RoadWriter

Heart, Soul, and Rough Edges — A Gypsy Journey of Words and Wonder

Archive for the category “Margaret’s Musing”

Facing Mortality

NOTE: This post previously appeared on my blog, http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/

sky

It happened many years ago. We had just learned  I was pregnant with our second son when I got a call from my mother, with the words no daughter wants to hear: It’s cancer. My mother had cancer of the colon.  She

had had a sigmoidoscopy instead of a colonoscopy. The lesion was fairly high up in the colon, and the procedure had missed it. Hthen-doctor, not the brilliant diagnostician his dead partner, my mother’s former doctor, had been, had been slow to put together the symptoms. By the time he did, the cancer had spread to the liver. It was October, and by June she was dead.

At about the same time, I was offered some freelance work that would have brought in a significant amount of money, money we could have used. But I had a full-time job, a small son, a pregnancy, and a sick mother. I turned the work down, instead passing on the name of a friend — he later joked that I’d payed for the addition on his house. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Instead of spending my weekends working, I spent them traveling back and forth from Boston to New York.

Here is a poem inspired by this experience:

 

Mother’s Day, Margaret Fieland

He died
the white-haired doctor
with smiling eyes,

leaving you
to the quick-voiced young one,
who called your cramps indigestion.

Your hair became
sparse as grass during a dry August,

your walk
creaky as the old pasture gate,

your frame as thin
and brittle as the bare branches
of the old oak.

until finally
you lay in bed, smelling
of old guts, too weak
to lift your head.

We named
the baby
after you

You cam find it and other poems in the collection Lifelines.

 

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Another Step Down the Road

Yeah, I seem to be writing a story told in verse as a succession of poems about these two guys …

Another Step Down the Road  ColdSnow

 

One foot in front of the other,

under dark sky as I seek.

The cold is becoming my lover

and hunger an enemy to cheat.

 

I set out in search of adventure,

escape from the burden of land,

freedom from all expectations,

and work I could take in my hand.

 

Instead I’ve  been cold, wet and hungry.

I sleep under stars all  alone.

Yet still open road’s voice will call me

while her breath leaves me chilled to the bone.

Journey

Here’s a companion poem to the one I posted yesterday:

Journey

 

Wanderer, wanderer where do you go,

all alone on the road when the wild winds blow?

Where did you come from and why did you leave,

who are the loved ones you left home to grieve?

 

Hunched in your cloak with your pack on your back,

bent almost double by the weather’s attack,

you pass by my hovel. I stare out at you.  sky

When will I ever bid loved ones adieu?

 

Held to a life of hard labor and toil,

grubbing for greens as I turn over soil,

I dream of far shores and adventures galore,

yet never will I set a foot out my door.

Another poem: Cold Stone

Cold Stone

 

Dirt and stone beneath my feet,

clouds and mist above me,

in my ears, the sheep’s high bleat.

Dear, I know you love me.

 

As I wander down the road

I leave you behind me,783813785_2782529629_0

standing in the field I hoed.

Shafts of sunlight blind me.

 

My way is long and dark, alone.

I won’t be returning.

Will our child remember, grown,

a father’s love so burning?

 

Yet I must this journey make

else my soul be fettered.

Your love you gave and I did take,

but it left me tethered.

 

The Hidden Key

The Hidden Key

SideOfTheRoad

Ash and pine and elm and oak,

under sky like blowing smoke,

up a hill and under ground,

winding through a maze, is found

 

keys to mysteries unfold,

tales still needing to be told.

Find the answers in the logs

hidden in the swampy bogs.

Muselings Poetry Challenge number 2:

this one is for the fantasy novel I’ve started working on

Sleep, Night, and all that

I have sleep apnea, and am in the process of getting treatment. Yesterday I saw the sleep doc and gave her one of my cards.

“Have you written any poems about sleep?” she asked. “I’d be interested to see them.”

I went home and checked. I searched SLEEP and NIGHT in my large Google Docs colletion of poems. I have a lot.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

Weather Reportblueroad

The far side of the room
might as well be Europe.
I conjure morning’s gray sky,
stumble over backpack,
piles of pillows
tossed onto cold, bare floor.
I need a new lamp.
I knocked mine
off the nightstand,
my hand unsteady
from sleepless nights
dozing over a book
until four AM.
Coffee spilled
on my kitchen floor,
a wild whirl of my arm,
some time between
sleep and waking.

Night Journey

I drift weightless in nothingness
On my left is a yellow pail
Full of sea shells
On my right, a dirty white fox terrier
The terrier barks and runs towards me

I walk at twilight down a road full of shadows
The only sound is the clack-clack
Of my buster brown oxfords
On the uneven pavement

I round a corner and the fox terrier
Jumps out from behind a bush
He clamps his teeth around my ankle

I walk on a beach
Of smooth pale sand
That slopes down
To a navy blue ocean
A sliver of moon hangs on the horizon
The wind blows in my faceWP_20130517_002

I turn and the yellow pail erupts from the sand
My fingers melt onto the handle
I scream

The fox terrier crawls out of the hole
He jumps up and grabs the pail in his teeth
He pulls and I am free

The next morning the fox terrier
Is curled up on the end of my bed
A shell sits on a table by the door
My feet are wet and sandy

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A Few Poems for the Holidays

Saint Nick’s Christmas Excess

 

 

One Christmas night,  fat old Saint NickSnow

ate so much roast goose he got  sick,

thus was forced to belay

that night’s ride in his sleigh,

rushed the gifts all to FedEx. How slick.

 

Next Christmas, when faced with a chimney,

hr muttered, “I will not be able to shimmy

down that narrow slot,

with a fire so hot.

I’ll go in the front door, by Jiminey.”

 

What Happens Christmas Night

 

Do you wonder how, in just one night,

783813785_2782529629_0

Saint Nick can make such a long flight?

He sends some gifts by mail,

and some others by rail,

which makes his sleigh load quite light.

I’ve noticed that Saint Nick’s a bit

too big around for him to fit

inside our chimney, Christmas night

the struggle must be quite a sight.

 

Perhaps he oils his nice red suit

all over so that he can shoot

right down the chimney. Then you’ll see

he‘ll cut his hand and sprain his knee.

 

I guess that all those aches and pains

will hurt so much that he’ll complain

that getting down was such a chore

he’s going to leave us by the door!

White Christmas

Winter wonderland of woe

all we have is snow and snow.

Piles and piles of slushy glop,

mushy, wet and nasty slop.

Wets my socks and wets my shoes

numbs my toes and shorts my fuse.

Watch it snow and wish for Spring,

no more snow and shoveling.

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Bernadette Meyer's Writing Experiments

newmts2

Bernadette Meyer is an avant-guard poet associated with the New York school of poets.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/bernadette-mayer

http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/06/04/specials/koch-ny.html

I recently discovered her list of journal and writing experiment ideas:

 

PEPC LIBRARY

Bernadette Mayer's List of Journal Ideas:

Journals of:
* dreams
* food
* finances
* writing ideas
* love
* ideas for architects
* city design ideas
* beautiful and/or ugly sights
* a history of one's own writing life, written daily
* reading/music/art, etc. encountered each day
* rooms
* elaborations on weather
* people one sees-description
* subway, bus, car or other trips (e.g., the same bus trip written about
every day)
* pleasures and/or pain
* life's everyday machinery: phones, stoves, computers, etc.
* answering machine messages
* round or rectangular things, other shapes
* color
* light
* daily changes, e.g., a journal of one's desk, table, etc.
* the body and its parts
* clocks/time-keeping
* tenant-landlord situations
* telephone calls (taped?)
* skies
* dangers
* mail
* sounds
* coincidences & connections
* times of solitude

Other journal ideas:
* Write once a day in minute detail about one thing
* Write every day at the same time, e.g. lunch poems, waking ideas, etc.
* Write minimally: one line or sentence per day
* Create a collaborative journal: musical notation and poetry; two writers
alternating days; two writing about the same subject each day, etc.
* Instead of using a book, write on paper and put it up on the wall (public
journal).
* and so on ...

Bernadette Mayer's Writing Experiments
* Pick a word or phrase at random, let mind play freely around it until a
few ideas have come up, then seize on one and begin to write. Try this with
a non- connotative word, like "so" etc.
* Systematically eliminate the use of certain kinds of words or phrases from
a piece of writing: eliminate all adjectives from a poem of your own, or
take out all words beginning with 's' in Shakespeare's sonnets.
* Rewrite someone else's writing. Experiment with theft and plagiarism.
* Systematically derange the language: write a work consisting only of
prepositional phrases, or, add a gerund to every line of an already existing
work.
* Get a group of words, either randomly selected or thought up, then form
these words (only) into a piece of writing-whatever the words allow. Let
them demand their own form, or, use some words in a predetermined way.
Design words.
* Eliminate material systematically from a piece of your own writing until
it is "ultimately" reduced, or, read or write it backwards, line by line or
word by word. Read a novel backwards.
* Using phrases relating to one subject or idea, write about another,
pushing metaphor and simile as far as you can. For example, use science
terms to write about childhood or philosophic language to describe a shirt.
* Take an idea, anything that interests you, or an object, then spend a few
days looking and noticing, perhaps making notes on what comes up about that
idea, or, try to create a situation or surrounding where everything that
happens is in relation.
* Construct a poem as if the words were three-dimensional objects to be
handled in space. Print them on large cards or bricks if necessary.
* Write as you think, as close as you can come to this, that is, put pen to
paper and don't stop. Experiment writing fast and writing slow.
* Attempt tape recorder work, that is, recording without a text, perhaps at
specific times.
* Make notes on what happens or occurs to you for a limited amount of time,
then make something of it in writing.
* Get someone to write for you, pretending they are you.
* Write in a strict form, or, transform prose into a poetic form.
* Write a poem that reflects another poem, as in a mirror.
* Read or write a story or myth, then put it aside and, trying to remember
it, write it five or ten times at intervals from memory. Or, make a work out
of continuously saying, in a column or list, one sentence or line, over and
over in different ways, until you get it "right."
* Make a pattern of repetitions.
* Take an already written work of your own and insert, at random or by
choice, a paragraph or section from, for example, a psychology book or a
seed catalogue. Then study the possibilities of rearranging this work or
rewriting the "source."
* Experiment with writing in every person and tense every day.
* Explore the possibilities of lists, puzzles, riddles, dictionaries,
almanacs, etc. Consult the thesaurus where categories for the word "word"
include: word as news, word as message, word as information, word as story,
word as order or command, word as vocable, word as instruction, promise,
vow, contract.
* Write what cannot be written; for example, compose an index.
* The possibilities of synesthesia in relation to language and words: the
word and the letter as sensations, colors evoked by letters, sensations
caused by the sound of a word as apart from its meaning, etc. And the effect
of this phenomenon on you; for example, write in the water, on a moving
vehicle.
* Attempt writing in a state of mind that seems least congenial.
* Consider word and letter as forms-the concretistic distortion of a text, a
mutiplicity of o's or ea's, or a pleasing visual arrangement: "the mill pond
of chill doubt."
* Do experiments with sensory memory: record all sense images that remain
from breakfast, study which senses engage you, escape you.
* Write, taking off from visual projections, whether mental or mechanical,
without thought to the word in the ordinary sense, no craft.
* Make writing experiments over a long period of time. For example, plan how
much you will write for a particular work each day, perhaps one word or one
page.
* Write on a piece of paper where something is already printed or written.
* Attempt to eliminate all connotation from a piece of writing and vice
versa.
* Experiment with writing in a group, collaborative work: a group writing
individually off of each other's work over a long period of time in the same
room; a group contributing to the same work, sentence by sentence or line by
line; one writer being fed information and ideas while the other writes;
writing, leaving instructions for another writer to fill in what you can't
describe; compiling a book or work structured by your own language around
the writings of others; or a group working and writing off of each other's
dream writing.
* Dream work: record dreams daily, experiment with translation or
transcription of dream thought, attempt to approach the tense and
incongruity appropriate to the dream, work with the dream until a poem or
song emerges from it, use the dream as an alert form of the mind's activity
or consciousness, consider the dream a problem-solving device, change dream
characters into fictional characters, accept dream's language as a gift.
* Structure a poem or prose writing according to city streets, miles, walks,
drives. For example: Take a fourteen-block walk, writing one line per block
to create a sonnet; choose a city street familiar to you, walk it, make
notes and use them to create a work; take a long walk with a group of
writers, observe, make notes and create works, then compare them; take a
long walk or drive-write one line or sentence per mile. Variations on this.
* The uses of journals. Keep a journal that is restricted to one set of
ideas, for instance, a food or dream journal, a journal that is only written
in when it is raining, a journal of ideas about writing, a weather journal.
Remember that journals do not have to involve "good" writing-they are to be
made use of. Simple one-line entries like "No snow today" can be inspiring
later. Have 3 or 4 journals going at once, each with a different purpose.
Create a journal that is meant to be shared and commented on by another
writer--leave half of each page blank for the comments of the other.
* Type out a Shakespeare sonnet or other poem you would like to learn
about/imitate double-spaced on a page. Rewrite it in between the lines.
* Find the poems you think are the worst poems ever written, either by your
own self or other poets. Study them, then write a bad poem.
* Choose a subject you would like to write "about." Then attempt to write a
piece that absolutely avoids any relationship to that subject. Get someone
to grade you.
* Write a series of titles for as yet unwritten poems or proses.
* Work with a number of objects, moving them around on a field or
surface-describe their shifting relationships, resonances, associations. Or,
write a series of poems that have only to do with what you see in the place
where you most often write. Or, write a poem in each room of your house or
apartment. Experiment with doing this in the home you grew up in, if
possible.
* Write a bestiary (a poem about real and mythical animals).
* Write five short expressions of the most adamant anger; make a work out of
them.
* Write a work gazing into a mirror without using the pronoun I.
* A shocking experiment: Rip pages out of books at random (I guess you could
xerox them) and study them as if they were a collection of poetic/literary
material. Use this method on your old high school or college notebooks, if
possible, then create an epistemological work based on the randomly chosen
notebook pages.
* Meditate on a word, sound or list of ideas before beginning to write.
* Take a book of poetry you love and make a list, going through it poem by
poem, of the experiments, innovations, methods, intentions, etc. involved in
the creation of the works in the book.
* Write what is secret. Then write what is shared. Experiment with writing
each in two different ways: veiled language, direct language.
* Write a soothing novel in twelve short paragraphs.
* Write a work that attempts to include the names of all the physical
contents of the terrestrial world that you know.
* Take a piece of prose writing and turn it into poetic lines. Then, without
remembering that you were planning to do this, make a poem of the first and
last words of each line to see what happens. For instance, the lines (from
Einstein)
* When at the reception
* Of sense-impressions, memory pictures
* Emerge this is not yet thinking
* And when. . .
* Would become:
* When reception
* Of pictures
* Emerge thinking
* And when
* And so on. Form the original prose, poetic lines, and first-and-last word
poem into three columns on a page. Study their relationships.
* If you have an answering machine, record all messages received for one
month, then turn them into a best-selling novella.
* Write a macaronic poem (making use of as many languages as you are
conversant with).
* Attempt to speak for a day only in questions; write only in questions.
* Attempt to become in a state where the mind is flooded with ideas; attempt
to keep as many thoughts in mind simultaneously as possible. Then write
without looking at the page, typescript or computer screen (This is "called"
invisible writing).
* Choose a period of time, perhaps five or nine months. Every day, write a
letter that will never be sent to a person who does or does not exist, or to
a number of people who do or do not exist. Create a title for each letter
and don't send them. Pile them up as a book.
* Etymological work. Experiment with investigating the etymologies of all
words that interest you, including your own name(s). Approaches to
etymologies: Take a work you've already written, preferably something short,
look up the etymological meanings of every word in that work including words
like "the" and "a". Study the histories of the words used, then rewrite the
work on the basis of the etymological information found out. Another
approach: Build poems and writings form the etymological families based on
the Indo-European language constructs, for instance, the BHEL family: bulge,
bowl, belly, boulder, billow, ball, balloon; or the OINO family: one, alone,
lonely, unique, unite, unison, union; not to speak of one of the GEN
families: kin, king, kindergarten, genteel, gender, generous, genius,
genital, gingerly, pregnant, cognate, renaissance, and innate!
* Write a brief bibliography of the science and philosophy texts that
interest you. Create a file of newspaper articles that seem to relate to the
chances of writing poetry.
* Write the poem: Ways of Making Love. List them.
* Diagram a sentence in the old-fashioned way. If you don't know how, I'll
be happy to show you; if you do know how, try a really long sentence, for
instance from Melville.
* Turn a list of the objects that have something to do with a person who has
died into a poem or poem form, in homage to that person.
* Write the same poem over and over again, in different forms, until you are
weary. Another experiment: Set yourself the task of writing for four hours
at a time, perhaps once, twice or seven times a week. Don't stop until
hunger and/or fatigue take over. At the very least, always set aside a
four-hour period once a month in which to write. This is always possible and
will result in one book of poems or prose writing for each year. Then we
begin to know something.
* Attempt as a writer to win the Nobel Prize in Science by finding out how
thought becomes language, or does not.
* Take a traditional text like the pledge of allegiance to the flag. For
every noun, replace it with one that is seventh or ninth down from the
original one in the dictionary. For instance, the word "honesty" would be
replaced by "honey dew melon." Investigate what happens; different
dictionaries will produce different results.
* Attempt to write a poem or series of poems that will change the world.
Does everything written or dreamed of do this?
* Write occasional poems for weddings, for rivers, for birthdays, for other
poets' beauty, for movie stars maybe, for the anniversaries of all kinds of
loving meetings, for births, for moments of knowledge, for deaths. Writing
for the "occasion" is part of our purpose as poets in being-this is our work
in the community wherein we belong and work as speakers for others.
* Experiment with every traditional form, so as to know it.
* Write poems and proses in which you set yourself the task of using
particular words, chosen at random like the spelling exercises of children:
intelligence, amazing, weigh, weight, camel, camel's, foresight, through,
threw, never, now, snow, rein, rain. Make a story of that!
* Plan, structure, and write a long work. Consider what is the work now
needed by the culture to cure and exact even if by accident the great
exorcism of its 1998 sort-of- seeming-not-being. What do we need? What is
the poem of the future?
* What is communicable now? What more is communicable?
* Compose a list of familiar phrases, or phrases that have stayed in your
mind for a long time--from songs, from poems, from conversation:
* What's in a name? That which we call a rose
* By any other name would smell as sweet
* (Romeo and Juliet)
* A rose is a rose is a rose
* (Gertrude Stein)
* A raisin in the sun
* (Langston Hughes)
* The king was in the counting house
* Counting out his money. . .
* (Nursery rhyme)
* I sing the body electric. . .
* These United States. . .
* (Walt Whitman)
* A thing of beauty is a joy forever
* (Keats)
* (I summon up) remembrance of things past
* (WS)
* Ask not for whom the bell tolls
* It tolls for thee
* (Donne)
* Look homeward, Angel
* (Milton)
* For fools rush in where angels fear to tread
* (Pope)
* All's well that ends well
* (WS)
* I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness
* (Allen Ginsberg)
* I think therefore I am
* (Descartes)
* It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,. . .
* (Dickens)
* brave new world has such people in it
* (Shakespeare, The Tempest, later Huxley)
* Odi et amo (I hate and I love)
* (Catullus)
* Water water everywhere
* Nor any drop to drink
* (Coleridge)
* Curiouser and curiouser
* (Alice in Wonderland)
* Don't worry be happy. Here's a little song I wrote. . .
* Write the longest most beautiful sentence you can imagine-make it be a
whole page.
* Set yourself the task of writing in a way you've never written before, no
matter who you are.
* What is the value of autobiography?
* Attempt to write in a way that's never been written before.
* Invent a new form.
* Write a perfect poem.
* Write a work that intersperses love with landlords.
* In a poem, list what you know.
* Address the poem to the reader.
* Write household poems-about cooking, shopping, eating and sleeping.
* Write dream collabortations in the lune form.
* Write poems that only make use of the words included in Basic English.
* Attempt to write about jobs and how they affect the writing of poetry.
* Write while being read to from science texts, or, write while being read
to by one's lover from any text.
* Trade poems with others and do not consider them your own.
* Exercises in style: Write twenty-five or more different versions of one
event.
* Review the statement: "What is happening to me, allowing for lies and
exaggerations which I try to avoid, goes into my poems."

I did start one, but quickly became hooked by write a rhyme:

Something Ventured, Nothing Gained?

Nothing gained through careless ventures,

spin the wheel and lose a dime

If you want a big adventure,

buddy, you can take on mine

I could do without the pounding

of my heart and sweaty hands

rather I would have abounding

quiet life that goes as planned

So as you ski down that mountain,

maybe crash into a tree,

I’ll relax beside a fountain

with a tall glass of iced tea

 

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What is a poem?

718660742_2566843587_0What is a poem? Do you only believe it’s poetry if it rhymes? Has line and stanza breaks? What about prose poems?

Confession time: Yes, yes, I know, poetry is compress language, rich imagery, and prose poems are alive and well. But as for me …

Retro

However much I beat myself over the head, reread the definition, stare into space. compose metaphors based on motes of house dust as they drift down in the slow breeze generated by the fireplace insert, I am unable to convince myself there is such a thing as prose poetry, and, reading this over, I know exactly where I would place the line breaks, and the part of me that turns up its poetic nose at free verse wants to go back and make this rhyme.

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Writing Narrative Poetry

nitesky7 A couple of months ago, I signed up for the first of four parts of an online course in mythic structure. We’re now partway through part two, and I find myself working on a long, narrative poem about a warrior who goes to Hell to seek revenge for his slain fellows.  I started this particular poem as a homework assignment, and in spite of my feeling that the poem was complete in itself, the comments by my fellow students (“what happens next?”) led me to continue it.  I don’t usually write horror stories — in fact, I’ve never written one — but the poem does have its grisly elements. Here’s the first stanza from Part II:

Jovan  strode down a narrow path

where walls gave off an eerie light

and crunch of bones beneath his feet

sent screams of souls to demon’s blight.

If I had to write about this in prose, I doubt I would have come up with anything close to this, but somehow writing in rhyme freed me.   The  poem is the longest I’ve written, and it’s far from finished.  It’s about 26 four-line stanzas so far.

I worked on a number of poems for part one of this course, including another where a soul goes down to hell.

Of all the story structure types I’ve studied, this one — the hero’s journey — feels the most natural. I read lots of Robin Hood, King Arthur, fairy tales, Greek and Roman mythology, and the like growing up, and apparently absorbed a lot about about the scaffolding without being aware of it.  All in all, a fascinating subject, and a rich source, for me, of poetic inspiration.

The Gates of Hell

He stood before the gates of hell

to bargain with a shade.

He drew a breath, then struck the bell

and drew his heavy blade.

The gate was formed from primal fire,

glowed with a steady flame.
But in that hell, his heart’s desire,

and on his head, the blame.

The shadow slipped between the glow

that formed the fiery gate.

Dar raised his sword to strike his foe.

The shadow murmured, “Wait.

“If you would see your love once more,

then listen now to me.

While men have entered hell before,

no man has broken free.”

“And yet I, too, must take a chance,

so shadow, stand aside.

The shadow bowed, and with a glance,

let hell’s gates open wide.

“I’m going now to meet my love.

Though I’ll remain in hell,

my story will be know above.”

Then did the death-bells knell.

 

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