Into the Dark, December 15

Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.

This week in Creative Writing class, students have been presenting poetic forms of their choice, and we’ve been exploring writing in each one. I particularly love working with poetic forms and ideas that fracture meaning by re-arranging words, like in Billy Collins’s joke form, the Paradelle, which uses two repeated lines, and then re-mixes the words in those lines. Abstract poetry, too, often makes use of fractured and oddly mixed words to create a sense of meaning that transcends the direct line of thought. As intentionally goofy as Collins’s form is, it does something sort of exciting to the brain to shift words around and break up their linear meaning.

Habits and rhythms can become ruts. When I have my winter blinders on, trudging through the muck of dark and cold just to get through it, I find that the linear tracks I am making sometimes become deep and worn ruts, making it hard to find meanings in the days and moments other than the ones that make the direct and prosy sentences of my days. I need to rearrange things on the pages of my days, step out of the worn tracks, break the sense of the sentences, shift the meanings. Add a new thing today, even if it’s a new stretch in my yoga routine. Drop another habit, perhaps the quick check of email or FB when I get home from being away.

Here is an attempt at a Paradelle. I’m not sure if it works to put serious thought into a joke form, but it feels satisfying to use the fracturing of the the form to break up the mental trudge:

Walking through the haze of winter days.
Walking through the haze of winter days.
My feet step in the same weary tracks.
My feet step in the same weary tracks.
Through the step of haze, the weary feet,
my winter tracks in same walking days.

I’ve worn a rut both long and deep.
I’ve worn a rut both long and deep.
Confined myself to pooling shadows.
Confined myself to pooling shadows.
To a rut I’ve both shadows confined,
pooling deep both worn and long myself.

And made myself a hidden prison.
And made myself a hidden prison.
Of raw endurance and force of habit. 
Of raw endurance and force of habit.
Force. Prison. Endurance: myself of raw,
and made of hidden and a habit.

Winter and a force of  endurance,
walking in a haze, same feet, shadows:
the raw and hidden habit, long and confined,
both to step through the weary prison rut
worn tracks of my pooling deep, 
I’ve made days of myself. Myself.

Gratitude List:
1. Long, deep mornings to write
2. Tree-shadows against the sky
3. Hunger that wakes me up
4. The way my students react with a natural aversion to injustice in literature.
5. Twinkling lights

May we walk in Beauty!

“How does a woman know? She listens. She listens in. Like light on waves.” —Margaret Atwood

“Every moment is a gift of life.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

“Only a fool knows everything.” —African proverb

“Note to self: If you want to have loving feelings, do loving things.” —Anne Lamott

Taking the Measure

imag2382November hosta

Tomorrow, in mid-afternoon, we are invited to join the Water Protectors at Standing Rock to pray and meditate. I will pray for their safety, for the success of their cause. I will pray with thanksgiving for the work that they have done and are doing, in gratitude for their fearlessness and resolve. I will pray for the continuation of the movement. I will pray that the hearts of those who must hear will be softened, and that the people who have the power to protect them and their lands and waters will have the courage and wisdom to do the right thing.  Join me?

Today’s Poetry Prompt is to write a tape poem.

Taking the Measure
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Along the top of the green shelf my father made when we moved here,
I’ve lined the three jars of herbs the demolition crew found in the wall
of my grandmother’s house, a rambling old Victorian taken down
the month after we bought this place in the hills west of the River.

My great-grandmother’s butter paddle, an ancient pair of reading glasses,
an onyx vase from India full of goose feathers from the pond
near my parents’ house where the children like to look for baby swans,
and a tall, thin ebony carving of a Maasai warrior in a beaded skirt.

Coiling around and through them all, like a frayed yellow snake,
my mother’s mother’s tape measure, which used to wrap around a waist
or along a length of hem to perfect her stitching and mending,
now takes the measure of the memories I’ve collected.

Gratitude List:
1. Senses. Color, hue, and texture–in sight and sound and smell, in taste and touch. How being human is a constant exploration of the complexity of senses. The more I pay attention to color, the more color I see. The more I notice scent and aroma, the more fully I am able to distinguish the subtle shifts and changes in the smells around me. The more carefully I listen, the more easily I can begin to sense changes in the temperature and color of sound. I love this business of being in a body.
2. All those handsome and thoughtful raptor youngsters standing sentinel on posts and poles along the highway today.
3. Crowdsourcing. Whether it’s where to buy local goat meat, how to handle the post-Downton Abbey blues, what poem to read to my classes, or what to do about a flagging Prius battery, I’ve gotten very helpful advice from my friends on social media. We saved ourselves from making a potentially very expensive bad choice by researching the Prius battery situation with friends on Facebook.
4. Sam at Sams Auto. We sent him a Facebook message the night before Thanksgiving, and he responded in five minutes. He is a real expert on the Prius, and perhaps a little obsessed. We are in good hands, and we should finally have our car home a driveable by Tuesday.
5. Reason. Clear logic. But also emotional intelligence. Heart logic. Gut reasoning. Intuitive intelligence. Wise instinct.

May we walk in Beauty!

Trying to Break the Sense

My assignment for myself was to try to break the sense, break the sentence.  I was going to use the half-hour sessions of writing during the last three days to create fodder for this poem.  I stumbled a bit on that, and I never really broke out of the sentence.  But I have a little something interesting, I think.

Green is the toad word the
song of the morning the
hush of  a wee slamander
crouching beneath stars

I would be indigo
arcing through waterfall
I would be waterfall
dripping and gushing
I wonder when singing
reflects the rainbow
or whether my wandering greenness
displays a museum of dreams

Now that’s the brown metaphor
I was hunting
the hitching of zing to aha
There we go
Here we go
Falling beneath the wheel of the moment

And here’s a sunbeam
or off to the races we dance
but the moonlight is ticklish
and you’ve been in tangles
so when do we settle
like spiders in corners
to ponder the morning?


Gratitude List:
1.  “I love my snow day!” says Joss.  I concur.  Making snow people and eating snow and sledding.
2.  The beautiful necklace Ellis made for himself.  Focused work for hours.  And no self-consciousness about what is “gender appropriate.”
3.  That scrappy little wren who is threatening to make a nest in my garage.
4.  Finding the inner discipline to plan out my extremely busy week.  Planning ahead has actually become something that I have a great deal of resistance to, inwardly.  Pushing through whatever that is makes me feel like I have really accomplished something.
5.  Making the pizza myself, crust and all.  Why don’t we do that more often?

May we walk in beauty.

2013 March 149

Poetry Prompt: Breaking the Sentence, Breaking the Sense

I used to write Morning Pages.  Religiously.  I think I wrote for an hour every morning, fast and without pondering.  Julia Cameron said it would help me learn to know my inner artist, and so I did it.  That was about fifteen years ago, and I was writing many poems during that year and finding richness in the writing.  Ask me why I stopped and I can fire off a dozen excuses, some of them actually sort of reasonable.

Just a few weeks ago, at a writers’ retreat in York, John Terlazzo asked us do a similar process in response to several writing prompts, and then encouraged us to pick it up as a daily practice.  And so I have taken up the practice again.

Yesterday, this came out on the page as I was writing: “The idea is that I am trying to break up the sentence, to pull back that veil of sense that covers my brain.  To let myself go.”  One of my favorite ways to write poetry is to string apparently unrelated images together, collage-style, until a unified and profound whole emerges.  I have been wanting to take this process a step further and string words and sounds together in a similar way.  I’m not quite ready for my shoo-be-do-be-doo poem.  And I found that even breaking the sentence was challenging for me.  I’m still stringing images together.  But I’m getting there.  And I want to take it further.

Then this lovely quotation visited my Facebook Feed yesterday.  I agree with many of the people who responded when I posted it (find that conversation here) that many scientists and mathematicians value poetic language to describe the world they explore.  But the basic idea, of the poet approaching truth through paradox–that grabs me:

“It is the scientist whose truth requires a language purged of every trace of paradox; apparently the truth which the poet utters can be approached only in terms of paradox.

“T. S. Eliot said that in poetry there is ‘a perpetual slight alteration of language, words perpetually juxtaposed in new and sudden combinations.’ It is perpetual; it cannot be kept out of the poem; it can only be directed and controlled.

“The tendency of science is necessarily to stabilize terms, to freeze them into strict denotations; the poet’s tendency is by contrast disruptive. The terms are continually modifying each other, and thus violating their dictionary meanings.”

—Cleanth Brooks, “The Language of Paradox”

This will be my homework for myself in the next few days, for Monday’s poem:

Poetry Prompt:
To write without stopping for half an hour each day for the next three days, ignoring sentence sense, trying to bring myself into a patter-spatter of images and words.  To break the sentence, to step behind the veil of sense.  Then, sometime on Monday, to glean a poem from among those writings.  Will you join me?


Groundhog skull an Goddess Potato:2013 March 098