Archive for the ‘Poetry Challenge’ Category

Poetry Challenge 69

June 11, 2011

Something New

The growing season is in full swing here.  Everyday, some new wildflower that I hadn’t noticed growing bursts out into full bloom.  On the bank where I experiment every year with seeds and perennials, the irises I planted two years ago have speared up, bulged at the tips, and curled open into purple flowers.  The roses–our Alaskan wild rose–are dotted with pink blooms, and excess of pink on those bristly branches.  The bluebells are out, and the cone flowers, the invasive but beautiful purple vetch, and those yellow things that were in a packet of seed I threw out and that come back every year in a new place.

Solstice will be here soon, but, till then, the light increases daily and our activity reaches the manic–and we’re glad of it.  In the garden and in the greenhouse, I’m trying out new plants again–tomatoes friends have given me, a new variety of baby cabbage, and the ongoing biochemistry experiment of the manure compost.  Mattie and Sam are settling in to their new lesson routine–more on that when Sam writes his post again–and I have high hopes for the summer.

So write about something new–experienced or imagined.   Surprise us with what surprises you.  Tell about your grand experiment of the season.

Post it in here in comments and I’ll add it to this.

Poetry Challenge 68

May 10, 2011

Pasque flowers

We’re still in a holding pattern for spring.  Every day, the sun heats the air enough that we can go out and about without our jackets, but in the shadows, a chill still radiates from the frozen ground.  Gardeners are restless.  A friend described his impatience to get on with the matters of summer by digging a fence post hole, and found that he could only dig a few inches down before hitting frozen dirt.  The garden looks bedraggled in its fall mulch or the bleached stalks of the last broccoli I couldn’t bear to cut down before last fall’s snows.

In the midst of all this brown and our impatience with it, I looked up on the steep bank above my house and saw that my pasque flowers were blooming, always the first sign that spring will come.   They are a perennial, shaped a bit like a fuzzy crocus, purple with yellow centers, there against the brown dirt of the cutbank.  They will last a week or so, then the rest of the greening up will start in earnest.

I have a fondness for purple flowers–the pasque flower, the irises that will follow–and I’m a sucker for purple garden vegetables: purple broccoli, cauliflower, string beans, carrots.   Write a poem about a color that has meaning for you–that repeats itself in your life or in your dreams.

Post it in comments and I’ll post it here.  And maybe,  now that finals are coming to an end, I’ll post one, too.

Poetry Challenge 67

April 28, 2011

After a month of sad news, the snow is melted and the temperatures are above freezing pretty much consistently.  We’re in what passes for spring in the Interior–the brown-up period of mud, dead grass, and January’s trash come back to remind us of winter’s events.   The air is warm and moist after months of dry and bitter cold.

In her blog Wild Roots Homestead, my neighbor, Emily, writes of her toddler’s reaction to seeing the dirt emerge after a whole winter’s snow.  “What’s that?” she asked, and Emily said, “It’s dirt, remember?”

So write about something that was once as familiar as dirt, but now seems new and strange–full of possibilities.

Post it in the comments and I’ll add it to this post.

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This came from Karen at KD’s Bookblog:

At the Level of Dirt

Until Gram died when I was seven, I lived
at the level of dirt—powdery and dry
beneath the overarching honeysuckle
near the porch, drifted deep into cracks
of the empty carriage shed, scuffed
and tamped hard beneath my rope swing
hanging from one of four huge sugar maples.

The long gravel driveway ended in a patch
of yellow sand where I traced thin roads leading
nowhere. Our narrow blacktop circled
to the village either way. Side roads
without signs suggested nothing. Mostly,

Gram and I walked through the hayfield
and crossed a low stone wall to visit
Millie Stuart. She and Gram listened
to their stories on the radio. Millie died
first and her husband, Cecil, burned
things in a barrel. Ash drifted upward,
pulling my gaze away from the ground
where I stood, rooted and uprooted.

Karen Douglass

Poetry Challenge 66

April 8, 2011

On Friendship and Transience

The days are warmer now–in the 40s (Fahrenheit), and a fresh snow has fallen on the melting snow, covering all the emerging dirt, spruce needles, scraps of paper.   I am glad of this warmth, even though it’s relative.  And I’m thinking of transitions.

I learned yesterday that my friend Kim had given up the struggle of her last days and slipped off into the vast ocean of consciousness–an image I once heard from a Buddhist monk.  I have been grieving her going for over a week now, and to learn that she had finally let go was a relief–followed by these warm bright days.

I still have not written the longer piece I want to write about her, but, for now, am thinking about transition–winter to spring, seed to plant, wood to fire, being to non-being, or as Faulkner put it “Was. Not was.”  Write about something in transition–the moment before the bird alights, the pause before sunup, the day before the river breaks up.   Write about things that are so transient they are lost before we have time to realize they have been present.

Post a poem in the comments and I’ll add it to this post.

—————————————————————-

Here’s one from an old friend, Larry Laraby;

Recipe for the perfect ‘Life.’

Indifference
Apathy
Fear
Pain

Strip
Salt and pepper
Sift
Simmer
Bake

Kill the beast of indifference,
Strip the beast of its apathy.
Cut the pain of sorrow from
The flesh of oppression.

Salt and pepper to taste

Sift the fear from the first blush
Of innocence. Combine equal parts
Of love and forgetting
And stir in a generous helping of hope.

Bake at the speed of light,
Sprinkle with grace
Let cool until Autumn colors the days with memories.

Larry Laraby (1-21-2010)

 

Poetry Challenge 65

March 22, 2011

We are well into the season of light here in the Interior.   Everywhere, the sun intensifies the whiteness of snow, or gleams off the slick patches of ice still on the road since November’s ice storm.  The air is warm during the day–or warm for us, in the 40s.   On the south-facing sides of snowbanks, the light is carving away the packed snow into the shape of a wave, arching and crashing slowly, in one-frame-at-a-time stop animation, into summer still months away.

Today I heard MFA student Eddie Kim present his poetry thesis and thought about how his poems both invited the reader, like the March sun does, and kept the reader at a distance, like the ice patches, or the below zero nights.   A poem lures us in then pushes us back, surprises us, or challenges us.  Do we make the meaning for the reader?  Is the meaning only in what the reader brings to the poem?  Or like  sun on snow, do we carve a new shape, a new vision for the reader so imperceptibly that he or she is moved without even knowing why or how?

Write about something that moves you and something that pushes you back.  Write about something beautiful in something unlovely.  Write about the profound in the ordinary.

Post it as a comment and I’ll add it to this post.

——————————

Here’s a poem from Greg at 21st Romantic:

Makeup

She paints herself
in long lines
and short punctuations of color, swings
open drawers, blasts

the hairdryer through her
thick black hair, hair as heavy
as night, not like
the light fluff

of shadows. Her lancing–so
purposeful, so
crafted, as if
appearance could be everything

in Art–pricks a
question: how much
does appearance matter
to an Artist? Is she

like a cook
protecting a secret ingredient?
The same ingredient mothers
stir in potatoes? And so what

more could he offer her, then? As he
drapes his arms over her
shoulders like two long, white locks
of hair, curling; both faces

reflect in her vanity
mirror, smiling. What was the man guarding
when he instructed her, “look at the us that we
will never be”?

Poetry Challenge 64

February 21, 2011

Winter Storm Advisory

Today I woke to small fast flakes falling straight down.  Out in the corral, the bottom rail of fence had disappeared under the top surface of the snow, and the wind swirled the falling and the accumulated snow from spruce branches into a gray mist above the impatient backs of the hungry horses.  When Jeter and I went out to feed them, we sank deep in it, fluffy and granular at once.  Out in the driveway, my car sat in snow up to the wheel wells.   Every step I took felt slowed-down and heavy, walking through all that knee-deep snow.  Jeter leapt from spot to spot rather than trying to walk in the stuff.

So, what should have been an ordinary Monday changed into a day spent shoveling snow, pushing it off the side of the driveway with snow scoops, then digging out the car and truck.   By late afternoon, we were done and sprawled out on the couch for a nap.

So, write about how the weather surprised you today–a small detail or an overwhelming one.  Write about the way that surprise changed a day, a moment, a thought.  See if a dog wanders through the poem.

—————

Here’s a response from Tim, a different take on snow:

 

I Jokes

I imagined that I chose to walk this morning
and found an old friend along the trail.
The frost bit our knuckles
when we each bared a right hand to shake
and ask “how’s the day?”
Snow fell down my collar, when I ducked
a branch so that we could walk side by side,
my breath taken for a moment.
Small things mattered: moose droppings on clean snow,
a weasel darting, angular and quick,
raven like a shade over our heads,
and the jokes we told, each trying
to insult the other: “how’s your wife,
and my kids?” nothing was sacred
except mothers.
For a long time we were loud and alive,
plumes of frosty laughter fogging the trail,
mukluks crunching crystals into hard pack,
pushing and pulling each other into diamond-hard willows
trying to win the day. Then the trail broke
into an open field; we had never walked this path.
Sun reflected off of the dust- soft snow,
so thick you knew it held the sound
of every small noise made in the night;
it was as if the light itself was noise
and the blanket of winter wanted the earth
to continue sleeping. Out of instinct, we tiptoed the periphery,
and told no jokes.

Poetry Challenge 63

February 2, 2011

There’s more light on the corral every day now.  Each afternoon, as I leave campus, I take the measure of it–the level of dusk at 5 o’clock, or 4.  Soon, I’ll be able to come home with enough daylight to begin an evening longeing routine for Mattie and Sam, to get all of us in shape for riding season in May.

Last night, I ordered seeds–radishes, my favorite Chianti Rose tomatoes, Laciato kale, zukes and yellow crookneck squash, and an assortment of flowers that I may be able to convince to grow on the steep bank behind the house.

These are all signs of the easing of the season–and then there’s Groundhog Day.  I wrote about it here last year or the year before, but it’s a holiday that has a certain resonance in my memory of being a teenager in Central Pennsylvania: the smell of mud and manure, anticipating the first crocuses, and the ludicrous seriousness of the Slumbering Groundhog Lodge in Quarryville, PA.  I tell the story to my students every year–how the groundhog sees a blinding flash of light, sees his shadow, bolts back into his hole, and we have six more weeks of winter.  Or he doesn’t see the shadow and we have six more weeks till spring.  In either case, here in the Interior, we have three months till break-up, so we look for other signs–our moods lift, for example, as the sun cycles higher above the horizon.

You may be socked in with snow right now of mired in the bad news of the world.  What images keep you hopeful of spring?

Post a poem in response to this challenge and I’ll add it to this post.

Poetry Challenge 62

January 24, 2011

Shakespeare and (not yet) spring

The signs of the season–more light lingering in the afternoon, an orange sherbet color in the late afternoon sky, the luscious greens, reds, yellows of seed catalog photos, the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theater Bardathon, the sparkle of snow now that the sun’s high enough in the sky to reflect from each crystal.  From Ocala, news of the birth of Fiddle’s newest foal, out of the stallion Shakespeare, named Bard of Avon–splay legged and already showing the high shoulders and strong haunches and just a hint of coil in the spine that can uncoil in a sprint down the track.  Not any where near spring, but far enough away from the darkest winter that we feel ourselves awaken to dream of spring.

Write about what gives you an inkling of hope, a sense of the change of season to come.  Or, like a new foal, what holds promise for the months and years ahead.  Post it in commments and I’ll add it here.

Poetry Challenge 61

December 30, 2010

Travel

At the turn of the year, the holidays tempt us to travel to visit family, or, for those of us in the Interior, to visit the sun.  As I prepare to fly south for a week, I’m reflecting on the fragmentary memory of previous flights–images of landscape below, fragments of conversation, faces in crowded airports, the adrenaline of rushing down corridors to make a connection.  I remember waking in a plane, puzzling sleepily over the words “White lights lead to red lights”–what could that mean?  It seemed profound after 12 hours of flying.

After the flight, the visit, the return, what’s usually left is just the memory of the highlights of the visit, but what about the memory of travel?  What we ask of our bodies and psyches–hurtling at high speeds through the atmosphere, dropping briefly into unknown spaces with unknown people–is extraordinary.

Write about the lost moments in airports or on planes; make a collage of impressions and see what it forms into.   Post it as a comment and I’ll add it here.

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Jan 15

A response from Greg Lyons, from his new blog 21st Romantic

Alaska

She falls on her knees to help him
smash the lid of his suitcase shut.
He pulls the tongue back, tightening
the covering with each tooth

clenched. The motion makes a noise
like the turning of an empty stomach
as if this is the first time they’ve talked
about this moment, a whisper

gasping between them. Before the zipping
completes, a sleeve spills out and she stays
his hand with her hand. He nods,
defeated. Their fingers work the sleeve back in

to zip. His bag rolls behind him and her eyes
have bags holding the luggage he has left.

———————————–

Here’s mine.  I’m still processing my recent travels, and will post more on the trip.

(I still haven’t figured out how to copy poems into a post without the extra spaces.  Sometimes it works as with Greg’s poem, but mostly not.)

Pre-dawn, Orlando Airport

Sky above runway: swimming

pool blue, streaks of lemonade

and tangerine, a white cartoon

vapor trail dividing night

from morning.  Dazed awake,

we wait to bolt into air, one

more thrill taking us home.

 

An hour ago, at the curb,

in moist air, you and I

patted backs.

Under my palms, the bones

of your spine curved, a flightless

bird.   That long leisure,

such hard work, bends you.

The sky lightens, a wash

of sun across the waiting room,

each passenger wrapped

in stillness, meditating

the astonishment of flight.

The embrace

 

of memory: one minute a child

listening to dishes clatter

in the kitchen, wrapping

deeper in quilts, hearing

a rumble of voices, a name

that sounds like ours

blinking through dreams

like last night’s

firefly.

Poetry Challenge 60

December 18, 2010

Days away from solstice now.  The light is slaty blue in the deep afternoon–sundown around 3:30 and losing a minute and a half of daylight each day.  Temperatures hovering at around thirty below.  Things that don’t seem to belong together merge: the cold of metal feels hot to the touch; hands turn to flippers in  layers of gloves topped with mittens; the darkness holds light reflected in all directions by the white snow; the ice on the roads gains friction as the temperature drops; and deep in our drowsing psyches, some wild energy stirs, gives us dreams, reminds us of the extravagance of spring months away.  Someone asked what the brief time between sunrise and sunset should be called and I suggested “dawnset,” the state of daylight for us in the Interior this time of year.

So write about opposites merging, their energy, their resolution into a whole.  Or write a complaint about the deep bitter cold.

 


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