Monday, March 24, 2014

A Chat Between Two Poets

Kids, recently, our friend,  Elizabeth Crawford, over at Soul's Music, wrote a series of three especially impactful poems, full of birds and wild creatures, with extremely intriguing titles. I perked up my ears and decided to nab them for a blog of the week. But Elizabeth and I then had a pretty cool chat about how her poems came to be, and about her process. And, wise poet that she is, Elizabeth suggested I offer our chat as further illumination for her poems, and a glimpse at the poet's creative process. An idea I leaped upon eagerly. So, here we are, my friends: our chat between two poets.








Sherry: Elizabeth, how cool is this? The first thing I would like to chat about are your titles: Love Loves Difficult Things, Scrambling on the Bridge to Forgiveness, and An Albatross of Difficult Scribbling. It was the titles of these  poems, especially, that really intrigued me and made me perk up my ears. How did you arrive at them?

Elizabeth: How I came to use those particular ones? I’ve been writing poetry for over thirty years and have always found creating a title for them, one of the most difficult aspects of writing poetry at all. Left alone, to do as I please, most of the hundreds of poems I have written would probably end up titled “Untitled, #368”, or something of that sort. Which, of course, would make it difficult for any reader wanting to go back and find a particular piece.

I did an English Major in college, with a writing concentration (you could actually call that a poetry writing concentration). I took every Creative Writing: Poetry course offered during my years at the University, once I knew that I actually found writing poetry both a deeply satisfying challenge, and something I was rather good at doing. 

During all those Poetry Writing classes, I remember only one thing that was said about the creation of titles, and that was that they were the lead in to the poem, a sort of capsule version, or capture of the meaning or intent behind the work. At the time, I didn’t have any plans of publishing my stuff, I found it the best and cheapest form of therapy and continued writing it for that reason. My obvious lack of interest in titles seems to only prove my primary objective, as well as my difficulty with creating them.

I have only ever written a title and then the poem on very rare occasions. I usually don’t know where a poem is going until it works itself out, so I leave the title for last. Then simply sit back, try to relax and explore my intention, and whatever meaning I came upon during the writing. A process I used for all three of the poem titles you asked about.

Sherry: Well, that is very interesting. The title is significant, leading the reader into the poem, and encapsulating its meaning. A mini-preview, as it were. I adore your poem, Love Loves Difficult Things. (especially from my perspective as a mother :) . Cackle!)

Elizabeth: Love Loves Difficult Things is a direct quote from the book Neil used to create the prompt 1000 Birds at We Write Poems weekly prompt. No one was more surprised than I was when the poem turned into a piece of Mythos. About half way through it, I knew that I wanted to use the quote for the last line of the poem, and eventually, as the title for it as well. That is called a reflexive, a poetic device meant to create a wholeness to the piece itself and a means of directing the reader right back to its beginnings and perhaps to another reading.

And by the way, I didn’t know that the first time I did it (thinking it was a clever thing to do for finding a title). The professor of my class brought that poem in and read it aloud to the class, then spent a good half hour explaining what a reflexive is and that one should use them sparingly or get caught up in stretching or overworking a poem to accommodate that particular poetic technique. I use it only when it seems to fall naturally into place, and that is not very often.

Sherry: Interesting that the things we sometimes do naturally, actually have names, and are techniques. Interesting info, Elizabeth. Now let's read your wonderful poem.


“Love Loves Difficult Things”


I hear and I forget.
I see and understand.
I do and I become.
-Found in a fortune cookie


God gathered all of the hawks,
from kestrels to harriers and falcons,
on a tree covered hillside
where they might perch in limbs
high and low to listen.

God spoke: I have chosen you
to be my messengers because
my human creations find it hard
to sit still and listen for that quiet
voice that calls from within their souls.

Yet, they continue to seek wholeness
outside themselves in things, causes,
issues, and others whose faces
are similar to their own.

You, with your keen eyes, swift
wings, sharp talons and beaks,
and fierce spirits, might catch
their attention with your piercing
calls and undivided focus.

No wings moved through the trees
as the hawks, large and small,
fierce with focus, leaned in to listen.

From a barren branch high on the hill
gnarled voice of an old gray gyrfalcon called,
“But we can not speak to these creatures.
We do not share the same language.”

And God replied, Yes, I know that.
You will share your message through
example. Simply by being who you
truly are.

The old falcon asked, “But what of all
your other creatures? The furred and four
legged, butterflies, insects? All the other
birds that fly, swoop, and sing in celebration
of their existence? Should they not be your
messengers as well?”


As they are and will always be. Each day
I meet with different ones, explaining
their purpose and message:

The cardinal with its blood color
is a reminder that sacred creative
fire burns no matter the season.
The deer with its tender spirit
speaks of being gentle, especially
toward oneself.

Friend of the night, the owl helps
one see that there will always be
light somewhere in the darkness.

The four wings of a butterfly
carry a message of four steps
in growth toward transformation.

Loyalty is the dog’s missive, just
as building is the beaver’s, and transmutation
belongs to the snake that sheds its skin,
renewing itself periodically.

“And will they hear your message?”

God smiled and said, Some always have:
the poets, painters, musicians, sculptors,
and the like. They, in turn, express it in
their art, becoming yet another message.

The hawks nodded in understanding.
Small blue and brown kestrel leaned forward
with a frown, “Sounds like a lot of trouble
to send a message to creatures slow to hear it,
let alone, to understand.”

Yes, it (they) can be difficult at times. But,
I created them that way. I am God.
Which means I am love, and love
especially loves difficult things.


Elizabeth Crawford 2/20/14
Sherry: Wow. I adore this poem! It leaves me in awe. It fills the heart with - hope - and Love. 


Elizabeth: The other two titles are far more involved in the process I mentioned earlier. Both poems were created from wordle lists. The first one, Scrambling On The Bridge To Forgiveness, came from Brenda’s weekly twelve or thirteen word wordle at The Sunday Whirl . I almost didn’t do this poem at all. 

I was seriously caught on that bridge in the title, wanting to forgive a particularly painful betrayal, but also wondering if I would be hurting myself if I did so. And because it was the sticky place I was currently inhabiting, it obviously worked its way into the poem. I originally decided to call it On The Bridge To Forgiveness. 

A bridge is a path over some sort of obstacle in one's journey from here to there. However, after working through the piece several times, I realized that the second half of the poem was a metaphor for scrambling eggs, but I hadn’t used that word at all. Scrambling, according to the dictionary, besides being a cooking term, describes an energetic climb or struggle that takes place with a sense of urgency or haste. That was my feeling, not only about finishing the poem, but about my current circumstances.

Scrambling On The Bridge To Forgiveness


Pain is the shell that encloses your understanding…
--Kahlil Gibran
Blown trust of betrayal might be highest
form of test for human spirit. A trial of sorts,
where both sides of one distinctly divided being,
bring opposing heart felt arguments
to course of same events.

Not unlike an egg beaten with stick
inside thick ceramic mug, blended
with small amounts of milk-white truth,
then tossed into heated pan, stirred
to become thickened amalgam
more readily swallowed

and meant to nurture a soul
toward forgiveness.

Elizabeth Crawford  2/23/14

Sherry: I read this with bated breath, having just scrambled through an identical situation myself. This often happens online, as people live and write their way through their situations. 

Elizabeth: The third title is much easier to explain, or maybe I should say simpler to understand. An Albatross of Difficult Scribbling is the result of another wordle, this one containing thirty-three words, three words each, taken from eleven different poems that were written in response to Neil’s already mentioned prompt. The problem here being that I was the one who chose all those words, never once taking into consideration I would have to try to use them myself in response to the wordle created. 

I have a problem with abuse of any kind, especially that aimed at children and animals. Perhaps because both groups are often the unwitting messengers of buried or secretly held truths, and all too often became the brunt for anger and violence when those truths are uncovered. When I was writing the poem, I realized how easy it would be to unleash my own angst at the individuals the poem was aimed at. Not good, but always a problem when dealing with the reality that the personal is political and the political is, just as often, personal. 

So, I took a break in the middle of writing it and found a calming affect in something else I had written years before. Came back and finished the poem, only to realize that I had used all but three of the words in the wordle list. Those three words became the title of the poem and speak to my own process in writing it and finding a less than angry ranting solution. The albatross became a symbol of a heavy burden in the story of The Ancient Mariner.

An Albatross of Difficult Scribbling

albatross – an oppressive burden or hindrance

                                  --Dictionary
Lacking any and all deceit, one must
wonder at peeling purgatory reserved
for those jaded enough to dismiss tornado
of constant warnings brought by
a thousand different messengers.

In particular, those that would

ignore the guttural mourning cry
and call of winged and four-legged
creatures suffering from plague
of irresponsible actions of others,
who believe themselves the royal
height of God’s creation.

Who, in mindless quest to insulate

themselves from own pessimistic reality,
turn their backs to mysteries of nature.
Never knowing magic to be found
in flight of a single hummingbird…
its wings a whirlwind of tumbling motion.

Cannot, or will not, find inspiration in journey

of a sea turtle migrating hundreds
of ocean miles in search of home
or see miracle of a caterpillar as it slowly
morphs into beauty of a monarch butterfly.

Too busy twittering about unfair

weather conditions, balancing bank
accounts to acquire material possessions,
they are blind to the pluck and courage
of these “much lesser” beings.

Yes, one can only imagine a special place

kept for these. Perhaps small steel cages,
hung in a huge forest, like scattered
chandeliers, where every day they
are forced to listen to their four-legged
keeper (am thinking a certain Siberian
tiger*), as he teaches them respect toward
yet another incredible species.

Elizabeth Crawford  2/24/14
Sherry: This is so soul-satisfying, the idea that humans will one day learn from our fellow creatures how to live together on this planet. May it be so.

Elizabeth: All three of these poems were written in the period of one week. All three together, prove to me, once again, that the writing of poetry is simply damned good therapy and cheaper than any other form of it.

What I like most about the poetry circuit is that it often works as synchronicity in my life, and the prompts are such a fantastic source of inspiration.  I love synchronicity, and your questions about these titles was a huge piece within the puzzle that continues to be me. 

Thanks, my friend.

Sherry: Thank you, Elizabeth, for these three glorious poems and for this wonderful conversation! I  think your idea of Poet Chats is a great one, and one we will re-visit from time to time.

Well, kids? Wasn't this perfect? Elizabeth has been a loyal member of Poets United since its beginnings. She writes most days, at Soul's Music, and also creates the most beautiful mandalas, which can be enjoyed at her two Mandala Gallery blogs. Elizabeth is also a contributor to the Red Wolf Journal, and some of her writing can be found in that publication.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for your long-time membership at Poets United - and for the beauty and wisdom you share daily on your blog. We appreciate you!

Kids, I hope you enjoyed this chat as much as I did. Come back to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

22 comments:

  1. Sherry, I really enjoyed reading the chat between Elizabeth and you! Thank you. Elizabeth, I am like you. I cannot remember the last time I wrote a title first & then the poem. For me the title is generally the VERY last thing. I like the way you expressed the idea of titling: " .........that they were the lead in to the poem, a sort of capsule version, or capture of the meaning or intent behind the work." Very well expressed, I think.

    I really enjoyed reading "Love Loves Difficult Things." I like the examples you gave within the poem & also the conclusion. The whole thing rings true to me. I think this is a poem that one can gain something new from every single time one reads it.

    Your second poem is a wonderful metaphor. A very example of just how forgiveness works.

    Really amazing how all three poems were written in one week. Sometimes inspiration leads to inspiration (and, ha, some weeks are better than others). I have noticed you are particularly good with finding meanings in wordles. I used to do these as well, but somehow drifted away. Perhaps I should again return.

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  2. This is such an interesting and engaging conversation along with three beautiful poems...
    Thank you Sherry and Elizabeth...and poet chats is indeed a great idea...

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  3. I did think Elizabeth had a great idea! I am planning another one in April. Nice to share talk about poetry, it is all so helpful and stimulating:) Thank you, Elizabeth, for the idea, and for being our first Chatter!

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  4. Thank you Mary for your very generous comments. But I had to laugh out loud when I got to your closing remarks. I just posted another wordle poem, one that had me crying by the time I was finished. Not in frustration, but because I found healing in these words. That is so soul satisfying. And I do hope you come back to wordle land, I find a great deal of inspiration in the words themselves and am always amazed at how many different paths the poets find to take them down.

    Elizabeth

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  5. Hi Sumana Roy and thanks for reading and commenting. I have to agree with you about the chats...think they will be both entertaining and informative. A means of learning from other individuals' processes.

    Elizabeth

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  6. You are more than welcomed Sherry. I am honored at being the first of what I hope will be many more poets sharing their poetic process with all of us. But, you shouldn't give me all the credit, after all, you asked me about those titles to begin with. Thanks for sharing my work and all that you continue to do.

    Elizabeth

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  7. nice...elizabeth has always been supportive and kind...i was wondering if that albatross had a tie to the mariner as that is where i knew it from...titles usually come last for me as well....

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  8. (Poor typing skills). Very nice chat, ladies. I love the reflexive title best. It does bring the poem back to itself. Lovely poems, Elizabeth. Thanks for doing this, Sherry.

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  9. When two poets get together, great things emerge. Thank you, Sherry, Elizabeth. I shall reflect more on my titles in future!

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  10. I also usually title last. What I liked most in the conversation and poems above--besides getting to know you better, Elizabeth--is your attention to messages we receive (or don't receive) from God and spirit as embedded in the world around us. I would love to hear your voices in this conversation. Haha! I do hear them, of course, but a sound track of a little snippet would be fun and probably not possible.

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  11. So good to see you here explaining how you write Elizabeth..i think it's true we often learn the names for what we do later on..titles are tricky aren't they..The Albatross of Difficult Scribbling..is a fantastic one - and poem! Thank you for the link..nice to get to know you a little more

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  12. Great idea, Sherry about poets' chatting. The intent of poetry to be the therapy very much resonates with me. Thanks for sharing ideas and poetry, Elizabeth and Sherry!

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  13. Lol, Susan, I had to smile when I saw your comment. I have considered trying to figure out a way to read some of my poems on my blog, but the technicalities involved are a bit beyond my technonincompoop status. BTW,have been going through some very old poetry and just found a poem outlining my own mumbling manner which wouldn't bode well for a divine directive. Concerning the rest of your comment, I have long believed that there are messages all around us, all we need do is lean in and listen (something poets are rather good at doing). At age 67, I still consider myself no more than a work in progress (probably always will) and most often tell others that my 'philosophy', if it must be defined, is to follow the signs and symbols that constantly surround all of us. Thanks so much for your interest and we can both hope that someday I'll be able to get past the techno block and still have a voice left to use it.

    Elizabeth
    PS. Did another Mythos piece a few years back and you might like that one as well. It is titled The Call and can be found on my site by using the search engine there.

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  14. interesting and informative chat.
    i think titles are important but i am not too good with them. :)

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  15. Hi Jae, good to see you here as well. As writer's, especially poets, we share in the energy of The Magician. Which means we engage in naming things and raising consciousness. That energy is also shared with The Prophet. That, in a very real sense, makes us direct descendants of both Moses and Merlin. Potent stuff, right? Each of us owns a unique voice and a particular message. It is my hope that as these chats continue, we will learn a great deal more about those traditions from one another. I have certainly learned a lot from your writing just by reading it. But would like to know more about your process...see what I mean? Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment...it means a great deal to me,

    Elizabeth

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    1. Wow, the chatting after The Chat is fantastic. I LOVE this!!!!!! Elizabeth, I adore your saying we share in the energy of the Magician. God knows I need one right now....I will listen for him or her........I fully relate to your difficulties with technology - I am astounded I am now able to upload a video onto my blog. More than that, I cannot do, hee hee.

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  16. dsnake1...I've been writing for about thirty years and I still don't think I'm very good at creating titles. Sherry just happened to catch me on a roll, lol...that doesn't happen often. As I told Susan above, I've been going through some old poetry and the one thing I noticed was that I really didn't like many of the titles and immediately saw ways of changing them or creating what might be better ones. That might have to do with this chat and how aware it made me of that reality, or it simply might be the fact that they weren't really very good titles. Probably a combination of both things. Thanks for taking an interest,

    Elizabeth

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  17. great ideas skillfully brought together -historic literature

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  18. Beautiful, on so many levels is this revealing convo! Your words spoke to me and aligned with some of the whispers in my world! Thank you both ladies for doing this-I have always found Elizabeth a gifted poet. She reveals the process unlike anyone I know~
    Thank you!!

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  19. Sherry, I have written a brief essay explaining how I arrived at the idea of shared energy with the Magician. You can find it here:
    http://1sojournal.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/the-energy-of-the-magician/
    And I think you already know my answer to your statement of being in need of a magician. Close your eyes, picture him, then ask him his name. That's the best place to begin,

    Elizabeth

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  20. No, thank you Ella, that's a hell of a compliment you have given me. Good thing I don't wear hats, they wouldn't fit at the moment, lol. Good to see you here and glad you heard those whispers, but then you often do,

    Elizabeth

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  21. A very interesting chat! Enjoyed reading about the process of coming up with titles. Learned something new about "reflective" ... I've used that before naturally without knowing it was a technique! Thank you for sharing the wise poems, too :)

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