Sunday, February 18, 2018

Saturday, February 17, 2018

playing with form (limited by form)

The short program in figure skating has never been my favorite.  The demands seem huge, and constraining, with little room for freedom of expression.  Within 2 minutes and 50 seconds, they must complete 7 specified elements of jumps, spins and sequences. It often feels much more mechanical than the free skate.

I am watching a lot of Olympics these days, and this specified limitation of form interests me.  There are timing or weight or clothing restrictions, space markers, boundaries, specified orders of operations. Things that matter to within tenths or hundredths of seconds or grams or millimeters in any one of the events.

This limitation of form intrigues me, partly because I do not like constraints, do not like limiting my options.  And partly because my faith is in One who stepped into a very limited and restricted form to live a life like mine.  And that continues to stagger my mind and heart.  And to defy logic.

So I am going to explore poetic writing forms for this season of Lent.  To see what artificial constraints of rhythm and rhyme do with words and thoughts.  How does form restrict meaning, or shape meaning?  or enhance meaning?!  Oh, how it restricts!  There are strict rhyming schemes in some.  So I search for a word that rhymes with an end of a thought.  And nothing comes, so I walk to the river, talking out loud with rhyming words.  (I am not crazy.)  And when I find a word that rhymes, try to construct a thought that fits.  That is so different than just writing what I want regardless of length of line and sound of words.  Or a short poetry form like Haiku where you do not use metaphor or simile or title.  Or a Landay (Thursday's form) sung more than written, likely originates in the region of Afghanistan/Pakistan, often a way of communicating among isolated women.  Edgy.  Specializing in themes of war, separation, homeland, grief, war,  Or a limerick ... which can't help but be a bit funny.  How can form do all of these things?

One more layer to add to this - each week I am choosing six words from a section of the Gospel of John that can be a focus or theme or just a word inserted.  Six elements.  Changing each week.  After only a partial week, it seems that sonnets may be my downfall.  Rhyming feels just so artificial when I MUST do it.

So I'll share some of my attempts - even when I know they fall short - because this imposition of form is the thing I am wrestling with.  How does form affect meaning?

The letter to the Philippians (2:6-7)  gives us a hint of this ...
Though he was God (or "being in the form of God")
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges (or "emptied himself")
he took the humble position of a slave ("took the form of a slave")
and was born as a human being.
when he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God...

I did some research and found some new-to-me poetic forms at  Decided on the following constraints:

Mondays - Quatern
Tuesdays - Nonet
Wednesday - Haynaku
Thursday - Sonnet
Fridays - Landay
Saturdays - Limerick or Haiku

And an any day substitution - Sestina
And let's be honest.  Though points may be deducted for incomplete sequences I may just switch out a limerick when a sonnet refuses to be written.

So the elements for this first short week (words from the first verses of the gospel of John)
beginning, word, made, life, light, darkness, gives

On your mark, get set ...

Wednesday (Haynaku)
soil frozen
still fast asleep

Thursday (Landay)
rivers know the way water must flow
but we wander, wonder, carving the land with our words

Friday (Sonnet ...  incomplete and in need of revision but Friday came to an end and this was all I could do!!)

And so the world spoken by a word spins
not so that we become dizzy with speed;
water, wind, earth, fire as he begins
to speak, to breathe life into (each living seed) [don't like this ending]

Whispers of wind run through the dark shadow
grass long dried along the riverbank gives
voice in the silence, for how can you know
One who spoke words into spaces, and lives.

The spinning the living the dying the watching
for One who breathes life and who utters a word
 ......                                                        catching
.......                                                        blurred

What do I want to say?
Or must words first be allowed to play?

Saturday (Haiku)
light interrupts dark
and a word betrays silence
a flicker of life

sunlight reflecting
water shimmering, flowing
ducks share winter ice

    Thursday, February 8, 2018

    falls like rain

    snow fell thick 
    every morning 
    balancing on the wires
    stacked on the fence posts
    covering tracks from the previous day

    temperatures play around freezing
    dropping moisture like snow 
    for throwing and building
    dropping moisture like rain

    we play with the children 
    (children bring that gift) 
    peek a boo 
    laughing while making silly animal noises
    running through the snow
    making paths where there were none
    jumping into snow banks 
    building snowmen and sliding on the paths

    conversations circle
    on the missing one
    settle intentionally and look him in the face
    paging through the photos
    remembering the pieces of a life
    finding pieces left behind
    knowing he won't walk through the door
    dropping moisture like tears

    and the snow falls silently all around
    as we drive away

    the sun breaks through the clouds 
    for a moment
    lighting the tops of the mountains

    Friday, December 29, 2017

    what this is not

    This is not just surprise and pleasure.
    This is not just beauty sometimes
      too hot to touch.
    This is not a blessing with a beginning and an end.
    This is not just a wild summer.
    This is not conditional.

    ... discovered in Mary Oliver's book of poems Felicity

    We marked 26 years together yesterday

    a day that has bent with the weight of
    joys and sorrows for others in our lives

    a day that has thickened with years of
    walking and
    remembering and
    gathering and
    blizzards and
    travelling and

    a day that has shimmered with colors of
    our children and their wonderful life partners
    and grandchildren
    and friendships

    we are grateful.

    Thursday, December 14, 2017

    holiness in the rearview mirror

    of course there are some times
    when you know you are standing on holy ground

    when a bush burns without burning up
    or a voice compels you to take off your shoes

    or you lift your eyes to the heavens
    stunned at what you hear in a night sky

    echoing forward through all of your days

    but there are times
    when it only shimmers when you look backwards

    like the road trip through Jasper
    when Mount Robson
    slipped in through the rearview mirror

    and you wonder how mountains
    play hide and seek

    or you play marbles with a two year old
    trying to find the logic in
    the ways the marbles are moved

    listening to the precise words
    a running sound track of the game

    and you wonder how a child with no sin
    navigated through two

    what did holiness look like in Mary's house
    how did he navigate his discovery of color
    and depth and taste

    and sounds of words
    word of life
    learning to speak

    creator of the universe
    shaped clay into life and breath
    little hands picking up little stones

    Thursday, December 7, 2017

    lists of names - ways we remember

    Many summers ago, gathered with friends in an apartment on a Sunday morning,
    I followed a rabbit trail of questions and ended up in St Matthew's genealogy of Jesus. 
    It was the first time that I had seen anyone lean forward in interest when I started reading a list of names
    ... was the father of ... was the father of ...with the occasional whose mother was ...
    The boys took their hoods off, and began to ask questions about the "begats", and whose grandfather David was, and how that story connected with another one that they had heard.

    I discovered the author Debrah Ellis through a book
    on McNally Robinson's 'once banned books' table
    Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak  
    It begins with names.  pages of names.
    Palestinian and Israeli children who have been killed in the crossfire.

    Ottawa's peace tower dominates the river bank
    inside the memorial chamber, the names
    of Canadian soldiers who have died in our wars
    open books facing in all directions
    names written with intricate calligraphy

    each morning at 11:00 someone goes into the tower 
    opens the glass
    turns a page in each book
    closes the glass

    NYC's ground zero
    marking the footprints of towers fallen
    names of the people fallen etched deeply into the parapet
    no mark on the horizon
    waterfalls constantly rushing downward

    a new tower standing defiantly by 
    over constant crowds of people
    tracing the letters
    the names etched deeply into the parapet

    Sunday, December 3, 2017

    amtrack sunset

    as the sun sets she calls
    all color to herself
    leaving the forests black
    against a blazing sky

    fading till all that is left
    are faint glimmering
    lights in the crescent moon's wake