Poetry Friday – Caelestis Ars Poetica

This week I visited the website of teacher-poet-author Cristy Watson in British Columbia. On Wednesday I noticed she was busily writing comments on The Poetry Marathon site, so I stopped to read her bio. She is a poet and an author of hi-lo books for reluctant readers and English language learners — books I never get enough of in my context. I went to her blog to read more. She also likes poetry contests. The annual “2-Day Poem Contest” was one she entered in April. It’s one poem in two days using 10 assigned words.

I decided to try this poem challenge for fun because Poetry Friday was coming. The words for 2021’s contest were: palm, embank, sheer, wrest, lacuna, whizzed, runny, mustard, balter, and nubivagant. After spending some time with the dictionary, I decided to write an ars poetica (the art of poetry) poem. I used this poem by A. MacLeish for inspiration:

Ars Poetica

By Archibald MacLeish

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

Dumb
As old medallions to the thumb,
continue reading…

Caelestis Ars Poetica

By Denise Krebs
After Archibald MacLeish

A poem should be still
with sheer force, until
that lacuna of hope
is filled within a frenzied soul.

A poem should embank the heart
with love and joy to impart,
to wrest the indignant and bitter
from the toxic tank of hate.

A poem should be a seed–
a mustard seed of faith to plead–
held in a child’s palm,
so easy to lose,
but so much to gain.

A poem should be slow and steady.
Not whizzed through like a tempest
taking out a swamped ship–
Instead a calm, nubivagant journey,
a shelter from the stormy blast.

A poem should be license to balter,
open, unchecked, dancing at the altar.
Dulcet and dauntless,
liberating to Wholeness.

A poem should be free-flowing,
without fear of knowing,
Molten, melted and runny
in all the right places.

A poem should just be
and let the heavens decide.

 


 

Allusions and Inspirations:
Stanza 1 – Mark 5:1-20
Stanza 2 – Acts 9:1-19
Stanza 3 – Mark 4:30-32; Matthew 18:5-7
Stanza 4 – Mark 4:35-41; “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”
Stanza 5 – 2 Samuel 6:14-16
Stanza 6 – Luke 10:38-42

Thank you, Margaret Simon, our host for today’s Poetry Friday at Reflections on the Teche.

35 thoughts on “Poetry Friday – Caelestis Ars Poetica

  1. Well played! Not simply ars poetica, but also filled with allusions! I like how you made the mentor text’s ending fit your purpose, and if I had to pick just one stanza as a favorite, it would have to be…sorry, can’t do it. They’re all wonder-full, each in its own way.

  2. I love watching all the ways you come to poems, their inspirations and allusions. It’s this practice that makes a poet-teacher, one who can sit with and beside and in a poem.
    I have a fondness for the story of the mustard seed and long ago taught this story to young children. Stories and parables and poems held in the palm can be easily lost and yet when they are found again, like the pearl of great price, they give and give and give. Thanks for sharing your process and poem.

    1. Thank you, Margaret. I love what you said about a story, parable or poem in the palm easily lost, yes. But all the more valuable when it comes and goes so readily. You never know when we will be surprised by the Spirit retelling us a story in new ways.

  3. I love these lines: “Molten, melted and runny
    in all the right places”

    Loved your inspiration, allusions, and beautiful poetry.

    1. Thank you, Julie. I really struggled with that word “runny.” I’m glad you liked it. I’m still wondering about that phrase. It made me think of Jesus’ norm-breaking dealings with women in the Mary and Martha story.

  4. Denise, I love how you interspersed your poem with allusions, especially these lines, “A poem should be a seed–/a mustard seed of faith to plead–”. The poem flowed as you introduced some words that I even had to research=>Instead a calm, nubivagant journey…You challenged yourself and rose to the occasion.

  5. Denise, I read the mentor poem first and gasped at the rightness of those final lines: “A poem should not mean
    But be.”
    And then, of course I read your own poem and delighted at the echos in your own final lines.
    So clever!

    1. Thank you, Sally. Yes, I thought that “A poem should not mean / but be” were such great lines. Then I laughed because I seem to have spelled out lots of details about what poems should be or mean. I hoped to get across the idea of letting God decide how to speak to us.

  6. Wow! This poem is a masterpiece. Those words (I would have needed a dictionary too!) and then your allusions and inspirations. So rich. (I have a fondness for the mustard seed.)

  7. Denise, I’m really drawn to “Molten, melted and runny
    in all the right places.” And also your conclusion. Really lovely — I adore ars poetica! Thank you for sharing.

  8. Oh, my! What a challenge and what WORDS! I would definitely need a dictionary and more than two days to meet that challenge. But, how smart to write about what a poem should be. That way, you can stretch the content any which-way you like. Wonderful poem, too. I like this stanza:
    “A poem should be slow and steady.
    Not whizzed through like a tempest
    taking out a swamped ship–
    Instead a calm, nubivagant journey,
    a shelter from the stormy blast.”
    That’s what poetry does for me…slows me down.

    Bravo! I hope you enter the challenge next year.

    1. Yes, when I saw the list of words I knew there was no story that jumped out, so I knew I had to do something to “stretch the content any which way you like!” Exactly what I was thinking too! I do hope to enter the challenge next year.

  9. What a beautiful and masterful poem, Denise! I’m so glad you said you spent some time with the dictionary, because as I was reading the words I knew I would have had to do just that! Thank you for sharing your work and your process. If I had to choose a favorite stanza it would be this one:

    “A poem should be free-flowing,
    without fear of knowing,
    Molten, melted and runny
    in all the right places.”

  10. That prompt is a great challenge, and your poem here really rises to the occasion! And now I know what “nubivagant” is. A writer at The Rumpus says, “If [artists] were to form a club, we might call it the Nubivagant Club.”

  11. Love the way you take up a challenge, Denise! I had to look up “balter” — what a cool word! It’s a shame we don’t use it much any more. The sounds in this stanza are rollickingly great:
    A poem should be license to balter,
    open, unchecked, dancing at the altar.
    Dulcet and dauntless,
    liberating to Wholeness.

  12. Well, golly–somehow I don’t think I’ve ever seen what must be a famous poem by Archibald MacLeish…and honestly I don’t think as a statement it could ever be equalled. And yet you have given it a heart-y, convincing effort! I think the balter stanza is my favorite. Thank you for this post!

  13. Thank you for teaching me with the notes about your search, your process, and your inspiration. This poem inspires on such a profound level. I love the scripture references and hymn. It was a joy to have those words brought to my mind.

  14. You packed so much in here, I especially hear this voice of hearing a voice for others. And I loved looking up some of the words in your poem, and seeing them flow in your lines like, “Instead a calm, nubivagant journey,” I’m ready to float through that one, thanks Denise!

  15. I love how you sought sparks of inspiration and fanned them into this blaze of a poem. Well done! I, like many others, was drawn to these lines: “Molten, melted and runny
    in all the right places.”
    Your word choice is spot-on throughout! (Now to get out my dictionary!)

  16. I love “Ars Poetica” and you’ve created such a rich spin on it! And I learned a new word: “nubivagant”! Who knew? 🙂

  17. Well, I was Googling left, right, and center with those words! But how lovely they landed on the page. Adore your closing line — “A poem should just be and let the heavens decide.” This spoke to me because I am teaching a poetry writing class this summer and I always say poems don’t like to be wrangled. You can gently guide them, but for the most part, just let them be. Thank you for sharing this and several resources I can’t wait to check out!

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