Friday, August 26, 2011

Poetry Friday: Good Friends, Strange Dolls

Poets on the Ferry Boat to Friday Harbor 2010
I adore the people in my writing groups - yes, I have two groups: one of writers for children, one of poets for adults. I used to call the effort to write for both audiences "straddling the fence," and I still feel that way on good days. It's exciting on that fence, being able to see all directions. On days when I'm tired, though, I usually think it's just schizophrenic.

But the people in my writing groups? I never tire of them. In fact, I adore them. They're one of the big reasons I like writing - I like being around creative people. My friends are energetic, talented, generous and very funny. I have to admit, the writers for children are a tamer bunch (i.e. normal - sweet, generous, helpful) next to the writers for adults, who are a little more competitive, a little more acerbic, and who are always looking for a strange take on things, a startling new style, a deconstruction of language and then a whole new construction process. The writers for children examine projects that are in the process of become finished products. That's a good thing. With the other group, the process is the pleasure, and that's a good thing, too. I get the best of both worlds.

My poem today was produced as the result of an assignment given by one of the members of my writing-for-adults group. She shared a used books she'd found about rare dolls - this book was filled with really odd and often disturbing dolls - stiff, scary, strange.  She asked us to write a poem about one them. The photo of the pincushion doll (not the one below, which I found online) had me riveted to it - not sure why. This poem was published recently in the online review, Numero Cinq, so be sure to go there if you want to read the whole poem.


That matte skin
is what bothers people most –

she’s like a ghost
with no shine, all bisque,

in need of a brisk walk
to bring the peaches to her cheeks.

But since she has no legs,
that begs the question.

Below the waist
she’s chaste, all ballast,

filled with sawdust, not a model
for anybody’s body.

The striped fan in her hands
meant to be elegant

is simply sad. Half a woman...

[Click here to read the rest at Numero Cinq]

Today's Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted by Irene Latham over at Live. Love. Explore!  Head over there to see what other people have posted.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Poetry Friday: Blackbird, Cuckoo, Thrush, and Whidbey Writers

Captain Whidbey Inn, near Coupeville, Washington

I've been out on Whidbey Island for three days as a guest of the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA program. (Thank you to them for inviting me - I loved being there!) Their MFA program is well designed (daily craft and directed reading classes in addition to workshops and guest presentations) and it has such a fine faculty (friendly, bright, inclusive) and oh, what a heavenly location, around Penn Cove from Coupeville. Everyone has rooms at the historic Captain Whidbey Inn, and all classes are held there.

The back yard is Puget Sound, with a dock for launching boats, or for running and jumping off of -  into the freezing water of the Sound. Rocks, logs, sand, sunshine - there's is nothing in the world lovelier than a rocky beach in the Pacific Northwest. My room in this lovely setting was Room 3, upstairs in the old Inn, and out my window - just across the water - I could see the beach home my parents lived in for many years. My kids and I have many happy memories of that place. A few miles the other direction, at Sunnyside Cemetery (overlooking Ebey's Prairie) my dad is now buried. I had some moments of melancholy mixed in with the happiness these last three days.

Over the three days, I made presentations about The Artful Sentence (with references to Virginia Tufte's wonderful book) and attentive wandering (the art of the flaneur) and enhancing creativity through play (nursery rhymes, jump rope songs, playground games.) I loved talking about those subjects, and I hope the students found what I said useful.

Came home with this thought on my mind: It's summer, the season of full belief, as Northrop Frye describes it in Anatomy of Criticism, so I'm going to fully believe and post this joyful poem titled When on a Summer's Morn by William Henry Davies.
When on a Summer's Morn 
When on a summer's morn I wake,
And open my two eyes,
Out to the clear, born-singing rills
My bird-like spirit flies.

To hear the Blackbird, Cuckoo, Thrush,
Or any bird in song;
And common leaves that hum all day
Without a throat or tongue.

And when Time strikes the hour for sleep,
Back in my room alone,
My heart has many a sweet bird's song --
And one that's all my own. 
                                by William Henry Davies
The Poetry Friday round-up this week is over at Dori Reads. Head over there to see what other people have posted.  

Friday, August 5, 2011

Poetry Friday: Poems That Go Nowhere in Particular

The idea of wandering appeals to me. Strolling. Heading nowhere. Keeping my eyes open, yes; observing, yes; but with no real "goal." Indulging in the art of the flaneur - the art of "attentive wandering."

Some poems enjoy doing the same thing - they're not headed anywhere. They stroll. They often become my favorites, and today, I want to share one with you. It's written by Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose reputation as a fine poet declined during WWII when she turned to "propaganda poetry" for the War Board. Such a shame, because she was a stunningly good poet at her best, and I think her work is too often overlooked now, made to stay in the shadow of Modernists like Pound, Eliot and Auden.  Here, she wanders and plays with language, but you can feel the heart and the intelligence behind the play.

Counting-Out Rhyme

Silver bark of beech, and sallow
Bark of yellow birch and yellow
Twig of willow.

Stripe of green in moosewood maple,
Colour seen in leaf of apple,
Bark of popple.

Wood of popple pale as moonbeam,
Wood of oak for yoke and barn-beam,
Wood of hornbeam.

Silver bark of beech, and hollow
Stem of elder, tall and yellow
Twig of willow.

                     Edna St. Vincent Millay

"...sallow bark of yellow birch...."

"...and yellow twig of willow....."
The round-up for Poetry Friday this week is over at A Year of Literacy Coaching. Head over there to see what other people have posted!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sendak-ish? Steig-esque?

I love the two ladies in this photo taken by Helen Levitt in New York in 1940. Love the shoes, seamed stockings, housedresses, black handbag, and the slight disproportion of the ladies' height to their width. Doesn't the whole top-of-the-stoop scene look like an illustration from a Sendak book - as if those two women could turn and see (Really) Rosie playing on the sidewalk? If not Sendak, maybe William Steig?