Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday Mourning
by Sr. Genevieve Glen, OSB

The fisherman had aged, they saw, when dawn
at last broke through that endless night.  He had
no words to strengthen them, his bluster gone
to silence. One by one they came. Grief bade
them gather there. The shadowed room was clad
in memories. Furtive eyes sought out the spot
where He had stood.  The big man’s shame burned hot.
The One with whom he’d sworn to die was dead.
And he was not.

©2011, Abbey of St. Walburga, http://genglen.blogspot.com 

painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch
This poem shows us Simon Peter in the time following Jesus' crucifixion. All his hot-headed desire to create an uprising has been quashed. He is a revolutionary quelled, struggling to come to grips with what has gone wrong.

Knowing what we do about Peter's actions in the preceding days, I can only imagine the depth of his grief and his even deeper confusion. Peter adamantly opposed Jesus every time he spoke of his death. He attacked one of the guards who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He then followed to where Jesus was being held, hoping for news, but perhaps also staking out the place in order to try another violent rescue.

But bravery fails him. He denies Jesus, we're told. But perhaps there's some truth in his declaration: "I never knew the man." Because Jesus didn't turn out to be the fiery revolutionary many were hoping could come and overthrow Rome. As Peter came to grips with the truth of where his hopes really lay, he was devastated.

This Jesus wasn't going to foment a rebellion. He had another plan entirely. A completely insane one: To lay down his life.

Holy Saturday is a good time to sit in this space with Peter. To come to grips with the frailty of our plans and dreams. To let the wrong sorts of dreams die so that God's dreams for us in the world can be awakened.

Wishing you all a blessed Easter!

What about Peter's life and story resonates with you?

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5:00 AM Laurel Garver
Holy Saturday Mourning
by Sr. Genevieve Glen, OSB

The fisherman had aged, they saw, when dawn
at last broke through that endless night.  He had
no words to strengthen them, his bluster gone
to silence. One by one they came. Grief bade
them gather there. The shadowed room was clad
in memories. Furtive eyes sought out the spot
where He had stood.  The big man’s shame burned hot.
The One with whom he’d sworn to die was dead.
And he was not.

©2011, Abbey of St. Walburga, http://genglen.blogspot.com 

painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch
This poem shows us Simon Peter in the time following Jesus' crucifixion. All his hot-headed desire to create an uprising has been quashed. He is a revolutionary quelled, struggling to come to grips with what has gone wrong.

Knowing what we do about Peter's actions in the preceding days, I can only imagine the depth of his grief and his even deeper confusion. Peter adamantly opposed Jesus every time he spoke of his death. He attacked one of the guards who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He then followed to where Jesus was being held, hoping for news, but perhaps also staking out the place in order to try another violent rescue.

But bravery fails him. He denies Jesus, we're told. But perhaps there's some truth in his declaration: "I never knew the man." Because Jesus didn't turn out to be the fiery revolutionary many were hoping could come and overthrow Rome. As Peter came to grips with the truth of where his hopes really lay, he was devastated.

This Jesus wasn't going to foment a rebellion. He had another plan entirely. A completely insane one: To lay down his life.

Holy Saturday is a good time to sit in this space with Peter. To come to grips with the frailty of our plans and dreams. To let the wrong sorts of dreams die so that God's dreams for us in the world can be awakened.

Wishing you all a blessed Easter!

What about Peter's life and story resonates with you?

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Friday, April 18, 2014

by Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)


inset from a medieval painting, artist unknown

The brown enormous odor he lived by
was too close, with its breathing and thick hair,
for him to judge. The floor was rotten; the sty
was plastered halfway up with glass-smooth dung.
Light-lashed, self-righteous, above moving snouts,
the pigs' eyes followed him, a cheerful stare--
even to the sow that always ate her young--
till, sickening, he leaned to scratch her head.
But sometimes mornings after drinking bouts
(he hid the pints behind the two-by-fours),
the sunrise glazed the barnyard mud with red
the burning puddles seemed to reassure.
And then he thought he almost might endure
his exile yet another year or more.

But evenings the first star came to warn.
The farmer whom he worked for came at dark
to shut the cows and horses in the barn
beneath their overhanging clouds of hay,
with pitchforks, faint forked lightnings, catching light,
safe and companionable as in the Ark.
The pigs stuck out their little feet and snored.
The lantern--like the sun, going away--
laid on the mud a pacing aureole.
Carrying a bucket along a slimy board,
he felt the bats' uncertain staggering flight,
his shuddering insights, beyond his control,
touching him. But it took him a long time
finally to make up his mind to go home.

This piece is an extended allusion to the biblical parable of the prodigal son, a story Jesus tells in the Gospels about a son who leaves home, squanders his inheritance and ends up in poverty, taking work as a swineherd, the worst possible profession for a nice Jewish boy. In Jesus' story, the son "came to himself" and decides to return home to reconcile with his family. This piece stays at that dark period before the decision is made.

The author Elizabeth Bishop (winner of the Pulitzer and the National Book Award for poetry) generally wrote poems that seem unrelated to her life, in contrast to her contemporaries, the "confessional" poets, including Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and W.D. Snodgrass. Yet if you read about her life, you can quickly understand why she would choose to explore this particular Bible parable. Like the prodigal son, Bishop experienced a sense of dislocation. She lost one parent, then another. Was bounced among relatives in Nova Scotia and Massachusetts. Missed a great deal of school because of bouts of asthma. Though a New England native, she spent large chunks of her life in France and Brazil, made possible in part because of a substantial inheritance from her father.

Bishop's poem is a great example of literary borrowing that's quite common in poetry. You don't need to dream up narratives on your own to explore some aspect of human nature--you are free to take existing narratives and characters and explore them in your own way.

What lines or images stand out to you? If you were to write an allusion poem, what story would you enjoy exploring and rewriting?


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5:00 AM Laurel Garver
by Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)


inset from a medieval painting, artist unknown

The brown enormous odor he lived by
was too close, with its breathing and thick hair,
for him to judge. The floor was rotten; the sty
was plastered halfway up with glass-smooth dung.
Light-lashed, self-righteous, above moving snouts,
the pigs' eyes followed him, a cheerful stare--
even to the sow that always ate her young--
till, sickening, he leaned to scratch her head.
But sometimes mornings after drinking bouts
(he hid the pints behind the two-by-fours),
the sunrise glazed the barnyard mud with red
the burning puddles seemed to reassure.
And then he thought he almost might endure
his exile yet another year or more.

But evenings the first star came to warn.
The farmer whom he worked for came at dark
to shut the cows and horses in the barn
beneath their overhanging clouds of hay,
with pitchforks, faint forked lightnings, catching light,
safe and companionable as in the Ark.
The pigs stuck out their little feet and snored.
The lantern--like the sun, going away--
laid on the mud a pacing aureole.
Carrying a bucket along a slimy board,
he felt the bats' uncertain staggering flight,
his shuddering insights, beyond his control,
touching him. But it took him a long time
finally to make up his mind to go home.

This piece is an extended allusion to the biblical parable of the prodigal son, a story Jesus tells in the Gospels about a son who leaves home, squanders his inheritance and ends up in poverty, taking work as a swineherd, the worst possible profession for a nice Jewish boy. In Jesus' story, the son "came to himself" and decides to return home to reconcile with his family. This piece stays at that dark period before the decision is made.

The author Elizabeth Bishop (winner of the Pulitzer and the National Book Award for poetry) generally wrote poems that seem unrelated to her life, in contrast to her contemporaries, the "confessional" poets, including Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and W.D. Snodgrass. Yet if you read about her life, you can quickly understand why she would choose to explore this particular Bible parable. Like the prodigal son, Bishop experienced a sense of dislocation. She lost one parent, then another. Was bounced among relatives in Nova Scotia and Massachusetts. Missed a great deal of school because of bouts of asthma. Though a New England native, she spent large chunks of her life in France and Brazil, made possible in part because of a substantial inheritance from her father.

Bishop's poem is a great example of literary borrowing that's quite common in poetry. You don't need to dream up narratives on your own to explore some aspect of human nature--you are free to take existing narratives and characters and explore them in your own way.

What lines or images stand out to you? If you were to write an allusion poem, what story would you enjoy exploring and rewriting?


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 17, 2014

by Donald Justice (1925 - 2004)
Papier-mache body; blue-and-black cotton jersey cover.
Metal stand. Instructions included.
   --Sears, Roebuck Catalogue
Photo credit: jeltovski at morguefile.com
              O my coy darling, still
              You wear for me the scent
         Of those long afternoons we spent,
               The two of us together,
    Safe in the attic from the jealous eyes
                 Of household spies
    And the remote buffooneries of the weather;
                         So high,
    Our sole remaining neighbor was the sky,
              Which, often enough, at dusk,
    Leaning its cloudy shoulders on the sill,
Used to regard us with a bored and cynical eye.

              How like the terrified,
              Shy figure of a bride
         You stood there then, without your clothes,
                  Drawn up into
         So classic and so strict a pose
      Almost, it seemed, our little attic grew
Dark with the first charmed night of the honeymoon.
         Or was it only some obscure
      Shape of my mother's youth I saw in you,
There where the rude shadows of the afternoon
         Crept up your ankles and you stood
         Hiding your s-x as best you could?--
         Prim ghost the evening light shone through.


Source: poets.org

An ode is typically an elaborately structured poem praising or glorifying an event or individual. Among English poets, Keats is considered the master of the form.

Justice, however, isn't glorifying something glorious. By writing an "ode" about a man's bizarre relationship with a dressmaker's dummy, he satirizes love poems generally. This is another instance of form/content dissonance that makes you pause, raise an eyebrow, and perhaps laugh.

What silly thing do you think would make a good topic for a satirical ode?

a Rafflecopter giveaway
5:00 AM Laurel Garver
by Donald Justice (1925 - 2004)
Papier-mache body; blue-and-black cotton jersey cover.
Metal stand. Instructions included.
   --Sears, Roebuck Catalogue
Photo credit: jeltovski at morguefile.com
              O my coy darling, still
              You wear for me the scent
         Of those long afternoons we spent,
               The two of us together,
    Safe in the attic from the jealous eyes
                 Of household spies
    And the remote buffooneries of the weather;
                         So high,
    Our sole remaining neighbor was the sky,
              Which, often enough, at dusk,
    Leaning its cloudy shoulders on the sill,
Used to regard us with a bored and cynical eye.

              How like the terrified,
              Shy figure of a bride
         You stood there then, without your clothes,
                  Drawn up into
         So classic and so strict a pose
      Almost, it seemed, our little attic grew
Dark with the first charmed night of the honeymoon.
         Or was it only some obscure
      Shape of my mother's youth I saw in you,
There where the rude shadows of the afternoon
         Crept up your ankles and you stood
         Hiding your s-x as best you could?--
         Prim ghost the evening light shone through.


Source: poets.org

An ode is typically an elaborately structured poem praising or glorifying an event or individual. Among English poets, Keats is considered the master of the form.

Justice, however, isn't glorifying something glorious. By writing an "ode" about a man's bizarre relationship with a dressmaker's dummy, he satirizes love poems generally. This is another instance of form/content dissonance that makes you pause, raise an eyebrow, and perhaps laugh.

What silly thing do you think would make a good topic for a satirical ode?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

by Laurel Garver

Photo credit: o0o0xmods0o0o at morguefile.com
Yesterday
all my troubles seemed so far
across the street my best friend
or close enough stepped on her
gerbil squish
She was walking it on a leash
like a dog pretty dumb I think
probably she forgot everything else and
burst into Tomorrow
I love ya tomorrow you’re
only a day
around the block
the Bartelli boys who like to stick
crawly things into people’s lunches
bought the gerbil guts for 50¢ &
2 red rubber balls & a swirly
marble all stuffed into
her hand too late for me
to yell cooties she smiled toothy
and wiped scritch scratch
her bloody shoe in the grass.

Muddy-Fingered Midnights, p. 20.

I wrote the initial draft of this piece for a poetry class in graduate school. As you might guess, I was experimenting on a number of fronts here: interpolating song lyrics, breathless stream-of-consciousness style, tone/subject dissonance and finally, voice. You could say my choice was somewhat in reaction to the mop-pushing megalomaniac in my poetry class who loved to use allusions to the Gilgamesh epic, among other pretensions. Being around him made me want to write real, to get past all the grad school trying-to-sound-important BS. What could be less important-sounding than some silly kid story?

I worked from of a true childhood tale a high school friend had shared about one of her neighbors who thought it would be fun to walk her hamster on a leash, then inadvertently killed it. I vaguely recall that money had been exchanged to use the rodent remains for some ghoulish purpose.

My initial inclination for telling this had been to take a knowing tone, looking on this scenario with adult eyes. But it felt entirely wrong. I realized that if I was going to be true to this story, I needed to enter into the child worldseeing the neighbor girl as the kid I imagined she was, impulsive and apt to burst into song. I mined memories for details, like what the truly evil kids did for fun. Instead of 30 pieces of silver, the beloved pet is sold off for kid treasuresthe sorts of things I admired from my parents' desk drawers or my siblings' closet floors. By using onomatopoetic words, I tried make the gore concrete but not sensationalized.

The title, by the way, refers to the lyric snippets that in the original, both included the word "away." But in this context, when we're small, our world shrinks. Troubles are across the street. Tomorrow is just around the block. Not quite away.

If you've always wanted to try poetry, but don't know where to start, dip into your well of memories, and not just the shiny-happy ones. It's in the sandbox we discover some of the startling truths about life.

What lines or images strike you? How might you experiment with stream-of-consciousness or tone/subject dissonance?


Like this poem? Enter to win my collection!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Muddy-Fingered Midnights by Laurel Garver

Muddy-Fingered Midnights

by Laurel Garver

Giveaway ends April 17, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
5:00 AM Laurel Garver
by Laurel Garver

Photo credit: o0o0xmods0o0o at morguefile.com
Yesterday
all my troubles seemed so far
across the street my best friend
or close enough stepped on her
gerbil squish
She was walking it on a leash
like a dog pretty dumb I think
probably she forgot everything else and
burst into Tomorrow
I love ya tomorrow you’re
only a day
around the block
the Bartelli boys who like to stick
crawly things into people’s lunches
bought the gerbil guts for 50¢ &
2 red rubber balls & a swirly
marble all stuffed into
her hand too late for me
to yell cooties she smiled toothy
and wiped scritch scratch
her bloody shoe in the grass.

Muddy-Fingered Midnights, p. 20.

I wrote the initial draft of this piece for a poetry class in graduate school. As you might guess, I was experimenting on a number of fronts here: interpolating song lyrics, breathless stream-of-consciousness style, tone/subject dissonance and finally, voice. You could say my choice was somewhat in reaction to the mop-pushing megalomaniac in my poetry class who loved to use allusions to the Gilgamesh epic, among other pretensions. Being around him made me want to write real, to get past all the grad school trying-to-sound-important BS. What could be less important-sounding than some silly kid story?

I worked from of a true childhood tale a high school friend had shared about one of her neighbors who thought it would be fun to walk her hamster on a leash, then inadvertently killed it. I vaguely recall that money had been exchanged to use the rodent remains for some ghoulish purpose.

My initial inclination for telling this had been to take a knowing tone, looking on this scenario with adult eyes. But it felt entirely wrong. I realized that if I was going to be true to this story, I needed to enter into the child worldseeing the neighbor girl as the kid I imagined she was, impulsive and apt to burst into song. I mined memories for details, like what the truly evil kids did for fun. Instead of 30 pieces of silver, the beloved pet is sold off for kid treasuresthe sorts of things I admired from my parents' desk drawers or my siblings' closet floors. By using onomatopoetic words, I tried make the gore concrete but not sensationalized.

The title, by the way, refers to the lyric snippets that in the original, both included the word "away." But in this context, when we're small, our world shrinks. Troubles are across the street. Tomorrow is just around the block. Not quite away.

If you've always wanted to try poetry, but don't know where to start, dip into your well of memories, and not just the shiny-happy ones. It's in the sandbox we discover some of the startling truths about life.

What lines or images strike you? How might you experiment with stream-of-consciousness or tone/subject dissonance?


Like this poem? Enter to win my collection!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Muddy-Fingered Midnights by Laurel Garver

Muddy-Fingered Midnights

by Laurel Garver

Giveaway ends April 17, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

If you find the idea of writing poetry completely intimidating, you might want to try out a creativity tool I rediscovered: magnetic poetry.

I recall magnetic poetry being the hot new thing back in the mid-1990s, usually sold in bookstore gift sections. Several local coffee shops near me kept cookie sheets coated with the small magnetized pieces of type you could arrange into forms of expression.

The challenge was to work with the words at hand and arrange them into something at least partially coherent. The truly patient would dig through the sticky bits to find just the right words. The impatient would sacrifice coherence. The guffawing teenagers usually left behind suggestive little ditties like this: white curve / in a window / moon rise / blush and run.

I picked up a new set of magnetic poetry at a flea market over the summer--the "romance" set, which I knew would have lots of fun additions to the two sets I already own. When we first got the set home, my daughter and I noodled around for a good forty minutes trying different combinations.

My creativity was spurred by three words that had come linked together on one of the perforated sheets: "slow," "velvet" and "dance."

Here's what resulted:


I noticed a few interesting things working in this medium. First, one tends to go light with using articles, because who wants to spend twenty minutes digging for an "a" or "an"? Second, odd combinations pop up all the time and can cause your subject and tone can shift dramatically as you compose. This piece shifted when the word "pleasure" caught my eye. I got thinking what a cliched concept it often is and let my imagination roam for new ways to conceive it.

If you haven't ever played with magnetic poetry, I highly recommend it as a warm-up tool. Seeing stacks of words randomly juxtaposed will stir your imagination in wonderful ways.

Have you ever played with magnetic poetry sets? If you were to take the words I used, how would you rearrange them?


Like this poem? Enter to win my collection!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Muddy-Fingered Midnights by Laurel Garver

Muddy-Fingered Midnights

by Laurel Garver

Giveaway ends April 17, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
5:00 AM Laurel Garver
If you find the idea of writing poetry completely intimidating, you might want to try out a creativity tool I rediscovered: magnetic poetry.

I recall magnetic poetry being the hot new thing back in the mid-1990s, usually sold in bookstore gift sections. Several local coffee shops near me kept cookie sheets coated with the small magnetized pieces of type you could arrange into forms of expression.

The challenge was to work with the words at hand and arrange them into something at least partially coherent. The truly patient would dig through the sticky bits to find just the right words. The impatient would sacrifice coherence. The guffawing teenagers usually left behind suggestive little ditties like this: white curve / in a window / moon rise / blush and run.

I picked up a new set of magnetic poetry at a flea market over the summer--the "romance" set, which I knew would have lots of fun additions to the two sets I already own. When we first got the set home, my daughter and I noodled around for a good forty minutes trying different combinations.

My creativity was spurred by three words that had come linked together on one of the perforated sheets: "slow," "velvet" and "dance."

Here's what resulted:


I noticed a few interesting things working in this medium. First, one tends to go light with using articles, because who wants to spend twenty minutes digging for an "a" or "an"? Second, odd combinations pop up all the time and can cause your subject and tone can shift dramatically as you compose. This piece shifted when the word "pleasure" caught my eye. I got thinking what a cliched concept it often is and let my imagination roam for new ways to conceive it.

If you haven't ever played with magnetic poetry, I highly recommend it as a warm-up tool. Seeing stacks of words randomly juxtaposed will stir your imagination in wonderful ways.

Have you ever played with magnetic poetry sets? If you were to take the words I used, how would you rearrange them?


Like this poem? Enter to win my collection!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Muddy-Fingered Midnights by Laurel Garver

Muddy-Fingered Midnights

by Laurel Garver

Giveaway ends April 17, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Monday, April 14, 2014



By Scott Cairns (1954— )

A little loam and topsoil 
is a lot. 
—Heather McHugh

Photo credit: ronmerk from morguefile.com 

A vacant lot, maybe, but even such lit vacancy
as interstate motels announce can look, well, pretty
damned inviting after a long day’s drive, especially
if the day has been oppressed by manic truckers, detours,
endless road construction. And this poorly measured, semi-
rectangle, projected and plotted with the familiar
little flags upon a spread of neglected terra firma
also offers brief apprehension, which—let’s face it,
whether pleasing or encumbered by anxiety—dwells
luxuriously in potential. Me? Well, I like
a little space between shopping malls, and while this one may
never come to be much of a garden, once we rip
the old tires from the brambles and bag the trash, we might
just glimpse the lot we meant, the lot we hoped to find.
.

Source: Philokalia: New and Selected Poems (Zoo Press, 2002)

As a country girl who has put down roots in an urban area, this piece resonates with me. Even a small patch of nature "dwells luxuriously in potential" --potential to bring a bit of beauty and respite for the weary, nature-hungry soul. I like that Cairns uses poetry to look past the now of "old tires," "brambles" and "trash" to see a glimpse of possible garden space. The transformative power of the imagination makes a little patch of littered land into "a lot"--in more sense than one, encouraging the reader to expand application to other wrecked spaces, be they landscapes or relationships.

What lines or images stand out to you?

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5:00 AM Laurel Garver


By Scott Cairns (1954— )

A little loam and topsoil 
is a lot. 
—Heather McHugh

Photo credit: ronmerk from morguefile.com 

A vacant lot, maybe, but even such lit vacancy
as interstate motels announce can look, well, pretty
damned inviting after a long day’s drive, especially
if the day has been oppressed by manic truckers, detours,
endless road construction. And this poorly measured, semi-
rectangle, projected and plotted with the familiar
little flags upon a spread of neglected terra firma
also offers brief apprehension, which—let’s face it,
whether pleasing or encumbered by anxiety—dwells
luxuriously in potential. Me? Well, I like
a little space between shopping malls, and while this one may
never come to be much of a garden, once we rip
the old tires from the brambles and bag the trash, we might
just glimpse the lot we meant, the lot we hoped to find.
.

Source: Philokalia: New and Selected Poems (Zoo Press, 2002)

As a country girl who has put down roots in an urban area, this piece resonates with me. Even a small patch of nature "dwells luxuriously in potential" --potential to bring a bit of beauty and respite for the weary, nature-hungry soul. I like that Cairns uses poetry to look past the now of "old tires," "brambles" and "trash" to see a glimpse of possible garden space. The transformative power of the imagination makes a little patch of littered land into "a lot"--in more sense than one, encouraging the reader to expand application to other wrecked spaces, be they landscapes or relationships.

What lines or images stand out to you?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, April 12, 2014

by Mark Strand (1934 —)

In a field
I am the absence
Photo by grtguru for morguefile.com
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

Source: The Contemporary American Poets. New York: New American Library, 1969. p. 330.

Spare and deceptively simple, this poem addresses the nature of reality. What is presence? What is absence? How does the universe fit together? What is my place in it?

What lines or images strike you?

a Rafflecopter giveaway
5:00 AM Laurel Garver
by Mark Strand (1934 —)

In a field
I am the absence
Photo by grtguru for morguefile.com
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

Source: The Contemporary American Poets. New York: New American Library, 1969. p. 330.

Spare and deceptively simple, this poem addresses the nature of reality. What is presence? What is absence? How does the universe fit together? What is my place in it?

What lines or images strike you?

a Rafflecopter giveaway