Sunday, December 8, 2019

Pantry of Poetry and Prose #7

Hello word weavers and word lovers! Welcome to Poetry United's seventh week hosting the pantry of poetry and prose. Hopefully some of the lucky energy of that number will rub off on us all this week.

This last week Susan brought us some Changes in the Midweek Motif. On Wild Fridays, Rosemary celebrated Susan and Sumana for their contributions to Poets United. What will this week bring us? Get ready to write poetry about "A/The Moment" with Sumana.

Now's the time where you get to hit us with one of your word wonders.The pantry is open to old and new pieces of poetry, prose, fiction, or nonfiction. But keep prose pieces to 369 words or under, please. Thanks and enjoy the word magic.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Wild Fridays: Poems of the Week

Celebrating Susan and Sumana

– who have been our Midweek Motif hosts for so long. It's sad to see them step down from that role which they have filled so beautifully, with so much thought and so much heart. Changes in both their lives came coincidentally at about the same time, bringing a need to refocus their energies elsewhere. They generously decided to stay on until the end of the year, after Mary and Sherry's retirement, giving the new team more time to settle in. And they assure us that, although they won't be hosting any more, they will still be writing and posting.

How much I've always enjoyed the poems of each of these poets – equally thoughtful, spiritual and life-affirming, yet different in style. 

They also, of course, experience marked differences in geography and culture, yet have worked together as a team-within-a-team, preparing and hosting the Midweek Motif prompts with ongoing behind-the-scenes collaboration – another example of how Poets United (the staff and the wider community) has been able to create a harmonious common ground for us all.

Choosing one favourite poem from each of these poets would have been impossible, because there are so many I could include! I picked these first two (both posted to their blogs earlier this year) partly because, in showing their individual yet shared love of life, even in its smallest details, they also exemplify aspects of their different societies and lifestyles.

Here is Sumana longing for rain:

– Sumana Roy

I miss your visual splendour-
your kohl-eye, telling stories-
your swift pirouettes in the wind-
your enthralling foot-work-
did your ghungroos (anklet) have hundred bells
like the Kathak dancers?
Wasn’t I mesmerized hearing the dance steps
on glossy, green leaves; on metal shades?
the touch of those graceful hands
blossomed Kadam flowers-
your odhni (veil) of cloud
seemed infinite-
where are you my pretty, danseuse?
Have we killed you
like the colonial British trying to smother
the Kathak dance
calling its practitioners ‘nautch girls’; harlots
in contemptuous fun?
In our desert homes
we are missing you sorely-

Sumana added in a note:
[Whatever I try to write now it leads to the rain-less days we are living here. So my Kathak dancer is the monsoon here.]

Sumana, we here in Australia can very much relate to such a longing, as we have been suffering a serious drought for a number of years. I know other places around the world, including parts of America, are in a similar plight. I hope your plea may act as  a prayer!

Then we see Susan enjoying both friendship and solitude:

After an Evening with Friends  
– Susan Chast

After fudge and cream on brownies, after
the last delicious kiss goodnight,
after the train deposits you
a mere half mile away—
you walk. The door opens
and closes. Then, 
do you, too, sigh,

perk up, rally to spend
time with yourself at last,
to catch up on quiet and joy?
Home’s divine solitude settles
like gold dust, surrounds like Bach cello suites.

Susan, you take us straight into both feelings with marvellous economy of well-chosen words! I feel with you the pleasures of such an evening of good food with congenial friends, then the bliss of 'home's divine solitude'. Having lived alone for the past seven years, maintaining an active social life yet also relishing my periods of solitude, I can say a big 'Yes!' to both verses. 

Perhaps the overriding quality I receive from Sumana's poetry is gentleness; from Susan's integrity. For me these are their signature characteristics – but of course no-one can be categorised by just one quality; I don't mean to suggest the poems are not varied.

I see both, also, as women of great resilience.

Here is Susan coping with the 'writer's slump' we all experience from time to time, yet using it – with great wisdom – to reconnect with the source of inspiration, in faith that it is indeed so:

What a Writing Slump Is

A hole I slide into, below
the surface of consciousness, I say—

But my body protests:
It’s a hole you want to dig but can’t.
You’re slumping, and haven’t the strength
to wield a shovel to break through
the surface of consciousness.
The hard ground won’t receive the seed. 

No, I reply, trust me:
The seed is there with fledgling roots, 
but the hole is too deep for the stem to reach 
the edge where I could translate through arms, 
eyes and hands into the light.  Instead of floating 
over the hole, notebook and keyboard—I am
inside, as close to the seedling as possible. 

I slide into the hole, below
the surface of consciousness, I say—
and slump there for a long long time.

And Sumana lifting herself up via the words of the famous Indian poet Tagore, whom she so loves and admires (some of whose work she has translated):


Your words are the buzz-song
of a bee–
dripping sweetness unto
my tattered soul–
I have morphed into
a thousand honeycomb
holding your nectar–
the world isn't all honey–
when it stings I sing your forever song
to be lifted up, to fly
with my newly grown wings–

Susan replies:

Rosemary, thank you for choosing my poem “After an Evening with Friends” for this sweet feature with Sumana.  You, she, and Poets United have been with me many of these luscious evenings.  And then, “What a Writing Slump is”! I am not slumping now, but I know the hole, seeds and roots intimately. 

I love Poets United.  I loved working with the old team and look forward to changes the new team will bring.  Based on what you have already done, I know PU will continue to nourish poets and writers in exciting ways.  Poets United nourished me at a time when my confidence in blogging my poems was flagging.  Then you, Mary, and Sherry wholeheartedly invited me to join the team after Kim Nelson's year.  The new weekly Midweek Motif built on Kim's success.  And just when I was feeling overwhelmed, Mary suggested that I share Midweek Motif with Sumana Roy.  I soon became enchanted with her poetry and choices, and we became partners here.  I felt my life blessed ever since.  (Truly, Sumana. Poems like your Respect from 2017 live in my home. And I want to use your Tagore translations forever!) 

Now, I hope to put my creative time into writing. In addition, I've come out of retirement to substitute teach, and I am co-leading a spiritual nurture program through my Quaker meeting. I expect to join the poets who blog here quite often. Throughout the years, your poetry and commentary have been good company. 

And Sumana says:

I feel so honored to be featured with Susan in your Poems of the Week, here at Poets United, Rosemary. Thank you so much. Yes, it’s been a wonderful journey with you all. I enjoyed my every moment being here. Thematic prompts always motivate me to write my lines and it was so amazing to see all the insightful responses from the poets from all over the world to such prompts. And such a dream team of partners! I can’t thank Mary enough for offering me to be a part of the Midweek Motifs with Susan. Aah…those behind-the-scene chats with Susan for Midweek motifs! And who can ever forget all those sun-shine words from all of you during my cloudy days! I am ever so grateful to each of you for being with me during my hard hours.

Wish you all my best.

And thank you once again Rosemary for selecting the poem Dance. This poem is definitely a sigh of exasperation only an Indian summer and a forgetful Monsoon could bring about. 

I am so very obsessed with Tagore! And what a delight you’ve chosen this poem also for this feature. It’s a little tribute to my poet who has become a shelter to me specially after those stormy nights. At present I am reading a memoir of Tagore in Bengali. Name of the book is : Swarger Kachhakachhi by Maitreyee Devi. Meaning of the book title is ‘Close to Heaven’. No title could be more appropriate.

Though now most of my time is occupied with extreme traveling I still have managed some space for reading and diving once again into the translation of Tagore’s songs.


I'm sure you'll all be glad (but not surprised) to know that these two exceptional poets, who have become our dear friends through their many months of hosting Midweek Motif, will still be very much engaged with poetry, and that we may continue to see them here sharing their wise and beautiful words.

Material shared in this post is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Changes

Autumn in Lodhi Garden, New Delhi
I am crooning a Tagore song as I write this prompt ‘Changes’ together with Susan: 

“Fallen leaves, I’m one of you dear.
With much laughter and many a tear
Phagun* chanted the farewell song into my core.”

(*Phagun / Phalgun is one of the last months
of the Bengali calendar.)

This year now rolls into its last month. There is an aroma of change everywhere; in every sphere of life. So it is in our dearest home Poets United. Mary and Sherry left in October, and both Susan and I are taking leave of Midweek Motif this December:

“The poetry of earth is ceasing never:   
On a lone winter evening, when the frost    
    Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills   
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,   
  And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,   
    The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.”

Our last prompt will be 18 December 2019, though we will continue to write and blog our poetry.   We will write more about this change in Rosemary's feature this Friday.  So stay tuned, and stay in tune, too, for your new Wednesday prompt hosts in January 2020.
Much love, Sumana and Susan        

Midweek Motif  ~ Changes
We try to learn to appreciate change, as it cannot be avoided.  We would have to set life in bronze or stone or amber to preserve it.  Would it then be alive?  Can we then celebrate change, or at least find the words to recognize its power?   Adrienne Rich wrote in "Images for Godard":
 the mind of the poet is changing
the moment of change is the only poem.
 What do you think?

Here are more poems to inspire you as you find the poetry in change:  

Want the change
by Rainer Maria Rilke
English version by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice – – –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations – – –
though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do – – – determined to save
the only life you could save.

Roselva says the only thing that doesn’t change
is train tracks. She’s sure of it.
The train changes, or the weeds that grow up spidery
by the side, but not the tracks.
I’ve watched one for three years, she says,
and it doesn’t curve, doesn’t break, doesn’t grow.

Peter isn’t sure. He saw an abandoned track
near Sabinas, Mexico, and says a track without a train
is a changed track. The metal wasn’t shiny anymore.
The wood was split and some of the ties were gone.

Every Tuesday on Morales Street
butchers crack the necks of a hundred hens.
The widow in the tilted house
spices her soup with cinnamon.
Ask her what doesn’t change.

Stars explode.
The rose curls up as if there is fire in the petals.
The cat who knew me is buried under the bush.

The train whistle still wails its ancient sound
but when it goes away, shrinking back
from the walls of the brain,
it takes something different with it every time.

Image result for change quotes

Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community—

(Next week Sumana's Midweek Motif will be ~  A / The Moment.)