with thanks to Mo Daley for the Open Write invitation on Ethical ELA today: “Forget counting syllables for this writing exercise! The modern haiku does not trouble itself with syllable and line counts. Rather, write a short (usually 1-4 lines), unrhymed poem that juxtaposes two images to capture an insight about the world or oneself.”
This seems so simple…
The first things that comes to mind is the the gutter work we had done here yesterday—what to make of this?
Leaking gutters purged of sludge, with new downspouts stormwater conduits now capable of saving my foundation.
A bit of satisfying metaphor, but not exactly juxtaposition.
Something of a challenge, this. I don’t know why I am clinging to the image of a gutter, other than it’s now stuck in my head. It’s one of those simple, unremarkable things (unless, of course, it has a gargoyle waterspout) with vital importance. Maybe a good metaphor for writer’s block.
Hmm. I will try again:
Life-giving rain and sheltering tree are in conspiracy nonchalantly sneaking, bit by bit, into the gutter for the ruination of my house — rather a long-range plan, but still.
I was going to try another haiku with a father telling his sons to “keep their noses clean” when everything really depends on the gutters, or maybe one playing off Oscar Wilde’s quote: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” but now I am weary of wrestling with modern haiku about gutters.
For VerseLove on Ethical ELA today, Andy Schoenborn invites teacher-poets to write “tumble down poetry” about shoes:
“For the small spaces they occupy, poems can cause writers to freeze. To break a poem free, try writing a paragraph or two of prose and, then, watch a poem tumble down with this process… today let’s write about shoes. Please take three minutes and write in prose about a pair of shoes that you’ll never forget…Once your paragraph is written, look for naturally occurring repetition, alliteration, striking images, and moments of emphasis fit for enjambments. Then play with the structure and form as a poem ‘tumbles down’ the page.”
It’s amazing, when you stop to think about it, how many shoe stories we have… this memory from long ago quickly overshadowed all others for metoday.
Fifth grade studying mythology
the teacher says: Now you will write your own myth
sometimes myths are about inventions or journeys or transformations
what can I write about any of these?
I think I sigh I look around the room
rainslapped windows there was a time when my parents would have made me pull galoshes over my shoes
I hate hate hate my shoes saddle oxfords — I call them sadlocks— black and white or in my case, black and gray needing polish again
On Day 4 of National Poetry Month, Jennifer Guyor Jowett, inspired by poet Irene Latham, offers this invitation for VerseLove at Ethical ELA: “Create your own burrow. Find a seed at the end of the piece, something to begin your own writing today. Let it serve as a title or beginning line.”
I borrowed some of these beautiful ending lines from fellow VerseLove poet, Kevin Hodgson:
We poets keep watching for dust, falling, in flight.
Ars Poetica: Dustcatching
We poets keep watching for dust, falling we would capture it with our hands feel it on our tongues as it lands genesis of words breathing life dust to dust, falling from the stars
from the stars dust to dust, falling genesis of words breathing life feel it on our tongues as it lands we would capture it with our hands we poets keep watching for dust, falling
Thanks to John Noreen who hosted yesterday’s Ethical ELA Open Write with the invitation to pay homage to food that comforts and sustains us. John focused on process; he suggested that we “create the way we cook.” He says when he cooks, he takes a central ingredient and gets going, improvising along the way.
Sounds like a metaphor for writing to me…
Daily Writing Staple
An idea forms inside my brain like an egg forms within a bird
one moment nothing and the next the shell of something
I feel new presence of fragile life within
or at least the provisional sac of nourishment for building and sustaining life as it forms deep inside living membrane
until it should hatch and eventually fly on wings of its own
like my breakfast egg boiled for long enough at the right temperature the idea solidifies and gives life to me
one simple ingredient containing a whole world of possibility
and I almost never settle for just one.
with thanks also to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March.
I am resharing this memoir poem I wrote a few months ago, wherein I played with line breaks. I am still playing with them.
This is one of my favorites. For many reasons.A scene I witnessed last year, during my husband’s recovery:
She comes out of his study carrying it in her four-year-old arms and his face is transformed, glowing as if a passing cloud has uncovered the sun. He leans forward in the recliner as she drops it, kicks it, sets it spinning —Oh, no, he says, this one’s not for kicking, it’s for dribbling, just as the ball stops at his feet. He reaches down, lifts it with the easy grace of the boy on the court, hands perfectly placed on the worn brown surface in split-second calculation of the shot so many times to the roar of the school crowd so many hours with friends, his own and then his son’s, still outscoring them all, red-faced, heart pounding, dripping with sweat, radiant —and at twelve, all alone on the pavement facing the hoop his mother installed in the backyard of the new house after his father died, every thump echoing Daddy, Daddy, Daddy. The game’s in the blood, the same DNA that just last year left him with a heart full of metal and grafts, too winded to walk more than short distances, having to stop to catch his breath, deflated —it needs some air. Do you have a pump, he asks his son, sitting there on the sofa, eyes riveted to the screen emitting continuous squeaks of rubber soles against hardwood. —Yeah, Dad. I’ve got one and the needle, too. His father leans in to the little girl at his knee, his battered heart in his hands: —Would you like to have it? She nods, grinning, reaching, her arms, her hands almost too small to manage the old brown sphere rolling from one to the other like a whole world passing.
Just hold on loosely, but don’t let go If you cling too tightly you’re gonna lose control.
—38 Special/D. Barnes, J. Carlisi, J. Peterik
The draft of this post has been sitting here a long time, gathering cobwebs, while I considered how to write it.The idea began with seeing connections between teaching, instructional coaching, parenting…with those cautionary lyrics, above, coming to mind: “If you cling too tightly, you’re gonna lose control.”
That’s the problem with many relationships, isn’t it. Control. As in, who‘s trying to assert it? By holding too tightly? By force? What are the consequences? Why do I think of Aesop’s fable of the North Wind and the Sun trying to prove who was stronger by making the Traveler remove his cloak? What does this imply about human nature?
And not just human nature…that little green vine in the photo, above…it has goals, doesn’t it? To keep growing, climbing, gaining strength daily…soon the difference between “holding on loosely” and “clinging too tightly” will be evident in the absolute destruction it will wreak. It cannot know the cost to whatever tree, gate, house, other plants, anything it overtakes.
How did I land here, when I began with thinking on connective threads of teaching, coaching, parenting? Where will my metaphorical thinking take me next? What philosophical point am I trying to make?
Is this out of control now? How DO I write this persistent…thing?
When at a loss to say what can hardly be said, there’s always poetry. Maybe that’s what this idea wants to be…
Each poem is a metaphor, a philosophy, a journey of its own. This one, like life, goes fast. The form is designed for that. Sylvia Plath said that once a poem is written, interpretation belongs to the reader. Read it just to read, then maybe reread to decide for yourself if you see threads of teaching, coaching, parenting…and more.With poetry, there’s always more.
So here’s where the poem took me. I landed in a blitz: “Hold On Loosely.”
Have only today Have and to hold Hold my hand Hold it dear Dear one Dear children Children laughing Children leaving home Home is wherever YOU are Home place Place of remembering Place in the sun Sun rising in the east Sun dappling the grass Grass rippling in the breeze Grass withering, fading Fading light Fading fast Fast go the hours Fast and furious Furious argument Furious storms Storms wreaking havoc Storms passing Passing over Passing by By the way By getting to work Work it out Work hard Hard to handle Hard to reach Reach anyway Reach out Out of time Out of breath Breath of fresh air Breath of life Life is short Life is precious Precious moments Precious faces Faces in photographs Faces tugging at heartstrings Heartstrings reverberating at final words Heartstrings tied loosely Loosely hold on Loosely, not letting go. go… on…
—What threads did you see?
Oh, and writer-friends…maybe reread one last time to see how the blitz might describe a relationship with writing.
Now, I am a notorious list-maker, so much so that my husband once asked: “What are you writing now?”
To which I replied, absently, while hunched over a scrap of paper: “A list.”
“ANOTHER list? For what?”
I hesitated to confess, but I did, in a decidedly small voice … “A list of lists I have to make.”
So. If I am going to base a poem on one of my myriad lists, I must choose quickly or I’ll never begin.
The first thing I turned to in my scrawly notebook idea-keeper was a list of rhyming words based on the phrase “learning decay.” I heard a fellow educator use it recently, expressing concern for children returning to school in the fall after having been out for five months (or longer) due to COVID-19. That idea has been sitting dormant … maybe waiting for just this moment, this prompt, as a lens to lend focus. What can I make of this list? What would help prevent “learning decay” for kids? For ANYONE? For me the answer is always twofold: Read. Write. Always.
One last thing: Kids need to know that writing is more than an assignment and generally hateful chore. They can do it anywhere, anytime, about anything. There are no limits, only endless discoveries. A notebook is a gateway for making sense of the world and discovering what you think and feel … a safe haven, a springboard, a sounding board, a lifeline, a reliquary for housing fragile new ideas, precious fragments of self. It can be on paper. On a screen. It can be a recording. A drawing. Any means of capturing thoughts, impressions, expressions. I use multiple mediums, myself. You’re reading one now. To me, moments spent writing are never wasted; growth is inevitable.
Here’s my rather rapid-fire poem based on “learning decay” and the list of rhyming words in my notebook:
Learning decay? No, not today. Strive to allay. So invite play: a word ballet, a thought bouquet. True soul portray, not self-betray. Notebook away, the cost defray – Recoup the day.
About a month ago I shared this idea for a story about a little girl who loves cicadas and who’s having a hard time dealing with her parents’ separation. The girl’s name is Ada and she becomes seriously ill . . . hence the title, “Sick Ada,” cicada . . .
The story’s been gestating for a while as there were so many things to flesh out: How old is Ada? Why are her parents separated? Who left, Mom or Dad? Why? What’s the deal with her cicada fascination? How does she get sick? Most of all: Where should the story begin?
I considered writing this scene first: Near the end of the story, Ada goes into the hospital, sick enough that her recovery hangs in the balance. It is winter, when cicadas don’t sing, but she hears the heater rattling in her hospital room and believes it to be cicadas. She decides she doesn’t mind dying as long she can hear them . . .
But I am not starting there, and Ada will not die because my friend Kathleen interceded, pleading for the little girl’s life.
Amid much encouragement and a few thinly-veiled threats (thanks, Friends!), here’s the first draft opening scene.
The darkness began to change.
Strips of light glimmered between the blinds until a thin finger of sunshine pushed through, reaching across Ada’s rumpled bed to caress her cheek.
At its warm touch, she opened her eyes.
Ada sat straight up in bed.
It’s my birthday! I am nine.
She felt strangely old.
Sitting there in the grayness, Ada knew two certainties. Today the cicadas would start singing. They always started singing on her birthday; Daddy said it was their song of celebration for her coming into the world. He would sing to her, too, only this time it would be over the phone. He promised to call today. Next week when school was finally out, Mama would drive Ada to the airport, put her on a plane, and Daddy would be there to meet her when the plane landed. It would be her first flight.
Ada wondered if cicadas sang on the other side of the country.
The other certainty was that she wouldn’t get her biggest birthday wish of all, that Daddy would come home to stay.
So, Friends, that’s how Ada’s story begins for now, rough as it is.
For the record: The cicada is an ancient symbol of change or transformation and the name “Ada” just so happens to mean “noble.”