Friday, February 27, 2015

I Wish I'd Written This

I Will Keep Broken Things

I will keep broken 
the big clay pot
with raised iguanas
chasing their
tails; two 
of their wise
heads sheared off; 
I will keep broken things:
the old slave market basket brought to
my door by Mississippi a jagged 
hole gouged
in its sturdy dark
oak side.

I will keep broken things:
The memory of
those long delicious night swims with you; 

I will keep broken things:

In my house 
there remains an honored shelf
on which I will keep broken things.

Their beauty is
they need not ever be "fixed."

I will keep your wild
free laughter though it is now missing its
reassuring and
graceful hinge.
I will keep broken things:

Thank you 
So much! 

I will keep broken things. 
I will keep you:
pilgrim of sorrow.

I will keep myself.

Alice Walker is best known as a brilliant novelist, whose novels I love. Her poetry not so much. Perhaps she isn't as good at verse as she is at prose, or perhaps it just isn't my cup of tea. But I do love this one, for its wonderful message and the particular details it lists of things to value.

I first found it at PoemHunter, where it is presented as one of those long, skinny poems with only one or two words per line. They are definitely not my cup of tea! I can seldom see the point. I tried to tell myself that the layout echoed/illustrated the idea of brokenness, but....  I thought the verse breaks rather odd and meaningless, too. 

I was delighted to find it set out as above, accompanying a reading of it she gave to Emory University in 2009. Because it's a university, I imagine they got the text right! Because it's fairly recent, I imagine that if she did write it the other way earlier, the version above is the way she likes it now. (Though, if you have a listen, you will hear her describe the iguanas' heads as 'fierce' rather than 'wise'. I'm sure they were both.)

She is also an activist, and was quoted on social networking recently as saying, 'Activism is my rent for living on the planet.' 

A prolific writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, she is best known as the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Colour Purple. Her Amazon page is here and her official website here.

The link on her name, above, is to the Wikipedia article. There is a longer biography here, with a lovely interview on video.

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Mother Tongue

“In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.” 
― Mark TwainThe Innocents Abroad

“Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire.” 
― Roland Barthes

“An unalterable and unquestioned law of the musical world required that the German text of French operas sung by Swedish artists should be translated into Italian for the clearer understanding of English-speaking audiences.” 
― Edith Wharton

“In the Arab world, gratitude is a language unto itself. “May Allah bless the hands that give me this gift”; “Beauty is in the eyes that find me pretty”; “May Allah never deny your prayer”; and so on, an infinite string of prayerful appreciation. Coming from such a culture, I have always found a mere “thank you” an insufficient expression that makes my voice sound miserly and ungrateful” (169).
― Susan AbulhawaMornings in Jenin

Midweek Motif ~ Mother Tongue

I missed the International Mother Language Day on 21 February.  Did you?  Better late than never!  

From Wikipedia: 

"International Mother Language Day . . .  is an observance held annually worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism."

Your Challenge:  
Compose a poem on any subject/event which includes an experience of more than one language.  Make us experience it too.

Photo of little girl in Nepal leading class in pronunciation of alphabet
Little girl at Shreeshitalacom Lower Secondary School in Kaski, Nepal
leads class in pronunciation of alphabet.
Photo: World Bank

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings. . . . . 
(Read the rest HERE at The Poetry Foundation.)

by Perez Firmat

Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones.
I have mixed feelings about everything.
Name your tema, I'll hedge;
name your cerca, I'll straddle it
like a cubano.
I have mixed feelings about everything.
. . . .

(Read the Rest HERE at NPR, Morning Edition,  10/17/2011)


For those who are new to Poets United:  
  • Share only original and new work written for this challenge. 
  • Post your Mother Tongue poem on your site, and then link it here.
  • If you use a picture include its link.  
  • Please leave a comment here. 
  • Visit and comment on our poems.

(Our next Midweek Motif is "A Woman's Day")

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Monday, February 23, 2015


Today, my friends, I am pleased to present a poet who is very well-known in the blogosphere,  Patti Wolf, of Wolfsrosebud's Blog. I am sure many of you are familiar with Patti's work, and have bumped into her in the 'sphere. This poet lives in Wisconsin, where it is still winter. So bring your woolly scarves, let's go in and sit by the fire and sip on some hot chocolate, while we chat.

Sherry: Patti, thank you for allowing us to visit! I am so looking forward to this. Would you like to set the scene for us, give us a look at the poet at home?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Poetry Pantry #240

Photos of West Coast of Sweden - by Bjorn Rudberg


Breaking Waves

Hidden Paths

Polished Rock

Rock Formations


Happy Sunday, Poetic Friends.....

It feels to me like a good day for Poetry to me.  I look forward to reading what people share this week.

Thanks to Bjorn Rudberg for the photos this week!  About them he has written, "  Scandinavia have been covered with ice until about 10 000 years ago, and therefore the rocks have been polished by glaciers. The shores of the Swedish west coast is often barren with gneiss or granite shores. During summer these shore are often a favorite place to go swimming for those of us that do not like sand inside our clothes. The pictures here are taken close to where my summer house is, a fishing village named Gullholmen. When you walk on windward side facing the open sea, you are often alone, and you can be alone with the sea. It’s fascinating sometimes to just and watch the waves crushing at the shore. Sunny days the rock are warm and you can fall asleep listening to the sound of waves. Summer evenings are long, and when the sun sets you are ready to go to bed.  "  Really looks like a beautiful area, Bjorn.  I especially like the 'hidden paths.'

Hope everyone caught Rosemary Nissen-Wade's article on Rosemary Nissen-Wade's feature of Muriel Rukeyser's poem 'Reading Time: 1 Minute 26 Seconds.'  If you haven't read it, there is still time.    Be sure to watch for Sherry Blue Sky's interview tomorrow.  I won't tell you who it is (smiles), but it is a poet who often writes about nature.  You will enjoy the interview!  And then, you will have a wonderful opportunity this week to write to one of Susan Chast's prompts.  This next Wednesday it is, as she announced, "Mother Tongue."  We will be writing about language...plan ahead of you wish, and join the fun.

With no further delay, let's share poetry.  Link your ONE poem below.  Stop in and leave a comment.  And be sure to visit as many poems as possible.  If you are an early poster, come back a few times to catch the later arrivals.  Enjoy.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Living Dead

Honouring our poetic ancestors

The Life of Poetry
By Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

The fear of poetry is the
fear : mystery and fury of a midnight street
of windows whose low voluptuous voice
issues, and after that there is not peace.

The round waiting moment in the
theatre : curtain rises, dies into the ceiling
and here is played the scene with the mother
bandaging a revealed son's head. The bandage is torn off.
Curtain goes down. And here is the moment of proof.

That climax when the brain acknowledges the world,
all values extended into the blood awake.
Moment of proof. And as they say Brancusi did,
building his bird to extend through soaring air,
as Kafka planned stories that draw to eternity
through time extended. And the climax strikes.

Love touches so, that months after the look of
blue stare of love, the footbeat on the heart
is translated into the pure cry of birds
following air-cries, or poems, the new scene.
Moment of proof. That strikes long after act.

They fear it. They turn away, hand up, palm out
fending off moment of proof, the straight look, poem.
The prolonged wound-consciousness after the bullet's shot.
The prolonged love after the look is dead,
the yellow joy after the song of the sun.

I love this evocation of the impact of poetry, seeing it as something dangerous and life-changing.

I remember, way back when I first became a public poet and started mixing with other poets, there was a feeling among some that it wasn't good to write poems about writing poetry — it was considered too inward-looking by those who thought our tasks were to reach a wide audience and address social issues. I think there's a place for both, and many more things besides. To write constantly about writing would surely be boring, but I like such wonderful examples of ars poetica as this. As we are a community of poets, I believe it will speak to us all.

I first came across the name Muriel Rukeyser when I read The Writer on her Work, ed. Janet Sternburg. She told the story of how, when she was a schoolgirl, as part of some game or pact, her best friend demanded that she promise not to write any more poetry. She promised reluctantly, and tried very hard for weeks and weeks to keep her promise, but it was agonising and eventually she broke it. Next day at school, she confessed to her friend,

'I broke the promise.'

'What promise?" asked her friend.

The fact that Rukeyser went on to become a highly respected poet makes the story all the more devastating. To me it had and still has an impact like that she describes for poetry itself in her poem above. Of course I related absolutely, and made a promise of my own, to myself, that I would stay true to myself and my vocation. I vowed never to compromise it for anyone.

In fact Rukeyser was not unduly inward-looking; she was also well-known as a political activist, and many of her poems did indeed deal with societal issues. Wikipedia says she was

... best known for her poems about equality, feminism, social justice, and Judaism. Kenneth Rexroth said that she was the greatest poet of her "exact generation".
One of her most powerful pieces was a group of poems entitled The Book of the Dead (1938), documenting the details of the Hawk's Nest incident, an industrial disaster in which hundreds of miners died of silicosis.

She was also a novelist and playwright, as well as writing memoir, books for children, and works of critcism. She won several awards. Her poetry has frequently been set to music. It has been quoted in a novel by Jeanette Winterson and in the television show 'The Supernatural'. There's not a lot of it on YouTube, not read by herself anyway, but there is this one, The Poem As Mask, the text of which I contemplated using instead of the poem I chose — but this way you can have both! It's a very strong reading, which clearly seeks to make the kind of impact she describes above.

Her famous but out-of-print essays on The Life of Poetry can be downloaded here.

You can read of her very active literary and political life at Wikipedia (link on her name, above) and in even more detail at The Poetry Foundation, which begins with the wonderful observation:

Although poet Muriel Rukeyser often provoked a varying critical response to her work, there was never any doubt during her five-decade literary career that a resounding passion was on display.

Remember the schoolgirl Muriel, poets, and never compromise your resounding passion!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Glass(es).

“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” 

“One drop of wine is enough to redden a whole glass of water.” 

People are like stained - glass windows. 
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, 
but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty 
is revealed only if there is a light from within.

You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.

Glass: Transparent and opaque examples

Midweek Motif ~ Glass(es).

I see glass everywhere, which is odd as it is see-through and tries to be invisible.  Many sayings and proverbs exist.  Do you know others?

  • People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
  • Men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses.
  • Is your glass half empty or half full?
  • A blind man will not thank you for a looking-glass.

Your challenge:  Expand on a proverb OR use one type of glass(es) as symbol in a Brand New Poem.  

Eisenstein Potemkin 2.jpg
Cropped still from Eisenstein's film Battleship Potemkin (1925).

Shattered glass in the street at Maryland and 10th:
smashed sand glittering on a beach of black asphalt.

You can think of it so: or as bits of broken kaleidoscope,
or as crystals spilled from the white throat of a geode.

You can use metaphor to move the glass as far as possible
. . . .  
( Read the rest HERE at The Poetry Foundation.)

    Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest,
Now is the time that face should form another,
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime;
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.
    But if thou live rememb’red not to be,
    Die single, and thine image dies with thee.

"For now we see through a glass, darkly. . . " 


For those who are new to Poets United:  

  • Share only original and new work written for this challenge. 
  • Post your new glass(es) poem on your site, and then link it here.
  • If you use a picture include its link.  
  • Please leave a comment here. 
  • Visit and comment on our poems.
(Our next Midweek Motif is Mother Tongues)

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Blog of the Week - The Bystander

I have a special treat for you today, kids. It was with joy that I saw Kelvin S.M. 's name pop up again in the Poetry Pantry recently. Kelvin is an amazingly talented young poet, living in the Phillippines, whom I interviewed in 2013. You can read all about him here,  if you wish. Kelvin writes at Just Bystanding. He went quiet for a while, as poets do from time to time when life gets busy. So I asked him if he might grace us with an update, to share what he's been up to since we last heard from him. And to say "welcome back!"

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Poetry Pantry #239

Rosemary Nissen-Wade's Photos
Views of New South Wales, Australia
(Read interesting descriptions in the write-up below the photos!)

Border Ranges

Cabarita Beach

Hare Krishna Farm

Knox Park

Mt. Warning

Olley House


Good Day, Poets!  I hope each one of you has had a Happy Valentine's Day!  Hard to believe we are already in mid-February.  I am hoping that our weather will soon take a turn for the better.   At least the days are now getting longer!  Smiles.

Today I am featuring photos taken by Rosemary-Nissen Wade.  She has included some descriptive material about her photos, which is a bit too long to be placed under individual photos; so I am including it here for your enjoyment (and, sigh, her photos and descriptions make me yearn to return to Australia again):

"Twenty years ago my late husband, Andrew, and I left the city of Melbourne in Victoria, a State in temperate southern Australia, for the sub-tropical Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, just south of the Queensland border. It consists of small towns, coastal villages, one major rural city, farmland (largely sugar cane, or banana plantations) and a lot of wilderness. We said when we arrived that this area must be Australia's best-kept secret! Since then many others have discovered it too, but it remains scenically beautiful and largely unspoilt. (We all fight hard to keep coal-seam gas fracking out.)

The most striking feature is our mountain with its three distinctive peaks, or humps, visible from almost everywhere in the region. It's an extinct volcano, and the whole region forms its huge caldera. I have shown you the view from my street, which I see every day. 

The top of this mountain is the first place in Australia to catch the morning sun. Captain Cook, sailing around the coast, named it Mt Warning, but the local indigenous people refer to it as Wollumbin (although there is some disagreement amongst them about that; it may have been mis-identified by white settlers in mistake for another nearby mountain). It is also nicknamed Cloud Catcher because it is quite often topped in cloud, usually higher up than in my photo, around the highest peak.

It is one  of a number of mountains surrounding us in every direction except the east, where we have the Pacific Ocean. I'm including a picture which I took at a friend's home, of the spectacular Border Ranges just to our north, separating the States of New South Wales and Queensland.

During that 20 years, being a renter, I have lived in various locations  around the town of Murwillumbah — usually quite close in but including six years near the ocean, half an hour away. Here's a picture of one of our many beautiful coastal beaches. This one is Cabarita Beach, taken from the headland above.

Our other great waterway is the Tweed River. This shot of a houseboat (they can be hired for river holidays) was taken at one of my favourite spots, the confluence of the Tweed and Rous Rivers at the village of Tumbulgum.

Murwillumbah is home to a variety of religions, with large Hare Krishna and Sikh communities as well as followers of Sai Baba, and all the usual Christian denominations including Seventh Day Adventists who, among other things, run vegetarian cooking classes. Many people here are vegetarian, including of course the Krishna devotees; also the whole region is particularly well supplied with health food shops and organic growers. This splendid tree is one of many at the Hare Krishna farm at nearby Eungella, where members of the public are always welcome to join the Sunday feast.

Even our urban areas are full of trees, as you can see from my shot of Murwillumbah's only roundabout, near its main park, Knox Park.

We also have some great non-natural tourist attractions, such as the spectacular Crystal Castle outside Mullumbimby (near Byron Bay) where the Dalai Lama will be speaking soon — and the very touristy town of Byron Bay itself, with big annual writers' conferences and blues and roots festivals, and popular surf beaches, to name just a few of its attractions. 

And we have a number of art galleries, including the fairly newly-built Tweed River Art Gallery which serves the whole region. In addition to its usual collections and exhibitions, it now houses the meticulously rebuilt studio/home of the late Margaret Olley, one of our foremost artists, who came from this area originally though she lived most of her life in Sydney. So, finally, I'm sharing with you a view of one of those recreated rooms, which the public gets to look at through windows.

Can you tell that I am very enthusiastic about living here?"

Thanks, Rosemary!!

Tomorrow Sherry Blue Sky will present the blog of one of our youngest poets!  Stay tuned for a treat.

I am glad many of you last Wednesday enjoyed Susan Chast's  Midweek Motif Prompt- "Love is Not a Greeting Card."  Susan always manages to find a unique slant to present on a subject, doesn't she? Be sure to visit again this Wednesday where you will find her prompting us to write on 'glass(es)'  Hmm, perhaps your mental wheels can begin to turn early.

Wasn't Rosemary Nissen-Wade's feature ("I Wish I'd Written This") presenting Pearl Ketover-Prilik's poem "Happy Birthday to My Father" wonderful?  If you haven't read it (and additional information about Pearl), please do check back for a real treat.

With no further adieu, glad to see you at the Pantry today.  Please share a poem, and visit others in the community.  Check back periodically to see the poems of others who post a link after you.  And, don't forget to say hello in the comments below.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 13, 2015

I Wish I'd Written This

Happy Birthday to My Father
By Pearl Ketover Prilik

I sing the song of my father
every particle of my being
today infused with him as
though he stands beside me
and has never left – though
he did vanish one hot
August morning - sunlight
burning through white
coverlets – though I felt
His heart beat three times
Once – Twice – Thrice
under my palm and
then stop – he did not die

I sing the song of my father
Who left with black hair
glinted with silver in his
Sixtieth year – slipped from
any coil mortal or otherwise
but for the coil that holds my
heart pounding my soul still –

I sing the song of my father
He turned my head to
the first cloud in my first
sky - to the wind in the shimmer
of sun filigreed leaves to the
sea rippling – as he drifted sand
through fingers and we sat
Together watching a tiny flag
on the top of a curlicued  
Castle tilt and fall into the
Onrushing tide. 

I sing the song of my father
In the eyes of all who work hard
and deserve respect and those
who cannot find work through
limitation or exclusion.  In the
wonder of all that sprang natural
and all that rose from the mind
of men and women –

I sing
The song of my father who turned
my face to cobalt and burnt sienna
the shock of turpentine on a clear
morning a blank canvas holding all

I sing the song of my father
in the crabs that poked from
the mud on the day on the pier
while he painted and the sun
began to slip below gilding all
In that silent sacred place to
Which he granted me entrance.

I sing the song of my father – to
Sun burnt ribs that rippled under
Young flesh – to his ebony hair
To the taste of salt on his young
Flesh as he carried me far out
Into the sea. 

I sing the song of my father
to that crinkle nose secret
smile he passed to my mother
as they sang from song-sheets
To his eyes closed in ecstasy as
Music shook the walls around
and I peeked from my own
encouraged experience to see
A tear trailing at crescendo

I sing the song of my father as
I feel his hand in mine strong
Ever present – singing in the
Shimmer of leaves in a willow
Rustling in chestnut blossoms
Soaring on the velvet tip of
A blued jay on a clear day
Returning caw for call

I sing the song of my father
As he stood watching my ride
On a carousel light slanting
Through high window – calliope
Playing waiting for me with
Open arms to jump – I jump
I sing – the song of my father
Holding my newborn son
in aquamarine waters high
above his head – diamond
droplets falling about them
I sing the song of my father
Coffee cups before us
Words flying as red cardinals
soaring from- between –above

I sing the song of my father
I sing in memory, in reflection
In honor, in dedication and
In love – I feel his presence in
the air that brushes my cheek
In every particle of my being
and though I thought it a wonder
that he left when his hair was
mostly black and his back straight
when he could bend and rise
From the earth of his gardens hands
rich with fragrant loam – Left still
young enough
I see him now – hair white –
The slightest stoop as he stands
Shining in the blaze of sun
Beams shooting dancing rays
For it is from
His lips - I sing his song
Forever with the life he
Lent to me.

Happy 85th birthday Daddy

Hang on — shouldn't I be posting something nice and romantic for Valentine's Day? Perhaps ... but good fathering is what enables little girls to grow up into adult relationships with men.

When Pearl posted this on facebook recently in honour of her father, I found it irresistible. It is now some weeks past his birthday, as I had other posts to share with you first, but obviously it's fitting to celebrate on any and every day the fact that a man such as this was born and went on to become a father — clearly a good man, who loved life. Thank you, Pearl, for bringing him alive for us as well as yourself, and reminding us of the great value of all apparently ordinary lives which are really full of meaning.

I like the nod to Walt Whitman, too. Pearl says, 'It was my father who introduced me to Song of Myself when I was a small child — I could never read it again without thinking of him.'

Many of us know Pearl (or PKP as she is also known) through her involvement with online poetry groups and communities including this one. You perhaps know that she is also a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist who has had her own practice for 20 years, and that she is the author of books on stepmothering and being a stepchild, as well as the editor of two anthologies of poetry. I know her as a great encourager of other poets, and a person with a tender heart that is easily touched. I think it's only poetic justice that she should touch our hearts in turn with this poem to her father!

She gave me this account of her background:

As should be obvious, (Dr.) Pearl Ketover Prilik was an inveterate "Daddy's girl," with good reason.  Her father was a very young artist (painter) with a congenital, inoperable heart malformation. Due to these circumstances PKP was born unexpectedly to very young parents in her father's hospital bed the night prior to his unsuccessful heart surgery (another story unto itself). PKP's  father was not expected to live longer than two years at the outside.  Her mother was still in her teens and thus PKP began her life in the midst of a grand romantic drama between two young lovers on the precipice of expected tragedy. Given her father's prognosis, his artistic temperament and his long recuperation at home, PKP was greatly influenced by her young father's rather transcendental world view alongside her mother's indomitable 'can-do' attitude. PKP believes in the ephemeral magic of life itself  and contends that poetry is the language that best suits the expression of the felt and experienced beauty and wonder of all in, on, and beyond, this spinning blue marble we all share. 

You can find her books at Amazon and you will find more of her poetry at her blog, Imagine.

(And if you'd still like a romantic poem for Valentine's Day, Knopf is doing that: here.)

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

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