Posts Tagged ‘writing’

thanks Nicole for leading me here. I hope someone else can thank me here, my turn sharing this post. much worth listening from what this mother and writer has to say.

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letter to William Stafford

 
Dear Bill,

How long’s it been?  Sorry I missed you last time around.  Suppose you’re still writing there, just like you always do, granddaughter or not nibbling at your toes, adoring you, eating your attention just like pie.  Funny how she stole herself into the early dawn, you in your writing time, suddenly then less alone.  But you never said stop, dissuading her bloom, but just awoke some earlier yourself to keep coin with your words.  Poetic, one might say, how you hold a hand.  Yea, just like you.

There was this dream, did I tell you Bill, and I was that grandchild you see.  And I drank up every word you ever said to me.  And your hands, your hands, oh I remember them, how they held the very air itself.  Then clear as a feather rings in flight, there you were, shovel in hand and standing right beside where a ditch was waiting to be dug and I knew, no matter at all, if that’s what you did, how you lived your life, that’s the book I wanted to know.  And now everything I read of yours takes its’ sound, reads from that first pantomime.

Quietly, in the middle of dark, things can recognize themselves, can’t they Bill?
Like a sunlit day would never expect.  That night shrouded light in a barn visible by only a solitary traveler, bright inside.  And you’re right, if we’re not listening we can lose our feet, like it was another randomized flock of sheep.  Yet one moment can fill everything without needing to change a thing.

It’s just like you said.

Yours sincerely, my blue pen

PS. You saved someone once.  Maybe me.  But you didn’t know, so it’s not your fault.  Neither the poems now.  Not your fault, no more than the man left standing who missed his train.

Then sometimes seems we’ve missed a life – when it’s only about to arrive.  We’ll call it a nudge rightly imbued.  See, new shoes!  And thanks.

 

neil reid © november 2011

Written for We Write Poems prompt #81  Dear (poem)
Write a letter. Write a poem-letter to be specific. Address it to some historic figure you’d like to send a letter. Formal or personal, that’s your choice; you can be “the best of friends” or “respectful strangers”, howsoever you desire. Read the poem responses of others here.

William Stafford was an American poet (1914-1993). While his poems were not the first I ever read, they were the first I ever cared about, and came into sight just when I first seriously took upon myself this craft of language and expression. And to this day there is no poet whose words so well fit my ear.

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the rules of poems

try to write in english, if that’s who you are.
keep in mind the two ends of this thread.
count one two three, yet three one two still amuses me.
try to be understood even if it means wagging your tale.

eat, sleep, feel cold feel heat, wear two shoes because
you have two feet, likewise comb your hair (free spirits
are allowed to give that one a pass).  drive on the
right side of the road, please.  all this counts.

swim like molecules like fish fly.
like sugar dissolves in a coffee cup.

in the beginning god whispered into matter’s ear,
said, please dance like this, and matter did and does
because of love.  everything since, follows that.

find something to beat like a drum.
words will do because they’re hollow inside.
understand, truth resists casual conversion.

be passionate.  allow that the color red is genuine.

be kind.  plow indifference into fallow ground.

granted, we didn’t make the air nor grace nor
footsteps falling in line, likewise poems too, yet
good fellowship suggests

adopt what is given you.

 

neil reid © october 2011

 
Posted for We Write Poems prompt (75) Poems and Prompts!
Please read other poets poems in response as well.
Write a poem prompt to share, and one poem to go with it.

comments:
Hardly the first, nor will this be the last.  The “rules of poems” have been in mind for weeks, well months actually, have raised their heads here and there, gathered like a storm, then here’s this – this laughter like a bird.  Not that it’s anything less than sincere.  (More much discussion yet to come!)

Here’s the Prompt:
Write a poem that examines the theme, “what are the rules of poems?”  Precisely how you approach this question is all up to you, be it serious, studied, reasonable, or unleash your muse, let fly and make the world as you will.  There are no rules about rules except what you say!  Isn’t that the writer’s craft and passion both? Do you find anything universal by nature or is the nature at source inside your own personal imagination.  For this poem you get to say.  Maybe you’ll get to inform our understanding here!

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left hand draft

learning to write with my left hand

 
i.

does my left hand know what to say
if given pen?

are there voices in fingers otherwise
invisible?

but this still feels like right side
talking me.

don’t quite want letting
go.

right right right.  insistent it is.  habit or
toes like tide?

left shy?  no.

some afeared maybe you’ll see another me
before I do.

right knows all the
tricks.

left has none.

ii.

you see, resistance can be not only illegible
but plain invisible!

like there was no ocean
suddenly.

yet usher in this hieroglyphic of bipedal
language.  trace left-handed grace within
ability.

shall we write close and enigmatic, dare
any others than our own eyes to rightly read?
or share as devoted apostles with our kin

say here, this is possible?

make even our criss-crossing collisions into
sacred text?

patience is due bringing this child into
first light.  embrace as you would an infant in
your muscled arms.

tender unpredictability.

iii.

symmetry is illusion if measured
in grams.

two pair of radial motion
perspectives, eye and ear but none
identical.

right sees some better.  right ear too.
right is jealously convenient it seems.
but break a few bones then
observe.

left had to learn new skills and some
it never gave back.  right acting at times now
completely dumb.

right stronger but less confident.
left more able but more prone to being
dismissive.

left built the pyramids but right
lays in them.

iv.

here, we’ll call this seed
knowing up knowing down, right-sided dirt
thirsty for bright.

tamp with your foot
set my thoughts in proper place.

random feather landed shadows can
scratch, peck away doubts.

already there are rumors
are stories are suggestive traces of
coming rain.

already parched top-soil words
are feeling new faced kin with the
hoe.

go ahead, breathe into me.

v.

are left-hand thoughts more an invisible
giant?  like a horizon we seldom discern.

often don’t we think this, this
is our life?  while
sleeping through the middles of wheat.

left says, yes
like wind with you.

I looked to see, is there a left-hand-pocket
name for me.  like some say there is.

I looked. my name was still the same.
because mine’s same as my father’s was.
stranger under-skin from the first.

that other face.  I already am.

 

neil reid © october 2011

 
Written for We Write Poems prompt (74) Left-hand first!
Please read other poets poems in response as well.

rambling comments:
Just a kid with a box of candy words. Do we need to take this seriously? As serious as fresh baked yams I think! (And confessing this prompt was my idea, so I’ll take the blame if you wish.) It is some measure odd and unexpectedly challenging I know.

I meant and take this prompt as literal – write with a poem, pen to paper, with your left hand (assuming you’re right-handed). Why? Because I take interest in the physical act of writing itself, and because something else just might get stirred up along the way. Some say right-brain, left-brain and that there is some difference there. But I don’t know directly for myself.

If you tried this prompt, it’s awkward isn’t it? Uncomfortable.
(But really, so what?)

Interesting how my “editor” and “self” raised their hands, daring to be plainly visible. Right-hand was clearly not so pleased. Not guessing what to expect this poem as a whole was written over several days (each day becoming a section here, although that wasn’t a plan, just the result). How I felt was a little different each day. Wouldn’t say there was a beacon burning bright, but yes, some difference in the light, something to explore again I think. (Do we learn to write, or walk, in just one day or even five?)

Although I do most of my writing, and all my editing, by keyboard, I do however often write first drafts with pen and ink. Self-serving vanity aside, I find something of pleasurable art about penmanship itself (and left-handed only expanded that abstraction of language and pen).

In the interest of full disclosure, and obvious, keyboard needed be the last port before publishing here, and yes, both right-hand and editor got to have something to say, but that’s alright as well, not meaning to exclude them some play (like I could anyway). Of note I did find by the end of this process less jealousy of right to left, less perceived need to hold them apart.

neil

PS. And boy, is this poem ever too long? Where’s that red pen?

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poem for We Write Poems, a prompt (#45) about writing Against the grain!

Writer’s meditation

Too much sugar.
Turn the heater down.  Shoes off.
Television is such pleasant distraction.
Background obedience!

Disrupt perception.  Calm means
more than merely no wind.
Does the pen have ink?
Paper in any pocket?

Rain can be excuse. Either way.
Wash over pain.  Wash over desire.

Find me a sandy bottom underneath.

What words matter is not inside the words.
Big bad wolf at the door.

Shall we write him a poem,
change his appetite?

neil reid © march 2011

Writing against the grain? Such as right here, right now. What to do when I don’t want to write, too tired, too distracted, too stubborn. But words don’t care. Write, don’t write, all the same to them. Yet they only exist because we do, because we care. And because we are not alone, despite our sometimes point of view. I usually think I mostly only write from inside a space, a sense of personal calm. But that’s just my story to myself, perception only dimly related to truth. As this poem is or was, on the spot, do it now.

Someone smarter than me once said, there are no negatives to existence. Not does not exist, to bait the wolf! So maybe the clearest thing to say from a moments belief is “I don’t want to write”, and reality will remove the don’t, leaving only write! (Why we sometimes drive our lives into brick walls perhaps.)

Another recent poem, was it you?, is perhaps a better example of writing against the grain, when strong feelings were at odds with words, more than this day was for me.”

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No sonnet like this

Beneath a pen your thoughts bubble words, masks

changing face, breathing unexpected newfound life

but suppose it is only right to ask,

     Does it hurt?

It is like each book, every poem you have ever read

is keeping fresh company to colorwash your  written

page   your imagined phrases  brushed  like you are

an artist dressed in paint of this and every former life.

Like rings in the heart of   native   pine  and the only

question is  willingness.   It is a wonder witnessing,

but still, feeling that meiosis swirl, I should inquire,

     Does it hurt?

Is there some balm, some salve I might fetch?  Carry

your books brushes bounding thoughts mow the yard

rake the promises of words  bake you an empire pie?

Laundry perhaps?  Here, bend my back.  Maybe you

are like  chalk   teeth-marks in summer fruit  dusted

from a burnished state of mind   something that will

rub-off-on me another first dance chance knuckles

red and white, even your old hand-me-down words.

     Rooftop plums.

neil reid © august 2010

neil reid © august 2010

Does it seem the more foolhardy the quest, the more labor it takes to dress the words? A minor appreciative note chimed for a poet person I admire. No names, only CS, and that’s obvious enough if you know my tastes (probably not). A playful little poem is all, nothing serious! So be it.

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No poet here

No poet here

I am a man who writes poems.
That’s fair to say, but not much more.
I am a man who wakes, goes to work
four or five days a week. Usually.
Usually Sunday to church. I do chairs.
I eat my dinner at my desk. I like
eating but it don’t much come first.
I sleep Japanese on the floor most
of the time. Nothing political or otherwise,
just a little long habit of choice.
Mostly a good back. You could say that.
I don’t keep house so good alone.
I do everything better when you’re around.
That explains a lot.

Do you know what I did in “the war”?
The one that was mine to do or not.
Or how awkward was that first late kiss,
then everything, then everything lost.
I might say sometime. If you ask.
Or the girl with a grafted patch on her thigh?
I danced brief with Buddha because of her
although she didn’t care. How many
pebbles on the beach? About that much
narrative along the way, and matters
about that much and little,
as they do and don’t say.

Did you know I spent days on skid road
or counted a sea lions whiskers or failed
to see the omens about my marriage?
More often wrong that right side up.
Guessed homeplate by a dancers thighs.
Only fully figured love when the bacon
was long past crisp. Gave it up.
Like one good book says, those who surrender
love will find it again, and finally ripe.

I scribble, I scrawl, write poems maybe
five minutes or two hours a day, maybe
in my car at lunch. Like calm to write
but sometimes no choice. They all see
the light of day but only your eyes once
in a while. Always best when thoughtlessly,
but I do that too anyway. Like foolhardy
companions try vainly to remain.
Sometimes I’m honest enough.

So don’t call me poet please. Too grand for
my shoes, uncomfortable on the tongue and
seems a pretense to suggest that poet is
what I am.

I’m just a man who was asked to write.
And I do. Just a whisper on the lips.

neil reid © july 2010

neil reid © july 2010

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I wish I was William Stafford

The title of this poem makes me shudder, publicly. But if you were inside my heart, you’d understand. Truth lives inside something other than merely words. It begins, as a statement of gratitude.

I wish I was William Stafford

i.

I wish I was William Stafford. Poems

so kin to soil that at his feet, they became

a man. As tectonic steady as is earth

itself, an unbridled keen eye and hand.

Maybe I’m not ruffled enough, haven’t

layered into dusty roads. Don’t think

he resisted growing into age. He drank

from the cup.

Maybe I’m not peaceful enough.

I resist. Lots. Maybe I look calm and

steady, but I’m as good at illusion as

most of us.

Maybe I’m too clever when I should

just be honest. Honest words, wouldn’t

you listen? But what if my life isn’t real?

What if my life isn’t alive?

ii.

What if you made a world and

nobody came? What if people thought

fish were just something to eat? What

if no one left crumbs for crows?

What if dust was just dusted off?

What cuff would carry the seeds?

Coincident wouldn’t be. Rivers would

go unseen, only navigated away.

Like there was someplace else to be.

What if no one drove an old truck to

the beach? Took a child’s hand,

swam across the sea? Wasn’t lost.

What if you made a storm and

everyone flinched? What if no one

understood why scrub brush makes

wind whisper? Who listens close?

iii.

Son, be careful what you see.

Say even less, the world the life all

frighten me, worries me. Stand perfect

and still, don’t make words into waves.

Iron your clothes smooth, wrinkles

are dangerous, too loud. Be friendly

so they won’t get personal, ask what’s

inside your clothes.

And whatever you do, don’t ask

about Father, why he’s gone. It hurts

too much, Mother never said. But it

did. Consistently.

A farm is just a farm, nothing to keep.

Hunger will come later, let’s pretend.

Starvation was slow that way. No one

gave her much hand. Neither the child,

and no excuse.

iv.

I am a mountain inside. Outside

crumbling granite answers the rain,

slowly follows down. Who will notice,

understand what patience means?

Most days resemble memory and

mortar, a bowl long polished like silk.

Coyote lurks, rabbit holds very still.

The canyon road in rain, then dry.

Glide fingers through the canyons

of seasoned bark. Read the stories

that sat right here. Nothing hidden,

no chance when fire comes.

Are we here only to escape?

Let soil make grass, let grass make deer.

Somewhere the mountain cat’s stomach

aches. Only what is willing necessity.

v.

When all the forest was finally burned

pine stones finally sighed, became first light.

When my history finally paused, it was dark.

Then light, then just one word.

Are you Mr. William Stafford?

No, you wouldn’t see, wouldn’t know.

And of course we all know better

than that. Don’t we?

It is just a thought, weightless, huh?

Nothing much. But tell me how real

your reality is. Count the rings,

flood and drought.

Far down the valley, somewhere is home.

But I carry some of that right inside my

shoes. Like poems do. But poems

were never the point. Did you see?

Neil Reid © November 2009


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Weeds they do

(Just one response to doubt.)

Weeds they do

Weeds know how to write poetry!

They do it every day. Count the leaves.

Just try to discourage their seeds!

Words pour forth abundance.

Identify which is bloom, which is rain.

You can fool yourself so easily.

What is reinforced, persists.

What does not, fades. Early spring

has answers for every seed.

Sow what you will. Breeze will do

the same. Two hands that may

plow in unison. Unity, one word.

When the weed becomes the garden,

just as it always has been.

Weeds know how to stitch.

How to sew, needle

and thread. Soil and sky,

the loom that weaves.

And this is how you write.

Neil Reid © November 2009


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Memories, you know, don’t say anything about the past.  What they say is how we hold then now.  Interesting critters.  (Take note of the dedication and RWP article given below.)

 

 

For my teacher, Dave

 

I wore my cowboy hat.  My boots were

just ordinary shoes, but I knew better.

 

I had a badge, holster and gun, but honestly

I wouldn’t ever shoot you.  I’m on the side

of what’s good.

 

My hat might be black, but I’m still good.

 

I wore my cowboy hat every day.

Until someone said they didn’t believe,

not at all.  Not even in make-up stuff!

 

I understood, but still it hurt.  That lasted

for a long long time.  There remained many

cowboys on TV, but I wasn’t one of them,

not any more.

 

Mostly I kept that all a secret.  Mostly,

until right here.  Mostly.  I’ve been normal,

I’ve been good.  You’d probably not have

seen that cowboy in me.

 

I hungered, I craved for peace, long long

before it was fashionable.  Be it on the

dust deep streets of Cimarron, or now

here where I work a growd up job.

 

I reckon you’d understand.  As one day

a new teacher rode into town and had

nerve to say, write what you wish!

 

And just so, the cowboy did.  And

it looked just like this!

 

 

Neil Reid © October 2009

 

A little Tomfoolery, but not.  And there really was a cowboy, you see.

And dedicated to Dave Jarecki, author of the wonderful and instructive RWP posting, children and poetry – the kids will all write.


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Poems are a piece of cake!

 

 

I think I’m a little slow, not that bright.

I’ve even forgotten my second line.

 

And now the third is pressuring me!

The dictionary is so full, but not me.

 

Gimme a break    or a good comma will do.

Sleep, sheep, Bo Peep.  Never liked rhymes.

 

Anyone got a magazine?

Someone distract me please.  Please!

 

Well now, this is just plain silly!

Time to go eat some cake?

 

Tomorrow I’ll be an astronaut.

Surely I can push a button or two.

 

And a very small leap for poetry-kind.

 

 

Neil Reid © September 2009

 

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