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.
Today’s prompt is to do a “remix” of a Shakespearean sonnet. Sonnets used to scare me, but since this poem a day lark started last September I have had a bash at them a few times. Some of my efforts I even like (especially the one where Brooklyn Bridge features). Today I chose Sonnet 116, the one that begins
Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds,
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
Riff on 116
Love does not rock and roll when the key shifts. It's more like jazz - improvisational. Love keeps making the music that lifts. Phone home and they always will take your call. It doesn't matter what dive you are in some far flung corner of the unknown earth. They love you famous or has been or have had repossessed your house of mirth. Yeah, they know your whole story, chapter, verse, the back when, the first dance, all your bold hopes, the down and dirty hours when you cursed any and every person. But nope! Love did not flinch. Even when called a fool. Love knows its mind. And music has its rules.
The prompt for today is to use repetition. The villanelle and pantoum use it to great effect. However, I have written a couple villanelles already this month and the pantoum is not a favourite form. I am on the fly this morning as I have a workshop that I need to be out the door to in a little over an hour. Feeding and washing need to also get factored into that time. So I took the quotation that was the jumping off point by my poetry creative colleague Helen Shay. She used a translated quotation from the Anglo-Saxon Exeter Book. “How cruel is sorrow as a companion to one with few dear friends: the path of exile holds fast such a one.”
The Path of Exile
Hold fast to the path of exile, you with few dear friends. Keep moving past your own solitude. Past the ruined house your grandfather built for his new bride.
Hold fast to the path of exile. Keep moving. The past is just a blur of scenery, a babel of white noise. Take refuge in your solitude. Expect no pity. Hold your face up to the rain.
Hold fast to the path of exile. Keep moving past your own solitude, you with few dear friends and finding no mercy for the ghosts that travel with you along the path of exile.
Hold fast to the path of exile. Keep moving past the present. Place one foot in front of the other. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Hold fast to the path of exile. One country is much like another so long as you can still breathe.
You with few dear friends hold fast to the path of exile. Keep moving with your cavalcade of ghosts packed in your lone carrier bag full of what was once a life you had loved. Let us walk together.
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.
First off, apologies for the rat’s nest of a format on Day 22 NaPoWriMo. I was typing it in the WordPress block form in Safari on my iPad Mini. It looked okay, but obviously not! I have reservations about the the WordPress app I have on my device because before blocks came into WordPress it played havoc with any kind of poetry formatting. I needed to practice for my road trip, which starts on April 28th. At least now I can try and rectify or update the app before I go. And if not, then I just have to deal with the limitations because I am not lugging my laptop all around Scotland.
Today’s NaPoWriMo daily prompt is about animals. Living where I do I figured that what I see on a daily basis needed to be front and centre. And I don’t mean dogs or cats. They get enough attention in this blog already. These are Irish cows by the way. They are quite conversational and like to come up to the field’s perimeter to ask for gossip. Therefore, I have salted the Irish for white cow – bo fin – to alert the reader that this is not just any old calf.
Wee Bo Fin in the field, looking outside it under the watchful eyes of your massive mammy, would you look at your knobbly knees?! For all your half-ton weight you kick up your heels as gleeful as the little lambies in yonder pasture. A sweet wee heffer they would say of ye, eating spring's sweet new grass seasoned with buttercup and cow parsley.
When they load you into the trailer to go off to mart you may never hear your mother's keening moos. But I will. For days afterwards.
It has been a gloriously sunny Easter bank holiday weekend so far. I’m itching to get out and do a bit more gardening. With nature doing its happy dance you might think that the NaPoWriMo Day 21 prompt might have been a bit cheerier. But no! Fairy tales! Those dark little folkloric cautionary tales. Or I could have chosen myth, but I have poems that touch on them, too. The prompt is to tell it from a minor character’s point of view. I was really resisting this prompt. And I have not completely fulfilled the brief, but…
And so when I was flagging this morning and thinking I could just eat
breakfast and get on with sowing climbing beans and radishes, I counted
up how many days I have been at this poetry practice.
218…two hundred and eighteen days.
And I needed a jolt of encouragement from a review of Richard Russo’s essays “The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers and Life. ” It notes that in his essay Getting Good, he notes this:
Writing, like life, is difficult. Many truly talented people give up everyday.
Anthony Quinn’s The Guardian Review, 13 April 2019
Talent is important. But practice is what sees you through to the next level. Some of us are less precious about sharing our flops in public. Because if I didn’t have to turn up on WordPress I could not prove to myself that I really had not funked on the practice.
But back to NaPoWriMo2019, where I have semi-fulfilled their spec for today. I chose the witch’s point of view from the fairytale Hansel and Gretel. Hansel and Gretel has featured in this blog before. https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/07/03/hansel-and-gretel-reconsidered/. I have no clue why I opted for this fairy tale over other less gory ones. But I try to operate on the “first thought, best thought” principle and just run with it with this practice.
I only do what you have not the imagination to do. My house is no mirage. It is an oasis of surprise. And at the very least, Hansel and Gretel were made to feel welcome at my table.
What parents send wee childer out to wander alone in a dark wood? Wolves! Bears! Brigands! (I shudder at the prospect of the latter.) We who have known hunger and danger and survive have to keep our wits about us. But I grew old. And rather blind.
The little boy just bemoaned their fate from inside his cage of bones. But his sister, now that little girl did have her wits about her. She was never going to be one to end up in a cast iron pot. Tricking the Cannibal Hag, freeing the feeble boy, they plucked jelly beans right from the chimney breast. The Vandals! They licked the icing from the gable end and ripped out the gingerbread roof slates until my whole sweet Gingerbread House caved in.
They never went home. They'd met the Cannibal Hag. Now they are my own.
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.
Often what connects people is loss. Poetry is all about making connections. They even have that slogan on the NaPoWriMo.net website banner. Losses…we have all had some, whether it is a loved one – pet or person – or a job, a home, a family. In the way that the universe operates in synchronicity a bedtime conversation last night feels appropriate for the morning’s poetry practice.
Last night at bedtime your daughter and I discussed you. And really? You raised your kids fine. But they miss you.
Part of it is emptying the family homeplace. First, your clothes to all your favourite charity shops. Then the NHS patient appliances back to the hospital. Again. But.. It's all good recycling. Still... your daughter flees the house absent of your smell. Empty now has a scent. Also, the having to fold your reading glasses found on your bedside cabinet beside the Jodi Picoult book you will never now know how it all ended.
Her friends are kind. But they are young and think the object of grief is to forget its ache. All she wants to do is remember you. So we talk of what went right and some of your unlived life.
Just before she leaves before the lights go out and kisses my cheek saying "Night Night" I tell your daughter how all daughters eventually become their mothers. Even if only in our small foibles. Like the reminder notes I post beside my purse and on the kitchen counter for tomorrow just like my own mother. And your daughter goes to her bed with a smile.