Today is Sleepy — National Poetry month

Barely four hours since I awoke and I’m already wishing for a nap. Lots happening here today and over the next few days, so the anticipation and worry and details have been keeping me up at night. So for all who didn’t get a good night’s sleep last night…


I cannot sleep.
I know I won’t.
Whenever I lay down,
I don’t.

A million thoughts
Dance in my head
And keep me tossing
In my bed.

Purple sheep
And racing cars
Rocket ships
That orbit Mars.

Pirate boats
And air balloons
Dishes running
off with spoons.

And spelling tests
plot to rob me
of my rest.

Bedtime would not
be a pain
If I could just
Turn off my brain.

—Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved)

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Haiku — National Poetry month

I’ve always been scared of haiku. Wait. That’s not true. As a child, I loved haiku. They were easy. Count the syllables, write three lines and Bam! You’re done. It’s only been more recently that I’ve become afraid of haiku. It used to be 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables and then there was the whole debate over how haiku can’t really be written well in English because it’s a Japanese art, so the syllable thing is just a guideline and in fact you could do 3/5/3 if you want…or even 4/6/3 or any approximation would work if you wanted, and it all became too wide open for me! If there was no set structure to ensure I was writing a haiku, then I felt more pressure to make sure there was deeper meaning behind my simple observation of the world. And what if that deeper meaning didn’t come across? And then my haiku didn’t even fit the syllabic format the reader expected? What if my haiku was crap?

But recently, I’ve decided that I like haiku again. There’s nothing like it for capturing a single image, and for me, nothing like it for evoking the emotion of a memory I’d like to hold onto.

Here’s one for today:

Small one sleeps,
sweat of dreams on brow,
laughter on lips.

—Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved)

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5 minute madness — a National Poetry Month post

I’ve told you before that my critique group plays a little five minute game every so often called Crap on Paper, or more commonly known as COP. Set the timer. You have five minutes to draft a poem on the topic of the day. Topics can be generated by choosing the first thing that comes to your mind, by opening a book and pointing to a word, or by randomly dialing a telephone number and asking the person who answers for a suggestion. Sometimes that last one doesn’t go over so well.

Today’s COP topic was chosen using the book option. (Randomly pulled Susan Taylor Brown’s HUGGING THE ROCK off my newly organized bookshelf, randomly opened to page 113 and pointed to the word “pictures”.) Five minutes starts now:

School Pictures

No matter how much
I plan for this day,
my hair always ends up
in wild disarray.
My shirt’s always stained
with that afternoon’s lunch.
My smile’s always crooked.
My back’s always hunched.
It looks like on purpose
I tried for my worst.
It’s always this way.
I think that I’m cursed.

So, there you have it. Not exactly the best poem you’ve ever read. But if you look, you’ll find a couple of places I can make better word choices or rephrase to make the meter a little smoother. Especially that next to last line.

Five minute poems aren’t about perfection. It’s the fastest way to get a quick draft down on paper without ANY pressure. You can always revise after the five minutes are up!

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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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