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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mademoiselle Bourque

Mademoiselle Bourque

Grade ten, up the wooden stairs, to sit in rows in the room with tall windows of wavy glass, an out of focus outside world. Ready to watch a slender woman with silver hair and crooked teeth teach language. In her French accent, telling us that learning makes dents, deeper and deeper, forms ridges in the brain, holding her fists together pressing them up to show the dent, lowering and pushing them together tight, tight to show the ridge of knowledge held by the crevasses of our brains. “Comme ça. Comme ça,” she’d laugh. “You can remember.  You can do this.” Folding homework into paper planes, flying them to the warped world beyond the windows, sometimes knocking her red geraniums out, too, we made fun of her brown flat shoes, her garnet broach worn every day. We couldn’t imagine her life outside that room, though she’d shared stories of Paris, museums, cafés, a lover long ago. When we returned after Christmas, they told us she had appendicitis.  The supply teacher’s bright lipstick, tight skirts, high heels didn’t say, “You can remember”; the Science teacher across the hall, all her attention.
        Years later, I hear Mademoiselle Bourque’s voice in my brain whenever I fear a failure coming on. “You can do this.” The ridge holds tight. It’s then I think of her, wonder how she survived this narrow English town, and what she lost in love. What dreams did have for her life, that slender woman named Aurora, the shimmering light of dawn?

NOTE of explanation about this prose poem:

In lesson three of my online writing course, Marvin Bell says to learn to write better poetry, “Find poems that knock your socks off because of how they are written, not solely because of what was written about.”

"Pay attention to syntax, the secret of free verse." Syntax refers to word order, the grammar of the sentence, its architecture, the engine of forward momentum, the thing that ties one word to another, one moment to the moment to come.

The homework assignment from this lesson is to:

     1. find a poem that knocks your socks off. (I found “Mr. Philips” by Lynn Davies, from her book The Bridge That Carries the Road.)

    2. use the poem as a pattern or template to create a prose poem

So, here is “Mademoiselle Bourque” from a pattern closely made from “Mr. Philips”, with thanks (and apologies) to Lynn Davies.  Please, note that my poem is a homework assignment and is not meant as a separate, publishable poem.  It is too close to Lynn's terrific original to be considered anything but a writing attempt to learn a new form.  Anything else would be plagiarism.

If you’d like to know more about Lynn Davies’ great poetry,click here

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Edge of Dreams

The Edge of Dreams

Words             g
                        n                                              at the edge of DREAMS
t e a s e                                    t a u n t
catch me if you can
wake & wait
                                    for those
                                                                        elusive lines
RUSH      of
                              d                            thoughts

sudden                        s  c  r  a  m  b  l  e                       to spit words                                    OUT

to scribble words
spill the

                                     R  i   P  p  L e  S                     of                                 SONG

In lesson three of my online writing course, one assignment is to write a poem using the whole page. I must think about how to tap the page's white space and resources to surprise the reader with expressive moments, using gutters, margins, headers, footers, fonts, etc., without taking up space merely to use space.

This poem "The Edge of Dreams" is loosely based on an excerpt from "Writing Poetry," a poem I wrote in 2011, published in The Calling, A Collection of New Canadian Poetry.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spring, a Poem


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.