Monday, March 2, 2015


I have such a treat for you today, kids! My heart went pitter pat recently when Chris Olson, whom we know fondly as Brother Ollie, the Tired Monk, showed up at the Poetry Pantry, after an absence. Ollie writes at Humbucker Poems, where he describes himself as a poet, trucker, singer and guitar-playing monk. He is very cool!
Ollie is one of Poets United's first members, from 2010, when Robert Lloyd first started the site. In 2012, Ollie announced he was taking a hiatus, and we have missed him. But he has donned his monk's robes and is back with us once again. Yay! I swiftly asked him if he might give us an update, and he said yes. Ollie lives in eastern Canada.

Sherry: Ollie, it has been so wonderful to see you back at Poets United. In 2012, when you announced you were taking a hiatus, did you take a break from writing, for a while, or just from online? (I know online takes up a lot of time and you have a young family.) Bring us up to date, kiddo. What have you been up to? We missed you!
Ollie: Thanks!  It is good to be back.  As a poet I didn’t burn out, I just faded away; thus going against the advice of Neil Young.  I took my monk's robes off.  My monk’s tonsure grew in.  Sure, I flirted with poetry now and then, but I only wrote a few poems last year.  There were many months where I didn’t write anything.  Recently I found my robes, put ‘em back on, and rededicated myself.  Resumed my duties, if you will.  

We also had a baby.  Sometimes one must allow themselves to be blessed.  Children are an amazing blessing.  Now I have three sons and my newest is a daughter.  It is good to be dad.
Sherry: There is no role finer! Congratulations on the baby girl!!!!!! I'll bet you are putty in her hands. And how are the young novices and the fair Abbess?
Ollie: The Abbess is better than ever.  A daughter is a particular joy for her!  We are in a good season!
Sherry: I sleuthed around  your blog and saw that you continued to write, though infrequently, through 2013. And you wrote much less in 2014. What brought you back to writing? Did your Muse insist? Did you miss writing?
Ollie: I came back to writing as I realized the state of neglect of Humbucker Poems.  I decided to do a purge.  I deleted much of my varied social media, and some other distracting elements of my life.  I felt the need to get back to poetry: Leave the tweeting to the birds (Corny Teacher Joke).
Sherry: Yes, if there are choices to be made, do keep writing. We love your poems! Which do you enjoy most, poetry or prose? Or does each have its joys?

Ollie: I really like both.  I write much more poetry, but there is a sister blog : HUMBUCKER TALES. I hope to one day tie all the tales together; thus my first novel.  I’m not sure of the narrative direction I want to take, but If anyone has suggestions, I’ll take them.  
Sherry: I am liking the sound of a book. In 2010, as I recall, you were a teacher. Your recent poems seem to be written by a long-distance truck driver. Have you made a career change? Fill us in on the Tired Monk’s current job, wont you? And, if it does involve long distance driving, tell us how music keeps you company on the road.

Ollie: I do teach (English, Religion, Communications Technology, and Yearbook) but I’m such an introvert. I need to recharge in solitude.  Some days the truck cab is my monk’s cell.  There will be many more tales n’ poems from the road, to be sure.
I still use my click-wheel iPod Classic.  There are thousands of songs to listen to out on the road. I like the break from people, and the chance to sink into some solid tunes.  I compose a lot of poems in my head as I drive.  The music really fuels the Muse as well!
Sherry: I can see the Tired Monk, rockin' out in his truck cab! Are you still making music? Playing any gigs?
Ollie: I always keep a guitar handy.  I still have my Red Strat, and an Epiphone SG, but I’m really all about wearing a hole in my acoustic guitar, like Willie Nelson.   
The only gigs I play are for my kids.  Some of my friends keep making noise about “getting the band back together”...
Sherry: It does not matter the audience - only that you keep playing. Would you like to pick three of your poems to include here? And tell us a bit about each one?

Ollie: This is a short one, but it really sums up my current philosophy.  It is time to burn off the dust.

flick the lighter
 then hot steady flame

light the lamp
burn away the dust

Sherry: I love how poetry waits through the fallow times, then sparks back to life when the time is right!

Ollie: I don’t feel that this is a really strong piece, but it is really my new beginning.  This is when I started to feel that I could, and should, come back to poetry.  

new music
a new song
each sweet verse

travel guitar sits
 a silent passenger

lift my voice
all along
these dark miles

wishing she was here
 near me
on this bench seat

Sherry: I love this one, Ollie.

Ollie: This is one back from the semi-hiatus.  I was not in a good place.  I had withdrawn too much, and from too many things.  Some recharging is good, but I’d gone too far afield: more a recluse, than a brother monk. 


his robes
shaved head
grown in
sacred vows

don't cross
left unsung

in community
no more
yet connected
by poems

Sherry: Ha, I just saw my response to that poem, on your blog,  which said I hoped the tired monk would come back, his community awaits! And here you are! Yay!

Ollie: Thanks for welcoming me back to Poets United.

Sherry: Ollie, is is our pleasure. We are thrilled to have you back!

Wasn't this wonderful, kids? Just like our Muse, the community of poets waits out the times each of us must take, from time to time, when life calls us away. Do come back to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Poetry Pantry #241

 Patti Wolf's Photos of Wisconsin (USA) Waters

Greetings, Friends!   Where did February go?  Hard to believe it is already the first day of March.  I don't know about the rest of you, but it seems that this winter has been very, very long.

Thank you, Patti (Wolfrosebud), for providing the wonderful photos for today's Pantry!  Of course, I know firsthand what a beautiful state it is; but I think that Patti's photos show it off to the max.

Remember to check back with Poets United on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as well.  On these days you can enjoy the features that Sherry, Susan, and Rosemary provide.

With no further delay, enjoy reading poetry today.  Post your poem using Mr. Linky.  Write a comment below saying 'hi' so we get to know you a bit; and then read some poetry.   Be sure to comment on the poems of others as you read.

Have a great poetic week!

Friday, February 27, 2015

I Wish I'd Written This

I Will Keep Broken Things

I will keep broken 
the big clay pot
with raised iguanas
chasing their
tails; two 
of their wise
heads sheared off; 
I will keep broken things:
the old slave market basket brought to
my door by Mississippi a jagged 
hole gouged
in its sturdy dark
oak side.

I will keep broken things:
The memory of
those long delicious night swims with you; 

I will keep broken things:

In my house 
there remains an honored shelf
on which I will keep broken things.

Their beauty is
they need not ever be "fixed."

I will keep your wild
free laughter though it is now missing its
reassuring and
graceful hinge.
I will keep broken things:

Thank you 
So much! 

I will keep broken things. 
I will keep you:
pilgrim of sorrow.

I will keep myself.

Alice Walker is best known as a brilliant novelist, whose novels I love. Her poetry not so much. Perhaps she isn't as good at verse as she is at prose, or perhaps it just isn't my cup of tea. But I do love this one, for its wonderful message and the particular details it lists of things to value.

I first found it at PoemHunter, where it is presented as one of those long, skinny poems with only one or two words per line. They are definitely not my cup of tea! I can seldom see the point. I tried to tell myself that the layout echoed/illustrated the idea of brokenness, but....  I thought the verse breaks rather odd and meaningless, too. 

I was delighted to find it set out as above, accompanying a reading of it she gave to Emory University in 2009. Because it's a university, I imagine they got the text right! Because it's fairly recent, I imagine that if she did write it the other way earlier, the version above is the way she likes it now. (Though, if you have a listen, you will hear her describe the iguanas' heads as 'fierce' rather than 'wise'. I'm sure they were both.)

She is also an activist, and was quoted on social networking recently as saying, 'Activism is my rent for living on the planet.' 

A prolific writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, she is best known as the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Colour Purple. Her Amazon page is here and her official website here.

The link on her name, above, is to the Wikipedia article. There is a longer biography here, with a lovely interview on video.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).