Archive for December 11th, 2012

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

As a fundraiser for the Festival of Words, Darrell Bourque, former Louisiana state poet laureate, offered a master class. I submitted 3 poems and was accepted. Twelve poets gathered in Darrell’s home on Saturday afternoon. His house is set in a grove of bamboo. To get to the house, you walk through a shaded garden, enter a beautiful courtyard then into his art-filled home. I immediately relaxed and felt welcome.

Once the others arrived, Darrell quickly began teaching. I’ve known Darrell for more than 15 years. I’ve taken a number of workshops with him, but this was different. While I missed the interchange of ideas of the workshop style, I adjusted to just listening. His knowledge did not intimidate me as I expected. Instead, I understood. I followed. I wrote notes. I was a student and a poet.

He started off by telling us that there are no mistakes. He compared writing a poem to making a quilt. You get all the pieces laid out, and then you can move them around until a new pattern emerges. He challenged us to look for a pattern.

He took each person’s heart out, held it up to the light, and shaped it into something more beautiful, more glowing.

In an email to us all on Sunday, Darrell wrote this verse about this group of poets:

Brushing a child’s hair,
sitting by a powerful river,
taking a lunch break and really listening while being at work,
seeing angels,
standing next to sleeping Gypsies,
traveling toward the beloved,
salvaging the essential after rupture,
letting footsteps become prayers,
searching for traiteurs and medicine men,
sewing a new seam,
visiting monasteries,
standing in the presence of natural wonder
or grieving for a lost child—
these are all common experiences which you made extraordinary by your making them a part of your most essential human experiences. I thank you heartily and I wish you all continued good luck.

To show the results of Darrell’s shaping, I am posting one of my poems in both versions. He found the pattern of commands to make my poem-quilt clearer, stronger, and just plain better.

After the Storm (version 1)
If you want to study the skeletons of frogs,
take a walk after the storm when the sun comes up.
Listen to mockingbirds sing, high-pitched, discordant.
Walk the path of fallen limbs, clustered leaf-puddles.
We are washed yet still unclean. New day sun breaks
deepening the green, solid, and strong earth. Red spots
glitter after I glance at the spotlight. God’s eyes
peak through the ghost of a waning moon. Wren gathers
twigs for nesting, flutters off like a thief with goods.
No need for imagination here; all life breathes.
The beat of my footsteps become my prayer.

After the Storm (Darrell’s reshaping)
Study the skeletons of frogs.
Take a walk in the light after the storm.
Listen to mockingbirds in discordant songs.
See the sun deepening the green earth.
Glance at the sun; see the red spots glitter.
Peak through the ghost of a waning moon.
Gather twigs for nesting; become the wren.
Flutter off like a thief with his stolen goods.
Imagine nothing; all life breathes.
Let my footsteps become prayers.

After a storm, resurrection fern fluffs up and becomes a green blanket on the live oaks.

After a storm, resurrection fern fluffs up and becomes a green blanket on the live oaks.

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