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Archive for August, 2009

Jane’s new book, MAGICAL POEMS FOR GIRLS, is full of new poetry drawn from fairy tales, classical myths, fantasy stories, biblical narratives, and the lives of famous, historical queens. Its goal? To give girls facing hardship renewed courage and hope.

The book has been positively reviewed by girls ages 12-19, who call it “riveting,” “colorful and fascinating,” and “insightful, serious, and thought-provoking.” One young woman writes of her reading experience:

“I was thrown back in time to when my mother read me all the classic stories. MAGICAL POEMS FOR GIRLS is a fabulous find for the “tweens” and teens across the world because we’ve all been in unpleasant situations and gone through bad times. The book gives hope to those who are going through tough times and reminds those who have already gone through them to be thankful.”
~ Alice Frances, age 15

This book could be a timely encouragement to your sister, daughter, goddaughter, granddaughter, or niece. To preview the book, click the title:

MAGICAL POEMS FOR GIRLS

If you are a teacher, consider including in your classroom library. If you are a social worker or psychologist, consider how these magical poems might encourage your young clients. These poems have the power to lift up their hearts. They can comfort the girl-child in any grown woman’s soul as well. For when you open the book, you enter an enchanted garden full of marvels!

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“For the Anniversary of My Death” by W.S. Merwin

Every year up without knowing it I have passed the day
when the last fires will wave to me
and the silence will set out
timeless traveler
like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
find myself in life as in a strange garment
surprised at the earth
and the love of one woman
and the shamelessness of men
as today writing after three days of rain
hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
and bowing not knowing to what

*****

“It came again, the color, always a color
climbing the apple of the sky, often
a secret lavender place you weren’t supposed to look into.”
~ from “Darlene’s Hospital” by John Ashbury

“You must come to me, all golden and pale
like the dew and the air.
And then I start getting this feeling of exultation.”
~ from “A Blessing in Disguise” by John Ashbury

*****

“The Rain” by Robert Creeley

All night the sound had
come back again,
and again falls
the quiet, persistent rain.

What am I to myself
that must be remembered,
insisted upon
so often? Is it

that never the ease,
even the hardness,
of rain falling
willl have for me

something other than this,
something not so insistent —
am I to be locked in this
final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,
lie next to me.
Be for me, like rain,
the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet
with a decent happiness.

Commentary: These are rain poems. There have been wonderful thunder storms in my part of the world lately — and lots of rain. So, rain poems.

May the words bring joy
as you listen to the sound of them
like rain
falling
into the ears of your soul.

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Jane Beal, poet and writer/founder of THE POETRY PLACE, recently released a new CD of poems and songs called SONGS FROM THE SECRET LIFE. It is now available from iTunes, Napster, Amazon.com, Amazon.com.uk, TradeBit.com, and CDBaby.com, as well as other sites.

The entire album or individual poems and songs can be easily downloaded in MP3 format. To preview the new CD, click on the title below:

SONGS FROM THE SECRET LIFE

Enjoy!

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Man, woman, sprite,
flower, spume, or mist —
whatever got me in its
belly, bud, or tendrils —
it’s gone, gone, let go from here
by the man/father/namer being
that walked upright and said such words
as held an Ariel-thing leashed upon this beach,
and I’m left here, a creature
egged or seeded in a tree
lullayed by bees,
suckled on the spit of hummingbirds,
delivered by dragonflies
already old, and dripping honey from my breasts,
wombless, willow-haired, six-fingered,
barren keeper of a fertile place.
The rocks here move on feet, the trees uproot
and root themselves on the reefs around the isle
to keep the sight of ships
from us, the story-wrecked.
All alone with monsters,
flowery fish, fishy trees, wingy flowers,
I catch and eat still-beating hearts of birds.
And if I sleep, the dark draws in its fingers,
cutting off the color of my breath. I do not sleep.
I open oysters, slit their hinges,
lay them out beneath the moon,
watch them glisten at the stars,
then shrivel in the rising sun,
dead around their pearls.
I throw myself against the rocks
until I am pierced
and beg the stones to let me
bring forth from underneath my skin
an egg, a sac, a pearl, some
thing with eyes to see me, some
thing I’ll know I must not eat, some being
that along with me, might make a population
for this place, that we together
might have names and histories.

Commentary: When I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the Glen Workshop, I met fellow poet Devon Miller-Duggan, a professor at the University of Delaware and the author of Pinning the Bird to the Wall (Tres Chicas Books, 2008).

I love her lyrical narratives, creative descriptions, and sensuous language. This poem is rich with all of those qualities, alluding as it does to the sprite Ariel who appears in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” and giving voice to his imaginary daughter.

The beauty and pain in the life of this “creature” bears witness to the poet’s experience in a way that is true.

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From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we brought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy, to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Li-Young Lee

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I recently attended the Glen Workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I participated in a poetry workshop led by Marilyn Nelson, former poet laureate of Connecticut and the director of Soul Mountain, a retreat for writers. She is the author of such notable books as In the Fields of Praise, Fortune’s Bones, and Carver.

I very much enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Marilyn Nelson and the members of the workshop, all poets dedicated to sharing and improving their craft, who worked together with humor and intelligence all week. Some of the things the poets said and questions they asked stood out to me as relevant to any poet’s education:

“What is the emotional core of this poem?” Devon Dugan-Miller

“Control the release of information into the poem – when the reader knows what.” John Balke

It is not necessary to over-explain something in a poem, so don’t preach … “Trust your reader” (Jane Beal quoting Jeannine Nyangira) to understand what you are saying.

“All you have to do is see the scene clearly in your mind and then describe it.” Marilyn Nelson

“What is this poem about for you?” Linda Roberts-Baca

“Like Charles SImic, choose an image, and then let the image bloom in a surreal way.” Marilyn Nelson

Workshopping and Revising Poems

When a poem was too short or too dense, we learned to “sustain” the imagery or ideas – to add words, lines, even stanzas as necessary. When the poem was too long or prolix, we learned to “tighten” the wording. Other advice along these lines included: “The poem can be too long because we are still tied to the experience. Drive home to the point. Go back and revise” … “Get rid of words that aren’t doing anything” … “Suggest it, don’t perform it.” — or, as Ezra Pound used to say, “cut the fat.” Underline all the words that could be more specific and evocative. Always ask, “What words are not essential?”

Since the first word and the last word of a line of poetry are so important, we learned to look carefully at our line breaks. One day, Marilyn said, “It’s a very seductive danger to tie a poem up neatly.” So we looked carefully at our endings, too, to make sure they were not overly simplistic.

We discussed unobtrusive rhymes and how to handle forms so deftly that they became invisible – or how to expand forms beyond restrictive rules to make them work for the subjects of our poems.

I was happy that Marilyn’s philosophy allowed poets whose work was being critiqued to talk about their intentions, but advised against trying to defend the poem. Just listen to feedback … 🙂

Exercises: We were invited to write a poem from a man’s perspective in a woman’s perspective, to change the verb tenses in the poem from past to present or the verb moods from subjunctive to indicative, or to identify a “jumping off place” in a poem and develop new poems in ways that surprise the reader with new realities. We could consider re-ordering the stanzas of a given poem to see how that changes the progression and meaning. We also discussed letting the speaker of a given poem step aside, the lyric “I,” and the possibility of rewriting to foreground a third person subject. It was noted that Mary Kingsley, who used to teach at the University of Chicago, has a book out that contains many additional exercises for growing poets.

Poems we read or referenced: “The Jane Bird Hospital in Delhi” By William Meredith, the “Book of Yolek,” “Northern Pike” by Wright, Elizabeth Bishop’s fishy poem, “St. Judas,” “The Illiterate” by Meredith, “Song of Myself” by Whitman, poems by Emily Dickinson … and so many more!

Resources:

The Making of a Poem
The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry (ed. Jay Parini)
Naked Poetry
The New Narrative Poem (by Mark Jarmon)
The Flower Poet by Deborah Weistem?
Wild Iris (by Louise Glück)
Greenhouse Poems (by Theodore Roethke)
Rothenberg’s Holocaust poems
Kettle Bottom by Diane Gilliam
The Wandering King by Theodore Deppe
Detroit poems by Philip Levine
Minneapolis poems by James Wright
Pittsburg poems by Gerald Stern
Texas poems by Betty Adbock
“The Awful Rowing toward God” by Anne Sexton
“Kyrie” by Allen Bryant Voigt
rhyming dictionary by Clement Moore or rhymezone.com
Twigs and Knucklebones by Sarah Lindsey

In all, a very good learning experience!

*p.s. “Neither the hair shirt nor the soft birth will do. The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet.” – Beuchner

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