Thursday, June 1, 2017

Five for Friday: What is Poetry?

Felix E. Guerrero

What is poetry? 

I'm still learning the answer to that question... and that's okay. If I spend a lifetime pondering, it will be time well spent. 

Here's one thing I do know:
Like any art, poetry needs space and time to breathe. It can pop up when you least expect it, but you have to be present to notice and available to answer the call.

"We find poetry" by Vida Dimovska

Back in January, I announced that my one little word for 2017 is Change. I talked about building up my core and balance, and trusting that the chaos I felt at the time was exactly where I needed to be.

Six months later, how am I doing?

Well, I still feel like that fearful girl on the ski slope more than I'd like. The difference is that I'm old mature enough now to recognize that hiding out is probably not the best alternative. Instead, I've focused on saying yes to Change.

"Birth of a butterfly" by Pat Ronan

Dr. Elif Akçali taught me the value of saying yes when I heard her speak at the Convening Cultures conference earlier this year. By the way, I almost didn't go to that conference... I had to push myself to say yes. How could I afford NOT to go? It was taking place in my home town, for goodness sake. If nothing else, I get to step out of my routine for a couple days. And who knows? Maybe I'd find poetry there, or an opportunity I wouldn't have otherwise known about.

On the second day of the conference, after a transformative keynote with Lily Yeh, I sat at an empty lunch table waiting to see who might join me. As it turns out, it was some local folks (the first locals I had met in two days) who ran a theater company and did educational programs with children. I asked if they ever included poetry in their programs. Their eyes lit up. No, they didn't have the skill set for that, but they'd like to. We exchanged numbers.

I'm thrilled to be conducting seven different poetry workshops with them this summer! This is something I've pursued again and again through the schools with no luck. Apparently it took opening myself up to something new, and allowing the opportunity to come to me the way it wanted to. Isn't life amazing?

"Street Poetry" by Julen Ruiz Luzuriaga

There will be other "firsts" for me this summer as well, like the first time attending ILA in Orlando. (Anyone else going to be there on Sunday, 7/16?) Also, the first time we'll be visiting prospective colleges for my 17 year old. (Can anyone recommend a great resource for finding scholarships?)

Plus, my new ditty committee is already hard at work choosing poems for THE BEST OF TODAY'S LITTLE DITTY, 2016!

Change has told me in no uncertain terms that this is going to be my last blog post for a while. I'll be taking the summer off to be present with these new endeavors. Maybe I'll even write some poetry—what a novel idea that is!

But enough rambling about me.

Here's what I have for YOU today: 
five of my favorite quotes about poetry. 

Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers.  

~ Yevgeny Yevtushenko

* * * 

A poet is a man who puts up a ladder to a star and climbs it while playing a violin.

~ Edmond de Goncourt

* * *

The writing of a poem is like a child throwing stones into a mineshaft. You compose first, then you listen for the reverberation.

~ James Fenton

* * * 

Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting.

~ Robert Frost

* * * 

If you can’t be a poet, be the poem. 

~ David Carradine

And a few more of your favorites . . .

Poetry is tricky to explain and different each time.

~ Kindergarten students in Christie Wyman's classroom

* * * 

Poetry should be like fireworks, packed carefully and artfully, ready to explode with unpredictable effects.
~ Lilian Moore

* * *

I read poetry to save time.

~ Marilyn Monroe 

* * * 

Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes.

~ Carl Sandburg

* * * 

A good poem can frame agony and hang it on the wall.

~ Charles Bukowski, from "Defining the Magic"
(Read the rest of the poem HERE.) 

* * * 

Always be a poet, even in prose.

~ Charles Baudelaire 

* * *  

Poetry is frosted fire.

~ J. Patrick Lewis

* * * 

Well, write poetry, for God's sake, it's the only thing that matters.

~ e. e. cummings

* * *

Poetry isn’t a profession; it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.

~ Mary Oliver

* * * 

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.

~ T. S. Eliot

* * * 

Poetry lies its way to the truth.

~ John Ciardi

* * * 

The minimum requirement for a good poem is a miracle.

 ~ John Ciardi

There are so many inspiring quotes about poetry! If you leave me your favorites in the comments, I'll collect them here. That way we can return to them all summer long like a tall, bottomless glass of lemonade.

Brett Davis

Cheers to a wonderful summer!

Many thanks to everyone who contributed a poem for Melissa Manlove's DMC challenge last month. At least seven or eight more poems were added to the wrap-up celebration since last Friday, so I hope you'll have another look. has determined that the winners of LOVING VS. VIRGINIA and LOVE IS are . . .

Diane Mayr and Kay McGriff.

Thanks to Buffy Silverman for hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup.