Posts Tagged ‘nature’

h1

A Fine Fall Day

November 7, 2013
Walking this morning just before a rain storm set in.

Walking this morning just before a rain storm set in.

Took my sister’s dog, Sammy, for a walk this morning.  Fall is such a wonderful time of year.  Maybe it’s my age, who knows, but fall has become my favorite season of the year.  Spring is nice and full of new, summer is bold and hearty, winter is steady and rests the world, but fall shows us the beauty of change.  There is a lesson there for us all.

Here are two poems to fall I wrote a few years back:

 

Fallen Leaves

I

Walking the woodland on fallen leaves
my mind soon ambles free
Each step crisp with sound
each sound a whispering sprite
Though this is a trail well-worn
a newness still takes hold
New sprites lead to other paths
new paths that refresh my soul
Further I trod on fallen leaves –
come join my wondering mind
Then soon you’ll hear the murmuring song
then song can heal your soul

II

Walking the woodland on fallen leaves
we stir with natured hearts
Each step heals life’s hurt
each hurt released from our souls
Though our mind’s a trail well-warn
a newness still survives
New thoughts falling down like leaves
new leaves that whisper too
Further we trod to heal ourselves –
calling all to join our trek
Then soon ’twill be humanities time
then time will heal the world

Fall’s Great Reason

As the warmth of days begins to wane
and crispness fills the sky
We watch the forest full of leaves
change colors in reply

Excitement’s felt throughout the land
as change takes its hold
With wondrous shades of gold and red
Fall’s beauty does unfold

New fallen leaves blanket the ground
and crunch beneath our feet
We stop to hear the rustling of wind
on limbs it seeks to meet

And all beasts know at this time of year
that winter’s on the way
So now’s the time to collect things up
tucked for a colder day

A squirrel take nuts, a man does thoughts
to last the days and weeks
in the time when snow rules the skies,
oceans and distal peaks

So we think of how the world then turns
in changes so profound
Much like spring, summer, winter and fall
seasons in us are found

Spring gives life and summer the hope
to meet the world so well
We grow, we learn and then make our way
living our lives pell-mell

Fall gives color to days we live
adding to life’s great tome
Color for yarns and tales we tell
before winter calls us home

So enjoy each of fall’s precious days
though it was made of gold
It’s in the fall we understand life’s
a story to unfold

h1

Poetry Sunday: Short Poems

May 20, 2012

Poems come in all shapes and sizes and most certainly cover every imaginable topic.  There are the lengthy epic poems like Milton’s Paradise Lost, decreasing in size like Rumi’s quatrains, until we arrive at the short haiku masters like Bashō.

The long epic poems read like novels.  They have room for plots and changes in mood and character.  Length dictates shorter works to be more singularly focused.  In fact, singularity is what makes them work.  You might think a short poem takes but a moment to compose.  Sometimes they do, but more often short poems take as much, if not more, time to construct as poems with lengthier word heft.  There are styles, like the Shakespearian Sonnet, that dictate length, but many works of metered and free verse employ the brevity short poems.

I consider a short poem to be any that fits on a single page, and that means one column.  We all know there are people out there that can cram War and Peace onto a grain of rice, I mean reading poetry under normal conditions.  Others arbitrarily define short poems as having six quatrains of less, or twenty-four lines.  With my definition in mind, most poems are short poems.

For me, short poems are more about that singularity than a specific length limit.  A true master of the short poem is Emily Dickenson, one of my

Emily Dickinson Daguerreotype

two favorite poets by the way.  She used a delicate turn of phrase to draw the reader to a single thought.  Here is a nice poem of hers that illustrates the point:

Hope

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

This poem obviously focuses on hope but expands out to show the impact hope has as well as the effect the world has upon hope.  With only eighty-two words, Emily explains one of life’s trickier subjects to grasp.  Yes, there is much more to hope than any one poem can encompass, but this is a complete view of one way to see it.  It is powerful and has a depth that goes beyond its few lines.  At the same time is shows strength, it also shows frailty.  That juxtaposition is common in shorter poems.

Not all short poems use comparison directly.  Here is a poem of mine that uses both simile and metaphor to explain what I mean by beauty.  It is markedly different from Emily’s example, and I do not mean to suggest I am as fine a poet as she is by the comparison.  While she employs direct metaphors (“Hope” is a thing with feathers) to open her poem, I use the poem as a whole to compare beauty to grace.  What the poems have in common is to explain a single thought.

The Beauty of Every Woman

The beauty of every woman
is not about the look
and to think it so would be the same
as the drop to sum the brook

Her soul’s the place where beauty writes
each volume of her tome
Then soon the essence of every book
finds her heart and calls it home

From her heart-page each measure is read
to discover her gentle ways
providing to all life’s caring love
and guide us throughout our days

The beauty of every woman
is all about the soul
Her spirit being life’s precious scribe
etching upon our scrolls

You see, true beauty is a woman
no matter what her face
for beauty is seen by special eyes
put simply, ‘tis godly grace

 

Bashō Statue

As a quasi-rule, the shorter the poem, the more it counts on comparison as a device.  As the length shortens, each word takes on greater importance in conveying the poet’s message.  On the extreme end are the shorter Japanese styles we in the West lump into the term haiku.  Traditionally, not only are haiku short, they also need to have a subject dealing with a season of the year or nature in some way.  Modern haiku are less restrictive on that point.  What all properly formed haiku have in common is juxtaposition and a cutting work known as “kireji.”  It is not always easy to pick out the kireji in haiku translated from Japanese; it is true that something is lost.  The most famous haiku is Bashō’s Old Pond:

old pond . . .
a frog leaps in
water’s sound

To really get haiku, the reader must take each line separately.  Read them with a pause, for a thought, and then read the next line.  Look at it this way, if we read “old pond a frog leaps in water’s sound, it is sort of flat.  If we read it with pause and use “in” as the kireji, it takes on depth: “old pond… | a frog leaps in | in water’s sound.”  It causes us to consider the thought of each line as well as the overall thought of the poem.  Read properly, a few little words can be very powerful.

I have not written many haiku.  Here is one that came to mind while watching a military funeral at Beaufort National Cemetery, in Beaufort, SC:

Sacred Stones

volley chases air
gathered loved ones flinch and weep
a lone bugle cries

It would have to be considered “westernized” as I did not employ a kireji directly but I do tie the lines together with the juxtaposition of “weep” and “cries.”  Still, it holds a powerful thought.  If you have ever witnessed a military funeral with full honors, this haiku will stir your soul, if not, it will give you an idea of it.

In the end, short poems are like a punch to the gut, they knock the wind out of you.  Each line has to get right down to business and move the poem along.  Part of the appeal is the space this leaves for the reader to fill in the gaps with their own personal feeling and experiences.  Maybe that is the appeal of short poems in the first place.

I will end with a free verse example that speaks for itself and has no need for an explanation as to my meaning.  It truly illustrates the emotional power a short poem can have.

Heartbeats

If all you wanted was my heartbeat,
you only had to ask.
Each beat, each pulse of it
is there only for you.
There is no need for deception,
though easy a mark am I.
I believe all you tell me, each lie,
I do not question them.
I cannot – I will not!
For I am lost in the promise of what might be,
what never was.

Take them all…
I have no further use for heartbeats.

h1

Poetry Sunday: The Moon and Stars

May 6, 2012

Even poet has themes they return to often.  For me, it is nature, in generally and the ocean and skies specifically.  It is the latter I wish to discuss here, the heavens.  Since our ancestors first looked up in amazement as the little lights painted against the night’s black, out nightly view has captivated us.  Science has removed some of the mystical aspects from it but replaced it with questions even more profound, like whom we really are, and what is our role in our vast universe.

Of course, there are very famous poems regarding the night sky, one of the most famous by English poet Jane Taylor.  The Star first appeared the book Rhymes for the Nursery she co-authored with her sister Ann in 1806; I could only find the first US printing[i].  Now, at this point you might be saying to yourself I’ve never heard of a poem called “The Star,” and you would be wrong, you just know it by its informal name.   I will leave it for you to discover as you read.

The Star

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Then the traveler[sic] in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.

As your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the traveler[sic] in the dark.
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
How I wonder what you are.
How I wonder what you are.

The opening stanza is so ubiquitous we hardly give a thought to its authorship, which is sad, as it is one of the few nursery rhyme poems where the origin is not in dispute.  When we move beyond that first stanza, we see the poem has more to offer the reader than the simplicity of its opening.  Each stanza consists of two rhymed couplets, except for the last stanza that is constructed to end the song. Of course, we know it with its tune too.  That was taken from the French folk song  “Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman.” 

The rhymed couplets and evenly metered lines give the poem its whimsically singing quality as you read it.  The choice of meter is not serendipitous; the poet bases it on how they wish the poem to feel and pick the appropriate meter to achieve that feeling.

As for me, I tend to use a staggered meter when I write, either a 4/3 or a 5/4.  That is not to say I use them exclusively, just they are a natural choice for me.  In my poem Shooting Star, I use a 5/3 meter.  I like using staggered metering as it provides a natural pause known as a caesura.  See if you can pick it up:

Shooting Star

On a cold clear night with a million stars
I watched one streak the sky
A flickering sprite shooting straight past Mars
grew bold to catch my eye

For a moment of time this life burned bright
and held my solemn gaze
It was soon devoured with no trail in sight
and left me in a haze

Then this impatient star that streaked the night –
gave thought along my way
Some orbs shine still while yet others take flight
each, with its role to play

We live out our lives much like a star
moving throughout the day

Pulled by hidden forces both near and far
we’re changed along the way

Some will stay put and give a guiding light
for everyone to see
Others will shoot out far and blaze from sight
being burned by breaking free

So, here are two examples of poems dealing with stars.  The meter of one lends itself to a nursery rhyme and the meter of the other lends itself to give us pause to think.  The variations are almost limitless, and it all depends on the emotion or feeling the poet wishes to instill.  In this next poem, I picked a middle ground, not quite whimsical and not quite serious.  See if you can pick out the device used that makes the difference:

Venus and the Crescent Moon

A cool waxen peel of light,
kissed gently upon the sky,
A greenish nymph calls from night,
and waits for the moon’s reply.

Earthshine gives her ghostly glow,
to the crescent moon’s remains;
night permits the sprite to show,
a bright dot of cottoned grain.

Play the night the bodies do,
each chasing the Milky Way,
joy and hope they do imbue,
armor for our coming day.

Venus goes fast through the night,
while asking the moon to stay;
She knows their place in our sight,
and winks as she fades away.

Things in the sky have a life,
and great guidance to bestow,
a flash reprieve from our strife,
’tis a better path they show.

Watch the night on special eves,
and see this for yourself,
beyond the boughs full of leaves,
moon slice awaits impish elf.

I’m thankful that we have stars that seem unchanging.  It gives me a since of being connected to know the Jane may have been looking at the same stars as me, some 200 years later, as we both crafted our poems.  That is one of the most intriguing points about using the night sky as your inspiration, it is one of the few unchanging things we have.

 


[i] Taylor, Ann, and Jane Taylor. Rhymes for the Nursery. Utica [N.Y.: Printed and Sold by Camp, Merrell & Camp, 1815. Print.

%d bloggers like this: