bookblather: A picture of Laura Roslin looking up. Text is "still standing." (still standing)
[personal profile] bookblather
I've heard it said that funerals, and the rites of death, are more for the living than for the dead. The dead don't care. They aren't present here anymore, no matter where we think they've gone in the end. The structured rituals of mourning--like wakes and funerals, obituaries and memorials-- are for the living to enact their grief.

That's what I find in these poems: the enactment of grief and the attempt to process it. It's not at all easy to deal with grief, whether for a child, a parent, a friend, a lover, distant family, a pet, someone you never met but felt deeply about. In some cases we grieve people who never existed, as in On The Death of Beth Meacham's Father. However, I think the poem most evocative of grief is Journey.

Journey reposted with permission )

The entire sonnet cycle can be found here. I highly recommend it.

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bookblather: Richard Castle hugging his daughter Alexis. (warm fuzzies castle)
[personal profile] bookblather
Romantic intimacy is a tricky subject. It's hard to even agree on what it means. Is it sexual? Emotional? Platonic? Can it be all three at once?

Nikki Giovanni might say so. )

I would tend to agree with Giovanni. Of course, as an asexual person I have a stake in declaring that romantic and sexual intimacy are not the same thing, and that it is possible to be emotionally and romantically intimate without adding sexual intimacy into the mix. Still, sexual intimacy need not be absent; I would simply argue that it is the most shallow of the layers of intimacy.

I think Judith Viorst would say the same. )

There's another note at the end of True Love that struck me: "Despite cigarette cough, tooth decay, acid indigestion, dandruff, and other features of married life that tend to dampen the fires of passion..." Years and age may remove sexual passion from the relationship, assuming it was there in the first place. What does that do to intimacy? I think you can guess my answer: nothing.

Adrienne Rich might agree with me. )

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jjhunter: A sheep with shaded glasses and a straw hat lies on its side; overhead floats the pun 'on the lamb' (as in baby sheep). (on the lamb)
[personal profile] jjhunter
Society members by code numbers: 9 – [personal profile] lexigent; 16 – [personal profile] fyreharper; 24 – J.J. the Pointed Verse of Reasoned Debate; 28 – [personal profile] firecat; 29 – [personal profile] lizcommotion; 34 – [personal profile] okrablossom; 35 – Pau Amma; 40 – [personal profile] bookblather; and 41 – [personal profile] primeideal.

"There's something intimate about secrecy. When someone glances about and lowers their voice, you instinctively lean in. Whatever it is that the two of you discuss, your soft-voiced conversation creates a illusion of a private space, one set apart from the crowded world outside.

"Let's create such a space here [...]" Thus begins the Covert Collaboration Challenge, "a little experiment in secrecy as a recipe for intimacy". Over the course of a week, myself and my eight fellow Society members wrote two original sonnets; the majority of the lines in each were written with only one to two preceding lines for reference, and in the case of the second sonnet, the prompt ("spontaneous musicals, or What if life was more like theater?'").



full text of the 'Shakespearean' sonnet behind the cut )



full text of the 'loose Petrarchean' sonnet behind the cut )

All are welcome to comment and discuss. Society members, was this experiment successful in fostering intimacy? Do you have any favorite exchanges or quotes you'd like to share from our Top Secret discussion threads?
bookblather: A picture of Yomiko Readman looking at books with the text "bookgasm." (Default)
[personal profile] bookblather
Today I am not sharing my own poetry, but that of a favorite poet just rediscovered: Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver writes primarily, as far as I have read, about nature. That's almost too simple for her poems, since of course they're never just about one thing, but if I had to pick a single theme that runs through her work it would be the wild, unknowable necessity of being and living in a world that we don't and can't understand. It's inevitable, then, that some of her poems would be about cycles, from birth and death to the cycle of seasons.

Unfortunately I do not have permission to post any of her poetry to this community, but I can link you to a few of her cyclic poems via The Poetry Foundation.

The Hermit Crab deals both with the cycle of life and standing against death, like so many of Oliver's poems.

Spring. This one is more about hope, rising with the spring. It's one of my favorite poems by her.

Morning Glories is about life, and death, and beauty.

This is not actually about cycles, but it is my favorite poem by Mary Oliver, so I will share it too: The Summer Day.

What do you think? What do these cyclic poems say to you?
bookblather: A picture of Yomiko Readman looking at books with the text "bookgasm." (Default)
[personal profile] bookblather
Samhain (pronounced SOW-in-- I know, look, it's Celtic) is one of four major Sabbats on the Wiccan wheel of the year. It marks the turning of the year from light to dark, the shift into the autumn and winter months of rest. Generally it takes place on the 31st at sundown, but it can also be celebrated on November 1st. On Samhain, the veil between this world and the next is thin, and the dead pass through on their way to the Summerlands. It's also the Wiccan New Year, which is the way I primarily celebrate it.

Samhain has its roots in a Celtic celebration, and many of its current symbols come from those ancient roots. The word literally means "summer's end." Like its opposite celebration, Beltane, Samhain celebrations involved bonfires and feasts, aimed at honoring the dead rather than Beltaine's celebration of life. Sometimes people would walk between two bonfires in a ritual cleansing that some Wiccans still practice today. It's a celebration of the close of the year, a time to honor the dead and what has passed before reaching into the new world.

Samhain poetry tends toward ritual chants, which can be highly personal, and poetry, words written for the dead, in contemplation of the dark. I've included a selection below: I hope that you enjoy them!

A Samhain celebration chant. This is not one I personally use, as it's aimed more at group practices. The focus on the fire and the turn of the year is, however, typical of Wiccan celebrations.

Samhain, Full Moon, Ardath Mayhar. This is a wonderfully creepy poem about the wandering dead, passing through on their way to the Summerlands. It's a more traditional reading of Samhain, going back to the Celtic festival rather than modern celebrations.

Samhain, by Annie Finch. I love this poem. It reaches into the past, into the long history that Samhain celebrates, and portrays the dead as warm and living memories.

Poem in October, Dylan Thomas. This one isn't strictly a Samhain poem, but Thomas captures so perfectly the spirit of the holiday that I couldn't resist it.

Thank you for your time; I hope you have enjoyed the poems.
bookblather: A picture of Yomiko Readman looking at books with the text "bookgasm." (Default)
[personal profile] bookblather
Posted with permission of [personal profile] jjhunter-- sorry it's late!

To wrap up Cowboy Poetry Week, I thought I'd try my hand at a cowboy poem of my own. I tried to incorporate all the elements-- rhythm, lyrical elements, simple language, cowboy themes. I think I succeeded. What do you think?

Cowpoke Pony )

If you were to write a cowboy poem, what would you write it about? I write about horses because I love them dearly, and I've always been a horse person. Would you choose the landscape, the loneliness, the cattle? What rhythm or voice would you choose? Would you go more traditional, as I have done, or would you go more contemporary?

Have you sought out any other poems? Is there one or two you particularly liked that you could link? What do you like about cowboy poetry in general?

Any other discussion welcome, of course.
bookblather: A picture of Yomiko Readman looking at books with the text "bookgasm." (Default)
[personal profile] bookblather
Cowboy poetry did not stop when the west was declared a closed frontier. Cowboys still ride and work today, and though they no longer are so isolated as they once were, they still spend much of their time in each other's company. Cowboy poetry, usually recited or otherwise performed, is a thriving genre, with a vast and appreciative community, though it is concentrated largely and unsurprisingly in the western United States. There is even an annual Cowboy Poetry Week, which I have missed by two weeks, but so it goes.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get permission to post any contemporary poems to this community. I was, however, able to get permission to link you to one, so if you don't mind, click on over here to read one of my favorite contemporary cowboy poems, "Old Sorrel Mare Turning More and More Roan" by Paul Zarzyski. I'll wait here.

Back? Okay.

Mr. Zarzyski was actually my first introduction to cowboy poetry, with his book Wolf Tracks on the Welcome Mat. Obviously, he doesn't write traditional cowboy poetry: Old Sorrel Mare does not have a distinct rhythm or a lyrical setup. It does deal with cowboy life, specifically the horse, and contemporary ranching at its most basic: feeding and caring for an old horse who can no longer do the work but is still deserving of love and respect. In that sense, it is much like No Rest for the Horse, narrating a day in the life of the poet, and meditating on horses as partners, almost family.

Most importantly, at least in my mind, Old Sorrel Mare is meant to be performed.

Mr. Zarzyski came to my freshman-year class on road stories to discuss his poetry, and to read a few of them. Old Sorrel Mare was one of the poems he read, and it remained in my head for a long time afterwards, reverberating in his voice. Read it aloud yourself, and hear the stops and starts. It doesn't have a song's rhythm, but there's a beat all its own in there.

Do you agree with me that this is cowboy poetry, for reasons beyond the fact that Mr. Zarzyski is a cowboy himself? If you were to write your own cowboy poem, would you keep the traditional rhythms, or move to more contemporary styles?

I highly suggest reading more of Mr. Zarzyski's poems, incidentally: I had a really, really hard time choosing just one to share.
bookblather: A picture of Yomiko Readman looking at books with the text "bookgasm." (Default)
[personal profile] bookblather
What is cowboy poetry?

Cowboy poetry is peculiarly associated with the history of the American West. Cowboys were (and are) employed by cattle ranchers to care for the cattle, drive them to pasture, and, before the rise of the railroad, drive them north to the meat-packing industrial towns. It is hard, dusty, dirty work, and often very lonely work. A cowboy could go days without seeing anyone except two or three fellow cowboys and his horse. Outside entertainment was rare, so it became common for cowboys to gather at night and entertain each other with songs and stories.

Cowboy poetry is often very lyrical, blurring the lines between poem and song. It often has a distinct rhythm, like hands clapping, the more so the more traditional it is. It usually focuses on cowboy life, ranch work and workers, the landscape, and other related topics. It almost always is narrative in some form. The sound of it is particularly important: cowboy poetry is meant to be read aloud, or sung.

Today, I have a traditional cowboy poem to share, about a central theme of cowboy poetry and cowboy life: the horse.

No Rest for the Horse )

To me, this poem has all the hallmarks of a cowboy poem: the distinct rhythm and song-like words, the focus on horses as central to life, a vaguely narrative format. It shows pride in horses, and pity for the ones mistreated, kindness on behalf of the speaker, and condemnation of those who mistreat horses. Even the rhythm sounds like a cantering horse, coming in sharp threes and hard beats.

Read this poem out loud: what does it sound like to you?


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February 2017



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