I appreciate the beautiful photos Margaret shares–sometimes her own and something from friends with beautiful Instagram accounts to follow. I had never noticed elderflowers before, even though I grew up in southern California, where I read that they grow. Margaret’s poem taught about the medicinal value of the elderflower. I went to do a little more research on these beautiful flowers. I learned that Meghan and Harry had a lemon and elderflower wedding cake. I tried a dodoitsu, which is a four-line poem, no meter or rhyme constraints, with a syllable count of 7-7-7-5, and the poem can be about love or work with a comical twist. (Oops, I hope you don’t think my last line is funny.)
Elderflowers like snowflakes
What will each bud grow to be?
Spirits for a new pastry?
Stem to grace a grave.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Peace in Knowing
live for wide sky to sip sweet dawn
a dove is slow and deep
Bring peace if I need a hand
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.
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?)
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.
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
Businesses and malls are all closed
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!
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
Ma Salama مع السلامه
To two-Waters warmth,
Our hospitable Haven,
To sweet-hope Home
Wide open to where
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.