Check in: Welcome, Poetry Peeps! It’s nearly August, and a lot has happened this last month! Laura has requested that with this post we update each other, so I’m pleased to share that I’ve just gotten to vote on my favorite voice-over artist for SERENA SAYS, my middle grade book coming out in November, and I’ve just turned in the first draft of my 2021 WIP, and I am attempting to write wildly improbable fantasy as a palette cleanser. Who knows if anything will come of it; the purpose is to have fun and try to be funny – to relax into just ridiculous. I’m still gardening (badly) but my salvia is blooming and my carrots are many. Success is what you make of it.
Peeps, how are you???
Etheree Taylor Armstrong arrived February 13, 1918 and departed this mortal coil on March 14, 1994. She was a poet from Arkansas, and what little else we know of her is derived from the poetic style that she invented – she was deliberate and organized, and good with numbers. That is, in my opinion, what one needs to work with the etheree.
The etheree’s simplicity is deceptive – anyone can compose ten lines with syllables matching the numbered line. But, making the poem thematically meaningful whilst counting syllables is more of a challenge.
Jump in the Wayback Machine with me and check out Sara’s, John’s, and Kelly’s from 2015, when we made our first etheree attempts. (Sara’s on the move, and Kelly’s seeing to hubby’s knees, and John’s waving from afar – all with us in spirit.) Our theme this time around was purposefully vague – summer or foresight – and I think we did it justice: Here’s Laura’s, and Tricia’s; Liz’s etheree is here. Michelle’s is here. Don’t forget to let us know where you posted yours!
A glance at the paper this week mentioned the possibility of a California running-mate on the election ticket this November. Whatever one’s political leanings, the heavy sigh in response to the reminder, “California is a code-word,” was probably loud and sustained throughout the state, knowing just how tiresome it’s all going to be. We expect the resurrection of the slew of slanderous comments about our “values;” our queer folk, our Latinx neighbors, our many vegetarians and vegans, our commitment to environmental justice, our film industry, and our tech folk. I have acquaintances who call themselves my friends yet are faintly hostile at the mention of California. I recall strangers following us singing “California girls” (the ugliest most objectifying sexist rubbish ever) when my sisters and I walked the streets of the one stoplight Louisiana town where we visited my grandparents. Eventually, one gets a thicker skin, but I cannot say I’m looking forward to more. This poem unpacked how I see myself in reference to my state – its reputation writ large against the small and varied lives which busily thrive here. My affection for my state is real, but it’s not “my State right or wrong” but more “my State, and maybe yours is a lot like it.” Wherever you’re from is home.
“the golden state,”
“land of fruits and nuts”
punch-drunk on sunshine, our
poppies even seem to glow.
few States polarize the nation:
bring Beach Boy dreams or fury, spitting
from strangers who have never breathed its air…
we, nightmare or California dreaming?
blue bowls of sky above the suburbs
blunt hills a thousand shades of gold
hazy blacktop mirages
fog-wreathed redwood forests.
stretching to the past
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
I enjoyed playing with the placement of the poem – I imagine it as a the swoops of the Golden Gate, reflected on the Bay on a still summer morning. This poem is kind of a thematic fail; this is meant to have been about SUMMER, and it’s a bit State heavy, but California – in its public narrative, at least – is rumored to be an endless summer. It’s wholly a tissue of lies, but still, it counts right? Right. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Poetry Friday is hosted today at Reading at the Core. We hope you embrace what’s left of summer with all your might – and may all roads lead you to wherever you call home.