As I was cruising the internet for inspiration and resources, I found this gem. It is the format for a poem: The “I Am” poem, specifically.
I Am Poem (format)
I am (two special characteristics about your personality) I wonder (something you are actually curious about) I hear (a saying that someone might say to you that encourages/discourages) I am on a journey toward (a vision for your future/challenge in your present) I want (an actual desire that you hold for yourself) I am (the first line of the poem restated)
I pretend (something you actually pretend to do) I feel (a feeling about something imaginary that is holding you back) I touch (an imaginary touch) I worry (something that really bothers you) I cry (something that makes you very sad) I am (the first line of the poem repeated)
I understand (something you know is true about yourself/context) I say (something you believe in) I dream (something you dream about for your future) I try (something you really make an effort to do/understand) I hope (something you actually hope for yourself/context) I am (the first line of the poem repeated)
I am musical and creative. I wonder about a lot of things I hear keep putting one foot in front of the other. I am on a journey toward an unknown future. I want peace. I am musical and creative.
I pretend everything is okay. I feel like I’m underwater. I touch cold space. I worry about being shot. I cry for beauty. I am musical and creative.
I understand Love.
I say aspire to inspire. I dream in color. I try to improve. I hope I can sleep. I am musical and creative.
From earth I flow, seaward I go,
Refreshing the world on my way.
My duty done, my guerdon* won,
I rise on celestial ray.
Drink, weary traveler, in the Land,
And on thy journey fare
‘Tis sent by God’s all giving hand.
And stored by human care.
*Guerdon is an archaic word meaning reward or recompense.
I enjoy looking through Flickr photos. I peruse the “Explore” recent photos category as often as I can clicking on all my favorites so I can look at them again in the future. Many of the images are sometimes ho-hum and very predictable, but I usually see something that inspires me greatly. Recently I found a whole series of images “em ha” uploaded as Public Domain items. I’m sharing my favorites here. The wildflower photos are mine, though. (TTQ)
I cannot ope mine eyes, But thou art ready there to catch My morning-soul and sacrifice: Then we must needs for that day make a match.
My God, what is a heart? Silver, or gold, or precious stone, Or star, or rainbow, or a part Of all these things, or all of them in one?
My God, what is a heart, That thou shouldst it so eye, and woo, Pouring upon it all thy art, As if that thou hadst nothing else to do?
Indeed man’s whole estate Amounts (and richly) to serve thee: He did not heav’n and earth create, Yet studies them, not him by whom they be.
Teach me thy love to know; That this new light, which now I see, May both the work and workman show: Then by a sunbeam I will climb to thee.
poem by George Herbert 1633
Ineffable Creator, Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom, has established three hierarchies of angels, has arrayed them in marvelous order above the fiery heavens, and has marshaled the regions of the universe with such artful skill, You are proclaimed the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.
Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.
You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
Refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
the goodness of Your blessing.
Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.
Guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.
You Who are true God and true Man,
Who live and reign, world without end.
–St. Thomas Aquinas
These beautiful prayers were posted on a friend’s Facebook wall recently.
The words have stayed with me.
I decided to add a few photos and share them here.
I hope you find a spark of inspiration.
ALSO — I recently discovered these great poetry books. Great stuff for those who ASPIRE to INSPIRE!
lotus flower image: via Flickr CC by Richard IJzermans: A beautiful lotus flower in the forbidden city, Beijing China.
Everyone once in a while, I come across a word that I have never heard before or that I may have heard but have no idea (or can not remember!) what it means.
Eremite is one of those words. I heard it in a song that I played for our local high school choir sometime last school year. I searched around for some insight into the word, and wrote nearly all this post many months ago while I was searching. One of my endeavors this year is to attempt to publish all my drafts (or decide they are not worth sharing and thus delete them).
I recently received a question from a colleague of my wife’s asking about the word eremite. I believe that the word means ‘religious recluse’. The question arose because Robert Frost made reference to Keats’s eremite in one of his poems. Could you help us to understand the word and who may have been Keats’s eremite?
An eremite (pronounced ERR-uh-mite) is indeed a ‘religious recluse’, someone who, from religious motives, has retired into a solitary life. Both eremite and hermit came into English late in the 12th century and were used interchangeably for over 400 years. Hermit is now the more common word. In Modern English, especially since the 16th century, eremite is most often used poetically or to create a certain effect. Time magazine referred to J.D. Salinger as “the eremite of Cornish, N.H.” in a 1999 article.
The Greek adjective eremos means ’empty or desolate’. From this came the noun eremia ‘desert’. Toward the end of the 3rd century, it became common for Christians in Egypt to go into the desert, where they lived a solitary life of contemplation and asceticism. A person who did this was known as an eremites in Greek or an eremita in Latin. An eremite is, therefore, literally ‘someone who lives alone in the desert’. *from Wikipedia
In the poem “Bright Star,” Keats speaks of “nature’s patient sleepless Eremite.” The reference is to an unidentified star which, like a hermit, sits apart from the world. Frost, in “Choose Something Like a Star,” refers to the steadfastness of “Keats’ Eremite.” I’ll leave it to those of you who are interested to look up the full texts of the poems. They can be easily found on the Internet.
Here are a few more words to expand your vocabulary: “eremic” means ‘relating to deserts’ “eremophilia” is ‘a love of solitude’ “eremophobia” is ‘a fear of being alone’
I’m struck by the opposite definitions of the last two words in that short list. “Philia” denotes an “abnormal love for a specified thing” or an “undue inclination” for something. “Phobia” is a label we use for “extreme or unnatural fear” of something.
Bright Star by John Keats
Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art —
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —
No — yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever — or else swoon to death.
Addressed to a star (perhaps Polaris, around which the heavens appear to wheel), the sonnet expresses the poet’s wish to be as constant as the star while he presses against his sleeping love. The use of the star imagery is unusual in that Keats dismisses many of its more apparent qualities, focusing on the star’s steadfast and passively watchful nature. In the first recorded draft (copied by Charles Brown and dated to early 1819), the poet loves unto death; by the final version, death is an alternative to love.
The poem is punctuated as a single sentence and uses the rhyme form of the Shakespearean sonnet (ababcdcdefefgg) with the customary volta, or turn in the train of thought, occurring after the octave.
from Frostiana, “Choose Something Like a Star”
(Randall Thompson, Lyrics by Robert Frost)
O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune!
As fair thou art, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I:
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt with the sun;
I will luve thee still my dear,
When the sands of life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.
I was walking from Princeton University to Westminster Choir College shortly after a brief summer rain. I couldn’t resist taking photographs of some lovely roses as I strolled along the sidewalk. The poem popped into my head as I was cropping the photos. I realize my roses are not red, but the poem insisted on being included in this post.
*poem by Robert Burns
Stark shadows on snow. Branches cast graphic shapes: Nature’s modern art
Fragile bunny tracks Trail the length of my sidewalk. Snow too deep for hops?
Anything better than a roomful of girl teens laughing and talking?
(Answer: No! life is good)
Late afternoon sun — Long winter shadows on snow — Golden light shimmers
Ebony sketches As ink on pastel batiks — Twigs, branches, sky glow.
(I wrote this thinking about tree branches silhouetted against the sunset, but this stained glass window captures the look, color, texture, and the feeling so I’m going with the “non-literal” illustration this time.)
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.
image by NichoDesign via Flickr CC
image by nichodesign via Flickr CC
image by ThruMikesViewFinder via Flickr CC
image by lexie.longstreet via Flickr CC
image by GenBug via Flickr CC
image by NichoDesign via Flickr CC
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.
One Art, by Elizabeth Bishop. She worked on this poem for 15 years!!!
This fact boggles my mind.
The words and message of this poem speak to me. I assume this is because I got a lot of practice in the “art of losing” last year.
I can’t decide if Elizabeth is urging us to hold loosely onto the things of this worlds (keys, watches, houses, cities) — to hold onto only the things that matter, though sometimes we lose those things, too. Or if she is trying to convince herself that losing all these things, including the things she loves most, is no big deal. Is she saying, “We enter this world alone and leave it alone?”
I prefer the view I’ve spoken about before: It hurts because it matters. Saying goodbye to things you love is painful, but taking the risk of loving is worth the chance of being hurt. I’d rather have things/people who break my heart to leave behind/say goodbye to/lose than to feel alone in the world, unattached and unloved.
A few more thoughts: I enjoy the rhymes she makes with disaster. Faster. Vaster. Gesture. Fluster. The repetition of the word disaster adds interesting structure and emphasis. Each stanza has three lines, except the last which has four. Hmmmm. Not sure what that means, but if she worked on this for 15 years, she must have had some intention behind it? Don’t you think?
I’ve gathered a few more of Elizabeth Bishop’s poems. I’ll share them in future posts.
from Writer’s Almanac Feb 8 2014:
Poet Elizabeth Bishop, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts (2-8-1911). Her father died when she was a little girl. Her mother had an emotional breakdown from grief and spent the rest of her life in various mental institutions. Elizabeth spent most of her childhood moving back and forth between her grandparents in Nova Scotia and her father’s family in Massachusetts.
She was an extremely slow writer and published only 101 poems in her lifetime. She worked on her poem “One Art” for more than 15 years, keeping it tacked up on her wall so that she could rearrange the lines again and again until she got it right. But she was an obsessive letter writer. She once wrote 40 letters in a single day. She said, “I sometimes wish that I had nothing, or little more, to do but write letters to the people who are not here.” A collection of her letters, One Art: The Letters of Elizabeth Bishop, was published in 1994.
Girls’ choir spins pure tones Words of comfort, peace and grace: No tears in heaven.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death
or sorrow or crying or pain.
All these things are gone forever.
(New Living Translation)
I got a call on Sunday from the Artistic Director of the Milwaukee Children’s Choirs. Suddenly, they were in need of a replacement (permanent!) pianist. Thanks to a friend and fellow accompanist, I was recommended and asked to play.
I went to the first rehearsal this evening. The group of young 3rd to 5th grade girls meets once a week in an absolutely fabulous downtown Youth Arts center.
The room was filled with red t-shirts, snazzy boots and wiggly, smiling girls. When they sang it was angelic and the room was transformed into a huge gothic cathedral!
The first song they sang with piano accompaniment was a setting of Rev. 21:4. My heart lurched when I opened the music. Tears sprang into my eyes as I quickly scanned the piece. This verse was one that I held onto two years on this very day — the day my Dad died — the day he fell asleep on the couch in Indiana and woke up in heaven!
He had been sick for so long and had been so miserable. It was a great comfort to me to read these words and to keep them in my mind and heart that week — through the funeral planning, all the visitation hours, through the sorrow, laughter and tears.
So as I sat there in that room with all the that young vibrant musical energy, I was filled with gratitude and joy.
God brought me through. I believe I was sitting in the exact place I was meant to be at that moment.
Thanks be to God!
We went to the Milwaukee Museum of Art this afternoon for a brief but very enjoyable visit. We saw the new Uncommon Folk exhibit.
As we were leaving, I looked back at the beautiful museum building. The evening sun was being reflected on the lovely wings. I tried to capture a quick photograph, but as always, light is nearly impossible to reproduce.
We drove north along the frozen shore of Lake Michigan. The sky was an Impressionist’s dream of pale violets, pinks, blues, peaches, and tinted white. The frozen ice reflected the pink light most of all. Here and there bare black branches of trees cast stark silhouettes against the pastel beauty. A few chunks of ice sparkled on the icy surface, like gems strewn about. There was no opportunity to stop safely for a photo, so the image will stay in my mind and as clumsily conveyed in my words here and haiku above.
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered, Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
The Greatest Secrets are Always Hidden in Unlikely Places
In the book poemcrazy the author describes how she learned to be wary of sharing her observations about beauty.
“When I was ten or eleven I caught some snowflakes on my mitten. (—) I’d never looked closely at a real snowflake before — a powdery, intricate pinwheel poised like a minicathedral near my thumb.
I called Bonnie and Loie over to see the amazing snowflake on my mitten. Bonnie began to mimic me in a high voice, “Look at the pretty little snowflake!”
I learned that day that there didn’t seem to be a place for a person describing a snowflake on a mitten. After that I was quiet about what I saw so I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. I learned to be quiet about beauty.
Often we keep secret because we’re not only embarrassed to be who we are in front of other people, we feel genuinely embarrassed by who we are. (—) Oh, Susan, you’ve gone too far. You’re exposed out there on your squirrely limb, out of bounds. You oddball of oddballs.
In poems we can flourish out there on our limbs. It’s one of the mysteries of poetry for me. The language and form of a poem creates a blue bubble I can float into the world as if my secrets are in an impenetrable container with boundaries, yet see-through like a bottle.
I feel safe because poems take me to a place out of normal time and thought, dipping me below the surface to where we all meet. And there, as if we’re in silent collusion, it’s safe to say whatever we want. Writing poems, we’re tapping the part of our consciousness that knows we’re safe. I’ve seen secret after secret spill out in people’s poems, and I’ve spilled secret after secret about myself. The poem speaks in confidence. The reader feels included, honored, and keeps the secret.”
—- from poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge, Chapter 20 “snowflakes and secrets” p. 74-75.
As I read this short chapter in poemcrazy, I immediately identified with the feeling of being hesitant to share my love of beauty. Only recently have I been brave enough to try to put feelings and images into words and share poetry with others here in the blogosphere.
Oh yes, I’ve been teased for noticing beauty — more than once. I look at light and shadow, texture and color, design and detail. I am constantly amazed by rocks, trees, leaves, clouds, scenic views and all manner of natural objects. Sometimes it just comes out of my mouth at odd times and people kind of roll their eyes at me. Whatever. I’ve learned to deal with that reaction mostly by ignoring it or rushing to explain exactly what it is I find so beautiful about whatever I commented on.
Way back in junior high school days, I was teased because of my strangely huge and somewhat odd vocabulary. I didn’t think I used exceptional words at all! I loved reading then, and I still do. I actively look for interesting new words and tend to look up definitions for any words that mystify me.
In high school, I was fortunate to have excellent English teachers (Mr. Fawley, Mr. Iden and others) who instilled in me a love for words, symbolism and verbal imagery. I fell instantly in love with Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud” and through all the years since that love has deepened and widened and matured.
Another source for my love of poetry and of words in general appeared several years ago when I discovered Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. At the time, I was in the car each day when this feature was broadcast on NPR. Keillor reads a poem at the beginning of each segment and then goes on to describe literary connections to this day in history (author birthdays, historic first editions, and so forth). You can read a sample here which features the poem “Practicing” by Linda Pastan. You can follow Writer’s Almanac on Facebook, twitter, podcast and via email. I highly recommend it.
So how does all this rambling come together? I started out thinking this would be about finding beauty in unlikely places. It still is.
My point is that we shouldn’t shy away from the beauty in ourselves. It is not always easy to embrace what is good, beautiful and unique in ourselves. If I am a “beauty canary” (or if you are) then so be it! See it and celebrate it. Share it. Even better — write a poem about it and share it here.
Maybe the reason some of us are tuned to notice beauty is to point it out to those who don’t notice it.
Speaking of beauty in odd places, there are a couple of Facebook pages I enjoy and would like to recommend to anyone who has not yet discovered them:
Humans of New York — A photographer snaps street photographs of random people in NYC and has a short conversation as well. Amazing stuff happens.