National Poetry Month — April 5, 2008

We’re organizing the bookshelves in our house today. After waiting three months for a very special bookshelf to be built, and buying two others second hand, when they all suddenly arrived at the same time this morning, we had work to do! So we are. Working. Arranging bookshelves, making choices, organizing according to the way we think, as well as for aesthetic pleasure, and to tell you the truth, it’s rather intimidating. But books! We love books and it will all be worth it in the end.

So, in honor of books, here’s today’s poem. (It’s also been posted on my website, so some of you might have seen it before.)


Come along, old friend.
Let’s walk your road again.
I know each bend,
each rise
and fall.
I know it all, yet
every time you show me more
a twisted root
a hidden door
a sheltered nook
I’ve passed but never seen before.

Let’s run your road, this well-worn path.
We’ll kick up dust and later,
when I stop to rest,
I’ll feel your breath upon my back
press me toward
The End.

—Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved)

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Poetry Friday — National Poetry Month edition

On this, the first Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month 2008, I should have some really significant to say.

*drumming of fingers*

*lost in thought*

*I wonder if an immediate second cup of coffee is too much caffeine at once?*

*looks at fingernails*

*I ought to push back my cuticles.*

*where did I put the choc–, oh wait, it’s too early for chocolate.*

*”I’ve been working on the railroad, all the live long day” . . . “I love you, you love me” . . . “Turn up the radio, Blast your stereo, Right now, This joint is fizzlin’, It’s sizzlin’, Right . . . Pump it, louder, Pump it, louder, Pump it, louder . . .”

*Ahem . . . composes self*

*more drumming of fingers*

Obviously, when you try too hard, something important to say becomes too hard to think of, much less to find a way to say. Poetry is not always the deepest thought, the thought that’s never before been expressed in all of eternity past. Poetry is YOUR take on your subject of choice. It’s the way YOU see the world, which may or may not be similar to the way I see the world. It’s the words YOU choose that I wouldn’t have that help me see the world in a different way, or perhaps, the words you choose that I also would have chosen that show me someone else sees the world just as I do. Poetry brings us together in unexpected ways, through either discovery or through connection, and sometimes through both. Even when the poem is about something not so earth-shatteringly important.

Imagine your five-year old self reading the following poem. What would you relate to? What would it reveal to you? Would you discover something new about yourself or the subject of the poem? What about now, reading it as an adult? Do you see the poem any differently than you would have at five years old?


Piece by piece,
bit by bit,
try them all
to find a fit.

First the edges,
then between,
filling in
this puzzling scene.

—Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved)

I don’t claim that the poem above is a particularly good poem but that’s what a good poem does for its reader, no matter the age, no matter the subject. It shows us how we’re the same, it shows us how we’re different. And if it does all that in one poem, even better. The part of poetry that cannot be controlled by the poet is *how* the reader will see the poem. And it will take into account the reader’s experiences, thoughts and feelings. It’s one of the best things about poetry to me, that we can read (or write) a poem as a five-year old, and then years later, we can read it again and see a completely different level of meaning.

Poetry grows and changes even when we never intended that it should. Even when we tried our very hardest to think of something important to say and it just didn’t come, and didn’t come, and didn’t come and so we ended up writing a poem about something as simple as a puzzle.

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A sense of wonder

I’ve been rereading a collection of writings by Katherine Paterson called “A Sense of Wonder” and ruminating on what it takes to maintain a daily sense of wonder about life. Today was most decidedly NOT a day of wonder. From the time I awoke until this very minute, I’ve felt rushed and pushed and pulled on and tugged on and tired. And sick. I wanted to find the wonder. I searched. And I’m sure the wonder was there, but the eyes of my heart could not see it.

For now, here’s today’s poem. Tomorrow will be better, right?


Nothing grows inside my brain.
I think it’s full of weeds.
If I could get a hoe in there,
I’d plant some thinking seeds.

—Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved)

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Poetry Month — Full to Overflowing with Ideas

I don’t know about you, but the poetry posts all over the web for National Poetry Month have my mind whirring at the speed of hummingbird wings. I’ve resurrected a dormant collection idea and begun a companion collection, both of which I’m really excited about now. I’m going to try to draft a poem a day for one or the other of these collections during this month. I won’t be posting those drafts here, but I will be posting an original poem (read first draft!) or translation every day (or most every day) here during the month of April. It’s a tall order, but if I can’t do it during National Poetry Month, when I’m surrounded by all this inspiration, when can I do it?


Wings sing
a drummer on air
a melody made
in shade near a shadbush
a tune without music
a hymn with no notes
a perfect-form song
plucked on mid-air
a solo of solos
in Spring

—Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved)

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Poetry Month — Mario Quintana

Mario Quintana (July 30, 1906—May 5, 1994) was a Brazilian writer who once said, in response to attacks on free speech and artistic expression by conservative (read dictatorial) government, that “mistreating a poet is a sign of very bad character.” He is said to have been interviewed once, near the end of his life by a jornalist who asked: “Back in your time, how was life?” His answer? “Your time, my ass. I am alive, and pretty well alive, my time is now.”

He was a poet of “the simple things”, unconcerned with critics, he wrote poetry because he “felt the need to write it.” The following poem is some form of a sonnet, though my tranlation approaches nothing of the sort. It was impossible to maintain some of the rhyming. This is Soneto II from Rua dos Cataventos:

Sleep, little street, everything is dark . . .
And my steps, who is there to hear them?
Sleep your pure and restful sleep,
with your lamps, and your gardens, nothing to fear in them . . .

Sleep . . . There are no thieves, I assure you . . .
Or even guards that would seek to torment . . .
In this high night, as if above a wall,
the stars sing like crickets . . .

The wind is asleep on the sidewalk,
the wind stoops down like a dog . . .
Sleep, little street . . . There is nothing . . .

Just my footsteps . . . But they are so light
as to even seem, in the mid of night,
the footsteps of my future haunting . . .

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April First Miscellany — some of which have nothing to do with trickery

1. I woke my almost 10 year old daughter up this morning by handing her a cup of coffee and telling her I had signed her up for an afternoon job at her school. From now on I’d be picking her up at 6 pm every day when her work day ended. She sat straight up, eyes wide open and then immediately said, “April Fools…but can I still have the coffee?” Smart one, that cookie.

2. I finished the picture-book-that-may-not-really-be-a-picture-book in Portuguese yesterday and sent it off to sarah_create and her fluent Portuguese-speaking husband for review. It was fun for them, at least, to read something in Portuguese and at least pretend for the moment that they are in warm, balmy Brazil instead of shivery, quivery Iceland. The story is really for a contest that will be put on by the Brazilian branch of IBBY. And all I stand to win is a few books. But still, it was fun and who knows but that I really could publish a book here one day!

3. I want to celebrate Poetry Month by posting something poetry related every day. I’m not sure if it will be an original poem, or a translation, or just thoughts, but I’m in this year. If I miss a day here or there, don’t hold it against me, but I’m going to try! I’ll be back in a minute for my first post of the month!

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