Monday, December 21, 2015

Bless the Beasts and the Children

Beautiful painting of young Canadian activist for Mother Earth,
 Ta'Kaiya Blaney of the Sliammon Band of B.C.
painted by nature artist Betsy Popp

There are many reasons to celebrate at this time of year. Whether you celebrate winter solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Pancha Ganapati, Ramadan, Eid-al-Adha, Omisoka, or simply being alive on Planet Earth, the staff of Poets United wishes you and yours only good things as this year draws to a close, and a new one gets ready to begin.

At this time, we wish to thank our staff and community members for a year of sharing and enjoying poetry. Thanks for sticking with us. We will be back on January 3rd with the Poetry Pantry, and we look forward to sharing with you our love of the written word in 2016.

We leave you with this beautiful song, sung by Ta'Kaiya Blaney when she was just nine years old. Ta'Kaiya is of the Sliammon Band. She lives in North Vancouver, B.C. She is thirteen now, and is a well-known environmental activist, an eco-warrior who speaks and sings all over the world. She is one of my heroes. Her beauty and innocence, along with the images of the earth and water as she sings this song, always brings me to tears. May all be well with you and yours, my friends, during the festive season. Blessings to all the beasts and the children.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Poetry Pantry #283

Macy's Christmas Tree - Chicago - 2015

Lights - Michigan Avenue - Chicago - 2015

A Friend's Christmas Mantle

Friend's Holiday Nutcrackers Stand Ready

A Friend's Christmas Tree

Greetings, Friends!  For many of us this is a busy time of year, but it also is a good time of year to reflect upon the past and be grateful.  The staff of Poets United - Sherry, Susan, Rosemary, Sumana, and I - would like to wish each of you who celebrate a Happy Holiday.  Also, we'd like to thank you for sharing yourselves and your poetry with us so generously week after week.

After today's pantry we will take approximately a two-week break.  I think we all may need time to rest up and recuperate and renew.  (I know I do...smiles.) We will resume our regular schedule again beginning January 3, 2016 with the first Poetry Pantry of the new year.

But now let's share some poetry.  Link your poem below.  Stop in and say hello.  And visit the poems of others who share their work.  Mr. Linky will stay 'live' until 1 p.m. tomorrow Eastern Time.  I will see you with a new Pantry in the new year.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Living Dead

~ Honouring our poetic ancestors ~

Teaching the Kids to Cheat
By Dave King (dec. Oct 4 2013)

We took the kids to the beach for a week.
My brother, having lost his wife, came too.
We thought the kids might have a role to play,
and so they did, they played along just fine
and asked us for the biggest castle ever!

My brother found enormous chunks of flotsam
timbers of all sorts. We laid them on huge rocks
to hold the walls and towers high above
long rows of flimsy arches, gates and roads.
We'd been early to the beach that day and long

before the other children came, the timbers
were well covered by the sand. Kids gathered
to admire -- and to make pleas for castles
of their own like ours. We watched them all collapse --
until our two began to feel the guilt.

Finally, tears led them to the secret shown,
and queues of kids requesting photo-shoots --
posing in our castle grounds, and even on
the battlements. Then when the sea came in
all helped it lay siege to The Castle Cheat.

For many of us (depending on our country and culture) Christmas is coming up – a time for family holidays, and also for remembering loved ones no longer with us. Dave King lived in the UK, so the beach occasion described would not have been associated with Christmas for him, but here in Australia it is very much so. And the family fun he depicts can be translated to any place or season.

He was a lovely gentleman and lovely poet. He may not be 'living' in the sense of more famous dead poets, but for those he touched with his poems, and with his thoughtful comments on our own, he lives in fond memory. His work, too, remains alive at his blog, Pics and Poems.

For people new to our community, let me explain that he died a little over two years ago, of prostate cancer which spread to other areas of the body. His son Gavin posted to his blog on October 9th, 2013 to tell us Dave's death was peaceful.

He wrote some astonishing and beautiful poetry as he faced the prospect of dying. All his poems were worth reading. Do have a look at the blog – whether to refresh your memory or discover him for the first time.

For several of his best poems, plus details about the man, I refer you to our Mary's tribute to him in 'I Wish I'd Written This' on October 10th, 2013.

Of course it is sad to think of a friend and fellow-poet who has left us – but my intention in sharing this particular poem is to give you, via Dave King, an experience of joy.

(There is more joy coming, in Sherry's post of 21 December and Susan's of 6 January.)

Poems and photos posted to 'The Living Dead' for purposes of study and review remain the property of the copyright holders.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Design

Stourhead in Wiltshire, England, designed by Henry Hoare (1705–1785)

“design is so important because chaos is so hard” Jules Feiffer

“The evil plan is most harmful to the planner” ― Homer

Midweek Motif ~ Design

Following up Sumana's color motif from last week, let's tackle design.  

I design midweek motif prompts as collages to stimulate a diversity of responses. Besides writing poetry, I love designing window displays and conferences, websites and embroidery patterns. And I love reading between the lines to discover the intent of another's design.

What do you do by design?

Your Challenge:  Please write a brand new poem about design or about how a specific design succeeds or fails.


I pour a coating of salt on the table
and make a circle in it with my finger.
This is the cycle of life
I say to no one.
This is the wheel of fortune,
the Arctic Circle.
This is the ring of Kerry
and the white rose of Tralee
I say to the ghosts of my family,
the dead fathers,
the aunt who drowned,
my unborn brothers and sisters,
my unborn children.
This is the sun with its glittering spokes
and the bitter moon.
This is the absolute circle of geometry
I say to the crack in the wall,
to the birds who cross the window.
This is the wheel I just invented
to roll through the rest of my life
I say
touching my finger to my tongue.

Billy Collins, “Design” from The Art of Drowning. 

Eve's Design

Then there's the Yemeni legend   
of Eve in the Garden knitting   
a pattern on the serpent's back,   
the snake unfinished like the rest   
of creation, the first woman   
thinking to add design, a sheath   
of interlocking diamonds and stripes   
along that sensuous S,   
knitting giving her time to learn   
what's infinitely possible   
with a few stitches, twisting cables,   
hers a plan to mirror the divine   
inner layer that can't be shed   
no matter what it rubs up against.
Source: Poetry (June 2001).



I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth--
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What brought the kindred spider to that height,
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
If design govern in a thing so small.
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?

From The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem.

Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below, 
and please visit others in the spirit of the Poets United community.
(Susan's next Midweek Motif ~Joy~ will appear on the first Wednesday in 2016.)
We'll see you in Sunday's Poetry Pantry in a few days.  
Happy Holidays, Poets United!

Monday, December 14, 2015


At this time of year, when  many cultures all over the world are observing celebrations honouring light, love and peace, it seems fitting to offer three beautiful poems for peace, written by our own Mary,  Loredana Donovan, and Anjum Wasim Dar. I hope they resonate with you as much as they did with me, each one coming from a heart full of love and goodwill. May they blow through your heart like the winter wind, leaving everything fresh and new. Enjoy these poems of peace, my friends, an early gift to add to the many of the season.

Mary, who writes at In the Corner of My Eye, was very moved by this video, which went viral right after the tragic events in Paris in November. Do enjoy the music and its message, and Mary's beautiful poem in response. Paris is a city she has visited, that is dear to her heart.

Imagine, yes imagine,
what it would be like
if we could live in peace!

Imagine, yes imagine
what it would be like
if we could have no fear.

Imagine, yes imagine..
imagine, yes imagine..
no I really cannot see

how it will ever be possible
for hateful killing to end
and evil to be controlled.

Imagine, yes imagine
I wish I could imagine
peace not drifting further away.

Sherry: The combination of the video and your poem is very moving, Mary. And  the idea of peace drifting ever further away is saddening. Sigh. Tell us a bit about what was going through your heart as you wrote.

Mary: I wrote the poem “Imagine” the day after the terrorist attacks in the city of Paris.  I had been watching on-site journalists from CNN report on the situation, and one of them mentioned that behind them there was a man on a bicycle pulling a piano.  The reporters then mentioned that he set up his grand piano and began to play outside the Bataclan Theater.  And the song that he played was John Lennon’s “Imagine.”   I found myself listening to that song again (on Youtube)  and was then inspired to write my poem.

At first the name of the pianist  was not known, but eventually it was disclosed that he was Davide Martello, and he is known for traveling to areas of conflict and playing his piano. If you visit my blog post you will see a video of him playing.  I am very much moved every time I listen to him.

As far as the style of my poem, I decided to repeat the word ‘imagine’ in most every verse, to stress the importance of the word for me and, in a small way, to pay tribute to John Lennon’s song and to Davide Martello’s rendition of it in the face of such tragedy.  The message, I would say, mixes hope for peace with my own personal disillusionment that it is possible.

I do keep seeing peace drift further and further away, as I express in the last stanza.  We do, however, somehow have to keep hope alive.  We must continue to imagine……...

Sherry: Yes, against all odds, we must. It is only through our desire and demand for a peaceful world, that it can ever happen. 

Now let's look at Loredana's poem, which was also inspired by the tragic events in Paris. Loredana writes at Blogging Away.  Her poem also reads like a song,  bringing light to our spirits, which may be hanging a little heavy in such times as these. 

let peace
the city of lights

let peace
illuminate the world

today, we pray
we grieve
but do not fear

let hope
despite despair

fall in love again
under a starlit sky

in the city of lights
its people healed
their hearts renewed

let love
surround them
like a beacon of light

today, we pray
we are Paris

~ ~ ~

Sherry: This is very moving, Loredana, as was the response of people around the world, unity in response to terror. "We grieve, but do not fear" and "we are Paris" - so powerful. As is the encouragement to "fall in love again", as life goes on. Tell us about this poem, Loredana.

LoredanaThank you, Sherry. I'm deeply honored and humbled that you're featuring my peace poem. The poem came to be the night I heard about the terrorist attacks in Paris. I was so saddened by the awful news, and it immediately brought back memories of 9/11. I work in New York City and I feel that by the grace of God, I was spared, as I was not in the office on that fateful day. I thought about the innocent victims, their families, the emotional pain, the devastating loss of loved ones. All I could do was pray, and the poem came to me in the form of a prayer. Paris is known as the city of lights, and while they turned off the lights on the Eiffel Tower, many famous sights around the world turned them on in solidarity. Even the Empire State Building was lit up in red, white and blue. 

And the beautiful light emanating from the stained glass windows in my own Church was inspiring. So light became a metaphor for enlightenment, solidarity, spirituality. And I wanted to send a message of love and light and peace to Paris, to the world, in my own humble way, with my own little poem that came straight from my heart. Wishing all my poet friends at Poets United a peaceful and blessed Holiday Season!

Sherry: What a beautiful story, Loredana. And how close to home the attack in Paris must have felt, as you were closely connected to the events of 9/11. I, too, was moved by all of the red, white and blue lights, lit in solidarity. Thank you for this beautiful prayer.   

I was struck by Anjum's passionate prayer for peace, at her blog, Poetic Oceans. It is a strong, stirring plea for a peaceful world. Let's take a look.

Be it Paris  NY  Beirut Peshawar or Islamabad
or any other town village or city in the world

when people can walk talk eat or drive with ease 
beauty rests stays prevails, but only with peace

Just like I see you green, manifesting majesty
at the foot of Margalla Hills, so others see, that

are home to them, nations of the world who
live, breathe, and fly freedom flags unfurled

let all be within their own beloved land
green colorful peaceful and grand

Oh My City Dear, send full peace everywhere
we all live on one Earth, planet created
for us all, let us not be oblivious nor close 
our eyes, time flies, life dies, 
save All,
forgive All
Truth will triumph not Lies
Come peace peace peace for All

Spread strong covers 
let Light shine bright, tranquility descend
remove all dislike, drench all anger 
drown all hate,
Let Goodwill stand tall.

Sherry: A cry straight from the heart for peace. Beautifully done! Anjum, what was going through your mind as you wrote this poem?

Anjum: Thank you very much for selecting my Peace Poem. I feel honored and am deeply grateful to You and All at Poets United for your profound encouragement and support.

For quite some time, my heart has been heavy and the spirit laden, though life  is blessed with comfort  at home. Yet when I see deception,injustice,depression,poverty and inequality in my nation, I am grieved to the soul. I realized that all this has increased all over the world also. 

Added to this is the killing of innocent people, dying for no fault of their own, for no purpose and for no crime. When more than 100 children were killed in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, the grieving heart could not bear anymore. What can I do to lessen this evil killing? what effort can I make for tolerance and peace? While I was still thinking,more innocents were killed, more blood spilled, more mass graves native land, Kashmir, is bleeding, bleeding for peace...If I cannot leave the house, the least I can and should do is to give a Voice to my Pen and be brave enough to Call Out Loud for Peace. 

And then came Divine Guidance. Words came and this poem was formed with a Call for Peace to All Humanity living on the same planet Earth. And above All,  Poets United is the Sacred Gateway  that leads us ahead and helps to manifest the best that is written. Thank you Poets United.

Sherry: Wow. Thank you, Anjum, for caring so much, for finding these strong and beautiful words, and for your kind message to Poets United. I know that Kashmir is described as a 'Heaven on earth' for its beauty. Your heartbreaking phrase "bleeding for peace" stirs my soul. So many places in the world now lie bleeding, even though most of the citizens of earth long for  peace. We must remember - and insist - that Peace is Possible. If humans can make war, they can make peace.

It is good to contemplate peace, at a time when the world has never needed it more. I love Anjum's question, "What can I do?" Our words, prayers and energy, added to those across the world, hopefully will help turn the tide towards peace on earth that most humans want so much. One can only hope. 

Thank you, Mary, Loredana and Anjum, for adding your voices to the cry for peace.

Next Monday will feature our announcement of a winter break at Poets United, with best wishes to all citizens on earth, in whatever events they may or may not be observing. In the New Year, do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you! 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Poetry Pantry #282

Macy's Christmas-themed Windows
Downtown Chicago, Illinois

Perhaps needed at this time of year?

Santa's Workshop

The Red Planet:  Mars

Santa and his reindeer making visits

Street Decorations in front of Macy's

Greetings, Friends.  Today I am sharing photos I took last weekend in downtown Chicago.  Every year the Macy's Store (formerly Marshall Fields) decorates its windows  with beautiful decorations.  I have shared only a few of them, and my photos do not do them justice.  One of the themes of the windows this year involved the 9 planets.  I have only shown "Mars" and "Earth" above. There were also a few Peanuts character scenes, perhaps because of the recent Peanuts movie.  I have inserted my favorite above.  These windows have been a Chicago Christmas tradition (and tourist attraction) for decades.  Each year they are different.  I enjoyed having the opportunity to see them this year!

We had a good week at Poets United--from Sherry sharing the poems of three poets last Monday to Sumana's theme of colors at Midweek Motif to the poem Clovers Rosemary shared for I Wish I'd Written This.

On Monday, return to see the 3 peace poems (by three different PU poets) Sherry is highlighting.  On Wednesday Susan's Midweek Motif theme is design.

As I mentioned last week, Poets United will be taking a short holiday break so that both staff and other poets have a bit of time to relax during this time.  Poetry Pantry will be held as usual next Sunday, December 20.  The break will take place between December 21 and January 2.  The usual schedule will resume again on Sunday, January 3, 2016, with Poetry Pantry, when we all hopefully will return recharged and refreshed.  Smiles.

With no further delay, share your poem using Mr. Linky below.  Stop into the comments and greet your fellow poets.  Visit the poems of people who write.  Do have a good week!

Friday, December 11, 2015

I Wish I'd Written This

By Linda Stevenson

Setting aside a mask, or several

she plays, as when a child

pressing against

the beaten bronzed air

stroking the shiny surfaces of afternoons

as they drift;
finds and picks out from faded grass

or from between the leaves

of now shelved books

the different gifts

for the ones she loves, kneels
and hands up to them, with no words

their four-leafed presentations.

Linda Stevenson is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We sat next to each other in Library School (Melbourne) when we were young women, though we spent the first few weeks talking to the students either side of us in the brief breaks between listening to lectures. Once we did start talking to each other, though ... well, it's been a lifelong habit ever since, though now we live in different parts of the country and mostly do it on facebook. Poetry didn't bring us together, but as we were both writing it, it soon became a bond. We have collaborated on various projects over the years, in support of other people's poetry as well as each other's. There was a time when our library careers merged briefly and she was my boss – but it is now decades since both of us left that career for more artistic pursuits.

So there's my interest declared! However I'm sure you will have no trouble believing that I like the poem for its own sake, regardless of who wrote it. I wanted to use it now, in the lead-up to Christmas, because it describes gift-giving – and because this is as close as I can get to Christmas, being the last 'I Wish I'd Written This' until the new year. (You'll have a 'Living Dead' post next Friday.)

Linda still lives in Melbourne, and describes herself as 'having a background of environmental interests and community service'. She is a painter as well as a poet, whose work has been exhibited in local venues. She once ran a printing studio using a special technique to create art prints, and gave classes. I asked her to share one of her paintings with us (see below). 

This is how she tells it: 

I've always written poetry, but sporadically.  Always read and appreciated poetry.  Don't consider myself a "poet" because I haven't dedicated the time and effort necessary.  I respect and admire the work of my true poet friends, colleagues and acquaintances who have that commitment.

Now in the latter phase of life, I have also become a painter, and am working to integrate my visual art work with my writing. The painting here is inspired by C.P. Cafavy's great iconic poem "Ithaca". I paint as I feel, with images, symbols and references to create a work which has meaning. There are analogies with writing a poem...inspiration and energy, followed by analysis, crafting, deleting, adding and refining to achieve a worthwhile end.

Last year, I commenced hosting private Salons at my home in Frankston.  Salons in 2014 featured recent paintings by local artists and readings by local poets. More are planned for next year, with music performances to be added to the mix. The keynotes of the Salon are "Creativity. Conviviality, and Compassion". People who have attended so far loved the poetry readings in my studio; it was an opportunity for intimate poetry performances to be integrated with visual artworks, and for some new poetry fans to be enthused.

(Poets United recently featured Cavafy's poem in 'The Living Dead' – if you'd like to re-acquaint yourself with Linda's inspiration.)

Linda does plan to create a blog to share her work, but at present you can only find it on facebook. In view of that, and as 'Clovers' is a shortish piece, I'll treat you to another – with a rather different message. 

I remember Joan Baez saying that 'What Have They Done to the Rain' (by Malvina Reynolds) was the gentlest protest song she knew. I expect you are familiar with it, but if not, it's an environmental protest. Baez added that the message was not gentle, but the song sounded gentle.  The following poem of Linda's is one of the gentlest environmental protest poems I know. That is, it sounds gentle and conjures up some gentle images (among others) but the message is heart-rending.  The background story is here.  

At a time of year when many of us are focused on thoughts of love, these are, in different ways, two loving poems.

Adani Coal Mine Approved

It pares down

to the palest of skies

to a native fledgling

thirsty, untended

to whether a black stinking

mess of outmoded greed

is claimed as our chosen soil

when we might have lifted

up into the quiet transparency

taking the winds


carrying the young bird

with us

as our token.

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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