Friday, February 26, 2021

rip lawrence ferlinghetti

I confess: I have been a fan of the IDEA of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the Beat poets far more than of their actual work.  But on the occasion of the end of his very long and active life--the things he's seen!--combined with my participation in the February Poem Project hosted by Laura Shovan, I did some reading.

For the project, the theme of which is BODIES, I posted this for today:


Legendary Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti left us this week at the age of 101. He came to prefer the term “wide-open” rather than “Beat” poetry, because of the way it ranged and raged. One critic characterized Ferlinghetti’s work as “a revolutionary art of dissent and contemporary application which jointly drew a lyric poetry into new realms of social—and self-expression. It sparkles, sings, goes flat, and generates anger or love out of that flatness as it follows a basic motive of getting down to reality and making of it what we can.” 

 I invite you to enjoy Ferlinghetti’s “Underwear”, below and continued at the Poetry Foundation, and then to write about our "foundation garments," channeling Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s revolutionary art of dissent and contemporary application. [Underwear ads included as extra fodder.]











 I have not yet written my own foundation garment poem because during my explorations I found a fine and important poem called "I Am Waiting."  It is full, as the critic says, of Ferlinghetti's "sad and comic music of the streets." And then I saw that this poem was published IN 1958, in A CONEY ISLAND OF THE MIND, and somehow it sounds so current and live, and I am kind of stunned.

This is the fifth of six stanzas. The other five are worth your time!

I Am Waiting [excerpt] | Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for the day

that maketh all things clear

and I am awaiting retribution

for what America did   

to Tom Sawyer   

and I am waiting

for Alice in Wonderland

to retransmit to me

her total dream of innocence

and I am waiting

for Childe Roland to come

to the final darkest tower

and I am waiting   

for Aphrodite

to grow live arms

at a final disarmament conference

in a new rebirth of wonder

Ferlinghetti preferred to call his poetry "wide-open" and now we see why.  Why can't Tom Sawyer and Alice in Wonderland and Childe Roland and Aphrodite meet on the same turf?  Oh, they can.  My, I feel educated today.  Thanks, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

 Our host today is Karen at The Blog with the Shockingly Clever Title where she also is marveling, with Billy Collins, at the age of things. May we hang on to history, everything from Aphrodite to Cheerios to the Governor of Louisiana, and publish our howls. Friendly note:  I will probably not comment on PF posts this week so that I can do due diligence by the Feb Project responses. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

slps 4: frost & fletcher

How it's going down in my district...I'm perpetually downtrodden.

So today in my self-led poetry study I reach for a wee volume called 101 POEMS THAT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE: An Anthology of Emotional First AID (HarperCollins 1999). Published in the UK and edited by Daisy Goodwin, it has familiar famous poems and some you wouldn't know at all.

 This one's in the birthday section, and I'm familiar, but I never read it as a poem about aging.  It's a poem about learning, I think. Which, oh, IS a poem about age, wisdom, experience.

What Fifty Said | Robert Frost

When I was young my teachers were the old.
I gave up fire for form till I was cold.
I suffered like a metal being cast.
I went to school to age to learn the past.

Now when I am old my teachers are the young.
What can't be molded must be cracked and sprung.
I strain at lessons fit to start a suture.
I go to school to youth to learn the future.


I've lost my faith in school--not all schools, but in School as a concept. It must be cracked and sprung and I'm too tightly bound to break it.  There is, there will be suffering.

What  could possibly go with this, from my collection of poems for young readers?

In the same year as my SQUEEZE came out, Wordsong published A WRITING KIND OF DAY: Poems for Young Poets by Ralph Fletcher (2005).  I. love. this. book. 

I've just rediscovered this poem.

Writer's Block | Ralph Fletcher

We're doing grammar in school

which is bad enough but now

it's infiltrating my dreams.

I dreamed I was playing football

against a huge run-on sentence--

Coach said I had to stop him.

I threw a wicked block on that sentence

that knocked him into the next paragraph

and dislocated three compound words.

Verbs cracked! Nouns splattered!

That big sentence just splintered.

Til. Only. Fragments. Were. Left!



 Hm. Perhaps I'm less downtrodden than angry. I dream of dismantlement.


The round-up today is with dear Ruth at There is no such thing as a Godforsaken town.

I shall go in search of braided sweetgrass, of solace.


Friday, February 12, 2021

slps 3: Gerard and Joyce

In the wan winter daylight I pull off the shelf an unlovely 1970 paperback 4th edition of THE POEMS OF GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS (Oxford University Press).  I always say he's one of my favorite influences (despite a fundamental disagreement about the role of a God in all the wild wonder of the world), but how many of his poems do I know, really?

Here's one new to me:

That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection | 
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle ín long | lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest's creases; | in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, | nature's bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark
                               Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart's-clarion! Away grief's gasping, | joyless days, dejection.
                              Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; | world's wildfire, leave but ash:
                              In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
                              Is immortal diamond.


I pick this one because it does what my other favorites do:  uses a profligacy of language to celebrate the profligacy of nature.  You did read it out loud, right? Your brain can't quite keep up with the flood of images, right? And yet the tsunami is comprehensible if you loosen your logic and let your whole body sense the wide surroundings that he's attempting to pack into one spring-loaded canister of wildwonder. Gerard's wordplay is S U B L I M E, makes me want to shred the dictionary and wallow in the mudhole of slippery wordsherds waaaaah........ hoooo!  

What poet for young readers can compare?  Hmm, let's return to the shelf for a book I haven't spent enough time with....WINTER BEES by Joyce Sidman (HMH, 2014).  Here's another human for whom nature is cause for elated wallowing in language.

Chickadee's Song | Joyce Sidman

From dawn to dusk in darkling air
we glean and gulp and pluck and snare,
then find a roost that's snug and tight
to brave the long and frozen night.

We fluff and preen each downy feather,
Sing fee-bee---and laugh at the weather!
For if we're quick and bold and clever,
           winter's chill won't last forever.

The sun wheels high, the cardinal trills.
We sip the drips of icicles.
The buds are thick, the snow is slack.
Spring has broken winter's back.

Quick and bold and brave and clever,
we preen and fluff each downy feather.
Sing fee-bee--laugh at the weather--
        for winter doesn't last forever!


May you have enjoyed that as much as I did this morning, and may you find more to wallow in over at Nix the Comfort Zone, where Molly's post on her Artist's Prayer is a serendipitous echo.

Friday, February 5, 2021

let the cage fall

Today the Sunday Swaggers are writing to Catherine Flynn's challenge. Inspired by S. Kirk Walsh’s essay “How E.L. Doctorow Taught an Aspiring Writer to Hear the Sounds of Fiction," we are to copy a mentor poem (or other text) “word for word, then replace [that poet’s] language with your own.” For this experiment I return to Lucille Clifton and the poem that she says is one of the few that came to her whole. She says it has no title.

poem by Lucille Clifton

let there be new flowering
in the fields let the fields
turn mellow for the men
let the men keep tender
through the time let the time
be wrested from the war
let the war be won
let love be
at the end

"Let there be new flowering" from good woman: poems and a memoir 1969-1980 by Lucille Clifton.  (BOA Editions, Ltd, 1987)


more than one direction
                  for Duncan

let there be new burgeoning
in the boys let the boys
turn colors in their cage
let the cage fall carried
by the light let the light
be rescued from the core
let the core be cast
let love be
in the men 

draft ©Heidi Mordhorst

So that was a challenge indeed!  As the writer of the original article explains, "I copied...then replaced her language with my own — and began to understand how I could create my own musical arrangements in my imagination and on the page." I hope Lucille's music comes through here, and also a hint of how my shiny beautiful son lends new meaning to the term "martial arts." Also I reserve the right to edit this throughout the day.  It ain't done yet.

Check out the re-creations of all the Swaggers here, as we very deliberately swag the language of other writers and use them with stylish confidence.

Catherine Flynn @ Reading to the Core 
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone 
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise 
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Our Poetry Friday round-up today is at Jone Rush MacCulloch's blog, where she swags words and lines from all her lovely New Year postcards to create something new.  See you there!