{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.

{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!

{#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.•

{#npm: 8 – contagious}

In the earliest days of the vaccine, people danced – and cried – to hear that it was both viable and available soon. Many of our state’s vaccine centers have soundtracks playing as people come in to receive their inoculations. Many of them dance out – overjoyed and singing along to “Happy” or some other catchy, cheerful tune. The Moscone Center in SF actually publicized their playlist, because people wanted it for Spotify to play at home. I love this contagious joy – it’s a nice change from just having a wildly contagious virus.

flower to flower
bees, wearing pollen jodhpurs
hope. spring, eternal

Did you know that now the New York Times wants your poetry, too – on the theme of renewal? Not a lot of ordinary people get their work into the NYT for any reason, so you might want to take advantage! Meanwhile poet Amanda Gorman, whom European publishers are struggling to translate, is going to be on the cover of TWO issues of Vogue in late Spring. Poetry is making its mark on the public in some surprising ways.

{don’t worry lissa, I’m leaving the pollinators alone}

In two recent notes/newsletters, author and gardener Melissa Wiley has reminded us lately that, due to the presence of hibernating pollinators, we’re not meant to be digging in the garden until we’ve had a week of nights out of the 40’s – and while we haven’t yet reached that, this past weekend we had a brisk, sunny day, and I put a few things in pots…

And then, well, I was already out there (WARNING: “putting things in pots” is just A Gateway Drug to gardening), so I had a wee shufti through the raised beds to see what leftovers and volunteers had popped up. And I found this:

(Yes, I have spared you the full, blinding glory that is my acid green sun hat. You’re welcome.) Here I’d thought this mass of greens meant I had a beet, and since it was undersized, I’d left it to overwinter… only to discover it’s a massive, woody radish! Oh, well. So much for my dinner plans.

I hope you’re finding the odd thing to make you smile this month.

{npm: solus 13}

My Easter gift was a bright orange bud on one of my new plants. I peeked into the unfurling cluster of leaves and saw another emerging stem, and I’m happy. Also, discovered three nasturtium plants and a morning glory struggling up, so all the rain didn’t wash my seeds away, yay. (It’s gopher one, t, like, nine, so clearly, I’m winning.)

addition

it’s the little things –
fragments that make up a world
pebbles in cement

{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.