Category Archives: Poetry

Emily Dickinson

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Today is the anniversary of the birth of Emily Dickinson.

According to an article on Poet.org (https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/emily-dickinson),

Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts…  Throughout her life, she seldom left her home and visitors were few.

By the 1860s, Dickinson lived in almost complete isolation from the outside world, but actively maintained many correspondences and read widely. She spent a great deal of this time with her family.

Dickinson’s poetry was heavily influenced by the Metaphysical poets of seventeenth-century England, as well as her reading of the Book of Revelation and her upbringing in a Puritan New England town, which encouraged a Calvinist, orthodox, and conservative approach to Christianity.

In an extensive article on Dickinson, the Poetry Foundation (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/emily-dickinson) asserts,

Like writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman, she experimented with expression in order to free it from conventional restraints.

While I probably ran across some of Emily Dickinson’s work as a young reader or in middle school, the first time I remember reading the poetry of Emily Dickinson was during high school. In 11th grade English, we studied American writers, which in those days meant we studied mostly white, male writers. During that year, Emily Dickinson was a breath of fresh female air for me.

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
I enjoyed Dickinson’s unconventional punctuation. It was sometimes maddening, but I appreciated that she wasn’t afraid to break the rules. (In all my years in public school English classes, there were big penalties for breaking the rules.) About Dickinson’s punctuation, Poets.org says,

[her]handwritten poems show a variety of dash-like marks of various sizes and directions (some are even vertical)…many early editors…removed her unusual and varied dashes, replacing them with traditional punctuation. The current standard version of her poems replaces her dashes with an en-dash, which is a closer typographical approximation to her intention.

I liked Dickinson’s rhyme schemes too. Her slant rhymes were surprising and exhilarating to this girl who’d been living a life of rhyming perfection

Dickinson’s poetry appealed to my adolescent depression as well. While many of her poems are uplifting, just as many are about loneliness and unrequited love and death. While Dickinson and I were physically separated by over one hundred years, when I read her poems, it was as if we knew each other.

As a teenager, I  appreciated Dickinson’s spunk and her dedication to her writing; I still appreciate those qualities today.  Here was this woman who hardly ever left her father’s house, yet she wrote and she wrote and she wrote and she wrote. According to Poets.org,

[u]pon her death, Dickinson’s family discovered forty handbound volumes of nearly 1,800 poems…

Emily Dickinson's Poems: As She Preserved Them
Only a few of Dickinson’s poems were published during her lifetime. She was not publicly recognized as a poet while she lived. Her first volume  work was not published until four years after her death. Yet, she kept on writing.

Sometimes I feel as if my writing is drifting off into a void. (This blog was originally called Throwing Stories Into the Ether.) Is anyone reading? Does what I write matter? Will I be remembered? Then I think of Emily Dickinson, and I keep on writing.

 

(Guest Post) Three Poems by Laura-Marie

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Today I am once again happy to offer poems written by my friend Laura-Marie.

no

Will vinegar kill the fern
I’m trying to kill this winter?

Awake but still in bed.
Sitting on the ottoman.

Welcome the stranger,
welcome the stranger’s phone call.

Our beliefs about our hair.
She thinks music is noise,
and she doesn’t want to hear it.

some did wrong

Some did wrong,

a hushed crime,

secret and cruel.

 

A single man

spoke the unspeakable.

Others joined in—

 

the infiltrating agents

had their evidence.

It was over.

Dream dystopia again.

 

Naked people gathered

around the piano

sang, waiting for

death the inevitable.

 

baby dream

All of the babies are girls.

I bent down to kiss one.

She slipped her tongue into my mouth.

It turned into a thorned vine

and forced itself through my body.

Thorned vines like sleeping beauty

but inside.

Laura-Marie is a zinester and peace activist living in Las Vegas, Nevada.  She likes cold brew tea, writing letters, and visiting friends.

During the Fire

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I wrote the following poem (as the title says) during the fire which happened near my campground. I wrote it the day after I had an extra day off, thanks to a second fire that was put out quickly.

During the Fire

Three days off and

1, 2, 3, 4–I don’t wanna work now more.

Fire on the mountain

and not one’s up here anyway–

no campers

no hikers

no visitors to scrub toilets for.

I need to find some task to do.

Like the union man in

Darlington County said,

“He (meaning she, meaning me)

don’t work and

he (meaning she, meaning me)

don’t get paid.”

How long will the company

let me sit in the parking lot

with podcast and yarn project

waiting to collect parking fees

from cars that never arrive?

There’s some raking I can do

in the campground.

Best put on the uniform

and get to work

while I can.

I reference two very different songs in this poem: “Fire on the Mountain” as performed by the Grateful Dead and “Darlington County,” which, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darlington_County_(song),

is a 1984 song written and performed by Bruce Springsteen.

Haiku

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According to https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/haiku-poetic-form,

A traditional Japanese haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Often focusing on images from nature, haiku emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression.

Haiku began in thirteenth-century Japan as the opening phrase of renga, an oral poem, generally 100 stanzas long, which was also composed syllabically. The much shorter haiku broke away from renga in the sixteenth-century..

I’ve written a haiku or two in my time, most recently in June of this year. Here’s my latest:

The wind is chilly

today and the sun hidden.

Must find my jacket.

Muhammad Ali

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I missed Muhammad Ali’s death.

I was up on the mountain and no one mentioned it.

When I came down and opened Facebook, I saw advertisements that made it seem that Ali had died, but sometimes click-bait articles do that to lure readers in. But I clicked anyway, wondering if it could be true.

It was.

We all knew it was coming. The man was 74 years old, after all. But as Boots Riley says in “Everythang” every death is an abrupt one.

Ali was famous when I was just a kid. I remember my cousin singing

Muhammad, Muhammad Ali
He floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee
Mohammed, the black superman

But no one told he was against fighting in Vietnam. I didn’t learn of the following quote until well into my adulthood.

I didn’t know how to express my sadness at Ali’s death. I’m not surprised that Alice Walker honored him much better than I ever could.

The Long Road Home

©2016 by Alice Walker

I am beginning to comprehend
the mystery
of the gift of suffering.
It is true as some
have said
that it is a crucible
in which the gold of one’s spirit
is rendered
and shines.

Ali,
you represent all of us
who stand the test of suffering
most often alone
because who can understand
who or what
has brought us to our feet?

Their knees worn out
ancestors stood us up
from the awkward position
they had to honor
on the floor beneath
the floor.

I have been weeping
all day
Thinking of this.
The cloud of witness
the endless teaching
the long road home.

I offer my gratitude to both Alice Walker and Muhhamad Ali.

Poem from http://alicewalkersgarden.com/.

My Campground

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I wrote another poem. I went from zero to two in a couple of weeks, which isn’t a bad speed as far as poems go.

I was writing a letter to my friend and told her I didn’t have words to describe my campground. Then, as is my way, I fired off some words to describe my campground. I contemplated the words and decided they were quite poetic. So I added some words to the original words, then played with the order and finally turned it all into a poem.

I think of it as a poem that resembles an impressionist painting.

My Campground

Trees tower green.

Ladybugs alight.

Campfire smoke tickles nose.

Surrounded by songs of invisible birds.

Occasional mosquito buzzes and bites.

No noise of cars.

Sinking sun illuminates vibrant, verdant meadow.

Gentlest breeze whispers through leaves.

Sky high above crowns, blue one step from grey.

Temperature slowly dips.

Squirrel scampers on the outskirts.

Nature’s peace.

IMG_3002

I took this photo of the vibrant, verdant meadow.

Birdsong

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At one time I wrote quite a bit of poetry, but I hadn’t written a poem in years.

Writing poetry takes a lot of time for me. To write good poems, I need quiet, empty hours stretching in front of me. I haven’t had quiet, empty time in a while, so my poetry writing has mostly dried up.

The last time I wrote a poem was October 2012, when I was stuck with Mr. Carolina in Redding, CA. (You can read that story and the poem here: (http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/13/broke-down-in-redding-california/.)

But the other morning I woke up at 5am to the sound of birds chirping. As I listened to the birds, words started coming to me, so I turned on the light and grabbed my notebook.

Here is the poem I wrote:

Birdsong

Birds sing

before the dawn.

My first waking consciousness

is their communication.

What might they say

to one another?

Get out of here!

This is my turf!

And Hey honey!

Let’s make some babies…

The ladies answer

Chase me if you want me

or Your genes aren’t good enough for my offspring.

Later when the children hatch,

there will be choruses of

Feed me! Feed me! Feed me!

Birdsong sounds lovely to the human ear

but to birds

it’s relationship conversation.