Poetry Friday – A Golden Shovel and da DUM, da DUMs

Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Carol Wilcox. Have you read Carol’s beautiful 30 days of poems about Raising Rooney? During April this year, Carol wrote a poem each day about the service dog she has raised from a puppy–starting with “Beginnings” to when she realized “I’ve Got Rooney All Over Me,” as she had to say goodbye. Each poem tells a story, helps us get to know the ins and outs of raising a service dog, and touched my heart as a reader. This collection will be a lovely gift to the person who is blessed to receive Rooney as their service dog.

Last week Ruth Hersey’s post was so bittersweet and beautiful. I’ve been thinking of it all week. It inspired me to notice the birds (and people) here in Bahrain all week long. Thank you, Ruth, for the inspiration. Using a Maya Angelou quote that has been on my mind, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”, I wrote a Golden Shovel poem:

Pigeons Well-Tended

we have birds here, like they do
in detroit and haiti and all over the
world. we know birds are best
in their wild brilliance and you
will do well to realize these birds can
exist in this blasted heat, up until
their feet melt into the pavement. you
can measure this desert against what you know,
thinking your birds are better,
but linger here, savoring their coos and vision. then
take your cue from the birds who know when
and how their next meal will come. Do you?
they don’t farm or collect salaries, but they know
their father in heaven better
than I often do.
rain of mercy, fall on us so we receive better

After I wrote a rambling “narrative” sestina, I wanted to try to learn more about meter, so I went to Bruce Lansky. He’s the king of da-DUM-da-DUMs, in my opinion, as he really knows how to write in that sing-song rhythm:

Confession
By Bruce Lansky
I have a brief confession
that I would like to make.
If I don’t get it off my chest
I’m sure my heart will break.
continued…

Many years ago, I would teach this lesson from Bruce Lansky–“New Version of Shel Silverstein’s ‘Sick'”–to junior highers. For a while during those years I understood meter much better, so this week I revisited this lesson. (Even though I had to go to the Way Back Machine archives to do so.)

I began to collect lists of words, seeing which syllable in the word is stressed. I’m not sure why I made these lists–perhaps looking for support, inspiration, patterns, or what-have-you. This week I’ve played a bit with using the words to make  equations, a menu of sorts, perusing the lists and thinking of better words. (e.g., da DUM da + DUM da + DUM da + DUM + da DUM = iambic pentameter.) Is that right? I have been playing with rhythm in my waking and sleeping. I’m not sure how successfully. Here is a sampler of couplet sizes I tried out this week.

Iambic dimeter (2 iambs)
Beyond all hope
Afraid to cope

Iambic trimeter (3 iambs)
The Light of God aglow
And Evil takes a blow

Iambic tetrameter (4 iambs) (Inspired by a real conversation I had with a student this week after we watched this video.)
We have a pup and no hedgehog,
but not no more; she’s now a dog.

Iambic pentameter (5 iambs) (Pigeons on my window sill)
Their cooing comes in waves of ease and whim
Alive and free, no cage can stop their hymn

Iambic hexameter (6 iambs)
I am alive in sweet embrace, a lovely scene
Of morning quiet during spring, so fresh, so clean

Iambic heptameter (7 iambs) (Two lines rewritten from my sestina)
We battle systems over people, country’s soul is near;
Our hope portrayed in Kamala brightens every dappled fear.

Do you have additional suggestions for writing iambs? I would welcome any advice!

Thoughts on Poetry Friday

This week I’ve been struck by all the small images, memories, and moments that inspire poetry for me and others. In “Supple Cord,” Naomi Shihab Nye remembered and shared this sweet childhood ritual linking her with her brother.

Supple Cord

My brother, in his small white bed,
held one end.
I tugged the other
to signal I was still awake.
continued

Margaret Simon is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup today. I have been inspired to write beside Margaret many times over  the past year. Inspired here by “Zen Tree” and here by “Peep Eye”, and so many times at Ethical ELA, like here and here for two. I will be going back to her “Today’s Poem” again for inspiration, the poem that “gazes beyond the trees imagining…”

Margaret‘s “This Photo Wants to Be a Poem” has been a fun challenge and further inspiration for me lately. On Wednesdays, Margaret posts a photo, and others write a small collection of poems about one image–each always unique, with rich imagery that goes deep into the photo. Each person interprets and sees something beautiful. This week the image was of a bird’s nest in the garden at Margaret’s school. I was impressed with her student, Kaia, who wrote a letter to the superintendent to get improvements made in the garden for next year. Thank you, Margaret, for encouraging Kaia’s voice! I don’t think there is much more important work teachers do than making space for children to recognize, develop, and use their voice.  (Of course, I do acknowledge that teaching history, civics, reading and critical thinking skills to know how to use that voice is vital, as well.) Here’s the poem I wrote copy-pasted here. It wasn’t about the bird nest photo, but about Kaia and Ms. Simon who assessed the garden after a long dormant Covid season.

Kaia’s voice

A voice can be
a power displayer
a truth conveyer
a path lighter
a garden inviter
a hardship remover
a world improver
Your voice can be

In addition, I wrote a sestina this week inspired by Liz’s post last Friday. Afterwards, I was searching for different poetry form generators. This one is the best I found for the sestina; it’s by Rena Mosteirin, which comes compete with the code. Here are two more good poetry form generators for Pantoum and Villanelle.

Speaking of generators: I ran across this interesting Poem Generator, so I gave it a try. It’s like writing a Mad Lib poem. The first time I wrote silly things with answers that came to me as soon as I saw the prompt, as they suggested. The second time I tried it with words that made me think of peace.  I actually thought the second one sounded like a bit poetic.

Rorschach Poem

creep home
know Houlihan’s to try sunny late afternoon
ceiling fan getting dark
an owl is deep wide

I would go home if I am without gasoline

somebody a cowboy
stalking you.

Peace in Knowing

whisper home
live for wide sky to sip sweet dawn
heavens shining
a dove is slow and deep

Bring peace if I need a hand

somebody helper
reaching you.

Here is an invitation for you to write poetry with the Ethical ELA community. On June 13 there will be an introductory meeting for anyone who wants to learn more, and an open mic/writing hour afterwards. Click on the images below for more information. June’s Ethical ELA Open Write will be June 19-23 this month.

Today’s Poetry Friday post is hosted by Margaret Simon over at Reflections on the Teche.

A Slice of Life While Creating a Sestina

Slice of Life on TwoWritingTeachers.org 1 June 2021

Have you ever written a sestina?

This weekend I wrote a tritina because of Liz Garton Scanlon’s Poetry Friday post. It was there she mentioned the sestina, as well.  I had heard of this 39-line French form with six stanzas, and the same six words rotating at the end of each stanza, but I didn’t have much confidence or interest in trying one myself. After trying a tritina, though, I thought I’d give it a go. I started a list of favorite words, trying to decide which six to use. I wrote hope, launch, and cry on my list.

Why cry? I thought. Because I need some sad words in my poem too, I answered myself.

Then I realized what an impossible task it would be to pick the right six words. I need a topic, I thought. So I started brainstorming: family, pandemic, food, vacation, etc.

Instead of continuing with my sestina drafting, though, I decided to go to bed. Before I slept, I sent a last-minute appeal text to my family WhatsApp group:

I woke up in the morning to these words, two from each family member. (Are these really favorite words?)

dappled
germinate
turpitude
exhume
zenith
rambunctious
bizarre
delicate
kindness
non-anxious

and my own:

hope
launch

With bizarre, turpitude and exhume, I figured I didn’t need any sad words, so I left cry off my list.

So now the challenge begins. First of all, I only need six words for my sestina, but I gave myself a bit of a buffer zone by asking for two words. I can choose from these twelve–the six I will use for my end lines, for they will be repeated seven times each. And the other six words I will try to fit in one time anywhere in the poem.

When I looked at these words, no subject jumped out. That’s for sure. So I went to read the newspaper,  actually The Washington Post, online version. When I read this opinion piece by Jonathan Capehart, “Kamala Harris Speaks the Truth About Race Unafraid,” I thought, Ah-ha. Here is my subject. Living overseas, I see all the -isms and -phobias that the U.S. has, plus some. The world has systemic injustice and inequity issues, and America is part of the world. I don’t understand how some people in the U.S. argue that America does not have a problem with racism (or any other -ism or -phobia) (e.g., one hundred years ago today) Do others want to immigrate to the U.S. because it’s perfect and their country isn’t? No, they can see the truth. But at least we say there is liberty and justice for all. With every generation, in every century we have to go “further up and further in” to a just nation, a union becoming more perfect. Speaking the truth–admitting, repenting, and repairing problems–is what makes America good.

I was thinking of these things when I drafted my first sestina:

Speak the Truth: A Sestina 

America: It is sunlight and a future, but dappled,
Still needing to exhume the tangled turpitude
Of isms: racism, sexism, anti-Semitism. The zenith
Of America will near as it produces its delicate
Song of the ages. It will usher in inclusive kindness
And bring forth a love song of rambunctious hope.

Over the past eight years I have met people of hope
In this country of invited workers sweetly dappled
From all over the globe. We’ve met many in kindness,
Sometimes coming from countries where the turpitude
Of governance makes their citizens retreat to this delicate
Pearl in the Gulf. For them, Bahrain is the zenith.

Thankful their career brought them to earn in this zenith,
They send money home to their families in hurting hope.
We’ve met people from 131 nations here in this delicate
Population of one-and-a-half million. The light is dappled
Across the land as people are launched from turpitude
And given a renewed promise to germinate kindness.

When people find that we are from America, kindness
Rises. “Tell us more.” Many long for the ultimate zenith
Of their immigration–to move to America. Moral turpitude
During the past few years, notwithstanding. They hope.
America the Beautiful is beautiful, even though dappled
With phobias–gay, trans, Asian, Islam. Speak the truth–delicate

Harsh, truth–not an attack on the U.S. We aren’t delicate.
America dares to weed out -isms and -phobias, choosing kindness.
Look at the color and fearlessness of the current dappled
Administration. America is not yet perfected to its zenith.
Let us not go back to when America was “great,”  but hope
That, in the future, we will continue to uproot turpitude.

All people are created equal, and it’s turpitude
That bizarrely distorts equality all over this delicate
Earth. No matter how great Bahrain is, people see more hope
Where a Black woman with Asian roots takes her power. Kindness
In America, land of the free; liberty and justice–the zenith.

It is hard, but America faces unafraid our history dappled

In non-anxious, bold turpitude; Yet, at times we choose kindness.
We battle to help the delicate soul of America reach her zenith. 
Hope like Kamala brightens the complexion of America dappled.

By Denise Krebs

Postscript: Poetry gives heart and soul to numbers and patterns. I love to puzzle words, syllables, and meter together to fit poetry forms. However, after being in this process for a while today, wrestling with the six words at the end of each line, I couldn’t also think about iambic pentameter. I can’t even manage consistent meter in a short poem. After counting the syllables in the first few lines, I stopped! I’m publishing this draft without worry of iambs and meter. At least for now. I’ve learned that sestinas are a challenge!

Here is a Sestina generator to help you make a template with the word order for each stanza. I discovered it after I made mine.

If you’ve written a sestina, please share a link in the comments. I’d love to read it.

A Tritina

I learned about a tritina poetry form on Friday from Liz Garton Scanlon’s Poetry Friday post. I tried it on this last day of May for my final #MayPoems.

Bread Fed Us

Satisfied with warm bread
Baked freshly we are fed
Nourishes and keeps us

Second manna for us
God’s Word, the daily bread
With Good News we are fed

How many folks are fed?
Blessed feast for all of us
Spread fish and loaves of bread

Bread of Life has fed us

An Ovillejo Poem About the Pandemic

Today I wrote an Ovillejo poem about the pandemic, as our numbers here is Bahrain are skyrocketing and strict new bans and lockdowns began this weekend.

Case numbers have escalated
Hope deflated
Businesses and malls are all closed
So exposed
Vaccination sites ramping up
Don’t let up
Immunity rate speeding up
Battling new variants, a quest
From the hands of cold death to wrest
Hope deflated, so exposed. Don’t let up!