MERMAID HOUSE - MY WRITING HOME FOR THIS WEEK
National Poetry Month has been over for almost a month. Just to remind you that there can poetry everyday, here's another poem for Hawaii. The prompt for that day: write a poem that reflects on the nature of being in the middle of something. The poem could be about being on a journey and stopping for a break, or the gap between something half-done and all-done.
In the Middle
On your journey down the trail,
you stop for breath between grass
that smells like molasses sweet
under rain misting your hair.
Beyond cliffs falling to shore,
water stretches in every direction.
You rest in the heart of the ocean
on the most remote islands on Earth,
on a planet spinning in the middle
of space. Watching waves pulled
back and forth, you feel its rotation,
you the center, betwixt and between.
Standing in the midst of this vista
it’s enough right now to raise your arms
to sky and turn slowly, fingers stretched
north and south, east and west.
The challenge for Day 13 was to write a ghazal. A ghazal A ghazal is formed of couplets, each of which is its own complete statement. Both lined of the first couplet end with the same phrase or end-word, and that end-word is also repeated at the end of each couplet.
Ghazal: Kona Coast
Under leafy rain frogs shrilled til dawn.
Sky lightened as it does each dawn.
Last night a gecko raced green fluorescence
across the wall. Now he’s gone. Dawn.
Behind this room opened to air, trees sway
with bird song. Two roosters crow, Dawn.
At home, trains whistle, planes take off,
scrape of metal shaking sleep before dawn.
Palm trees, ginger, ferns, banana leaves
all rustle the story of far-away dawn.
Tropic damp soaks every surface,
even paper I try to fill with this dawn.
I have been writing (or trying to) a poem each day for the NaPoWriMo daily poetry challenge to commemorate National Poetry Month. As of today, April 28, I have written 24 poems. This year instead of posting all my sometimes feeble attempts to the public, I've only been brave enough to share them with other poet friends who are on the same journey. They know the struggles of trying to be almost brilliant every day.
Now that National Poetry Month is drawing to a close, I thought I'd take the plunge to share a few of my poems here. For Spring Break this year, I took my first trip to Hawaii to visit my good friends Ruth Thompson and Don Mitchell of Saddle Road Press, the publishers of my book Always a Blue House. There were a few days there in their lovely house on the Big Island when Ruth and I would be writing our poems on different floors.
So here is one for you, Ruth and Don:
Ruth raved about them,
thorny globes glistening
among lava falls
on the slope of Mauna Kea.
We bumped our way
along a rocky track,
like the roads in Tanzania,
distant plains spread out before us
green and gold like the Serengeti.
How could this be Hawaii?
Then there they were, shining
like unsheathed blades,
as she had promised.
Tania Pryputniewicz sent me a poetry challenge last March: Use at least three of the musical expressions on the front of this card, plus cat, plus piano or other musical instrument of your choice in a poem. Game on!
It's almost April, which is National Poetry Month. This was a good way to get myself back into writing shape before attempting the NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) 30-poems-in-30-days challenge.
It's taken me a year to write this poem. I guess publishing a book got in the way. But, Tania, here it is!
Hauled all over Texas,
Colorado until Illinois,
Mom’s big upright in the corner
never made it past the blue house.
Legs scuffed from rough and tumble,
keys stained, discolored ivory
cracked by shoes and toys.
One senza music -
sounding thunk, thunk.
Childhood cat a black
eighth note, paws soft-stepping
across the keyboard,
drew ghost music,
I could pick out high C,
my piano lesson a solo
cut short when we had to move,
finding a new place again.
Mom dragged that piano
all over those living rooms:
it held stockings at Christmas,
once played divider, enough space
for a hillbilly bedroom.
From her red Methodist hymnal,
she filled each house
with chords poco marcato:
“Onward Christian Soldiers,”
“Thine is the Glory.”
In the end strong men
hauled its black body away,
Mom stood at the window,
sheets of music in her hands.
dolce espressivo – sweetly expressive
forte - strongly
non tropo vivo – not too lively
poco marcato – a little emphatic
One of the writing prompts Tania brought to the workshop was based on a poem she wrote about another time we spent as poets together at a writing retreat in Calistoga, CA.
That poem was the first in what has become an ongoing poetry challenge that we've tossed back and forth to each other. Sometimes it takes months for us to complete our poems. In fact, I'm working on one right now.
Until I finish that poem for Tania, I thought I'd re-post the first challenge poem that appeared on this blog back in June 2015. It seems like a good way to thank my friend for her love and poetry support.
For Tania From Italy
Piazza della Stazione
They fly from my mouth,
zip through air
like chimney swifts
circling the great dome
outside my window.
Violin music swirls up
from the piazza below.
In Difficult Animal (Saddle Road Press), Lisa Lutwyche shows us the meat and bones of life, that difficult animal we all struggle with, full of love and confusion, with hidden teeth. This collection is a poetic memoir beginning with her childhood: talented parents, music they produced, and her young ache for love and acceptance. However, just when I began to believe this would be the story of a girl and her family, I was brought up short.
This is no idyllic reverie; Lutwyche doesn’t shy away from life’s pain. The lessons of her grandmothers whose presence is a soft constant in the “Great-Grandmother Annetta” and “Gentle Watch,” are shattered by the violent death of a fawn whose eyes wouldn’t close. This poem, “Requiem for a Nuisance” brings ominous undertones of danger.
That danger does come in the form of domestic violence and then cancer. It was with the second section that I truly fell in love with this book. Here Lutwyche’s strength of language and willingness to write unflinchingly grow in power. She too won’t close her eyes but instead faces whatever comes. In “Invisible,” she bravely claims:
so if I am
let me twirl
around your faces
let me dance naked
Dance and shout she does. Lutwyche uses multiple points of view in her poems as if she holds life in her hands, turning it over and over to view it from every angle. Images of hands appear repeatedly throughout this book: a father’s whose hands held the power to move hearts, violent hands of an abusive husband and a new love whose touch / heals. But the most important hands are those of this brave poet, wielding her pen. In “Brewing the Witch” She stirs in the deep secret / of her untapped strength…brews the witch / she needs to be. And this reader is glad she did.
Available on Amazon.
On January 1, 2014, a brave group of writers began their journey, vowing to write one haiku a day for a year and sharing them in an online group, The Haiku Room.
I was fortunate to be among that group of 33 poets. Now you can read a selection of our haiku in the anthology, Everyday Haiku available from Wandering Muse Press.
I came across this interesting blog post about fonts today: If You're Using These Fonts You Need to Stop by Larry Kim. He lists Comic Sans as the worst font you can use on your website or blog. He also includes a list of other "offensive" font types. What surprised me? Included was Times New Roman. Really? Read his post here.
I have to admit that as a teacher Comic Sans was my go-to font when creating handouts for my students. Other fonts seemed too business-like. I guess that's the point. Think about what font is best for your purpose.
I haven't spent much time worrying about typography for my website but this makes me think I should pay more attention. For all you bloggers out there, I'd love to know if you've given this much thought.
After over five years of posting on Blogspot, Poet Teacher Seeks Home has a new home. I'm excited to announce that my blog will now be housed on my main website. This means that those of you who have supported me by subscribing to my blog will need to re-enter your email if you want to continue receiving posts. And I sure hope you will keep reading.
Another new feature to check out is my Always a Blue House On the Road video tour. As part of my book launch tour, I've decided to make a video of me reading a poem in every place I visit this year. Check out the first one here.
My party was wonderful! Thank you to everyone who came out and supported the launch of my book, Always a Blue House.
A couple of weeks ago,the blog post How to Be a Successful Poet on Social Media (Emma Lee's Blog, October 26, 2016) appeared in my inbox just in time to remind me of my responsibilities as a citizen of the literary community. In it Emma Lee, a blogger and writer based in England, asks some important questions such as:
When was the last time you shared someone else's status update/tweet/blog link on social media? When was the last time you shared a link to your blog? (Read the rest of the post here.)
Now that I'm in the process of marketing my new poetry collection, Always a Blue House (Saddle Road Press) due for release on December 10, 2016, I find myself in the position of asking people to help me spread the news of my book on social media and in literary journals. As for many writers, this process is not always comfortable. I'd much rather be sitting in my room writing poems. But in the publication world, it's a necessary part of the journey.
So far, I've had many generous people give me opportunities for interviews and reviews. Emma Lee is one of those. Now she's reminded me that I can return the favor in my own small way.
What better way to make myself feel less forward and self-important than to find ways to help get the word out for others' work? I've decided to do a series of posts featuring the work of other poets and writers. Just doing my bit.
So, people, check out Emma Lee's blog. She has some great resources for writers. It's fun to read about what's going on in the English poetry world. Who knows, you might find a place for your work beyond your own country.
by Lisa Rizzo
in the blue crackerbox house
at 17827 Baker Avenue
in a manufactured town
called Country Club Hills.
My book officially comes out December 10, 2016, just in time for my birthday. You can pre-order it on Amazon here, or wait to order it via my website in December.
How many different photos of my books can I take?