A. Michele Leslie, an accomplished writer and editor, generously offered to be the activity editor for April. She selected a challenging activity, which was both and interesting and an enjoyable one for me. I really appreciate all the hard work she put into this column.
Activity Directions--Select 7-12 poems by an author you admire. From each of these poems, select one word that you think would be appropriate for the poem you want to write. Using one of these words in each line of your poem, write a 7-12 line poem on any subject.
I would like to thank Michele for her efforts to bring this wonderful activity for our readers to enjoy. Her analysis of the poems is at the end of this column, which enriches the experience. Thank you, Elizabeth, Raamesh, Kelley and Ralph for sharing your talent for this activity. Congratulations on your publication!
--Karen O’Leary, Whispers’ Editor
A Day Written in Blue
What a precious blue day it was,
the snowbank melting at last,
blackwater collecting in puddles.
After a blue boy fell into a puddle,
he sat on a mossy hillock to dry
and to eat honey he found in a hive.
He tossed stones at a blue donkey
that was ploughing the garden.
The donkey chased him through catbriers
to a silky blue hammock
where he could look at the blue stars
in the dappled sky.
Mary Oliver’s poems: “The Summer Day,” “The Swan,” “At Blackwater Pond,” “The Kingfisher,” “Moccasin Flowers,” “The Moths,” “Hummingbird Pauses at the Trumpet Vine,” “The Lark,” “Egrets,” “White Night,” “Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me,” “Little Owl Who Lives in the Orchard”
By Elizabeth Howard
Memories are often miasmal, putrescent;
a squad-drill of old complaints marching by
that you soon wish were etherised, euthanised
lest, despondently, you are forced to grapple
with those; the nocturnal sounds of a forest
you wished you didn’t set foot in; a gambit indeed
that you played thinking it fashionable at the instant
and now regretted... indeed with appetites for regret;
meditating on them there is no shunya, nor do they
let you be forgetful of them, vicious in the pursuit,
and no, they don’t digress either to dwell on joy,
no sir, they're silhouettes that follow, to the grave mud.
Poems from T. S. Eliot, from http://www.poetry-archive.com/e/eliot_t_s.html and http://www.blackcatpoems.com/e/t_s_eliot.html “The Hippopotamus”, “Hysteria”, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, “Morning at the Window”, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night”, “Sweeney Among the Nightingales”, “Aunt Helen”, “The Boston Evening Transcript”, “Burbank With a Baedeker: Bleistein With a Cigar”, “The Burial of the Dead”, “Conversation Galante”, and “A Cooking Egg.”
By Raamesh Gowri Raghavan
In the charcoal embers
of illness, satin gifts arrive.
Words sewn into a quilt,
knotted with blessings
and loving wishes.
Sorrows melt as I read
and feel their rainbows.
Underlined words are from haiku in dandelion seeds by Arvinder Kaur, pages 18-27.
By Karen O’Leary
Your face watched me, your eyes of a lonely girl turning away
side after side, looking over one shoulder then the other
to draw me from the basin within the tree that hid your children.
When you left the branch it swayed so little I wondered if I had seen you at all,
then your gaze locked mine from another part of the forest
tearing my gaze again from the dark eyes of your young ones.
Now your tree seems empty, its opening a mouth twisted in a laugh,
the autumn leaves covering that mouth like the palms of a hundred hands.
No young ones, no bones or ruffled snags of fur fallen beneath your ledge.
Nothing but sanddust and darkness.
I want to see you. I want to hear you calling in the night. That silken whisper.
Even if it is not me you call. Even if it is me, and the night grows short.
I learned of Shakila Azizzada from the website http://www.napowrimo.net/ which has been featuring a poet in translation along with daily ‘prompts’ for poems during national poetry month. It was a double challenge of sorts! Reading the beautiful poems of this poet and then turning a few words into my own little effort. I do hope that the style of the poems reflects her style just a little. . .I intend to read more of her work and find inspiration! The poems were translated by Mimi Khalvati & Zuzanna Olszerska
By Kelley White
(St James’, Cooling Kent)
All around, death imbued him to his bones:
From his mother’s headstone
And in the gloaming, his sisters, resting side by side.
What phantom, sails this windswept marshland,
Through distant landscapes, and shifting sand?
There! a convict ship moors, full of those with troubled souls.
Within the deepening sounds of evensong,
And under crimson skies, he still tends and longs;
But death has claimed him:
By the whispers of angels, when they sing,
There to abide by his side, these stone feathers as wings.
Wilfred Owen 1893-1918 “Bones”, “Miners”, “Mothers”, “The Letter Gloaming”, “The Unreturning Phantom”, “Six O’clock in Princess Street Landscapes”, The One Remains
Troubled”, “Asleep Deepening”, “The Show Crimson”, “Conscious Death”, “The Next War
Whispers”, “All Sounds Have Been of Music Feathers” and “To the Bitter Sweet-heart”
(Charles Dickens used St James’ church, for a passage in Great Expectations, when young ‘Pip’ met the convict Magwich.)
By Ralph Stott
Although I only received five poems for this activities exercise, they were, each of them, substantial, and, I thought, well-written (whether by craft or inspiration I cannot always tell).
One of the themes of the poems (the poems influenced by T.S. Eliot, Shakila Azizzada, and Wilfred Owens), was a kind of deathlike despondency. In the poem “Forgetting,” the vocabulary sprung from “miasmal” and “nocturnal” to “silhouettes that follow, to the grave mud.” The ambience was, then, maintained very well by a varied and select vocabulary. As the author indicates, “there is no” digression for joy. Not being able to forget unpleasant memories is also part of what Eliot is about.
The poem, “Owl, lost,” also exerts a kind of despondent ambience, with an added intensity of emotion, and a concluding death metaphor, which is most effective. In “The Churchwarden,” a sense of mystery exists because we cannot tell, really, whether the main character in the poem is actually dead, or if, rather, he is just obsessive about the graveyard. This mystery is even more effective because of the precise nature of the words the author chose to use—for example, what could be more tangible than a headstone? Crimson skies? Stone feathers?
The last two poems done of this exercise are more on a happy note. “Golden Glow” is the perfect title for Karen’s “satin gifts” in the “charcoal embers of illness.” The reader can almost see the sorrows melt from the page as the poem concludes with “blossoms” and “rainbows.” Elizabeth Howard’s poem continues with an allusion to melting, and “the blue stars/in the dappled sky” bring to mind the Biblical reference to the apple of God’s eye. We can conclude that these poems, skillfully wrought, using some of the same vocabulary as the better known poets from whom they chose their vocabulary, tended to purvey a similar ambience, while, each of them, developing into a very original work of art.
--A. Michele Leslie, Whispers’ April Activity Editor