Silent Poetry

Not Unraveling . . . Yet

This morning . . . we have the sun rising on a new day.  And a pile of unruly blue knitting that is beginning to wear me out.

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It's the kind of pattern that leaves much to be desired in the construction-and-instruction department . . . and you can't really try the unruly thing on during the making . . . and I'm nearing the finish . . . and keeping my fingers crossed . . . that it all turns out in the blocking. 

But it's been decent and mindless pandemic knitting, so there is that.

Let's have a poem instead!

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The Cure
Albert Huffstickler

We think we get over things.
We don't get over things.
Or say, we get over the measles
but not a broken heart.
We need to make that distinction.
The things that become part of our experience
never become less a part of our experience.
How can I say it?
The way to "get over" a life is to die.
Short of that, you move with it,
let the pain be pain,
not in the hope that it will vanish,
but in the faith that it will fit in,
find its place in the shape of things
and be then not any less pain but true to form.
Because anything natural has an inherent shape
and will flow towards it.
And a life is as natural as a leaf.
That's what we're looking for:
not the end of a thing but the shape of it.
Wisdom is seeing the shape of your life
without obliterating (getting over) a single
instant of it.

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April is National Poetry Month, and each year, in April, I celebrate poetry here on my blog.  Hoping to win over some converts to the beauty and peace and accessibility of poetry.  Sharing something that brings me joy.

Today's poem was published in Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, 2017, Grayson Books, and edited by Phyllis Cole-Dar and Ruby R. Wilson.  Information about the author can be found here.

 


Now More Than Ever

"Without poetry, we lose our way."
    --- Joy Harjo, Current U.S. Poet Laureate

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And now it's April.  

Which means it's National Poetry Month.  Each year, I celebrate poetry here on my blog during the month of April.  Hoping to win over some converts to the beauty and peace and accessibility of poetry.  Sharing something that brings me joy.

This April . . . I'm thinking we really need poetry.
Now more than ever.

So come along with me this month and consider poetry as a way to find solace in dark times.

Let's start with this one.

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On How to Pick and Eat Poems
by Phyllis Cole-Dai

Stop whatever it is you're doing.
Come down from the attic.
Grab a bucket or basket and head for light.
That's where the best poems grow, and in the dappled dark.

Go slow.  Watch out for thorns and bears.
When you find a good bush, bow
to it, or take off your shoes.

Pluck. This poem. That poem. Any poem.
It should slip off the stem easy, just a little tickle.
No need to sniff first, judge the color, test the firmness --
you can only know it's ripe if you taste.

So put a poem upon your lips. Chew its pulp.
Let its juice spill over your tongue.
Let your reading of it teach you
what sort of creature you are
and the nature of the ground you walk upon.
Bring your whole life out loud to this one poem.
Eating one poem can save you, if you're hungry enough.

Take companions poem-picking when you can.
Visit wild and lovely and forgotten places, broken
and hidden and walled up spaces.  Reach into brambles,
stain your skin, mash words against your teeth, for love.
And always leave some poems within easy reach for
the next picker, in kinship with the unknown.

If ever you carry away more poems than you need,
go on home to your kitchen, and make good jam.
Don't be in a rush, they're sure to keep.
Some will even taste better with age,
a rich batch of preserves.

Store up the jars and jars of jam. Plenty for friends.
Plenty for the long, howling winter. Plenty for strangers.
Plenty for all the bread in this broken world.

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I hope you'll come poem-picking with me this month.
Let's make enough jam for all the bread in the broken world.

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Today's poem was published in Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, 2017, Grayson Books, and edited by Phyllis Cole-Dar and Ruby R. Wilson.  Information about the author can be found here.


Fridays in April . . . Discovering Poetry

As you already know, during April (National Poetry Month), it's been my intention. . . to share some of my favorite poems and poets with you.  Poems and poets that you may not be familiar with yet.  Poems that are accessible and insightful.  Poems I think you'll like.

Like this one . . . 

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Good Bones
by Maggie Smith
 
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I've shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I'll keep from my children.  The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that's a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake.  Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind 
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children.  I am trying 
to sell them the world.  Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones:  This place could be beautiful,
right?  You could make this place beautiful.
 
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I first discovered this poem back in 2016.  I don't remember if it was after yet another mass shooting or after the presidential election, but in a time of sadness for me, this poem came along.  You may have discovered it then, too.  The Washington Post wrote an article about it - and its author, Maggie Smith, in 2016, calling it "the poem that captured the mood of a tumultuous year."  (You can read the article here.)  And Public Radio International called it the "official poem of 2016."  (You can read that article here.)  Anyway, this poem led me to discover the beautiful poetry of Maggie Smith.  Her book Good Bones was published in 2017, and it is a gorgeous tribute to motherhood.  You can learn more about Maggie Smith and sample some of her poetry here.
 
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The poem Good Bones first appeared in the online literary journal Waxwing in June 2016.  It is also included in the author's book Good Bones, published by Tupelo Press in 2017.  Copyright Maggie Smith.
 
 

In My Pockets

What's usually in my pockets?

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Used tissues, a lipstick, and poop bags. 

What's in my pocket today?

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A poem, of course!  

(I printed several to share with my art class this afternoon and my book group tonight.)

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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I hope your pockets are full of poetry today!

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If you have a minute and 10 seconds to spare today, here's a real treat:  Mary Oliver, herself, reading this poem.  (So worth it.)

 


It's Friday . . . Let's Celebrate with Poetry

During April, it is my intention. . . to share some of my favorite poems and poets with you.  Poems and poets that you may not be as familiar with, but that are still accessible and full of insight.  Poems and poets I think you'll like.

Poems and poets like this one . . . 

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Balance
by Jane Hirshfield

Balance is noticed most when almost failed of --

in an elephant's delicate wavering
on her circus stool, for instance,
or that moment
when a ladder starts to tip but steadies back.

There are, too, its mysterious departures.

Hours after the dishes are washed and stacked,
a metal bowl clangs to the floor,
the weight of drying water all that altered;
a painting vertical for years
one morning - why? - requires a restoring tap.

You have felt it disappearing
from your own capricious heart -- 
a restlessness enters, the smallest leaning begins.

Already then ineveitable,
the full collision,
the life you will describe afterward always as 'after.'

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Jane Hirshfield (one of my very favorite poets) is known for combining keen philosophical meditation with spare domestic observation; she often writes of turning points or moments of insight that resonate with readers.  A prolific poet, Jane Hirshfield is also an essayist and translator, and she has published two important anthologies of poetry by women.  Two interesting facts about Jane Hirshfield:  She graduated from Princeton as a member of the first graduating class there to include women, and she took a break in her early career to study at the San Francisco Zen Center.  You can learn more about her here.

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The annual Poem-in-Your-Pocket day is Thursday, April 18 this year.  Think about sharing YOUR favorite poem with your friends next Thursday.

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The poem Balance is from Given Sugar, Given Salt, published by Harper Collins in 2001.  Poem copyright Jane Hirshfield.


Fridays in April: Reserved for Poetry

It's April . . . National Poetry Month.  
And you know what that means.  
Every year in April, I share some of my favorite poems and favorite poets on Fridays.  

I also encourage you to give poetry a try.  

I know many of us had rotten poetry teachers in school, which got us off on the wrong foot with poetry.  We didn't get it.  No one could explain it to us.  We felt like freaks if we DID happen to like it.  We were made to memorize poems we hated and thought were gross.  It was a "unit" in a literature course that only lasted 2 weeks, and we were happy to have behind us.  

That kind of thing.

But my guess is your rotten poetry teachers never shared the right poems.  The ones that did resonate with us.  Poems like this one . . . 

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A Jar of Buttons
by Ted Kooser

This is a core sample
from the floor of the Sea of Mending,

a cylinder packed with shells
that over many years

sank through fathoms of shirts –
pearl buttons, blue buttons –

and settled together
beneath waves of perseverance,

an ocean upon which
generations of women set forth,

under the sails of gingham curtains,
and, seated side by side

on decks sometimes salted by tears,
made small but important repairs.

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Ted Kooser is a poet from the American Midwest best known for his accessible, conversational style of writing.  While his poetry is rooted in the Great Plains of the United States, his poems resonate universally - grounded as they are in humanity.  He served as Poet Laureate of the Library of Congress from 2004 - 2006, and is currently a Presidential Professor of Poetry at the University of Nebraska.  Ted Kooser also writes children's books.  You can find out more about him here.

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The annual Poem-in-Your-Pocket day is Thursday, April 18 this year.  Think about sharing YOUR favorite poem with your friends that day.

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The poem Jar of Buttons is from Delights & Shadows, published by Copper Canyon Press in 2004.  Poem copyright Ted Kooser.


Your Life is Your Life

(With special thanks today to Juliann . . . for hosting a monthly one-little-word check in over on her blog . . . . and for keeping the conversation going all year long.)

your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
    --- Charles Bukowski, the laughing heart

Intention.

It turns out this is the perfect word for me . . . right now, this year.
I'm having a great time exploring and thinking and connecting with my word.

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Three months into 2019, where has intention pulled me?

  • I've been doing a lot of thinking about why I do what I do.  (Knitting, for example.)
  • I've become much more aware of "Future Kym."  (Like . . . how she's not a stranger at all, and how I ought be making more of my decisions with her in mind.)
  • I'm discovering that wellness (in a holistic sense) is key to "living my best life."  (For the rest of my life.)

I've also begun compiling an "intention journal" filled with quotes and images and ideas that resonate with me as I explore my word.  This month, I added 3 poems.  This one, by Charles Bukowski, particularly fits my word . . . for me.

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the laughing heart. charles bukowski

your life is your life
don't let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the odds will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

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How about YOU?  What are you learning about your word this year?  I'd love to hear about it.

 


Honoring

Oh.  Mary.  You always had the words for me.
Thank you.

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In Blackwater Woods
   --- Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrances of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


Sometimes Mondays

. . . call out for poetry.

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Starlings in Winter
 --- Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

They are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one strippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, than can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard.  I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

 

 


Hungry Dogs

As I write this blog post this morning, my dogs are looking at me with the mournful eyes.

For they are very hungry.

S-t-a-r-v-i-n-g, in fact.

And I am not feeding them.

Why?

Because this diva . . . 

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is scheduled for some rather serious surgery in a couple of hours.  (Please send the good juju.  She is 11, and we'd like to keep her around a while longer.)

My hungry dogs remind me of this perfect Mary Oliver poem, from her Dog Songs book.

The Wicked Smile
by Mary Oliver

"Please, please, I think I haven't eaten
for days."

What?  Ricky, you had a huge supper.

"I did? My stomach doesn't remember.
Oh, I think I'm fading away.  Please
make me breakfast and I'll tell you 
something you don't know."

He ate rapidly.

Okay, I said  What were you going to
tell me?

He smiled the wicked smile.  "Before we
came over, Anne already gave me my breakfast,"
he said.

Be prepared.  A dog is adorable and noble.
A dog is true and loving friend.  A dog
is also a hedonist.