{pf: the poetry peeps build a villa(nelle)}

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

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of August! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing after the style of Jane Yolen’s eight line, unrhymed poem, “What the Bear Knows,” a poem written in honor of her 400th book, Bear Outside. Our topic is What the ____ Knows, modeled here by Joyce Sidman. Maybe you may know something other than what a bear knows. Maybe you know what the finch knows? or what linden trees know? maybe fishing creels? …mailboxes?! Are you thinking of something? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on August 27th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


One of the problems with pulling your theme for the month out of your metaphorical hat is that occasionally that hat might have better suited another outfit. Either we were not in the mood for villanellery this month, or we’d nearly forgotten how to write one, or we remembered there was a theme mid-villanelle – and there’s really no good way to change partners once you’ve started this dance. Suffice it to say, we each had more than a few moments of “Ugh!!!” -but in the immortal words of Sara Lewis Holmes, “What the heck, I’ve gotta have something – so here I go:”

Viva La Villa(nelle)! Sara’s poem is here; Liz’s poem is here. Laura’s is here. Cousin Mary Lee’s is here, and Tricia’s is here. Andi and Kelly are out on the beach, but they’ll come inside at some point. Heidi’s in the villa, along with Denise, writing about truth and lies. Michelle is joining with us, and Donette wrote a villanelle, too, though for a different project. I really appreciated Margaret’s jeremiad villanelle. If this is your first time joining in, welcome! Other Poetry Peeps links will be dropped into the villa as I find them, so stay tuned!


Wait – whose bright idea was it to include dichotomy in this challenge? Oh, yeah, mine. ::sigh:: I started three villanelles, the first was contrasting past and future, which was fine, but sheesh, kinda grim. The second one, which I was really getting to like, started within the theme, but became completely mired in something wholly different – both off-theme and equally depressing. (This happens a lot for me when I have a repeating form. One sad thought gets bounced around endlessly.) SO! I started again, first taking time to read back over old villanelles from Poetry Seven projects in 2015, 2017, 2019 and the like. (Hmm… we do tend to hit this form in odd years, don’t we!?) I found that I often write villanelle when I’m emotional – qué sopresa, no? As I’ve mentioned, the repetition of the first and third lines, together with the iron-clad rhyme scheme tends to mimic how a thought can pound into the brain. Throughout the poem the theme tumbles over and over, end over end and if you’re not careful, you’ll get sick of the whole thing. Villanelles are really good for looking at all sides of a thing thoroughly.

My attitude toward friendship changed radically after seventh grade. After a year of false friends and being ignored en masse by almost all the girls who were once my friends, I learned to be all in, or all out – one or zero, nothing in between – if you showed the least little sign of turning on me, I’d find somewhere else to be. After eighth grade, and all the tearful promises of keeping in touch, I wondered, with a mixture of panic and plotting, what I’d do if I had to see those people again… Well. A couple of years ago, I found out… and honestly, this poem could have been my internal monologue. I imagine someone could perform this pretty well, slam-poetry style.

Attitude

Hah, no – I did not come here to be friends
My seventh grade heart bled to pay my dues
Now you’re my enemy – let’s not pretend.

You called me weird – said I would never blend
I tried, but you kept shifting social cues
So no, I did not come here to be friends.

Each cliquish tween sorority depends
On “Just ignore them, girls” – words which excuse.
Now? They’re my enemies. I won’t pretend.

Do you think that’s too much? Do you defend
Your “harmless childishness” like I’m confused?
Uh, no. I did not come here to make friends –

Nor did you – no, you came to condescend.
I shrank when bullied. You grew large, amused.
An enemy, clearly – let’s not pretend
~
We graduate together in the end,
They sign yearbooks and cry, keep up their ruse.
Years on – I will not look to them as friends
They made their choice – I refuse to pretend.

Mmm, nothing like the smell of scorched earth in the morning.

Poetry Friday today is hosted by Rebecca Herzog at Sloth Reads, which has one of the cutest little cartoon icons ever. A glasses wearing sloth! It me! Hop over to find more original and shared around poetry to kick off your weekend right. Don’t worry if you’re still mad over junior high – or your last job. It’ll pass, and if not, you can use it as fodder to make art which amuses you, if nothing else. The best revenge is living well – so take joy in your survival. ☮Happy Friday.☮


(NB: My mother would want me to add the caveat that poetry is a game of the mind, and I don’t really believe in enemies as a concept, just super difficult people, and of course I was perfectly chill and polite to former classmates, just… perhaps more chilly than my usual chill… Don’t worry – my ancestors remain unashamed. K? K.)

{#JLGSELECTION}

SO many of the books I read when I was a kid had affixed the little gold seal that read “A Junior Library Guild Selection.” I wasn’t quite clear on the details, but I knew it was shorthand for A Good Book. That’s why it’s really special to me that PARTLY CLOUDY is A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection! Yay!

{pf: the poetry peeps, zentangled}

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

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of July! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing villanelles on the topic of dichotomy – or, true opposites, if you will. Bifurcations. Incongruities. Paradoxes. Contradictions. We’re talking Luke/Darth (or is that a false dichotomy, and they’re two sides of the same coin??? Discuss), real or imagined, civilized v. savage, winter v. summer, function v. dysfunction. Interested? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on July 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


A Recounting of the Trials of Zentangling, Or, Artistic Poetry Wherein I Screwed Up: Okay, so the thing is, I am a CHAMPION doodler. I excel at mindless scribble that we could stretch ourselves and define as patterns. It’s not relaxing so much as… something I do when I’m not paying attention. You’d THINK I would be all over the Zentagle poetry form! Reader, I was not.

The process for a Zentangle poem is really enjoyable. I had a good time paging through catalogs in the mail, electronics manuals, and old grad school texts for likely words from which to craft poetry. I scanned pages which looked promising, and fiddled with them, using the computer to create squares and lines to show the correct flow of the words. I honestly found that part fairly simple, though there often wasn’t just the right word – or in the right form – to create the meaning I wanted, but that was mostly manageable. The poems tended toward the enigmatic – I felt like I was writing Poetry By Yoda, after a bit, but that was fine, too – from the Zentangle I’ve read, they do tend to be short, pithy and …sound more like quotations than poems, to my mind. (And yes: we had the whole What Is A Zentangle Poem, And Is This One Because I Say So” discussion amongst my Poetry Sisters. We decided YES, there are rules, but fewer than you’d think, but your mileage may vary.)

Where it fell apart for me was the artwork. At first, I used a highlighter and the first one I picked up was… horrifying pink. This was a mistake. I tried to fix it with yellow. Also a mistake. ::sigh::

The poem reads:

the system may reduce failure

if you adjust
the adjustable
you
alter
the
present

It’s not terrible, but I wish I’d gone an artistic direction other than…pink. ((Shudder))

On my second try, I decided to mingle color AND black and white. I tried doing the outline of an image FIRST, and tried to let the flow of the words suggest an image to me. It… kind of worked? A bit?

The poem reads:

the
Universal
exists
in pieces.
lived through history
simply,
focused using
forgetfulness
to connect,
we share
remembrance
as
indelible.

Finally I thought I had a clue – just use black and white. That’s what the Zentangle artists do, who don’t try and use words but just make patterns. However, somehow my black and white was …too thick of lines? Too uncertain of pen-strokes? Or something. In the end, mine looked more like it intended to be blackout poetry, and also like it needed a watercolor wash, which I didn’t dare try adding because a.) I don’t know how to watercolor and b.) it was busy enough. I like the poem better, though.

The poem reads:

Consider
acknowledging:
you have sometimes
hesitated
holding
back
love.
Over and over
the
loss,
while small has
a
weight.
it speaks,
volumes.

Whenever I whined – oh, so frequently – about this project, I remembered that Tricia’s stated purpose was to “push us beyond our comfort zones.” BOY, HOWDY did she succeed, so thank you, dear Tricia, I would never have attempted these on my own (and may never again. Perhaps. When the sting of defeat dies down a bit). I’m so excited to see what the rest of us came up with. Here’s Tricia’s zentangle, while Sara’s zentangle-ISH is here. We welcome Andi right here, and Cousin Mary Lee’s zentangle is here. Of course, artist Michelle zentangled with us, and Linda B’s zentangle is here. Carol V’s is summering here, Jone’s here, and here’s Margaret and Chicken Spaghetti’s blogger Susan! Welcome to the Poetry Peeps joining us for the first time! It’s been an intense month, and we’re all in different spaces with it, but as always, various Poetry Peeps will be added throughout the day, so stay tuned. Poetry Friday is capably hosted today by Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise. I hope your weekend is as randomly artistic and creative as you can make it. As Miss Frizzle says, “Where the road ends, adventure begins!” Here’s to pushing way beyond the boundaries of creativity (and good sense) this weekend.

{so, poetry peeps, feeling Zen yet? or just tangled?!}

Okay, is it me, or has anyone else found the Zentangle form a bit… much?! Have you felt like your designs were too busy, too messy, too wordy, or just somehow subtly wrong? Don’t despair! We can make this work! Remember – it’s supposed to be fun. (I am telling MYSELF this, trust me.)

If you’re in need of a little design help, Strathmore has some great examples of patterns for the Zentangle. Can’t wait to see what you come up with Friday!

{pf poetry peeps challenge: tangled up in Zen}

If you, like me, had never before heard of the zentangle art phenomenon, it began way back in 2003. People drew tiny doodles and …relaxed, I guess? (YMMV) With the recent resurgence of adult coloring books, zentangle picked up speed and gained a new form – found word poetry, which is more familiar ground. If you don’t feel you’re an artist, and the idea of defacing a book feels you with fear, use a copier, keep it short and simple, and let yourself try. Nothing to lose there, right? Above all else, Peeps, remember: this is supposed to be FUN.

{pf: p7 & the life ekphrastic}

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

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of June! Here’s the plan: We’re going to write a Zentagle Poem, on any topic. Interested? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on June 25th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


Sometimes, writing an ekphrastic poem is a lot of fun, and other times, it’s just this HUGE challenge. Art speaks to us in myriad ways, based on the day of the week or the angle of the light, and even once we narrowed down our plethora of museum images to two, I still struggled. There was so much to say about each piece! But, what united them? Or was there anything?

Well… I found a link, I think. But, I don’t remember. See, my laptop died… and my poetry, in an open file that was just kind of sitting on my desktop? Died with it. Even our conversation about the poems we wrote amongst the poetry sisters was lost, because it was in Zoom. SO. I had to start over… This morning.

Fortunately, I always begin my poems on paper – a dependable medium – and I recalled that we were playing around with the 4×4 Poem form as invented by Denise Krebs, which uses four syllables per line, four lines per stanza, and repeats the first line in the position of first through fourth line within the text. (And uses a bonus four syllable title!) Additionally, I remembered that I was struck by something one of the artists, Roy De Forest, said. “For me, one of the most beautiful things about art is that …it is one of the last strongholds of magic.”

That phrase reverberated.

the magic space

“the last stronghold
of magic, art”
look for me there,
learning, by heart

to make. believe.
the last stronghold
less “place to hide”
than to grow bold.

can spiders dress
in twists of wire?
the last stronghold
makes whimsy fire.

express yourself!
we’ll never scold
take up space in
the last stronghold.

Is this the poem I wrote? Nope. Is this the sentiment I wanted? Close. Is this what art does for us? It should!

The rest of my Poetry Peeps did a much better job – Tricia’s poem is here, Laura’s is right here, and Sara’s link is here. Kelly joins us her, and Liz’s project is here. Ruth’s ekphrastic is here, and Carol’s poem is here. Various Poetry Peeps will be added throughout the day, so stay tuned. Poetry Friday is beautifully hosted today by Michelle Kogan, who is occasionally one of our poetry peeps as well. Do pop over and check out her artwork! She’s even added an ekphrastic haiku!

EDITED TO ADD:

Hours later, Tech Boy took pity on me and dug into the old hard drive – bless him. He wrestled out two more poems for your perusal:

Artist’s Musings

Nothing alike:
Spider dresses
and wooden snakes –
Could both be art?

“Funk art” creates
nothing alike:
Bottle brushes
against brass wire –

A last stronghold
where magic hides
nothing. Alike
in artistry,

We make space, or
Make-believe we
are everything.
Nothing. Alike.

Ephemeral: Art

We make believe:
Bottlebrushes
Wire, and paint.
We call it art.

Spider dresses?
We make believe
With all eight legs,
Dance our hearts out.

A last stronghold,
where magic lives,
we make believe,
and art forgives.

The one safe place
Where magic hides
Is art’s embrace.
We make. Believe.

And I hope that you a.) have reliable technology, and b.) get out – or stay in – and make some art this weekend.


(ART WORK: Pictured from the left, Serpent and Spider Dress by Isamu Noguchi, and El Grande Hombre by Roy De Forest.)

{poetry friday: #marvelousmarylee}

My favorite people tend to be teachers. For whatever reason, they make me comfortable. I still internally identify as a teacher, though by the time I met one of my favorite teachers, Mary Lee Hahn, in person in 2010, I hadn’t been teaching at all, not even subbing, for three years. With her calm, comfortable personality, and innate Teacher-ness, Mary Lee became an instant member of my family – especially as she shares a name with one of my most popular book characters.

Especially over the past couple of years, I’ve enjoyed Mary Lee’s teaching through eavesdropping via what she’s shared on her blog or on her Twitter feed. Both the writing assignments she’s done with her students and the reading she’s done on bias and anti-racism and how they can warp a child’s education showed Mary Lee as a truly wise, generous and effective educator, working on honing her own awareness of what her students needed so that they could, in turn, go out and be what the world needs. I can’t go back in time to be one of her students or one of her colleagues, but I’m proud to be one of her friends. Cousin Mary Lee, congratulations on your retirement.

wave and water, fish and sea
cycles all of destiny
as the cloud becomes sea spray
each has their own part to play.

Little streamlets bubbling on
soon become the Amazon
Every stream then finds the sea
learns to flow forth naturally.

River’s tumble is well-known
fisherwoman turns for home
after all the tumbling roar
such relief to turn for shore

wide, the sea goes roiling free
plunging outward now, carefree
clouds emerge from shifting wave
mist the water must now brave –

Fisherwoman home has brought
memories of each fish, well caught
then released to live their days
flashing through the waterways

wave and water, fish and sea
cycles all of destiny
fish and fisher played their part
teaching, learning, works of heart.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Christine at Wondering & Wandering. Lots more poetry and raised glasses to Mary Lee there!

{poetry friday project: museum ekphrastic}

This month we’re celebrating the reopening of museums by choosing some of our favorite photographic images from exhibits and writing an ekphrastic poem in response. Join us us on May 28th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

(Pictured from the left, Serpent and Spider Dress by Isamu Noguchi, and El Grande Hombre by Roy De Forest.)

{#npm: 30 – innocence • p7 & pf}

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

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of May! Here’s the plan: We’re going to write an ekphrastic poem using a photograph taken in a museum. We’re sharing a few amongst ourselves, but we’re sure you have some of your own – and it’s a great way to get us revved up about going back to museums! Interested? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on May 28th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


Andi challenged us with Linda Hogan’s poem, “Innocence“ this week, a fitting finish to the entire National Poetry Month celebration. We wanted to go out with a boom and boy was it a doozy. Here’s what Sara did with it. Kelly and Laura are taking a breather this week, but Tricia’s poem is here, Kelly’s is here, Liz’s is here. Andi’s is here. Check in throughout the day to find out what other Poetry Peeps have done. If you’d like more Poetry Friday content, Matt Forrest Esenwine is graciously hosting the roundup at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme this week. Thanks, Matt!


“Innocence” is beautiful, deep and… utterly inimitable. It falls outside the usual topical sphere for my poetry, so I approached writing “in the style of” from a number of different angles. My Poetry Sisters all threw out their own recommendations, and I tried using haiku, then sijo, then mimicking Hogan’s topics – nature, growth – and her pattern of lines and syllables – 10-6-4. None of that really worked for me, so I set my attempts aside to really think about the title.

Contrary to all appearances, innocence is conceptually complicated, often a loaded concept for some growing up an ethnic minority, female, and/or religious. Some people are never embraced as innocent, witnessed by the number of girls sent home for dress code violations, as if they are only their bodies and are threat and distraction instead of children, or viewed askance because of early maturation, or even early pregnancies. Because there was so much – too much – swirling around a single word, I grounded innocence as far back as I could – to an image from childhood. This poem is based on one of my earliest memories, of watching my older sister at church, who was probably no more than five at the time, wearing what my envious sister eyes determined to be a fabulous yellow dress, standing up to recite with her class. (And yes: this is my sister, nearly five, in The Dress. Some fortymumble years later, I figure she won’t mind if I show her off. She looks the closest thing to a baby, yet I remember thinking she was oh, so grown-up then.)

How much of what we held in childhood do we keep? How do we navigate the passage between childhood certainties and adulthood’s intricacies? What does it mean to be young at heart, or have a child’s optimism and faith? I don’t know. I’m not entirely convinced I was able to go where I wanted to in this poem (you don’t want to know how many times I rearranged lines and fiddled), but as I wrestled with at the eleventh hour, I reminded myself – and you, too: the challenge isn’t perfection, but persistence. So, here we try again:

             

Be thou faithful unto death &

Is there anything more innocent
than an unformed soul clutching tight her crayoned crown,
as, words a wavering childish treble,
she recites revelation? ablaze with
purity, knowing neither faithfulness
nor death she
stands; stray sunbeam whitening a dress already luminous
proclaiming borrowed words, she is, personified,
a mother’s pride, transformed larger than life
in these two wondering eyes

We grew, wholesome as wheat, but I backward looking, linger to
wonder: who decodes such concepts as
faithfulness and faith? whose hand, holding keys to childhood certainties
points toward one door, while locking tight another? Perhaps
pushing past crowns and covenants, we all return at last
to merely human

a child, I watched, awaiting my turn, lips shaping
each confident consonant. Child-hearted now,
in uncertain innocence, I
claim my chance to choose my crown

                

…I will give thee a crown of life.