Saturday, April 19, 2014

My Turn: The 2014 Kidlitoshpere Progressive Poem

Welcome to Day 19 of the Kidlitosphere PROGRESSIVE POEM, organized by the lovely and talented Irene Latham (click here to see how she sets it up each year - thank you, Irene!)  I've been watching the poem grow day by day for the last eighteen days - we've got a rhymed-couplet thing going so far, and there's a menagerie of sorts (elephant, peacock, eagle, hen and jellyfish - fun!) I appreciate the energy infused on Day 9 by Diane Mayr as well as the practical/tactical inner rhyme on Day 10, thank you, Tabatha! Tamera on Day 15 added a charm to the mix, Robyn got the poem moving toward the coast on the 16th. Now it's my turn to either go with the flow or set the poem on its ear. The former choice is a little safe - my natural inclination is to shake things up a bit. But shaking it up is risky. I do it with my own poems - look for unexpected directions, complicate the rhyme or rhythm, reach for the surprise. I don't want to get too abstract or large in scope - my own work usually goes after small details (and maybe way too often, goes for an elbow in the ribs and/or a pun.) I want to change directions or tonal registers when the effort is collaborative? Well...ummmm.....hmmmmm....should I rock the boat or glide? What's it going to be, Julie? It's down to the wire....

Okay now, I've made my decision and put my line in at the bottom, bolded so you can see what I contributed. It's a little dreamy, maybe, but I want to hold on to that mystery Irene injected while still helping the narrative move "to the coast."  Buffy Silverman, it's your turn next. And thanks to all of you for the creative nudge(s) and the willingness to put yourselves out there and have fun together!

Sitting on a rock, airing out my feelings to the universe
Acting like a peacock, only making matters that much worse;
Should I trumpet like an elephant emoting to the moon,
Or just ignore the warnings written in the rune?
Those stars can’t seal my future; it’s not inscribed in stone.
The possibilities are endless! Who could have known?
Gathering courage, spiral like an eagle after prey
Then gird my wings for whirlwind gales in realms far, far away.
But, hold it! Let’s get practical! What’s needed before I go?
Time to be tactical— I’ll ask my friends what I should stow.
And in one breath, a honeyed word whispered low— dreams —
Whose voice? I turned to see. I was shocked. Irene’s
“Each voyage starts with tattered maps; your dreams dance on this page.
Determine these dreams—then breathe them! Engage your inner sage.”
The merry hen said, “Take my sapphire eggs to charm your host.”
I tuck them close – still warm – then take my first step toward the coast
This journey will not make me rich, and yet I long to be
like luminescent jellyfish, awash in mystery.
I turn and whisper, "Won't you come?" to all the beasts and birds,

Below is the chronology of contributors. Take 10 minutes and see how the poem morphed from one day to the next by clicking on the daily link - it's fascinating to have so many poets working to shape a poem, in terms of structure, technique, sound, heart, and head. Enjoy!

1 Charles at Poetry Time
2 Joy at Joy Acey
3 Donna at Mainely Write
4 Anastasia at Poet! Poet!
5 Carrie at Story Patch
6 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
7 Pat at Writer on a Horse
8 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
9 Diane at Random Noodling
10 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
11 Linda at Write Time
12 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
13 Janet at Live Your Poem
14 Deborah at Show--Not Tell
15 Tamera at The Writer's Whimsy
16 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
17 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
18 Irene at Live Your Poem
19 Julie at The Drift Record
20 Buffy at Buffy Silverman
21 Renee at No Water River
22 Laura at Author Amok
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Linda at TeacherDance
25 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
26 Lisa at Lisa Schroeder Books
27 Kate at Live Your Poem
28 Caroline at Caroline Starr Rose
29 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
30 Tara at A Teaching Life

P.S. Head over to Books Around the Table to see some of my musings this week about reading Marcel Proust for the first time.  And I'm proud to say that Doug Glover, the editor of Numero Cinq ("a warm place on a cruel web") published five of my poems for adults this month - here's the link.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Heads-Up: Progressive Poem, Proust and Poetry

A few quick heads-up: I'll be contributing the 19th line (of 30) to the 2014 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem tomorrow, right here at The Drift Record. Today you can drop by Irene Latham's blog,  Live Your Poem  to see how it's raveling (as opposed to unraveling) so far, but don't forget to come back tomorrow to the Drift Record (and to a different blog every day in April - there will be links provided) to watch how the poem rolls forward. I see from Irene's contribution today that she's left me awash in mystery. It could become a riddle...but how will everyone solve it? Do we even want to solve it? Irene's right....mystery is a nice place for a traveler (even a jellyfish traveler) to float for awhile

If you want to read my post about All Things Proust, head over to the blog I share with my critique group, Books Around the Table. Nothing like a little Proust (or maybe I mean a lot) to make you do one of the following: 1) fall sleep (literally), 2) pull out your hair and curse (usually metaphorically), or 3) ramble once again out into the world, alert to life's charms (that's basically how I'm feeling.) Thanks, Marcel.

And if you want to see some recently published poems of mine, check out the online literary journal, Numero Cinq (stick around afterwards and explore some of the other writing there - it's fascinating.)

Robyn Hood Black is hosting the Poetry Friday round-up today. Head over there to see what other people have posted.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Poetry Friday: On Knots and Gardens

Knot Garden - Sudeley Castle near Winchecomb, England
April is the cruelest month? I don't think so - not by a long shot. 

In Seattle, all the cherries trees are blooming, ditto the daffodils; little chickadees and even littler nuthatches are chirping and cheeping away at the birdfeeders around town. Neighbors see each other working in their yards - we say hi and catch up with all the neighborhood news. April, cruel? No.

February  - now that's cruel: drippy and gray, and grayer, and grayest, averaging only about nine hours of daylight every 24 hours (which means 15 hours without) and all the deciduous trees just tangles of aggressively bare branches. We huddle in the house.

By the beginning of April, though, those same branches are covered with blossoms; by the end of April with sweet, dazzling leaves. We begin to remember that the sky is blue from time to time, and that there is something called color - yellows and pinks and greens, oh, my!

In honor of gardens everywhere, I'm going to post one of my own poems, the only one I have with a garden in it (oh, that's not so - I can think of another one, but it describes our yard and shed in December - definitely not an April feeling....)

The garden in my poem is Italian. I began to think of writing the poem after standing in the stairwell at the Villa Medici in Rome and being transfixed by the gardens outside. Later, I went to Tivoli, and that was that - the poem came. All around Italy there are examples of the Italian Renaissance garden - many include knot gardens. A knot garden is a special kind of space - tremendously constrained in some ways, symmetrical, orderly, beautiful. Still, it's playful. I tried to catch both those aspects. [The columns look a little wavier than they do in Word.] Here it is, with an explanation about how to approach it below: 

Knot Garden

Order      and   dis-                    order    and   dis-
order       and   blessed            order     and   dice
martyrs  and   missed             rollers   and   ditched
turns       and   moist                rulers    and   torched
gardens  and   molto               portals  and   porpoises,
grazies   and    sotto                 putti      and   dormant
voces      and    grottoed          popes    and   duomos,
vaults     and    golden             doves    and   the forno’s
altars     and   cloven               loaves   and   cell-phoned
satyrs    and   cleavage,           lovers   and   losers.

How to read it: I tried to echo the restrictive nature of the knot garden design by making two sections on each side of a central larger "path" which runs down the middle. You start by reading the stanza on the left - the three-word lines - with the words of the "rows" on each side of the "and" chiming off the one before it. It's not really rhyming...more like morphing...finding some key sound and changing it, the way an echo changes the original word.. For example, the second "row" on the left reads dis-/blessed/missed/moist/molto/sotto/grottoed/golden/cloven/cleavage. I think each of the four rows (the and's are not really "rows" - they function the way a little lavender hedge does in a real knot garden) is fairly successful at that. There are also rows across for each stanza, and if you read across this way (for example, if you read "Order and dis /order and blessed / martyrs and missed / turns and moist / gardens and molto / grazies...") it actually all makes sense. You can't read all the way across - that is,  you can't "jump the path" that separates the two stanzas of the poem-garden, but once you're finished with one "side" of the garden, you can go back up to the top and continue reading down the other "side." It's a puzzle-garden, in some ways - at least that's how I felt when I was putting it together. But I hope the effort behind it disappears, and that it reads as knotted but graceful. It was hard to grow this particular garden - but most gardens require a little planning, a little digging, some dirt under the nails, some water, some waiting, some effort, don't they? If you would rather plant a knot garden than write a poem about one, here's how.

By the way, I am suddenly reminded of something that's also knotted but graceful: If you haven't yet seen Paolo Sorrentino's La Grande Belleza (The Great Beauty) then definitely rent it (it's out on DVD now) and watch. It won this year's Oscar for Best Foreign Film and it is a WONDERFUL movie - the hero drifts and winds his way up and around and back, the music does the same, as does the camera, the Tiber River, the daylight, the nightlife, and life in general.  The writing is witty and intelligent, the actors (the great Toni Servillo) perfect, and the cinematography takes your breath away.  And if Rome ever got into your bloodstream - or if you've ever longed to be adrift or be a flaneur in the city -  this movie will give you the fix you need.
Still from La Grande Belleza
 Here's a long and languid montage of scenes from it - especially lovely is the scene of the children running in the garden. An Italian Renaissance-style garden, in fact. Gardens, everywhere, gardens.
Head over to Amy VanDerwater's blog, The Poem Farm, to see what other people have posted for the first Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month.