Our acre and a quarter of West Cavan is sort of split-level. The house is higher up and there is a slope down into the acre that my husband is gradually gardening in sections. There is a polytunnel and raised beds for vegetables and beds for perennial flowers and shrubs.(We love heucheras!) Although we have always kept the garden wild-ish, we are fully on board with gardening the Mary Reynolds way. The Chelsea Show award winner had a metanoia about how traditional gardening is destroying the environment. We have never used pesticides or herbicides on our acre from the time we first settled here seventeen years ago. For that we are richly rewarded in the insect and wildlife that shares our acre and a quarter of West Cavan.
Yesterday we were sitting outside the house in the sunshine for ‘tea on the terrace’ (newly gravelled by Gardener Cuckson) with friends. My friend Jo who lives in Leitrim commented on how she always hears the hum of bees in our garden. And how silent of them many gardens are these days. Then an insect flew in to share our conversation. I ran to get my Collins Irish Wildlife. After much deliberation we reckon it was a rare Downy Emerald dragonfly. Although as we considered over skimmer or dragonfly, my friend said, “Fairy!”
My friend wants to re-wild her garden, but commented that the neighbours would not take kindly to her ditching her lawn. The seed bombs of meadow flowers would migrate over fences. “But it is good for the bees!” To which she said the neighbour would be worried about their children being stung.
Which says a lot about how we will shield children from a bee sting but not consider their long-term welfare. Even if wiping out the bees means that said child and grandchildren may face starvation because there are not enough bees to pollinate crops in future generations.
Which leads me to a quotation that I happened upon serendipidously this morning.
Rare Dragonflies and Bees
"Long live the weeds and wilderness yet!" We live to the tune and the humming of bees. Still do. Re-wild your lawn! Plant some trees! There is medecine and power to be had from weeds. Create an ark. Give sanctuary to dragonflies and bees.
No, there will not be a quotation poem today, but a quotation is at base of what did emerge in poetry practice this morning. I feel a bit different about it after I watched a rather disturbing video on You Tube before bedtime. It left me thinking “Oh shit, this is how conspiracy theories get made and this one could hurt a lot of harmless people if it gets bandied about by malicious or desperate people. Because it has happened before.” There was one word that was a tip off, as well as, a stray descriptive clause, that rang my alarm bells. I will not share because one does not want to pollinate that sort of insidious stuff in others. It looks quite thoroughly researched, but there is a low level smug glee behind all the accumulation of facts, many salted with factoids.
Factoids have the appearance of truth. But are really at the Information Masquerade Ball. But back to John Keats’ quote.
Sollipsism is the the theory that nothing can be known except through one’s own mind. Everything revolves around self. Which is probably very lonely. But it you fill your mind with unreliable pieces of this and that your self is liable to be manipulated. Information can have the appearance of fact. Videos can be doctored and people manipulated as charactersations on the record saying what they have not said in real time. Everything is degraded.
Factoids have the appearance of fact.
In the absence of the reliable what is reality? When even eyes can be fooled. Video airbrushed. Everyone can be the author of a director's final cut. Our world is now constructed of magical thinking masquerading as more information. Lies can be packaged as truthy. If not truth... Where is the beauty? Is a poet, Keats, author of our salvation from factoid? Or yet one more snare of appearance undermining our universal laws, .where even gravity can be called into question.
The weekend, with its delights, is beginning early. This afternoon there will be a meet up of the summer migrants, my friend and another (we share an alma mater) who make an annual summer migration to the West Cavan/Leitrim environs. It feels like vacation for the year round residents, too. Poetry practice may be sacrosanct, but I am rushing it a bit in anticipation of future treats!
This evening I am looking forward to attending a lecture on Sheela na gigs over at Teach Ban, a cottage beside the Drumcliffe Graveyard where W. B. Yeats’ bones were finally interred in Irish soil (or maybe not, because they may have exhumed the wrong body.) Although this visit will be tinged with a certain sadness. Something is missing from the churchyard. It’s the first time I have visited since the sculpture by local artist Jackie McKenna was stolen. Another friend was the model.
I am still wanting to explore the breadth and limitations of this quotation poem form. To reprise, it is a five line poem: Line 1 being the quotation, the second line is something about or from the past, the third line is an action, the fourth line is the the theme and the final line is something about the future.
When I woke up this morning I was thinking “I wonder what Zora Neale Hurston has to say?” Apart from being a writer and a fellow lover of the djembe drum, Zora rocked a hat worn with a very authoritative and jaunty angle. (Envy!) In her life, there were hard rows to hoe, but in her writing there is something not just so resilient, but ebullient. Go seek her out in the library. Here is the quotation:
There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
Zora Neale Hurston
There are Years
There are years that ask questions and years that answer. Who am I? Where am I? What am I doing here? The who and where and what could get problematic. The core of the apple is the seed of this 'I.' Harvest is the response to the universe's call.
It was a long, and very joyful day yesterday. It began very early with an alarm call for the final housekeeping tweaks prior to meeting our friend on her annual sojourn with us. It ended with a series of ritual matches and rematches of Scrabble. My friend is my word buddy in the only board game to ever capture my fervour. In between there was a glorious lunch, and a mission to fill the larder. (My visiting friend shares my twin passions for words and delicious food.) We also made a stop at the border town parcel motel to collect some packages. Two new books were waiting for me.
(Unacquainted with parcel motels? Well! They are handy drop off points for people who work and can’t be in to accept deliveries. But for those of us on the boundary of the UK they are convenient services for delivering packages and saving on PP. Also, some companies don’t send items ro the Republic, but do accept Irish bank issued Mastercards and Visas. And they will forwards to a UK addressed Parcel Motel.)
Having got that potentially culturally mysterious comment aside, I will get to the quotation poem for today. Because its provenance is from one of the new books. Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness arrived. And I am not using the Maya Angelou quotation that sparked that book. It is one embedded in the introduction. It comes from Oprah and seems particularly helpful. This is the full quotation.
Do not think you can be brave with your life and work and never disappoint. It doesn’t work that way.
I call this poetry practice. I have likened the daily flexing of the poetry muscle to the etudes Miss Mildred, my childhood piano teacher, gave me. I was a poor piano scholar, but I have doggedly stuck to the daily practice of poetry now for nearly ten months. I know I will keep the posting for the full 365 days. But apart from becoming a more limber wordsmith, the daily poetry practice also has a spiritual element.
I have rarely kept up a meditation practice. I have tried prayer books and pulling a wisdom or oracle card. But I usually fall away from the routine in fairly short order. Being in semi-retirement helps. Having a flexible work routine and a fixed monthly income can accommodate a morning writing practice. But when I worked a normal job I never set the alarm early to make sure that I write something every morning. I did the three month “Artist’s Way” over twenty years ago, but after that initial period the morning pages routine was very off and on. (Mostly I complained about how my sinuses hurt first thing in the morning. Which is kind of boring.) I began this practice with a howl of outrage and in a pit of sorrow over current events. Those circumstances have not stopped happening. And I still keep feeling the feelings. But I have not been cast off-centre while it has been going down. And that, I think, is because of the daily practice of writing a poem – good, bad or indifferant.
Having the self-imposed discipline of posting the Poetry Daily has ensured that I keep at it. But I am beginning to wonder whether I might keep it up anyway because it is now set in my neural pathways. Perhaps after September 15th I can take down that guardrail and just post a weekly poem or compendium of weekly poems.
I am still entranced by quotations. Please indulge me. I am ferreting around to see what are the limitations and strengths of the form. As I am considering the spiritual value of the Poetry Daily as my practice, the Samuel Beckett quotation comes back to me. It is a favourite. Probably I should have a plaque made of it and hang it on a wall!
And so today’s Poetry Daily is
All poetry is...prayer. Time and trends change its rhythms and riffs. Say it to a god or to yourself, it anchors. We can be both defendant and plaintiff petitioning for some kind of clemency.
It’s getting a bit ridiculous with these quotation poems. They are just as habit forming as haiku and senryu! It’s has got to the point that as I scroll down Twitter quotations are hurling themselves at me for attention! Literally! Well, no, actually not. They are metaphorically hurling themselves at me for attention. One by Frida Kahlo charmed me and is the basis of today’s Poetry Daily. Yesterday I basically said that the quote needs to be short and snappy like a news headline. That observation still holds water. But I found a way of judiciously editting a quotation so that it still can work without doing violence to the essence of the Great and Good’s words.Frida Kahlo was a an artist and is an iconic feminist shero.She was also woman who lived bravely. We need all kinds of models of female bravery.
The Lover You Deserve
takes away the lies and brings you hope, coffee and poetry. Once I felt the quenching joy of rain after long dought, can feel it still even in the drowning dance of hurricane. Everyone survives. Some will learn how to live with it. Wait! Some of us will even decide that we must marry it.
Take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are a bourbon biscuit.
Frida on azquotes.com
This also charms me because I do so like a bourbon biscuit. And so does my husband. I am also deeply appreciative of Frida Kahlo’s attention to the feeding and watering of the beloved. Coffee, bourbon biscuits, poetry, hope and truth. Surely a recipe for a great love story.
With the internet one can never be sure of the provenance of quotations, but these are truly wonderful and also quite true. At least from my perspective. They are also great springboards for a poem.
For the past week I have been obsessed (or you could frame it as I am playing) with this five line format that begins with a quotation. One thing that I have found with these quotation poems is that you need a quote that is short and snappy. I started poetry practice today noodling with a a rather long quotation from Maria Mitchell quotation that appeared in a Brainpickings blog post.
Whatever our degree of friends may be, we come more under their influence than we are aware.
Maria Mitchell, Astronomer
This is a truly interesting take on friendship and merits contemplation. But that quotation runs into two lines. Which rather defeats the attempt at writing a five liner poem. It’s a quart spilling over the rim of the pint pot. So ideally, I reckon, for this form to work seamlessly, you need something short and snappy. You need a quotation that is really a headline. Also interesting is that snippets cadged from poets seem to really lend themselves to the form. Today’s Poetry Daily borrows a quotation, a single line, from Theodore Roetke’s poem “The Waking.”
"I feel my fate in what I cannot fear." What roads I walked, and my dreams, brought me here. I have past the point of sleep. I wake early from those dreams. I read their runic truth, resolute, fathom out their themes. I walk the day's road brave, with focus unfogged and clear.