I am thinking of my favorite paintbrush — poetry 🖌
My first experience with loving the poetic word was in a high school literature class when my teacher assigned us to choose a poem and deliver a short speech about it to our class. The poem I chose was Sylvia Plath’s Edge.
…odors bleed From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.
The moon has nothing to be sad about, Staring from her hood of bone.
— Edge, Sylvia Plath
There was something so deeply disturbing, yet profoundly magical, in that poem. I was drawn inexorably to those words.
I began writing creatively in high school and poetry as early as 16. A Tale of Two Poems is an article I wrote featuring two of the poems I wrote in high school. And, I don’t think they are too terrible. 😉
Poetry is a living, breathing element of my being, the tool by which I choose to express parts of me I dare others to attempt to understand.
It is my favorite tool, and as I choose to paint, and I paint with words. What poetry means to another individual is completely unique and right in its own way as all of us are touched and moved by it in varying ways.
Despite my initial attraction to poetry, at times writing it has eluded me, the brushes remaining in a dusty cup on a shelf in the corner of life. As a child, I was compelled to pick up this brush and sit with it in my hand, yet no poem would pour out of its colorless brushes.
As I have grown into my adult skin I have both lived and consumed and observed the colors of life that fill my brush again and again.
This gives me means by which to splash myself onto paper, eternalizing that which could otherwise be washed away in time. I have learned through the years that sometimes I write the poem, and sometimes the poemwrites me.
Poetry can breath itself into us, painting our souls with richness, emotion, clarity, and a whole range of other reactions, or it can be bled out of us, inviting others to grasp its music and its colors with canvases of their own waiting to be filled.
Consider the poetry in your life. Consider the paintbrushes with which you write. And always seek to fill those brushes with wondrous color.
If there’s anything I’ve learned about writing poetry, it’s that you’re never done learning how to do it. Anytime I find a new angle, a new inspiration, or technique, it feels like my first day as a poet all over again. I pick up my imaginary feather quill, dip it in my imaginary pot of magical ink, and I write.
So get out your imaginary quill and take a few notes. Perhaps there are a few poems waiting for you to birth them. Here are a few ideas that do not come from any book I’ve read or class I’ve taken, but from my quill, and the bend my mind takes while rounding new corners to find poetry.
Let’s talk syzygy.
(Ok so I learned a new word today and couldn’t resist adding it in…)
noun, plural syz·y·gies.
1. Astronomy . an alignment of three celestial objects, as the sun, the earth, and either the moon or a planet: Syzygy in the sun-earth-moon system occurs at the time of full moon and new moon.
2. Classical Prosody . a group or combination of two feet, sometimes restricted to a combination of two feet of different kinds.
3. any two related things, either alike or opposite.
We will consider the third definition of syzygy. Two examples will help to explain.
Parallel Syzygy Poem
The first example, I call parallel poetry writing. In this technique you will follow this equation:
Equation: an object, a living being, or a train of thought + an action = new poem
Rule:The first item, being, or thought will be the actual topic of your poem but you will borrow imagery and descriptive words from the action you have chosen. The two will be similar in some way so that the comparison isn’t too forced, uncomfortable, confusing, or stark.
Here is an example of a poem that I wrote using this method:
thoughts of a child + swinging on a swing = Yesterdays
As you can see, there are easy similarities to be drawn between a child and the action of swinging and the two are easily pictured in the same scene.
Here is the poem for quick reference:
Why don’t you climb inside my braids and sing me a song?
swinging out over the grasses our feet stretched so high the chain-link grinds as we rise toward sun
Why don’t you open up your freckles and let me inside?
I need to know where the June bugs hide in the winter when swings don’t swing and the night stands still
Consider the first stanza; these are the silly things you’d find bouncing around inside of the head of a happy child, lost in imaginative play. This theme carries throughout the poem as this child contemplates freckles and friendship, June bugs and their wanderings.
The action of swinging is evident as expressed in stanza two. Listen to the sound of the chain link grinding on the pole as this child swings. There’s also an interesting twist to this poem with regards to the structure…swinging out and back in with the line lengths, to mimic the pattern of swinging.
Juxtaposed Syzygy Poem
Now for the second example, I call juxtaposed poetry writing. You will, again, follow this equation:
Equation: an object, a living being, or a train of thought + an action = new poem
Rule: The first item, being, or thought will be the actual topic of your poem but you will borrow imagery and descriptive words from the action you have chosen. The two things will have very little, if anything, in common.
Here is an example of a poem I wrote using this method:
Ripped from the belly of the sea pregnant with vowels our tails slap hard pendulous swings, our eyes are benign, panicked moons, fibroadenomas sitting inside our heads.
They must be plucked out.
We climb outside ourselves, hold the knife steady, scrape against the grain, shedding our silvers until we are clean, carve a canoe-slice across our necks another, neck to belly, our insides slide free.
This poem is about the vulnerability of being a poet. The poet must open up parts of themselves, sometimes very personal, with raw honesty. Now consider the action. Have you ever seen the cleaning of a fish? If you have not it is a violent really kind of gross thing to see. The knife scraping the scales away (called the “silvers” in this poem), and slicing off the head, cutting the length of the belly the fishes guts spill out in a slippery glub. The panicked eyes are wide.
I described the writer process using the terminology, visual images, and description of a fish cleaning process to show that opening process the poet does while writing. We dig pretty deep when writing poetry — our insides slide free.
One would not normally think of these two things at the same time, but the metaphor sits well in this poem, giving it richness, depth, and provokes an emotional reaction in the reader.
Now, anyone want to give it a try?
Choose either of the above methods and write your poem. Link back here so I can see what you create!
“And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
― Anaïs Nin
Christina Ward is a poet and aspiring author working on her first book, a piece of literary, mainstream fiction, and is a columnist for the Observer News Enterprise newspaper. Her poetry has been published in the Cameo literary magazine, the Arrowhead literary magazine, Vita Brevis Poetry Magazine, and in Wolff Poetry Literary Magazine.
Beneath this earth so many souls. In this ground right where I stand, my bare-heeled ache on the grit; do they linger here?
Do their solemn hazes pass me by as my breath drifts me one day to the next? Am I aware of that chill, that pressure in the air shifting, disturbing, a moaning whisper to my human ears? Does it shift me?
I turned on the light I asked you to leave
In the pierce of afternoon sun an oak; a bleak, towering, ivy-choked oak. An angular ghost. The last leaf fell long before I appeared, a shifting soul, nowhere to go. I contemplate its lean.
When comes the terrible fall? When comes the violent creaking that will rip me from my sleep?
Sudden noises — squirrel-gray antics on maple boughs, on living, bending boughs or dead bark-bare and bony limb; no difference to them, with their inexorable ramblings all toenail and chatter. They gather and they gather.
How soon will I sink into worm-foul and rot?
They will scurry across my grave. They, or their generations of they.
The dead tree refusing to fall… These wiry-tailed rodents’ gatherings… These shadows of souls carried quietly by… and I? Barefooted, sore-footed I; standing in the dirt left to ponder it all.
I had a vision. A pole; horizontal, unmoving. Suspended from it — carrion in varying stages of decomposition;
One, freshly hung drips its life blood free drip…drip…drip…
Another, rotting begun, its surface writhes with maggots and flies.
The third is rot-worn black, a carcass shell or its former self.
The three hanging there just out of reach, as are most things when you are hungry.
A bear, standing on two legs angrily reaching one sharp-clawed swipe after another roaring swipe menacing arcs cutting the sky just out of reach, just out of reach.
I don’t want to be this bear.
Sad thing. Always reaching for the depleting, the constantly wearing, disintegrating, withering dreams cut short just hanging there… dreams dripping in the sun. No, that is not for me.
I do not want to be this bear, pathetic hungry beast reaching for the despaired, decaying and wormed away by the negative and the bleak, gnawing, stealing, tearing dreams disappearing, eaten away in the sun.
I do not want to be this hungry animal reaching for the rotten, the black the ghosts of dreams the illusion of dreams the dreams that used to exist.
I want to be a different beast. A noble, beast of wanderlust and curiosity, broad-shouldered thick-backed and wiry and feasting on berries plump with juice and seed paws-full gathered in the bliss of the sun and breeze. The work is of no mind. A belly can be filled with the small, if there are many.
want to chase after the living, the sprinting and darting deer, eyes frozen wide with fury and fear… devouring the fresh flesh-dream full of muscle and blood pumping full of organic desire, of opportunity racing, raging into life, unabashed.
I had a vision, or perhaps a vision has me. A sharp-clawed roar impels me.
In the Spring, God brings forth life Cottonwood drifts by on the wind. We water our gardens with tears for we have lost a dear friend.
Her kindness grew like tulips Proud and colorful and tall Her compassion, a vine reaching our lives and touching us all.
Our beloved Beverly was so Warm-hearted, sweet, and caring Loved her family with all her soul Though cancer, in the end, unsparing.
A kind and quiet woman who grew like the flowers and paled into silence in her last waning hours.
Her Spring was cut short, Her candle burned low, in God’s precious time she knew she must go.
Though it’s hard for us in this bountiful spring we let go and know God’s given her wings.
I was asked to write a poem for my son to read at his Step-mother’s funeral next week.
He is to speak at the funeral, at which time he will read the above poem, no doubt through shaky nerves (to my knowledge this will be his first “public speaking” engagement), and through a heavy wall of emotion. He is with-holding so much emotion about this whole thing.
As a mother, my heart is breaking for him. He has no memories of his life prior to her entering it. It is a terrible loss. How in the world do you honor that in a poem? Yet, this is the task I was given.
To make it simple enough for the country-folk family members to be able to appreciate, make it rhyme so it sounds to them like a poem, make it personal enough that it touches their hearts, Christian enough and reassuring enough so that they are comforted in their time of sorrow.
What an arduous task, but I wanted to do something. And this is what I do–so I hope you have enjoyed reading Cottonwood Wings. I am honored to have written it for my son. (I think it will mean a lot to him.)
(In Memoriam, Beverly Mullis; wife, mother, sister, daughter, grandmother, friend)