Friday, December 24, 2010

Wonder and joy

Ffion Richards
in her prize-winning costume:
The Enormous Crocodile

Thank you everyone, poets and writers, readers and passers-by who have inspired me to keep blogging along.

To close the year I have a poem by my great-niece that is full, appropriately, of wonder and joy:

wen the snow is drop in,
it is lite,
the snow it is litlee
drop in drop in
it is like the sky is cumin undun,
frowin snowballs,
making a snowman today.

Ffion Richards, age 5

I wish you all a lovely holiday and a happy and healthy 2011 full of wonder and joy.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A River of Stones: National Small Stone Month January 2011

Fiona Robyn
The dynamic Fiona Robyn, creator of a small stone and a handful of stones is dircting this fabulous project, NaSmaStoMo, to encourage as many people as possible to write a small stone every day during January. What's a small stone? This is what she says:

What is a small stone?

A small stone is a polished moment of paying proper attention. You can see many fine examples at our sister blogzine, a handful of stones.

Why would you want to join in?

Because choosing something to write about every day will help you to connect with yourselves, with others, and with the world. It will help you to love everything you see - the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the beautiful and the ugly.

You don't have to be a 'writer' to get involved. The PROCESS of paying attention is what's important. I'd especially like 'writers' and 'non-writers' to get involved. If you'd rather not publish your small stones on a blog, you can write them in a note-book. It could change your entire year...

For more information about joining the project, and getting a badge for your blog or website, visit a river of stones. I can't think of a better way to start the year so I'll be taking part and posting my own small stones on my haiku and haibun blog an open field.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I believe...

I believe that the best poetry looks at the world from a slant point of view. If, as poets, we approach a subject straight on, talk directly about our ideas and feelings, we can risk being overly sentimental or didactic. And no one really enjoys reading things that either make us feel like a voyeur or someone on the receiving end of a finger wagging lesson.

Emily Dickinson sums up this idea up:

Emily Dickinson

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—

Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—

I like that line: The Truth must dazzle gradually.

And that's exactly how I feel about the following poem by Michael Blumenthal:

What I Believe

I believe there is no justice,
but that cottongrass and bunchberry
grow on the mountain.

I believe that a scorpion's sting
will kill a man,
but that his wife will remarry.

I believe that, the older we get,
the weaker the body,
but the stronger the soul.

I believe that if you roll over at night
in an empty bed,
the air consoles you.

I believe that no one is spared
the darkness,
and no one gets all of it.

I believe we all drown eventually
in a sea of our making,
but that the land belongs to someone else.

I believe in destiny.
And I believe in free will.

I believe that, when all
the clocks break,
time goes on without them.

And I believe that whatever
pulls us under,
will do so gently

so as not to disturb anyone,
so as not to interfere
with what we believe in.

Michael Blumenthal
from Days We Would Rather Know
Pleasure Boat Studio, 2005

Can you write a 'credo' poem, a list things you, or someone else, believes in, but make that poem speak to other people too? I think part of this poem's success is how it shifts between points of view, from I to you to we. What matters to the narrator becomes something that matters to the reader (the personal you), to the world in general (the universal you), and to all of us (we).

I like how concrete images are set against abstract ideas: justice/cottongrass and bunchberry, clocks break/time goes on. I like the swings between opposites: weaker/stronger, sea/land. And I like how the rhythm of the poem changes with the enjambement (the read on lines) between the last two stanzas, how it gently extends our reading, and thus our understanding.

There's a quiet voice behind the poem, but it has authority too. The use of the first person, the I, often has that effect.

I suggest a poem of no more than 40 lines that draws on some of the craft choices in this poem: juxtaposition of image and idea, shifts between opposites, and a deliberate choice of point/s of view.

Write well.
L x

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Above us, Below us, Behind us, Ahead of us

I recently read this poem by Ted Kooser:

Flying at Night

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.

I'm astonished at his comparison of a dying galaxy with a snowflake falling on water. That juxtaposition of something so huge with something so small wouldn't have occurred to me, but it works so well, doesn't it? And the image acts as a vehicle for so many ideas too: how small we are, how everything is connected, how even 'death' can be beautiful. I'm sure there are more.

My poetry prompt is to write a poem, not using the 'Above/Below' structure that Kooser uses, but 'Behind/Ahead' instead. So, you can talk about the past/future, or something more concrete like the sea and the mountains, or something closer to you like the kitchen and the bedroom. It's up to you.

BUT your poem can only be 8 lines long, the same length as Kooser's, and it should compare, or juxtapose, two things that we might not expect to see connected.

Write well.