Poem of the Week: “When I Dreamed I Was Emily Dickinson”

There were several pieces still I would have liked to share, but National Poetry Month is coming to a close . . . so which poem would best tie things up?

This little ditty seemed to fit the bill. Years ago, listening to former Poet Laureate of Florida (and my former college professor) Peter Meinke speak at the community college I’d attended, a chance phrase he dropped set off a spark in my head. I’ve long since forgotten what it was, but it took shape in the verse below. Neither profound nor autobiographical, it always gives me a bit of a smile—and I bet a lot of poets can relate.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s offerings, and that the beautifully mysterious gift of poetry will in some way play a role in your life in the days ahead.

* * *

WHEN I DREAMED I WAS EMILY DICKINSON

I took a summer garretquill pen shadow
with a winter chill
and wore black clothes
that stained my pores with ink

Not inspiration

Which, dank upon the page,
left blots upon my thoughts
of what a poet ought to be:

The muse that spoke to Emily
does not yet speak to me.

 

* * *

From The Soundness of Broken Pieces, © 2012 by Lucie M. Winborne. Available from Middle Island Press.

Poem of the Week: “The Ice-Edge of Innocence”

It was October 2012 and I needed one more poem to reach the desired number for the chapbook I wanted to publish the following spring. But what happens when you don’t have a clue what to write about because inspiration has taken a lengthy holiday?

I sat with blank page and pen in hand, trying to dredge up an image, a memory, a thought, something. And got nothing, until the bright idea hit to go look at an old blank book someone gave men me in college, which after more than two decades was still not filled, in the hope that some forgotten notes would light a spark.

I found two, quotes from a member of an old writer’s group jotted down during a meeting years before, neither of which now made a lick of sense, but one of which particularly stood out, and became the title of this poem.

Even as I wondered what could have inspired such a remark, a picture formed in my mind within seconds of reading it. That’s it, I thought, and headed back to the quiet bedroom in which I’d gone to curl up in a recliner and wait for inspiration to strike.

It did now, but not as I expected. In one of those curious instances that make me wonder just how the mind’s creative process works, I closed my eyes and instead of the image I’d seen just a minute or so before and planned to use, came a new one, sharp as a magazine photograph: A woman in a wintry wood, clad in winter hat and coat.

Before I could do more than register her appearance, the picture went dark for a split-second and then she reappeared, this time facing me directly. She was young, lovely, with dark hair and large dark eyes that were wide, expectant, eager. And this time, a hot-pink scarf circled her neck.

I closed my eyes again and a man appeared, slightly less clear but who looked to be about ten years her senior, in the same black and white wintry wood. Hatless, with lightly graying hair, dressed in an overcoat. In stark contrast to her open demeanor, there was a trace of strain about his older, more worldly features.

I’d never seen either one of them before, but they saw each other . . . and were, clearly, intimately connected.

The phrase that originally made no sense suddenly did, and I began to write.

* * *

THE ICE-EDGE OF INNOCENCE

You want to teeter on the brink
of that first step
toward black water,

find yourself groundless,

persuasion a pink scarf
you tentatively finger.

A stranger’s crunching footstep
brought you to this perfect space
for drowning.

Remembering the taste of snow,
you don’t look back,
a cold so pure it burns

your only guide to seeing in the dark.

Frozen pond

* * *

From The Soundness of Broken Pieces, © 2012 by Lucie M. Winborne. Available from Middle Island Press.

Poem of the Week: “Nocturne”

About a decade ago, I overheard the following conversation between my grandmother, who was nearly 90 or a little past it, and my mother, regarding a poem I had recently written (not the one below), which I’d given my grandmother to read:

“Joan? Did you read Lucie’s poem?”

“Yes,” said my mother.

“Did you understand it?”

My mother indicated that she had, at least in part.

Said my grandmother: “Well, I didn’t.” Then, after a pause: “That poem didn’t rhyme.”

My mother told her that rhyming poetry was largely out of fashion, but as my grandmother was already quite hard of hearing at that point, I’m not sure how much she caught. Then she remarked that when she was coming up, “Poetry was ‘Roses are red, violets are blue . . . I love you.'”

After another brief exchange and considering pause, Grandma queried, “Do you suppose you have to go to college to learn to write like that?”

* * *

The answer to her question was, of course, no, but the fact is that in my first college creative writing class, my instructor, himself a poet, wouldn’t allow anyone to write rhyming verse unless it was song lyrics. I don’t recall the reason, but what I perceived at the time as a general bias in the writing world against rhyme made an impression on me that lingered for so long, I was still rather surprised when this week’s offering not only burst forth in what was for me near-record time (30-45 minutes), but in the unintended rhythm it did.

It has held a special place in my heart ever since.

I couldn’t tell you why, though. I don’t class it among my best work, nor can I recall what sparked the shadowy mental image that accompanied it (while I was at work, no less). Yet it nestles in its own tiny corner like a favorite child.

As for whether the addition of rhyme made it easier to understand, I would have told my grandmother all those years later, if I’d thought of it, “No, not necessarily” . . . remembering, as I do with fond amusement, shoving it under my mother’s nose the moment she returned home from grocery shopping and saying, “Read this!”

Her response?

“Well, honey, it sure must be good, because I can’t understand a word of it.”

* * *

NOCTURNE

Now stalks the ever-hunter,
creeping by on muted feet:
Furtive beauty, grace and cruelty
to unknowing eyes—discreet:cat

Warrior hunter hunted
down an ashcan alley street
where remembrance old, unconscious
guides survival of the fleet:

The revels of the gamester
spill into his well-earned sleep:
Trouncing midnight phantoms,
spinning fast and dreaming deep . . .

* * *

From The Soundness of Broken Pieces, © 2012 by Lucie M. Winborne. Available from Middle Island Press.

Poem of the Week: “After the Reading”

It’s National Poetry Month once again, and while I’ve greatly enjoyed sharing certain facets of the craft as well as the work of others on this blog in the past, this year I decided to do something a little different and showcase a few of my own works, plus a bit about how they came to be.

Poetry is something of a mystery, I think, and to dissect it too much would strip it of some of that beautiful quality, but as I thought about what verses to share, memories came with them that interested me not so much for themselves alone, but for how they coalesced into a whole. This week’s poem evolved from years of scattered images, generated by the post-poetry reading energy captured in another writer’s long ago verse, a summer night in a novel I loved as a child and a real-life spring afternoon on the Suwannee River, and one listener’s admiring take on the baritone of a well-known wordsmith, two words of which description I shamelessly cribbed, but I don’t think either writer would mind.

And that’s the prosaic side of creation, for words don’t really spring from the ether like fairy dust, though to some it may seem that way. What I love are those surprises experienced by writers of every stripe, such as the unexpected pattern that crept in with such gentle stealth to help meld the whole.

In the end, what mattered most was that I had at last not just captured an idea, but done so to my own satisfaction . . . because that (for most writers, I suspect!) is something of a rarity.

I hope that you enjoy it as well.

* * *

AFTER THE READING

I would whisper
if you were here
this
that was born

in the echo of
your muscular voice as you stood,
poet at your pulpit,

casting word nets to your hearers.

Later, on a bank of quiet dark
where we’d bared our feet
in a tea-colored stream,

It rippled like a fish in the moon-water.
I would have cupped it in my hands,
a gift to you.

My bed will not hold me. I sit,
forgetting sleep,

whispering this poem to
you who are absent, your crooked stride
breaking the grass
on the way to your own
templed verse.

Stream

* * *

From The Soundness of Broken Pieces, © 2012 by Lucie M. Winborne. Available from Middle Island Press.

 

Meet the Poets: Walter de la Mare

Fiddle
In this week’s tribute to National Poetry Month, I took a little detour into the past. Unlike the other poets who generously agreed to share their work with my readers, Walter de la Mare is not a personal acquaintance, having died four years before I was born. I’m not very familiar with his work and suspect most people today would say the same, as he is rather out of fashion, though at one time he was one of his country’s most popular writers.

But for many years I have loved the sole poem of his I could recall reading, in a long-ago anthology . . . a poem not considered his best, that also appears to be largely forgotten, though an illustrated copy was deemed by some admirer to be Pinterest-worthy (and what would de la Mare have made of that?). A poem that never fails to choke me up just a little with its sweet note of hope at the end, no matter how many times I read it.

Walter de la Mare

Walter de la Mare, 1920

Walter John Delamare’s early life was prosaic enough. Born in 1873 in Charlton, Kent, in the south of England, one of seven siblings and left fatherless before he was five, Jack, as he was familiarly known, became a statistics clerk at seventeen, lacking funds for a university education, and remained in that position for eighteen years. While the fortunate bestowal of two Civil List pensions, in 1908 and 1915, respectively, freed him to concentrate on his craft, authors ranging from aspiring to despairing to successful can relate to the hopes he must have entertained throughout the writing and submission of hundreds of poems and short stories, as well as five novels, not to mention the fact that while Henry Brocken sold a mere 250 copies and netted only a bill for excess proof corrections, Memoirs of a Midget and Collected Stories for Children earned two of Britain’s oldest literary awards.

Several of de la Mare’s recurrent themes in all the above genres—death, dreams, and commonplace objects—appear in this week’s poem, along with the “undercurrent of melancholy” that runs through much of his work. But who was the eponymous fiddler, the wizard behind notes that surely sparked an uncontrollable urge to dance in feet of all ages or moved listeners from laughter to tears in a single melody? A real-life acquaintance, a figment of the author’s imagination, or perhaps a sort of alter-ego? Was he loved for more than his music? Did he have a voice outside that music, or did it end when his instrument was broken?

None of that really matters. What does matter is how, in thirteen short lines, the poet channels the flame of a personality without name or physical description (aside from the slightly ambiguous “stooping”), who discovered and lived his richest, interior self through the expression of his gift.

Much as, I suspect, de la Mare did himself. As all artists long to do. And in the end the art, the music, could not be silenced, emerging from branches symbolic since ancient times of the promise of new life.

* * *

 A FIDDLER

Once was a fiddler. Play could he
Sweet as a bird in an almond tree.
Fingers and strings—they seemed to be
Matched, in a secret conspiracy.
Up slid his bow, paused lingeringly;
Music’s self was its witchery.

In his stooping face it was plain to see
How close to dream is a soul set free—
A half-found world;
And company.

His fiddle is broken.
Mute is he.
But a bird sings on in the almond tree.


36647842-small-bird-canary-chiffchaff-on-almond-tree-in-full-bloom

For more on the life and work of Walter de la Mare, visit The Walter de la Mare Society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Poets: Anne Peterson

Anne Peterson

Anne Peterson

In honor of National Poetry Month, Part III of “Meet the Poets” again brings us the work of Anne Peterson. Anne is  a wife, mother of two and grandmother of four, poet, speaker, and the author of over forty-two Bible studies as well as the books Real Love: Guaranteed to Last, Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival, Emma’s Wish, Lulu’s Lunch, and The Crooked House.

Today Anne honors the short life of her sister on what would have been her sixty-first birthday. Peggy Gollias Dianovsky disappeared in September 1982—according to her husband, she left their home of her own accord after an argument (during which he admitted to having beaten her). But she never returned, or made any contact with her family, including her three sons. Twenty years later, her missing person case was reopened as a probable homicide and went to a bench trial, but although the judge believed that Peggy had died as the result of a crime, he did not feel he had enough evidence to rule that her now-remarried husband had been responsible, and handed down a “Not guilty” verdict to Robert Dianovsky.

From 2010:

“We miss Peggy so much. She was supposed to be here sharing our lives with us. Instead, we see her kids growing up without knowing her and now we see her beautiful grandchildren who have only heard about her.     

“After the trial we had a memorial for Peggy. It felt too little and too late. Each of us got up and shared what she meant to us. So many years had passed since her disappearance, consequently the room was not packed with people. At the cemetery we stood by her empty grave looking at a picture of her when she was a little girl.   

“We will never forget her, we will never stop loving her, we will never stop hoping to one day know where her body is. And all of us can testify that time does not heal all wounds.”

Please welcome Anne to Postcards From My Head.

* * *

NO MORE TALKING

“Divorce,” the letter read; “violence,” it went on.
A long-distance call made: “I can’t talk now!
He’s harassing me again.”

Hours later a phone rings, and two sisters talk.
One tells of a hurting heart and ten years of pain;
the other sobs in silence.
“Calling the police was easy,
I wish I would have done it sooner.”

Days later, another caller, “She’s gone.
No one knows where. She never showed up at work.
Her husband says she just walked out.”

Disbelief fills a sister’s heart,
Too many questions invade her mind:
Why would she leave her kids?

Why didn’t she take her car?
Why not wait for the money that would be hers the next day?

Some questions in life get answered, and some take time.
It has been thirty-two years since two sisters talked,
And one still hurts.

Peggy Dianovsky

Peggy Dianovsky

* * *

Connect with Anne and find more of her poetry at http://annepeterson.com/. You can read Peggy’s full story in Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival. And if you or someone you know needs help with a domestic violence situation, please call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Meet the Poets: David Cohea

David Cohea

In Part II of my series honoring National Poetry Month, I’m pleased to showcase the work of David Cohea, General Manager of King Features Weekly Service and editor of ReMIND magazine.

“I’ve been writing poetry seriously since 1990 or so but for the past 20 years almost completely off the published radar. Back in the nineties I won several poetry prizes [the Thomas Burnett Swann Poetry Award at Seminole State College and Academy of American Poets Prize at Rollins College] and published in a few college literary mags. Since then most of my work has appeared online under a pen name. I find that the mask allows me to speak more honestly and deeply about the heart; history is mystery when spoken through the ritual mask.”

In 2013 David published the eBook Over Here, a collection of narrative poems about the Iraq-Afghanistan wars as they continue to be fought by returning vets, “raising the question whether it’s their war or our peace that is making healing so difficult.”

Please join me in welcoming David to the blog.

* * *

LAMENT FOR THE WITNESS

wildflower crash

 

 

 

 

 

Dying sometimes is huge: a booming ball
of fire, fuel smoke thick and black as tar,
the wreckage of a single trope for travel
spread over six square miles of wheat.
What’s left of the living is small: Body parts
like strewn litter, torsos still buckled in seats.
The toll of the wreck’s scorn of living
is both the smashed engine and the deck
of playing cards spreading a too-late
tarot from a carry-on. Each adds the other.
But there’s no known multiple for the
monkey doll found atop the sunflowers.

The world is fast zooming in, but for an
afternoon the catastrophe is a private war
between shocked villagers and rained dead.
Little is happening in any official sense; pro-
Russian rebels have the guns and poke curiously
at wreckage with their barrels. Local miners
walk the fields marking remains with white
streamers. They cry through handkerchiefs
held to their noses because the stench of death
has caught up with what scours their eyes
every time they look. The war is thus lost by
both sides, the living halved, the fallen
from so far and high to arrive so dead.

Pity the journalists who came to pay witness
for the world to horror’s scale. One reporter
interviewed by NPR had walked the fields all night
following rescue workers tagging the dead.
Most of the bodies were intact but twisted wrong,
congealed into postures like wax effigies passed
too near the flame. At dawn they came upon
yet another child near a patch of sunflowers—
a little girl no more than three wearing just a
red shirt. So many of the dead were naked,
stripped by the ghastly angelus of their fall
from thirty-three thousand feet into the news.

The reporter’s voice was darkly calm, her chosen
words on morning drive-time radio like a tiny
swaying bridge over the outrages she had seen.
Inferring no more than the first scant facts offered,
blurring her own outraged emotions beneath them,
wearing the mask of her profession to speak the
naked truth. (We’d been warned of graphic blight.).
No matter that journalism is a falling trade.
Witness for the community has such small value
when everything is slipping into big media’s mire.
We’ll forget this horror soon enough, attracted
like bees to the sulfur stench of the next burnt
flower. Can you remember what happened to
the other Malaysian Airways jet, or is its cargo
lost because we forget our yesterdays that fast?
Who are we without those lonely figures taking
notes all night in the smouldering fields of blast?

Imagination fails at the dead’s ground zero. Instead
I wonder how the witnesses were harrowed there.
How deep the smell and carnage roots down
into the lobe their minds and hearts must share.
Then reporter was a transcription of what the locals
told her, through a translator, of the jet’s explosion
and fall; she became their wonder at the flash
and great black plume, the horror of slow descent
of shattered things falling back toward Earth,
suitcases and engines and bodies in long streamers
falling slowly in memory like tears down a face.
How does such a witness remit the reporting drone
from human face in the window when she flies home?
How can sudden birthday streamers for a child
ever not be at once both terrifying and cruel,
so scornful of the girl they that morning so alone?

On the day before the crash, in another world far
from here, a New York Times photographer
was in Gaza City covering the Israeli air assault,
staying in a small hotel by the Mediterranean Sea.
He’d just returned from taking pictures at a funeral—
a man and his son killed while driving away from
a bombed building. The afternoon was glittery
and breezy off the sea, so different from the
entombing miseries collapsing fast behind.

Three boys were playing soccer on the beach,
their voices blent with bells and cawing gulls.
Suddenly an explosion from a shack atop a seawall
then fire, a fourth boy running from the smoke.
A second explosion and the four boys—cousins
all—were sprawled dead on the sand. The man
walked onto the beach fearing his imago in the
crosshairs of Israeli guns, focusing his lens
on distraught and crying men carrying their
boys too heavily in their arms. The soft warm
sand absorbing the blood as it always has,
the sea glittering, purer than ground glass.
And the breeze beyond the frame is lifting
and fluttering, happily waving our pale strips
at the wide indifference of an arch blue sky,
the final witness to our long descending cry.

gaza-boys-on-beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes

– Since 2006, about 30 percent of U.S. journalism jobs have been eliminated due to contraction in the industry.

– In 2013, 105 journalists world-wide were killed in the line of their work.  The three beats covered by most of the victims were politics, war and human rights.

– Sabrina Tavernise is the New York Times journalist who has been at the Malaysian Air crash site in eastern Ukraine from the outset. One of her stories can be read here.