismissed, and second, a sticky-note sized distillation. Additionally, today’s poem calls for a new proverb, one I’ve just made up. It is:

“Wisdom celebrates variation; not every difference suggests flaws.”

um, okay

Okay, but have you noticed
how it is somehow A-okay fine
for them to get right in your face
straighten up your collar and say
“right, if you would just -” and
okay, you knew you weren’t up to par –
yeah, you couldn’t pass as perfect
or more than okay, but who is?

Okay, so, have you noticed
the ground between us
is like potholes and mountains,
it’s that uneven, which is like,
fine, whatever
but what makes them think
the place they’re standing is
always the high ground, right?

Okay, but had you noticed
how they steal your words when they
crush your voice, grind words into pulp,
when they smother your spark
had you noticed why? they silence you –
like you’re just a piece of work
right, but if they would just,
back off, you could work out
making the pieces
whole, right?

Okay, so you had noticed
that consensus creates strength, that two heads
are better than one? so, okay you seek approval –
yeah, sometimes you ask permission –
So? you don’t know if you’re allowed
to take up space, to speak
aloud, so you rehearse
your sounds, right?
and you check your strengths
’til you know them
by heart.

Okay, so had you noticed
your flex, your stretch, how strong
you’ve grown? they did not, which is like,
fine, whatever –
you’ve blown past their

so, it’s your space
send roots into the earth
shout “I’ve arrived! make here the place
you grow

Want more poetry? Poetry Friday is hosted today at Jone’s place.. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

*I taught school, too. I recognize that for some, the job is changing the world through their students. But, I’d really rather leave the world unchanged than be remembered for the kind of casual cruelty that implies someone sounds/is stupid.

{npm22: 28 ~ the heat}

One of the Poetry Princess the other day mentioned how she likes that I sometimes write about things I don’t like. I kind of laughed – there are a LOT of things I don’t like, and honestly, I need to write poems about them so no one else has to hear my rants. Today I’m writing about an American proverb I don’t particularly enjoy. It was yet another of those often repeated during my childhood. It’s one which seems to imply incompetence needing to step aside for those who are better equipped to carry things out. It’s just… irritating.

And this one’s not just home grown, its origin is the American political arena, and is credited to the celebrated “plain speaker” Harry S. (did you know the middle initial doesn’t stand for anything?) Truman as far back as 1942 when he was a senator, and evolved into the phrase we know today during his presidency in 1949. It’s a bit of a snarky one:

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
– Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States

“Stand back –
Let the experts
Show you how it’s done, kids.”
(Pride has arrived. Now we await
the fall.)

In a world plagued with experts, I’m happy to get out of the kitchen and let somebody else’s goose cook. Happy Almost Weekend.

{npm22: 25~ a start}

Today’s proverb is both ancient and Chinese, and though it might be cliché’s first assumption, it’s not written by Confucius. Surprise, there are hundreds more sages and creators of proverbs from this ancient culture! Today’s proverb is from the Tao Te Ching. Though this book isn’t found on B&N’s website in its entirety, it exists in various copies and dialects and is a widely studied, widely argued over classical Chinese text. The Tao Te Ching is usually credited to Lao Tzu, though others argue it was written by someone else, and is probably something from between the 4th and 6th century BC. It’s ancient. So, we have a genuine Chinese proverb, though the wording isn’t the same as we use now. Originally it said, “A journey of a thousand li (a traditional Chinese unit of measure, approx. 0.3 mile/0.5 km.) starts beneath one’s feet.” No one knows how or when, but as the quotation came West (probably because no one could figure out what a li was), the phrase turned into:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Empty suitcases
Filled up with memories
Of “Once Upon A Time, Boldly.”

Nope, I’m not actually ready… but I’m going anyway.

PS – yes, I know I can’t really draw an airplane.

{npm22: 16~dark}

Okay: quick question – when is it full night? After sundown, right? The weather guide on my phone has all of these handy little bits of information based on latitude and longitude and standard time zones… there’s Twilight Starting and Twilight ending, there’s Solar Noon and then the usual Sunrise and Sunset. There’s this whole thing about solar declination and ACTUAL Sunset vs. Apparent Sunset. It’s great – and way overdone for our uses today. All we need is …Dawn.

Thomas Fuller, an English theologian, in the year 1650, is actually who we believe coined this phrase. It appeared in his work titled A Pisgah-Sight of Palestine and the Confines Thereof. (Yet another guy who really needed to work on his titles.) Possibly because it fit his sermon, he seemed to imply that this phrase was literal — that it’s utter pitch black dark right before sunrise — ergo, it’s always darkest just before dawn, since just before then is the darkest time.

Dear Rev. Fuller,

We regretfully inform you that a whole ball of solar fire doesn’t just pop up and the world is flooded with light like a switch… As the Earth turns, the light of that solar ball rises gradually. So, it’s actually darkest? Probably just after midnight. But, good job for getting us thinking about metaphors and such.

Love, Random People on the Internet.

“It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.” – Rev. Fuller

before dawn
tick: the clock’s hand jerks
closing the circle of day
today, tomorrow
and round again it takes you
another day won’t break you.

{npm22: 15~ prove me now}

I love how the various bits of language I’m studying line up: in Spanish, commanding someone to produce proof (Prove it!) is pruébalo. That’s also the same word that’s used when you want someone to TRY something. (As a matter of fact there’s a very colorful travelogue/cooking show on YouTube by the same name.) In Dutch, the meanings don’t overlap; to try is probeer, and the old Latin word is probare, which has a bit in common with the English word “probation.” From Merriam-Webster:

“Proof is an alteration of Middle English prove, which itself is from Anglo-French preove, meaning “evidence,” based on an Old French word meaning “test.” … In Middle English, proof had meanings relating to both the presenting of evidence that demonstrates a truth and the establishment of fact or truth through testing.

As you’ll recall, pudding in history has been savory – think haggis. Minced meat, spices, cereals and blood stuffed into guts and boiled. And whether or not that minced, spiced meat the cook used was spoiled, or any good? Well, you had to prove it.

(Americans use a shortened version, simply “the proof is in the pudding,” which author Henry Dircks first used in his 1863 novel Joseph Anstey, and which appeared again in an 1867 issue of The Farmer’s Magazine. No one knows when it arrived on these shores).

The proof of the pudding is in the eating

life’s greatest card trick
now we see it, now we don’t
breath held with applause.

Poetry Friday today is hosted today at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.

{npm22: 9 ~we fall down}

I’m having a good time tracing the path of non-English proverbs, so here’s one from the East (and I’ve seen the words spaced multiple ways, so apologies if the one I chose is wrong): Nanakorobi yaoki (七転び八起き) –

“Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” – a Japanese proverb

we stand by falling –
stagger likes leaves in a breeze.
We lurch toward walking
while every bruise reminds us:
life keeps us on our toes.

This quote is the title of a recent picture book biography of Patsy Takemoto Mink, the woman who started Title IX in schools. Today its message of perseverance reminds me also of Ketanji Brown Jackson. Happy Weekend.

{npm22: 8 ~ one word}

My sixth grade teacher ADORED this proverb, verbum sapienti sat est… If she’d said it in Latin, it would at least have sounded cooler, perhaps. The number of times she repeated it per day this shows she didn’t quite believe it to be true, however – we unwise were given MANY words, alas, but they were never enough. That phrase was a good heads up that you were about to get your name on the board, though…

The Dictionary of Clichés (©2013, Christine Ammer) first finds usage of this phrase in English from a Ben Jonson play in 1600. That single “word” given to the wise implies, you’re smart, I don’t have to belabor this. Somehow, as my mind wandered, to an idea to illustrate this poetically, I thought of … giant sequoias. They don’t need much, only a seed, a cutting, a stump or root sprout – and suddenly you’re provided a whole new system of trees. Just a hint – a tiny jump start – is sufficient.

“A word to the wise is sufficient.” – A Roman Proverb

one composed of all:
redwood forests spring to life
from single stump sprouts

I like the idea of something being composed of compost, too, and sequoias make a lot of that.

Can you believe it’s Friday? The poetry round-up is being handled by Janice at Salt City Verse. Have a lovely weekend.

{npm22: 6~ absent tanka}

We were not big believers in our house in pining for lost loves. My mother is probably the one I most often heard say “Absence makes the heart go wander.” (I’ve also heard it said, “Absence makes the heart go yonder.” I wish I could find the provenance for either, or both, but as usual I’m left with “American proverb.” Fine.) Mom usually meant it about pets – those who don’t get fed, who make someone else their favorite person, which is how she ended up the sole proprietor of the cat, but I have never believed that missing someone makes you love them more. Absences makes you miss them. And then you resent them for not coming back.

I’m clearly not a romantic, here.

The etymology of the word “fond” is, of course, foolish or infatuated, from deranged or unwise, from the Middle English fonnen. So, absence makes us …deranged? Great. Perfect.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

while you were out
ink fades in sunlight,
your photographed face is blurred.
is this fondness, grown?
as absence aches like tooth-pain?
as your echo falls silent?

{npm22: thoughts that breathe, words that burn}

It’s National Poetry Month!

If we recall that a national poetry celebration was only officially launched in 1996, it seems ludicrous. Surely this celebrating has been going on forever! National Poetry Month has certainly gone from strength to strength; more than ever, people are reading poetry, students in schools are studying poetry, and more and more it’s being proven that poetry is good for our heads, good for our hearts, and feeds our souls. Here’s to the joy of a few pithy, provocative, clever, or amusing words to keep us going this month.

This year’s official poster from the Academy of American Poets features a line from an Amanda Gorman. There’s a poem in this place, the poster proclaims, and set within the chaos of crumpled newspapers, blaring headlines, and multiple mouths speaking, it appears that the poet has plenty of fodder for inspiration. Though my brain isn’t quite ready for digging through chaos to discover a month of poetry (WHY does April always seem to just …appear!?), smarter people than I have brought out their stars and prepared, so I’m hitching my wagon to a couple of bright ones:

Amy @ the Poetry Farm gave me the idea of creating poems inspired by proverbs. I’m using less familiar British and American proverbs primarily, but will grab any others which spark a thought. (Proverbicals.com and Phrases.org are two great reference sites.) Poetry Princess Laura, whose preference for short poetry is well-documented, is doing post-it note poems – and I think that’s a worthy length limit for me as well. I look forward to the exercise of trying to come up with short poems on conventional wisdom. Should be easy-peasy, right?

“After all is said and done, more is said than done.”


The roadside sign is boasting
men in orange weave week-long knots

CALTRANS – short for the California Deptartment of Transportation – are the slow men in orange. They’re awfully fond of crowing that they’re working our tax dollars. Ironically, most of them seem employed to supervise…

Poetry Friday is posted by my second cousin, Heidi, who is determined to save the planet and bring us together, one poem at a time. Jama-j is rounding up everyone this National Poetry Month over on Alphabet Soup, so do check back to her big list throughout the month. Here’s to Thomas’s Grey’s belief in poetry being words that burn, and thoughts that breathe. Here’s to becoming those who breathe fire.

{pf: poetry peeps do the dodoitsu}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

You’re invited to our challenge in the month of April! Imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? So for the month of April, we’ve set ourselves a challenge to write in the style of teacher-turned-poet, Taylor Mali. If you’re unfamiliar, you’ve got time to get to know a bit of his work. Have a poem of his in mind? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your “in-the-style-of” creation(s), whatever that means to you, then share your offering on April 29th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

We don’t often attempt a poetry form that I’ve never even heard of, but this month’s Dodoitsu was a new one for me. The Dodoitsu (都々逸) is a form of Japanese poetry developed towards the end of the Edo period, which ended in 1868, a time when the world – and Japan – was on the cusp of huge changes. Often concerning love or work, and usually comical, Dodoitsu wasn’t seen as a the classical poetry once the sole work of educated elites, but it was the form of the people. With a brief syllabic pattern of 7-7-7-5, it was an accessible, clever, and simple – something illiterate folk could make up and recite, too.

Choosing to pair this egalitarian poetic form with the imagery of the ekphrastic gave us scope to do something whimsical and fun. Most of us dug into our cameras and came up with a random image and were ready to go, but inevitably, the pattern of syllables was a little stickier than expected – mainly because with the plethora of seven syllable lines to begin with, it felt like almost enough syllables to be too many. It’s funny how one becomes accustomed to a greater number of lines with fewer syllables! I played with closing the poem with a single five-syllable word, but it’s difficult to make that sensical… but I tried!

We noticed that something about the form produced stories in us – maybe it’s just that the poems have to do with themes of love or work and those seem to bring out anecdotes? But almost all of our original drafts had… characters in them. Mine are no exception:

(Honestly, how often do you get to use a five-syllable word in a poem? HARDLY EVER. And certainly not that one.)

(And yes, I noticed that I had a brick wall theme going on – only after I’d written both poems. I should have made them relate more obviously. Oh, well – we’ll say the first poem depicts coworkers in a big company, one of whom has a silent crush, the other of whom remains wildly oblivious. Now we know why – with this level of a group project gone awry, someone is going to be working some MAJOR overtime… Oh, well, maybe she’ll drop him off a snack since he has to work late…)

(With apologies to the memory of Mrs. Allen, at whom I really stare in disbelief the first time I got red envelope money…!)

I’m intrigued to see how everyone else has done dodoitsu-ing. Laura’s poem is here, and Tricia’s trio of poems is here. Sara’s poem is here, Andromeda’s is here,, and Liz’s poem is here. Cousin Mary Lee’s poem is here, and Carol V’s poems are here. Intriguingly, Michelle K is using some familiar pictures, and Linda B’s poem is here. Plenty more Poetry Peeps may check in before the weekend is over, so stay tuned and I’ll add links as I find them.

Happy Poetry Friday! We’re hosted today by Amy at the Poem Farm, where today she’s probably harvesting poetry with more syllables. Thanks for rounding us up, Amy. Meanwhile, whether you’re faced with brick walls or other recalcitrant things, know that eventually Spring breaks through, persistence pays off, and flowers can grow through a crack in concrete. Keep going, friends.