Remember Magnetic Poetry? I still mess around with several mixed-up sets of those sticky little words, and I still feel the little frisson of recognizing that Madonna's "Candy Perfume Girl" was made of the original set of 150 Magnetic Poetry words (although apparently she denied that at the time, which is shockingly TWENTY years ago).
I mention the lasting usefulness of MagPo today because I'm getting, after only a week, the first hint that my fabulous Metaphor Dice are a bit limited. There are 12 dice, 6 sides each, which is 72 words. If I have used this permutation calculator correctly, that means there are 59,640 metaphor possibilities, and yet today's roll offers me four combinations of which none is really doing it for me...and I think I know why.
my birth, my soul, memory, and power as the given starting points.
This is not working for me because this way of approaching a poem is, I can say unequivocally, never the way that a poem comes to me. I never suddenly think, "Oooh, look at this gigantic concept I have come across in daily life, POWER! Let me sit down and write a poem about power."
Instead poems come to me in tiny specific seeds, like a surprising combination of words or a poignant moment of emotion, which are noticeable or intriguing because of the way they connect to something unexpected and sometimes more universal. Perhaps this is why I often dislike big classic sweeping poems about Truth and Beauty. The poems that speak to me are small (thanks, Valerie Worth) and precise and do just enough of the hard work of revealing links between things that I have missed. My favorite poems slow me, stop me, dazzle me with the accuracy of their literal description even as they crack open a wider mystery that demands my participation.
Here's a poem that I share with 2nd graders, an extended metaphor that we read during the time of the year when we are first studying Native American culture and change over time by observing the moon. We read it first while looking at a picture of a birch bark canoe, and then we reread it with the sliver of a new moon before us.
The New Moon | Eve Merriam
Hold on to me.
We will slip carefully carefully
don`t tip it over
into this canoe
pale as birch bark
and with the stars
over our shoulders
down the dark river
of the sky.
Do not delay.
By next week
the canoe will be bulging with cargo,
there will be no room
inside for us.
Tonight is the time.
Hold on to me.
I LOVE this genius poem because the first line demands that we forget all about the new moon in the title and get a physical grip on this slightly risky, rather urgent canoe trip. This would be interesting in itself--but then the "dark river of the sky" alerts us to something more going on, and with a small investment of attention and imagination, 7-8's can suddenly see how the crescent moon resembles a canoe, a canoe that changes shape and fills with cargo (what cargo?!), and how the climbing in and paddling (which we actually do with our bodies) puts us in a whole different place with a whole different view of both the canoe and the moon. Genius, like I said.
If Eve Merriam were using Metaphor Dice, this poem could not have come to be (even though moon appears on a humble blue die). With Metaphor Dice you can't roll something small and concrete like moon = full + canoe, if you go with the basic red = white + blue. So, as usual, I'm just going to break "the rules," which, to be fair to Taylor and his team, probably shouldn't be considered rules. This workaround stuff started already on Tuesday with a poem about iconoclasm, so I shouldn't be surprised. Today I'mma work with meadow again....
meadow is a rugged midwife:
tireless she brings forth leggy
flowerchildren of soil and rain.
they with their hueboldened
heads are not her own,
they leave home, sow their oats,
die back, are mown,
but meadow counsels earth
to breathe and push again,
draft ©HM 2018
The roundup today is with Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect (ooh that turns out to be a nice connect to ms. meadow the midwife, right?) who is doing it old-school, ever charming. Hike on over for some Poetry Sisters action.