Friday, August 4, 2017

Poetry Friday: Statues in the Park

The challenge this month (given by Laura Purdie Salas) was concise---but wide open to form, point of view, language, and theme. Simply put, we were asked to:

 Write a poem with the title, "Statues in the Park."

I immediately thought of these figures near our DC home:





Yes, that's Lincoln.  Lincoln in Lincoln Park.  We went there often to people-watch, and were amused by the picnicking hipsters, and the frolicking dogs, and the cake-eating toddlers and their parents.  Good times.  But those days were not what I chose to write about. For me, statues are never just statues...and nothing is ever as fixed or as settled as we hope it is.


Statues in the Park


He is Lincoln. Lincoln in Lincoln Park!
While the slave cowering at his knees is twisted
with gratitude, underfoot as a beaten dog

as his chains are cut by proclamation
and people say—as they should—
that to show no struggle from within

but only liberation from without
is a lie—but I don’t know how to make a statue tell
the truth—every history has moments

we tag, and point to, and judge—
before we release them to whirl
in Lincoln Park which today, is a rallying point

for the KKK; no hoods, but raised signs
and a line of police horses so high you can look
into their pulsating noses and feel the earth shake;

they make a dam for the permitted
to flow safely into the street, numb
to the world; I cannot remember

a single face, only the snorting
as they walked out of Lincoln’s Park
leaving it to children who dodged

being caught, one by one, until
arms outstretched, their mosquito-bitten
legs gleaming, they stood frozen—

no one free
until all are free.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


Each of my poetry sisters has written a poem to this title, too.  Go see:

Tricia
Laura
Kelly
Liz
Tanita

Poetry Friday is hosted today by MainelyWrite.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Poetry Friday: She Walks in Beauty...or does she?

Imitation:  not a crime, but a way of learning.



At least that's how the Poetry Sisters see it.  This month, we take a famous poem by Byron ("She Walks in Beauty like the Night") and write our own, inspired by its form, style, meter...whatever takes our fancy. Or doesn't take our fancy in this case...for upon reading this well-known example of Romanticism by a poet who believes in "the celestial nature of women," I said:

UGH.

I'm not a romantic. I don't gush in public.  And why use poetry to praise a women's inner peace when in daily life you destroy all calm with your constantly unhinged behavior? At least reading Byron's train wreck of a biography led me to find his family crest, which is quite fun. (See above.) The motto is Crede Byron...or Trust Byron.

Riiiiiight.  As far as I can throw him.

As for the Romantic ideal of celebrating the “celestial nature of women,” the best I can do is praise the sea and its ancient feminine power.  And pound the hell out of crashing waves of iambic tetrameter....



Crede Byron (Trust Byron)

Two chestnut horses rear beside
a red-barred shield; and yet, above
this spat of muscled manly pride,
a mermaid floats, her foaming curls

as regulated as the tide;
they surge to meet her lifted comb
and skirt her sea-shined, cross-hatched sides;
her curves complete as halves of shells

un-landed; lorded not by shore,
she’s brine and bright with naught of night;
from salt she rose; now oceans roar
in throated coves: She rules. She rules.

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)




You can find my Poetry Sisters echoes of Byron here:

Liz
Tanita
Tricia
Kelly
Laura

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Carol at Beyond Literacy Link.





Friday, June 9, 2017

Poetry Friday: Growing a Golden Shovel


Photo: Wolfgang Forstmeier
(Posting this a week late due to travel--and general procrastination.)

June's poetry challenge was the "golden shovel," a form created by poet Terrance Hayes when he took Gwendolyn Brooks's mesmerizing poem "The Pool Players; Seven at the Golden Shovel," and used its lines as end words for an entirely new poem.  (See his intricate poem, here.)

Or to put it another way,  Hayes grew a new poem from one he loved, and made it something astonishingly fresh.

And that, my friends, is what the Poetry Sisters are doing this month, too---only we are growing our new poems from the rich soil of Gerard Manley Hopkins' gorgeous poem Pied Beauty:


Glory be to God for dappled things – 
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; 
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; 
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; 
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough; 
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim. 

All things counter, original, spare, strange; 
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) 
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; 
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: 
                                Praise him.
Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)
So much to choose from!  Each line is ripe with juicy words! What to pick, what to pick....???  In the end, I decided to use two lines, from the heart of Hopkins' poem:

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; 
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough; 

(I also took as my title his opening word.) 


Glory 

We hope to be fresh
or even hot, as firecoal;
we hope to chew on an old chestnut

cracking open guarded words, until all falls
newly to earth. But if finches
require nine primary remiges on their wings

and twelve retrices on their tails---a landscape
of feathers carefully plotted
since the Middle Miocene age and

dappled evermore---to fly, then we, too, must be pieced
into lifting lines, and thrust from the fold
to be made fertile or laid fallow,

bouncing in flight like true finches and
tearing the earth as we dive to plough.

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

My Poetry Sisters' earlier posts of Golden Shovels (truly stunning---I mean, just WOW) can be found here:

Tanita
Laura
Tricia
Kelly
Liz


Poetry Friday is hosted today by poet Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Poetry Friday: Things to Do If . . .

The challenge this month was to write a "Things to Do If...." poem on the theme of a season or month. Didn't have to be May, but...

May is fabulous, you know? I found out it used to be called primilce, which literally means “three milkings” because it was the only month of the year when cows could be milked three times per day.

Also, May contains Star Wars Day. (May the 4th be with you)

And of course, there is dancing.  Perhaps that's why this poem waltzed in:


Things to Do if You’re May


Step plainly, for you host no equinox
or solstice; only ordinary time embrocated
by commencements and commendations, yet

Turn assuredly, for late,
you sweeten Spring; early,
you swell Summer; but more:

Partner boldly, for you have but three
letters to your name, and rhyme
with each and every day; thus

Madden us, May; make us
heated to go ‘round again,
staggered with singing.


             ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


My Poetry Sisters' "Things to Do If..." poems are here:

Liz
Tanita
Laura (who chose this challenge!)
Tricia
Kelly

Poetry Friday is hosted today by the incomparable Jama at Alphabet Soup: https://jamarattigan.com/2017/05/04/poetry-friday-roundup-is-here-7/

Friday, April 7, 2017

Poetry Friday: Talking Back to Poetry

Several months ago, Laura Purdie Salas pitched an idea to our poetry writing group: why not pick a poem and "talk back" to it?  As we built our schedule for this year, she didn't claim that idea, so I picked it up; it was too good not to use. And it seemed the perfect idea for April, National Poetry Month.

Here is the poem I picked, and the rules:

You, darkness, of whom I am born---

I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.

But the dark embraces everything
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations---just as they are.

It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me

I believe in the night.

---Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

The Rules:

1)  Respond to the poem/poet however you like...by agreeing or disputing or supplementing ....or simply chatting, as to a friend. Be deep or be sassy. Be funny or sad. Use a formal form or free verse. Respond to the whole poem---or pull out one line and talk only to it. (That last option is for the introverts, haha)

2)  But...you must be conversational. Talk back, right?


I must say that I enjoyed this challenge.  I love Rilke and I love good conversation.  If only he were alive to keep the volley going....



By God, Rilke, you have shed light
to the ends of the universe, 
even. You have left nothing

unloved. You have rendered unto me
what is not mine to have: an undying
understanding of grace. Shouldn’t 

poets—like Sujata Bhatt, perhaps—
enamor you of cow dung, until you crave
its pungent disregard of public opinion?

Shouldn’t poets—like Mary Oliver perhaps—
lure you to the wilds and then sharply switch 
you with rebukes to change your life? 

Shouldn’t they—like Kay Ryan, perhaps—
suffer you to suck brine, slapping the waves
for the raft you were building, right THERE, a second ago?

Shouldn’t they withhold embraces and comfort,
looking at you as blankly as an olive,
which by its ancient and pungent salty succor says:

oh, did you think you could outdo me?
Oh, Rilke, I want to love what is 
beyond the circle, illuminated. 

But you—you have forgiven me.
Where I am to go, then, to find 
your beloved night?

—-Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

For more conversation, please go see how my poetry sisters responded to Rilke. Or join in. There's always room for one more at the poetry table.

Liz
Laura
Tricia
Tanita
Kelly

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Irene at Live Your Poem.