Quantcast

Guest Post: Flanders Field of Grey by Ginger Monette

In 2015, Ginger Monette, author of the Darcy’s Hope series, entered a flash fiction contest, Picture This! Writing Contest, in which she wrote a short story based on a photograph. So was born, “A Flanders Field of Grey,” which she shares with us today in honor of National Poetry Month.

We hope you enjoy it.

Roger stepped away from his companions and swallowed hard as his gaze swept over the Flanders field on the dreary November day. The musty smell of damp earth and the grey sky instantly transported him back to that fateful day fifteen years before.

November 6, 1917. The moment was nearly upon them. He returned his sister’s picture to his pocket and glanced down the trench into the sea of soldiers. Who would death call today? Artillery shells screeched and boomed over No-Man’s land rocketing fountains of sludge into the air. He raked trembling fingers through his red hair and secured his tin helmet. The roiling grey clouds overhead mirrored the churning in his stomach.

The shrill of the signalling whistle pierced the air. The trench erupted in a primal war cry. He added his voice and vigour to the wave of khaki scaling the ladders and pouring over the earthen wall. The staccato of machine-gun fire joined the percussion of artillery and roar of men’s voices. Defying every instinct, he lowered his head and plunged into the firestorm.

As far as he could see, his comrades slogged across the pocked wasteland of Passchendaele. Green-scummed water filled hellholes deep enough to swallow a dozen men. He gagged on a whiff of wet soil mingled with the stench of decaying bodies. Shells bursting on his left and right catapulted men and mud into the air.

Gunfire mowed down the men in front of him. Shuddering with fear, he stepped over two groaning bodies and pressed on. He ignored the grey hand reaching from a murky pool like a tentacle of death lapping at his heels. Flying lead swept over them again.

His legs failed him.

Little did he know that day
His life would be forever changed
On a Flanders field of grey.

~~*~~

Tom thrust his hands into his coat pockets as his gaze swept over the Flanders field on the dreary November day. A barking dog and the grey sky instantly transported him back to that fateful day fifteen years before.

November 6, 1917. A choir of moaning men mingled with the orchestra of artillery. He quickened his pace, splinting, sewing, sawing. An explosion rocked the underground lair, rattling his surgical instruments and raining dirt from the low earthen ceiling.

The company sheepdog sauntered over and nuzzled his leg. “Not now, girl, I’ve got boys to mend.”

Soldier and after soldier came and went from his makeshift theatre. Late in the afternoon he heaved a sigh of relief as he emerged above ground. He squinted upwards; the grey clouds overhead mirrored the tenor of the day. He could only recall laughing once—with a private who’d caught a round in the leg. In spite of his pain, they’d laughed and joked as he prepped the boy for the hospital train.

A sudden boom sent him reeling backwards.

Little did he know that day
His life would be forever changed
On a Flanders field of grey.

~~*~~

Sarah brushed aside a tear as her gaze swept over the Flanders field on the dreary November day. The mud caked on her shoes and the grey sky instantly transported her back to that fateful day fifteen years before.

November 6, 1917. Open and shut; open and shut. The door of the Nissen hut swung back and forth admitting stretcher after stretcher of broken, bloodied soldiers plastered in mud.

What had she been thinking when she volunteered? That it would be amusing to camp in a six-foot bell tent and nurse men gasping for breath with gas poisoning or writhing in pain with a limb blown off?

She hastened across the duckboards under an ominous grey sky that mirrored the fear every woman carried. Fear that a beau or brother would appear. And then it happened to her. A boy moaning on a stretcher stopped her—dead. Her brother.

Her head flew back with an anguished wail.

Little did she know that day
Her life would be forever changed
On a Flanders field of grey.

But the sun broke through the clouds on the November day over the Flanders field of grey. The light glistened off the red hair of her brother Roger walking with his cane beside the doctor. She smiled as the best friends joked about their long-ago ride on the hospital train.

Sarah quickened her pace to join the two and slipped her arm around the wounded surgeon she’d nursed so many years ago. She couldn’t ask for a more wonderful husband.

Indeed all their lives had been changed that day on a Flanders field of grey.

And they wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments about the piece and what inspires you to read about WWI or poetry.

National Poetry Month 2017

National Poetry Month 2017 is here.

If you’re posting about poetry this month, I’d love to know about it. I love to cross-promote poetry posts in April on Facebook and elsewhere.

Leave you full post links below:

Happy National Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month 2017 Blog Tour Sign-Up

National Poetry Month 2017 is around the corner.

I’m looking for some great bloggers to join the annual National Poetry Month blog tour.

Some posts we’ve seen in the past include:

  • original poetry
  • reviews of poetry books
  • sharing of favorite poems
  • activities where we add one line to a poem in the comments to create a community poem
  • blackout poetry activities
  • interviews and guest post from poets
  • information about local poetry events
  • sharing local poetry event experiences, and more.

If you’d like to participate, leave a comment below with a valid email and date you’d like to post about poetry in April.

Grab the image above for your own blog, and let’s get the poetry party started!

Happy National Poetry Month!

355th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 355th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Naomi Shihab Nye:

Blood

A true Arab knows how to catch a fly in his hands,"
my father would say. And he’d prove it,
cupping the buzzer instantly
while the host with the swatter stared.

In the spring our palms peeled like snakes.
True Arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways.
I changed these to fit the occasion.

Years before, a girl knocked,
wanted to see the Arab.
I said we didn’t have one. 
After that, my father told me who he was,
“Shihab”—“shooting star”—
a good name, borrowed from the sky.
Once I said, “When we die, we give it back?”
He said that’s what a true Arab would say.

Today the headlines clot in my blood.
A little Palestinian dangles a toy truck on the front page. 
Homeless fig, this tragedy with a terrible root
is too big for us. What flag can we wave?
I wave the flag of stone and seed,
table mat stitched in blue.

I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air: 
Who calls anyone civilized?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?

What do you think?

Create a Cento

Today, we’re all going to create a cento poem, also known as a collage poem, which is made of lines from the poems of other poets.

This requires very little creativity on your part, so if you have never written a poem, do not fear! You can select your favorite lines from poets you love, or even select lines that you hate. It’s up to you.

I’m going to start you off with this simple line and let you take it from there:

unaware our shadows have untied (Yusef Komunyakaa’s “A Greenness Taller Than Gods”)

What’s your line?

MadLib Poems

Remember those little books that as kids we inserted nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives to create funny stories and anecdotes?  Of course you remember Mad Libs.

Today (Anna helped generate this little idea), I’ve taken a poem and eliminated some key words, but you’ll input the missing noun, adverb, adjective, etc. and create a new Frankenstein creation.  I can’t wait to see them all.

Here’s the first one:

More Nonsense Limerick 87 by Edward Lear

There was an old   (Noun)  of Stroud,
Who (verb) horribly jammed in a crowd;
Some she slew with a (noun),
Some (noun) scrunched with a stick,
That (adjective) old person of Stroud.

Here’s the second one:

The Thrush by Fay Inchfawn

Across the land came a (adjective) word
When the earth (verb) bare and lonely,
And I sit and (verb) of the joyous (noun),
For ’twas I who heard, I only!
Then (noun) came by, of the gladsome days,
Of (amount) a wayside posy;
For a (noun) (verb) where the wild (noun) sleeps,
And the willow wands are (adjective)!

Oh! the time to be! When the (noun) are (adjective),
When the primrose-gold is lying
‘Neath the hazel (noun), where the catkins sway,
And the dear south (noun) comes sighing.

My (noun) and I, we shall (verb) a (noun),
So snug and warm and cosy,
When the kingcups gleam on the meadow (noun),
Where the (noun plural) are rosy!

Please leave your madlibs in the comments below.

You can also generate a random Madlib poem at Language is a Virus.

Book Spine Poetry

Book Spine Poetry is fun and easy, and you can even get your kids involved with their own books.  It’s like a game of “I Spy” in which you look at the books on your shelves or at the library, and you arrange them in some kind of order that pleases you to make a poem out of the titles listed on their spines.

Here’s great little step-by-step instructions for kids on how to create their own.

I’d love to see what poems you create, feel free to post them on your blog, on Twitter, on Facebook.  Use the tag #bookspinepoetry and #NPM2016.

It will be fun to see what you create. It can be addictive, if you’re not too careful.

Check out the one’s created in 2014.

Here’s an example of two I created: (not very good)

IMG_2227

This Is How I’d Love You
The Lost Art of Mixing
Never
Hunted
Falling Under
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

 

 

IMG_2228

This Is the Story of You
Untamed
The Voice I Just Heard
The Italian Lover
First Impressions
Gone

 

 

 

What does your poem look like?

Visuals and Poetry: A Relationship of Inspiration

I’ve written poetry and taken photographs for a very long time, and I won’t claim that they are all fantastic or publication worthy. However, these two mediums seem to feed off of one another. I’ve taken pictures, only to look at them again and be inspired to create a poem — with phrases pouring from me just when I take a peek. In other instances, I’ve read poems and sought out some of the places in those poems, even if they are not the exact spot that inspired the poet to write the poem. For instance, you can find a snowy path or road in the woods, take a breath and be Robert Frost on that road, or you can take a photograph of your own garden and spy a bee on a flower and write a poem.

After challenging myself earlier this month to enter Rattle‘s Ekphrastic Challenge, I thought today would be the day for a fun activity as National Poetry Month 2016 winds down.

Today, I thought it would be interesting to see what readers come up with by looking at one of the photos I took a few years ago. I’d love for you to share your short poems or even take a risk and post your own photo and poem on your own blogs and join in.

Here’s the photo:

You’re free to take it in any direction!

354th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 354th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Rabindranath Tagore:

Freedom

Freedom from fear is the freedom
I claim for you my motherland!
Freedom from the burden of the ages, bending your head,
breaking your back, blinding your eyes to the beckoning
call of the future;
Freedom from the shackles of slumber wherewith
you fasten yourself in night's stillness,
mistrusting the star that speaks of truth's adventurous paths;
freedom from the anarchy of destiny
whole sails are weakly yielded to the blind uncertain winds,
and the helm to a hand ever rigid and cold as death.
Freedom from the insult of dwelling in a puppet's world,
where movements are started through brainless wires,
repeated through mindless habits,
where figures wait with patience and obedience for the
master of show,
to be stirred into a mimicry of life.

What do you think?

Interview with Nadia Gerassimenko

National Poetry Month is in full swing, and I have a great interview with Nadia Gerassimenko for you today, and she’s sharing a poem with us as well.

She also was kind enough to post some of my own poems on her website. Feel free to check them out.

I hope you give her a warm welcome; she’s a stunning poet.

When did you know you were a poet and what has kept you writing?

I began writing since I was 14. I didn’t think of myself as a poet at that time, more like writing poetry was a form of creative expression that was easiest for me to deliver and let out. I was writing poems quite frequently until my early twenties. I was in a rut after that. I remember that period in my life had been the most overwhelming for me psychologically—trying to finish my Bachelor’s degree, working at the same time, figuring out my health issues, healing emotional hurts, and finding myself and my inner peace. It was very shaky. I just couldn’t express myself as freely as I had as a teenager. But fortunately, it was temporary. Life calmed down a bit in some aspects and at the same time I became better at managing pain and stress.

Though I do not write as often as I would like to nowadays, I feel that my creative stream is limitless and ever flowing. I’m not afraid that it will ever run out or that I may experience another writer’s block. I feel like it may happen, but I don’t let it get to me. Only when I turned 26 did I truly start considering myself a poet. It happened when I began working on my second chapbook a chair, a monologue that I started to feel truly proud of what I’m creating and slowly accomplishing. It’s not just spur of the moment kind of writing. There’s deliberate intention and planning involved. I want to let my pain out in such a way that not only does it mean something to me, but that it also touches someone else.

Some of the poems I’ve written for the book are okay, but they won’t end up in the final pages because they’re missing that raw, visceral and blunt but candid feeling I’m trying to pour out. Whilst there are those that will be in the book because I’ve written them with utmost care and preparation, edited them to perfection or to something that I’m fully satisfied with. I’ve asked other fellow poets and friends such as yourself to look over them and provide me with constructive feedback which has helped me tremendously to see it from an objective point of view, not just through my sometimes biased lens.

What are your favorite elements of poetry?

I love poems that experiment with structure where there are gaps between words or lines or verses. Not only are they lovely aesthetically, they also shape the poem into the main theme or create a feeling of tumbling down or a pause or silence. I also enjoy poems that don’t necessarily rhyme but that have flowing rhythm to them like in classical poetry. I think it’s quite an achievement when someone can write a piece that doesn’t use a patterned rhyming scheme but is still musical nonetheless. Also words that create euphony or even cacophony can enhance poetry to a different level, more experiential if you will.

List a few of your favorite poetry magazines?

I recently discovered Sea Foam Magazine, which I simply adore. Aside from poetry, they publish interesting interviews with artists, showcase gorgeous artwork. It’s a very dreamy, whimsical kind of literary magazine but also quite frank and unabashed. I also love The Writing Garden founded and run by a dear friend Suzy Hazelwood. She publishes poems and prose and mixed media by artists at all levels of their craftsmanship. Each issue is visually divine and is sometimes themed on purpose or coincidentally gathers beautiful works reflecting the same subject matter. I think it’s rather endearing and serendipitous when that happens. I love poetry curated by Luna Luna Magazine. It’s quite inventive, edgy, primeval.

What advice would you give to poets crafting their first collections?

I would say if you have an idea in mind, plan it all out, do some research if needed. Whether it be a poetry collection or a themed chapbook; whether you want to self-publish it or publish it with a small press; whether you want to edit it yourself or hand it over to a professional—those things are unavoidable and must be planned out and executed. Still don’t let that discourage you from writing but don’t just wander off when doing so.

Who are some of your favorite poets?

I don’t really have favorite poets amongst the greats while I do appreciate what they’ve contributed to our society. I do feel that my poet friends really inspire and empower me to work harder at my writing. And being able to turn to them for writing criticism is an honor and a blessing. Kate Bush influences my writing quite a bit. While not necessarily considered a poet in the conventional sense of the word, Kate Bush’s music and lyrics are rather poetic. Her work is so multifarious and enigmatic. It’s simply spellbinding.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAlVAAAAJDNiODkzNDRhLWVjMTUtNDJlMy1iYmU0LTY0MDE5MmZlYjZlOQAbout the Poet:

Nadia Gerassimenko is a Media Relations Manager for Yeti Culture and Assistant Editor at Luna Luna Magazine by day, a moonchild and poet by night. Nadia self-published her first poetry collection Moonchild Dreams (2015) and hopes to republish it traditionally. She’s currently working on her second chapbook a chair, a monologue. Visit her at tepidautumn.net or tweet her at @tepidautumn.

Safe cocoon

Mama, I heard you and papa fighting today.
I couldn’t pick up on the words again,
But you were screaming, he was yelling.

Something shattered.
Something banged.
And you cried.

Mama, I haven’t heard papa’s voice in a while.
He used to read to me and his voice soothed me to sleep.
Now all I hear is your sad lullaby.

Whatever day.
Whatever hour.
You cry.

Mama, what is that reeking? What are you drinking, too?
What an unusual smell engulfing.
And it feels so hot all of a sudden.

I’m gasping for air.
I'm dazed and confused.
You laugh and cry.

Mama, what are you swallowing so fast?
It tastes so powdery and bitter.
My fragile tummy doesn’t agree.

I feel so sick.
So sleepy.
You stop crying.

Mama, it’s safe and warm in your cocoon.
As I fall deeply asleep,
I thank you for keeping me nestled.

Breathing in and out.
First heartbeats and last.
We sleep together.

The Seven Ages by Louise Glück

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Seven Ages by Louise Glück is a book about transformation and, by extension, aging and death — the battle between faith and the fear of mortality.  The title opens with a cryptic tale of a human who arrives on Earth even before the Garden of Eden, when it is just dust.  The narrator loves it all the same, even in its barrenness, but like many humans she wants to possess it.  How do you hold onto something that changes and is going to continue changing? The short answer is: you can’t.  Except maybe in a dream but even memories change.

Throughout the book, Glück touches, tastes, and experiences a variety of things, but in “The Sensual World,” she says, “I caution you as I was never cautioned:// you will never let go, you will never be satiated./You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.//” (pg. 7)  We have entered that garden and we have tasted the forbidden fruits, and even as we are punished, we still want more.  We cannot get enough sensory input, which leads to emotional attachments that continue even as we age, even if they are not acted upon.

In “Birthday,” the narrator remembers “that age. Riddled with self-doubt, self-loathing,/and at the same time suffused/with contempt for the communal, the ordinary;…” (pg. 20) The narrator is on the outside at this party, watching those who are wrapped up in making friends and making connections, but also vividly aware of the solitary member who prefers their own counsel.  Here again, the narrator cautions that in silence it is difficult to “test one’s ideas.  Because they are not ideas, they are the truth.//”  She speaks of this again in “From a Journal”: “how ignorant we all are most of the time,/seeing things/only from one vantage, like a sniper.//” (pg. 25)

Once we come away from ourselves and view the world differently, usually after years of a narrow focus, we come to realize that we want more time.  We want “to extend those days, to be inseparable from them./ So that a few hours could take up a lifetime.//” (“The Destination”, pg. 28)  The Seven Ages by Louise Glück is an exploration of aging through the lens of an observer, someone who has experienced life and who has separated herself from it when necessary.  Things we see are not as we expect, things we obtain do not satiate our appetites, and in our haste to achieve things, we break them.  Human frailty cannot be escaped, and we cannot return to our youth.  Glück attests to these stages and says that appreciating what has come before is hard, especially when we are hungry for more and have run out of time.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Louise Glück was born in New York City of Hungarian Jewish heritage and grew up on Long Island. Glück attended Sarah Lawrence College and later Columbia University.

She is the author of twelve books of poetry, including: “A Village Life” (2009); Averno (2006), which was a finalist for The National Book Award; The Seven Ages (2001); Vita Nova (1999), which was awarded The New Yorker’s Book Award in Poetry; Meadowlands (1996); The Wild Iris (1992), which received the Pulitzer Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award; Ararat (1990), which received the Library of Congress’s Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry. Louise Glück has also published a collection of essays, Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry (1994), which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction.

353rd Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 353rd Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Mary Oliver:

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice – – –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations – – –
though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do – – – determined to save
the only life you could save.

What are your thoughts?