I am noodling with a word this morning. Sometimes I just have a word introduced to my consciousness and later explore its etymology. Lovely things etymological dictionaries! It was floated as a potential middle name for my husband. He was one of twins. But this was back in the day before you had scans. He was literally the “Oh my goodness, Miz Cuckson, there’s another one here!” baby. I’ve struggled with poetry practice this morning and am not entirely happy with it. Even a little happy. But I offer you a luscious digital collage by Gregor Wright seen in Glasgow Museum of Modern Art as a featured image. Consider it a consolation prize. In the meantime, I must be off to a classroom of eager 10-12 year olds who attend a gorgeous two-room school in the uplands of West Cavan.
This poetry practice is not all about triumph. It just keeping at it, chipping away at a monolith with mind and words.
The challenge today is to write a metapoem, or poem about poetry. AKA and Ars Poetica. Archibald Macleish has done this so well that I could weep over my own paltry effort this morning. I commend to you also Marianne Moore, Wallace Stephens and Emily Dickinson. I have considered the nature and purpose of poetry before in this blog here.https://sojourningsmith.blog/2019/03/21/world-poetry-day/.
I begin the first leg of a what will be a week long road trip later this morning. I hope to find wifi along the way to be able to post a Poetry Daily each day. But who knows what the wilds of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland will provide – other than astonishing beauty and inspiration. So, although there may be delayed posts the actual writing of a poem a day will still happen. I have a smaller notebook. I won’t have my magic fountain pen. But travel is supposed to rattle you out of your comfort zone.
It's a way to see 360 degrees, outside and interior. Or interrogate tastes, feelings in words, sound the heart's echoes in the round. It's a way to be free - within lines that unbound. You can never be lonely with some poetry. Not while it talks with your walk. It's turnkey and Houdini unshackling the locks.
Wakening to bright sunshine and blue sky after a nighttime that brought welcome showers on our acre plot. NaPoWriMo’s last Thursday prompt is:
I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that:
Is specific to a season
Uses imagery that relates to all five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell)
Includes a rhetorical question, (like Keats’ “where are the songs of spring?”)
So the season I am writing about is just around the corner. In Ireland we call May Bealtaine. It is pronounced Be-ahl-ta-nah round where I live. Or you can have it as Beltaine in English. It’s also the name for one of the four cross quarter days of the pagan wheel of the year. It marks the six weeks up until midsummer . Or, the three month period up until harvest, or Lunasagh, at 1st August. Seasons are a bit flexible like that in Ireland. Call it late spring. Call it the official opening of summer. Beataine is the most sensual time of year. Living as I do in the West Cavan part of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, nature is providing plenty of sensory inspiration.
I heard the cuckoo calling its plaint for a mate quite faint last Easter Sunday, but full throated and hearty the evening of Tuesday. It will carol the uplands until the longest day when nights are shortest and dawn does not delay.
But today...well the bluebells are still out in the shade, mingling in with the aromatic of wild garlic, (which sharpens the appetite.) its star white flower crowding into the bluebell dell on the forest floor along with the white bells of wood sorrel, that not-shamrock tasting of lemon spinach. A munch quenches thirst on walks through this wooded glen, the river in full conversation rolling over the rocks from another epoch, the fallen trees downed
or bent like the crick in my back from sowing beans and carrots. I have an ache in muscles unused to industry, gone slack during the dark months. We mimick all these nesting birds who already have some hatchlings, or the energy of gamboling lambs ridiculous and bucking up their heels. Calves are appearing in neighbours' pastures sporting their new eartags. And the weeds! Everything is rushing towards being. The bees are at the nectar. The butterflies have been released from self-made cocoons. The blackthorn blossom is floating down butterfly kissing our foreheads. It's a benediction. It's a glory.
Bealtaine Go leor! Is everything not plenty? Is everything not enough? Everything is in a rush towards its blooming and being.
The daily prompt from NaPoWriMo2019 asks us to take a reference book and choose words from two pages in front of you and go from there. I mixed this up a bit, since it is a bit like an exercise I do in Word Alchemy that I call “Word Salad.” But I choose up to six words that pop up at random and then go about trying to make a connection. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it’s a stretch. Sometimes it’s hilarious. For the purposes of today’s NaPowriMo2019 exercise in poetry writing I left the OED on the shelf and picked up the Chamber’s Dictionary of Etymology, which always makes for fascinating reading. The random words I picked out were spike, exemplary, protest, detest, nomad. They are all in there in some form of their etymological definition.
This was great fun! Who doesn’t love a lexicon?! I’ve loved the word ever since I found it in an Emily Dickonson poem age 11.
Lexical Slaw Word Alchemy
So many versions of how to know the word universe in the mind of God in just about any language
which may be somewhat helpful to the venturing nomad searching and incurring on new pasture
yet even words can splinter language deflecting into dialect so dense the origins get swallowed whole
but something sticks in the throat like a vow to dissent that then regurgitates like a solemn curse
Source document as reference is public testimony for all to see. Yet time will free the redactions of agreed meaning, as necessity or adventure into word alchemy.
Ye know, that's a whole nuther sit-u- ation we don't want to think about, kiddo. Tarnation! Gimme that! Ye know, we don't have to go see the ships come in at Buckhorn. It's like Santa. And Santa's a whole nuther thing. Thanksgiving! We got everyone here. I hate potluck. Velma insists. I don't want to hurt feelings, but...her pierogi is a whole nuther entirely.
copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
The prompt for Day 20 NaPoWriMo 2019 is to not use fancy pants poetry speech. Well two phrases from my Pennsylvania childhood leapt out of my hypocampus. It’s not so much monologue as a mall walking stream of consciousness.
As I was opening the iPad mini this morning to check out Day 19’s prompt from NaPoWriMo2019 a random tweet came up on my screen. And that changed my morning routine. There was news of riot and shooting in London/Derry City last night. There! Now you know what the Stroke City in the title refers. It was coined by the late Gerry Anderson, a radio announcer in Northern Ireland. The full or abbreviated version you choose to use tends to reveal a lot about where you stand sectarian wise. A journalist was shot in the melee and died. Right on the the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that stopped this kind of thing making the morning news. It’s not that there have not been the odd incidents over the years, but for there to be one so close to this kind of anniversary is just not the way you want to begin your day. Truth be told, with the Brexit wrangles there has been a low level anxiety that things might kick off again. Also, a lot of denial that things will ever go back to how bad things were before the Good Friday Ageement. It all feels especially poignant since I was working yesterday on an EU Peace IV arts project that had children from both Cavan and Fermanagh in the group.Peace building is a long haul process.
So I have scrapped NaPoWriMo for today and have reverted to Poetry Daily type. Thoughts this Good Friday for the family of Lyra McKee, 29, who died in the course of doing her journalism job.
Pesach/Good Friday in Stroke City
Last night, a full moon so bright it might as well have been daylight.
All the uncertainty has peaked. Still, it is accord most of us seek.
The danger has not passed. Blood on the street. But no tear gas.
It is a season of bitter herbs, salt tears, the temple disturbed.
Once, a generation ago, on a Good Friday the flow
of hope and history rhymed. Today, I awake to a report of a crime
too like the past of tension and tears, when people lived on their nerves and fears.
This was then Planet Normal. A twenty-one year lull...
Wash her blood from the street. Pray the Peace never becomes obsolete.
Today’s featured photo is my own of a sculpture that looks over Lough MacNean and the border between Fermanagh and Cavan, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Imagine peace…may it be so and make it so.
I am less rebellious today. But I also realised that I picked up the daily prompt yesterday from another year.(I thought it felt a bit familiar! I know there is recycling, but really…!) Anyway. Day 17 of NaPoWriMo2019 has dawned and the #APoemADay prompt is “Today, I’d like you to challenge you to write a poem that similarly presents a scene from an unusual point of view. “ Hmnnn…my notebook is nearly full. So I thought I might allow the notebook to have a voice from its perspective.
There are only two pages left fully blank. I am nearly full of your ink your squinky handwriting that smoothed across me day after day since just before New Year.
You began me on the first day of official mourning the restlessness after relief of suffering, in the exhaustion after bedside hovering.
Nearly four months you have massaged your mind across each page every morning. In two days time, at most three, you will fill the last blank space in me. I will be full of your preoccupations. Or not. What deflections and elisions have not been confessed? After all it is not just a case of commission.
If a daily practice is for the good of your soul leave some imprint. What is the shape of your spirit? Ink blot and flow, crossings out, re-routes of line breaks, countings out of each syllable in pitch black Quink to match my cover and the ribbon marker and the elastic arm band that surrounds.
I broke my rule yesterday. I looked at the prompt today and felt similarly rebellious. The challenge is to take a poem in a language you don’t know and see what you can make of the words to do a translation that is not a translation. I did have a bash at it, but felt very flat and uninspired. The resource they offer includes translations into English, so there is a temptation to peek. That feels like a cheat. Nor can I get my head around rhyming nonsense verse this morning. Which might be one way of tackling the challenge. So I took my poetry practice today on my own merry way again this morning. Maybe there is something rebellious in the air. I am feeling all wayward this week. I did, however, stick to the theme.
Sitting in the classroom with my two-way dictionary, I still can smell stale fumes- chalk dust, adolescent bodies - hear the sing-song droning of foreign vocabulary, verbs that are transitive, or intransitory.
No one knows anyone speaking this way everyday. It's like ancient Greek, or snatched ancestral language. Who can match sounds of lost voices long in graves to words on this page?
The sounds of lost voices with words in translation. How much is lost? How much is gained?
We seek new connections in words on a page gone two ways. Of walking in the world that can be both. Of course, in translation we hear a new conversation.
Body spray overlaying sweat of curious adolescent. Do ancestors clap, stamp, dance at this new version? Some will. Some won't. You can be both.
Some days a combination physical tiredness and the demands of the daily diary meet poetry and something has got to give. My personal NaPoWriMo rule for 2018 and 2019 is to write a poem according to the prompt.Today’s prompt is a dramatic monologue. I’ve written a few. It’s not a new challenge. Also, they take a bit of time to write. What I don’t have this morning is a lot of time. This is when Poetry/Life/Work balance goes all crunchy.
So I have written a poem. Not a dramatic monologue. Because I do want to keep a the daily poetry practice I started last 15th September. To prove that I actually CAN write a dramatic monologue I will append one after the new one. Just to show off…probably. It’s in video format.
Breaking My NaPoWriMo Rules
When time in the finite realm of this continuum in space one occupies... and poetry infinite in universal place... Finite meets infinite. The rules of physics bend. Sometimes they even break. The boundaries have blurred. It is now all multiverse which is a new frontier. I am alone in here.
That was always the point. The voice in the head sings pentatonically, or not, as may be. The hand moves across the blank page, cuniform graphs messages sent from a new found land in some new language just found across the line.
The dramatic monologue poem I am including in the blog today is something of my party piece. It is popular with John Wilmott, the Woodland Bard, oat many gatherings over the years. I have read it better than at this event when it had it’s maiden voyage in 2011. Danu is a goddess and Bile was her husband. Bile, in Irish, translates as tree. Enjoy!
Day 11 dawns early given many mission and tasks to complete. I set the alarm extra early. And what do they ask of us? A personal origin poem? ” …we’d like to challenge you to write a poem of origin. Where are you from? Not just geographically, but emotionally, physically, spiritually? Maybe you are from Vikings and the sea and diet coke and angry gulls in parking lots. Maybe you are from gentle hills and angry mothers and dust disappearing down an unpaved road. And having come from there, where are you now? ” Big theme NaPoWriMo! Poems need compression. How to put a gallon in a pint pot!? It’s been a longish life, too. But a few years back I did a similar exercise and realised that the recurring theme in my peripetic lifetime is …rivers. I even did a collage around it, figuring in all the rivers that have been relevent to my life story. Not all have made it into the poem, See if you can spot the difference.
I am of rivers. All flow. They meet the ocean, roll on.
First was East River. I'm Bridge and Tunnel for four generations. There's a Delaware ferryman mother's side piloting flow back and forth. I know rivers, how they meet.
Then Susquehanna. Marcellus rock formed my teeth and bone. I am of rivers. All flow. They meet the ocean. and roll.
Potomac, then Thames, preoccupations adult. Capital! Then slowing down to Yorkshire's Ouse, Wharfe, Aire, snake goddess piercing my heart. There's a hole - river hewn hag stone.
Yes, I'm of river all flow going to meet, reach ocean still seeking the source.
At last the River Shannon close to its pulsing Pot, where the river rises, trickles, flows, spreads, widens over Midland plains, rolling down the lip of land. Fresh water meeting sand and salt and there river meets ocean.
I am flow, rock, roll, water of love meets soul. I am of rivers seeking all flow yearning for the ocean's rocking and roll.
The featured photo is my own of the Shannon Pot, where the longest river in Ireland rises about three miles from where I have lived for the past seventeen years. The photo was taken when the Pot was very full, almost to overflow, not unlike how it might have looked at the mythic start of Ireland’s own origin story.