Sunday, May 28, 2017

Poetry Pantry # 355

Deer and Bunny at the Farm

These sweethearts visit often at the family farm in Port Alberni, B.C. They love eating birdseed from the feeder, and often graze in the pasture with the horses. Occasionally a black bear and, more rarely, a cougar, strolls through, as well, but we haven't managed to capture their visits in photos, being too busy encouraging them away from the horses.

Here is someone else who likes bird seed-
Beau, the Grand Old Girl, in her fly mask.
She is now 33 years old, feisty and hilarious.

We are looking forward to a good week this week, my friends, and to Mary's return from her time away next Sunday.  If you didn't catch Rosemary's feature on Friday, do scroll back. She featured a wonderfully relevant poem written by Adrian Mitchell, the English poet. It is not to be missed!

Tomorrow we are featuring Beverly Crawford, and you won't want to miss  it. Beverly had an amazing childhood, attending one of the old one-room schoolhouses, where she says the teacher "taught life." You'll love getting to know her better. On Wednesday, Susan's prompt is: Tobacco. That is a thought-provoking topic, and I'm sure there will be some interesting responses. On Friday, Rosemary will have another  interesting feature for us. How the weeks sail by!

Link your poem, my friends, and do visit your fellow poets in the spirit of community. Enjoy!

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Living Dead

~ Honouring our poetic ancestors ~


Outside the plasma supermarket
I stretch out my arm to the shoppers and say
“Can I give you one of these?”
I give each of them a leaf from a tree.
The first shopper thanks me.
The second puts the leaf in his mack pocket where his wife won’t see.
The third says she is not interested in leaves. She looks like a mutilated willow.
The fourth says “Is it art?” I say that it is a leaf.
The fifth looks through his leaf and smiles at the light beyond.
The sixth hurls down his leaf and stamps it till dark purple mud oozes through.
The seventh says she will press it in her album.
The eighth complains that it is an oak leaf and says he would be on my side if I were also handing out birch leaves, apple leaves, privet leaves and larch leaves. I say that it is a leaf.
The ninth takes the leaf carefully and then, with a backhand fling, gives it its freedom.
It glides, following surprise curving alleys through the air.
It lands. I pick it up.
The tenth reads both sides of the leaf twice and then says: “Yes, but it doesn’t say who we should kill.”
But you took your leaf like a kiss.
The tell me that on Saturdays
You can be seen in your own city centre
Giving away forests, orchards, jungles.

– Adrian Mitchell (1932-2008)

"Adrian Mitchell."
The Famous People website.
(accessed May 25 2017) 

Adrian Mitchell, English poet, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, journalist and children's writer, was one of England's foremost performance poets who sometimes had audiences of thousands. 

He was known particularly as an anti-bomb poet. An activist and revolutionary in the context of being a committed pacifist, he was considered the voice of the Left and often used satire – but he also sought to uplift people's spirits with his poetry. This one, I think, does both. The satire is there in the people's different reactions to being given a leaf. And overall, particularly in its closing lines, the poem makes me feel lifted up, inspired, happier.

If ever there was a time for an anti-bomb poet, this is it, after the explosion in Manchester. But this poem makes the point obliquely by focusing on Life. How hard it is, it seems to say, for us to recognise and appreciate the gift of life. That lack must surely be one of the things that leads to terrorist attacks. 

What can we helpless citizens do in the face of such horrors? Little, perhaps, in the way of direct action. But we can reaffirm our commitment to life, love and humanity, as the people of Manchester are now doing.  We can raise our voices, poetic or otherwise, in support of this commitment. And we can encourage ourselves by reading poems which have tenderness as well as strength. 

You can find out details of his life and work at Wikipedia, where I found this lovely tribute:

"Adrian", said fellow-poet Michael Rosen, "was a socialist and a pacifist who believed, like William Blake, that everything human was holy. That's to say he celebrated a love of life with the same fervour that he attacked those who crushed life. He did this through his poetry, his plays, his song lyrics and his own performances. Through this huge body of work, he was able to raise the spirits of his audiences, in turn exciting, inspiring, saddening and enthusing them.... He has sung, chanted, whispered and shouted his poems in every kind of place imaginable, urging us to love our lives, love our minds and bodies and to fight against tyrannyoppression and exploitation."

His obituary in The Guardian, by Michael Kustow, said:

The poet and playwright Adrian Mitchell, in whom the legacies of Blake and Brecht coalesce with the zip of Little Richard and the swing of Chuck Berry, has died of heart failure at the age of 76. In his many public performances in this country and around the world, he shifted English poetry from correctness and formality towards inclusiveness and political passion.

(Wikipedia also refers you to several other obituaries.)

An article at the Poetry Archive says:

Mitchell was committed to a form of poetry that welcomes as many people as possible - he was, perhaps, best known for saying that "Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people." Thus his work deals with recognisable subjects in clear, modern language, and can revel in strong rhythms, drawn as often from the blues and pop music as from the poetic canon.

His output was prolific. His several book pages at Amazon begin here. And you can listen to his own excellent recitals of some of his poems on YouTube.

Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, where applicable (older poems may be out of copyright).

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Flowers

Flower of Life II, 1925, 1918 by Georgia O'Keeffe

Flower of Life II, 1925, 1918 by Georgia O'Keeffe

"I decided that if I could paint
that flower in a huge scale, you
could not ignore its beauty. ”
- Georgia O'Keeffe

⚘ ⚘ ⚘

"The earth laughs in flowers.” 

“I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch 
a hundred flowers and not pick one.” 
― Edna St. Vincent Millay

“I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.” 

File:Maude Goodmann The daisy chain.jpg
The daisy chain by Maude Goodmann (1844-1936)

Midweek Motif ~ Flowers

Flowers hold memories 

and memories hold flowers.

Your Challenge: In a new poem, memorialize a significant encounter with a flower or flowers.

In a Burying Ground

by Sara Teasdale

This is the spot where I will lie
When life has had enough of me,
These are the grasses that will blow
Above me like a living sea.
These gay old lilies will not shrink
To draw their life from death of mine,
And I will give my body's fire
To make blue flowers on this vine.
"O Soul," I said, "have you no tears?
Was not the body dear to you?"
I heard my soul say carelessly,
"The myrtle flowers will grow more blue."

by Claude McKay
Far from this foreign Easter damp and chilly
My soul steals to a pear-shaped plot of ground,
Where gleamed the lilac-tinted Easter lily
Soft-scented in the air for yards around;

Alone, without a hint of guardian leaf!
Just like a fragile bell of silver rime,
It burst the tomb for freedom sweet and brief
In the young pregnant year at Eastertime;

And many thought it was a sacred sign,
And some called it the resurrection flower;
And I, a pagan, worshiped at its shrine,
Yielding my heart unto its perfumed power.

by Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open–
pools of lace,
white and pink–
and all day the black ants climb over them,
boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away
to their dark, underground cities–
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,
the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again–
beauty the brave, the exemplary,
blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

    (Please forgive me for posting all of "Peony" without permission.  I love it.)  

Every Flower - Noel Paul Stookey with John Payne on saxophone

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Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and 
visit others in the spirit of the community—

(Next week Susan’s Midweek Motif will be ~  Smoking Tobacco ~
as 5/31 is World No Tobacco Day.)

⚘ ⚘ ⚘

Monday, May 22, 2017


Today, my friends, we are catching up with Sherri Brannon, a Poets United member who has been away from the blogosphere for a time. When I saw her name pop up again on Mr. Linky, I hastened to ask her for an update and, happily, she said yes. Pull your chairs in close. Sherri, we are all ears!

Sherry: I was so happy to see you pop up online again, after some time away. Would you like to bring us up to date with what you've been up to? 

Sherri: The past year has been a bit crazy because I've been planning my daughter's wedding, TWICE. Her wedding was originally supposed to be last October 9th - a destination wedding in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. We were all a bit stunned when, 48 hours before the ceremony, Hurricane Matthew directly hit the island. The governor issued a mandatory evacuation of everyone and the entire wedding had to be was a horrible day. The island suffered significant damage. 

But, we have moved on and the new date is June 18th! So once again, I am in full wedding planning mode with my daughter for the second year in a row. At least they'll have a fun story to tell their future grandchildren! My creative time was minimal this past year because of all that was going on.

Sherry: It does sound like a whirl. What brought you back to poetry? 

Sherri: In addition to the wedding planning, my poetry writing had completely stopped until recently. And one very specific thing I did seemed to turn my writing switch back on - I stopped watching the news. It was having such a negative effect on my spirit that I think I felt numb. When I did all of these things, it felt so good to just sit in the silence and listen to music again. My stress level went down dramatically. And the poems started coming, almost immediately!

Sherry: I know how the news, especially recently, can shut everything down. I am so happy your Muse returned. I love your poem "Grounded" - what inspired it? 

Sherri: There's a lot of political turmoil in our country these days, to put it mildly. I've been so disheartened by how cruel and malicious people have become towards one another just because they share different political views. It was really wearing me down to see such nastiness and anger every day, especially on Facebook, from people of BOTH parties. As someone who intensely dislikes fighting and conflict, I had been doing what I always do: spending time in nature. Nature is always a beautiful escape. It was these thoughts that brought on my poem. 

Copyright Sherri Brannon


I seek out the water
and we breathe together
I look into the
honest eyes
of the dusk flowers
and we see each other
I love these moments
how my soul
takes time to notice
I have long resisted
that my sensitivity 
is my strength
we fools of the world
there are days 
I'd rather not
have my fragile heart 
be my super power
with my soft approach
my love of dead poets
my lofty thoughts of God
all tethered down 
by this ball and chain
of a brain

I seek comfort in nature
its wordless wonder
with no malice or sting
there are no greedy stars
with cynical hearts
I think about the sound
the moon must make
when it brushes
against the water
and I'm forever grateful
the herons don't mock
they have no sharp tongues
no sorrows that burn
no eyes filled
with fire and ego 
I watch them fly
daring me to follow
and I stand there
as they depart
for the sky
to their paradise,
their star-God life.

© Sherri Brannon 2017

The jewel is the awaring presence, not the object being seen. That’s why we can be bored and disappointed while gazing at the Swiss Alps and ecstatic and blissed out over a crumpled cigarette package in the gutter. The beauty is in the quality of the seeing, the awareness, the presence, not in the object being seen. ~Joan Tollifson 

Sherry: This is the most beautiful poem. I love that there are no cynical or greedy stars, and my heart swooped up with the herons, flying up to their "star-God life".

Tell us about your poem "Wild". 

Sherri: This poem came about while thinking about the fact that I have never been that wild, adventurous free-spirit sort of a person. I've always been very cautious and careful. However, I've always had a wild imagination and for that I'm really grateful! I took that observation and had fun making it a poem.

copyright Sherri Brannon


Most people carry the husks 
of their wild oats
in their pockets
and every once in awhile 
their hand reaches in
to scoop out an old piece of rebellion 
turned to sawdust
and it makes them smile

But I was that child 
whose only version of wild
was to raise my hand to read out loud in class
in my own quiet way of daring
and it turned into a lifelong thing
this cautious mind, with empty pockets
lost in an inner world
deep within the confines 
of my careful cage of a body

It's all okay, though, 
I'm coming back around
I was always afraid of my own shadow
but God was just making sure 
I was breaking it in
growing me into a better version 
of that bookworm child
teaching me to see 
beyond the hard edges
of my knowledge

And I have come to love 
my own way of the wild
the soul-side kind
curve of spirit, circle of dreams
soft epiphanies and wonders 
spiraling behind my eyes
which may have aging lines 
but now seek out the light in others
because the eyes 
can never tell lies

My wild oats are alive 
and they're with me even now
I shake them off my fingers
collecting them 
between the pages of my journal
soulful word husks 
pressed into the grain of the paper
where I can sit in my wild silence
and read them, and smile.

© Sherri Brannon 2017

Watch out for intellect,
because it knows so much it knows nothing
and leaves you hanging upside down,
mouthing knowledge as your heart
falls out of your mouth.
 ~Anne Sexton

Sherry: lovely. I especially love the seeking out the light in others.

In the past year, I know you have been very busy with your art, so your creative juices were still flowing. What excites you about it? 

Sherri: This past year I've become consumed with learning the Procreate app and doing all of my artwork with my iPad Pro. I love the idea of having "my studio" in a portable device that I can carry with me anywhere I want to. 

I also love that with the Procreate app I have no fear of mistakes because there is an Undo button. If i mess up, I can instantly undo however many strokes I want to! It's amazing, and the Apple Pencil is magic. As a self-taught artist learning to draw and paint, it has been such a gift to have this wonderful app.

Sherry: Your portraits are beautiful! Wow! I think portraits must be the hardest thing to paint.  You have a real  talent for it. It must be very fulfilling to produce works of art. 

Is there anything you'd like to say to Poets United? 

Sherri: Just that I'm very grateful that this group exists. It is such a welcoming place, and I truly enjoy sharing my poetry here. Thank you again for featuring me!

Sherry: Thank you for saying yes, Sherri. And I hope this time the weather is perfect for your daughter's wedding!

So there you have it, my friends, another poet making her journey. I hope you enjoyed this visit as much as I did. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Poetry Pantry # 354

This dear little fellow lives on a favourite branch right across from my small porch. I never tire of watching the hummers, darting back and forth to the feeders. They stick their noses in the nectar and just guzzle. So sweet.

We have a wonderful week shaping up, my friends. I hope you didn't miss Rosemary's Friday feature, where she wrote a thought-provoking essay about C.S. Lewis and the science fiction and fantasy genres. On Monday, you won't want to miss an update with Sherri Brannon, who is back online after some time away. She has been focusing on her art and will be sharing some beautiful poems, paintings and photos with us. On Wednesday, Susan's Midweek Motif prompt is Flowers. There should be some beautiful poems on that topic. And on Friday our intrepid Rosemary will have something interesting for us to enjoy, as always.

And now, for poetry! Link your poem, and do visit your fellow poets, in the spirit of community. Enjoy, and have a wonderful week.