Tag Archives: poetry

Moments

3 Sep

Okay, so here’s a confession: in all my years of living in a world where words matter to me and I majored in English and took a year’s worth of poetry writing, I admit that I did not recognize the name of Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet who died on Friday.

Clearly, I have missed out.

Last week I posted about canning tomatoes…only I wasn’t really canning tomatoes. Here’s my first line in case you forgot or didn’t see it: “This is how I can tomatoes: with words.” Okay, now that that’s brutally clear, you’ll understand how I felt when I read Seamus Heaney’s poem, Digging. Here it is in full:

Digging

The cold smell of potato
mould, the squelch and
slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts
of an edge
Through living roots
awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow
men like them.
Between my finger and
my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

(As quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Early Edition, September 1, 2013.)

Can you even stand how wonderful this is? And I get it! I so can relate. We may not be able or willing to can tomatoes or dig potatoes, but hopefully we writers can give something else to the world with our words:

moments.

Moments of recognition in a few words. Moments where people see themselves in language. Moments where our hearts and the hearts of our readers leap with shared longing.

I pray that I can deliver such moments.

Canning My Own Tomatoes…Again

29 Aug

Full disclosure: I wrote (and posted) this two years ago…but thought of it last night and felt called to re-post since many of you didn’t see it back then! This is tomato season – and I’ll blog more about that on Tuesday – but for now, enjoy this “throwback” post. It’s one of my favorites.

This is how I can tomatoes: with words. In past years I have canned them with jars. Lovely, shining, wide-mouth Mason jars, topped with golden rings and flowery caps. I have waited in nervous expectation for them to seal, for them to justify my time and energy and sweat. And, almost always, I have been rewarded with a “ping” of success. Ah, sweet music to a canner’s ears.

But not anymore. Well, maybe someday again, but not for now. Nor, I’m sure, for a long time to come. Canning is a HUGE job. No, it’s not difficult, per say, but it’s messy, hot, and sticky…times a thousand. Every surface of my kitchen would need wiping down after I canned tomatoes. And I needed a shower. Badly. Yes, it’s rewarding. Yes, I loved having MY tomatoes on the shelf all winter long, lending the taste of summer to my spaghetti sauce. I LOVED that. But not enough to do it anymore.

Who knew such beauty could come from a lowly whiskey barrel?

For one thing, I’d have to have a garden. Or at least a whole lot more tomatoes than I have now in my four whiskey-barrels. And to have a garden I’d need a fence. And to have a fence I’d need time and energy and commitment to this lifestyle called gardening in order to justify the expense of the fence and the fertilizer (perhaps Rita over at SoSheMarriedAFarmer could give me some cow poop for free?). But most of all, the sheer loss of writing time while out weeding, watering and harvesting keeps my fingernails clean and my thumb less than green. Yes, I have a lot of excuses.

But seriously, writing – and figuring out this writing life – is captivating/controlling/fulfilling me right now. I cannot do everything…and so gardening is out. If only we had more TIME. Time to clean, play, parent, garden, write, sleep, eat, work, drive, can, read, volunteer, befriend a lonely orphan…the list goes on. Canning is definitely out.

How is it that some people seem to have time to do all of that and then some? I am not one of those people. There are too many books calling to be read. Too many sentences begging to be edited. Too many blogs to check out. This is my life right now, and I’m okay with that.

Don’t get me wrong: I liked canning. Other than the mess. I liked feeling a communion with my mother, my Scottish grandmother. I liked feeling like I was contributing. Liked feeling like a homemaker, a provider. Like I was Ma Ingalls. After all, Walnut Grove is only a couple of hours from here; maybe there’s something in the air in these parts, some tomato-laden scent that calls a person with the voice of those pioneer women, enticing them jar-wards. Just call me Caroline.


Yeah, dream on, Self. I never was more than a one-hit wonder in the canning world. I never canned anything other than tomatoes – oh, and a few kinds of jam, come to think of it. I did write a poem about canned beans once. It was the only poem I wrote that my college poetry professor ever liked. I got into his class because he thought I was related to someone…only I wasn’t. There aren’t a lot of poets out there with the last name of “Wendt” and it turns out that Ingrid Wendt was a known Eugene-area poet of the time. All these English profs and secretaries in the department kept asking me if she was my mother – it was very confusing at first – but turned out to be to my benefit, so thanks, Ingrid, if you ever read this!

Anyway, I’ll see if I can find that poem just for giggles. I know I still have it somewhere in the depths of my box of college memorabilia. I wrote it during Music Appreciation class one afternoon – shhh – don’t tell my kids I wasn’t paying attention to the teacher.

So, yes, sadly, (but to the joy of anti-botulism fans everywhere) the only beans I ever canned were in my poem. And the only tomatoes these days are in words, too. The jam is long gone, the jars mostly broken. But the words remain. Perhaps that’s the best kind of canning, after all.

At least for me.

News – and a short poem by a real poet

19 Feb

Well, it seems that hard work pays off – giving you more opportunities to work hard and keep busy and not get the dishes done. I’ve been asked to write several articles for an upcoming special edition of our local newspaper – and I’ll be paid!

I’ve written for the paper – a daily with a healthy circulation despite the hard times that papers have come across in recent years – several times since moving here, but I’ve never been paid for it. A year ago January, they asked me to begin a blog (which I call The View From my Window) on their “Area Voices” server, which was quite nice. Every post appears on their homepage and, in addition, about once a month they print one of the posts in their actual physical paper.

So now I guess I can call myself a real free-lance writer!

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I’m realizing that this means several things: 1) Deadlines; 2) Interviews and not just “out of my own head” stuff; and 3) A pay check. I’ll put up with the first two to get the last one.

In light of this time crunch and additional writing stress, I’m giving you something not entirely original this week and possibly the next couple of weeks as well. I might even have a guest blogger join us!

For today: this poem, by Jane Kenyon. I think this is my favorite poem in all creation.

LET EVENING COME

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
Let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

I Dream an Ocean

5 Feb

I live on the prairie, but I was born near the sea.
On rocky shores and tidepools I cut my teeth.
And it is never far from my mind.

So I give you this today – a poem, I suppose – because I can’t stop remembering.

I Imagine an Ocean

I pretend, sometimes, that the field to the east of my house is the sea. I imagine that the brown slopes are actually undulating waves; that the trees far off on the edge of the hill are trees on an island, waving their branches in a salt-scented breeze.

Not palm trees – no thank you – these are pine trees, the trees of my childhood, the trees of Puget Sound with their balsamic scent (Does that word work here? I choose to say it does.) and their sticky sap just waiting its turn to enfold unsuspecting bees which, in their amber prisons, will fascinate scientists millennia from now.
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I imagine my prairie ocean with the most success when it’s foggy and I cannot see the dirt. Then it’s easy to see phantom many-masted ships, their sails set and their scuppers gleaming. Or, more likely in these days, scurrying speed-boats, as we used to call them, their purpose apparently nothing more than making waves and scaring seagulls.

I imagine I am on a tall cliff – not unlike that of my youth – and I – why not? – a lighthouse keeper, a fog-horn blaster, the sole protector of sailor’s lives. Their one and only defense against a watery grave.

Would that I had been there for the Edmund Fitzgerald.

In the autumn when combines, like ships in the night, roam the sloping shores of my imagined ocean, I sit out on the deck and savor the sight: I am in a valued port, a sheltered haven where HMS John Deere tacks back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, in her attempts to reach safe harbor. I wave and shout, “Ahoy!” but the good ship cannot hear me over the chugging of her engines and she carries on – back and forth, back and forth, until, finally, she sails away, taking her fleet with her.

And I am left on deck, with nothing but my dried-up ocean, my memory of water, the scent of salt-spray tickling at my throat.
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Bonus: For those of you who don’t know my reference, The Edmund Fitzgerald was an ore ship which sank in a storm on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. All 29 men in the crew perished. This video link is of a great song, by Gordon Lightfoot, titled, the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The video is entirely footage of Lake Superior, the wreck itself, and with the song as the background.

Yes, I realize that I referenced a fresh-water incident in my salt-water poem…but it’s the ship which comes to mind when living in Minnesota!  In addition, I must say that I did not mean to be flippant about the wreck…it was a heart-breaking incident and remains, to this day, the largest ship ever to be lost on Lake Superior.

Green Beans

22 Oct

I mentioned a few weeks ago that when I was in college I wrote a poem about Green Beans. I know you’ve all been dying to read it. It’s short, so don’t worry. I might change a few things if I were writing it now…but I decided to leave it as-is. Oh, and I must thank Miss Moose who found her copy of it from way back when. She’s taken better care of my poetry than I have. THANK YOU, Moose! So…here you go! A bonus mid-week post. 🙂

Green Beans

Her summer’s in jars,
pickled and processed, sliced,
a woman’s work.
Hours spend feeding her family,
preparing for winter’s freeze.
Her hands toughened, heart
sealed against her family’s complaints:
they don’t like green beans.

She absently tests each lid,
“quality control”, they call it.
They wish all the beans would spoil.
From the kitchen above a loud, “Mom!”
makes her jump,
and the jar she was holding, with the perfect seal,
the perfect “I do”, smashes,
and fills the air with the smell
of hot kitchen, burned fingers, sweat.

“What’s for dinner?” they ask
through the kitchen floor,
while she tries to gather up the glass and beans,
and the hands that picked and washed,
filled and processed,
stacked and dropped,
reach up, cut as they are,
and shove the remaining jars farther back on the shelf.

Canning My Own Tomatoes

13 Sep

This is how I can tomatoes: with words. In past years I have canned them with jars. Lovely, shining, wide-mouth Mason jars, topped with golden rings and flowery caps. I have waited in nervous expectation for them to seal, for them to justify my time and energy and sweat. And, almost always, I have been rewarded with a “ping” of success. Ah, sweet music to a canner’s ears.

But not anymore. Well, maybe someday again, but not for now. Nor, I’m sure, for a long time to come. Canning is a HUGE job. No, it’s not difficult, per say, but it’s messy, hot, and sticky…times a thousand. Every surface of my kitchen would need wiping down after I canned tomatoes. And I needed a shower. Badly. Yes, it’s rewarding. Yes, I loved having MY tomatoes on the shelf all winter long, lending the taste of summer to my spaghetti sauce. I LOVED that. But not enough to do it anymore.

Who knew such beauty could come from a lowly whiskey barrel?


For one thing, I’d have to have a garden. Or at least a whole lot more tomatoes than I have now in my four whiskey-barrels. And to have a garden I’d need a fence. And to have a fence I’d need time and energy and commitment to this lifestyle called gardening in order to justify the expense of the fence and the fertilizer (perhaps Rita could give me some cow-poop for free?). But most of all, the sheer loss of writing time while out weeding, watering and harvesting keeps my fingernails clean and my thumb less than green. Yes, I have a lot of excuses.

But seriously, writing – and figuring out this writing life – is captivating/controlling/fulfilling me right now. I cannot do everything…and so gardening is out. If only we had more TIME. Time to clean, play, parent, garden, write, sleep, eat, work, drive, can, read, volunteer, befriend a lonely orphan…the list goes on. Canning is definitely out.

How is it that some people seem to have time to do all of that and then some? I am not one of those people. There are too many books calling to be read. Too many sentences begging to be edited. Too many blogs to check out. This is my life right now, and I’m okay with that.

Don’t get me wrong: I liked canning. Other than the mess. I liked feeling a communion with my mother, my Scottish grandmother. I liked feeling like I was contributing. Liked feeling like a homemaker, a provider. Like I was Ma Ingalls. After all, Walnut Grove is only a couple of hours from here; maybe there’s something in the air in these parts, some tomato-laden scent that calls a person with the voice of those pioneer women, enticing them jar-wards. Just call me Caroline.


Yeah, dream on, Self. I never was more than a one-hit wonder in the canning world. I never canned anything other than tomatoes – oh, and a few kinds of jam, come to think of it. I did write a poem about canned beans once. It was the only poem I wrote that my college poetry professor ever liked. I got into his class because he thought I was related to someone…only I wasn’t. There aren’t a lot of poets out there with the last name of “Wendt” and it turns out that Ingrid Wendt was a known Eugene-area poet of the time. All these English profs and secretaries in the department kept asking me if she was my mother – it was very confusing at first – but turned out to be to my benefit, so thanks, Ingrid, if you ever read this!

Anyway, I’ll see if I can find that poem just for giggles. I know I still have it somewhere in the depths of my box of college memorabilia. I wrote it during Music Appreciation class one afternoon – shhh – don’t tell my kids I wasn’t paying attention to the teacher.

So, yes, sadly, (but to the joy of anti-botulism fans everywhere) the only beans I ever canned were in my poem. And the only tomatoes these days are in words, too. The jam is long gone, the jars mostly broken. But the words remain. Perhaps that’s the best kind of canning, after all.

At least for me.

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