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!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Poetry Pantry #483

Happy Sunday, poets! Sending a sweet smile your way, courtesy of this adorable alpaca. We hope your week was everything you needed and wanted it to be. On Friday our newest staff member, Sanaa Rizvi, featured a Moonlight Musings column which was very interesting. Do scroll back if you haven't seen it. On Monday, we are sharing poems by Myrna, Vivian and Grace, which we are sure you will enjoy. And on Wednesday  Susan's Midweek Motif will be Gardens. It looks like a good week!

For now, let's read some poetry! Link your one poem, leave us a few words in comments, and do visit the offerings of other poets, in the spirit of community. I am looking forward to reading what you have to share. Thanks for being here. The Pantry wouldn't be the same without you.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Moonlight Musings

Poetry readings, their significance and general appeal:

In the words of Dylan Thomas; "Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own."

In the past few weeks I have come to realize how substantial poetry can be when it's read, how a person's voice can affect the one who is listening and instill an idea, attitude and emotion firmly into his mind. 

I believe reading a poem out loud adds a whole new level of intimacy and forms a sort of understanding and bond between the audience and poet though I admit I hadn't attempted it until last week. 

Poems in a sense are aural compositions. W.H. Auden, a British poet who has been widely anthologized in major collections of poetry made a case for listening to poems when he stated; "No poem, which when mastered is not better heard than read is good poetry." In other words, good poetry works better through one's ear rather than one's eye.

Reading poetry is partly attitude and technique. It's a combination of general pause for breath, effect and emphasis on an interpretive question that possesses more than one answer.

All that sounds quite intriguing and simple but the one thing we need to remember is to relax and have a firm grip and control upon the nerves.

And I should know, if you recall I shared a poetry reading in the Poetry Pantry with you all last week which was included along with a poem written for Ella's guest appearance at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads.

One would (as an initial reaction) think that 'oh she must be used to reading poems out loud,' but in truth I was extremely nervous while recording as it was my first attempt at reading a poem. It took me at least two to three rehearsals before finally settling down and hitting the publish button. On this note I would like to thank and give a big shout out to Magaly Guerrero who encouraged me to explore the options and joys of poetry reading.

And because poems are meant to be heard is why us poets have to understand how to manipulate sounds and cadence of poetry. That cadence is known as "Poetic Meter." All language comes in syllables that are either loud or soft. For instance, consider the word 'Poetry.' It comprises of three syllables where the first is much louder than the middle. When we as poets utilize poetic meter, we tend to stack those loud and soft syllables in a way that creates a sort of rhythm which is hard to comprehend unless the poem is heard.

Poetry at its best calls forth our deep being. It challenges us to break out of our comfort zone and is a magical art. Here is an amazing article that further explains how a poem should be read: The Techniques For Reading Poetry Aloud.

So tell me, what are your views regarding Poetry reading?  Do you have a distinct style of reading? What according to you is the significance of reading out loud? Would you like to share some tips with us so as to better understand the idea and concept? How many of you love to read out poetry and haven't tried it out just yet? I implore you, come and try with me. 

Prologue - Being A Woman In Times Like These

Among small wet pebbles that outline the fury of sun,
there lie fragments of one thousand and one sea glass
their once glossy surface flat and dark with some having tell-tale
signs of blood,
I unsheathe myself and embrace vulnerability,
as eyes, filled with shadows, thumb through me like a manuscript
my heart
a broken paragraph where despotism is tried and embedded
into the skin,
a series of violet tears spread
promising that a day will come when we will cross the bridge,
fall hard or breathe harder
it’s so simple when you put it like that,
unaware that silence is all that’s left in the end, we cannot unlearn
the fresh taste of trepidation
nor forget words that were whispered into the ear,
but rise
get up from lying because a bridge is unbiased,
it has no preference whatsoever
you have created this burning need for insurgence to prevail
in society,
touching me is the wind as feeling sets fire into my throat
you took me unwillingly
now watch as the sky rewrites our tale and hits just the right note of equity.