Friday, October 31, 2014

The Living Dead

 Honouring our poetic ancestors

The Truth the Dead Know
Anne Sexton (1928 - 1974)

For my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June.  I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape.  I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch.  In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely.  No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead?  They lie without shoes
in the stone boats.  They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped.  They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.


As I write, it's the night of Halloween in Australia, a few hours ahead of places in the Northern Hemisphere. Aussies, especially the kids, have borrowed it from America. I've already given out lollies to trick-or-treaters and admired costumes, including an impressive skeleton.

Halloween is based on Samhain, the time when Pagans believe the veil between the worlds is thin, and the dead revisit us. It is a time to honour our ancestors. The children who come knocking don't know this. Nor do they know it's a seasonal festival, and that this is the wrong time of year for it here. 

In the Southern Hemisphere this is really the time of Beltane, a festival celebrating the sexual union of male and female.

This poem by Anne Sexton speaks of both — the deaths and funerals of her parents, and the lovers' world of touch.

Sexton's struggles with mental illness and her eventual suicide are well-known. I won't reiterate them here. The Wikipedia article (link on her name, above) gives you the basics.  She is a very recent poetic 'ancestor', having died in 1974, but deserves that status as one of a handful of  'confessional' poets who permanently changed the way poetry was written and viewed, making the deeply personal their subject matter in ways that were previously considered tasteless and unsuitable. Today most of us write more or less confessionally.

Sexton remains one of the most famous of the early confessional poets. Many people find her poetry, particularly the later work, strange and disturbing. Many others find it brilliant and beautiful.

I don't know when this one was written, but it seems to me to have a flavour of her earlier works.  It doesn't sound mad, just sad and heavy. It's also beautiful, with a formal music. I copied it into a poetry scrapbook by hand when I was in my early twenties and knew nothing about the poet, but fell in love with the poem for its beauty of language.

There are books by and about her at Amazon. Her poems can be found at PoemHunter, and there is a discussion of her poetics at The Poetry Foundation.



When subject to copyright, poems and photos used in ‘The Living Dead’ remain the property of the copyright holders.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Halloween, or Celebrating the Dead

source
Tom Skelton shivered. Anyone could see that the wind was a  special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special  feel because it was All Hallows' Eve.


“So light a fire!" Harry choked. "Yes...of course...but there's  no wood!" ...  "HAVE YOU GONE MAD!" Ron bellowed.  "ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT!” 


To me, a witch is a woman that is capable of letting her intuition 
take hold of her actions, that communes with her environment, that isn't afraid of facing challenges. 
We never know who is walking beside us, who is our spiritual teacher. That one - who annoys you so - pretends for a day that he's the one, your personal Obi Wan Kenobi. The first of November is a splendid, subversive holiday.



Midweek Motif ~ Halloween 

or Celebrating the Dead

(31 October  2 November)

Your Challenge:  Show your truth about this holiday in a poem that tells a story.



Is Halloween a children's holiday, as marketed in the USA?
Trick-or-treating

A Wiccan or Witches' New Year?
Oweynagat ('cave of the cats'), one of the many 'gateways to the Otherword' from whence beings and spirits were said to have emerged on Samhain.


All Saints Day and/or The Day of the Dead?  
On All Hallows' Eve, Christians in some parts of the world visit graveyards to pray and place flowers and candles on the graves of their loved ones.
source

Something else?   Show your truth about this holiday in a poem that tells a story. 




For those who are new to Poets United:  
  1. Post your Halloween, or Celebrating the Dead poem on your site, and then link it here.
  2. If you use a picture include its link.  
  3. Share only original and new work written for this challenge. 
  4. Leave a comment here.
  5. Visit and comment on our poems.
(The next Midweek Motif will be Bonfires.)


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Monday, October 27, 2014

LIFE OF A POET - ENIGMA

Kids, this week, we are meeting with the beautiful young poet, Preeti Sharma, who writes at MUSINGS AND REFLECTIONS, and who posts under the name Enigma.  Preeti lives in Jaipur,  in India. As we're arriving, the sun is touching the buildings and turning everything the most lovely color, so I see why they call it the "pink city."  


Sherry: Preeti, I'm so happy to be meeting with you! Would you like to be called by your name, or remain Enigma in the interview?

Preeti: It’s one of my new year resolutions – to own up everything I post in the blogosphere, which I normally don’t do. So yes, I’d love to give my pen name a face and a (verifiable) identity. 




Sunday, October 26, 2014

Poetry Pantry #224

Sherry Blue Sky's Beautiful Tofino, British Columbia






Greetings, Poets!

Glad to see each of you here this week for Poetry Pantry.  It is always enjoyable for me to get to know you through your poetry; and I hope you feel the same.  Admittedly, I personally appreciate those with whom there is a feeling of reciprocity, which makes for a feeling of community.  I think we ALL tend to visit (after a while) people with whom we reciprocate.  I just don't GET people who link and enjoy visits, yet don't bother to visit others -- even those who spent time making comments on their poetry.

This week I am sharing a few of Sherry Blue Sky's photos from her recent trip to the place of her heart -- Tofino.  Enjoy.  If anyone else has photos from their area or interesting photos from somewhere you have visited, I'd like to feature them!  Let me know.

Be sure to visit Poets United Monday to see what Sherry Blue Sky  has planned to share.  Will it be a featured poet?  A featured blog?  Or a featured poem?

Glad to see there is always a  great turn-out for Midweek Motif.  We hope to see you this coming week for another challenging prompt by Susan Chast!  (And, ha, perhaps many of you have noticed that if you look at one week's prompt Susan gives  a clue about the following week's prompt as well, so you can get a head start.)

And on Friday, remember to see who Rosemary Nissen-Wade features on "I Wish I Had Written This" or  "The Living Dead."

Again:  I issue an invitation here to those of you who participate in Poetry Pantry.  If YOU have special photos that you would like me to feature some week, let me know what kind of photos you have.  There are participants here from many different cities, many different countries.  I think it is great fun to see different areas featured. I am especially interested in scenic views of your area or an area you have visited.  Send inquiries first to dixibear@aol.com letting me know what you have.  I am interested in city or country views - in your home area or places you have traveled.

Link your ONE poem.   Then leave a comment below. Then visit other poets.  And I will too.  (If I miss your poem, visit me, and I will visit you... I am like anyone else, appreciating reciprocity.) We ALL like comments, so if you link please DO spend time visiting others.  That is part of the fun as well.  We really like it if you link back to Poets United too, so we spread the Poetry Pantry word in the blogosphere.

Come back a few times on Sunday and Monday to see what's new.  Visit some strangers, and they will become new friends!  Making new friends and reading new poetry, what more could one want?

If you are on Facebook, look for us there as well. Join our site.  It is one more way to stay in touch!

And now...here is the procedure, for those who are new here:  Each Sunday we start a new post with a New Mr. Linky for you. This is so that you can post a link to a poem in your blog. The link will close Monday at 12:00 p.m. (CDT), but you can still visit the links of those who have posted them.

Friday, October 24, 2014

I Wish I'd Written This

Winter is Coming
By Mark Salo

My aged mother
Struggles to stand
Now erect,
She smiles
Wit and grace
Still in her possession
She looks directly
Death is not her enemy

My old father
In the woods he loves
At peace with the silence
Fells the dying birch
Firewood
To keep her warm

I watch unseen
As he trips among the tangle
In slow motion
He falls
The earth and he
Welcoming the other

For a moment…
He surrenders
Then pushes back
Against the ground
The earth will claim him
Soon enough
But not this day

Reunited
In the old farmhouse
Together…slowly
They dance in the kitchen

Winter is coming


This is not the terrifying 'Game of Thrones' winter, which many of us now think of when we encounter those words, 'winter is coming'.  This winter is inevitable too, but natural, and has not yet arrived although it's on the way.  The double meaning doesn't hammer you over the head, but it's clear enough. Yet this is predominantly a poem about love. I've lived the love of the aged, still taking care of each other as best they can, still expressing love in romantic ways — such as dancing in the kitchen. I love the tenderness portrayed here.

And I love the poet's affection for both parents, in particular the portrait of the father 'at peace with the silence' of his beloved woods, or surrendering to the earth for a moment after his fall before pushing against it.

There's a quiet music in this poem, and a sureness of tone. As a work of art, I think it's beautifully realised.  Winter is Coming was written for Mark's parents while they were still alive, and he later read it as part of the eulogy for his mother.

Knowing that I'm a poet, friends and acquaintances sometimes like to show me other people's poems, either to share their own pleasure in a find, or to see what I think of them. That's how I came to know of Mark Salo's poetry, when a neighbour said, 'Don't you think this is good?' Yes, I certainly did! And I immediately wanted to feature him here. 

He not only agreed — after looking at the things I like to include in these posts by way of human interest, he kindly supplied me with the following photo and biography: 

'Mark Salo was born in northern Minnesota and spent his early years living adjacent to the White Earth Indian Reservation (Ojibwa) where his mother was a teacher and his father a woodsman.  Mark went to a rural one room elementary school with sixteen students wherein his mother was the teacher and two siblings were classmates. He went to high school in Hibbing, Minnesota and joined the U.S. Marine Corp at age 18. 

'Mark spent his professional career as an advocate for women's health care and has lived in Washington State and San Diego, California in that capacity.  He is an alumni of the University of Washington in Seattle.

'In 2005, Salo retired to Queensland with his wife Dixie where they live with their daughter, her husband and two young granddaughters.

'Salo comes from a family of writers where poetry, letter writing and family essays are a way of communicating love, history and personal regard.  His maternal grandmother started it all.  She was a feminist, a teacher and a poet who once said that she would rather be caught stealing a pig than mispronouncing a word.

'Before settling down professionally, Salo worked as tradesman, airplane builder, tile setter and woodsman.  Before retiring he taught a course for several years at the University of California Extension on Roles, Responsibilities and Relationship in not-for-profit organizations.

'In his private capacity, Mark is a poet, essayist, luthier (guitar maker), American Civil War student, family genealogist/historian and a lover of old cars.   Most recently, Mark has settled into working with wood as an art form.'
 

What a full and creative life! 

Unfortunately I can't point you to books he has published or blogs he has created — because he hasn't.  This is what he told me about that:

'As for being published, I have had dozens of commentaries and guest editorials published in newspapers over the years but it is not in my nature to keep them.  My poetry is something I share with friends and family and I do not send my writing to publications.  Some of it gets around and I am asked to read poetry by friends who like what I write. What makes me feel good is that there are a few people who have a file drawer full of my essays and poetry...good enough for me.'

I wish some of those family members would persuade him to collect the poems into a book!

Meanwhile, I can share another piece with you here — brief but lovely. He describes it as, 

'a poem that I wrote before the death of my parents who died at 90 and 92. They were in love for the duration. I started writing a long poem but stopped at four lines. They framed it and put it on their living room wall.' 




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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ One Day in the Life of ...






“What day is it,?” asked Pooh.
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.” 
                  

                               ― A.A. Milne



Midweek Motif ~ 
One Day in the Life of ...
. . . a person?  a place?  a thing?  

Make a poem.




“Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.” 
― Thornton WilderOur Town

“Ten times a day something happens to me like this - some strengthening 
throb of amazement - some good sweet empathic ping and swell. 
This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that 
the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.” 




Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.


And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.
          . . . .   (Read the rest HERE at The Poetry Foundation)


For those who are new to Poets United:  
  1. Post your "One Day in the Life of ..." poem on your site, and then link it here.
  2. If you use a picture include its link.  
  3. Share only original and new work written for this challenge. 
  4. Leave a comment here.
  5. Visit and comment on our poems.
(Next week's Midweek Motif is Halloween or Celebrating the Dead.)


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Monday, October 20, 2014

LIFE OF A POET - Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

Today, my friends, we are flying once again to India. I cant get enough of the beauty, color and culture of that beautiful ancient country. We are being hosted today by Maniparna Sengupta Majumder, who writes at Scattered Thoughts. Maniparna is also an artist and photographer, so we will enjoy seeing some of the beautiful sights of her area, through her eyes.





Sherry: Maniparna, I’m so happy to be interviewing you. Let’s start all the way back. Where did you grow up? Did you fall in love with words as a child?




                                   

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Poetry Pantry #223

Loredana Donovan's Photos of Paestum ruins in Salerno, Italy










Greetings, Poets!

Glad to see each of you here this week for Poetry Pantry.  It is always enjoyable for me to get to know you through your poetry; and I hope you feel the same.  Admittedly, I personally appreciate those with whom there is a feeling of reciprocity, which makes for a feeling of community.  I think we ALL tend to visit (after a while) people with whom we reciprocate.  I just don't GET people who link and enjoy visits, yet don't bother to visit others -- even those who spent time making comments on their poetry.

This week I am sharing  Loredana Donovan's photos of Paestum ruins in Salerno, Italy.    According to Wikipedia, the ruins of Paestum are notable for their three ancient Greek temples which are in a good state of preservation. The oldest of these temples, the First Temple of Hera (pictured third from top) was built in 550 B.C.  Check Wikipedia for detailed information.  Looks like a most fascinating place. If anyone else has photos from their area or interesting photos from somewhere you have visited, I'd like to feature them!  Let me know.

Be sure to visit Poets United Monday to see what Sherry Blue Sky  has planned to share.  Will it be a featured poet?  A featured blog?  Or a featured poem?

Glad to see there is always a  great turn-out for Midweek Motif.  We hope to see you this coming week for another challenging prompt by Susan Chast!  (And, ha, perhaps many of you have noticed that if you look at one week's prompt Susan gives  a clue about the following week's prompt as well, so you can get a head start.)

And on Friday, remember to see who Rosemary Nissen-Wade features on "I Wish I Had Written This" or  "The Living Dead."

Again:  I issue an invitation here to those of you who participate in Poetry Pantry.  If YOU have special photos that you would like me to feature some week, let me know what kind of photos you have.  There are participants here from many different cities, many different countries.  I think it is great fun to see different areas featured. I am especially interested in scenic views of your area or an area you have visited.  Send inquiries first to dixibear@aol.com letting me know what you have.  I am interested in city or country views - in your home area or places you have traveled.

Link your ONE poem.   Then leave a comment below. Then visit other poets.  And I will too.  (If I miss your poem, visit me, and I will visit you... I am like anyone else, appreciating reciprocity.) We ALL like comments, so if you link please DO spend time visiting others.  That is part of the fun as well.  We really like it if you link back to Poets United too, so we spread the Poetry Pantry word in the blogosphere.

Come back a few times on Sunday and Monday to see what's new.  Visit some strangers, and they will become new friends!  Making new friends and reading new poetry, what more could one want?

If you are on Facebook, look for us there as well. Join our site.  It is one more way to stay in touch!

And now...here is the procedure, for those who are new here:  Each Sunday we start a new post with a New Mr. Linky for you. This is so that you can post a link to a poem in your blog. The link will close Monday at 12:00 p.m. (CDT), but you can still visit the links of those who have posted them.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Living Dead

Honouring our poetic ancestors


Ode to Fanny
By John Keats (1795-1821

Physician Nature! Let my spirit blood!
O ease my heart of verse and let me rest;
Throw me upon thy Tripod, till the flood
Of stifling numbers ebbs from my full breast.
A theme! a theme! great nature! give a theme;
Let me begin my dream.
I come — I see thee, as thou standest there,
Beckon me not into the wintry air.

Ah! dearest love, sweet home of all my fears,
And hopes, and joys, and panting miseries, —
To-night, if I may guess, thy beauty wears
A smile of such delight,
As brilliant and as bright,
As when with ravished, aching, vassal eyes,
Lost in soft amaze,
I gaze, I gaze!

Who now, with greedy looks, eats up my feast?
What stare outfaces now my silver moon!
Ah! keep that hand unravished at the least;
Let, let, the amorous burn —
But pr'ythee, do not turn
The current of your heart from me so soon.
O! save, in charity,
The quickest pulse for me.

Save it for me, sweet love! though music breathe
Voluptuous visions into the warm air;
Though swimming through the dance's dangerous wreath,
Be like an April day,
Smiling and cold and gay,
A temperate lilly, temperate as fair;
Then, Heaven! there will be
A warmer June for me.

Why, this, you'll say, my Fanny! is not true:
Put your soft hand upon your snowy side,
Where the heart beats: confess — 'tis nothing new —
Must not a woman be
A feather on the sea,
Sway'd to and fro by every wind and tide?
Of as uncertain speed
As blow-ball from the mead?

I know it — and to know it is despair
To one who loves you as I love, sweet Fanny!
Whose heart goes fluttering for you every where,
Nor, when away you roam,
Dare keep its wretched home,
Love, love alone, his pains severe and many:
Then, loveliest! keep me free,
From torturing jealousy.

Ah! if you prize my subdued soul above
The poor, the fading, brief, pride of an hour;
Let none profane my Holy See of love,
Or with a rude hand break
The sacramental cake:
Let none else touch the just new-budded flower;
If not — may my eyes close,
Love! on their lost repose. 


Like many of us in English-speaking countries, I first encountered Keats at school. I had good English teachers who read verse beautifully, so I loved the Odes and for decades agreed unquestioningly with the view that Keats was the most brilliant of the Romantic poets — or would have been, if his promise had not been cut off at the age of 25 by his tragic death from tuberculosis.

It was quite a surprise, then, when I looked for a Keats poem to share with you, to discover that I don't much like his writing now! This must make me some kind of tasteless idiot, since he is still considered a very important poet by people much more scholarly and famous than me. But he suddenly seems old-fashioned, in ways which not all poets of past eras do.

I found many of the poems over-sentimental. Well, perhaps that's a fault of youth, which he would have outgrown. I also found the thees, thous, wouldsts etc. irritating, and had trouble tolerating what now seems to me his frequent long-windedness.

 'Get to the point!' I want to yell, rather than following his leisurely turns of thought.  Oh dear!

I chose this poem because the intensity of his frustrated passion gives it pace and urgency.  

I guess many of you know something of Keats's life, and his romance with Fanny Brawne, from the movie Bright Star. You can find more details from Wikipedia (link on his name, above). 

There is a longer, even more detailed and literary biography at The Poetry Foundation. And, just when you've accepted that he died because of medical ignorance and/or the stress of his work being unfairly criticised, here is an article by a new biographer, saying it was all his own fault!

HIs portraits are contradictory too, some showing him as romantically handsome, some as a bit gormless, and still others as frankly fat. So I used the death mask, as that must surely be accurate.

Perhaps you won't agree with me about his work. (Few people do.) You can check it out for yourself, or refresh your memory, at PoemHunter. Or you can find many books of his poetry, as well as letters and biographies, at good old Amazon.

Oh, wait — I did find one exceptional poem which still doesn't disappoint. I didn't share it here as it is very well-known and I like to try and give you something which might be new to you. But do read (or re-read) it anyway. It's true — he really did have brilliant promise after all. Unlike some of his other poems, I think On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer is a masterpiece.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Tree(s)



Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background (1889), Vincent van Gogh


Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Tree(s)


Tree(s): What was/is a tree to you?  
Is there one you miss or wish to meet someday?

Find a way to answer in a poem.


I illustrated this prompt with a selection of Vincent van Gogh's  paintings of trees. Feel free to write to paintings and photographs--but provide a link to your source if you do.

~
Trees and Undergrowth (1887), Vincent van Gogh

     Here's a poem you may know: 

Trees


BY JOYCE KILMER
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
                                        Source: Poetry (August 1913).

Pink peach trees ("Souvenir de Mauve"), Vincent van Gogh (1888)
O you shaggy-headed banyan tree standing on the bank of the pond,
have you forgotten the little chile, like the birds that have
nested in your branches and left you?
Do you not remember how he sat at the window and wondered at
the tangle of your roots and plunged underground?
The women would come to fill their jars in the pond, and your
huge black shadow would wriggle on the water like sleep struggling
to wake up.
Sunlight danced on the ripples like restless tiny shuttles
weaving golden tapestry.
Two ducks swam by the weedy margin above their shadows, and
the child would sit still and think.
He longed to be the wind and blow through your resting
branches, to be your shadow and lengthen with the day on the water,
to be a bird and perch on your topmost twig, and to float like
those ducks among the weeds and shadows.

Undergrowth with Two Figures (1890),  Vincent van Gogh
White dawn. Stillness.When the rippling began
I took it for sea-wind, coming to our valley with rumors of salt, of treeless horizons. But the white fog
didn't stir; the leaves of my brothers remained outstretched, unmoving.
Yet the rippling drew nearer – and then my own outermost branches began to tingle, almost as if
fire had been lit below them, too close, and their twig-tips were drying and curling.
Yet I was not afraid, only deeply alert.
I was the first to see him, for I grew out on the
pasture slope, beyond the forest.

. . . .   (Read the rest HERE at All Poetry.)

Cypresses (1889), Vincent van Gogh

For those who are new here:  
  1. Post your Tree poem on your site, and then link it here.
  2. If you use a picture include its link.  
  3. Share only original and new work written for this challenge. 
  4. Leave a comment here.
  5. Visit and comment on our poems.

(Next week's Midweek Motif is One Day in a life ...)


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