November PAD – Day 20

Today’s prompt asked for a “What I learned” poem. I suppose what I wrote is almost a found poem, discovered in dire tids and interesting bits on my morning email check and headline browse.

20.

The morning has barely broken, and already the internet enlightens me. Word of the day, ballooning, not blowing air and twisting latex into animal shapes,  but the work of a spider, when it throws out lines of gossamer, snags the breeze and sails on silk strands. Is there a name for the spot a spider lands? I try to invent one while I read more headlines: These popular toys could be putting your child in danger. Maybe the spot is called a cushion. Hate crimes in the United States have increased to a point not seen in recent history. Or the target. Charles Manson, murderous cult leader, dead at 83. Perhaps it’s just called safety. Impact of Arctic climate change being felt farther south, scientists say. It’s surely not Arcadia, but I’ll call it that anyway.

November PAD – Day 5

Five days in already! Time flies when you’re working words. Today’s prompt was to write a “self-destruct” poem. Hard not to go to the big picture of humanity place with the state of things, so I rolled with it.

5.

There are reasons to be hopeful. At this exact moment, a man in California is hearing his child laugh for the first time. Better, he’s the one making the child laugh. A woman is being pulled from the Mediterranean Sea, and will live. People are dancing in Helsinki. Imagination burns. Someone is inventing new ways to be or not to be at all. Lighting the slow burning match that sets off the self-destruct. The end of everything — except. Radioactivity subsides. Fauna revives. Flora grows. Winds blow. It lightens the heart, really, this universal resilience. Take a sip of tea. Dip your cookie. It all goes on just fine without us.

****

In other poetry news, I am so excited that my first ever haiga has been chosen as an honorable mention in the Second Annual Jane Reichhold Haiga Competition, photography category.  I took this photo at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village just outside Edmonton, Alberta. The poem didn’t come immediately, but I could tell those old gloves had a story or two. Please take a moment to read all the winning entries in this issue of Failed Haiku magazine, and see my haiga, as well as the judge’s comments below.

 

Comments from contest judge Linda Papanicolaou:

If senryu is about the human condition, old age can be an endless source of humor. This is a warm poem in the way it depicts an old man who retains the charisma of his younger days despite decrepitude. The image reinforces the poem nicely, illustrating line two with an image of boxing gloves. Its pale coloration evokes elderly skin while the empty space between the hanging gloves evokes missing teeth.”

Gratitude for public poetry – especially now

Something quite wonderful happened to me this summer. I was lucky enough to be one of four poets to have a poem featured on Edmonton transit as part of the Edmonton Poetry Festival’s Poetry Moves initiative. Knowing how many creative and talented writers there are in our community, I was surprised and flattered to be picked. Of course it’s great to have your work recognized, but the real reason I am excited to be part of Poetry Moves is because I believe so strongly in the value and need for poetry to be displayed in public places.

People are often skeptical of poetry because it can seem mysterious, elitist and even scary. How it scares and who it scares can differ.  Someone may dislike poetry because he or she has been made to feel, for a variety of reasons, that poetry is too intellectual or elusive. And then there are those who fear what poetry — and what all art — is capable of doing: inspiring hope. Public poetry is necessary both to welcome those who might not otherwise have access to poems, and to stick it to those who would rather not have poetry at all.

If you call yourself a poet, you’ve surely had the opportunity — I’d even say the pleasure — to defend poetry. Devoted as they may be to words, the poetry lover is still a  bit of a rare beast. So questions like, “What is the point of poetry?” or “Who really needs poetry?” or “Does poetry matter anymore?” do come up, even from fans of other forms of art and literature. A quick “poet quote” search provides countless examples of famous poets of the past, and not-so-famous-poets of the present, providing answers to these questions. Some of my favourites include:

“A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.” – Salman Rushdie

“Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness” – Alice Walker

and perhaps my very favourite:

“Poetry is an act of peace. Peace goes into the making of a poet as flour goes into the making of bread.” – Pablo Neruda

These quotes have been especially resonant for me lately. Never before in my lifetime has the world seemed more in need of awakening, activism and awe. I do believe, as I always have, that exposure to poetry — and all forms of art — is one of the surest ways to spark the brain, open the heart and move the soul. It’s the reason art is so often hated and feared by those who possess, or strive to achieve, absolute power. Art promotes understanding and connects us, and for those seeking to divide and conquer, nothing is more dangerous than empathy and unity.

Though I am Canadian, a recent news story has caused me to spend a lot of time thinking bout that gigantic American symbol, the Statue of Liberty. During a White House briefing, one of Trump’s senior advisers,  Stephen Miller, got into a heated exchange with a CNN reporter about the meaning and importance of the Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus” which is inscribed on Lady Liberty. Many of us are familiar with the poems famous lines welcoming the world’s “tired … poor … huddled masses yearning to breathe free” to American soil. It’s easy to see why such a poem would be so threatening to the current US administration. And I was thrilled to see The Guardian newspaper publish smart, heartfelt and sometimes funny responses from 21 current poets.

As I began to read more about this story, and the origin of the poem, it was unsurprising to learn that self-described “alt-right” members have been calling for the poem’s removal for years. And I couldn’t have been more tickled to know that one sonnet — one public poem — was so very threatening to white supremacists. This is an example of a very famous poem inscribed on a very prominent symbol, but the potential exists for any public poem — even the seemingly non-political — to move people to action, understanding and hope.

This is why I am so grateful for programs like the one the Edmonton Poetry Festival continues to support. For many people riding the buses or the LRT this summer, the Poetry Moves picks might be the only contemporary poem they read this year. It might even be the only poem by a local writer that they ever read. There might be a line or a word that sparks a memory, an emotion, a bit of imagination in a reader that then ignites a desire to consume or create more art. That is how a poem can keep us all from going to sleep. That is how poetry can be an act of peace.

PAD 2017 – Day 23

Part of the fun of the poem-a-day challenge has been trying out new forms. Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt called for a “double elevenie,” a form I’d never heard of before. I’m often drawn to the sparseness of micropoems, haiku & senryu, so I enjoyed trying to make something work within the form. I used the Writer’s Digest prompt of  writing a poem with a “Last ____” title as my starting point.

 

last call

 

boy

beer drinker

grimy dive joint

swallowing all his loneliness

again

 

girl

serving drinks

eyeing the boy

a bad idea, but

tempting

 

After my amazing day yesterday learning and writing with so many energetic poets at the Jane Munro workshop, I got to spend my evening listening to readings by current Edmonton Poet Laureate Pierrette Requier, Marilyn Dumont, and several great local poets who took part in the open-mic portion. Ms. Dumont is not just one of my favourite Alberta poets, she’s one of my favourite poets period. To see her read live is a huge treat, and she’ll be doing it again tonight with many other talented Indigenous writers as part of the final Edmonton Poetry Festival event, Beyond Reconciliation. Take a listen to her reading of “A Letter To Sir John A. McDonald” from her first book A Really Good Brown Girl.

But before that, local poets and poet fans get a chance to wrap-up the PoFest17 with the always delightful Cafe Readings. I’m so excited to be hosting one of the sessions at L’Espresso Cafe this year. If you’re in town, don’t let the snow win! Come downtown to take some poetry in!

PAD 2017 – Day 10

Travel was the theme of the Writer’s Digest prompt today. I clicked on that just after reading about another airline debacle, and another instance of physical force being used before reason or communication. I watched the video of a man being dragged from a flight, and listened to the outrage by some of the passengers. Yet, like people often do in these situations — like I would probably do in this kind of situation — people mostly sat by and watched. Interesting how we as humans are sometimes aggressive when we should be calm, and passive when we should take action.

Fly the Friendly Skies

 

Origins come up on planes.

Where are you from?

Are you flying home?

Stories offered, across

an armrest or an aisle.

A three-hour community,

at least for this leg.

The way we all lick pretzel salt

from our fingers, smile politely

at young parents wearing

twins on their bellies,

take our eyes off our books,

iPads or phones when the attendant

stands to talk about oxygen.

We breathe this air together,

recycled and flowing .

We stay sitting together,

when one of us is picked.

Dragged off before take-off.

 

The Alberta poem I thought of today manages to put a smart, political spin on the thrill of traveling to a place you’ve always dreamed of visiting. Check out Edmonton writer Ben Freeland’s “New Orleans is Clawing at My Bones.”

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.

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 21

Playing the mash-up game again with the NaPoWriMo prompt to write a poem in the voice of a minor character from a fairy tale or myth, and the Poetic Asides prompt to write a response to another poem. Tailor-made for fun! I chose to step into the skin of one of the “ugly stepsisters,” portrayed as villains in almost every version of Cinderella. I’m a fan of the “Revolting Rhymes” by Roald Dahl, but never much liked that his “Cinderella” was still the heroine, so I decided to spin that a bit with this:

The Real Gory Truth

Sister Number Two, indeed.

I have a name, it’s Dorothee

A family name, my grandma’s yet,

a clever and sweet, blue-eyed coquette.

While I didn’t inherit her pretty looks,

I’ve got the brains, read many great books.

Which is why I’m here to set things straight,

about heinous young Cindy, and our cruel fate.

My sister and I were not blessed of face,

but villainous? No, it’s just not the case.

It’s Cindy who excelled at malice,

conniving, convincing and always so callous.

My sister’s face was blistered and scarred,

when Cindy caught her quite off guard,

and threw hot ash upon her skin

said I’d be next if I told of the sin.

She trained her rats for nasty work,

into our rooms at night they’d lurk,

and bite us both from nose to toe,

then Cindy claimed we were the foes.

Wolfsbane she cooked into our stew.

We thought we had the deathly flu.

But it did not kill us as she planned

so Cindy devised a scheme so grand.

Involving the Prince, if you can believe,

he’s a handsome one, but quite naive.

Cindy arrived like light to the summer ball,

her choice in footwear had the Prince enthralled.

It was always the rumour, his fetish I guess,

and silly me spent so much time on my dress.

At midnight dashed Cindy, leaving her slipper behind,

whomever the owner, the Prince needed to find.

It was she he would marry, and worship those feet,

but those nasty trained rats helped our Cindy to cheat.

They switched up the shoe for my sister’s old sandal,

when the Prince made the fit it was too much to handle:

so repulsed was he by my sister’s maimed face,

that he dropped to the ground, writhing in place.

Cindy didn’t miss a beat, grabbed for his sword,

then whacked my poor sister right in the gourd,

Her head, it rolled, my heart nearly did stop,

but then Cindy took mine with one skillful chop.

When the Prince came to, Cindy shrieked and said,

“This royal brut struck my poor sisters dead!”

They locked up the Prince, for the good of the land,

and some stupid jam maker took Cindy’s cold hand.

They’re married, with a daughter, growing wicked as her,

she’ll be just like her mother, demon child for sure.

This whole tale I write from the other side,

that you believed her so long leaves me quite mystified.

Leave it to Cindy to beguile with her wiles,

but remember the beast behind her bright smile.

 

 

April 21 is also Poem In Your Pocket Day! Please share the love of verse in any way you can. The League of Canadian Poets has some great ideas here.