the dry spells

What Do You Do

About Dry Periods In Your Writing?

When the writing is going well,
I am a prince in a desert palace,
fountains flowing in the garden.
I lean an elbow on a velvet pillow
and drink from a silver goblet,
poems like a banquet
spread before me on rugs
with rosettes the damask of blood.
But exiled
from the palace, I wander —
crawling on burning sand,
thirsting on barren dunes,
believing a heartless mirage no less true
than palms and pools of the cool oasis.

– Richard Jones

how to listen

How to Listen

Tilt your head slightly to one side and lift
your eyebrows expectantly. Ask questions.

Delve into the subject at hand or let
things come randomly. Don’t expect answers.

Forget everything you’ve ever done.
Make no comparisons. Simply listen.

Listen with your eyes, as if the story
you are hearing is happening right now.

Listen without blinking, as if a move
might frighten the truth away forever.

Don’t attempt to copy anything down.
Don’t bring a camera or a recorder.

This is your chance to listen carefully.
Your whole life might depend on what you hear.
– Joyce Suthpen

finding the shape

Heredity 
by Tony Harrison
How you became a poet’s a mystery!
Wherever did you get your talent from?I say: I had two uncles, Joe and Harry-
one was a stammerer, the other dumb.

moments

 

Flowers — Well — if anybody 
by Emily Dickinson

Flowers — Well — if anybody
Can the ecstasy define —
Half a transport — half a trouble —
With which flowers humble men:
Anybody find the fountain
From which floods so contra flow —
I will give him all the Daisies
Which upon the hillside blow.

Too much pathos in their faces
For a simple breast like mine —
Butterflies from St. Domingo
Cruising round the purple line —
Have a system of aesthetics —
Far superior to mine.

Things shouldn’t be so hard

THINGS SHOULDN’T BE SO HARD
by Kay Ryan

A life should leave
deep tracks:
ruts where she
went out and back
to get the mail
or move the hose
around the yard;
where she used to
stand before the sink,
a worn-out place;
beneath her hand
the china knobs
rubbed down to
white pastilles;
the switch she
used to feel for
in the dark
almost erased.
Her things should
keep her marks.
The passage
of a life should show;
it should abrade.
And when life stops,
a certain space—
however small —
should be left scarred
by the grand and
damaging parade.
Things shouldn’t
be so hard.

after the rain

The Haughty Snail-King
by Vachel Lindsay
Twelve snails went walking after night.
They’d creep an inch or so,
Then stop and bug their eyes
And blow.
Some folks . . . are . . . deadly . . . slow.
Twelve snails went walking yestereve,
Led by their fat old king.
They were so dull their princeling had
No sceptre, robe or ring—
Only a paper cap to wear
When nightly journeying.This king-snail said: “I feel a thought
Within. . . . It blossoms soon. . . .
O little courtiers of mine, . . .
I crave a pretty boo. . . .
Oh, yes . . . (High thoughts with effort come
And well-bred snails are ALMOST dumb.)
“I wish I had a yellow crown
As glistering . . . as . . . the moon.”

Hamlet Off-Stage: Snail Peels Off
by D. C. Berry
For quick mental hygiene, the snail’s my white
mobile clinic, Dr. Hoodoo inside.
Seriously. The snail’s my man. He’s shy,
shows speedy patience and plays safe, keeps his
hard hat on should a curve come on too fast.
And paves his road in case he must return.
That’s not timid. That’s prudently Roman.

tangled feelings

I’ve had tangled feelings lately
About ev’rything
Bout writing poetry, and otha forms
Bout talkin and dreamin with a
Special man (who says he needs me)
Uh huh
  And my mouth has been open
Most of the time but
I ain’t been saying nothin but
Thinking about ev’rything
And the partial pain has been
How do I put my self on paper
The way I want to be or am and be
Not like any one else in this
Black world but me

          — Breakthrough by Carolyn Rodgers

Carolyn M. Rodgers

Black Arts Movement poet Carolyn M. Rodgers

Writings delved into the problems and challenges facing African-American women

April 13, 2010|By Trevor Jensen, Tribune reporter

Carolyn M. Rodgers grappled with issues of African-American identity and culture with poems that took first flight during the vibrant Black Arts Movement of the late 1960s.

source: Chicago Tribune

a morning walk

He is alive, this morning — by Emily Dickinson

He is alive, this morning —
He is alive — and awake —
Birds are resuming for Him —
Blossoms — dress for His Sake.
Bees — to their Loaves of Honey
Add an Amber Crumb
Him — to regale — Me — Only —
Motion, and am dumb.

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leap before you look

Leap Before You Look
by W. H.Auden

The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.

Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep
And break the by-laws any fool can keep;
It is not the convention but the fear
That has a tendency to disappear.

The worried efforts of the busy heap,
The dirt, the imprecision, and the beer
Produce a few smart wisecracks every year;
Laugh if you can, but you will have to leap.

The clothes that are considered right to wear
Will not be either sensible or cheap,
So long as we consent to live like sheep
And never mention those who disappear.

Much can be said for social savoir-faire,
But to rejoice when no one else is there
Is even harder than it is to weep;
No one is watching, but you have to leap.

A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear:
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.

December 1940

the morning

The Red — Blaze — is the Morning
by Emily Dickinson

The Red — Blaze — is the Morning —
The Violet — is Noon —
The Yellow — Day — is falling —
And after that — is none —

But Miles of Sparks — at Evening —
Reveal the Width that burned —
The Territory Argent — that
Never yet — consumed —

 

at a solemn music

At a Solemn Music
by John Milton

Blest pair of sirens, pledges of heaven’s joy,
Sphere-born harmonious sisters, Voice and Verse,
Wed your divine sounds, and mixed power employ,
Dead things with inbreathed sense able to pierce,
And to our high-raised fantasy present
That undisturbèd song of pure concent,
Aye sung before the sapphire-coloured throne
To him that sits thereon,
With saintly shout and solemn jubilee;
Where the bright seraphim in burning row
Their loud uplifted angel-trumpets blow,
And the cherubic host in thousand choirs
Touch their immortal harps of golden wires,
With those just spirits that wear victorious palms,
Hymns devout and holy psalms
Singing everlastingly;

That we on earth, with undiscording voice,
May rightly answer that melodious noise;
As once we did, till disproportioned sin
Jarred against nature’s chime, and with harsh din
Broke the fair music that all creatures made
To their great Lord, whose love their motion swayed
In perfect diapason, whilst they stood
In first obedience, and their state of good.
O may we soon again renew that song,
And keep in tune with heaven, till God ere long
To his celestial consort us unite,
To live with him, and sing in endless morn of light.

green figs

Green Figs
by Edward Hirsch

I want to live like that little fig tree
that sprouted up at the beach last spring
and spread its leaves over the sandy rock.

All summer its stubborn green fruit
(tiny flowers covered with a soft skin)
ripened and grew in the bright salt spray.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good
and Evil was a fig tree, or so it is said,
but this wild figure was a wanton stray.

I need to live like that crooked tree—
solitary, bittersweet, and utterly free—
that knelt down in the hardest winds

but could not be blasted away.
It kept its eye on the far horizon
and brought honey out of the rock.

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