Deep inside my soul I wanted
to reclaim some of what’s lost
and went wandering footloose,
in an Art Deco neighbourhood
and somehow I found a book
of poems and it’s just the
thing I was looking for.
Have you felt what it’s like
being a lost sheep? Thumping,
but really just a sloppy, deep
-set avoidance with eyes averted
as if all one had to do was go
to market to buy cabbage then
racked up more garbage.
So start over as if that’s all
one can ever hope to do real
well. The heart propped up
like this, a fat monster
breathing heavily, asking
what it does not know to
turn the air in the lair.
Prompt: Hey there, I’m really starting to prompt towards the new theme. So here’s the hint: it’s all about the heart, the thumping thing. So yea, look within your heart, dear poet. And start right there. That’s a very good place to start. In fact it’s the one and only place to start. Yes yes yes. Light a lantern. Then tread there cautiously. See what happens.
Immersed in love then death.
Is that it, Tessa? I’m flesh too.
So am subject to a barrage of ills
and gleamed sometimes with envy,
self-pity so becoming my own
scourge. When I’m not riddled
with a kind of electricity,
I’m my own worst nightmare.
Who goes there? Where’s there?
There where there’re ostentatious
sing-song voices jangling on trees.
I’d rather be solitary as she was.
But longed to be with another
who was like a slippage, remix of
own ecstatic self. Then night came
bewildered, bearing her away.
Prompt: On the topic of self, have you run out of things to say? That self that you call self– that’s called your character isn’t it? Given human imperfection, there’s self-glorification on the one hand (eek), and self-effacement on the other (eek), and do we seem to be hung up on both like a row of dead ducks? How noble is man’s reason when it is ultimately cut down to size on the greater mystery of life? What is certain is that humanity has much in common and it is on these universal values that great literature is made. I’ve an idea already for the next issue of the journal. Wrap up time, if you’ve got anything further to add, dear poets.
I’m in the wilderness.
Some kind of pilgrimage where I’m
left open to interpretation.
Here, a swamp. There’s a lull
No Sunday school.
I started to hallucinate.
Along came a fur-collared woman.
A pipe-sucking man. Some youth making
voluble noises. They asked for
an interpreter. Assailing,
expecting a serenade.
Which philosophy feels kin?
The one that says empty yourself of
everything? The one that says to
lose yourself is to find peace.
The sly one that holds
your truth, your love.
Prompt: There’re lots of people who are Christians. Christianity seems to be the fallback position. It holds a belief and that belief is key to the way one lives. I don’t think it holds the position that life is empty. If you aim to be a spiritual person without recourse to Christianity, then you may feel more akin to Eastern philosophy. In which case you would hold emptiness to have value, like a vase or a container. There is a pathway there too. In your poem, make some kind of value statement.
The ball went through the trees into
a puddle. Thwack and the galaxies
aligned again. In open season, in
the greatest game ever played by
Francis Ouimet, the amateur golfer.
Myself, I’m not so much into golf.
As for poetry it must be a haunting.
In the abyss of amateurs, the thrill’s
in the seeking. For the love of, we lift
a veil into the unknown, shine a lamp.
In the play we reveal who we are.
There is no sabotage, no estrangement.
What sort of homage this is but to the self.
Live then inscribe, theorize about the game.
Baffled, huddling in a tent of ghosts.
Prompt: Hello guys, we’re in August and the journal’s winding down its game. Well, the deadline for submission is 28 August, by the way. The theme we’re exploring is self, or Song of Myself. Anyway I’ve just watched a biographical sports movie called The Greatest Game Ever Played, about America’s golf champion, Francis Ouimet. He was the first amateur golfer to win the US Open in 1913. I enjoyed it even though I’m not much into golf. Nail-biting stuff. As an amateur, he didn’t win any money. So that made me think about my own practice of poetry, which doesn’t profit one’s pockets. Would you do something if it doesn’t bring you any money? Well, I am doing it and it profits me creatively and that is a kind of spiritual abundance. So I’ll just pretend I’m Francis’s competitor, British golf pro, Harry Vardon, who managed to swing the ball out of the puddle. Hurrah to a great game!
I almost forgot. The prompt’s to write a biographically inspired story.
So I’m thinking about fakes, skinning them
like a dead animal then construct some
papier mache and glueing back on the skin,
the glass eyes, color lips and eyelids,
finish off nose in oil paint, linseed
What? So I’m in the house of taxidermy
and looking at an armature of some bird
or could it be a weasel? A beaver?
Whatever. It’s all barren solitude.
A place of calamity, museum-like.
Natural history, you might call it.
Ever thought you’re mortal, Tessa?
Like for a mere second but everyday?
Have you a predilection for dead
animals? Neither do I. Like them supple
and real. Darting. Slithering. Mating.
Then everything goes up in smoke.
Prompt: Writing is about the imagination. Which is enormous. Einstein said it and he’s one smart alec. He said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” And those coming attractions cannot be dead, I may add. There is no joy in dead animals. Nope. Nah. Nada. So can you write a poem addressing dead animals? Soliloquize like Hamlet upon a skull.
I am wracked and not even trying these days.
I lie on my crooked sheets, try being cautious
and genial. Nothing so preposterous as making up
stories. Nothing doing, Tessa. I practice rocking
on a chair instead. All that creaking.
I am turning into a frog princess. I needed
your antidote. Soiled, amongst the waterlilies,
croaking at the moon. My croaking, does it
bother you? Arrowing at what? Sullenly,
I don’t know the meaning of meaning anymore.
No more melodious rush. I read and read.
Read like it’s a drug. Even the stories,
they’re like wind. Can’t even grasp so
the threads came loose. Someone, the author,
had tied them into an interesting knot.
But they came undone in the slight way mind
skipped and gathered meaning. Water slapping
like waves. Maybe this is what ageing likes
to do– to be literate but utterly destructible,
and to ask, where’s your real voice?
Prompt: It’s been a while, folks. I’m taking a breather, I suppose. If you remember, the theme of our current journal is “Song Of Myself”. I’m addressing that theme and asking you to do the same. Do it like an internal monologue so the reader can listen to your thoughts. Thoughts are pretty interesting. Without thoughts we would be empty vessels, wouldn’t we? To which, some smart alec would respond, Empty vessels make the most noise. The point being? Is there a point? You tell me.
John William Waterhouse, The Crystal Ball (1902)
We who are the stymied ones
lose our impulses, shriek amorphously
in our solitariness. O skull,
is death tragic, you tell me,
or a release? Is it deadly dull?
We, the monumental selves,
diminished by our mortal wound,
assay our fortunes flowing
like waves, full of dissent
much like dysentery.
Robed in red, crystal gazing woman
tried to read the signs
practicing witchcraft. I thought
to ask her a steep question.
Alas, she was tight-lipped.
Prompt: Today’s ekphrastic prompt is brought to you by this painting by John William Waterhouse. It had been hanging in the dining room at Glenborrodale Castle, Highland and was sold with the castle in 1952-3. The new owner hated the skull so had it doctored, having it covered by curtains. Subsequently an X-ray by art detectives revealed the skull. Luckily the original surface was still protected by varnish and the addition removed safely.
John William Waterhouse, Echo and Narcissus (1903)
He’s warbling to himself.
Stranger to me, and always,
whiskey unto himself.
I remained virginal.
My nerves are jangling.
He doesn’t want a wife.
What verve, as if I could climb
the stairwell, into him.
A narcissus grew where he left.
Prompt: This painting of classical mythology is by an English painter, John William Waterhouse. It is one of many works depicting women in Greek mythology and Arthurian legend. His work embraced the pre-Raphaelite style of painting. Narcissus had rejected the nymph, Echo, causing her to waste away. Nemesis, the goddess, heard her prayers and caused Narcissus to fall in love with his own reflection.
Camille Pissarro, The Côte des Bœufs at L’Hermitage (1877)
Away in these woods we’re shrouded
in trees. You’d think there’s nothing
uproarious about being there but
you would be wrong. Nature being
seemingly disordered as a matrix
but again you would be wrong.
What are we here to appease?
Something trite like walking out
for groceries and detergent? Ferreting
out wild mushrooms? Your guess would
be as good as mine. Whatever it was
there’s a touching innocence to it.
Wherever we are the days would be
sluggish sometimes. Like this one.
When night came you’d see the planets
and glittering stars and you’d be
somehow appeased. You’d pucker up to
a capering lover too, dear reader.
Prompt: Camille Pissarro, a Dutch-French painter, painted the rolling hills of the close-by neighbourhood of L’Hermitage when he stayed at Pontoise. The Côte des Bœufs (‘cattle ridge’) is a steep hill face just north of the River Oise. As an Impressionist, he often painted plein air and at this location he had painted scenes on five occasions in three different decades. He had shown his work at all eight Paris Impressionist exhibitions, from 1874 to 1886. This painting hung in his bedroom for many years. The artist, Walter Sickert, had said of it: “But the charm of a picture like this lies chiefly in its immense and indefatigable laboriousness, in labour so cunning, so swift and so patient, that the more it is piled up, the greater the clarity and simplicity of the result.”
Childe Hassam, April: (The Green Gown), 1920
Ode To Moss
Green and burgeoning, I leaned
toward the lichens and moss
against the cascade of leaves.
Crow nowhere in sight. My belly
full of butterflies. Ripples
clutching like a newborn.
When my boy was still sucking
a pacifier, I was writing
a paper and preggers and did
not imagine the pleasure it
would give, juggling like this;
all growth, stoney moss.
Prompt: Art scholars believed that Childe Hassam, an American Impressionist painter, intended this painting as a portrayal of his mother, Rosa Hathorne Hassam, during her pregnancy. She would have been in her third month of pregnancy with her artist son born on October 17, 1859. Hassam had moved to France to study figure drawing and painting at the prestigous Academie Julian and was inspired by French Impressionist paintings he saw at exhibitions. He had taken over Renoir’s studio and found some oil sketches left behind and “looked at these experiments in pure color and saw it was what I was trying to do myself.” In the 1890s, his technique evolved toward Impressionism.