phanaerozoic

Musings about life on Earth in all its aspects…

Category: Poetry Prompts

Ways of the Wind

In Volume 12 (2014) of Kansas City Voices, my poem, “Ways of the Wind,” inspired by a vivid image described by poet Xanath Caraza in a few lines of her poem, “Matilde en la Hamaca,” appeared on page 74. I am reprinting it here as an example of the use of an epigraph and how that epigraph can illuminate the interplay between the visions of two poets.

Ways of the Wind

“There she was
In her yellow dress
And her hair open to adventure…”
Xanath Caraza, from the poem
“Matilde en la Hamaca”

The wind had its way with her hair,
made it flow and twist, turned
its movements liquid, its strands
currents of streams braiding
the valley of the Brahmaputra.

The wind had its way with her hair,
brushed it with bergamot
oils from Calabria,
bathed it in the moist breaths
of benedictions, prayers
for intercession mouthed by
processions of faithful
in the plaza Catedral Basílica
de la Virgen de la Asunción
.

The wind had its way with her hair,
used it, strand by strand, to catch
all the hues of a Sinai sunset,
as if it were yarn carded
for a coat of many colors.

The wind had its way with her hair,
sent it searching the leniency
of her neck, the Sahara slopes of
her shoulders, had it conform
to its caresses, its advances, its
countless ways with love.

– Roy Beckemeyer

Prayer Card Poems – To the Virgin Mary as Un-tier of Knots

Untier of Knots copy

Dearest Mary,

I have really done it this time,
knotted myself up in rhyme.
I tried to return from the road of sin,
then went and hogtied myself again.

Half-hitched my legs together once more.
Yes, I know, the last time I swore
I would carry my knife, cut the knots through,
but sorrow and strife has me back here with you.

Square knot and granny,
there are so darned many
knots that I thought I knew
how to untie, but here I lie
can’t untie them and so I chew
and twist, and break fingernails.
Everything I try, it seems, fails.

Oh Mary, I dearly need your aid.
So please untie these knots so I
can become one of the saved.

– Roy Beckemeyer

I know that Catholics have a lot of things for which they ask the Mother of God to intercede with her Son for them, but this was a new one for me. So I could knot resist trying my hand at this poem/prayer. Back during my stint in the Boy Scouts I could have used help from the Saint of Tying Knots, but didn’t then and don’t now know who that is. Back to google, I guess.

Prayer Card Poems – In Loving Memory

In Loving Memory

In Loving Memory

Size seems about right. It’ll fit in anyone’s shirt pocket so they will be able to carry it around, run it through the laundry by accident, and then finally forget me, wash off any residual grief. Symbol has me stumped. Jayhawk, WuShock, Flying Billikin, maybe an airplane or a dragonfly or a corkscrew. Yeah, let’s go with the dragonly. It looks sort of like a cross and will be both natural, fitting, and as close to religious as I got. Should the photo be studious or serious or happy? I don’t know, but I think I would like a shit-eating grin (forgive me, Father) so everyone who looks at it wonders what I was up to. I would like to write the poem, and since I don’t know when I will be needing the card, let me do the custom text now:

Small town boy met small town girl raised
small town kids hiked and travelled and
moved to the city and built airplanes and
made wine and square danced and acted
pretty much like an adult most of the time
and then like a kid for the rest of the time
and was in love for nearly the whole time
and right up to the end for sure and went
to church as a kid and young man and hopes
and prays that won’t keep him out of heaven
since he did try to be and do good but that
doesn’t work according to some theologists
and so pray for him if you think it might do
some good, ya’ll, if you want to and have
the time, otherwise don’t worry. Amen.

And please look through those 1500 images in 20 different categories and find a nice picture of the sky. I always liked sky pictures, and there was sky everywhere I ever went.

 

– Roy Beckemeyer

Poetry Month American Cinquains

Poetry Month American Cinquains (A five-line poetic form in which lines 1 through 4 have 2, 4, 6, and 8 syllables, respectively, and line 5 has 2 syllables).

April 1 (inspired by a drive through the Flint Hills after prairie spring burns):

The green
already there,
woven among black ash
remnants, fiery tweed of renewed
prairie.

April 2 (inspired by a Kim Stafford reading at Watermark Books, a William Stafford Centennial event):

Passion
for poetry.
Might it be genetics?
Talent passed from father to son?
Perhaps.

April 3 (inspired by this also being Jazz Appreciation Month):

Triplets,
swing notes, two-four,
Dorian, Phrygian,
sevenths, ninths, elevenths, thirteenths.
It’s Jazz.

April 4 (inspired by the first thunderstorm of the spring):

Rumble
Out at the edge
Of hearing. The clearing
Of a storm’s throat, a stage whisper:
“Action!”

April 5:

Cursive.
Writing paper.
Pen. Letters. Elegance.
Illuminated manuscripts.
By Hand.

April 6:

A list
poem is always
fun but then there must be
some scheme or logic, rationale,
something…

April 7:
Cattails.
Corruscations.
Contretemps. Cavalcades.
Conditioning. Crepuscular.
C-words.

 April 8:

I’m a
container for
all that blood, corpuscles –
white and red – and plasma. The stuff
of life.

April 9:

old dogs
lying beneath
our feet breathing softly
what more could we need in old age
than this

April 10:

blossoms
perch in clusters
on pear trees like close friends
bees flit, flirt, hum as petals start
to fall

April 11:

Tax day
is a comin’
another check I’ll write
not enough deductions for a
refund

April 12:

Where the
heck are April’s
showers? Here comes young May,
looking to plant flowers. Too dry?
Bummer!

April 13:

A – P –
R – I – L – T –
H – I – R – T – E – E –
N – T – H – April Thirteenth –
Spelled!

April 14:

Tulips
catch snow, don’t scowl,
stand sturdy and strong, tall,
but think of Amsterdam in spring,
and yearn.

April 15:

promise
of blood red moon
old earth’s shadow once more
makes the moon’s visage dimly blush,
chagrined

April 16:

Texting
with an iPhone
takes patience, eyesight, small
fingers, I have learned – then again,
have I?

April 17:

On this
day in the past
Thornton Wilder was born.
Gairrison Keillor told us this
today.

April 18:

Friday.
On Calvary
Crucifixion and death.
God’s Friday, Pious Friday, Good
Friday.

April 19:

Doctors
have specialties
like gynecology,
cardiology. I prefer
GP’s.

April 20:

Easter
Mornings the sun
rises, brimming over
with forgiveness, atonement for
our sins.

April 21:

Flower.
Bloom intensely.
Color with abandon
Every day of every spring.
Flower!

 

A POET’S WEEKEND IN THREE MOVEMENTS

BAGATELLE – “… a short piece of music or verse in a light style” – Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary

Notes1

On Friday morning, March 1, 2013, I received the very welcome news that a haiku of mine had been accepted by editors Scott Wiggerman and Constance Campbell for their forthcoming anthology, “Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku & Haiga,” to be published by Dos Gatos Press (http://dosgatospress.org/ ) of Austin, Texas. A quite pleasant way to enter the weekend and a warm-up that got me humming and in-tune for the scheduled events to come.

A brief INTERMISSION to move to a new venue: my wife, Pat, and I drove from Wichita to Emporia, Kansas (about 90 miles) for Friday night’s reading from Kansas Poet Laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg’s “To the Stars Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices” (http://150kansaspoems.wordpress.com/readings/). Some of the poets who had contributed poems to the volume met at Casa Ramos, a nice little Mexican restaurant in Emporia for ceviche, burritos, flautas and other flavorful and spicy Mexican fare.

SINFONIA CONCERTANTE – “a concerto for more than one solo instrument” – Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary

Notes2

The renga reading was held at Emporia State University and hosted by Kevin Rabas of ESU (http://www.facebook.com/roy.beckemeyer#!/events/266004003528732/) . Kevin’s professorial prowess and poet’s panache resulted in a quite satisfying evening; he attended to the little extras that make a big difference, such as posting students and staff members at various locations in the student union to direct attendees, having a nicely arranged room, refreshments, tables for displays of books, and a warm and receptive audience.
Kevin first introduced Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita Denise Low and current Laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, both of whom talked and read some of their work before the renga reading began. A number of the poets at this reading had ties to Emporia and ESU, which helped to make the event even more special. As different poets show up at different readings, the tenor of the renga changes each time. An interesting aspect of this reading was that there were two husband-wife couples and a father-son pair among the 12 poets who read. The poets read in the order in which their poems appear in the renga; most of them quoted from the poem that immediately preceded theirs in the book and that provided the inspiration for their poem. Reading were: Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Hazel Smith Hutchinson, Bill Sheldon, Roy Beckemeyer, Kevin Rabas, Denise Low, Ken Lassman, Pat Beckemeyer, Shawn Pavey, Dan Pohl, Cheryl Unruh, and Tyler Sheldon. Audience members were attentive and interested, and the reading was a delight for the poets. The ambience remained warm and friendly afterwards, with lots of dialogue and discussion of poetry.
Thanks so much to Kevin for managing the event, to Caryn for shepherding all those poets through the process of bringing the renga to fruition and for turning it into a manuscript, and to Denise for publishing the book as part of Mammoth Publications’ rich catalog (http://www.mammothpublications.com/).

A second INTERMISSION, as Pat and I drove back to Wichita the morning of Saturday, March 2, 2013, for the final event of the weekend. A beautiful sunny day for a drive through the Flint Hills, which still had a blanket of snow covering the grass from last week’s storms, made the trip delightful.

CHACONNE – ” a musical composition…consisting typically of continuous variations based on a repeated succession of chords ”

Notes3

We arrived back in Wichita just in time to drive to the March meeting and brunch of the Wichita Branch of the National League of Pen Women (http://www.nlapw.org/). Evelynn Boal and Dee Smith had invited me to do a program on the topic: “What Prompts the Poet.” As you might guess by now, to get a poet to do anything, you must feed him/her. After breaking our fast with quiche, pastry, fruit and coffee, I proceeded to the program. I had assembled a list of topics that I felt were good prompts for poets, discussed them briefly, then asked audience members to choose one of the prompts, and I responded by reading a poem of mine that had that prompt as its origin. At the completion of the program, they were gracious enough to invite Pat to read as well; she presented her renga poem – a nice ending for a weekend of food and poetry.

– Roy Beckemeyer

A Renga Project for a Group of 6 to 12 Poets

I have been moderating a poetry session three times a year for LifeVentures, a program for seniors in Wichita, Kansas. Each of the three “semesters” is eight weeks long. The poetry sessions are an hour long, so each semester we have eight hours total together, plus the time each participant puts in at home. A typical class runs around eight to ten people. I am always looking for new themes for us to explore.

Last spring I was one of the contributors to Kansas Poet Laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg’s Kansas Renga project (see the 150 Kansas Poems blog site), so I thought it might be fun to do some rengas in our sessions. Since we had only eight meetings, I decided we would do seven-stanza rengas, with each participant writing stanzas one and seven of their renga, and contributing a stanza to each of five other rengas in the intermediate weeks.

Since I never know exactly how many folks will sign up, I worked out sequences for class sizes of anywhere from six to 12 poets. That way we would end up with a renga for each poet to which five other class particpants had contributed. One neat thing about this project is that even the people who would ordinarily beg off and not write anything for one or more of the classes, felt a real obligation to write every week rather than let any of the other participants down.

Here is a link to a set of matrices (as a pdf file) that you can use for doing this project:

Renga Sequence

There is a column for each participant. If there are 10 people in class, write the numbers one through 10 on slips of paper and let everyone draw from a hat. Suppose you drew number seven. The seventh column in the matrix for 10 poets lists your renga sequence. You would write the first stanza. The next week, you handed your stanzaa to poet number nine who would write the second stanza, and so on. The poem would be passed to poets eight, four, three, and 10 in that order, leaving you to write the final stanza.

I had made a list of “subjects” from which each participant could choose a theme for his/her renga (e.g., “Zero Hour”,”Music Lessons,” “Our Town,” “Symphony of the Universe,” etc.). This helped to provide focus for the contributors, although each was to find something in the stanza immediately preceeding theirs as their main source of inspiration.

It proved to be an exercise that everyone enjoyed, everyone contributed to, and that provided us all with some interesting and memorable poem sequences. Participants found it particularly gratifying to see how others responded to their work.

– Roy Beckemeyer