One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.

Monday, April 23, 2018

An Antic Disposition

It always seems to me that a kind of madness takes over the toads during the month of April, as many of us attempt to write 30 poems in 30 days. We get to the fourth week and wonder why we set ourselves such an insurmountable task to begin with.

Since today is the anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and death, I have delved into the archives to read up on what he had to say about madness... a favoured theme in several plays and poems. I came across an interesting article, to be found HERE for those who are interested. I have also provided a few memorable quotes, but they are by no means prescriptive.

Laurence Olivier as Hamlet (1948)


But come—
Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd some'er I bear myself—
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on—

Hamlet Act 1, scene 5, 168 - 172


Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact.

Midsummer Night's Dream Act 5, scene 1, 4 - 8


Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas'd,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?

Macbeth Act 5, scene 3, 40–45

Our focus for this prompt is The Mind: those troubles of the brain, shaping fantasies and antic dispositions which make us human.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Poets of April

Today I offer inspiration from poets born in April.

"A fresh and vigorous weed, always renewed and renewing, it will cut 
its wondrous way through rubbish and rubble." William Jay Smith

"More matter with less art" Hamlet ~ William Shakespeare

"One can live without having survived." Carolyn Forche

"To write a blues song is to regiment riots and pluck gems from graves."
     ~ Etheridge Knight

“You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”  ― Annie Dillard

Let these quotes lead to poetry. You can choose any form, or no form at all. I also used photos I felt worked with the quotes. You can draw inspiration from them also. I am including the license information from Pexels which applies to each image

CC0 License
✓ Free for personal and commercial use
✓ No attribution required

Please add your poem link to Mr. Linky and visit your fellow poets to read what today's post inspired.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Day 21: Mythical Creatures

Peter Paul Reubens, "Leda and The Swan," 1601,
Our animal cousins have never been far from us, especially while we sleep. We only think we're different.

During homo sapiens’ million-year dream-time, animal and human were deeply enmeshed. Consciousness was like a fish coming out of the water. Our dreaming selves dive back into the furred and feathered and finned.  

In those blending waters of the lower brain, distinctions fade, similarities grow. A fish walks with our feet, a horse has a human head. The snake slithers round Eve’s forearm and sets as golden arm-bracelet. Birds caw our name from the trees, seals stare back with beloveds' eyes.

A shaman’s initiation ordeal meant being devoured, digested and tutored in the ways of healing by one great animal or another. His or her familiar was a totem topped by an eagle or bear or killer whale.

Is it the guilt of our killing hunger that painted hyper luminous beasts in the Paleolithic caves, and chases us at night, braying the Wild Hunt across the sky?

In myth, transformation from human to animal is a commonplace. In Greek myth Cyncus, who grieved the fall of his friend Phaeton so deeply, turns into a swan; Philomena’s rape and disfigurement (her tongue is ripped out, to prevent her from telling on her aggressor) transforms into a nightingale whose song pierces the heart. Actaeon the hunter is turned into a stag while spying on naked Artemis in her bath and then is devoured by his own dogs.

When human and animal pair, the result is never sure. Pasiphae loved the Cretan Bull, and their union produced the Minotaur.  Zeus seduced the maid Leda in the form of a swan, and Leda gives birth to Helen, whose beauty launched a thousand war-ships.  Go figure.

Some gods are animals—Cernunnos the Celtic woodland god has the horns of a stag; the Egyptian god Anubis, guarder of graves, is a dog. The Russian raven-god Kutkh releases the sun and the moon from its bill. Coyote and Crow both enjoy a rich tradition of Native American folk-tales.

Mythic monsters are legion. A griffin is eagle and lion; dragon a flying snake; Argus is a hundred-eyed giant and Cyclops a boor-bully with just one. Scylla is a many-tentacled she-beast whose lair is just before the mouth of Charybdis, the whirlpooling monster. Apollo gets his prophetic powers from killing the Pythian snake, and the Medusa—the chick with those nasty adders for hair—petrifies anyone caught in her gaze. (Literally.) When she is beheaded by Perseus, the winged horse Pegasus leaps from her spilled blood.  

Animals keep us guessing just what’s really going on. The Devil is a poodle in Goethe’s Faust, the prince is a frog who may have already joined us here at the Pond. One of my cousins, MacOdrum of UIst, runs with the seal-tribe.  You just never know.

For today’s NaPoWriMo challenge, pick an animal and write its myth. You can riff on an existing tale or concoct your own. Put your beloved pet in a folktale, or walk a mile in an animal's paws.  Let’s honor the beasts who ensoul the Garden, and the child in us all who can still see and talk and ride with them.

Friday, April 20, 2018

April 20: Say the Names of the Places You Love

In Canada, we boast a legendary free-verse poet who was always larger than life. Al Purdy, (1918 – 2000), had a literary career spanning 56 years. He produced 39 books of poetry, a novel, two volumes of memoirs, and four volumes of correspondence. He has been called Canada’s unofficial poet laureate.

He was born and lived in Ontario, but spent winters in his later years, in Sydney, B.C. He was able to support himself with his writing, and as an editor. He wrote in an A-frame, which has been preserved, after his death, as a memorial to him.

He was a friend of Charles Bukowski, who once said, “I don’t know of any good living poets. But there’s this tough son-of-a-bitch up in Canada that walks the line.”

Al Purdy died as he lived – on his own terms. At 81, dying of lung cancer, he chose assisted suicide, and exited the world, leaving behind his wife, his substantial body of work, and his beloved A-frame. I’d like to think he still visits that cabin.

Perhaps his most well-known poem is “Say the Names”, which he wrote shortly before his death, an elegy to some of the beloved place-names of his life, in this case locations in British Columbia. Let’s take a look:

by Al Purdy

say the names say the names
and listen to yourself
an echo in the mountains
Tulameen Tulameen
say them like your soul
was listening and overhearing
and you dreamed you dreamed
you were a river
Tulameen Tulameen
--not the flat borrowed imitations
of foreign names
not Briton Windsor Trenton
but names that ride the wind
Spillimacheen and Nahanni
Kleena Kleene and Horsefly
Illecillewaet and Whachamacallit
Lillooet and Kluane
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
and the whole sky falling
when the buffalo went down
say them say them remember
if you ever wander elsewhere
"the North as a deed and forever"
Kleena Kleene Nahanni
Osoyoos and Similkameen
say the names
as if they were your soul
lost among the mountains
a soul you mislaid
and found again rejoicing
Tulameen Tulameen

till the heart stops beating
           say the names

The Village of Tulameen, B.C.

Our challenge is to write a poem in the spirit of “Say the Names”. What are the names of the places that live in your heart: their mountains, their rivers, their lakes or ocean shore, the small towns, the deserts, the city streets?

Sing us a song of those places, those names. Let’s sing out the places we love. I can’t wait to read your love poems to the places in your heart.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Get Listed: Poems In April Edition


To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?  (read full poem here)

- Edna St. Vincent Millay, Spring.

Greetings to all poets, wayfarers and friends. We are halfway through the month of April, and I must admit it has been an incredible journey so far. I have long been in love with poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay. There is something distinctly profound about the way she picks her words and phrases and the poem above is a perfect example.

For this 'Get Listed' edition I want you guys to come up with your own brief creation. Please keep your poems under 100 words. Choose one of the word groups (using all four words) that fits best with the mood/theme/personality of your poem.

  • canopy               frost                   despair                omen                        sensual
  • wander              dawn                  blood                   wistful                      features
  • lightly                pity                     guts                      crocus                       blue
  • spring                change               dark                       edge                        mouth

Choose your own form or write in free verse if preferred. I look forward to what you guys come up with. The link doesn't expire so feel free to write more than one poem. Please do visit others and remember to comment on their poems. Have fun!