Friday, May 24, 2013

Words with Madeleine

Poetry Friday today is with Jama over at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

“I'm apt to get drunk on words...Ontology: the word about the essence of things; the word about being.”
                                              ― Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet

by Madeleine L'Engle

I, who live by words, am wordless when
I try my words in prayer. All language turns
To silence. Prayer will take my words and then
Reveal their emptiness. The stilled voice learns
To hold its peace, to listen with the heart
To silence that is joy, is adoration.
The self is shattered, all words torn apart
In this strange patterned time of contemplation
That, in time, breaks time, breaks words, breaks me,
And then, in silence, leaves me healed and mended.
I leave, returned to language, for I see
Through words, even when all words are ended.

I, who live by words, am wordless when
I turn me to the Word to pray. Amen.

"when you put something into words, it leads to so many other thoughts"
                             - Madeleine L'Engle, The Small Rain

Put something into words today!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Nursery Rhymes for Dinner

Last night we had jicama with our dinner. It was my first time to eat this root vegetable native to Mexico and South America. The word is pronounced hick-uh-muh. So my brain has been turning this old nursery rhyme round and round all day long. 

More and More Impertinent
Nutkin became more and more impertinent—
"Old Mr. B! Old Mr. B!
Hickamore, Hackamore, on the King's kitchen door;
All the King's horses, and all the King's men,
Couldn't drive Hickamore, Hackamore,
Off the King's kitchen door."
Nutkin danced up and down like a sunbeam; but still Old Brown said nothing at all.

I didn't read it in The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin until I had children of my own, but I can remember countless hours spent over volume ten, the poetry volume, of Junior Classics.

Tonight in the kitchen I had another nursery rhyme escapade. I felt like the farmer's wife with my carving knife.

Little tails complete with red juice! Oh dear, I may have a hard time eating my little mice tonight. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Really Bad Poetry

A friend, Sally Apokedak, Southern Breeze children's writer-turned-agent,  tipped me off to this hilarious bad poetry contest. Having written my fair share of really bad poetry, I totally loved reading these.

The contest was held by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary on his blog.

There are some wonderfully bad lines, like:

your love is a mango. red, green, or yellow depending on how long I leave you.
                                       Kimberly Buckner

My love for you fills me,
a flooded basement.
            Neale Werle

My chalice runs over with sour wine
A symbol of my undying love

                       Jeanne Doyon

Full poems from the winners are posted here.

Okay, so I had to give it a shot.

Conversion Chart for My Husband
by Doraine Bennett

My love for you
cannot be measured
by any inability to climb out of bed
at five am and run in the dark
with you.

My love for you
cannot be measured
by the six piles of laundry
lying in the bedroom

My love for you
cannot be measured
by another uncooked dinner
abandoned for the clatter
of my keyboard.

My love for you
is better than exercise,
larger than laundry, free-er
than the pizza delivery,
and all yours.

And for more Poetry Friday wonders, visit the wild and crazy Ed DeCario at Think Kid Think!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Talking about Time

I've been reading Longitude by Dava Sobel. It's a wonderful book that explores the unsolvable problem of longitude (and answers a lot of my questions!). It remained a mystery for centuries. Until a British carpenter, named John Harrison, taught himself to make a clock that would maintain time on the deck of a rolling ship. Each chapter begins with a bit of poetry about time. I'm sharing a couple of my favorites so far.

Anastasia Suen hosts Poetry Friday at her poetry blog  today.

Photographer: Arne Nordmann (norro), Germany 
My Father's Watch
by John Ciardi

One night I dreamed I was locked in my Father's watch
With Ptolemy and twenty-one ruby stars
Mounted on spheres and the Primum Mobile
Coiled and gleaming to the end of space
And the notched spheres eating each other's rinds
To the last tooth of time, and the case closed.

From "Mystic Communion of Clocks"
in Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems
by Diane Ackerman

There being no mystic communion of clocks
    it hardly matters when this autumn breeze
    wheeled down from the sun
    to make leaves skirt pavement like a million lemmings

An event is such a little piece of time-and-space
    you can mail it through the slotted eye of a cat
    we all pretty much agree
    words just fret the bowed neck of time

So it's nothing to say that at 96 below
    on this lovely fall day in arctic Siberia
    a young woman carried home her daily milk
    not in a bottle but under her arm in a slab

Or that precisely at five o'clock in the evening
    the Trans-Siberian express tore streaks of iron
    from the vastness of nothing 
    and ran hell-bent to the extremities of nowhere

Thursday, May 9, 2013

You Know You Might Be a Writer When...

You lost your purse.
You're a hundred miles from home
with no driver's license,
no credit card,
no money,
and no gas,

And the thing that stresses you out
is the fact that you have no pen and paper.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Hyperactive Researcher

Sometimes researching a writing project makes me feel like a hyperactive child who can't  focus on one thing before the impulse to move on to the next has taken control of my brain.

I wrote a book of readers' theater scripts on explorers several years ago. A couple of the characters took hold of me and still have not let go.

I have always loved maps, but now it seems I have the desperate need to understand how cartographers made them, how the explorers understand the curves and projections of the coastline, and how with nothing but dead reckoning and a glass of sand they could record their movement at sea.

A recent exhibit in town features maps collected by J. Kyle Spencer, member of the foundation at Columbus State University. He's been collecting maps for thirty years and recently donated his astounding collection of maps of Georgia to the University. Before going to the archives, many of the maps are on display at a local gallery.

So, on top of reading about my explorer who won't let go of me, I am now frantically hopping from sailing vessels and their main masts and mizzen masts to longitude to clocks to the moons of Jupiter and triangulation, which totally eludes me, to the history of cartography.

I wonder if Ayervedic herbs would help me to control myself, but then that could push me onto another path entirely. Maybe scurvy. Oh dear.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Poetry Friday: Sestina

I have been playing with the sestina this week. For anyone unfamiliar with the form, it is a poem of six stanzas of six lines each and a three line stanza, called an envoi that addresses a person or comments on the previous stanzas. The same six unrhymed end-words are repeated in each stanza in a changing order that looks something like this:

Stanza 1:   Stanza 2:   Stanza 3:   Stanza 4:   Stanza 5:   Stanza 6:   Envoi:
 A                 F              C               E               D              B              AB
 B                 A              F               C               E              D              CD
 C                 E              D               B               A             F                EF
 D                 B             A                F               C             E
 E                 D             B                A               F             C
 F                 C             E                D               B             A

The form is said to have been invented by troubadour poets of Southern France who competed with one another to come up with the most elaborate, complex styles. The sestina was one for the masters. The above pattern is the classic one, but modern poets have modified it for their own purposes.

The repeating pattern of the sestina actually works quite well for poems containing speech because of the way certain words tend to be repeated in common conversation.

"I'm going to the park to run."
"To the park? To run?"
"Yes, Mother, to the park. To run."
"Which park are you running in?"
"Barton Park."
"I don't think you should be running in Barton Park. It's not safe."
"Mother, it's just the park. And I'm just going to run. I'll be fine."

I'm writing persona poems. First I tried making a list of words that fit my narrator and his situation. I chose six and wrote them in their proper configuration. I stared at the pages, blank except for the line of words marching down the side of the page like addends in an unsolvable word problem. I felt totally stymied.

So I tried writing the envoi, something I felt this narrator would want to say at the end of his poem. Then I used the words that fell in the proper places as my new six words and tried the formation once again. It was like looking at a crossword puzzle with all the answers and no clues. No luck.

But. By that time I had internalized the pattern enough that I could repeat it from one stanza to the next. And I knew a little more about what this character wanted to say. So I started with stanza one. Then forced myself to find words to put in his mouth that made sense, were true to his complaint, and fit the form. What do you know? A sestina.

I will spare you my amateur concoction, since I'm not sure it is fit for human consumption yet. Instead here are links to some wonderful sestinas.

Ezra Pound used the form to give voice to Bertran de Born whom Dante condemned to circle eight in the Inferno for stirring up strife.  You may listen to a rare recording of Pound reading the poem," Sestina: Altaforte" here and words here.

Listen to John Ashbery read his sestina featuring Popeye, Wimpy, and the rest of the gang. It's called "Farm Implements and Rutabegas in a Landscape."

The Shrinking Lonesome Sestina
by Miller Williams

Somewhere in everyone's head something points toward home,
 a dashboard's floating compass, turning all the time
 to keep from turning. It doesn't matter how we come
 to be wherever we are, someplace where nothing goes
 the way it went once, where nothing holds fast
 to where it belongs, or what you've risen or fallen to.

 What the bubble always points to,
 whether we notice it or not, is home.
 It may be true that if you move fast
 everything fades away, that given time
 and noise enough, every memory goes
 into the blackness, and if new ones come-

 small, mole-like memories that come
 to live in the furry dark-they, too,
 curl up and die. But Carol goes
 to high school now. John works at home
 what days he can to spend some time
 with Sue and the kids. He drives too fast.

 Ellen won't eat her breakfast.
 Your sister was going to come
 but didn't have the time.
 Some mornings at one or two
 or three I want you home
 a lot, but then it goes.

 It all goes.
 Hold on fast
 to thoughts of home
 when they come.
 They're going to
 less with time.


Read the envoi here.

And just for fun, this one reminds me of  Chris Raschka's wonderful picture book, Yo! Yes?

Six Words 
by Lloyd Schwartz




Read the rest here.

Enjoy. Please zip over to Elizabeth Steinglass' blog for more Poetry Friday.