May 22, 2014 - How-To    2 Comments

Do Not Live in a Small World

Dad and me at Dallas Arboretum in April

Dad and me at Dallas Arboretum in April

While I’ve been away from my blog, I have not stopped writing. Instead of typing onto a computer screen, I found the need to pick up a pen and write on paper for awhile. How simple! How quaint! How freakin’ refreshing that is after working with computers and programs that refuse to acknowledge poetry as a form. Here on WordPress, for instance, one must put the poem in as an “address.”

When the poet picks up a pen, however, s/he can write on darn near anything–a desk top, a body part, a napkin at the coffee shop. I hate to be one of those people who long for the good old days, but I do. I love longhand and doodles and poems that transfer easily to print. But enough whining about all that. This post is about getting the job done, however you have to do it. It’s about the writer/artist who is willing to challenge themselves to work even when there is no particular deadline to meet.

Recently I took on April, National Poetry Month’s, 30 in 30 challenge. There are a lot of poets who either accept or attempt to meet this challenge every year. The poet writes one poem a day for 30 days. That’s it. Sound easy? It’s not. Yes, you can do haiku, but I save haiku for the most stressful days, when I know I can’t squeeze in a longer poem. Besides, haiku done well is just as hard, if not harder for the wordy poet, than a sonnet. I think I only wrote 2 in thirty days, and only one was worth reading.

What can you possibly gain from writing all those poems and putting yourself under that kind of pressure?  All I can tell you is that I learned so much from this one exercise that even under the duress of remodeling a kitchen, VA appointments, a trip to Dallas for my mother’s birthday, and having turned 60 myself a week before the challenge began that every line was worth the effort. I found I can be creative and observant under serious pressure, on days when I feel bad, or when I am out of town or hanging around an airport waiting for the next flight.

I found that there is no lack of material in our everyday lives. We could write a poem or an essay every day if we wanted. A good poem or essay or song or short, short story. In fact, the building blocks of our lives are words, lines, phrases. If we expand them just a little, keep an eye out for the connections, we’ll find imagery, metaphor, and rhythm at our fingertips. It’s all there waiting to be tapped.

I discovered that writing poetry is good for the heart and soul. I knew this, of course, but not in the same way I know it now. As long as I wrote a poem (and some were more like prose poems and rants), I knew I could count on a good night’s sleep. That is a weird side effect I know, but it was true. And for this particular challenge, I had to post each one on face book. Forget the copyright issues. I know who wrote that poem. And it just seemed more important this April to get a few people reading poetry, even if on some days it was not-so-good poetry, than it was to wonder who owned the work. Essentially, I do what I want. I certainly won’t be the first writer thrown in jail for poems they published!

I encourage you to set a deadline for yourself now and then. In can be the 30 in 30, a class, or a self-imposed date by which you will accomplish ___________, fill in the blank. Then tell someone. Make sure somebody holds you to your word. Or tell your friends you will send a copy on such and such a day of the week or month. Get a partner to go along with you. This helped a lot, as other friends on facebook took on the 30 in 30 challenge, too. We read each other’s work, made comments, encouraged one  another to continue. We waited to see what the next subject would be. What style would they use? What form, if any? Would it inspire a poem in us? Yes, a cheerleading squad is extremely helpful.

The following poem was written in April during the challenge. I was sitting with my dad in his church in Dallas, without mom who was not feeling well. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat waiting for the sermon to start, staring at the stained glass exactly as I had as a child. Since this was April 27, I’d been practicing a poem a day for 26 days. They were coming to me more easily and not always in the most convenient places. I felt the urge while studying the bulletin, grabbed the pencil off the visitor’s sign-in sheet and scrawled away. My dad leaned over and whispered, “Are you writing a poem?” I nodded and kept writing. I couldn’t tell whether he approved, but he seemed to think it was my business and let me go about it.

I chose this one to put here on my blog because it seemed typical of how I learned to appreciate my day to day life by writing a poem about it. It is not usual to find me in a Presbyterian Church with my dad, it’s true, but it is what was happening that day. And despite my discomfort with the experience, I found the diamond in the rough all the same. It shines for me. May your days shine for you, too. It helps if you take note of them with your art, no matter what form it takes. To read more of my 30 in 30 poems, simply go to my face book page and click on notes. Most of them are there. A few were swallowed up by the ethernet. But not the ones scrawled on paper.

Do Not Live in a Small World

 
“Do not live in a smaller world than God has given you.”
                                             (quote used by Reverend Ben Dorr)
 
Silver organ pipes rise like prison bars above
blonde wood and brick, cathedral ceiling
braced by dark exposed beams.
An odd cross, shaped like a four-way stop
rises behind the pulpit where the preacher stands.
Dad doesn’t know what to do with his underdressed
daughter at his side instead of his stylish wife.
Swallowed up by Jonah’s whale I sit waiting
to be spit out, thrown back to the Sabbath I believe in;
trees, storm clouds, a fierce breeze.
 
Oh, Pagan believer that we are lucky,
not to be beholden to a Father, but fortunate
enough to be born on a planet that supports us.
The choir sings “Now the Green Blade Rises”
and I think they might be getting close.
The sermon, “Behind Locked Doors”
begs the question, “Why?”
Doubting Thomas, I believe you.
 
Oh H2O, O2, and CO2,
you are my sacred scripture,
the writing on the wall.
I praise your holy chemistry.
 
Amen
 

 

 

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2 Comments

  • What a great blog Mendy – I also learned a lot from the 30 in 30 exercise. I’ve done this before but it was more meaningful having someone else doing the same thing and encouraging me.

  • So good to read you again! I’ve missed reading your words of compassion and inspiration from your perspective. You are so gifted and such a gift at the same time. Breath of fresh air from Texas to North Carolina and a blog stop in NorthWest Arkansas right to my home. Breathe deep and carry on girl. Write on. MULU