It’s been a dry month for poems that are Poetry Friday material. My challenge poems for the Poetry Sisters and for the Inklings are drafted and I am filling a project folder with poems that…well, you’ll have to wait and see! Luckily, I have the well of Laura Shovan’s February Poetry Project in which to dip, and look what I found! In lieu of a traditional Irish blessing, I wish you all the books you can read and all the time you need to read them and the joy of getting lost in the story as you cross its bridge.
In other news, I still haven’t nailed down my National Poetry Month project, but three poems from last year’s project were published in The Be-Zine! Click on the “Introduction & Table of Contents” button and scroll down to find the link to my poems. While you’re there, check out the poems from Michelle Kogan, Heidi Mordhorst, and Laura Shovan, too!
Laura Purdie Salas has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup. She HAS nailed down her National Poetry Month Project, and I’m tempted to join in! She also uses the word doohickey in her post, which makes me love her even more!!
Remember that time when you had your poem ready to go weeks ahead of time, but when you got ready to post, you double-checked the definition of “anaphora” and realized that your poem was an excellent example of repetition, but not at all a poem demonstrating anaphora? Yeah, me too.
What can you do except create a flash draft definito to clarify in your mind the difference between repetition and anaphora?!?
Margaret gave the Inklings our challenge this month. Here’s how the rest of the crew wrote using anaphora:
Outside the Dayton Art Institute stands “Pathway,” by John Safer, always reaching skyward with energy and beauty, and looking different in every season and from every angle. It draws the eye up and the mind in.
Here is a closeup I took on one visit last year:
The lower part seems to blur the sharp architecture of the building, while the upper part seems almost transparent. Here’s where that combination took my imagination:
Fitting for the Poetry Sisters’ yearlong theme of transformation, this poem commemorates the twenty-fifth anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis/surgery/chemo/radiation year.
Next month, the Poetry Sisters are writing etherees. This ten-line form begins with a single syllable, and each line expands by one syllable until the tenth line has ten. We’re continuing with our 2023 theme of transformation, but how you interpret that topically is up to you.
My prompt for Laura Shovan’s 11th Annual February Poem Project was to “search your memory archives for a smell, and then tell the story that smell evokes.”
No, I didn’t write about the smell of coffee (but just looking at those beans can you just about smell and taste it?). Alas, I couldn’t find a picture in my files of The Little Building — a green metal garden shed with a white rollup door. But I could definitely remember its smell.
When my friend from undergraduate honors English sent this book to me for my birthday, she gave me the out to trade it in for something I really wanted to read. I found out later that it was one of those gifts that you give someone because it’s what YOU want. I assumed she also had a copy and that we’d be reading it together to revisit our freshman year of college. Nope. I was on my own and I decided to go for it.
It’s a hefty volume with an extensive introduction and translator’s note, but when I looked at the table of contents and saw that it contains 24 “books” (or chapters) it occurred to me that I could “eat this elephant one bite at a time.” I divided the introduction/translator’s note into seven chunks and over the course of January, I reread this classic!
If you’ve never read THE ODYSSEY, I highly recommend this translation. The introduction itself is an education (or re-education if it’s been decades since your first read). Wilson prepared me so well for the ins and outs of each of the books that I did not need to skip to the endnotes as I read to clarify the action. (The endnotes contain a one-paragraph summary of each book, along with some clarifying information about characters, lineage, word definitions, and puns woven into the Greek that she attempted to replicate in her translation.)
In the translator’s note, Wilson elaborates on what makes her version different from others. She states, “THE ODYSSEY is a poem, and it needs to have a predictable and distinctive rhythm that can be easily heard when the text is read aloud.” She goes on, “I used iambic pentameter, because it is the conventional meter for regular English narrative verse…”
“Homer’s music is quite different from mine, but my translation sings to its own regular and distinctive beat.”
p.82 THE ODYSSEY by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson
In the translator’s note she also talks about word choice, length (hers has exactly the same number of lines as the original), staying true to the “Homeric style,” dealing with Homer’s repeated epithets, what it means to be a woman translating “a poem that is deeply invested in female fidelity and male dominance,” and her treatment of slavery and sexism…among other things. She states
“Throughout my work on this translation, I have thought hard about my different responsibilities: to the original text; to my readers; to the need to make sense; to the urge to question everything; to fiction, myth, and truth; to the demands of rhythm and the rumble of sound; to the feet that need to step in five carefully trotting paces, and the story that needs to canter on its way. I have been aware, constantly, of gaps and impossibilities in providing escort to Homer from archaic Greece to the contemporary anglophone world, as I have woven, unwoven, and woven up again the fabric of this complex web.”
p.90 THE ODYSSEY by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson
Doesn’t she make you want to read her version? Go for it. Savor it a bit at a time over the course of a month. It will stay with you forever.
…a time when you felt so consumed with the act of making something that you lost all sense of time, and your mind seemed to clear? What allowed you to enter this mindful creative space?
I wrote a draft about embroidery (no surprise), which makes a fine companion to Catherine’s knitting poem. But I also lose myself when I’m baking, especially when I knead the dough. The recipe I use for white bread is my paternal grandmother’s, and I feel a visceral connection to her and all my other bread-baking ancestors when I’m kneading.
Here’s how the rest of the crew met Catherine’s challenge:
This month, the Poetry Sisters wrote Cascade poems that perhaps address our year-long theme of “Transformation.” The form is cookie-cutter easy, but evocative-images hard. I wrote plenty of the first kind before I found the first stanza of this draft in my notebook jottings on January 2.
Last week, I took part in the @textileartsite (textileartist.org) #StitchCamp. I learned to use paint on fabric, cut apart and recombine bits of painted fabric, and add all kinds of stitching to blend the pieces into a unified whole.
Then, on the day when the final video dropped, I lost interest. I finally had a big block of time and I wanted nothing more than to dig into the servicing of my (formerly my mom’s) Singer Featherweight sewing machine.
At first, I was hard on myself for not finishing what I’d started. But then I reminded myself that #StitchCamp was not the boss of me. In fact, as the week progressed, I had realized that #StitchCamp was actually a very slick marketing tool to get me to sign up for #StitchClub. For the low-low price of $38/month I could learn from fabric artists around the world! And yes, I was tempted. But “Look what you can create in just 30 minutes a day for a week! Imagine the amazing artist you will become if you take our classes!” gradually morphed in my mind into “You’re going to PAY someone else to steal time away from the projects YOU choose to do? Are you NUTS?”
Needless to say, I’m not signing up for #StitchClub. I’m going to follow my own path of learning, most of which won’t cost me a dime. I’ve got a quilt to make and another to repair. There’s a jean jacket yoke to finish embroidering and hoop that’s a playground when I just need to drop some random stitches or some beads and sequins. And yes, I’m going to finish the scrap I made in #StitchClub and use it to embellish a canvas bag that I’ll donate to the Casting for Recovery Ohio online auction in March. Stay tuned for the final product and information about bidding!
These lessons about choice are ones I’ve already internalized as a writer, and which I whole-heartedly embraced when I was a teacher of writers. It’s interesting to me that when I switched my media from words to stitches, I had to learn about the power of choice all over again.
My work so far as the Kids Club Reading Specialist has been very peripheral, very fragmented. I’m at each site weekly, and I’ve met with students one-on-one or in small groups every other week…if we’re lucky and their parents don’t pick them up in the middle of a lesson or before we even get started.
I’m not complaining, but I AM looking forward to next week when schools are closed for two days following Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for a Professional Development Day and a Records Day. On Tuesday and Wednesday, 24 students will participate in all-day Kids Club, and I’ll have the opportunity to work with them as a whole group!
Tuesday will be Fairy Tale Day. We’ll start with TELLING STORIES WRONG by Gianni Rodari. This is the story of a grandfather who just can’t seem to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood the way it’s supposed to be told. Clever readers will be able to figure out why. This book doesn’t rhyme, but it will lead us to others that do.
Next up, I’ll have some of the older students prepped to perform a poem from VERY SHORT FAIRY TALES TO READ TOGETHER by Mary Ann Hobermann. Then I’ll invite pairs of students to practice and perform a poem from one of the You Read To Me, I’ll Read To You books.
Finally, in the upcoming weeks when we’re back to the regular schedule, my read aloud with small groups and individuals will be…
…ENDLESSLY EVER AFTER: PICK YOUR PATH THE COUNTLESS FAIRY TALE ENDINGS by Laurel Snyder. This rhyming picture book is a tour de force of planning. I literally have no idea how she must have plotted this book so that the reader has SO many different paths to follow! And in RHYME, no less! I love that not all of the endings are happy and not all of the paths are long. Plus, Dan Santat’s illustrations are tons of fun! I can’t wait to explore this book with readers of all ages and see what they think. I’m not sure we’ll get much past read aloud in those sessions…and that’s just FINE!
And here’s the lowdown on the Poetry Sisters’ January Challenge: We chose the word TRANSFORMATION to guide our work throughout the year, and for January, we’re writing a CASCADE poem. The Cascade form takes every line from the first stanza of your poem and TRANSFORMS those lines into the final lines of each stanza thereafter. (The link helpfully creates a little form that shows you how easy this might be.) Beyond that, there are no additional rules. Long or short, free verse, sonnet, or sestina, find a way in which you can incorporate the idea (or word) transformation as you write. We’ll post our poems on the last Friday of the month (1/27/23). I hope you’ll join us!