SOL 18: My Mother, My Mountain

My mother
is a shadowy mountain.
I scale her thick, furry limbs.
I ride along on the broad, flat ridge
of her back as we roam our rain forest home.
I snuggle into the cave of her arms,
safe, when we nest each night.
The mountain sustains me.
My mother.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Carving in charcoal, made in Uganda

This poem was inspired by the photo of a carved mountain gorilla mother and child shared by my partner-in-poetry and Slicing, Christie Wyman, for Laura Shovan’s Ekphrastic Poetry Project. For me, the facial expressions of these critically endangered animals brought this carving to life. It appealed to me immediately, and I had a general idea of what I wanted to write. What I needed was a form that suited my ideas.

             

There are many well known poetic forms that I could have tried, but I wanted something that would ring true to the African roots of this carving. I didn’t find anything suitable in a search through my poetry reference books, so I turned to Google. There I found an form called the “Eintou.”  Described as an “African American septet syllabic/word count form consisting of 2 words/syllables in the first line, 4 in the second, 6 the third, 8 the fourth, 6 the fifth, 4 the sixth, and 2 the seventh.” In addition, “Eintou” is from a West African dialect and means “pearl, as in pearls of wisdom.” The structure also reflects the African and African American philosophy that “life is a cycle. Everything returns to that from which it originates.”

An Eintou felt exactly right for this poem. Now my only problem was matching the word count. I drafted several versions that stuck to the structure explained online, but it just wasn’t working. In keeping with my efforts to develop my Habits of Mind,  I decided that by “creating, imagining, and innovating,” I could modify the structure and add a 10 word line in the middle and work back to two words from there. (This form has the added, unintentional bonus of being shaped like a mountain!) I think I maintained the spirit of the form. Also, I definitely stayed true to the purpose of Laura’s project, which “is to practice the habit of writing regularly,” the same purpose of the Slice of Life Challenge.

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and each Tuesday throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

12 thoughts on “SOL 18: My Mother, My Mountain

  1. So beautiful, Catherine. Your words mirror my trekking journey to find these stunning creatures — the shadowy mountain we scaled, the ridge in the rain forest “thick” with trees, brush, and vines where we first spotted them. Thank you for the journey back to this memorable day eight years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Growing up in the mountains of Montana, I first connected with your poem on a very literal level. The mountain truly was a sustaining force. Then I saw the carving and connected in a whole new way. I had the chance to trek in and see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda a few years ago. It was a profound experience and your poem does it total justice. I think you picked the perfect form.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh! I’m always learning something when I stop by your blog. Love your poem, especially how you crafted the first two lines and the last two lines to make the cycle complete in message as well as form. I’m thinking that Eintou might be a good form for students as the line structure is based on word count instead of syllable count.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing the form and research you did to find it. I should put this on my list of forms for my WIP. This poem speaks so well of the strength of the mother/child relationship. I love “cave of her arms” and “the mountain sustains me.”

    Liked by 1 person

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