Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

And here is another poem I would like to memorize. (I cannot get the indents to work!!! You’ll have to click on this link to see it in its original form.)

Who dares use the great Victorian poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, as a model? You could keep it simple. Write a poem about dappled things, or about “gear and tackle and trim.” Write a poem about simple things.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

pied beauty

Laura Kasischke, “I am the coward who did not pick up the phone”

Mary Cassatt, “Maternal Caress”

After an argument — over the phone, at dinner — with my youngest daughter (I am supposed to be on a getaway with my husband), I spent a sleepless night. This morning when writing in my journal didn’t resolve all my angst, I went on-line and looked up articles on how to fight fair with teenage daughters. Don’t try to oppose her growing up and finding her own identity. Don’t sweat the small stuff (hair, clothes). Be awake to the big stuff (drugs, alcohol, sex). Look for the win-win. Be responsible. Expect responsibility. Expect that your daughter will want to be with her friends rather than you; spend time with her anyway.

Then I looked for “I am” poems, and I found this. Somehow, it made me see some possibilities I hadn’t before. When I looked up the poet, Laura Kasischke, at the Poetry Foundation, I found this commentary:

“Kasischke’s poetry is noted for its intelligent, honest portrayal of domestic and familial life; its explosively accurate imagery and dense soundscapes; and its idiosyncratic use of narrative. According to Stephen Burt in the New York Times: ‘No poet has tried so hard to cut through suburban American illusion while respecting the lives, young and old, that it nurtures or saves. No poet has joined the chasm of ontological despair to the pathos of household frustration so well as Kasischke at her best.’”

The chasm of ontological despair IN household frustration!

Now that you’ve drafted (yesterday?) a list of I am lines, maybe this will give you an idea of where to go next.

I am the coward who did not pick up the phone

I am the coward who did not pick up the phone, so as never to know.
So many clocks and yardsticks dumped into an ocean.

I am the ox which drew the cart full of urgent messages straight into
the river, emerging none the wiser on the opposite side, never looking
back at all those floating envelopes and postcards, the wet ashes of
some loved one’s screams.

How was I to know?

I am the warrior who killed a sparrow with a cannon. I am the
guardian who led the child by the hand into the cloud, and emerged
holding only an empty glove. Oh —

the digital ringing of it. The string of a kite of it, which I let go of.
Oh, the commotion in the attic of it — in the front yard, in the back yard,
in the driveway — all of which I heard nothing of, because I am the
one who closed the windows and said, This has nothing to with us.

In fact, I am the one singing this so loudly I cannot hear you even now.

(Mama, what’s happening outside? Honey, is that the phone?)

I am the one who sings, The bones and shells of us.
The organic broth of us.
The zen gong of us.

Oblivious, oblivious, oblivious. 

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)

Elizabeth Bishop is one of my favorite poets. This poem is one I would like to memorize. Do I have the cheek to use it as a model?

We can notice that it is a villanelle (nineteen lines; five tercets followed by a quatrain; full rhymes, and a repeated, or almost repeated line that shimmies all the length of the poem). But notice, too, how it’s a list poem, and an instruction poem, addressed to a beloved you.  You might borrow one or all of these techniques for your NaPoWriMo poem. (Why does typing that make me want to add a smiley face?)

Working in this form with students, I suggest that they think of a family saying, something they heard repeated throughout their childhood. (Take care of your teeth, and they will take of you! A place for everything and everything in its place!)

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Can you write a poem-a-day for 30 days?

If you want to participate in the April poetry writing challenge, there are lots of good ways to go about it. You can start by learning more about the process at, which I found via Chris Jarmick’s blog, Poetry Is Everything. Our Washington State Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Austen, is also blogging a writing prompt per day this month.

Last year I wrote my one-bad-poem per day on the blog (just click on April 2014 in my index, if you want to see the results), but this year I thought rather than sharing my badness with you, I’d share a favorite, short poem each day. My goal is 30 poets in 30 days.

This gem is by Philip Larkin (1922-1985), a poet I always thought was a little too thoroughly modern (read, “pessimistic”) for me. Then, reading Structure & Surprise, I came across “The Mower,” which I fell immediately in love with. “The Mower” reminds me of all the small, beautiful things we should be responsible for, and neglect. It reminds me of things I’ve done–big and small–that can’t be undone. I love how utterly, utterly simple this poem is, just recounting a small chore, a small loss, but then how it lifts out of that loss to make a statement about all loss.

The Mower

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

-Philip Larkin