Saturday, April 17, 2010

Praise and Celebration

During a poetry module at the University of Kent I used to set an exercise to write a string of curses and/or a string of praises about something/someone. Most people preferred the curses because they found that their praising tended to sound too sickly, cliched, overstated, or even ironic. Perhaps it is harder to be genuinely and overtly kind than to pick a fight : )

However the following poet has no problem with praise.

Beach Attitudes

Blessed is the beach, survivor of tides.

And blessed the litter of crown conchs and pen shells, the dead
blue crab in all its electric raiment.

Blessed the nunneries of skimmers,
scuttering and rising, wheeling and falling and settling, ruffling
their red and black-and-white habits.

And blessed be the pacemakers and the peacemakers,

the slow striders, the arthritic joggers, scarred and bent under
their histories, for they're here at last by the sunlit sea.

Blessed Peoria and Manhattan, Ottowa and Green Bay, Pittsburgh,

And blessed their children.

And blessed the lovers for they shall have one perfect day.

Blessed be the dolphin out beyond the furthest buoy,
slaughtering the bright leapers,
for they shall have full bellies.

Blessed, too, the cormorant and the osprey and the pelican
for they are the cherubim and seraphim and archangel.

And blessed be the gull, open throated, screeching, scolding
me to my face,

for he shall have his own place returned to him.
And the glossy lip of the long wave shall have the last kiss.

Robert Dana

from The Other © Anhinga Press, 2008

I like how everything is blessed, what we might naturally find beautiful and inspiring (dolphins), what we might normally dismiss (the dead blue crab), and what might normally irritate us (a screeching gull). I like the place-names that anchor the poem to a real world.

Some readers might find the personnification in the last line a little too sweet (the wave kissing the beach) but I don't mind it here. Perhaps because of the language - glossy lip, which, for me, is a fresh and vivid image for a wave. And perhaps because the poem has engaged me so fully that I'm happy for the poet to take a risk with an edge of sentiment at the end.

Can you write a praise poem about a particular aspect of the world? You can use Robert Dana's structure of 'Blessed be...' if you like, or find your own.

Try to let the reader experience your 'world' - let them see and smell and touch and taste and hear it. Let them celebrate it with you.

A maximum of 30 lines please, and I'll comment on up to 2 poems.

Write well.
L x


Lynne Rees said...

I though I'd start with a poem I wrote many years ago but which I never managed to settle. It feels better now.

The Village Sings

Let us sing for the barber
who died with the turn of year,

for all the heads he trimmed and shaved,
for the Cussons Original Brilliantine,

the squat red pots of Brylcreem
and the Vernon’s Pools he sold,

with something for the weekend, sir?
Let us sing for his razors and shears,

for all the parcels he took in
when we weren’t there, the change he gave

from his dark and woody shop.
His coffin was custom-made.

Let us sing for his raucous laugh,
his busted shoes and fat feet,

for the silence he left to be buried
in the snow-wrapped ground.

Let us sing. Sing it loud.

Keith Wallis said...

I’ll praise the air that joins my lungs,
the blood that pulses life
and the bread that daily changes
into muscled stride.

I’ll praise the pain that ebbs
and the healing touch of time,
the forgivenesses of friends
and moments set aside.

I’ll praise the love that sustains all,
and the smile a kiss reveals.
I’ll praise the change that seasons bring
and the light that darkness steals.

But I’ll praise most, if praise I must,
the wonder that I see
in tiny hands and tiny feet
tiny eyes that look at me.

Martin Cordrey said...


I love too touch my toes,
a feat
my father no longer achieves.

I love the way my rigid spine
bone into an arch.

I love the tension in my thighs
the sudden pain
in my hips.

I love too stretch
my fingers
like a cat woken from deep sleep.

I love how my lungs are crushed
as air leaks
through my nostrils.

I love the unsteady vulnerability
as if standing
on the edge of an abyss in heels.

I love how my son,
triple jointed,
trims his toenails with his teeth.

I love that distant memory
of when
I could do the same.

Glenn Buttkus said...

The Last Muscle Car

Early morning on the second day
of our romance, watching the dawn’s
raspberry rays dancing
over its long hood
and down its sexy fastback,
it stunned me;
my 1973 Mustang,
muscled black on black,
resting buff on white raised-letter radials
and chrome magnum wheels—
its highly polished sleekness stretched skin-tight
over thick channeled Detroit steel.

Pantara-bred sprinting down
narrow city streets, I had to
constantly reign it in;
it’s nostrils flaring
and hooves hammering,
as I caught wondrous sun-kissed
glimpses of it gliding
across the faces of buildings,
slicing like a hammerhead,
slipping arrogantly
through schools of lesser vehicles.

At twilight I became overcome
with euphoria, dropping down
through the darkness of tall concrete
in my raven black cruiser,
scattering leaves with my thick tires,
embracing the stardust winking deep
into its ebon wax.

Glenn Buttkus April 2010

Glenn Buttkus said...


My grandfather’s studio was in a garage;
gun-metal cold in winter,
tin roof simmering in summer;
a grandson’s paradise
thick with odors of fresh fruit and gun oil
blending with muslin starch
and stacks of musty magazines,
old leather boots, bright wool shirts,
a torn sheepskin jacket, sprigs of pine branches
dripping with sweet sap, bouquets of sage,
handfuls of wild flowers in jelly jars,
rust on the points
of several varieties of barbed wire,
and summer dust lying deep gray
on the split pane of the solitary window.

He stood spread-legged
mixing oil paints on his palate,
then coaxing animal bristles
to create a cosmos of clouds;
dark and heavy with rain,
drenched scarlet from a sunset,
puffy as cotton candy with popcorn faces,
thick shoulders and rippling
muscles of mist—peaks, valleys,
pregnant with thunder,
tongues of lightning,
and hoary herds of caribou,
their heavy hooves flashing
across the knees of the sky,
all captured alive on canvas.

Glenn Buttkus April 2010

Lu said...

Phoenix Mountain

I long for your swarthy face
a mound of coal cinders where oaks and roses
devouring your dark nutrients

I long for the maze in caves
the echoes of thrill and laughter
the rugged stone-paved roads

I long for your broad chest
the shades of jade in summer
and feathery blankets in winter

I long for your rhythms of life -
the breathing of climbers, drops of sweat
and aged arms and legs playing Taichi

I long for the smell of morning mist
slowly evaporating as the orange sun rises
like Nezha, inhibited in lotus, reborn

Blessed be Phoenix Mountain
blessed the abandoned mines filtered, then filled
with clean water, hovered by egrets


Mary Rose said...

Praise and Celebration

to whoever or whatever may choose
to receive them.
Thanks for believers, agnostics, atheists
all part of life, worthy of praise.
for longlasting friendship,
for smiles.

for my stiffening knees
my legs which celebrate
For soothing creams and hot baths.

for trees, colour, birdsong.
For diversity.

For the human voice, the telephone.
for children, youth, age,
for beauty, ugliness and most of all
For pens and paper
when the computer fails me.

for a peaceful death when the safety curtain
my eyes close
and the clapping ends.

martin cordrey said...

Kids rooms

The silver trinkets of angels, fairies
The red Ferrari with a missing wheel

The build a bear with its ars’ in the air
The Star Wars disc shinning in the sun

The ballet book left open at page five
The Spitfire with a broken off wing

The Barbie hand bag in luminous pink
The Parasaurlophus protruding under the bed

The glittery beads loose in the window sill
The empty packet of salt & vinegar crisps

The posters of horses, cats, and dogs
The football men in muddy boots

I love the chaos of the kids’ empty rooms
I love the noise they create on their return

Glenn Buttkus said...


Many spend their lives prostrate
praising their prophet of choice,
or those politicians who straddle
our civilization like towering statues,
like stone-faced colossus’ wearing
our blessings to gird their loins.

Others merely praise the first
foul breath of consciousness
shifting from dream to cityscape,
pleased to greet the grind of the gray hours
awaiting them trussed in
their harness, their yoke, their chains—
finding joy in coffee, in the blues
that a slide guitar vibe
can burst from eight speakers
inside the beer can transport
they pilot perilously through
the melee of the morning.

I praise the end of servitude,
the frayed colorful yarn knots
on the tail of the rope of indenture,
soon to be seven day weekends,
ten sweet hours of sleep,
soon to fill my days
with writing, reading, watching, walking
and smiling;
soon to refill
the dangerously low levels
of love and creativity within
the vessel of my Self.

Glenn Buttkus April 2010

Lynne Rees said...

Thank you for all the praise poems. It's good to acknowledge what's loved in our lives, past and present.

@ Keith: This is lovely, Keith. I like the rhythm and rhymes you've created. They serve the poem, rather than dominate it. They carry me along with the words.

@ Martin: Toes - A real celebration of the body : ) And I like the movement between generations too - from the grandfather at the beginning to the grandson at the end.

@ Glen: The Last Muscle Car - Wow! What a car! The language is muscular and sensuous, and the car becomes a living, breathing thing. So evocative of youth, of invulnerability and passion for life. Really a magical poem.

@ Lu: Phoenix Mountain - some places are inspiring, have such meaning for us. And those ideas come across strongly in this poem. I like very much how a place evolves from one identity to another, from the coalmines to a landscape reclaimed by nature. I think that the 3rd line should read 'devour' not devouring (probably a typo), and there's lots of lovely assonance in the poem too: face, maze, caves, paved, jade, that pulls the poem together.

@ Mary Rose: Praise & Celebration - this is wonderful, Mary Rose. Straightforward language that carries such power, such authority, and your line breaks are inventive too, adding emphasis and weight to your ideas. And your last image (clapping) is so powerful, the 'noise' before the silence.

I'll be back with comments on 2nd poems soon.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Thanks for the comments on my first poem, Lynne. I was a little
disappointed you did not want
to pull out the stops and direct
the gang toward the bitch poems,
full of sass, sharp edges, bluster,
and scatalogical imagery, pain,
anger, hopelessness, and chaos.
Maybe some other time. Poetry can
go where no censor can reach it,
can pierce pistil and politics
alike, can soar within, or sail
beyond the horizons of star clusters only hinted at by the Hubble. And the resting place, the sanctuary, where pulp is morphed
into cider is the Applehouse.
Thanks for inviting us in.

martin cordrey said...

My Birthday (May 2nd)

I love my birthday; It’s such a special day,
personally, a little bit of attention
from an inattentive world, for whom most
will continue obliviously; yet I share it
with Leo’ De Vinci, who I never met, also
I know songs that reached No. 1 this day,
recall who scored goals in the 64 cup final,
I still remember the taste of food I ate

in a Moroccan restaurant twenty years ago
on this date, and I remember that knock
on the door, too early, the neighbours face
kind words. I remember your mother
not being here, the day after my birthday, how
the icing on my cake had lost its sweetness.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Have Gun, Will Use It

Policemen ride ramrod tall
on their steeds
in great flawed cities;
praise their tack, their spurs,
the terrible shine off their brass,
their badge and buckle,
the polished hilt of their pistol;
and try valiantly not to be shit on,
or become an obstacle,
or raise the twitchy ire of that
Paladin in dark glasses,
that protector with no eyes—
for his arm can be swift
and his weapon can spit lead
like a pissed-off cobra.

a ballet of bullets
is a poor choice for
dance of the day.

Glenn Buttkus May 2010

Lynne Rees said...

... a birthday, husband in for surgery, and out, and back in, estate agents, guests... the reasons for my tardiness in getting back to my blog. But, normal service will be resumed shortly : ) and in the meantime:

@ Glen: 'Cloudskinner' - what a wonderful title. And I love the rich description, the very physical feel of the scene. Some lovely fresh imagery here too. Do you think the poem is finished though? It feels as if it stops in the middle to me. Perhaps my length limit? But I think it needs more than the scene and character. It needs a theme. But a great read still.

@ Martin: 'Kids' Rooms' - lovely precise list of detail here, but I don't think it's quite enough to work as a poem yet. I 'see' it all, but I don't leave the poem thinking about any idea in particular. Perhaps the last couplet closes it down too much?

And thank you both for your other poems too. I enjoy reading them even if I don't have time to comment on everything.