Friday, May 30, 2014

The Living Dead

Honouring our poetic ancestors

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)


Usually this column honours poetic ancestors from the more distant past, but of course we stand on the shoulders of all the poets who have preceded us: the great and the obscure, the ancient and the recent. Maya Angelou, who died on May 28 aged 86, was by no means obscure. Perhaps we must leave it to time and future generations to decide on the greatness of recent and/or contemporary poets, but the word has certainly been applied to her already, even while she was still alive. I feel sure that she will, in any case, be a living memory for a very long time to come.

What we do know is that she was a beloved and influential writer who touched the hearts of many, inspired many, and was chosen to read her work at the inauguration of an American President. That was Bill Clinton, and you can hear (and see) her recitation on YouTube. The current President, Barack Obama, has paid tribute to her on her passing, describing her as "one of the brightest lights of our time ... a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman" (referring, of course, to her own poem, "Phenomenal Woman").

I, too, just now referred to her as writer rather than poet, because both her poetry and her prose writings were loved and influential. In fact she is probably known best of all for her series of autobiographies, beginning with the acclaimed I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. And she was widely acknowledged as a "Renaissance woman", being also a singer, dancer and actress; a playwright, producer and director; an educator, historian and activist. Among other causes, she was passionately dedicated to the overthrow of racial discrimination and the empowerment of women. I think it's fair to say she tried to give voice to the downtrodden of any race, gender or circumstance. I believe it's true to say she was a great hero.

The details of her life are well-known, and at present there are obituaries galore being written (just Google) so I won't repeat that information here except to note that she received many awards and honorary degrees. Although I never encountered her in person, we are lucky to live in the global village. Thanks to the media, many could get a sense of her vibrant presence.

Which of her poems to share with you here? I've chosen the one she wrote on the death of Michael Jackson (which you can also listen to on YouTube). Jackson was a controversial figure, though Angelou clearly loved and admired him, as so many did. But, apart from specific biographical details, these words could well apply to her own life and death:

We Had Him

Beloveds, now we know that we know nothing
Now that our bright and shining star can slip away from our fingertips like a puff of summer wind

Without notice, our dear love can escape our doting embrace
Sing our songs among the stars and and walk our dances across the face of the moon

In the instant we learn that Michael is gone we know nothing
No clocks can tell our time and no oceans can rush our tides
With the abrupt absence of our treasure

Though we are many, each of us is achingly alone
Piercingly alone
Only when we confess our confusion can we remember that he was a gift to us and we did have him

He came to us from the Creator, trailing creativity in abundance
Despite the anguish of life he was sheathed in mother love and family love and survived and did more than that

He thrived with passion and compassion, humor and style
We had him
Whether we knew who he was or did not know, he was ours and we were his
We had him

Beautiful, delighting our eyes
He raked his hat slant over his brow and took a pose on his toes for all of us and we laughed and stomped our feet for him

We were enchanted with his passion because he held back nothing
He gave us all he had been given

Today in Tokyo, beneath the Eiffel Tower, in Ghana's Blackstar Square, in Johannesburg, in Pittsburgh, in Birmingham, Alabama and Birmingham England, we are missing Michael Jackson

But we do know that we had him
And we are the world. 


Thankfully, Maya Angelou lived a great deal longer than poor Michael. She too was a global icon and there is great mourning worldwide for our worldwide loss. But we do know that we had her!


(The wonderful, joyous photo comes from her official website.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Best Friend


“One loyal friend is worth 10 thousand relatives” 
― Euripides

Famous best friends in literature and media:

Hamlet and Horatio
Celia and Rosalind
Romeo and Mercutio
Elizabeth and Charlotte
Tom and Huck
Butch and Sundance
Calvin and Hobbes
Charlotte and Wilbur
Frodo and Sam
Peter Pan and Tinkerbell
Dorothy and Toto
Pooh and Piglet
Sherlock Homes and Doc Watson
C3PO and R2D2
Thelma and Louise
Mary and Rhoda
Laverne and Shirley
Buffy and Willow
Savannah, Gloria, Bernadine and Robin
Abilene and Minny



I know you can add more names to this list, and hope you let me know who in your comments below.  But your poem?  


Midweek Motif ~ Best Friend

  • Let your poem take you in a direction that doesn't name drop but is rich in experience. 
  • Dare I limit you to 80 words or less?  I won't insist, but try.  When I think of the role of a best friend's presence or absence in my life, in my father's life or in teams and military service, a lot of words come.



And when I listen to this sentimental song, I feel all mushy inside.


Here are three inspiring poems:
BY HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW  (88 words)

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
             I found again in the heart of a friend.

BY COLETTE LABOUFF ATKINSON  (148 words)

Before boys, Susan drove me to work, for teriyaki takeout on Manchester past Lincoln Boulevard. Inseparable, we planned winter and Easter vacations. In the stairwell, I tried to talk. She cut me off. Her echo was loud ....
(Read the rest of this prose poem HERE.

Tableau by Countee Cullen  (71 words)

Locked arm in arm they cross the way
The black boy and the white,
The golden splendor of the day
The sable pride of night.

From lowered blinds the dark folk stare
And here the fair folk talk,
Indignant that these two should dare
In unison to walk.

Oblivious to look and word
They pass, and see no wonder
That lightning brilliant as a sword
Should blaze the path of thunder. 



Please:  
1.      Post your poem with it best friend motif  on your site, and then link it here.
2.      Share only original and new work written for this challenge. 
3.      Leave a comment here.
4.      Honor our community by visiting and commenting on others' poems.

(Next week's Midweek Motif is Public Protest.)

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Monday, May 26, 2014

LIFE OF A POET - SHERRI BRANNON

This week, my fellow travelers, we are heading to Virginia, to enjoy a visit with Sherri Brannon, poet, artist and photographer, who showcases her work at Softly Piqued Lens. Sherri has a close connection to nature, which is reflected in her wonderful photography. Get ready to enjoy some spectacular scenery!


P.U.: Sherri, I am so happy to be meeting with you! Give us a little peek at your life, will you? What does life look like at your house?


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Poetry Pantry #203




Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka



Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka


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 taken by Scott Hastie shared of the culture of Sri Lanka.  Thank you, Scott, for such interesting photos.

Be sure to visit Poets United tomorrow to see what Sherry Blue Sky  has planned to share.  Will it be a featured poet?  A featured blog?  Or a featured poem?

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" or "The Living Dead."

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.


Friday, May 23, 2014

I Wish I'd Written This

Wilderness Lost
(for Bramble, my cat)

By May Sarton (1912-1995)

I
She was the wilderness in me
The secret solitary place
Where grow the healing herbs.
We had recognized each other
Years ago; the bond was deep.
Now since her death
Two seasons ago
The landscape is ghostly.
No small black and gold panther
Steals through the long grasses
And pounces on a mouse.
No one curls up on the terrace wall
Gathering the day together.
No round shadow sits on my sill
Late at night, waiting to be let in,
And then in one jump comes to lie beside me,
A long pillow of purrs along my back.

II
Distant, passionate one,
I miss you in my bones.
I miss you in my heartbeat.
I have mourned you for nine months.
What does not leave me
Is your great luminous eye
Open to its golden rim,
The darkness so dark, the deepness so deep there
I wanted to go with you to death
But in a few seconds
The needle did its good work.
You had gone-
And in a new time
I grow old without you.

It is all very still now,
The grief washed out.

(from The Silence Now, 1988)

Someone I know on facebook lost a beloved cat to cancer.  By way of condolence, another friend posted a link to this poem. I hadn't read it before, but I have a cat with cancer and although it is slow-growing, I know I'll lose her sooner rather than later. She is elderly, so the vet and I have agreed there won't be any invasive, uncomfortable procedures to try and prolong her life when the time comes.

And of course, I have lost other beloved cats in the past. Then, or now, or later, I could wish to have written this poem that says it so well. When the time comes, I shall no doubt write poems of my own, as I have done on other such occasions. They will be my poems, saying what comes to me to be said — and I hope they may be as true and beautiful as this one, which must surely speak to all cat-lovers.

May Sarton was born Eleanore Marie Sarton. You probably don't have to be told she was a well-known novelist too, and most famous of all for her journals. I expect plenty of you are already familiar with her work. She is now recognised as an important American writer. Though I've known of her for a long time, she's someone I've missed reading so far. I'm giving myself a nudge to catch up soon.

The most comprehensive online biography of her seems to be this one. As far as I can gather, when Sarton decided to make writing her career, she was always able to support herself by it. A glance at her bibliography shows that she was very prolific. Her Amazon page includes novels, poetry, memoirs, journals, children's books and volumes of letters, and is actually five pages. If I'm going to catch up, I'd better start now!

P.S. Heidi has pointed out in the comments that submissions are now open for the May Sarton New Hampshire poetry prize. I do like to be topical in my posts if applicable, but this is a coincidence — and a very happy one. For details click this link.


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

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ the Color Green

Color icon green.svg
 Green on the spectrum of visible light
" .... Green as mint jelly, green
as a frog on a lily pad twanging,
the green of cos lettuce upright
about to bolt into opulent towers,
green as Grand Chartreuse in a clear
glass, green as wine bottles ...."




 Midweek Motif ~ the Color Green
~in 14-lines or less~

The wikipedia entry on green includes a fascinating illustrated survey of the color green in science, history, art, and symbol. The English word itself "has the same Germanic root as the words for grass and grow."  Pretty neat!



Your challenge is to write a green-themed poem BUT!  use only 14 lines or less!


“Green in nature is one thing, green in literature another. Nature and letters seem to have a natural antipathy; bring them together and they tear each other to pieces.”                                       

Water and windmills, greenness, Islets green;—
Willows whose Trunks beside the shadows stood
Of their own higher half, and willowy swamp:—
Farmhouses that at anchor seem'd—in the inland sky
The fog-transfixing Spires—
Water, wide water, greenness and green banks,
And water seen—



Please:  
1.      Post your poem with a green motif (in 14 lines or less) on your site, and then link it here.
2.      Share only original and new work written for this challenge. 
3.      Leave a comment here.
4.      Honor our community by visiting and commenting on others' poems.

(The Next Midweek Motif will be Best Friends)

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Monday, May 19, 2014

LIFE OF A POET - STORMCAT

Today, my friends, we are visiting the wild, a large tract of wilderness in the Adirondacks, where we find Stormcat, of Stormcat's Poetry, working on his amazing house, and living an alternative lifestyle so many of us long for, outside of the rat race. We are gathering on his front deck, replenishing our souls with the song of the wood thrush, keeping an eye out for coyote and deer.  


Sherry: This is such a beautiful setting! I could do this entire interview just oh-ing and ah-ing, but I shall rein myself in. So tell us, kiddo – Who is Stormcat?


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Poetry Pantry #202


Bicycles in Ghent, Belgium

Bicycles in Bruges, Belgium



Bicycles in Statue - Bruges, Belgium


Bicycles in Bruges, Belgium


Tourist Horse and Carriage, Bruges, Belgium


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 some (mostly) bicycle photos from Ghent & Bruges, Belgium.  They are everywhere there & seem to generally have the right of way.  Smiles.

Be sure to visit Poets United tomorrow to see what Sherry Blue Sky  has planned to share.  Will it be a featured poet?  A featured blog?  Or a featured poem?

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" or "The Living Dead."

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.


Friday, May 16, 2014

The Living Dead


Honouring our poetic ancestors

Black Marigolds
By Bilhana

A free interpretation of the Chauraspancasika,
by E Powys Mathers

Even now
My thought is all of this gold-tinted king's daughter
With garlands tissue and golden buds,
Smoke tangles of her hair, and sleeping or waking
Feet trembling in love, full of pale languor;
My thought is clinging as to a lost learning
Slipped down out of the minds of men,
Labouring to bring her back into my soul.

Even now
If I see in my soul the citron-breasted fair one
Still gold-tinted, her face like our night stars,
Drawing unto her; her body beaten about with flame,
Wounded by the flaring spear of love,
My first of all by reason of her fresh years,
Then is my heart buried alive in snow.

Even now
If my girl with lotus eyes came to me again
Weary with the dear weight of young love,
Again I would give her to these starved twins of arms
And from her mouth drink down the heavy wine,
As a reeling pirate bee in fluttered ease
Steals up the honey from the nenuphar.

Even now
I bring her back, ah, wearied out with love
So that her slim feet could not bear her up;
Curved falls of her hair down on her white cheeks;
In the confusion of her coloured vests
Speaking that guarded giving up, and her scented arms
Lay like cool bindweed over against my neck.


This 11th Century Sanskrit poem is very long and very romantic. Do please click the link and read it all! It doesn't consist solely of this erotic longing, although there is a lot of that. There is a highly dramatic story interwoven. Perhaps you should read it now, before the spoilers. 

As it goes on, it reveals the story of a poet in love with a princess, awaiting execution after being caught with her. It is supposedly true, but there is quite a lot of mystery about it. Firstly, the name is sometimes given without the first "s", or even as Caurapañcáciká. And the poet's name is sometimes given as Bilhana, sometimes as Chauras. This version, interestingly enough, seems to imply both! However, more scholarly sources tell us that the poet's name was indeed Bilhana, and the title means "fifty verses of a love thief" (or, some say, "fantasies of a love thief").

This version is the one I discovered in my teens, in my parents' copy of An Anthology of World Poetry, published by Cassell in 1929 (which has long been my copy).  I've never tired of this gorgeous poem. It might be more accurate to say I have never tired of this translation, which apparently owes a lot to Mathers. Not only did he interpret it in ways that don't always agree with other translations, he seems to have actually added in things that were not in the original. (For one thing, this is several verses longer than any other translation.)


But hang on — which original? I have now learned there were two versions: one Kashmiri, the other Southern Indian.


One source says:



This love poem of fifty stanzas was written by the Kasmiri poet Bilhana Kavi in the 11th century. The story runs that the Brahman Bilhana had a clandestine love affair with Princess Yaminipurnatilaka, the daughter of King Madanabhirama. He was discovered and Bilhana wrote this poem in prison before he learned whether he would be executed or banished. The historic outcome is unknown, which adds to the readers' suspense.

Initially this poem was transmitted orally, and by the time it was written down, there several variations: the South Indian versions tend to have a happy ending, and the Northern, Kashmiri, recension has an open ending." 

Some people say it was truth, some think it was fiction. As noted above, the poem was supposed to have been written during the time the poet was waiting to die. I think of it as one very long, wakeful night; some accounts suggest it was days or weeks. The "happy ending" people say that the king was so moved by the poetry that he spared the poet's life; others disagree. The version I share with you must be the northern one; it ends, of course, before the poet is either killed or pardoned. As it ends he is expecting to die, which makes it extremely poignant. And he is brave, like all good heroes. His princess is brave too. 

True or fictional, it's a heck of a story — romantic enough for us girls, sexy enough (I would think) for the guys, and even philosophical enough for the thinkers among us. And oh, the language! I have no idea what it's like in Sanskrit, but Mathers's English is lush and musical, and conjures up the notion of something exotic. Here you can read Mathers's own explanation of what he was attempting.

There have been other translations. You can look at one here, and a few excerpts from another here. Scholars seem to think the Mathers is less accurate than others. I still love it best for its over-the-top romanticism. (If you can't be over-the-top about grand passion...)

It is in book form on Amazon and if you Google "Black Marigolds free download" you'll find exactly that, in pdf.


There is also a YouTube reading of an abridged version of the Mathers translation, by Tom O'Bedlam. Don't go there! The man's voice sounds elderly and the tone is passionless — could anything be more wrong for this poem?


The picture I've used is a free download, and is actually from the Kama Sutra — which seems appropriate! (Just mentally change the blue on that skirt she's barely wearing to green, to fit the poem.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Bicycling

The most popular bicycle model—
and most popular 
vehicle of any kind
in the world—is the Chinese 
Flying Pigeon,
 with some 500 million in service.
[1]
The bicycle, the bicycle surely, 
should always be the vehicle 
of novelists and poets. 
~Christopher Morley

Life is like riding a bicycle. 
To keep your balance you
must keep moving. 
~ Albert Einstein, letter to
his son Eduard, 1930.








Midweek Motif ~ Bicycling

Each bicycle has taken part in many stories.  Each cyclist is a protagonist and maybe even antagonist, supporting character and audience to the drama.  Maybe some have a philosophy of bicycling as well.  Do you?

Write a poem with a bicycling motif.  


From her book Bicycles: Love poems.


Ode to Bicycles (Oda a la bicicleta)

by Pablo Neruda


I was walking
down
a sizzling road:
the sun popped like
a field of blazing maize,
the
earth
was hot,
an infinite circle
with an empty
blue sky overhead.
A few bicycles
passed
me by . . . .

(Read the rest in both Spanish and English HERE!)



Please:
  
1.      Post your  new  bicycle  poem on your site, and then link it here.
2.      Share only original and new work written for this challenge. 
3.      Leave a comment here.
4.      Honor our community by visiting and commenting on others' poems.



(Next Midweek Motif = the color Green)

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