A #PoemPair for Poetry Friday

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake
by Tiya Miles
Random House, 2021

FIRST THE BOOK
The embroidery on the cover caught my eye and the title pulled me in to read the jacket blurb. There I absorbed the lines that Ruth Middleton embroidered on a cotton sack that her great grandmother Rose filled with simple yet precious items to give to her daughter Ashley, Ruth’s grandmother, before Ashley was sold away at the age of nine from her mother to another slave owner.

“My great grandmother Rose
mother of Ashley gave her this sack when
she was sold at age 9 in South Carolina
it held a tattered dress 3 handfulls of
pecans a braid of Roses hair. Told her

It be filled with my Love always

she never saw her again
Ashley is my grandmother
Ruth Middleton
1921″

The historian Tiya Miles traces every bit of what can be known, as well as inferred, about this sack, its contents, and these three women. As she traces every lead, Miles comes back again and again to the tenacity and revolutionary love of Rose and other enslaved women whose perseverance through slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, and the Great Migration, is what has carried generations of Black families into the present.

Reading this book made me rethink my poem “Persevere is a Word.” It seems trite now. Perhaps suitable for a motivational poster, but naively unaware of a deeper, more nuanced and historically-based version of perseverance.

AND NOW THE POEMPAIR

Persevere is a Word

Persevere is a long word:
four hundred years long,
the distance of the Middle Passage,
the length of a ship’s hold, packed with bodies chained together.

And although persevere 
contains none of the letters that spell luck,
privilege shines through from beginning to end.

The privilege of tracing a blood line
for generation after unbroken generation 
in an ancestral story of ascension

rather than a lineage that dead-ends
in the shackles of slavery,
in lives with trauma encoded in the DNA,
in the knowledge that one’s existence
is not predicated on bootstraps
or an innocuous insistence to try again 
or the blithe assertion to summon grit

but instead dependent on ancestors who persevered
surviving horrors unimaginably severe
family members inhumanely severed from each other
per their owners’ whim.

Persevere is a light word for some,
a chirpy motivational poster word.
For others it is a heavy word,
a how-dare-you-assume word,
a claim-my-humanity,
praise-the-ancestors,
lift-while-we-climb* word.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021

*Angela Davis


Matt has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.


The Poetry Friday Roundup is HERE!

Linda Mitchell (@A Word Edgewise) gave the Inklings our challenge this month. She charged us with writing “a poem that includes the idea of percentage or percent. Percentages are all around us in recipes, prices, assessments, statistics. Include the idea of percentage in your poem in some way.”

My poem was born during the drive home from Vermont. Our day in St. Albans and along the coast of Lake Champlain at Hathaway Point was fresh in my mind. As we burned up the miles through the Adirondacks, I wrote, looking up every few lines to take in the beauty of the fall foliage.

View from the summit of Aldis Hill, St. Albans, VT

Here’s how the rest of the Inklings interpreted Linda’s challenge:

Linda@A Word Edgewise
Heidi @my juicy little universe
Molly@Nix the Comfort Zone
Catherine@Reading to the Core
Margaret@Reflections on the Teche

And here’s what the rest of the Poetry Friday Community is up to this week!

Last reminder! Tomorrow is the deadline to join in the Winter Poem Swap!

More info here.


Poetry Friday: Word Play

The Poetry Sisters’ challenge for this month was to write Word Play poems, introduced to the Poetry Friday community in 2015 by Nikki Grimes as one of Michelle H. Barnes’ (Today’s Little Ditty) Ditty of the Month challenges. Laura Purdie Salas showed how the form might work in a classroom.

I have two poems this month. The first came about because of this conversation on FaceBook with Poetry Sister Kelly:

This second poem was written more in the style of Poetry Sister Laura’s “Freedom is a Word” (one of my all-time favorite poems of hers).

Don’t forget to join the Winter Poem swap…
if you’re so inclined. More info here.

Linda has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at TeacherDance, and check out how all the rest of the Poetry Sisters met this month’s challenge:

Tricia @ The Miss Rumphius Effect
Tanita @ {fiction, instead of lies}
Sara @ Read Write Believe
Laura @ Laura Purdie Salas
Liz @ Liz Garton Scanlon
Kelly @ Kelly Ramsdell
Andi @ A Wrung Sponge

You’re invited to join the Poetry Sisters’ challenge for the month of November! We’re writing an Ode to Autumn. An ode is a lyrical poem in the form of an address to a particular subject, often meant to be sung. Whether you choose an irregular ode with no set pattern or rhyme, or the ten-line, three-to-five stanza famed by Homer himself, we hope you’ll join us! You can share your offering with the rest of us on November 26th (the Friday after Thanksgiving, so plan ahead) in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

Poetry Friday: What An Amazing Community!

For her birthday, Linda Baie GAVE the gift of poetry — she handpicked volumes for anyone who sent her their address. I’ll enjoy the David Ignatow book (POEMS 1934-1969) a little at a time, but her pick of CRY OUT: POETS AGAINST THE WAR was magical. From the blurb on the back: “On February 16, 2003, eleven contemporary poets held a reading in Manchester, Vermont, called “A Poetry Reading in Honor of the Right to Protest as a Patriotic and Historical Tradition.” Organized in response to the cancellation of a White House poetry symposium, the reading was sponsored by the Northshire Bookstore and drew a crowd of over seven hundred people. CRY OUT: POETS PROTEST THE WAR gathers together the poems read by the participants, many of them original poems and others poems by…renowned poets…”

We were in Manchester, VT just.last.week!! The Northshire Bookstore is one of our favorite destinations there! Magical! Thank you, Linda!!

Outside Manchester, VT
One of the poems read by Donald Hall

Words that still ring true today.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is winter-poem-swap-2021.png

Laura Shovan and I are helping Tabatha with the Winter Poem Swap. The Winter Poem Swap is a little different than the Summer Swap. In the SummerPoem Swap, poets do up to five swaps, while the Winter Poem Swap is just ONE swap. This time, though, you are asked to send a wee gift along with your poem. If you would like to participate, send Laura an email (laurashovan @ gmail . com) by November 6. Include your full name and mailing address. Let her know if you want to swap with the same person who is sending to you or if it doesn’t matter. Include any allergies your gift giver might need to know about. Laura will send you the name and address of your poem/gift recipient by November 13. Then you have a month to write your poem and put your package together for delivery by December 15, in plenty of time for the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (10:58 AM on December 21, in case you were wondering).

Jama is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Jama’s Alphabet Soup. Head over for some October goodness and the rest of the posts by this amazing community! I’m so thankful for all of you, and all you do to make the world a better place, one Friday after another!

Poetry Friday: Retirement and Winter Poem Swap Info

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This poem is a decima. The rhyme scheme is ABBAACCDDC, and there are 8 syllables each line.

Laura Shovan and I are helping Tabatha with the Winter Poem Swap. The Winter Poem Swap is a little different than the Summer Swap. In the Summer Poem Swap, poets do up to five swaps, while the Winter Poem Swap is just ONE swap. This time, though, you are asked to send a wee gift along with your poem. If you would like to participate, send Laura an email (laurashovan @ gmail . com) by November 6. Include your full name and mailing address. Let her know if you want to swap with the same person who is sending to you or if it doesn’t matter. Include any allergies your gift giver might need to know about. Laura will send you the name and address of your poem/gift recipient by November 13. Then you have a month to write your poem and put your package together for delivery by December 15, in plenty of time for the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (10:58 AM on December 21, in case you were wondering).

Bridget has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at wee words for wee ones. (And remember, I’m taking November 5.)

Poetry Friday: Garden-Fever

Gratitudes to John Masefield for my mentor text for this poem, Sea-Fever.

Irene has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Live Your Poem. Please note a change in the roundups next month — I will be taking the November 5 roundup to help out Tabatha. Also, a team of PF Peeps are going to be organizing the Winter Poem Swap, so stay tuned for more information about that!

Poetry Friday: Form and Function

The Inklings’ challenge this month was mine. I was quite taken with the idea of this book: a book about poetry forms and techniques…written in poems. So I challenged the group to write their own poems about forms or techniques. The more we dug into the book, the more we realized that the author doesn’t always explain a form in that form. For instance, her poem about the sestina follows the form but does not explain it. And one of the flaws of the book is that nowhere is there clear definitions of the techniques and forms. Still and all, I recommend the book, and we all had fun playing around with form and techniques. Here are three of mine.

Enjambment

Writing teachers especially hate
run-ons. Close the gate
so the end of the line can have the pause
that finishes a thought or completes a clause.

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Haiku

small observation
perhaps elaboration
wry commentary

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Personification Limerick

I once was a limerick named Sue.
My rhythm was fine. Rhyme was, too.
There was just this one thing
caused my heart not to sing:
my longing to be a haiku.

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All three poems are ©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021. (I’m not sure what’s up with me sharing multiple poems per Poetry Friday post…this is the third week in a row…)

Catherine has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Reading to the Core. Check out the other Inklings’ responses to the challenge here:

Heidi @ My Juicy Little Universe
Linda @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret @ Reflections on the Teche
Molly @ Nix the Comfort Zone

Poetry Friday: Conversations

This month’s Poetry Sisters Challenge was so much fun! The first fun was diving into each sister’s blog archives to find a poem that invited me to respond. Then, the fun was in “talking back” to her poem.

Tricia wrote “The Dizzying Stress of Tidying Up (with apologies to Marie Kondo),” to which I reply

The urge to collect
runs as deep as arthritis
in mom’s bones and mine.
A small house is a good thing.
I collect miniatures.

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Tanita’s poems were in response to the Poetry Peeps prompt: Wish I’d Been There, or an historical event that incites wistfulness, to which I reply

take me back in time
not very far, or for long:
my parents’ wedding
before arthritis plagued mom
while dad was still a pilot

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Sara’s poem using Linda Hogan’s “Innocence” as her model and including the phrase, “There is nothing more ____ than ____” was a poem about trees, to which I reply

there is nothing
more glorious than twin gingkoes
until one falters
slowly dying limb by limb
one tree left holding fall’s flame

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.I borrowed the last line of Liz’s haiku from April 26, 2021 for the first line of my tanka in which I reply

no one stays for long
learn to cup your hands gently
loosen your tight grip
now you are the steady tree
next you’ll be leaves on the wind

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Laura wrote “Why You Cry When You Read Me,” to which I reply

Where the Red Fern Grows,
Love Story, Little Britches,
Old Yeller, Charlotte’s Web:
books that squeeze my heart so hard
I cry every single time.

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Kelly wrote “Cookie Time,” to which I reply

Dozens and dozens:
gingerbread for twenty years
then seventeen years
of sugar cookie cutouts.
One thing I always got right.

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.Andi wrote a snake poem, to which I reply (about a different species)

backyard visitor
every day just after dusk
black formal attire
accented by white cap, stripe
the dropped birdseed is all yours

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All of these tanka are ©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021. The image is via Unsplash, by Tom Hill.

Laura’s response to the challenge and today’s Poetry Friday roundup are at Laura Purdie Salas: Small Reads for Brighter Days.

The other Poetry Sisters’ posts are here:
Tricia
Tanita
Sara
Liz
Kelly
Andi

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Poetry Friday: A Trio of Tankas

The Poetry Sisters’ challenge for this month is to write a tanka in response to or conversation with a poem written by one of the other sisters. Kelly wrote a fabulous article about tankas. Who doesn’t love her analogy that “a tanka is a haiku pulling a trailer?!?” To get ready for the challenge, I’ve written a trio of tankas. I’ll share them without images, because I’m hoping the words themselves are enough to paint a picture in your imagination. The orb weaver and the buck live in Central Ohio; Rae’s house is in the dry high plains of Eastern Colorado.

Tanka for Rae’s House

Beyond the window:
extravagantly green lawn,
bountiful garden.
In the unwatered pasture
dry grass crunches underfoot.

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Tanka for the Eight Point Buck

sun low behind trees
morning air carries fall chill
eight point buck sees me
freezes so majestically
you forget he’s in the street

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Tanka for the Orb Weaver

Above our front door
hangs a ferocious hunter
alarmingly large
seeming to stand in thin air.
She owns the porch. I concede.

all three ©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021

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Denise has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Dare to Care. Our Casting for Recovery retreat is this weekend, so I’ll read and comment next week.

Poetry Friday: A Sonnet for September

Earlier this week, Margaret got me thinking about sonnets. I knew I had written one, but had to dig hard at A Year of Reading to find it: Coffee House Sonnet. Turns out it’s from NPM 2010, and I haven’t archived that year’s project over at Poetrepository yet. (Adding that to my to-do list…)

We’ve been enjoying a few days of perfect September weather, and because it was clear this morning, I went for my walk before the sun came up and I got to say hello to my good friend, Orion, for the first time since he waved goodbye and marched over the western horizon last winter.

Tricia has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect.