Friday, July 29, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #56

In which Your Humble Blogger accepts the passage of time (at least for now -- wait till I start griping about how quickly 2011 has passed):


November has lifted another page
From the year, from lives both in and outside
The home. A glance on one side of the walls
Reveals oak trees, stripped, shaken, and bending
To the blistering sky, and arrows of
Ducks striking the same hard line as the wind.
Inside the home might not seem much better
At first; every heart here has had to work
For each measure of blood it's allowed.
But in November, we also bundle,
Together, around a table for warmth.
The oven hums a tune of heat to match.
And with each day of ritual passing
From hand to known hand, we're able to say,
“Let November have its calendar page.
We'll send it ourselves.” And we press the page
Between our embrace until it smolders,
Disappearing into ash, and rises
Like the years that we mark with lit candles,
Like the smoke that we all together are.

* * *

*peeks through the spaces between her fingers*

Is it autumn yet?

Y'know, I used to hate the winter holidays. I thought it was awful that people seemed to spend most of the year being horrible to each other only to give in later to the warm fuzzies just because the calendar (and Hallmark) declared that we should do so at year's end. Now? I guess I'm just getting old, because I find myself grateful for those shows of kindness around Thanksgiving and Christmas. At least there's some time set aside for empathy and giving these days.


Whaddya know -- Monday's poem is a holiday poem as well. I promise I won't be as cynical with that one. Wait, one more time --


Okay, I'm set.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #55

In which Your Humble Blogger finds herself back at the end of 2010:

"With Winter Approaching"

Most of these pages remain blank, and yet,
You tell me that the snow is fast coming
As if I weren't already cold.

As if I'd forgotten the trouble with the color white.

* * *

To be honest, though, the pages of my notebook aren't so much white as they are an ivory or a bisque. :p

Looking at my notebook, I saw that I don't have too many poems left to share from 2010. And I realized that when I named this project "My Poetry Year," I didn't make it clear with the word "year" whether I was referring to poems from 2010 or poems written within the twelve-month stretch from when I started, from March to March. So I wonder: should I put the poems that came after New Year's Eve 2010/2011 on this blog? How long should I keep this madness going?! I still can't believe that I've had enough of an attention span to keep this project going this long.

Monday, July 25, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #54

In which Your Humble Blogger wakes to the language of flight (sometimes, I like these introductory lines better than the poems they introduce):

"They Watched the Sky"

They watched the sky, and they saw
Airplanes turn their turbulent metal toward the sunset.
They watched the sky, and they saw
Ducks skirt the trees toward a place nestled in instinct.
They watched the work of wings
Until the language of flight woke in each of them.
They watched the sky, and they became poets.
And they knew, forever after that, how to get home.

* * *

Odd little poem. Seems to get better with each line, starting at a "meh" level and working its way a bit higher.

Most of the poems you read here have been typed up before, so sharing them here is a simple matter of cutting and pasting and editing for line breaks. This is one that I just typed up now, and it almost went through with a typo -- "sucks" instead of "ducks" in the fourth line. Tee hee hee.

The commentary suffers when I prepare these posts late at night.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #53

In which Your Humble Blogger is back to making stark comparisons, this time ending on one of her favorite similes:

"The Winter Hound"

A thin-ribbed maple shivers.
Its ragged limbs rattle against the chill.

A thin-lipped woman shudders.
Her buckling body trembles beneath her coat.

And the wind drags its nails like the leanest of hounds
and, with eyes as desperate as December,
hunts them both.

* * *

A while back, I wrote about one poem in which I presented a few scenes, simply described, with not too much embellishment, and mentioned that I had another poem one that I thought set up its comparisons better. This is the other one. I'm not sure if I like how the language falls in the first two stanzas -- it lands with some pretty jarring thuds -- but darned if the image of that hound doesn't bring me back to those December days when the wind was just beating everything down.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #52

In which Your Humble Blogger answers the question: Who the @#!$ tries to write poetry while stuck in a crowded convention center?


The crowd deepens. We take the bait.
We hope for more but slouch in place.
And people age idling in wait.
Each hour's a new line on my face.

* * *

Many people put a date on their writings as they jot them down in their notebooks. (Actually, who am I kidding? Many people probably type their stuff directly on a computer and have the date stamped on the files as soon as they click "save.") I don't, so while I remember the general time of year and often the month I wrote something, I only have a few poems for which I can recall what the date was when I wrote them.

I dug this out of the notebook not because it's particularly good -- it's not -- but because I remember not only the exact date of its creation but also the exact spot where I wrote it:

A year ago today, on a Wednesday, I was one of hundreds upon hundreds of people, many lovely, some possessing questionable hygiene, packed into a meeting hall on the second floor of a convention center, waiting for the moment when I could join them in rushing downstairs and bursting onto the floor, where I could easily be parted with most of my hard-earned money.

I miss Comic Con a little.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #51

In which Your Humble Blogger shares one for many of the women who do the Chicago morning commute:

"The Women Who Love"

Here, boarding the train, are women
Who take steps with legs that support
As much hard work as any bridge.
Their shoulders bear the arches of
Heavy handbags, and their makeup
Isn't finished yet. Their spouses
Burn time in blue factories or
March in line at their offices.
Their children are at school today;
Some are even beating their wings.
But on the train are the women
Who love them all and who, sometimes,
Remember to be proud themselves.

* * *

I wrote a note to myself beneath this poem in my notebook: "Okay -- written when very sleepy!" Heh, guess I knew I'd want to be able to compare the pieces I write when I'm less functional to those I write when, well, a little more so. (That's the best I can hope for, it seems: more functional over less.)

While we're celebratin' wimmin': Another book I picked up from the library last week is The Language of the Night, a collection of essays and speeches by Ursula K. Le Guin. The quote featured on the inner flap of the dust jacket reads, "We like to think we live in daylight, but half the world is always dark, and fantasy, like poetry, speaks the language of the night...." (emphasis added).

Did you get the mental image of me jumping up and down, waggling my finger, and yelping, "A-ha! Yes!" There must be so many people out there who could be drawn to both! And she was writing about this a few years before I was born! Ah, reading that made my day.

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #50

In which Your Humble Blogger expresses disbelief: She's been at this blogging project for fifty entries now, eh?

"My Favorite Song"

Imagine a road trip, a moment,
Perhaps, on the second night of it.
The road is still running; the road
Is holding on to a lullaby
Promised ahead. The radio signal
Has long since retreated. The light, too,
Though there's a last candle bloom of it
Far off, waiting with that lullaby,
Making the shadows into mountains.
Imagine that, leaning toward that light,
You're suddenly caught by notes of your
Reflection, pale as paper, in the window.
You think of yourself jumping road signs,
And with that thought, you realize,
Even in this clipped part of the land,
Even on this quiet stretch of travel,
What dancing is. Now lay your forehead
Against the nighttime glass – or, at least,
Imagine so, and know that that's it.
The night is on, and so is the music.
It's a song I love for many reasons,
Not the least of which is that
Now, on your road, you've heard it, too.

* * *

I guess it's just culturally ingrained in me, but it seemed like the fiftieth post should be a reflection or celebration of some kind. So I'm posting a poem in which I revisit an idea -- music on a night road trip -- that I tackled before, this time approaching it with structured sentences. One good thing I can say about this project is that it's helped me identify even more ways that I can reinterpret ideas, and it's given me chances to go back, long after I've written pieces, and evaluate them to see how they can be revised.

Another good thing is that it's gotten a few people here, reading and talking with me and joining me for these strange little melodies of art that we sometimes hear in our heads. :) Even if you aren't posting here, thanks again for the companionship -- know that I appreciate it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #49

In which Your Humble Blogger plays with a moment in which very little needs to be said:

"A Note Found on a Door"

Fingertips, meeting on a doorknob,
send letters across the palms.

The door opens. Words stumble inside.
They shed their order onto the glorious floor.

* * *

I love it when I find items at the library that I totally didn't go there looking for. Yesterday's trip scored me a book called The Haiku Handbook by William J. Higginson. I hadn't heard of it before, and I don't know much about it except that, in its introductory chapters, the author mentions the three poets considered the masters of haiku (Basho, Buson, and Issa -- I haven't read Buson yet, but I've heard the name). So I trust this book, and I'm really looking forward to learning more about how to write in super-short forms effectively and enjoy them even more.

'Cause, if you haven't noticed yet, I really like short-form poetry.

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #48

In which Your Humble Blogger attempts to sketch a portrait of someone painting a picture:

"The Artist Tries to Capture a Scene"

Today, the world begins at a window
Through which the artist sees a big woman
Walking a small dog. The artist, feeling
The knot in his palm, has known for some time
That people can be seen without his eyes
Seeing them, and the world will continue
move if his hands don't move to catch it.
But he still has to try. Two hours later,
He remembers: To work is to suffer.
He has suffered in the form of one line
And is now taking a break. He goes out,
Checks the mail, comes back to drink a soda.
He fidgets at the dim bathroom mirror.
In the glass is a very old man with
Stiff shoulders, his face broken by the cracks
In the sidewalk where, before, the woman
Walked her dog. The artist is afraid of
The mirror, because the mirror is a
Window through which the line on his paper
Has started to follow the sidewalk's line,
Disappearing into parts of the world
That he might never get to see.

* * *

I skipped around in my notebook a bit this morning. There are a lot of poems in there that I don't like, and I wanted to spend time with one I liked at least a little. One thing I've learned so far from this blogging experiment: I have a lot of poems in which I try to force together words that don't normally go together, just because I'm intrigued by the way they sound next to each other. I end up enjoying those much less than I do poems in which I tell a story with simpler language.

I will say, though, that I think that being in a poetry mindset for a while has given me a new way to find ideas for short stories. Had I been in a fiction frame of mind when I wrote this one, it could have ended up as a fantasy story, with the artist's line literally traveling out of the window, into the world. As it is now, it's just poetic description. But it's interesting to me how the images that get used as metaphors when working in poetry can just as easily become the stuff of substance in surreal fiction.

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #47

In which Your Humble Blogger identifies a habit of watching cable news in bed just before you fall asleep as a mark of Respectable Adulthood:

"A Longtime Friend Comes for a Visit"

It's the worn house, once knocking at the joints,
That you braced and propped into something respectable.
You sealed the widest gaps tight against the teenage rain,
You fit the blinds carefully to the windows,
You planned, you pushed, and finally, at night,
You were able to watch cable news in bed, in peace.
But now, your friend's blowing in, and you recall
That you might not have set all the traps in the basement.
Some say that life is in the imperfect details:
The missing shingle, the hornet's nest threatening the porch,
The night you and your friend smashed melons at the store,
Just because. And what will you say
When your old friend tells you that
She preferred the life that you were putting together
Back when your house was falling apart?

* * *

It's been a while since I've watched some shows on TV. (Actually, it's been a while since I've watched most TV. I catch some episodes of 'So You Think You Can Dance' on Hulu weeks after they've aired, and for now, that's it.) But wasn't there an episode of 'Full House' in which Uncle Jesse's old bandmates come to visit him at the Tanner house, only to find him saddled with adult responsibility, in response to which they throw down the irresistible challenge embodied in such sentences as, "Dude, you've changed"?

This is the poetry equivalent of that.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #46

In which Your Humble Blogger's feelings about writing after a long day just bubble over. Egads, that is one bubbly, bouncy rhythm there:

"The Distant Subject"

On days that I've spent having fun,
It takes such an effort to write!
As if I've been given the choice
Of living a bit of a life
Or letting my pencil describe
What living a bit might be like.
And night becomes tense with the task
Of tying it all down to words.
The painter lets breath move her brush
As if this is the only way
That she and her model might kiss.

* * *

What started out in my head as a throwaway poem at the end of a day out ended up being one of the little snapshots that I like more, mostly for the fact that the last three lines end the poem in a different place from where it started. Also, with this one, once I had written the first two lines and noticed that they had the same rhythm (da-DUM-da-da-DUM-da-da-DUM), I decided to push myself past my default tendency of just writing in syllabics and try to make the rest of the poem fit that pattern, too. Eh, so I fudge it in the second-to-last line a little. I'm sure someone, somewhere, has also felt the need to stress the word "the" in a sentence. ;)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July

Hello, everyone! In honor of Independence Day, I'm posting links to two poems that I think reflect on the holiday here in the states better than anything I have to post could.

The first one is by Kate Gale, and it compares life in two different countries in pretty basic terms, yet still says volumes:

"I think your country has the most wonderful bathrooms..."

The second is by Walt Whitman. If you want to talk about the United States in terms of glorious promise and potential, I don't believe you can do better than Walt Whitman (though, for my money, Philip Levine comes close):

"I hear America singing, the varied carols that I hear..."

Happy Fourth of July. May the ideals of hard work and innovation never be forgotten.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #45

In which Your Humble Blogger sees evidence of nature's big, sweeping grandness in an everyday detail:


The geese rise like mountains
From the slope of the water.
Like the mountains, they will make
The line of the entire sky.

* * *

Here's what's probably a really banal thing to say: I like thinking about shapes. Even when I briefly took up painting, I spent a lot of that time playing with geometric abstractions. But I get a lot of images that I find interesting to play with when I compare the shapes that objects (or even phenomena) take, as was the case with the poem about curves. Waves, wings, mountains, flocks in flight -- the comparison was begging to be made, I tells ya!

Currently, my closest retention pond has been taken over by mallards as well as geese. Nine new ducklings have made their debut this week. Additionally, our resident great blue heron has returned and is occasionally joined by a beautiful white crane. At the beginning of the year, I pondered doing another blog simply featuring regular updates on life at the pond. However, that would have required me to go outside often, and something about the weather this past January and February made me wonder if I could reasonably keep up with that.