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Welcome to the third installment of readers’ quarantine haiku. Thank you for sending in these gems. I love them.

 

(Reminder:  if yours hasn’t been posted yet, wait a day or so, I’ll get to it. And keep them coming!)

 

Let’s start with flowers because . . . flowers! After winter, flowers. What a marvelous event.

 

Sharon Carey sends in this

 

 

 

Springtime violas

uplift stone cold riprap spirits

Johnny jump ups cheer somber days

 

 

In case you, like me, don’t know what a Johnny jump up is—

Screen Shot 2020-03-27 at 11.09.32 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judith Berger, herbalist, sends greetings from Manhattan:

 

 

Outside my window,

waxwing in the Juniper.

She too wears a mask.

 

 

 

 

Who knew this little project would be such an education? Here’s a waxwing in a juniper bush:

 

 

Screen Shot 2020-03-27 at 11.17.08 AM

 

 

 

 

 

My sister Mary K. wrote one we can all relate to:

 

 

Stationery bike

Attempting to stay in shape

Food and wine negate

 

 

 

 

My grand-nephew Charlie Greco, age 9, made a PSA haiku. Simple, sober and to the point. Thanks, Charlie!

 

 

coronavirus

it is horrible for you

wash your hands please, thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

Last ones for the day are from my friend Michelle of Chicago.

 

 

 

[Explanation needed:  weeks and weeks ago which feels more like a lifetime ago, we met in Maui (I cringe at the Marie-Antoinette tone of that phrase, but it is what it is, and it’s relevant). In the airport restroom we spoke with a woman who had just come back from the little island of Molokai, once home to lepers. She enchanted us. Tall, willowy, gray-haired, dressed in safari-type clothes, a big smiler—also a widow who had buried her native-born Kauai husband on his home island years before. We wanted to know more about her—really I wanted to be her best friend—so we stalked her. Tracked her down in the airport restaurant to see who she was with.]

 

 

 

Molokai Lady

You were so interesting

Tell us your secret 

 

 

 

Michelle also wrote this one:

 

 

 

Were the fish laughing

When they saw my snorkel mask

Or was it my fins?

 

 

 

 

Okay, more tomorrow!

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(Please note: If you sent in a haiku and you haven’t seen it here yet, have patience! I have an abundance of haiku which is so much nicer than an abundance of caution.)

 

Here’s a lovely dose of spring from Patti Russo of Bloomington, Indiana (a perfectly-named town for the season):

Sunshine on a stick
Immune from fear or worry
Spring forsythia

 

Patti must have an abundance of creativity because she sent two haikus. Here’s the other:

To want a dog’s life
Not just any dog’s..this one’s
The smile says it all!

 

Brenda Loew sent these lovelies:

Where are the two leggeds now?!?
the crows are wondering…
the world is so still.

And her second, a timely reminder of our need for human contact, whatever form it takes

Dying is not difficult.
Not having good Friends,
a Hell realm indeed.

 

My daughter Lizzie, a nurse in northern Michigan, sent a few. Her work brings back memories of long ago when we sat at the kitchen table and wrote haikus inspired by art postcards.

As of late although

Surfaces are suspicious

All has been wiped clean

 

and here’s one about delayed affection in the age of coronavirus

 

Just six feet away

You laugh and stand there smiling

I will hug you soon

 

My sister Ceci is using her quarantine time to clean out her basement. My sisters and I tease her that she has forever been cleaning out her basement. A good reason to disappear downstairs, I suppose. Anyway, here’s her Marie-Kondo-inspired haikus:

Cards and photographs
Fond memories abounding
Life in the basement!
And this one, presumably written before she found her way to the basement
Empty calendar
Days to fill and time to spare
For long lost projects!
Ceci’s friend Marge sent one too (both live in Deerfield, Illinois and miss playing tennis):
Fewer body aches
Could it be no more tennis?
Aching joints ok
Finally, for today, another dog haiku from Monica Bailey in Florida. She included a picture of her cute little friend Lilly:
There once was none.
Lilly working from home.
Now there is peace.
More tomorrow!

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Thank you to everyone who sent in a haiku! Can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading them. It’s a balm for my nervous system. The creative spirit is fundamental to us humans and strengthens our connections!

 

Up first from Jeanette, who gets extra credit for taking a picture:

(Jeanette has a very droll sense of humor and I am laughing at “safe connection.”)

 

Extra credit too for Truus Visser whose native language is Dutch. A lot said here, very artfully:

deep-orange sky
birds fill in the  silence
handsoap foams fragrant

 

Here from Nancy Murphy, mother of four, a positive spin on quarantine:

Games, puzzles unearthed
Joyful sounds, parents exhale
Family renewed

Nancy adds, “Please note that my poem is in no way intended to make light of the seriousness of the virus and its consequences. Hope we all get through this ok.”

 

And from Michigan resident Gail Haffey, gardener extraordinaire:

Season for pansies

The snowflakes touch them gently

Sun melts them away

 

Thanks, everyone! I’ll post more tomorrow.

 

Keep them coming!

 

 

 

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                                   **my inspiration**

 

I am in need of music, poet Elizabeth Bishop wrote in her poem of the same name.

 

I am in need of distraction, I find myself saying, and how nice!, distraction is everywhere— funny animal videos, show-me-your-dance-moves Instagram accounts (shout-out to my daughters), clips of Italian mayors shouting at their constituents who won’t stay home.

 

So here’s a Poem Elf distraction. I’m inviting you to submit a Quarantine Haiku. You can also send me a picture of your haiku, Poem-Elf style. You can be in the picture or not. I’ll post as many as I can.

 

Email your haikus and/or photos to thepoemelf@gmail.com.

 

A brief tutorial on haikus (for better instruction, link here and scroll down):

 

  • Haikus have three lines, traditionally 5-7-5 syllables, but feel free to experiment. No one’s counting.

 

  • Start with an image (something you see, hear, taste, touch, smell) around you.

 

  • Keep it simple. Try not to get too metaphorical or flowery.

 

  • Haikus often contain an element of surprise or sudden understanding.

 

Your haiku can be silly, profound or mundane. Just not political, please. The point is to use the structure 5-7-5 to re-focus your thoughts away from anxiety and worries.

 

Just so you’re not self-conscious about submitting work that is mediocre or worse: first of all, it doesn’t matter. This is just supposed to be fun, communal and distracting.

 

Second, here’s mine so you know the bar is low:

 

Goodbye, soda bread

Once upon a time, St. Pat’s!

Crumbs and raisins now

 

 

 

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poem is on gate door

 

From “A Married State”

by Katherine Philips

 

A married state affords but little ease

The best of husbands are so hard to please.

This in wives’ careful faces you may spell

Though they dissemble their misfortunes well.

 

Someone wrote on Twitter the other day that being in lockdown reminded her of being married. This little excerpt from Katherine Philips’ poem is for all those quarantined with a less-than-perfect housemate.

 

My own housemate is a dear. He is dear even as he follows me around with supportive words on hand washing, although sometimes I have to remind myself of how dear he is when he doesn’t follow me around with supportive words on hand washing.

 

Reader, I wash my hands often and well.

 

You can link to the complete poem here.

 

Katherine Philips (1631/32 – 1664) was an English poet and translator. She was an intelligent child who read the Bible by the time she was four. Her father was a cloth merchant and had her educated at boarding school. She spoke several languages.

 

She was 16 when she married a Welsh landowner and member of Parliament. It was a strange match—he was 38 years older and the son of her mother’s second husband from another marriage. She and her husband (—cough—step-brother) had opposite political positions (her pro-royalist connections saved him from the executioner after King Charles II took the throne), but they seem to have been happy. Important to note that she wrote her sardonic anti-marriage poem in her early teens before she was married.

 

Still, her view of marriage seems jaundiced. When a friend remarried after widowhood, Philips wrote to her, “one may generally conclude the Marriage of a Friend to be the Funeral of a Friendship.”

 

Her husband encouraged her literary endeavors. She wrote over a hundred poems, many on the theme of female friendship which she wrote about in the tropes of courtly love. She translated and staged a play in London and Dublin, the first woman ever to have done so. She was the founder of the Society of Friendship, a literary group that wrote letters and poems to each other. Members of the group addressed each other with nicknames—hers was “The Matchless Orinda.”

 

She had two children. Her son died in infancy. She wrote his tombstone epitaph (in verse) and another poem, “On the Death of My First and Dearest Child, Hector Philips.” In spite of the elegant phraseology, a mother’s raw grief rips through—

 

Tears are my muse, and sorrow all my art,

    So piercing groans must be thy elegy.

 

Those piercing groans. Wow. Lines like that remind me how we are the same in our suffering, century to century, country to country.

 

She died in her early thirties of smallpox.

 

For anyone on Instagram who needs a break from the gloom-and-doom of Covid-19 news, link here and sign up for Wake Up and Dance. Two of my daughters, one in Prague, one in northern Michigan, are collaborating on the videos. They’ll make you smile and maybe even dance yourself. (Instagram name if you’re having trouble with the link: @w.akeupanddance)

 

 

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poem is on palm tree

 

Poem in Thanks

by Thomas Lux

 

Lord Whoever, thank you for this air

I’m about to in- and exhale, this hutch

in the woods, the wood for fire,

the light—both lamp and the natural stuff

of leaf-black fern, and wing.

For the piano, the shovel

for ashes, the moth-gnawed

blankets, the stone-cold water

stone-cold:  thank you.

Thank you, Lord, coming for

to carry me here–––where I’ll gnash

it out, Lord, where I’ll calm

and work, Lord, thank you

for the goddamn birds singing!

 

 

Thomas Lux’s “Poem in Thanks” is a good prayer for the self-described “spiritual but not religious,” all those people who call the woods their church and the birds their choir. Given modern distaste for high-holy formality and the corresponding love of irreverence, Lux has a big audience.

 

The speaker in the poem is on a retreat of sorts, trying to get work done or work things out. He’s holed up in the woods in an old cabin with an old blanket, a fire pit, and water from the creek. In other words, his basic needs are met. He has air to breathe, water, shelter, light, warmth and presumably food. For these he offers thanks, beginning and ending his prayer in less-than-ecclesiastical language:

 

Lord Whoever. . .

thank you

for the goddamn birds singing!

 

The poem has a wonderful slapdash spontaneous quality, as if the cranky poet were drawn into prayers of gratitude against his will.

 

Funny thing though. Look past the cheeky irreverence and improvisations, and there’s actually theology and structure (call it formality).

 

I was surprised to count the lines—fourteen—and realize Lux wrote his prayer as a sonnet.

 

And then surprised again to realize “Poem of Thanks” is less spoken prayer than a hymn. It’s no accident that

 

Thank you, Lord, coming for

to carry me here

 

echoes the old spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”:

 

Swing low, sweet chariot

Coming for to carry me home

 

The last four lines, with the thrice-repeated, direct-address “Lord,” sound hymnal as well.

 

As for the theology, look no further than the first line, “thank you.” Gratitude is foundational to all religions, and Lux has trained his eye to see the graces in every part of life, the good and the bad—in the things we have that we need (Give us this day our daily bread); in those things we have that we need but aren’t perfect (the moth-gnawed blankets); in the things that are bonuses, a few levels-up on a Maslow scale (the ability to make music and art whether it be on the piano or on the page); and in those things that irritate and distract us from our work (the goddamn birds).

 

That Lux is a true believer in giving thanks for all things at all times is illustrated by this anecdote from poet, memoirist and novelist Mary Karr:

Poet Thomas Lux was somebody I saw a lot those days around Cambridge, since our babies were a year apart in age. One day after I’d been doing these perfunctory prayers for a while, I asked Lux—himself off the sauce for some years—if he’d ever prayed. He was barbecuing by a swimming pool for a gaggle of poets (Allen Grossman in a three-piece suit and watch fob was there that day, God love him). The scene comes back to me with Lux poking at meat splayed on the grill while I swirled my naked son around the swimming pool. Did he actually pray? I couldn’t imagine it—Lux, that dismal sucker.

 

Ever taciturn, Lux told me: I say thanks.

 

For what? I wanted to know.

 

. . . Back in Lux’s pool, I honestly couldn’t think of anything to be grateful for. I told him something like I was glad I still had all my limbs. That’s what I mean about how my mind didn’t take in reality before I began to pray. I couldn’t register the privilege of holding my blond and ringleted boy, who chortled and bubbled and splashed on my lap.

 

It was a clear day, and Lux was standing in his Speedo suit at the barbecue turning sausages and chicken with one of those diabolical-looking forks. Say thanks for the sky, Lux said, say it to the floorboards. This isn’t hard, Mare.

 

At some point, I also said to him, What kind of god would permit the Holocaust?

 

To which Lux said, You’re not in the Holocaust.

 

In other words, what is the Holocaust my business?

 

No one ever had an odder guru than the uber-ironic Thomas Lux, but I started following his advice by mouthing rote thank-you’s to the air, and, right off, I discovered something.

 

(You can read her complete essay here.)

 

I taped “Poem in Thanks” to a palm tree next to Hanalei’s Waioli Mission Church, established 1834.

 

I’ll re-post Lux’s biography from a past post.

Thomas Lux was born in 1946 in Massachusetts. He was the only child of parents who both held jobs that no longer exist—his mother was a telephone operator and his father was a milkman. His father worked seventeen years with hardly a day off until his son was old enough to take over the route for a week to give him time off. Neither parent graduated from high school, but Lux, a star athlete in high school, went on to graduate from Emerson College and earn his MFA from University of Iowa.

 

Lux was the Poet in Residence at Emerson College and taught at many universities, including Sarah Lawrence, Iowa, and Michigan. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship and three National Endowment for the Arts grants, among other awards.

 

He directed the poetry program at Georgia Tech. He was married three times, had one daughter, and died in 2017 of lung cancer.

 

 

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In Hawaii for another Valentine’s Day—always a good spot for celebrating love, inspiring love and meditating on love. When I’m here my heart nearly bursts open with love for all creation.

 

Yeah, yeah, pretty easy when I’m this far away from routine, news, and winter weather. Regardless, sending love to you, dear readers, and to all my Valentines across the Pacific (and to one across the Atlantic).

 

On with the poem blitzing then:

 

I taped “Some Kiss We Want” by 13th century Persian poet Rumi to a piece of grass at a favorite overlook of mine. Every time I drive by I say, “It never gets old,” and so with a kiss, and so with our human yearning for love.

 

No one marries the spiritual with the physical like Rumi. Just look how he connects the mouth to that union in the last stanza. The mouth brings in breath and spirit, speaks words of love and is rather handy in the act of love itself:

Breath into me. Close

the language-door and open the love-window.

 

 

For a more prosaic but no less love-happy treatment of love, I left British poet Wendy Cope’s “The Orange” in a stack of grocery store (wait for it) oranges.

 

What a wonderful description she gives of being newly in love, how it makes you newly in love with every old thing you never paid attention to before:

And that orange, it made me so happy,

As ordinary things often do

Just lately.

 

I asked my friends, a long-married couple, to be in a picture with an excerpt from Edgar Allen Poe’s “To One in Paradise” while we waited at the airport to move from one Hawaiian isle to another. They wisely questioned the appropriateness of an Edgar Allen Poe poem for a non-Halloween holiday, but were good sports in posing with it.

poem is on window between the smoochers

 

The poem is (unsurprisingly) about a dead lover. But let’s just pretend that the loved one in the poem’s heavenly paradise is a loved one here on the earthly paradise of Hawaii. Then we can enjoy the romance of the beautiful lines and not feel like we’re dragging a decomposing corpse from the crypt to the bedroom.

 

The poem is hard to read in my picture, so I’ll type out the words:

And all my days are trances,

      And all my nightly dreams

Are where thy grey eye glances

     And where thy footstep gleams—

In what ethereal dances,

     By what eternal streams.

 

Speaking of morbid attachments, I do love a good cemetery and was happy to find an unmarked one off a dirt road where I could leave “Love Song” by poet Nancy Wood (1936-2013).

poem is on fence-post in foreground

 

For anyone who’s lost their life’s love, this is for you:

. . . Our holy place is holy still;

     our love is not diminished by absence or by pain.

 

There’s a  high surf warning today on the north shore of Kauai, so it’s a good time to leave “Sonnet LXXV” by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) on the beach, to fulfill its promise of being washed away.

 

Not to be a sourpuss in the candy jar, but it’s funny that for all the flowery promises to make his lover’s name immortal and her virtues rare eternal, Spenser never does mention her name or describe what those virtues are. Seems to me what he really wanted written in the heavens was his poem. Success!

 

For those who haven’t yet found the lover to write their names in the sand much less follow through on a Bumble date, Maya Angelou offers encouragement in this excerpt from “In My Missouri.” I taped it to a telephone pole outside one of the only late-night spots in Hanalei, the famous Tahiti Nuit. (Famous for The Descendants fans, I mean.)

 

The poem begins with the bad men she’s encountered, the mean, cold and hard men. Then she writes, and I love this, I love this for all those who are still looking and need hope—

So I thought I’d never meet a sweet man

A kind man

A true man

One who in darkness you can feel secure man

A sure man

A man.

 

For my own man, my own sure man, I crumpled up Ted Kooser’s “Pocket Poem” and stuck it in his shorts.

 

My husband is notorious for crumpling his scorecard in our euchre group (much to the annoyance of the scorekeeper) so Kooser’s poem is just right. And also these lines, which I feel even now, thirty-two years on (forty if you include the teenage dating years)—

. . . I want to be so close

that when you find it, it is warm from me.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Across the isles and across the aisles, let’s love!

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