{deep breath & welcome back}

It’s the first Friday of the first month of the new year, and we’re here again, against all odds. Happy New Year, dear ones, and all hail the dreams of faraway places. Someday, may we meet in Norway. Or anywhere where there’s a place to read in the sun, and quiet adventures….

Already its been an eventful year – SnoCyclonopolis 2018, earthquakes, floods, and nonsense. Good thing we have poetry to make… well, if not make sense of it all, certainly to give us something delightful to look at while we ignore the rest of what’s going on…

Once again, our poetry addiction has brought the sisters of stanzas together for another year… we’re once again pushing ourselves past our comfort zones and poetic boundaries with January’s curtal sonnet. It’s exactly what it sounds like, albeit with archaic spelling; a curtal sonnet is curtailed, and Kelly this month invites the sonneteers to join Gerard Manley Hopkins, the author of this form, in trying our hand at sprung rhythm. Lines 1-10 are iambic pentameter, and the eleventh line is iambic trimeter. It sccans effortlessly when Hopkins does it… not so much with the rest of us more ordinary mortals. But, let us crash the gates and bully onward anyway.

One of the benefits of this form, to me, anyway, is that its rhyme scheme begins abcabc. That’s only six rhymed pairs, which feels manageable, at first. The additional five lines (DBCDC) have repetitions which may trip you up later, but to begin with, all is calm. -Ish. The first poem I came to with a topic, and shoving the idea I had in my head into the form… showed. It worked well enough, but it was fairly lifeless, so I scrapped it (even though it was written in the voice of Mr. Bennet, the hapless father from PRIDE & PREJUDICE). My second poem I decided to just… write, and then gently apply as much of the form as I could during the creation process. This actually worked out better than I expected, and I had minimal revision to do once I got it down – mainly just to elongate some of the lines to scan properly, and change a few of the more challenging word choices into something which had additional nonsensical words which rhymed. (The ‘c’ in the abc pattern is a snare unto the unwary, let me tell you.) I even knew for whom I was writing this – my unflinching, implacable, …marshmallow-hearted Tech Boy, whose favorite phrase used to be “disturb the comforted, and comfort the disturbed.” Everyone knows a truth-teller, and they often make people so very uncomfortable… but I, who so loathe lies and lying (and advertising, and sales tactics, and all the subtle, deliberate misrepresentation of exaggeration in media, social and otherwise) feel a certain ease that the scales never lie, and that the lens of truth always sees what’s really there.

soothsayer

        Pointless to point out garments that don’t match,
Knowing so well your penchant for the clash,
        How eager, cheerfully, you seek discord!
As sun’s bright gaze can kindle fire’s catch
        And burning, leave the forest white-hot ash,
So scything Truth divides us with its sword,

        Parts joints and marrow. Cuts us to the bone.
Scalded, we cower, hide from truth’s backlash.
        No, truth’s not universally adored
Yet, wisdom’s outcry needs its megaphone,
        Its living, two-edged sword.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Forsooth, did you realize that “sooth,” around the 800’s to the 1600’s, meant truth, or genuine? Oddly, by the 17th century, that was considered old and out of use; instead, by 1727 Daniel Defoe lists soothsayers along with astrologers and magicians. They went from being the source of truth to being augurers, clairvoyants, and psychics… the very antithesis of truth-telling. Odd, how meaning twists and changes.


There’s more poetry to accompany this damp and frosty (depending on which coast or hemisphere you’re on) day! Laura brings another beautifully natural image, while Liz is flinging it all to/at the squirrels. Sara’s acute perusal of Hopkins makes us bite our tongues while Tricia’s sonnet ushers in the deep breath of winter. Finally, Kelly shares an original in the original sonnet form, while we wave at Andi who is having a snow day.

Whether Curtal or longform, sonnets are a song, and if you’d like more poetry to sing to you today, Catharine at Reading to the Core is this week’s Poetry Friday host, and she’s highlighting CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR, which has to be my early choice for a 2018 poetry collection. Thanks for dropping by, and strength for your journey today. Tell the truth and shame the devil, won’t you?

{december lights: that indispensable silver lining}

Consolation

~ by Wisława Szymborska

Darwin.
They say he read novels to relax,
but only certain kinds:
nothing that ended unhappily.
If he happened on something like that,
enraged, he flung the book into the fire.

True or not,
I’m ready to believe it.

Scanning in his mind so many times and places,
he’s had enough with dying species,
the triumphs of the strong over the weak,
the endless struggle to survive,
all doomed sooner or later.
He’d earned the right to happy endings,
at least in fiction,
with its micro-scales.

Hence the indispensable
silver lining,
the lovers reunited, the families reconciled,
the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded,
fortunes regained, treasures uncovered,
stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways,
good names restored, greed daunted,
old maids married off to worthy parsons,
troublemakers banished to other hemispheres,
forgers of documents tossed down the stairs,
seducers scurried to the altar,
orphans sheltered, widows comforted,
pride humbled, wounds healed over,
prodigal sons summoned home,
cups of sorrow tossed into the ocean,
hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation,
general merriment and celebration,
and the dog Fido,
gone astray in the first chapter,
turns up barking gladly in the last.

Nothing is promised; not even tomorrow. Therefore, take no thought of it. In the moment you have, arise. Shine.

{december lights: bright against the dark indifference}

The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

~ W. H. Auden

We are adaptable creatures, on the whole. So, this door, or that heart has been closed against us? Well, it may take a little time, but we will go on. Arise and even if you can’t shine yet – rising is the first step, no?

{december lights: in the post}

On the third day of Christmas, I finally went to the post office.

Yes, yes, I KNOW. In my defense, I have some kind of sinus thing coming on, and I’m on that immunosuppressant, remember? So, avoiding crowds is what I’m SUPPOSED to be doing… five holiday concerts notwithstanding. Anyway. I am painfully conscious of being overdue in mailing my friend Sarah’s holiday box. Not just this year… her box from last year. No, really. I started shopping for my good friend and blog partner at Wonderland summer 2016, and then put those small items aside in the closet, because after the election and following shenanigans, I… couldn’t… pull it together… enough… to get to the stuff into a box… and to the post office. Two. Blocks. Away.

Look, the end of 2016 was rough, okay? And, 2017… was more nonsense, and then we moved, and …more chaos. Heat wave. More piles of crud. Then I got sick(er). So.

Here we are.

So, today I have DECIDED: clean slate. To the post office we go. Let’s get this taken care of.

I feel hopeful, having Peter with me.

I hope you take a minute to read Andrea Davis Pinkney’s piece on the special significance to her of the memorial postage stamp from THE SNOWY DAY. (She talks a bit about her own book celebrating the original book as well.) I wasn’t born when THE SNOWY DAY came out – I really didn’t read it ’til college – but there’s still something magical about the commonality of one small person enjoying something as simple as a first snowfall. Of greater significance is that he’s one small black person, and that the book was published in a day and age where a book with a black person on the cover was seen as something impossible to sell.

Oh, yes: there are publishers who still believe that. To this day. Even after the 90’s, when there were a lot of shows on TV which had fully non-white casts. Even after the successes of myriad books and movies, the winning of awards… even after all of the successes people of color have had outside of the arts… there is always a backlash. Three steps forward, two steps back. All the progress disappears because there are people who insist that “the world” simply isn’t “ready” for these “new” ideas.

The more fools, they. Change comes slowly, but it does come. Arise and shine – and be ready to greet a new day.

{december lights: you are here. do your thing}

Newark 33

O Me! O Life!

~ by Walt Whitman, 1819 – 1892

O Me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

                                    Answer.

That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

You will contribute that verse, no matter what. Curtain’s rising. Time to shine.

{december lights: see & keep looking}

Fremont 76

“There are things you can’t reach. But
You can reach out to them, and all day long.

The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of god.

And it can keep you busy as anything else, and happier.

I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.

Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
As though with your arms open.”

― Mary Oliver

Arise. Shine. LOOK.

{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: burn it as fuel, for light and warmth}

From the fantabulous Lev Grossman’s speculative fiction novel for adults, THE MAGICIANS:

Lynedoch Crescent D 140

“I have a little theory that I’d like to air here, if I may. What is it that you think makes you magicians?”

More silence. Fogg was well into rhetorical-question territory now anyway. He spoke more softly. “Is it because you are intelligent? Is it because you are brave and good? Is is because you’re special?

Maybe. Who knows. But I’ll tell you something: I think you’re magicians because you’re unhappy. A magician is strong because he feels pain. He feels the difference between what the world is and what he would make of it. Or what did you think that stuff in your chest was? A magician is strong because he hurts more than others. His wound is his strength.

Most people carry that pain around inside them their whole lives, until they kill the pain by other means, or until it kills them. But you, my friends, you found another way: a way to use the pain. To burn it as fuel, for light and warmth. You have learned to break the world that has tried to break you.”

Burn it all down. Then, arise and shine.