Pandemic Poetry ~ It’s Rhyme Time

poetry roses

National Poetry Month couldn’t have come at a better time. The Coronavirus pandemic has extended our stay-at-home orders at least through the rest of April, giving us plenty of time to let poetry soothe and strengthen us.

Last week we explored haikus, and I was thrilled to receive some of your original poetry! This week, let’s write a poem that rhymes. Please share your poem here or email it to me at aliciawoodward4@aol.com. I plan to feature readers’ poetry later this month.

Poetry might be just what the doctor ordered to get us through an unfathomable time in our global history. It helps us express our emotions and fills our heads and hearts with loftier thoughts. Our country’s Poet Laureate Joy Harjo said, “Without poetry, we lose our way.”

Poetry reminds us we’re not alone and nothing we experience is unique to the human condition. I urge you to curl up with a poetry book you have lying around your house or search out poetry online. The Academy of American Poets hosts a wonderful poetry site at poets.org. Reading poetry is also a sure way to get our own creative juices flowing.

Just get out a piece of paper or fire up your laptop and start writing. If you’re anything like me, whatever you start writing about will transform into something completely different and surprisingly therapeutic.

This week I’m hoping you’ll try to write a poem that rhymes. Certainly the pandemic is giving the feels to the most stoic among us. Whatever emotion you’re experiencing could become the theme of your poem.

Here are some common types of rhymes found in poetry ~

  • End Rhymes –  rhyming the final words in the lines of a poem
  • Internal Rhymes – rhyming of two words within the same line of poetry
  • Slant Rhymes – a near rhyming of two words that share the same vowel or consonant sound (like heart and star)
  • Rich Rhymes – a rhyme of words that have the same sound (like raise and raze)
  • Eye Rhymes – rhymes on words that look the same but are pronounced differently (like bough and rough)
  • Identical Rhymes – simply using the same word twice

I don’t consider myself much of a poet, but I wrote this poem containing end rhymes in celebration of Easter morning and every morning. It suggests a simple, gratitude-filled approach to life inspired by the hope and promise of daily, seasonal and infinite renewal and rebirth.

Forever in a Day

To see forever in a day
Wake up and lift your voice to pray
Watch sunlight spread across the land
Just as it’s done since time began

Feel the earth so lush and green
Where brown and dormant ground had been
Hear sweet birdsong fill the air
Smell the flowers everywhere

To see forever in a day
Ask for wisdom come what may
Seek timeless lessons to be learned
Toil for honest wages earned

Heed tales told by wrinkled eyes
Sing a baby lullabies
Reach for a neighbor’s hand in love
We look the same from up above

To see forever in a day
Have faith that stones can roll away
Let starlight fall upon your face
Older than the human race

Allow great mysteries to unfold
Dream of ancient stories told
Sleep peacefully until the morn
Each break of dawn we are reborn §

 

 

 

Pandemic Poetry ~ Let’s Write a Haiku

National Poetry Month

There’s something wonderful on April’s calendar that hasn’t been cancelled or postponed. It’s National Poetry Month. The celebration is taking on new meaning and importance this year as people all over the world turn to poetry for comfort, creativity and connection during this challenging time.

Each Sunday in April, The Simple Swan will offer a brief workshop of sorts to explore a certain type of poetry and encourage you to write and share your own poems. This week, let’s take a look at a familiar Japanese form of poetry called haiku.

Haikus were always a favorite of my literature students for an obvious reason ~ they’re short. Well-known for the rule of 5-7-5, a haiku consists of just three unrhymed lines. The first and third lines have five syllables, and the second line has seven syllables. (You probably remember tapping your pencil on the desk to learn syllables in school. For example, the word frog has one syllable. The word silent has two syllables.)

Nature often inspires poetry, but a haiku, by definition, is about nature. It can be traced back to 9th century Japan where it evolved as poetry that specifically celebrated the natural world. Matsuo Basho wrote one of the most famous haikus in the 1600s.

“The Old Pond” 

An old silent pond

A frog jumps into the pond –

Splash! Silence again. 

While you keep yourself and others safe by staying at home, I hope you find the time to pen your own haiku. Maybe you can make it a family activity. Find something in nature that makes you happy and form your thoughts about it into a simple three-line poem that follows the 5-7-5 rule.

Please consider sharing your poem by leaving it in the comments or emailing it to me at  aliciawoodward4@aol.com. You might want to get really creative and illustrate your poem. Haikus are often accompanied by simple watercolor paintings. Hang it on your refrigerator as a little food for thought.

Poetic inspiration struck me early this morning when, wrapped in a blanket, I stepped out on the porch for a fresh look at the new day. I inhaled deeply and watched my exhaled breath quickly disappear in the cool spring air. From inside, I heard the television mumble news of virus and ventilators. Closing my eyes, I took a slower, more intentional breath filled with gratitude and hope.

“Air” 

Nothing more precious

A calming, life-giving flow

In and out. Just breathe. §

 

 

 

Forever in a Day

Happy Easter, friends! I wrote a poem to celebrate this morning and every morning. I’m far more comfortable writing prose, but I was inspired by springtime, Easter and National Poetry Month. I hope it offers you a positive message that you can interpret as you wish. Enjoy a week filled with the beauty, promise, and renewal of spring.

Forever in a Day

To see forever in a day, wake up and lift your voice to pray

Watch sunlight spread across the land, just as it’s done since time began

Feel the earth so lush and green, where brown and dormant ground had been

Hear sweet birdsong fill the air ~ Smell the flowers everywhere

 

To see forever in a day, ask for wisdom come what may

Seek timeless lessons to be learned ~ Toil for honest wages earned

Heed tales told by wrinkled eyes ~ Sing a baby lullabies

Reach for a neighbor’s hand in love ~ We look the same from up above

 

To see forever in a day, have faith that stones can roll away

Let starlight fall upon your face, older than the human race

Allow great mysteries to unfold ~ Dream of ancient stories told

Sleep peacefully until the morn ~ Each break of dawn we are reborn §

A Poem as Lovely as a Tree

I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree… 

So begins Joyce Kilmer’s poem Trees. I was about ten when I first read the poem in a book at school. I was drawn to its uncomplicated rhythm and rhyme. At such a tender age, I was also excited to understand a poem not written for a child. Gazing out the library window, I could see Kilmer’s beautiful trees joyfully reaching towards the heavens.

I find it amusing that Mr. Kilmer’s well-known poem is sometimes disparaged for being overly simple, sweet and straightforward. Funny, because that’s exactly how I like things to be! There are more sophisticated poems about nature, but Trees was one of the first to offer me a poetic reminder to be filled with gratitude, acceptance, and humility for my own existence.

Trees

I think that I shall never see  

A poem lovely as a tree

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

~Joyce Kilmer, 1913

Gratitude ~ Kilmer personified a tree that lifts its leafy arms to pray in appreciation for its life and the nourishment it receives from the sweet earth’s flowing breast. Like the tree, shouldn’t we rejoice and give praise for our creation and the abundance of earthly resources that allow us to live and grow?

Acceptance ~ The poet uses clear imagery to portray a tree that in summer may wear a nest of robins in its hair. The tree gladly accepts its purpose of providing shade and shelter for birds and other creatures. It may be covered deep in snow and pounding rain, yet it stands sturdy through the seasons. Can you and I accept our responsibilities and challenges with as much as grace?

Humility ~ More than one hundred years after writing this poem, Kilmer’s message still rings true. As we try to make our mark on the world in whatever way we’re led, we’d be fools to think our accomplishments could ever match the perfection found in nature. It’s humbling (and a bit of a relief) to remember no matter how creative and productive we become, man-made things will never compare to God’s handiwork.

National Poetry Month seems a perfect time for us to reflect on this poem. It encourages me to humbly, though perhaps foolishly, continue writing about the peace, joy, and gratitude I feel for nature’s beauty created by the greatest poet of all. §

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Write a Haiku

Inspired by a recent spring day filled with happy moments, I penned this haiku ~

April drive with Mom

Yellow forsythia blooms

All roads lead back home

You probably tried your hand at writing haiku poetry in a classroom long ago. In honor of National Poetry Month, could I entice you to explore your creativity and try it again today?

To refresh your memory, a haiku (pronounced hi-koo) is a form of Japanese poetry. Traditionally, a haiku is about nature and has just three short lines that don’t rhyme. The first and third lines have five syllables, and the second line has seven syllables. Do you remember tapping your pencil on the desk to count syllables?

Haiku poetry can be traced back to 9th century Japan and was a way of celebrating the natural world. Matsuo Basho wrote this oft translated haiku in the 1600s ~

An old silent pond

A frog jumps in the water

Splash! Silence again

I always looked forward to teaching a unit on haiku poetry. Even the most reluctant students enjoyed it, especially when I brought out the cardboard box of individual watercolor sets and urged them to illustrate their poems. Their work made the most beautiful spring bulletin boards!

Knowing my love for poetry, my husband often writes me poems. He casually leaves them for me to find on post-it notes and torn sheets of notebook paper. They are written in the same distinctive handwriting that made my heart skip a beat when he passed me a note in high school.

A quiet rebel, he usually breaks the rules of haiku poetry, so we call his poems Mikus. Just like Mike, they are always sweet, often funny, and sometimes romantic like this favorite ~

Wooden rocking chairs

Sitting on the porch with you 

Forever and ever

Nothing would please me more than knowing you were inspired to write your own haiku. Go outside, or look out the window, and find something in nature to write about. Follow the rules, or don’t. Artistic rules are made to be broken. For extra credit, get out some colored pencils, crayons, or watercolors and make a picture to go along with your poem.

National Poetry Month is a perfect time to be creative. I understand if you want to keep it private, but I would love to read your haiku in the comments. I know from experience your poem will spark creativity in others and invite us all to look at the world in a more beautiful, artistic way. §

 

 

Of Daffodils and Poetry

April is the sweetest month for hopeless romantics with a penchant for all things spring. Add National Poetry Month to the calendar, and it’s enough to make this former literature teacher swoon.

A perfect spring day allowed me to take my classes outside to teach among the birds and the bees and eighth grade hormones in full bloom. There’s nothing quite like reading poetry with youthful hearts inspired by dreamy talk of life and love. My teaching days are behind me now, but I hope you’ll indulge me this month as I celebrate two of my favorite things ~ springtime and poetry!

As familiar yellow flowers pop up to say hello, I’m reminded of a beloved poem by William Wordsworth. A founder of English Romanticism, Wordsworth had an affinity for the natural world and was deeply concerned about the human relationship to nature, especially given the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution.

His poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, reminds us we live in a world of dancing daffodils and twinkling stars! Nature, Wordsworth implies, offers us wealth worth far more than money. And when we’re feeling a little lonely or sad, just contemplating the Earth’s beauty can bring us peace and pleasure. On a deeper level, the poem reveals a sense that nature is but a glimpse of heaven.

I hope you enjoy Wordsworth’s timeless poem, commonly known as Daffodils, and his use of that wonderful word jocund as much as I do! §

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud  

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed and gazed but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. ❤

~ William Wordsworth, 1804