Sunday, April 21, 2019

Poetry Pantry #477

No copyright infringement intended.

We wish you Happy Easter on this special Sunday, if you are one of the many who celebrate this day. And a very happy and holy Passover to our friends in the Jewish community. 

Happy New Year wishes  to our dear friends in India! 

Happy Solstice / Happy Spring, from all of us at Poets United! We hope you are enjoying a beautiful spring Sunday, and that the snow is all gone. We don't want the Easter Bunny to get cold feet!

We had an interesting week at Poets United, discussing Magaly's new prose feature. Thank you for participating, and for being willing to stretch, if prose is a new direction for you. On Friday, Rosemary featured a very moving poem by Nancy Willard. Do scroll back, if you missed it. It is lovely. Next Friday I will introduce you to another Tofino poet, and there is a very cool short video to enjoy as well, a dance on the shore by the wild women of Chesterman Beach. Smiles. We hope you stop by and check it out.

This Monday, we are sharing a poem by Shaista Tayabali, the young woman who blogs at Lupus In Flight. We think you will be very moved by her poem about living with a serious illness. On Wednesday the Midweek Motif will be Almond Blossoms by Vincent Van Gogh. That sounds  intriguing.

For now, let's dive into the Pantry. Link your poem,  leave a comment to let us know how you're doing, and remember to visit your fellow poets in the spirit of reciprocity. Thank you for being here every Sunday. We wouldn't be here without you!

Friday, April 19, 2019

I Wish I'd WrittenThis

Swimming Lessons

A mile across the lake, the horizon bare
or nearly so: a broken sentence of birches.
No sand. No voices calling me back.
Waves small and polite as your newly washed hair
push the slime-furred pebbles like pawns,
an inch here. Or there.

You threaded five balsa blocks on a strap
and buckled them to my waist, a crazy life
vest for your lazy little daughter.
Under me, green deepened to black.
You said, “Swim out to the deep water.”
I was seven years old. I paddled forth

and the water held me. Sunday you took away
one block, the front one. I stared down
at my legs, so small, so nervous and pale,
not fit for a place without roads.
Nothing in these depths had legs or need of them
except the toeless foot of the snail.

Tuesday you took away two more blocks.
Now I could somersault and stretch.
I could scratch myself against trees like a cat.
I even made peace with the weeds that fetch
swimmers in the noose of their stems
while the cold lake puckers and preens.

Friday the fourth block broke free. “Let it go,”
you said. When I asked you to take
out the block that kept jabbing my heart,
I felt strong. This was the sixth day.
For a week I wore the only part
of the vest that bothered to stay:

a canvas strap with nothing to carry.
The day I swam away from our safe shore,
you followed from far off, your stealthy oar
raised, ready to ferry me home
if the lake tried to keep me.
Now I watch the tides of your body

pull back from the hospital sheets.
“Let it go,” you said. “Let it go.”
My heart is not afraid of deep water.
It is wearing its life vest,
that invisible garment of love
and trust, and it tells you this story.

By Nancy Willard (1936-2017)

During the 'poetry month' of April, the publisher Knopf emails poems from its collections to anyone who signs up for this service – which I did some years ago.  I very much enjoy receiving the poems every April. They are all of high calibre, often beautiful, always interesting. This year, this one particularly caught my eye.

How seamlessly it slides from the father teaching his daughter, so lovingly and intelligently, not only to swim but to be at home and unafraid in the water, to the daughter at her father's deathbed, able to help him let go, and to let him go, buoyed by the love and trust he gave her. I love the calm, assured tone of that realisation.

The notes which accompanied the poem in my inbox tell me that Willard was a novelist as well as a poet, and 'a beloved author of books for children, whose 1982 picture book, A Visit to William Blake's Inn, received the Newbery Medal.' As a former children's librarian, I'm impressed. The Newbery is a very big deal. Her obituary in The New York Times adds that it was the first book of poetry to receive the Newbery. 

She also wrote novels for adults. The obituary goes on to call her, 'a prolific author whose 70 books of poems and fiction enchanted children and adults alike with a lyrical blend of fanciful illusion and stark reality.'

It includes some wonderful things she said about writing, e.g.

'Most of us grow up and put magic away with other childish things. But I think we can all remember a time when magic was as real to us as science, and the things we couldn’t see were as important as the things we could. I believe that all small children and some adults hold this view together with the scientific ones. I also believe that the great books for children come from those writers who hold both.'

I now want to read a lot more of Nancy Willard! And I can; there are pages and pages of her works on Amazon, many in Kindle and Audible versions as well as paperback. I've just done the 'Look inside' with a few of them, and am enchanted.


Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors. This photo of Nancy Willard is in the Public Domain.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Writing Prose

“For me a page of good prose is where one hears the rain. A page of good prose is when one hears the noise of battle.... A page of good prose seems to me the most serious dialogue that well-informed and intelligent men and women carry on today in their endeavor to make sure that the fires of this planet burn peaceably.” 
― John Cheever
Allegory of Rhetoric by Artemisia Lomi Gentileschi  (@1650)

“A good sentence in prose should be like a good line in poetry, unchangeable, as rhythmic, as sonorous.” ― Gustave Flaubert

“The characters in my novels are my own unrealised possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented.” ― Milan Kundera

 "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Zora Neale Hurston

 "Good fiction creates empathy. A novel takes you somewhere and asks you to look through the eyes of another person, to live another life." Barbara Kingsolver

Poets United ~ Writing Prose

Poets United has a new prompt on the first Sunday of every month, "Telling Tales with Magaly Guerrero: a Pantry of Prose."  So let's write a poem about the tales we can tell in prose and how it is to write them.

Your challenge is to do one or more of these in a new poem
  1. describe prose vs. poetry
  2. use the prose element of dialogue fitting the character who speaks it (within your poem)
  3. praise prose to the utmost 
  4. show us a prose writer at work
Literature saving the past from destruction by Time, in the Wellcome V0007539.jpg
Literature saving the past from destruction by Time
in the form of an old angel with a scythe. Etching by L. du Guernier.
They shut me up in Prose –
As when a little Girl
They put me in the Closet –
Because they liked me “still”   –

Still! Could themself have peeped –
And seen my Brain – go round –
They might as wise have lodged a Bird
For Treason – in the Pound –

Himself has but to will
And easy as a Star
Look down upon Captivity –
And laugh – No more have I –


Poem by Aleksandr Kushner

Ordinary Miracle - by Barbara Kingsolver

I have mourned lost days
When I accomplished nothing of importance.
But not lately.
Lately under the lunar tide
Of a woman's ocean, I work
My own sea-change:
Turning grains of sand to human eyes.
I daydream after breakfast
While the spirit of egg and toast
Knits together a length of bone
As fine as a wheatstalk.
Later, as I postpone weeding the garden
I will make two hands
That may tend a hundred gardens.

I need ten full moons exactly
For keeping the animal promise.
I offer myself up: unsaintly, but
Transmuted anyway
By the most ordinary miracle.
I am nothing in this world beyond the things one woman does.
But here are eyes that once were pearls.
And here is a second chance where there was none.


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 ~
 Almond Blossoms, by Vincent Van Gogh)