Fame

Something to think about on this Sunday:

“Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye*

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

naomi-shihab-nye*If you want to read more of Nye’s poetry, I strongly recommend her book of poems Transfer. Alternatively, you can check out this list of poems, articles, and more at the Poetry Foundation.

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Mimicry as Inspiration

I’ve been leading a creative writing club for high schoolers, which started at the beginning of October. Originally, I wanted to have us start off the year with a bang with NaNoWriMo via the Young Writers Program, but these students are all second language English learners, so that was a bit too overwhelming of a start. (Poor planning on me…)

I proposed we start with something simpler, and they all eagerly agreed. Therefore, I introduced them to Billy Collins’ “Litany.” When I was in college, one of my professors told us to mimic this poem as a means to improving our writing–mimicking can improve sentence structure and syntax–and I decided to borrow from said professor by having these students do the same. All in all, I really enjoyed what they came up with and would love to share their poems, but I am pretty sure that is not a great idea. Instead, with apologies to Billy Collins, mine follows:

You are the cherries and the pie,
the black coffee and the white mug.
You are the frost on the windowpane
and the flame of a candle.
You are the gentle crunch of snow underfoot
and the final glow of sunset.

However, you are not the bite of winter,
the icicles on the gutter,
or the frozen pond.
And you are certainly not a night storm.
There is just no way that you are a night storm.

It is possible that you are the pumpkins on the porch,
maybe even the last leaves of autumn,
but you are not even close
to being the trick-or-treaters at the door.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the witch’s cauldron
nor the ghouls haunting the graveyard.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the copper kettle on the stove.

I also happen to be the afghan on the sofa,
the dough rising on the kitchen counter
and the garlands of onions in the pantry.

I am also the last morning star
and the first hint of sunrise.
But don’t worry, I’m not the cherries and the pie.
You are still the cherries and the pie.
You will always be the cherries and the pie,
not to mention the black coffee and–somehow–the white mug.

Poetry by Pablo Nerudo

I stumbled across this poem for the first time and want to share it. I’m sure it isn’t new for many people, but it was one of those poems that sort of knocked the wind out of me, leaving me breathless.

And it was at that age… Poetry arrived

in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where

it came from, from winter or a river.

I don’t know how or when,

no, they were not voices, they were not

words, nor silence,

but from a street I was summoned,

from the branches of night,

abruptly from the others,

among violent fires

or returning alone,

there I was without a face

and it touched me.

 

I did not know what to say, my mouth

had no way

with names,

my eyes were blind,

and something started in my soul,

fever or forgotten wings,

and I made my own way,

deciphering

that fire,

and I wrote the first faint line,

faint, without substance, pure

nonsense,

pure wisdom

of someone who knows nothing,

and suddenly I saw

the heavens

unfastened

and open,

planets,

palpitating plantations,

shadow perforated,

riddled

with arrows, fire and flowers,

the winding night, the universe.

 

And I, infinitesimal being,

drunk with the great starry

void,

likeness, image of

mystery,

felt myself a pure part

of the abyss,

I wheeled with the stars,

my heart broke loose on the wind.

 

-Pablo Neruda, translated by Alastair Reid

A Prayer for Artists

I visited an Anglican church for the first time on Sunday. Having grown up in a charismatic, evangelical household, it was a very different experience than what I am used to, but I thoroughly enjoyed the liturgy. There is so much beauty in traditions that we easily forego in favor of “contemporary” services. However, that’s not what I wanted to write about today, specifically. Rather, I want to share a prayer that we read as a congregation, a prayer for artists. I am not sure who originally penned it, and I copied the text directly from the communique, including punctuation, although I added a few Oxford commas because I couldn’t help myself. Continue reading

Snowkissed

This is the first time that I want to kiss you.
I look at the snow fluffed around our feet in soft mounds.
My breath escapes my lips in wisps and clouds, mingling with yours.
In a moment, this space will be gone,
And I will have lost you.
A snowflake falls on my glove, brilliant and perfect.
My eyes look up to meet yours, but you look past me.
You’re far away, and I tread the waves of what could have been.

Confession: when I first found this poem tucked into a folder on my laptop, I did not recognize it, but I know that I wrote it, probably a couple of years ago. I don’t write poetry often, but here ya go.