Tag Archives: poetry

The Karma Abacus: Birthday Blooms

Another year. I used to think of it like it was over, like I’d just completed something, marking an X on the wall like I’d done time. I don’t know why; I just did. But this year I am decidedly feeling like it is a beginning. At some point in the last year I could see the trajectory of my life was not one my heart felt called to anymore. So, I threw a wrench into the works knowing it would insist on change.

I think some era’s in life begin this way—with a sense of feeling life as you’ve known it is coming to an end. Like weeding a garden that’s gone to seed. You can hear something calling to you, a far away bloom, a perfume of future creativity. If I was being honest I would say I am intoxicated with the scent of it already.

Wherever you are, I’m toasting you for reading this blog and I hope to share many more words this year with you than last.

Birthday

It’s that time of year again,

hang my flag, say it’s my day.

Bring your weak lumbar,

your wrecked knee, fading eyebrows and

fear of earthquakes —

 

acknowledge aloneness

assess the years on the

karma abacus, your finger

touching more and more beads

sliding over years one by one

 

insistent, resigned,

a birthday.

 

Still, at night

You have a hunger, a mortal wish

to uncover promises you made to

yourself, so you route around

on the silty floor of the past,

and find your life

stubbornly

still breathing

ready at long last

to be understood.

 

 

 

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The blood jet is poetry, there is no stopping it

The headline is a line from Sylvia Plath’s poem, Kindness. I read it decades ago and it pops in my mind at least once a week still. Usually when I have poems caged in my chest and stuck there behind a lineup of copy I have to write for my day job. I know it’s inevitable I’ll let them out because…the bloodjet is poetry, there is no stopping it.

But what I’ve never done a good job at is sending them along into the world. Specifically, to publishers. I was knocked back, rejected and told I was shite early on in my 20’s and it really just made me feel like I was a terrible writer and though I would often perform my poetry and do plays with poems I stopped sending them out into the world to publishers or anyone else that might be in a position to knock them down and tear a hole in my heart.

That was then. Now I’m shrugging my shoulders and writing like a demon because I’m determined to find an audience. One way I’ve found this week is through Instagram. It’s so immediate and wonderful. You write a little poem and people like it, comment, and voila! Insta-poet.

If you are a proper published poet you are likely sighing and sitting back in your chair and shaking your head at me. And that is just fine. But I know some young kids who don’t care about which medium as long as its digital and will never read your beautifully bound little slim volume in a library. Sad but true. I don’t want to be a forgotten poet at the back of a dusty row of books. So I’m going to fool around with media and the medium a bit. I’m also wanting to do video poems because again, I think these are much more likely to find an audience.

It is fun to write for Instagram–it’s a very tight format, you have to fit them into one or two stanzas tops. If you care to follow me, I’m letting it all out @poemsbymeforyou. Keep in mind they’re for social media–not a literary magazine. Enjoy!

November

You must know the rain

Cannot sound like it did then—

No, it comes down now as ordinary

As a cobbler or librarian, doing a days work

And nothing more. No wild mercury elasticity

To its droplets, no mad bouncing in joy like

A love-sick puppy, laughing under an eave

Dripping down between my breasts as I call you

In Germany, hold the phone up so you can hear its silvery song. 

 

My love. It is still raining.

It no longer rains for us.

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On mothers, imperfection and love

It is Mother’s Day and I’ve been very blessed with a son who not only took me to lunch but to an art gallery then dinner! Can you imagine doing all that for your mom? I know. But it isn’t all bliss on the parenting front. In fact, being a mother means your worst self will be scrutinized and commented on for as long as you are alive. Your children, in all their innocent and not so innocent honesty, will bring you face to face with your shortcomings like no one else.

Recently my son said he felt like I didn’t teach him enough tasks and that I was annoyingly positive. Well, there you are. But as I ruminated on my failings at 3 am, I thought of my own mother and her imperfections and how they now endear me to her even more. Where once I was a critical 20 something I am not a not-so-smug 40 something who can, with empathy and love, look back on some of situations I was in with my mom and hold them close as cherished memories instead of damning her for being, well, human. To that end, I wrote a poem about a time when, in today’s politically correct world, my mom would have been seen as lax or worse, negligent. But I see it very differently. I my son will too some day.

Imperfect Mother

It is the imperfections of my mother

I hold dearest—

The time for instance when turning off of

West 16th near UBC in her red Beetle the

door beside me swung open and since it was the seventies

I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt

and I went with the door, grasping the handle to

avoid the road rushing below me.

I looked back at my mother who

while still turning with her left hand lunged across to snatch my

flimsy t-shirt with her right and pulled me back into the car.

It was a one shot deal but she managed it. The door banged shut as

she completed the sharp turn and we kept on driving as though

I hadn’t just about fell out of the car and onto the road.

 

A block later a small eruption of laughter burst

From my mother. It made me clap my hands together

In gleeful loopy agreement of what I wasn’t sure but

The sun was streaming through oak leaves as we drove

Creating a beautiful pattern on my mother and I kicked my legs

Out from the edge of the sticky car seat to the radio played

 

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city

 

I could say my mother was negligent

I could get maudlin, drink myself silly

Recount her imperfections that had caused

My life to zig zag like a silverfish on the run

 

But then I remember how she didn’t pull over

And fuss and fawn and make a big deal of

My near death fall and how years later this

Would give me courage when real death

And real heartbreak would pull me pull me down

 

And I would swim up to the surface, clapping my hands

Ecstatic for life’s small moments of survival.

 

*Song lyric from Summer in the City by Lovin Spoonful, 1966.

 

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When a writer has had enough of words

I am craving white space on the page. Only what remains after the burning of many words can be left, and even then it should be a shadow and wake no emotion.

The crowing of words from every digital precipice is all together too much noise ‘signifying nothing’.I rest my eyes on the white snow outside, turn my head to eliminate the shivering arms of a maple.

The cat turns to me as though to say, when will we rest?

I answer, soon, soon. The holidays are soon.

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Disregard Ups and Downs and Get On With Writing

I am feeling very fortunate that I have the rest of the week to write. Whatever I want. With no one lurking in the shadows with a particular agenda, criticism, or secret need for my words. They will be entirely mine to do with them as I please! Hooray! It sounds bucolic but it will be a lot of work as you can well see I’ve not been writing much as of late. Having a day job really puts a crimp in one’s writing but that is the age-old conundrum of any writer. I have a friend who is writing a novel and subsists on packaged noodles and a part-time job that doesn’t nearly pay enough to live even close to the poverty line. But he is a dedicated writer and finish his novel he will. I can’t say the same for myself. But while my son still lives with me, I’m obligated to put a good shelter over our heads and write when and where I can.

Recently, I picked up the journals of Virginia Woolf for inspiration and was once again struck by the similarity in her challenges as I myself have in 2013 as a woman trying to carve out a writing life. One quote struck me in particular, as it nailed what I think writers often feel–that sense of total isolation that is all the more acute if the writer isn’t published far and wide. Or, at all.

 “Unpraised, I find it hard to start writing in the morning; but the dejection lasts only 30 minutes, and once I start I forget all about it. One should aim, seriously, at disregarding ups and downs; a compliment here, a silence there;…the central fact remains stable, which is the fact of my own pleasure in the art.”

As a writer, you inevitably ask yourself, what is the point? Often several times a week, or, if it is a particularly bad writing day, every few seconds. But then you are drawn into your stories and characters and realize that feeling is like no other and that the ‘pleasure in the art’ is the entire point.

So, in other words, best to just get on with it.

To that end, I am more than halfway through, at long last, a volume of poetry I will be giving directly to readers (yes, that’s you!). I have no patience anymore to run around begging publishers to read me, read me, read me so taking Amanda Palmer’s model, I’ll simply give it away and see if I get donations. What do you think of that idea? I think it is rather 2014 and I think Virginia would support it entirely. The title of the collection is called ‘Love Poems. Kind of’. Because I can’t honestly–truthfully–offer a collection of love poems and not include the denouement of those love stories. Also, I think it is a little humorous to offer this for February as a kind of tongue-in-cheek nod to all those over-the-top romantic gestures dramatized in media that are solely aimed at selling products. So, hopefully dear reader you will download it and have a good read with some heart-shaped chocolates by yours side and a wry smile or two as well.

In the meantime, I’m putting my writing boots on and escaping to forage deep in the landscape of my imagination until I have to face reality on Jan. 6th. To all of you who’ve read my words, shared your thoughts, and patiently put up with my random blogging schedule and content, I thank you and wish you– from my heart to yours–a lovely, blessed new year.

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September 8

The full harvest moon is coming.

The culling, the bounty, the closing of doors,

and covering of skin.

A waft of blue light coils like smoke

in the air, marking

the end of summer and the

beginning of fall, a stasis,

windless and undecided.

 

It contains our first kiss.

It contains our fingertips electric with intent.

 

It contains the momento mori of moments that once lived

as a lithesome golden body at the end of summer,

never able to give itself entirely to the commitment of winter.

We were like a boat methodically created in a glass jar,

always causing  the same reaction in the viewer of

both awe followed by why?

Had the wind blown a different way or

a waitress stood between us at the moment our eyes met

this in-between place would only ever have been marked by the

muted drop of leaves,

the harbinger of black whispery branches scratching

over white houses.

 

I told you once you were my muse.

I suppose you still are at this time of year.

A wisp of coloured smoke,

a sharp intake of breath, held,

forever.

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The Low, Wide Wave That is Coming

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of Sylvia Plath. For those that don’t know me, I should tell you she is one of my favourite poets and I have read her throughout most of my life. In my final year of my directing degree, I chose as my final thesis a difficult play that featured five Sylvia Plath’s all converging in a sort of mind-bending, 72 – scene orgy of screaming poetry. Only a fourth year theatre student would choose such a difficult play but Sylvia’s words hold no less power for me now decades later.

I am reading a book about her and her husband, Ted Hughes, called Ariel’s Gift. It is a tough subject: two poets who just happen to be the heavyweights of their time in an intense marriage that ends in wrenching tragedy. Sylvia Plath killed herself by placing her head in an oven. She had carefully put towels under the door and left snacks for her children. Heartbreaking. As ever, she was torn desperately between the power, indeed the harrowing haunting drive, that fueled her fierce poetry and being a mother and wife. It didn’t help that her husband was sleeping with someone in their close circle and had left her in the English countryside in an old, very cold rambling house. She had moved to the city where Ted lived, hoping to shake the sinusitis that plagued her and escape the damp farm, but found no comfort in being closer to her husband. It is critical, however, not to get too caught up in the high drama of their marriage, but rather, stay focused on Sylvia’s electric, crackling clear voice and listen for the music that only Plath could produce. If there was ever a writer whose voice was cut short, it was Plath’s. I can’t even imagine how she would have been writing at 40, 50 and on. A staggering loss.

I have to go lightly in and out of Sylvia’s work, as I must do with Seamus Heaney because it is incomprehensible to me that they are so good. And then I read them and want to jump off a cliff. (Kidding..kind of).  So I read and listen to their voices in small bits. Like taking small sips of very, very expensive wine and swirling it in your mouth or nibbling on wildly decadent dark chocolate. You must go slow to savour.

One thing I noticed while reading Ariel’s Gift is that I am now longingly wanting to write poetry all the time. Reading Plath and Hughes has re-ignited something I feel is immense, like a wide, low wave coming towards me of poems I never even knew were there. Waiting all this time.

Here is a quick draft of one I’m working on today. It’s about coming into touch, into full view, with your actual self — not the made-up one you filled with air and paraded around like a balloon when you were twenty — no, this is the one you sink into as a woman in your forties. It has weight. There’s a lot of power to it. I think my poems will be exploring that more in the coming months, what it means to come awake to your essential self and be free of self-judging and the paralysis of contorting yourself to be something else for anyone.  I can’t crackle like Plath, but better to let the waves come in and do my best to capture them anyway.

At Last, The End of The Fairytale

I wonder how long it takes

before you go feral and leave

the fairytale?

A month? A year?

I’ve done that and more.

How do you know when it’s complete?

When all the sugar-spun cotton candy

Of romance is sloughed off?

 

 

You’ll know.

You’ll see your actual self —

riddled, fire-oven

bred,  a witch-like intent bent, bent into your

own towering shadow of life aching to live

before you are dead.

(copyright Margaret Doyle, 2013)

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