sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Archive for the ‘Creative Writing’ Category

A Night at the Opera

For some reason, yesterday I was thinking about recognizing a piece of music, and I realized that there are a goodly number of opera arias that I would have no trouble identifying, including many from Madam Butterfly, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, and Aida, to name a few.

Yes, I like opera, but, more to the point, my mother was a huge opera fan. Mom and Dad had a subscription to the Metropolitan Opera. Sometimes Dad would beg off for one reason or another and then Mom would take me instead. I check around my extremely large stash of poems – I keep them on Google Drive – and turned up the two below.

Mom’s favorite opera composer was Wagner; mine was – and is – Verdi. The Metropolitan Opera website has videos.

http://www.metopera.org/Discover/video/

Here’s one of the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore:

http://www.metopera.org/discover/video/?videoName=il-trovatore-vedi-le-fosche-anvil-chorus&videoId=1472543314001

About Metropolitan Opera

The poem below is about one time when Mom took me instead of Dad. The opera was one of the Wagner Ring series; I believe it was Die Valkerie. I wish I could bring up detailed memories of the whole thing, but all that’s left are bits and pieces.

Metropolitan Opera

I wanted to capture
the entire performance,
each soaring voice,
scenery and costumes,
the story of Alberich’s ring,
made from Rhine gold,

but all that remains
is a darkened
auditorium,
the conductor
haloed in a
bright spot,
and Brunhilde
trumpeting,

Yo, Ho, Yo, Ho.

About A Night at the Met

 

Mom was far more of a fan of both opera and classical music than Dad was. Dad thought of the opera as a nice place for a nap. At least he was quiet. <grin>

A Night at the Met

A nice place for a nap,
a spot someone else chooses
The whole evening’s a trap,
a land mine of excuses.

A nice way to torture
to the clamor of trumpets
I dream of departure
and piles of fine crumpets.

Why am I here
when I could be in bed,
or at home watching Gunsmoke
or even unwed?

Here I am, stuck
until curtain comes down
pretending to listen
with nary a frown.

Drink a toast to Yo Ho
when freedom will ring.
My imprisonment’s over
when the Valkyries sing.

Celebrating National Library Week

This week is National Library Week. This year I can say that I not only frequent the library, I work in one. I worked in a library right after high school, and always wanted to get back to one. Goal finally achieved. I am a shelver at Taylorsville Library. I am really enjoying my coworkers and the library itself. And I come home with a lot of books. So it’s a good thing I work at a library, not a bookstore. It’s wonderful being surrounded with books, working with books. And I get to help people on a topic I am passionate about, not some generic customer service that drains me.

Here are a few of my poems that express what the library means to me.

Brink of Chaos
The Great Escape
Gateways
Haven

 

My Second Home

The library was my first love
perfect for a book-a-holic,
no budget could sustain my obsession.

A sacred space filled with treasures;
fingers trail on book spines…
so many choices
each one a new adventure–
Do I read an author tried and true?
or experience something new?

Some days I come
not for the books
but the atmosphere.

Sit back in an armchair
wrapped in hushed air,
soak in the rich love of words
infused between these walls,
let it inspire me…
flow through my fingertips
to fill the pages of my notebook.

The Ripple Effect of Sharing Poetry

A monthly poetry, performance and literary event —
with featured authors and an open mic
Presented by The Eugene Poetry Foundation in conjunction with
Barnes & Noble Bookstore
Sunday, April 9, 2017, from 3-5 PM @ Eugene Barnes & Noble
Website: http://www.wordsongs.com/burnindownthebarnes
Barnes & Noble Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/258294591266050/

— This is a family friendly event —
Hosted by C. Steven Blue & Charles Castle

 

I’m a Featured Reader at this month’s Barnes & Noble Bookstore /  Eugene Poetry Foundation  “BURNIN’ DOWN THE BARNES !!” event. My co-reader is a brilliant high school freshman I’ve had the pleasure and honor of mentoring a bit over the past couple of years.

Decisions about what poems to read, arranging them in a good flow, balancing the deep and the funny ones, are a bigger task than the actual on-stage time. I’ve taught poetry classes, coached others on how to read aloud, emotion and emoting. Each time I’m involved in an event like this, I go back to Step 1 myself and take a deep breath.

We’ll each have half an hour to present our own work, followed by an hour of “open mic” time, where the audience can read their own poems. I’ve invited several shy poetic friends to attend, and consider reading.

It’s a terrific way to wade into the stream of sharing, and Eugene has one of the most amazing, supportive collection of people who listen well, encourage new poets (of all ages), and appreciate everyone’s efforts.

I love the writing relationship we have as the Poetic Muselings: the synergy, energy, creativity, aha! moments, insights, and fun. As I pull my collection together, I always ask each of my Sister Muselings for a poem to read. Our approaches to life are reflected in the material they contribute.

This year, in addition to her own poem, Anne sent me one that I’m going to lead with — reflecting a universal I wish I’d written.

It’s too good to keep to myself, and I want the world to learn about the poet, read her blog, and laugh at:

An Ode To The Overwhelmed

And as you stand there
Late again
Because you forgot to allow time to park
And the elevator was slow
And you left 10 minutes late to begin with

With your shoes that pinch
And your pants that are a little too small
Since you started eating white bread again

And as you paw through your bag
Looking for the suite number
That you’re not sure you wrote down to
begin with

Let us now praise you.

You, the untidy.
You, the careless.
You, the easily distracted by sparkly things.

The money you spend on late fees alone
Could feed a family in Africa – Which
reminds you that you meant to send in the
kids’ Unicef money and
Forgot.

And that despite your best efforts,
You rarely eat a square meal,
You almost never get enough sleep
And exercise seems like a word that
magazines have developed
Just to make you feel bad about yourself.

But you are good and brave.
You, flying by the seat of your pants
Making it work
Putting out fires
Saying your prayers
And dancing your dance of now and later and
maybe and
I’ll-have-to-call-you-back-on-that-could-you-
send-me-an-email-to-remind-me-to-call-you-
back-on-that?

As innocent as each morning’s sunrise,
You are a fount of good intentions.
Your good humor is as graceful as a baby
giraffe,
Even if that joke you were trying to make to
the hotel clerk fell flat
And your toast at the wedding came out
sounding a little…funny.

But you have gifts that no one knows about.

You have the strength to bend in the wind

You have the joyful spirit that loves a good
belly laugh,

You have the wisdom to understand that
everything will all come out all right in the
end and

You have the faith to light a candle rather
than curse the darkness.

That is, if you could find the book of
matches from that romantic restaurant that
you went to for your anniversary but since
you didn’t have a reservation they made you
wait at the bar for half an hour during which
you had two appletinis and the rest of the
night is a bit of a blur.

So much for the overpriced lingerie.

You are beautiful.

You are beautiful.

Frazzled and overworked and underpaid
You are the one who forgot your wallet
And forgot your receipt for the dry cleaners
And forgot your keys which you just set
down five seconds ago, so where could they
possibly have gone?

But you never forget to say, “I love you”

And you never forget to give a big smile to
that nice parking guy

And you never fail to show endless patience
when the
Too-tightly wrapped and overly-
conscientious start to offer their
Oh-so-helpful suggestions about how you
might feel better if you would just learn to
alphabetize your spice rack.

You are beautiful.

So, wear the lingerie on Monday for no
reason.
And why not just refuse to participate in the
bake sale this year?
And give yourself a compliment for
something you did well today.

Because you are the most beautiful person
I’ve ever known.

© 2014 Samantha Bennett
…. excerpted from her remarkably popular book: By The Way, You Look Really Great Today: Selected Poems by Samantha Bennett

Dive, don’t surf, her blog:  TheOrganizedArtistCompany.com.

Caveat: prepare to add your own verse to her poem, because, inevitably, you WILL end up missing something else going on in your life, but you’ll have an ever-so-good-reason-for-why . . .

Michele

 

 

 

 

A Set of Silly Stories

I was cleaning out my files in a so-far futile attempt to organize them and came across a couple of flash fiction pieces I thought I’d share with y’all.

About Chuck’s Chicken

I was pulling up to the drive-through at McDonald’s when the story below came to me. No, it was not inspired by a real incident.814015364_2879704483_0-1

Chuck’s Chicken

I rolled up to the takeout window at Chuck’s Chicken, Where The Chickens are Still Clucking and stuck my head out the open car window, sucking in a large breath of the damp, heavy summer air.

“Waddle it be, sweetie?” The guy, bald, and at least 300 pounds, leered at me. His name tag read, “Chuck.”

“Two thighs, a side of corn, a side of mashed potatoes, and corn bread. No gravy on the potatoes. Oh, and a large lemonade.”

I waited for Chuck to repeat my order back to me. Instead he held up a hand, gesturing STOP, and turned away from me. I heard a voice yelling from inside the restaurant.

“Chuck, that chicken you wanted me to slaughter? I chopped off its head, but it’s running around the kitchen, and it’s dripping blood everywhere.”

“Al, you idiot, I told you to kill the damn bird out in the yard.”

I swallowed, started my car and drove away. And here I’d thought when Chuck said, Still Clucking, he’d been feeding me a line.

About Mad Hatter Town Planners

When he was in middle school, my youngest son and I would wonder about how some of the roads near our house on the cape got their names; Rascally Rabbit Road was one of them.

Our conclusions inspired the story below. The town meeting is entirely a figment of my imagination. The only thing inspired by a real incident is the bit about the fire.houses

Mad Hatter Town Planners

I fell down the rabbit hole straight into the town planning committee meeting. A large basin of Sangria sat in the middle of the scratched wood table in the center of the room, and a keg rested against the back wall. Al, Stan, and Art were already there.

Stan wore a suit, and sweat dripped down his face into his long gray hair as he peered over Art’s shoulder.

“It’s my Mother-in-law’s recipe,” Art was saying as I walked in. Light reflected off his head, bald and smooth as an egg. He wore Khaki shorts and a very old Boston Pops t-shirt. His glasses were new, though: a snappy pair with a silver frame.

“Hey, Pete, have some Sangria.” Art handed me a large glass without waiting for my answer. The outside was still wet. I wiped my hand on my pants, leaving a purple stain on my new khaki shorts.

I took a sip. It was good. “What’s in this?”

“My father-in-law makes the wine himself. He gifted us with a barrel or two. We had to buy the fruit.” Art grinned. His father-in-law was over eighty, and Art claimed he still kept his savings in a suitcase under his bed.

 “So what’s the big crisis? I planned to spend the evening playing miniature golf with my grandkids.” I pulled out a chair across the table from Art and dropped into it.

“We need to name some streets in order to incorporate.” A shaft of sunlight reflected off Art’s thick glasses.

“They have names: Main street, Railroad Street, New Street.”  I brushed at the stain on my shorts. It didn’t help.

Stan pulled a pen from his shirt pocket, which was white and sported a large blue stain. “We applied to be part of Wonderland. A couple of our names are duplicates of theirs, and some of the others are confusing: Bay Street, Bay Road, and the like. I want to rename everything iffy so people won’t get lost. I thought we could come up with something original. All we have to do is pick names and drop the list off. They’re all set to approve us when we do.” He flipped open his notepad and scribbled something.

“I assume we have the list of existing Wonderland street names.” I took a long drink of the sangria, almost swallowing a piece of lemon at the bottom of the glass.

“Yes, and the list of ours, too. We’ve got the duplicates and the confusing ones marked.” Stan flipped to another page and passed me his notebook.

“Why not meet another night?” I glanced at the list. It was long. I handed the notebook back to Stan.

“Because I’ll be out of town after tonight. My daughter just had twin girls. We’re going out there for a month, maybe longer.” Al drained his glass of Sangria and poured himself another. Some spilled down his shirt. It was one of those nice polo shirts with a collar and some kind of logo.

Mort, the final member of our team, strolled in, dropping his pile of library books onto the table and flopping into a chair. He was young, only fifty-five or so, but he’d retired early. “Remind me why we need to be part of Wonderland.”  

Art handed Mort a glass of Sangria, which he drained and handed back to Art. Art poured him another glass.

“So we can be part of their emergency services: police, fire, and all that. They have a full-time fire department, not just volunteers on call. To do that, we need to rename some streets.” Stan passed Mort his notebook.

Mort dropped the notebook onto the table before taking another healthy swig of Sangria. “So?”

Art got up and refilled all of our glasses before turning to Mort. “That’s right, you’re new. My son’s house burned to the ground last year. He had to drop his kids from the second story window. My granddaughter Maria was screaming, ‘Daddy, don’t. They hadn’t even rounded up the so-called volunteer firemen. The chief had his phone turned off. Maria broke both legs.”

 “All right, so what are we going to name those streets?” Mort finished his glass of sangria, and Art poured him another.

 “Merciful Marvin Meadows. Treacherous Tom’s Twisty Trail Jabberwocky Junction.” I hiccuped. I’d had four, maybe five glasses of Sangria by then. 

Time passed. We drank and named streets.

 “No more,” I said, peering into the now empty tub. “Time to go home.” I tried to get my car keys but they kept falling on the floor.  Art, Al, Stan, and Mort were no better.

We called Town Taxi to come pick us up. We must have dropped off the list of names but I really don’t remember. The next thing I knew my wife was shaking me awake.  Sun streamed in the window. When I peered at the clock, it read noon.

“Al says Wonderland has approved the new street names and we’re now officially part of town.”

I sat up and groaned. My aching head! “So what’s the problem?”

“You boys really tied one on. Some of those names…”

“Art had a tub of Sangria. His father-in-law gave him a couple of barrels of his wine.” I pressed my hands to my pounding head. “Can you get me a couple of aspirin?”

“No, honey, you can get them yourself.” She turned and left. I rolled over, pulled the pillow over my head, and went back to sleep.

And that’s why I, Peter Piper, now live on Picked A Pickle Pepper Path.

 

 

My Letter to the World: A Poem and a Prompt

Whether just starting as a poet, or well-experienced, you can learn by imitation. Choose a poem by another poet, classic or modern, and write a poem in the same style. There’s a few ways you could approach this:

  • Write a poem as a direct response to the subject.
  • Write your own poem inspired by the topic.
  • Follow the poetry form only.

Here’s an example of one of my early poems. I personalized Emily Dickinson’s “This is My Letter to the World.” I kept it in a similar style, and thought: What would I say to the world?

To: The World; From: Mary

My Letter to the World

What do I have to say to the world
That all but deserted me?
Would anyone listen to a single soul
Through the unheard art of poetry?

Although surrounded by others,
Wanting my voice to be heard,
I’m often isolated
For no one will hear my words.

Can I make a difference in someone’s life,
As others did in mine?
Will anyone read the simple words
That I wrote in my spare time?

I may be a shy, quiet person
But I have a message of my own;
Won’t someone come and discover
The soul within my poems.

The message of my poem remains true today. I want my voice, my poems, to be heard. I’d love it if you shared your own poem based on the prompt.

mary-sig2 (1)

The Story of Mathematics

mtns2The Story of Mathematics

It was the last day of class before Christmas vacation, and our high-school math class was restless and without anything much our teacher needed to cover.

“I can prove the existence of the integers from the axioms that there is a number one and the operation of addition,” he said, and started scribbling on the board.

1+1=2
2+1=3
and so forth.

That was the beginning of my love affair with number theory, the elegant pie-in-the-sky structures mathematicians build; structures that appear to have no application to the real world but somehow do.

The first number poem I wrote was called Round. Round was sparked by my memory of a discussion in a college physics class about the rate at which a cup of coffee would cool and how the shape of the cup played into it. We spent an entire class writing equations about the rate at which the coffee would cool based on the cup shape; we concluded a tall, narrow mug is best – least surface area at the open top.

Another trigger memory from a math class about the sphere having the least surface area per unit volume of any solid figure. One afternoon as both these memories chased each other around the inside of my head, I wrote the poem.

Round

The sphere
is the perfect
shape

for conserving heat,
providing the least
surface area
per unit
of volume,

thus explaining
why Santa

lives at
the North Pole.

It was published, a friend liked it and challenged me to write more.  So I wrote.

About Counting

If you couldn’t count, could you still tell if someone took one of your toys? Maybe, if you only had four or fewer toys. Perhaps you could tell with five, but at some point, we all reach our limit, where we can’t tell unless you we count. And, it turns out, some animals, such as birds and insects, have a number sense, too. So while the ability to count is, in a sense, built into our genes, the symbols we use for numbers and the whole structure surrounding them: addition, subtraction, and all the rest, are our own creations.
If we couldn’t count there would be no computers, no telephones, no electricity, no television or radio or boom boxes. In short, no modern civilization.

Man invented arithmetic. In fact, he invented numbers and counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions and percents. He invented the whole structure of arithmetic. It did not, as I like to imagine, spring full blown from the mind of some great Mathematician in the sky.

A Few Poems

This is the way I like to dream mathematics came into being:

The Way it Should Have Been

In the beginning there was zero, void.
And the Mathematician said,
“Let there be a number one,”
and there was a number one.

And the Mathematician said,
“Let there be addition,
so numbers can be added together,”
and there was addition, the first operator.

And the Mathematician said,
“Let them go forth and add,”
and they went forth and added.
And there was two, three, four, five, …

And the Mathematician said,
“Let there be subtraction,
so one number can be subtracted from another,”
and there was subtraction, the second operator.

And the Mathematician said,
“Let them go forth and subtract,”
and the went forth and subtracted.
And there was -1, -2, -3, …

And there were positive integers,
and there were negative integers,
the first set of numbers.

And the Mathematician looked
upon what he had created,
and behold, the sum was greater than the parts.

Birth of the Twos

One is the mother
of the integers,
addition their father.

All you need
is love
and number theory.

Addition

In arithmetic,
one plus one
always makes two.

In life, if you wait
nine months
you might get three.

Playing Around: me and Gertrude Stein

Playing Around: me and Gertrude Stein

gertrude_stein_by_alvin_langdon_coburn

I am taking an online poetry class, and one of the poets we’re studying is Gertrude Stein, an American novelist, poet, and playwright: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gertrude_Stein

The last time I took this class, three or four years ago, Stein kind of slipped by me. This time, I am enchanted with her language play. My particular favorite at the moment is her verbal portrait of Picasso, a kind of cubism in words rather than a straightforward description of the artist.

Here is a link to Stein reading the poem, “Would he like it if I told him, a completed portrait of Picasso”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJEIAGULmPQ

Playing Around One: A Sestina

 

Inspired by this, and by a list of words from a poetry challenge, I decided to write a sestina. A sestina, for those who don’t know, is a poem consisting of six six-line stanzas plus a three-line envoy where the end words repeat in a set pattern https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sestina

I wrote a Sestina where I repeated the entire lines and not just the ending words. If you want to try writing one, you might use http://www.renajmosteirin.com/sestina.html to generate the end of line words in the correct pattern. When I wrote mine, I repeated the entire lines of the first stanza instead of merely the final word.

the_djinn_by_maeshanne

The Devil Made Me Do It

 

Write right
Trudge down the road
Leave footprints in the snow
Meander through thick pine forests
until you see apple blossoms
Mending boys is significant

Mending boys is significant
Write right
until you see apple blossoms
Trudge down the road
Meander through thick pine forests
Leave footprints in the snow

Leave footprints in the snow
Mending boys is significant
Meander through thick pine forests
Write right
Trudge down the road
until you see apple blossoms

until you see apple blossoms
Leave footprints in the snow
Trudge down the road
Mending boys is significant
Write right
Meander through thick pine forests

Meander through thick pine forests
until you see apple blossoms
Write right
Leave footprints in the snow
Mending boys is significant
Trudge down the road

Trudge down the road
Meander through thick pine forests
Mending boys is significant
until you see apple blossoms
Leave footprints in the snow
Write right

Trudge down the road until you see apple blossoms
Meander through thick pine forests Leave footprints in the snow
Mending boys is significant Write right


Playing Around two: More Fun

 

Then I put the words through a “cut up” machine

http://www.alepoems.com/poems/generate

 

and edited the result, coming up with the following:

 

Cut Up

Forests Meander right through blossoms

Devil blossoms in leaves

through thick apple, significant

See pine See forests

 

down until

right is pine blossoms

Road is trudge

Write forest roads

You leave

Trudge pine forests

Trudge through snow

is the thick trudge

 

Footprints meander

Write boys, apple

Leave, the see pine thick

Right boys, leave down the snow

 

Meander, leave right

the pine is the boys road

right until trudge

in apple footprints

 

Blossoms until in snow

down through significant footprints

Leave mending in, meander

See until trudge apple

 

Write down thick blossoms

See boys in mending forests footprints

apple significant road

until you meander

 

Footprints see right

Mending thick apple,

you leave footprints

significant is right

 

Loads of fun! Go ahead, try playing around and see what you come up with. Feel free to post your poem(s) in the comments.

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