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

 

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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

 

This Week’s Poem

In a flick of a couple calendar pages it will be NaPoWriMo2018  in April. Despite being focused on workshop delivery and still having some brain fag/flu hangover, I decided to get in training for NaPoWriMo2018 in earnest. My personal challenge is to post a weekly poem in the run up to NaPoWriMo2018. Sunday is my usual posting day, but this week I had other things to communicate. So consider this a bonus post.

Two images/ideas forged the poem. You might easily figure the principle one. Thank you, Martha, Terri and Helen for our online interaction that seeded this poem.

Paper Dolls

 

Little girls’

Flat and flimsy

Auditions

Of adult interaction

 

Cut out and colour

Personae

Dress designed

To order by whim

The whimsy of childhood

Ordering plot action and reaction

Doing all the dialogue

Being every character

In the costume box

Of an eight year old’s

Imagination

 

The first flutterings

That every story

Ultimately

Is about

The adventure of love

While still staying outside the lines

With our safety scissors

No teeth

Required to cut the cord

Holding up

The scenery flats and flys

 

© 2018 Bee Smith

Featured image found on http://www.topdownloadables.com