The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, June 6, 2017:

 

Nothing else does quite as much [as imagination] for most people, not even the other arts.  We are a wordy species.  Words are the wings both intellect and imagination fly on.  Music, dance, visual arts, crafts of all kinds, all are central to human development and well-being, and no art or skill is ever useless learning; but to train the mind to take off from immediate reality and return to it with new understanding and new strength, nothing quite equals poem and story.

Ursula LeGuin

WORDS ARE MY MATTER: WRITINGS ABOUT LIFE AND BOOKS, 2000-2016, WITH A JOURNAL OF A WRITER’S WEEK

 

 

The Prompter Room

For Friday, May 12, 2017:

 

A poem or story consciously written to address a problem or bring about a specific result, no matter how powerful or beneficent, has abdicated its first duty and privilege, its responsibility to itself.  Its primary job is simply to find the words that give it its right, true shape.  That shape is its beauty and its truth …

Art reveals something beyond the message.  A story or poem may reveal truths to me as I write it.  I don’t put them there.  I find them in the story as I work.

Ursula Le Guin

WORDS ARE MY MATTER: WRITINGS ABOUT LIFE AND BOOKS, 2000-2016

The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, January 3, 2017:

 

… [F]irst and foremost, I learned from [Walt] Whitman that the poem is a temple – or a green field- a place to enter, and in which to feel.  Only in a secondary way is it an intellectual thing – an artifact, a moment of seemly and robust wordiness – wonderful as that part of it is.  I learned that the poem was made not just to exist, to speak – to be company.  It was everything that was needed, when everything was needed …

Mary Oliver, UPSTREAM: Selected Essays

The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, September 27, 2016:

[Please note that the original poem is formatted into couplets, but for some reason WordPress won’t let me follow that formatting (I tried three times).  As you read, then, allow yourself a bit of breath time after every two lines to follow Oliver’s original intent for this beautiful composition.]

 

“Fall Song,” by Mary Oliver

Another year gone, leaving everywhere

its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,

the uneaten fruits crumbling damply

in the shadows, unmattering back

from the particular island

of this summer, this Now, that now is nowhere

except underfoot, moldering

in that black subterranean castle

of unobservable mysteries – roots and sealed seeds

and the wanderings of water.  This

I try to remember when time’s measure

painfully chafes, for instance when autumn

flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing

to stay – how everything lives, shifting

from one bright vision to another, forever

in these momentary pastures.

The Prompter Room

For Saturday, April 30, 2016:

 

“Jump, and you will find out how to unfurl your wings as you fall.”

Ray Bradbury

Some wings would have been nice a few days ago!  The day after I wrote that I was going to take a week off from my blog for a vacation of sorts, I took a tumble when I was outside feeding the birds.  It wasn’t the worst fall I’ve ever had – after several minutes, I was able to get up by myself, which was a good thing since no one was around – but it did shake me up (as falls do for most folks, I imagine) and I said a few choice words as I sat there on the ground.

Because I do have a propensity for falls, I’m always VERY careful when I walk.  I thought I was last Sunday, too, but still something – a hidden tree root or a rock or who knows what – tripped me up and down I went.  Once I hobbled back inside and fed the two dogs, I could nurse my wounds, a wrenched knee and shoulder.  For some reason, though, I felt more bruised inside for the rest of the week than I was outside.

I had hoped to read and catch up on other folks’ blogs and comments in my vacation week, especially now that I had to take it easy because of my fall, but Mercury came into its retrograde phase a little early and sent my Internet connections to you-know-where in a handbasket with the wings I could’ve used earlier.

So much for that plan.  The extra time, then, went into more edits on a client’s novel manuscript, and I made good progress.

Another good thing came out of this past week: I found a poem I wrote three years ago that I’d forgotten about!  That’s always a treat.  Since that discovery felt like a gift, and as I ease my way back into The Prompter Room, I thought I might share that little poem to say ‘It’s good to be back.’  I think it fits this past week.

Gathering Glimpses

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself.  That’s how I hold your voice.

Rumi

 

Sometimes the words come too fast

to grab by pen, take hold

on paper, thoughts generated by

who knows what – a sight,

a sound, a smell, a memory,

newspaper or book – yet still

 

the poet picks up pen and paper

in the liturgy of waiting,

has faith that wayward words

from long ago might find their place

in just this poem or that, born of

and in and for the collective

union of emptiness,

knowing it is often true

that the most important part of

a poem is the words that are left out.

 

And sometimes it is best, in those

fast and furious moments,

to let the cat sleep in your lap, or

sit beside a quiet stream, to listen

to birdsong, the calls of crows,

and to watch the boulders emerge

from beneath the melting snow.

 

 

© ERR 3/26/13

The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, January 12, 2016:

 

“Don’t you love the Oxford Dictionary?  When I first read it, I thought it was a really, really long poem about everything.”

David Bowie

“The final lesson a writer learns is that everything can nourish the writer.  The dictionary, a new word, a voyage, an encounter, a talk on the street, a book, a phrase learned.”

Anais Nin, attributed – FRENCH WRITERS OF THE PAST

Allow me, please, to disagree with Ms. Nin a little, albeit with respect.  I believe this is one of the first lessons a writer learns – though I think it’s likely more a realization.  It’s also not only a first one or a final one.  As David Bowie showed us, writers – and probably all artists – know this is a lesson that is lifelong.

I remember doing something similar to Bowie.  While I didn’t read dictionaries as though they were books, I almost always went far beyond the word or words I was looking up.  I did this with encyclopedias, too.  Growing up, we had one set of encyclopedias about all the world cultures that I would explore, without a particular research subject, just to find out more about different peoples and places.  I could really get lost in those.

The resource section of my bookcase over there has two or three etymology books, a one-volume encyclopedia, The Oxford Companion to English Literature and The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, along with the requisite thesauruses (two different ones) and a dictionary.  Sometimes I’ll pick out one to read when I feel the need for nourishment, something to relax into.

I do agree with Ms. Nin about all the other things, and I could add others as well.  Now I can add reading the dictionary like a poem.  I really like that – and maybe I can write one, too.

Guided Meditation

This dreary, rainy day and the soft music on TV have put me in a meditative mood, so I thought I’d post this piece I wrote a few years ago for a workshop.

The workshop never happened — the weather was horrendous — and the time of year was autumn, not summer, but I think the meditation is still appropriate. A Native American flute CD was supposed to play in the background, so find something similar or just as soothing to listen to. It’s best if someone else can read this quietly for you.  If that can’t happen, read it over a few times first and then just listen to the music as you settle in and close your eyes ……

Relax into the music, let it refresh your spirit as you take a few minutes to release any demands on you or concerns you have. Take some slow, deep breaths and feel the oxygen regenerating your body.

We’re going on a short journey together, to find our muses and to find our own unique voice.

By now you may see an aura behind your closed eyelids … maybe a brilliant sunflower, stars, or flashes of green and blue lights. Enjoy them for a moment, thank them for starting your journey for you with such beauty.

As these slowly fade away, you see you’re on a wide path deep in the woods. It’s a crisp, invigorating day in the early fall. Sunlight streams through the trees, a breeze sends a shower of multi-colored leaves around you as you walk, and you spot a partridge gliding past you on feather-covered feet that make no sound at all.

As you enjoy the sounds of the leaves joining those that make the tapestry in which you move, you inhale the rich, fertile fragrances of damp earth, the humus of the pine duff, the whiff of wood smoke that reached you just now.

You’ve come to a small glade of hemlock, oak and beech trees and you spy a granite and marble boulder among the intertwining roots. It’s as if the trees and the boulder are anchors for each other, holding the other into and onto the ground just for you. Near the granite ridge of the stone’s top, there’s an indentation that makes a comfortable place to sit.

So you sit … and listen to the silence of no traffic, the rustling whisper the leaves make as they fall … to the occasional bird murmurs, chattering of the red squirrel, squeaks of the chipmunks … As the silence fills up around you, you hear the sound of water and discover this peaceful spot is just above a mountain stream, heavy from a recent rain, rushing over boulders and stones placed there eons ago by a glacier as it scoured the mountainside.

You take a deep, deep breath, enjoying the cool air that rises from the water below to meet the warm drafts of sunlighted breezes playing among the trees. You’ve slipped off the boulder seat onto the musty ground; lean now into the stone behind you and close your eyes ……

Sometime later you awaken. The sun is lower, the woodland creatures are quiet, even the breeze has stilled. You’ve lost all track of time, but you know it’s that magical time when afternoon seems to hold its breath before it slides into dusk. It’s time to start back.

You start to rise from your nest of ground and boulder … and in doing so, your hand overturns a palm-sized stone smoothed and ridged from the stream.   Then your foot dislodges another one of similar size. Turn them over to admire their simple yet complicated beauty, the marble veins gleaming in the late sunshine tilting through the trees, and appreciate their soft heft and weight.

When you turn them over, you find there is writing, something roughly etched as if with a smaller, sharper stone or knife, or maybe woodland faery spirits.   A close look reveals a word on each: “Voice” on one, “Sing” on the other.

Curious now, you kneel to dig a little more and find an irregular circle of similar stones underneath the leaves, each with its own word.  You place the first two stones inside the indentation on the boulder, and each subsequent stone finds its place there as well. The stone words include ‘Risk,’ ‘Promise,’ ‘Empty,’ ‘Find’ … and there are several more.

Without intending to, you realize you’ve made a poem as you placed the stones onto the boulder. Perhaps this is where they started, then, after that unknown person or spirit scraped these words and placed them on the altar of the boulder near the stream.  Perhaps a squirrel or a heavy wind sent them into hiding, to wait for you to find them.

You place the last stone in the center of the circle, its word “Gladness” uppermost, and you back away. It’s time now to retrace your steps along the woodland path. You give thanks to the spirits of the woods, the stream, the stones and boulders, the creatures. Dusk is nearly here and you must be able to see your way out; but it seems that a light from behind you shines in just the places you need to put your feet.

It’s the words, you think. They’ve made the way easier and brighter. When you come through the woods again, you turn around and the light is gone. Gone along the pathway, yes, but there is new light in your heart.

You stand there for a moment or two because you want to remember the poem you left back in the glade. You want to write that poem … or song … or paint a picture … or tell a story ….

And you want to come back and add your own words for another to find.

© ERR/November 18, 2009