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Category: Poetry

Poetry related items

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.

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.

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. 

FaithMy poemsPoetryWriting

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

Solitude Work and Privacy

I have always enjoyed my own company, reading books and travelling by proxy to other lands and cultures.

Seriously lacking in our current culture is minding our own business. With societal lack of privacy and isolation, it is tempting to throw up our hands and let it all hang out. Even despite extreme technological abilities and the people who use it, my privacy rests in God. This is a biblical concept.

Stated in a previous post, I wrote that I hated writing a sonnet. Not as easy as the haikus I write. But today I decided to concentrate on the task at hand, and came out of it with 50 minutes of work and a decent 1st draft of my second stanza. I struggled for years thinking writing poetry was not work. Behind this was caring what others thought of me. It did nothing but rob me of poems that were not written.

Finished Walden. Henry David Thoreau loved his own company for two years. This is a gift.

FaithPoetryWriting

What Is A Poet?

While searching for a word meaning in Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, I came across the word poet. In the New Testament section, the word means “a maker,” and was later used as a “doer.” The classical Greeks used it to refer to any author, but especially to a “poet.”

John Drury, author of the po·e·try dic·tion·ar·y, defines it as “One who creates poems, or one who has created them, or one who thinks or feels like a poet … or one who prepares to write poems or attempts writing them or otherwise stays alert for words, images, and experiences that might coalesce into the nucleus of a poem.” Other nationalities have different words for poet. And not everyone thinks highly of poets; e.g., poetaster is a term of ridicule.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, defines (I will use the second definition as the first is obvious and not as poetic) poet as “one (as a creative artist) of great imaginative and expressive capabilities and special sensitivity to the medium.”

My personal definition of poet is a state of mind, connecting and associating things in metaphorical language to convey an idea, feeling, or image. It is the soul part of my personality, wanting to break free from my state of silence. It is my beautiful Oregon geography which supplies me with multiple ideas. It is communication with the Holy Spirit, who creates dreams and visions for me to scan for meaning and wisdom.

Who is the Master Poet? God, who used His imagination to create the heavens and the earth. Then created man in His likeness to co-create with Him.

FaithPoetryWriting

To Many Ideas?

Scanning the internet and reading magazine articles, I see a lot of writer’s block solutions, but not hardly any who have to many ideas. A few of us feel overwhelmed with what and how to write.

When choosing a poetry form, sometimes I am overwhelmed with what poetry form to use. If I keep pluggin’ along the subject matter determines the form, or as some say, form follows function (which originated with late 19th and early 20th century architecture). Sometimes I write according to form, e.g., my ghazals.

For all of us writers, regardless of what genre we use, too many ideas can stifle output. One idea I found many years ago showed this problem as a problem of organization.

Write all the ideas in a free writing exercise – a list. Use different color highlights to group all the ideas and see if the ideas can become a part of bigger projects. Suit the grouping according to individual preferences: I shuffle different page notes between poems as the need arises. Some ideas may need to be tossed or kept for a later date, but if kept at least they are not clogging creativity.

As far as which one to pick first, go with what gives you joy. Reading poetry is not drudgery, and writing it should not be either.

PoetryWriting

Dictionary Definitions

Back during my high school English classes – or college, so many years ago it’s hard to remember – the grammar books had a chapter on dictionary use. The dictionary is not just a place to look up word meanings.

My Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary contains a foreign dictionary, a grammar book, biographical names (history book), geographical names (a word atlas), and other nifty sections, all rolled into one. Granted, most of these are stripped down basic definitional (that is the adjective form of the word definition – I looked it up – but my spell checker does not recognize it) forms. But in a pinch you can get an idea.

Word definitions also include etymologies: the date that words were coined. They also include pronunciation guides, though if you are not into linguistics, this can be not as easy as hearing them online. The meanings for each word are usually ordered in popularity of use. Graphics are included such as the periodical table of elements. And for the writers, proofreader’s marks.

If you are a writer and don’t have a thesaurus, the dictionary contains synonyms to give your writing some spice. But words are different, so subtle differences in meaning can totally change what is being said. So important in poetry, where condensing is pretty much the rule, unless you are writing an epic. And then that rule may still apply.

PoetryWriting

Imprecatory Prayers and Poetry

King David, from the Old Testament, wrote many imprecatory prayers, or I would say imprecatory poems, otherwise known as psalms. From my NASB Study Bible, the footnote from Psalms 5:10 states “they are appeals to God to redress wrongs perpetrated against the psalmists by imposing penalties commensurate with the violence done – in accordance also with also with normal judicial procedure in human courts.”

According to Crosswalk, “Imprecations … are found in high poetry and are the product of reasoned meditation (not to mention divine inspiration!).”

Along with being “high poetry,” imprecatory prayers can mean the difference between living or dying. They are reserved for life threatening situations that have no relief available, and must be within God’s will. People praying these prayers have no human recourse for justice – and the evil never stops.

It is an attack not only on the person crying out to God, but an attack on God Himself. Most attacks of this kind are to destroy a person’s God given purpose, a way to shut him up permanently. Today this is extremely pertinent.

It has to be prayed with great humility, relying on the Lord Himself to bring justice and relief from the evil. Rom. 12:19 says, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the Lord.” Humility includes no gloating during and after justice is served, or the Lord could stop his judgment on the evildoers. And if you are in such a state as to need answers to this prayer, relief means no gloating. Joy that the evil is over is very biblical, a way of thanking God for answering prayers.

Many years ago, I spent two weeks in a women’s shelter to get relief from a shaming relationship. The last several years, I am currently surrounded in a situation that requires these type of prayers daily. At the beginning of this current situation, the Lord gave me Psalms 35 to read, verses 26-27 catching my attention. It has been extraordinarily difficult, but God has been good, taking care of the big things and the small details. And I attribute a large portion of my protection to these prayers. As far as poetry, most of my posts tagged under “Empowered Individuals” describe my life in very metaphorical terms.

I feel the Church has, by design, been neutered in spiritual warfare. I believe we are where we are today because the Church is uncomfortable with spiritual warfare. Actually, with any form of power from the Holy Spirit. Jesus said we would do greater works than Him (John 14:12). The power is there if we use it according to biblical standards.


I have been hard-hitting this week. I normally like to encourage, but felt led to post the way I have. Tomorrow I will end the week with something light-hearted. Joyful.

FaithPoetry

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