Poetry Friday: So Much Depends…

Last week, inspired by Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s National Poetry Month project, I wrote a gogyohka in response to a photo of my mother and her twin sister. Like Tricia, I have found family archives to be rich source material for poems. One of the treasures I have is a diary of my grandmother’s from 1936. Times were tough for my grandparents throughout the Depression and many of her entries detail the small ways they scraped by. January of that year was bitterly cold, and Grandma was knitting a scarf for my uncle, but she ran out of yarn. She sounds so relieved when she finally “got to town” to get more yarn that the first line of William Carlos Williams’ famous poem popped into my head instantly.

So much depends
upon

a skein of red
wool

soft as a
petal

spun into a
scarf

by two nimble
hands.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please be sure to visit Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: National Poetry Month Isn’t Over

It’s time for the monthly Inkling challenge. This month, Linda challenged the Inklings to “Honor someone’s April Poetry project in some way with a poem in the spirit of their project, a response poem or any way that suits you.” 

I knew immediately that I wanted to base my response on Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s (aka Miss Rumphius) project of “sharing original poems written in a variety of Japanese poetic forms (haiku, tanka, dodoitsu, etc.) to primary sources. I’m using photos, letters, newspaper articles, and more to inspire my writing.” Tricia shared many treasures from her family archives and her poems always captured funny or poignant insights into her source materials.

Like Tricia’s family, my family (specifically my maternal grandmother) saved everything and I have many photos and letters. I also have my grandmother’s diary from 1936, which is the only one we know of. Mostly, she recorded the weather, her daily household chores, and what she baked. There are also a few headlines from the wider world: The last line for Monday, January 20th reads “King George V of England died. Edward VIII becomes king.” She stopped writing on Saturday, August 22th with this short entry: “Rained on Sat. Went to town in A.M. Did shopping. Bought a pot roast. Not much new. They will finish the forty acre lot in one more day.” (I’m sure this refers to haying on my great-grandfather’s farm.)

I suspect she stopped writing because of this entry a few days earlier: “Feel certain that we will have a baby by spring.”

That baby turned out to be my mother and her twin sister.

Here they are, about 3 or 4, ready to attend a cousin’s wedding.

My mother is on the left
Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

There are troves of poems waiting in that diary, but how could I resist writing about this photo? I chose a most forgiving form, the Gogyohka. This is a five line verse without a specific syllable count. As Tricia explained in her post, it was “invented in the 1960s, the idea was to ‘take the traditional form of Tanka poetry (which is written in five lines) and liberate its structure, creating a freer form of verse.’ You can learn more about this form at Writer’s Digest Gogyohka: Poetic Form.”

Please be sure to visit my fellow Inklings to see which NPM project they honored:

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

Then head over to Jama’s Alphabet Soup, where Jama is serving up the Roundup.

Poetry Friday & NPM: Skyglow

This month I have been writing poems in response to the ideas, connections and echoes between All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson and Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. I’ve focused more on Rooted and the fundamental beliefs, or tenets, that are at the heart of rootedness. Like countless poets and scientists before her, Haupt knows that “poetry and science intermingle.” They “bring depth and knowing to one another–all mingle as co-expressions of a wild earth.” (p.24)

Poets and scientists have been inspired by the mysteries of the universe since the dawn of time. All living creatures are guided by the natural cycle of light and dark created by earth’s rotation and orbit around the sun. But we are disrupting these rhythms by leaving the lights on. Mounting evidence makes clear that this disruption is harmful both physically and mentally to humans, plants, and animals. The International Dark Sky Association has declared this week “Dark Sky Week.” There are simple steps we can all do to eliminate much of the light pollution that threatens us. Let’s start by turning off the lights.

Skyglow

Once guided by the stars above
we’ve lost our celestial map,
its compass rose
erased by bright skyglow.

Warblers, winging northward,
confused by all this light,
are steered off course,
crash into glass and steel
instead of settling into soft nests.

Creatures of the night exposed:
No shadows to hide in
or darkness alerting frogs
and toads its time
to serenade their sweethearts.

One more balance we’ve disrupted.
Another threat to harm us all.
How will we find our way forward
if we look up and see nothing,
nothing at all?

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Photo by Adrian Pelletier on Unsplash

Previous NPM Posts:

Day 10: The Cosmos
Day 9: The Fox
Day 8: A Haiku
Day 7: Ode to an April Morning
Day 6: Wander
Day 5: For the Good of the Earth
Day 4: Enchantment and Wonder
Day 3: Reciprocity
Day 2: Kith and Kin
Day 1: The Thing Is

Please be sure to visit Jone Rush MacCulloch’s blog for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

National Poetry Month: An Ode to April

I know it’s Saturday afternoon, but here’s my Poetry Friday post. This month I had every intention of writing a poem a day in response to the ideas, connections and echoes between All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson and Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. That hasn’t happened, but I still have a week!

In Rooted, Haupt includes creativity as one of the tenets of rootedness. She writes that “the joining of our own unique arts to those of the collective whole is the deepest — perhaps the only — hope for the continuation of a wild earth.” (p. 28) So on this day after Earth Day, here is my contribution to the collective whole.

Ode to an April Morning

This April morning
the world vibrates with life.

Day-old goslings, 
swaddled 
in gray and yellow down
scramble onto the edge
of the pond,
follow mama and papa
to a patch of fresh grass,
nibble their first meal.

Painted turtles 
bask
in the warmth
of the sun,
heads raised in
celebration.

A pair of cardinals
dart in and out
of a holly bush,
scouting out
the perfect spot
to build their
nest.

And in the field, 
violets shimmer
with possibility.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please be sure to visit Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for the Poetry Friday Roundup and to catch up with this year’s Progressive Poem.

National Poetry Month: For the Good of the Earth

My National Poetry Month Project has gone off the rails. Instead of writing poetry this week I’ve been changing the diapers of my 3-week old grandson, reading and singing to him and his 2-year old sister, and helping their parents transition to life with 2 kids. 

Early in April, I read an article in The New York Times about microplastics hitching a ride on marine snow to the bottom of the ocean. Scientists fear that this will disrupt the food webs throughout the world’s oceans. This has gnawed at me ever since, but I couldn’t figure out how to write a poem about it. Then I found this quote by Wendell Berry. The last line felt like a perfect strike line for a Golden Shovel: 

Here’s my very drafty draft:

How can we pretend to know
with certainty the
ripple effects of our inventions on the world?
Tons of plastic, that miracle convenience*, floats and
swirls through our oceans. Now we learn
that this “indestructible” scourge breaks down, that microplastics have infiltrated what
were once thought pristine, unreachable depths. Is
no place safe from the blizzard of debris we’ve unleashed on the Earth? What good
is all our technology if we can’t protect our only home for
our grandchildren, for all of nature? They deserve it.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

* See this article to find out how plastic was marketed to our parents in the 1960s. There are many, many articles online about ways to reduce our plastic use. Here’s one with an extensive list of ideas.

Please be sure to visit Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme for a terrific interview with Leslie Bulion and the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Previous NPM Posts:

Day 4: Enchantment and Wonder
Day 3: Reciprocity
Day 2: Kith and Kin
Day 1: The Thing Is

Poetry Friday: Welcome, National Poetry Month!

What a happy coincidence that National Poetry Month begins on a Friday this year! And, because the Inkling challenge is the first Friday of each month, today is a trifecta of poetry goodness. This month, Mary Lee challenged us to “Use “The Thing Is” by Ellen Bass as a mentor text. Keep the title, but choose a theme/message either from your own life or from current events.” Bass’s poem is full of the pain and contradictions of life, asks questions, and reaches a resolution.

Today is also the first day of my month-long poetry project. For the past two years, I’ve explored the natural world through poetry. Two years ago, my poems were about News from the Natural World. Last year’s project was inspired by Kathryn Aalto’s Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World. That journey was such an incredible learning experience that I wanted to do something similar this year. My friend and fellow Inkling, Heidi Mordhorst (who is also hosting today’s Roundup), suggested reading All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson. But I also recently discovered Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. At the risk of being indecisive, I’m not going to commit to one book or the other. Rather, I envision this month’s writing to be a response to the connections between these two books. Who knows where that will lead?

So, using “The Thing Is” as a starting point, this month’s journey begins with a walk in the woods.

The thing is

I have so many
questions,
so many 
things I. Don’t. Understand.

But I know
a walk
in the woods
on a cold day
in late March, 
will hold surprises.

Maybe sharp-lobed hepatica 
are erupting from leaf litter,
scattered beside the trail, 
their pale pink petals
streaked like the morning sky,
each flower with a 
a dazzling supernova
of stamens at the center.

Or a lone antler
rests at the base
of a scarred oak,
or a jumble
of hawk feathers
lay in a heap
by a fallen log.

As I study 
the remains 
of this fierce predator,
my need for answers
becomes urgent.

I realize, though, I don’t know 
who to ask.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please visit my fellow Inklings to read their responses to Mary Lee’s challenge, and the Poetry Friday Round up at Heidi’s blog.

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

Poetry Friday: Chasing Rainbows

One of my favorite collections to share with children is Elaine Magliaro‘s Things To Do (Chronicle Books, 2017). Magliaro imagines all sorts of animals, familiar elements of nature (sun, rain, sky), and everyday objects like erasers and scissors. Writing a “things to do” poem is a great way to get children looking at familiar sights in new ways. This can also stretch their vocabulary, as they strive to find that just right word to describe an image.

I was recently inspired to write a few “things to do” poems myself. This is one of my favorites (although the last line still needs work.)

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please be sure to visit Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: A Riot of Robins

We’re on the cusp of spring, but winter has been reluctant to loosen its grip. In typical New England fashion, the weather has been vacillating between blustery snow and teasing breezes. Last week I was able to sneak in a late afternoon walk. I wasn’t the only one out enjoying the sunshine.

A Riot of Robins

Grace is a leafless maple
ablaze with glowing
amber lanterns:
a riot of robins
welcoming spring.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Photo by Trac Vu via Unsplash

Please be sure to visit Ruth at There Is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Rabbit Holes & Eggs

A few weeks ago I wrote about finding a short article by Jane Yolen about her correspondence with Nancy Willard. That led me to seek out more of Willard’s poetry, which led me to A Nancy Willard Reader, which led me to this magical poem by Linda Pastan.

The Egg

In this kingdom
the sun never sets;
under the pale oval
of the sky
there seems no way in
or out,
and though there is a sea here
there is no tide.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Photo by Hanna Balan via Unsplash

The Poetry Friday Roundup is happening at Poetry For Children. Please visit Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong as they lay out a veritable smorgasbord of poetry to help celebrate their latest anthology, Things We Eat.

Poetry Friday: March Inkling Challenge

It’s time for another Inkling challenge. This month, Margaret challenged us to “Choose a quote that speaks to you. Write a poem that responds to the quote. The words can be used as a golden shovel or throughout the poem or as an epigraph.”

Where to begin? I have been collecting quotes for over forty years. They are jotted on legal pads, scribbled in notebooks, carefully copied onto pretty paper. Finally, I opened to a random page in my current notebook. This is what I found:

“In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous.”
Aristotle

That narrows it right down, doesn’t it? Coincidentally, sitting on my desk is a layer from a wasp nest that fell from a tree during a recent storm.

Amazing, right?

Those perfect little hexagons got me thinking…

How did the humble honeybee
learn Euclidean geometry?

Without blueprints, with nothing drawn,
they build a home of hexagons.

Mixing pollen, resin, oil,
day after day, worker bees toil.

Using their bodies, they mark and measure
every cell to house their treasure,

Liquid treasure, golden and sweet.
Treasure they share, a delectable treat!

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please buzz on over to visit my fellow Inklings to see how they responded to Margaret’s challenge:

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

Then stop by Kat Apel’s blog, Kat Whiskers, for the Poetry Friday Roundup.