Swan-diving Across the Corpus Collosum


As a poet I am always pondering what makes a “good” poem.   Of course, subjectivity plays a big part.  Nevertheless, some poems appeal to vast numbers of people of all ilk. What makes a poem or dance, a symphony or painted picture touch the golden cord /chord of universal appeal?  My daughter Kathleen Irving’s theory of enlightenment helps me figure it out.  Turns out it works for evaluating any kind of art.  Best of all, I’ve discovered it acts as a jump start when I can’t come to grips with a poem or when I lack inspiration.

Kathleen’s Buddhist perspective led her to think that enlightenment requires “a swan dive across the corpus collosum.” brain

The corpus collosum is the bridge in our human brains connecting the left and right frontal lobes.  Kathy says to achieve a sophistication of the spirit, heart and mind must connect.   But it takes more than a first fertilizing plunge.  Again and again the diver must cross and re-cross the distance between feeling and thought, strengthening the connection needed to carry the juice, the energy, of new creation.  The finished piece embodies the vitality of this surge.

Reading, touching, gazing at such work, observers experience swan diving between their own hearts and intellects.  They undergo two simultaneous experiences.; something like interacting with the famous picture where one can see both a young girl or an old woman in the same drawing; crone-300x158or the way a shaman sees an alternative dimension existing simultaneously with our everyday world.  Intuitive and logician, sensate and dreamer come together within the observer and both become en-lightened – made lighter and more whole.

Bringing the swan dive to consciousness has helped me grow as a writer; especially during the process of finishing my most recent book, Sitting on the Hag Seat: A Celtic Knot of Poems. 


Composed in the glow of my pilgrimage to Ireland, the first few poems almost wrote themselves. The second tier took a little more thought.  Delving into memory, reliving the journey, I thought deeply about the personal significance I found in places and events I had witnessed.  More poetry transpired, but soon enough the moment came when I felt I had written all I had to say.

The problem was that I had made a pact with Ireland, or rather with the spirit of the place we call Ireland.  I had promised it a book.  I am not a superstitious woman, but I know the oathramifications of breaking such a promise.  It was a sort of geas, an oath undertaken knowing that to forswear meant I would be haunted forever until the promise was fulfilled, possibly in some unexpected and unpleasant way.  Besides, I like to keep my promises.

So, I began to research the places I had visited, delving into myth and folktales.  I looked up every archetypal symbol that presented itself, explored Irish history, traced the lineage of its kings and queens.  I widened my focus by including my family history, former visits to the Ireland and even far-fetched associations,  Ireland’s appellation, The Emerald Isle, had me googling emeralds.  I ended up with a wealth of topics to write about, but everything I wrote was forced and artificial.  I kept crumpling, discarding and erasing before remembering the swan dive.

In order to write an authentic poem, I needed to find a heart connection with the ideas on my list of topics.  For instance, in the book into thematic sections it occurred to me the sacred trees associated with Ireland’s ancient runic alphabet would be a good choice. tree alphabet

Sadly, I had few real connections with the fourteen trees I had chosen.  Back I went to their specific myths, stories, etymology and dendrology.  I began making mind maps with my chosen tree drawn in the center, adding associations and memories as they arose. Soon enough some visceral reaction would occur and I’d find myself mid-dive.  Take, for example, my poem:

 Beith – Birch – Ogham Letter B

Night forest reflects the moon

in intermittent silver streaks,

slender threads of argent

woven through dark tapestry,

each filament a guardian birch,

tree nurse, soil minder,

Lady of the Woods,


preparing soil, venturing

in barren places ravaged

and laid bare by flame.

First tree to follow after ice,

mammoths nibbled her limbs,

aurochs sheltered in their shade.

Her branches drive out evil

sweep away detritus.

Leaves heal, sap sweetens,

wood burns bright against the cold.

She is the beginning place,

herald of the New Year

reviving, replenishing, restoring

and Beith is her beautiful name.

My way in here came through Beith, the word for Birch in Irish and the letter “B” in the Ogham alphabet.  Beith looks like Beth, a shamanic friend of mine who reminds me of a birch tree.  She is tall and slender with a wild cascade of long silver hair.  Beth became the heart connection, linking my idea about sacred trees to a person I care for.  The birch in the poem, incorporating aspects of the real tree, became a metaphor for her dear self.  A birchfurther correspondence exists, between the mythical and magical attributes of Birch and Beth’s spiritual path, deeply embedded in the mystical aspects of our natural world.  Though I don’t mention my friend in the poem itself, the truth of my affection for her translates into an authenticity that informs the poem and gives it vitality, power and tenderness.

This process of purposefully searching for the connection between my idea and a corresponding personal meaning evolved out of trying to define “good” writing.  By incorporating my daughter’s “swan dive across the corpus collosum” I found a means, through research and association, that precipitated my own swan dive and its resultant poetry.

Acts of creation seem to arise from the meeting of intellect and heart.  I’m reminded of Kierkegaard’s leap of faith across the abyss of the absurd.  Perhaps, ta artist needs both an abyss and the willingness to engage with nonsense to manifest something  original.  Perhaps only the void, the space between the things that are, can generate and contain the spark of creation that precedes the birth of new life.





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3Prompts – 3Poems

A poem about taste:


Picked as buds before they open –

tight-packed petals folding back

in purple-feathered blooms –

till then they’re all about defense,

even the inner, most translucent leaves,

more tender than the naked skin

of new-born mice, are tipped with thorn,

heart guarded by a thicket dense enough

to stifle breath and strangle.


An artichoke takes patience to prepare.

Steam or boil the best part of an hour,

cool.  You’ll need a bag or bowl

to catch discarded leaves, mayonnaise

or golden melted butter to dip

the fleshy bottoms of each petal

and slide them through clamped teeth.


It tastes simultaneously

robust and delicate –

difficult to define,


recognizable, well-paired

with cream and chicken.

This thistle vegetable

requires time, it’s all about

teeth, tongue, lips and palate.


The final denouement is worth

your wait –  the long un-robing,

the extended foreplay.   Eat

so you may understand why hunters

believe that they consume

the virtues of their quarry’s character

while nibbling on his heart.


A Skeltonic verse:

Sometimes We

     Sometimes we

     go out to tea

     just to see

     what we

     can see.

     It could be

     marvels tame, but cute

     a bumbershoot,

     a scarlet newt.

     More extravagant and weird

     the man with beard

     who disappeared.

     His simple trick

     made me quite sick!

     What makes things tick?

     I think I might

     reconsider second-sight

     fairies, elves, and djinns,

     moon-swept inns

     on lonely moors,

     creepy tours –

     Victorian lanes,

     clanking chains,

     so de rigueur

     a connoisseur

     could cast no slur.



A paean to things that happen again and again:

Repeat and Change


There’s comfort in what comes again, same place,

same circumstance, same when.  I like to know

the sun will rise, without fail, no surprise,

like to watch the moon change phases, raise

my arms, chant my praises to her lambent

lovely light reigning softly over Night.

They form a frame for Life’s chaotic play

which tumbles us through changes every day,

shifting boundaries so willy-nilly

we are brought up short and silly, confused

as to what happens next; annoyed, perplexed,

intrigued and entertained, stressed by sameness,

stressed by change, loving both what’s old and strange.

Their punctuation to my day and night

helps stave off fright, when every instinct says

to run away, I stay to play another day.


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Day 26 – NaPoWriMo

Today’s prompt challenges us to write about a current artifact through the eyes of some   future archaeologist, exploring a particular object or place from the point of view of that far-off, future scientist.twinkie-1024x679










Shelf Life of 2,000 Years


The sample sent appears to be comestible

though barely digestible even in its own time

Bespoken-ly delicious, as suggested by the writing

we deciphered, it cannot have been nutritious,

formed only in small part of any food we could

call good today. The ancient drug, long known

as sugar whose addictive, toxic and hypoxic qualities

(recognized by Century Twenty’s polities)

is banned by cultures everywhere

except, we surmise,  on island Hawaii,

but sadly sky and sea,

rumored freed of radiation soon, are still not STT,

till Safe to Travel data’ trickles in by satellite feed –

our need to know is low.

Amazingly your sample’s kept it’s sponge,

we’ve fed a few crumbs to our rat.  He’s getting fat.

His sex drive’s more erratic and more slow,

his fur has lost its former glow,

we can’t afford to lose our only stud.

Regretfully, your lab time has run out.

Twinkies carry very little clout.


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NaPoWriMo: The Tiny Place – Day 25

Yesterday I spent inside a snail shell – today the frame continues small around me.  I’m thinking of Alice and the tiny door that took her into Wonderland.  I met a man at Round Top this weekend.  He sat beside me in a workshop. Tall, well-built he wore a baseball hat, blue jeans and boots. Shy, but polite, Texan through and through, if he had not been sitting in that chair I’d never peg him as a poet. When I asked what books he liked to read, he spoke of children’s literature.  Who knew, I’d find a soul mate outside of poetry though Milne, his favorite, was a poet, so was Robert Louis Stevenson and Lewis Carroll too.  We didn’t have a chance to converse more – it was the last hour of the last day and I don’t know his name.  But we wandered the same territory young, and share deep roots and early memories. Perhaps, he helped to send me back to that first wordless, dark and timeless room where everything began.


My Little Room


It’s dark in here

sound all around

gurgles tickles

faint cadence twitters



Wisp of melody –

I long for more

and all the while

strong steady beat

asleep, awake, comforts

with consistency.

Walls begin to shrink

I push with each extremity

slide against the malleable

tough membrane of my room.

Things are changing

much too quickly.

All around me tension

builds. I’m turning, turning.

Stop floating.  Feel.

Difference.  Separation.

Whatever’s happening’s

begun.  Beat quickens…





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NaPoWriMo 24: Under the Wire

I made it! Back running with the pack – how appropriate for this exercise through the Boschian landscape of noses thumbed at all the powers that be- a true democracy of pratfalls and scatology  plunked down among what’s most divine.  Good reminder of the import bread and circuses can have in keeping power on its throne…Quack! Quack!

hare riding to hunt with snail perched on gauntlet

When Rabbit Goes A’hunting


Snail rides upon his glove

you laugh, but ponder the power

of all that oozes, persistently

inexorably inching forth,

changing form to slip beneath closed doors,

wend cracks, deploy from niche and crevice;

armored creature sensitive to nuance,

translates vibration through a liquid membrane

ten times more sensitive than skin, clever

engineer whose shell spirals like galaxies

to form a home defended by radulae

so venomous and dire, men die

on being stung.


Perhaps you laugh at rabbit

riding on a greyhound. Is not a coney

canine’s prey?  You forget how wit

can best brute force with guile, sell a dog

a barren bone and leave him smiling.

Monks who hunched above their desks all day

could not resist the urge to play those tricks

any enslaved creature lays upon its master,

Trickster comes as Hero only to a common man

crushed beneath the weighty of God, King, Pope

or Mammon. If he wishes to survive,

his weapon – ridicule, must come disguised

as Rabbit, Fox or Chanticleer amid the curling leaves

of ornate vegetation, twining lush around

the very sacred words that forged his chains.


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NaPoWriMo Prompt 23 – elevenie

Elf is the German word for eleven. Adding –chen to a noun in German gives it a sense of being wee or dear. The word Elfchen (always capitalized, as are all German nouns) translated into English is roughly elevenie.

~ Grace Kerina

I’m so happy to have found this little form – another haiku-esque way to brevity, and fun as well…

A Poet & Her Poem



stitches together

wherever she goes

ephemeral and concrete occurrences

making meaningful connections with words


tells true

heart and soul

tales about life’s meaning

reminds us to stay real

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Georgic: NaPoWriMo – Day 22

I spent the weekend at Round Top Poetry Festival immersed in poetry in person without spending a second on-line. My introduction to Round Top was a conversation overheard in a restaurant.  I interrupted my neighbor’s lunch and demanded more info.  Next year I wet the website four days after registration opened and barely got room and board- the workshops were already booked!  This year I haunted the site all of February and managed to sign up for three extraordinary sessions. This is a wonderful event- the venue is exceptional, the poetry’s sublime.

Round Top itself is an arty little town deep in the east Texas countryside. It’s at its peak beauty in April and this year the wildflowers are exceptional, lacing the fields in drifts of pink, white, blue, yellow and gold.  So it’s my great pleasure to find such a bucolic prompt as my first task…

Georgic for an Empty Lot


Empty lot – wasted space

can you waste what’s infinite?

Earth being finite, being precious

ought by human standards

though not actions

to be loved, but this is unloved land

ruined with spill

oil, blood, rust, semen, yellow piss

withered condoms everywhere

rotten tires, mattresses disgorging foam.

Broken bottle teeth plot retribution

to careful fingers reaching now to grasp

gather, clear the space, yes, eighty fingers

each assigned a few square feet of hallow ground

fill rented dumpsters squatting just outside the fence

an hour has barely past when neighbor women

come by carrying water, lemonade and pie

a homeless body, gender undetermined

trucks garbage in a stolen grocery cart

meringue leaves rings round chapped and blistered lips.

Tomorrow next day and the next muscled men

will dig the rock hard soil, not to plant

that would be one miracle too much

but just to waken, bring relief and honor

soils’ long bereavement

as to a man who stepping out of undeserved imprisonment

is met with hot and soapy water, clean clothes and home cooked food

instead they build raised beds, truck in fertile dirt, plant seed

those who garden harvest

homeless body, gender undetermined

comes every day to water.

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NaPoWriMo Day 21

Ever Cover Scanned For Slander


Two candy bars consumed in line

sciatica creeps down my spine,

I roll an eye, sigh,  tap my toe –

too slow, too slow,  must they go

on and on at quite such length

Blessed Goddess, give me strength…

Oh, no! Don’t ask! She’s off again,

ice cream’s melting, don’t know when

these two will ever say amen.

There’s people lined up five carts back,

hand this girl a grocery sack!

I’ll bag your stuff, you bid adieu

and in the future I’ll eschew

any store upon my route

without a line whose clerk is mute!


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NaPoWriMo Day 20

Today’s prompt is to write a poem incorporating specific terms from a sport of our choosing.  I fenced in college. It was the only sport I actually loved, barring yoga which doesn’t really qualify.



En garde, my dear,

prepare your rapier.

I’ll brook no shy displacement,

but you may take my measure

as I prepare to meet your lunge

along whatever line you choose to take.

Consider this an invitation.

I do not feint

nor play you false,

long only for engagement.

Oh, won’t you make your point?


olympic_sports_fencing_pictogram_clip_art_15946   fencer 2



Rapier: a long, double-edged thrusting sword popular in the 16th-17th centuries.

En Garde: also On Guard; the fencing position; the stance that fencers assume when preparing to fence

Displacement: moving the target to avoid an attack; dodging.

Measure: the distance between the fencers.

Preparation: a non-threatening action intended to create the opening for an attack; the initial phase of an attack, before right-of-way is established.

Lunge: an attack made by extending the rear leg and landing on the bent front leg.

Line: the main direction of an attack (eg., high/low, inside/outside), often equated to the parry that must be made to deflect the attack; also point in line.

Interception: a counter-attack that intercepts and checks an indirect attack or other disengagement.

Feint: an attack into one line with the intention of switching to another line before the attack is completed.

Fencing Time: also temps d’escrime; the time required to complete a single, simple fencing action.

Feint: an attack into one line with the intention of switching to another line before the attack is completed.

Foil: a fencing weapon with rectangular cross-section blade and a small bell guard; any sword that has been buttoned to render it less dangerous for practice.

Engagement: when the blades are in contact with each other.

Point: a valid touch; the tip of the sword; the mechanical assembly that makes up the point of an electric weapon; an attack made with the point.


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NaPo Wri MO – 4/19 With a Short Meander Backwards

If a poet is anybody, he is somebody to whom things made matter very little – somebody who is obsessed by Making.

ee cummings

Yesterday I got distracted and didn’t write a preamble to my odd poem.  I chose ee cummings to emulate because he was the first massively neologisim- ic (having an affinity for erotic slang, he would have made much of that word) poet I encountered. I loved him from the first line and  his poetry  continues to delight me.  There are few things that evoke the response of a first encounter, but cummings’ work continues to evoke the same rush of pleasure and surprise, even after all these years. He didn’t so much create new words, in the sense our prompter spoke of, more often he gleefully enjambed them. But his poetry is all about neologisms – new way of arranging, crafting and using language that recycles and repackages old words in new configurations that enhance or expand their meaning.

My neologisms included ‘inkddles’  meaning ‘puddle of ink’

and ‘trinkling’ from ‘twinkling’ and ‘wrinkled’

I also enjambed a lot.  It was great fun and extremely liberating!! I’m so glad to be reminded to leap around outside the box more often!

NaPoWriMo reminds us often not to take ourselves so seriously, to enlighten our work with humor, so today – which should have been yesterday, I went to Coyote, my dear trickster and totem, for inspiration and wrote the following ballad, staying in the tradition of Coyote teaching tales and neologism by setting an implied moral while incorporating elements of Native American stories inside an fresh work of imagination.

Ki-ote Sets His Tail Straight



There’s a hundred different tales told how I stol’d the sun

burnt my tail tip black as sin, while he had me on the run.


But it ain’t true, the tales they tell up here in colder climes

‘cause all took place in warmer spheres of coconuts and limes.


Truth is Sun’s a gambler, vain and proud as any other star

easy mark, lesson one, in any trickster’s repertoire


I was hangin’ with some cronies, below the Mason Dix,

tradin’ funny stories ‘bout ‘bad’ wolves, pigs, bricks and chicks.


Sun, he overheard our talk – soon as he got fully set

hurried up to join our group, we hailed him happily met,


knew a mark when we met one, none had ever shone so bright.

Out came the dice and then the deck, we gambled till first light.


“I’ve got to go!” The sun jumped up and headed for the sky.

We bared our teeth and growled our threats and told him, ”Bye and bye.


There’s scores to settle, debts to pay like any honest dude.”

“You’ve taken all the gold I have, don’t know what I can do.”


I dipped my tale in blackest ink, said, “Sign an IOU,

promise me you’ll shine six months, where I direct you do.”


A sleepy bird sobbed in its nest, confused as all get out,

sweet dawn had failed to show her face.  Cries echoed all about.


Sun had no choice, he writ his name and signed five months to us.

We rent him out to folks up north, who make a perfect fuss


over his broad beaming face and all the warmth he showers

on once frozen lands that now, can grow fresh food and flowers.


It’s a win-win situation, fairly won, not stolen

Sun gets all the credit, but – to Ki-ote you’re beholden!








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