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Author: h. renell

I am a poet, blogger, and Oregon resident.

Sonnets to Psalms

Now that I have written a sonnet, I don’t even have to ponder what my next project will be. I have been sitting on pages of notes and internet bookmarks about scapegoats, the outcasts, the misfits. (I hear the word misfits and Rudolph’s Island of Misfit Toys comes to mind.)

Since I have so many pages of information, maybe it would be better written as a long essay. But I think a longer psalm, like Psalms 119, maybe in order. As I was reading the long note in my NASB Study Bible and found the psalmist was himself a “target of their ridicule, hostility, and slander.”

One poem that I wrote could be repurposed for this psalm. (My tip: unless your drafts are doggerel, and even then, keep them for repurposing.)

Reading through the notes, magazine clips, and bible notes for psalm writing tips, I found some interesting trivia:

  • What is one meaning of a maskil? A skillful psalm. Psalms 47:7 “For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with a skillful song.”
  • What American poet used biblical free verse? Walt Whitman.
  • What is a psalter? The book of Psalms, or a book of psalms to use in devotions.
  • What is one benefit of writing a psalm? It is easily translatable to other languages.

Like a long essay, Psalms 119 meanders but sticks to the central theme of the Word of God as a way of life. Before, I advoided reading it. But now when I read it, I find it full of life.

Sounds like a good starting point.

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Poetry

Poetry, Grief and Love

A little bit of shoot the breeze and quite a bit of why I haven’t been posting lately. Grief has a funny way of pausing projects, a lifestyle.

Little Bits

I have read that some poets don’t read poetry. (And I would be interested in knowing the percentage.) I have a few anthologies that I pick up and thumb through, especially when I am feeling blue. I love Robert Pinsky and Maggie Dietz’s three Favorite Poem Project Anthologies. Every poem has at least one reader’s reaction to it – how it affected their lives.

After college, I kept my copy of the Harbrace College Handbook, which is a grammar and style book for writers. I found newer used editions as the years went by, but I noticed they were dumbed down. I actually bought an older version to replace a newer one for this reason. I can’t imagine the state of education today…

Quite a Bit

I have two best friends. I lost one of them on Good Friday.

It was a desire of mine since I began my adult years, to have a male platonic friend. My mother had a co-worker at the small rural high school where she was a counselor. They talked to each other on the telephone all the time. She told me that her friends were asking why don’t you just marry him? It worked for them, they were both very independent. I talked to him after my mother passed and before I moved away, and I could tell he missed her horribly. This relationship I think fostered a desire in me for the same thing. To be loved for me.

The way I met my friend was miraculous. He was an online game player that met my son online shortly after I moved here. He was from Wisconsin and about my age. I would talk to him occasionally through the VoIP software they used sometimes. After my son joined the Marines, the offer went out to talk to him myself while my son was in boot camp. And afterward, we took turns leading with a devotional and communion once a month over the same software. We had church.

We never met in person (though he did get to see my son), but he knew me better than almost anyone else. How did he show me love? He read my poems. And this one made him laugh.

Harry – of When Harry Met Sally fame – is not right when he says the sex always gets in the way. Sometimes the lack of it can be very healing.

Thank you, Lord, for Dec. I will be forever grateful.

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FaithMy poemsPoetryReading

Old Normal or Forge Ahead?

After I finished my sonnet and published it, I was awakened by the Lord shortly afterward. He had a multi-faceted, timed response to what I had written, simultaneously confirming what I was reading and hearing on the radio. I heard to not rush what I write. He reiterated once again that I was using my gift, even if it appeared I was not working at a fast pace, but at a pace that I could handle. And allow time for personal heartaches. He told me months ago writing would save me and it has. And it will.

April is National Poetry Month. The American Academy of Poets has 30 ways of celebrating.

The days ahead are forcing many to make hard choices, with much grief involved, no matter what choices are made. They are not only earthly choices but ones that will determine our eternities. I did an Old Testament Job a few days ago, telling God why was I born during these horrific days? He made it clear, I was born for such a time as this. Twenty years ago when He spoke this to me, He also gave me prophecies that I had no clue as to the scope of them. This is a comfort to me, knowing that He cared enough for me to let me know back then He was in control of not only international events but of me too. As Esther fasted for her people during the possibility of religious extermination, she chose to move forward despite the potential cost to her life.

What is your choice?


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life”

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
     Life is but an empty dream!—
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
     And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
     And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
     Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
     Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
     Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
     And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
     Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
     In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
     Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
     Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
     Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
     We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
     Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
     Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
     Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
     With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
     Learn to labor and to wait.

FaithPoetryWriting

A Sonnet Odyssey

For the last few years, I said I was going to write a sonnet, so I could check this item off my list. Yet, I kept putting if off, because it is not as easy as writing a 30 minute haiku.

A Bit of History

Sonnets were invented in the 13th century in Italy. The word sonnet derives from the Italian word sonetto, which translated means “little song.” Michelangelo wrote them as well as the sculptures he created. Shakespeare popularized them in English during the turn into the 17th century. Plutarchian and Shakespearian are the two most popular forms of sonnets.

A Bit of Form

Sonnets have a musical quality to them with a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables called feet. An iamb is an unstressed then a stressed syllable equaling one foot. Pentameter is five feet, so there are ten syllables for each of the fourteen lines. Sounds like dancing with a partner who has two left feet! But just as in dancing, practice makes if not perfect, then easier.

Words at the end of the lines have a rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg – same letters rhyme. Lastly, the first twelve lines set up a story, and the last two bring it to a resolution. Shakespearean and Plutarchian sonnets are mostly alike, but do have different rhyme schemes and story approaches.

My Process

Iambic pentameter closely mimics human speech. I dug up this tidbit in my research, making a difference in being able to write one or not. I had stressed over words I chose fitting the pattern by looking them up in the dictionary. The light bulb went off when I realized all I had to do was read it aloud listening for the rhythm and anything sticking out needed correction. I also researched it being a perfect fit, and found out there can be a very small amount of variations to still qualify as a sonnet. I used one slant rhyme, and some variations in the iambic pentameter.

My steps:

  • Wrote a list outline for subject matter,
  • Drafted the fourteen lines close to ten syllables,
  • Picked the end rhymes for each stanza, and
  • Worked on the iambic pentameter.

I decided I could work on it forever, or get somewhat close and chose the latter route. Walt Whitman kept revising his self-published work Leaves of Grass from 1855 to the end of his days. I don’t want to be Walt Whitman. Without further ado –

Arrest

 Her land was robbed in virginal attire:
 A fossil bed in fashion lined hued sand,
 The coastal pines intoned the ocean choir,
 Majestic mountains stood by His own hand.
 The scissor cut directed forest fires,
 Her swatches shorn in blackened forest floor.
 Bound by the gods of Delilah’s hellfire,
 She fought against entrance into her soul.
 The smoke burning darkened the sky by day,
 Air slipped through cracks of doors into twilight.
 Her cloak and dress and her lands were repayed.
 Delilah’s deceits ravished His birthright.  
 The heavens poured rain in His fierce backlash;  
 He washed away the floor plan's lifeless ash. 
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FaithMy poemsPoetryWriting

Martin Lurther Or How to Treat Your Enemies

I listen to many radio sermons throughout the day and night, and it is not uncommon to hear a preacher state just how divided this nation is. Many offer biblical solutions. The ultimate biblical solution is to read and follow the four gospels of Jesus. Not only did He teach us how to treat our enemies through His example, but He was and is the standard.

Many know Martin Luther as the priest and scholar who nailed the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Castle Church door in 1517. What is not as commonly known is a pastor who hounded him until the day Thomas Münzer was executed in 1525.

A Little Backstory

After the exasperation and intervention of Luther’s spiritual advisor, Johannes von Staupitz, Luther learned the hard way of legalism over grace – Luther would confess every single thought and action that he thought was a sin to Staupitz.

After he overcame this obstacle, Luther believed in sola scriptura, or the supremacy of the Bible over the Church. He was considered a mystic: he prized inward religious experience over ritual. However, over his life he did return to both church and scripture, drawing the ire of Münzer.

Back To The Present

Münzer read the 95 Theses and considered Luther as his spiritual mentor. Luther recommended him for a pastoral position at St. Mary’s at Zwickau, where he immediately and increasingly criticized the Franciscans until he was dismissed. He, along with two other men, shunned book learning and preached that God spoke to men directly. And most damning, they deemed themselves the only ones qualified to interpret the Bible.

After this, he bounced from church to church, stirring up the peasants – the miners, corn threshers, and farmers – saying they could teach better than Luther. He wanted the learned slaughtered, particularly pointing out Luther. His Utopian vision consisted of bringing a godly Kingdom type of equality to the earth.

In a letter written to his elector Frederick (nobles who ruled territories), he asked for toleration for Münzer and his other enemies. “Let us leave in His hands the combat and free encounter of minds.”

Thomas Münzer was tortured into a confession of his crimes, but still unrepentant towards his current congregation in a letter, not taking responsiblity. He was beheaded and impaled, rotting there as a warning to others.

Luther never advocated execution on his enemies, advocating for exile instead. Romans 12:19 states, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

Closing Thoughts

The Reformation was not what it could have been because of the constant hounding of others, not only Münzer’s enemies but the peasants he used to foment his ideals.

I more fear what is within me than what comes from without.

Martin Luther

Faith

God’s Fist

Cheshire grin.
The chess master moves his pawns
with a precise tilt of his wrist.
Each piece performing the moves
Spoken into frequency-laden air.
Bar the resistors,
Bar the knights.

Mock plays
strengthens the standing
slaying their fear of death.
Yet –
Crying out to You,
“Checkmate the beast!”
that cycles minds
on cue.

You laugh
as an angel rolls up Your sleeve,
tight as a cammie wearing Marine,
preparing to smash his chessboard
into ashy dust.

My poems

She Flies With Her Own Wings

Several years ago, I ventured to David’s Tent in Salem to pray for Oregon. I went inside the white tent staked in the parking lot across from the state capital building to pray. Before I left, David’s Tent placed an invitation to write the name of the town that you came from (I think it was a small piece of wood) and I did. I wrote the name of my town and said a prayer over it too.

Inside the state capital building is a small gift shop. I bought a few things, among them a plague that had the state motto written in Latin and English: Alis Volat Propiis or She Flies With Her Own Wings.

Oregon territory seal

The motto has not always been so. In 1854, Supreme Court Judge Jessie Quinn Thornton translated the Latin phrase and added it to the Oregon territory provisional government seal. It symbolized the independent spirit of the Oregon settlers outside both the British and United States government.

In 1957, it was changed to The Union, showing that Oregon was no longer divided by the issues of slavery from the Civil War. Finally, the motto She Flies With Her Own Wings returned home in 1987.

Oregon has been avant-garde in national legislation. Some laws include the recall of public officials, state-wide voter registration, and one dear to me, public access to the beaches.

Though I have lived in the Midwest most of my life, I have found a kinship with the spirit of Oregon – the beautiful vistas, the potential of her independent spirit.

Five Oregon counties are, for a second attempt, trying to join with Idaho since Salem does not represent conservative interests, and has a statewide super majority in all branches of government. I am torn. I desperately want Oregon to stay Oregon, but with draconian bills possibly being passed, living here would be miserable, to say the least.

Not only did I pray in Salem that day, I have walked the local beaches praying for my local area and beyond. I believe my prayers, and the prayers of other Oregonians, are stored in Heaven waiting for the right time to be answered.

Faith

Poems, Blogging, and Process

Austin Kleon wrote a book, Show Your Work. The premise is creativity is a process, not a product. It allows a public showing of the stages we go through in our art by sharing our process publicly.

After the process of importing my data from my old blog into my new one, I read through all my posts. Deciding which ones to keep and which ones to toss. Over the last year, I saw a progression of style and subject matter. I also did some deep thinking about the direction I wanted to take my new blog.

I desire to write more in-depth posts and return to writing poems, which went by the wayside. No more posting quote graphics and public domain poetry – for that I have started a Tumblr blog to complement this one. I will post once a week, Saturday, all prayer concerns for my readers to read and pray over as the Lord leads, called Prayer Points. I will be posting twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. And I plan on expanding my newsletter beyond just sending the last post via email. Finally, I am adding more graphics to my posts to make them more visually appealing.

It was an act of faith for me to start again. National news made me want to throw up my hands and say, “Lord, what is the point if censorship is rolling ahead full steam?” But I have learned to hear His voice over the years, and have seen His faithfulness. I know if He says, “Write!” then I need to honor this process and write, not only for Him but for my readers and for me too.

FaithPoetryWriting

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