Friday, January 30, 2015

revision II

I'm just ruminating over my last three poems, where I got going on a set of Spoon, Knife and Fork.  Atypically for me, all three are rhymed, similarly metered, and all share a basic 4-line stanza. I could keep going like this for a while, I guess, picking kitchen items and writing each its little ditty (see all the "Deeper Wisdom" poems featured at Today's Little Ditty, of which "What Does the Knife Know?" is one).

But would that make a readable collection, a saleable collection?  When I started typing this, I was planning for the answer to be "NO; that would be a little boring and samey and in a way unchallenging for both writer and reader," and then I was going to contrast that with any collection of "traditional" haiku, which would be therefore by its very nature boring and samey and unchallenging, and then I was going to wonder why haiku collections don't seem that way.

And then as I entered that second paragraph, I got walloped upside the head by Jack on one side and Shel on the other, and A.A. Milne appeared to wag his clever ghostly finger in my face, reminding me how many, many classic poems and entire volumes of poetry for children are rhymed and metered and kind of about the same things (although not usually kitchen items).

Now I'm wondering what it is that makes me want a new shape, a new rhythm, a new challenge each time I begin a poem. I never cook the same recipe or meal the same way twice, and at school I'm forever devising new greetings, new center activities, new routines (and creating a lot of work for myself).  While I craved novelty as a kid, I understand that for many students, sticking with one thing for longer is what's needed for competent mastery, and that too much "new" can be stressful.

Well, it seems that in the spirit of my OLW for 2015, I'm revising my 2nd-paragraph thinking.  I still think it's important for young writers to learn that poetry is not all rhythm and rhyme, and that for most beginning writers those things are hard to pull off and probably best avoided.  But golly, when 2/3 of a class of kindergarteners need to be TAUGHT to hear rhyme instead of having grown it into their bodies, and in the knowledge that I am not a beginning writer myself and quite enjoy the challenge of hewing to a rhymed and metered form, perhaps Spoon, Knife and Fork are suggesting a less varied--but no less tasty--diet of poetry for now.

Revision (with apologies to A.A. Milne)

Heidi Heidi
Mordhorst Mordhorst:
As teacher and poet she
Took great
Care to seek freedom,
Craving the novelty.
Heidi Heidi
Said to herself,
"Self," she said, said she:
"You must never get stuck at the end of the town
  called Free-Verse Poetry."

HM 2015
all rights reserved

Today's Little Roundup is with Paul at These 4 Corners.  Hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

it had to happen: the fork poem

Tine After Tine

tuning fork for matching pitch
long-handled fork to scratch an itch
fork in the road to force a decision
(fork not as good as knife for incision)

garden fork for hard-packed soil
forklift spares your back the toil
bicycle fork suspends your wheels
favorite fork: the one at meals

HM 2015
all rights reserved

Saturday, January 24, 2015

deeper wisdom: what the knife knows

Illness precluded a Friday post, but a visit to the doctor (combined with 72 hours forced rest) has led to a slight improvement and a Saturday post.  In response to the Ditty of the Month Club challenge hosted by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes and inspired by Joyce Sidman's work in Winter Bees, I offer the following.  Like Liz Steinglass, I opted to explore the wisdom of an everyday object rather than of nature, and I took a little liberty with the form as well.

What Does the Knife Know?

What does the knife know?
    Red tautness of tomato's skin.
        Onion's shallot's garlic's kin.
    Juicy slick of vitamin.   
        Jolt of pit or stone within.

What does the knife know?
    Tender coarseness of the crumb.
        Whack of steel on boarden drum.
    Whorl and loop don't armor thumb.
        Better bleeding cut than numb.

Heidi Mordhorst 2015
all rights reserved

I have only just realized that knife goes with spoon.  I guess a fork poem is on its way...and is anyone else having trouble, as they read these deeper wisdom poems, screening out repeated mental blarings of "What does the fox say?"

Friday, January 16, 2015

pick up an object: spoon poem

I liked
Amy's idea and Hope's spoon
so much last Friday
that it carried me
like a weebling egg
to this:


scoop of my heart
in a crude wooden spoon
scoop of my heart
soured and soon

there will be nothing left
no sweetness or cream
bowl will be empty
empty will dream

of scoops of white foam
spoonfuls of fizz
filling my heartbowl
where yearning is

HM 2015
all rights reserved

Go live at Live Your Poem today with Irene and the rest of the Poetry Friday crowd.  How I miss you all between Fridays!

Friday, January 9, 2015

biannual britpoet feature

My spouse hails from Manchester, England ("England, across the Atlantic Sea, and I'm a genius genius") and all her parents are language and literature specialists.  It's become a tradition for me to receive from them gifts of poets less well known on these shores, and this Yuletide I received Paper Aeroplane by Simon Armitage. 

The back cover of this Selected Poems 1989-2014 says he's "the first poet of serious artistic intent since Philip Larkin to have achieved popularity," and yet I'm guessing that once again few of us know his work, since mysteriously so little seems to cross the pond. I knew him only as a novelist, and finding out that he's published a ton of poetry collections makes me feel a little ignorant. Here's Simon at the Poetry Foundation, and here's a poem from his new book. 

A Glory | Simon Armitage

Right here you made an angel of yourself,
free-fallng backwards into last night's snow,
indenting a straight, neat, cruicified shape,
then flapping your arms, one stroke, a great bird,
to leave the impression of wings.  It worked.
Then you found your feet, sprang clear of the print
and the angel remained:  fixed, countersunk,
open wide, hosting the whole the sky.

Losing sleep because of it, I backtrack
to the place, out of earshot of the streets,
above the fetch and reach of the town.
The scene of the crime.  Five-eights of the moon.
On ground where snow has given up the ghost
it lies on its own, spread-eagled, embossed,
commending itself, star of its own cause.
Priceless thing--the facelesss hood of the head,
grass poking out through the scored spine, the wings
on the turn, becoming feathered, clipped.

Cattle would trample roughshod over it,
hikers might come with pebbles for the eyes,
a choice of fruit for the nose and the lips;
somebody's boy might try it on for size,
might lie down in its shroud, might suit, might fit.  Angel,
from under the shade and shelter of trees
I keep watch, wait for the dawn to take you
raise you, imperceptibly, by degrees.

Now, no kidding--I hadn't spent much time with Simon yet--so I just opened my new 232-page volume randomly and found this poem.  But, with snow on the ground here and this poem in my own Pumpkin Butterfly, why would I look any further?

Frozen Angels | Heidi Mordhorst

We line up and hold hands
knees locked,      
then let go
Falling blindly, keen to feel
the crunch as we break the
perfect snow

Arms drag and legs plow
high and open
shut and low
Doing slowly jumping jacks
flat on our backs in
heavy snow

We sit up and bend knees
balance out
on booted toes
Stepping deeply, keen to see
the shapes we made in
crumpled snow

There they are: our angels frozen
on their backs
in a row
Where the cheerful field should lie
an angel graveyard
in the snow.

Enjoy the Poetry Friday Roundup today at The Opposite of Indifference with my my friend and local neighbor Tabatha.

Friday, January 2, 2015


I thought I had picked out One Word for the year.  Standing around the flickering candles of the Yule tree last evening (secretly beaming because the children have memorized all the words of our 12-day Yuletide ritual), my One Word seemed obvious:  LIGHT.  There was my trademark quick decision, done and dusted. (This is how I found myself married the first time.)

LIGHT is a lovely word, especially powerful at this dark time of year, with many meanings in several parts of speech, and it seemed to capture the direction I need to keep going in:  a lighter grip, a lighter touch, a light heart and as much light as possible shining into my pupils (puntended).

By bedtime, though, I'd stepped back into a more practical place and realized that LIGHT was perhaps not as active a word as I need--and it certainly wasn't so pertinent to my writing life, which is where I need to put particular attention.  And I thought about how a lighter grip, how an infusion of light into the work, are what's required for good revision, whether of writing or of hasty decisions.  Other requirements for revision include patience, resting and flexibility--all areas where I could grow generally, and where my writing could benefit from less product and more persistence.  And so--in the very spirit of revision--I changed my One Word to REVISE.

Just to make sure I was on the right track, I Googled the word and found a definition which includes LIGHT--two for the price of one!
           re·vise            rəˈvīz/        verb
reconsider and alter (something) in the light of further evidence.
synonyms:reconsider, review, re-examine, reassess, re-evaluate, reappraise, rethink
I shared this decision with my spouse, who noodled alongside me, wondering about revision, envision and several other word choices, while I listened to myself do what I always do:  "Just stop with the possibilities-- I've made my choice and I'm sticking with it!  No time to consider anything else! Got to get on with it!"  The irony is exquisite... and I reserve the right to change my mind about my One Word should the light of further evidence require it.

One Word 2015

held and holding tight:
getting a grip
becomes a vice

time and again re-vise:
letting the light
in more than twice

HM 2015
all rights reserved

The Poetry Friday Round-up is with Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect.  Happy New Year--and New Words--to all!