Learning from the dead.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Poets teach us the power of brevity. They can get so much territory covered by using just the right word in the right place at the right time.

Several years ago I took a creative writing class at Mount Mercy University. Naturally, a portion of the session was devoted to poetry. I hadn’t read much poetry up to that point in time so it was a little bit of a struggle.

We were given several assignments of writing new poetry of our own. My poetry reading background was pretty slim at that time so I looked around to study—and ultimately–copy the rhythms of others to help get me jump started. Going back into class without anything to show was not an option for me.

There was one writer of light verse, however, that I was familiar with–Ogden Nash. He is an American product who excelled in light verse, sometimes deliberately misspelling words to create surprising rhymes as he wrote about mankind’s unending idiosyncrasies.

His lighter verse approach to various topics was something I could relate to. His works present a humorous yet effective playfulness, so I borrowed some rhythm from him to get something ready for class one night—using my own words, of course. It proved to be a fun exercise for me.

Lately, I’ve been trying to read a little more poetry by some of the grand masters–old and new. I’ve said this before, but I have to say it here again: If you want to learn about something, looking at how others have done it is THE ultimate learning tool.

Allow me to share Mr. Nash’s poem today, and my “student attempt” below that; his rhythm–my sentiment.

I didn’t go to church today,
I trust the Lord to understand.
The surf was swirling blue and white,
The children swirling on the sand.

He knows, He knows how brief my stay,
How brief this spell of summer weather,
He knows when I am said and done
We’ll have a plenty of time together.

                          (Ogden Nash)


I didn’t go into work today,
The boss said she understood.
The house was empty, quiet and free
The fireplace beckoned with wood.

My heart, my soul knows this day I need,
How seldom such risk I do allow,
And when nighttime falls again
I will return to the Here and Now!

                (R. Groff, the student)

You’re on your own–but that’s enough.



I have a dream I’ve kept inside

which grows larger at eventide.


It gives me lift and something more

to fill my computer’s memory store.


I revel at the time I’ve expended

and never myself have defended—


for only I can possibly sow

the seeds to make the old dream grow.

(EN203 Poetry Class/R. Groff – a long time ago)


Acquired Grace

       I found the following poster at a gift shop in Chatham, Massachusetts several years ago. Liked it so much I had it framed and now it hangs among the other artwork and intuitive writings on the walls of my office.


The Older I Get

The more I notice outrageous beauty

Of stars and moon against the sky…

The softer a baby’s skin feels…

The less panicky I am during sleepless nights…

The less easy answers I have…

The hungrier I am for connectedness…

The less I know, the more I wonder…

The longer I linger in snowfalls…

The kinder I am with weakness…

The more honest I am with myself…

The more I understand children’s logic…

The less rigid I am…

                                      The mightier the ocean seems each time I visit…

                   The less I wonder how old I’ll be someday…

The more hugs I give…

The gentler I am with myself…

The less I think of what I think…

The faster I clean my house…

The wiser I long to be…

The more I realize how impatient I’ve always been with life…

The more opportunities I see in each day…

The more I think about the miraculous gift Beethoven gave to the world…

The more I play

The less I think of what others think…

The closer I feel to old, old friends…

The more natural prayer seems…

The more I enjoy a simple cup of tea…

The hotter I draw my bath water and the longer I lie in it…

The longer I listen…

The wider berth I give to sorrow in the grand scheme of things…

The younger in spirit I feel…

The quieter my inner self becomes…

The greater my appreciation of harmony…

The more time I spend looking at stained glass windows…

The more comfortable I am with solitude…

The more I see good coming out of difficulties…

The more grateful I am to be alive

The more beautiful I am becoming.

    (Gail Kittleson/Holly Monroe ©1998 Abby Press)

A little trail time maybe?

I found the following item on pg. 272 of the October 2010 edition of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine the other day in the Better Health NEWS Section by Sara Altshul:

Scientists at the University of Essex in England found that all it takes is five minutes of strolling in a wooded trail, raking leaves, or performing almost any physical movement in a natural outdoor setting to produce a significant uptick in mood and self-esteem. “Humans largely live inside, but because of our evolution as hunter-gatherers we may feel more relaxed and connected moving out in nature,” explains study coauthor Jo Barton, Ph.D. What’s more, this temporary boost may safeguard against problems like depression. So treat yourself to “recess”–even if it’s brief.

I’ll share a bit of poetry I created a few years back. Maybe you won’t agree with some of the sentiment, but the abovementioned research seems to support it to some degree:

 Too Much/Not Enough

I think people talk too much, listen too little,

    rush too often,

    and waste their energy.

I think people spend too much time hypnotized by TV,

    watching a computer,

    or impaled on a phone. 

I think people talk to avoid themselves

    because they hate the questions,

    and fear the answers.

I think people ask too much, too soon–

    maybe too often.

    I think others don’t ask enough.

I believe people could change.

I believe they could spend time peeling oranges,

    staring out windows,

    smelling new flowers and poking in the dirt.

I believe they could chop vegetables, make soup

    and eat together,

    then lose themselves in kitchen sink bubbles.

I believe they could watch a bumble bee

    work for what he needs, then depart,

    no worse for the wear.

I believe they could fly kites,

    observe their tango with the wind,

    trusting it to carry them where it will.

I believe people could read for three hours a day

    and watch TV for one.

    I believe they could read things that scare them for the path presented.

I believe they could take long walks without self-help recordings

    or stock reports plugged into their brains,

    and finally hear the voice within their feet.

I believe people would see how air, sun and earth

    wait patiently for them,

    eager to bond with their core.

All they have to do is stop talking so much.