Monday, February 19, 2018

Poems of the Week ~ by Mary, Wendy and Kathleen

This week, my friends, we are contemplating poems written by Mary, who blogs at In the Corner of My Eye, Wendy, of Words and Words and Whatnot,  and Kathleen Everett, of The Course of Our Seasons. Each poem seems, to me, to be a wonderful response to the darkness of the news we are taking in these days. Each poet has a unique response and, taken together, I hope they uplift your heart and help you keep your balance as we move through troubled times. Let's take a look.

We are Ready

We are ready to dance
not the slow cheek to cheek dance
not the sensual melodic tango
but the we-will-fight-through-the-night dance
the we-won't-ever-give-up (take that!) waltz
where we clench teeth and raise our arms
we shake fists in the face of injustice.

We are ready to dance
not the sumptuous sexy samba
not the kick the heels kind of jive
but the don't-you-dare-mess-with-me dance
you can't fool us with your lies
we put no stock in your twisted words
we shake fists in the face of injustice.

We are ready to dance
not the hate and-racial-discrimination dance
not the stomp-on-gay-and-immigrant-rights dance
but the fight-for-life-and-do-it-now dance
you can't trample the ones we love
we will rise again before too long
we shake fists in the face of injustice.

We are ready to dance!

Sherry: I love the liveliness, fire and determination in this poem. We will not only Overcome, we will sing and dance while doing so! I loved this, Mary!

Mary: In this poem, I wanted to express, in a unique way, a sense of being empowered to take action. So I thought about different types of dances and how they could be used to express what I wanted to portray. I was actually quite pleased with how it turned out, and each time I read it again I can feel my adrenalin flowing (LOL), so I feel I succeeded in accomplishing my goal.

Sherry: I feel you did, too. Wonderfully!

burden of ancients

I had expected
I would be more at peace
at this place in my life, for ...
I have sought it
these many years,
in my way

I carry the weighty woes
of this planet,
like a big bass drum,
to the fragile heartbeat
of our earth

to know
what it is, to live …
is to know,
that survival is precarious and hard

perhaps, ancients
are not meant
to find peace
in bearing witness to
failure to exist harmoniously
and with diligence

perhaps, it is part of the price we pay,
for the gift of long life –
the burden of owning
the state of the world
we will leave behind, at passing

“We’re in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they’re going to sit. … We have to recall the image of the planet from outer space: a single entity in which air, water, and continents are interconnected. That is our home.” – David Suzuki: Canadian environmentalist, scientist, and writer.

Sherry: I so feel the weight of it, Wendy, the burden of the world we are passing along to our children and grandchildren. Worse at this moment than we ever could have foreseen.

Wendy: The theme of ‘burden of ancients’ is climate change – but, more than that, it is about humankind’s utter ineptitude to come to terms with it.  The staggering arrogance and ignorance of the ‘powers that be’ who could and should put in place, a strategy for combatting the truly frightening planetary changes, we are facing, is shocking.  The possibility of world leaders arriving at a consensus of basic, common sense initiatives, that might, at the very least, slow the decline (while innovative scientific and technological solutions are sought) seems – at this point in time – further out of reach, than ever.  For those of us who care about life on this planet – who care about the quality of life we are leaving to our children – it is a constant heartache.   That is probably why, I find my way to this theme again and again – even when I don’t set out in that particular direction.  It is very much on my mind. 

I have mentioned the findings of the 2007, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change before, but it bears repeating.  That panel (of 2,500 scientists in 130 countries overseen by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization) warned that millions of human lives and nearly a third of the planet's wildlife and plant species could be wiped out if global temperatures rise as little as 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius.  The Panel predicted a rise of between 1.8 and 4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, if measures are not put in place to reverse the current trend.  Needless to say, the earth will be feeling the effects of global warming long before the end of this century.  Indeed, it already is.  Climate change is real.  We see the effects of it, virtually every day, on our nightly news.   

The stunning prediction by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was issued 10 years ago.  Since then, very little – in terms of what is required to stem this looming disaster – has been enacted.  In fact, it could be argued, that we are moving backwards.  In a move, many experts deemed: catastrophic, the United States (under the leadership of President Trump) opted to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord in June of 2017, denouncing it as a violation of U.S. sovereignty.  I find that terrifying:  not for myself (I have lived my life); I find it terrifying for the children of this earth and for all life on this planet.  It is a burden, I fear, I will carry with me to my grave … as will my fellow ‘ancients’ of conscience. 

Sherry: As will I, my friend. Thank you for these wise words. 

Kathleen and her mother,
whom she sadly lost last year

an invitation

"Into this world,
this demented inn,
where there is absolutely no room for him at all,
Christ comes, uninvited."
- Thomas Merton

Turning off the news

(Suffering world)

I walk down the path to the waters edge

(Despairing angels weep at every fence post)

The cold wind whips the water into a froth against 
the gray stony bank

(Where is He in all of this?)

Autumn's landscape has changed to winter

(Pray for us now)

The world, hard and cold, in its fallow season

(And at the hour of our death)

I toss pieces of bread to the small wild ducks

(Peace be with you)

As they sail away,

(and also with you)

I turn toward home.

Sherry: So sorrowful, so beautiful, Kathleen.

Kathleen: This poem was written a few years ago at the beginning of the Advent season after another mass shooting in our country. The saddest part of that statement is that I can't tell you which one.

 I had run across the quote and, adding that to the season of the year and the news of another tragedy, the poem came together in a kind of call and response. 

Using religious imagery and scenes of the natural world that I find outside my door, this poem became quieter and more prayerful- an invitation, an invocation.

Sherry: One feels the prayerfulness, reading your beautiful words, Kathleen. Thank you for sharing the beauty and peace of this poem with us. You give us a place to go for comfort when the news is just too dark – out into the beauty of the world, waiting so patiently for humankind to awaken.

[My friends, Kathleen wanted me to tell you she has had a computer crash and may not be able to come in and respond to comments, as she only has her tiny phone. But she will read and be most appreciative of your words, nevertheless.]

Thank you, Mary, Wendy and Kathleen, for your beautiful, uplifting and inspiring words.  We hope these poems helped add something positive to your day, my friends. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Poetry Pantry #391

Zaragoza, Spain

Greetings, Poets!  It surely is a sad week in this country with another school shooting having taken place.  Sometimes it is hard to get one's mind off what is going on and sit down and write poetry. But perhaps poetry can help something in some way.  We can hope.  We live in hope.  And then again there are the Olympics which perhaps lift our spirits as we watch athletes from all over the world compete.  Oh, and the photo above is a Wikimedia photo...beautiful, I think.

Thanks to all of you who participated in last week's Midweek Motif - "Word" presented by Sumana. Next week the Midweek Motif will be "Voice" presented by Susan.

I hope you didn't miss Rosemary's Midnight Musings, in which she features a friend of hers - Sarah Temporal - an active slam poet.  I really enjoy the variety of articles Rosemary presents!

Come back on Monday for Sherry's feature which includes Poems of the Week by three Poets United poets!

Now with no further delay, let's share poetry.  Link your poem below.  Say hello in the comments.  Visit the poems of others who link.  Look forward to seeing you on the trail!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Moonlight Musings

Today I'm handing over to a guest – my new real-life friend, Sarah Temporal, who describes herself as poet, performer and teacher – because I thought what she had to say in a recent blog post would interest you as much as it did me. I am always fascinated by discussions of process. (Not to mention that she refers to both Natalie Goldberg and Kate Tempest, whose work, in different ways, is dear to my heart.)

What comes first: rhythm or words? 
© Sarah Temporal 2017

I had a great question from a punter after my performance at M-Arts last weekend. (You can watch the live performance here).

“When you’re creating a poem, do you start with the words or the rhythm? Do you write something and then make it flow, or does the flow dictate what you write?”

The answer, of course, is not straightforward, and that’s what makes it an excellent question. I have had so much fun investigating this very problem that I wanted to share it with you.

Many of the great slam poets around today, such as Luka Lesson, Omar Musa, and Kate Tempest, came from a hip-hop background. These extraordinary wordsmiths can tell you loads more about ‘flow’ than I can; they have spent countless hours, weeks and years honing their skills rhyming, freestyling, laying words over beats or vice-versa. When they deliver a poem with only their unaccompanied voice, they bring an expert sensibility of rhythm and flow, which makes their work so much more complex and compelling to listen to.

It’s like the difference between plain handwriting and calligraphy: there’s an extra layer of expressiveness which is just beautiful to immerse your senses in.

I didn’t come into poetry from hip-hop, but I grew up learning music from a young age. I’m sure that has had a big impact on the way I use language to compose poetry. As a kid I spent equal amounts of time every day practising guitar, which my mother taught me to play, and burying my nose in books. So by the time I discovered slam poetry at the age of nineteen, the fusion of spoken language with the qualities of music just made sense to my music-trained brain.

Like many writers, I keep copious notebooks, which no one else reads (see Natalie Goldberg for the value of letting yourself write junk, and lots of it). I’ll comb through these when I’m looking for ideas, and often what jumps out is something that has an interesting sound, as well as an interesting sentiment.

There’s sometimes a weird moment when I realise that some little line I’ve written has lodged itself in my brain like a catchy guitar riff, pestering me to make a whole poem so that it will have somewhere to live!

So when I’m composing (and ‘composing’ may be a more apt term than ‘writing’), I’m focusing as much on the sound and rhythm as I am on the meaning of words. When I speak a line of poetry out loud, I’m trying to become aware of the physical sound of the words: the cadence, the tone, whether it seems to burst forth with explosive energy or coil slowly around the tongue; whether the line wants me to take my time or get carried away. It’s not always simple. 

Sometimes the meaning is clear but the rhythm isn’t working. Sometimes too much rhythm diminishes the meaning. And sometimes the particular mood or energy of the piece just takes a really long time to reveal itself. The challenge for any poet who performs is to strike the right balance of sound and sense.

There’s no point having lots of verbal tricks if you’re not saying anything meaningful; and likewise, no point in performing a great poem if there’s nothing for the ear to enjoy. It’s a fine balance, challenging, occasionally maddening, but ultimately so rewarding when you share it with a live audience.

If you’re interested in trying slam poetry yourself, please sign up to follow my SlamCraft series

This link takes you to Sarah's website, where you can also click on her blog etc. Also check her "Flight to the Heart" on YouTube – poetry with music, and the poem itself very musical, demonstrating what she says above about the way her musical training has influenced her writing.

Just now she's been appearing in one of a local series of "The Vagina Conversations" (based on Eve Ensler's famous "Vagina Monologues") at Byron Bay. Her husband posted proudly on facebook this morning of his joy in hearing audience members last night "raving about how good 'the poet' was". Wish I'd been there!