A blog to nurture the poetic spirit in a supportive and inspired way. All poets are welcome

OH, HOW WE’VE GROWN !

This is the new and we hope, improved POETIC BLOOMINGS. The need to change coincided with the increase in membership and the apparent difficulties some of our “Gardeners” were having with their posts. We will try to stay true to the spirit of the original site which we have transfered over from the Blogspot header.

We will continue to offer the features with which you have become familiar:

SUNDAY – will be the day the seed (prompt) for your bloom (poem) will be planted.

WEDNESDAY – will alternate with both of our very popular offerings. IN-FORM POET will introduce you to a different poetic form. WEB WEDNESDAY we will explore the blog/website/work of one of our poets chosen by me and Marie to discuss their insight on the poetic process and an interview to get to know our poets a bit better.

SATURDAY – Marie and I will select what we call “BEAUTIFUL BLOOMS”, our favorite poems of the week.

We will work the DAISY CHAIN and BOOK SHELF into the mix in short order.

Please explore our new site and make yourself at home. Your garden awaits you!

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Our last Web Wednesday featured a self-proclaimed poetic “newbie.” This week, we present to you an accomplished veteran of the craft, Nancy Posey.

 

We asked Nancy to select a poem that she feels best expresses her personal writing style, and explain why she chose that particular poem.She chose “Phone Calls 3 A.M.”

 

Phone Calls3 A.M.

Daddy would never even consider

letting us ride on a motorcycle,

let alone own one, because the preacher’s

the first one they call after the trooper

stops by the house with the bad news.

He ruined more good suits climbing

through kudzu into ditches with

Stanley from the funeral parlor.

 

Our phone would ring at all hours

with news of machinery accidents

on the night shift, a hunter found

dead in his tree stand, deer tracks

all around, the only sign of blood

his own.We were the first to know

about overdoses and car wrecks,

heart attacks and the occasional

knife fight at Sammy’s Cellar.

He’d take the calls on our one phone

hanging on the wall in the kitchen,

stretching the cord into the pantry,

as if we couldn’t hear.No one slept

through 3 a.m. phone calls.We knew,

we always knew. We just didn’t know who.

 

A lot of my poems come from those little backward glimpses into my childhood.My dad was a preacher in a small Alabama town, and our phone rang at all hours.For a year or more, a young woman we knew only by her first name, called regularly. She was a heroin addict who wanted help and saw the motto “A Concerned Church” in the Yellow Pages and called him.He always kept confidences, but we were aware of so much simply through osmosis.A lot of my poems incorporate humor. This one doesn’t.I do like to use specific details in my poem. Sammy’s Cellar, for instance, was a downtown dive. Later, the location was bought and renovated into corporate offices for a trucking company—my first employer.The local undertaker was also an unsung hero, going to such great lengths for families at the worst times of their lives.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1.So you’re an Alabama Tar Heel, eh? One of your blogs is even named as such (http://alabamatarheel.wordpress.com/).Being an avid (rabid?) fan of THE Ohio State University, I can understand the loyalty and excitement.Yet, besides mixing loyalties, it seems a peculiar name for a poetry blog.Is there a story at the helm?

I’m an Alabama native, and have always been a big fan of the Crimson Tide, but we moved to North Carolina sixteen years ago and have not only assimilated but have learned to love Tar Heels basketball.(The football team is fun too, but fortunately, being in different conferences, my loyalty is almost never challenged.)Ben, my younger son, a UNC-CH grad is such a rabid fan that he blogs before, during, and after every game during basketball season. It can’t help but rub off.I’ll have the grace to make no comments about Auburn, UT, or Duke.

2.When did you begin writing poetry, and do you recall your first poem?

I wrote all the usual high school poetry (which I still have in a notebook), but I started writing a little several years ago.One of my first poems I loved best from that time, “Parlor Weddings,” is in my chapbook.Since my dad was a preacher, we often had little weddings at our house—what seemed like impromptu affairs to me at the time.I actually signed as a witness in the second grade.Only later did I start to wonder why they were in such a hurry.

3.One of your favorite quotes is, “Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.” –W. H. Auden“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh. (W. H. Auden)” What a great quote!How much does your sense of humor influence your writing life?

My sense of humor affects all aspects of my life.When I first started teaching, I was given that old stale advice for rookies: Don’t smile until Thanksgiving. I quickly learned that isn’t my style.As I started doing poetry readings, I’ve often found myself paired with other poets whose entire body of work seems to focus on childhood abuse, parental death, and such.My poems can be serious, but so many of them are fun too.I don’t always go for the belly laughs, but I like to tease out a smile.My poem “Breast Milk and Frozen Okra,” for instance, is a tender little poem, but I couldn’t avoid what I think is a funny title.In fact, my sister Jeannie gave me the title before I had the poem.

4.Another of your favorite quotes is this:“A. A. Milne said, “Ideas may drift into other minds, but they do not drift my way. I have to go and fetch them. I know no work manual or mental to equal the appalling heart-breaking anguish of fetching an idea from nowhere. Ideas may drift into other minds, but they do not drift my way. I have to go and fetch them. I know no work manual or mental to equal the appalling heart-breaking anguish of fetching an idea from nowhere (A.A. Milne).”I’m afraid many of us wait for the ideas to wash over us, which may or may not ever happen.Do you have any idea-hunting tips to give us?

I honestly believe that I have written so much more—and as a result, I’ve been able to mine some good poems from the body of writing—because I have joined communities such as Poetic Asides and my “Baker’s Dozen” group—many of whom also participate here at Poetic Bloomings.As a teacher, too, I feel I have to be a writer to teach writing with any authenticity.Jane Shlensky and I have presented a session at our state and national conferences that we call “How Can You Teach What You Don’t Do.”We encourage other teachers to find ways to channel their own writing.I’ve always loved to write. I don’t feel comfortable without a pen in my hand (or at least behind my ear).With the positive peer pressure I find here online and with some of my writing friends, I find ways to push it a little further.

I also know writers who don’t read when they are writing. I might as well say I wasn’t going toeat.Reading fuels my writing brain.

5.Walt and I both have great respect for teachers, of which you are one.As an English teacher, what are your views on “poetic license?”Do you feel poetry should be grammaticallyimpeccable, or is Walt still safe?

The analogy I use is NASCAR (I am in North Carolina, after all):I tell them before they learn to drive at 200 mph, they have to learn the rules and how to stay within the law. When it’s time to break the rules or laws, they should be aware of it.

Fragments for effect and e. e. cummings-style capitalization can work well.However, sloppiness and failure to know or care about grammar and mechanics can get in the way of what one is trying to say.I try to be a generous reader, but I’d advise anyone to take the time to learn—or at least to run your work “for show” past someone who can look at that aspect.

(I judged a student poetry contest once in which a student had let spell check take over, leaving in a reference to the “genital winds blowing in [her] face.”Eeewwww!)

6.You told us, “As a teacher, I also feel I’m on a crusade to defend poetry’s reputation and to kindle a love and appreciation of poetry, not just with my students but with teachers who’d rather skip that unit…”Hmmm … “skip that unit” … Do you believe this to be a growing and intentional omission?

Face it, with all the pressure on testing, it’s easier to focus on anything that can be tested with a multiple choice format.There’s also a tendency to avoid material when we lack confidence.I think, though, it’s fair to approach a text admitting to my students that I am not sure about it. I love to model the discovery process.I make work for myself sometimes by changing up my own syllabus to get a chance to read new poetry.

I assign a poetry paper for which my students are directed to read at least eight poems by a poet “still living or, if dead, still warm.” (I had to add that last little bit in case a poet died in the middle of the unit—it really happens sometimes.)Mostly, I want them to realize that poetry is still happening—lots of good poetry.With current poets, they are also less likely to happen upon pre-written essays, that vile temptation.

7.On the same note, what do you do personally to “defend poetry’s reputation?”Do you have any advice for the rest of us on how we can help “kindle a love and appreciation of poetry?”

First, I try to dispel the myth that only English instructors have the answer key. When I cease being the expert, poetry becomes less intimidating. Then I try to expose my students (and family and friends) to as much poetry as possible.I’m always running across poems that I send to someone I know—my son’s band teacher, a former colleague, the math teacher around the corner. Since most poems in anthologies are short, even reluctant readers can read enough samples to find something that speaks to them.

To that end, I also sometimes use an assignment I took from Carol Jago, past president of the National Council of Teachers of English—the Goldilocks Project.I ask them, after reading LOTS of poems, to choose one that is too easy, one that is too hard, and one that is just right, and to explain why in each case.That leads them to read widely without the threat of a test.It usually works like a charm.

8.Being an avid reader, do you feel poetry is best “read,” and not “heard?”

The answer depends on the poem. Some just beg to be read aloud.Concrete poems, complex poems, those that need to be seen or re-read, play better on the page perhaps, but I believe in the music of poetry.I always go for the subtle sound tricks, although I don’t do a lot of rhymed poetry.I do pay attention to rhythm too. I also pay close attention to my line breaks and the way the poem looks on a page.

9.I was impressed to discover you have presented programs on poetry at some of your local book clubs.What can you share with us on how one goes about this?What were your expectations, and how were they met?

I was first invited by a local lady to a book club that had run continuously since before WWI.The club actually started the local Red Cross chapter. I picked poems with a narrative turn, some that played well out loud.I also avoid that affected poet voice I heard so often.I tend to read with what my former high school students used to call “Story Time with Miss Nancy”—a little dash of drama.I’m actually working on a project of a poetry collection aimed for book clubbers.

10.Many in this group know that you won the Writer’s Digest 2009 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, with Let the Lady Speak.Congratulations again, Nancy!The idea behind Let the Lady Speak is a fascinating one.Please tell us about it, and how you determined which women to give voice to.

I didn’t start with the theme in mind, but I kept coming up with these voices—literary, historical, biblical—as those of women in my own life.I’ve always loved books written from a shifted point of view.I love John Gardner’s Grendel and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (from the point of view of Bertha, the mad wife of Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester.)I like to put on my Atticus Finch shoes and imagine what goes through the minds of those figures known universally—Eve, Anne Frank, Hamlet’s mother.I have also been working through boxes and boxes of pictures and letters passed down to me from both sides of my family and my husband’s family, and I like to work their stories into poetry when I know them. Too often, all I have are bits and pieces—not enough for a family history, but just right for a poem.

Some of my most recent ancestors seem to keep speaking until I listen.Since I’m a voracious reader, too, I have an endless supply of personas.Lady Macbeth and Lot’s wife have surfaced since the chapbook was published.I take a lot of liberty with facts, too.I often use first person from other perspectives than my own, but I’ll take my own story and shift it to third person.I never let facts get in the way of a good poem.

I’ve been so amazed that almost everyone who writes or talks to me after reading my chapbook has a different favorite.Just recently, a friend who is a very successful novelist said his favorite was “Thankful,” adding that his son is just leaving for his freshman year of college. I think we read for a sense of recognition (I think that’s a paraphrase—or a direct theft—from YA author Richard Peck.)

In addition to Alabama Tar Heels, Nancy blogs on the many books she devours.You may visit Nancy’s The Discriminating Reader at http://www.discriminatingreader.com/.

 

Let the Lady Speak is featured on our Poetic Bloomings Bookshelf, and may be purchased through http://www.highlandcreekbooks.com/lettheladyspeak/index.html.

Nancy, it has been such a pleasure! Thank you for giving us a glimpse of the poet behind the poetry.

I have compiled a file with approximately 300 poetic forms. I am willing to share this file with anyone who requests it though our e-mail poeticbloomings@yahoo.com. Walt.

Throughout our lives things that exist in our realm of influence by which we have been effected, fall into either end of that spectrum. Write a poem on something you’ve lost. If you’ve found something, write that poem. It could be something you thought you’d never see again, only to be surprised by its rediscovery. Either way, go to the lost and found to reclaim your poetic wile.

Marie Elena’s effort:

Nothing Lost

As I embrace One who was slain,

and forfeit self, what will I gain?

Eternal life in Christ is mine

not of my self, but His design.

His agony, my boundless gain

corrupted self cannot attain.

In death to self I gain no loss,

my life secured on Calvary’s cross.

~~~

Inspired by Luke 9:24-25. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”

And by missionary Jim Elliot, who wisely stated, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”


Walt’s Re-Discovery:


RECLAMATION PROJECT

1.) Phase One – Losing Myself

Rev up the Delorean, I’m going back. We all have that defining moment, pointed and prescient that had set our course. The forces of nature were strong and one wrong turn could have sent me reeling. I have a feeling it did.

My temerity was the social end of me, for as far as I can see, High School defined that moment in time, where I had let the ball drop.Not regret per se, but sadness now for those would have, should have, and could have moments so fleeting. Those errors of omission were well hidden in my condition from which I’ve been extricated. Celebrated now for my abilities to see things, and write things and expose things about me that without, would not be me. Debilitating was this fear to connect, rejection not something I handled well, or handled at all. So my fall from grace saved me from the disgrace of “embarrassing” myself by letting loose and living my life.

The perpetual lost boy languished in Neverland.


2.) Phase Two – Righting the Ship


Looky, looky, there goes Hooky!

The ribald Captain has been dispatched with a swift kick in his steering mechanism. A discovery, a long time in the making has taken a stand as well as command of my journey; a life’s worth of yearning for solid footing and a direction much easier to navigate than blindly following burned out novas in the cosmos of my mind. For in the stars, paths that crossed each other unnoticed have found a circuitous path to intersect once again.

Older now, more aware of selves and of this moment and what lead each to move to embrace it. In the kindling of a reborn kinship, acquaintances long removed and left unseen, find a connection that closes unsure circles, and opens the world to new adventures. Both stand, with eyes open like the wide-eyes kids we were when we began. A familiarity which neither knew, comes through to ground us as the friends we never realized we were.

The gathering of spirits once left to roam those hallowed halls has stepped back to touch base and begin anew, assuring us of the fact that yes, you can go home again.

***

I’m looking for something and it has me willing to lose a copy of the CD version of WOOD in the process. This prize will go to the first poet to post what it is for which I am looking. Good Luck!



The choices for the Beautiful Blooms are in, so without further ado, here are the selections:

Marie Elena’s choice:

My choice for this week is Plays (Well) with Others, by Nancy Posey. This poem is trademark Nancy, penned with her usual class and grace. The goal speaks to my own heart, and may be taken literally and/or figuratively, I believe. The use of music to convey community is insightful, pleasing, and effective. Delightful!

Plays (Well) with Others
By Nancy Posey

No more playing alone for me.
Certainly I’ll still practice,
chasing up and down the scales,
arpeggios, finding chords all up
and down the neck of my mandolin,
but from now on, I’m with the band.
I’d rather play rhythm, chopping
in the back, than play a solo,
finding the melody alone in my room.

A social creature, I long to meld
into the music, that perfect blend
of harmony, tuning my ear to find
the notes, to play along, perhaps
a little improvisation along the way,
picking up the melody now and then.
Listening is no longer enough for me.
I long to return to the time when all
were expected to sing or play
or dance along, one body, many parts.

Walt’s favorite bloom:

In keeping with the theme of “Go For The Gold”, this piece reminds me of life as a marathon race, run over the course of 15 years. Perseverance and determination read through rather clearly with the goal being able to do enough good things to ingrain oneself into the memories of those left behind when our race is run. Well written and expressed takes my honor.

By VivInFrance

Fifteen years ago
my only goal was to survive
first heart attack,
and then survive again.
Smaller goals
first time outside
but just for the ride home
then walking, fifty yards,
a hundred, a kilometre –
it was extremely hard, but I won.

Little by little,
my strength regained,
other goals intervened
and were achieved.
Quilts were planned
cut and stitched, quilted and bound
Each stage a tiny target –
hung on the wall, exhibited,
laid on a bed, or sent to friends.

Eight years ago
my hardest goal –
adventure into academe
on-line study, degree my aim.
The friends I made,
virtual and in the flesh,
new habits formed –
research, draft, edit, refresh –
all were part of my achievement

One year ago
at seventy-two,
my goal was reached –
what now should I do,
what new goalposts put in place?
To stay as fit as possible,
to struggle up the hill.
To write at least one poem every day,
to publish, to be read,
so that when I’m gone,
there will be something left
to show that I was here.

Congratulations to Nancy Coats Posey and VivInFrance, our Beautiful blooms for Week #13.

Today, we delve into a little more familiar form, the Etheree. Created about twenty years ago by an Arkansas poet named Etheree Taylor Armstrong, this titled form, consists of ten lines of unmetered and unrhymed verse, the first line having one syllable, each succeeding line adding a syllable, with the total syllable count being fifty-five.

Marie’s Etheree:

Comprehensively Incomprehensible

Row
Mix-up
Confusion
Disagreement
Misunderstanding
Misinterpretation
Difference of opinion
Speaking a “different language”
Powerless to convey one’s intent
Complete collapse in communication

 Walt’s Etheree:

STRETCHED THIN

Dad.
A man
standing guard.
Despite efforts
to be fair and firm,
sometimes he folds under
the pressure. Bright hazel eyes
flash their semaphore to signal
the next barrage to a Father’s heart.
Daughters in tug of war for Dad’s favor.

It seems that POETIC BLOOMINGS has found a niche in this poetic world. We’ve claimed our place.

What is your place? Where do you write? What do you need at hand to perform well? Is there an inspiration nearby to entice your mastery? Is your writing place “portable” or stationary? Tell us about your place.

***

We have been thinking of a slogan or catch phrase for POETIC BLOOMINGS. Through my fascination with the Beatles, and John Lennon in particular, I tend to lean towards his thematic “Power to the People” for my inspiration. I’m liking, “Poem to the People”! What do you think? Do you have any ideas in this vein? Let us know.