Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spring, a Poem



Spring

Snow pulls your cedar fence apart, pushes it slant.
Crossbars slump into symbols for “less than.”
Winter loosens its hold, sinks into flood, rushes
the downward slope to the river.
A red ribbon rides the melt, dangles on the lip
of the storm drain, bright floss tangled in a gritty grill.
You wait weeks for the slow dissolve of winter,
to discover your yard, wounded.
Then, one morning, above the crocus
and compost, this burst of russet
on a damp grey limb.
A robin sings.


Last week, I posted six objective observations from my neighbourhood, as part of a course I am following. This week, the assignment is to use those observations as the basis for a poem. The poem should also make use of sonic word associations and utilize differing line lengths to create pauses at expressive moments.

It is helpful to begin with a bit of language that holds interest, such as my “slow dissolve of winter” and from that create a word cloud of sonic associations. 

The word “dissolve” produced a word cloud of solvent, ventilation, discuss, discover, concussive, dishevel, solution, ablution, sheen, blue.

The word “winter” gave me a word cloud of winner, nerd, twin, tern, turn, winsome, win some, terrify, wonder, wound her, wound.

I used the words “discover” and “wound”  in my poem because they added sonic echo and because they suited what I wanted to say.

In “Spring”, my line lengths vary as I create brief stops or breaks where I want the thought/image to pause. Often at the beginning of the next line, there is a twist or additional information, a surprise. Line breaks allow me to share with the reader, the places where a pause will help with their understanding of the picture I am painting.


“Spring” is a draft poem, a work in progress. As always, my photos and words are copyright 
©2011-2015 Carol Steel.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What Emerges from the Snow?




Snow pulls the cedar fence apart, pushes it slant. Grey crossbars, twenty years old, rest on each other, make less than signs. Where spikes once held, there are pale ovals with dark holes.

In the spring melt-water, a red ribbon undulates and rides, then stops to dangle in the grate of a storm drain. The water rushes over the edges, gurgles and flows to the river.

Damp earth and dried oak leaves smell of mold and dog poop. The air tastes warm with a hint of ice.

On the spring wind, pale dry maple leaves rise rattling to trace the walls of the house, twirl and descend again. Bleached, broken bits of wisteria vine crisscross in brittle heaps, on a thawed patch of garden beside the pergola.

The magnolia bark, brown-speckled-grey, has tawny splits, rips where limbs broke with the weight of snow. Wounded branches hang and swing, still attached by wood's fibers. They tug and rub, creak in the wind. Squall-torn magnolia buds, encased in hairy brown, skitter across the crust of snow.




These observations, descriptive and objective are part of a homework assignment from an online course I am following. It is a challenge to keep the observations free of metaphor and added imagery. 

I am enjoying the reminders to be a keen observer, using all of my senses, in order to gather the word materials to create poetry. 

Good reminders. Good self-discipline. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Skins of a Dream



The Skins of a Dream

Paper birch, way back in the woods,
      whose barks
            curl back like the creamy

skins of a dream...

~ John Thompson ~

To learn more about the poet, John Thompson, click on this link .


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thirst



Learning to write well, and growing in my poetry writing mean finding balance between asking for help and trusting my instincts.

Sometimes, I search for water before I have taken the time to know the depth of my own thirst. At those times, my longing outstrips my patience and I make mistakes. It is necessary to gauge both the depth of what I need and what I can hold, before seeking, before opening my mouth to drink.

When I do not trust my instincts, the flood gates burst open. I get in over my head and nearly drown. Tidal waves carry me away from where I really want to go.  It becomes a question of survival and adaptation ... grow gills, swim, develop another row of teeth.

It is hard to accept that it may take more years to acquire a sense of wholeness in my writing, more years than I had hoped. But I have learned this: My writing requires learning to live with the tensions of my own evolution, learning to quiet my doubts, and yet to proceed.

It requires trusting myself to know what I need to quench my thirst.


This blog post is a part of my reflections from an online retreat study I followed with The Prayer Bench offered by Janice MacLean.  You can find out more about her online retreats at:
http://www.prayerbench.ca 



Sunday, March 22, 2015

Monday, March 16, 2015

Stoney Creek Memories




To help me grow in my writing,  I study the work of others and often find a line or a poem which resonates deep within me.  

The line "Only a picture from a blue tin box" and the poem it begins are such inspirations.  The poem is "Cape Enrage"  by Lynn Davies, from her first collection of poems, The Bridge that Carries the Road, published by Brick Books in 1999.

This photo of me and two of my younger sisters was taken during a stay at our grandparents' home in Stoney Creek in 1954.  They looked after us while our parents were moving our household to another city.  

Lynn's poem evoked this memory.  I appreciate Lynn Davies for the beauty, inspiration, education and challenge her work offers.  I learn much about how to write better, examining the way a poem is created by another person.  In this instance, her first line brings a memory and her poem gives me a guide, by which to write this prose remembrance. 

This is my memory-

Stoney Creek

"Only a picture from a blue tin box." The week we stayed while our parents moved to Belle River. My grandfather steadied a brownie camera, told us, "Hold still." The July sun warmed water in the steel tubs, heated the galvanized walls which held us. My little sisters splashed and jumped; drops flew to my grandfather's trousers, 'til he shook with laughter.

In the picture, I wear a red bathing suit, my grandmother found in the attic, a gaudy orange flower sewed to the strap. This tub held Peggy's drinking water when she was alive, whinnying, running the pastures. Grandfather told me she had been a handful. After a drink, she'd hold water in her mouth. When he turned, she'd dribble a shock of cold down his back.

In the slow afternoon, soaked in water and laughter, we worked wonders: raindrops on the stiff gladiolas behind us; magic liniment on bites from black flies; wet-ghost hand prints on grey cedar shingles. We were water sprites spitting water onto a gravel driveway, watching it dry, disappear, dreaming of that horse full of tricks, all mischief gone.


Words in coloured ink will take you to another site with additional information, if you click on them.  I continue to grow in my writing, am aware that I have much to learn, and am grateful to work which shines a light for me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Place




I am attached to the place I live; sometimes to the extent of forgetting it is not the whole world. 

I live among maple, birch and spruce, in the company of chickadees and jays, ducks and deer in an old residential area of Riverview, NB. Here, it is easy to forget that the river, the bay, the Acadian forest and mountains so close to me are not the whole world for everyone.

Last weekend, we went to Halifax, Nova Scotia and stayed in a hotel where the scenery was office towers and apartment buildings.  This photo is an elliptical-shaped building, The Martello; the penthouse is offered for $860,000. plus the monthly condo fees.  The other view was the snow covered uprising slope of The Citadel, topped with white masts; it looked like the whole hill might be ready to set sail.  Of course, there were trees and parks within the city, and as always, the gorgeous harbour.

It was unlike what I am used to, that’s all.  Not better or worse, simply different.  And that was good.  My poetry writing mind and my photo seeing mind were piqued and stimulated by those changes.  It was a challenge and gift to roam the city because it was not familiar. 

I realized that I am stuck in my love of the place I live.

It is helpful and nourishing to get away to unfamiliar surroundings, to get unstuck and be invited to walk streets shaded and squeezed by sky scrapers, to notice an abundance of seagulls, oak trees six stories tall, myriad bistros and cafes, all as inviting as our own, but different.

We drove out to Peggy’s Cove on Sunday.  The granite boulders and the ocean were strangely soothing.  The Cove has never disappointed; ice, like thin frosting offered the same visual warning to stay off as did the wet, black rocks in summer.  And like summer, people still walked out to the edges, despite the cautions.




I enjoyed the trip away.  It was good to be free of responsibilities, to do what I wanted, when I wanted.

But, coming home, I relearned something I’ve always known. The damp salt air, the stony beaches, the salt water marsh, the muddy Petitcodiac River, the deciduous and evergreen forests of Albert County, New Brunswick are where my roots stretch deep into the earth and hold me in place.


They are my home.