Friday, February 18, 2011

Poems that strike a chord

I have, in the last few weeks, stumbled across another community of poets. I found them through paying attention to a blog network (The High on which, some months ago, I listed a devotional blog I write.

Last week on the blog of L. L. Barkat ('s editor and an accomplished poet in her own right) I saw the book trailer of Neruda's Memoirs. It was irresistible bait for a debut collection of poems by Maureen Doallas (whose name I had started noticing in comments on various HC blogs).

I bought the book — in a Kindle version.

The book is divided into four sections: Enter, Listen, Exit and Remember. Doallas introduces each section with a short essay. Here's a little of what she says to preface the "Listen" poems:

"I could acknowledge that I was a writer. I made my living by my writing and my editorial skills. I relinquished the notion that I could be a poet.

Until one late November afternoon in 2007, when my brother, just two years older than I, called to tell me he had cancer and was given a timeline of weeks. I was a thousand miles away. I wanted to make matter what I wanted to say, and I wanted to hear what he had never said before" - Kindle Location 598.

And so she began writing — and it came out in poetry. As she puts it:

"...poem after poem I shared with an online cancer support group...Sharing the words that illuminated my experience became the group's experience too. The words came to be more than good enough. I learned how my voice could speak for more than me alone..." - KL 605

I understand the connection between death and needing to write. I experienced that in 2006 when, within a matter of three months, both my mother-in-law and my mom died.

The brother thing resonated too. Just this July we were told my brother with cancer had weeks to live. He proved the doctors wrong, for he had months. But his January 25, 2011 death still feels raw.

And so it is not surprising that Doallas's poems like "Nothing is Ever the Same" speak for me. They feel like my own words:

"...Nothing is ever the same
or could be the same

After you left

After you left
dust on your collections
hats, books, scraps,
of half-thought dreams unbound —

Piled on

As time piled on
to keep me busy unforgetting

The nothing that is never the same
when your name no longer gets called."
(KL: 1625)

- Thank you, Maureen!

Let me close with some more lines from the book that strike a chord:

"Neruda said the closest thing to poetry
is a loaf of bread
or a ceramic dish
or a piece of wood lovingly carved."
(KL: 1489)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Percolation and taking breaks (Beyond the Words - 4)

Continuing on in the series from the book Beyond the Words by Bonni Goldberg, Chapter 4 is "Don't Write Every Day." Some interesting quotes from that chapter:

"Self-care is abut balance....a fair amount of people's unhappiness or dissatisfaction with their writing life develops from imbalances." p. 31

"Not writing allows time for percolation to take place, gives your creativity time to replenish, and gives you the distance from your writing to gain perspective on it." p. 32.

Goldberg suggests people rest each of the five sense by doing something special for each one. Examples
- float around in a swimming pool (touch)
- eating a cheese-and-cracker snack using a different mustard for each one (taste).
- inhaling the scent of tea while you drink it — etc.

"Another type of rest from daily writing is simply doing the other work you normally do: gardening, parenting, programming, plumbing.." p. 33

"Writing is supposed to give you pleasure. That doesn't preclude its being hard work or temporarily frustrating, or tapping into a reservoir of difficult emotions and memories.... because of the challenges or writing, at some level you want to feel connected to a sense of excitement, anticipation, urgency, wonder, gratitude, reverence, or downright playfulness and genuine joy as you go along. If you don't, you probably need to walk away from putting words down on paper or screen for a while...just long enough to reestablish your connection to the spirit of writing.." p. 35.

My thoughts:

Percolation that happens with time away from writing reminds me of water that comes up to fill a hole  you've dug at the beach.  There really is a mysterious and magical quality about it.

On the other hand, I have found my banner quote by Madeline L'Engle: "Inspiration usually comes during work rather than before it," to be true more often than not. Ideas and resolution come as I work. The juices start flowing as words hit the page. Writing is part of my process of figuring out what I think. Sometimes, in fact often, I feel much better after I've just done it, rather than giving in to my negative self-messages that  I'm too tired or uninspired.

Of course a regular one-in-seven day of rest (sabbath) is a Bible principle that is not some arbitrary rule that God thought up, but there to help us function in the way we're designed to work best. I'm sure rest helps to clear those clogged channels so that ideas can again bubble into consciousness.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


I was so pleased to find out yesterday that one of my poetry buddies (four of us meet about six times a year to share and critique each other's poems in a group we call Volta) won first prize in the 2010 Surrey International Writers' Conference Writing Contest - Poetry division.

Congratulations Del!! You and your poem "The Going" -- Wow!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

poetic opportunities...

to make yourself vulnerable:

Contests and submissions will do that.
The prizes are cash and substantial as always.
Rules and entry form
Entries must be postmarked by February 28.

  • Time of Singing Summer Cinquain Contest
Use the cinquain form and a summer theme.
Details here
Deadline May 15, 2011.

  • Poet Diane Lockward is guest-editing Adanna, a new print poetry journal celebrating womanhood and reflecting women's issues.
The call for submissions is here.

  • Lockward's Blogalicious site also has a very handy list of print journals that accept online submissions. Check it out here.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A corner of the poetisphere

Lots of sites with original poetry flourish on the web. Today I'm going to introduce you to three of my favourites:

  • Amy at The Poem Farm writes poems for kids. This week, for example, she is writing about socks, challenging herself to write about them in several ways. I'll bet the kid in you would be very happy if you clicked on over to The Poem Farm.

  • Mimi's Golightly Cafe features the poetry of Sharon Auberle. I was introduced to her poetry through Your Daily Poem. The black background of her blog sets off the stunning art with which she illustrates her poems. There are feasts for the soul and the eyes at Mimi's Golightly Cafe.

  • Finally, I'm so pleased that my friend Charlie has opened a new blog and is sharing his poems again. He also illustrates his writing with artwork - beautiful pen and ink drawings of natural features in northwest British Columbia. Enjoy Rainforest Soul!