National Poetry Month — kristyfail

OH NO! I’m done for today. (I’m not sure I ever promised to post every single day of poetry month, but if I did, I was already done for!) So no Poetry Conversation today. Instead:

A stretch
A yawn
A bed

Tomorrow will be better!

National Poetry Month — Losers by Carl Sandburg

Because I’m caught up in life and this is the poetry conversation I’m having in my head. I’m feeling like a loser on some things, the things I’m letting slide…but perhaps not *all* of the important things. So today’s poetry conversation is with myself!


by Carl Sandburg

IF I should pass the tomb of Jonah
I would stop there and sit for awhile;
Because I was swallowed one time deep in the dark
And came out alive after all.

If I pass the burial spot of Nero
I shall say to the wind, “Well, well!”—
I who have fiddled in a world on fire,
I who have done so many stunts not worth doing.

I am looking for the grave of Sinbad too.
I want to shake his ghost-hand and say,
“Neither of us died very early, did we?”

And the last sleeping-place of Nebuchadnezzar—
When I arrive there I shall tell the wind:
“You ate grass; I have eaten crow—
Who is better off now or next year?”

Jack Cade, John Brown, Jesse James,
There too I could sit down and stop for awhile.
I think I could tell their headstones:
“God, let me remember all good losers.”

I could ask people to throw ashes on their heads
In the name of that sergeant at Belleau Woods,
Walking into the drumfires, calling his men,
“Come on, you … Do you want to live forever?

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National Poetry Month–An Original Poem “Ode to the Earthworm”

Inspired to post this by susanwrites earthworm haiku (though I wrote it a year ago, maybe?):

Ode to the Earthworm

O eater of earth
Compacter of food
You fashion a poem from soil
swallowing the best bits whole.
You combine and arrange them,
a digestion of words,
oozing richness from inside
and leaving your world better
than you found it

–Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved)

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Eric Carle Picture Book Museum or Boston?

Okay, so in September we’re going on what will be affectionately called the ME WITH YOU book tour/grandparent time/visit every historical piece of dirt on the East Coast trip and there will be a Wednesday through Friday that we’ll be in Boston.

On Thursday morning of that week, I’ll hop down to Barrington, RI for a reading and book signing with illustrator Christopher Denise. And we’ll both be in Boston for a signing at Wellesley Booksmith on Friday of that week.

SO, on Thursday afternoon, we could either head back to Boston to visit some historical dirt, or we could drive two hours over to Amherst to visit the Eric Carle Museum and then head back to Boston later that afternoon.

Going to the Museum would mean less historical dirt in Boston. What is your opinion?

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National Poetry Month — Villanelle — An original poem

I’m going to jump in with an original poem today, which I was only going to do on the weekends, but our days are all mixed up anyway with the wondering of what day it is today, considering the days off from school this week.

I try new forms sometimes and thought this villanelle about death and longing appropriate to share for Good Friday.


I trace the echoes on your face,
burned by love and word,
of brighter days and softer place.

A memory I’m left to chase,
your voice endures, unheard,
I trace the echoes on your face.

My breath intrudes me to replace,
like watercolors blurred,
the brighter days and softer place

that death and time plot to erase,
to cause the sonnet slurred.
I trace the echoes on your face.

I mourn this loss of earthly grace
(A clinging hope is stirred
for brighter days and softer place)

and lay my soul in soft embrace,
my paradise deferred.
I trace the echoes on your face
of brighter days and softer place.

—Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved)

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National Poetry Month — Carl Sandburg

Well, now. This is going to be different. Today’s Poetry Conversation guests are my eight-year old son and my five year-old daughter. Okay, so probably not what you were expecting. But due to circumstances beyond our control, we were in a bind. And a conversation about poetry makes a wonderful ending to a bit of a fidgety day.

Today’s poem is:


by Carl Sandburg

THE fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Okay, so to tell you the truth, I finished reading it and the five-year old jumped up and shrugged and said, “I don’t even know what is haunches.”

Uh-oh. Down one conversationalist.

But the eight-year old hung in there and really found this poem fascinating. He said, "Do you think he (the author) said like cat’s feet because you can’t hear little cat feet and you can’t hear the fog?"

Dingdingding, with no prompting from me. Easy enough for an eight year old.

I asked him what else about cats might remind us of fog. He read the poem again. He thought. He laughed when the dog burped into the silence. And then he said, "You know how cats just sit there and stare? And then they go off and stare at something else and you don’t even know why? That’s kind of like the clouds when they’re really low. It creeps in while you’re asleep and by the time you get out of school, it’s gone."

This is true, especially where we live in our city.

So the eight-year old decided we could write our own version since we have a dog and not a cat. This is what he came up with:

Happiness comes
on little dog’s feet.

It bounces in slobbering
over your heart and face
on clicky-clack feet
and doesn’t stop till bedtime.

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And I thought that was a perfect Poetry Conversation.

National Poetry Month — Elizabeth Bishop “Filling Station”

I’m late today, but here I am. Okay, so I said I wouldn’t be discussing poetry with the usual suspects, and I’m only bending the rule today, not breaking it. Today’s Poetry Conversation is with Katy Duffield, critique partner and precious friend of mine, but believe it or not, someone I don’t usually discuss poetry with.
Katy, though, is getting a college degree and has been reading more poetry than she ever has. AND she is the gal who turned me on to Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry. Had I ever read it? I don’t remember. But when Katy raved about it last year, I checked it out. (And when I was planning these Poetry Conversations, I did have to go back and confirm that it was Bishop that Katy had raved about!)

So here’s the deal. The first Bishop poem I ever read reminded me of my Papa, my mama’s daddy. Oh, Papa. He was rough around the edges, and he cussed, and he was quite a character. And then he had a stroke, and he softened, and was sentimental and sweet and I like to think he’d even have liked for me to read this Bishop poem to him.

You see, before Papa retired he ran a gas station. I remember going by his gas station, though I’m not sure if it was while he was still working there or if it was afterward when he stopped by to shoot the breeze with his friends. If I’m not mixing my memories, I remember getting a coke and some peanuts (and the peanuts always went *into* the bottle of coke) and hanging out while Papa and his cronies chewed the fat. So, when I read Bishop’s "Filling Station", it was all Papa, all the way through.

Here’s a taste:

Filling Station

by Elizabeth Bishop

Oh, but it is dirty!
–this little filling station,
oil-soaked, oil-permeated
to a disturbing, over-all
black translucency.
Be careful with that match!

Read the rest here. (Oh, please do. It’s worth it.)

So when I sent this one to Katy, she immediately bit:

“Filling Station” is one of Bishop’s poems that I have previously read, and it is one of my favs as well. What I truly love about so many of Bishop’s poems is how she paints these perfectly magnificient word pictures. Can’t you just visualize the “over-all / black translucency” of the oil covered scene, the father in his “oil-soaked monkey suit”, his “greasy sons” and the “grease- / impregnated wicker work”? I mean even the dog is filthy! Bishop doesn’t specifically mention the smell of the old oil and grease, but in reading her words, I can SMELL it—I get a whiff of the pungent greasy-grime. I can feel it’s slick gumminess under my fingers. Bishop’s words so perfectly convey the scene it’s as if I’m standing on the corner surveying the situation with my own eyes. This is the kind of writing that gets me excited about poetry."

Oh! Isn’t that just what you love to hear? The kind of writing that gets one excited about poetry?

Katy goes on:

"I also love that Bishop injects subtle humor into the poem. With her admonition, “Be careful with the match!” Bishop emphasizes that with the greasiness of the station and with the fact that it’s such a mess, it wouldn’t take much to set it ablaze. The juxtaposition of the colorful comic books, the doily, and the carefully placed begonia against the greasy, grimy backdrop evokes a smile as well."

I have to add here that EVERY TIME I read this poem, when I get to the line that says, "somebody waters the plant,/or oils it, maybe" I laugh out loud. To me *that* is the funniest line.

And here’s what makes it personal for Katy, and what makes me so glad I asked her for her thoughts on the poem:





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"On top of all that, the last two stanzas add an extra special-ness to this piece for me. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m an extra-sappy mom. I love that, who the reader assumes is the mother in the piece, the “Somebody”, cares enough about her family to inject some beauty and happiness into this otherwise somewhat dreary existence. The fancily-stitched, frilly doily, the begonia, the comic books, and the perfectly arranged ESSO cans depict that someone (in my eyes, the wife and mom) cares enough to put forth the extra effort to brighten her family’s day—even if it’s simply adding small touches where she can. Awwww….
“Somebody loves us all.”

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