Friday, February 28, 2014

I Wish I'd Written This

Vertigo

By Anne Stevenson

Mind led body
to the edge of the precipice.
They stared in desire
at the naked abyss.
If you love me, said mind,
take that step into silence.
If you love me, said body,
turn and exist.




This poet is new to me. I came across this poem quoted online, and was so struck by it that I thought I must have it for 'I Wish I'd Written This'. So I researched her, and found that she is well-known. Probably many of you have heard of her, even if I hadn't.

I learn from Wikipedia that she was born in 1933, and has written many books of poetry and criticism, and a biography of Sylvia Plath, Bitter Fame. Ah, so I've heard her of her after all; I read that, years ago, but did not at the time pay any attention to the fact that Stevenson, too, was a poet.


She came from a literary family, was born in England and raised in America, and has lived most of her adult life back in the UK. There are biographical notes with a literary focus at Poetry Foundation, and you can find a selection of her poems at this link on her website.


In fact the very best source of information is her website, with links to her books, her essays and interviews, and several recordings. Also there are two pages of her books at Amazon.


I like this particular poem for its succinct and arresting encapsulation of the experience of vertigo, which could also apply in non-literal ways. And I love her ease with the half-rhymes, which are right without being trite. The poem itself is a kind of abyss; the more I look into it, the deeper it takes me. At first glance it's simple and straightforward, but it has a great deal of metaphorical and allegorical force.


Often, when I give you a short poem, I add another for good measure. Perhaps not this time, as this poem can bear so much pondering. And there are more at the link I've given you, where you can find your own favourites.


Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Success


“If you're not gonna go all the way, why go at all?”

“A lifetime of training for just ten seconds. ”

". . . hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting."
― Barack Obama,  Victory Speech, Nov. 7, 2012


Midweek Motif: Success

Consult with your experience about success and your muse, and come back with a new poem. 


I am inspired by three poems about success:  
          BY EMILY DICKINSON
Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear of victory

As he defeated – dying –
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!

(2)  Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson, and

(3)  Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

(Our next Midweek Motif will be Women's Achievements) 

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Auto-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
For best results, use HTML mode to edit this section of the post.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Life of a Poet - Madhumakhi

Kids, one of our long-time members at Poets United is the young poet, Madhumakhi, who writes at It Can Get Verse. I finally got her to agree to an interview, and am so stoked to be meeting with her. Fasten your seatbelts, as we are zooming off to India once again - to its southern shores. Pour yourself a cup of chai, and settle in. You will be amazed by this young woman.




Sherry: Madhumakhi, I am so happy to be interviewing you. You have been with us for a long time, and I cant believe it has taken me this long to finally meet with you. My bad.  Give us a little snap shot of your life, so we can know you better, will you, please?



Sunday, February 23, 2014

Poetry Pantry #190


Auckland, New Zealand


Christchurch Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand


Queenstown, New Zealand


Queenstown, New Zealand


Mount Cook, New Zealand




Greetings, Poets!  


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.  Admittedly, I personally appreciate those with whom there is a feeling of reciprocity, which makes for a feeling of community.  I think we ALL tend to visit (after a while) people with whom we reciprocate.

This week I am sharing photos I took in New Zealand a few years back.  Do visit New Zealand, if you have an opportunity.

Be sure to visit Poets United tomorrow to see what Sherry Blue Sky  has planned.  

Glad to see the turnout  for  Mid-Week Motif Wednesday continues to be good.  We hope to see you this coming week for another challenging prompt by Susan Chast!

And on Friday, remember to see who Rosemary Nissen-Wade is featuring on her I Wish I Had Written This!

I issue an invitation here to those of you who participate in Poetry Pantry.  If YOU have special photos that you would like me to feature some week, let me know what kind of photos you have.  There are participants here from many different cities, many different countries.  I think it is great fun to see different areas featured. I am especially interested in scenic views of your area or an area you have visited.  Send inquiries first to dixibear@aol.com letting me know what you have.  I am interested in city or country views - in your home area or places you have traveled.

Anyway, with no further adieu, this is one of my favorite spaces to post poetry each week.  I hope you look forward to it too.  An older one or a new one, it's your choice.

Link your ONE poem.   Then leave a comment below. Then visit other poets.  And I will too.  (If I miss your poem, visit me, and I will visit you... I am like anyone else, appreciating reciprocity.) We ALL like comments, so if you link please DO spend time visiting others.  That is part of the fun as well.  We really like it if you link back to Poets United too, so we spread the Poetry Pantry word in the blogosphere.

Come back a few times on Sunday and Monday to see what's new.  Visit some strangers, and they will become new friends!  Making new friends and reading new poetry, what more could one want?

Also, don't forget to visit Poets United other days of the week.  For example, every Wednesday (after the new year) Susan Chast posts a new "Mid-Week Motif" prompt.  Hope you will join us there as well!  Sherry Blue Sky does a feature (it varies) on Monday, and Rosemary Nissen-Wade does "I Wish I'd Written This" every Friday!

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

And now...here is the procedure, for those who are new here:  Each Sunday we start a new post with a New Mr. Linky for you. This is so that you can post a link to a poem in your blog. The link will close Monday at 12:00 p.m. (CDT), but you can still visit the links of those who have posted them.

Enjoy!

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Living Dead

Honouring our poetic ancestors

The Unquiet Grave
— Anonymous

“The wind doth blow today, my love,         
    And a few small drops of rain;         
I never had but one true-love,         
    In cold grave she was lain.         

“I’ll do as much for my true-love
    As any young man may;         
I’ll sit and mourn all at her grave         
    For a twelvemonth and a day.”

The twelvemonth and a day being up,         
    The dead began to speak:            
“Oh who sits weeping on my grave,
    And will not let me sleep?”

“’Tis I, my love, sits on your grave,         
    And will not let you sleep;         
For I crave one kiss of your clay-cold lips,
    And that is all I seek.”

“You crave one kiss of my clay-cold lips,         
    But my breath smells earthy strong;         
If you have one kiss of my clay-cold lips,         
    Your time will not be long.

“’Tis down in yonder garden green,         
    Love, where we used to walk,         
The finest flower that ere was seen         
    Is withered to a stalk.         

“The stalk is withered dry, my love,
    So will our hearts decay;         
So make yourself content, my love,      
    Till God calls you away.”


Those of you who realise I was widowed nearly 18 months ago might think these words have a particular, poignant meaning for me at this time; and indeed it could function as good advice to myself just now. Also you might take it as giving new meaning to my series title, 'The Living Dead'! But in truth I've always loved this old ballad, ever since I first encountered it in one of my English Literature textbooks when I was 17. Wikipedia, which describes it as an English folk song, tells us, ' It is thought to date from 1400 and was collected in 1868 by Francis James Child, as Child Ballad number 78', and adds that there are many variants of it. I further learn from Wikipedia that 

'The Child Ballads are a collection of 305 traditional ballads from England and Scotland and theirAmerican variants, collected by Francis James Child during the second half of the 19th century. Their lyrics and Child's studies of them were published as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, a work of 2,500 pages. The tunes of most of the ballads were collected and published by Bertrand Harris Bronson in and around the 1960s.'


You can find the ten variants Child collected at this link. The one I've posted above appears first. For a long time it was the only one I was aware of. A number of contemporary singers who have embraced this song have tended to prefer versions with prettier and/or more dramatic words, e.g. Joan Baez, heard here on YouTube.  To me the incomparable Baez can do little wrong, and the words she has chosen suit her style and presentation beautifully — nevertheless I still love the words I've shared here best of all. 


I love them because they are plain and matter-of-fact (despite the subject) — almost salty in their earthiness.  First a quiet observation about the weather, just the way you might chat to the dear 

dead whom you're reluctant to let go of, then the bald explanation, all the more poignant (I think) for its lack of detail or drama. And I like the straight talking of the dead love — 'my breath smells earthy strong', almost humorous there for a minute, before moving into the sober warning that this fixation is unhealthy. The speaker leads gently, through the example of the flowers, to the final message, which is perhaps not a huge comfort but is realistic and practical.

This ordinary, unvarnished language grounds the poem for me. It's about real people in a real situation, to which I could relate long before I had the personal experience. I think that's why it so captured my imagination when I first encountered it and stayed with me ever since. Well, OK, it's a heightened version of reality, with the dead literally speaking. In that way it's dramatised — however is only a small remove from conversing with our dead in our heads.


How different this is from the sumptuous language of Flecker in my previous 'Living Dead' post. Aren't we lucky, as poets, that we have so many ways of using language to create the effects we're after — and as readers, to be able to appreciate such rich variety!



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Leaders/Leadership


“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” 




“I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom 

and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.” 







Today's Motif: Leaders/Leadership


Write an ode celebrating an historical leader or fantasy hero.  Here in the USA, I am thinking of President's Day and its emphasis on George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but there are many other choices living and dead and fictional and not yet created. What do you see as leadership?

I am inspired by Botlahle's performance poem that won the South Africa's Got Talent competition last year:  




(Next week's Midweek Motif will be Success)

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Auto-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
For best results, use HTML mode to edit this section of the post.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Blog of the Week~Wabi Sabi

At her blog of the same name, Wabi Sabi writes an eclectic mixture of wonderful haiku and other poetic forms, not to mention her stunning photography. This poet captures the essence of haiku wonderfully, her voice often echoing the tone of the old masters. I include a sampling of her recent work for your enjoyment. You will find much to delight you at Wabi Sabi - our Blog of the Week. In the Time Before Dawn totally gob-smacked me recently in the Poetry Pantry. I already had this poet set to go as our Blog of the Week, and simply had to add it in. Enjoy!



In The Time Before Dawn


In the time before dawn
the sky is another country,
all purple and windy, 
with a strand of pink haze
wrapped around the horizon,
embracing the morning star,
snuffing out her beauty
like a candle tilting in the bruised wind;

the gulls write their story
across the snow clouds,
their crying captures a word- juggler
in time’s lonely aspect
sustaining her in the warp and weft of the storm.

The poet planned an epic tale,
woven out of the fugue state of winter
sent by the devils of the night,
but her meager notes mention
only that the sky is still another country,
all purple and windy,
even after dawn.

****
©2014 Wabi Sabi
Sunken Meadow in Summer Wabi Sabi 2013


****
summer day -
the breeze, the green, the egret
oh! not a single yearning!
****

   ****
silent night -
                 again, the cicadas miss
              the green corn moon
    ****




Here is a wonderful haibun I could not resist!


Planting seeds in the spring requires an enormous leap of faith.  For the farmer who plants many acres or the gardener with a tiny vegetable patch, the distance from that early spring day to  harvest is often measured in the number of  bug battles, the hours of prayer for good weather, the pounds of weeds ripped from the soil and of course, months of back-breaking labor.  The seed embraces the soil, the sun and the water in a magical dance of life.  The wise farmer knows that he participated in this miracle too!
**
ripe tomato -
slicing up the sun’s warmth
for lunch
**
One can almost taste the sun-warmed tomatoes. And a very touching poem about two little sisters:


Esther dreams 

of a period filled 

with gauzy comings and goings,

she has a vision of two little girls,

 how many years ago?

pajama clad 

nestled on the floor

the tv tuned to jackie gleason,

some kind of tribute show.


one sister has to leave

going by subtle degrees,

creeping away like a hermit crab

crashing into another world

leaving behind an empty shell,

and her only sister.


 no one had the power

to persuade her to stay,

not Esther,

not anyone,

 and before she leaves,

she carefully opens up 

a hungry space in Esther’s heart.

****


Wonderful work, Wabi Sabi! Thank you for your deep and meaningful poetry, and for your active and long-term participation at Poets United. We look forward to enjoying much more of your work.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Poetry Pantry #189



Budapest - Hungarian Parliament Building



Budapest - Chain Bridge


Entrance to Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden



Budapest Castle Hill Funicular


Greetings, Poets!  


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.  Admittedly, I personally appreciate those with whom there is a feeling of reciprocity, which makes for a feeling of community.  I think we ALL tend to visit (after a while) people with whom we reciprocate.

This is the second week I am featuring some photos taken in Hungary (when she was on holiday)  by Gabriella.   Thank you, Gabriella, for sharing with us.

Be sure to visit Poets United tomorrow to see what Sherry Blue Sky  has planned.  

Glad to see the turnout  for  Mid-Week Motif Wednesday continues to be good.  We hope to see you this coming week for another challenging prompt by Susan Chast!

And on Friday, remember to see who Rosemary Nissen-Wade is featuring on her I Wish I Had Written This!

I issue an invitation here to those of you who participate in Poetry Pantry.  If YOU have special photos that you would like me to feature some week, let me know what kind of photos you have.  There are participants here from many different cities, many different countries.  I think it is great fun to see different areas featured. I am especially interested in scenic views of your area or an area you have visited.  Send inquiries first to dixibear@aol.com letting me know what you have.  I am interested in city or country views - in your home area or places you have traveled.

Anyway, with no further adieu, this is one of my favorite spaces to post poetry each week.  I hope you look forward to it too.  An older one or a new one, it's your choice.

Link your ONE poem.   Then leave a comment below. Then visit other poets.  And I will too.  (If I miss your poem, visit me, and I will visit you... I am like anyone else, appreciating reciprocity.) We ALL like comments, so if you link please DO spend time visiting others.  That is part of the fun as well.  We really like it if you link back to Poets United too, so we spread the Poetry Pantry word in the blogosphere.

Come back a few times on Sunday and Monday to see what's new.  Visit some strangers, and they will become new friends!  Making new friends and reading new poetry, what more could one want?

Also, don't forget to visit Poets United other days of the week.  For example, every Wednesday (after the new year) Susan Chast posts a new "Mid-Week Motif" prompt.  Hope you will join us there as well!  Sherry Blue Sky does a feature (it varies) on Monday, and Rosemary Nissen-Wade does "I Wish I'd Written This" every Friday!

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

And now...here is the procedure, for those who are new here:  Each Sunday we start a new post with a New Mr. Linky for you. This is so that you can post a link to a poem in your blog. The link will close Monday at 12:00 p.m. (CDT), but you can still visit the links of those who have posted them.

Enjoy!

Friday, February 14, 2014

I Wish I'd Written This

Kissing (The Ultimate Gateway Drug)
By Leigh Spencer

You surprised me
I was reaching for my blouse
broadcast of my daily to-do list
tallying in my brain

Hand on my waist

I assumed I must be in your way
or there was a bug on me
but you turned me around
Planted me firmly in your path

Planted
the most marvelous, lingering kiss
that ever a Tuesday morning saw

Transported

Winter
Christmas way past
Kissing tentatively against my car door
parked in our friends' driveway

Spring
No one else left on the street
Kissing like spacemen
Each the other’s oxygen
Engulfed by deep night and stars
I wanted to drop you down there
On the asphalt moon

Summer
The mouth of your bachelor cave
Kissing in the doorway
Discarding clothes like petals
and snowflakes and stars and
bright leaves of

Fall
How much farther could I possibly?
Kissing in our back yard
Surrounded by friends
pelting puffed rice cereal
kids and dogs and light sabers

Our life

Tomorrow?
I have nothing left to want
except more
Kissing you like that
this smiling mouth
Remembering
how we got here


Well it had to be a love poem for Valentine's Day, didn't it? And this is one of the truest I know — utterly romantic and sexy whilst absolutely real, grounded in the details of reality such as the to-do list and the car door. I've loved Leigh Spencer's poetry since I first encountered it online a few years ago. She describes herself as a hobbyist poet (true of us all if our poetry doesn't earn us a taxable income) — but if we must have labels, I'd prefer to call her a brilliant poet! I wish she'd write a lot more poems than she does, but am glad to report she finally has a book coming out, her first poetry collection. She tells me it's called Tequila and Cookies, and that it will be released sometime in Spring of 2014. As she lives in Arizona, that'll be a Northern Hemisphere Spring — not long to wait.

In the meantime her poems are hard to find unless you're on facebook, where she posts them in her 'Notes', which her friends can see, and also in the closed poetry group Free Verse for Fun (which you can search and ask to join). They have also been published in high school and college literary journals, and in various online poetry sites, journals and blogs, but I found them hard to track down. I did find this wonderful piece, which fair knocks my socks off.

She also writes short fiction, and is working on multiple novel projects with writing partner and family friend John Hewitt. John also runs a website which used to be called Writers' Resource Centre, currently named Poewar, the Blog of John Hewitt, where Leigh and I first came across each other in his '30 Poems in 30 Days' challenge — after which I found her on facebook, and sent her a friend request with a message saying, 'I love a woman who's not afraid to say "fuck" in a poem.' (Need I add, she used it in a way that was poetically perfect.) 

Since then I've come to know her as a passionate, hilarious and generous-hearted mother of two young sons, carer for rescue dogs, active community member, lover of extended family, cook extraordinaire (alas, too far away for me to sample her culinary creations) and adoring wife — as you can tell from the poem. Other family members, she says, include 'four dogs, four turtles and a big lizard.' 

The proposed blurb for her forthcoming book says, in part: 
Leigh's poetry is often amusing, blunt, and sometimes vulgar, yet still manages to be poignant and accessible. Her writings are observations of daily life, filtered through an anxious personality, sharp sense of humor, and sometimes disturbing imagination.

Altogether irresistible, as poet and friend!

She sent me two possible photos to use, and I loved them both, so here is the other, with those beloved dogs.




Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).