Friday, May 6, 2016

Poetry Friday: A Tritina for Dickey Chapelle

The challenge this month was to write a tritina. It's a form with no end rhyme; instead the last words in each line repeat in a compact, cyclical way.  All three words appear again in the last, stand-alone line. Like this:

A
B
C

C
A
B

B
C
A

A B C (in any order)

The only restriction was that we had to draw our three end words from this common pool: stone, cold, mouth, hope, thread, sweet. 

Other than that, the poem could be about anything. (Which, frankly, only makes things harder. Where to begin? What to say in such a short form?)

Fortunately, I was being haunted by an idea already. It was a story I'd read in the Washington Post about Dickey Chapelle, the first American female photographer killed in action.  She covered Algerian rebels, Fidel Castro, the Vietnam war, and WWII, including Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Guam. She died in Vietnam, accompanying a Marine patrol.

I could've written a poem inspired by any one of her photographs in the Post article, but the picture of men digging a grave on Guam sparked an opening line first. It made me think of how she lived, photographing death over and over.

I'm honoring Chapelle's copyright by not posting the photo on my blog without permission. So...

Please go look at the photo here before reading the poem. (Thanks.)



A Tritina

There’s nothing cold
on Guam, even the mouth
of a grave sweats, my sweet

boys; shutter the body, tout suite;
Dip the film in chemicals, cold;
It’s death to fill LIFE’s glossy mouth

but do not swear, when your mouth
burns mine, caramel sweet,
that it’s easier to die from a cold

than sweet rot, cold fame, war’s mouth.


---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)



Here's the full piece in the Washington Post.

Many more photos are here in the archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

And this story--which rings true, but lists only two books as source material-- reveals what a complicated person she was.  

***One note on the poem: as far as I can tell, Chapelle may never have sold a photo to LIFE. Still, I believe the use of the magazine's name here is accurate because she submitted her work to them (and was rejected) several times.

My poetry sisters wrote tritinas pulled from the same set of words. Wow. The interlinking themes and images and ideas are as good as the stark differences in how we each used those words.

Go see:



Poetry Friday is hosted today by Sylvia at Poetry for Children. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Poetry Friday: Drs. Sora and Swallow






This month's inspiration was provided by Poetry Sister Laura Purdie Salas. She says "These are two parts of a 7-part ceiling fresco at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. I spoke at a children's literature conference there a couple of weeks ago and loved huge, colorful ceiling in Terrence Murphy Hall. The art is by Mark Balma (markbalma.com) and is called The Seven Virtues (it's a Catholic university). I loved the colors, the surrealness of the images, and the fairy tale oddness of them."

Yes, me too, Laura! I was also curious about frescos, so I read up on their construction at the University of St. Thomas website. Then I took a gander at the seven sins, and the seven virtues---especially, Temperance, which is the subject of this fresco, and in the end...

...my eyes were caught by those realistic birds in the corners of each fresco. WTH?

Turns out all the birds depicted in the seven frescos are species who take sustenance from the Mississippi River.



Analysis (expositors of sacred writ to the ignorant*)

Drs. Sora and Swallow
don’t know what to make of it

Neither does Herring Gull
called in to consult

nor Golden Plover
(a solid second opinion)

The birds need the river
to flow wrathfully 

slicing the land before snaking,
sloth-like into silty deltas

They envy those who consume
art; not shad or lice

They lust for full communion, 
not half-bodies, imploring

They cannot eat stones
glutton-fed paint by boar’s hair brushes

What of greed? they pick
at the edges. What of pride?

Every stroke is permanent
What is temperate about that?

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


*By the way, the title comes from the article on the University site, which explains that ancient fresco makers took their art very seriously, as they were the “expositors of sacred writ to the ignorant, who know not how to read.”


To see what my Poetry Sisters made of this fresco (or the other choice, a fresco about Hope), follow these links:

Liz
Laura
Tanita
Andi
Kelly
Tricia


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Amy at The Poetry Farm.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Sedoka: Two Halves Make a Whole

Whirling head poem.  

That's how one site translates the ancient Japanese poetry form, the Sedoka  (旋頭歌)  

Don't you love that?

The idea of Sedoka is that two poems (each of the syllable count 5-7-7) are put together, and the whole is a more complete picture than either half.




Bowl of cherries, ripe.
Best to eat them, one by one
By oneself, with attention.


Bowl of cherries, ripe.
Best to pie them, all in all
Before you get too mind full.

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


The Sedoka can also be used as a form of dialogue, with one poem talking to the other. That includes head-whirling joke-telling, right? (Please forgive me.)


Waiter, there’s a fly.
There! in my soup, back-stroking!
Put him back in the punch line.

Doctor! There’s a joke
There! In my coffee, sinking!
Milk it, my dear one. Milk it.

Mortician! There’s no
brevity in my wit; could
rigor mortis have set in?

Scribe, a eulogy!
There! in my plump thesaurus!
It’s dying a thousand deaths.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)




My Poetry Sisters all played with Sedoka today, too. Go see what wonderful wholes they made:

Liz
Laura
Tricia
Andi
Tanita
Kelly


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Linda at TeacherDance.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Poetry Friday: Response to Picasso's Sculpture of a Cat







Response to Picasso’s sculpture of a Cat

She’s pregnant, this cat
or just given birth. She’s muddy;
her tail's been broken.
Look at her neck, stiff

as a stanchion. Look at her compact
head; so ill-made for big thoughts
you fear her tail is pulling
her backwards. She isn’t curled

by contentment, or preying
with merciless grace, or cagily
sinuous. Still—
she is Cat. She disdains

opinion. You can tell
by the vainglorious shine
of her ears, as if she is listening to
an undivided convent

of cats chanting her name
lapping up her blessing
as she passes them. She has lived
fully; they have been holy.

Picasso stretched time between
sculptures; using his brush to pry apart
skulls, turning to his hands only when the Muse
purred to him. He was never trained

to mold clay or pour bronze but
what he made, he kept
close. They fattened
his household. Did he speak

to Cat? Attempt to straighten
her tail, even as she hissed? How do
you feed a Muse who doesn’t need
you? She’s given birth; he stirs mud.

                        ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


Thanks to Liz Garton Scanlon for discovering the intriguing Picasso sculptures, which provided the inspiration for this month's ekphrastic poetry challenge. (The Poetry Seven plans to respond to an image or piece of art every other month in 2016.  I'm already researching which artist to choose when it's my turn...)

Here are the links to my Poetry Sisters' poems (each of us chose a Picasso sculpture from a select group, so there's some overlap in the inspiration images, but glorious uniqueness in the response!)

Liz
Tanita
Tricia
Laura
Andi (taking a breather this month)
Kelly

More about Picasso's sculptures.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by one of the Poetry Seven's own, Tricia, at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Poetry Friday: The Periodic Table of Crown Sonnets


When people spark in each other's presence, and shine brighter than alone, we call that Chemistry. The ineffable, mysterious SOMETHING that arises between like souls. How fitting, then, that this Poetry Friday, the Poetry Sisters culminate our year-long poetry project with a Crown Sonnet about....

Chemistry.

The Periodic Table, to be precise. (You might've heard of it. Been in the news lately.)

If you've arrived here, you may have already read the first two sonnets, and the story of how we came to write about the seven rows of the Periodic Table. If not, here are the links to read before you hear about my contribution:

Laura: Row 1

Tricia: Row 2

And now, me.
Me and Row Three.
K-i-s-s-i-

Yes. That was about my level of comprehension of my task. Say what? I'm writing about WHAT?

Luckily, I was fortunate to have Tricia's lovely last line, "What other treasures will the chart reveal?" to launch my sonnet. Still, I had to make choices. Write about the entire third row? Feature three elements, one in each stanza? Throw up my hands and say: WHO picked this topic anyway???? (Answer: Laura)

In the end, I was seduced by one element: Argon.

I'm not going to lie. I picked it mostly because I liked the word itself. It sounded noble. Regal. Important. This was confirmed when I waded through cool Argon related trivia on the Internet...

Argon is: (according to the Internets)

a prince from very late writings of Tolkien

a defunct British automobile (1908)

a codename used for the KH-5 Argon reconnaissance satellite (At least 12 missions were attempted, but at least 7 resulted in failure)

a family of Soviet computers (“military real-time computers”)

the fourth ruler of the Mongol empire's Ilkhanate (although it was spelled Arghun.) According to Wikipedia, Arghun "requested a new bride from his great-uncle Kublai Khan. The mission to escort the young Kökötchin across Asia to Arghun was reportedly taken by Marco Polo. Arghun died before Kökötchin arrived, so she instead married Arghun's son, Ghazan."  (Well! There's a whole book of sonnets there, don't you think? )


Sadly, most of this didn't have much to do with the periodic table.

Happily, I found many more facts about Argon that did.  I allowed myself one literary reference (to Portia, choosing suitors from "caskets" or decorated boxes in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice) and then I stuck to science.

Because, really, science and poetry are sisters. They allow us to look closely, to challenge our assumptions, and to boldly go where we haven't before. As sisters should.  (Here's looking at you, Laura, Kelly, Liz, Tanita, Tricia, and Andi.)



A Sonnet Inspired by Row Three 
of the Periodic Table of Elements
and AR (Argon) in particular

What other treasures will the chart reveal,
in double-lettered gilded boxes, fine
as Portia faced? AR has sex appeal,
I think, and choose my fate by noble shine.

A lilac glow when placed in voltage fields!
A barrier, so wine may age sans air!
Unseen, from dust, our Constitution, shields!
Argon, you worthy prince! you mighty heir—

You cheat. Hypoxic in the blood, you dope
to win; and ew! you asphyxiate, too—
a “kinder” end to fowl. “Inactive”? NOPE.
Those who search for matter (dark) target you.

Still, even the unstable can excite
A science lover, choosing in the night.


Thankfully, Kelly was inspired by that last line, and picked up with Row Four.  (Go! Read on!)


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.