Wordy news and stuff

Happy Canada Day to all my fellow Canucks! It was (is) a beautiful one in my neck of the woods.

July 1 also marks announcement time for the CV2 2-Day poetry contest, and I was excited and surprised to find out that my poem, “Medusa Rides the Greyhound,” nabbed a third place finish. It was the first time I’ve ever used the word “furuncle” in a piece of writing, and probably the last. I believe the winning poems will be posted online sometime next week, as well as the nominees for People’s Choice, so if you have a minute you should check it out and vote.

I’m also excited because I get to go to camp tomorrow, and I don’t even need to bring insect repellent…just a pen and paper. It’s the second year that the JustWrite camp has been held in Edmonton, and I’m heading back for my second year too, thanks to some generous funding from Strathcona County Arts & Culture. The camp is a great opportunity to work with knowledgeable instructors and energetic new writers in an intimate and creative space. Plus the food is really good! Yay to writing and eating!

Lastly, I was very lucky to spot an announcement by Ottawa poet Amanda Earl offering to read and critique the work of new women poets. I sent her five of my poems — two oldies that have been revised umpteen times and still weren’t working, and three new ones that I wanted some feedback on. She is an experienced poet who runs her own press, so I knew any comments would be helpful. However, I was completely impressed by the attention she gave to the poems, and just how thorough and insightful her comments were. The lady knows her stuff, and I think she’s still accepting people to take advantage of her FREE and excellent service. Details here.

Happy summer, peeps. Bring on the fireworks!!

Poem: Out of the Quagmire

All week I wanted to stop listening to, reading about and watching coverage of the horrific Orlando shooting, but like many people, I am transfixed by these now too-familiar stories, always looking for the why. Then I heard this woman talking on As It Happens about the discovery of a massive hunk of butter preserved for millennia in the Irish bog. It was a fascinating story, and I couldn’t help but imagine how our world might be different if we gave up all our assault rifles to the earth.

 

Out of the Quagmire

 

The Irish woman on the radio relives the moment

she touched a 2000-year-old,

22-pound hunk of odorous bog butter.

An offering to the Gods to protect

a man’s family, his fields, his livestock,

now here again in mortal hands.

A wish kept whole in the earth.

 

I’ve seen photos of bodies, pulled from the same peat,

their bronzed skin stretched across sharp cheekbones,

leather men and women with red, acid-stained hair.

Ropes around the neck, holes in the skull,

even ancient corpses tell how

but rarely the why.

 

Weapons too, preserved by the bog —

hammers, swords, spears, shields.

Iron-age artillery. Basic.

Not high capacity, quick-reload,

reliable, user-friendly, efficient.

Not marketable, profitable, stock shares soaring

before the dead have been named.

 

The Irish woman talks about what the bog can sustain,

but what will it grant? Prayers or amnesty?

Is there room enough for so many mistakes?

If we offered, would it keep our rifles

for another thousand years?

Until some future human’s hands

might pull them from the quagmire,

and note how primitive. How uncivilized.

How simple they were

to think love

could be so easily silenced.

They

I’m taking part in the flash fiction challenge over at Terrible Minds to write a “Knock Knock, Who’s There?” piece. Half-cheating with this, as I had the opening few lines written before Christmas and didn’t know where to go. Still not sure where to take it if I were to make it longer, but sometimes I like ambiguity in a small package.

 

They

               They had the package delivered to the home of Pastor Ben Merrit, at 6:15 p.m. on December 24th, minutes before the pastor and his family would leave for service.

There was a knock on the door and the good pastor answered.  No one was there, but on the step sat a small, red box, and a white tag that said “Peace.” He flipped it over and read: “To Pastor Merritt & Family. Love, The Devoted.”

They had no real understanding of love. But They did observe how that particular human emotion seemed to spread at Christmas.

“Who’s it from, hon?” his wife asked.

“Not sure,” said Ben. He opened the box to find a metal cylinder with three holes. “Not sure what it is either.”

As he held it up, a puff of green mist floated up his nose.

“What …?” he said, and instantly felt a warm tingle in his face, spreading through his head. Then he heard a voice, speaking from within.

“Greetings, Ben. We are one with you now. Embrace your beloved so we may grow.”

“Ben? Are you alright,” his wife asked.

“It’s the angels! Angels!”

He hugged his wife tight, his breath seeping out his mouth and up her nose.

“I feel them! It’s glorious!” she said. “Kids, come!”

Joe, the eldest, was the last to join the embrace. He’d never been a true believer, and when the voice inside spoke, he shrieked, “It’s not angels. It’s something…else.”

But it was a lost warning. They had already begun.

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y NIGHT!

I hope that title put Bay City Rollers in your head, because, fun! Speaking of fun, if you’re in the Edmonton area tomorrow night, why not come down to Robertson-Wesley United Church (10209 123 Street) at 7:30 p.m. for Five New Alberta Voices,  featuring wrap-up readings by the apprentices of the 2016 Writers’ Guild of Alberta Mentorship Program. I am so fortunate to be one of those apprentices, and excited to share a few of the poems I’ve been working on over the past few months with my stellar mentor, Sue Sinclair. But if poetry’s not your thing, don’t despair. The evening will also feature wonderful readings by fiction and non-fiction writers Bruce Cinnamon, Shannon Cleary, Susan Carpenter, and Katherine Koller. Plus, wine and cheese! For details, click the Facebook event here. Love to see you there!

 

PAD Challenge – Day 30

The End. Finito. The Final Day. I feel both relieved and rueful that today marks the end of the April poem-a-day challenge. It’s been fun, frustrating and enlightening, as so many of the prompts I’ve followed have allowed me to try new things. And I hope it’s not the end for some of the poems I’ve written. From revision comes afterlife.

For today’s poem, I took the “dead end” prompt at Poetic Asides and combined it with This Is Not A Literary Journal’s suggestion to write a poem to a place you’ve never been.

 

Addressing the Road

 

The mystery is too inviting,

so we choose you, trackless road

with your shadowy mouth,

and moss-coated branches

that crook and join

their sisters on the other side.

And we do hear the crows calling

deadend deadend deadend, but

crafty as they are, what do they

know about adventure?

It’s a gamble, we know, but

we’ll take our chances, road.

We’ll know when

we’ve found the place.

We’ll hear it in the swish of leaves,

whispering, where you end

is where you start.

 

The NaPoWriMo site has been celebrating poets in translation all month long. It’s been wonderful discovering the work of poets who write from a voice and experience outside the North American one I’m so often exposed to. And it’s been a great reminder that the best poets create images that are universal. Because it’s “the end” of the PAD journey for this year, I was reminded of this stellar poem “After a Death” by Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer.

And a final note: to anyone who’s read even one of my posts this month, thank you so very much. I’ve been writing all month to stretch my own poetic muscles, and posting to keep myself on track, but to know there are readers out there who’ve joined me in the experiment is extra sweet icing on the cake.

PAD Challenge – Day 29

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt asked for an “I remember” poem, in the vein of poet and artist Joe Brainard’s book-length poetic memoir I Remember. This Is Not A Literary Journal asked for another “word salad” prompt incorporating a list of random words. I decided to write a memory sentence for each word, to see if any theme emerged. I had twelve meandering memories, that I then pared down to this, using the words pocket, weep and lump from the list. I don’t think it’s complete yet, but it was an interesting exercise. I might even be able to grow other poems out of the discarded memories.

I Remember

 

The brushed velvet softness

of the crumpled tissues

my Mom pulled from her coat pocket.

 

Once, I watched her weep without a sound,

after the call about the suicide, and wondered

how the deepest pains could be the quietest.

 

Later that year, visiting my uncle’s farm,

I poked a lump of hard dirt with a stick,

and stood rapt as dozens of sow bugs

erupted from its core.

PAD Challenge – Day 28

The end of the poem-a-day challenge is near, and I realize I’ve been avoiding the “form” prompts all month. So today I decided to give it a go, combining the tritina challenge at This Is Not A Literary Journal with the Poetic Asides suggestion to write an “Important ______ ” poem. Got a little sappy with this one, as is often the case in my first drafts, but in the spirit of the PAD challenge, I’m posting it anyway.

 

Important Moments in History

 

Starting small in a city so big,

bachelor suite, in a muddle of buildings that blocked the sun.

My hand-carved table and your vintage Pepsi cooler, sharing the room.

 

From the dirty window of the hospital room,

you looked for proof of something this big.

A photo of the rising sun.

 

We bulged like the sun,

finding ways to make a little more room.

The space a child fills is infinitely big.

 

This house isn’t big, but there’s sun in every room.

 

 

Today’s emphasis on what’s important reminded me of the wonderful, tongue-in-cheek poem, simply titled “Poetry” by Marianne Moore.

PAD Challenge – Day 27

Going for a prompt combo again with the Poetic Asides suggestion to write a “take off” poem, and the NaPoWriMo site’s advice to experiment with long-lined poems. I am currently part of a mentorship program with the Writer’s Guild of Alberta, and my skilled and wise mentor Sue Sinclair has been encouraging me to play with longer lines too — both in new poems, and during the revision process with older poems — just to see how things might change or improve. It’s so interesting to see how a poem’s meaning and impact can change depending on the line lengths and breaks.

 

Taking Off

 

She ran faster than I knew she could, her giggles growing louder

with every footfall, unconcerned or maybe spurned on

by my shouts to Stop! Please sweetie, stop!   A game.

Discovering her legs and going, the way only kids can go,

loose-limbed and barreling ahead, wearing joy like a helmet,

outpacing my longer, stronger strides, and my terror as she

veered off the sidewalk and into the road, oblivious to harm.

Blessed with sun, and no traffic, that summer afternoon — she ran

clear to the other side, then stopped. Beaming, as she called back

I won, Mommy! I won!

 

The “take off” prompt reminded me of a famous Canadian poem, “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, which is now used as the official poem of the Royal Canadian Air Force.  Whether or not we’re pilots, I think all of us have dreamed of slipping “the surly bonds of Earth”.

 

PAD Challenge – Day 26

It’s often said that every poem is a love poem. I think there’s a lot of truth to this, probably because the word “love” encompasses so much. Today’s Poetic Asides prompt asked for a love or anti-love poem. The first thing that came to my mind was this (overly) sentimental memory of my first daughter’s birth.

A Photo I Wish I Had

 

My husband’s profile, the strong jaw

as he held my hand,

held me to the moment,

of our daughter’s reluctant arrival

into our brighter world.

 

 

To me, the best love poems are nuanced with the bittersweet. I think the poem “Adolescence” by P.K. Page captures new love and innocence so well, and the shift to a more mature love, which is usually less than perfect.

 

PAD Challenge – Day 25

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt suggested taking a line from someone else’s poem to use as a starting point for your own. What an interesting exercise! So naturally I decided to combine it with the Poetic Asides prompt to write an “exercise” poem. ** The opening line comes from “A Hand”  by Jane Hirshfield.

Hand Exercises 

 

A hand is not the thick thatch of its lines

with their infinite dramas,**

or the hardness, length or polish of its nails.

 

A hand is not defined by everything it’s touched,

or everything it’s wished to.

 

A hand is a tool, for work fine or heavy,

and that it feels makes the work

possible, wonderful or unbearable.

 

And it shouldn’t take practice,

yet it does

to reach it out, offer it up,

to lift, pull, hold,

let the purpose in the fingers

overrule the jaded brain

when it chides:

you alone can’t make a difference.