Saturday, November 28, 2009

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in November Poetry Detectives met at the Poplar Grove School to detect and uncover truths and insights into four selections. We discussed the lyrics to "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman, the poem "Kitchenette Building" by Gwendolyn Brooks, hip hop lyrics to "Release Part 2" by Saul Williams and "What's Hard Core?" by K'Naan. Underlying themes were poverty and survival, hope and hopelessness. Through the magic of we were able to hear each artist perform their work, which enhanced our appreciation of their pieces and, in some cases, answered quesitions. As writers and avid readers we all know that intent is not always knowable. And that makes for some deep digging and lively discussions.

I would like use this forum to thank everyone who has joined Poetry Detectives and helped to make it everything and more than I hoped for. Each one of us shares a love of poetry and many of us are a little intimidated by it. A group discussion gives us an opportunity to explore all kinds of poetry and benefit from each other's insights. It's fun when someone has an aha! moment for poetry can be very mysterious and it's golden when a nugget of truth is excavated.

I'm looking forward to more adventures in poetry with all of you and anyone who would join us in the future. We've had some requests for future poems/poets for discussion. For me, one the most exciting parts is researching and choosing material for discussion. So let's keep on digging and soon Fear of Poetry will be no more!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Plum Hat

I knitted this hat last week. It’s for a baby due in February, already much beloved by an entire congregation devoted to the eager parents.

I have had various periods of knitting, and non-knitting, in my life.
When I was 9 or 10, my wonderful widowed maternal grandmother and her unmarried sister, who lived and worked (hard) together, took my sister and me to pick out yarns and start afghans. I, alas, picked an electric turquoise that quickly transformed from my favorite color to a color I couldn’t bear to look at, much less knit with. My beloved, industrious great aunt knit that one, and presented it finished to me. But I did learn to knit.

In high school, I mastered knitting the two-needle mitten, creating them for everyone I could think of. I loved how you knitted this abstract formula, then sandwiched it together, sewed it up, and a human hand, or the ghost of one, magically appeared from two dimensions. One of my life mantras at the time was that everyone should have hand-knitted red wool mittens made for and presented to them at least once in a lifetime, and I distributed them in all sizes to everyone I thought might actually wear them.

Living in England after college, I was re-inspired by the most creative knitter I have ever known (a true textile artist who can knit in the dark and while multi-tasking and design her own garments on the fly), as well as by the fabulous array of yarns and patterns not yet trendy or available on this side of the Atlantic. Knitting was a lovely social pastime, best enjoyed over multiple cups of strong tea in a chilly four-storey Victorian on the edge of Port Meadow outside Oxford.

This knitting industry carried over into graduate school, for a while, when I specialized in sweaters, and then into the child-bearing years of those around me, resulting in adorable fruit hats of every hue, and afghans, and woolen cabled fisherman baby sweaters that I didn’t realize weren’t practical until I had my own babies and tried to put them into one.

But for some years, now, the knitting has been sporadic at best. I watch little television, the perfect accompaniment to knitting, and don’t spend much time sitting down, except behind a steering wheel or computer. Besides, my vision is not what it once was.

So I was truly taken aback at how destructive the disruptions of my multitasking mother-mid-life are to knitting. I was knitting the hat on four short double-pointed needles, and THREE times picked up the hat and began knitting backwards, counterclockwise, knitting on the purl side, so that I had to backtrack and tear out and pick up and carry on, chastened by my diminished knitting powers. It was hard to stay on task, and still feel like I was attending to the expectations I have created around me. I miss the days where I could focus on one thing at one time and create something beautiful or adorable in a straight line and not feel compromised by it.

Something to aspire to, again, in time.

Mary for the Poplar Grove Muse

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Half Empty Half Full

In the dark of night I wake up wondering whether my nest is half full or half empty. This nest I’ve feathered and re-feathered for 20 years with an abundance and ambivalence of love, soft place to land for my girl-children who filled up the nest with their silk scarves, ribbons, and battered baby dolls, their jelly shoes, and spangled headbands, OPI nail polishes, zit concealer, razors, tampons, crumpled school notes, rogue, earrings and socks and borrowed sweats, bathing suits, goggles, fins, schoolbooks, and fat copies of every edition of Harry Potter and Twilight…this nest …is missing one of four who inhabited it…leaving three of us behind and one of the three, in so many ways, her other half.

She had the audacity to grow up and want to go to college. So she did. And like most stoic mother birds, when it was time, I knew it was time. And in spite of a few secretly shed tears,I know the privilege and relative safety of her flight plan. I know too, that this is only one of many phases of leave-taking that began with her first steps away from me in the departing flights corridor of the Raleigh/Durham airport 18 years ago. Then she ran in her tiny red leather shoes with abandon, uncanny coordination and sense of sureness before she was 1. She’s still in possession of those qualities. I know she’ll be back soon.

In the presence of all of her left behind stuff and silence, I feel the absence of her. In the absence of her, I feel the presence, to a celebratory degree, of her younger sister. So it goes. My nest is half empty and certainly half full. Life these days is half as noisy, half as full of teenagers, half as worried at midnight.

But I wake to the sound of half as many children in my house and the sound of my middle aged mother's heart beating the rhythm of love and loss and the promise of birdsong in the morning.
Beth Lodge-Rigal 11.20.09

On the Muses Summer Vacation

…kind of Algonquin Roundtable meets Outward Bound meets St. Barts. The muses lounge around all morning in their slippers and lacy robes, a dip in the pool, followed by a pedicure and a massage. Then after a lunch of dainty finger sandwiches and iced tea, they change into some rougher clothes, take a last longing look at the shining pool and head out into the world, unseen by humans. They gather inspiration food to feed us throughout the coming year. They witness glaciers melting and puppy mills and the officer issuing parking tickets. They go by twos to refugee camps and domestic abuse shelters and brothels and they cannot help but witness hunger which paints a hole on their soul that can never close. They watch the thresher take down big rows of wheat in the breadbasket of America and they watch the rice begin to blossom on the terraced steps of China. They watch winter spring summer and fall each take root and slough off the season that came before.

The muses especially like trees in full bloom and fireworks.
They like the sound of
ocean waves and clear black starry nights. They like to hear poetry and garage bands and Gregorian chant but they also fill up with sound of lonely crying and the dull thud of the printing press as it churns out a nights worth of the morning edition.

They arrive back at the pool where they are served a lavish feast of roasts and potatoes and cheese fondue and chocolate cakes frosted with butter cream and coconut. The feast bends and stretches the table it is served upon, but the muses, your muse, never eats a single bite. They simply desire all the food in front of them and it is that craving that keeps them alive and ready to fill you with creative impulse. In fact, on the years that your muse appears to be AWOL, he probably broke down and ate the beef bourguignon and forgot why he came. Like you, food does that to a muse.

And with that ache in their belly, they prepare to leave summer vacation, return to you and spend another year inspiring you to bare your soul, dig deep into your memory and rise up with poetry, sculpture, a new aria or simply great metaphors. If you are lucky enough to be invited on the muses summer vacation you might be asked to stick around for their closing cocktail party where you often hear the muses make comments like this:

“I cannot come up with one more metaphor for love. Why can’t humans just get over this love thing? Once Elizabeth Barrett Browning counted the ways that should have been enough.”

“…so dense. I have been knocking and waving and whispering and he still thinks he is an accountant. I think I am going to have to drop an impressionist painting on his head. What does it take?”
“I am all for giving muses of poets special privileges. I would never want that job. Special people those poetry muses. All that dreck. One artist’s teen years would have me in a straight jacket.”

Perhaps you are frustrated when your muse leaves you.
Perhaps you beat your head to your keyboard begging her to return, say hail Mary’s to the blank sheet of paper, get your haircut, drink too much peppermint schnapps and puke in the toilet. Know this dear writer, your muse loves you and wants to be there for you, but sometimes she needs a little vacati
on: a chance to run in daisy fields and drink absinthe by a roaring fire. Take a lesson from the lowly muse.

--Amy for the Poplar Grove Muse

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Soul Card reflections from participants in our Fall 2009 Young Women's circle

The young women whose voices are represented in the soul cards below are in the 5th and 6th grade. Their read around on Sunday was an amazing collection of readings that they had prepared and shared as part of the completion of the fall 2009 young women's circle at WWfaC.

Gifts: A listening ear when no one else would, and that there is no right or wrong.Challenges: Learning to share personal things, and understanding that I will not be laughed at, and that what I wrote will not be spread as rumors.

There are many gifts. One is I got to express myself. I get to be me. Also it was a gift to be here and know everyone listens and doesn’t say anything bad, even if they do think it’s bad. I just love being able to be me.

The gifts in this class I’ve been given are uncountable. Friendship, words, and space are probably the main three. If only it went longer. There were so many words I felt I didn’t get to say. If only class were longer!

Gifts – Ears. Everyone has them. Knowing these girls use them, now that’s a gift. Hearing. Everyone can hear. Knowing these girls do. See. Everyone has eyes and eyesight. Knowing these girls use them in a way that speaks better than words.Challenge - ?

Gifts: The beautiful girls here, the power of a girl’s voice, the gentle writing, our words, just being here with everyone, and the love and gentle power of our circle.

The gifts I have experienced were making new friends, that is a really big gift for me because having friends is like power. I think power is a wonderful thing. ☺–

Gifts: I feel such a gift to be here, I hope I get to do the winter session! I will miss everyone!!Challenges: Nervous, a little bit!I hope to see everyone soon! ☺–

What a special group! The courage each girl brought, the willingness to share and learn, the journey we took together will always be in my heart. It has been a gift to witness each of you grow in your voice and writing. Thanks and love to you all!

I’ve loved this group of YWW Fall Writers. I’ve been amazed by the depth, courage, grace, and creativity of each girl here. I have learned a great deal and am honored and moved to be part of this circle.

Soul Card reflections from Read-Around listeners: Thanks so much for creating such a wonderful environment for everyone to write & reflect & explore.

This was a gift and I wanted to hear even more. The young writers expressed the richness and depth of well-lived and wise women. They each are a gift to the world.

My daughter gained confidence in expressing herself, as well as insight into herself.

Moving – touching – real – maturity in youth.

My gifts are numerous. When I did this before, I couldn’t believe the writing. Some of my friends read today I couldn’t believe the change. That was a gift.When I arrived, I thought that I was just a bystander, watching. But I know now that I am part of it. That is a gift.Today, everything was a gift, the writing, the words, the smiles, the frowns. Everything was a gift.

I am very impressed at the maturity displayed this afternoon by the young women here, and the sophistication in their writing. It seems, from the subject of the poetry and writing, that they have spent time here during the last 6 weeks discovering themselves. That’s a good idea for everyone, certainly for preteen girls who are going through a tumultuous time – bodies and minds growing and changing. This is a good example of why the arts are important. I have the feeling that all these girls are future leaders.

This was a beautiful experience. Thank you. These girls are courageous and creative. You do a phenomenal service for them in providing a safe place for them to be brave.

So good to hear our “younger sisters” telling their truths and sharing their voices. Thank you!
--Thanks to Kim Evans and the Young Women of WWfaC

Sunday, November 1, 2009

On your mark, get set, go...

It is November 1st and you know what that means! It is time once again for NANOWRIMO. We would love to hear from fellow writer's out there in NANO land who are attempting to write their novel in just one month--30 days.

If writing a novel in one month seems too about blog posting in one month? You can also participate in NABLOPOMO. (I understand that this is no longer strictly limited to November anymore.)

If you would like to blog about your manic novel writing experience or you just want to shout out that you are working on it...let us know. Contact Amy at:

Get ready to write...GO!

Amy for the Poplar Grove Muse