Friday, March 25, 2022

caution: poetry may be habit-forming

Some weeks I think, "Maybe I won't post this Friday.  Maybe I'll just read around the posts of others with a little more attention than usual." And then I think about how maybe this is my only chance to write this week, and how I've made this commitment to myself, and how my audience will feel if I don't--

No, that's a joke. I care a lot about audience, but it's not WHY I write this blog; it's for the practice, the habit. And if I think back over the last week, or month, or three months, it's clear: my habit is SOLID.

Since January 1 I've written 42 poems, 11 posts at mjlu, 2 posts at a new blog for my congregation's Earth Ministry, and at least a dozen cogently-argued, strongly-worded letters to various candidates, board members and organizations (and I've filled out a shedload of retirement forms!)

So while I can't quite leave mjlu silent this week, I can do it--I can take a break and read around the posts of others with a little more attention than usual, instead of flinging an ekphrastic dodoitsu up here without sufficient attention.

After all, April looms and I have plans to make about writing in response to All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, the collection of essays and poems edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Katharine K. Wilkinson.  And a cute Canva graphic to go with it. The climate crisis totally deserves a cute Canva graphic!

Meet me here next Friday when I host the FIRST DAY OF NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!!!  Woohoo! Amy LV is our host this week over at The Poem Farm where she is also gearing up for an April project of proverbs.


Friday, March 18, 2022

the metrics, the threads

Greetings to all. I don't have much of a post left in me this morning, after spending the last week compiling and submitting my school's application for recertification as a Maryland Green School.  It was a pleasure to do this piece of climate action work, and yet twice during the week I faltered.  

Listening as I cycled to school on Monday morning to the ALL WE CAN SAVE essay entitled On Fire by Naomi Klein, I burst into tears wondering what the meager efforts of one public elementary school can do against "a mounting sense of peril," how effective we can be in this time she says has "a new and unfamiliar sense of promise."  I didn't feel promising at all in that moment.

I cried a second time on Thursday morning when I went to submit the 70-page Google Slides application and discovered--fairly enough--that this year the application requires an extra 14-page document:

"This survey is a required element of the 2021-2022 application. The metrics describe numerically the Sustainable Practices included in Objective 2 of the application. Please quantify all of the Sustainable Practices taking place in your school."

There is no way I could have completed this survey in time for the Thursday deadline--I had neither the time nor the data to hand.  Luckily, our application coach, who works for our district's sustainability & recycling office, responded simply to my email entitled "PANIC," 

"Heidi Do Not Panic !!!!  I have the data available and will complete the survey."

I cried a third time* in relief that there was someone whose entire job is to pay attention to the metrics--because no matter how beautifully I write about the peril and the promise, it is the metrics of the wonks, the nerds, the scientists and the mathematicians, the data analysts, that show whether we are making an impact or not.  So, cheers to Jim Stufft and the gift of data he gave us at the 11th hour.

And here we are, humanity at our 11th hour.  There's bound to be some crying, some wailing, some rending of garments.  And then, because we can't do this work alone (which is the whole point of ALL WE CAN SAVE), when we tug on the thread, someone steps in, knits up solutions.  As Adrienne Maree Brown writes in her microessay What Is Emergent Strategy? (and I think it's a haibun),


"Many of us have been socialized to understand that constant growth, violent competition, and critical mass are the ways to create change. But emergence shows us that adaptation and evolution depend more upon critical, deep, and authentic connections, a thread that can be tugged for support and resilience.  The quality of connection between the nodes in the patterns.

Dare I say love.
And we know how to connect--we long for it."

Thanks to Ruth for hosting us today at There Is No Such Thing As a God-Forsaken Town, whose haibun is ringing in my ears.  Onward, my loves. 

*Go write your congresspeople and ask for a permanent return to Standard Time, not DST!

Friday, March 11, 2022

a brainy birthday

Today is the day that Facebook is made for, and look how it makes sure I don't miss it somehow! Poetry Friday friends, whatever it says about me, I now claim the truth that I like a little fuss about my birthday, so yup, let me post about celebrations, age and mortality.  And sheep's brain. 


It is important to remember that you will die,
lifting the fork with the sheep's brain
lovingly speared on it to the mouth: the little
piece smooth on the one side as a baby
mouse pickled in wine; on the other, blood-
plush and intestinal atop its bed of lentils.
The lentils were once picked over for stones
in the fields of India perhaps, the sun
shining into tractor blades slow moving
as the swimmer’s arms that pierce,
then rise, then pierce again the cold
water of this river outside your window called
The Heart or The Breast, even, but meaning
something more than this, beyond
the crudeness of flesh, though what
is crude about flesh anyway, watching yourself
every day lose another bit of luster?
It is wrong to say one kind of beauty
replaces another. Isn’t it your heart
along with its breast muscles that
has started to weaken; solace
isn’t possible for every loss, or why else
should we clutch, stroke, grasp, love
the little powers we once were born with?
Perhaps the worst thing in the world
would be to live forever.
Otherwise, what would be the point
of memory, without which
we would have nothing to hurt
or placate ourselves with later?
Look. It is only getting worse
from here on out. Thank God. Otherwise
the sun on this filthy river
could never be as boring or as poignant,
the sheep’s brain trembling on the fork
wouldn’t seem once stung
by the tang of grass, by the call
of some body distant and beloved to it
still singing through the milk. The fork
would be only a fork, and not the cool
heft of it between your fingers, the scratch
of lemon in the lentils, onions, parsley
slick with blood; food that,
even as you lift it to your mouth,
you never thought you’d eat. And do.
from Imaginary Vessels. Copyright © 2016

I could write a thousand birthday poems and none of them would feature sheep's brain, "food never thought you'd eat," and wouldn't. But isn't that the wonder of a well-constructed poem, a life of reading deeply? That we can find the part that applies, and then apply the part we can find that stretches sensation, emotion?  That we can begin to imagine a life in which we are named Paisley and eat lentils and sheep's brain beside a filthy river with gratitude for the tang of grass, the scratch of lemon?

The Poetry Foundation also gifted me today with this brief but full article about days full of poet birthdays.  Enjoy! 

We are rounded up today by dear Sylvia and Janet at Poetry for Children, where they are celebrating the publication of their newest Pomelo anthology, THINGS WE EAT.  I don't believe it contains sheep's brain. 😊

Friday, March 4, 2022

quotable: all we can save

Greetings, all!  It's the first Friday of the month, the world is watching with anxious eyes as both a war and a shift in global politics takes place, and just to keep our hearts full, the Inklings are writing to a challenge set by Margaret Simon:

"Choose a quote that speaks to you. Write a poem that responds to the quote. The words can be used as a golden shovel or throughout the poem or as an epigraph."

It just so happens I have a little something I prepared earlier to answer this challenge. I participated again this year in Laura Shovan's February Poetry Project, where a group of about 40 write to a daily prompt on a theme and share and respond to each others' poems. It's a great experience in so many ways and I always come away with a pile of drafts I wouldn't have written otherwise. This year the theme was TIME.

It was a prompt from Lisa Vihos on February 11 that reminded me I owned the climate-feminist anthology ALL WE CAN SAVE: Truth, Courage and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, the book I posted about a couple of weeks ago (here's the website/newsletter/ community)

She shared an excerpt from an essay by Sherri Mitchell, "Indigenous Prophecy and Mother Earth," included in the book.  This essay comes from the first of eight sections in the book, called "Root". I chose a different striking line and wrote this golden shovel.


Here's Sherri Mitchell reminding us how the body keeps the score.


That's the whole post for today [EDIT: NO IT ISN"T!  I have neglected to link to my fellow Inklings posts!]  Check out whom and how the rest of the Inklings quoted and wrote!

Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading 
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone

Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Kat Apel is rounding us up today at Kat's Whiskers, and sharing her newly released book!  See you there.