Thursday, April 30, 2020

sunday swaggers challenge: epistolary poems

It's awfully nice that just as National Poetry Month ends, May swoops in with a fresh new Poetry Friday! (Because Poetry Month is every month, right? which is good news for those of us who MAY have fallen behind in our National Poetry Month projects...)

Today our critique partner Molly Hogan has asked us to turn our hand to epistolary poems, pretty straightforwardly defined at as "poems that read as letters. As poems of direct address, they can be intimate and colloquial or formal and measured."

After a period at the start of The Quarantine of "no dreams," I've been having lengthy, vivid dreams that lurk and leap out at me bit by bit all day--how 'bout you?  I've also restarted a book called The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall. One sentence in the introduction caught my attention. I set it as the striking line for a Golden Shovel, and here's how it came out.

“Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”
                    Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal  


Not sure how to sign that letter, but there you have it. It's addressed to all of you.

Visit each of the other Swaggers to see whom--or what--they've addressed, and visit Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass, who's hosting our exhausted Poetry Friday with aplomb and a video!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

npm2020: poetry videos day 26 "Something Dangerous"

My National Poetry Month Project 2020 is to record a short video each day in April, presenting my published poems to poetry lovers of all ages.

Today's poem is stormy, wet and dangerous in more ways than one, and although it's a June poem, goes with any rainy night you might find yourself in.

Something Dangerous

Nine o’clock midnight
storm pitching rain like
the first of forty days

Lie down in the street
in the middle of the street
in the middle of steaming June
streaming asphalt
shedding its day’s heat

Halfway home
soaked right through
in a shirt full of holes

Lie down in the rain
lie down in the road
look up into the streaking sky
lie down
look up

Heaven might be
heaven might be this
dark and wet and dangerous

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

npm2020: earth day 22/23 "Smaller Than I Thought" & one more

day is every day
[I'm recycling this Earth Day post from Wednesday, in the spirit of reusing our resources wisely!]

In 2009 I was teaching in what I named "The Afternoon Room," a windowless former broadcasting studio where I had been hired to work .3 of a full-time position teaching math, science and social studies to 2nd-graders, all in 90 minutes. For those 2nd-graders I planned an Earth Day Party, bought tiny mini-cupcakes iced with blue, green and white, and wrote this poem.

Smaller Than I Thought

Here at the Earth Day Party in the park
they’re cutting the Earth Day Cake:
rich chocolate to stand for the soil,
swirls of green and blue frosting
to represent land and water.
The white icing at the Poles
is melting under the
unseasonably hot April sun.

The cake is smaller than I thought.
The pieces are small, too.

There’s no point in asking for seconds.
In fact, there isn’t enough to go around.
Some of us will have to share
one slice of Earth Day Cake between us.
I don’t know the kid who comes
to sit beside me on the lawn.
“Let’s take tiny nibbles to make it
last longer,” she suggests.  I nod,

and we gingerly dig our two forks
into one small slice of the blue Pacific.

©Heidi Mordhorst 2009

It's a gentle little poem in which you can assume that the Earth Day cake was served on "disposable" plates and eaten with "disposable" forks, just like the mini-cupcakes in The Afternoon Room.  Those poem party organizers, those cake-eating kids in the poem were just like me in 2009, understanding the Inconvenient Truth that Earth was WAY smaller than I had grown up thinking it was, that there hadn't been "enough to go around" for a long time--but not what the implications were for my own daily life.

I love this poem I wrote more than a decade ago.  I'm still proud of it.  BUT IT LACKS URGENCY.  The very generation of kids it was written for, kids who are now 19 and 20, who are the age of my own children--they have been watching their adults at the charming Earth Day Party in the park and wondering what the hell we are doing sitting on the lawn eating cake when the world is on fire.

planet earth is blue and there's something we can do

And now I revisit my post from Friday, March 13, the day I sent my students home to quarantine--not from catastrophic climate change, but from catastrophic pandemic virus.  Here's what I wrote on that day.                                                                                                     
"...the members of our  human community once again have a challenge before us: 

we are now entering a period during which daily life as we know it cannot be sustained.  The inconvenience, the disappointment, the sorrow are monumental.  People are feverish with virus and anxiety, and the contagion can barely be contained. Our fear for our own lives and those of our neighbors has spurred us into immediate and collective action, with or without the wise or courageous leadership of our elected officials.

This, friends, is the response the young people have been looking for in the face of catastrophic climate change.  The planet is feverish with emissions and wild weather, and the reckless squandering of resources has not been contained.  Our fear for our own lives and those of our neighbors has not spurred us into immediate and collective action, despite the wise and courageous leadership of our youth, our scientists and our public policy experts.

But now that can change.  
Now we see that what must be done, can be done
if we have enough fear.  The governor of a state can go on TV and simply declare that 
you may not keep dumping your food waste into the same bin as your trash, starting 
A school system can spend a short amount of time and, to the best of its ability, redirect its resources and transform operations to make school transportation greener, starting
Churches, nonprofits and individual families can cooperate to reverse global warming
if we accept that "business as usual" is no longer sustainable.

Friends, be careful out there. Be wise and courageous IN there. And when we have moved through this challenge, don't forget that we proved we can move through the next infinitely bigger challenge."

I included the beginnings of a poem that I'm finishing today, with an urgent reminder that when the pandemic of coronavirus passes, we remember what we learned can be done.


Here's a "freestanding" poetry video that includes both these poems, part of my National Poetry Month project.  Enjoy; maybe share, and as all the YouTubers say, "Don't forget to LIKE and SUBSCRIBE!"

Our hostess with the most interesting bird mnemonics--not to mention today's Progressive Poem lines--is Christie at Wondering and Wandering.  While you're poeting, you could also join the 3-day Earth Week livestream to learn more and show support for environmentally-friendly candidates and policies.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

npm2020: poetry videos day 21 "Guest List: Charles Darwin's Garden Party"

My National Poetry Month Project 2020 is to record a short video each day in April, presenting my published poems to poetry lovers of all ages.

Today's poem celebrates, in rhythmic rhyming list form, just a few of the many extraordinary plants, creatures and natural features of our Earth.

Guest List:
Charles Darwin's Garden Party

balsam fir
spotted dolphin
pink verbena
garter snake

fragrant white water lily
grizzly sow
Crater Lake

gnarled pinyon
Painted Hills
tag alder
red bat pup

beebalm and bluebonnets
mountain lion
fungus cup

Death Valley
prairie dog

Virginia creeper
Keyhole Arch
black-browed albatross

Moose Creek
tiger shark

Monday, April 20, 2020

npm2020: poetry videos day 20 "Cauldron Full of Compost"

My National Poetry Month Project 2020 is to record a short video each day in April, presenting my published poems to poetry lovers of all ages.

Today's poem is the first in a series for Earth Week. It's the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on Wednesday, and I'll be sharing some poems like this one, with some extra-earthy themes.  Also possibly my longest poem...

Cauldron Full of Compost I’m raking for dollars when I find it— my red kindergarten lunch box, buried deep under leaves and tangled ivy between the playhouse and the herb garden. I guess plastic really does last forever. I fixed a lot of food in this lunch box: boiled summer cauldrons full of onion-grass spaghetti, mixed pans of mudluscious spring brownies, scooped great heaping mountains of snow cream sprinkled with sugar, garnished with icicles. And once, on Uncle Mark’s birthday, I filled it with oozing mulberries and tiny wild strawberries tossed with encourage-mint. Everyone ate that for real. Who knows what I last cooked in here? Now nature’s doing the brewing: a dark sludgy soup, a decomposing mess of dead plants laced with worms. A few of the leaves are new enough— I can tell which are walnut, tulip, maple— But most have moldered here so long they’re part of the primeval stew. I stir it with a wooden spoon gone greenish with moss, drag up a dripping clump, spread it wetly at the foot of the maple, richer and thicker than syrup. With this dead soup I feed the tree.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

npm2020: poetry videos day 19 "Thinking Wrinkles"

My National Poetry Month Project 2020 is to record a short video each day in April, presenting my published poems to poetry lovers of all ages.

Today's poem might be a good one if your coronavirus quarantine is beginning to feel long and dull and mind-numbing.  It probably needs an additional illustration...

Thinking Wrinkles

I saw a picture of my brain today—
a wet, gray helmet
of wrinkles and folds,
a squish of soft tissue
caught on a background of black.

Now I’m lying in bed, working my way
in and out, over and under,
through the tunnels and
canyons and fissures
that squiggle and squirm in my skull,

And I wonder how something so gray,
so hidden and still,
so ugly and dull,
will dance with the rowdy scarlet sparkle
of all my dreams tonight.

Friday, April 17, 2020

npm2020: poetry videos day 17 "Rooftop"

My National Poetry Month Project 2020 is to record a short video each day in April, presenting my published poems to poetry lovers of all ages.

Today's poem is for anyone who has ever wished to spend more time up high on a roof--especially in the dark.

Roof Top

The roof, the roof!
Over above us evening the clouds--
a platform for diving into the sky
into the radiant gloom of the moon
      we climb and we rise
      from the tarry bloom
on the roof--
a table for dining out on the night
out on the towering stoop of the world
      and the milk winds swoon
      in our dizzy hair
on the roof--
a bandstand for jiving under the heights
under the music of furious blue
      we spin and we sparkle
      too close to the edge
on the roof!

progressive poem 2020 is here!

Howdy to all and welcome to Day 17 in this year's Progressive Poem! Started in 2012 by Irene Latham, the tradition has been carried on this year by Margaret Simon.

Our Day 1 Donna led us over the that nice bridge there into a suspenseful adventure by providing not a single starting line but TWO options from which Day 2 Irene could choose!

Well, everybody loves THIS twist, of course, so here we are on Day 17 with Linda Baie's two lines to weigh, and two more lines to compose for Mary Lee's deliberations on Saturday.  Here's the poem so far.

Progressive Poem 2020

Sweet violets shimmy, daffodils sway
along the wiregrass path to the lake
I carry a rucksack of tasty cakes
and a banjo passed down from my gram.

I follow the tracks of deer and raccoon
and echo the call of a wandering loon.
A whispering breeze joins in our song
and night melts into a rose gold dawn

Deep into nature’s embrace, I fold.
Promise of spring helps shake the cold
hints of sun lightly dapple the trees
calling out the sleepy bees

Leaf-litter crackles…I pause. Twig snaps.
I g
asp! Shudder! Breathe out. Relax... 
as a whitetail doe comes into view.
and I choose...
She shifts and spotted fawns debut.

That's a pleasant rhyme Linda Baie provided, isn't it? Not to mention fawns--at least two!  I also like the theatrical quality of those last lines.  So now let's zoom in (yes, I said "zoom;" it is just not possible at this stage for any interaction online NOT to include the word ZOOM).  So, let's zoom in closer on these creatures.  Will the encounter be slow and mesmerizing, or brief and energizing?

Option 1:  We freeze.  My green eyes and her brown

Option 2:  I shift. Banjo twangs. They bound away.

I now hand it off to Mary Lee in full faith that she will take either option and make the most of it!  Follow along as the poem makes its journey through April.  Here is our intrepid band of collaborators.

just for fun 
1 Donna Smith at Mainely Write
2 Irene Latham at Live Your Poem
3 Jone MacCulloch, deowriter
Liz Steinglass
Buffy Silverman
6 Kay McGriff @ kaymcgriff
7 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
8 Tara Smith at Going to Walden
9 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
10 Matt Forrest Esenwine @ R, R, and R
11 Janet Fagal, Reflections on the Teche
12 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
13 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
14 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
15 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
16 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
17 Heidi @ my juicy little universe
18 Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
19 Tabatha at Opposite of Indifference
20 Rose @ Imagine the Possibilities
21 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
22 Julieanne at To Read, To Write, To Be
23 Ruth
24 Christie Wyman at Wondering & Wandering
25 Amy at The Poem Farm
26 Dani at Doing the Work That Matters
27 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
29 Fran Haley at lit bits and pieces
30 Michelle Kogan

Poetry Friday is hosted today at Nix the Comfort Zone, where bread and jam for Molly provide loads of comfort to all us.  I think we're nixing the nix today!

Finally, may I invite you back in time to check out my National Poetry Month video project?  I'm sort of enjoying using my amateur YouTube channel to present poems I'm still pretty proud of (you know, when I'm not fussing over the position of my head vis a vis the bookshelf and how long it's taking to upload! What was I thinking, adding to my screen time?).  Start here on April 2nd with "Throwing the Roads."    May your road be easy over the next weeks...

npm2020: poetry videos day 16 "Stop for Horses on Bridge"

My National Poetry Month Project 2020 is to record a short video each day in April, presenting my published poems to poetry lovers of all ages.

Today's poem does not include white-tail deer like the Progressive Poem does, but it IS about horses.
If you faithfully expect something, does it come?


I stopped for horses
on the bridge—
looked up and down the pebbled path
for steamy velvet muzzles,
listened for the clatter-clop
of horseshoes on the boards.

I stopped for horses
on the bridge—
waited for a whiff of hay and stable,
planned to lay my hand against
a rounded wall of horse.

I stopped for horses
on the bridge—
but horses never came.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

npm2020: poetry videos day 15 "Solar-Powered Sun Puppet"

My National Poetry Month Project 2020 is to record a short video each day in April, presenting my published poems to poetry lovers of all ages.

Today's poem tries to capture just how powerfully the sun determines my mood and energy--and how low I go when it's cloudy and grey.  Are you like that too?

Solar-Powered Sun Puppet

the dark side of me
glowers inside
drags at the tips of my toes

it feeds on clouds
on rainy skies
and only my shadow knows:

how heavy
the day is
how low the horizon
how sodden
and sad
I am                   

then sweet sun punches a hole in the clouds
sizzles and swims in my eyes
my shadow spills out through a hole in my sole
my darker side hung out to dry

how sudden and mad I am!

I’m sunny side up
I’m pumped full of light 
my silhouette dances on walls

Now I can see clearly:
                           my dark doppelganger
                           freed by the sun's high call

my demon cast out, my shadow of doubt
is the shadow that shows that I am