The Amateur Poetry Hour

October 28, 2004 | 29 comments
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I was given an assignment in a Hebrew class years ago to write an essay about the topic of nostalgia. Feeling slightly rebellious I decided to bend the rules a little and write a poem instead. I don’t have the Hebrew original in my possession anymore but from memory and with a little bit of effort I’ve fleshed out a new revised English version. Feel free to give it a read and think whatever you will. I don’t claim to be a good poet. For me this was simply an opportunity to meditate, to ponder an idea, to imagine, to answer some questions in my own way.

Nostalgia

Suddenly me
I am small
Floating in warm darkness
Attached to a wall
I grow and grow and grow and grow
Gently now I am enclosed
Stretching
Folding
I kick the wall …
Stretching
Folding
I kick the wall …
On and on time flows
But then,
Abruptly squeezing pushing shoving pulling squeezing pushing shoving pulling
Out
First light
First dry
I holler

Now that I’ve shared my attempt at poetry, I’d like to make an odd request. Many if not all of you have written a poems before. Would you share with T&S and its readers a poem that you have written? If the word “amateur” in the title of this post offends you, ignore it. Obviously it was referring to me.

P.S. And if you don’t want to share any of your past poetic efforts, feel free to compose a haiku. All I ask is that none of them be about Spam.

29 Responses to The Amateur Poetry Hour

  1. J. Stapley on October 28, 2004 at 1:55 pm

    The Chase

    It is glorious.
    Then why does he feel this way inside?

    He feels the press
    Of the rock on his knee.
    The rise. The release.
    His chiseled legs burn
    And bits of ground are raised up
    Through the cloven air.
    As he approaches, he
    Lifts his leg and glides.
    He gives his strength to the wind.
    He seeks the end.
    The tape wraps taught around his breast.
    Alone – victorious – he has one the chase.
    He has the urge to raise his hands to the sky.
    His time is read.
    He wants to weep

    It is glorious,
    But he is not here to win.
    He is here to be envied.
    And if there are others,
    What do tonight and these people
    Mean?

  2. Ebenezer on October 28, 2004 at 2:47 pm

    I hesitate to do this. I have very rarely shared my poetry, and never in such a public forum.

    A Gentleman Alone

    But Look! Among the shadows it yet lurks.
    Though ye see it not, the fiend is surely there!
    Don’t laugh, gentlemen, please don’t laugh. Your smirks
    And mockery must cease lest I despair
    And despairing turn desperate! For sooth
    Gentlemen, look upon me—am I mad?
    Is my speech slurréd? my manner uncouth?
    Could one of my bearing be such a cad
    And invent such a story? such a tale?
    Yet your eyes reveal that you disbelieve
    And so again and again will I fail
    To fend off this fiend alone, once you leave…
    Gentlemen! Don’t leave me chained in this cell
    Tormented alone by this demon from hell!

    The Christmas Tree

    Miniature universe, great world-tree,
    Who’s lofty branches the firmament form
    Adornéd with lights as through God’s own decree
    All hung from celestial bows, stelliform.
    The heavenly hosts are here signified:
    Thrones, Principalities, Powers, all set;
    Reflecting in glorious spheres, simplified,
    The cosmos in symbolic rev’rence here met.
    Lo! Here’s a seraph! And there, cherubim!
    Who sing the glad tidings in a worshipful song,
    As they fly through the sap-smelling, heavenly scheme;
    ‘Mid the twinkling lights and celestial throng.
    And affix’d at the top a new star shines forth laud;
    Announcing salvation: the Condescension of God.

    © Ebenezer Orthodoxy

  3. Adam Greenwood on October 28, 2004 at 3:05 pm

    Gentlemen, I applaud you, for trying and succeeding.

    Brother O.,
    Your first poem is Poeish in both theme and style. Was this conscious?
    I like it.

  4. Ebenezer on October 28, 2004 at 3:18 pm

    I think that at the time I wrote it I had been reading a lot of Robert Browning, though I read enough poetry that I was undoubtedly influenced by Poe and others as well. I’m glad you like it.

  5. danithew on October 28, 2004 at 3:49 pm

    It seemed for the longest time on this post there were no comments and I began to be more and more embarrassed. So thanks to those who shared poetry. I appreciate it and I really enjoyed reading them. Maybe we’ll even get a few more still.

    Part of the problem with the poem I shared was that I didn’t have it in front of me and I was trying to re-create something out of another language (that was written by a non-native speaker anyway). I shared it because my teacher really liked what I wrote and ran off to get it published in some student literary mag (then they mis-typed it anyway).

    Ebenezer, I though of Poe as well and thought maybe this was going to be an extended story poem. I want to go back and read it again and understand it a little better because I’ve only been able to glance back at this post occasionally due to my current workload.

    Anyway, thanks guys for the poems you shared.

  6. William Morris on October 28, 2004 at 3:57 pm

    ::applauds, danithew, J. and EO::

    I love both Browning and Poe. Nice.

    RE: the christmas tree sonnet

    This line is fabulous: “As they fly through the sap-smelling, heavenly scheme”

    Scent is not usually one of the sense that comes into play when describing heaven and angels, etc [well, except that whole attar of roses thing but that never really appealed to me], so I like the idea that it smells like a Christmas tree. Plus the sounds in the line — moving from the ‘th’ sounds to the ‘s’ and ‘m’ sounds — are really great. It trips off the tongue.

    Some of the lines scan awkwardly — the second to last one for instance — but in all it’s quite good.

  7. Ebenezer on October 28, 2004 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks William. Meter has always been difficult for me…as I’m sure it is for most people. I’m simply not talented enough to say what I want to say and still maintain strict form. I wouldn’t expect anybody to notice, but the twelve syllables in the penultimate line and the thirteen in the last are intentional.

  8. Ebenezer on October 28, 2004 at 4:34 pm

    danithew: Part of the problem with the poem I shared was that I didn’t have it in front of me and I was trying to re-create something out of another language (that was written by a non-native speaker anyway).

    Translation of poetry from one language to another is a facinating topic and a wonderful mental excercise. Have any of you ever read Le Ton Beau De Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language by Douglas Hofstadter?

    If you have not then your really should. It had a profound effect on my thinking about poetry, art, and life in general. Though I, obviously, disagree with Hofstadter’s atheism, he has a lot of worthwhile thoughts.

    Hofstadter is most famous for his book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

  9. danithew on October 28, 2004 at 4:44 pm

    I had a Shakespeare class once where we were asked to translate sonnets into other languages that we knew. I’ll never forget seeing one of his sonnets translated into two forms of sign language. It was very moving and beautiful to watch poetry “performed” in that way.

  10. Kristine on October 28, 2004 at 5:16 pm

    I almost never try poetry. Too scary. But here’s an attempt at fleshing out a metaphor that I wrote after flying with my kids last year:

    FLIGHT

    They were brave, the women of Nauvoo.
    Packing clothes, food, treasures,
    Children
    Into rickety wagons—
    Poor shelter against mobs, wolves,
    Winter.

    I am also brave.
    Packing clothes, food, toys,
    Children!
    Into a crazy flying wagon—
    Thin metal skin bare shelter
    Against cold airless
    Wind.

    I grind my face into a smile,
    Hear my false voice chirp,
    “Yes, so much fun!”
    Gulp terror in huge draughts,
    Hum softly
    “happy day, all is well”.

  11. Rosalynde on October 28, 2004 at 5:44 pm

    Danithew: I like all the different forms of repetition in your poem–it strikes me as an apt figure for the comforting monotony of a fetus’ life in the womb.

    J.: I’m not totally sure what situation you’re describing–but whatever the situation, I think you’re successful in replicating the letdown of the hollow victory. The question at the end is enigmatic enough to get me speculating.

    Ebenezer: I really like both of your poems. I especially like the challenge in your first poem of creating a convincing idiolect in a dramatic monologue that’s also poetically viable, as Browning does. I think you
    succeed!

    Kristine: Were you the actual pilot of the airplane? Or do you have a phobia of commerical air travel? Either way, I really identified with the maternal anxiety you explored. Nicely written.

    Here’s the beginning of a poem I wrote soon after the birth of my daughter; I still want to finish it. It was envisioned as a long narrative poem from the point of view of the wife of one of the early apostles (not sure which one) who might have been one of the several women who witnessed the resurrected Christ early in the morning, because she was up so early caring for her infant. As you’ll see, I didn’t get very far, but I like what I did.

    Easter’s Child

    My daughter–
    daughter of the crescent moon,
    born into the season of all crescent things,
    born into the vital belly of an afternoon–
    Later, loathe to miss a moment of the sky’s spinning,
    lies awake under constellations’ bitter fire,
    as if the night’s circling flame
    might speed the days of our purifying.
    Nine sabbaths we wait,
    she waxing, I waning with the moon,
    our fleshly taint–that bloody tint–
    a blessed curse of quietude:
    sustained cessura in the dailyness of duty.
    Longer respite still from the stink and finny slither of fish,
    tokens of a Galilee husband’s wavy labor–
    the laborer turned learner,
    the fisher turned follower–
    the span of three years’ sabbaths passed
    in service to the Master of the sabbath day.

  12. Brian Duffin on October 28, 2004 at 6:19 pm

    How Ever Long

    How ever long since the porch sat bare
    Empty and silent without you there
    Calling to the wind goes the sailing leaf
    Crisp with the color of sadness and grief

    Flushed with mourning is autumn’s copper tint
    But oft a memory of you in sunset’s glint
    Shining and brilliant each page of your life
    A flowing pen wetted with tears and strife

    Alas the pen flows no more, but is silent and still
    Sitting on the parchment, heedless of its will
    And now the porch sits empty and bare
    Ever so silent without you there

    Oh, ever in springtime with the flowing brook
    Illustrating the pages of a remarkable book
    Swept away in gaiety without a single care
    Oh, happy and free, when you were there

    A flood of memories so poignant remains
    That of distinction and honour proclaims
    Oh, one such as this shall in memory keep
    While in dour procession we freely weep

    Soon comes winter’s cold and bitter chill
    As autumn settles under the snow-covered hill
    And ever for spring we longing forbear
    Staring at the porch, empty and bare

    How ever long the memories will remain
    Filled with the sunshine of springtime’s refrain
    Oh, when autumn’s leafs have fallen to the ground
    In springtime they return and anew are found

    ©1999 Brian Duffin

  13. Bryce I on October 28, 2004 at 6:27 pm

    I’m utterly unpoetic, but I like this thread, so I offer a Christmas poem written by my daughter Jaymie shortly after she turned 6 (she has agreed to let me do this).

    It’s Christmas day
    It’s Christmas night
    I think I want some Christmas light.
    Bounding up the stairs and all
    decorating Christmas walls
    Decorating up Christmas trees
    All together now 123’s
    Angels dashing up the stairs
    and saying Christmas prayers
    And everyone’s seen
    the Christmas queen!

  14. Adam Greenwood on October 28, 2004 at 6:59 pm

    You have all written well. You have given me pleasure. And you, Kristine, have excelled.

    For what my compliments are worth I give them.

  15. William Morris on October 28, 2004 at 7:20 pm

    Rosalynde:

    Definitely worth picking back up. Fantastic conceit. I especially like:

    “Later, loathe to miss a moment of the sky’s spinning,
    lies awake under constellations’ bitter fire,
    as if the night’s circling flame
    might speed the days of our purifying.”

    I will stop providing criticism if ya’ll ask me too, and I understand that this is a rough draft, but real quick —

    The phrases “dailyness of duty” and “wavy labor” don’t really work, imo.

    I like the general direction you are going with both, but “dailyness” is a weak word — especially since we’re talking about the unending repetition of domestic work. And “wavy” — well technically the word fits. But it’s poetic meaning is too narrowly used for it to really work. Or to be blunt — I keep thinking of hair instead of the sea. And the rest of your language is so strong and vivid — fleshly, slither, vital, bitter — that it trips me up.

    I hope you consider working on this some more. It definitely warrants the effort.

  16. Charles on October 28, 2004 at 9:24 pm

    If any of you lawyer types work for disney please understand this is only meant as charming satire or parody which hopefully helps me evade copyright infringements. Besides its not published (officially) yet.

    Me and You and a Big Bag of Pooh

    “I like honey, how bout you?�
    -said Bumble Bee one to Bumble Bee two.

    They stared all around with great big eyes.
    And breathed and heaved with great big sighs.

    They honeycomb’s barren, not a drop in the land.
    Then Bumble Bee two cried, “I’ve got a plan!�

    He dragged Bee one, out the front door.
    And spotted a downtrodden, helpless Eyore.

    “That’s a purple old ass, he’s not the same.�
    “No you old coot, its his friend that’s our game!�

    All through the night, in the shadows they planned.
    ‘Til they hatched out a scheme, their honey in hand.

    A big canvas bag, yellow paint, an old jar,
    It looked like a honey-pot when seen from afar.

    That big yellow bear, his red vest, his chagrin.
    His tummy betrayed him he curiously looked in.

    His nose was ensnared as he rolled on the ground.
    He sniffed and he licked, but no honey was found.

    Then Bee one went north, and Bee two went south.
    That big canvas bag had opened its mouth.

    That big canvas bag was ready to go.
    They scooped up that bear and put him in tow.

    A mismatched note was left in his place.
    Chris Robin would find it with fear on his face.

    “They’ll pay that ransom as God is my witness!�
    “They’ll bring us our honey or we’ll get to business.�

    “And what if they don’t, what then will we do?�
    “This old bear knows where there’s honey. I’m sure he will do.�

    “Until then Bumble Bee one,� said Bumble Bee two.
    Its just me and you, and a big bag of Pooh!�

  17. Katherine on October 28, 2004 at 10:02 pm

    Thirst

    Let me sip, let me quaff, let me drown
    in your cool julep kisses,
    Let your nectar thrill my tongue, interrupt,
    and wander like molasses,
    Let acquaintance ask in vain,
    the pact hidden in our faces,
    Let other touch remain, and I content,
    drowning in your kisses.

  18. Bryce I on October 28, 2004 at 10:12 pm

    Charles–

    Which came first, the story idea or the line “Big Bag of Pooh”?

  19. J. Stapley on October 28, 2004 at 10:48 pm

    So I threw my poem out there (post #1) because I’m the guy that is first on the dance floor. I’m not a great dancer but have less compunction for my exhibitionism than I should. I think it is obvious the same holds true for my poetry, alas.

    However, I will say that I have quite enjoyed reading this thread. Thank you all for posting. Kristine – My wife commiserates, and I loved it. Rossalynde – in spite of it being unfinished and my general dislike of religious poetry, I found yours moving and sublime.

    Cheers!

  20. William Morris on October 28, 2004 at 10:54 pm

    “wander like molasses”

    Great imagery.

  21. William Morris on October 28, 2004 at 11:11 pm

    I just remembered that although it’s true I don’t write poetry — I did write some poems for a creative writing class I took nine years ago.

    Here is the best of the group:

    Steamed Reverie II

    With my hands treading water
    I have shown you.
    With my cracked lips smoothed by indecision
    I tried to make you feel.
    With my slavish throat
    I heard your gurgling reverie
    And now I point it all out.
    That there is your plate glass profits
    cutting away deadened wood.
    And that there is inflated rice
    smoldering in the charcoal wet fields.
    That there is the harvester’s cry
    when the winnowed stalks snap at his face.
    And that there is the dragon’s breath
    misting its way into your paralyzed gold.
    That there is the image of jackrabbit emotion
    faded onto gray.
    And that there is the desert prophet
    eating honeyed shreds of filed documents.
    And that there is the brazen swallow
    plucked from the gripping furnace.
    And that there is the raised blistered hand
    swearing it has no need of salve.
    And those are your glycerin manners.
    And these are your glossy apricot ways.
    And that there
    It is all.

    ©1995 William Morris

    Heh. This poem actually illustrates quite well why I don’t write poetry. There’s some decent albeit overly-obtuse/precious imagery, but the poem doesn’t quite hang together and the ending is very weak.

    I could come up with one or two lines, but actually creating a finished poem…

    This is why I turned to (hopefully sometimes poetic) prose.

  22. Rosalynde Welch on October 29, 2004 at 1:42 am

    Thanks, William, for your compliments and constructive criticism–I think you were right on. As a matter of fact, the word “dailyness” was sort of cribbed from another poem (by someone else) that I was really into at the time, so you’re exactly right that it’s not organic to this piece.

    You clearly are a “real” and gifted creative writer, unlike me! Your own criticisms of your poem aside, you really are good with the systems of imagery (although, to be honest about my stupidity, I can’t quite figure out who is being addressed and what the relationship is.) I especially like the series of related contrasting images of dessication and moisture.

  23. D. Fletcher on October 29, 2004 at 5:38 am

    I’m not a poet at all, but a writer of musicals. Ira Gershwin said that lyrical poetry was anathema as lyrics in the theater, because the words must be heard and understood immediately (at least on one level). The best lyrics combine poetical elements with the “sound” of dialogue, and the rhymes are always perfect. (You’ll note that when theater lyrics are seen in written form, as here, the rhymes are often seen at the end of the written line, even if it is in the middle of the sentence. The beginning of each line is capitalized.

    Here’s a song I wrote for a musical about the last days of Joseph Smith. After trying to escape to the West, he returned to Illinois to face his doom at Carthage, traveling through Nauvoo in the dead of night (he was afraid to see anybody). He obviously spoke to his wife, but what about the children, who would have been sleeping? This is an “aria” for Joseph, a moment of introspection. It is sung through, but it isn’t meant as anything but an interior monologue, something he’s thinking.

    The form is a verse, followed by AABA refrain, with a C section (prayer) and repeat A, with coda.

    FATHERS AND SONS

    Should I wake the children?
    Should I interrupt their dreams to say
    Goodbye?
    Come and kiss your papa
    One last time before he rides away
    To die?
    No, I think it better they should sleep
    And dream the riches that
    They lack,
    And wake up in the morning still
    Believing that their Father will
    Be back.

    Fathers and sons.
    Fathers of fathers.
    Children of children of
    Children to be.
    What can I do?
    So ev’ry new
    Generation
    Can see as I see?

    Fathers and sons.
    Daughters and mothers.
    And all of the others
    Who died long ago.
    Who have I been?
    That ev’ry kin-
    Dred and nation
    Should know what I know?

    It was all for you, Little Joe
    And all the Josephs born—
    Loud with mischief and noise
    And rowdy boyish joys.
    And Em-ma,
    It was all for you
    And all those true
    But torn.
    Your kisses like the Balm
    Of Gilead, soothing the
    Forlorn.
    But I am not forlorn.
    I am calm.
    Calm as a summer’s morn.

    Fathers and sons.
    Joseph to Joseph.
    Far in the distance
    I’ll offer my hand.
    And in that time
    From the sublime congregation
    We planned.
    Father and son.
    You’ll un-
    Derstand.

    God, of the first and the last—
    God who knows no end.
    To thee I’ve surrendered
    My present and past.
    I’ve held firm and fast to the “rod.�

    God, of the strong and the true.
    God who is my friend.
    I reckon my children
    Are thy children too.
    Take care of them for me.
    Help them to remember their Papa.
    Watch over them, so I will know
    That where they go, they go by God.
    By my God!

    Fathers and daughters and
    Mothers and sons.
    What can I give?
    That ev’ry soul in creation
    can live as I live?
    See as I see?
    I am one.
    A father.
    A son.
    I give…
    Me.

    ©1991 David Fletcher

  24. danithew on October 29, 2004 at 10:04 am

    J. Stapley, I enjoyed your apt metaphor comparing this thread to a dance floor. Thank you for breaking the ice.

  25. Charles on October 29, 2004 at 10:11 am

    Bryce,

    The idea came from the title as my wife and I were walking our dog and he did… well you know!
    After we stopped giggling, I came up with the story.

  26. Charles on October 29, 2004 at 10:32 am

    Here’s one just for you Bryce. Anyone remember Vanilla Ice back in the day?

    Yo T&S let’s kick it

    Bryce, Bryce baby (x2)
    All right stop proselytin’ and preachin’
    Bryce is back with a brand new instruction
    Something grabs a hold of me tightly
    Flow like a sermon daily and nightly
    Will it ever stop yo I don’t know
    Enlighten my mind and I’ll grow
    To the extreme I write my posts like a vandal
    Reply on my blog and my comments are a scandal
    Testify from the speaker that booms
    I’m filling your brain like a teacher in June
    Deadly when I play a tight contention
    Anything less than the best is excommunication
    Love it or leave it you better get bent
    You better have the facts son, don’t just vent
    If there’s controversy yo I’ll solve it
    Check out the hook while Kami revolves it

    CHORUS
    Bryce Bryce baby vanillla (x4)

    Yo man let’s get out of here
    Word to your Heavenly Mother

  27. Shawn Bailey on October 29, 2004 at 11:03 am

    This is fun. My amateurish contribution:

    Seven Haikus on My Commute Home, October 13, 2004

    I.
    red hexagon tile
    you make the subway platform
    all too bathroom-like

    II.
    standing on the train
    commuters sway back and forth
    some to headphone noise

    III.
    why orange carpet?
    when first laid, were you of the
    shag variety?

    IV.
    you talk much too loud
    confined spaces are places
    for discrete scribbles

    V.
    yield not your seat too
    freely. A pregnant senior
    citizen may soon board

    VI.
    Standing room only
    at metro center. All but
    void at shady grove

    VII.
    Eleven p.m.
    Last leg. Solitary
    parking-lot walk home

  28. William Morris on October 29, 2004 at 11:46 am

    Rosalynde writes: “although, to be honest about my stupidity, I can’t quite figure out who is being addressed and what the relationship is”

    No, no. There’s nothing wrong with your reading of the poem — you’ve put your finer on one of the major problems of the poem (and with me trying to write poetry). I do (I hope) much better when I’m more grounded in characters and straightforward narratives. When I try to write poetry it’s all imagery and no voice, no grounding, no cohesion.

    And: thanks.
    ——–
    Charles:

    Hilarious. “Deadly when I play a tight contention” cracked me up in particular.

    ——
    Shawn:

    As a fellow train commuter (Bay Area Rapid Transit), I totally understand — IV in particular. What is up with that?

    ——
    David:

    “But I am not forlorn.
    I am calm.
    Calm as a summer’s morn.”

    This. This disturbs and comforts and inspires me at the same time.

  29. Bryce I on October 29, 2004 at 3:36 pm

    Charles —

    “Anyone remember Vanilla Ice back in the day?”

    Alas, with a name like Bryce, I remember it all too well. You effort is not the first, although certainly the best, attempt to substitute my name into that song.