Thanks/Giving Small/Poem

Night rain 2“Night rain 2” by Mourner is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Thankful/ Morning/ Music

(Thanksgiving 2020)

Listening
to the rain, these
rhythms of
the sky

Between
steady fall, these
moments of
gravity

Sometimes,
something’s there, this
world and its
wonder

Sometimes
nothing’s there, this
hope for the
possible

Peace (on this day and next),
Kevin

Five Poems/Five Days

Peace“Peace” by kevin dooley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I’ve been writing each morning this week over at Ethical ELA with its monthly OpenWrite, which is five days of poetry prompts. I appreciate the community of writers there, and the generous spirit that unfolds in the writing shared, and comments, made.

Here are my five poems from the past five days, with the one-word themes in bold as the titles:

Thanks

The shelves have become
barren of those silly cards,
those throw-away phrases
that always tried so hard
to make us laugh, in aisles
of the grocery store and
boutique shops and kiosks
in the mall, manufactured thanks
spit out by cold machines,
while I’m still one of those few
who settles down in the quiet,
pen in hand, to carve out poems
from the bones of memory,
a crinkled paper-cut of words
tucked into the folds
of your jacket pocket

Giving

What is
hope

but a rope
for which
to climb

a chance
to take
our time

a moment
in which
we find

something within us
that brings us
together

Receiving

There was a time
when the crowd hushed,
when all of our eyes watched
the ball flung into motion

with such beautiful flight,
its shape slightly wobbled
in the air flow imbalance
of impossibility

It’s that breath before
that I remember the most,
the beauty of the possibility
of perfect reception,

and not the drop,
when the world stopped,
and the magic
of the moment, broken
open

Breath

Awake,
when sleep
departs,
listening
to rhythms
of night,
the landscape
inscrutable
but for some
small melody
still yet lingering:
mere gossamer
and translucence
and then gone

Heal

Scars
show healing,
too, knife lines
tracing wounded
worlds, places
of exposure
in which fingers
brush up against
the past, the skin
always sharing stories,
with jagged
imperfections
etched deep
inside the heart

Peace (sharing it forward),
Kevin

Book Review: The Poetry of Strangers

Brian Sonia-Wallace hit the streets with a manual typewriter to see what poems he could write for other people, and quickly found his calling. In The Poetry of Strangers, Sonia-Wallace recounts his years as a street-corner poet, typing out verse for anyone who “needs a poem,” as he asks those who come to him.

Part of it was an experiment, to see if he could spend a month as a street poet, earning enough in donations in a month to survive, and part of it was making connections with other people, to allow them space to tell their stories to him, the poet filter, who then would gift them with a poem.

The book recounts his journey, and while there are some sections that veer off the trail of his main theme, the book is a nice companion to stories of groups like Typewriter Rodeo, and suggest that bringing old typewriters into public spaces might touch an emotional core to many of us. And that he is able to both leverage poetry and elevate language to anyone with an interest is exciting for us writers, and suggests possibilities for poetry.

While I enjoyed his tales of where his talent has taken him (from streets of many cities in America to corporate functions to political campaigns and more), what I found to be most powerful was his insights into people, who yearn to be heard in the age of digital noise. Some of the most emotional moments, he notes, are in the conversations he has with people before he writes them their poem, where they share parts of themselves with a stranger/writer/poet, who then recasts that story in verse, and hands it over.

He ends his book with this:

With every poem I write, I remember the value of a story doesn’t always depend on how many likes or retweets it gets, or how many people it reaches. Sometimes, just one person hearing a story — is enough. — from The Poetry of Strangers, by Brian Sonia-Wallace, page 286

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

Process Notes: Turning Poem into Song (About Writing a Poem)

I’ve been trying to write each month with the folks at Open Write via Ethical ELA (it’s pretty inspiring how many people come to write there), and it works by having just five days of writing prompts each month (so, manageable). The email notifications are always welcome, as I always forget it is coming up.

Mostly, I work on my daily poems with the prompts. The other day, the theme of ‘thanks’ came up for the first prompt of November, and I began a poem about the greeting cards you get from stationery stores, and then veered into something different, something more interesting (for me).

The shelves have become
barren of those silly cards,
those throw-away phrases
that always tried so hard
to make us laugh, in aisles
of the grocery store and
boutique shops and kiosks
in the mall, manufactured thanks
spit out by cold machines,
while I’m still one of those few
who settles down in the quiet,
pen in hand, to carve out poems
from the bones of memory,
a crinkled paper-cut of words
tucked into the folds
of your jacket pocket

It was the place where the poem took a turn in the middle with the writer becoming self-aware that I could not shake throughout the day. I found the words becoming lyrics in my mind all day long, small phrases dancing in my mind, and finally, I had time to sit down with my guitar, and I slowly began wrangling the poem into another shape altogether, turning the lines into lyrics of a song.

An interesting and challenging element of this process is that the rhythm and rhyme of the poem didn’t quite work (I’m not sure why I even heard the poem as song verses, given the lines) and so I found myself moving the pieces around, adding words, twisting phrases — all in the service of song.

I was intent on keeping the meaning, though, of a poet — feeling a bit estranged from the world, of thinking they are “one of the few” still scribbling words to paper – still writing, and intent on tucking words into the pockets of another person, hopeful that the poems will be found and recognized, and read. I think I was successful in this thematic connection from song to poem.

Paper Cuts You (Everywhere You Go)

I may be one of the few
to settle down
in the quiet and write you a poem

I wish I knew
how to share the silent
the way memory holds us like bone
the paper cuts you everywhere you go

These four walls
these blue lines
the days turning into night

I can’t recall
what it is we said
I’m tucking words inside your sleepy head
dreaming on this paper bed

And if it rhymes, it’s time
to break it all apart
I’m the poem inside
the pocket of your heart

And if I had the words
then we’d be OK
I’d hold you in the dark before the light

So close the door
pull on the shades
I’m writing you from somewhere yesterday
and tomorrow will be better than today

And if we find it’s time
that we make it from the start
I’m the poem
inside the pocket of your heart

The music was first recorded as a rough demo with only guitar and voice as a way to get it down. I found I liked what it was in that rough format but the song needed a bit more lyrically to bring things around to something hopeful. So I began all over again — adding other instruments — keyboard, piano, bass, guitar, strings. I wanted to keep my voice front and center — the poet, thinking — and the guitar fairly sparse strumming, more like a mandolin (the capo is high up the neck).

In the end, the song is different from the poem — the middle section, with worries that the poet is falling into method as opposed to heart, turns things a bit and the last parts give more hope, with the poet being the poem inside the pocket of the heart — but the pieces are still connected by some invisible string, circling around the central idea of a writing having hope that words can still impact the audience – even an audience of one person.

Peace (sounds like love),
Kevin

Missed The Marathon; Found Some Poems

Consider the Hinge

My National Writing Project friends at the Morehead State Writing Project hosted a post-election Writing Marathon last week that I had hoped to join but then could not.

Write Our Way Out

Luckily, they shared out the prompts afterwards and so I spent a few mornings, using the prompts to inspire some small poems. I’m sorry I could not join the night of the Marathon, but I was glad to be able to take my time each morning with a poem.

UndertowI was also trying out a new mobile app from the folks at Buffer (which hosts the free Pablo), which I use quite a bit for adding visual elements. The app — Buffer Remix — turns Tweets into an image, with different themes and photo options (including image search from Unsplash). It’s kind of cool. It works best with tweets with fewer words.

Look to the StarsThe Morehead State Writing Project folks are hosting a second event tonight, and while I signed up, I have yet another conflict. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the prompts for further morning poetry writing.

Writer in the Storm of Night

Peace (and poems),
Kevin

A Few #WriteOut Poems

poem“poem” by spo0nman is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I’ve been writing small poems regularly with the Write Out community, sometimes using the daily prompts by National Park Rangers to consider a theme.

Here are a few of my poems from the past week:

We’re all caretakers
of these mountains,
we are, of buildings
and rivers, of near and
of far, of dams and bridges
and lakes and volcanoes,
of even the scars of what
we’ve done with these lands;

We caretakers, we are not
always gentle with our gifts,
nor always appreciative
of their splendor, this Earth
accepts our flaws, for now,
these battered spaces of quiet
beauty


 

Such tender
paths on this
tender map

the seasons
always seem to
linger when we
need them most

we pocket the leaf
that maps the tree
that maps the wood
that maps the love

what once was seed
now becomes journey


 

Black Iron Fence

Tridents
and spears on the
black iron fence

One mile
one quarter,
the perimeter of the
black iron fence

Ten thousand,
seven hundred
distinctly-made pieces,
the skeleton bones of the
black iron fence

Cannon iron;
collected, gathered,
blacksmith-ed, forged,
held, and hammered into the
black iron fence


 

Sometimes
this river releases
small secrets, broken
shards of pottery
and glass, worn
smooth, cloudy
by the constant embrace
of eddies and currents,
leaving us with more
questions than answers
as to who it was who
came before us
and where they have
gone, since

Peace (in poems of place),
Kevin

Writeout Poems: Nature Reclaims Words

Yesterday, my friend, Ranger Scott Gausen, was the featured park ranger for the daily prompt for Write Out, and he posed the question of what happens to our buildings when Nature reclaims the urban landscape. (See all of this week’s ranger-led writing prompts — more are coming for next week, too)

My students had a lot of fun with the prompt, exploring the possibilities of a changed world, and I went forward myself with three poems written during some free-writing time yesterday in school.

Nature Reclaims Words

1.
Time,
forever, lapses;
each frame, a finger
on the camera,
society collapses
with such hubris,
worn like suits of steel,
as Nature waits, patient,
then wanders in,
revealed

2.
Who’s buried wish
is this,
with roots tangled
below ground,
the place where
ideas get lost
and only sometimes
become found?

3.
I was never one
of the Wild;
someone tamed me
as a child,
fed and bathed me –
maybe you were, too? –
but like this land,
Wild, we grew

Peace (flourishes),
Kevin

WriteOut: SmallPoems Inspired by Roots and Trees

Tree Poem for WriteOut

Yesterday, for Write Out, the theme for the daily writing prompt was about understanding how trees communicate. Park Ranger Mackenzie from the Sequoia National Park introduced the daily prompt (see the Write Out page where all prompts will go live each of the two weeks of the event)

My students wrote about it in their Google Classroom spaces and during our free-writing time in class, I composed a few small poems about trees, roots, leaves and more.

Three Poems; Falling

First Branch

Percussive
drops drain
these trees —
Arbor leaves sing
like cymbals

Dripping Autumn rains
find rhythms all their own

Second Branch

Every leaf
might contain
a map –
each vein and vessel
an artery line
to somewhere close –
traversing root to trunk
to branch to stem –
pure electrical pulse:
invisible
communicated
connected

Third Branch

If canopy
was ground
and ground
was sky
I’d
T
U
M
B
L
E
from your branch
and wonder why

Peace (even if you can’t see it),
Kevin