Wednesday, February 27, 2008

First flowers

These flowers popped up this morning. Of course, right now it's snowing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Total lunar eclipse

Taken tonight, February 20, between 9 and 11:30 pm.

Poem Spark Feb 18-Mar 3: February poems

Greetings and Salutations!

This time of year inspiration seems difficult to find. The landscape is often cold and a colorless monotone, the sky forbidding even in sunshine. It seems to me that it is nearly impossible to write about beauty, given the sense of yearning for spring and warmth that permeates my life right now. I looked at the calendar to see how many days were left in February and suddenly inspiration hit: write a February poem!

Of course, I can't even begin to think about writing a poem if I don't procrastinate on the web for at least an hour, so I plugged "February poetry" into the search bar to see what happened. Imagine my surprise to find two lovely poems, both with "February" in their titles:

Jane Kenyon: February: Thinking of Flowers

Norman Dubie: February: The Boy Breughel

Since these two poems did not take up nearly enough procrastination time, I went to Poetry Foundation next. Here's what I found there:

Bill Christophersen: February

Margaret Atwood: February

It seems there is beauty to be found in this month.

Your spark: write a February poem, using "February" in the title. Simple enough, yes? Good luck!


Monday, February 18, 2008

Cleaning day

I finally canceled the maid service I've had since I broke my ankle last August. My ankle is sorta better and the cleaners cost a fair bit of money. They did a nice job vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms, BUT they could not know that my younger son collects stuff. Lots of stuff. As in truckloads of cardboard, wood, screws, metal, branches, tape, glue, boxes, plastic, fabric, stones, etc.

My boys like to make things from this raw material, which is great. Very creative and non-conventional. Except I had a broken ankle and in the ensuing months of healing, I neglected to crawl upstairs to see what had been happening. I figured, hey, how bad can it get in a few months? So what if he couldn't find his underwear?

So, today I decided to clean the boys' bathroom (first time since I canceled the cleaners). I made the mistake of glancing into my son's room on the way to the tub. His stuff went up to the ceiling. If it all had caught fire, we would be dead and my son would have been the first one to go. There was no way to get to the windows to jump out because I couldn't see the windows. Hell, there was no way to get to the DOOR of his bedroom. He must have been crawling through a tunnel to get to bed at night. Thus, the 12 garbage bags of STUFF.

Never again. I have to go up there at least once a week and make him throw stuff out. It was that bad.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Poem Spark Feb 4-18: Persona poems

Greetings fellow poets!

Today I wanted to write a spark based on Black History Month. I quickly realized that in some ways, writing a spark to celebrate this occasion would prove difficult because the idea of celebrating one particular culture necessarily excludes others. So the question I needed to answer was this: how can one write an honest poem about Black History Month if one is not black? The answer came to me once I remembered one of my favorite poems, Skinhead, by Patrica Smith. To my joy, I found an interview in Torch in which Smith talks about writing this poem. In the interview, she speaks of the idea of "persona":

CFM [Cherryl Floyd-Miller]: Are there ever any scary moments when you’re doing the persona poem and you think that maybe this is you, or that persona has so much in common with you that the distinguishing line is very thin?

PS [Patricia Smith]: Well, one piece was the skinhead poem. The skinhead poem I wrote because when I was living in New England, somebody painted a swastika on Plymouth Rock. And if you’ve ever gone through New England, it’s like, you don’t mess with any of their symbols. They lost their minds. They were looking for this person. They never found the person but the group they thought was responsible was called the White Youth League. It was some Aryan Nation group or something. So I read this interview, and this guy is spewing all this hatred – blacks, Jews, gays, and whatever. I thought, at some point, we started at a common point. He moved in that direction. I moved in another direction. So, I wanted to write a poem that would bring us back to a common area. And so I wrote it, and I thought it was an exercise, and I like it – liked what came out – and I started reading it. Then people would tell me how strange it would be for them to see this skinhead voice come from this black woman, and I thought, oh, I understand that. Then, an accent, some weird accent, started working its way into the poem. I didn’t know where it came from. It’s like … I finally decided the problem with persona is, eventually, if you do it correctly, the poem will begin to tell you how it wants to sound.

So, instead of writing a spark about Black History Month, this time the spark deals with persona. Write a poem using a different persona than your own. It doesn't have to be a person from another culture; it can be someone of the opposite sex, or even someone much older or younger than yourself. The trick is to let the poem's character speak through you. Let the poem's voice out into the world just to see what happens.

To help you with this, I'm including a few poems that are also what I consider great examples of Black History Month as well as poems that speak in a voice different from my own. Enjoy!

Jim Zola Voudoun Tale

Natasha Trethewey Flounder

Gwendolyn Brooks We Real Cool

Good luck!