Today's post is an unusual one, readers! On social media, I posited a challenge to my friends; sit down and write a poem. It can be about anything. It doesn't have to rhyme, it doesn't have to be good, even, just sit down, and write a poem, spending no more than thirty minutes. I want to see what sort of poetry people are capable of producing when they sit down and try. My hypothesis is that the average person will be surprised at what comes out!
I am pleased to say that I've been bowled over by the response and support. Here follow the short poems of my friends, one from myself included. I hope you'll enjoy them! They all provide something valuable, be it food for thought, a crisp image, or humor.
[What power this mountain holds] - Chris Hart
What power this mountain holds
To make me feel so naked and alone!
How many times has this mountain old
Made small the one who views
With staccato gasps, its wooded steeps?
For a moment in time, my own
World, so neatly constructed, folds,
And I feel as if I have now known
The company of every other person who
Has been made suddenly small.
My own contribution is a brief meditation on the power nature has over our emotions, and how at some primal level, it can inspire in us a sublime feeling of solitude and insignificance. Whenever I look at a mountain, I feel a small sense of that loneliness, which I imagine must be a shared sensation.
[Yesterday I wanted to stream] - Christopher Raub
Yesterday I wanted to stream
It was supposed to be all day
It would have been if I had my way
Today it was a little extreme
Playing video games all day is my dream
And I started off thinking work was play
As I went I felt I wanted to get away
I got so tired I burst at the seam.
My friend Chris Raub's contribution is a humorous account of the travails of streaming games online! What sounds like fun is apparently quite difficult work sometimes, and it doesn't always work out like one plans. Playing videogames all day is totally my dream on some days, too.
[Something that is may not be] - Allen Copas
Something that is may not be
But something may be that you can not see
If something may be that you can not see
Then maybe just maybe that something may not be
So something may come and something may leave
Still, there will always be something in the world today
That something is different from day to day
If it's consistent for all I can not say
But that something is something if someone believes
What is, may be, or may not be? Is it the same today, tomorrow? Who can say? Allen poses interesting questions on the nature of what is, and how "if it's consistent for all" he can not say. Everyone has different experiences, and not all that is, is to everyone.
[What is it that haunts the spirit's day?] - Stephen Barlow
What is it that haunts the spirit's day?
The night's calling and the sway.
How do we create that grey being?
The Lord's blessing and his grieving.
What kind of blood runs through our veins?
What is this death that feels so strange?
Sin as black as the darkened veil
That covers my eyes and haunts me still.
The spirit yearns, the body's grave.
The passing thought, the sinner's rave.
Of blood that runs through boiling coal.
Ice so chilled it freezes stone.
From heaven or hell, this haunting tells...
What is it that the spirit's flight compels?
A mystery thought, but never spoken.
Of lost moments and smiles broken.
The heart, the secret, life in truth
Love and hate without refute
In one doth dwell the same solid root.
All is one, but is one all?
This haunting. This question. This fall.
A series of chilling images and questions, Stephen asks us to consider "what haunts the spirit's day." Full of horror images, evocative and fearful, the poem ultimately concludes that love and hate share the same root within us. We know that all is one, but does that one exist in all? That is the haunting that haunts the spirit's day. My favorite images here are "blood that runs through boiling coal" and "ice so chilled it freezes sonte." Great images!
[The lens of failure shows aberration] - Eric Peavey
The lens of failure shows aberration,
Its shattered components in disarray.
It shows the viewer much obfuscation,
Of a life that was once okay.
But looking at the lens it's easy to see,
Not everything is as it's meant to be,
So look through the lens and take the view
Through the shards of life may come something new.
A poignant reflection (get it?) of how failure, despite throwing a life into disarray and confusion, can show us a new way forward, Eric's poem really tugs at the heart strings. It captures that sense of looking into a mirror, and seeing a distorted sense of reality. We have so much trouble seeing clearly when we perceive failure, but through those shards, that cracked mirror, we can discover the new, and move forward. It's a hopeful turn, and uplifting.
[Find a map and slam your index finger anywhere] - Anonymous
Find a map and slam your index finger anywhere.
That place is shitty.
You'll live there and it'll be what you experience anywhere
People. It will be shit.
But then you'll leave.
And then, then you'll remember.
Some-ONE listening and the souls you brushed with by
Then you'll be thankful.
Because they're ribosomes with a FINITE amount of energy
That was your moment.
That was a moment imprinted in time for two people.
You'd be a fucker to not look back, think of my face
But right now it's all shit.
A vitriolic yet tender assessment of what life is like in the moment versus in retrospect, the author of this poem, who has requested their name withheld, hits on a number of interesting points. Everywhere is the same so long as your mind is the same. It's shit. People are shit. That's very easy to think in the moment. When you leave, though? Then the good memories flood in. We are never appreciative of what we have when we have it. But as the author points out, "you'd be a fucker" to not look back with a smile.
Flight - Rebecca Foerg-Spittel
With head straight, chin lifted,
she raises her shoulders and stretches them back,
like a bird flexing wings before flight,
and in that second, you see her, the bird,
rising up, slowly,
wings stretching back, thin legs kicking,
till she soars, limbs outstretched above the pine trees,
above the lake, above the second forest
mirrored in the water.
You see her hair floating, curling around her chin,
the muscled notches in her shoulders,
you see her setting forth into this new life,
a strong, sweet hum in the back of her throat.
You see her.
And she is something. She is something to see.
Then her shoulders settle low.
She folds her hands.
She's a girl.
But there, behind her ears, tips of brilliant, blue wings.
Rebecca's poem is full of taut images, feelings of straining muscle, energy bounding to be free, a girl desperate to fly. In many ways, this poem is a flight of fancy. Imagined flight over beautiful lakes and forests is like new birth to this girl. My favorite image is "she soars, limbs outstretched above the pine trees, above the lake, above the second forest mirrored in the water." It's a clear and precise image, much like I imagine that lake water to be. Absolutely lovely poem. Despite the pain of being unable to fly, I feel the poem is overall hopeful and triumphant, as evidenced by those "tips of brilliant, blue wings."
[The days never end] - Kelsey MacKellar
The days never end
Only the light changes
Time brings no comfort
Only malice through my bones
It makes every moment worse
I feel it ripping out of my chest
A demon of pure spite
I tear the flesh from my face
Digging fingernails into my scalp to separate tissue from
Screams of terror only egg me on
Ripping cartilage to discard in the dirt
A personal lobotomy with a finger ice pick
The brain feels nothing when touched yet is the cause of all
A painful account of how emotions can build and multiply into furious, destructive anger, Kelsey's poem also touches on an interesting paradox. Touching the brain itself, that root of all feelings, and it cannot feel. Sometimes the best efforts people make to help can only cause more pain. "Everyone tries" is an excellent line, and a good reminder that sometimes, you cannot help. Wonderful poem with powerful imagery.
Poetry Is - Greg Hudson
Words do so little
Until they do so much
More than before you put them
The whole is greater than the
Sum of the parts.
Like Her, the one you always
Crushed on in high school
And perhaps even after you and she
Were gone and forgotten by the desks and chalk
For even though your memory of her fades
And the crisp edges of the picture
In your mind
Begin to melt and blend together to form a painting
Renoir would be proud to claim
You remember that all the things that made her
Who she was
That her cheeks would flush with crimson
When she'd argue with you
Or ever swear (yes, even sailors would blush)
Yes all those things added together
Cannot equal the imperfect perfection
The mathematical impossibility
That is the human soul.
From Greg, we have a life affirming account of how in both poetry and people, the whole is inexplicably greater than the sum of its parts. Words are just that, words, but until they're strung together, they lack power, they are not cohesive. The same is true of people and their traits, and even though we idealize those in our minds, blending them together somewhat, we still remember those parts, and that magical whole, idealized here as a love object.
So how is Korea? - Michelle
The Sisyphean days roll one on top of another
In an agonizing wheel of monotony
Axel stuck in the mud
The turning in vain
The eyes crawl under my clothes and under my skin
Full of judgment, lust, and hate
I pull my shawl around me
Hiding in vain
I speak and demonstrate ideas thoroughly pondered
Ignored, interrupted, dismissed
Korea in vain.
Michelle has not been having a good time in Korea. She has, however, confronted many ugly discrimination with bravery and strength, and I think this poem is a good reflection of that effort. It sounds exhausting (Sisyphean indeed) and I hope that she can find some respite or escape soon.
In The Absence of Veracity - Jd Crouch
I don't do poetry.
Everything about it seems so self
We are starved
artists silenced by our own
brazen tongue and brash thought.
A dam - Alas
Floodwaters churn inside
Heart and lungs,
Searching for escape. It goes
Up - At last
into space. It is heard.
Who resists truth?
Jd's poem is loaded with clever enjambments and line breaks, creating lots of readings for each line. For example, "Everything about it seems so self satisfying" could be read to mean that poetry is self serving, or that it can satisfy the self, given that "Satisfying" is given its own line. The last three lines as well, could be "Who resists truth? I don't do poetry" as a statement of how the author doesn't do poetry. Or, it could be a command, "Do poetry. I don't resist truth (because I do poetry)." Great food for thought!
So there we are friends, the first ever poetry experiment I've conducted! Poems written by a wide range of people in a short period of time. This sort of off the cuff poetry is really valuable I think, because it shows us the breadth and depth of ideas at play at any moment in all of us. Poetry isn't the domain of the snobby intelligentsia, it's accessible to all, and I hope you've all been just a little bit surprised by what you're capable of. Thanks so much to everyone who participated!