Friday, July 6, 2018

Poetry Friday: Independence, reported


Sometimes, the days before and after a key historical event are worth celebrating as much as the event itself.  Today, July 6th, is one of those days.

The Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2, 1776, but the text of the Declaration of Independence was not approved until the 4th, which wound up being the date printed on the broadsides sent to the states to be read. One of the most famous of those readings was on July 8th, in Independence Square in Philadelphia, by Col. John Nixon, next to what would be called "the Liberty Bell." A close second might be July 9th, which is the date on which Gen. George Washington directed the Declaration be read to his troops.

But what of people not within hearing range of these readings? When did they first encounter the words of the Declaration? It seems the answer is:  as soon as their local newspaper printed it.

In fact, days before some of those public readings, the full text of the Declaration appeared in the Pennsylvania Evening Post on July 6th, 1776. Other newspapers, including those in London and around the world, followed.

So, for today's poetry challenge, I choose to honor July 6th, the day the Declaration made it to the rest of us.  Here's to newspapers, and independence, and words that matter.


The Sixth

The sixth, a day unwreathed in stars—
Not yet eighth; when broadsides were read

To mothers of boys not yet dead
And ere the ninth, to troops war scarred— 

And yet, the sixth a salvo sent
Of spotty ink to stripe the white
Unsteady page, declaring rent

A union; dead a peace; by right

A nation born; and though no trumpets blew
By word by word by word, the Fourth was news.

                          ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)



Note: This form is modeled after a structure used by poet and playwright Aphra Behn, one of the first English women to earn her living by writing. (Essentially, it's a rhyme scheme of ABBACDCDEE in iambic tetrameter, with option of extra beats in the last lines. I tucked in a tribute to our flag, too!)  Thanks to Kelly for the challenge.

***Edited to add:  Okay, it turns out I messed up BOTH the rhyme scheme (should be CDDC in the middle) and the fact that only the last line (not the last two) get extra beats.  Um...I was being as subversive as Aphra Behn?  We'll go with that.

You can find my Poetry Sisters better efforts to echo Aphra Behn's rhythm and form here:

Liz
Tanita
Kelly
Tricia
Laura


Poetry Friday is hosted today by one of our own, Tricia, at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Poetry Friday: A Trio of Limericks

For easy, breezy June, our poetry assignment was to write three limericks, all about birds/bees.  I chose no birds and all bees.  (And also, apparently, no depth and all funny. What can I say? This is my brain on Limericks.)







“B”

There once was a robust letter B
Who chafed at his spot next to C
So he cut back on his belly
And watched way less telly
And now he’s no more than a P.




Paul Gross
"Slings and Arrows"
 (best TV show about Shakespeare ever)

“Be”

There once was a prince who said “To be”
But negated that thought immediately
Then he picked up a skull,
Asked if life was meaningful...
“For a few more scenes,” said Yorick, dryly.






“Bee”

There once wazzz a wood-crazzzy carpenter bee
Who vizzzited sawtooth clamzzz by the zzzea
But alazzz! that "log" had incizzzors
He wazzz a hammerhead’zzz appetizzzer
And that wazzz all the zzzea he would zzzee.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)



You can find my fellow poets' limericks here, including some lovely and lyrical poems which prove this form can do more than twist words into grins.

Tricia
Kelly
Tanita
Laura
Liz

Poetry Friday is hosted today at Buffy's Blog.


Friday, May 4, 2018

Poetry Friday: A toast! A toast!

I have only myself to blame for this month's challenge. I thought it would be fun to write a toast, in poetry form, to be recited for "any occasion, to someone or something." The only rule for the toast was that it had to begin and end with the same two words. So, as Kelly pointed out, technically, the poem could simply be:

A toast!
A toast!





Readers, I nearly had to fall back on that.

Who knew how hard thinking up a toast would be? There are so many occasions on which to toast---birthdays, and anniversaries, and weddings, and graduations---and so many wonderful people deserving of such a tribute, too (including my own mom, who turns 80 this month---Happy Birthday, Mom!)

Maybe that was the trouble...too many good choices.  I like it better when a poem forces me into a box and makes me scramble to build a way out.  Or, as some of my poetry sisters often say:  can't we have more rules?


A Toast to Rules

Rules instruct, they measure, they bind;
Rules tie the past to the future, families define;
Rules say who reigns, who serves, what’s mine.

Rules birth languages, start art schools, procreate paradigms;
Rules preserve form, marry reason to rhyme;
Rules say how to love, where to live, when war is really peacetime.

Rules lay the groundwork, they chalk mark the fence line;
Rules make vowels speak, name numbers as prime;
Rules say be this, not that, if you’ll be so kind.

Rules make straight the path, stamp out the serpentine;
Rules ink how long to care, how high to climb;
Rules say you’re out, you’re foul, you’re safe—this time.

Which is why poetry rudely rejects such designs;
It cavorts; it break dances; it steps light-years out of line;
For who says we must only be who the fine

rules instruct?

           ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


Find my Poetry Sisters' toasts here:

Liz
Tricia
Tanita
Laura
Andi
Kelly

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Friendly Fairy Tales.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Poetry Friday: She is Dead to Us, inspired by Elizabeth Bishop

Happy April, and Happy National Poetry Month!  I've decided that the best way to celebrate is to lose.

Yup. Lose your fears about poetry. Lose your way exploring new poets.  Lose your heart to words.



In that spirit, this month's challenge is to write a poem inspired by a line from Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art." It is a stunning villanelle about loss, and you must read it whole, if you haven't.

I can't compete with Bishop, but I did love using her poem as a launching pad for creating something new. I chose this line:

 "I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,"

Then I played (just a bit) with the order, so that "lovely ones" refers to not cities, but people.



She is dead to us

Lovely ones, I lost two cities,
and vaster, six branches of
the family tree, all the sewers
beneath, and yet—not the one day
you proposed we flee

lovely ones. I lost three bones,
and vaster, a splintered
windshield, and the courage
beneath, and yet—not the one day
you proposed we flee

lovely ones. I lost sixty dollars
and vaster, every photograph pinned
to a page, and my taste for milk
and yet—not the one day
you proposed we flee

lovely ones. I lost all reason,
and vaster, why one doesn’t do that,
and mile after mile of what if, what if,
where do we go now, and yet—not you,
that one day. You proposed. We flee.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


My Poetry Sisters are each taking a different line from Bishop's poem. See what they've created here:

Liz
Laura
Trica
Kelly
Tanita

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

Friday, March 2, 2018

Poetry Friday: Garden of the Gods


This month's poetry challenge takes place in The Garden of the Gods.  I've been there.


Mike and I, last fall



I just didn't see this:



Liz did, though.  And she asked us to write a poem about it this month.


Remember the etheree? (We wrote one back in 2015.)  Each line has one more syllable than the one before.  Steady as she goes, for as long as you like.

I thought it an appropriate form to talk about How Did This Happen?  and Best Laid Plans and possibly: Where Do We Go From Here?


We
never
considered
stone was alive
until we saw it
dead still, licking its wounds.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)



Find my poetry sisters here:

Liz
Tanita
Kelly
Laura
Tricia
Andi

Poetry Friday is hosted today by No Water River.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Poetry Friday: The Poet, as seen by a squirrel (a tanka)

February is the shortest month, so it's fitting our poetry task is on the short side, too.  The tanka is a thirty-one syllable unrhymed poem, traditionally written (in Japanese) as one, unbroken line.




In English, however, it's usually divided into five lines. The first three lines are patterned by syllable count like a haiku---5-7-5---and the last two lines are a "couplet" of sorts----a 7-7 syllable pair.  In addition, the tanka should have a "turn"---or an image that bridges the two parts.  Quite a lot to pack into one poem!

And yet....there's more.  This month, each of the Poetry Sisters is responding to one of the other sister's poems from January. I've been given the lovely task of responding to Liz, who wrote a clever curtal sonnet about squirrels called "Kin and Plot."  You can read it here.   Hooray!


I love Liz's idea that in the face of frustration, we sometimes

"toss caution ‘cross the lawn and to the sky:
take what you need, take all that we have got!"

and yet...I can't help thinking that those squirrels would take our words, too, if they knew how much we writers hoarded them, and scrabbled for them, and spent our lives chasing them.

Thus, a tanka from the perspective of a squirrel encouraging a poet at work:

Oh, word-stuffed poet
on a limb. You weigh nothing—
chitter and chime! Leap
then! the glass world sways, may yet
break, and enter into verse.

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



Here are the other tanka responses:

Liz, writing to Tricia's poem (and steady breath)
Tanita, writing to Kelly's poem (and her cat, Kismet)
Tricia, writing to Laura's poem (and warm horses)
Laura, writing to Tanita's poem (and two-sided truth)
Kelly, writing to my poem (and cauliflower words)


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Mainely Write.






Friday, January 5, 2018

Poetry Friday: Boxing with A Curtal Sonnet


I'm not in a box, but a basket.
However, I am cute so I can do whatever I want.---Rebecca's cat, Neils


Sonnets are known as a "box form" because of their precise rules and tight appearance on the page.  Some poets, like Gerard Manley Hopkins, cried out inside those boxes, and made some of the most anguished, glorious sonnets I've read.

Hopkins, in particular, was known for counting hard stresses (punches?) rather than regular rhythms, and for compacting the Petrarchan fourteen-lined sonnet into a 3/4 sized poem, of 10 1/2 lines.  For what better way to squeeze out more anguish than with less room to cry?

I've tried one in his honor today.  (Thank you, Kelly, for the challenge.)



Hopkins foxed sonnets to 3/4 spare
    wire-whipped stresses til they wailed
      half-tocked feral hymns from sprung clocks

 Elbowing joy as birdsong from air,
     priested, pressed hard, he failed
       at 44, a life, curtailed and boxed

 Yet, cold-call his poems, and he swells,
     as slugger’s bandied cauliflower ear; rung,
       you clangor, near strangled, on far-hailed
 Words; carrion cry unlocked, he wells
                                      blood to tongue.


                                 ---Sara Lewis Holmes
                                    (all rights reserved)

My poetry sisters are writing sonnets today, too, some curtal, and some not.
Find them here:

Liz
Tricia
Kelly
Laura
Tanita
Andi


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Reading to the Core.