When Poems Beget Poetry

“The day is done and all the fields lie fallow,

One thing is needful, one voice calls your name.”

From the Sonnet “Pilgrimage” for Kate Gross, by Malcolm Guite

Selection from “Parable and Paradox”

#1

What if, plowing, the farmer

should find finished

the fields, sheaves all in

and bewildered, be turned

towards home to hear,

“no more, no more?” Sowing

done, Earth’s floor is

Heaven’s now, seeds have

sprouted, bloomed, grown.

Every soul planted in

Heaven’s soil is gathered in.

Home.

~~~~~~~

“Pray that we learn the lost arts of our past/The arts of letting go and sowing seeds,

That secrets of the lowly and the least/Might save us from the dreadful things that last.”

ibid. “In Praise of Decay”

#2

Let things die.

Their death is fertile soil

for what will be birthed behind.

Why do we cling so strongly, hang

on to life, fearful of sure death?

Perhaps it is our own transitory nature…

we have eternity knit in our hearts–

we will live forever–just not here.

~~~~~~~

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For Friends Too Many to Name

Years and miles evaporate

like the season’s new-birthed fog,

leaving the strong, bright gleam of

friendship lighthouse true.

Holding true like the trees weathered

through decades of sun as we

weathered our own wearying

waves of life, lapping at the edge

of our friendship, threatening

to erode the years of tears

and laughter, the space and distance

breakers in between.

In between we hold on, reach

out past the yesterdays touching this

day as we raise high our glasses

crystal etching the air, the glittering sound

noting the miracle we are still here.

(you can read more of my poetry Here on my poetry blog.)

~~~~~~~~

Culling through several decades of cards and letters has put me in a pensive-yet-thankful mood; thankful for lifelong friends from the beginning of time. This poem is for all of them; they know who they are.

Why Poetry? Why Not?

“What if there were no poetry?  What if all life were prose?
Some people wouldn’t mind. One friend told me her son didn’t know how to do imaginative play. He lined up his action figures and then shrugged and walked away.  He didn’t know what else to do.  Poetry gives you an idea of what to do, or at least the idea that something more can be done.” 
Megan Willome, “The Joy of Poetry” p. 138

     When I mention to people that I’m reading a book of poetry the response is often, “I’m not into poetry. I just don’t get it.”
     If I tell them I WRITE poetry, they look at me as if I said I ate blue crayons for breakfast and quickly change the subject.
     I just finished reading Megan Willome’s user-friendly volume “The Joy of Poetry” (TSPoetry Press) and I can say with confidence—this book introduces poetry in a way that will make you swear off eating crayons forever—and might entice you towards a richer life of reading what you’ve been missing all this time.
     The next to last chapter is my favorite, aptly titled, “Why Poetry?”
     Willome illuminates the answers to this question beautifully. Here are the reasons that spoke to me (in no particular order):

          1)    Why poetry? For Kinship—when a writer shines a light on something that speaks to you, there is a connection, an ‘aha! I get that’ feeling.  Poets, in their succinct style, pack a lot of meaning into fewer words; many of those words go straight to our heart.

Illustration: Willome weaves the story of her mother’s very long bout with cancer and the last years of her life struggling with the disease. Megan and Merry Nell’s relationship was not all sweetness and light during this time; I can relate. My own mother died of cancer very young (55, I was only 33) and we also had some rough edges in the way we related to each other in her last few years.

Two lines in Megan’s poem ‘Blue Moon’ are underlined and circled in my book:
“we talk as only mothers and daughters can—
Speech as rocky as the lunar surface.”

There’s a kinship woven into those words.

           2)    Why poetry? For Delight—Certainly you’ve read Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” or something by Shel Silverstein? These delight in their nonsensicality (yes, I made that up).  Willome mentions a yoga class and a discovery of the delight of  ‘poetry’ in her instructor’s directions as she uses metaphors to illustrate different poses. There are so many poems I’ve read that just plain leave me smiling—they’re accessible, readable, relatable, beautiful. Poems can delight us in simple ways.

Illustration: My Seattle friend Jennifer Wagner (who blogs at Poet Laundry) posted these lines the other day—my heart soared right along with the words:

Yes, little one,

there are mountains.

And storms.

And rain.


But, oh, the

berries,

nectar,

sky.
© 2016 Jennifer Wagner


3         3 )    Why poetry? For its limitations—truly. Boundaries are a good thing. Willome states, “Whether a poem is following a form or whether it’s expressing an idea or a story in a condensed format, its narrowness gives breadth.” I am more of a free verse writer when it comes to poetry; disdaining ‘form’ as too constricting. But as anyone knows who has played a sport, rules provide freedom (and sometimes a win.) Sometimes being confined with form forces better words to the surface. (Psalm 16:6 comes to mind about boundaries).

Illustration:  Last Fall I co-lead a writer’s workshop with my friend Kimberlee who helped us all get over our poemic fears by modeling for us two particular forms; one of them, the pantoum. 

     In a pantoum, lines repeat in a distinct pattern, made easier for us by a little worksheet (thank you, Kimberlee!)  The task was a little intimidating, but we all put our hearts into it. The results were lovely and empowering. She had copied and cut out hundreds of words to assist us in the process.

Here’s my pantoum, inspired by leading worship

Water Carriers*

inside, two friends bend hearts towards God
stops and starts, voices raised, a daring duo
strums and strings bring songs alive
while the Holy Spirit sings His song over you

stops and starts, voices raised, a daring duo

carrying water for thirsty souls
while the Holy Spirit sings His song through you
deep channels, delivering life via verse and tone

carrying water for thirsty souls

this, the joy of completing His song
channeling life via verse and voice and tone
inside, two friends bend hearts toward God

     4) Why poetry? You might as well ask, ‘why chocolate?’
Willome’s response begs the question–in other words, why seek joy, why dance a jig, why smile? or…
     “Why drive along a country road on a sunny day with the windows down and the music up?  Why green tea with fresh mint from the farmer’s market? Why dogs?”
     Why, indeed. Willome sums up her treatise well.
     “Why poetry? For nothing. Here’s a secret: poetry is useless. So are a lot of wonderful things… We don’t need poetry–which is exactly why we need it.”

~~~~~~~
“The Joy of Poetry” is available on Amazon and via TSPoetry Press
*a poem with the same title, written at the same time is on my poetry blog this week

Writing Exercise-a Poem

“Stretch” must be a biblical word, regardless of one’s age
(an extension, a straining) like a two year old 
reaching on tiptoes towards her Father
or the discomfort when unfolding old bones and well-used knees, 
joints so stiff they’ve forgotten how to bend.
I want to stress and press, past the comfortable,
groan with the growing,the knowing that daily
I must reach, pushing back 
against all that would stagnate and stifle,
learn to lean, in, out, up,
force myself, like a spoonful of unwanted needful medicine,
to taste the hard that makes me healthy and hold on,
elastic, leaning, growing with each reach,
a creature who craves comfort but who knows in the end,
it’s creating I need. I need making.
I need my Maker.
So I flatten palms against wood,
face towards the carpet and breathe, 
count 15 and slowly rise, praying for muscle memory
to travel past the limits of flesh and into my soul, where lazy lives, 
and snap me out of my haze, like a taut rubberband 
rebounding from a l o o o n g
pull.
I rise and rest at the desk,
pencil in “stretch” in the Webster’s margin on the “S” page,
a fitting Biblical addition.
It’s right above the word “surrender.”
~~~~~~~~
‘Surrender’ was the word the Lord gave me last year; as I’ve prayed and listened in this new season I hear echoes of the same.  Let go and stretch….

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