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.

Obviously

Obviously

by Annette Bowman

 

Words go beyond…

the contrast of

black and white.

 

Tough rats.

Said the cats,

When the vermin walked away.

 

The lover pondered the beloved’s words.

Tumbling in a tangle

Like twisted sheets

The morning after.

Multihued,

symphonically toned,

words.

Salty, sour,

Spicy, bitter….

Grabbing you by

your “frontal lobes”.

Total penetration.

If ya know what I mean.

 

Sweet?

 

Cotton candy

Is just dandy.

Said the teen with no teeth.

 

“You had me at hello.”

 

Oh, so coyly flirting there.

Rocking the world,

tickling a fancy,

teasing with mystery,

seducing with one first opening line.

KA-POW!

 

“I care about you.”

Bend and pray.

Said the priest today,

To the sinner who escaped.

 

“That means a lot.”

 

Make me hurl.

Said the matchstick girl

When the Mercedes drove away.

 

A friend put on glasses

and suddenly could see

the leaves out of the green

on the tree.

And the words

Were clear.

 

“Say what you mean and mean what you say.”

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.

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.

The Ode Less Traveled: Iambic Pentameter

I have written about the book “The Ode Less Traveled” by Stephen Fry in the past. At one point I was going to work my way through the book and do all the exercises. Life intervened and I never did do the poetry exercises. This morning after reading about eighty pages of Stephen King’s book titled “On Writing” which really is very good and I will probably write about it another day, I pulled out “The Ode Less Traveled.”

I read the first section. It introduces the book and talks about meter in poetry. The first exercise involves listening to the rhythm of a set of selections of two lines of poetry that are written in iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is a type of meter where every other syllable is stressed. An example would be:
“He bangs the drum and makes a dreadful noise.”

I read through all of the examples and felt confident that I had the rhythm of iambic pentameter. The second exercise in the book is about writing iambic pentameter. I need to work more on this.

Here is what I wrote this morning. It, uh, needs work shall we say. I am still trying to get the hang of this iambic pentameter thing.

Touched

The wind blew fierce and whipped the trees with might
Brown branches bent, cracked, and fell to sodden ground.
With rain, green grass grew slick, dove grey rock black.
The thunderbirds rode chariots of cloud

We hid under woolen blankets to watch.
The scent of pine, lightning’s ozone sharp tang,
And sweat scented the air. I watched the waves,
Relentless scour the shore. Thunderclaps boomed.

One strike from heaven turns sand into glass.
What once could flow unformed and ordinary,
becomes jagged and sharp with crystalline
knowledge too delicate and dangerous.

Writing in a structured meter is hard because you begin to force the meter in your thinking and after awhile you just simply cannot hear the stresses on the syllables. I posted the above poem just to give an example of what I mean. After working on this for the better part of a half an hour I am sure that if I were trying to talk to someone the way that I would say the word dangerous would sound as though I was not a native speaker of English. Also while writing this poem, I was convinced the second line was good iambic pentameter. Looking at it now the stresses are all wrong. I am going to let this activity rest for the day and come back to it tomorrow.

Try writing something in iambic pentameter! It makes you think about the word choice and offers a restriction that forces a bit of creativity.

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: Adrienne Rich’s “Wait” and “Tonight No Poetry Will Serve”

Adrienne Rich was a feminist and a poet who was born in Baltimore in 1929. She died on March 27,2012. W.S. Merwin described Rich as follows: “All her life she has been in love with the hope of telling utter truth, and her command of language from the first has been startlingly powerful.” Her poetic career began with two collections that were praised for their fairy tale-like quality. In 1974 she was awarded the National Book Award for Diving into the Wreck. It was in 1973 in the midst of the feminist and civil rights movements, the Vietnam War, and her own personal distress that Rich wrote Diving into the Wreck. The collection was exploratory and contained angry poems. The fairy tale princess aspects had vanished. Rich accepted the award on behalf of all women and shared it with her fellow nominees, Alice Walker and Audre Lorde.

Rich over the course of her life received the Bollingen Prize, the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award, the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the National Book Award, and a MacArthur Fellowship. She was also a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Outspoken and thoughtful in her politics in 1997, she refused the National Medal of Arts. She has been quoted as saying to explain her refusal, “I could not accept such an award from President Clinton or this White House because the very meaning of art, as I understand it, is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration.” She further offered, “[Art] means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage.” The same year, Rich was awarded the Academy’s Wallace Stevens Award for outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. She was a powerhouse wordsmith with heroic convictions.

Wait
BY ADRIENNE RICH

In paradise every
the desert wind is rising
third thought
in hell there are no thoughts
is of earth
sand screams against your government
issued tent hell’s noise
in your nostrils crawl
into your ear-shell
wrap yourself in no-thought
wait no place for the little lyric
wedding-ring glint the reason why
on earth
they never told you

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve
by Adrienne Rich

Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon’s eyelid

later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping
elsewhere

Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve

Syntax of rendition:

verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action

verb force-feeds noun
submerges the subject
noun is choking
verb disgraced goes on doing

now diagram the sentence

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.