Monday, October 9, 2017

The Wolf Hour Goes Roaming: Blog Tour, Stops #1 and #2




The Wolf Hour is prowling the blogosphere this month.  I hope you'll be brave enough to follow along. Here's a taste:

Stop #1

Finding Wonderland:

Despite their often bleak or violent content, fairytales are traditionally seen as stories intended for children. What's the optimum age of your target reader for THE WOLF HOUR? Who is this book for? Who, if anyone, is it not for?

Sara Lewis Holmes: 

Age and readership questions are hard. Do you like to shiver and chew your lip ragged as you read? Do you like a story that twists and turns and doesn’t go where you expect it to? Do you enjoy a story that KNOWS it’s a story, and might even challenge you to think about your own Story and whether you like your place in it? If you do, even if you aren’t in the 8-12 age range for this book…read on!

 More Q and A here:  Finding Wonderland, with Tanita Davis and Sarah Stevenson


Stop #2

Meanwhile, at Charlotte's Library, Charlotte had me respond to three quotes from the book, which was wonderfully fun.

She also had this to say about the main characters:

"Magia is one of the most lonely heroines I've read this year, and it was easy to sympathize and mentally encourage her as she pressed onward.  Not only does she have fight an evil, magical antagonist, she has to resist the expectations of ordinary human folk, making her very relatable.  Martin the wolf, with his penchant for a good book, and failed efforts to break the story of the three little pigs (not because he knew that's what he was doing, but because he simply was not interested in being a vicious killer), is one of my favorite wolf characters ever, and possibly even more relatable!" 

Thank you, Charlotte.  More of her insights here:  Charlotte, at Charlotte's library.





Friday, October 6, 2017

Poetry Friday: Autumn Hymns

Happy Fall, y'all.  (That might be the shortest hymn ever.)

And yet...this month, Tanita asked the Poetry Sisters to come up with more than a fall greeting.  She asked us to write a hymn to Autumn in hymn meter.  (More on hymn meter, here.)

I chose to write in "long meter" which is a form of hymn meter which has a rhyme scheme of ABAB  and equal lines of iambic tetrameter. (Eight beats each line, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM.) I didn't stick exactly to that; a few beats are off here and there (consider them acorns that squirrels buried and forgot to dig up) but I did enjoy writing about autumn in a way that encouraged both joy and sorrow.


If Apples were Dappled and Sweet

If apples were dappled and sweet,
If orchards were bee-thick with smell,
If thickets drew lovers unmeet,
I’d beckon to you, dear, as well.

For autumn is all of goodbye
And faring thee well, and godspeed;
We redden, we crumble, we dry
In casting our lives into seed.

So snap the stem of my neck, dear;
Let nightfall steal daylight from field;
If leaves rake our cheeks with gold smear,
Is Autumn but naught what it yields?

Thus, be apples, dappled and sweet;
Thus, be orchards, bee-thick with smell;
Thus, be thickets of lovers: meet,
and meet and meet ’til last farewell.

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


Go see what hymns my Poetry Sisters are humming today:

Liz
Tanita
Kelly
Tricia
Laura
Andi

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Violet Nesdoly.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

On Friends, Wolves, and Storytelling




     Today, I'm lucky to share a book birthday with my friend, Francisco Stork, whose amazing YA novel, DISAPPEARED, debuts alongside my MG one, THE WOLF HOUR. To celebrate, if you share this post about storytelling, wolves, and our friendship, and tag both of us, I will enter your name in a drawing for a hardcover copy of BOTH of our books. (I've got yours covered, Francisco!) Please comment, too, on your own path to finding your voice and your story---I'd love to hear it! (And buy/read/share Francisco's beautiful book---he is a wonder.)

     The Wolf Hour, in legend, is the hour between darkness and dawn; it’s the hour more people are said to be born into this world and more people leave it than any other —-and, if you are like me, you are often awake then, wondering if you are getting your Story right.

     Not long ago, in a nearly empty D.C. deli, I tried to bluff my way through my doubts as I shared a greasy cheesesteak sandwich with my dear friend, Francisco Stork. We were talking, as we usually do, of our families, and of the books we were working on, and of how to find courage and joy in our work. We were also talking about mental illness, and how to combat the forces that would hold us back. I told Francisco (somewhat blithely) that when I was unhappy with my life, with the way it was unfolding, with the choices I was making, I knew, underneath the angst and despair, that I could always tell myself a new Story. He looked at me then, smiled over the last of his shaved beef and gooey cheese sub, and said, kindly: and that is the definition of mental health.

     Yes. Yes, he was right. Maybe that’s why the task of telling myself that new Story seemed impossibly hard lately--- so difficult, in fact, that I felt stuck in that very Wolf Hour—-lost between dreaming and waking, and doing no good for anyone at all. When we feel that way, does Story really help? And what is Story made of, anyway?

     When I was a child, I discovered the Lang collection of fairy tales. Beneath their innocuous color names (The Green Fairy Book, The Violet Fairy Book, The Blue Fairy Book) were stories of iron shoes that tortured their owners, of mothers who sprouted noses an “ell” long, and of children who were loved less than coin shine and left to die. Certainly, there were no life instructions here, for casual cruelty and stunning beauty lived side by side. Animals and people fought and slept and morphed from one form to the other. Nothing made sense, and everything did. And I wanted to know why.

     Which, of course, we all do.

     Still—those tales at least confirmed that all was not rosy in the secret world of adults, and that I’d better learn fast if I wanted to grow up and survive. So I did. In fact, you could say that such books (along with lighter stories) raised me. I always looked to them first for answers, and foolishly thought that people who made mistakes…who strayed from life’s paths…had obviously not read the RIGHT BOOKS. And then one day, a fairy tale came looking for me.

     On that day, when I sat down to write, a wolf stole into the forest of words crowding my head. This wolf was educated and yet naive, bold and yet terrified. This wolf was filled with human-gathered facts, and yet he had no intimate experience of humans at all. In fact, like me, he had largely been raised by books. And like me, he didn’t know the dark role he was rumored to play in the world. (What? You think writers don’t have a dark role to play? We write about everything the world wishes to keep hidden.)

     Luckily for this wolf (and for me!) there was also a girl who lived nearby. She, too, battled rumor, secrets, and lies. She, too, rejected the role the world said she should play. And she believed her hunger for more made her alone.

     Which, of course, we all believe.

What then if the two of them—the wolf and the girl—met, smack in the middle of a REAL fairy tale? A tale with strong ideas about how each of them would fit, and what each would do, and how each would look at the other? Why, then…they would have to fight the story the world wanted to tell about them. They would have to make and re-make their tale until it rang true. They would have to grow up and into their own Story.

     Which, of course, we all must.

     I’m sure this is why Francisco didn’t laugh at me in that deli when I claimed to know how to slay the beast. He even paid for my sandwich. And sent me an encouraging email the next week.

     I still have questions about Story. About why on some days everything seems to make sense, and then the next day, nothing does. And I’m never quite sure what to do with my hunger to be more than what I am. But I do know this: That if life’s dangers are real, so are the true friends. The ones who will eat cheesesteaks with you, and tell you a Story of their own. For the best weapon against the darkness has always been not just Story—but Story told to— and with—-and for the love of— our fellow tellers.

     May we never cease the telling.


(Crossposted to Facebook: 
https://www.facebook.com/saralewisholmes/posts/10155616043211420)

Friday, September 1, 2017

Poetry Friday: Wishes Cannot be Broken

Can it be September? It can.

Thank goodness there's poetry to mark the occasion.

This month, the Poetry Sisters wrote to this photo, which I took while working at the Highlights Retreat Center in Honesdale, PA:


The first thing that came to mind was:

Promises can be broken, but wishes cannot.

And then, the second thought followed:

What if I repeated the visual breaking of the word WISH in my poem?  Just to see if my first thought was true.  (It was.)



When nothing will groW, I SHall lay a foundation
When all is askeW, I SHall straighten the way
When promises are laid loW, I SHall hold fast
When hopes are feW, I SHall break chains.

For this is no flaW: I SHall be
 thought mistboW; I SHall be, yet— rock.


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

**If you're curious, a mistbow is a white arch that appears in mist, rather like a ghost rainbow.

How are wishes like rock to you?  Tell me in the comments.

And...more importantly...please visit my Poetry Sisters to see what intricate and beautiful poems they created from this image:

Andi
Liz
Kelly
Laura
Tanita
Tricia


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Kathyrn Apel.

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.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Poetry Friday: Standing on Your Own Two Feet



Photo credit: Ana Cotta 
The ekphrastic challenge for March was provided by Tanita, who supplied this deliciously mysterious photo.

What is that girl looking at? Where is she? How did she learn to balance on that bike?

Who knows?

But she went. And she looked.  And she will remember that day.



Standing on Your Own Two Feet

A bike is for
downhill
and corners
two wheels
two legs
Go.

A bike is for
uphill
and alone
two wheels
two legs
Go.

A bike is for
flat roads
and wind
two wheels
two legs
Go.

Go now! On
your own
two feet
two wheels
two legs
Go. Go. Go!

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


Find all my Poetry Sisters' poems here:

Liz
Tanita
Laura
Kelly
Tricia

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Heidi at my juicy little universe.



Friday, February 3, 2017

Poetry Friday: A Villanelle Too Brief to be Believed

Brevity is the soul of wit, they say....

or perhaps it's only that too little time can make one punchy.

Whatever the case, when I realized The Poetry Sisters challenge was due this week---AND that the task was to compose a villanelle on the theme of the shortness of time---I, being actually VERY short of time---briefly (ha!) lost my mind and wrote the first thing that popped into my small brain.

(Or perhaps February always makes me get silly.)

In either case, it's no languid, genteel flow of words here today, folks---this poem is mercifully quick, and defectively concise.



A Villanelle Too Brief to be Believed

To rhyme "brevity"
requires no skill
but high levity;

forget grandevity--
it's years off your life; a pill
to rhyme brevity

with something shorter than longevity.
See? It’s no thrill.
But high levity

aside— yippee!—
wit is much more chill
to rhyme. Brevity,

to an alarming degree,
may be fast-acting, like NyQuil,
But high levity?

A truly jackrabbity
beast. Yet—what an ever so long-lasting thrill
to rhyme brevity
with high levity!

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

I'm hoping my Poetry Sisters have put up something far more poignant.

Liz
Tanita
Laura
Kelly
Tricia

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Penny Parker Klostermann at A Penny and Her Jots.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Poetry Friday: In Love with Somonkas

A new form for a new year: the somonka.

Well, it's actually an ancient Japanese form, but it's new to me, and I kind of...

LOVE IT.

Which is nice, because traditionally, somonkas are written on that very subject: love.

Even more fun, the somonka is a two-voiced poem, composed of one "statement" poem (syllable count 57577) and one "response" poem (same syllable count.)

I guess we could've waited to do these love-themed delights until February, but Liz took charge (as usual) and made sure January would not be poem-less. Thank you, Liz.

I wrote mine yesterday before I got my eyes dilated at the eye doctor. (A poet writes when she can.)

If you want to try one, know that you can write them with another poet, or compose both halves of the somonka yourself. They are unrhymed and usually have a title. Just remember the love theme: true love, sisterly love, unrequited love, pet love, any kind of love at all.  Mine is about love, apart.



Apart

Defrosting the fish
while writing you this letter
no scales, fins, or tail
nothing to do but wait, love
headless, we still shed the sea

I’m lonely as cod
too, dear; I’ll put your letter
to nose, cheek, to bed; 
You’ve eaten by now; how cold
paper is; an ocean, drained. 

              ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


Don't miss the love my Poetry Sisters are sharing today, too:

Liz
Tricia
Kelly
Tanita
Laura


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Linda at TeacherDance.