Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Gratitude

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, 
then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” 

“My gratitude for good writing is unbounded;
I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.”

     ― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

If you have heard this song too many times,
switch off the sound and just search the images for inspiration.  

Midweek Motif ~ Gratitude

The New Science of Gratitude:  "Author and researcher Dr. Robert Emmons has discovered what gives life meaning: . . . . Gratitude improves emotional and physical health, and it can strengthen relationships and communities."

What do you think?

Your Challenge:  Compose a poem around the idea or experience of gratitude.

from Thanks  
by  W. S. Merwin,  1927 

. . . .
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

. . . .  (Read the rest HERE at The Acadamy of American Poets)

Part in peace: is day before us?
Praise His Name for life and light;
Are the shadows lengthening o’er us?
Bless His care Who guards the night.

Part in peace: with deep thanksgiving,
Rendering, as we homeward tread,
Gracious service to the living,
Tranquil memory to the dead.

Part in peace: such are the praises
God our Maker loveth best;
Human hearts to heavenly rest.
Such the worship that upraises

For those who are new to Poets United:  
  1. Post your new gratitude poem on your site, and then link it here.
  2. If you use a picture include its link.  
  3. Share only original and new work written for this challenge. 
  4. Leave a comment here.
  5. Visit and comment on our poems.
(Next week's Midweek Motif is "a day 'that will live in infamy' or a 'bomb' of a day.")

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Auto-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.

Monday, November 24, 2014


in Conversation with Susan Chast for PU

PU:  Dear Sherry, Let us begin!  I want to use your poem “My Inner Old One” for our talk.  It wasn’t easy to choose from so many poems I love.  I always fear autumn sentiments as “end of life” prayer, but this poem is bright.  It screams for doors and windows to fly open not only right now but right here.

Sherry: Yes, this one burst through with a strong message for me, and part of the urgency is that time ahead is finite. Time to do what my soul needs NOW!  

PU: Let’s start by re-reading:

My Inner Old One

Birds cross the sky in covens,
this golden autumn-of-my-life.
My eyes follow their flight,
my soul quickening to the sound
of their honking admonition:
follow the predestined route!
Find your way home!
The Voice of My Tribe croons a chant
that murmurs on the breeze.
I feel the winds of change blowing through
the drafty chambers of my
just-before-winter heart.
The Old Ones are telling me:
Time to open the door of the cage
and free the wild bird of your being,
the one you have been hushing
and placating with crumbs
for so long.
Free her with joy, and,
as her wide wings swoop and thrum
across the shimmering sky,
traveling between the worlds
in the space-where-there-is-no-space,
along the-way-where-there-is-no-way,
heed the call of those wild birds.
They are giving voice to
the longings of your soul.
Lift up that expectant, waiting life
with the urgency
of not-much-time,
and, if you're ever going to fly again
as, once, you flew,
do it soon,
do it completely.
Do it now.
PU: I Love this poem, Sherry!  Birds in flying covens, several of them, remind me of times like All Hollow’s Eve when witches are said to be out and the veil between life and death is supposed to be thin.  How did you see your covens of  birds?  How are they related to “the Voice of my Tribe” and “the Old Ones”?

Sherry: When I re-read this poem, sometime after writing it, I asked the question I often ask: “Who wrote this poem?”  So many times when I sit down to type, especially when I write about the Old Ones, it is like I am taking dictation. I simply type what comes. This is when I believe my Inner Old One, the One Who Knows, is speaking the deepest longings of my heart. I don’t think about it, I don’t work at making the words line up properly. I simply type and read what She is telling me. The message is pretty clear in this one. My eyes always follow the birds and, in this poem, I imagined many many black birds, crows or ravens, since they are common in my area. But there also must have been geese, doing the honking.  

PU: I love the contrast between honking and crooning in your poem.

Sherry: It is said that geese honk to encourage each other, to energize the lead geese up front, and lend strength to their wings and their spirits. When the leaders fall back, birds in the rear move up and take their turn at leading, while the others keep up their insistent honking. The Voice of My Tribe is the message of my friends on the West Coast, who understand Wild Woman and wait to welcome her home.  Wild Woman hears their voices crooning on the wind, encouraging her to return home like the wild geese, to return home from being long away.  Crooning, also, with sadness at her long absence, just as my voice croons within, at being gone. 

PU: Where is the protagonist returning to and from?   What is the predestined route?

Sherry: The predestined route is my journey back to the sea. In 1972, I discovered I was an ocean person, but I was landlocked for many years, pining for the West Coast where I knew the ocean was still wild. In 1989, I felt my soul was dying, that I could wait no longer, and so I gathered all my courage and trust and made a mighty leap – to Tofino, where I spent the ten most glorious years of my life. 

In 1999, I was forced inland again, by health and finances, an hour and a half away from the place where my soul belongs – it is too far. The time came, a year ago, when I tried once again to make that leap, and the universe supported me. But circumstances conspired; I temporarily lost trust, forgot to listen to that inner voice, and backed out. Immediately, my soul set up such a clamor, I knew I had been meant to go, so I tried again, but the opportunity had been lost.

PU: Yet in this poem you say:
. . . traveling between the worlds
in the space-where-there-is-no-space,
along the-way-where-there-is-no-way,
heed the call of those wild birds. . . .

Sherry: My inner voice has grown more insistent, as time grows more finite ahead of me. This poem spoke the words to me that make it clear. I need to align myself with the universe’s plan, set aside fear of age, finances, health, and get back to where I belong for whatever years are left to me.

PU: Many, many years, I suspect. What poems you will write there! 

Sherry: Mostly, my spirit will be joyful there, once again. The beauty, the wildness of nature, is spectacular in that power place, where the ley lines intersect in such a way it exerts a magnetic pull on those of us drawn to where they intersect.  If anyone might like to read more about it and see the photos of its spectacular beauty, see my Love Song to Clayoquot Sound .  

PU: The “Love Song” reads like a prose poem.  It’s biography containing a song to which “My Inner Old One” is a refrain:

 “A song of the clean and pungent air, the salt spray, the sea foam, whitecaps lined up and galloping into shore like wild white horses, manes a-flying. A song of the wild waves, roiling and crashing over black volcanic rock, swirling the maelstrom of The Cauldron at the base of the cliffs on Frank's Island. . . .”

I love how you ask yourself “Who wrote this poem?” and see the voice as the ocean or the Inner Old One—a voice much larger than yourself.   How does that feel?   You speak for those of us who are called to something but don’t yet know the way.  What is it like to have another poem but not yet the journey?

Sherry: A great question. At first, I re-read the poem and went “Whoa! It could not have been said more clearly.” And then I felt chagrin, as I was THIS CLOSE to being there and got scared. I had it handed to me on a platter, and other influences caused me to lose my certainty: things like a lack of affordable year-round housing there, when I am skirting the edge of poverty and am too old to have insecure housing. 

PU: You felt chagrin???

Sherry: Yes, chagrin. The universe looked after me last time, and I have to trust that it will again. So, here’s another poem, saying what my soul has been saying forever....and not the journey.  Not yet. But it also stiffens my spine, to keep trying, to trust the universe will find another way to get me there.

PU: So the bird in the cage is you.  You have a unique and melodious way of making the bird-in-a-cage image your own.  

Sherry: I have been writing about birds in cages since my hard years in the 1970's, when I would find myself in a cage with door ajar, and still not know how to make my way out. Finally, I did, thank the Goddess and, having known that joyous freedom of the skies, I remember, and I want to share that vision with those who might still be in cages of their own making. So we can all fly free as we were always meant to do.

PU: That is what I was left with from reading “My Inner Old One,” encouraged to get on with my dreams.  I also identify with your image of a woman standing in the middle of a natural scene that speaks her longing.  You do that without anthropomorphizing natural things. It seems as if you become part of nature instead of giving nature human qualities.  Do you see yourself as a nature poet?

Sherry: My bond with nature runs so deep, that I think you may have hit on something.....becoming the tree, the bird, the wolf, rather than making them human.  I always tell people that my children taught me how to Be a Tree – during their ups and downs, I knew early on that I needed to grow a tree inside me: strong enough to support them when they needed support, but something strong and steady to hang onto myself, to withstand, so I didn’t roller coaster up and down with them. So, when I put my hand on a tree trunk, she is my sister. We both endure the storms. We both support life. I feel such affinity. Such gratitude.

I would be only too happy to be acknowledged as a nature writer, since my favourite poet, Mary Oliver, is the best one there is, and I adore her work. I do write about many topics. But nature has been, this lifetime, my lover, and that is the strongest thread in my tapestry.

PU: You have another poem in what you just said! Your loyal readers know nature is the strongest motif in your poems—even stronger than “journey” and “return.”  Many of your writings open up nature, and I can see it as a lover, with you finding your equal and symbol among the trees and birds. 

Nature outside and in—and poetry blogs!  I love what you do here at Poets United.  How do reading, commenting on poems and interviewing poets fit into your life?

Sherry: Oh goody, an easy question, LOL! It is the best part of my life, truly.  My writing had slowed to a trickle, in 2010, for lack of nurture, when a dear friend insisted that I start a blog on Blogger. I did, and went onto Blogger Forum and asked “where can I find other poets?” and Robb Lloyd, founder of Poets United, bless his heart, said “why don’t you try Poets United?” I did, and in a short time, was writing again and admiring the interviews Robb did. He asked for help and I said I’d be interested in doing interviews (feature writing and interviews were my forte when I was a cub reporter on daily newspapers back in the day), and soon I took them over.

I am absolutely fascinated with peoples’ stories: each one so unique. I always say real life is far more interesting – and often more unbelievable, mine being a case in point – than anything a person can make up. I love putting these interviews together, it never gets old, is always surprising. I struggle with chronic fatigue, this year more severely than ever before. So I tend to guard my energy by staying home. Being able to come online and connect with people all over the world  keeps my heart happy.

I feel badly at times, like now, when I am so flummoxed I can barely write at all, and can’t make it around to comment as widely as I prefer..........but the connections I make online are my real life. It is where my happiness and sense of contribution lie. What I need to do to survive in my actual life fades into the background the minute I start tapping the keys.

P.U.: Wow!  Thank you, Sherry.   We’ve been so engaged in conversation that we forgot to order tea and biscuits!  Let’s meet again sometime, friend, and add some actual food to this feast.

Sherry: Yes! "Next time, with goodies!" Thank you, Susan, for the idea of doing a chat about this poem. You are exceptionally good at doing interviews! (I am taking note!)  And thank you, dear readers, for joining us in this conversation, and for your participation through the weeks and months at Poets United.


Poets and readers, thank you for joining us.  Please feel free to ask your own questions in the comments.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Poetry Pantry #228

Photos Taken By Totomai Martinez

Sunrise at Panglao Beach

("Philippines has 7,107 islands and there are lots of beaches. This is taken in Panglao Beach, Bohol. 
I woke around 5 am, and waited for the sunrise. I was just starting in photography when I took this photo.")

Chocolate Hills in Bohol
("One of the popular tourist destinations in the Philippines is the Chocolate Hills. It seems unreal but really it’s true.
It was affected recently by an earthquake but I think it’s once again open for tourists viewing.")

Boracay Island
(Boracy Island is always included in one of the best beaches in the world. With its blue crystal waters,
white sand and stunning sunset, lots of foreigners visit this island.
Very popular during the Holy Week season – the peak of summer.")

Masskara Festival in Bacolod City

("This is my hometown and our city is known as the City of Smiles.
Masskara Festival was founded when our city was struck with calamities and tragedies.
We decided to cover our woes and pains with smiling masks.")

The Ruins in Bacolod City

("Known as Taj Mahal in the Philippines. This is an old mansion located in one of the sugarcane 
plantations. It has a rich story behind it and it’s about unconditional love too.")

Greetings, Poets!

This next Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the United States.  Thanksgiving should be, in my opinion, the beginning of the lead-up to Christmas; but it seems as if we have had many Christmas decorations and products in store since right after Halloween.  Sigh.  We have had a bout of extremely cold weather, and it looks like we will be having another rough winter here.  But...for those of you in the United States, do have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Glad to see each of you here this week for Poetry Pantry.  It is always enjoyable for me to get to know you through your poetry; and I hope you feel the same.

This week I am sharing photos taken by Totomai Martinez.  (I will resume with Bjorn's series next week.)  Totomai came from the Philippines but has been working in Japan for almost 8 years now.
In his introduction to his photos, he said that the Philippines has 3 major geographical divisions, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.  However, all of the photos shared today are from Visayas as he was born there.  In a few weeks I will be sharing his photos from Japan.  Thank you, Totomai!

For today, link your ONE poem.   Then leave a comment below.  And  be sure to visit others as well.

If you are on Facebook, look for us there as well. Join our site.  It is one more way to stay in touch!

Be sure to see what Sherry Blue Sky has to offer us on Monday.  Check out Susan's Midweek Motif on Wednesday.  And read Rosemary Nissen-Wade's feature on Friday.

The link for Poetry Pantry will close Monday at 12:00 p.m. (CDT), but you can still visit the links of those who have posted them.

Have a great weekend.