Sunday, April 10, 2011

Poem in Your Pocket

Each April since 1996, the Academy of American Poets has led a celebration of the legacy and achievement of American poetry. This month people will gather in schools, colleges, and universities in all fifty states to read aloud favorite poems. Schools and libraries will display the 2011 poster (at left), which this year the line "bright objects hypnotize the mind" from Elizabeth Bishop's poem "A Word with You." This year marks the centennial celebration of Bishop’s life. On April 27, 2011, the Academy of American Poets will present its ninth annual benefit, Poetry & The Creative Mind, at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, where artists and other public figures will read from works of contemporary poets. This year’s guest readers include Meryl Streep, Uma Thurman, Live Schreiber, Michael Cunningham, and Alec Baldwin.


During my years in the classroom, I read in campus read-a-thons, sometimes from poems I had lived with and loved for many years, sometimes from my own work; I led discussions about poems in my classes; I attended poetry parties where quotes from Shakespeare and Shelley filled the air, along with toasts to Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens. I have missed those public celebrations over the past few years. The blog provides a venue for a celebration that extends beyond my home, but I couldn’t seem to come up with a way to connect poetry to reading and writing romance fiction. Then I hit a wall in my WIP. I rewrote one scene so many times I lost count and finally gave up. That evening I read a poem, and it led to a eureka moment. In minutes I had the scene that I had lost hope of writing. From that experience came the idea for this blog.



Thursday, April 14 is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Throughout the day, people in libraries, schools, bookstores, and workplaces will be sharing with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors poems that are carrying in their pockets. The Academy of American Poets suggests that online communities can participate in Poem in Your Pocket Day by posting a poem on a blog or social networking page. I’m going to extend that idea and post a pocket poem here each day this week. And each of the poems will be one that I see as potential inspiration for a scene in a romance novel. On Thursday, the official Poem in Your Pocket Day, I’ll post the poem that inspired my scene and share a snippet from the scene with you.


Sunday’s Pocket Poem: Diamonds by Kathryn Stripling Byer

This, he said, giving the hickory leaf
to me. Because I am poor.
And he lifted my hand to his lips,
kissed the fingers that might have worn
gold rings if he had inherited

bottomland, not this
impossible rock where the eagles soared
after the long rains were over. He stood
in the wet grass, his open hands empty,
his pockets turned inside out.

Queen of the Meadow, he teased me
and bowed like a gentleman.
I licked the diamonds off the green
tongue of the leaf, wanting only

that he fill his hands with my hair.



Monday’s Pocket Poem: Recuerdo by Edna St. Vincent Millay


We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.



Tuesday’s Pocket Poem: Golden Oldie by Rita Dove

I made it home early, only to get
stalled in the driveway-swaying
at the wheel like a blind pianist caught in a tune
meant for more than two hands playing.
The words were easy, crooned
by a young girl dying to feel alive, to discover
a pain majestic enough
to live by. I turned the air conditioning off,
leaned back to float on a film of sweat,
and listened to her sentiment:
Baby, where did our love go?-a lament
I greedily took in
without a clue who my lover
might be, or where to start looking.


Wednesday's Pocket Poem: The Look by Sara Teasdale

Strephon kissed me in the spring,

      Robin in the fall,
But Colin only looked at me
      And never kissed at all.

Strephon's kiss was lost in jest,
      Robin's lost in play,
But the kiss in Colin's eyes
      Haunts me night and day.



Thursday's Pocket Poem: What a Woman Wants by Kim Addonizio

I want a red dress.

I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

Note: Serendipitously, this is the same poem that Terri O. posted as her pocket poem in the comment section yesterday. No collusion, I assure you. :) Just two women responding to the same powerful poem.

Here's the promised snippet from the scene inspired by "What a Woman Wants" (Keep in mind please that it is this WIP is still in the rough draft stage.):

“I want this one.”


“Honey, are you sure? That’s definitely a burning-bridges dress.” Saja’s voice was soft, tentative, almost a whisper, as if a louder noise might upset Zan’s careful balance.

“I’m ready to burn bridges.” Zan's words were emphatic. She swung to face her friends, catching them exchanging a look that said as clearly as words “Zan’s not herself.”

Even they didn’t know how sick she was of her Griselda self that turned the other cheek and turned away wrath. Anger burned in her, hotter than the August sun that steamed the sidewalks of Gentry. She wanted to let it explode and destroy forever the good girl who thought if she played by the rules long enough, she’d be forgiven and win the prize. Caleb’s final words to her hammered in her head. Well, she’d show him. She’d show them all. She was nobody’s angel, and that dress, that scarlet dress with sin written in every thread, was just what she needed to light the funeral pyre of the passive creature she’d been for too long.



Friday's Pocket Poem: Some Notes on Courage by Susan Ludvigson

Think of a child who goes out

into the new neighborhood,
cap at an angle, and offers to lend
a baseball glove. He knows
how many traps there are—
his accent or his clothes, the club
already formed.
Think of a preganant woman
whose first child died—
her history of blood.
Or your friend whose father
locked her in basements, closets,
cars. Now when she speaks
to strangers, she must have
all the windows open.
She forces herself indoors each day,
sheer will makes her climb the stairs.
And love. Imagine it. After all
those years in the circus, that last
bad fall when the net didn’t hold.
Think of the ladder to the wire,
spotlights moving as you move,
then how you used to see yourself
balanced on the shiny air.
Think of doing it again.



Saturday's Pocket Poem: Poem #245 by Emily Dickinson

I held a jewel in my fingers
And went to sleep
The day was warm, and winds were prosy;
I said: " 'T will keep."

I woke and chid my honest fingers, --
The gem was gine;
And now an amethyst remembrance
Is all I own.





I invite you to share a pocket poem with us. What ideas for scenes does “Diamonds” give you?

26 comments:

quantum said...

'Diamonds' is definitely the 'Cute Meet'
He thirsts for her love, offering jewels of dew.
She longs for his touch to her golden hair.

I choose Emily Dickinson for my pocket poem:

I hide myself within my flower
That wearing on your breast,
You, unsuspecting wear me too
and angels know the rest.
I hide myself within my flower
That fading from your vase,
you, unsuspecting feel for me
almost a loneliness.


Wonderful idea Janga!
Sadly I shall miss the daily offerings but will catch up next weekend.

Will be with you in spirit. *smile*

Janga said...

Q, I fell in love with Emily Dickinson's poetry when I was 10, and she's been a cherished companion ever since. Thanks for sharing your pocket poem.

allaboutthewriting.com said...

Janga, I love the poem -- I've never seen it before, but I think I'm going to have it in mind for a long time now. I admire poetry, but don't read it nearly enough. You may have inspired me to change my ways. :)

Donna

Keira Soleore said...

Janga, love this blog also. (Is there any of yours I don't?)

I'll be posting mine on Thursday to my blog. It's Daffodils by William Wordsworth. The sun shining so brightly outside my window, a rare beautiful day after many days of rain and I see yellow flowers nodding in my neighbors' yards. Perfect for this poem.

Janga said...

Donna, I'm delighted that you liked "Diamonds." Introducing poems I love to people new to them ranks right up there with introducing novels I love to new readers.

One easy way to read more poetry is to sign at Poets.org to receive a poem via email each day. I've found that while some don't speak to me, most are wonderful poems I enjor discovering or rereading. http://www.poets.org/poemADay.php

Janga said...

Thanks, Keira. Isn't "Daffodils" lovely? Reading it always makes me smile. But--true story--it also makes me giggle a bit because after I luxuriate in the images, I inevitably recall a teacher who made her students memorize it and recite it with appropriate gestures. It's imagining the gestures that evokes the giggles.

Anne said...

Janga, love the post, as always. In Melbourne, we used to have a "poetry tram" (trolley car) where, on the inside of the tram, instead of adverts, there were poems, poems of all sorts — short, long, famous, obscure, whimsical, serious, rhyming, blank verse...

It used to make me smile when I'd get on a tram that looked the same as all the other trams, and inside found poem after poem after poem. Some people didn't notice or care, but so many would sit and silently read and every now and then give a smile.

it was a gorgeous idea -- a little touch of magic in a humdrum day.

Anne said...

And here's a whimsical little poem from Michael Leunig, a local cartoonist/philosopher and somewhat of an icon in my neck of the woods:

Come sit down beside me I said to myself,
And although it doesn't make sense,
I held my own hand
As a small sign of trust
And together I sat on the fence.

Janga said...

Thanks, Anne. The "poetry tram" sounds lovely. I can imagine the various reactions to the presence of the poetry. Wonderful!

Thanks for sharing the poem too.It seems particularly appropriate for writers and the voices we carry in our heads, doesn't it?

TerriOsburn said...

I am loving all of these and all gave me inspiration. I've read poems from the usual suspects, but I rarely find (or seek out) more contemporary poets. I'm going to that site to sign up for a poem a day. I need inspiration for Woman's World stories!

(And I could use a smile a day too.)

I don't have a poem in my pocket but I'll try to find one tonight.

TerriOsburn said...

Okay, I went to that site and I found one. It's kind of long but I like it.

What Women Want
by Kim Addonizio

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

Janga said...

Yay for signing up for the poem a day, Terri. I hope you find some that inspire stories for you.

"What Women Want" is a wonderful poem! It's the one that inspired the scene that I'm sharing for tomorrow.

TerriOsburn said...

Oooohhhh, really? Ha! I found it totally by accident, but I love it. Shared it with Hellie and she wants to print it out and hang it up somewhere. Such wonderful attitude and confidence. And makes me want a red dress!

Janga said...

I'm not surprised Hellie liked it. LOL It made me want a red dress for my character too.

MsHellion said...

I LOVE THAT RED DRESS POEM!! I so want a red dress now. *LOL*

And I also love the Sara Teasdale poem--I've read it before and loved it--but I thought it esp good with Colin Firth and his haunting eyes above it. :)

TerriOsburn said...

"...with sin written in every thread..."

I. Love. This.

MsHellion said...

I don't know about you, but reading Janga's passage makes me want to stand up and shout like I'm in church and holler, "Can I hear an AMEN!" and wave my hankie!

AMEN!

Janga said...

Hellie, I memorized the Teasdale poem when I was in high school. I loved Tesdale and Millay then and read them endlessly. Thanks for noticing Colin Firth's eyes. LOL I just could not resist.

You, Terri, and I should form a new club--the Red Dresses. We could be like the Red Hats, but with a different message without the age connection. :)

Janga said...

Thanks, Ter. I'll keep that phrase when I revise. :)

TerriOsburn said...

Count me in. My association alone you make me look classier.

TerriOsburn said...

That should be "By association..." Caught that right as I hit publish. LOL!

Janga said...

Is shouting Amen good or bad, Hellie? LOL

A bit of context: Zan is a minister with a guilty secret. Caleb, the hero, is a bad boy. He may be the only alpha I ever write. :)

Janga said...

Thanks, Ter. And I knew what you meant. I think I've already made a dozen typos in posts today.

MsHellion said...

It's a GOOD Amen--a 'I can relate and I totally agree!' amen. :)

Janga said...

Thanks, Hellie! That's good to know. :)

quantum said...

I particularly liked Sarah Teasdale's 'The Look'

Though if you all start wearing Addonizio's red dress, I could change my mind! LOL

Lovely snippet Janga. I can well imagine a dress like that 'with sin written in every thread' could inspire a life changing transformation! AMEN *grin*