{p7 plays with the pastoral}

IT’S OCTOBER!

Have you worn tights or a jacket yet? I haven’t, either, but I have worn wool socks. All hail October, month of scarves and cardigans at last. Well, at least early-early-early in the mornings…


Wow, this …this has been a ride.

When Rebecca hit us with the challenge of the pastoral, I was jazzed. I haven’t thought of pastorals since my undergrad days, not really. I mean, we all read a tiny bit of Herrick and Shelley and felt very good about ourselves. Pastorals wax lyrical about the beauty of nature, and muse earnestly about nymphs and innocence. They shade their Deep Thoughts with colorings of Good, Evil, Moral Questions, and God, and poets used pastorals to ask Deep Questions, and you know me – I am usually pretty good with that.

In preparation for running with this challenge, I then read a lot of the pastorals I read in undergrad and — yikes.

(You sensed the “yikes” coming, did you not?)

Now, there’s nothing wrong with Wordsworth and Herrick and Shelley, and their thoughts on the natural world, but they really were sort of …removed from nature, even as they were allegedly writing from the center of it. There was, I felt, a weird imbalance there, and so I decided that the pastoral I wanted to write needed a blank slate… no Good or Evil or Moral Law invoked to provide philosophical distance for chin-stroking thought, and also, no negativity brought in by faceless powers. I wanted the harm caused in my poem to be strictly human – for nature to stand unemotionally.

That’s probably what Shelley wanted, too, bless his heart. And, like him, I didn’t… actually achieve this…

Spin: A Pastoral. Kind of

It circles like an anxious beau
In pacing circles far too close
In humid bursts of dread bestows
A forceful nature, bellicose

The serial affair we had
Was island sunsets, ocean views
How could a love like that go bad?
Why do these storms keep rolling through?

Though names might change, the wild endures
Returns each June, November, peaks
Atlantic coastal life’s allure
Diminishes as twisters shriek.

I so wanted to end that alliteratively with cyclones shrieking, but alas, in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific, it’s a “hurricane.” In the Northwest Pacific it’s called a “typhoon.” “Cyclones,” meanwhile, only live in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. Oh, well.

I thought I was done with my pastoral experience when reality provided me with a new poem. Yay! Songs of Experience! Or something.

I’ve written previously about my arachnophobia and learning to breathe through the EEEEEEEEEK reflex to destroy with fire what frightens me — I feel it’s hypocritical (I’m talking to me, about me – ymmv) if I talk a big game about dealing honestly and bravely with people who intimidate or frighten (Black people, LGBTQ people, teenaged people, people with Confederate memorabilia; Your Prejudice Here___________) and not practice what I preach all the way, right? (Disease vector insects I draw the line at, however – I will kill allllll the ticks and mosquitoes I see.) It is, however, HARD. The fear – and the bugs – are with us, all unexpectedly, every single day. Which brought me to the next poem…

Bugged: Kind of a pastoral

I woke to find …a weevil in my hair
(Its nest within the cornmeal bag now gone)
My maddened flailing urged it land elsewhere –
where terra firma could be counted on.

That classic, “nature, red in tooth and claw”
Is not within suburban pastures green.
My shepherdessing dreams have fatal flaws
(Not solely lacking sheep, but herding genes).

The plants and flowers beautify the yard.
My veggie patch brings savor to each meal
But nature – insects – leave a calling card
That tells me that they find “my” things ideal.

Yes, cheek-by-jowl, in homes across the land
We live within the natural world’s embrace.
Poorly we share resources, contraband,
Pitch territory wars for breathing space.

Can we romanticize the trilling thrush
While spraying DEET on any bug that stirs?
Not “all things bright and beautiful” are flush
with favored human traits like cuddly fur!

Yet…fruit flies drive me mad. I will admit
I’m not a fan of ants, or – ugh – hornworms.
Arachnophobes backslide – we’re hypocrites
Who fight our natures, even as we squirm.


As always, my fellow Poetry Sisters took this idea and ran with it all different directions. Sara’s plays on elegy‘s heartstrings; Laura would like us to Come live with her and be her… annoyance; Liz’s vacation photos brought her poem to life; Tricia, possibly longing for recess, has written all over her homework; Rebecca’s hopeless reach for the ephemeral and Andi’s for fast-flying jewels bring painful beauty to life. We’re waving this month to sister Kelly as she is resting up for great things.


Poetry Friday is graciously hosted today at Library Matters. May you live surrounded by the natural world this weekend – in the most beautiful and non-threatening of ways… with falling leaves. Happy Autumn.

{p7: if it walks like a snake… something’s wrong}

Happy sneaky pre-autumn!

It’s been a wildly busy month thus far — I feel like a got a few things done, namely putting up some peach butter and drying a lot of peaches and freezing some other peaches… and our chorus resumed this week, so I am already hip-deep in new music. It’s all in Spanish, so I’m doubly glad I kept up with my Spanish studies this summer, and I’m understanding at least 80% of what I’m reading! This is super exciting! (Never fear I’m smug; my pronunciation probably sounds like I’m speaking intoxicated Welsh.)

The only snake in the garden is… well, there’s not one, unfortunately, that’s the problem. I actually ADORE snakes, even the ones that surprise me in the yard (I KNOW. I’ve not yet met a poisonous one in the yard, but even then, we’ll probably just respectfully leave each other alone). Laura’s challenge this month was for us to use a snake metaphor we haven’t used before, in a poem maxing out at eight lines.

This was DAUNTING. I’ve used every “narrow fellow in the grass” metaphor that I could think of before. I once wrote a sonnet to my snake. I didn’t know that I could come up with something new.

We didn’t share our process as a group, so this month, every single Poetry Peeps poem is a happy surprise to me, too. Kel’s all snaked-out and will join us again later, but Laura started us off sweetly, and then Andi surprised herself, Sara brought the weather, Rebecca saw snakes everywhere, Tricia got technical, and Liz slid in before the finish line.

Incidentally, Poetry Friday is hosted by Sylvia and Janet at Poetry for Children right here, and did you see the faculty for the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), biennial conference???? Our very own Princess Liz will take part, as well as some other really special poets, including Naomi Shihab Nye, Jacqueline Woodson and Traci Sorrell!!! WOW.


When I’m stumped for poem topics, I think about what’s new with me. As I’ve mentioned, we moved this summer and we’re around the corner from a high school, a block away from an elementary school, and a block and a half away from a junior high. It’s nice to go on my walk while others are trudging to zero period, secure in the knowledge that I will never, ever, ever face zero period again… *Ahem.* As I was saying, living so school-adjacent is entirely new, and so I thought of what I could do with that… and somehow add snakes.

BEGINNING

A shrewdness of discerning tweens
A scamper of their anxious folks
A freshness of “first day!” school scenes
A catch-up made of snark and jokes

A schedule labyrinthine as snakes
Stumbling cross-campus, end to end
A tiredness heavy as lead —
Ends all first days. Thank God for bed.

It was a minimum day, but even so, you could see the difference between kids walking to school, and walking home. They were BEAT. I’m sure the teachers were, too – I remember that feeling, and salute you all who felt it a couple of weeks ago.

Fremont 288

ENDING

From Mission Peak the sun sinks low
Final salute to end of day.
Fog, coiled cool like nestled snakes
Encircles foothills and the Bay.

Outstretched, a shadow’s arms yawn wide
Offers of rest, and work to cease.
Breeze-ruffled leaves with night scents sigh
As twilight’s blueing light breathes peace.

I can feel the season changing – the overcast morning and the cooling evening. Some of you can feel other nastier things, mainly high winds and oppressive rain. Be well, East Coast friends. A peaceful weekend with the grace of rest to you all.

{pf with p7: what’s the skinny?}

June, and the chaos has been unleashed. I won’t bore you with all of it, but our friends’ baby came – two and a half weeks early, so none of the handmade gifts we’d started were finished in time (like the baby cares), my deadline is this month, and I didn’t realize a week ago, the Monday of Memorial Day, that I’d be moving house. I am! Next Monday, in fact. So, yeah, it’s barely June, yet a lot has happened.

Fortunately, somehow poetry happened, too.

This month’s challenge is Skinnys. The Skinny, invented in 2005 by poet Truth Thomas, is a short form with eleven lines, the first and eleventh of which can be any length. The eleventh and last line use the same words, in the same order or rearranged. The second, sixth, and tenth lines are identical. (Skinnys have a linked form, which would be amazing to play with too.) And all other lines but the first and last are a single word – thus the name of “skinny,” as they appear rather narrow. Unless you’re me, and cannot stop yourself from using really long words.

Le sigh. Yes. Once again, I struggled with this form. Things that restrict my word count/usage are hard – but things without restrictions? Very hard. Poetry: challenging, every single time. Ah, well. Thematically, Skinnys are often on serious topics – but with so few brief words, they can easily slide into moroseness. I tried to balance my depressive tendencies with short verbs and punchier topics. It helped to just keep writing, and keep experimenting – I got to where I was literally waking up to write Skinnys after dreaming them. The neat thing about this form is that you can write a great many poems in a short amount of time. Today I’ll share just a couple.

Hypnagogic

on the edge of sleep, a dream of falling
sudden
start
abrupt
spasm
sudden
heartbeat
acceleration
another
sudden
falling of dream, of a sleep on the edge

Malignant

metastasis, a silent sword, speeding
spreading
poison
spiteful
blight
spreading
baneful
toxic
fright
spreading
silence. Metastasis, speeding a sword.

This last woke me to remind me of Miss Phine, an infant who gifted me with new wonder for my species.

Homo Familial

sometimes I love them so much
occasionally
humanity
inherently
baffling
occasionally
incredible
relatable
invaluable
occasionally
instinctively
Love times Them. Sum: so much I.

This June chaos has unleashed itself all over, so a few of the Sisters will be poetrying along into next week. You’ll find serious and silly from Laura, a last minute but determined Tricia’s best, here; a very sweet return to the ring from Kelly, and the one who challenged us, Andi’s poem here. Sara, Liz, and Rebecca will check in later in the month.

Poetry Friday flourishes under the love and care of Cousin Mary Lee; if you haven’t signed up for a week to host, and you’re feeling brave, join the party! Poetry Friday this week is hosted at the blog of illustrator Michelle Kogan (do check out her work) who gathers us this week to celebrate poet laureate Tracy K. Smith.

Meanwhile, June rolls on. May you ride out the chaos into the middle of a summer calm. Just remember:

{pf: the p7 get dizzied by dizains}

The new month has burst upon us like …well, a lot like a sudden shower of rain. Because we keep having those. And I am not even mad about it. We’ve also got early strawberries at the Farmer’s Market, so… you win some… and then you win some more, if you have a hat in the car.

May is National Mental Health month, and this is my annual – weekly? – reminder to you all to be excellent one to another, because truly — “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” – Amelia Earhart. After all, it’s SPRING! Time to make things grow, good people.


Poetry Princess Sara challenged us to dizains this month, which turned out to be… oddly mechanical. We were discussing how sometimes poetry seems to require us to …look things up and make specific connections with definitions and distinctions in order for mere words to turn into wordplay. The French poetic form dizain (not to be confused with dizaine which either means a decade or “about ten” in French) is regimented – ten lines, ten syllables per line, and a strict rhyme scheme – ababbccdcd. I found myself looking up things which were square, or ten, because it felt awkward, at first! I found that the form kind of builds on itself, and halfway through, the rhyme pattern begins to echo the pattern from the beginning, building a kind of square. Sara decided we could have a bonus point if we used the word “square” in our poems (from the Imaginary Point-Giving Poetry Body), so off we went.

My first poem was kind of a joke – my siblings and I play cards at my parents’ house once a month, in order to see them and each other more regularly, and we were making a disorderly mess last weekend, and my father was patiently …doing dishes. While we played. This is not the pattern of my childhood AT ALL, so that was… spectacularly weird, to be honest. But it got me thinking how much we girls (and my poor lone brother) disrupted my father’s #goals for order and peace. And, since my Dad was a bricklayer just out of high school, and that uses square…

Netherlands 2018 690

All the bricks you could want.

Daughters, Or Things That Messed Up Dad’s Life

Brick by brick, the Mason’s art constructed
Scaffolding, hod, cement in balance tied
Calculus, a symphony conducted
With “joints” and “beds,” and squarely dignified
As sums meet stone, and stone is satisfied.
Bull-nosed – both brick and man – he made life’s call
For “soldiers” in a row, chaos forestall.
No fickle furbelow accommodate
Geometry the goal, once and for all.
But Life provides girl-chaos to frustrate…

(I was reminded that CHILDREN, not just daughters, are the point of chaos, and so I concede. However, a good soldier makes do, and my father has.) That was a good entry poem for me, because I got to use a lot of technical terms (soldiers is a way to lay bricks – in a specific line. Who knew! [Well, Dad, probably]) and got to grips with the weird rhyme scheme. I decided to look further at squares… with dance.

Having attended religious schools my whole life, I never experienced the “fun” so many of my friends and relatives complained about (middle school + dancing for PE = tales of woe). I can’t square dance – or dance at all – but was delighted to discover that for an allegedly simple country dance, square dance has tons of serious adherents and technical terms. A ‘promenade’ is itself a whole dance subgenre! So, I was off again:

Treasure Island 35

Around the Quad

The Promenade brings sweethearts, two by two
With mincing steps, into a perfect square.
Striding in step along the avenue
Forward-and-back, the dancers walk on air
A ‘side-by-side’ that’s truly debonair.
Seeing – and being seen – the highest goal
As gents and ladies proudly take a stroll.
Walk where the lights are bright – all eyes on you
And never mind the critics on patrol —
Just do-si-do on to your rendezvous.


But, wait, there’s more! Sara’s poem uses more technical builder‘s terms, Liz is all science. Rebecca is, of course, quantum science, while Tricia found myriad other disciplines. Poetry Princesses Kelly, Andi, and Laura are off creating their own experiments elsewhere this month.

Need a bit more poetry? Poetry Friday today is hosted by the fabulous Jama-j, at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

Glasgow Botanic Gardens T 15

One last Mental Health Month reminder: “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu

{pf: p7 does anagrams}

Ah, it is April, the month, that, according to Ms. St. Vincent Millay, “Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.” (Am I the poetry nerd who exchanged that poem with a college friend the first of April every year? Yes, yes I am. Do we still yearly exchange that poem, in full or in part? Yes. Because we’re STILL those nerds.)

In this month of rain, rain, more rain, weeds, floods and renewal, my Poetry Sisters nerds and I have set before ourselves a fairly robust challenge…anagrams. Anagram poems are varied – they can be the title of an existing poem, using the words created from the title to describe it. They can have no particular rhyme or rhythm, but each of the end words is an anagram variant. They can be a series of variations on a word or phrase, in its anagram variations. We had inspiration, word lists, and anagram creators, and a lot of blank paper. Not giving ourselves too many limitations was meant to make this challenge easier… but, anagrams, people. NOT EASY. And, I freely admit that all of these are bad – so very, very bad – but fun.

I mean, just ask Laura. Or Sara. Or Andi, or Liz, or maybe Tricia and Rebekah. Don’t ask Kelly, though, she’s just watching the carnage with genteel horror.

Glencoe 30

Because… ME, I started out with a theme. (My gosh, I needed some kind of guard rails and training wheels on this thing.) Being as last month was National Women’s History Month, I did several ‘Herstory’ poems, and managed to amuse myself. I tried ‘Spring’ as a thematic element, anagramming ‘pastel,’ then anagrammed some Rumi quotations – because he sounds both profound and wildly unfettered in his words. I anagrammed my name, which was weird (Savants Aid It? Really???), then a few random phrases. It took a long, long time to find my feet with this, which means I need to try it again and again until it becomes not such an oddly-shaped form in my brain. I’d say it was fun, but it was …more addictive? An inescapable challenge? Something. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop. So – here are a few of the myriad ways my brain jumped, vis-a-vis anagrams.


HERSTORY I.

Whilst sprawling in the spa
The Queen declared, “You’re saps.
You could jump in to save your skin
But you’re clueless. Buy a map!”
Mark Antony’s faux pas
Left Cleo in the wrong:
Held to the Romans’ iron law
Queen Cleo exited – stage asp.


BLUSH

Caspar 04 HDR

A springtide staple
Adorning both pleats
And sweet picnic plates,
pink breathes palest
in the perfumed pastel
of cherry blossom petals


SPRING’S MADNESS

This anagram, “spring’s madness” is a phrase that I worked hard to make sensible. I wasn’t entirely successful, but it was an amusing, realistically inarticulate look at how “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” As they say, “life comes at you fast…”

I. In the mall
Mr. spending. Sass!
Spasm sends grin
Miss Rang spends.

Madness springs —
Man sends sprigs…
Grand mess spins!
(And sperms sings)

II. Disillusion
Nags Ends Prisms
Snags pends rims
Dangers spin, Ms!
Designs – Mr snaps!
Pangs rends Miss
Sadness pings Mr

Grasp mends sins
Spars mend. Sings!
Sass. Mend, Spring!

III. Cue HEA
A Sign: Mr Spends.
Sass pending… Mrs?

Mass pends: Rings!!!
Drams. Pens. Signs.
…Mass ends. SPRING!
Snaps. Signed. MRS!

Prams send signs…


WHAT IS APRIL POETRY?

Perhaps A Pier, Portly, into which our words might come.
Perhaps it’s a Reality Prop – IRL’s totes humdrum.
Possibly it adds a sparkle, like Literary Pops?
Or an Ear Pilot: Pry-ing out all the stops?

Start your own Riot! Reapply those skills,
Add a Parley Tip, Or keep writing “until”
The show goes on, times 3, like Opera — Triply
And as you Repair To Ply may your words be set free.


Poetry Friday is brought to you by the letter a, and the number 7, and is hosted this week by the über-creative Karen Edmisten @ The Blog With the Shockingly Clever Title. May you have a delightful weekend, full of wild words and soft winds.

{pf: p7 marches in with masks}

On the four weeks and five days before the Equinox, my plum tree gave to me… a surprising number of blooms, which I tried vainly to tell it to hang onto until temps got above the thirties at night and the wind slowed from 30 mph gusts.

It did not listen.

This honestly should be no surprise; the starlings did not listen when I explained to them last year that a nest over the front door was not really the most advantageous spot, the little cat from the house behind us does not listen when I beg him or her not to sleep on top of the plant in the walkway — the ladybug horde that has moved in does not listen when I gently try to entice them with the advantages of the great outdoors. I don’t know why I expected anything different from my tree. Spring comes whether it is pouring or dry, whether I think it is way early or no, whether it is convenient to the sinuses or not (it is NOT. Ever). And so, it is coming, a dive-bombing bird of prey, screaming across the sky, with talons extended, and with no brakes. Um, welcome Spring.

For reasons made clear in the previous paragraph (just call me Dolly Dramatica), this month’s poetry challenge was a good match for my particular brain. Mask poems are poems in which the reader slips into the soul of an inanimate object or an animal, and looks out through its eyes, answering questions of what it sees, what it thinks, or how it reacts to what’s going on around it – or with the poet. What does a snowflake want to say about itself, before it’s gone? A pair of gloves, a cell phone, a turtle? The poet takes the opportunity to embody another – an excellent excuse to pretend – and to consider a question in a voice that isn’t quite one’s own.

Because Laura initiated our challenge this month, I set myself the additional challenge of writing a poem that might suit a child. Laura is very good at consistently using our challenges to write poems for children and teachers, who are her readers, so however successfully/unsuccessfully, I’ve tried to take an animal-and-upbeat page from her book today. I’d say it was unsuccessfully, but hey – I was mindful not to be depressive, at least! I call that PROGRESS.

You might wonder if you’ve ever met a black phoebe. They’re a variant of flycatcher, and they’re they hardest darned things to photograph, ever. They’re tiny, smaller than a sparrow – more finch-sized, really, and ALWAYS moving, flicking their tail, abruptly leaping up or diving, and zipping all over, deeply unconcerned with what you’d like them to do – much like all of my other backyard neighbors.

Peachtree 244

a plum tree sings of phoebe

Black phoebe sits and sings near me
Concerned with only my gnat pests
He could care less that I’m a tree
With Damson blossom buds as guests.
Just bugs for him. His whistled call
Says mostly that it’s “time to eat!”
My branches reach for Sunlight’s fall.
(My leaves are waiting ’til there’s heat.)

My human comes to fuss at me
And gently touch a blossom guest.
She worries there’s no guarantee
That frost won’t make my branches stressed.
But phoebe flits, and doesn’t know
If flies tomorrow he will find –
“But look,” he tweets, “the lily grows!”
(Birds worry less than people-kind.)

Black phoebe, dining on the fly
Nabs lacewing here, a moth elsewhere –
Aerial antics amplify
The birdkind version of a prayer
To Spring. To flight, to frigid wind
As blossoms shimmy in the breeze –
Sing, even if the world should end
Use beauty’s balm your mind to ease.


There are more masks hiding and revealing all sorts of things amongst the poetry sibs this month. Laura’s enlightening us, while Sara’s sharing treasures. Liz is in the kitchen, while Rebecca is using windows as eyes. Tricia was gluing the last bits of her mask together as she also leapt a tall building in a single bound, while Kelly and Andi have hung up their masks for today, so we’ll see them next time.

Poetry Friday is graciously hosted today @TeacherDance. Thank you, Linda B!

Ah, friends, I’ve heard it in the chillest land (which is where it feels like most of us live just now) -/ And on the strangest Sea (also what we live in now on the West Coast, despite this bright blue picture on a briefly dry afternoon)-/ Yet – never – in Extremity,/ It asked a crumb – of me.

Miss Emily reminds us that no matter where we are, we must listen for it… Singing, I mean. Get out and listen to things with feathers this weekend. And if you can’t hear the hope, sing it aloud for someone else. Tough times for many of us just now, but holding each other up, we’re going to make it. Keep singing.

Peachtree 243

{p7 on pf: a patchwork of a cento}

“I cannot hide my anger to spare you guilt, nor hurt feelings, nor answering anger; for to do so insults and trivializes all our efforts. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.”

Greetings and salutations: It’s Poetry Friday, and is anyone else mildly bewildered that it’s September? While no one can say this summer has gone by quickly – no one who was has been wilting in the heat or sucking down smoke – that we’re officially motoring towards Autumn is a bit surprising… ah, well, on with the dance.

How I did it: While found poetry is typically difficult for me, this month’s cento challenge was a doozy. After TEN YEARS (this past April) of making poetry together with these ladies, I would not have wasted time whining about how difficult this was, except if we’re too quiet, it makes Sara leery, so WOW, THIS WAS HARD, UGH, GOSH, CENTOS, ARGH. Better, Sara? Onward:

From the Latin word for “patchwork” a cento is a collage poem made up of lines from poems by other poets. For our poetic quilt, the Poetry Sisters chose a single stanza from “I See Chile In My Rearview Mirrow by New Delhi poet Agha Shahid Ali. From this poem, we then chose a single word from a selected stanza around which to build our collage.

Finding poems for centos can be challenging, but a quick shortcut is to put your chosen word into the search engine at Poets.org and proceed from there. Out of the plethora of interesting choices, I chose like, which was common enough to give me too many options for poems, so I limited myself to only five pages of results from Poets.org, and twenty-seven poems, which I whittled down to a mere seventeen. Happily, this choice also opened my poem up to myriad cultural and ethnic diversities as well, as we move from the past to the present, through myriad continents and genders and faiths.

Making Meaning: It’s challenging to make meaningful poetry out of patchwork, however – having to leave the words of the poems in the order in which they were within their individual works made this even more difficult. However, because I have still been reflecting on my recent foray into harpy-ism, I found myself with ample fodder for the whirling emotions in the lines which presented themselves. Reflecting on how I had felt in the moment just after an insult, I found a backing for the swirling patchwork, and I pinned my individual bits in various places and orders until they felt true.


ozone & petrichor (after lightning)

i.
I would like to describe the simplest of emotions

ii.
it was like this:
like a feather on an arrow shot through a neck other times
like brooms of steel.
like sunlight, in fog
breaking like oil. the night
smelled like a dead frog.
a rose like a screw
drawn out of my breast like a rib.

I know this is an all-black-people-look-alike moment…
I have never been anything like pink
& lord knows, I have been called by what I look like.
Just like that, I’m a flung open door.
I run around like mad –
Like them, I wanted — only to die, moon-dark. Blessed,
unnoticed. now they look suspended, like heroes
a dream still clinging like light to the dark,
as the mist disappeared. like a curtain, open,
maybe. its flaws, like cracks
leaking in and out in all directions

iii.
mistress, eyes are nothing. like the sun
like a million dollar god with a two-cent
rim-shot, history, like a shadow, passes.


Closing Credits: And there’s even more cento-y goodness from the Sisterhood. Laura meets this month’s challenge through glass, Tricia found a truly envy-producing title, Sara, who set our challenge this month, sees all that is before us, while Liz breaks down breaking/brokenness. From their cushy chairs on the sidelines, Andi and Kelly meanwhile wave their pom-poms in our general direction, cheering us onward.

The true gift of a cento is the impetus to read widely – and wildly – a number of different types of poems one might not have otherwise attempted. To best appreciate the rich cloth from which each piece of patchwork is cut, you are invited to find a line you feel is especially intriguing, and read its antecedent poem.


This week’s Poetry Friday host is Beyond Literacy Link. Here’s to corralling the various whirling emotions that we might have and pinning them down into poetry. A cento style might not make it as easy to impose order onto your world as, say, a sonnet, but there is something to be said for using whatever feelings you have – however you feel – to make an orderly mind out of chaos.

” We use whatever strengths we have fought for, including anger, to help define and fashion a world where all our sisters can grow, where our children can love, where the power of touching & meeting another woman’s difference & wonder will eventually transcend the need for destruction.” Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays & Speeches (Berkeley: Crossing Press, 2007), 124-133

Hat tip to Tech Boy who made my little table in ten minutes, when I would have had to work carefully, with a lot of scowling and muttering, for an hour or more.

{pf: the p7 & the sestina scourge}

Okay, so maybe “scourge” was dramatic, but this, y’all, has been… just about impossible.

Don’t get me wrong – every month, I adore the challenge of pitting myself against a poetic form, but the sestina and me… we’ve just never managed to do more than approach a strained détente and limp back to our respective corners to lick our wounds.

The form… just… repeats a word. Not a whole phrase, a word. That should be no harder than a pantoum or a villanelle, right? And yet, because of the length, perhaps, or the lack of rhyming, the tetrameter, or perhaps the specific order of the word repetitions… well, for whatever reason, it just seems much harder. The list of end words from which we were to choose six seemed fine at first – nothing wrong with face, down, mirror, ground, prism, prison, block, bend, wishes, beam, string, or blade, but eventually they were too concrete, too unwieldy, too… blah, blah, blah. Something.

Add to that, a creeping horror over the vast and terrible fires consuming my home state and my adopted country while suffering a soul-sucking loss of faith in humanity from the decay rate of our disintegrating Republic, bleak discouragement over a new diagnosis which might lead to surgery, generalized introvert anxiety over house guests, as well as the stomach ‘flu in the SUMMER, and you may well understand that my mental state was not all that it might have been for the construction of this poem.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

With locked jaw and gritted teeth. Scowling fiercely.

Won’t you celebrate with me? I’m still here. Still. Here. Dang. It.

As are my sisters Tricia, and Laura, and Sara, — as well as Kelly, Liz, and Andi, though those three are down at the boardwalk just now. Through packing and moves and trips and illnesses and too many meetings and family – still here. The battle this month is to those who finish, no matter when it happens. Slog on, ladies.

Here’s mud in the eye of all the things trying to ruin our day.

Battle Plan

A countermove for every move you block
A spark and it could all burn to the ground.
A breath could tip the house of cards you face;
They count you out, but you will not stay down.
Resolve a whetstone sharpening your blade
In battle’s heat you will not break, but bend.

How fine the line exists ‘tween ‘break’ and ‘bend’
What makes ‘assist’ turn into ‘stumbling block?’
There’s no help up from those who’ve fallen down
No stopping ‘floor’ from meeting with your face…
At least you walked before you met the ground –
So trial by fire creates a stronger blade.

It parries; thrusting, slashing with a blade
We nimble fighters long must strike and bend
Not moving meekly to the chopping block
We slash and stab until we’re falling down…
Bedtime. Tomorrow we must battle face
For now, retreat, regroup, and go to ground.

And this is where we find our common ground:
That all of us are wounded by this blade
That all, whip-scourged and raw, before it bend
And all, hauled fighting, to life’s butcher block.
And all of us death hunts, and will drag down
We’ll “go not gentle.” That, we could not face.

Still spitting venom in disaster’s face
We won’t just let it drag us underground.
A change of route avoids each sly roadblock,
We pray for open roads around the bend.
Audacity shines, hope-bright on the blade
The slingshot wielding shepherd boy brings down.

“He’s small – but won’t take trouble lying down.”
“She killed a giant?” – Shock on every face.
“But, when the gristmill grinds you up, you’re ground!
And, I heard you were bludgeoned by that blade!”
They didn’t see you learning how to bend…
Mustering moxie through each stumbling block.

A starter block for scything setbacks down:
First, stand your ground. Look trauma in the face
Then draw your blade and make the bastard bend.


Shout out to Josh Mandel’s useful and beautiful sestin-a-matic for help in remembering those tricky repeat patterns, especially in the envoi. Visit the site, click through, and choose a few words of your own, if you’re feeling poetically frisky. Sestinas really are a delightful challenge… when you’re not in a vile mood. Or, maybe they still are, but your sestina might end up being a teensy bit combative. Whatever, right?

Poetry Friday today is brought to you by the letter U and the number 8, and is hosted at my play cousin Mary Lee’s blog, A Year of Reading.

{p7 on pf lift a glass & w r i t e}

Every once in a while, I go through my blog’s drafts folder and find posts I began and never finished, or finished and never published. Sometimes, the reason is crystal clear – they were too moody, too personal, too specific. We always want to show our best selves in public, after all. But, every once in a while I find unfinished gems. I started a post last June, after Robin Smith died, and I was “all up in my feelings,” as it were, pondering her exhortation to me to keep writing despite the chaos in the world. (And there was chaos closer to home, too – after Robin passed, we had houseguests from across the country to entertain, my Mom went back to work, Tech Boy got a new job, and within two weeks, we’d abruptly moved out of a place we’d been for the five years since we moved back from the UK – it was A LOT. Too much, really.) I was groping my way through what those words meant to me. I did eventually publish something on writing near the end of June, and will eventually share the blog fragment — but today is more for my thoughts based on those words.

The fragment was some very descriptive thoughts on writing – and writing through life’s chaos – and as a jumping off point for the Seven Sisters Poetry Challenge this month, that’s my topic. Now, this month, Sara’s challenge was for us to write a toast. Or, kind of a toast, anyway; more of a salute to a…thing. Toasts for non-drinkers don’t come up a lot, but I gave it my best shot in three glasses.

three tools, one toast

A quill! A quill! The poet needs a quill
to scribe in blood the pain of loss
to lance the flesh and drain the wound
to coolly plot a double-cross
signal a shipwreck left marooned
A quill! A quill! All hail the mighty quill.
      ♦
A pen! A pen! All celebrate the pen
chips ice from frozen seas inside
a two-edged sword, which cut both ways
a whetstone to the tongue applied
we cross out lines and then rephrase –
A pen! A pen! All celebrate the pen.
      ♦
A word! A word! the writer seeks a word
elusive as a unicorn
it hovers just beyond one’s reach
grasped for in joy and hurled in scorn
its figure lent to grace your speech
A word! A word! the writer seeks a word.


Sara’s rules for “A Toast! A Toast!” were merely that we had to begin and end each poem with the same two words. (After setting the challenge, even SHE found this supremely difficult!!!). The crew is off in seven different directions this month, so we may not all get to this challenge at the same time, but we raise a glass to Laura in Cyprus, Sara in an airplane between here and there, Andi in the garden, Kelly in the studio, Tricia under a pile of final projects, Liz dashing between school and daughters, and me packing for vacation. The poetry must go on!

Poetry Friday is being hosted by the gracious Brenda Davis Harsham at Friendly Fairytales. Pop over to visit her beautiful garden-centric blog.

{pf: seven sisters and a february tanka}

Another month (was January sixteen years long, or was that just me???), another poetic endeavor with the Seven Sisters! This month we’re visiting Moscow (brrr, in spirit only, it’s far too chilly to venture that direction these days) to stride the wide boulevards surrounding this lovely bit of Moscow called by Muscovites “Vysotniye Zdaniye,” or “the tall buildings.” That nondescript description is more fancifully known to Westerners as “Stalin’s Seven Sisters.” While this is basically one gigantic architectural wedding cake, each of the seven buildings has its own distinct spire.

In our poetic endeavors this month, we’ve been tasked to create tankas – but with a tiny catch. Our topics were chosen for us, as each of us was to respond this month to another sister’s sonnet from last month. You’ll find Sara’s here, right here is Liz’s; Laura’s is here, and along with an explanation of the form, Kelly’s is here, and Tricia’s, here. We wish Andi a happy February, and hope catch up with her another time.

I am fairly certain that I got the easiest assignment out of the crew. Kelly’s winsome little beauty, Kismet made words sparkle from Kelly’s pen, and certainly Kismet easily lent herself to the tanka form, which traditionally celebrated the glories of nature. Well, nothing more natural than a cat falling asleep while plotting world domination, right? I mean, if they could just stay awake long enough, we might need to worry. But, otherwise, nah.

I played with the idea of what it means to “respond” to the sonnet, and, since we’ve encountered tankas before repeatedly in this poetry project, I also tried harder on the “turn,” that comes in the third line of the tanka form. Conventional wisdom suggests that this “turn” could be both used as a widening of perspective, bridging topics between the top and bottom lines, or for a complete turn of attitude. This makes it fun to use Kismet in the sense of destiny, and as the subject of our poems.

o, mighty huntress

russet drab, and dun
flap/flutter/peck unceasing.
double-glazed reprieve
denies this bat-eared huntress.
Crouch gains curl, then, pounce turns purr.

days of dozing

what calico dreams
await the fuzzball, sleeping?
the feline kismet
paws splayed, claws keen to capture
at least one fluffed-up sparrow.

as told by k2

sunbeams shift closer
that translucent obstacle
unimpaired by claws slashing
frames distraction. my human,
eyes dreaming, hears Muses sing

wayfarer

all hard ground and horns
the world is colder, outside
landing on her feet
she’s found warm laps and purring
not all who wander stay lost

Around Glasgow 596

Last week’s Poetry Friday host, Carol Varsalona, invited me to join the Winter Wonderland Gallery, where throughout the months of January and February, the poetry community will be sharing poems, photography, illustrations and reflections on the stillness and artistry of the natural world this season. Carol invites us to share “YOUR perspective of the winter season in any of these mediums: photographs, videos, digital slide shows, songs musical compositions, artistic renderings, collages, illustrations, digital inspirations, image poems, inspirational quotes, sketches, or hand-draw pictures. Share your inspirations globally.” Drop by, friends, and check it out.

Meanwhile, further poetry can be found at Poetry Friday, hosted this week by Donna JT Smith @ Mainley Write.

Pack as much introspection and discovery as you can into these crisp winter mornings. It’s the shortest month of the year. Make every day significant.