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.

Carrying Home and #MayPoems for Poetry Friday

Things We Carry on the Sea
By Wang Ping

We carry tears in our eyes: good-bye father, good-bye mother
We carry soil in small bags: may home never fade in our hearts
We carry names, stories, memories of our villages, fields, boats
We carry scars from proxy wars of greed
continue…

I have never had to carry things as heavy as Ping describes here, things which refugees throughout history and today have to bear. This poem is heartbreaking and inspires empathy, and hopefully it will inspire me to take action. Please read the rest of her words, along with a lesson plan to teach it, at Poets.org: Teach This Poem: “Things We Carry on the Sea”.

We will be carrying some things home when we leave Bahrain, but chances are good because of our privilege we will fly in a jet across the ocean with a few suitcases of our special possessions to bring home. My May Poem for today is about my present and future homes inspired by Michelle Kogan. I love the words she creates and chooses, as she did on this post (rose-tipped and gypsy-stemmed), this post (cone-wove and beak-fluff), this post (ginger-spice-edged) and this comment (flicker-orange and tee-root). And on today’s post (poppiness and banana boats and strawberry spice). Such sweet words!

Because of Michelle, I wanted to try words with hyphens and also paint my own picture for today. I drew and painted a Kingdom of Bahrain door leading to my “magical” place inspired by the guided imagery on this episode of Art Date with Miss Kate.

When drawing with Kate, I thought of our home in Joshua Tree, California, where we will hopefully move at the end of 2021. Here is my painting and related poem. (I’m not sure if mine is considered an ekphrastic poem because I didn’t really describe the painting, but it surely inspired my words.)

Into the Door

The here-to-there Door
Where we will say our
Teary-faced, hug-full
Ma Salama مع السلامه
To two-Waters warmth,
Our hospitable Haven,
Uncovering our
Marhaba مرحبا
To sweet-hope Home
Wide open to where
Whispers-from-God Joshuas
Point to Life-drenched Promise

I decided on May 1 to write some #MayPoems, not knowing if I would do it for three days or further into the month. Well, so far I have written and posted each day in May with a different prompt, inspiration, or a response to some treasure I found while reading or observing. This Poetry Friday community has encouraged me and provided nourishment as you have read and commented on some of my May Poems. Thank you.

Here are each day’s posts in one index:

Today’s Poetry Friday roundup is hosted by Michelle Kogan at her blog. Happy birthday and thank you, Michelle!

Desert scene in California with Joshua trees
Our backyard