Playing at Poetry Playplace

One of Henry Holiday's illustrations to Lewis ...
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Poetry is one of those forms of writing that can be unbelievably descriptive and emotional or vague and open for interpretation.  I love to read poetry, and try to interpret the intention and feeling of the author.  It is not always so easy, and I fear more times than not I get it completely wrong.  I have been visiting a few real good Poetry sites, and reading to my exhaustive pleasure.  There is something about a good poem that seems to add a flavor of  direction and comfort to my thoughts. 

Never before have I considered attempting to write any poetry.  Lately I have been conversing with a few friends on Plurk that are writing poetry.  One of them Megan has  set up a new site, Poetry Playplace,  where she is doing a series 30 poems in 30 days.  It’s an idea started by John Hewitt, but she missed this years edition.  So she’s going to do the series herself, I believe as an exercise in writing.  I thought it sounded like a good idea, and decided to follow her.  Originally, I was not going to attempt writing any poems, but as she has gone along, I found myself drawn to her assignments.

The first assignment was "Write a poem about your childhood. Explore an actual event that has some emotional significance to you. Avoid using any description of how you felt about the event then or how you feel about it now. Instead, try to make the emotion of the event come through in your descriptions of what happened."

Now this is difficult for me, for a few reasons.  The first, and probably hardest obstacle, is that I was brought up to not show emotions, for they betray your vulnerabilities to all including an enemy.  The second is my inability to fathom some emotions, especially my own.  When you add in the factor of childhood, a time in life of not understanding, yet wanting to learn, you add another level of difficulty.

I did a considerable amount of soul searching, and recalling childhood memories best left buried in the dark recesses of forgotten remembrance.  How’s that for an oxymoron.  I chose a time of my very young childhood, exactly how young I really don’t know.

We all went to a sitter that was know by all the kids as Grandma Clark, however she was not any of the children's grandmother.  She was a strict disciplinarian to say the least, and had some very unusual beliefs.  One of these was that left handed children were the spawn of the devil, and meant for no good.  I was left handed, or at least showed tendencies to be left handed.  While I was at her house, she tied my left hand behind my back until I became dependent on my right.  So I guess you can say she truly had an effect on me and changed a specific aspect of my life.  So that is what I chose to write my poem about, if you can call it a poem.

The Evil Left Hand
Everyday, I was consigned to her.
She was Grandma to all, hardly.
Always nice when necessary.
Until all parents disappear.

Turning to me, rope in hand.
Those words, I shall never unlearn.
"Lefties are, Devils spawn,
Righties a gift of God’s good."

Binding of the Devils spawn
brings forth Gods gifted.
Day after day, Months on end.
Perpetually timeless until return.

No longer will I be, Devils spawn.
Converted for her beliefs.
Never to be lefty predominantly.
Gifted to be, right handed.
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18 comments:

Lilly's Life said...

Brilliant Eric. What a scary woman was Grandma Clark. How funny, yet so common, thoughts such as hers were. I like these kind of projects, similar to the photography ones where you just get one word to work with I shall have to check this one out. Of course you have written a poem, a great one. The very nature of poetry as an authentic and individual mode of expression makes it nearly impossible to define anyway. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with next. I would imagine this will kickstart your creativity big time.

LceeL said...

Well done, Eric. And well said. I went through something similar, being left handed in a Catholic Grade School as a child. The Nuns had the same notion. But that's a long story and I'll post about it one of these days. I, however, remain unconverted. Do you suppose that's the source of this 'Dirty Old Man' in me? The first time someone referred to me as a D.O.M. is was 17 years old. She was 15.

The Grandpa said...

I certainly do call it a poem. Nicely done, Eric.

tashabud said...

I love your poem. I'm not an expert in poems. Nevertheless, I still like it. You were able to tell about Grandma Clark's strictness and cruelty effectively in your poem.

I tried to write poems before, but am not knowledgeable with the different metrical patterns you're suppost to follow for different types of poems, which are so many different styles. I'm so lazy to learn. So for now, all I know of poetry is if it rhymes and sounds sing song, it's a poem. And for sure, your prose accomplished both of them.

Have a great weekend.

confused said...

excellent Eric it brought memories of my youth..writing poetry was a big step for me at least putting out in the public eye but it was worth it..keep writing you have a lot to offer..:))

redchair said...

Eric this is outstanding. I bet it really stretches your writing knowledge and abilities. How exciting. (It’s kind of like our ‘Art Challenges’ but with a different medium) Good for you and wonderful start in the process. I look forward to many more of your poems.
Vikki

Eric S. said...

@ Lilly, thank you I didn't have the first idea how to approach this. The project is a lot of fun, and like you said it's giving me a little inspiration.

@ Lou, Thank you, coming from you I take that as high compliment. I enjoy all your poems, they are so well formed and presented. D.O.M. eh? This may be the cause. hehehe

@ The Grandpa, thanks I love your site, and I hope I am not making too many grammatical errors.

@ Tasha, Thank you I had never written poetry before because I didn't think I could do it. With this project of Megans, I'm learning along the way. She points out many sources and resources within her assignments.

@ Confused, Thanks again another wonderful poet yourself. This is what scared me about this post to be honest. I was afraid You would come by, and find my attempt wanting. I truly take your compliment as inspiration. I still don't consider myself poetic, but its fun to play with.

@ Vikki, Thanks it does stretch my ability indeed. I have to put effort into it, and stop to think constantly. The funny part about this is I had to use pen and paper to develop the poem. It would not come at the keyboard. Are you going to be doing another art challenge. I love Michael's and your work so much.

ShawnD said...

I don't know if you said the exact words that you can't write poetry but if you did, you lied through your teeth. I felt emotion in there and it doesn't matter how much, just that I felt some in there. (To tell you the truth I felt a good amount.) But I think I'll follow you in the poetry writing and do poetry on my writing blog also.

jenaisle said...

hello Eric, that was superb, I didn't know you were also a poet. It expresses beautifully your experience.

You should post this at helium, so more readers will read it. Please do, at Helium, all works are rewarded.

I'll send the invitation again if you'll send me your email,

People should read this, you know.
Keep writing and all the best.

Eric S. said...

@ Shawn, Hey thanks, I never considered myself a poet, just an appreciator of good poetry. I'm glade you enjoyed.

@ Jena, Thanks, I do need to post more articles at Helium. That was actually the first place I started doing any kind of writing. I love your articles there, and your doing so well with them.

Shirlatude said...

Hi - Like every one else said, you are an excellent poet! Please don't stop, you have a gift. Shirl (a lefty all the way)

Elizabeth said...

Hi Eric... thanks for that link! My interest was sparked immediately. :)

Great poem! It's disheartening to think that people would actually do this to a child. I have a firm belief that Karma never forgets.

the walking man said...

http://www.americanpoems.com/

Eric...the above address is an excellent sight for exploring poets of the past. Bukowski, Crane,Guest and, Sandburg are all favorites of mine.

Rather than trying to understand technical ideation in poetry it should be written as a statement of the writers personal thought. The thought if able to connect with an audience, is taken from the abstract realm of the author to the tangible for the audience.

Poetry does not have to have meter and flow to be good but it is better to have some when starting out in this little thing we do. I personally find a good way to establish both the meter and flow is through syllable count.

If for example the first line has ten syllables and the second line eight, then if the third line has ten and the fourth eight it will establish a natural rhythm.

I bounce around between all styles of the different schools of writing poetry.

THE EVIL LEFT HAND

Credible to be sure. Not technically great but certainly very good in that it does what poetry is supposed to do, in my opinion, which is to give your audience a picture. The same as a paint and brush artist try's to convey a thought through oil and canvass.

The biggest criticism I have of THE EVIL LEFT HAND
is the punctuation. Punctuation should be used more sparingly than you have done here. Punctuation sets up pauses. , . ; : all cause the reader to pause for different lengths of time, which establishes flow as well, so I will use it judiciously. Although to be honest I have been roundly criticized in the past for not using it to any great extent.

If you want to get a flavor for where your flow is speak the work out loud the way you hear it in your head when you write. If you can verbally establish a cadence then you're on the way.

Thanks for dropping by TWM.

Eric S. said...

@ Shirlatude, thank you, I'll probably dabble with it some more, I find it very intriguing. I like your site, I have to get over there and read some more. I applaud you for blogging about your life.

@ Elizabeth, Thanks, yea I thought I might surprise you. I just thought you would like that story from your comments at Lou's site.

@ The Walking Man, Thank you so much for your serious critique. I love getting real honest critiques, and to come from a poet of your quality, so much the better. I have followed, lurked, on your site for quite some time. There have been a number of occasions I wanted to leave a comment but didn't for any number of reasons. The last poem I finally commented on was one that touched something in me.

Thank you for the link, I'll go check it out. I do want to learn more about poetry. I have actually ordered a book about writing poetry also.

I used to think of poetry always having rhyme and rhythm, until I started reading a lot of it on-line. I have been reading many Haiku's, and they are based on the Syllables. I'll have to work on that, it's not one of my strong suites.

I wondered about the punctuation as I was writing it. I was trying to figure out how it would affect the flow. At the same time, I have been trying hard in my other writing to get my punctuation a little more correct. Again thank you for your you critique and your visit.

the walking man said...

Erik...Strict Haiku is versed out in three lines of 5 syllables for the first 7 for the second and a return to 5 for the third. 575...it is easier than one would suppose but in modern day poetry people tend to play fast and loose with the rules. Jack Kerouac for one. I am not a strict constructionist but I do like Haiku to follow the 575 rule if it is going to be called Haiku, otherwise it is simply interesting verse.

Lurking is cool, even though I rarely have the ability to keep my mouth shut.

Kel said...

Rico . . . wow, where to start?

1) I am floored yet again by the depth of your courage. To try a new written art form, and on first try post it into the public world . . . I just don't have that courage. Or perhaps I have a surfeit of ego that might be made vulnerable.

2) I don't think its possible to "get it wrong" when reading poetry. I think that art touches different things in all people because there is no one out there who has had the exact same life experiences. As we interact with art those life experiences color/inform how the art acts upon us. Therefore, what resonates for you, what images or emotions are evoked for you, can not be 100% the same as what I would see/feel (even though we are siblings).

3) Your poem touched me deeply. Not a bad first entry at all. Bravo.

4) I was deeply saddened to see that you did not escape the Clarkian effect as much as I had hoped. I was 12 when Mother and Dad finally allowed me to take over the care of you younger ones, and thus freeing us kids from her "care." So you would have been 5, and have not really talked about it much with me (as adults), so I had really started to hope that you wouldn't have those shadows in your memory.

Roughly 15 years ago I finally sought professional care in order to get out from under the worst of the the nightmares and the behavioral detritus clinging to me from those years. That, combined with my own research into the patterns of child abuse, and the psychoses of folk like that woman, have helped me come a very long way through the healing I needed.

Though I still have residual bouts of guilt that I wasn't able to protect you guys from her. I know, intellectually, that the guilt rests with her ~ but viscerally it still bubbles up from time to time.

The worst detritus for me, is that I am not able to access some our European cultures finest literature from the last several hundred years. I get severely nauseated, and overcome by a very harsh anger, when I encounter certain frequently occuring biblical words and phrases. Which, as a lay student of comparative religion/philosophy vexes me to no end.

So one of these days, when I've the cash accrued, and emotional stamina cached, I'll head back into professional care to tackle that.

Eric S. said...

Kel I can't imagine not posting my attempts at writing here anymore. I know at first I was nervous, but after those first few stories, I realized there was nothing to be afraid of.

Poetry is such a mystical form of writing, and art. I always try to figure out what the author is attempting to portray or convey. It is not always easy, but is always enjoyable. The images I conjure up when I read a poem are hard to explain.

The Clarkian effect, has touched us all. Fortunately myself the least for I am the youngest. I do have vivid memories, of places in that house I hope never to see again, including the bathroom, basement, and a few others. I try to focus on the fun, picking the sweet pees and such.

That woman had such an effect on us all, and may very well have contributed to our "closed" nature. I have noticed it is a family trait.

Don't ever blame yourself, you had no responsibility in any of that. I remember you protecting us, usually at your own peril (threat of punishment from any umber of her "creative" forms of discipline). The biblical words are some that have been burned into my memory.

I sympathize, and hope you find a way. Love Rico

Kel said...

Luv ya!

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