If we keep National Poetry Month in mind throughout April maybe it will take the edge off social distancing through April 30. As for Arizona, we were put on a stay-at-home order on Monday that is to last through April.
So: National Poetry Month. For the second year in a row, I like the poster. For years I couldn’t stand the posters, then last year they had a contest and chose a design by a high school student. And it was great.
They did the same thing this year, and I love the result. The assignment was to submit artwork that incorporated line(s) from the poem “Remember” by current U. S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo that “reflected a celebration of the art of poetry.”
This poster was designed by Samantha Aikman, a 10th grader.
On May 6 I posted about a poem I wrote for a friend who recently passed away. I had written the poem during #napowrimo. Today I am sharing the poem with you. I don’t plan to send it out. Writing it was the most important experience.
However, it has been shared with others. It turns out her husband loved it and published it as the poem for the pamphlet at Nancy’s Celebration of life. The title refers to Nancy’s way of saying goodbye, whether in person or on phone or by email. And for cards and gifts she used to wish “light and love.”
You Are Loved
We were sketches
you colored in with
your box of Crayolas
You were the model
we studied for vision
You were a guidebook
we the letters in line
You were music we
turned up on the dash
You were a disciple
You were the doyen
You were walks with
trees and caterpillars
You were the one
whose arms reached
around the universe
and whispered in one
word sentences because
each one was enough
Live this life in light and with love. No comments please.
OK, well, I didn’t exactly collapse. But it was tough.
The last two poems, for days 29 and 30, were:
Meditation on Choler
You Are Loved
The very last poem was a tribute to a friend who passed away–a poem that I had promised to her husband for her memorial service. Not sure he even wants it (I haven’t given it to him yet), but she was a fan of my poetry from the very beginning. She was such a good friend that she was a fan of anything I did. Nancy was 18 years older than me and her oldest child was my age. But age meant nothing to her, and I was in college when our friendship solidified into what it would remain. She accomplished a lot in her life, moving through stages of wildness and compromise, always reaching toward a form of enlightenment. I knew I couldn’t write a poem that she deserved, but I did my best, and that would have made her happy.
Mom has gone home, and the rest of my company is now gone. It was 11.5 months of people living here, visiting, etc. This Highly Sensitive introvert can’t take another minute.
The funny thing is that Nancy was an extrovert to my introvert, but that never stopped us both from having fun.
One (sample) memory from my 20s was of us partying at a showing of Reefer Madness. She dressed as Harpo Marx, and I was Carmen Miranda (you can see that carnivalesque switching of roles, right?). I am pretty sure we ended up getting kicked out of the movie for being too loud. Not blaming here, but she had a very boisterous, contagious laugh.
I called Nancy’s poem “You Are Loved” because she always ended every conversation, even every email, by saying “remember you are loved.”
I have lots of poem drafts to go through and revise. I keep thinking NaPoWriMo should be in the summer or fall. If you write all April and revise all May, sendouts in June is a great example of poor timing since a lot of journals shut down submissions for the summer.
Have a wonderful week and remember: you are loved.
For those of you who have read my weekly updates about NaPoWriMo this year, all I will say is another crap week.
Two days left. Then my company will be gone, too. That’s when I collapse.
The other day the gardener had a bit of a scare. He found a pile of sawdust under a dead tree and an oleander bush. The sawdust had not been there two days before.
Looking up, he saw more sawdust.
The immediate thought was termites, of course. The tree is very close to the house, and termites are a common menace in Arizona.
While the gardener was calling the pest guy, I saw another menace acting crazy near me. It was a BIG bee acting like it was mating with another bee–or was it dying? I didn’t want to get too close.
It turns out that this bee is a male carpenter bee. Males can be gold or black, while females are black. It is their mating season, and guess what they do in mating season? Bore into dead wood and oleanders and create sawdust. I didn’t need to worry about this guy; the males have no stingers!
I’ll leave you with a little Perry relaxation.
He loves to climb onto of me and rub his face all over mine and then turn around and curl up in my arms! He also licks as much as a dog (unfortunately). Here he is as Vlad!
And here he is watching his daddy’s garden inhabitants.
I thought last week was difficult but this one was more so. To cap off the week, I took Mom to the ER because she didn’t feel well. Other than minor stuff, she was actually fine, but I think she’s getting a little stressed being away from home. Mainly, she had two problems both related to being dehydrated.
Arizona is very dry at this time of year, and she is from Michigan. I warned her and warned her to drink a lot of water. But she didn’t.
That learning experience cost us all a day (and the next for me because the fluorescents are a trigger for my complicated migraines) and Medicare et al a lot of money. But if I hadn’t taken her, we all would have worried.
Because I had to rush through my poem drafts, who knows if there is anything there or not. I’ll take a look at them later on.
Hope you all had a Happy Easter, Passover, or whatever spring celebration you choose.
I kept going this week and produced drafts of these poems:
Playing Word with Adrienne Rich
Nearest Animal Shelter
Out of the Cradle
To Keep Things from Working
Meeting the Relatives
It was a tough week because I had to travel for work and still keep up with a poem a day . . . .
As another important component of NAPOWRIMO, I pulled out the old poetry anthology I liked to teach from and started rereading from the beginning.
These poets might seem old school today, but without these poets we wouldn’t have the poetry we have today–written by women OR men.
The first poet showcased in this book is Lola Ridge. She’s rarely read today, unfortunately. When she was a little girl she moved from Ireland to New Zealand and Australia, and then as an adult, she moved to the United States, possibly to escape a horrific marriage. She was a feminist and an activist. You can read her bio here. Her first book, The Ghetto and Other Poems, is important for its very modern-like treatment of immigrant life 100 years ago–specifically Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side of NYC. This is the phenomenal section of the title poem that is anthologized in the book:
I room at Sodos’ – in the little green room that was Bennie’s –
And her old father and her mother,
Who is not so old and wears her own hair.
Old Sodos no longer makes saddles.
He has forgotten how.
He has forgotten most things – even Bennie who stays away
and sends wine on holidays –
And he does not like Sadie’s mother
Who hides God’s candles,
Whose young pagan breath puts out the light –
That should burn always,
Like Aaron’s before the Lord.
Time spins like a crazy dial in his brain,
And night by night
I see the love-gesture of his arm
In its green-greasy coat-sleeve
Circling the Book,
And the candles gleaming starkly
On the blotched-paper whiteness of his face,
Like a miswritten psalm…
Night by night
I hear his lifted praise,
Like a broken whinnying
Before the Lord’s shut gate.
Sadie dresses in black.
She has black-wet hair full of cold lights
And a fine-drawn face, too white.
All day the power machines
Drone in her ears…
All day the fine dust flies
Till throats are parched and itch
And the heat – like a kept corpse –
Fouls to the last corner.
Then – when needles move more slowly on the cloth
And sweaty fingers slacken
And hair falls in damp wisps over the eyes –
Sped by some power within,
Sadie quivers like a rod…
A thin black piston flying,
One with her machine.
She – who stabs the piece-work with her bitter eye
And bids the girls: “Slow down –
You’ll have him cutting us again!”
She – fiery static atom,
Held in place by the fierce pressure all about –
Speeds up the driven wheels
And biting steel – that twice
Has nipped her to the bone.
Nights, she reads
Those books that have most unset thought,
New-poured and malleable,
To which her thought
Leaps fusing at white heat,
Or spits her fire out in some dim manger of a hall,
Or at a protest meeting on the Square,
Her lit eyes kindling the mob…
Or dances madly at a festival.
Each dawn finds her a little whiter,
Though up and keyed to the long day,
Alert, yet weary… like a bird
That all night long has beat about a light.
The Gentile lover, that she charms and shrews,
Is one more pebble in the pack
For Sadie’s mother,
Who greets him with her narrowed eyes
That hold some welcome back.
“What’s to be done?” she’ll say,
“When Sadie wants she takes…
Better than Bennie with his Christian woman…
A man is not so like,
If they should fight,
To call her Jew…”
Yet when she lies in bed
And the soft babble of their talk comes to her
And the silences…
I know she never sleeps
Till the keen draught blowing up the empty hall
Edges through her transom
And she hears his foot on the first stairs.
Sarah and Anna live on the floor above.
Sarah is swarthy and ill-dressed.
Life for her has no ritual.
She would break an ideal like an egg for the winged thing at the core.
Her mind is hard and brilliant and cutting like an acetylene torch.
If any impurities drift there, they must be burnt up as in a clear flame.
It is droll that she should work in a pants factory.
– Yet where else… tousled and collar awry at her olive throat.
Besides her hands are unkempt.
With English… and everything… there is so little time.
She reads without bias –
Doubting clamorously –
Psychology, plays, science, philosophies –
Those giant flowers that have bloomed and withered, scattering their seed…
– And out of this young forcing soil what growth may come –
what amazing blossomings.
Anna is different.
One is always aware of Anna, and the young men turn their heads
to look at her.
She has the appeal of a folk-song
And her cheap clothes are always in rhythm.
When the strike was on she gave half her pay.
She would give anything – save the praise that is hers
And the love of her lyric body.
But Sarah’s desire covets nothing apart.
She would share all things…
Even her lover.
This narrative poem shares as much as a short story in more concise language that vibrates the heart and nerves at the same time.
What you read here is part 2 of a 9 part poem. Although NaPoWriMo wouldn’t be a good time to try it, writing a very long poem like “The Ghetto” would be fun to try if the subject is epic enough. Not a lot of places to get it published, but it could be its own chapbook, I suppose. But what about readers–do readers like to read super long poems?
How convenient that NaPoWriMo starts on April 1, that April 1 was a Monday this year, and that I blog on Mondays. This way my posts can neatly sum up the previous week. I feel so organized!!!
I wrote the equivalent of a poem (draft) a day, although I wrote two on one day because there was a day I knew I could not write anything. To me this is acceptable. I still get the same number poems at the end of the month, and I am not ignoring something important like family over for birthdays and holidays.
Here are the (working?) titles of the poems I have so far:
Maybe It Was Spring
I Want to be Irish
Noah and the Middle School Marching Band
Never a Bride
Javelina Life Rules
I haven’t even checked in with the NaPoWriMo site because I am having a great time using the prompts in Diane Lockward’s The Crafty Poet, which is her first craft book and one I hadn’t really taken advantage of before. I find her prompts to be of the type I need: they come at poem creation from at least two angles, if not more. Being told to write a poem about purple often isn’t enough for me. I like more WRITING CONSTRAINTS.
When I look at the list of poems above, I see that there are repeats in subjects for me. For instance, “Super Bloom” has echoes of “Super Nova” in Doll God. They are completely different poems, but I could write a paper comparing and contrasting the two poems. Noah and Lazarus are in here, and I’ve worked with them before. (Of course, Noah is one of my obsessions. I have a sculpture of Noah releasing the dove that I dream about and a tiny Day of the Dead Noah shadow box).
Are you participating in NaPoWriMo? If so, how are you doing? I’d love to hear!
Other subject: the other day I posted a question on Twitter. I want to know if other poets save drafts of their poems as they revise. It had suddenly occurred to me that this is important to think about. I’ve never given it any thought and, in fact, destroy all my earlier drafts as fast as I move on. You might say I do it obsessively! I’m embarrassed of the earlier drafts and want to forget they ever happened. Then one day I read that a poet looked at one of her old drafts. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAA? And I remembered how much time I put into studying the earlier drafts of some of Sylvia Plath’s poems when I was writing academically.
That’s when I thought to myself that we can choose to save our drafts or not. Or have some kind of system about it. Instead, I have been operating solely on emotion, ripping and shredding gleefully. And my computer operates palimpsestically (hahaha, as if that’s a word) and cleaner. Sometimes there is no trace at all of what came before.
Not sure if I’ll change, but I’d like to think it through. What about you? Do you save old drafts? Of poetry? Of prose?
Is there value in saving them?
And let’s not forget Noah. What are your “obsessions”?
Last year was a successful NAPOWRIMO for me, so I plan to participate again. Last week I pulled together my poetry prompt and craft books and scrounged around on Google for more prompts. Now I am ready to WRITE POEMS. How about you?!
Click the image to get to the NaPoWriMo site. Checkitout.
There are other places to post what you write (if you prefer not to submit to journals), too, but I am not posting any of those because I don’t have time to really research and recommend. But put in the search words NAPOWRIMO and “poetry prompts” and look for sites where you can find prompts and even submit your own poems.
Happy writing to all!
In the spirit of poetry prompts, I’ll share with you a pic I took in search of Superbloom in Arizona. Not as successful as I would have liked, but how much joy did I need to find?!
The gardener and I took Mom way out to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. On the way, the roadside was in bloom with a pretty palette of wildflowers, but the gardener wouldn’t stop for photos (as usual). Then when we got near the towns of Superior, Miami, and Globe, the golden poppies were thick along the side of the roads and parking lots. Oddly, I couldn’t see any blossoms on the surrounding hills. But I guess the roadside had a lot more water.
Above is Ayer Lake at the Arboretum, and the photo below is one of the views from inside the park.
What a great place to hike or even leisurely walk. There are trees and plants from Australia and China, as well as Arizona native vegetation.
For dinner, we went to The Arizona Biltmore hotel in Phoenix. In the ten years I’ve lived here, the only time I ever was on the property was a business thingie to hear Janet Napolitano speak when she was still governor. I had a feeling that chicken dinner wasn’t a proper example of the restaurant food at this gorgeous resort. So we went to the very fancy pizza and burger (and more) restaurant, Frank & Albert’s, for dinner. After dinner we walked around the lobby. Look at this beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass.
Then we walked outside and toured the entertainment and pool areas.
My poem “Why We Wait for Rain” was published this past week by Red River Review. You can read it here: WHY WE WAIT FOR RAIN. The poem came about because Arizona has a very dry climate (usually), and the smell of rain just about does me in. It’s the creosote, just so you know.
I’m usually so lax about my submission process, including record-keeping and goals. But this year, as you might recall, I have set a goal for myself. This publication is the third one so far (although one of the others published five poems, I am counting publications, not pieces), and there is another one that will be published near the end of this month.
I had a lovely package to open the other day. Sheila Morris’ latest book, Four Ticket Ride, with a beautiful inscription and . . . wait for it, my name in the dedications! Made me so happy I could have cried if I wasn’t smiling. Read about it on Sheila’s blog here. I can’t wait to read it! Click the book image to purchase through Amazon.
Who is with me? Let’s write a poem a day, starting March April 1! I did it last year, and I felt quite productive! Of course, this year I will have company. That might cut into my productivity. Merril, a big thank you to you who pointed out my error. I won’t have as MUCH company in April (I think) as in March so actually April should be better for NAPOWRIMO.
This is a tangent, but the gardener and I bought some new flowers for the yard.
I give up. OK, I don’t really give up. But I’m cutting myself a little slack. I had all these great plans for May, but we’re already over 2/3 done with May, and I haven’t accomplished the writing I had planned. It just wasn’t possible. I let slip so much other stuff in April to work on #NaPoWriMo, that I had to catch up–or at least try. I’m so excited that Kin Types is a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. I didn’t dream it would do so well in a prestigious national award like that. But it did take up more time as I had to take it to social media. That’s the way of today.
And then I watched the price of the book slide back up on Amazon to its original price. Funny how that happens.
BUT I haven’t been doing nutten. Today Longridge Review published a short memoir piece, “The Secret Kotex Club.” Their focus is on memoir about the childhood experience–with adult reflection to give it some heft. I hope you enjoy it!
May. I have used it in many blog titles, but I’ve also used it in several poem titles. It’s such a beautiful month to write about. Spring is here. I don’t want to miss it entirely. The gardener noticed that the hummingbird eggs have hatched because he saw the mother feeding them. She has tucked the nest into the leaves of the oleander so well that we can’t really see the nest, but he saw her hovering above and dipping her beak down as if she were feeding. I just watched her defending her nest against three wren-type birds. She chased them away. Pretty amazing to see that tiny fierce mama take on a whole gang to protect her babies.
Every saguaro in the valley is still in bloom. I caught this one in front of someone’s house. I thought they might call the cops on me . . . .
We have flowers blooming on the ground, the outdoor tables, the bushes, and the trees. Perry watched a roadrunner behind our house, content to be inside, safe and well fed.
This one is not at my house, but I liked it!
And it’s not too hot out yet. Hot, but not too hot.
Pretty darn beautiful.
To go with the new season, the gardener has allowed me to throw away his old gardening shoes, and he will wear the new Rainbows that the kids gave him.