How to Write Poetry and Live Poetically
Free E-Course Lesson 31
Chapter 10: Meditation
Part 4: Poetry-Writing as Meditation
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The creative arts are the playground for recognizing and understanding our purpose in being here. When we truly allow our spirits to be filled with the purpose, our minds can begin to take stock of the necessary steps and needed materials so the body can become the mover or manifestor of the desire. —Mind, Body, Spirit: Connecting With Your Creative Self,
by Mary Braheny and Diane Halperin
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I wrote both of the poems below “meditatively” — that is, with an open mind, as part of a morning ritual.
The first poem originated from my noticing that at this time of year, the earth’s orientation to the sun is such that the rays slant more brightly and beautifully through my bedroom windows than in any other season. I have said before that I live in a church basement, though that’s not quite accurate. Half of my apartment is below ground level. The windows — there are four, all on the south side — are full sized, made possible by window wells.
In meditative poems I try not to be intentional. I work with the poetic conventions I choose and let the tale tell itself. In this case, I chose the following:
Form: Blank verse (with internal rhyme).
Meter: a sort of cross between dactylic and anapestic tetrameter. I could have made the meter less ambiguous by dividing the lines differently.
There are other common rhetorical devices as well. (1) How many can you identify? (Please name the ones you find.)
The poem was going to be a meditation on a ray of light, but it turned into something quite different. (2) What might it have told me about myself that I hadn’t been aware of?
1. WHIMSY ON WELCOMING WINDOWS IN WINTER
My walkdown is half below ground and thus darkish
with windows on only one side, and these mullioned
and frosted and dusty, gray-tinted with shadows
from brickwork and privet… and silent, so quiet
that lightning and thunder at midnight can’t penetrate;
but, more’s the pity, I can’t discern birdsong;
cicadas lamenting and crickets scritch-scritching,
however, are easily heard in midsummer.
I once had a fright from a possum who tumbled,
at least I inferred that she had, to the floor of
the window-well; captive, she skittered around on
the old metal screens; and I, thinking the threat must
be human, in fear and confusion, punched in nine-
one-one on the phone, and no fewer than two dozen
uniformed men armed with pistols came quickly
to rescue a woman alone in her bedroom,
defending her person from one hapless menacing
possum. The men with the guns were forgiving,
and, surely, one had to do something, not knowing
the danger. I do love a window that faces
the south in the wintertime, feral four-footed
invaders, indeed, notwithstanding; for sunlight
slants through in a comforting, angular way that
is perfectly suited for afternoon naps and
January 18, 2009
The inspiration for the following poem was the much-embellished language of Elizabeth Peters’s delightful Victorian archaeologist and detective Amelia Peabody Emerson. Peters has written a few dozen books about the Emersons, all narrated (for the most part) by Amelia, whose husband refers to her affectionately as “Peabody.” There is an unrestraint about her utterances (as there is, as well, about Victorian houses, furniture, and other artistic expressions) that is greatly at odds with the more modern, pared-down prose of later writers. If something can be clearly expressed using five words, Amelia will use fifteen.
There is, I am overjoyed to find, a new book in the series: Tomb of the Golden Bird (Amelia Peabody Mysteries).
Again, the poem wandered into uncharted territory. (3) What do you think I learned about myself in the process of writing this poem? (HINT: There are no wrong answers.)
2. LIBERTINE (AMELIA)
“They will rid us of resident
“rodents,” said Amelia Peabody —
Oh, what a droll redundancy
Of D’s and R’s and S’s.
Amelia is generous with consonants
and commas and asides,
an embarrassment of prepositions
or extravagant Egyptian
Ah, to scatter syllables
with no fear of reprisal,
Scribbling whatever adjectives
arise, page upon page,
To be intemperate at last
and feel the weight of pent-up participles
lifted from one’s shoulders,
nobly carried, one might add,
despite the rain.
Now to feast upon the delicate,
the succulent, the opulent
accessories, plucked in
leaner days from one’s
repast, but frozen — for
one knew their banishment
would end at last.
Economy, begone! Pack your
valise and abdicate
your stern and pious reign.
Don’t slam the door when you
egress. Expect no severance pay,
for you’ve exacted
more than you were owed.
And now, a toast, companions
in the liberation, mes amis.
Now lift your flagons, lift them high,
and drink to whimsy, arrogant,
peculiar, wry, benevolent.
Drink to liberty
in flowing crimson silk
arrayed; Amelia Peabody has
gained the citadel, and
holds aloft the flame.
O, wasted wealth of words, O, damned
display of Latin origins.
O, Norse and Arabic, O, Gaelic,
Greek and Cherokee, and more;
Ye assonant ambassadors, rejoice!
Amelia has restored
your scattered fortunes.
Spare no sibilants;
there shall be subsurrations,
seventy times seven, and
a score besides.
Throw wide the gates for
Go and populate the periodicals, reclaim
the islands where verbosity
has honor still.
Amelia has gained the citadel,
and yet, take care that your extravagance
is eloquent, laid on with artistry. For as
“the tombs themselves descend in
Endeavor to deserve, when you are
gone, an orderly effusion
in the manner you (yourself)
Immerse yourself in immortality.
Immerse yourself COMPLETELY,
Who bathes and then adjourns to the
Where breezes ruffle Nefret’s hair
that shimmers in the light like
Answer the questions highlighted above in red.
Write a meditative poem in blank verse using iambic or trochaic tetrameter. Your poem should have no more than twenty lines. BEGIN WITH A MINIMALIST, CONCRETE SUBJECT, AND DO NOT WRITE OVERTLY ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS.
Identify the poetic devices in your poem.
- Send your assignment via e-mail to Mary@LifeIsPoetry.net. I will not grade your assignment, but I will return it to you with comments.
- Keep exploring the meditations at www.LifeIsPoetry.net, and continue with your meditation journal.
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