Winter

hedge fence in winter Winter

I walked with my camera this afternoon, on this winter day. During the summer, the outdoor gardens of the botanical garden fill with people on a Sunday afternoon. Today, as I strolled through the children’s gardens, no one was there. I saw only one other set of footprints.

The snow simplifies the landscape. Muted colors contrast with the brilliant white. A hush lays heavy, the snow absorbs the sound. My footfalls crunch beneath me. Winter has a poetry all its own.

Winter Solitude

by Matsuo Bashosnowy spider web climber

Winter solitude–
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.

 

green lawn chair in snowWinter Trees

by William Carlos Williams

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

Winter Evening log lean-to with copper pan

by George Trakl

When snow falls against the window,
Long sounds the evening bell…
For so many has the table
Been prepared, the house set in order.

From their wandering, many
Come on dark paths to this gateway.
The tree of grace is flowering in gold
Out of the cool sap of the earth.

In stillness, wanderer, step in:
Grief has worn the threshold into stone.
But see: in pure light, glowing
There on the table: bread and wine.

little library in winterWoods In Winter

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When winter winds are piercing chill,
And through the hawthorn blows the gale,
With solemn feet I tread the hill,
That overbrows the lonely vale.

O’er the bare upland, and away
Through the long reach of desert woods,
The embracing sunbeams chastely play,
And gladden these deep solitudes.

Where, twisted round the barren oak,
The summer vine in beauty clung,
And summer winds the stillness broke,
The crystal icicle is hung.

Where, from their frozen urns, mute springs
Pour out the river’s gradual tide,
Shrilly the skater’s iron rings,
And voices fill the woodland side.

Alas! how changed from the fair scene,
When birds sang out their mellow lay,
And winds were soft, and woods were green,
And the song ceased not with the day!

But still wild music is abroad,
Pale, desert woods! within your crowd;
And gathering winds, in hoarse accord,
Amid the vocal reeds pipe loud.

Chill airs and wintry winds! my ear
Has grown familiar with your song;
I hear it in the opening year,
I listen, and it cheers me long.

ram sculpture in winter

We Sinful Women by Kishwar Naheed

We Sinful Women by Kishwar Naheed, photo of Naheed

We Sinful Women by Kishwar Naheed

Cooking, cleaning, laundry and making a little music have eaten my weekend. I am exhausted from fighting off a winter sickness and cleaning my basement. Forgive me for not presenting a researched and original written piece this day. Instead I would like to present a poem, “We Sinful Women”,  from one of the “badass” feminist poets: Kishwar Naheed.  Naheed is an Urdu poet from Pakistan. She is the founder of the Hawwa Foundation that supports women who do not have an independent source of income. A copy of this poem in English and its original can be found in We Sinful Women: Contemporary Urdu Feminist Poetry by Rukhsana Ahmad.

We Sinful Women

It is we sinful women

who are not awed by the grandeur of those who wear gowns

who don’t sell our lives

who don’t bow our heads

who don’t fold our hands together.

It is we sinful women

while those who sell the harvests of our bodies

become exalted

become distinguished

become the just princes of the material world.

It is we sinful women

who come out raising the banner of truth

up against barricades of lies on the highways

who find stories of persecution piled on each threshold

who find that tongues which could speak have been severed.

It is we sinful women.

Now, even if the night gives chase

these eyes shall not be put out.

For the wall which has been razed

don’t insist now on raising it again.

It is we sinful women

who are not awed by the grandeur of those who wear gowns

who don’t sell our bodies

who don’t bow our heads

who don’t fold our hands together.

What Sort of Savage?


The world is such an amazing place. So much to explore, so many discoveries to be made, so much to do. It is almost dizzying and sometimes the questions I have spin me. I doubt if I could live five, ten, a hundred lifetimes if I would learn all I want to learn.

Because I cannot live without poetry, I am just going to post a poem by Gary Snyder from his Pulitzer Prize winning collection titled “Turtle Island”.

The Great Mother

Not all those who pass

In front of the Great Mother’s chair

Get passt with only a stare.

Some she looks at their hands

To see what sort of savages they were.

National Poem in Your Pocket Day


Poetry is a happy thing! It is like a puzzle where words are used as tightly as possible to convey multiple meanings and emotion. I love poetry. I love the economy of poetry. And the possible impact.

Today, I am carrying “Crystal Spider Ascension” by Charles Wright in my pocket. What are you carrying in your pocket?

Crystal Spider Ascension

The spider, juiced crystal and Milky Way, drifts on his web through the night sky
And looks down, waiting for us to ascend …

At dawn he is still there, invisible, short of breath, mending his net.

All morning we look for the white face to rise from the lake like a tiny star.
And when it does, we lie back in our watery hair and rock.

Poetry: The Red Poppy by Louise Gluck

I found this poem this evening in my insomniac wanderings across the internet. It struck a chord. Louise Gluck is a poet from New York who is currently a poet in residence at Yale University. Her work has been characterized as being neither “confessional” nor “intellectual.” I liked the simplicity of this poem. It brought to mind the floral paintings of Emil Nolde.

The Red Poppy
by Louise Gluck

The great thing
is not having
a mind. Feelings:
oh, I have those; they
govern me. I have
a lord in heaven
called the sun, and open
for him, showing him
the fire of my own heart, fire
like his presence.
What could such glory be
if not a heart? Oh my brothers and sisters,
were you like me once, long ago,
before you were human? Did you
permit yourselves
to open once, who would never
open again? Because in truth
I am speaking now
the way you do. I speak
because I am shattered.

Poetry: “When You Are Old” by W.B. Yeats

I am currently writing a story revolving around a changeling and have been reviewing Yeats’ poetry. Much of the poetry of William Butler Yeats draws from Irish folklore and mythology. He was greatly influenced and participated in the Celtic Revival of his time period and was linked romantically with Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne. Even though they each married other people and drifted apart, she influenced his poetry. Ezra Pound was also an influence on Yeats’ poetry and Yeats’ poems grew more modern in their expression and imagery but he never gave up using traditional verse forms.

W.B. Yeats left a large and fascinating body of work. He won the Nobel Prize for poetry in 1923. This morning I was reading “When You Are Old.” This one does not draw from Irish folklore and is not romantic in the sense of the romantic movement. I have been thinking about the phrase “pilgrim soul” and what that conjures for me. The final stanza I am still puzzling through. The overall tone of this one for me is regret and lost love. Yeats himself lived to be quite old and passed away when he was 73 in 1939. Please read and enjoy Yeats’ “When You Are Old.”

When You Are Old

by W. B. Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

The Ode Less Traveled

Next week I will post more six sentence stories!

Today I would like to recommend a fabulous book about poetry titled The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry writes in the book:

“I have a dark and dreadful secret. I write poetry…. I believe poetry is a primal impulse within all of us. I believe we are all capable of it and furthermore that a small often ignored corner of us positively yearns to try it.”

In The Ode Less Traveled, Fry offers exercises so that the reader can learn about, explore, and write poetry. It is both a kind of workbook that he expects you to deface as well as a textbook to learn about poetry. He wrote the book and kind of operates on the assumption that most people don’t like poetry because it is mysterious and intimidating. He leads the reader through lessons that help them to not just write poetry but to read poetry with a new perspective.

I highly recommend this book. I write poetry to improve my fiction. I want my words to pull multiple duties and have muscle. Writing poetry helps, I believe, to strengthen prose. I am going to work my way through The Ode Less Traveled in the next few months. I will post about the book and what I discover as I work my through it.

The first lesson in the book is about iambic pentameter. The heroic line. It is about listening to the lines, savoring them, and finding where the stresses are that give the words rhythm.

Go forth and listen aptly for the beats in language!

Poems About Gardens

I was thinking this evening about my gardens in Michigan. It has been a few years since I was able to tend them. I am sure they are filled with weeds and overgrown. Gardens themselves are like poems of the earth to me. This caused me to search for poems about gardens. Here are a few in honor of gardens:

Digging Potatoes, Sebago, Maine
by Amy E. King

Summer squash and snap-beans gushed
all August, tomatoes in a steady splutter

through September. But by October’s
last straggling days, almost everything

in the garden was stripped, picked,
decayed. A few dawdlers:

some forgotten carrots, ornate
with worm-trail tracery, parsley parched

a patchy faded beige. The dead leaves
of potato plants, defeated and panting,

their shriveled dingy tongues
crumbling into the mud.

You have to guess where.
The leaves migrate to trick you. Pretend
you’re sure, thrust the trowel straight in,
hear the steel strike stone, hear the song
of their collision—this land is littered
with granite. Your blade emerges
with a mob of them, tawny freckled knobs,
an earthworm curling over one like a tentacle.
I always want to clean them with my tongue,
to taste in this dark mud, in its sparkled scatter
of mica and stone chips, its soft genealogy
of birch bark and fiddleheads, something

that means place, that says here,
with all its crags and sticky pines,

its silent stubborn brambles. This
is my wine tasting. It’s there,

in the potatoes: a sharp slice with a different blade
imparts a little milky blood, and I can almost

smell it. Ferns furling. Barns rotting.
Even after baking, I can almost taste the grit.

Garden of Bees
by Matthew Rohrer

The narcissus grows past

the towers. Eight gypsy

sisters spread their wings

in the garden. Their gold teeth

are unnerving. Every single

baby is asleep. They want

a little money and I give

them less. I’m charming and

handsome. They take my pen.

I buy the poem from the garden

of bees for one euro. A touch

on the arm. A mystery word.

The sky has two faces.

For reasons unaccountable

my hand trembles.

In Roman times if they were

horrified of bees they kept it secret

Herb Garden
by Timothy Steele

“And these, small, unobserved . . . ” —Janet Lewis

The lizard, an exemplar of the small,
Spreads fine, adhesive digits to perform
Vertical push-ups on a sunny wall;
Bees grapple spikes of lavender, or swarm
The dill’s gold umbels and low clumps of thyme.
Bored with its trellis, a resourceful rose
Has found a nearby cedar tree to climb
And to festoon with floral furbelows.

Though the great, heat-stunned sunflower looks half-dead
The way it, shepherd’s crook-like, hangs its head,
The herbs maintain their modest self-command:
Their fragrances and colors warmly mix
While, quarrying between the pathway’s bricks,
Ants build minute volcanoes out of sand.

Poetry: Jean Valentine’s Ghost Elephants and To the Black Madonna of Chartres

Jean Valentine is a poet from New York whose poems often contain imagination and unexpected elements. Here are two of her poems:

Ghost Elephants
by Jean Valentine

In the elephant field
tall green ghost elephants
with your cargo of summer leaves

at night I heard you breathing at the window

Don’t you ever think I’m not crying
since you’re away from me
Don’t ever think I went free

At first the goodbye had a lilt to it—
maybe just a couple of months—
but it was a beheading.

Ghost elephant,
reach down,
cross me over—

To the Black Madonna of Chartres
by Jean Valentine

Friend or no friend,
darkness or light,
vowels or consonants,
water or dry land,

anything more from you now
is just gravy
—just send me down forgiveness, send me down
bearing myself a black cupful of light.

Poetry: Gary Snyder’s “The Uses of Light”

Today was National Poem in Your Pocket Day. I carried Gary Snyder’s “The Uses of Light” in my pocket.

Here is the poem from Snyder’s Pultizer Prize winning collection titled Turtle Island:

The Uses of Light

It warms my bones
say the stones

I take it into me and grow
Say the trees
Leaves above
Roots below

A vast vague white
Draws me out of the night
Says the moth in his flight–

Some things I smell
Some things I hear
And I see things move
Says the deer–

A high tower
on a wide plain.
If you climb up
One floor
You’ll see a thousand miles more.