Oddments

In search of story


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August 29.22: Coping, but barely

A holiday,

a break well earned,

routine and calendar

happily spurned.

All well and good,

but it’s bad news

when the vacationer is

my mercurial muse.

And so I’m stuck

with blank white screen

until she returns

from where she’s been.

OK, so you have to kind of bend the rhyme there at the end. I’m desperate.

She’s gone again! Those of you who know me know my problems with my willful muse. Sometimes she just takes off. But she taunts me with beginnings. I have begun to write several posts over the last ten days or so, and the quality they all have in common is dreadfulness.


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August 11.22: Coping, but barely

Wrath. It is said to be sinful. I think not. There are times when extreme anger is a virtue. OK, so I’m not a moral theologian.

The problem with anger is how it fevers and boils under a tight lid, that lid that bounces and clatters as it tries to hold in the steam pushing up and, inexorably, out. Eventually there is a lava that oozes over, a thick anger, blackened and petrified wherever it congeals. Or the vapor writhes away, leaving only the distilled curls of rage.

Gardeners are lucky. They can scroll the news, public or personal, and immediately grab weapons of grass destruction. Stabbing, wrenching, yanking, soul-satisfying wrath. Crabgrass is therapy. With roots that clutch the deepest core of the earth and blades that hack their way through other life, it bares its coarse green teeth, snarling, daring the gardener to fight to the death.

As a normal thing, I am a proud, peaceful wimp; however, I espouse white-knuckled violence when it comes to crabgrass, and I enthusiastically endorse wrathful gardening.

 

Practicing prose poetry. And apparently alliteration. (Do any of you find yourselves writing/talking/muttering to yourselves in alliterative words? It’s scary.)


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August 9.22: Coping, but barely

I am going to try to learn something new, dear reader: prose poetry. Apparently the main difference between poetry and prose poetry is form: whereas poetry uses word arrangement on the page to convey (or obscure) meaning, prose poetry is written in the plainness of paragraphs (I wonder if writers dream in alliteration).

Some of you have written prose that I think occasionally morphs into poetry, and I always have to read it over to try to figure out how it snagged me. The Poetry Foundation has an elegant example of Prose Poetry by Amy Lowell. It is instructive to me. Some of the other examples are not so helpful.

I expect my attempts to be awkward, but I want to see if I can figure it out. Consider yourself warned.

Maureen

 

 


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July 4.22: Coping, but barely

Under raptor storms,

growling clouds of dark unknown,

sunless doubts and dangers

in history’s tempest blown,

they pledged their sacred honor.

Could they have even thought

how much of “sacred honor”

would be bartered, sold, and bought?

Yes, I think they did,

but still they took a stand,

and signed their deep conviction

in sprawling, sundry hand.

Seeing the unseen,

hearing the unheard,

they built a sure storm shelter

with the steel of written word.

 

Here we celebrate the 4th of July, Independence Day,

perhaps a bit subdued this year.

“Self-evident truths,” it turns out,

are not so self-evident.

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg

for this gorgeous capture

over Buckroe Beach, Virginia.


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April 7.22: Coping, but barely

The thing about time:

it’s never where I’m.

 

Some of you know that my father referred to me as “the late Maureen O’Hern,” that my family said I was insufferably poky. I maintain I was deliberate.¬†Those of us who live deliberately tend to think things over — and over — before we act. Clocks and calendars are annoying.

Thus did I miss that Poetry Month is upon us.

I seem to be in a perpetual state of catching up. Time and I are, and always have been, at odds. Or perhaps it’s just the measurement of time. “Late” is relative only to clocks and calendars, yes? This leads me to think about how we measure time so surgically. The vast amoeba of life cannot be held in tidy sequences. But could it be measured in poetry, which, to me, is anything but tidy?

This time of Now is saturated with blood and tears. Grief and anger are chewing us up. Clocks and calendars cannot measure it. Maybe the measure is taken in a certain kind of written word, in painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, music, maybe even in the ephemera of a garden. If I can ever figure out what poetry is, perhaps I will find that all the above are types of poetry.

I think we seek the timeless. May you find it where you seek, dear reader, especially in Poetry Month.

 

 


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January 12.22: Coping

How yellowed the page,

how heavy the book,

how delightfully free

of click-bait and hook.

Not a single commercial

intrudes on my search,

sending my thoughts

to spiral and lurch;

I keep to my hunt

for elusive right word

without the distraction

of the marketing herd.

No windows to shout

and peddle their wares,

no storming my brain

with visual fanfares,

just simple bland columns,

neat and precise,

of calm worded world

etymologically nice.

 

Yes, dear reader, I flip through these pages knowing full well that there are words right now for things unknown when these books were new. I turn to them, nonetheless, as I wage my own little war to think in a straight line, and not be pulled into impossible elliptical thinking by all the pop-ups.

 

 


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January 4.22: Coping

Sometimes we’re the audience,

sometimes we’re on stage;

either way we play a part

intrinsic to the age.

From Gilgamesh to Boba Fett,

the story is the thing

to make the case for why

we’re worth remembering.

The writer needs the reader,

as ear attends to speech;

reciprocally human

symbiotic each to each.

In telling and in listening,

we revere the mighty word;

inked or sung or spoken,

it must be read or heard,

and so the eye and ear

and reverent word creator

combine to tell of us

in storied life’s theater.

 

It seems to me, dear reader, that in our little corner of blogdom we have a certain reverence for the word. I like that.

Sometimes as reader and sometimes as writer, I have here learned about imagining, about thinking and re-thinking, about observing, and, even better, I have laughed. In that regard, 2021 was a good word year. In other places, the word has not been treated so kindly.

I wish us all a good year of words. Because words make life rememberable.

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg

and to Wells Theater, Norfolk, VA.


11 Comments

October 30.21: Coping

My muse sent me this. Very funny.

What is it with writing? Why do the words  jump up and down and clamor to be heard in my head sometimes, and other times they are dead silent in some black hole?

I had a wonderful instructor once who said that when we hit a writer’s block it means we’re avoiding what we should be writing about. But writing is always avoidance, it seems to me. When I’m trying to write, I am not reading the news, cleaning the kitchen, or driving among our homicidal species. Isn’t that avoidance? How do I know what I’m avoiding if writing helps me avoid so much?

At the same time, I know that writing often pulls us into places we’d rather avoid. I get that. But it doesn’t help.

There is only one letter difference between writing and writhing. It’s close no matter how you look at it. I’ve been writhing mentally for days with no writing to show for it. A word will float up in my head like some defunct alewife on Lake Michigan, then another, another, and suddenly I’m up to my keyboard in lifeless words.

I am thinking that this intentionally blank paper will be the perfect gift-wrap for the lump of coal a certain muse might get this Christmas.

 

 


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May 22.21: Coping

Victor Herbert wrote songs for my parents’ generation, so I was raised with some of them. One, I think, he wrote especially for writers: “Ah, sweet mystery of life!”

Writers know the mystery of life is words. Mysteriously they come. Mysteriously they go. Who can understand?

I’ve been without words for a few weeks now. Total blank. Tabula rasa. Nada. Zip. I’ve started a few blog posts that were the undead of writing.

Meanwhile we’ve gone overnight from Too-Cold-To-Garden to Yikes-It’s-Suddenly-Summer-and-Get-Those-Plants-In-NOW! It’s been wonderful to take my dejected writer self to the dirt.

It used to be that digging in my dirt was about worms. Now it’s about cicadas. More, there’s a little bush in front festooned with their overcoats. Apparently a bunch of cicadas got together and decided to shed simultaneously, leaving their outsides dangling on my little shrub like so many crispy-looking ornaments. Ick.

That ghostly emptiness speaks to me. The writer is only an exoskeleton when she doesn’t have words, and the wind whistles through her as she dangles from some metaphorical shrub.

I know that my sadistic muse is nearby, smirking.

 


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April 1.21: Coping

It’s Poetry Month!

Awake, Chanticleer!

It’s a Word Party

for one-twelfth of the year!

Such rarified air —

how best celebrate?

Use words like behoof,

whence, vulpinate?

Will I write my to-do list

in tripping dactylic,

wear diaphanous robes

though I look imbecilic?

What shall I read?

Some Dickinson, Frost?

Maybe an epic

like Paradise Lost?

Yes, I’m name-dropping;

it’s only a ruse

for what I tuck in them:

my friend, Mother Goose.

Does rhyme make a poem?

I think not, but then

I don’t know what does —

it’s out of my ken.

I’ve read and I’ve wondered

if anyone knows

why some works are called poems

and not just fine prose.

What makes a poem?

Can I know beyond doubt?

Will Poetry Month

help me figure it out?