Category Archives: Poetry

Book Review: Old Broads Waxing Poetic

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A few years ago, Julie Kemp Pick, inspired by a poem by Susan Flett Swiderski, came up with the idea to create an anthology of poetry written by women of a certain age. Together, they compiled Old Broads Waxing Poetic from their own verses and the work of six other poets.

I don’t remember how I heard about it, but I bought a copy, compelled by the wonderful cover image. It sat in my study for a couple of years, forgotten, until I recently came across it again.Old Broads Waxing Poetic

The poems range in quality from okay to delightful. I’ve already shared one poem from this book. Here are a couple of my other favorites:

Lilacs and Love
by Connie Biltz

“Nothing says spring like a lilac breeze,”
Mom closed her eyes, smiled, and sighed.
The scent would come drifting in,
with curtains billowing and windows wide.

My mother gathered them by the armful,
bunches of lilac blooms with a fragrance that was heaven sent.
She took them to my grandma every Mother’s Day,
sharing her love, showing her gratitude, knowing how much it meant.

She loved lilacs too, my mother did,
and she was glad we had plenty to spare.
It doubled her joy for them, I think,
knowing she was able to share.

Grandma would bury her nose in the lilacs,
and breathe in the heady scent too.
She arranged them carefully in a milk glass vase,
and there was one thing I always knew.

Grandma loved me, and my mom did too,
so fierce and wide and deep.
Remembering those lilacs they shared
is a memory I’ll always keep.

Forever the sight of a lilac bush,
or the hint of its fragrance in the air,
will remind me of those two ladies before me,
who had lilacs and love to spare.

lilacs-close-up-600x400That poem hits me right in the memories. A huge lilac bush grew just outside the kitchen window of the house I grew up in. On May evenings, as my mother washed dishes and I dried them, the breeze coming through the open screen carried the fragrance of lilacs, which we both loved. Though my parents didn’t particularly care for cut flowers (they felt flowers belonged in the garden), on Mother’s Day there was usually a large vase of lilac branches on the kitchen table.

GOODBYE, LEFT BREAST
(ODE TO A MASTECTOMY)
by Fran Fischer

I just thought I’d like to say goodbye
As you go to that medical waste disposal in the sky.
Say hi to my tonsils and have no fears.
We’ll all get back together in a few years.

You’ve know me the seventy-nine years of my life.
You saw me as a teen, and then a wife.
Your first job was attracting men
And next you were a breastaurant for my children.
When the doors of the milkbar finally closed
You went back to a purely decorative mode.
Which was fine, until last week
When you (and other parts) became antique.
I no longer attract young men of twenty,
But that’s all right, because I’ve had plenty.
And as for that other use, well, we all know
The odds of me nursing again are low.
But it’s in my nature to be a little sappy,
And with or without you I’ll keep on being happy.
Most would count this a loss when it comes to my score.
Will I miss you? A little. Do I need you? No more!
I will be losing some symmetry,
On this I think we can both agree.
I may tilt to one side as I walk through town
But I’ll try to adjust and not fall down.

Yet I’m not through having fun
And lifting my face to the warmth of the sun.
And being friends and laughing (I’ll show you)
So ta ta, left ta-ta, it was nice to know you!

I’d never thought it was possible to make cancer surgery humorous.Old Broads Waxing Poetic

Is this book worth buying? Yes. Not every poem will resonate with you, but these sweet ladies are not trying to get rich or famous. They are donating all the proceeds from this book to CARE International. Go ahead and buy it already. It’s only $9.99 at Amazon, only $2.99 for the kindle edition.

A Visit from the Easter Bunny, by Fran Fischer

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easter-bunny

A Visit from the Easter Bunny
by Fran Fischer

‘Twas the night before Easter, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even my spouse.
The baskets were placed in the yard with such care,
In hopes that the Easter Bunny soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Easter eggs danced in their heads;
And mamma with her night cream covering her nose,
Had just settled down for a long springtime’s doze;

When out on the lawn there arose such a noise,
I jumped up to yell at the neighborhood boys.
Those kids sounded like they were out of their minds,
I pulled back the drapes and opened the blinds.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen trash
Gave the alley below me a certain panache,
When, what to my wondering eyes should be featured,
But a miniature hot rod, and eight tiny creatures,

With a little old driver, so lively and funny,
I knew in a moment it must be the Bunny.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Dagger! Now, Danger! Now, Badass and Ice!
On, T-Rex! On, Rudeboy! On, Bigfoot and Slice!
To the top of the porch! Someone toss me a beer!
Now dash away! Dash away before the cops can get here!

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the housetops the coursers they flew,
With a carload of eggs, and the big Bunny, too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heart the roof go kaput
From the prancing and pawing of each little foot.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Through the window the Easter Bunny came in with a bound.

He was dressed all in fun, from his foot to his ear,
He saw me but showed absolutely no fear.
A bundle of eggs he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes, oh, how bloodshot! He was sort of scary!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a sheep
And he said, “Hey, dude, why aren’t you asleep?”

The stump of a joint he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and he was kind of smelly,
Yet he shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right nasty old elf,
But I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye as he brandished his piece,
Soon told me I should have called the police.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And took all my good stuff, then turned, the big jerk.
He left me the eggs, but who wanted them now?

And out the window he went, with an arrogant bow.

He sprang to his hot rod, to his gang gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, though it was more like a hoot,

“Happy Easter to all, and thanks for the loot!”

From Old Broads Waxing PoeticUsed with permission.

Creative Juice #36

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Creative Juice #36

A baker’s dozen of links to delight you with beauty and creativity and personal growth.

  1. Fabulous review of a children’s book about poetry.
  2. Great abstract art project for children or adults. You’ll need colored tissue paper.
  3. A totally different way to enhance your creativity.
  4. The argument for output.
  5. Quilters: do you have a bunch of “orphan blocks”? Here’s what to do with them (and an idea for accumulating more).
  6. Literary nerd types will love this analysis.
  7. An exercise for writers who want to find their voice.
  8. Pretty art journal pages.
  9. This quirky, artsy hotel is located right next to the Irish Cultural Center, where I folk dance. It was vacant for a long time, and recently reopened.
  10. I’m not wild about tattoos, but these are really interesting.
  11. Beautiful Iranian architecture.
  12. The virtues of mini-quilts.
  13. Beautiful cakes.

The Joy of Childhood Poetry

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The Joy of Childhood Poetry

One of my earliest memories is of my mother reading Mother Goose books to me. I know that even as a little tot I had a large repertoire of rhymes that I could recite by heart. In kindergarten we learned lots of songs that were essential nursery rhymes set to music: Jack and Jill, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Old King Cole, London Bridge is Falling Down, and many others. Mother Goose nursery rhymes were a passage of childhood for my generation, as they had been for hundreds of years.

mother gooseWhen our children were young, we continued the tradition, buying different collections of rhymes and reading them to the kids over and over so that they soon knew them by heart. There’s something about rhyme and meter that imbed themselves in the unconscious, and even more so if they’re combined with a tune. I think you could sing the first line of a Mother Goose rhyme to an Alzheimer’s patient, and he’d be able to finish it for you.

To my sorrow, I found during my second teaching career (2006-2014) that most of my elementary school students weren’t familiar with nursery rhymes. In elementary general music, many activities start with a well-known rhyme. Since my students didn’t have a shared knowledge base of rhymes, I had to teach them a rhyme first before we could use it as the basis of a music experience. Sigh.

Back in the day, memorization of poems was a popular classroom activity. Few teachers today are able to spend time on this pursuit, because it’s usually not measured on standardized tests.

However, I still partially remember four poems I learned from Mrs. Susan Westerfield when I was in second grade, more than fifty years ago. Since they are in the public domain, I will share them with you. (Please forgive the improper formatting. I am a dunce when it comes to code.)

SwingThe Swing
By Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

ShadowMy Shadow
By Robert Louis Stevenson

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow-
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an errant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

Gingham by JeromeG111 CCLic

Photo by JeromeG111, used under Creative Commons License

The Duel
By Eugene Field

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
’Twas half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t’other had slept a wink!
The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
(I wasn’t there; I simply state
What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

The gingham dog went “bow-wow-wow!”
And the calico cat replied “mee-ow!”
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
(Now mind: I’m only telling you
What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)

The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, “Oh, dear! what shall we do!”
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
Employing every tooth and claw
In the awfullest way you ever saw—
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
(Don’t fancy I exaggerate!
I got my views from the Chinese plate!)

Next morning where the two had sat
They found no trace of the dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole the pair away!
But the truth about the cat and the pup
Is this: They ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
(The old Dutch clock it told me so,
And that is how I came to know.)

Wynken by Crossett Library

Photo by Crossett Library

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod
By Eugene Field

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe,—
Sailed on a river of crystal light
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring-fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we,”
Said Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe;
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew;
The little stars were the herring-fish
That lived in the beautiful sea.
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish,—
Never afeard are we!”
So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam,—
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home:
’Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
As if it could not be;
And some folk thought ’twas a dream they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea;
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock on the misty sea
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three,—
Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

I even remember drawing illustrations for Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

What about you–did you learn nursery rhymes as a child? Did you memorize poems in elementary school? What are some of your favorites? Share with us in the comments below.

Experimenting with Poetic Forms

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Trying to get away from straight free verse to incorporate some structure into my poetry, I’m experimenting with acrostic, haiku, and etheree. Definitions of these terms can be found at one of my favorite online resources, Shadow Poetry.

writing-helloquence

Characterplay-stone-1744790_960_720

Courageous
Honorable
Authentic
Rare
Accountable
Conscientious
Trustworthy
Earnest
Recommendablecalendarpict3

 

Overscheduled

Multiple demands
Much to do, so little time
Passes in a blur

 

Center

Pointferris-center
In the
Middle of,
Equidistant
From every point on
The circumference or
Surface of a circle or
Sphere; or the primary site where
An activity or a business
Originated or is headquartered.

The last poem is in response to a Daily Post Daily Prompt.

Vivid

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In response to The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt: a stream of consciousness poem, and a quick sketch.

Vividdsc03149

Livid
Lizard
Rivet
Pivot
River
Divot

Divide
Ride
Outside
Outsider
Insider
Spider
Cider
Sider
Spiter
Spitter
Splatter
Patter
Batter
Tatter
Totter
Tater
Pater
Potater
Spader

Review of poemcrazy: freeing your life with words

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Review of poemcrazy: freeing your life with words

I bought poemcrazy at Borders (Remember Borders Books? Sigh.) when my oldest daughter entered Bennington College in 1996. Poetry was one of her areas of study (I think it was her original major), and I thought she would like it. But as I flipped through it, I decided I’d read it first, then send it to her.

PoemcrazyI started reading it often, always meaning to try out the exercises, but never getting around to it. Meanwhile, Carly changed majors several times, graduated from Bennington with a degree in German, then got a Masters from NYU in English as a second language, earned a second Masters from Baruch College, and started doctoral work. I’ve never sent her the book.

Finally, last January I began a year-long love affair with poemcrazy: freeing your life with words, by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, which has resulted in twenty-seven babies (poems) so far.

Poemcrazy is an informal textbook on creating free verse. Wooldridge is a nationally known teacher of poetry workshops to students of all ages. She is more interested in playing with words to release their emotional content than in adhering to strict form or rhyme constraints.

Wooldridge advocates collecting words in a wordpool. She likes writing individual words on tickets, like those used at carnivals. Throughout the book, Wooldridge makes suggestions for additions to the pool.

I write my words on quartered 3×5 cards, color coded: blue for adjectives, yellow for verbs, orange for nouns, green for colors, and pink for feelings. I rubberband each color together and store them in a Ziplock baggie in my desk drawer.

The wordpool can be used to generate poems. For me, one or two cards drawn from each category create weird juxtapositions that ignite bizarre images and bring long-repressed memories back into my consciousness, releasing floodgates of emotion—a perfect breeding ground for poetry.

writing-helloquence

Using stories from her life and examples from her workshops, Wooldridge nudges the reader toward creativity:

…Erica [a high school student] stared at a perfect, round dandelion gone to seed. When Stacie knocked some seeds, off, Erica went outside for another. She wanted a perfect sphere. I asked her to look closely, name it and then describe what the dandelion looked like, reminding her that close observation is important in poetry.

Then I asked her to think about a quality of the dandelion that could enrich her life. I felt discouraged and I was pushing her. I asked her to begin, What does it look like? What does it look like that it isn’t? When Erica finally wrote about her dandelion, I was reminded of the power of comparison (or simile and metaphor) to expand our sense of possibility in ourselves and in everyday objects.

Wish domedandelion
it looks like someone shot
an arrow in the moon
or even a golf ball on a green tee.
A domed jungle gym
with small people growing out.
An octopus tarred and feathered.
It smells like starbursts…
I can smell the arrow
it flew by so fast.
Bring me the light touch of a bubble
the freedom of air
the firmness and strength of a rock.

Before I read this book, I didn’t think I could write poetry.

Now I know I can.

Poemcrazy was first released in 1996. It is now in its twenty-sixth printing.

A Poem and a Blogging Prompt

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A Poem and a Blogging Prompt

I recently wrote this poem as an exercise for a book I’m reading and working through, poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge. The assignment was to think of a time when an irreversible change took place in your life. I chose to list them:

 

Life shifters

New friendrandom-art-supplies
Car purchase
Graduation
Job loss
Job change
Marriage
Birth
Move
Debt repaid
Resignation
Illness
Death

Here’s my challenge to you: Consider the events in your life that made you change your direction, or select one from the list above. Express your experience and thoughts in the medium of your choosing, whether poem or prose, photography, drawing, painting, zentangle, music, or whatever. Post it on your blog, and add your link in the comments below.

Creative Juice #24

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Creative Juice #24

Fourteen inspiring articles to send you to your creative work station.

Poems for the New Year

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Poems for the New Year

Actually, these poems have nothing to do with the new year, but I have so many posts titled “Three Poems” or some variation thereof, that I tried to come up with a different title.

These poems were inspired by an exercise in poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge.

Orchestration 

Orcas leaping in unison, diamondbacksconcert
Rattling their tippy-tails
Chaos
Harmonic dissonance
Extinguishing
Sympathetic resonance
Tonal distinction
Rendered
Atonal
Temptation yielding to
Intentional pandemonium
Orchestration machination
Notational anarchy

Skinny 

Wienieweinie
Whiney
Meanie
Miney
Teeny
Tiny
Feeney
Finey

Skinny
Twinny
Blinky
Twinkie
Cheapy
Peepy
Pee pee?
Poopy

Twinklespaghetti
Twinkle
Periwinkle
Thinkle
Thinkle
Fairy twinkle

Pearly
Burly
Gnarly
Carly
Matty
Patatty
Heady
Spaghetti

Pogobanjo
Pinny
Togo
Tinny
Bogo
Binney
Skoko
Skinny

Plinky
Plinky
Banjo binky
Pease
Porridge
Cold

Arizona Winter udgvznom0xs-john-price

Suddenly not hot
Scorching sun a memory
Coat necessary

Flip flops put away
Unaccustomed shivering
Don’t stand in the shade

 

Poems © by ARHuelsenbeck