Friday, January 30, 2009

weekend post

Hi all, just a quick post before embarking on a weekend of writing and knitting. It seems to me that I am like the last cell in a dying body here, with not too many folks responding or posting. Please get out the word that this is a good place to talk about poetry, a good place to TRY some poems and to express whatever is on your minds having to do with writing as art, as healing, as balm for the weak and weary world. 

Here is a prompt for the weekend:

Face, over-wintered by ___________, she sags into

Here is mine (this is a draft, done on the fly, so not so great at this point):

Mae's Rest

Face over-wintered by age, she sags into the chair
Elmer fashioned out of birdseye maple, the year they married. Its cushion 
is bare and shiny, the imprint of her permanent now. Here she nursed
four babies, loved them back from fevers and measles. The rockers 
squeak like her bones as she settles to rest in the greying afternoon. 
Ice clicks along the window, slipping to the ground and shattering, 
as she will one day.  In the moment before sleep soothes her, she sees faces 
and formsall around her: parents, husband, the babe that did not survive
his first winter. It would be so easy to go where they are, to click down the pane 
and settle to the ground. A whistle in the distance: tea is ready on the stove.  

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Poem from this weeks' prompt 01/29/09

Rue the Day the Story Ends, the Needles Grow Still

In the corner of my kitchen, a rumble
of the floor beneath me. Shudders,
a slight tremor come from the furnace
below, reminding me it's cold outside,
but giving me comfort. I am warm. thick socks
I knit myself wrap my ankles, a shawl
Nana crocheted over fifty years ago
warms my shoulders. It is a parable
that runs in my head like a serial: woolen
goods, hand-made and passed
from grandmother to  mother to daughter.
On and on, the yarn twines and binds us.
We wind the wool, slip it through our fingers,
needles flying until soft things bend to our work,
emerge with our stories woven in, our lives stitched.

Thoughts on poetry

What are your thoughts on the following topic in poetry:

the poet behind the persona

Here's what I have been thinking for awhile now: It seems to me that first person poetry has been frowned upon and labeled as confessional, personal, self-obsessed, self-glorifying, etc. I have certainly read poems that fit these labels. We all have. BUT, there is another side to this and a side I think bears discussing. Why do poets need to hide behind some idea of anonymity? If indeed we write to explore how we see the world, how we experience what the world offers etc., we ought to be able to be a bit overt about it. I am not saying that we need to give ourselves over to ruminating about our individual lives in such a way as the reader will feel he/she is intruding when reading our poems. What I am suggesting is that there are universals, places where our lives touch. We need to share those points of touch in order to feel less alone, more empowered, and to know that the human species is made up of the sum of its parts. I know that poems written with a "this happened, then this happened, and this is how I feel about that" modality miss the mark tremendously, and seem to actually exclude the readers rather than to draw them in. I read these and ask "I should care about this?" HOWEVER, these are not so much poems as they are lineated prose or worse yet, journal entries or things best shared only with family. But something as seemingly intimate as Dorianne Laux's beautiful maternal musings in Girl in the Doorway is far far far from too personal or too confessional. We can BE THERE in the house as the persona experiences the oncoming "loss" of a daughter's growing up. We don;t even need to be parents, or to have daughters. We are THERE. It is the embodiment of the event that connects us all. Yes, the poem's event is very personal. But we are brought in so that our own lives are enriched by the poet allowing us to peek, to consider, to weigh in on the universal subjects of family and loss. 

What I think then, is that our task as poets is to write in such a way as to be the poet behind the persona. We can put our lives, our very intimate lives, on the page while making sure that the poem drives itself by way of solid imagery and a sense of inclusion. 

On the other side of this coin, I get frustrated when reading some of my poems in a public venue that some listeners ASSUME the persona is me. What good poets do (I think) is to take a view of and a stance on what happens to and for others and comment in an intimate way through their poems.  What is this idea that all we write about is what we live personally? The problem then is do we allow ourselves to write widely, making sure we don't assume cultural postures that are false? Or do we stick to what we can touch, see, smell, taste, etc.? I would not presume to attempt to write poems from another culture, for example. BUT, I do think I can write with authority on topics of interest that I have sufficiently researched and come to know deeply. It's a puzzle. What to do here? Do I have to be a victim of robbery to write from the perspective of one who has been robbed? I don't think so. I can "empathize" in my poems and put my heart and mind into the scene, coming up with my own "take" on what that would be like. I can create a "character" (persona) and be in his/her head while recovering from the event. We are all alike enough to have experienced feelings of being overpowered, being violated, feeling helpless.  So, I think that we can, VERY CAREFULLY tiptoe into others' lives and make poems. I like the idea that we are all connected. We live the same lives really, flavored and shaded uniquely, but connected.
I 'd appreciate hearing from you on this.

Well, bloggers, it seems as if I am in here  with so much to say that nothing is coming forth. I want to post a new prompt for all of us to try, and to urge you to recommend the blog to other poets. It is easy to blog on this spot by simply signing on. You don't have to create your own site to blog here. But it is helpful if you are responding to a post, better than sending me an email with your try at the prompts. The whole idea of a blog is to SHARE. It is not about me here. It is about all of us sharing what we love. So, get on as a follower, subscribe to the blog (doesn't cost a thing!) and start blogging about poetry. I am going to start a topic today and would love to hear from all of you.

AND... as promised... here is the prompt for this week:

Using some or all of the following words (bend, parable, rue, grasp, tremor, furnace) write a poem in any style with the following starter:

In the corner of the kitchen ....

(NOTE: you can substitute any room or place where there is a corner)

Friday, January 23, 2009

knitting, and a prompt

Right now I am wearing (for the first time) the fingerless mittens I knitted. What a difference they make in working on the computer without my hands getting cold. I can type and be dextrous without a chill! Wonder of wonders!

So, thinking of hands, here is a new prompt:

It is a flurry of hands that she recalls

Try this as either a beginning line or an ending phrase of a poem. Go wherever the phrase takes you!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Artist Has Laid Down

The Artist Has Laid Down His Brush and is Done
                          for Betsy Wyeth  (after "The Conch Shell")

The same curtains blowing at the window, the same
wallpaper, but peeling a bit now, faded and water-stained.
The conch shell, empty as his chair, blows the same sea across
the cove of your ear as you lift it to your head like before.

Bring home the gulls to your roof with a long low whistle
from the conch, bring neighbors with casseroles, bring
the dog from his lapping the melt of ice in the dooryard.
Bring your same fingers to draw the curtains aside.

Step through each room, their creaking floors like old bones
careful and slow. Watch the leaves of his sketchbook ruffle
in the breath of the open window as if he's thumbing
them, deciding which drawing or sketch wants paint today.

The same scenes are never to be the same without his careful eye.
The conch will go silent, the chair unmoved and dusty.
Somehow a shaft of sudden sun slanting the floor won't be
the same kind of light as he saw. Even the dog will not snore the same.

People will call and ask of you now that the artist has laid down
his brush and is done. You won't answer because you are not the same
as you were just yesterday. They will ask for some small memory
of your time with him and you will say the wallpaper holds all his secrets.

A loss to the world of art; Andrew Wyeth dies at age 91

I am feeling the sad loss of artist Andrew Wyeth, who passed away on my birthday at the age of 91. His paintings have inspired many of my recent poems (the past three years of poems). I visited the Farnsworth Art Museum today and was thrilled to see so many of his earlier works which are lush with color and depth of meaning for me as poet. I was particularly captivated by "Conch Shell," which he painted in 1944 I think. I had my trusty notebook with me (of course) and penned the draft a poem imagining the painting to be emblematic of the emptiness his death visits on his family and all of us who admire and are influenced by his work. Perhaps this week we might write something about loss or write some ekphrastic poem, that is a poem inspired by a piece of art that we encounter. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Weekly prompt 01/15/09

I've been thinking about temperatures as outside gets colder and colder by the hour, and consider that is might be a good time to visit our thoughts on this. So, how about the following:

Using the words below (all of some), write a poem about cold without it being about weather.

bitter, magic, left, solid, machine, logo, pewter, floor, odor, mouth

Now go ahead.. you know you want to.... go on.... you can do it.... write! you might choose to write a sonnet, or a pantoum, or just five stanzas that each use two of the words. Or you might choose ten lines, each with one of the words. 

Here is a starter line to use if you are stuck:

I barely remember the magic

My birthday

OK, so tomorrow I am 62. I have already signed up for SS and will get my first check in March. I decided to take early SS as there is not a way I am going to increase things through my minute job at Taft College. 

But I have bigger and tastier fish to broil (frying not healthy right so the metaphor has to be altered to fit a healthier lifestyle!). I have just purged the piles and piles of junk that magically appeared while I was teaching Comp. I can see all areas clearly and things seem neat and organized. THAT frees me up to spend time submitting my manuscript and a few poems individually as well. Ahhhh, I love winter. It is a great time of folding in and expanding outward with creative pursuits.

I will say that I have not been without some successes in the literary world even while teaching. Two journals based in Connecticut have taken poems for upcoming issues: Dogwood let me know that one of my poems was in the top 12 finalists for the Dogwood Prize and they will publish the poem. CT Review has also taken a poem for either Fall '09 or Spring '10. Both of these wonderful journals are university-based and I am pleased to say the least. Pleased too because they took poems I absolutely love. I am happy these have found homes!

So, now it is about writing more and enjoying the time I have to write. I love the process of writing, but even more I love the editing and revision that happens AFTER the bones are erect on the poems. It is a bit like playing paper dolls, finding the right clothes and hair styles and making her as lovely and fascinating as possible! Wow! WHERE did that metaphor come from? My childhood is apparently alive and well in the recesses of my mind!

I have also been lucky enough to land a class in the adult ed of the local school system. I will teach on Wednesdays for 4 weeks. My class will cover writing locally, finding poems in "where you live."  I look forward to this and have my materials all ready to go for the first class which is Feb 25th. 

So despite the bitter cold (it is a hefty ZERO right now), I am warmed as always by poetry. 

Monday, January 5, 2009

please encourage followers here

Poets and fans! Please send the address of this blog to any poets you know who might be interested. Tell them they can post poems here too by posting a "comment" or by doing a "new post."

I want this to grow!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Winter poem 01/09

Knitted Mittens

Luscious in violet, warm wooled
hands for covering the cold,
they beckon. Slip on the right first,
then the left will be a treasure. But not
these mittens, made for two
amputees, both rights without lefts.
So what of the others, the ones who lost
their rights and wander the snow
fields looking for limbs that fell
in the night? Has someone knit for them?

It's cold here, but poems make me warm

Well, before heading off to snuggle under the covers, I thought to take a moment to write some thoughts on writing. I went to the Farnsworth Art Museum here today and spent a bit of time in the galleries. In particular I visited the Louise Nevelson exhibit again. I am amazed by her art, but not that for which she is most famed (the sculptures). I love her paintings of people, especially of women. I am so inspired by them. So there I was with my ever-present notebook and a pen. time few by. I made TONS of notes and actually have the bones of a new poem. I also (SHOCK!) have some ideas for a short story. Well, those of you who know me well will be laughing right now and thinking to yourselves "somehow this story will end up a poem!" Maybe, maybe not. Only time will tell. But for now, I am happily in my own head writing the draft of today's poem. That is how it begins for me... in my head for several drafts and then it falls out onto the page or screen and the REAL work starts. Let's talk about PROCESS. If you're up to it, write a response about how YOU get going on a creative project. (Non-poets, contribute what revs you up in any creative projects). Let's blog! Don't make me the only one who writes here! 


Thursday, January 1, 2009


Good New Year all! It is wicked cold here in Maine today, temps sunken to single digits and wind chill way way down. But a warm heart can cure a cold wind, so we are cozy here. I wrote the last poem of '08 and was finished with it at 11PM, leaving me time to watch the ball drop on Times Square. Seemed as if not so many folks braved the cold to be there in person this year. I prefer the tv version of being there. 

I am getting started on the first poem of  '09 as I am ready to watch the Rose Bowl. Of course I am rooting for the USC Trojans, but I root alone in my family. Everyone else will root for Penn State. I don't mind going solo on this!

Well, I will be posting the last/first poems tomorrow. Be warned: they are drafts. I usually wait several days or longer before beginning the revision process --- after a healthy "distance" is achieved!

Good words to all for 2009!