Dream of a Legend

IMG_9912One of my first poems, written over twenty years ago, was a copycat poem inspired by Gregory Corso’s poem,  Dream of a Baseball Star.  I call my version…

Dream of a Legend
© by Christine O’Brien

I dreamed of Maid Marian
sitting at daybreak
on the steps of the whitehouse, singing.

She was in a flowing gown
and her longbow lay at her feet
–wood and taut.

“Gloria Steinem says you are the Legend,” I cried.
“So do I.  I say you’re the Legend!”

She picked up the bow and with nimble hands;
stood there primed as she would in Sherwood Forest,
and smiled; flinging her schoolgirl irony
towards some invisible foe
–awaiting the cue, all the way from Nottingham.

It came; hundreds came!  like fireworks!
She drew the bow and let fly and let fly and let fly and hit
not one single target nor bullseye.
A hundred misses!
Friar Tuck, dressed in a tuxedo
Shouted:  TO HELL WITH YOU.
And the “merry men” bellowed their dismay
dispersing the ghostly noblemen from their palaces.

And I shouted in my dream:
Marian!  send the arrow:
Open the hearts of the men:
Hooray for the equality!
Yes, the woman the peacemaker!
Let a minstrel’s song praise the true Legend!
Glory the truth be told!

Writing Prompt:
Borrowing someone else’s poetic form and inserting your own content (or passionate plea) is often a great way to find inspiration.

Note:  Whether or not you are a baseball fan, do Google and read Gregory Corso’s original witty poem!

 

In Retrospect (1)

The next two posts offer poems that revisit the past to inspire present day writing.  At any stage of life, the past might have a new lens through which we view it.  Memories, good and bad, can become foggy, blurred or even dreamlike in retrospect.  Some things STAND OUT while others fade into oblivion.

Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway
by Lorna Dee Cervantes

We were a woman family:
Grandma, our innocent Queen;
Mama, the Swift Knight, Fearless Warrior.
Mama wanted to be Princess instead.
I know that.  Even now she dreams of taffeta
and foot-high tiaras.

Myself:  I could never decide
So I turned to books, those staunch, upright men.
I became Scribe:  Translator of Foreign Mail,
interpreting letters from the government, notices
of dissolved marriages and Welfare stipulations.
I paid the bills, did light man-work, fixed faucets,
insured everything
against all leaks.

****

How very real!  I love this poem.  I love where it takes me and who I meet!

Writing Prompt:
How about writing a copycat poem here?  Choose one of your ancestors and in the first stanza, disclose some of your observations about him or her. When you think of him or her, what thoughts pop up immediately?  Go with these.
In the second stanza, shift to yourself and relate something about yourself (back then).  What was the role you played in that family?  Describe it poetically.

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Autumn Harvest

appleCycles and seasons come and go.  We are deeply connected to nature’s rhythms whether or not we give them conscious attention.  No matter where you live or what your age, you have an experience of Autumn.  In the northern hemisphere, we have entered the Autumn of the year while the southern hemisphere is in the flush of Spring.  As writers, we are aware of the metaphorical aspect of any season.

For yourself, consider what the harvest time means to you personally.  Living in the mountains, I’ve come to know the harvest intimately.  The land I live on has old fruit trees.  The first trees to fruit in early summer are the cherry trees.  These are followed by the pear trees.  Finally, in September and October, the apple trees are ready to be gleaned. If the apple crop is hefty, you will find me in the yard picking apples or in the kitchen processing them.  Frequently, there is an abundance of fruit to be shared with friends.

I often hear this comment from young and old alike, “How fast time is going!” Has it always been this way?

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Thomas Cleary translated a book of verses written by Wen-siang, a lone refugee, Buddhist poet, pacifist and feminist who lived in the 13th century during the time of the Genghis Khan Mongol raids.  The book is titled Sleepless Nights…Verses for the Wakeful.  I’ve excerpted the following poem:

My Sixtieth Year
by Wen-Siang (translated by Thomas Cleary)

Already sixty,
so much I’ve been through.
Wealth and rank
are like floating clouds;
changing and disappearing,
unworthy of regard.

My body’s like a pine

on a winter ridge,
standing alone
through the cold.

My mind is like the water

in an ancient well,
thoroughly unruffled
all the way to the depths.

My path
is the ancient way,
especially hard
in the present day.
Not easily discerned
are right and wrong;
I sigh and sigh,
sigh and sigh.

WRITING PROMPT:
Wen Siang uses simile in the first three verses (the bolded lines) to illustrate his state of being in his sixtieth year; it seems that he is taking stock.  In the fourth verse, he makes the direct comparison (metaphor) in the line “My path is the ancient way.” I invite you to use Wen-siang’s poem as a copycat poem.  That is borrow the form and supply your own content.  You can begin your poem with your current age.  For each verse, alternate the leading lines…”My body’s like…My mind is like…and My path is…”

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Whatever the season, whichever hemisphere, savor your time on planet earth.

Playing in the Field of the Daily Mundane (part two)

Years ago, in a creative writing class, the assignment was to write a “copycat poem”. In a nutshell, you borrow another poet’s perceived intention, the basic form and any other prominent features and write your own poem with a theme of your choosing. In the previous blog, I invited you to deeply notice Al Zolynas poem, The Zen of Housework.   If you are able to, you might want to print out a copy of Al’s poem as you begin this next step.

Following is my copycat poem based on Al Zolynas’ poem, The Zen of Housework.  Note that I’ve given Al Zolynas full credit for being the poet who inspired my poem.

That Which Rises
© by Christine O’Brien
–based on an original poem, The Zen of Housework by Al Zolynas

I look down my arms
to where my hands disappear into sticky dough
looking like swamp things
emerging from entangling algae.
My hands tentatively grip a cup of flour,
distribute it evenly over the gooey mess
and work it in.

The earthy alchemy
of flour, water, oil, salt, eggs.
The dough pulling away from my fingers
like shed skin, transmutation.
The dough, now cohesive, resilient,
as my fingers plunge, knead and release,
grappling with life’s challenges.

I set the dough aside to rise,
covering it with a white linen towel,
modest veil to the pregnant belly.
This force of yeast
pushing from within
asserting its musky promise
that all is one.  That one is all.
****
The fragrant loaf opens the window
to an eternity of wheat fields.
Golden tassels dusting the sky–
the earth calling down the rains
as I join with this ritual of
crusty, golden loaves
now cooling on wooden racks
on the bare kitchen table.

Ah, aromatic offering–
Set one slice aside
for the goddess.

****
I want to emphasize that when reading or sharing your copycat poem publicly, it is respectful to give credit to the original author and his or her poem (as I have done in my copycat poem above).  And it could be a good idea to get firsthand permission if you choose to publish your copycat poem.

Regardless, this is a fine way of practicing and playing with another poet’s style while writing a poem that is distinctly your own.

I invoked the author’s general mood–the sacred within the mundane.  I have the same number of stanzas although my line length and number of lines in each stanza, vary.  I use metaphor and simile as Al Zolynas does throughout his poem. I drift between the hands-on experience of baking bread to the metaphorical meaning for me, sanctifying what is considered commonplace.

Writing Prompt:
I am going to share a simple technique that can be used as a basis for writing a poem, an essay, song lyrics, prose and more.  List-making.
Choose a mundane task that you perform. The task–is it vacuuming, laundry, sweeping, mowing the lawn…you decide. Write the task at the top of a blank page.  Now list any of the steps it takes for you to accomplish this task (break it down into its components)…note the tools you use, where you are, the time of day, the process you follow, whatever it takes for you to accomplish this task, anything at all, however remote that you associate with this task. List them.

Reviewing your list, notice if there are opportunities to make comparisons–similes or metaphors.  Write these comparisons beside your listed items.

Using the mood of Al’s poem, the sacred quality within the mundane task, write your own reflective poem, integrating your comparisons as appropriate.

Put your poem aside for a day.  The next day, reread your poem.  Is there anything else that wants to be expressed?  Added or subtracted?  This is the beginning of crafting a poem.

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