Cue up Ella and Louis and think of life as easy. Day 3 of the #30DaysofSummerWritingChallenge gave us this prompt “What does it mean to take your ease in summer?” But all you have to do is mention the first bars of the Gershwin classic and I am back in the summers of my salad days. I was in Washington, DC. and, to semi-quote Noel Coward, never is there a more tropical zone even in September. But what can you expect from a city built on reclaimed swamp? The Mall used to be a canal, but when Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie fell in and then died of malaria he order it to be filled in.
It has to be said that I was in DC at the height of the disco craze. And Saturday afternoon Soul Train was on tv. The title is also borrowed from the sound track of my youth.
Summer in the City
Summertime is all slow saxophone or rocking up to the Soul Train beat, hopping on to the swing of the song. It's shimmy, shiver. You sweat your bones in humidity and vapid heat. But we danced, damn it! The whole night long. We were young, single and feeling sexy. Prowling. Not enough drink in the land to quench a summertime thirst or lust. The night cools. It gets loud and boozy. Talk turns to beach drives, sun up on sand. We dance out the dog days of August. Summertime high on testosterone. And its swan song on lone saxophone.
With only six weeks to get me over the year milestone of writing a poem a day and posting in here as the Poetry Daily, I signed on to Angela T. Carr’s 30 Days of Summer Writing Challenge. The writing is never usually the problem. Plucking an idea out of the ether each morning is often the challenge. So I cut myself some slack and signed on to Carr’s challenge posted in her WordPress blog A Dreaming Skin. The challenge is to take fifteen minutes of fast writing and ‘GO!’ on the prompt of the day. Today’s challenge is ‘Schools Out!’
We were asked about what we liked about summer. Well, not much in my case, being a spring and autumn kind of woman. The midges like to breakfast, lunch and dinner on me. My pale skin burns easily. I hate sweating and I wilt in the humidity and heat. At a pinch I offered the long light of the days as one good, likeable thing about them.
But this prompt did remind me of the long school holidays of my youth. We had three months in my particular corner of Pennsylvania back in the 1960s and 1970s. Which felt much longer in child time terms. Also, I grew up in a time before blanket air conditioning in homes and businesses. The Berwick Public Library was air conditioned and I spent a great deal of time there in my tweens and early teens.
A light-headed feeling from lilac's blooming in morning's dewiness before the heat. The chalk board erased: a blank slate presents. Time is one's own, a loosened regime. Heat will soon relax all of our routines. What shall I do today? What kind of play? What worlds to visit in the books I read? All considered as I languished in day's heat, its oppression my freedom, in retreat.
I was searching for Thursday quotations for inspiration, being in a bit a flap after sleeping a solid eleven hours. (Guess the rest schedule is still being imposed even if this is summer staycation time.) After yesterday’s flirtation with Mercury, I went researching Thor, he who gives his name to Throwback Thursday! Given the quotation I picked for the Poetry Daily it probably does qualify for the hashtage #ThrowbackThursday. Because I offer you words accompanied with images from winter! Amidst all the quotations referencing a cinematic and comic hero of the name, I came across these provocative words by one of my youthful heroes, the author of Civil Disobedience and On Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau.
(Literary reference aside: the Isle of Innisfree, that is not twenty miles from where I live, is thought to have been inspired by Thoreau’s Walden Pond. Yeats imagined living there. Thoreau lived it. And it probably was not all that comfortable.)
There are no hammers in the Poetry Daily today. But there is an homage to the Thoreau quotation and his philosophy of non-violent direct action. Which requires the patience of a spring thaw after a New England winter. And some year’s that can take up to six months of patience! At least according to reports from friends who live in Maine.
All these images of ice and references to thaw may seem counterintuitive for a post on the first of August. But then we are in the dog days of August, when staying hydrated is really important!
The dog days of August are nearly upon us, where we will be at the mercy of the barometric pressure and ambient temperature. It’s midweek, Wednesday, day of Woden and Mercury. We have another week of Mercury being retrograde and we can begin to inch forward on projects. The eclipses of July are about to roll out the effects of their causes. The Poetry Daily in closing in on the six weeks to the first anniversary of the poem a day post of what has become The Poetry Daily.
I have two little quotation poems on infographics to sing out the month of the July. The first is from British dramatist David Hare, which includes the title in the quotation. The second first line comes from Irish Nobel literary laureate Samuel Beckett. They have been celebrating him just over the border from us in Enniskillen in their Happy Days Festival.
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:
Something about the past
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.
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.
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.