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Learning things


Or maybe relearning them.  In my poetry class I’m learning new things. New poetry forms, new ways to think about words and put them together.

In other things, well, let’s just say the same lessons I thought I had learned have come back to remind me that I haven’t quite passed the test: patience, clarification of what I want, of what other’s expect; my need for concentrated alone time, compassion.

And I’m constantly learning balance: between what I want and what I want to give.  Balance between who I am and my place in contributing to the world.  That sounds too ego-full and I guess what I mean to say is more about giving than taking.  How to be a person in the world mindful of the world and my role in making it a better place. I’m not sure how that square’s with being a writer.

It’s been a difficult fall in many ways.  I’m still being schooled by life.  But persimmons and rose hips glow in the low grey light.  Like life burnished for the instant we are here.


We’ve learned the sestina and pentina and quartina forms in my poetry class. These forms rely on the repetition of end words to create a structure and pattern.  A sestina is an old form, dating to troubadours in the 12th century. This form “is a fixed verse form consisting of six stanzas of six lines each, normally followed by a three-line envoi. The words that end each line of the first stanza are used as line endings in each of the following stanzas, rotated in a set pattern.” (Wikipedia). The “envoi” must include all six words, two per line.  The pentina is a five stanza form with 5 repeated words and the quartina is a four stanza form.

I’ve had fun with these because although many of my poems “come” to me, this form really had the words and not the thought in charge.  The words shaped where the poem went.

I’m throwing in an example of a quartina I wrote based on another poem.  I’m including the other poem for contrast.

This is your brain on Groucho
The man next to me
has a Pan Am bag
Pan Am’s been out of business
since their airplane blew up
over Lockerbie.
Blew up by terrorists
early, so much now has happened
since that warning carnage.
My brain is full of anxiety
worry bits of terrorism
that scud about, pieces of shrapnel.

I try smiling.
My friend Sally
tells me to raise my hands
above my head, my eyebrows
Groucho like, says its moves
the stress out.
It works, for awhile,
makes me smile but I can’t
spend all day with my arms in the air
tapping a cigar and chanting
“what’s the secret word” til
I forget who everyone is
and the terrorists have lost.


This is your brain on Groucho

The man next to me has a Pan Am bag
Pan Am’s been out of business for years,
blown up by radicals
business replaced by anxiety.

My brain is full of anxiety –
a rabbit hoping to remain out of the bag
of mind traps fixed by a personal terrorist
set to increase her crazy yield year by year

I try smiling, which is radical
My friend Sally tells me it limits anxiety
tells me to raise my hands, like I’m holding a bag
It reminds me of the mimes of yesteryear

Then I lift my eyebrows, Grouch Marx circa year?
I look like a radical!
It works for awhile, calms the anxiety
Makes me smirk, puts fear in a bag.

I consider spending all day holding that bag, and then contemplate a year
laughing like a holy radical sent to calm the world’s anxiety.

I’m also learning, re-learning, how to process rejection. I took the first steps towards getting my writing out into the broader world and have two rejections to begin the pile.  More will come I’m sure….I hope I can keep smiling.


My new hat

In my new hat from Poland. It’s a men’s hat but what the heck. I like it.