Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Respect

 National Civil Rights Museum Memphis, Tennessee, USA

"Self-respect without the respect of others is like a jewel which 
will not stand the daylight."
~Alfred Nobel 

"Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized."

“In societies where men are truly confident of their own worth, 
women are not merely tolerated but valued."  

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. 
It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” 

Midweek Motif ~ Respect

In a time when disrespect is rampant, noticing respect is vital.  We can still be surprised by the millions of ways people (and nations) show respect for each other.  Let's spread respect today. Let's show it and praise it and trouble it and mend it.

Your challenge:  Compose a new poem about a positive instance of respect.  

miss rosie

Lucille Clifton1936 - 2010
when i watch you 
wrapped up like garbage 
sitting, surrounded by the smell 
of too old potato peels 
when i watch you 
in your old man’s shoes 
with the little toe cut out 
sitting, waiting for your mind 
like next week’s grocery 
i say
when i watch you
you wet brown bag of a woman 
who used to be the best looking gal in georgia
used to be called the Georgia Rose
i stand up
through your destruction
i stand up

                             (there’ll be days like this.) — The Shirelles
These folks ’bout to respect me into the grave.

At eighty Mama said, (mama said)
           “People think you change when you’re old
             but you still got a girl inside.” 

And men could see her, too 
         — that pink silk dress —
soothe that hotel bellboy
         “Boy, I’m old enough 
          to be your mama.”
He coy 
          “well, you ain’t.”

But seventy is prime time 
for me to own what “elder” brings.

I reap myself with the respect they sow.

They don’t know I got the road 
wide open in me.

Source: Poetry (April 2013)

I'm just an ordinary chap
Who comes home to his tea,
And mostly I don't care a rap
What people think of me;
I do my job and take my pay,
And love of peace expound;
But as I go my patient way,
--Don't push me round.

Though I respect authority

And order never flout,
When Law and Justice disagree
You can include me out.
The Welfare State I tolerate
If it is kept in bound,
But if you wish to rouse my hate
--Just push me round.

And that's the way with lots of us:

We want to feel we're free;
So labour governments we cuss
And mock at monarchy.
Yea, we are men of secret mirth,
And fury seldom sound;
But if you value peace on earth
--Don't push us round.

excerpt from My Indian In-laws

I remember India:
palm trees, monkey families,
fresh lime juice in the streets,
the sensual inundation
of sights and smells
and excess in everything.

I was exotic and believable there.

I was walking through dirt
in my sari, 
to temples of the deities
following the lead
of my Indian in-laws.

I was scooping up fire with my hands,
glancing at idols that held no meaning for me,
being marked by the ash.

They smiled at the Western woman,
acting religious, knowing
it was my way of showing respect.
. . . . 
(Read the rest HERE.)

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 "Memories."

Monday, August 28, 2017


We have chatted with Elizabeth Crawford, of Soul's Music, earlier (here is the link),  about the development of her personal mythology, that infuses so much of her wonderful poetry. Recently she wrote a poem about her dragons, and I thought it would be interesting to ask her to talk a bit about them. Happily, she said yes. Follow me, wayfarer: this way there be dragons!

Sherry: Elizabeth, I am so looking forward to you telling us about your dragons. We are all ears!

Am learning to speak myself
into being. With a word, a phrase,
can change where I’ve been, what
I might become.
Chart a course by inner compass
locked onto stars only I know
the names of.  Sail seas of inmost soul
pulled by currents of peculiar knowing
Traverse plains of tall grass
on padded paws, moving over
continents wrapped round
this spinning globe of spanned seasons.
Split darkness of interior canyons
on silent wings, seeking that life
which hides in deepening shadow.
Pen in hand, create a map of fine blue
lines, conquering worlds built by other
people’s definitions.
Make myth from these moments of owned
existence, confident in knowing that all
these dragons be mine.
Elizabeth Crawford  1999

Sherry: I love the phrase about speaking oneself into being. I think that must be what we do as poets, especially when we first begin to write.

Elizabeth: This is the first time I put the dragons into my poetry. It is the title piece of a small chapbook I created, which was all about writing poetry. The image is a pen and ink drawing I put on the back cover. I knew, from my History classes, that when the first explorers returned to their home ports, they had numerous maps that were then turned over to cartographers. After assembling the explored areas, the map maker would write in those areas that hadn’t been explored, here there be dragons (or monsters).

I was playing on those words. By that time, I was long out of school, and had begun tutoring certain individuals about writing, believing I had conquered my own fear of being vocal about my truths. In the poem, I claimed the dragons as mine. I guess they took me seriously, because they began to appear in dreams and spontaneous imagery. There were several of them, like 


He flew out of the deeper
mists of my inner world.
Thumped his way into
my living space, got up
into my face, and told me
that his name
is Neosafalus.
Whatever that might mean.
He’s a bit on the lean side,
certainly can’t hide the fact
that he is a dragon. Smells
somewhat of smoke, but
I didn’t choke at his
sudden appearance.
Have met his kind before,
know something of their lore,
and understand that he comes
with at least one lesson. They
are a superior breed, have
developed a need to help we
humans to be better
at being human.
He will take his time
and I’m willing to wait
on his discretion, because
whatever that lesson might be,
I already know it is needed.
Dragons live forever, so he
can afford to be patient
with me. We will learn how
to co-exist and when he
is finished teaching, he will
fly once again into those deep
blue mists, but will never
be forgotten.
Elizabeth Crawford  3/22/09

Sherry: One has to love a purple dragon. I love that the dragons come with a lesson. In our chat in 2015, we spoke about the development of your personal mythology. Did the dragons come later?

Elizabeth: I saw the dragons as a natural outgrowth of my Personal Mythology, which had been in place since before my years in College. The story of that creation may be found here:

I began to deal with them in a like manner. Their particular physical appearance and their names were clues as to their purposes and meaning.

The color of the dragon is important because it identifies the lessons she/he has come to teach. The image of Neosafalus is a free coloring page, found online. I colored it with India Ink. He was purple, and for me, that means personal power.

The name is also important because it speaks to the dragon’s purpose. I didn’t have to go beyond that first prefix, because neo means newly arrived. I had been involved in a Grammy Nomination that had brought me into the spotlight on a local level, and had opened the doors that allowed me to give one-day workshops, and the tutoring experiences, and eventually to teach at two local colleges.

Sherry: Wow, that must have been a rewarding time in your life! A Grammy nomination! Congratulations! I love the story of the Tiger Named Pain. And I encourage our readers to read the more in-depth story about the emergence of your dragons which can be found here.

I especially love the motherly dragon in your following poem.


Zzo, little one, you have come
to my lair bearing questionz?
Not exactly…more for
inspiration. This poem a day
thing can be exhausting. Tired
doesn’t make good poetry.
But, I am a dragon child, and know
little of making poemz. Zzmoke and fire,
yez, wingz and dragon thingz, I may
zzpeak of, but poemz are zzomesing you give birth to.
Not without your help. You deepen
my awareness of all that surrounds me,
set a course, create a path through
this labyrinth of words and definitions.
Show me how to defend soul against
doubts and fears that would conquer me,
would stop me from expressing thoughts,
ideas, that you breathe fire into.
(She arches her neck, peers down at me
with a coy smile of pride) Yez, theze are thingz
I come to teach you. But, you had to chooze to learn them.

(Now it’s my turn to grin and preen with her).
Perhapz, az you are want to zzay,
thiz could be

your poem for today?
Don’t know if it is a poem,
but it sure makes
one hell of a story,
And thank you.
(She smiles, then goes all serious,
leaning down so that one whirling eye
is level with my own),
Little one? Doez thiz
mean that I too
can make

Elizabeth Crawford  4/26/14

Elizabeth: This poem was written toward the end of an April poem-a-day challenge. I was tired, as I was also giving word prompts based in some of my old pieces. Marananthaheth was in my head, as the words for that day had come from the here, but for me… poem. I had done internal dialogue pieces before and they were well received. So, I typed in the first lines, and then stalled. Same old, same old…people would think I’m nuts, gone round the bend, etc. My daughter stepped in and gave me focus and that is in the notes that follow the poem.

I wanted to express how much her presence means to me, and how important our relationship has been, even though it is imaginary. Dragons have gotten a bad wrap in Western culture. They seem to be seen as the Ultimate snake in the Garden, needing to be destroyed. A dreaded part of the human shadow within the psyche. But, in Oriental culture they are seen as benevolent beings, bringing gifts and prosperity to the human race. When you destroy a piece of self, you destroy the possibilities for further growth.
I got to my sense of the dragons through several avenues. 1. The Anne McCaffrey series about the Dragon Riders of Pern. 2. The movie Dragonheart, starring Dennis Quaid, with Sean Connery as the voice and personality of the dragon. 3. The Dragon Tarot, with the express purpose of self-exploration, not divination. 4. My continuing personal study of human behavior and how it develops.

That last one is, perhaps, the most important one. We develop a world view, a sense of the world, how it works, and our own role within that world by the time we are five years old. Rudimentary at best, but it remains the filter through which we develop our responses, including our coping mechanisms, to deal with whatever frightens or threatens our well being. They are the dragons, come to protect us as children. However, they remain in place and can prevent further growth, unless we make friends with them, and allow them to teach us how to grow beyond mere reaction, and into our full potential. 

So, Marananthaheth has a sibilant lisp to remind me of her origins. But, she also has a loving and nurturing nature, wrapped up in a need to see me prosper. She is red, the color of Creative Fire. She is my imagination, that which allows me (and her) to continue to grow. My desire, when writing the poem, was to make her as genuine and as likable as possible. 

Sherry: She is my favourite of your dragons. I can see her leaning down with her kind whirling eye.  I am also especially fond of  “13 Ways I See My Dragon,” which gave me the idea for this chat. Let’s read:

Digital painting titled Dragon's Lair

Call her Heth, short for Marananthaheth
which, in her language, means nurturer.
She tells me that all Dragon names
end in that brief, breathed out syllable,
which means Home and all things

Bright, shiny metallic-like, crimson scales
that glint in the poorest of light.
Warm dancing sparks of a bonfire,
or another bloody sunrise.
Whirling eyes that miss nothing,
especially rapid fire mood swings
of this puny human she calls,
“Little One,” with deepest affection,
that can be felt like a soft woolen shawl
draped over old woman’s shoulders.
Crooning an ancient dragon lullaby
that sounds like gentle bells
calling a soul home from distant
indigo blue horizon.
Personal patient Instructor
asking hard as stone questions,
yet willing to wait for months
for a stammering, unclear
thick as fog response.
On foot, slow and ponderous as an elephant
crossing a dry river bed,
but in the air, better than any bald eagle
I have ever seen. And far swifter.
Wisdom as deep and turbulent
as an ocean, breathing fire
of life into all that surrounds her.
Unknowing sense of humor
which results in laughter
that bounces off the walls
of her lair and moves
like a fresh spring breeze
to clear the air.
Restless shape-shifter, able to become
small enough to rest in palm
of hand or, in an instant, grow
to height of a towering skyscraper.
Keeper of the Keys, and Guardian
of The Book of Dragons.
Knowing all other dragons
by name, past, present,
and future.
Bends to welcome weight
of this puny human on her back
in order to fly her to distant stars
and other galaxies.
Lover of Light and Enlightenment.
Protector of all things Elizabeth,
but especially of imagination.
Elizabeth Crawford  6/15/2017

Elizabeth: I don’t think this one needs an explanation. I like the 13 ways form and thought it was time to use it for the dragons, but especially Heth. 

Sherry: It is wonderful. Especially wonderful to have a “protector of all things Elizabeth”. How cool! Thank you, Elizabeth, for allowing us to make acquaintance with your dragons on a deeper level. We will enjoy watching them re-emerge in new poems as the months go on.

Wasn't this wonderful, my friends? Like being told a magical tale by someone who knows dragons personally, which Elizabeth does. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Poetry Pantry #368

Prague, Czechoslovakia
Photos by Marja Blom

Boat on Vitava River

Dancing house

David Cerny sculpture

John Lennon wall

Municipal house

National theater

Old town square

Door in Prague

Greetings once again, Friends!   Marja Blom certainly has been sharing some wonderful photos with us, hasn't she?  I love the David Cherny sculpture - I don't know about you.  Smiles.

Thanks to those of you who participated in Sumana's prompt (Nature: Her Words) for this past week's Midweek Motif.  Take a look back at some of the fine poems if you didn't have an opportunity to take part.

Next week Susan's Midweek Motif will be Respect.  This should stimulate some good writing.  It seems respect is a quality that is often lacking nowadays.  Or maybe this is just my personal perception.

Do scroll back and read Rosemary's The Living Dead if you haven't already seen it.  She features a poem "'Tears,' She Said" which really took my breath away.  The poet John Calvin Rezmerski passed away in 2016.

Monday Sherry is featuring the blog of one of our most loyal Poetry Pantry poets.  I know you will find it an interesting read.

With no further delay, let's share poetry! Link your one poem below.  Say hello in the comments.  Visit other poets who link.  Hope you all have a very inspired poetic week!

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Living Dead

~ Honouring our poetic ancestors ~

"Tears," She Said

"Tears," she said, "They distill it from tears."

So they'd said, but what exactly were they talking about?

Memory? Some sense of obligation? A sense of loss?

Something to be sorry for? Perhaps to be sorry about?

In school she'd read about lachrymatory vials—

what was that ancient hoarding of tears all about?

Were the tears to be saved your own or someone else's?

Were the vials to be held—even hidden—or passed about?

Were bottled tears kept as relics of love's saints?

What miracles were tears supposed to bring about?

What could make tears worth saving even a little while?

Warm, they had weight; tepid, they were about nothing.

The last time she cried was so long ago, she tried again.

Cried just because it seemed to be about time.

"Tears, she said, "They distill it from tears."

She knew exactly what she was talking about.

— John Calvin Rezmerski (1942-2016)
from Breaking the Rules: Starting with Ghazals 

(Redwing MN, Red Dragonfly Press, © 2010)

I can't find a photo of this poet which I can be sure is copyright-free, but you'll find photos of him at various of the links I'll use in this post. 

Here instead is an image of the book this poem comes from: a fascinating book which a friend sent me, knowing that I love ghazals and sometimes try to write them. I so enjoyed it that, previously unacquainted with Rezmerski, I Googled him to see what else he had written and was sorry to learn that he died only last year. 

The obituaries variously describe him as having been a Professor, a lecturer or Writer-in-Residence at Gustavus Adolphus College in St Peter, Minnesota. (I imagine it's possible to be all three.)

Regardless of label, he seems to have made an important contribution. The StarTribune says:

Rezmerski, known to his friends as “Rez,” spent more than 30 years at Gustavus, teaching courses in creative writing, journalism, literature (including science fiction), linguistics and storytelling. He also wrote or contributed to some 20 books of poetry, including “Dreams of Bela Lugosi,” “What Do I Know?” and “Held for Questioning.”

Friends say he was an extraordinary coach and mentor to students.
He was not celebrated for his skills as a lecturer, or for his ability to generate lots of heat and enthusiasm in his classes,” said Larry Owen, a longtime friend and colleague at the school. “But nobody in the department was better at one-on-one with the students, helping them write and think and read."

In the introductory notes to this book he gives the clearest and most succinct summary of the rules for writing ghazals that I've ever seen:
  • The poem should contain five to fifteen couplets.
  • Each couplet should stand alone—no enjambment from one couplet to another.
  • Each couplet ends with some form of the same word that ends the other couplets.
  • Each couplet should contain a rhyme that occurs before the final word.
  • Lines are ordinarily long, and all lines should be about the same length—some scholars insist on a fixed syllable count.
  • The final couplet should contain some reference to the poet's identity—often using his name.
  • The poem should progress by association from couplet to couplet, not using narration, logical progression, or discourse. However there is a related form called the nazm, which permits such structural progression.
  • The basic theme of ghazals, traditionally, is love, often love of God, often expressed in mystical language or imagery.
He goes on to note that 'Western poets who have adopted the form have most often disregarded most of these rules, using only the couplet structure and the associational progression.' Rather than being critical of this practice, he takes it further, saying, 'I decided to use the ghazal form as a starting point for playing against the rules, and for playing with organic form, language and subject matter ... to write a book of ghazals and quasi-ghazals, in which the poems depart deliberately from the rules, rather than simply ignoring them.'

He has a lot of fun doing so! It was hard to decide which poem to choose for you. In some the word-play is delightfully witty. Others are full of intellectual enquiry. One is beautifully erotic. In the end I picked this one for the practical reason that the lines fit in the space without having to be broken (in some poems the lines are VERY long) and also because it shows him adhering, but in his own way, to most of the rules — which is broadly typical of these poems, though in some he departs much further.

Some of his books are still available from Amazon, though only in paperback or hard cover, not in Kindle. More books are available at his website, along with a selection of poems which can be read there.

Details of his personal and professional life are given in this obituary

Here he is on YouTube doing a reading. He was engaged with poetry to the last, giving what turned out to be his final reading only a few weeks before he died. 

PS Heaven help me, I have decided that 'Something sense of obligation' in second stanza had to be a misprint, so have altered it to 'Some sense of'.

Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, where applicable (older poems may be out of copyright).

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