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Poetry as a Source of Story 

My life has been the poem I would have writ. Henry David Thoreau

The dichotomy of doing and being. 

Whitman seems to have accomplished a major feat by recording in fragments his life in a free form of poetic fragments. Kerouac mastered similar    accomplishment when he hit the road and recorded a memorable record of his inner and outer journey.  

Pick a favorite line from either of these three writers. Be the poem as you cross between reality and metaphor. Describe something without naming the thing. The fading redness of a withering begonia without using red or fading or withering or begonia. Tell us what you see in the poem of you. Sculpt the story of the space where the flower lives.  Breathe life into this dying thing. 

Be the poet. Write. 

Adagio – A Musical Memory 

I’m addicted to handwritten notations whether it be in music or in personal notes and letters.  For years, eight in total if memory serves, I took piano from Miss Edmonds, a matronly spinster who lived in a grand Victorian with her sister also dwelling In spinsterdom.  Their house bulged with big rooms and overgrown gardens and a long spindled staircase where would-be-virtuoso’s could sit and have a balcony-esque view of the June recitals which we prepared for all year.  

In those days there were no public school programs for music so teachers like Miss Ellen, as we called her, would come to our school and teach us for a monthly fee of $9. In retrospect, I think my parents got what they paid for in the  3 or 4 lessons per week for the nine-month school year.  

We learned to practice, to almost fully memorize our recital pieces, and to show up and perform. Our parents must have thought we were all musical as so many of us took lessons. Musical theory and critical elements like counting and such?  Well… that was not much a part of our curriculum.  In fact, in a recent discussion with a dear friend, it seems neither of us learned to count or learned theory at all. 

In discussions with her as discussions usually go, we shared thoughts about our experience and mine led to “adagio.”  That word triggered a memory when I was reading The Bridges of Madison County when it first came out.   

Somewhere, inside of the breathing, music sounds, and the curious spiral dance begins then, with a meter all its own that tempers the ice-man with spear and matted hair. And slowly— rolling and turning in adagio, in adagio always—ice-man falls… from Dimension Z… and into her. 

When originally reading these passages from The Bridges of Madison County the word ‘adagio’ immediately triggered an image of Miss Ellen and my music lessons. I am transported to Accomac Elementary, and it is fourth grade.  From Domenzion Z and always adagio — I flop into Counting Purgatory on a tinny-sounding  upright. Memory, at that moment, seemed to think I needed to remember Miss Edmonds?  Memory, I think I problably thought,  needed to get a life!  

I hadn’t thought of that book or my short-lived music career in years. But having a discussion with my friend triggered this complete sequence of thought again.  The link to the full passage from the book is a must read for further inspiration as the love-letter portion is poignant.  I’m still annoyed, however,  that one of my most beloved literary letter’s segments is marred by images of dear Miss Ellen looming large as the irony of the crescendoed interlude picked up this unlikely interloper.  

What memories do you have from childhood that may have  popped up at in inopportune time? What did you study as a child that recently came to the forefront, triggered perhaps by a word, a song, or conversation with an old friend? 

I’ll share some fragments soon as I’m sure I can marry Miss Ellen to Dimension Z in some meaningful way. My hope is you develop a draft or completed work as well.  I’m working on a poetry workshop for April and will post links here of interest. Stay tuned. 

Three Ideas for National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month

 

Post A Daily Poem

A few years ago I enjoyed tweeting a short poem each morning on Twitter during April.  It gave me the opportunity to interact with many poets and venues that participated in the fray that is the hallmark of the Twitter realm.  I still have cherished contacts there.  Twitter is a great way to hashtag your way into community interaction with other like-minded individuals, so if you haven’t tried it, you may want to.

In 2011, I tweeted a portion of a poem everyday, the April 20 segment on NPR’s Tell Me More program is when they aired my tweet.  The link includes the whole month so you can get a flavor for their project.

Whatever platform you use on a regular basis, pick one or two and concentrate on poetry- related content.  Share new or older works…whatever you feel comfortable with.  I usually include fragments or drafts in my postings, and it’s usually something that does not have enough potential to becoming published otherwise.   Keep in mind that anything you post could wind up being misappropriated so you must decide for yourself whether you want to share at all and how much of your work you want out there in this way.

Take a Workshop or Signup for a Poetry Class

There are lots of offerings at local libraries, bookstores, or schools throughout the month.  Look for individuals that you know have a strong reputation for imparting their love of poetry and craft.  For those who may be in the mid-Delaware region, I offer an eight-session workshop on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.  If you check your local area, you will find lots of events as well.

Attend a Poetry Reading or Sponsor One

During the month of April there are more poetry readings than usual.  Check your local papers and see what is available in your area.  If you can’t find one, then consider  hosting one at your local library or a coffee shop or bookstore.  You could hold a contest and invite poets to read.  Now might be the time to think outside the box.  Poetry opens the lines of communication in many ways.  Decide which way works for you and get involved in bringing an awareness to the public.  An on-line option is the Poem-In-Your-Pocket project. It’s an easy way to make a difference aad will be held on April 17 this year.  The site also offers tips.

Whatever you decide to do, enjoy.  Take pen in hand and write or join in the month long celebration.

 

 

 

 

Revisionist

IMG_1754.JPGPart of the difficult portion of writing poetry is revising fragments of thought into a coherent whole.  My work arrives as tattered pieces which often clutter the page and are anything but a cohesive unit.  A recent poem got its roots from a broken tree which suffered major damage during a storm..

This tree an elm,

as if on tiptoe in a jazz improv

performs a dance leaning this way and that

in a fluid retching of

arms reaching skyward

aware of a gapping scar

poised in silent scream

an emotionless flail

unable to escape

the tangled masses of

broken bones

shredded at its feet — anchored

in the dance of unmoving feet

In revision, the words take on new meaning in a shuffle and reshuffle.  The tangled masses of bramble from the recent storm leads me to question how trees withstand their plight.  Their movement in the wind seems a logical outlet to express what they silently absorb.  The revising resulted in this:

Bramble of Branches
Elm tree on tiptoe
Performs a jazz improv.
In dance, leans this way,
Then that–
A fluid wrenching, arms
Reaching skyward
Expose a gapping scar
Posed in silent scream-
Emotionless flail–
Inescapably tangled
In masses of broken bones
Cracked at its feet–
Anchored in this dance,
Rooted, immovable feet.
Consideration of further word choices will be necessary as the stationary plight of the tree begs to be juxtaposed with the emotional inability to be moved. I also like the slight hint of moveable feast brought by mention of immovable feet.
What this poem really wants to say alludes me at the moment.  It’s saying something but I’m not sure what it is speaking.  I’ll let it gel for now and see what solidifies.  If you have suggestions, I would welcome them.

 

 

Repealing Affordables

Writing is not easy. If you strive for honesty, you risk exposing a nerve or two. I watch in disbelief much of what I see and hear in the various media outlets I visit.  My eyes and ears ache from the onslaught. 

In January I was invited to participate in a reading here in my home town. The National Writer’s Resistance was planned for the following day, and since I could not attend, one of my poems was dedicated to them in a show of solidarity. 

What causes do you have opinions on?  What views do you want to vent?  A writing prompt for today is to pick any headline and begin a rant. 

I gathered some thoughts as I tried to make sense of the nonsensical.  I have always had the perfect health care plan as I worked for the government.  It’s an affordable plan all of us should have. It is beyond my comprehension why this plan, the same plan our congressmen enjoy, could not be the plan for all of us.    

Today as debates rage, I choose  to revisit the health care issue. You are welcome to share my poem.  

From my vantage, I do not comprehend why life and death matters require some of our representatives to unscrew their heads and flay open their chests. It seems pointless for them to prove they have minds and hearts when facts seem to determine otherwise. I no longer seek absolute truths. I seek wisdom. 

Writing is one path to explore the unknown.  Let your thoughts flow and discover what you think about what you may be thinking about.  What do you know about what you think you know?  

Repeal of Affordable Care as Doom Looms in a Five-Letter Word

I watch

From my bird’s eye view 

Perched high

In my elevated stand

Clad in my single

Payor cloak…

The drama unfolds.

I gasp. 

Reviews will agree with mine. 

Repeal will be

Breathtaking. 

Yes. 

Breath.

Taking. 

Three Poems Please – September Submission

Year end housekeeping–

hanging his own shelf at last,

The carpenter.

        Matsuo Basho – Tr. Sam Hamill

This post is changing focus for a moment from the cursive word to magnetic ones from freewrite mode to submission focus. 

While cleaning some over-stuffed shelves, a whole tin of stockpiled magnetic words was part of the forgotten shelved stash. Even here, poetry fragments remained on the long-darkened interior tin walls of the box. 
If you are like I am, you have volumes of unfinished work.  It’s probably everywhere in electronic and handwritten form.  Handwritten (or otherwise) fragments oftentimes need only to be connected into a greater whole.

Since I’m always on the lookout for contests that have a low submission fee,  the 2016 Princemere Poetry Prize caught my attention as it is free. It offers a $500 prize for up to three poems. The deadline is September 12. It appears to be given annually so you might want to add this to your calendar.  

Below are a few of my magnetic poetry fragments. In the past month, I’ve made about 200 of them. It can be  quite addictive working with those magnetic words again. I am going to expand these fragments into cursive drafts and submit.  

Editing is an exercise in elimination. Scan your cursive work for the strongest fragments and begin editing from there. Please feel free to share your thoughts or info on upcoming contests.  


All works c2016 Taylor Collins 

The Music Not In Me

I admit it. I’ve got no rhythm…musically speaking, nada. The flaw basic. I could not count. Time invariably  lost on me.

Music does not flow from my singing soul to my brain through this old heart to eager fingers.   Years of piano lessons did nothing to improve my musical talent.  It must have had something to do with the math involved in counting  as a means of keeping time.  I cannot, put simply,  count.

But I love pianos.  Will sit and play scales on almost any piano I pass.  Which is why I love this pound for pianos in San Francisco. To save these beloved pieces for additional use is inspiring on many levels. Seeing all those uprights and spinnets and players reminds me of my love for poetry and the rhythms found in words placed one after the other in the musical cadence of song.

What do you think about when you see a piano or hear one played?  Do you play the piano?  Or own one?  Would you rescue one of the Piano Pound’s charmers?  Or do you have one that you wonder what will become of it one day?

Take pen in hand and write about your piano thoughts.  What thoughts do those old keys unlock?   Here is my initial thought:

Stalwart troubadours

Fingering the keys of memory

Timeless notes

Handed, pounded down

Write what comes to your mind.  What is locked up in your piano?  What music waits for you?  Write.

Write right now.

 

This is the link to the pound in case my hyperlink isn’t working properly. http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/san-franciscos-piano-pound-seeks-homes-for-orphaned-pianos

 

 

Where There Is No Gift There Is No Art…

Poetry is often a gift. It is created from moments of thought when language barely suffices. In our often inadequate attempts at self-expression, in those moments of finding the write word to put in the right place, we languish.

I found this gift on the internet while preparing for a workshop. A gift of The Gift by Lewis Hyde.  which I pass on to you.

Write something inspired based upon Hyde’s work, this profuse wellspring of new-found inspiration.  In our work-a-day world, go to your source and explore what gifts await…to be received and bestowed…

May you find peace as your poems flow and may you offer light to our darkening skies…

The Labor Of Gratitude

My vocation [his sense, as a child, that he would be a writer]

changed everything: the sword-strokes fly off, the writing

remains; I discovered in belles-lettres that the Giver can be

transformed into his own Gift, that is, into a pure object. Chance

had made me a man, generosity would make me a book.

Jean-Paul Sarte

Fragments by the Book

  

I keep journals handy to record short fragments and snippets of current topics. Some are gems. Others mere grains of thought. A year-end contest finds me racing through some stacks of them in the hopes that at least three could be entered. 

Your challenge today should be two-fold. Re-read old works. Garner the best and enter a contest by year’s end.   Here’s a fragment I found that intrigues me…

  • What was left of us? You ask
  • As I cast 
  • Oceans of emotion… 
  • Selfsame repetition 
  • Shrouded again 
  • In mystery…
  • Waves of history
  • Dissolved in undertow…

Maybe I can work this into something enter-able.  Feel free to share what  you find in older works. Do you know what you originally meant in older recordings?  Do you have fragments worth keeping?  

Let your work take on new meaning.  Who knows what could find it’s way into print. Cheers. 
(C) 2015 ntaylorcollns 

Best Old Rocker On The Place

These Strained Lyrics

These Strained Lyrics

A wonderful poet died on December 4. I knew Claudia Emerson only casually in real life;  deeply intensely through her work.  Her struggle with cancer was documented through Facebook posts where her courage and insights were profound.  She unflinchingly shared with us the struggle.  One posting was of a rocker with the line used as the title of this post.

The arts are my avenue for solace. When there is nothing one can do, being creative is both an outlet for frustration and for exploring the deeper meanings of life. I painted the little rocker as brightly as possible. Life may be handing out pure crap, but I was at least going to make it colorful crap. I put in my studio at my gallery with a little note hoping customers and friends would send little thoughts, prayers, good cheer her way.  Positive vibes can help in whatever form they take.

And I wrote. Worked on a little poem to express some thoughts about life, death, despair.   Claudia’s frequent  comments and observations ran the gamut.  My heart ached.

I drafted the handwritten poem on hang tags. And with her death I finalized the poem one last time and put the sad face on an iamb next to the painting.  My original hope was to send the painting to Claudia after Christmas with a New Year’s wish to keep on rocking.  For now it sits on my easel where it will until I decide what cause to donate it to.  And my thoughts now shift in focus to her husband Kent.  His pain is so great right now.

So for now my hope for you is to stay creative during times of sadness or crisis. Try writing some fragments on hang tags. These shipping standards are available in different sizes. I buy them by the thousands – literally – and put quotes and notes and fragments on them. Some are antiqued and used in collage or multimedia works. They come in handy for all sorts of projects.

I also ask that you read Claudia’s work this week. Late Wife and Figure Studies are both excellent.  Her poems and work are scattered about everywhere on the web. Her work here as a writer is done. Her work as an inspiration has only just begun.  Peace to all.    Taylor

Note. A previous post on journaling was shared previously on my post To Burn or Not to Burn. I hope Claudia’s journals will be saved.