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!
It never fails to surprise the process as I keep this daily poetry practice to create the published Poetry Daily. I arrived home from a more than twelve hour long day trip with my fellow Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark guides at 9:30 last night. Meanwhile, I am due to begin teaching a poetry workshop in just over an hour and a half. (Cue my routine anxiety thinking “whatever can I teach about poetry except to just keep at it?!”) When I began my morning writing I was sure I was going to write about THIS, but what emerged on the blank page was THAT. THIS will probably come along over the next week as the trip to Uisneach was rich in inspiration and imagery. Uisneach is the the mythic and mystical centre of Ireland from the Neolithic age. We are talking pre-history here, when the oral tradition ruled and the ogham alphabet would not emerge until the early medieval period.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of Tir na nÓg, this was the land of the forever young of the mythic race of early Irish inhabitants, the Tuatha dé Danaan. Some said it was beyond the ninth wave of the ocean.
Beyond the Ninth Wave
I am always the foreignor on the bus, no matter what country, rolling around the sound of the syllables I am hearing from snatched conversations, handling them like a found pebble on the ocean's strand, or the shell put to hear sing the ninth wave's eternal echo.
Some days writing is more difficult than others. The blank page collects doodles of half-formed ideas. It begins to look like a list. I saw a red squirrel yeterday when I took a walk during a rare dry interval. I googled squirrel as spirit animal. The suggestion to avoid multi-tasking felt wise. The point about manifesting what is needed felt like a sneer. The exhortation to lighten up and play sent me straight off on another Google chase.
Which led me to a Writer’s Digest list of 86 poetry forms. The write up on Erasure or Blackout poems seemed kind of playful. So I dove into the paper recycling and hauled out some magazines. I only had a blue marker to black out text. I did a very random pick and fished out the March 9th issue of Feast, the cookery section of th weekend Guardian.
This is how it looked at the end my blacking out session.
There is a long tradition of Ars Poetrica contemplationson the art of poetry. I have been cogitating about this in a kind of brew and stew sort of way a lot recently. Partly, it is because I have been asked to write an article about sacred poetry. The other part is that I am preparing several workshops, including one dedicated to poetry writing next Sunday. What is the common denominator beyond form and content? For me, poetry is connection. I went to sleep with this sputtering in my subconscious and the first verse of today’s poem was beginning to be formed as I was waking.
It’s a drowning world here in my part of Ireland, weather-wise, today. I suspect a lot of St. Patrick’s Day parade floats might literally…float! It’s a good day to hunker down with pen, paper and keyboard. As Felicia Olusanyo (aka Felispeaks) said in the Irish Times this week:
Considering this country is, by its seams, held together by poetry? Poetry and music are the cornerstones of Ireland, I wish we took them more seriously.”
Irish Times, Wednesday, 13 March 2018
So, here I am doing my poetry practice, sewing frayed seams. on the national holiday weekend.
Poetry is a venn diagram between kissing your spouse goodbye hard on the mouth; Michelangelo's painting the finger of God on the Sistine ceiling.
Poetry is the ovum between the touch of the brush, snake's tongue licking eggshell open; La Gioconda's enigmatic smile, her wily gaze's invitation to be awake.
It’s slightly ironic that I chose this featured photo as I got lacerated this morning trying to intervene between two feline boys who are not taking being shut up indoors well. The little black she cat is the only one with any respect for me today.
I started the day catching up on last weekend’s Guardian Review. I tend to read it piecemeal throughout the week and I am now at the back of the magazine and happened on Jonathan Freedland’s essay on the Post-Truth era. This sent my mind skittering to the Keats poem and the oft quoted “Beauty is truth, truth beauty” from his Ode to a Grecian Urn. As it turns out, after a quick Google search, it seems that Keats wrote the poem in May 1819. It was published anonymously in January 1820. So we have a nice bi-centennial up for consideration.
Today’s poetry practice did a bit of digging via Google and Wikipoedia (what we rely on in the post-truth era) for some context.
Keats spoke that truth was beauty. (How like a Regency man!) not taking into account the economy built on the human auction block. All women were property. The cavalry charged a crowd so thoughtlessly demanding one man one vote: a riot broken under horse's hooves. The Elgin Marbles purloined were Keats' models for his ode.
When was beauty so sooty, so hungry, so ill used, or so abused? When was truth so despoiled, so blind to injustice, or so abused?
We are no clearer as to what will happen to our border come 29th March, 2019, the Brexit deadline. Teresa May was hoarse and shouted down in Parliament the other day. Still the only movement seems that the penny dropped that No Deal is really a very bad deal for all concerned. Four centuries of British invasion and colonialism have come home to roost. It’s a knot they made for themselves. Well, their ancestors made for them. For those who feel no ancestral connection, who believe that post-moderns are beyond history, this is where history, ancestral decisions and actions brings us. Victors may get to write the official history. The land and the ancestors know the whole story.
As an aside, today marks six months since starting to write a poem a day and posting it on this blog. I had done the month long NaPoWriMo in April 2017 and 2018, but I felt the itch to challenge myself. I had no idea that I would still be here. You can see my flops and the successes. But at least I am having the courage to write on a daily basis.
I am really grateful for my faithful readership (you know who you are. And so do I!) and my faithful Twittership Traci York (check out her blog http://www.traciyork.com). The blog has evolved with poetry writing as a spiritual practice and as a journal. Not so much of outward happenings – there have been momentous occurances – but of my inward response to them, or even my deflection of them.) I do at regular intervals wonder how long I can keep this up, especially as I start juggling teaching and three different projects over the next three months. That will be a real test of the practice.
A River Runs Through
Borders may shift but the land stays still. Rivers demarcate the only sure lines you can cross on maps.
No matter the tribe you subscribe, they can deny you, throw you to hell or Connaught, out beyond the Pale, into schtetl, township bulldozered. Relocated you can become a Them, a Not-Us so easily.
Who do you love? Will they love you at your last moment? Would the earth reject your lifeless form?
The land knows you, that you are their own. Where your bones rest it calls you its own. No maps or border, no tribe ever will describe all the story the land tells us. Listen. Here. A river runs through like blood.