Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Peace On Earth

“Make peace with yourself, and both heaven and earth will make peace with you.”— Isaac of Nineveh


Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a
    bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second
    generation full of courage issue forth; let a people
    loving freedom come to growth.” — Margaret Walker 

Midweek Motif ~ Peace On Earth

Every one of us loves to cherish the faith that there is still an abundance of good in this world in spite of widespread violence almost everywhere every day.

We may not be “As Wrecked Men—deem they sight the Land—
At Centre of the Sea—”* but rather “come into the peace of wild things / who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief”**.

It’s now time to sing Peace on Earth…..


Christmas Bells
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
    And wild and sweet
    The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rolled along
    The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
    A voice, a chime,
    A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
    And with the sound
    The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
    And made forlorn
    The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth," I said;
    “For hate is strong,
    And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
    The Wrong shall fail,
    The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

The Rock Cries Out To Us Today

by Maya Angelou

 A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Mark the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words
Armed for slaughter.
Armed for slaughter.
The rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world,
A river sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more.
Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I
And the tree and stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow
And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.
The river sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing river and the wise rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the tree.
Today, the first and last of every tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.
Each of you, descendant of some passed on
Traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name,
You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca,
You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me,
Then forced on bloody feet,
Left me to the employment of other seekers- 
Desperate for gain, starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot...
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru,
Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the tree planted by the river,
Which will not be moved.
I, the rock, I the river, I the tree
I am yours- your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage,
Need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me,
The rock, the river, the tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes,
Into your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning. 

 *Emily Dickinson
**Wendell Berry

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

      (Our next Midweek Motif will be Susan's ~ Starting Over ~
on the 9th of January ’19)

Monday, December 10, 2018


This week we are chatting with Wendy Bourke, of Words and Words and Whatnot, about the use of repetition in poetry. Wendy did some research and put together this article about how to make our poems more effective by employing devices such as repetition to good effect. Pour yourself a cup of tea and let's dive in, for some good information and inspiration!

Sherry: When Wendy recently posted this poem, I loved it so much I wanted to feature it as a Poem of the Week. Wendy suggested we use it as an example of the use of repetition in poetry, and offered to put together an article on the topic. As I am SO grateful for ideas and assistance for my features, I accepted with alacrity. So let's read on, and absorb some very useful information. Here is the poem that sparked this chat.

I was the one

I was the one who was first – in my class – to get glasses.
I was the one who memorized snippets of poetry – and
lied about it. I was the one, my father called 'Bird'. I was
the one who made tissue paper poppies in all the wrong
colors and had imaginary sword fights and practiced
yodelling, while I dressed for school. I was the one who
wouldn't step on a crack and gagged at the smell of oranges
and walked on my toes – though it hurt like the dickens.

I was the one who crossed my eyes, whenever I was taken
by surprise – and – despite my granny's fervent predictions
they would stay that way, forever ... I was the one spared
that googly-eyed fate. I was the one who didn't catch
the baton. I was the one who had to stand in the corner,
when the boy behind poked me in the back to ask what
page we were on.  I was the one who tripped into a hornet's
nest. I was the one, most often, told to 'Sit still' and 'Shush'.

I was the one who worried for days, that a tree was growing
in my tummy after I accidentally swallowed an apple seed.
I was the one who talked with an English accent when we
played board games and tied my shoes with bunny-ears and
and couldn't snap my fingers. I was the one who got hiccups
from pop ... that threatened to never stop. I was the one
who held time in my hands, catching the sunlight  – just so – 
on the crystal of my mother's watch, a lifetime ago ...
that was me

                                            … I was the one


Sherry: I resonate with every line of this, Wendy. I was an awkward child, freckle-faced and plain and falling over my feet. I remember my mom's disapproving face, turned towards me so often. My Grandma used to threaten my face would stay that way, too, when I frowned. I credit them both for my sunny disposition! LOL.

I loved every line of this poem! And I adore that your father called you "Bird". That is so sweet.

Wendy: I'm so pleased that you enjoyed my poem 'I was the one', Sherry. It was a fun piece to write.

The message of the poem is that we – all of us – carry bits and pieces of our childhood with us, all the days of our lives.  I suspect that those remnants show themselves in a host of ways – most of them, tucked away from consciousness .  And yet, they subtly influence our likes and dislikes ... our responses to that which we encounter in our daily comings and goings ... our foibles ... our insecurities ... and – even, perhaps – that which gives us joy.  I really enjoyed casting back to odd little eccentricities and entanglements from my childhood.  The exercise conjured up a plethora of memories.

Sherry: Me, too! There is rich ore to mine back there. 

Wendy: But I also found that it was so delightful working with repetition.  As you can see, there is a lot of it in 'I was the one'.  I wanted to infuse the poem with a sense of childlike vulnerability.  As well, I thought the words 'I was the one' conveyed a sense of naiveté reminiscent of a child's confession – as opposed to an adult's admission.  

I haven't written a poem with a lot of repetition in it in quite some time, and it summoned forth a host of divine recollections of so many incredible works I have read over a lifetime, that were filled with wonderful repetition.  And thus, I thought I would take this opportunity to put together:  'A Few Notes In Praise of Repetition'.  I am sure that there are multiple Ph.D. dissertations devoted to the myriad of qualities that repetition bestows upon poetic works – there are so many splendiferous ways that this fantastic literary device  gives our poetry wings.  So I must try to rein myself in ... a lot.  

In poetry, repetition can be a word, a phrase, or a full sentence,   I recently, discovered there are 11  ways (in terms of placement) in which repetition can appear in poetry – most of them with lovely exotic names.  Literary Devices
 lists them, and provides explanations and examples.    

Repetition can identify a theme and/or add emphasis,  It can create cadence and rhythm and structure.  It can add irony and/or juxtaposition and even, at times, humor.  It can be stirring  or haunting – melodic or hypnotic.

Many (in some cases, centuries old) classical poetry forms, are constructed using repetition as a central literary device.  Throughout the 20th century to current day, repetition continues to be an important creative vehicle for poets.   I was somewhat surprised to learn that Dylan Thomas's '
Do not go Gentle into that Good Night' (1947) is a Villanelle.  The repeated title/opening line builds up the emotional impact, while adding meter. 

Robert Frost's '
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening' (1922), is a Rubaiyat.  It uses repetition sparingly, repeating an indelible line a mere two times, at the close of the piece.   And yet, what a haunting echo –  ' And miles to go before I sleep' –   leaves with all who read those words.

In Maya Angelou's brilliant poem, ‘Still I Rise’ (1978
) repetition is used to stunning effect.  The repetition of  'I rise' feels much like a mantra; an invocation that regardless of oppression, prejudice and hate – we will succeed.   Repetition, indeed, continues to be a feature in contemporary poetry. 

In the poem '
Wild Geese' (1986),  Pulitzer Prize Winner, Mary Oliver, begins the piece with anaphora repetition –  which is the repetition of a phrase at the start of lines.  Specifically, she opens with the words 'You do not...' and repeats those words at the start of the next line.  This creates an intensity, out of which the rest of the poem cascades.  

Sherry: Wendy, this is so interesting. It is intriguing to picture the poets beginning to write these famous poems. We are so used to reading and accepting them as they are, we forget that, like us, they sat down with a blank piece of paper, chose a form and wrestled with it, just as we do.

Wendy: I have been reading a lot of poetry lately, Sherry, and find myself, truly, blown away by repetition and the cornucopia of awesome effects  that poets, through the ages, have been able to achieve with this remarkable, multifaceted and layered  literary device.  What would the breadth of our poetry be, without it?

Sherry: You have reawakened my interest in forms, Wendy. My favourite is the pantoum which, for some reason, comes to me more easily than others.

Wendy: For those poets who are interested in exploring repetition a little more, I highly recommend  the Society of Classical Poets website,
 which features really clear info on how to write classical poetry (Villanelles, Sestinas, Triolets, etc.), most of which are built on the various types of repetition.  On a personal note, I have found, The Society of Classical Poets is very supportive of poets working with classical forms.  

Sherry: Thank you so much for researching this and putting this together for us, Wendy. We poets can get in a rut and forget to challenge ourselves to work a little harder on our poems, challenge ourselves to try forms, whether difficult or easy. You have fired up our engines for 2019, which is coming ever closer - a new year for sharing poetry in this wonderful community. Thank you for the inspiration!

Wendy: Thank you, Sherry, for giving me the opportunity to exercise a few brain cells.  I appreciated  learning a little more about repetition and am intrigued by all the – newly awakened – possibilities it has conferred upon my poetic 'tool kit'. 

Sherry: Me, too! And thank you so much for gathering and sharing this information. We appreciate it so much

Wasn't this a lovely chat, my friends? Are you as motivated as I am, now, to tackle some thorny forms and wrestle them into submission? 

This was our last feature of 2018. Next week I will post a seasonal wish for you to enjoy our down-time however you and your family traditionally do, at this time of year. We will be back January 6th, 2019 (wow!) with the Poetry Pantry, followed by a bright and shiny feature to start the new year off. Do come back and see who we talk to then. (Hint: It is a very well-known poet that somehow I had missed interviewing until now. You won't want to miss it.)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Poetry Pantry #432

Morning Mist Lifting from a Plowed Field - Brastad, Sweden

Greetings once again, Poets.  I hope everyone is having a good week.  So many signs of holidays around.  One can't help but get in the spirit.  Yesterday when I was walking around in a mall, there was one of the usual Santa Claus set-ups along with a photographer, of course.  I couldn't help but smile though when I saw 5 children (from perhaps age 12 and down) cuddled up with this mall Santa in their seasonal pajamas.  Perhaps this photo will end up on the family's holiday card.

I hope you have all seen (or read about) some joyful things this time of year.  The other night when I took the dogs outside for the last time I saw several deer in the background, perhaps the same kind that will be pulling Santa's sleigh.  And one more share:  I read an NPR article about an Orthodox Jewish man who has been a year-around Santa for about seven years!  Inspiring really.

Be sure to take time to read and comment on Rosemary's Moonlight Musings this week. If you haven't seen it yet, do look at it.  She asks the question, "Are we preaching to the converted?"  What do you think.

Monday, be sure to visit Sherry's Blog of the Week feature in which she talks with one of our regular poets about a particular poetry technique.

Sumana's Midweek Motif this coming Wednesday will be "Peace on Earth."  Definitely a good theme for the season.

And just a reminder, next Sunday will be the last Poetry Pantry of this year before we all go on break for a bit & take time to enjoy the season.

With no delay, let's share poetry.  Link your one poem below.  Stop in and say hello.  Visit the poems of others who link.  See you on the trail.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Moonlight Musings

Are we preaching to the converted?
(And if so, how do we get the message out to others?)

I have seen some wonderful poems lately, many of them by Poets United members, which protest the evils and troubles of the world, poems which make me want to stand up and applaud. In fact, come to think of it, there have always been poems like that – stirring, moving, eloquent … and, in other times and cultures, popular. 

But who reads them here and now? We read each other – as poets always did – but I don’t know that many other people bother. Singers and painters have a better chance of getting a message across to the wider public, I think.

Does it matter? Well yes, I think it does. What is the point of writing impassioned pieces that we wish could influence people – from members of the public to those in authority who might have the power to implement change – if such people never get to see our impassioned pieces? 

Would they be influenced if they did see (or hear) them? Who knows? But it’s worth a try.  If we make someone think, if we plant a seed…. Surely, the more voices raised – and heard – the better. So how do we go about it? 

I’ve noticed with my own writing that the passionate protest poems often date quickly, especially if they refer to specific issues and people. That’s OK, I think. We need to address the particular as well as the broader and more general. As poets, we know that the universal can be brought home with greater impact via the particular. If you want to touch people’s hearts, show them a close-up of one suffering child rather than a sea of faceless victims. (Yes, photography does it instantly, but the principle holds for our pictures made of words.)

Well, if the protest poems are going to have a short shelf life anyway, why bury them in literary magazines? There might be a long wait for busy editors to even see the work; it might not get published anyway; and if it does, it will mostly reach people of similar mind already – people who would read a particular publication in the expectation it would publish material of a certain slant.

So, write other wonderful pieces on other topics, and submit them to the journals and anthologies, if you want to take care of your poetic reputation! That frees up the protest poems (or whatever one might label them – some will be calls to action, others cries of despair, some perhaps even hopeful; but I need a blanket term and hope this will do) to be used where they’ll be seen by a wider audience. Hopefully. Maybe. I think we’re going have to get creative about how to disseminate them.

Would your local politician (or his/her secretary) like to see a poem in the email instead of the usual petition … or alongside it? How many of you have participated in Poem in Your Pocket Day, where you carry poems around and give them away to people, even unsuspecting strangers? I have, and the surprised recipients are always pleased. I suppose a poem of a different opinion from a targeted politician’s might not get the same delighted response; but one could always try for humour, or even incredible beauty. I can think of Poets United members who write of terrible things in beautiful lyricism which cuts to the heart because of its beauty.

Then there’s ‘the general public’, which is made up of individuals of course. We could implement the ‘poem in a pocket’ idea every day, making them the kind of poems we hope might sway people. We needn’t even hand them out. Instead, we could pin them to public notice-boards. We could leave them on café tables, stick them under the windscreen wipers of parked cars…. Maybe all of the above?

And what about busking? I expect the rappers already do that. Organised readings, even slams, seem a bit like literary journals – audience already favourably disposed. Nothing wrong with that; how wonderful to have enthusiastic audiences! But to change the tide of opinion might take something more. It seems to me to need a different kind of venue. A shopping mall, perhaps, rather than a stage?

Australian fantasy novelist Isobelle Carmody frequently stands in public places holding up a large placard criticising our Government’s treatment of asylum seekers who come by boat. It’s one thing to have a ‘no admittance’ policy; it’s another to treat people cruelly during years – yes, years –  of waiting for ‘processing’. Isobelle decided to bear witness. I think it’s an incredibly brave act! Note that, although she's not a poet, she is  a writer and is using her own written words to make this protest. People do stop to read, and mostly approve. She has inspired other Australians to do the same. Perhaps one could, similarly, hold up a poem that tells the hard truths?

We might send poems to mainstream newspapers if they have a poetry corner, or as Letters to the Editor if they don’t. Either way, that readership is wide and varied. Er, well, it was. Now it is falling, and newspapers are folding, being replaced by online versions. 

Which brings me to social media. I confess I’m a bit behind the times. Oh, I have the blogs, as every PU member does. And I use facebook, as many of us do too. But although I have a twitter account, and am also on Google+ because Google makes it hard not to be, I seldom use either. Instagram and such remain mysteries. How do people find the time??? And does this get the message out anyway? Given that social media depend on creating circles of ‘friends’ who are usually like-minded, and blogs also are read by those who like what we say, I don’t think this counts as changing people’s views!

Luckily, other options are open to us, in addition to poetry. No reason we can't have it both ways. We can sign the petitions; we can email our politicians in prose rather than verse (or as well as); we can write letters to the editors of those newspapers still surviving, in eloquent words of either verse or prose.

It’s easy to despair about the current state of the world – environmentally, politically, economically…. Maybe all our efforts won’t be enough to save it. The prospects sure don’t look good! But still, might as well do something. Might as well do many things, if we can manage it: at least some of the above.  If we are writing protests anyway, why not try and make them as effective as we can?

Will I myself do any of these things? Much as I admire Isobelle’s (literal) stance, I won’t do that. (Might if I was younger. I’d probably try and organise a few other poets to do it with me.) The rest? In writing this, I’ve given myself some possibilities to think about. I’d be willing to put into practice most or all of my own ideas, yes. First, I’d need to actually write some protest poems myself! It’s been a long time. Perhaps that in itself is a sign of deep despair – and, however valid it may seem, despair is not a good place to live. Meanwhile, I could ask poet friends who have written such pieces for permission to use theirs. Perhaps we need to revive the political pamphlets of centuries past!

What do you think? Can we use our poetry to reach more people? Would it do any good? Are there other ways I haven’t thought of? Am I simply being incredibly naive? Is this not the business of poetry anyhow?

(Images: public domain.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Surprise!

“If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it . . . .” 
― Heraclitus

"Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise." ― Alice Walker

The Muse, Modeled by Nina Longshadow at Opus

Midweek Motif ~  Surprise!

If only life could be serene with no upheavals and few changes in relationships. No surprises, please! But for waking up from the laziness that threatens daily perception? Nothing is better than surprise.

When were you last pleasantly surprised?

Your challenge: Write a new poem with surprise as a recurring motif.  The poem itself need not surprise, but if you can wake us up a little through a pleasant surprise, do!

Clown in surgery.jpg

Apparently With No Surprise 

by Emily Dickinson

Apparently with no surprise,
To any happy flower,
The frost beheads it at its play,
In accidental power.
The blond assassin passes on.
The sun proceeds unmoved,
To measure off another day,
For an approving God.

Surprise by Dorothy Parker

My heart went fluttering with fear
Lest you should go, and leave me here
To beat my breast and rock my head
And stretch me sleepless on my bed.
Ah, clear they see and true they say
That one shall weep, and one shall stray
For such is Love's unvarying law....
I never thought, I never saw
That I should be the first to go;
How pleasant that it happened so! 
Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That, and surprise. - Julia Cameron

for Sitti Khadra, north of Jerusalem
My grandmother’s hands recognize grapes,
the damp shine of a goat’s new skin.
When I was sick they followed me,
I woke from the long fever to find them
covering my head like cool prayers.

My grandmother’s days are made of bread,
a round pat-pat and the slow baking.
She waits by the oven watching a strange car
circle the streets. Maybe it holds her son,
lost to America. More often, tourists,
who kneel and weep at mysterious shrines.
She knows how often mail arrives,
how rarely there is a letter.
When one comes, she announces it, a miracle,
listening to it read again and again
in the dim evening light.

My grandmother’s voice says nothing can surprise her.
Take her the shotgun wound and the crippled baby.
She knows the spaces we travel through,
the messages we cannot send—our voices are short
and would get lost on the journey.
Farewell to the husband’s coat,
the ones she has loved and nourished,
who fly from her like seeds into a deep sky.
They will plant themselves. We will all die.

My grandmother’s eyes say Allah is everywhere, even in death.
When she talks of the orchard and the new olive press,
when she tells the stories of Joha and his foolish wisdoms,
He is her first thought, what she really thinks of is His name.
“Answer, if you hear the words under the words—
otherwise it is just a world with a lot of rough edges,
difficult to get through, and our pockets full of stones.”

Image result for surprise
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 Peace on Earth.)