Blog

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Poetry Friday: Yoga Poems (Thanks, Linda)

The spare moments of late have indeed been spare. And when they come, I tend to indulge myself with doing mostly nothing within them. Yesterday was almost a full day all to myself. No doctor's appointments or errands to run for my in-laws who have not been well the last month. So I made coffee and settled in with my journal, went for a walk, did an online yoga class, listened to an audio book, and played with my grandson at the creek. Toward the end of the day, I walked barefoot to the mailbox and found a brown envelope addressed to me. Inside was a book of poetry and a note from Linda Baie, who knows the demands of caregiving. 



I have not seen it before, Linda. It was a perfect end to a lovely day. Thank you for your sweet thoughtfulness. 

I had been thinking earlier that I would like to get back to posting on my blog (though I may still be spotty), but didn't feel particularly inspired. As I paged through the book, I found many poems that spoke to me, but thought I would share just this one. 


Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
One-Legged King Pigeon

by Leza Lowitz

William Carlos Williams
wrote poems
on a notebook small enough to fit
in his breast pocket
on his medical rounds.

Yasunari Kawabata 
wrote stories
small enough to fit
in the palm of the hand.

The body writes stories small enough to fit
in the tiniest cell.
Every centimeter
has a different beginning
and end.
Day by day
the gap between beginning and end 
thigh and floor
heel and head
closes up,
the narrative writ large
on each small movement.

Start small and the world expands
as Goethe said, but start anyway.
In beginnings 
there is the magic
of yes.

As much as I like this poem, I don't teach this pose in my classes for a number of reasons. I agree with Jenni Rawlings of Jenni Rawlings Yoga and Movement, who recommends modifications for working to strengthen the hips in the pose rather than overstretch those ligaments, over arch the low back or stress the knee joint! 

Check out some alternatives here

Heidi hosts the roundup today at My Juicy Little Universe.


Pondering: Catching Quiet

Photo by Ander Burdain at Unsplash.com


from "Passing Ordinary Time"
by Enuma Okoro

It is a hard art to learn,
catching quiet
by palms raised
cupped in
air shifting location
here and there like
trying to guess the pattern of falling leaves,
and hoping to feel the soft descent of moments
when silence slips
between sounds.



Friday, June 2, 2017

My Sentiments Exactly




from Prayers from the Ark by Rumer Godden

The roundup today is at Buffy's Blog

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Finding Joy





This week the bloggers of Spiritual Journey Thursday are posting on the theme "Finding Joy," suggested by Margaret Simon over at Reflections on the Teche. Head over to Margaret's blog if you'd like to read more on Finding Joy.

When I first read the topic for the month, I thought about what it means to find something. Was it lost? Was there a lengthy search? Was it simply a random stumbling upon an unexpected treasure to be pocketed with satisfaction?

But is that the way joy comes?

I think joy is something deeper than happiness. Joy can be present when happiness is tenuous or even absent. It is the understructure, the miraculous, the unexpected sense of knowing, not just who I am, but whose I am. The essential knowing that I am loved, that it's a good thing I am alive, that I have a place in the world. It's a solid knowing at the base of my soul that I can return to when the constant barrage of comparison, disapproval, or judgment lead me, like Pilgrim, toward the "slough of despond." It's a knowing that I am enjoyed by the one who created me. It's a safe place.

from Ode to Joy
by Annonymous


Joy everlasting fostereth 
The soul of all creation, 
It is her secret ferment fires 
The cup of life with flame.
'Tis at her beck the grass hath turned 
Each blade toward the light 
and solar systems have evolved 
From chaos and dark night, 
Filling the realms of boundless space 
Beyond the sage's sight.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Morning



Margaret hosts the round up today at Reflections on the Teche. Wishing you a morning filled with espresso, soothing music, and steaming green grass. 

Morning 
by Billy Collins


Why do we bother with the rest of the day, 
the swale of the afternoon, 
the sudden dip into evening, 

then night with his notorious perfumes, 
his many-pointed stars? 

This is the best— 
throwing off the light covers, 
feet on the cold floor, 
and buzzing around the house on espresso— 

maybe a splash of water on the face, 
a palmful of vitamins— 
but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso, 

dictionary and atlas open on the rug, 
the typewriter waiting for the key of the head, 
a cello on the radio, 

and, if necessary, the windows— 
trees fifty, a hundred years old 
out there, 
heavy clouds on the way 
and the lawn steaming like a horse 
in the early morning. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pondering: Feelings



The 16th century Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross reminds us that, as wonderful and consoling as feelings of God's presence might be, they are not God. All consolations and spiritual gifts, he reminds us, are finite and as such are infinitely less than God, who is infinite. We are not to reject any consolations that may come along. But neither are we to cling to whatever consolations or other spiritual gifts we may experience. For God made our hearts in such a way that only God will do.

From Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God by James Finley

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pondering: Rooms



“There is an Indian proverb that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emtional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.”
       ― Rumer Godden

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Pondering: Goblins and Princesses




“It was foolish indeed - thus to run farther and farther from all who could help her, as if she had been seeking a fit spot for the goblin creature to eat her in at his leisure; but that is the way fear serves us: it always sides with the thing we are afraid of.”
       ― George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

“I write, not for children, but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.” 
       ― George MacDonald

“...it is so silly of people to fancy that old age means crookedness and witheredness and feebleness and sticks and spectacles and rheumatism and forgetfulness! It is so silly! Old age has nothing whatever to do with all that. The right old age means strength and beauty and mirth and courage and clear eyes and strong painless limbs.”
      ― George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

Friday, May 5, 2017

Passing Through Albuquerque

Photograph by Kenneth Park (NARA)

I'm traveling today and will be enjoying some rest time and some work time over the next two weeks. While my journeys will keep me in the Deep South, I enjoyed this poem from the Southwest. Wherever your feet take you this week, I hope you find joy. 

Jama has the round up today at Jama's Alphabet Soup.


Passing Through Albuquerque
by John Balaban

At dusk, by the irrigation ditch 
gurgling past backyards near the highway, 
locusts raise a maze of calls in cottonwoods. 

 A Spanish girl in a white party dress 
strolls the levee by the muddy water 
where her small sister plunks in stones. 

 Beyond a low adobe wall and a wrecked car 
men are pitching horseshoes in a dusty lot. 
Someone shouts as he clangs in a ringer. 

 Big winds buffet in ahead of a storm, 
rocking the immense trees and whipping up 
clouds of dust, wild leaves, and cottonwool. 

 In the moment when the locusts pause 

Read the rest here

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Pondering: Reach


Today is the first Thursday of the month and time for my Spiritual Journey Thursday post. Today we are focusing on Donna's One Little Word for the year, REACH. You can enjoy other perspectives on reaching by stopping in at Donna's website, Mainely Write.

I posted a piece of a poem a few weeks ago that has spoken so deeply to me. As I think of this idea of reaching, I keep coming back to it again and again. You can read the first stanza here and the full poem here.

This ache for eternal beauty draws us forward, keeps us reaching beyond what we can see, beckons us from our present circumstances to a deeper understanding of our source of beauty, of life, of eternity. 

It reminds me of something Paul said in his letter the the church a Phillipi. 

"I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward..."

from Soul’s Eternal Rapture
by St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-395)
translated by Scott Cairns in Endless Life: Poems of the Mystics
And thus, at every point
         she learns that each
                new splendor is to be
eclipsed by what is to come--
         the ever-exceeding
                Beautiful that draws, and calls
and leads the beloved
          to a beauty of her own.
                  

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Meet Abigail Carroll

Before I start today's post, I'm looking for Jen Hdez who won a copy of Here We Go from Janet and Sylvia. Jen, please contact me so I can get the book to you. JoAnn Early Macken hosts the roundup today at Teaching Authors. And now on to my friend Abby!

Photo by Women's Water Alliance

Dear Francis,

The shower head is broken.

I've been bucketing water from the faucet,
            ladling it over my shoulders
and hair,

letting it run down my back.

This is how so many 
            have done it before
and somewhere in the world even now--

a slow, monk-like cupping
             and pouring. 

There is something about the breaking

and re-breaking of water
            over the arc of the body--

with each down flow,

            a baptism.

Recristened

© Abigail Carroll, 2017, Eerdmans.

I am very pleased to introduce you today to Abigail Carroll. I have to admit that Abby is a virtual friend I discovered about this time last year when I shared one of her poems called "Spring Forward."

Abby's new book,  A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim, is a collection of forty personal letters to Francis. The book is described as "part devotion, part historical biography, part contemporary engagement, and part inspiration—reveal her curiosity and wonder about Francis. She also uses Francis as a sounding board for larger questions about the world—and, through her own experience, explores how brokenness makes experiencing redemption possible."

Abby's poetry has appeared in Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide (Paraclete Press, 2016) as well as in a variety of magazines and journals, including The Anglican Theological Review, The Christian Century, Crab Orchard Review, Midwest Quarterly, River Oak Review, Sojourners, Spiritus, and Terrain.

Her prose has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, and Boston Globe, and her first book, Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal, was a finalist for the Zocalo Public Square Book Prize. 

Abby lives in the Burlington area of Vermont, where she serves as pastor of arts and spiritual formation at Church at the Well. She enjoys discovering new swimming holes and photographing nature.

You can find Abby on Twitter @ACarrollPoet or explore her website here.




Dori: You first became interested in St. Francis as a girl of ten during a trip with your family to Assisi. Was poetry a part of your life at this age? Was there a specific poetic voice that appealed to you?

Abby: I wrote my first poem at a young age—probably around the age of 6 or 7—and I remember my grandfather submitting it to the local newspaper, which published it probably for its cuteness factor rather than any literary value. I discovered Edna St. Vincent Millet at age 9 and thought her poem “Afternoon on a Hill” was exquisite: I wanted to step into it and “be the gladdest thing under the sun,” to “touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.” My sixth-grade English teacher required us to memorize a poem each month—a fairly old-fashioned assignment these days, but one for which I am immensely grateful—and several of those poems have remained with me over the years like longtime companions. 

The voice of the poems in A Gathering of Larks reflects the influence of Canadian poet Susan McCaslin, whose chapbook of letters to William Blake planted the idea to write a series of letters to someone in history. As I was thinking about who, I remembered my deep sense of intrigue as a ten-year-old in Assisi, walking the streets Francesco Bernardone walked, visiting his tomb, and seeing the sites associated with his life. Writing these letters was like revisiting Assisi—a return to my childhood sense of wonder.

Dori: You describe Francis as a troubadour, a poet, and a hopeless romantic. Do you have a favorite from Francis’ songs?

Abby: “The Canticle of the Sun” stands out. Francis’s sense of affinity with the earth was not just remarkable, but truly radical and unique for his time. He not only held deep respect for creation, but saw himself as part of its song—a larger song of praise articulated continuously by the elements and creatures. A troubadour was a traveling composer of songs, mostly songs of courtly love. “Canticle of the Sun” is a praise song to the Creator, but also a love song to creation.


Dori: Tell us about your perspective of letters as a literary form. Are you a letter writer in everyday life?

Abby: As a literary form, I believe letters travel the intersection of poetry and narrative. A correspondence (even just one side of a correspondence) tells a story, but it does so with many holes. The story emerges not just from the content of the letters, but from the spaces between the content. A letter is an intimate form of communication: a first-person address usually to a single reader and not meant for a wider audience. So when letters become literature (or literature takes the form of letters), the letter invites the reader into a person or character’s spiritual landscape quite compellingly.

Sadly, I am not much of a letter writer. I think I would have been a dedicated letter writer had I lived in an earlier era, but electronic communication has managed to undermine my inclinations to pen correspondence by hand. Writing these letters to Saint Francis gave me a glimpse of what it might have been like to live in a letter-writing era. Letters are a particularly satisfying genre to write in. They are like a conversation in slow motion with a bit of contemplation added to the mix.

Dori: I am intrigued by your salutations and closings. These seem to function much as titles and themes for the poems. Did you think of them this way as you were writing or was it something you came back to in revisions?

Abby: I embarked on each letter by writing a salutation as a way to remind myself that I was writing letters first and poetry second. Francis’s personality had many facets, so addressing him in different ways (Dear Francesco, Dear Lover of Lady Poverty, Dear Advocate for Wonder) helped me to hone in on the theme or aspect of his life I wanted to engage in a given letter. Writing the salutations and valedictions was one of the most fun and gratifying aspects of the penning these letters. Salutations helped me set the tone and direction of a letter right from the start, and valedictions offered an opportunity to confirm that tone or, by contrast, introduce an unexpected twist at the end, lightening up a serious poem or adding gravity to a whimsical poem. The valedictions also became a way of exploring my own identity in light of my relationship with Francis. 

Dear Lover of Light,

There lived a priest
so in love with light
it drove him mad.
Paint was his thing.
When he could no longer
preach, he hopped a train
south, took up a brush,
turned zinc and lead
and chrome
into gaudy, wild-
petaled ambassadors 
of the dawn. He slapped
stars as big a brooches
on the sky, danced
crows across bowing fields
of wheat, exalted a bowl
of onions, a bridge, a pipe,
a chair, a bed. Postmen
and prostitutes
were his friends--
so too were irises,
almond trees,
windmills,
clouds. Francis,
if you think of painting 
as a kind of song, he too
canticled the sun.

A Vincent enthusiast

© Abigail Carroll, 2017, Eerdmans.

Dori: You said, “A poet is always asking her poem what it can do without.” This is a lovely way of describing the process of writing poetry. Does the culling happen instinctively for you or in revision or both. Can you tell us more?

Abby: Revision starts off quite organically for me. As I write a line, I work and rework it until it feels strong enough to become the springboard for the rest of the poem. And then I find myself working and reworking the second line until it feels strong enough to support the following line. I’ve noticed that lines give birth to lines, so a line is often only as strong as the one it issues from. 
I revise as I write, but I also revise again after stepping away from for a time. The more distance I’ve gained, the more freedom I feel to play with the poem’s arrangement. I’ll often ask myself whether the poem should start with a different line, perhaps the second line or the last line. In terms of culling, I find that the rougher my draft, the more extraneous words it contains. To a point, the more words I remove, the stronger the poem becomes. 

Dori: One writer I know says that dialog calls us into being. Did you have a sense of discovering things about yourself as you conversed with Francis?

Abby: Absolutely! Writing these letters brought Francis into being for me in a way I could not have predicted. I related to him, not just learned about him. And when I finished the letters, I felt a certain sadness, as though a dear friend had moved away. Penning the letters started out as a literary project but became a spiritual exercise. And, as in any spiritual exercise, I ended up learning a great deal about myself. 

Francis became a mirror in which I saw my life and experiences in new ways. His irrepressible delight in nature invited me to cultivate my own delight in the tiny natural treasures of my backyard, where I spent most of the summer I wrote book, with my broken foot up in a cast. His audacity to follow his convictions in unconventional ways, giving up his wealth and status to care for lepers and rebuild dilapidated churches, planted a seed of desire in me to devote myself to the callings and convictions of my heart rather than to the agenda that the world has for me. One of those callings was to the write the letters that form this book.


Dori: Do you have a favorite letter from the book for us to close the interview?

Abby: One of my favorite letters is the second, a reflection on planting my garden. I always plant seeds too close, unable to imagine that each will actually become the full-sized plant pictured on the package. Planting, here, becomes a metaphor for faith, but the poem is also about the mysterious purposes of a life, which I liken to a seed that must die before it can bear fruit, and which will never actually see the full picture of the life it produces. In a similar way, Francis never saw the full picture of his influence, which continues to bear fruit across the globe today. Likewise, we are only afforded a small glimpse of the fruit born from the love, faithfulness, and good works in our lives.  


Dear Brother Francis,

Time to plant, time to press my nails
in dirt, 
             resurrect the earth with chives,

Swiss chard, basil, beans. The shed

is dark, winter still stuck in its shingles
and boards,
            trowels, gloves, watering cans,

pots. Francis, I am learning to have faith

in seeds. Every year, I drop the grains
too close,
            thinking only a few will stem

and leaf. I do not trust the package notes,

I do not space punctilious rows or calculate
their depths. 
            It seems to me no life can rise

from dust--and yet it does: year after year

this plot turns a weedy, flowering jungle
of green. 
            What if the whole of a life (yours,

say, or mine) is simply this--a tiny germ

of wheat sleeping in a bed of soil?
The crop
            this shell will one day yield it will

never actually see. All it can do is dream.

A Green Thumb

© Abigail Carroll, 2017, Eerdmans.


Dori:  And here is one of my favorites from Francis.




Pondering: Interruptions



“The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one's life.”
             C.S. Lewis

Friday, April 21, 2017

Meet Peter Huggins (And Drawing Results)

A Gift of Air, part of the Solomon & George Chapbook Series, is the sixth poetry publication by Peter Huggins. The Series pairs a visual artist with a literary artist and features twelve works by each.  Placed on facing pages, handmade paper pieces by visual artist Allyson Comstock accompany poems by  Peter Huggins.

I'm delighted to introduce you today to Peter Huggins. Peter was part of my first critique group and his voice always brought clarity, whether we were working on poems, picture books or novels.  He and his wife live in Auburn, Alabama, where he is retired from teaching in the English Department at Auburn University after thirty-one years. Peter has written six books of poems, as well as publishing poems in journals and magazines. 

He's also published in the children's book industry--In the Company of Owls, a middle grade novel (NewSouth/Junebug Books, 2008) and a picture book, Trosclair and the Alligator (Star Bright Books, 2006), which has appeared on the PBS show Between the Lions.





If you haven't seen Trosclair and the Alligator, you really should check out a copy. It's a delightful Cajun retelling of the Brer Rabbit in the briar patch story.










And now on to the poetry Peter is sharing with us today. Enjoy!

A Gift of Air

Virgil said honey came
From heaven, a gift of air.
Aristotle thought that bees
Did not make honey but gathered it
As it fell from the sky.
Samson scooped honey
From the carcass of a lion,
Then ate it as he went along.


When I put honey in my tea
I taste the meadow
The bees drank from.
I feel the wind, the rising warmth.
I smell the flowers,
Their sweetness, and I am refreshed.

©Peter Huggins

from an interview with Kudzu House:

Madison: Well, I guess the last question I’d like to ask you is there any advice you’d like to give emerging poets and writers?
Peter: Yeah, and I think I can do that in one word: read. Really, I mean, that’s it. Read. I think you have to just read, read, read. And, if you’re a poet, not just poems. Any poet can learn a lot from reading well-written prose. You can learn a lot about pacing, about story arc. I mean, obviously in poems, you do it in a much more compressed fashion, but you can learn a lot about how to do that, particularly how to pace, and how to elaborate on things that need elaborating or things that need cutting. So reading, and not just whatever genre you’re writing in.



Audubon’s Engraver

At the end Audubon didn’t know his name.
He couldn’t remember birds.
So many of them. My favorite prints:
Louisiana Tanager and Scarlet Tanager,


Blue Jay, Indigo Bird, Summer
Red Bird, Yellow-throated Vireo,
Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I could
Come up with a new list tomorrow.


He killed them, you know. So many
Songbirds, waterfowl, birds of prey
Gone. I know he killed them,
His specimens, he said, to render


Them more precisely, to make the
Come alive. Havell, he said,
You are tender-hearted and do not
Understand the process. You have not

Walked the woods or slogged through swamps
For days on end to see what I’ve seen.
He was probably right and I
Didn’t hesitate to admire or profit

From what he produced.
I gave him the fame he wanted,
Yet I wonder, as the dementia that
Took his life tightened its grip on him,

Did he dream of hawks or songbirds,
Of waterfowl in the long V of winter?
Did he return those birds to the wild?
Did he remember sky?

©Peter Huggins


If you'd like to hear Peter read, click here for "Interview with a City."


A native of Mississippi who grew up in New Orleans, Peter has an intimate knowledge of the South, especially New Orleans and Alabama, and his love for the area is evident in his poetry.



South

I returned to smell the dark.
That other country had
No scent I recognized as home.
The French and English street names

Were not unfamiliar.
I had grown up with Chartres,
Napoleon, and the muses
Clio and Polyhymnia.

On the Mississippi River,
I smelled the world,
Coffee and bananas,
Cars, silk, wheat, and wine.

The St. Lawrence
I admired from a distance.
The Mississippi was mine.
It flowed through me as I danced.

The twilight on the rivers
Running on the levee;
The long evening on Lake Pontchartrain,
Drinking the salt air;

These brought me to myself,
The cracked and broken ice
A cold dream to remember
When the heat became intolerable.

Exiled Jefferson Davis
Lived for a time
In Montreal as I did.
I fled my past to study

The past and escaped, I thought,
The legacy I was born to.
I theorized the class struggle
In eighteenth century France

And nineteenth century Britain.
I edged my way to the
Twentieth century disasters,
The lights all going out.

I refused the easy charm
Of exile, I rubbed
My fingers in the green grass,
I smelled the dark.

Awash in diesel, the tugs
Pushed barges upriver.
The lions in the Audubon Zoo growled.
History ran on.

She said, Trust me.
Lie still.
Listen. Music
Will tell you what you want to know.

©Peter Huggins


Here are the results from last week's drawing for five copies of Here We Go by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell.

Matt Esenwine
Keri (Recommends)
skanny17
Bridget Magee
Jen Hden

Please send your mailing address to me at doraine.bennett@gmail.com.

Tabatha hosts the roundup today at The Opposite of Indifference.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pondering: Incomprehensible



“People who’ve had any genuine spiritual experience always know that they don’t know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind.”
                 ― Richard Rohr

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Poetry Friday Round Up and Giveaway


Welcome to Poetry Friday. I'm delighted to have you here for a few moments of your day. And yes, I'm giving away five copies of Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book, courtesy of Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell.

Janet and Sylvia have been using their talent and seemingly inexhaustible energy to make bringing poetry into the classroom more accessible for both teachers and students.

Here We Go is a book about four friends whose circumstances are bigger than they are.

Jack's dad lost his job. Life is tough at his house.
Ameera is Muslim and kids often say bad things about her.
Jenna's single-parent mom works long hard hours.
David is a border kid, born in the U.S., but often traveling to Mexico. Life is uncertain.

It's a book about families.
It's a book about poetry.
It's a book about activism.

But most of all, it's a book about finding the courage to be the person you're meant to be and acting from that center.



Let's take a look! I thought the best way would be to dive into a powerpack and participate.

This is the opening page for Powerpack 4. I personally love the creative imagery of these opening pages.  The designs and patterns by Franzi Paetzold capture the theme of each powerpack.




The next spread is a powerplay activity designed by Sylvia that gives students the chance to play with words and word choices.





Here's my wordplay. I began with rhyme, then moved to some slant rhyme.



Next is the anchor poem, a previously published poem from an outside source that reflects the theme of the powerpack. The response poem (written by Janet) is from the point of view of one of the four friends and expands on the theme. 



The mentor poem, again written by Janet in the voice of one of the four friends, gives students an example to study as they begin working on their own poem. 



And finally, there's a writing prompt, created by Sylvia, that challenge students to write using specific techniques encountered in the preceding poems of the powerpack. 



I chose to work with internal rhyme and slant rhyme. 

One day while working on the poem, I received an invitation to participate in a sort of mock poetry slam. Ten rounds of poems (which are read, not recited) matched to a theme given at the beginning of each round. I was suddenly thrown back to an unsettling memory, a loss of memory in fact, in front of a crowd.  Here's my poem. 

Invitation to a Poetry Slam

And suddenly
you’re seventeen
onstage in the school auditorium
after weeks of practice Mrs. Higgins
glasses slipping down her sharp nose
pronounces you ready
oak boards creak beneath your patent leather pumps
orange letters sprawl across royal blue
drapes shout Blue Devils
students slouch in worn wooden seats
you step to the microphone
don’t look at the crowd don’t allow
your gaze to find a face
focus on the doors
the hallway back to homeroom
open your mouth
sentences come out
somehow you relax
think you’ve found your voice
until a pause
long enough for shuffling feet to still
for stoners in the corner to rouse
to check what caused the lack of sound
long enough to vow never again
a loud whisper from stage right
Mrs. Higgins with your speech in her hand
life line for a drowning man

© 2017 Doraine Bennett

And each powerpack unit is loaded with the same kind of learning power.

I appreciate this comment from Ed Spicer, educator and literacy expert. “This book will allow all sorts of emotions and thoughts to bubble forth, including difficult and painful ones . . . and that will be a source of healing.”

Isn't that what we love most about poetry?

In a recent article in The Dragon Lode, the journal of Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group, Janet calls the method "poetry fanfiction," encouraging students to use a mix of published poems and new poems as structure for their own expression.
More than ever, tweens and teens are looking to invent new ways to express themselves, to document their lives and insert themselves meaningfully into the world. Poetry fan fiction can teach language arts skills in a brand new way that honors their desires to create. 
This is a book for teachers. Sylvia and Janet have done the pre-write planning for you.
It's a book for students with compelling characters and a good story.
It's a book about using words to help students find their own perspective.

What's not to love?

Leave your Poetry Friday below.
Leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for one of five copies of the book.







Pondering: Happiness



“she had long accepted the fact that happiness is like swallows in Spring. It may come and nest under your eaves or it may not. You cannot command it. When you expect to be happy you are not, when you don't expect to be happy there's suddenly Easter in your soul, though it be midwinter.”
               ― Elizabeth Goudge, The White Witch

Friday, April 7, 2017

Meet Nick Norwood




powerhouse

now that you are here
amid crag and gleam
mist-rise and vapor
dark jade frothing
into white lace
here where the rains
come to gargle
spit jets of spray
see herons creep
smokestacks peer
through high windows
spirits sleep
spool and spindle
shaft and shackle
tie-snake and eagle
sit still
as an old powerhouse
and mind your moorings
the river roaring

© Nick Norwood

On Fridays in April to celebrate National Poetry Month, I will be introducing you to some of my "real life" poetry friends that you might enjoy knowing.

Today you will meet Nick Norwood. He is a professor of creative writing at Columbus State University. When I returned to school back in 2000 as a non-traditional student (old, in other words! I was 50 when I graduated),  Nick was my creative writing professor. He is much of the reason I am writing poetry today. 



Nick is also the director of the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians in Columbus, Georgia, and Nyack, New York. His poems have appeared many literary journals, including The Paris Review, The Wallace Stevens Journal, and The Oxford American. He has been featured at the PBS NewsHour site Art Beat, U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s syndicated column American Life in Poetry, and on NPR’s Writer’s Almanacwith Garrison Keillor

The poem above, "powerhouse," was a commissioned collaboration between Nick and  CSU art professor, Michael McFalls. The sculpture scrolls across the top of the retaining wall along Columbus' downtown Riverwalk exactly opposite the old Eagle and Phenix Mill house. Click here for a reading of the poem and comments by the poet, sculptor, and sponsors of the work.

And now enjoy these poems that Nick is sharing with us.

Shetland

Shorty, lone ornament of the south pasture;
brawny, bristle-maned chestnut stuffed with clover.

A savage saddled: ornery, headstrong, mean.
But once, in a snit, I banged through the screen

and found him idle by the barbwire fence
just staring—calm, inert—toward the house

and got a wild hair, thought, I’ll stroke his muzzle.
Sidling up, age nine, my palm met his skull—

an anvil, a fieldpiece shrink-wrapped in hide—
and the news traveled up my arm. This cloud

of sweat and flies and moist, long-rifled breathing,
this piss-hot leathery stink, had being.

He was a beast, all right, but so was I.
At last we two were meeting eye to eye

and my brain forged for us an island north,
hardships braved, friendships kept, galloping forth. 

We stood long in Texas while the June sun
slowly moved, mid-morning; a calf went on

bawling for its mother. I remember
hearing my grandmother’s radio stir,

crackle, and settle on the local weather
as we were disappearing into the heather.

© Nick Norwood


From the interview, "Five Questions with Nick Norwood" by J. Aaron Sanders at The Negatives:

What is your philosophy of failure?
Writing poems is like cold-calling. I’ve heard that among salesman it’s considered success to have one out of 20 cold calls result in a sale. That means 19 of those calls were failures. Only 5% of the work succeeded. That seems about right. William Stafford defined a poet as a person who, in a lifetime of standing out of doors during thunderstorms, manages to get himself or herself struck by lightning two or three times. And Stafford’s own career is proof of that. Though he wrote many fine poems, anthologizing mostly reduced him to two or three, and really he’s known to most people by only one—his brilliant, beautiful, and sad “Traveling Through the Dark.” All of his other poems are, in a sense, failures of varying degree.

Ronnie’s

Dad dead, Mom—back in the bank, tellering—
started dressing in cute skirts and pants suits
she sewed herself from onionskin patterns
and bright-colored knits picked up at Cloth World.
Got her dark brunette hair cut in a shag.
And she and her single girlfriends from work
on a weekday night would leave me to “Love
American Style” or Mary Tyler Moore
and step out to hear the country house band
or now-and-then headliners like Ray Price
and Merle Haggard. Mom’s blue Buick Wildcat
shoulder to shoulder with the other Detroit
behemoths in the dim lot around back.
Wind skittering trash along the street. Bass
notes thumping through the sheet-metal walls
and the full swinging sound suddenly blaring
when a couple came in or out the door.
I know because I’m there, now, in the lot,
crouched behind the fender of a Skylark
or Riviera, in the weird green glow
of the rooftop Ronnie’s sign, not keeping tabs
on Mom, not watching out, just keeping time
with the band and sipping a Slurpee
while she dances through this two-year window
before getting re-hitched, settling back down.
Just twenty-seven, twenty-eight years old,
looking pretty, and having the time of her life.

©Nick Norwood


Latchkey

Remember the first time
you let yourself in—
stunned by the sheer
silence of it all,

the sunlight blooming
on mute, blank-faced
walls. And how you
stormed, then,

from room to room
blistering furniture
and framed photographs
with your hollering,

commanding the sunlight
to go away go away
because you wanted
to be alone.

Remember how you
yelled yourself
dizzy—exhilarated
and scared.

And how eventually
you dropped
into your mother’s chair
and watched

that same sunlight creep
silently across floors,
up walls,
and let itself out.

© Nick Norwood

If you would like to hear Nick reading, click here for PBS News Hour's Art Beat.

I hope you enjoyed meeting my friend. Irene Latham hosts the roundup today at Live Your Poem. Be sure to stop by. There are so many wonderful ways to celebrate National Poetry Month in the Kidslitosphere. And if you haven't been following Irene's progressive poem, be sure to check out the links below and catch up.

April

1 Heidi at my juicy little universe
2 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
5 Diane at Random Noodling
6 Kat at Kat's Whiskers
7 Irene at Live Your Poem
8 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
9 Linda at TeacherDance
10 Penny at blog-a- penny-and- her-jots
11 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
12 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
13 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
14 Jan at Bookseedstudio
15 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
16 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
17 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
19 Pat at Writer on a Horse
20 BJ at Blue Window
21 Donna at Mainely Write
22 Jone at Jone Ruch MacCulloch
23 Ruth at There's No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
24 Amy at The Poem Farm
25 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
28 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
29 Charles at Poetry Time
30 Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids