NaPoWriMo – Nocturne

The other day my husband John ordered a critter-cam on-line.  I squawked, of course, but it only took the first viewing of the previous day and night’s footage for me to change my mind.  Now, every morning we race to change the chip and watch yesterday’s traffic wander through our backyard.  The cardinal’s are great favorites, topped only by the antics of girl and boy squirrels raiding the guaranteed-squirrel -proof top-of-the-line wild bird feeders! Cirque du Soleil has nothing on our troupe…

The Unparalleled Pleasure of Watching Wild Things Sup

 

 

Four in the morning,

night’s darkest hour…

Earth turns her gaze

from moon’s descent

to face dawn’s bright arousal

and almost every creature

curls in sleep, paws

snugged tight into belly

head tucked beneath a tail.

 

Except for rat, whose eyes

shine bright as light bulbs.

Caught by the critter-cam

in infra-red, he scurries

here and yon, the skitter

of his tiny nails lost beneath

the sound of trickling fountain

feeding the pond where possum

comes to cadge a drink.

 

Our resident rat,

displays such lissome

grace and speed, such deft

persistent harvesting we’ve

learned to love him, broken

every wildlife stricture becoming

backyard voyeurs – profligate gods

dispensing corncobs everywhere

within our camera’s purview.

 

 

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NaPoWriMo 16 – The Naked Man Revisited

Some of you know my book The Naked Man.  Since it was originally inspired by an exchange of letters between poets, I revisited the scene to meet today’s NaPoWriMo challenge.

 

Dear NM,

          It’s been awhile, we didn’t part too happily

          but, you should  have known, harboring poetic

           aspirations of your own, how eagerly

          we wordsmiths grab at raw material

          close at hand – and weren’t we close

           hand and mouth, the very subject bards

           most love to shout about?

 

 

NM to P…

 

          Did you have to steal my best stich

          or paint me quite as dark as night?  I’m certain

          we spent much more time alight…

 

 

NM,

 

          You remind me of an Emperor

          strutting streets without a stitch,

          certain quite he’s robed in cloth-of-gold.

          You’ve never been discreet in act or speech!

          Besides, you choose us poets to consort with,

          the ones with endless license to distort,

           exaggerate, transmogrify and lie.  What

          were you thinking, or with what?  And why?

 

 

Beauteous P,

 

          You are

         the one

          writing

          to me…

 

 

 

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NaPoWriMo – Mid Month

I love the permission implicit in the NaPoWriMo challenge.  The prompts send me spinning in directions that don’t occur to me to go down on my own.  There is no time to brood at NaPoWriMo – no hours to incubate a poem, to let it lose first gloss, to amputate and trim and tuck.  Once published here, upon this blog, I cannot send my poems to any publication or contest demanding virgin work.  The audience is everywhere and no where and both alternatives allow the freedom poetic license promises but contemporary poetic culture does not always deliver.   The playground is vast, full of buckets, shovels and sandboxes, slides and swings, puddles and prams, hurt feelings and busted lips, scraped knees and elbows, creepy dudes, over-protective mothers, and sweet-faced nannies to kiss the boo-boos better.  It’s a great place to try your hand at anything, with room enough for all…

 

 Enough

 

 

You always said the Golden Mean, the Middle Way

smacked of compromise and copping out.

Mistaking license for freedom, excess for abundance

you’d rather die than cry, enough!  Did it seem

like enough when lesions ran up and down your arms,

or you lay face-down on a hundred filthy floors

or when rooting through a dumpster, right before a dawn

you hadn’t raised your eyes to since forever for an ABC hamburger,

and you almost cried over a full bag of fries?

Or maybe, you’d had enough when Mary Jane slit

her wrists in your bathroom because the baby died of SIPS

and after the ambulance left you screamed yourself hoarse

on the front lawn, shaking your fist at God till neighbors

called police who seeing blood all over your shirt hauled you

downtown and threw your ass in jail overnight, which is where

you had your first hit ’cause cellmates couldn’t stand your whimpering

and bought themselves some cheap peace?

Who knows when enough becomes enough and the world shakes itself

into a new configuration in which wind from a different quarter

blows pink streamers across the morning and you  look up

for the first time since forever and  finally understand enough.

 

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NaPoWriMo Day 14

I was so enamored of Troy Jolliman, the featured poet today at NaPoWriMo, I had to share him on Facebook.  In the interview he spoke of many things I too ponder.  But I came away thinking about something else – the absolute joy of cross-pollinating  categories, disciplines, schools of thought, artistic modalities, etc.  Have you ever noticed how homogeneous audiences of all kinds tend to be?  For the most part we like our cages.  But stepping outside them is fun!  It certainly makes me happy.  In this interview Troy Jolliman sounds like a happy man.  I think happiness is greatly underrated, perhaps because it’s been mistaken for a goal when really, happiness is a state of being – a state of appreciation for what is.

Of course, it’s hard to know what actually is. One of the realities of being human is that in just a few moments (sometimes seconds) we forget or twist what we just said, remember differently the thing that actually happened.  Troy noticed! and summed it up perfectly in just a few lines…

 

“the gap between

the worlds I said

and those I remember saying

 

is just wide enough to contain

the remains that remain

of what I assumed I knew

~Troy Jolliman, excerpted from At Lake Scugog

 

That quality of noticing is what I find exciting about Troy Jolliman and what I love about poetry – even when its extremely silly! Like my clerihew:

 

Our new pres, the Donald

is worse than old Ronald!

Can’t forget the least slight

and twitters all night.

 

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Slipping Under the Wire She Rides Her Ghazal to the Finish

I have to admit I put this off all day.  I think I get an A for following the form, following Agha Shahid Ali’s lead in dealing with the exigence of ordinary life, managing to rhyme (though not internally), tossing off a political reference and sneaking my own name into the last couplet.  However I get a D-minus in lyricism – no graceful gazelle-like poesy here!  Furthermore, I didn’t begin to touch Patricia Smith’s elegant little rap.  Her cleverness and composition blew me away, not to mention the sheer joy of it. Nevertheless, I did it! And Agha Ali’s correct:

… once a poet establishes the scheme—with total freedom, I might add—she or he becomes its slave.  What results in the rest of the poem is the alluring tension of a slave trying to master the master.

I want to try the form again, but meanwhile for NaPoWriMo Day Thirteen:

 

The Sound of One Wrist Knocking (on Wood)

 

 

It’s hard to wrap a silver lining round a broken wrist

difficult to wash this cup with one unbroken wrist.

 

I can’t spread jam upon my toast, besides the lids resist

jar slides and scoots and skips away beneath my wounded wrist.

 

My arm is cast in grassy green, the healing to assist

I’ve bangled silver bracelets around the healthy wrist

 

inveigled cute young men in bars to sketch down to my fist

their flash art, drawn graffiti-quick, now tags my aching wrist.

 

Another perk – the gods preferred fracture to a cyst

my domineering  hand’s intact, I love my healthy wrist.

 

Some claim lightning struck the left, in a Trumpian twist

but southpaw fingers curl and rise in spite of my skewed wrist.

 

I guess I’m golden after all. Christine’s good luck persists

Six weeks flew by most hurriedly and Fortune blessed her wrist.

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The Wondrous Sound of Words

Sitting here drinking cold coffee, contemplating how delicious a word can feel in the mouth, I once again affirm my love of spoken words.  Sometimes I think writing (as opposed to the oral transmission of information) must be the aberration that sent humanity spiraling into “what went wrong,” sending us headlong into banking and bureaucracy – too much, too soon, too far.  If you’ve never read Leonard Shlain’s  The Alphabet versus the Goddess check it out for his theory on the effect of literacy on left-brain development.  (Warning: its wordy, rhetorical and dubious in part – still very interesting idea about the physical changes written language works on the human brain) Meanwhile, returning to assonance and alliteration, here’s my NaPoWriMo poem for April 12, 2017:

The Wondrous Sound of Words

Deliberate
delineation of alliteration
amplifies anxiety!  Assonance aggravates.
Gleaning conjoined consonants consciously
taxes my resourcefulness, restlessly I cast about,
silently reciting alphabets, inadvertently invoking
Big Bird’s clacking beak singing his mnemonic silly song,
now running round my brain in endless repetition.
I’m bargaining with gods I don’t believe in
to scrub his vile vox from my exhausted mind.
It’s come to this – poetry is petrifying!  Yet still,
I persist, continue to comb dictionaries, cull
the thesaurus.  Sometimes I think I write
only for pure pleasure, indulging due
delight in the wondrous
sound of words.

 

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It’s Hard To Be Urban After Four Days In The Country

I’m joining NaPoWriMo late again!  Every year I end up playing catch up. I think it has to do with that Trickster”s Day on the 1st of every April.  It’s no accident the poets got this month to be commemorated! I have a good excuse – the Lucidity Poetry Festival In Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It’s run by a force of nature- the elegant Birma Castle, an organizer par excellence who’s learned the awesome trick of combining charisma and common sense in the service of smooth friendly organization that works! i.e. everything ran on time and she delivered what she promised. Gotta love it!!

The heart of Lucidity is the critique circle. Poets are divided into groups of eight and every morning the group critiques poems from a pool of three each that poets submitted at registration. Good work gets done and even more importantly bonds are formed and relationships established.  Best of all, I had fun and came away longing to write.

I was thrilled by the idea of the Bop poem, but found it hard to write at the end of a long creative day that included a six a.m. poem for my latest project.  It’s also damn hard to think urban after days in the Arkansas countryside – about as pretty as it gets.  However, I’m determined to play, starting today and continuing on.  As far as I’m concerned NaPoWriMo is one of the finest poetry resources on-line.  I’m glad to be aboard.

Glut: A Buddhist Bop Poem

 

Locked mall door, woman waiting for the key to turn,

blue-shirt security lets shoppers in.  Semi-anatomically

correct mannequins pose for selfies, their artificial

grins mimic the smiles of on-commission saleswomen

who circle hungry shoppers, primed to succumb, greedy

for discounts offering more for less and then some.

 

 I like what I see, I see what I like, I want what I want

  

Wooing every predilection like a lover, consumers

throng ugly aisles; overhead florescent lights

bleach every skin tone pale, illuminate each pimple,

wrinkle, scar and mole.  Bone thin or overweight,

window glass throws back grotesque reflections —

character, drained dry by greed, forever needs more

shirts, jeans, dresses, jackets, handbags, shoes,

sugar, salt, fat, wine, whiskey, cars and child porn…

 

I like what I see, I see what I like, I want what I want

 

People disappear like snowflakes, melting from streets,

playgrounds, classrooms, the bathroom in the mall.  Every

thing is up for grabs.  Everyone can count, but no one

reckons cost based on cut connections — loss of energy,

lost love, disappeared experiences, snuffed talent — stuff

not enough to substitute for context and compassion.

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When Coyote Shows Up To Play

Several months ago I signed up on Owl & Crow for an on-line course in creating a Major Arcana tarot deck of SoulCollage® cards.  It started January 8th, but by then I had forgotten fileexactly what I had enrolled in.  I received no notices because they all got sent to Promotions by my server.  Happily, I received a Facebook notification announcing a friend’s new Fool card, checked it out, saw the site, remembered everything and found my lost instructions!

ryder-waite-major-arcana

The Major Arcana of the Tarot consists of The Fool and 21 other numbered cards.  The Fool has no value- he/she is the joker, a wild card who fits at either the beginning or end of the sequence and can pop up anywhere.  The Major Arcana cards represent, among many other things, a journey of initiation, like the one we take in life, in which we meet and grapple with all the attributes of being human.  Starting in the beginning place, as fools, we pass through each aspect of ourselves gaining self-knowledge until in the end we become whole.

fools-hatI opened that post  this morning because the word “Fool” caught my eye.  The Fool and I are old foolfriends by way of Coyote, a Trickster totem of mine.  The Trickster is one of coyote8the basic archetypes in the human psyche.  He/she could be said to be an archetype of humanity itself – absurd, intelligent, ridiculous, arrogant, innovative, deceitful, vulgar – well you begin to get the picture.  Perhaps the one truly unique thing about human beings is our ability to laugh at ourselves.  This is the Trickster’s forte and the reason he/she is so very important to us.  It was probably Coyote who blurred memory, jumbled files, and mucked about for six weeks before showing up late, in time to tag me!

 

I recently posted about my new book of Irish poems, Sitting on the Hag Seat, but today, seeing how Trickster is hanging around, it seems like a propitious moment to talk about an earlier collection The Naked Man that’s all about the Fool.

naked-man-cover

 As you can see the cover derives from the Ryder-Waite tarot card pictured above.  The poems describe a man stuck in the Fool archetype.  Fools are meant to journey on and become more wise without losing the qualities of child-like simplicity and delight.  As the Fool roams about the world he/she is meant to linger in other places, see the world through different eyes.  A person run by an archetype, or as Santeria says, “ridden by a god,” loses their volition.  They have yet to learn to see themselves absurd, laugh appreciatively and move on.  The Naked Man attempts to show how painful and funny it is to be stuck.

 

I honor Coyote’s guidance in this and all my endeavors, the artistry of my daughter Kathleen Irving who drew the Naked Man on the cover, and the amazing Julie Valin who formatted, proofed, designed and turned it into a real book.

 

Journey’s End

 

The Naked Man

begins to journey

by leaving home and tumbling

into an abyss.

 

Free fall becomes him –

long limbs cart wheeling through air

while wife, children, house

“the full catastrophe”

sail upwards into the blue.

 

He’s fool, simpleton

dummkopf, hobo

youngest brother;

underrated

misunderstood …

 

He’ll suffer

strange encounters

pratfalls, stumbles.

 

Somewhere the Devil waits.

 

There are worse things than a rabbit hole.

He’ll have to lose himself

to save his soul.

©Christine Irving 2010

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The Need for Intersectionality: Repainting Sojourner Truth by AngelaYarber

angelaI’ve long held that feminism, in order to be true and engaged and practical, must be intersectional. Such is also the case, I believe, for LGBTQ rights. The work of justice for women and LGBTQs people must also include justice for other marginalized groups. Because many LGBTQ people are also women, people of color, people with disabilities, Muslims, immigrants, and others marginalized for identities other than their sexuality. Paying attention to these intersections—of sexuality, gender, race, class, ability, religion—and acknowledging that many people have multiple intersecting identities for which they are oppressed is vital to the work of justice.

These thoughts remained at the forefront of my mind as I recently marched in one of the sister marches of the Women’s March in my home of Hilo, Hawaii. I heard many straight, white, cisgender women claim that women are not oppressed while mocking the march as irrelevant. I heard some…

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Hidden Figures – A Different Approach to Promoting Mutuality

The other day, I re-blogged Sara Frykenberg’s  post about the impossibility of debating “mutuality,” which I define as the mutual respect required to approach each and any “other” as a peer.     The movie, Hidden Figures, starring Taraji Hensen, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe,  offers an excellent alternative to debate.  It pulls us into a visceral understanding of why we need to engage in  mutuality.

hidden-figures

There is lots going on in this film, based on a true story depicting the lives of several African American women who worked hidden-figures-13as mathematicians for NASA in the early sixties.  Sounds a bit dull, right?  Wrong.  Director Theodore Melfi has produced a tight, beautifully crafted, suspenseful drama containing not a single unnecessary word, wasted shot, or insignificant gesture.

Like life, the movie contains layers of interrelated parallel realities.  The importance of human beings relating  personally with each other in any environment, no matter how hidden-figures-4functional or impressive it might be, is one of the movie’s underlying themes.  The work at NASA, which fascinates and compels the main character, Katherine Gobel Johnson, is continually cradled in the larger, more important context of human relationship.   At the end of this story the personal bond established between Katherine and her boss, Al Harris, allows him to make the judgement call that lets the mission successfully proceed.

The debilitating, insidious, toxic effects of racism have never been more aptly depicted than in this film. The director focuses here on small constant oppressions that bring home to the audience how chronically painful and tedious living under such circumstances really is and how it erodes the soul and spirit of all.  Racism in neither the focus nor the by-product here – it is integrated into the fabric of the story the same way it was (and is) interwoven into the everyday life of ordinary Americans.  The screen shows no mercy in demonstrating that “death by a thousand cuts” can be more cruel than outright murder.  Yet the story ends happily with deft touches of humor throughout.  It’s characters defy despair and achieve goals that let the audience walk out feeling proud and hopeful.  My fellow movie-goers (the theater was packed) clapped spontaneously at the end – for a lesson they might otherwise have disdained. This is one measure, in my opinion, of great theater.  It compels us to willingly watch, what we might normally turn from and avoid.

hidden-figures-3

In spite of the exhilarating scene where Al Harris, the head of Katherine’s section, takes a sledgehammer to the sign over the women’s room designating it “colored,”  it is obvious that this man, who lives only for his job, is primarily motivated by pragmatism.  I am a huge proponent of pragmatism.  It is the foundation stone of morality, ethics and idealism.  Basically, things works better if we treat each other fairly and well.  Kindness and mutual respect pay off in terms of profit, efficiency, industriousness, safety – the list is endless.  Humankind’s best interests lie in making the world a place in which all talents, great and small,  flourish and thrive to the benefit of all.  It profits us to behave well.  On the other hand, failure to practice this kind of enlightened self-interest results in long term failure as systems break down and chaos creeps in.  The results are obvious.  They surround us.

It’s one of the reasons we need feminism so much.  This is another issue Hidden Figures hidden-figures-8addresses.  Katherine Gobel Johnson is discriminated against not only because she is black, but also (double whammy here) because she is female.  And OK, things have improved some since the sixties, but lots has gotten worse and the law still allows unequal pay for equal work by women.  Women are still victimized, discriminated against, bullied, beaten, enslaved and oppressed.  I hidden-figures-6watched this movie the day before the Women’s March.  It was the perfect segue and made me evenhidden-figures-9 more determined and proud to stand with millions of feminists, men, women, and children, around the world.

oscar

Hidden Figures fills me with the excited, inspired rush of creativity excellent art so often engenders.  An amazing thing about the creative process is that the good feeling it inspires lingers long after the work is complete or the show has ended.  Several weeks later, I’m still feeling it.

P.S.

 Popular Mechanics Magazine has an interesting article on the real story

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