Tuesday, April 25, 2017

April Poetry: When Monkish Scribes Doodled in the Margins

Here's the prompt for April 24 from napowrimo.net, the website that encourages poets to write a new poem each day during National Poetry Month: 

Today, I challenge you to write a poem of ekphrasis — that is, a poem inspired by a work of art. But I’d also like to challenge you to base your poem on a very particular kind of art – the marginalia of medieval manuscripts. Here you’ll find some characteristic images of rabbits hunting wolves, people sitting on nests of eggs, dogs studiously reading books, and birds wearing snail shells. What can I say? It must have gotten quite boring copying out manuscripts all day, so the monks made their own fun. Hopefully, the detritus of their daydreams will inspire you as well!

Here's my poem based on an image captured from medieval manuscript marginalia:

Ears at Ready

What's with the rabbits?
All right, they're the hamburger of the natural world.
What did you get, Momma Fox asks Dadda
when he's back from the hunt -- Rabbit again?
This rabbit is in a fighting mood.
We know exactly who he is because his ears are strikingly long,
and straight up. Talk about obvious.
He is holding a sword, also long and vertical, paralleling the ears
Listen to me, such posture declares, or my shiny claw will speak daggers!
But from the expression on his minimal features, he's not as brave
as his posture suggests.
We see him profile, one eye lifted, a soft nose in a rounded profile.
He would be fierce, and armed, his pose proclaims,
But it's really not him
and his mouth is open in way the suggests "Yikes!"
rather than "Take that, dastardly predator!"
His courage is borrowed by the convenience,
our marginalizing monk shows us,
of riding on the back of rather humorously featured heraldic lion
with those tightly repeated framing curls as if set by a perm;
his lionish bulk transformed into a rabbit-carrying pony,
but still sufficient to cover the head, neck and shoulders
of a slender four-legged pretty-brown creature
with his big, buff, shaggy paw.
Lion's features are rather childishly amused,
perhaps by the prospect of serving as a warhorse for a rabbit
-- or, perhaps, as surrogate for a poor, put-upon scribbling monk?
And under that powerful paw, as if felled by a falling tree,
who's that ? Could it be Mr. Foxy?
The thing is, though, when we reckon this little guy, 
his full skimpy length on a near par with those strictly elevated bunny ears,
we can't help thinking, "Jeez, Mr. Rabbit,
couldn't you have taken him without bringing along a lion?"

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Garden of the Seasons: April Love

             What to do in April?
            Get the ice out of the earth, the mud out of the dirt, the sub-freezing numbers out of the 'early warning' forecast -- as the local cable news refers to its special tease apparently offered to prepare you for the shock each day's weather. (Do we truly need to be warned every day that we live in a changeable climate?)
            What to do when the longing for spring begins to be answered?
            Get the garden tools out of the basement, and put the snow shovels in their place, since these two toolish families share a seasonal berth.             
             Remember where you put the garden gloves, the thick brown-paper leaf bags, the list of uncompleted preparation-for-winter chores. (No, forget about that.)
            Remember the names, and locations, of the plants you are expecting back this year for their long-awaited annual visit. (Such as the Japanese primrose, fourth photo down; and Spring Vetch, bottom pic.) This will take some time.
            Remember what it feels like to bend. This way. Or that.
            Study up on the bird calls. Can a bluejay do that? Is it mockingbird time already?
            Reacquaint yourself with sudden alterations of character in the seasonal face. Easter Sunday was warm, even too warm. Patriots Day was perfectly springlike. A good day for walking in the woods and discovering that signs of spring are rarer there than in your own backyard. No leaves on the trees. Few green shoots from the ground. Skunk cabbage is still the dominant 'seasonal' arrvial. Nobody rakes up the leaves in the woods.
            Saturday (April 22) on the other hand was raw and rainy at midday. The falling rain was making clicking sounds on the windows. Then Sunday dawns cloudless-bright, and stays sunny and cool all day.
            What else to do in April? Put away the winter boots. The ones you wear in the snow when shoveling the driveway. They ones you wear when you're contemplating a 'winter hike' and know that your feet will be really, really cold if you don't wear them.
            Take a walk in a familiar neighborhood you haven't visited since the sun's northern-trending equinoctial passage in order to enjoy the differences. Other people's rhododendrons are doing well; what happened to ours?
            Confirm, by the evidence of other landscapes, that this is truly hyacinth (second and third photos down) season. Daffodil time too (fifth photo down). And bunches of grape hyacinth (top photo), deep blue and abundant, are staking out corners and lot-lines like an early harvest from the return of the sun. Notice how late the hour is while the sun's still high.
            Notice new deep brown additions to those landscapes you pass by, where mulch, soil, or soil amendments are making an early appearance ... Consider this option for several of your own spaces, while you can still get at them, before welcome, and unwelcome, guests spread tent-wings over your ground.
            Consider that next week will already be too late to 'get ahead' of the weeds. I checked this afternoon. The weeds are already leading.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

National Poetry Month: It's How You Play the Game

The prompt from National Poetry Writing Month, the website that encourages poets to write a new poem every day throughout the month of April, calls for writing a poem based on the jargon of a sport of game.
               Here's how the site put it: 
Today, I challenge you to write a poem that incorporates the vocabulary and imagery of a specific sport or game. Your poem could invoke chess or baseball, hopscotch or canasta, Monopoly or jai alai. The choice is yours!


               Here's my poem.

The Odd Ball Game

I take a swing at Stumpy's curve
And leg a hit to short and dirt
And wish that I would have the nerve
to grow my hair or wear a skirt

Bello follows, swinging big but bleeds a squib
An easy out at second base
He hollers to the world he's safe
And snarls at me and tells a fib

He's stylin' when they pick him off
But bitches at Ump Stinky's call
I'm hoping he will get the toss
But he is big and Stinker's small

The game drags on all afternoon
They kick our butt, you'd never know
From Bello's rants and taunts and lies
You'd think he was the only show

I'm rapping with our Number Nine
Her eyes are big, her hair is fine
She plays the game as I think I could
But I am wary, and she is good

Then Bello roars, and flaunts, and steals a pinch
Nine swings a bat at his fat rump
He stumbles and disputes the play 
"You can't do that, my name is Dump"

But rules are rules, and girls can play
It's not as hard as they make it seem
And the score that counts is the game of life
Next year I'll start another team

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Garden of Delayed Expectations: 'Gardeners Do It" Reading Rained Out By Publication Delay

I've postponed my scheduled poetry reading and book signing at Plymouth Library, planned for Monday, April 24, because the books haven't arrived from the publisher. My first book of poems, a chapbook entitled "Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty" is being published by Finishing Line Press, but the press has fallen significantly 
behind schedule. 
Plymouth Public Library has kindly agreed to reschedule the reading and book signing after the books arrive from the publisher.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Garden of April Poetry: Morris Dancers Kicking Up Their Metrical Feet

          The prompt for April 17 by the napowrimo.com website, a site dedicated to encouraging poets to write a new poem every day in April -- National Poetry Month -- calls for writing a poem relying on neologisms.
          Here's how the site put it:
               Today, I challenge you to write a poem that incorporates neologisms. What’s that? Well, it’s a made-up word! Your neologisms could be portmanteaus (basically, a word made from combining two existing words, like “motel” coming from “motor” and “hotel”) or they could be words invented entirely for their sound. Probably the most famous example of a poem incorporating neologisms is Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, but neologisms don’t have to be funny or used in the service of humor."

               Well, not to put too fine a point on it, "Jabberwocky" (which appears in "Through the Looking Glass") is pretty funny, and Lewis Carroll sets a pretty high standard as a model.
              The poem I'm sharing here attempts to capture some of the stylishly antic fun exhibited by the Newtown Morris Dancers, who ply their deeply traditional art of folk dance on Easter morning on Newbury Street in Boston's Back Bay directly after the Easter service at Emanuel Church. 
             They definitely slow down traffic. 
             The photo above gives a good idea of their costumes and suggests something of upbeat, open, yet carefully prescribed style of their art. Morris Dance dates back to a region of England from a long time ago. The dance is traditional, the costumes and music traditional, the Newtown Morris Dancers a Boston tradition, their appearance outside the church on Easter a pretty long-lasting tradition by itself, and Easter itself -- well all sorts of connections spring up there. 
               Here's my attempt to pack it all up in a poem with made-up words. 

        The Morris Dancers on Newbury Street

Twirl updown and crownaround
Your stickles brain percussion, your ankledings make sound

You have a rather handy look,
your brawn is rather shandy
You eyes flow from the babelbrook,
Do you feed them naught but candy?

You music goes a circle bend
Comes back to make a neverend
What churchkey fellow found a brew
To bottle up the likes of you?

Twupsy-doo and jarl about
Your feet choptime and rabble out
Your beaks remind me of the rout
Who tear my cherry blossoms out

Twirl updown and crownaround
Your stickles brain percussion, your ankledings make sound
No mankey man can Morrisleap and dare to wear a frown