Playing with Poetry (or T2)

The other day I realized that I do need to be systematic to stay organized and to be organized to feel productive (thank you, Jill Weatherholt). Chaos doesn’t work for me. Neither does too much spontaneity. Some, yes, but not too much.

I keep trying to get organized around poetry, and it keeps fighting back.

I had the possibly annoying brilliant idea that I would come up with a systematic way to share poetry tidbits and trivia (called T2) on a more regular basis. But what structure to use for that systematic organization?

Heh. I tried birth dates of poets. You know, like this: it’s June 20, so I will share something about Irish poet Paul Muldoon who was born on June 20, 1951. Kinda left me cold. Not Muldoon or his work, but his birthdate as an arbitrary choice of tidbit or trivia.

I wondered what happened in the poetry world on a June 20? I found this about Sylvia Plath on Poetry Foundation:

It was during her undergraduate years that Plath began to suffer the symptoms of severe depression that would ultimately lead to her death. In one of her journal entries, dated June 20, 1958, she wrote: “It is as if my life were magically run by two electric currents: joyous positive and despairing negative—whichever is running at the moment dominates my life, floods it.” This is an eloquent description of bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, a very serious illness for which no genuinely effective medications were available during Plath’s lifetime.

I’m sure I read that before because when I was Plath-obsessed I studied her journals pretty, um, obsessively. But I wouldn’t remember that she wrote that on a June 20, would I? And while this is a very important quote for anyone with or touched by bipolar disorder, many other Plath quotes speak to me much more.

What I really like to do with poetry doesn’t have a lot to do with systems or schedules (maybe poetry fights back because it doesn’t like systems). I like to write it, for one. Too hot right now for that (we’re having a dangerous heat wave in Arizona) When I taught future elementary teachers, I had them make big posterboard collages for teaching particular poems.  I like to make collages about poems, too. Too hot for that for sure. I like to read poems and write in a journal the most random idiosyncratic* responses to them.

* When I was a new grad student in Riverside, I had a meeting with a professor about a paper I wrote.  He thought it was good, but very “idiosyncratic.” I had the embarrassment of asking him what that meant. Yes, I was an English grad student and had always read a lot, but sometimes it’s clear I am not an expert on English. If you grew up like I did, this is what idiosyncratic means: “peculiar or individual.”

Yup, peculiar. Hah. Individual. It also means one-of-a-kind. My paper was one-of-a-kind. I had no idea. But I was perceptive enough to realize that it wasn’t good to be “idiosyncratic” in grad school. (It was worth it because now I love the word).

Back to the subject of what I like to do with poetry. Journaling about poetry is therapeutic and creative. It’s lots of fun.

Have I mentioned I haven’t done it in a long time? So it isn’t just the heat over here.

You can see why I want some interesting way back into immersing myself in poetry that isn’t just the poetry I’m writing. I am lazy. And easily distracted. I thought maybe if I shared a poetry T2 on a regular basis, even if it’s within a post about something else, it would be a way of playing with poetry. Like making mud pies or playing with a bucket in the sand. Maybe if it’s just fun, poetry won’t notice that there is a schedule/system in place.

For today, since it’s so hot, how about a quote from a poem I love? I posted a long portion in the fall of 2013, but this passage gets to the heart of my sweet Felix’s nature. From Christopher Smart’s (1722-1771) “Jubilate Agno, Fragment B, [For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry]”. The trivia is that Christopher Smart’s nicknames were Kit Smart and Kitty Smart. Kitty Smart is a good name for some of my cats! The poem is very wide, so be sure to use the slide bar to read to the end of each line if the ends are not visible to you

For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary. 
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.


For my cat Felix

Let me know, please, if you have ideas for what kind of T2 you would like for me to share about poetry. Maybe it’s not as hot by you . . . . After all, it did get to 118 yesterday.


Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Poetry, Writing, Writing goals, Writing Tips and Habits

32 responses to “Playing with Poetry (or T2)

  1. I’m happy I could help, Luanne. I sure wish I could help you out with that heatwave. When I heard the weather in your area this morning, I immediately thought of you. Hopefully it will break soon.

    • Gonna be hot all week. I can’t stand it. I heard that at the big shelter there is no AC. They are bringing in trucks of ice for the animals and putting mini fans on their kennels and cold bandanas on their necks. 🙁 And I worry about old people alone in their apartments and houses.

  2. Fascinating post, Luanne.
    I had a poetry thread going on Linkedin for about 5 years asking people to post lines or poems that had special meaning for them. It boomed for a long time as it tended to centre around people’s moods, nature, colours, foods, events like birth and death. Due to that, I often find myself looking up what poets have written about things that are impacting on me from mega to mundane.
    I think it has to come from your everyday lived experience.

    • Jean, I didn’t even know you could do that on Linkedin. I am on there, but rarely ever stop over and I guess I am not utilizing it properly. Well, we can’t do everything, I guess. But I love that you did that and that people responded so wonderfully. It’s interesting what you say about coming from our experience. I have had this theory for a long time that it’s natural to have “idiosyncratic” (sorry, I couldn’t help it) reactions to poetry, more so than to prose. That we bring our own experiences and read stuff into poems that isn’t there because the gaps in poetry are meant for us to put our own experiences in. For instance, do you know how Plath’s “Daddy” begins: “You do not do, you do not do
      Any more, black shoe
      In which I have lived like a foot”
      I used to think of my father flying away on his job and seeing the black wheels tucked up neatly into the body of the plane–I thought those wheels were Daddy’s black wingtips. So the poem reminded me of my father and losing him for days for work when I was very young, but the connection was in such an odd point where I read my own experience into the gaps of the poem.

  3. Mercy. It’s too hot for me here, and you know it’s not even 100. You poor thing!
    Hey, am I too late for the donation thingy?

    • You are not too late to support the animals! I have a few charms and books left. I think I have both cat and elephant. Send me an email with the screenshot, your mailing address, your animal preference, and if you want me to personalize the book. Woohoo!

      • Your actual email isn’t on the contact form :/ I hope you check your email, so I can prove my donation. I saved photos of it in receipt 🙂

  4. What a sweet photo of your sweet Felix! And I so admire your efforts to get organized (though I agree that poetry may, by its very nature, be ultimately immune to organization). I’m rootin’ for you! 🙂

    • Isn’t he just a sweetie pie? I felt lucky to capture him in such an intimate position because he is a little shy. Thanks for the support, Jennifer! Not sure I can do it. Every time I try, it fizzles . . . .

      • Baby steps, my friend! (Have you seen “What about Bob?”) Set yourself some goals for a limited time (a month, say) and when that time is up, celebrate that it’s over and reflect on what you learned from the experience. Then use that information to devise another set of time-limited goals, and keep doing this, building on success and fine-tuning as you go. Everything in life is cyclical; why not work with that instead of fighting it? (Be sure to take time off between goals, by the way – dormancy is a vital component of all cycles. 🙂 )

  5. My little Ricky cat was attacking my fingers as I read the poem. The boys think it’s time for dinner. 🙂

    I would take it as a compliment to be called “idiosyncratic!”

    I am so disorganized these days and with so many projects going, but I don’t seem to be getting anything done. I want to blame it on the heat, too, except it’s been beautiful here. Today it’s hot, but I have the a/c on, and it’s certainly not as hot as it is where you are.

  6. That is a lovely photo of Felix, Luanne. 😀

    I think it’s wonderful to be idiosyncratic. But organisation is another beast altogether. Best of luck with it – and I hope the heat is not getting you down too much xxxx

    • Thank you! He’s such a darling. I love how he let me get a photo like that, too.
      Ugh, too hot, and now I am completely unorganized.

  7. Definitely not as hot here Luanne! I quite like an idiosyncratic approach, but with my blog I have a mixture – I plan posts in advance, but they quite often get replaced by other posts as the mood takes me and the planned ones get pushed back, so maybe a mixture of organisation and idiosyncrasy??

    • That’s exactly what I do with the blog! I wonder if others take that approach too!
      Oh, the heat is really getting to me. We went away for a couple days to get away from it but it hits me twice as hard coming back.

  8. I used to go to Poetry Daily and dig into their archives, then just scroll randomly along and read five poems. After reading poem #5 I’d freewrite my own poetry/brainstorming for about 15-20 minutes. A lot of times a poem came out of it, many times now, but either way I felt like I’d done my bit for the day.

    And recently i’ve started hitting the private study rooms in the public libraries near me, to get out of the house and somewhere nearby with absolutely ZERO distractions. Totally free, completely private, and easily reserved for two-hour chunks of time. Not to mention plenty of free books nearby!

  9. It is HOT! I don’t think I’ve experienced a heat like this in the last seven years I’ve lived in AZ.

    I know what you mean about having the right balance of organization and spontaneity. Stay cool, my friend. xo

    • The heat is awful. We went to Bisbee and Tucson for a couple days and it was so nice there. Ugh.
      Now that I am back, though, I have no organization at all!!!
      You stay cool, too!

  10. Hi Luanne. Sorry it’s so hot in AZ. I like that sweet little cat of yours too. The idea from one of your readers about posting a poem that has made a personal connection to us is a great suggestion.

    • The best poems, I think, are the ones that one or more people can completely feel is his or her “own.” If that makes any sense. So, yes, personal connection–absolutely! Thank you re Felix. He is such a charming little gentleman.

      • So sweet. I want another cat or dog so badly. But right now, we can’t have dogs in our building and the timing isn’t right. And I agree with your thoughts on poetry. It becomes our own–much like a song does.

        • Yes, just like a song. Thank you for reminding me of that! Individuals have songs, couples of songs. I wonder if couples ever have poems!

  11. Wishing you the best with trying to get organized and your poetry T2 plans. Trying to be organized is about as far as I ever get 😉 Love the photo of Felix!

    • I’ve already become disorganized. Went away for 2 days and feel all discombobulated. I love the photo, too. He’s such a sweetie. He’s lying on the counter. Slupe went up there and gave him full teeth and gums with a little hiss and he looked at her and went back to sleep. hahaha

  12. The Smart quotation reminds me of B. Britton (sp?) who put poignant music to those poignant words.

    • I forgot about that. I saw something about it somewhat recently, too. I wonder if it’s in the works for next year at our symphony here . . . .

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