Original Poem 17: Reed Song

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“Reed Song” is a poem that fuses the pantoum and the pastoral forms, written to celebrate the upcoming marriage of my dear friend, Claire Reeder.

The rules of the pantoum: The first line must be the last line of the poem. The 2nd and 4th lines of each stanza become the 1st and 3rd lines of the following stanza

November 7, 2015

Reed Song
*
Love is comfort and forthcoming,
and appearing in new forms
is the truest love, still growing.
Love is strong when it transforms.
*
And appearing in new forms,
love may challenge our conventions.
Love is strong when is transforms.
You are filled with love’s intentions.
*
Love may challenge our conventions.
Once the shepherds played their songs.
You are filled with love’s intentions
and you’ve found where you belong.
*
Once the shepherds played their songs,
and the reeds stretched toward the tune.
You have found where you belong,
a place with golden leaves and moon.
*
And the reeds stretch toward the tune.
The music echoes through the air
from a place with golden leaves and moon,
and a couple dancing there.
*
The music echoes through the air.
In good company friends look on
at the couple dancing there,
as spring awakens on the lawn.
*
In good company friends look on
and in the distance there’s a humming
as spring awakens on the lawn
love is comfort and forthcoming.
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Also read “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173941
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Original Poem 15: Refrain

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I wrote this villanelle poem during my poetry course at Grinnell. I wasn’t fond of it then, and still think it needs tweaking now, but I like that it is a bit edgier than my normal writing style. However, what remained constant when writing this poem was my love of playing with word meaning. I found a unique opportunity in this poem to use the word “refrain” for its double meaning: v. to abstain from an impulse and n. a refrain, phrase, line, or group of lines repeated at intervals throughout a poem. In noun form, the word “refrain” compliments the villanelle poem in an amusing and playful way.

Refrain by Liz Davis

2009

You see me as a drop of rain among many

sprinkling droplets, yet I worship

you, and—no. I must refrain

from drinking too much champagne

and saying impractical love-sloppy (stop me!) shit

to you. I am a single drop of rain,

a teardrop sphere, driven insane

by you—and it’s hard to admit,

but you already know. I must refrain

from pouring my heart down the drain

every time I skip, then slip,

then take a sip because of you. I drop like rain,

roll down your hard veins, and gain

nothing, feeling desperate pain when I strip

and you say no. I must refrain

and give up this drowning campaign,

a weathered obsession.

You tire of rain.

I must refrain.

The Watcher

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I read a poem called “The Watcher” at the funeral of my step-grandmother, Annette. She was also known as “Grandma Nut” for a number of reasons, including her health conscientiousness, her sense of humor, and her artistic nature.

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Annette, September 13, 1930 – April 26, 2015

“The Watcher” is a beautiful depiction of motherly love and attentiveness, and in a way the poem absolves children of their tendency to resist or roll their eyes at a watchful and concerned mother. In fact, ironically, the poem comforts the mother’s children by reassuring them that their mother is still watching from heaven.

“The Watcher” by Margaret Widdermer

She always leaned to watch for us
Anxious if we were late,
In winter by the window,
In summer by the gate.
And though we mocked her tenderly,
Who had such foolish care,
The long way home would seem more safe,
Because she waited there.
Her thoughts were all so full of us,
She never could forget,
And so I think that where she is
She must be watching yet.
Waiting ’til we come home to her
Anxious if we are late
Watching from Heaven’s window
Leaning from Heaven’s gate.

Original Poem 14: How do I know my heart belongs to you?

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This is a sonnet that I wrote to my husband for our one year wedding anniversary ❤

June 21, 2015

How do I know my heart belongs to you?
Of fate or choice is of no consequence,
In truth, love’s beauty thrives as I pursue
A constant light of love with confidence,
Just as a ship seeks safety by the shore,
And fears of ruin fade when light appears,
My aspirations, clearer than before,
I sail toward happiness when love’s light steers.
Forget the sunken wreckage of the sea,
Two mother ships that bravely faced their storms,
Our flame’s enough to last eternity,
Love’s providence, you need no longer mourn.
I cherish our unwavering life together,
Love fills my heart and brings me constant pleasure.

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The River

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I saw The River on Broadway last weekend and fell in love with this poem. The play revolves around the idea of a man’s relationships with women and his obsession with catching the perfect fish. There is ambiguity in the play about time and space. The audience isn’t sure if the women are real, if the play is depicting one woman in the present and one from the past, or if one woman is reality and one is a fantasy. The poem is sung throughout the play by the women. The image of a “wand” for a fishing pole suggests a mystical element in the play. The “fire” in the man’s head also suggests that the cabin is a retreat from madness. On the other hand, the cabin is actually a place where a man can go mad–as they do in the woods in many Romantics/gothic poems and short stories.

The Song of Wandering Aengus

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Original Poem 11: “Daisy”

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December 2009

Using “Psalm and Lament” by Donald Justice as a model, write an elegy. The poem should be written in couplets, repeat words, include a parenthetical remark, and describe the environment.

“Daisy”

The flowers bloom on wooden trellises. My grandmother
sits in the Trellis Gardens retirement apartment crying.

The sound of an airplane floods through the open window.
The WWII model airplane points its nose downward.

A maroon carpeted hall once led to grandpa’s intensive care,
but now there is no need to pass by the flowery wall-papered corridor.

Just the children come (they come for grandma’s sake)
but nothing official is done for months.

Grandma watches television, looks through magazines,
watches more television, and sleeps.

The birds visit her window. They eat from her feeder.
No one else visits. It’s hard to visit and she’s hard to visit,

though we love her and feel guilty sometimes.
In the summer the family makes it to Michigan.

It isn’t so sad. (We knew he was gone five years ago.
On the last visit, I remember we took him on a short walk

to look at flowers, but who knows what he saw.
To me he looked stiff, empty, decaying.)

The saddest part, in fact, was seeing grandma in her condition,
three hundred pounds, relying on her oxygen tank,

unable to kneel down herself and put a daisy,
a memory of the name she goes by, on grandpa’s urn.

I thought the daisy was perfect,
but it made me really sad and I cried.

in memory of Russell Noble

The Simple, Everyday Poems: “The Artist” and “Constantly Risking Absurdity #15”

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I really enjoy “The Artist” by William Carlos Williams for two main reasons. First, I love when a poem is visual, creating movement in the form of the lines. Second, I take joy in the simple, every day poem because I believe that it actually contains many deeper sentiments. For example, the first time that I read “The Artist” I was sure it was a poem about a man caught in the act with his mistress. In reality, the poem is a male dancer performing for his mother, and his less important wife happens to walk in. But there is ambiguity in the poem about who the narrator is and who Mr. T and “the man’s wife” really are. Perhaps the narrator, referring to “my mother,” is a child of the mistress retelling the incident later. There seems to be something amiss with the last line, as if the wife has walked in on something that she shouldn’t have. On the other hand, it could very well be that she literally just missed a brilliant dance performance in the kitchen by her husband for his mother.

When I first read “The Artist” I noticed that it possessed striking similarities to Ferlinghetti’s “Constantly Risking Absurdity #15” from A Coney Island of the Mind (A poem that I also love and have written about on this blog before; it was inspiration for my poem “Skipping”). So, I did a little research. Not surprisingly, I learned that Williams was actually quite influential on the Beats movement, which Ferlinghetti was a large part of. According to Poets.org, “Continuing to experiment with new techniques of meter and lineation, Williams sought to invent an entirely fresh—and singularly American—poetic, whose subject matter was centered on the everyday circumstances of life and the lives of common people. His influence as a poet spread slowly during the twenties and thirties, overshadowed, he felt, by the immense popularity of Eliot’s “The Waste Land”; however, his work received increasing attention in the 1950s and 1960s as younger poets, including Allen Ginsberg and the Beats, were impressed by the accessibility of his language and his openness as a mentor.” (http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/119#sthash.JPEoOXbq.dpuf)

The allusions in “Constantly Risking Absurdity #15” to “The Artist” are many. To start, there is the apparent similarity in form. Both poets emphasize the movement of the dancer or acrobat through spacing in the lines. The poems focus on the themes of performance and art. Furthermore, both poets depict the dancer completing an “entrechat.”

I most love Ferlinghetti’s lines,

“and all without mistaking

                     any thing
                               for what it may not be”

These lines are wonderful. I was inclined to see “The Artist” for something it may not be. Yet Ferlinghetti’s insertion of these lines and reference to the “super realist” who must see everything plainly force us to reconsider these poems; they are simply moments of beauty depicted with words.

But then, surprisingly, Ferlinghetti’s poem becomes very abstract, and subtly sexual. Just as I am about to let go of my misreading of “The Artist,” I circle back to my original disposition. Perhaps the simple everyday isn’t.

The Artist

by  William Carlos Williams

Mr T.
           bareheaded
                      in a soiled undershirt
his hair standing out
           on all sides
                           stood on his toes
heels together
           arms gracefully
                           for the moment

curled above his head.
           Then he whirled about
                           bounded
into the air
           and with an entrechat
                           perfectly achieved
completed the figure.
           My mother
                           taken by surprise
where she sat
           in her invalid's chair
                           was left speechless.
Bravo! she cried at last
           and clapped her hands.
                           The man's wife
came from the kitchen:
           What goes on here? she said.
                      But the show was over.

Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15)

By Lawrence  Ferlinghetti b. 1919 Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Constantly risking absurdity
                                             and death
            whenever he performs
                                        above the heads
                                                            of his audience
   the poet like an acrobat
                                 climbs on rime
                                          to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
                                     above a sea of faces
             paces his way
                               to the other side of day
    performing entrechats
                               and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
                               and all without mistaking
                     any thing
                               for what it may not be
       For he’s the super realist
                                     who must perforce perceive
                   taut truth
                                 before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
                                  toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
                                     with gravity
                                                to start her death-defying leap
      And he
             a little charleychaplin man
                                           who may or may not catch
               her fair eternal form
                                     spreadeagled in the empty air
                  of existence