Heart Stone Feathers

Word Nerd – Feather Finder – Heart Stone Hunter – Synchronicity Searcher Winging It While Lovingly Writing Through Life

Category: poetry

The “Flash Cards” Project

Apian

Flash Card for the word “apian”

One of the many inspiring things that happened while I was at Design Your Life Camp, was being introduced to the world of “Tandem Poetry” created by Maya Stein and Amy Tingle Williamson. All you had to do was give these two amazing poets one word of your own choosing and – in less than five minutes – they each created a poem for you on their manual typewriters and 3″ x 5″ index cards. It was both magical and mesmerizing to watch them in action; it was silent, other than the tap-tap-tapping as they wove their words.

Tandem Poetry Polaroid

Maya Stein (l) and Amy Tingle Williamson (r)

I’ve been home from camp for three weeks and I’m just now beginning to feel that I’ve rejoined the real world. There’s been so much good stuff to process that I’ve often felt overwhelmed. Joyously so.

Moved by Maya’s and Amy’s approach to creating great work with minimal time and small spaces, I’ve begun what I’ve dubbed the “Flash Cards” project. It’s a totally selfish project devised to prompt me to write at least SOMETHING every day. All I do is use a random word generator (I began with the letter “a”) to provide me with my word for the day; a word that I then try to tell a “flash fiction” story within a sentence or two. I jot down what I come up with onto the template of a library card that I scanned into my computer. (And for those who are curious…that’s NOT my handwriting. I use Picmonkey and the La Belle Aurore font.)

I’m only three days into this project, but I have to confess that I’m really enjoying it. I don’t pretend to have any grand illusions that it will lead me to some great new place in my life, but I’m open to following whatever path it does take me on.

Sometimes writing is just about writing. Having fun with the process, creating a practice you love, and starting all over again the next day. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. All I know is that it will involve at least one word that begins with the letter “d.”

Bliss

Flash Card for the word “bliss”

Choreography

Flash Card for the word “choreography”

If you’re interested in following this project, I’ll be posting my creations on my  Flash Cards Project Pinterest board.

A Sucky Poem for A Sweet Life

Shelby Miele Angel

A cancer-filled cyst
on the spine of a senior dog
grows exponentially evil during the night
and leaves an entire family paralyzed.

An appointment is made
to ease the pain
and to assist the transition.
An hour before one’s final breath is expected,
rupture brings relief for all
and another sunset is shared.

What started as a day
focused on investing
in things we want to suck well,
has turned into one we offer a prayer Heavenwards
for releasing the death grip
that was sucking the precious life from our home.

Angels appear
when we least expect them,
even when they litter our home
like dog hair tumbleweeds on baseboards.

Some days suck…
gloriously.

Baring (and Sharing) My Heart and Soul

Feathered Heart by Alice Rebecca Potter, Illustrator

Feathered Heart by Alice Rebecca Potter, Illustrator

Posted below is one of the last pieces I submitted in my recent writing class. The entire course had built up to this assignment – one that asked us to remember the written journeys we had taken and to “move from our heart back out into the world.” This is my interpretation of that “synchronous” adventure. As I discussed in my March 5th, 2013 blog post about the discomfort I often feel whenever I encounter poetry, I was extremely surprised at the format this piece was released from the end of my pen.
 

In Synchronous Orbit: Heart to Soul

 
Our mother’s oxygenated blood
is our first taste of this universe.
As her veined-lasso contracts and tears away,
our inaugural breath of freedom
infuses you with our own claret.
Vintage 1966.

Within an ossified and cartilaginous wing-shaped cage,
safely suspended in mid-air,
featherless,
you live under the shadow of our skin.

There is a liquid lushness
to our internal landscape.
One that quenches the thirst
of our membranous microcosm,
from the valley of our shoulder blades,
to the peninsulas of our limbs,
and the snow-covered peak of our true north.

A constricting coil of cyclic rebirth,
you are unable to soar across the threshold of darkness
into the light of life.

You are a blind, wingless co-pilot,
a molten core
to our solitary, drifting continent.

A celestial body
in synchronous orbit with our soul,
I am your desirous interpreter
as we journey into the world.

As we travel the cosmos,
you, the fountain of our youth,
once pure and unscarred,
become tender and tattered,
like a glacier breaking apart under the heat of the sun.
Even tenacious tissue grows road-weary
from trailing unheard messages
in the space between heaven and earth.

I am occasionally lulled into complacency
by the repetition of your words.
When the unfamiliar tempo of your language
suddenly becomes foreign to me,
your voice barely audible,
I realize the need
to lighten the load of our travels.

From the depths of your sinewy existence,
in empty notebooks filled with possibilities,
I revel in recording the details of our adventures,
giving a voice to words
that you cannot breathe life into.

You are a speechless co-author,
mixing the crimson hue of your indigenous ink
with the palette of colors
that flow from my feathered pen.

Like fleeting stardust,
I try to grasp and decipher
the Morse-coded messages
you tap out against the skeletal bars of your prison cell.

Is it fear that causes you to skip erratically
when our brain registers the outline
of a snake amongst the grass?
Do you flutter in longing
as the breeze of a hawk
passes through our parchment carapace?
Does jealousy fill your every chamber
at the mere thought of a migrant gypsy cloud
caressing the sky?
Or do you swell at the sheer vastness of it all?

Regardless of the radius of the galaxy
we find ourselves roaming,
you are forever the most precious element
lining the cave walls.
Walls that record leftover memories
from previous lives shared.

For now,
the other side remains a realm
that we cannot yet venture to.
While there are no guarantees
for how many years we have left
on our entwined exploration of this world,
I can promise you that we will always be together.

Until we embark on that final flight,
under the power of our own long-awaited wings,
we will continue to drink
from the sanguine wellspring of our shared spirit.

The Rookie Poet’s Review of Anis Mojgani’s “The Feather Room”

The Feather Room Book

There is no way for me to hide the fact that I am a rookie when it comes to reading, as well as to writing, poetry. To be honest, had it not been for Patti Digh’s online VerbTribe writing classes that I happily submerged myself in these past few months, I’m certain I wouldn’t even be able to claim the title of rookie.

It’s really not due to a lack of appreciation for poetry, nor a disinterest in it, that I’ve shied away from it for four-and-a-half decades. I simply find it intimidating. Especially when it comes to reading comprehension.

I unexpectedly came face-to-face with that fear on Day 2 of my first VerbTribe class. One of our assignments for the day was to read, as well as to rewrite in longhand, Mark Doty’s “Robert Harms Paints the Surface of Little Fresh Pond.” For those who are unfamiliar with the poem, it reads as follows.

Surface the action of the day,
a means of tracing the dynamic,
so that a jitter of blue’s
sparked by little coals,
sun a glimmer
of the day’s intent. He knows
to trace an alphabet written on water
is to surface the action of the day,
a way of proceeding,
entering into the never-
to-be repeated,
a way of reading
a nearly infinite variety of gestures
legible only to one versed
in surface, the action of the day.
When my eye nearly failed –
the frail foil-back torn,
wild profusion of smoke-curls,
what I saw was just this:
what he sees on and in water,
by his hand
the action of surface notated,
the rhythm of things
discerned and ridden.

As the final part of our assignment, we were asked to answer the question, “What stood out for you in this exercise?” My reply, which in hindsight now sounds pathetically whining, was at least candid.

“Being honest here…no matter how many times I read this, I kept hearing my own personal Negative Nelly whispering in my ear, “You SUCK at stuff like this!” This one truly had my head spinning, even AFTER I rewrote it in longhand. Some of the phrases just left me wondering what he was trying to convey. I was so desperate to figure it out that I Googled it. I found a video of a guy reading it…THAT didn’t help. Then I actually found Mark Doty’s blog that had a post about when he went to an art gallery show that featured work by Robert Harms. Then – and only then – did I “get it.” Or at least I then understood half of what he wrote. Instead of telling myself I can never be a decent writer unless I can understand ALL forms of writing, I’m just going to cut myself some slack and assume that there are others out there that don’t always “get” every word found in works like this. (…slinking off to the back of the class now, feeling somewhat inadequate…)”

Patti, in her infinite teaching wisdom (and concise writing style), simply replied, “I wonder what would happen if there were no right answer.” Well DAMN! What if? That was quite a foreign concept for a perfectionistic, control-freak Virgo such as myself, but there really was no way for me to argue with it. Touché! One writing (and reading) dragon slain on Day 2!

Just a few days later, I surprised myself by purchasing several “generic” and beginner’s level poetry books at a local library sale. My husband almost fainted when he saw them, as he knew I was venturing into a land I had long avoided. Feeling more comfortable after greedily ingesting verse after verse, I decided to go all out and try my hand at deciphering Anis Mojgani’s, The Feather Room.

The only reason I use the term decipher is that, even when Mojgani himself – an international award-winning poet, perhaps best known for his poetry slam presentations (you can view one of his readings below) – is asked to classify his genre of poetry with an original name, his reply is simply, “I wouldn’t want to define a specific genre for this. I just write poems.”

The summary for The Feather Room refers to it as being “storytelling in poetic form while traveling farther down the path of magic realism.” I’m torn between calling it a verse novel or a collection of nearly-narrative poems. Whatever it is, it truly is mind-expanding. Or at least it was for me.

The book is broken into three sections, based on the opening prose that describes three “off limit” rooms a young man ventures into. The first room features a yellow wooden door and a young girl sitting amongst a pile of bicycle parts; a room depicting where the man once was and the girl someone he loved. The second room has a red stone door and a crying elderly man who is trying to encourage a plethora of featherless, screeching birds to leave via an open window. This room symbolizes where the young man currently is, as well as sadness he is “holding on to something long gone and broke.” A blue glass door protects the final room – one simply overflowing with feathers and representative of where the man is going.

I would be lying if I said I understood and liked every single one of the sixty-nine poems in this book, the longest comprising nine pages and the shortest a mere eleven words. In fact, some of the titles even left me slightly confused. Such was definitely the case with “Call it magic call it fish eye call it fish lung call you magic pocket of science.” Kudos for such a creative title though!

Although I wasn’t able to follow every single step along the journey, the path kept beckoning me to continue onwards with luscious lines like those below. (Please forgive me if “luscious” is an inappropriate term to describe poetry – I tried to warn you that I was at the beginning of the learning curve.)

“…the geese…balancing the moon on their backs.”

“…ceiling fans worshipping my skin…”

“Everything has a ghost. The measuring cups my mama used.”

“…the telephone poles do not speak as loudly as they once did.”

“This is what the walls taste like. Cucumbers sliced and salted. Dill growing in the window. The smell of coffee. Lick the wall.”

“March is a long month…Sometimes it stretches through the following winters.”

Would I recommend this book to other rookie poets? I actually would. It’s not overloaded with unfamiliar words or difficult rhythms; it’s simply one that needs to be read slowly – savoring every word to understand its significance to the overall story. I guess that could be said for most poems though.

I personally will gladly be revisiting The Feather Room – perhaps quite often. I have a feeling I’ll discover something new each time. To me, that’s the truest definition of quality poetry. But who am I to say? I’m still just a rookie working on obtaining my junior appreciation status. For today, that’s good enough, especially considering how far I’ve come in just the last few months.

And now I’d love to know…who or what are some of your favorite poets or poems? This newbie would really appreciate any and all suggestions of where to venture next on this odyssey.

Addendum: For those who might be interested, Anis Mojgani’s next book, Songs From Under the River: Early and New Work, is due to be released on March 15, 2013. I foresee it gracing my shelves some day soon thereafter.

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