three poems from Mothershell by Andrea Potos (+ a giveaway!)

 

Andrea Potos’s ninth poetry collection opens with this John Keats epigraph:

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

~ Endymion

It is true that the beauty in this world sustains us. Even after physical manifestation or terrestrial existence has ceased, the idea, essence, soul of the person or thing endures.

When a loved one passes away, he or she truly remains “forever in our hearts.”

Judging by the poems in Mothershell (Kelsay Books, 2019), Andrea’s late mother embodied a rare brand of temporal as well as spiritual beauty. Though beauty is always in her line of sight (as it is with most poets), when it is viewed through the lens of personal loss and grief, it acquires tender and poignant facets as it becomes an agent of solace and healing.

Sorrow heightens perception as emotional guard rails fall away. When we mourn, we are blessed with divine clarity.

In these exquisitely crafted poems, Andrea honors her beloved mother by distilling memories that emerge like scattered shells on a beach: “I hold them up/to my ears. On certain days/inside their silence I can hear/the echoes of your voice.”

We get an intimate sense of her mother’s  loveliness and presence through color, light, sensation, sound, image, impression — beautifully sculpted moments that transport us to the center of love and longing: “These pink lilies rising from clear stillness,/ these yellow butterflies stitching a path through daylilies and reeds,” “a fragrance beyond air/a whole melding of the lost rooms of my mother’s house, vanilla scent of her coffee, her Greek oregano, cinnamon just past its freshness but potent enough to be here,” “tranquil joy/on her face like/Renoir/might have painted,/light dappling around and through her.”

Andrea also writes about her other loves — art (Renoir, Cassatt), literature (Dickinson, Alcott), faraway places (Ireland, Italy), her daughter and grandmother — all of which informs and enriches her poetic vision.

I love how she illuminates the eternal bond between mother and daughter with her elegant flashes of beauty:

 

WHERE YOU MIGHT FIND HER

In the dusky sky before dreaming,
behind the cobalt
curtain of your eyelids as
you descend

or rise —
on that landing just before waking–
precipice of expression — her face
like goldleaf shining.

*

 

JUNE SONG

one year later

Through the marrow
of summer
she was gone
through the hollow
of light
she moved
into the bone-
core of our longing,
now everywhere
peonies bloom
the colors of
her coral blouse
scattered with tiny
daylight stars.

*

 

Oh, the beautiful anguish (“the bone-core of our longing” kills me . . . )!

With Mothershell, Andrea has created “a bower quiet for us,” a place both prayerful and powerful in its emotional scope.

Here are three more of my favorite poems from the book:

 

*

 

Continue reading

welcome friends, soup’s on

 

*enters kitchen, eats three pieces of chocolate, then takes out the soup pot. . . *

Hello, Cutie Pies!

Yes, we’re finally back. 🙂

It’s so good to know I can type a few words, find you here, and share this small, safe space with you — cause things in this world seem to be getting scarier and more tumultuous with each passing day.

It’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening to our country with everyone fighting and on edge all the time.

 

 

We’re exhausted, frustrated, demoralized, fearful. We feel broken and powerless in the face of unmitigated hate, corruption, and greed.

And then there’s the profound sadness —  three recent mass shootings, and the loss of Toni Morrison and Lee Bennett Hopkins last month.

What to do? How to cope?

Toni Morrison’s words inspire, ground, and uplift:

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.

Continue reading

ron padgett’s advice on how to live well (+ a summer blog break)

 

To me you are already perfect, but I thought I’d leave you with Ron Padgett’s advice while I’m on summer blog break.

Nibble a little here and there, or inhale in one fell swoop. Either way, enjoy Padgett’s wry humor and words of wisdom on how to live well. Playful and profound, even the smaller, more obvious suggestions ultimately address the bigger picture.

*

 

“Evian” by André Beaulieu (2011)

 

HOW TO BE PERFECT
by Ron Padgett

Get some sleep.

Don’t give advice.

Take care of your teeth and gums.

Don’t be afraid of anything beyond your control. Don’t be afraid, for instance, that the building will collapse as you sleep, or that someone you love will suddenly drop dead.

Eat an orange every morning.

Be friendly. It will help make you happy.

Raise your pulse rate to 120 beats per minute for 20 straight minutes four or five times a week doing anything you enjoy.

Hope for everything. Expect nothing.

Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room before you save the world. Then save the world.

Know that the desire to be perfect is probably the veiled expression of another desire — to be loved, perhaps, or not to die.

Make eye contact with a tree.

Be skeptical about all opinions, but try to see some value in each of them.

Dress in a way that pleases both you and those around you.

Do not speak quickly.

Learn something every day. (Dzien dobre!)

Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.

Don’t stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don’t forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm’s length and look for it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass ball collection.

Be loyal.

Wear comfortable shoes.

Design your activities so that they show a pleasing balance and variety.

Continue reading

three food poems by naomi shihab nye

 

“Poetry allows us to cherish what we’re given. Whether it be a heartbreak, a second chance, a soft morning mist, a moment or . . . an onion, poetry, with its impossible-seeming combination of soft lens and precision, brings to our awareness that which might otherwise go unseen, unrecognized, un-cherished. Poetry opens us to life, to surprise, to shadow, to beauty, to insight.”

~ Naomi Shihab Nye

 

 

Happy to join my Poetry Friday friends today in celebrating Naomi Shihab Nye, who was just named the 2019-2021 Young People’s Poet Laureate. An award winning poet, essayist, novelist, songwriter, educator, editor, and anthologist, Naomi calls herself “a wandering poet,” and is the first Arab American to earn this honor.

For the past 40+ years she’s traveled all over the country and the world leading workshops and inspiring students of all ages, using her own writing “to attest to our shared humanity.” She is currently Professor in Creative Writing-Poetry at Texas State University, and makes her home in San Antonio.

Naomi is a natural born poet; she wrote her first poem at age six. As Young People’s Poet Laureate, she will work to bring poetry to geographically underserved or rural communities. With her sensitivity, insight, cultural awareness, compassion and enormous heart, she is the seer and sage we need right now to show us how words can heal, unify, delight, and enlighten.

 

Continue reading

musing on alice persons’s “the perfect day”

“Portrait of Ann Reading” by N.C. Wyeth (1930)

 

THE PERFECT DAY
by Alice N. Persons

You wake with
no aches
in the arms
of your beloved
to the smell of fresh coffee
you eat a giant breakfast
with no thought
of carbs
there is time to read
with a purring cat on your lap
later you walk by the ocean
with your dog
on this cut crystal day
your favorite music and the sun
fill the house
a short delicious nap
under a fleece throw
comes later
and the phone doesn’t ring
at dusk you roast a chicken,
bake bread, make an exquisite
chocolate cake
for some friends
you’ve been missing
someone brings you an
unexpected present
and the wine is just right with the food
after a wonderful party
you sink into sleep
in a clean nightgown
in fresh sheets
your sweetheart doesn’t snore
and in your dreams
an old piece of sadness lifts away

~ from Never Say Never (Moon Pie Press, 2004)

 

“Chocolate Cake with Raspberries,” Oil on panel, by Mary Ellen Johnson (2014)

 

*

Continue reading