Asbestos Mouth

Day 23 NaPoWriMo and this is my second attempt at posting. Unfortunately, my ipad WordPress app didn’t save. It looked like it published, but it didn’t. On the one day when I composed straight onto the post. You see, I am going to be on the road for the rest of NaPoWriMo. I will be distributing little luggage labels with poems on them for Maria McManus’s Label Lit project for Ireland’s National Poetry Day on Thursday, the 26th. Even though I will be outside of the country I am still flying the poetry tricolour.  I have a certain amount of airport travel anxiety (Cue a big eyeroll from my big brother Steve who has wanted to stuff valium down my throat on occassion. Even my husband wanders away from me and mumbles he will  meet me at the gate.) Now I am going to miss my trusty laptop even more than I thought!

So – to reconstruct . This was the prompt.

And now for today’s (optional) prompt! Kate Greenstreet’s poetry is spare, but gives a very palpable sense of being spoken aloud – it reads like spoken language sounds. In our interview with her, she underscores this, stating that “when you hear it, you write it down.” Today, we challenge you to honor this idea with a poem based in sound. The poem, for example, could incorporate overheard language. Perhaps it could incorporate a song lyric in some way, or language from something often heard spoken aloud (a prayer, a pledge, the Girl Scout motto). Or you could use a regional or local phrase from your hometown that you don’t hear elsewhere, e.g. “that boy won’t amount to a pinch.”

Now I used a phrase my mother would use in a conversation over a shared cup of tea with my neighbour. Winnie said, ‘Don’t let your tea grow old.” And I piped up that I didn’t have an asbestos mouth. Which I then had to explain wasn’t really a strange American phrase, probably only a Smith one and maybe only one my mother used with me who was waiting for her tea to cool or was blowing on her dinner before forking it into my mouth.

Asbestos Mouth

I guess you don’t have an asbestos mouth.

Let me eat and drink tepid,

have no need for a tin foil tongue.

Let me not sup on brimstone and fire

or inhale charcoal into my lungs.

It will not make my speech vapid

to not have to swaddle my mouth.

Let me taste the taste, savouring my own arpegio.

Let me know what I know.

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

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Pigs Can’t Fly?

That is one of the prompts for Day 22 of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo. Yesterday’s balladeering has me careering off to the rhyming dictionary. I think I have swallowed it. But seriously, today’s prompt made me immediately think of the Dowra folklore about the relic of the Black Pig’s Dyke in the village. I even showed the alleged site (yet to be archaelogically sanctified or verified) to travel writer Paul Clements last summer. I was actually having a cuppa with my neighbour Winnie and her son yesterday and we were talking about it. Today’s poem is based on a tale I heard on Richard Morris tell onYou Tube. Pigs can’t fly? But I do promise that Pigs will fly!

The prompt will explain this.

And now for our daily prompt (optional as always). I’ve found this one rather useful in trying to ‘surprise’ myself into writing something I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise. Today, I’d like you to take one of the following statements of something impossible, and then write a poem in which the impossible thing happens:

The sun can’t rise in the west.

A circle can’t have corners.

Pigs can’t fly.

The clock can’t strike thirteen.

The stars cannot rearrange themselves in the sky.

A mouse can’t eat an elephant.

On the Black Pig’s Back

 

I live in a landscape

of willow wand and hazel stick

when men and women could nimbly re-shape

a little girl to minute tick

or little boy into a Barbary Ape.

 

There once was a magician

who ran his own hedge school.

He had his pupils hard driven,

but at recess they could go out and play the fool.

However, this became cause of some local friction.

He changed his pupils into hares and hounds

so they could lose the run of themselves,

racing around the recess playground.

Their parents, those who paused to delve,

took exception, thought it way out of bounds.

Might he take to turning the children over to elves?

It was a wise woman to whom they turned

to figure out what would fix his trick.

So the children told Master that they all yearned

for him to given them some new antic.

Perhaps he could perform his own skinturn?

Well, of course, no magician could manage to resist

any opportunity for this sort of show and tell.

So, he said, mock-modest, If you insist.

What shall it be? What animal spell?

A PIG! they roared. So he made himself all contortionist

and became a great tusked black boar.

Delighted they all were that recess time

as he snuffled for truffles, acting all cocksure.

But he could not lift the bell and make it chime,.

With hooves instead of fingers he snorted and swore.

He could not lift his magic wand. He let out an enormous  roar!

Enraged, he rampaged up and down and all around,

children fleeing in every direction.

He tore up hedges, scarring great ditches into the ground.

Cussing and swearing and promising he’d fix ’em,

he pounded so fast they swear he left the ground.

True! They all will have Given their oath that day

that they’d seen that black pig fly,

so intent was he in hunting down his prey.

So hot was his rage, so impotent his cries

he dug the Black Pig’s Dyke right into folkloric way.

 

Eventually, the dyke was seen to be

useful for warding the cattle

from northern raiders and unscrupulous mart traders  to make free.

The shuck had them stuck for that boar had been artful

to furrow with both tusks in his fierce frenzy.

 

Now, magicians can, you see, skinturn

and be all interspecies.

They can also manage to craftily spurn

the logic of physics. Now this I will guarentee.

That old black boar quickly learned

how to get off the Black Pig’s Dyke.

He didn’t run with the hare or even the hound,

and would absolutely never mess with parents of tykes.

And one fine day he began to rise up off the ground

balloon like, with the wise woman flying him like a kite.

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

Featured image from en.wickipedia.org

Pirosmani._Boar

Beauty and the Beholder

Day 21 of NaPoWriMo/GloMoWriMo and I do sometimes feel the tiredness of the marathon runner. I didn’t notice it so much in NapoWriMo2017. Perhaps I have kept more studiously to the Poem a Day prompts in NaPoWriMo2018? I certainly have felt stretched into less comfortable poetic places on more days than last year. I have been busier, not able to lavish as much time on the product as last year, too. I worry about being a bit slap dash or hackneyed.

Today’s prompt looks at the myth of Narcissus. Here goes:


Behold

Even narcissi
shall wither and die.

The mirror never really
lies.

It may be open
to interpretation,

bit wind ravages
even that flirtation.

The cold will bow shoulders,
making  you look older.

Sunshine betrays more detail.
it’s not  so easy to evade

the echo  of the beauty,
the cause for sighs.

They do say it’s in the ‘I’
of the beholder.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

The Dissident Daughter

Day 20 of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo practically begs us to get out of our comfort zones. It is preaching revolution in one’s poetry practice. So what can you do to mount those barricades in form or content? I have Alice Notley’s volume Grave of Light. She practiced poetic disobedience alright.  So today I am attempting to cross all my personal poetry taboos. This means there will be rhyme. There will be form. There will be light verse! And there will be a tale of disobedience.

Here’s the prompt.

Our craft resource for the day is Alice Notley’s essay, The Poetics of Disobedience. In it, Notley advocates for a poet to “maintain a state of disobedience against…everything.” By this she means remaining open to all forms, all subjects, and not becoming beholden to “usual” methods for writing. Whenever we are sure that there is one “right” way to write, or some specific set of topics that are the “right” ones to discuss, we should ask ourselves, what part of experience are we leaving out? And why?

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) takes its cue from Notley’s rebelliousness, and asks you to write a poem that involves rebellion in some way. The speaker or subject of the poem could defy a rule or stricture that’s been placed on them, or the poem could begin by obeying a rule and then proceed to break it (for example, a poem that starts out in iambic pentameter, and then breaks into sprawling, unmetered lines). Or if you tend to write funny poems, you could rebel against yourself, and write something serious (or vice versa). Whatever approach you take, your poem hopefully will open a path beyond the standard, hum-drum ruts that every poet sometimes falls into.

The Ballad of the Dissident Daughter

 

It’s not that she’s being truculent.

Or even gives me much cheek.

It’s the silences when she goes absent

that I wish she were more shriek than geek.

 

It started when she asked if we could subscribe

to Newsweek instead of  our usual, Time.

I blame her brother, who gave her a MS magazine

subscription when she was only just turned sixteen.

 

She went off to a good enough college

that should have kept her on the right moral track.

Despite that fact,she was soon eighteen

wanting to major in aphrodisiac.

 

Liberation was the cry, and it wasn’t from Hitler.

In my time that meant celebrating  VJ Day.

Why couldn’t she be Caesar’s wife and marry a banker?

Instead of she’s off inventing some other V-Day.

 

I shudder to think of the mirrors she’s held

as she’s peered up the down below.

I taught her to sit like a lady, knees neatly parallel.

But what is a lady these days I’d like to know?

 

First, she refused to cover her head at Mass,

then acting like church attendance was trespass.

It’s the NOT going to Mass that matters,

not whether you don or doff your chaplet will cause a stir.

 

I’d speak to the priest, but he’s always terribly busy in Lent.

I’d offer it up, if that strategy were not so oblique.

I pray to St. Monica nightly, giving her my personal lament.

I feel too antique to fathom all this modern realpolitik.

Instead of being so obstinately hellbent,

why cannot my daughter manage to be a good Catholic?

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

 

Teen Bee crop

 

The World Outside My Window

NaPoWriMo2018 Day 19

NaPoWriMo Day 19 and today’s prompt is on a topic that I have addressed many other times, although not addressing it in the crafty way they suggest. ‘Erasure’ basically starts with prose and erases words back to some kind of poetry.  Although I am not sure that my own offering has achieved the intended repetitive effect.

I have been avidly watching what goes on outside my window now for nearly sixteen years. Only last week I was setting the table for supper when I spotted a stray sheep munching on the primrose flowers in the pots set outside the front door.  I ran out in my pinny doing my best imitation of one of those Dowra mart fellows to chase them down the lane. Except I didn’t have a stick. Only my hands.

To quote today’s prompt:

Our (optional) prompt for the day takes it cue from Brady’s suggestion that erasure/word banks can allow for compelling repetitive effects. Today we challenge you to write a paragraph that briefly recounts a story, describes the scene outside your window, or even gives directions from your house to the grocery store. Now try erasing words from this paragraph to create a poem or, alternatively, use the words of your paragraph to build a new poem.

Early Morning

 

The world outside my window

silent

except for birdsong

 

Overcast

but no mist to obscure

the wind turbines on Corry Mountain

 

I can see three counties

a streak of sunshine

lights up the willow and ash

 

Turning everything

Crayola crayon

spring green

 

Except the sky

a watered down ink

There shall probably be rain

 

But back to the now

the streak of sunlight

jewelling

 

tits and robins flit

a solitary blackbird

perches on the apple tree

 

that slants at

a forty-fve degree

from the wind blowing in through the gap

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

Revisions

Shannon Pot GloPoWriMo

While April, as NaPoWriMo or GloPoWriMo, is the poetry writing month, May is often called the poetry revision month. All those drafts in the drawer need more work! But the prompt for today looks at revision slant.  I shall quote the prompt from Day 18 of NaPoWriMo as it best explains.

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) isn’t exactly based in revision, but it’s not exactly not based in revision, either. It also sounds a bit more complicated than it is, so bear with me! First, find a poem in a book or magazine (ideally one you are not familiar with). Use a piece of paper to cover over everything but the last line. Now write a line of your own that completes the thought of that single line you can see, or otherwise responds to it. Now move your piece of paper up to uncover the second-to-last line of your source poem, and write the second line of your new poem to complete/respond to this second-to-last line. Keep going, uncovering and writing, until you get to the first line of your source poem, which you will complete/respond to as the last line of your new poem. It might not be a finished draft, but hopefully it at least contains the seeds of one.

My own critieria for today was that the poem be short as I am a bit time famished. I grabbed Bloodaxe’s anthology Staying Alive and kept flipping until a really short poem appeared.  A micro-poem was really what my schedule wanted. And then I lit on a Michael Longley.

My version:

At Legnashinna

Easter 1998 2018

 

Aconite putting on a brave face

Bright in the uncertain climate

Show me that crop of primrose in moss

To forget the threat of upland snow

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

 

I would not normally comment on process but this small poem could do with a bit of context that makes the micro more macro.  If you are not familiar with more recent Irish history the Easter 1998  might seem unimportant. But Irish poems that have dates often point to political landmarks. Easter 1998 will forever mean the Good Friday Agreement. This is Longley’s Good Friday Agreement poem, which I later found had been published the following day in The Irish Times.

The recent 20th anniversary  of the Good Friday Agreement has been overshadowed by the uncertainty of what havoc Brexit may wreck on the lives on those of us who live in the porous border counties with Northern Ireland. There is no international border frontier since the Good Friday Agreement, no check points or Customs Posts.

Longley titles his poem At Poll Salach. I am not an Irish scholar, but Google informs me that a poll translates as a pool, hole or tidal stream. Given my own border location this suggested to me Shannon Pot. My title uses the Irish townland name for Shannon Pot, albeit in its more Hiberno-English rendering rather than as Gaelige.

Motherlines Remembered

Day 17 NaPoWriMo and I am feeling a bit more serene. I am taking my time to walk around my poem a day today. And the prompt is more congenial, too.

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) follows Gowrishankar’s suggestion that we write a poem re-telling a family anecdote that has stuck with you over time. It could be the story of the time your Uncle Louis caught a home run ball, the time your Cousin May accidentally brought home a coyote and gave it a bath, thinking it was a stray dog, or something darker (or even sillier).

The featured photo is one of my mother and Grandmother Russell, who both feature as characters in today’s offering. It was taken when my mother was about the age she was in the tale recounted.

The last time I saw my mother alive

 

My brother was driving us so I could catch

The Chinatown Philly-NYC jitney.

She was recounting a memory

of another bus trip maybe seventy-five

years or more ago

to the disbelieving ears of her grandson.

 

I was catching my first connection

back to my life that was many stops and changes

away from the USA.

She told her memory like beads on a rosary,

the pink crystal ones she kept at her bedside.

She began with her sister, oceanside

in New Jersey waving her off on her journey.

 

How Mamma met her at the station

in Philly to pack her off onto the correct bus

on the leg to Washington, D.C.

An unknown  friend  or some kind of cousin of Mamma’s

met her there since it was growing dark

to usher her into some midnight caravanserai

before setting off through the night

sitting bolt upright through Maryland and Virginia.

 

Morning light and North Carolina. Gertrude’s brother

was there in his pride and joy jalopy.

Her cumbersome suitcase filled the whole rumble seat.

The front seat was full of meet and greeters

so she clung onto the door handle

surfing into Winston-Salem on the running board,

grinning at  being  back, wind speed making her florid,

feeling a bit desperado, like Bonnie and Clyde

 

At this point in the narrative

her grandson  looked like his head was beginning to hurt

jaw dropped,

configuring an impossible Venn diagram from

this rather staid, devout, stalwart

ancient relative and that girl who was only

just turned fifteen.

 

Which was probably the age when I first heard

this tale, when I learned that my mother

was someone not solely concerned about

my health , and could actually be quite

devil may care about personal safety.

 

She was off with her childhood adventurers

hanging by  a speeding  Model T’s handle

with kids with whom she had climbed trees and

smoked corn silk behind the outdoor privy.

She was the before to her after.

And then, just then, I knew how

I wanted to be that woman’s daughter.

how that Her had been able to make me.

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith