Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Walk

“Your grief path is yours alone, and no one else can walk it, and no one else can understand it”— Terri Irwin


“Man can now fly in the air like a bird, swim under the ocean like a fish, he can burrow into the ground like a mole. Now if only he could walk the earth like a man, this would be paradise.”— Tommy Douglas

          Midweek Motif ~ Walk

One can walk in so many ways: walking by faith in God; walking in a space of gratitude. We couldn’t agree more with Nelson Mandela when he says, “There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere.” Buddha tells us to walk safely in the maze of life with the light of wisdom.

So walk is the motif today.

It might be a calorie burning brisk walk or a slow ambling, taking in the sights and sounds around.

What about jaywalking and dancing the moonwalk? Anything connected with walk would do J

I have read in an article that Charles Dickens walked a dozen miles a day and found writing so mentally agitating that he once wrote, "If I couldn't walk fast and far, I should just explode and perish." 

A few poems for inspiration

The Walk
by Thomas Hardy

You did not walk with me
Of late to the hill-top tree
As in earlier days,
By the gated ways:
You were weak and lame,
So you never came,
And I went alone, and I did not mind,
Not thinking of you as left behind.

I walked up there to-day
Just in the former way:
Surveyed around
The familiar ground
By myself again:
What difference, then?
Only that underlying sense
Of the look of a room on returning thence. 

Acquainted With The Night
by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rainand back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. 
I have been one acquainted with the night.

by T.E. Hulme

A touch of cold in the Autumn night— 
I walked abroad, 
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge 
Like a red-faced farmer. 
I did not stop to speak, but nodded, 
And round about were the wistful stars 
With white faces like town children.

Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community—
              (Sanaa will be our guest host next week and her Midweek Motif will be Poems To Weather Uncertain Times)

Monday, June 24, 2019


This week we are pleased to feature our friend Rajani Radhakrishnan, who blogs at Thotpurge: Incomplete Thoughts… and Phantom Road . Rajani lives in Bangalore, India, and is a long-time member of Poets United. Her eagerly-awaited book, Water to Water, has just been published by Notion Press, and we are very excited about it. Let’s not wait another minute, to find out all about it.

Available in India here , the USA here, and the UK here

Rajani: If you prefer e-books to paperbacks, then I am happy to announce that that the Kindle Edition of Water to Water is now available on Amazon India/US/UK.

Sherry:  Rajani, congratulations on the publication of your beautiful book. Tell us all about it. How did it feel when you held the first copy in your hand?

Rajani: Thanks so much for featuring my book, Sherry – though it still feels surreal to call it that. The traditional publishing route would have been ideal but, thankfully, we now have several options for self-publishing! I went through a company that offers a middle path- what they call ‘guided publishing’. They managed the process once the manuscript was ready.

I think when I saw the first copies, there were mixed feelings… relief that it was done, complete disbelief that it was and almost immediately a sense of sadness thinking of those who were not there – for so many reasons - to share the moment with me.  

Sherry: I imagine so. What was the process like, preparing it for publication? How long did it take? Who was your main supporter as you worked to put it together?

Rajani: Those were a tough few months – there were times I wanted to start over- throw all the poems away. I was doing the manuscript alone and I’m glad now that I kept going. I had friends who pitched in later – helping with a bit of editing, with the cover art, with basic motivation, but yeah, it seemed like just one crazy person on a beat-up laptop, headed nowhere!
Sherry:  The description of every writer! Smiles. Amazon describes the book as “a collection of poems about love and life, darkness and death, light and separation, brimming with everyday emotions that drizzle, quench, flood or turn into rainbows.” It sounds like a rich reading experience for the reader. Tell us about the title.

Rajani: The title came from a tiny poem I wrote long ago which is also the first poem in the book - and speaks of the cycle of life. The poems largely follow the theme of water. Water as a prism to examine everyday emotions. The Indian monsoon is a very emotive muse as is the ocean. I grew up in Chennai, on India’s East coast, so am naturally drawn to the sea. I realized as I was putting the poems together that I had a lot of work, published and new, that used water as a metaphor or backdrop - the book became clear to me after that. 

Sherry: It is a wonderful and inspiring theme. Water is life! When did you begin writing poetry, Rajani? What led you to choose poetry as your means of creative expression?  

Rajani: I think in high school- of course they were terrible poems- but the inclination to write was, perhaps, always there. I didn’t study poetry after school, much of what I learnt came later, online. More recently, I think, I have been struggling to express a life and culture that is experienced pretty much in a different context and language. But reading poets like A.K. Ramanujan and Agha Shahid Ali who do it so elegantly, has been inspiring. For me, being able to do that without sounding clunky or reframing the truth would be a step forward.

Sherry: You write very elegantly yourself, Rajani.  What do you love about poetry?

Rajani: I think the brevity. There is no room to hide. You have to lay it all out there in a few words and constantly find new ways to say it. You aren’t feeling or seeing anything new- what is new is your ability to simplify what you experience and organize the clutter from a different vantage point. 

Sherry:  Well said. Would you like to share two of your favourite poems from the book?

Rajani: The book includes poems published earlier in various journals or on my blog, and also a bunch of new poems.  The second poem I’m sharing here titled ‘Corollary’ first appeared in The Ekphrastic Review.

Something closes. Someone survives.

A little blue boat, a landlocked sea, a fisherman, a few fish
for the market, one for home, a wood fire waiting. There is

a certain simplicity to being predator and scavenger, the
silhouette of a bare bough on a star-dimpled night. The only

thing more minimalist is death, prey transformed into white
bones against the earth, stripped of pretence. What are we

in the end? It should be clinical, tallying emotional accounts.
Something closes. Someone survives. A vulture with bloodied

wings stains the sky. But we embellish love. Adorn it. Learn
endearments in seven languages. Today, your voice is guttural,

ocean tangling in coarse yellow sand. We assemble dreams
from asymmetric blocks. Circling. Waiting. The quarry is

worshipped before the hunt. The night is sharpened into arrow
heads. The morning is born, again, with a red gash over its eye.


There are mornings, more mornings
now, when I try to separate love from
myself. I describe my face to the silence
as a stranger would, to another, after
a brief encounter. I describe my love
to the mirror as a bird would explain
light to another, in the dark. I describe
our time together as a fish would
talk of wetness to another, not knowing.
Your fingers comb through the lines,
trying to distinguish thought from craft.
But a poem is only a corollary. A
result that has subsumed its
reason. The glass in our window is
neither inside nor out. The sky becomes
a sky only when we look up. You
describe happiness to me as a road would
to another, as a beginning or ending.

Sherry: Your imagery is always outstanding, Rajani. I so admire how you use images in your work. There is such beauty in the "star-dimpled night", and the bird and fish talking. I adore “the sky becomes a sky only when we look up.” That is a spectacular line!   

Now that your book is completed, and out in the world, do you have plans to relax for a bit, or do you have any other projects in mind?

Rajani: I’d like to think there will be another book at some point. But for now, I just want to get back to writing more poems and possibly, more relevant poems. 

Sherry: That sounds perfect, after such an intense project. What do you like to do when you aren’t writing, Rajani?

Rajani: I read. Non-fiction mostly, and poetry. And I like to travel. There’s nothing quite like seeing different places and experiencing different cultures far away from home. 

Sherry: And both books and travel take us to new places. Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Rajani: PU was the first poetry group I discovered after I set up my blog on wordpress. I can’t thank the poets here enough for years of encouragement and support. I wish life would take me to wherever you all are, someday, so I can meet you all for real. Meanwhile, am grateful to have the opportunity to read your poetry and learn from you all. If you do read the book, I will be happy to get your feedback, as always.

Sherry: I can’t wait to immerse myself in it! Congratulations, once again. Thank you for letting us share your excitement at its publication. And thank you for your loyal participation, all these years, at Poets United. We are so happy to have you among us.

We hope you enjoyed this visit, my friends. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you! 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Poetry Pantry #484

I hope that, wherever on the planet you are, you are enjoying flowers, whether wild or tame, in all their beauty. I especially love wildflowers. I am constantly amazed at how much beauty there is everywhere, for our enjoyment.

On Friday, Rosemary featured the thought-provoking work of Joy Harjo, recently named the first indigenous Poet Laureate of the U.S.A. I have always loved her strong voice. This was wonderful news!

On Monday, we have some exciting news to share. Rajani's poetry book is out, and we want to hear all about it. Do stop by and leave her a few words of congratulations. On Wednesday, Sumana's theme at Midweek Motif will be : Walk. Cool. 

Looks like another great week at Poets United. For now, let's top up our coffee, and dive into the Pantry. Link your poem, leave us a few words, and visit your fellow  poets in the spirit of community. I so love Sunday mornings!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Thought Provokers

Joy Harjo, as many of you will know, has just been made Poet Laureate of the USA, the first indigenous American in that role.

To be honest, I have scrambled hastily to find something of hers to share, as this is obviously an event to be celebrated. Although I vaguely knew her name, I was not familiar with her writing.

To find this amazing poem on YouTube was a gift. While I'm concerned that it may already be familiar to many of you, and I like to give you something new if I can, in this instance the poet's own recital is so powerful that I'm sure one could stand hearing (and seeing) it again and again.

I also looked at a very brief interview (so I wont bother linking it) in which she said, in connection with this poem, which was apparently one of her earliest, that poetry saved her: she had reached a point where it was crucial to find her voice. She sure found it!

Wikipedia tells us:
'Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 9, 1951, with the given name Joy Foster. Her father, Allen W. Foster, was Muscogee Creek and her mother, Wynema Baker Foster, has mixed-race ancestry of Cherokee, French, and Irish. Harjo was the oldest of four children.
When Harjo enrolled at age 19 as a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, she took her paternal grandmother's last name "Harjo" (it is a common name among Muscogee and related peoples).'
Wikipedia also goes into detail both about her early difficult life with an abusive father and then stepfather, and her brilliant adult career which began with a love of painting. That led her into tertiary education. The article then becomes a list of distinguished achievements, including: 
'Harjo has played alto saxophone with the band Poetic Justice, edited literary journals, and written screenplays. ... As a musician, Harjo has released five CDs, all of which won awards. These feature both her original music and that of other Native American artists.'  
And so on and so on. She is a woman of great and varied accomplishments.
The Guardian quotes her as saying: 
'I began writing poetry because I didn’t hear Native women’s voices in the discussions of policy, of how we were going to move forward in a way that is respectful and honors those basic human laws that are common to all people, like treating all life respectfully, honoring your ancestors, this earth.'

Her books, interviews with her, etc. are available at her official site and her books – a prolific output – are also available at Amazon. I see I have a lot of catching up to do. I can hardly wait!

Meanwhile she swears that this poem successfully gets rid of fear. Perhaps it does so again and again, with many repetitions, whenever needed? Or is it so profound that it could do it once and for all? I guess we won't know unless we genuinely give it a try. However it works must surely be good.

And that this woman is now Poet Laureate of the United States must also be very good.

Material shared in “Thought Provokers’ is presented for study and review. Poems and other writings, photos and videos remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Gardens

“A visitor to a garden sees the successes, usually. The gardener remembers mistakes and losses, some for a long time, and imagines the garden in a year, and in an unimaginable future.”
W.S. Merwin

Matilda Browne Peonies 1907.jpg
Peonies by Matilda Browne (1907)

“The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.”
Abraham Lincoln 
“We are exploring together. We are cultivating a garden together, backs to the sun. The question is a hoe in our hands and we are digging beneath the hard and crusty surface to the rich humus of our lives.”
Parker J. Palmer


Midweek Motif ~ Gardens

 "How does your garden grow?"  ~  is a line from a nursery rhyme, and it is today's challenge.  Your garden can be vegetables or flowers or herbs or mythic or futuristic or a memory.  It can be quite famous or one only you know.  Let us experience it in your new poem.

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And Thou shalt not. writ over the door;
So I turn'd to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore. 

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be:
And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars, my joys & desires.

A black cat among roses,
Phlox, lilac-misted under a first-quarter moon,
The sweet smells of heliotrope and night-scented stock.
The garden is very still,   
It is dazed with moonlight,
Contented with perfume,
Dreaming the opium dreams of its folded poppies.
Firefly lights open and vanish   
High as the tip buds of the golden glow
Low as the sweet alyssum flowers at my feet.
Moon-shimmer on leaves and trellises,
Moon-spikes shafting through the snow ball bush.   
Only the little faces of the ladies’ delight are alert and staring,
Only the cat, padding between the roses,
Shakes a branch and breaks the chequered pattern
As water is broken by the falling of a leaf.
Then you come,
And you are quiet like the garden,
And white like the alyssum flowers,   
And beautiful as the silent sparks of the fireflies.
Ah, Beloved, do you see those orange lilies?
They knew my mother,
But who belonging to me will they know
When I am gone.
By H. D.

I have had enough.
I gasp for breath.

Every way ends, every road,
every foot-path leads at last
to the hill-crest—
then you retrace your steps,
or find the same slope on the other side,

I have had enough—
border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies,
herbs, sweet-cress.

O for some sharp swish of a branch—
there is no scent of resin
in this place,
no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,
aromatic, astringent—
only border on border of scented pinks.

Have you seen fruit under cover
that wanted light—
pears wadded in cloth,
protected from the frost,
melons, almost ripe,
smothered in straw?

Why not let the pears cling
to the empty branch?
All your coaxing will only make
a bitter fruit—
let them cling, ripen of themselves,
test their own worth,
nipped, shriveled by the frost,
to fall at last but fair
with a russet coat.

Or the melon—
let it bleach yellow
in the winter light,
even tart to the taste—
it is better to taste of frost—
the exquisite frost—
than of wadding and of dead grass.

For this beauty,
beauty without strength,
chokes out life.
I want wind to break,
scatter these pink-stalks,
snap off their spiced heads,
fling them about with dead leaves—
spread the paths with twigs,
limbs broken off,
trail great pine branches,
hurled from some far wood
right across the melon-patch,
break pear and quince—
leave half-trees, torn, twisted
but showing the fight was valiant.

O to blot out this garden
to forget, to find a new beauty
in some terrible
wind-tortured place.

Thomas Cole The Garden of Eden detail Amon Carter Museum.jpg
The Garden of Eden by Thomas Cole 1828


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 ~ Walk.)

Monday, June 17, 2019


Today we are featuring poems by Myrna Rosa, Vivian Zems and Grace Guevera that we think you will enjoy. Each one gives us such a lovely portrait of the poet who penned it. Let's top up our coffee and immerse ourselves in the beauty of their reflections.

In my room, 
Messy like the world,
My dogs sleep peacefully.
Their snores are music from their dreams.
I join my mountains in their devotions
To the sky, insects, coyotes, deer, all animals,
all people trampling on trails.

Awed, I stare at this rocky mass 
Jutting into air, so serene
It slows the rhythm of my worries.
But I cannot be still for long.
Blood rushes through soft flesh,
Limbs swerve, shift, shake.

My mountains shine green with tint of envy,
But speak what any good friend would,
"You can move, I cannot.
Become your own prayer."
Then, through the window in my messy room,
My mountains watch 
As I dance.

Myrna's mountains

Sherry: I love the idea of being the prayer. And the mountains watching you as you dance. Sunday mornings have a special feeling to me, too, because of my childhood. Thanks so much for this.

Myrna: Perhaps because of my early years of structured religion, Sunday mornings still seem special to me.  I hear the silence louder, I breathe the air more deeply, as if I am called to acknowledge something sacred.  Most Sunday mornings I sit in my quiet, messy room for a while waiting for thoughts to transform into poems.  Too often this doesn't happen.  Instead, I stare at my mountains.  While they stand still, I become aware there is commotion within them - much like in me and the world.

The morning I wrote this poem, no poetic thoughts arose.  I decided to give up trying.  "Alexa, play Beethoven", I ordered, as I prepared to doodle in a sketch pad.  Suddenly, I remembered an article by a spiritual writer who advised that we need not kneel or be in any particular place or pose in order to emit positive energy or, in effect, pray.  All we do can be prayer, we can be the prayer.  I paraphrase and I don't recall his name, but I believe his advice.  

I then wrote this poem inspired by the mountains I love and the fact that often, as I cook, do dishes or paint, I play loud, rhythmic, salsa music and take time out to dance. I pretend I move the way I did when young, as I shuffle to the music of my heritage (I'm Puerto Rican), expressing my joy, honoring my ancestors, emitting positive energy and, in effect, praying.  

Sherry: I can see you, dancing in your kitchen! Now and then, I do a lick or two across the room to John Lennon. Smiles. Thank you for this lovely glimpse of your Sunday morning, Myrna.

Vivian's poem  "Emergence" speaks beautifully about our passage through life, how we are honed by the difficult passages. Let's read, and be encouraged. 

If I had known
that a nest so beautiful
needed to be built
with broken branches
I would not have
……cried at the tearing
                     ……nor sobbed at the ripping
               ……or despaired at
                    the breaking
                                       of the branches
                                 of me
Sherry: Yes, had we known that pain was growing and stretching us, it might have been easier to bear. I love the nest imagery in this poem so much!

Vivian:  The poem was born out of the realisation that hard times can give birth to new and beautiful beginnings or realisations. Tough times may seek to break you, but perseverance sees you emerging from the tunnel stronger, wiser and full of gratitude - hence the title, ‘Emergence’.

Sherry: I love it, Vivian. Thank you for sharing it. 

Let's take a look at Grace's affirmative poem, "I Am, My Story", a beautiful story indeed.


I am, my story
i was at war with 
myself & the world

i am here,
not to provoke you
that i am not you
that my skin is dark rose
that my hair is thick as forest
that my tongue is quick as snake

i am here, because you have given
me compassion
       & priceless gifts
that i can speak freely
that i can act and believe in my
       faith and decisions
that i don't need to cover my face
       nor hair if I choose not to
that i don't need to step back
       for someone else to go in

i am here, because you made me
see that sky is blue
       not charcoal in dust or gunpowder
see that streets are clean
       not mired in holes or littered by dead
       bodies, whose faces i knew
       whose lives i knew
       whose nightmares I heard
see my reflection upon the emerald lake
       underneath this scarred face & body
       ...a fire in my eyes
       ...a sword my hands move
                                                 to grasp

i am here.
thank you for a new 

Sherry: We are so glad you were granted that new beginning, Grace. So many are denied it. I love that now the sky above you is blue, no longer grey.

Grace: We are lucky to live in a country, Canada, where we respect and afford human rights and freedom to all people. Sadly that is not the case in other countries - where women specially are not allowed to travel or move around without the consent of male guardianship, like in Saudi Arabia, or where women are not allowed to write, speak, dress without the conventional garb, and fight for their beliefs, like in Iran.   

I admire my country for taking in the victims of the ISIS war, specially the children and the women brutally raped, sold and victimized during the war in Syria.  There was also this case of the Saudi teen escaping Saudi Arabia because her family did not afford her the freedom she wanted.  With these events as a background, I wanted to feature my country as a place where you have the privileges of a free individual, who can determine their own future.

Sherry: We are very fortunate to live in this country. We have to be careful that these freedoms are safeguarded, against the rise of those who would curtail them. 

Thank you, Myrna, Vivian and Grace, for your insightful poems. Each one carries a wonderful message.

Poet friends, do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!