Poetry Friday: Ellen Bass’s “The Thing Is”

This poem by Ellen Bass was exactly what I needed to read this week. Maybe it will strike a chord with you, also.

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you down like your own flesh
only more of it, and obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?

Read the rest of the poem here.

Please be sure to visit Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: The Forest Pond

Happy New Year! The Inklings are kicking off the 2022 with a challenge from Heidi. She suggested that we use the “The Lost Lagoon” by Mohawk poet, Emily Pauline Johnson (d. 1913) “to build your own poem FOR CHILDREN about a treasured place that you return to again and again (geographical or metaphorical).”

I really didn’t have to think too long about what to write about. There is a pond in the woods behind our house where my family and I have hiked, fished, searched for tadpoles, and skated since we moved here 35 years ago. Johnson included people in her memories of the lost lagoon, but I decided to leave the pond to itself in my poem.

This form was definitely a challenge. Coming up with two rhyming lines per stanza that make sense was hard enough, but THREE? Even though I wrote and rewrote each stanza several times, I’m still not sure everything works, but here is my response to Heidi’s very challenging challenge.

The Forest Pond

It’s spring time at the forest pond.
Geese return, led by a starry map,
turtles emerge from their winter nap,
red-budded maples ooze with sap
as nature waves her magic wand.

It’s summer at the forest pond.
In mama’s wake, fat goslings trail,
while tadpoles lose their legs and tails,
over glossy water dragonflies sail,
then nature waves her magic wand.

It’s autumn at the forest pond
and honking geese fly overhead,
beneath the pond, critters make their bed,
soon trees are bare and all seems dead,
then nature waves her magic wand.

It’s winter at the forest pond.
Noisy geese have taken flight,
white ice has water tucked in tight,
but days grow longer, there is more light
as nature waves her magic wand.

Draft, © 2022, by Catherine Flynn

Please be sure to visit my fellow Inklings to read their responses to Heidi’s prompt.

Heidi @ My Juicy Little Universe
Linda @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret @ Reflections on the Teche
Mary Lee @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly @ Nix the Comfort Zone

Then head over to Carol Varsalona’s blog for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: The Cycle Continues

The days are beginning to lengthen, but the gloom of this Covid Christmas is hard to ignore. As always, I turn to favorite authors and nature to escape. This week, on her re-christened website, The Marginalia, (formerly Brainpickings) Maria Papova shared excerpts and insights from Antonio Damasio’s book, Feeling and Knowing: Making Minds Conscious. Papova’s essay delves into Damasio’s fascinating theories about the interplay between consciousness and feelings. I was struck by this quote:

What is more impressive than the entire universe is life, as matter and process,
life as inspirer of thinking and creation.
Antonio Damasio

I decided that the last few words made a good strike line for a Golden Shovel to ring in the new year.

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2021

I wish you all peace, health, and joy and many opportunities to celebrate the vibrant hum of creation in the coming year. Please be sure to visit Carol at Carol’s Corner for the final Poetry Friday Roundup of 2021.

Poetry Friday: Trying a Tricube

It’s the first Friday of the month, so it’s time for another Inkling challenge. This month, Molly challenged us to “Pick a poetry form you’ve been wanting to try and haven’t, and dive in!  Here are a few that I’ve been wanting to play around with:: Clogyrnach and Rondelet (thanks and thanks, Alan!), and Tricube (thanks, Matt!), and Magic 9 , Feel free to choose any form you’d like., or more than one.. No pressure. Just play!”

I decided to play with a Tricube. This form sounds straightforward: three stanzas with three lines, each line with three syllables. As Matt mentioned in his original post, though, the trick is getting “what you’re trying to say in that tiny space!”

After many false starts and playing with many different ideas, this is what I came up with.

How to Write a Poem

Gather thoughts.
Collect words.
Write them down.

Count, count, count.
Read aloud.

Read again.
Share your heart.

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2021

Please visit my fellow Inklings to find out what forms they decided to play with:

Linda@A Word Edgewise
Heidi @my juicy little universe
Margaret@Reflections on the Teche
Mary Lee @ A(nother) Year of Reading

Then head over to Michelle Kogan’s blog for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Poetry Friday: Your Kitchen

“What exists, exists so that it can be lost and become precious.”
~ Lisel Muller ~

Earlier this week, I found myself standing in the kitchen of my grandmother’s house. I grew up next door to her and spent countless hours with her there. When my grandmother died, her house was sold and the new owners renovated the house. What now stands on that corner is almost unrecognizable, both inside and out. It was a bit surreal to be in a place that was once so familiar but is now utterly foreign. Right after this experience, I came across the above quote on The Marginalia (formerly Brain Pickings) and this Golden Shovel basically wrote itself.

My grandmother’s house, pre-renovation

Please be sure to visit Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Percentages

This month, Linda challenged the Inklings to write “write a poem that includes the idea of percentage./percent. Percentages are all around us in recipes, prices, assessments, statistics. Include the idea of percentage in your poem.. In some way.”

During the approximately 1% of my life that I could actually sit down and write last month, I had an idea about writing a series of pi poems–poems using the sequence of pi (3.14159…) for either the word count or syllable count per line. This idea was a bit misguided, as I thought pi was a percentage. In fact, as Mary Lee reminded me, it is a ratio. Math was never my strongest subject.

Linda also inspired me with her brilliant idea to write to the #inktober prompts using images she found on Wikiart. There were several similar prompts on Instagram last month, including #theydrawtober and #birdtober, where “Goose” was the bird listed one day. Search results on Wikiart didn’t appeal to me, so I checked Google Arts & Culture, where I found this stunning quilt:

 Wild Goose Chase Quilt
Creator: Susan Reed Ruddick
Date Created: 1851
Repository: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/13912)

I come from a long line of quilters. Once upon a time, I had grand ambitions of creating my own quilts. Now I write poems instead. (The similarities between the two arts are not lost on me; maybe I’ll write about that one day.) Here is the poem that emerged from this jumble of thoughts.

Fat quarters nestle,
in a dresser drawer
to be released, snipped, stitched,
flocked, then sent off on a wild goose chase.

Draft, © 2021, Catherine Flynn

I promise it won’t be a wild goose chase if you visit my fellow Inklings to read their percentage poems:

Linda@A Word Edgewise
Heidi @my juicy little universe
Molly@Nix the Comfort Zone
Margaret@Reflections on the Teche
Mary Lee @ A(nother) Year of Reading

Mary Lee is also hosting this week, so you’ll find all sorts of poetry goodness there.

Poetry Friday: Love Poems to Trees

To every year the trees grew without us noticing.
Hannah Marshall

In the introduction to  The Best American Poetry 2021, Tracy K. Smith states that “the best poems of 2020 reached me as offerings of desperately needed hope and endurance.” She goes on to say that “the best poetry to emerge during a bitter year sprang from whatever else was indispensable to sustenance, peace of mind, justice, and healing at the time.”

Indispensable to sustenance.

That we are still in search of “desperately needed hope and endurance” is enough to drive one to despair. And yet.

One of the poems included in this year’s collection is “This Is a Love Poem to Trees,” by Hannah Marshall. I couldn’t find Marshall’s poem online, but I encourage you to seek it out. Trees have sustained me in countless ways, not just over the past twenty months, but throughout my entire life. Here are two haiku, love songs to two of my favorite trees.

late afternoon light
leaves dappled amber and gold
sips of sustenance

crowned in green cumulus puffs,
maple bears witness
the world barrels past

Maple in my childhood neighbor’s yard, as seen from the end of our driveway.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2021

Please be sure to visit Irene Latham at Live Your Poem for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is Here!

Welcome to the Poetry Friday Roundup! (Find our more about Poetry Friday in this post by Renée LaTulippe here.) I’m happy to welcome you all on this first day of one of the loveliest months. As Anne declares, in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” It’s also time for another Inkling challenge. This month Mary Lee challenged the Inklings to

Explain a poetry term (simile, metaphor, allegory, allusion, etc) in a poem that makes use of that term. OR tell how to write a poetry form (ode, elegy, sonnet, limerick, etc) in that form.

As usual, I wrestled with choosing a topic/form for most of the month. Finally, I decided to write an abecedarian, a poem in which the first line begins with the letter A and the following lines begin with each successive letter of the alphabet. Although it can be tricky to get everything to make sense, these these poems are fun to write. Also as usual, my poem doesn’t follow Mary Lee’s instructions exactly, but I enjoyed the process. Because it’s a most magical month, and poetry is its own kind of magic, I tried to include as many magical words as I could without things feeling forced.

Poetry Primer–An Abecedarian

Assemble ingredients: feelings, ideas, words. Let them
Bubble and steep in the
Cauldron of your mind. Cultivate curiosity.      
Delve deeply into subjects. Keep your
Eyes open for easily overlooked 
Features, subtle details,  
Gifts from the world for you to discover. 
Hear the heartbeat of your poem.
Infuse each line with rhythm,
Jazzy words, quiet words,
Kernels of hard-won wisdom.
Magic happens when we grow quiet.
Nature’s secrets whisper,
Open before us, like light 
Passing through a prism, 
Sing a celebratory incantation that
Transports us,
Uncovers, through
Verses luminous with 
Wonder and memory, a place where we
Yūgen, that elegant mystery, that elusive
Zone we’re constantly seeking.

Draft © 2021, Catherine Flynn

Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

Please be sure to visit my fellow Inklings to read their responses to Mary Lee’s challenge. Then leave your link and enjoy a bounty of poetry!

Heidi @ My Juicy Little Universe
Linda @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret @ Reflections on the Teche
Mary Lee @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly @ Nix the Comfort Zone

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Poetry Friday: Commonplace Marvels

Several years ago, a group of Poetry Friday friends began writing a haiku a day as a distraction from the chaos swirling around us. Maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t know then just how chaotic the world would become. I’m still seeking solace in small wonders, what Natalie Babbitt, in The Search for Delicious, described as “those commonplace marvels which [the world] spreads so carelessly before us every day.” Here are two haiku celebrating some marvels I noticed this week.

notes of moonsong stream
crickets hum in harmony
lost summer’s lament

bountiful harvest
a pair of sky blue eggs
gleaming suns inside

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2021

It’s hard to tell from this photo what a lovely shade of blue these eggs were.

Please be sure to visit Laura Purdie Salas for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: A Skinny

One day a few weeks ago, this fine specimen was hanging out on my car. He was quite content and spent most of the morning resting from his night of feasting. I felt guilty about moving him to a nearby bush when I had to go to the grocery store! I was inspired by this master of disguise, so I did a little research. I always called this a stick bug, but here in Connecticut, its proper name is northern walkingstick. What better form to use for a poem about this skinny bug than a skinny? This form was invented by Truth Thomas in 2005 at the Tony Medina Poetry Workshop at Howard University.


Twig-like bug:
twig-like bug.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2021

Please be sure to visit Denise Krebs, hosting all the way from Bahrain, for the Poetry Friday Roundup.