{#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.

{#npm: 16 – mob}

Unpopular opinion: social media is more a chore than a charm. I was pushed into it by my agent, despite his zero social media presence. It sells books he informed me, and I grumped and did what I was told. Of course, I didn’t know then about The Mob.

Much ink has been spilled about the infamous Twitter Mob that swoops daily down on the unsuspecting and cancels them. It’s a concept that’s always made me laugh; how on earth does this alleged mob meet or schedule meetings? If a group of people can’t even decide on the color of a stoplight, how can I believe some group of randoms somehow moves in coordinated lockstep to attack the unsuspecting? There is no singular mob, but there are, in fact, individuals who will question one’s statements, one’s authority, one’s abilities, and one’s position. And oh, how people of privilege do hate being called to account by those they assume are nobodies – thus the moniker of “mob.” (This of course is not to say that any social media is filled with people with whom Emily Post would be proud to converse – no. Manifold and varied are the mannerless boors. But, the mob threat is an empty boogeyman.)

What troubles me is the way that fear of the mythological mob strikes outsized terror into the hearts of otherwise intelligent people. I recently heard of an author whose book was dropped when his editor feared he wasn’t “own voices” enough for them to sell. She feared people’s reactions because she believed his identity didn’t match his character’s identity, and so pushed him into claiming publicly an identity he’d kept private his whole life. First of all, if we had ever actually listened to the originator of the phrase “own voices” we’d know it was meant to be a reader’s advisory, not a determiner of who was legitimate or allowed to write stories about whom. (Additionally, we don’t have to write solely what we know; this has been proven. There’s nuance in this, and the immediate dismissal of someone who doesn’t look/seem X writing an X character is deeply problematic.) And while I know it was his choice, regardless – it infuriates me. I wanted to be a writer so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone, is my go-to joke when I have to speak in public. It’s not a joke, though – I really did hope that I could keep my uninteresting, dull existence happily to myself, and just write books. Who knew we’d all be required to perform our humanity over and over, as public as a frog, allowing an officious public bog to pry and meddle into our private spaces?

Curiosity:
Once thought vulgar, now confirmed.
(Yes, we Googled it.)

Grrr.

Poetry Friday is graciously hosted by the one and only Jama-j @ Alphabet Soup, who is always in a much less cranky frame of mind than I am. Pop on over!

{#npm: 9 – twalig}

On April 1, Tabatha announced her intention to celebrate short poetry in translation this month. She, as I did, took the pandemic as a little poke in the bum to dive deeper into language. While she chose Scottish Gaelic and French, I finally decided to seriously study Spanish, as I live in a state which boasts that as its first language. I also chose Dutch, since *ik hou van mijn Nederlandse vrienden, and their quirky, unique land and culture. Now, these language combos might sound a little hinkey, but when you’re in it, at least for me, tandem language studies are sometimes helpful. •Mi español ayuda a mi holandés, y vice versa. (Sometimes. Other days it seems I’m equally stupid all languages, as the w sounds like v or sometimes f and the ch/g-sounds-like-guttural h of Dutch invades my rolled r, ñ-laden, b-sounds-like-v Spanish. It gets wild.) I’m nearly to having studied one language or another for nine hundred contiguous days, though, so I’m hopeful, at least, that routinely cudgeling my little gray cells into greater activity is doing something for me.

In Dutch, twalig means bilingual. No handy mnemonic, but I remember it by thinking of twa (the Glaswegian Scots word for two – I know, don’t @ me, I *did* live in/near Glasgow for five years! You could also use twee for two in Dutch) and taal (the Dutch word for language). I love how Dutch builds on itself, such that the compound taalkundige is literally language + skilled. Language skilled. Linguist. Something in that – and in the number of idioms relating to the tongue – speaks to me.


I, serenaded
succumb, yield to silver-tongues –
into wordplay, plunge
*taal! •¡idioma!
*mijn hoofd ik moet gebruik!
•¡déjame solo!

in the word garden
languages spring up like weeds
loved like hothouse blooms


Poetry Friday is ably hosted today by Tabatha Yeatts-Lonske at The Opposite of Indifference. Tapadh leibh, Tabatha!

As always, there’s poetry all around – don’t miss thing, including: Robyn Hood Black’s Friday explorations of Issa’s haiku in translation – a beautiful project. ♣ Did you know The Global Vaccine Poem project, a collaboration between the University of Arizona Poetry Center and Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University, is inviting EVERYONE to share their voices and promote COVID-19 vaccination? We’ll be adding a stanza to a poem by The Naomi (Shihab Nye)! How cool is that??? ♣ Less cool is Linguicism – or linguistic bias and discrimination, which spills over into the workplace – and into the classroom. ♣ This piece from Kevin Simmonds in Poetry Magazine focuses charmingly on how our voices and words shapeshift and morph to mark or obscure identity – and how both music and voice inhabit poetry. Some good stuff.

Fijn weekend, feliz fin de semana, & Happy weekend! May language sing sweetly to you.

*I love my Dutch friends. Language. I have to use my head!* • My Spanish helps my Dutch. Language! Leave me to myself.•

{#npm2: asynchronous}

Some mornings are made for silence.

Silence and tea, or, if you’re not me, silence and coffee. A good beginning is to sit by the window and silently start the day, staring out at the garden box, one of which is still producing ragged overwintered calendula, and a few new lipstick-scarlet poppies. Silence – and darkness – is the hallmark of the Tenebrae service some Protestants celebrate the Friday before Easter. Tenebrae means “shadows” in Latin, and is a service of acknowledgement of the shadows of life, of dark times, pain and suffering. I’m a “ringer” for a local Presbyterian church chorus, so I, with nine other people, masked and properly distanced, took part in filming the achingly gorgeous choral music for a Tenebrae service this Friday… last Sunday night.

We’d filmed Palm Sunday services the previous Thursday night. Oh, and Easter? That was Wednesday.

Everything these days is way, way out of sync, and it feels like we’re just running to catch up with the natural rhythm of things.

muffled in masks, lips
carve lyrics with crisp diction
chasing our heartbeat

Did you know that NPR wants your original poetry? Check out the ways in which you can submit a mini-poem on social media! Meanwhile, Poetry Friday is graciously hosted today by Cousin Mary Lee, whose haiku are always the proper sort. Stop by and succor yourself with more wonderful poetry – don’t miss the Swagger project who took Pat Schnieder’s “The Moon. Ten Times” poem and recreated it beautifully, or the progressive poem.

Happy National Poetry Month!

{pf: poetry peeps do the dizain}

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

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of April! Here’s the plan: We’re going to write an “in the style of” poem after Chickasaw poet Linda Hogan’s “Innocence.” Does “in the style of” mean a line-by-line imitation, including the idea of innocence in the theme, or using the word within your poem? Only YOU know for sure! 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 April 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


Did you grow up with a family who did Spring Cleaning? I didn’t, not really – we just cleaned house like it was Spring, every Sunday. Somehow though, no matter how I didn’t grow up, we still end up doing a version of Spring Cleaning at my house. It rarely coincides with the actual start-date of Spring, but it starts out with “we should really get the windows cleaned” and devolves into a flurry of vacuuming and organizing shelves. This past Sunday, I got a burst of energy – a rarity lately with this autoimmune disorder – and tackled the dust under the futon which had been leering at me. We washed duvet covers and pillows, scoured vinegar and baking soda on the shower floor (it’s supposed to be good for granite), organized the fridge and freezer, sanded and oiled the porch rocking chair, re-potted a couple of plants, and even raked up the last of the little spiky tree balls on the lawn. I felt pretty good about all of the work we got through, until I saw the texts from my poetry group. Are you coming? Are you joining us today?

Oops. Darn it!

Sadly, as my writing group can attest, housework occasionally gets the better of me. I fully intend to be where I’m meant to, but a dusty shelf or a streaky mirror distracts me. It’s not as if I even prefer to clean than to write – not even a little tiny bit – but I had my father’s preferred activity for me pretty well braided as an extra strand into my DNA through childhood. Though it’s nice to have vacuum lines on the living room rug, I missed talking words, hearing what everyone’s reading, and discussing what we’re doing next month. So, my dizain today is slightly narrative (but since I write fiction, it’s emotionally true rather than factual).

Appointment With Art

“Appointment with the Arts” my notebook read,
but I skipped reading for a messy chore,
letting my planning for the week ahead
drain from the weekend’s restful reservoir
the freshness, verve, and life it held before.
I chose a solid thing – hard-edged, *brick shaped,
and fed my soul on duty, scrubbed and scraped –
exchanged the weekend vibe for day-to-day,
set my own snare, and foiled my own escape!
Dull Jackie chose to work when she should play.


Dizains always involve some finessing for me – I forever think I have the pattern cold, and then when I read back, realize I’ve gotten something (usually several somethings) out of order. And then I do that deep breath/eye roll thing and start over. It’s all about patience with the process! I loved the idea of work/duty/responsibility as something pedestrian and brick-shaped, so borrowed that phrase from Barbara Kingsolver’s “How to Drink Water When There Is Wine,” a poem which Tricia shared with the poetry group last week.

My Poetry Peeps have doubtless produced less dispiriting dizains than mine! Please do check out Tricia’s here. This one is Laura’s, and Kelly’s is here. Here’s Liz’s and you’ll find Sara’s poem here, and Michelle Kogan’s is here. More Poetry Peeps will check in throughout the day, so stay tuned.


Art by Marc Johns.

More poetry? Yep: Poetry Friday is gloriously blooming today at Susan Bruck’s Soul Blossom Living, where she’s doing a round-up of who is doing what next month for National Poetry Month. I’m going to try for a poem-a-day, but we’ll see where that lands. For now, here’s to sitting down with a book, or grabbing a jacket and finding some tadpole puddles, and ignoring those cobwebs for one more day. Happy Weekend.

{poetry peeps will spin you right round, baby}

Never heard of a dizain? Not sure why you’ll be stumbling and spun with its dizzy delights? The short version is: it’s a French form from 15th-16th c., with a 10-line stanza · 10 syllables per line · And an ababbccdcd rhyme scheme. A bit longer of an explanation can be found at Writer’s Digest, with a few helpful tips and an example. Interested? Good! Hope you give it a shot!

{embrace the weirdness: poetry friday…}

…even if you’ve got your head in the clouds, you won’t want to miss the fun. The metaphor generator, Perchance is full of… weird and wonderful phrases, and after having sister poet Laura Salas throw hers for me, I’ve discovered that metaphor dice are possibly even weirder! So, look forward to some thoughtful, random, and possibly offbeat poetry – see you Friday!