Come in and sit down . . .

In 2010 I wrote a poem a day: blunt misshapen ideas left on this digital desk for anyone to peek over my shoulder. It was a diary, a discipline, and a delight. My two hundred fifty-nine un-edited poems taught me what discipline can do for a person hardwired to notice. I found if I would stop and write a poem, I was free.

2014 has poems, paintings, new art & photography. Feel free to come in and sit down.

Polly McCann

Monday, September 22, 2014

ADD and Me

So my most viewed poems from 2010 were all about ADD.  My favorite, and the one with the most clicks, is the one where I typed absolutely nothing.  A poem about ADD was the title, but there were no words in the actual poem.  So, yes, that does mean that the most popular poem of all time on this blog has no words. hmmm. I'll have to think about that one.  In my high school, I remember someone turned in a blank paper for the essay on 'why the whiteness factor of the whale was so fighting' in the novel Moby Dick.  I remember they got an A grade on that one.

Well after several years of getting treated for ADD and reading everything I could find on it (see my goodreads shelf on the subject) it turns out I don't have ADD. Well maybe a little. But I passed a 21 minute focus test that cost quite a bit of money.  Turns out my memory loss and inability to focus were simply "from stress." Go figure. I guess I was first diagnosed when I was recovering from a house fire, getting my M.A. in writing and also pregnant. That might do something to one's brain.

So now I'm off ADD meds and only take fish oil and my gluten free diet-- and I'm pretty much focused.  Enough anyway for a poet. If poets never lost their focus there would never be any poems. So...enough out of focus to wonder what a rose would be called if it had another name, or to notice a shooting star might not really be a star--that's a good thing. We all can't just polish our ovens all day. And on that thought, here is a tiny poem on the subject.


Add and Me

Fish oil for my memory
works magic no one can see
my thoughts swim like little koi
in fantasy's red currant stream
under plans-- high Dragon Gate!
My past plays the scale, Le Fin
My future flies with wings and eyes
--with a little fire thrown in

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lost Dogs

I found this Folk Song that I rewrote based on an old favorite.  I know some of my friends have lost their dog this year and I noticed that this song, which I blogged years ago has one of the most all time hits of any of the pages in my blog.  So I thought I'd repost this again. It really is a fun song to sing, based on the tune "Streets of Loredo" -- you can find in on youtube if you don't know the tune.

As I was a walking one morning for pleasure
I spied a young cowboy a-walking along. 
His dog were a with him an' the leash it were hanging.
And as they approached, he was singing this song.

[Chorus]
Hey, Hey! Get along little doggie.
We've taken our turn; we're all on our own.
Hey, Hey!Get along little doggie.
You know that it's time to get along home.

"Early each morning I take out the doggie:
he barks, he jumps, he wags his fair tail.
But then when I leave him to go on my journey,
he circles the yard and wears in the trail.

[Chorus]
As I was a walking one morning for pleasure,
I spied the young cowboy a-walking alone.
His eyes were a red, like he had been crying,
"My dog he did die, and now he is gone."

[Chorus]
Hey, Hey! Get along little doggie.
We've taken our turn.  I'm all on my own.
Hey, Hey!Get along little doggie.
I know it's your time to get along home.

"Let's take him together and lay the sod o'er him,
and then, I told him, we'll have a good cry.
You'll sit down beside me and tell your sad story,
of how that sweet pup so sadly did die."

[Chorus]
Hey, Hey! Get along little doggie.
You've taken your turn. We're all on our own.
Hey, Hey!Get along little doggie.
Now it's your time to get along home.

I spied the young cowboy early next morning.
He looked a sight sorrowful and he couldn't sing his song.
"Your dog, I told him, runs in a green valley, 
so let's walk together even tho' he is gone."

[Chorus]
Hey, Hey! Get along little doggie.
You've taken your turn. We're all on our own.
Hey, Hey!Get along little doggie.
Now it's our time to get along home.

Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot or How Poetry Gets Around & Acorns

Four Quartets has the acclamation T.S. Eliot's most famous work.  I went in search of this poetry after reading one line of it:

And all shall be well and 
All manner of thing shall be well 
When the tongues of flame are in-folded 
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Now "All shall be well" is a classic quote from Julian of Norwich, unless it goes back further. However, I went looking for quotes about "the rose" after I read Neil Gaiman's book, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane." In it, he made this fabulous mind stopping statement:

“The second thing I thought was that I knew everything.  Lettie Hempstock’s ocean flowed inside me, and it filled the entire universe, from Egg to Rose.  I knew that.  I knew what Egg was—where the universe began, to the sound of uncreated voices singing in the void—and I knew where Rose was—the peculiar crinkling of space on space into dimensions that fold like origami and blossom like strange orchids, and which would mark the last good time before the eventual end of everything and the next Big Bang, which would be , I knew now, nothing of the kind….I saw that there were patterns and gates and paths beyond the real.  I saw all these things and understood them and they filled me, just as the waters of the ocean filled me.”

Now I had read Gaiman's book because I was researching fantastical ocean stories for a novel I wanted to write. And I wanted my novel to have something about this rose concept because, yes, I was researching an image from a dream.

So as you can see, if you try to chase an image down, you will find poetry gets around.  I mean this to say reading an image in a poem, a story, a dream, or a piece of sculpture, or art.  It's all the same.  Images have intrinsic meaning whether we attribute that to some collective unconscious passed down in the subfolders of our genetic mind, or just by chance. A symbol is a symbol is a symbol is a symbol.

And as this gets rather convoluted, it's best to keep images in poetry and art and not try to talk about them too much or you begin to sound crazy. Possibly why this beautiful rose image is placed at the end of T.S. Eliot's "best work ever," and at the climactic point of one of Gaiman's smaller, simpler books of fantastical fantasy and not the topic of some essay or random blog, such as I am doing here.

The four quartets are supposed to be four longer poems about mankind's relationship to time and the divine-- or so I was told.  At first I was disappointed in the poems.  I found them hard to read. They looked like unedited poems written in free form. I couldn't find order of any kind-- that I could decipher at first glance. I knew there must many essays on the subject, so I put them aside to read again later.

Since then, I've come across dozens of minor adjectives, metaphors, even nouns in all sorts of texts: novels, text books, poems, biographies. And each time I am quite sure they are borrowing from T.S. Eliot's work.  Something about his writing seems to bleed into the work of everyone else. Something about the words he chooses words or images seem to fill the holes just where people felt they needed to borrow a phrase. Upon a little more research, I see that while some of his work may seem opaque, he definitely has purposeful meaning even if it his hidden in the subtext of the fourth or fifth read.

One other unexpected affect of reading these poems: after reading them, I feel much more free to write my own poetry. I don't feel worried about hiding meaning in my poems-- especially in ones that don't have much of it. I don't feel worried about writing poems that don't have any meaning at all. So I'd have to say this work is very freeing, and I'm sure that further study would reveal many wonderful layers of meaning yet to be discovered even meaning that makes this blog rather pointless.

What I truly admire, on the whole, the fact that so many people are still thinking about the words of these poems and letting them germinate in their own work, so that these particular poems seem to seed so much written word.

Poetry gets around. Poetry is full of nothing, everything, regular things, and things that we love. If what my favorite poetry teacher said once, that writing poetry “is what makes words into a material thing, hard and solid as a table” then I’d say T.S. Eliot does one better, he pretty much throws acorns all across the literary world.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and "Women's Work"


I've just read this tiny book written by Kathleen Norris (published in 1998). Intimate in both physical size and it's personal voice, she takes some moments to talk about poetry. What is so interesting is a small poem by Norris nestled in the center of her text. The prose almost wraps around this poem, hiding and yet illustrating the book's lyrical core.

Kathleen Noris writes something about this particular poem that I think could apply to poetry in general:

The poem, like housekeeping itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos
In the poem, by puling many disparate things together, I tried to replicate an actual work of cleaning, sorting through the leftovers, the odd pieces of a life, in order to make a whole.

As a collage artist, I too find that I am most satisfied with poems I write in this same styled house-cleaning-method. In my poetry journal I stab down bits of lines, vague thoughts, clutter that claims to be important. Later I find that sometimes these remnants can be put together into one poem. Sometimes, I find they belonged together all along. For me, these are the best moments. 

Do you think poetry as housekeeping of the mind is too menial a metaphor? How do you write a poem?

And for the curious, here is Norris' poem:

HOUSE CLEANING
by Kathleen Norris

Kneeling in the dust, I recall
the church in Enna, Sicily
where Ceres and Proserpine reigned
until a Pope kicked them out
in the mid-19th century.

This is my Hades, where I find
what the house has eaten.
And Jessica was left with only
the raw, sheer, endless terror
of being alone in the world.
"We are alone, Jessica," I say aloud;
the whole box of romances must go.

I keep the photograph of the young girl
reading cross-legged
under cotton woods.
Her belly is still flat, not yet a fruit
split open, the child shining
in its membrane
like a pomegranate seed.

She ended both their lives,
and no mother's rage or weeping
could bring her back.
I leave her with the book of fairy tales:
still safe, held fast,
in Sleeping Beauty's bramble forest.

I could use some sleep.
What I do must be done
each day, in every season,
like a liturgy. I want to pray
to Mary Magdalene, who kept seven
demons,
one for each day of the week.
How practical; how womanly.

My barren black cat rubs against my legs.
I think of the barren women
exhorted by the Good Book
to break into song:
we should sing, dear cat,
for the children who will come in our old age.
The cat doesn't laugh,
but I do. She rolls in dust
as I finish sweeping.

I empty the washer
and gather what I need for the return:
the basket of clothes
and bag of clothes-pins,
a worn spring jacket in need of mending.
Then I head upstairs, singing an old hymn.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sons (2011)

You’re forming your first stories
and words are like blocks to you
towers to tumble or kick with a hard sole.

You tell me about your sons.
There are six of them. You ride in a car to your house.
They climb ladders to hammer the roof.
You fix things together.

Sure they are just stories, but I like to think
that at two, you can see under that arch of time
to a place where I have grandchildren,
where life continues on, instead of falling away.
into a place where we’ve become a big family,
who works together to build things up.

In your vision, life is sunny, and the trunk
of the car is full of tools to build a good life.
A life of strong hands attached to the arms 
of people who are there to help each other.

And my hands, inside these old rubber gloves,
under the water in the sink will come out
old and wrinkled...and full.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Not by Boat

Grace is not the gentle drip
after a summer rain,
but gasp of breath
from the nearly
drowned.
Grace brought us
to the place we dreamt
by desolation, not by destiny
by drowning, not by boat.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Onions

I've written several poems about onions, the first one was published in my old high school literary magazine in 1995 to 96 even.  I've made art with onion peels.  I like onions.  Some day I hope to have the best onion poem ever written, though that honor surely goes to Pablo Neruda, so I will go for second best and may take a few decades of trial and error.


Onions

If you don't want to cry
while chopping onions
think sweet thoughts
stand on one foot
hold your chin high with pride
keep your mouth slightly open
squint one eye
purge bitterness from your heart
hold a piece of onion under your tongue
balance another on your head
while you hold your hands underwater
and hide the onion root in another
continent, so the evil gasses
which cause tears
may not get to you
and then and only then
you will not cry.