Lego at the Lake

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“running in the rain” by KristinaAlexanderson: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kalexanderson/7319769482/in/pool-flickrtoday

This poem was inspired by a NaPoWriMo prompt that encouraged rebellion and rule-breaking. I’m not sure that I went to any extremes, but I did try to stretch my use of language a little.

Lego at the Lake

Lego-ing with my brother
at the lake because the rain

Mom, drink-tired
daddying our holiday

he was long gone
gone from dad to father

and back again
memoried into physical

we built towers
and joyed most the toppling

puddles of brick clatter
twisted our ears outside

where we boy-stacked
our raindrops instead

© 2018 Lisa Mulrooney

 

Secrets I’d Like The Universe to Keep

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I have been getting a little nervous lately about poems that deal heavily in abstract ideas and are short on vivid images. While these types of poems can play out well on the page, I’m not sure that they grab an audience’s attention when read aloud. Nonetheless, I enjoyed writing this poem. It had me grappling with essential questions of human existence and, at the end of the process, I felt content.

 

Secrets I’d Like the Universe to Keep

Don’t tell me why I’m here,
just let me cut the stems of carnations
without feeling guilty.

Don’t tell me what other people think of me,
just let me get dirt under my fingernails
without feeling ashamed.

Don’t tell me who or how to love,
just let me graciously accept yellow roses
without feeling betrayed.

And when I suspect that happiness is not avoiding sorrow,
keep me running from gratuitous pain,
cursing joy that floats like oil on water.

You may be tempted to tell me I cannot meet expectations,
but be sure I sometimes do-in cursory, illusory moments,
in moments of mist on snow-covered mornings.
I won’t take them for granted.

I will want to know what might have been,
gather tinder to fuel my regrets.
Let that fodder be consumed by the light that dries the dew.

The consequences of my actions
may smoulder in some molten core, but
I do not need to know them: protect me
from volcanoes and tectonics.

Protect me from the knowledge of my death,
the whys and wherefores, and sometimes
the inevitability-especially when, like a whale,
I walk as a wolf on the land.

I’ll thank you when my carcass comes ashore-perhaps,
but don’t tell me if that’s true. Lie to me occasionally
and spin tall tales often.

Let the best tales of all be the ones I leave behind,
yarns spun and cut like the thread of life, binding
flowers and flames that I pray are not yellow.
But don’t tell me if they are.

© 2018 Lisa Mulrooney

Bloodletting

Bloodletting

How do you blush and say you were not moved,
with blood that courses through your veins like Spring
or stars that burst through twilight’s half-light shyness?
The grappling hooks that draw you back are words;
each one is marked by time that has its place,
a when-to-be and just how long to rage
against the justice and the pleas for space
that beg you bleed just so you’ll know you live.
Hide your cheek and drift away from warmth.
Refuse transfusions that could save your life.
There is no scent as sweet to death as flesh
that feeds upon its own unhappiness.
I’ll slap your face to justify the red,
pretending that I never saw your tears.

© 2017 Lisa Mulrooney

When a Project Comes Calling

Rembrandt-Belsazar.jpg

Writing About Art

I have been struggling to find good content for my poetry lately. Sometimes, I re-read my work and I think the ideas are too lofty or too philosophical and just not grounded in either reality or the relevant. To get past that, I thought it might be a good idea to create a project for myself . . . what if I were to write about art?

The strange thing is that I think the universe is now conspiring to make sure this happens. One more coincidence and I think I might actually get scared. There’s no getting out of it now.

When I decided that there was no better place to start finding images for my poetry than in . . . well, images, I thought I’d better get myself a book of famous paintings. My Dad loves to browse around second-hand stores, so I sent him on a mission. I asked him to see if he could locate a book on Art History. My instructions were vague, but the one specific was to avoid bringing back a book that focused solely on an individual artist. Off he went to Value Village. Sadly, he came back empty-handed.

A week later, I was in the same Value Village looking to see if perhaps my Dad had overlooked the treasure I was seeking. I did in fact find a book that day, but it was not at all what I had expected. It was not a book about Art History, including the works of many masters, as I had described to my Dad. It was exactly what I had asked him not to pick up – a book concerning an individual artist. Rembrandt to be exact.

I know nothing about Art History and I know nothing about Rembrandt, but I am always up for a challenge – and I love research, so I decided that my project be based around the paintings of Rembrandt.

Ekphrasis and The Stroll of Poets

poets

Writing poetry about art is called “ekphrasis.” I only (re-)discovered that when I started exploring some ideas for this project. It is an interesting word of Greek origin (meaning “description,” “to point out” or “explain”), but as interesting as it might be, it is not a common word. That is why I found it so unusual when, last night, I made a new friend at a poetry reading (The Stroll of Poets Haven Reading Series, Edmonton, who told me that she wrote quite a lot of ekphrastic poems (and I understood what the heck she was talking about)! It turns out that this very nice lady is an Art Historian. Strange. That might not seem like a huge coincidence . . . but to me, meeting her, and having that conversation, seemed . . . well . . . meaningful.

So during the past week, I spent some time thinking about where to start with this project. I’d have to pick a painting to start with . . . but, how to choose? Maybe I should just go with my gut? I decided to be a little bit more intentional. It crossed my mind that if I were to write a poem about a famous painting, then one day, I might want to go and see the actual painting for myself. So, I consulted my good friend, Mr. Google, to find out where Rembrandt’s works are located. As it turns out, there are not many in Canada (I can’t really say I am surprised), but – as fortune would have it – there are quite a number in my native England. Since I do get back to the UK occasionally, I decided to pick a painting that could be viewed in London, England. I don’t know why I settled on Belshazzar’s Feast. All I know is that it was chosen from a short list of titles without giving the actual images much thought (which does seem to go against the grain a little, but nonetheless felt right).

Al Purdy

I have spent the past two days staring at the painting and reading a little bit about it – gearing up, as it were, to plunge in with my first (pre-planned) ekphrastic poem. Tonight, I was going to make a start on the poem, or at least make myself a few more notes on the painting. Instead though, I decided to take a hot bath and read the collection of Al Purdy poems I picked up from the library today (Beyond Remembering).

Al Purdy

Now, for the most recent coincidence . . . I am 8 poems into the book when I read the following lines from “At Roblin Lake”):

Next morning I make a shore-capture,
one frog like an emerald breathing,
hold the chill musical anti-body
a moment with breath held,
thinking of spores, spermatozoa, seed,
housed in this cold progenitor,
transmitting to some future species
what the wall said to Belshazzar.

Again, strange. Of all the allusions Purdy could have used, he draws attention to my painting (well, Rembrandt’s, but you know what I mean)!

I can’t help it. I just think it’s meant to be. So . . . I guess I’ve got myself a project!

(I’d love to hear from others about similar coincidences that have led them on to a “meant-to-be project.” Please share your story).

Epistolary Poem (A Letter)

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To the Man who Killed my Mother

There was always a sense of urgency about her,
as if there was so much love in the world,
you had to run fast enough or
you wouldn’t catch it. Ironic that
you threw her shoe out of a moving car.

She often trusted strangers; you weren’t
the only one who took advantage –
you were just the first. Funny,
how you closed doors, while you opened others.

I bet you don’t even remember the colour
of her hair, her eyes, or the many shades of
her screams. Did you hear the longing in them?
Did her name ever grace your lips
the way her kisses did?

I don’t blame you for what you did;
it’s all about genetics and chromosomes.
I’m just angry that she is no longer
herself, without your ink on her skin.

Do you cultivate flowers now,
instead of sexual identities?
Did your germination end with her – or was she just
a filament of sunshine?

Her funeral was farcical and oddly
beautiful. She was naked (tattoos bandaged),
shoes on both feet.

© 2017 Lisa Mulrooney

Between the Known and the Unknown

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NaPoWriMo 2017 has suggested the following prompt for today:

“Write a poem that reflects on the nature of being in the middle of something.”

So, here goes . . .

in the knowing

Oblivion was pleasant, naive – and now –
only disquiet. Somewhere, a streetlight
burns out – and a fawn calls out for its mother.

Outside, it is raining; storms don’t exist
until they are named. In the knowing
and shadows, seen and unseen,
Anubis raises his hackles.

It is the time between: imagination toying,
skillfully coy paramour
of the man with the vanishing rabbit.
Delight in his secrets. Children always want
more – until blackened, the stage becomes
more than just a stage.

© 2017 Lisa Mulrooney

Ghazal

I have not participated in this year’s NaPoWriMo challenge to write a poem a day; however, I was intrigued by yesterday’s prompt to write a ghazal. Here’s what I came up with. It was much harder than I thought it would be!

Intertidal Ecology: A Love Poem

Goodbyes are hardest said in person, beside the ocean’s furrowing rhythm,
Tossing along notions of return, helpless vessel, in complicit billowing rhythm.

Rocky shelves, cursed by sailors, are exposed just prior to contact.
Candid inner sanctums echo a similar, sombre, crowing rhythm.

“Refrain, refrain.” Again and again, siren call and conscience meld:
Neither sanity nor drowning – both – provoke the heart’s flowing rhythm.

Awash in weeds and pummeled driftwood, bearing the scars of every tide,
I lay my head in your lap and listen to the ocean’s knowing rhythm.

We danced along with drifting continents, tidal shifts and evolution.
Though dying, we’re immortalized in this last rendition of life’s slowing rhythm.

© Lisa Mulrooney

Poetry Retreat

My family has just returned from a wonderful week long vacation to Vancouver Island. We stayed in Metchosin, just outside of Victoria, and during our stay, we got to visit some beautiful locations, including the Town of Sidney and the Village of Ganges (Salt Spring Island). These amazing places, rife in natural beauty and culture, got me thinking about going on a Poetry Retreat. How wonderful it would be to leave the hustle and bustle of everyday life behind, and find some wonderful spot like Sidney or Ganges to spend time in, solely for the purpose of studying poetry and being inspired to write more.

These thoughts led me to muse about creating my own “retreat,” customized especially for me, allowing time to take off my mom, wife and teacher hats, and exclusively don my poet’s hat.

I haven’t yet figured out what the retreat would entail (aside from a beautiful location – like the ocean or mountains), but I’m working on it and looking for input. How would I plan my days? How much time should I spend looking for inspiration, reading, writing? Which texts or exercises would I take along with me to facilitate the process? I’m open to suggestions!

I’m wondering if this book might help? I just noticed it in our local bookstore today (click on the image to link out to the book on Amazon):

Speaking of bookstores, I had the great pleasure of visiting a really interesting one in Sidney: The Haunted Bookshop.

And what a treasure I found there: a book that came from the personal library of Canadian Poet Phyllis Webb. Interestingly, she now resides on Salt Spring Island – and, today (April 8th) is her 90th birthday! The book: T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.

5-Haunted

Haiku-A-Day: Part 1

“Haiku tends to focus on the immediate present, upon a mindful moment that captures the essence of meaningful living.”

 

In January, I discovered “National Haiku Writing Month” (www.nahaiwrimo.com), which encourages poets from around the world to commit to writing at least one haiku poem every day for the month of February.

The NaHaiWriMo Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NaHaiWriMo) and Twitter account (https://twitter.com/NaHaiWriMo) provide poets with a forum for sharing the results of their endeavours.

I decided to give it a go, and the result (so far) has been a huge sense of enlightenment!

I knew – or thought I knew – the basics of Haiku (17 syllables – 5 each for the first and third lines, 7 for the second line), but it turns out that there is actually A LOT more to Haiku than just that! In fact, the syllable count is far from being a hard and fast rule, and certainly does not define the structure of Haiku, contrary to what I thought I knew about the form. Perhaps even more important is the juxtaposition of images that creates a subtle expansion of meaning (accomplished in Japanese through a “cutting word” that serves to grammatically separate a haiku into two distinct parts). Also, in traditional Japanese Haiku, the time of year is signified through a “season word,” so those particular versions of the form are heavily dependent upon nature.

In English, a great many liberties have been and are being taken with Haiku. This flexibility has made Haiku very accessible to a wide range of writers and poets; however, as I have discovered over the past couple of weeks, it could take a lifetime to master the intricacies that create truly beautiful Haiku poems. After embarking upon a journey of discovery into this (underrated?) form, I am now certain it is worth the effort . . .

Haiku tends to focus on the immediate present, upon a mindful moment that captures the essence of meaningful living. A moment that could otherwise slip by unnoticed is effectively trapped and bottled by the poet. The mindful reader opens the lid and releases the thought (and its associated feelings) back into the world, leaving both reader and world changed by the transmission of that moment.

So far, this month, I have stuck to my commitment and written a Haiku each day. I have shared them on Twitter (https://twitter.com/lisamulrooney) and on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/NaHaiWriMo), but I thought I should share them here, gathered all together (like a little Haiku bouquet).

1.

snowswirl day 1

whisps of white moisture
swirl on the icy breeze
refusing to settle

2.

train day 2

tracks rumble in time
to a hypnotic beat:
sleep, train, sleep

3.

horses day 3.jpg

so close that you inhale
my breath’s condensation –
two worlds colliding

4.

spurned day 4.jpg

The chill air restrains,
after the burning torment
of a spurned advance.

5.

baby day 5

she hums in her sleep
and the last letter drifts
to oblivion

6.

grave day 6

a wrinkled hand
rests gently on a headstone
waiting patiently

7.

embers day 7

Embers from the fire
fly like moths to the moon;
the stars are dancing.

8.

aurora day 8

the wind holds secrets
we only hear at night;
aurora lights

9.

prison day 9

Watch yourself watch
yourself, a bird’s-eye-view.
The clock is ticking.

10.

trees day 10

The sun’s dying light
trickles into the shadows.
Dangerous thoughts pool.

11.

snowflakes day 11

Perfection inhaled.
A child’s honest laughter
tastes like snowflakes.

12.

toddler day 12.jpg

Galloping horses –
toddlers, tantrums and time.
Oh, to reign them in!

13.

dog day 13

steady rise and fall
curled into a safety knot –
dog on a pillow

14.

seagull day 14

seagulls squabble
over scraps and trash –
the sated take flight

If you have never written a Haiku, or you haven’t in a while, I challenge you to try it out. There are tons of great resources available online to help you in your journey, but I definitely recommend that you start here: http://www.nahaiwrimo.com

Happy Writing, Lisa