What Poet’s Dream

Bibliomancy. I mentioned it in yesterday’s post where I dipped into my Oxford Dictionary of Quotations to springboard the Poetry Daily. This morning I woke later than usual, muzzy and headachey. Basicly, taking into consideration hayfever, midges and being averse to heat and direct sunshine, I have a body that is not built for summer weather. I woke a bit dreamy, too, but that is fodder for another blog site.

Sometimes the synchronicity thing is super smart. I literally just opened the dictionary and stuck my finger at random and the plum I picked out was an Anne Sexton one. Given my semi-conscious,half-dreamy state, it could not have been more apt. Yet another poet pulled out of the book, this time completely and blindly random a pick. Sexton was a favourite poet of mine in my early twenties. I still own most of the original 1970s editions of her poetry collections

What Will You Dream?

"In a dream you are never eighty."
You revisit locations from twenty years back.
You want to cross swift water without a bridge and turn back.
Just try to dam the course of dream rivers!
What will you dream at eighty? Synecdoche?





Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

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All Poets Can Do

I have become infatuated with this five line form I first encountered a week ago today. It really is a wonderful creative writing exercise. I have written several, not all published on this blog. What exercises the brain is the quotation that begins the short poem. Believe it or not,  I have lugged a 1979 edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations with me through three countries. Unlike hunting on the internet you can dive in and take a lucky dip and seemwhat your brain can make of it. It becomes a kind of tool for bibliomancy. (I also wonder at the skill and attention to detail of the manual indexing done before computers were the tool available to every clerk and office worker in the world. There are nearly four hundred pages of index to navigate the 589 pages of quotations! I salute the stalwart soul who carried out that task for the Oxford University Press.) 

But  before I share with you the Poetry Daily, let me remind you how the poem is formed.

  1. A quote
  2. Something about the past
  3. An action
  4. The theme
  5. The future

The lucky dip yielded a line from Wilfred Owens poem Anthem for Doomed Youth.  For those unacquainted with Wilfred Owen, he was a British poet who served through World War I. He died literally days before the Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918. He nearly made it back to Blighty. I was photographing the poppies that we have sowed in a wildflower meadow in our garden yesterday. The red poppy is worn in England for remembrance on Armistice Day each year. So it seemed as if Owen was calling me.


All Poets Can Do


All poets can do is warn…

But bards are not so elevated these days.

Nor can a Cassandra’s foresight prevent harm.

Yet we persevere and persist to portray.

Evil’s resisted with the might of wordplay.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Try the form! Like haiku and senryu it is short, but also offers layers of complexity. It may prove to be just as habit forming.

Mind Map a Poem

One of the creative writing fundamentals that I was reminded of in Ange Peita’s workshop at Willowbrook last weekend was how a mind map can help you form a poem. I have to admit that I am a bit resistant to mind maps, especially in corporate or workplace settings. Perhaps I am just too linear in that situation. Give me a ‘to do’ list and let’s get on with it! But actually, mind mapping is a useful tool for creative work. So I am a convert. The Poetry Daily today is the product of a mind map. And a cup of tea. And a glance at last week’s cover of the Guardian Review section. I grabbed a word from its cover’s headline and started to make the spokes of a wheel with other words radiating from it. Which is what a lot of mind maps look like.

I proclaimed to my husband over tea that today is a ‘vacation’ day. It was not a word that appeared in the mind map. But it was a byproduct of the poem. I declared that we are vacating all shoulds, coulds, or woulds. Just for today. We are resting. Which is a difficult concept for an alleged retiree to grok. For all of five seconds. And then he rolled over.

In more ways then one I have mind mapped the day, as well as the Poetry Daily.

Drift

There's been a rift
in the time space continuum.
And I am out of time
in oh so many ways!
What day is it anyway?

I've been pitched into a raft
left to drift,
aimless as a lonesome cloud.
The tide's out. I am gently bobbing,
rocking in an inflatable cradle.

Into a time when
it endlessly stretched
and meaning was in its genesis.
But it came slowly
from a distance.



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Lê Tân on Unsplash

The Inn of Great Happiness

What’s on my mind…as Facebook queries…is not independence. Or even Independence Day. This 4th of July what is on my mind is interdependence, loneliness and connection. Over the past few days I have been resting up, napping and sleeping long hours. Recuperating, in a way, from the marathon of workshops I have facilitated from last December. In between reading detective novels I have been listening to Brené Brown interviews on YouTube, as well as reading some of Maria Popova’s Brainpickings that have dropped into my email inbox. And in the way that things happen the themes of loneliness and belonging all coalesced. Hannah Arendt writes that loneliness is “the common ground for terror”. So, that “terror…ruins all relationships between men.” I guess she meant that to cover both genders and used it in the sense of the human race. That was how they styled the language in the 1950s and 1960s when she was writing.

Brown, in her National Cathedral sermon in January 2018, mentions that loneliness is so endemic that in the UK in 2017 it was recognised as a public health issue. Loneliness is a greater predictor of premature death than all the smoking, excessive alcohol imbibing, overeating and no exercise that are the usual warnings.

Arendt (and Popova) note that tyranical regimes and totalitarian regimes weaponise loneliness. They sow disconnection. Brown tells us how they do this – by dehumanising people, often those that we disagree with, by making them out to be somehow subhuman. That was what Hitler did. But we also do it, maybe not on the same scale, maybe in microagressions, but we still do it. And this dehumanisation of others is the the real public health and public discourse plague.

So, this 4th of July, that is what is on my mind. How lonely people can be angry people. They are certainly isolated and alienated people. It is a wonderful belief that we are all made in the image and likeness of Deity. But it is hard work to actually walk that talk, especially when the beliefs and actions of some are anathema. It can be hard work to discover where that divine spark is hiding. Yet, that is the work of being a human.

Poetry practice today is a mash up of Brown, Arendt, Popova, John O’Donohue and Rumi.

The Inn of Great Happiness

It can be awfully lonely
in your tribe
even if we all subscribe
to the same codes,
those screeds of belief. But

if we have not love
written into our tribal DNA
then it's all out of key.
Hey!

It's good to sing with strangers.
It's also a good thing
to break bread and drink wine
with strangers.
It's a good thing to get together
sometimes
even with the ones who really irritate.

Like Mom said, " Be polite."
Talk about the weather.
Ask after their health,
that of their family members.
Be Kind. Pass the cookies. Or more wine.

It takes some practice
this being human.
It's all about there always
being a room ready for
everyone passing.
Anyone passing.

So check your larder and linen closet.
Make sure some sheets are aired.
Plump up the downy pillows.
Have the instruments tuned and prepared.
(Don't disturb the cobwebs
because some spiders are guests there.)


Sing into the night
with strangers
as they become like family
if not quite like friends.
Sing into the new day's light
until they become our family,
blood of our blood, bone of our bone,
until it's not just pretend.
until we all comprehend
this being human.



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
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Feature image Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

Sevenish

The Poetry Daily harks back to some art I saw in Glasgow on my visit in May. I was really attracted by a series of three oils on board by Lois Green called Sevenish. I love domesticity elevated to art. Women writers and artists often get criticised for  using domestic settings and themes. When they go against that rubric I want to ‘Hurray!’ When these subjects are deemed museum worthy I feel the world turns a little more in favour of ‘women’s work’, recognising its value and validating it. When a theme for poetry practice doesn’t immediately leap to mind in the morning, artwork that moved me on a museum or gallery visit is there in my iPad to inspire.  Green’s 7am portrait is definitely not at high summer, wheras mine is rooted in this season. 

But I do seem to be still on a five line jag. Not using yesterday’s formula, but a syllabic pattern of my own devising.

In reverse order Sevenish 3,2,1

And my version in five parts.

Sevenish

The only chat is with the cats.

The bed is tossed. A book is lost.

Bright sun. No cloud. Farm machines sound loud.

The sink fills up with cups and plates.

It’s still early. But feels so late.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Creative Writing Etudes

After the intensity of the past six months of work and workshops, I am taking it easy on the poetry practice for the next few days. Five finger exercises. In five lines. Back to the etudes that began this nine and a half month poem a day Poetry Daily. Which has been an adventure! I have considered keeping on, but not posting. Then a friend in the North said she looked forward to these posts and sometimes they even helped her that day. (Stroke writer’s ego. Make them feel useful. Surefire strategy to keep them on task! ) So I have doggedly perservered.  On days of when I woke with a migraine, through death bed watches, a funeral, visitations, workshop days,  and just feeling ‘meh.’ But once I make the year mark on 14th September I will have a hefty decision to make. And it will probably boil down to pulling a tarot card, asking the pendulum or flipping a coin to advise me on the blog’s fate.

Any road…I really like that five line poetry form that Ange Peita introduced this past weekend at Willowbrook’s Creative Writing Weekend Retreat.  To recap how the lines flow:

  1. A quote
  2. Something about the past
  3. An action
  4. The theme
  5. The future

I know some people pose the question “What would Jane Austen Do?” as a kind of moral code or agony aunt advice. For me it is Mary Oliver.

“What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”

If you cannot procreate…then create.

Take life to your bosom. Nurse it. Re-wild it.

Know the bones of your precious nature are true.

Defend its rights. Pledge allegiance to its renewal.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Writing Workshop Spin Offs

We are back home, tired and happy, sleeping late after the creative writing workshops at Willowbrook Glamping over the weekend. Our workshop was called “Companioning Your Greatness”, cribbed from W. B. Yeats’ poem These Are The Clouds.  Tony began by looking  at that word ‘companion’ etymologically. It means “together or with bread”. I played a supportive role in that workshop, acting as sounding board for Tony’s devisings, and a reader and timekeeper. 

I was playing catch up earlier this morning, reading emails that had piled up the Inbox  over the weekend. There was one from astrologer Chani Noble announcing  the July eclipse season. So, too, the harvest season will get into full swing this month. Early July is about the sign of Cancer, which rules nourishment. Which took me back to bread.


What Bread

What bread nourished you?

What do you need to fill

that yearning in you?

It’s not just the craving

for sweet over sourdough,

or even preferring 

to dip your bread in oil

instead of slathering it in butter.

What bread will fill

the hole in your soul?

That pit in your stomach

that belly aches so

and cries More! More!

What bread do you feed the wolf?

What bread do you feed the lion?

What crumbs are left for the eagle?

What carrion?

What bread do you bake

and break?

What bread to you give to yourself?

What do you give unto others?

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.