Sunday, December 9, 2018

Poem in Blue and Gold

I last walked this path when the dogwood was in bloom. May. And now it's December; a thin layer of ice has formed around the edges of the lake, beneath the dogwoods that overhang the water to soak in all the extra light in spring.

Spring and almost-winter. A single path connects the two, leads forth from each, circles back. Just one line in the visual poem of the woods, a poem that is revised with each storm. Legions of trees—old oaks, mostly, have fallen. Small piles of fresh sawdust on the edge of the path still mark the most recent blowdowns. Many of the still-upright trees are shredded by pileated woodpeckers; some of these trees will not survive the next storm.

It can be too much metaphor, so I try to walk without thinking figuratively. The bald eagle looking for a perch above open water; the three swans slow to awaken on a cold morning; the kingfisher with its clicking call; an occasional songbird determined to overwinter here—I try to see and I try to name what is. But each oak leaf beneath my feet (whose parent tree may or may not still be standing) brings me back to the metaphor of the path. And not comparing, but superimposing the images of time, almost-winter and spring.

how we know
the names of what will be—
poem in blue and gold

Sunday, December 2, 2018

A Distant River, A Hook

John, if you're reading this, this is for you. 💕

There is nothing more noble, more brave, more poignantly human than to strive to bring order to the chaos of existence. This is what artists do. "Order" may be fourteen lines long, as in a sonnet; six inches square or 11' x 3' on a piece of paper or cardboard; musical notes that wait for knowing hands to pluck the strings in a certain way...

...or that order might be words set free into a dimly-lit room, over the refuse of dinner, between friends. A river of words, punctuated by laughter and immediate revision and twinkling eyes.

Interwoven stories of people real and imagined (and both) hiding, emerging from hiding, seeking freedom, free...

Stories of where we are from and what we have endured and where we are going. Stories wherein we laugh at the "what we have endured" part, although the laughter is bittersweet, and we wonder if the endurance was worth it, was it enough, did we really endure or did we hide behind the appearance of having endured.

Does a fish in a tank know it is in a tank? Does a fish in a river know it is in a river?

Do we?

Saturday, December 1, 2018


Just two months short of two years that I've been experimenting with collage as a portal to poetry, or as a companion to poetry, or as inspiration for poetry...Obviously, the experiment continues, if I don't even know how to characterize the experiment itself.

Today, then, the process described in ekphrastic haiku...


rice paper
finding true love in what
he leaves behind


learning each time
what the brush can hold


gold paint
if you know how to see it


how little we know
torn scraps
of one another's lives

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Denoted, denoting...

This is the week when I begin to actively transition my English Composition I students into English Composition II readiness, with a review and deeper discussion of all the "word stuff" we've been working with so far. "Denotation" and "connotation" seem to be new worlds to many of these students. The idea that a word or phrase can mean more than it means seems to mystify them.

Meanwhile, in Literary Masterpieces I, we'll have another Medieval riddle poem to wonder over—one with no known solution, but which may get us looking in our minds' eyes toward the night sky. One which might transport us and our daring steeds across the perilous sea and back, safely, gesund.

And there are research papers to grade, and annotated bibliography drafts to edit, and all sorts of word stuff like that. Onward we go!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Workshop, Laughter

Yesterday I facilitated a workshop in which we used collage as a way into poetry or other forms of creative writing (such as memoir). Most of the collages we created used at least a little text, around which colors and forms and textures suggested further meaning.

I have given numerous workshops in the past, always focusing on some aspect of poetry: haiku and other short forms; line breaks; figurative language; the haiku aesthetic...I can't recall how many different topics I've offered as workshops. What I can remember is the quiet, as a prompt was presented and then ten minutes or so of quiet, individual writing happened. Quiet, then a little sharing and feedback, then another prompt followed by more quiet...and thus the hours passed.

Yesterday's collage workshop was not quiet. Exchanging ideas and materials; telling stories; laughing—especially laughing. A workshop filled with laughter! What a revelation. There was a layer of art at table-top level, on top of which were layers of laughter.

What a glorious morning! Thank you, everyone who attended. Thank you, everyone who laughed!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Winter Takes Hold

I have nothing against opulence. I love silk scarves, nice clothes (though I eventually spill tea or splatter tomato sauce on everything), an excess of life's accessories stuffed into closets and corners. The trick with any system—capitalism, socialism, trade-and-barter, utopianism—is to ensure that outward opulence is a projection of —not substitute for — the soul and psyche of individuals in that society. Has this ideal ever been achieved?

We seem to be a long way from this today, the dawn following another mass murder fueled by hate, an opulence of metal and bullets and blood that is, alas, closer to the projection of our broken souls and gaunt psyches. It is easy to walk down Madison Avenue in Manhattan and blame the mass-marketed, sterile opulence of the window displays for everything that is wrong in ourselves.

Well-dressed mannequins watch as winter takes hold; well-dressed mannequins watch as we lose hold.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Shadow Ways

Things seem to go from worse to I-can't-believe-this-has-gotten worse. Still, one can walk out-of-range of any electronic or print media and find at least a moment of respite. Beauty abounds, despite the human propensity to destroy what is beautiful. The natural world continues to amaze, and artists continue to provide inspiration.

Each of us must remember to allow some time for shadows, for the quiet time out of the sun or spotlight or screen or glare of anything glare-y. It's not "going dark," but taking time to look within, or aside, or down. A time to see patterns, juxtapositions, opposites, alternatives. Beauty in unexpected places. Reason to take another step or half-step forward.

Onward we go.


river view—
returning to my
shadow ways