A Delicate Balance

Recently, I watched a film produced by Patagonia–
The Refuge: Fighting For A Way Of Life.
The film illustrated the plight of the Gwich’in Nation of Alaska, specifically the area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

“The Gwich’in population is located in northeastern Alaska, the northern Yukon and Northwest
Territories of Canada. Known as ‘The Caribou People,’ the culture and life of the Gwich’in has
been based around the Porcupine Caribou herd for thousands of years. The Gwich’in peoples
have relied upon the caribou for food, shelter, clothing, tools and medicine. So intertwined with
the Porcupine Caribou herd, the Gwich’in have named the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge
“Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” which translates to ‘The Sacred Place Where Life Begins.’
The Coastal Plain is the destination of the Porcupine Caribou herd, which migrates to the Coastal
Plain each year to birth and raise their young. Not only does the life of the caribou begin on the
Coastal Plain, but it is also where the life of the Gwich’in nation is supported. The lives and
heritage of the Gwich’in are directly tied to the caribou herds – much like the Plains Indians
relied on the buffalo. Without a healthy caribou population, the Gwich’in culture would
struggle to survive.” from http://www.alaskawild.org/educate

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This painting is my tribute to the Gwich’in Nation in recognition of their intricate and interdependent relationship with the Porcupine Caribou. In legislating, thereby allowing corporate oil moguls to exploit this sacred region, we are influencing climate change to our detriment. In saving this region from such exploitation, we are not only protecting the rights of the Gwich’in Nation, the Caribou and migrating birds, we are protecting the future of a healthy earth for generations to come.

Rilke

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Tribute to Rilke
© by Christine O’Brien

The rose’s petals teach us how to see
through a multitude of eyelids, says he.
Beneath the lids, “oh pure contradiction,
joy of being.”  Jubilation.

“There are no lakes until eternity,”
as we stumble forward into infinity.
“To fall from the mastered emotion” is the way
though we seek rest through the weary day.

His tribute to Holderlin, poet of light,
movement “like the moon…and underneath bright…”
Rilke invades soul countries to retrieve
pure essence of truth, no time to deceive.

The questing seeker that he was, tense with
desire to know the self and crack the myth
which imprisons so many, the unwary
in such depths plummeted, a poet’s quarry.

Extracting from despair as well as from glory
not to be “shut out” from the star’s story.
For we are part of something grander
though we live small lives of misplaced wonder.

Employing the dross of a childhood curtailed
grew a man of soul, the sensitive prevailed.
Opening, then, my own heart to deep sight;
his poetry traverses both depth and height.

“Even here, though, something can bloom”
Lifts the weary from unwarranted gloom
“almost cheerfully with a lightness”
his poetry a beacon towards brightness.

Writing Prompt:
This poem, a tribute to Rainer Maria Rilke, is conversational with some of Rilke’s poetry.
Find a poem that you love and engage in conversation with it, incorporating a line or two into your own poem.  Allow the poet’s lines to lead you into the poem’s
theme and then follow your own train of thought.

Note:  In the poem above, Rilke’s lines are italicized and in purple.

Resisting the Sonnet

This poem celebrates my appreciation of the sonnet–would that make it an ode then? Several years ago, when asked to write a sonnet for a poetry class, I became somewhat resistant.  Was it a concealed poetic aesthetic that surfaced?  Doesn’t a sonnet need a stimulus of high ecstasy to inspire it?  Doesn’t a sonnet require passion to inflame it?  Isn’t a sonnet best when it rises from that depth that then overflows into this beautiful form?  I wrote this sonnet in a passionate response to the instructor’s homework assignment to “write a sonnet”.

‘Ode’ to the Sonnet
© by Christine O’Brien

One cannot demand a sonnet, voila!
It is conjured from the deepest ah ha!
Where’s the reservoir of unwritten poems?
Lying fallow beside unwritten tomes.

Sonnets conspire with sweet words unspoken
asleep in the depths waiting to be woken.
A prince’s kiss, the secret elixir
or is Shakespeare this poem’s fixer?

Loves lost and loves dreamed of afar or near
there lies the inspiration, the silent tear
sliding on to the page, now writer’s ink
connects the poem’s dots, the missing link.

Such inspiration cannot be contrived
the sonnet in its splendor from love derived.

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Writing Prompt:
What are your feelings about this poetic form?  Be honest.  Have you read any sonnets lately?  Have you written one or more?