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Playing with the Tradition

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I’ve been doing practice exercises from Mary Kinzie’s The Poet’s Guide to Poetry, a big, thick book full of good information about the effects of rhyme, rhythm, stanzas and repetition.  It has a short set of suggested exercises in the back which are particularly good for someone like me who has resisted rhyme (end rhymes, that is) and meter in my own work.

One of her exercises, however, is called “Linked Form Using Lines by Another.”  By “linked forms” she intends any of those forms which use repeated lines, such as the pantoum, triolet or villanelle.  I may have overdone things by creating a triolet using lines from two others.  You will probably recognize the two different sources:

Thank you god for most this amazing day.
It gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil
in a Greek press.  Grey dawn filtered each ray
with thin clouds that thickened slow.  I say
thank you, God―for most this amazing day
has filled to spilling our wells, our spirits, our soil.
Thank you god for most this amazing day.
It gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil.

It seems to me that this device is rather like a musician doing variations on a theme by one of his or her predecessors.  It is a sign of appreciation of the other’s work.  It doesn’t happen as much in writing.juniper

We had a day today that showed signs of spilling out rain for our wells and our soil, but there was barely enough to settle the dust for a bit.  Summer is when we get our good rains.  And in this sunny desert, those are the days that have a greatness to them.

Another Step on the Way

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The Bridge Outside Paley's Door

The Bridge Outside William Paley’s Door

Today I submitted the corrections for the printer to the publisher for Made and Remade, my book responding to William Paley and his Natural Theology.  The cover is in process and I hope to have an image of that soon.

Paley wrote:  “suppose I had found a watch upon the ground . . . the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker . . . .”   His book presents his case for creation by design, based on the intricacies of eye, ear, and other parts of the body and of nature.

My poems respond in many ways, including these thoughts on Paley’s watch, from “Time Past, Time Present”:

What’s the time on Paley’s watch?
Without hands it would still be
a watch.  It’s mechanism matters
to him: springs and metal, not hours,
minutes.  His present so long
past, timeless in comparison
with ours, has he a gift for the now
in which we’re timebound?

The realization of how different Paley’s sense of time and the watch were from mine was one of the moments that made my dialogue with his writing so interesting to me.

Poetry in Las Cruces, February 22

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Do you remember when we celebrated Washington’s birthday on February 22?  This year February 22 is Poetry Day in Las Cruces, as one of the For Love of Art events that fill the month.  We are calling it “For Love of Lit.”

Where: Branigan Cultural Center, Swarz Room

When: 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 22.

Eleven local poets will read their work: Dick Thomas, LeeAnn Meadows, Frank Varela, Christine Eber, Tim Staley, Ellen Roberts Young, John Muir, Joanne Townsend, Gerry Stork, Sarah Nolan, and Joseph Somoza.

Come hear a variety of voices and styles, in celebration of the art of poetry.

Dick Thomas reads at the event in 2013.  Photo by Susan Gomez

Dick Thomas reads at the event in 2013. Photo by Susan Gomez

Second Anniversary Thank You

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Today is two years from the day I began this blog.  It has been an adventure for me, a learning experience, often fun and sometimes frustrating.  I began in order to publicize my biography, John Emerson Roberts: Kansas City’s “Up-to-date” Freethought Preacher.  I did make some connections and sell a few books through this effort.  Soon I will be using this space to do more publicity for my forthcoming book of poetry, Made and Remade, a set of poems responding to the God as Designer work of William Paley.

Those of you who follow and who regularly read this blog know all that.  Thank you all for your interest, for your “likes” and especially to those of you who comment – it turns blogging into dialogue in a very nice way.

The name for this blog was not carefully chosen; it came to me as a sudden inspiration, and I saw at once that it would stand for what I have made the subtitle: Two Sides of One Mind.  I may be doing poetry now, but I’m still thinking freely, and I am interested in conversations in both areas.  I promise more from both sides of my mind – at least for one more year.

Here’s another sunrise to suggest another new year.  These thin clouds are more typical of our skies than the big splashes I’ve posted before.

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Poem for a Winter Night

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Night reflects day, not
innocent of influence
as a true mirror,
but with all the shading
of long acquaintance.

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My son gave me a new camera for Christmas and I couldn’t resist trying it out on a night shot.  Not bad for a beginner like me with a relatively simple machine.  The moon was past full, though it looks very round in this shot.

A Tanka on Memory

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The camera’s click
a snap judgment
determines what
will be recalled
after memories fade.

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The photo is from a trip to Greece long ago.  It has stuck in my head as what Greek islands look like (though I think the color of the sea has faded slightly).  I had to look at the back to find out which island it is.  It is Thasos, the northernmost in the Aegean Sea, not far from Thessalonica.  Why did I go there?  I can reconstruct that it was to see some minor monuments from my studies of Greek archaeology.  But this, the green slope overlooking the sea, is all I really remember – or think I do.

A July Tanka in January

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Rocks become islands
rising from a table sea.
Cardboard ships sail in,
seize gold, quarrel over it,
cranky as housebound children.

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It was a rainy day.  This game was being played by adults, but the pirate characters they created to captain the ships were definitely argumentative.  And there is something about a summer place and memories.  It is as if the sounds of children of years past continue to hang in the rafters.

I got the picture when the players were away from the table; I like the wavy lines in the wood.  May we all have good fortune in 2014.

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