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work

And so the work of writing a poem a day begins…

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Image: Pixabay

work

it starts with pen on paper
it’s scribbles and cross-outs and trying again
it’s squeezing eyes shut to focus
it’s herding cat-thoughts
into an orderly, logical line
it’s silence
no music, the door closed
no one dropping into my office to chat

it’s following arrows and numbers
to read through the mess
of what I’ve written to this point
to “hear” what’s next
it’s ideas finally snapping into place
it’s the moment I switch
from writing desk to computer
prop messy sheets on the stand
it’s beginning to type

it’s feeling this thing I’m making
—a sculpture with words—
under my fingers
it’s making keyboard adjustments
as surely as if I used a file on wood
it’s reading to check tautness of ideas
flow of words, it’s tinkering
adding a word here, taking one out there
with an eye on word count

it’s saving, printing
putting it in a folder to cool
it’s going downstairs
flicking on some frivolous TV show
and resting my brain
that is now exhausted and mellow

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Prompt or inspiration:

The poem above was inspired by this April 9, 2015 prompt at Poetic Asides:

For today’s prompt, write a work poem. For some folks, writing is work (great, huh?). For others, work is teaching, engineering, or delivering pizzas. Still others, dream of having work to help them pay the bills or go to all ages shows. Some don’t want work, don’t need work, and are glad to be free of the rat race. There are people who work out, work on problems, and well, I’ll let you work out how to handle your poem today.

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VintagePADThis April I’m celebrating National Poetry Month by posting some previously written but not-as-yet published poems out of storage. If the prompt inspires you to write a poem of your own, you’re welcome to type it into comments and share your take on the subject with us. Whether you write or not, thanks so much for dropping by!

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2017 in Personal, Writing

 

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Preserving

Tomorrow is April 1st. As I write that I feel a frisson of excitement. April is National Poetry Month (in Canada, the U.S. and perhaps other places too). This April, as I’ve done during the last several Aprils, I’m planning to drop other projects and works-in-progress and concentrate on poetry. Yes!!

Last year I wrote a poem a day and posted those freshly written puppies here on the blog.

This year I’m planning to do something a little different. I’ll still be posting a poem a day but from my pantry or cold room, so to speak. I have written many poems over the years that I’ve never published or posted anywhere. This April I’m going give some of them their first outing. I may publish a poetry book review or two and some how-to pieces as well.

If I know the poem’s inspiration or prompt, I’ll post that. If you decide to use that prompt to write a poem of your own, you’re most welcome to type your poem into comments so we can all enjoy your take on the subject.

(I’ll still be writing a poem a day. But I won’t be going public with them while they’re still warm from the oven, at least not most days…I’m a slow writer–need time to rethink, revise, work out the kinks, etc.).

Wishing you a wonderful month of preserving.

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Image: Pixabay

Preserving

Near multitude of washed Gem jars
next to the stove with boiling pot
of glass tops, zinc and rubber rings
she stacks the beans to chop-chop-chop.

Stainless steel bowls of new-shelled peas
wait still and mute for boiling bath
three-minute scald then colander scoop
into cold water filled with cubes.

Skins of tomatoes, peaches, beets
slip easily after scalding soak
hands soon stained red, sticky with juice
of roundness slippery as wet soap.

Sliced cucumbers sit overnight
in salty brine before they take
their Million Dollar Pickle bath
tart vinegar, mustard, turmeric.

In steamy kitchen open-mouthed
boxes wait scoop of beans or peas
jars merrily clink in canning pot
our cold room soon is rainbow-raised

with rich wine beets and red chow-chow
yellow peaches, pickles green
a freezer piled with boxes neat
of carrots, broccoli, peas and beans.

I too gather from my life’s plot
dehydrate, freeze, pickle and can
sustenance for my winter’s days
preserve with paper and with pen.

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

Prompt or inspiration:

I wrote this poem in response to Seamus Heaney’s poem “Digging” considered one of the top 100 poems of all time. It was linked on Adele Kenny’s blog The Music In It, her post of April 2015 poetry prompts.

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Poetry Friday LogoThis post is part of Poetry Friday, hosted today by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater at The Poem Farm. Two days ago her blog was 7 years old. On her blogaversary post, she shared her National Poetry Month inspirations for the last several years. I love the many ways and places that people find inspiration for writing!

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Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Poetry Friday, Writing

 

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Just an ordinary walk


In the last few weeks my walking partner, dear hubby, has been finding it more and more painful to walk. Then the doctor told him, no more long walks until you’re better. So for now I am walking on my own.

When I took solitary walks in the past I experienced a wonderful loosening of words and ideas. And it’s happening again, if I’m alert to it.

To help with that, I carry a little notebook and pen to write down words, turns of phrase, and images that I don’t want to forget. Or I hold them in my head. That’s what I did for the poem below. When I got home I free-wrote like crazy to capture everything in prose. Later I worked some of my ideas into …

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“I am a long skinny shadow now, walking down a golden street” (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Just an ordinary walk

On this cold morning I am soft wax
feeling intimidated by impatient cars
swishing, swooshing
swirling beside me.

One turns right in front
of my WALK light, almost clips my toes.
Even in moments of still, distant traffic hums
a far off siren screams.

City birds above me chirp, warble
sing their own bustle, swoop down (peck, peck),
flutter away. They are nonchalant, daring,
savvy to the rhythm of feet and tires (hop, hop).

My nose tests wind gusts, smells
gasoline, diesel, vanilla, a passerby’s peppery
perfume,  chocolate, cinnamon
(something good is baking at Safeway).

I am a long  skinny shadow now walking down a golden street
past a lady in a taupe coat with her silky dog in red
and a grey couple smoking on a bench.
They pull their Lhasa Apso close so I can pass.

I can’t find the book drop at the library.
The security guard points me to it’s green-light lips
“You scan it.” He shows me which bar-code
and the slot sucks the book from my hand.

As I turn toward home, the sun stares
into my eyes, brash. I shade them
with hands balled into gloves, fingers
squeezing warmth from palms.

A kid with a black-and-white backpack strides by
black arms bare under short black sleeves
black jeans, white shoes—so cool
but how can he not feel so cold?

I climb stairs, twist key in the lock—
happy to be home.
It was just an ordinary walk
but forever engraved in this poem.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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PF-2This post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by the queen of poetic forms, Tricia at her blog Miss Rumphius Effect.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2016 in Objects, People, Personal, Poetry Friday, Writing

 

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More than mulch or top-dressing (NPM ’16-DAY 5)

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Photo: pixabay.com

More than mulch or top-dressing

An experience just lived
not considered, pondered, mulled over,
reflected on, studied, and weighed
is like giving food a detour
past digestion.

Even worm’s automatic reflexes
produce the stuff of enrichment—
castings that make fruitful.

So may the ingestion, digestion
and assimilation of our days and moments
grow our souls and fertilize
what our voices and pens bring forth.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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When the Wonderopolis topic “What is fertilizer?” came up for April 4th, I thought immediately of how our life experiences are a type of fertilizer for what we write.

It’s wonderful how God has made the world so that what is waste need not be wasted but can become nourishment for the next season. We know that manure and worm castings are some of the best fertilizer for plants. What better use for the lessons we learn from life (bad and good) than for them to fertilize our growth?

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2016 in Nature, Writing

 

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Hello Poetry Month!

Today is April 1st and the beginning of National Poetry Month. Today is also Poetry Friday. How perfect when the two come together!

As I usually do in April, I’m planning to do some extra writing. The goal is to write a poem a day or at least spend some time on poetry-writing every day (though I may  take Sundays off, with no guilt).  I will also contribute a line  to the 2016 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem arranged by Irene Latham (looking forward to that–the schedule of who contributes a line when is in the right sidebar).

To begin this month I’m going to share with you some of the quotes I’ve collected about poetry over the years and end with a little ars poetica piece I wrote myself.

About the writing process:

“I don’t believe in inspiration. (I love telling my students that–everyone is always shocked.) If I sat down and wrote a poem only when I felt like writing a poem or when I felt inspired, I would have written maybe one poem in my life.

“What I believe is that to keep yourself writing, to fully live a writing life, you have to do whatever it takes to keep the engine running, so to speak. For me, that means: writing when my students write in class, writing on the subway, assigning myself writing exercises, forcing myself to sit at my desk and write.”

– Nicole Cooley from the How A Poem Happens blog.

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“If you have writer’s block, lower your standards.” – Poet Marvin Bell (quoted by Nicole Cooley in the above blog post).

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“In my opinion, no doubt a minority view, inspiration is overrated. Occasionally, lightning strikes with a word/phrase/or rhyme, but for me poems come from dedication. Strapped to a chair. I do wish my Muse were a reliable fixture on my desk, but she is usually off shopping, perhaps because she feels unwanted, which isn’t true of course, but there it is….

“A poem does not begin with an idea but with a word, a phrase. Of course, I know beforehand what subject I intend to write about, but I can sit here endlessly thinking of words before liftoff….”

– J. Patrick Lewis – in an interview by Matt Forrest Essenwine.

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“As a writer, as a keeper of a daily reflective journal, I find that as soon as I put words and ideas onto paper in my notebook, or type them into my computer, they begin to gather to themselves more images, more words and ideas. As I write I have the sensation of being at the center of a small vortex of enlarging connections…” Luci Shaw in Breath for the Bones, KL 1401

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You Say Grace

You say grace before meals
All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before the concert and pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in ink.
– G.K. Chesterton

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“Writing poetry is not putting down whatever comes into your head, and leaving it at that, never taking it any further. Poetry involves layers, and a lot of revision.” – Barbara Crooker quoted on Your Daily Poem.

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“Compose with utter freedom and edit with utter discipline.”
– Erica Jong

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“I think that as a young poet I looked for what Keats called ‘a fine excess,’ but as an old poet I look for spareness and rigor and a world of compassion.”
– Stanley Kunitz (from Writer’s Almanac – July 29, ? year).

About the reading process:

“I don’t think people read poetry because they’re interested in the poet. I think they read poetry because they’re interested in themselves.” – Billy Collins on Writer’s Almanac.

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“Take me: my theory is a poem should set you free: reading a real poem should leave you feeling less tired and more exquisitely yourself. Aerated. You’ve been speeded up and perhaps somewhat dispersed, your bits enjoying more distance from each other than they had previously. You seem to have been augmented, but not in any one place like a lump; no, just some extra electrons here and there; you could never say where. No; that can’t be right. You couldn’t be heavier if it was a real poem. So maybe it’s more of an electron swap or adjustment; hard to say, because these are very small, fast exchanges. In any case, every poem does some small thing to fit us to the galaxies.”

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“Poetry and music are sister arts. So are poetry and painting. It’s as if the eye and the ear were related through poetry, as if they had become siblings or lovers.” – Edward Hirsch, How to Read a Poem, Harcourt, Brace & Cop. Durham N. Carolina 1999. p. 17.

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“Writers are great lovers.  They fall in love with other writers. That’s how they learn to write.  They take on a writer, read everything by him or her, read it over again until they understand how the writer moves, pauses, and sees.  That’s what being a lover is; stepping out of yourself, stepping into someone else’s skin. Your ability to love another’s writing means that those capabilities are awakened in you.  It will only make you bigger; it won’t make you a copy cat. The parts of another’s writing that are natural to you will become you, and you will use some of those moves when you write.  But not artificially. … So writing is not just writing.  It is also having a relationship with other writers.”
– Natalie Goldberg – Writing Down the Bones.

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“Take the scenic route…”  (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

The road I’ve taken (a riddle)

Each April morning I’ll hit the road
with one for the road
take the scenic route
detour down a narrow
two-rutted lane
that may be a cul-de-sac to nowhere.
It’s definitely not the highway
parkway, turnpike or freeway
to notoriety, is the long way round
to trendy, this course
that has become my driveway.
It’s poetry.

– © 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (written during National Poetry month in April 2014)  All rights reserved

(Select the space with your mouse or trackpad and the word will become visible.)

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Poetry Friday LogoThis post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted this week by award-winning Amy at The Poem Farm (Congratulations, Amy!!).

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2016 in Poetry Friday, Writing

 

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Denial

Happy Fall and welcome to September!

The past few months of relative quietness here have been a period of thinking for me. I’ve asked myself, why do I do this–write, especially poetry? Why do I post it here? Do I want to keep doing this?

This June before holidays I lived under a cloud of particularly thick ennui. Maybe I should just stop writing altogether… but what would I do? 

It has been good for me to ponder these questions.

In the beginning of August, after a great holiday (and a writing break) I felt revived but continued to wrestle with, what do I do in the fall with the poetry blog?

As a Christian, perhaps it was to be expected that I would need to get as close as possible to the bone in quizzing myself. The question that finally floated into my mind to help me sort through this is from the Shorter Westminster Catechism:

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

In applying that Q&A to my situation I asked, would I be glorifying God if I stopped writing, that is, using the talent and expanding the skill and interest in words that is part of who I am?

Does it please Him when I squirrel away my writing in binders on the shelf? Do any of us have insights and realizations just for ourselves? Or are they given to bless and help others along the way? (Not that I ever feel that everything one writes needs to be shared!)

How can I better glorify Him with what I do?

Can I do that here?

How would it look?

I have decided as a result of introspection and prayer to be more open and candid about my faith in the poems I post here. In other words, in the days ahead you’ll find more poems that reflect my spiritual pilgrimage and beliefs. Of course I’ll also still write about nature and other topics that catch my fancy.

Enough philosophizing! It’s time for a poem. This is one I found in my binder, written a number of years ago.

Crow

Crow – Photo © 2015 by V. Nesdoly

Denial

Me: This lamp will be perfect for the table where my husband studies.
Clerk: What does he study?
Me: Uh, uh, …oh stuff.

He studies the Bible.
I know that.
It’s really the only thing he studies.
But did I say it?

No.

Automatically I veer toward cowardice.
My default setting: Be private about your faith
After all you don’t want to appear
odd, different or, heaven forbid,
be expected to explain!

On my way through the park
crows call triplet caws
and I hang my head
embarrassed, ashamed
robbed of excuses.

I will go
into my closet
and weep.

© 2015 by Violet Nesdoly

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Added September 3rd: My Poetry Friday friend Margaret Simon invited me to join in on “Spiritual Journey Thursday” hosted by Holly Mueller at her blog Reading, Teaching, Learning where this week’s theme is “paying attention.” Thank you, ladies! I hope you teachers don’t mind being joined by an ex- who has been away from the classroom lo these many years, but who is still trying to pay attention to what God is teaching her.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2015 in Religious

 

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January day (for #poetryatworkday)

papers and shredded paper

Shredder fodder – Photo © 2015 by V. Nesdoly

January day
ends in blizzard of white sheets
what keep? what throw out?
slips and papers piled in drifts
shredder working overtime

© 2015 by V. Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Someone has dubbed today “Poetry-at-work Day.” I’m good with that. In fact, every day is a good day to blend poetry with work in my books.

“January day” is the product of a new poetry practice I began last summer after being inspired by the tanka in a Dawson Creek park.

Mine are a cross between a journal entry and a poem in this five-line form. I call mine “tanka-type” poems because I usually title them (traditional tanka don’t have titles). This may be the first one of these I’ve posted here.

To bring poetry into my work every day my goal is to write one of these every day, although I don’t usually live up to that and am happy when a week yields two or three. I wrote today’s (a reflection on last night’s file-cleaning) this morning before I even realized it was Poetry-at-work Day.

To see more poetry at work, check out #poetryatworkday on Twitter. Find out about the origin of the day and download some goodies including a book written especially for it at Tweetspeak Poetry.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2015 in Personal, Tanka

 

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