National Poetry Month

By

I spent the better part of last year trying to write a poem a day as a writing exercise. When I began, the first thing I told myself was that it was okay to be bad. I knew there would be days when the best I could muster would be tripe unfit even for a Hallmark convention. And I was 100% correct as lines like the following will surely attest:

“Life’s short in the mouth
Of my dinosaur love

But fail early and fail often, I say. Get the dinosaur love out of the way so something better can find its way onto the page. I’m not a great poet, nor will I ever be, but I did manage to wring out about 150 poems last year, and out of those I hope there will be a few gems worth going back to over the years to hone and polish. In early June, though, after writing the first hundred poems, something happened that I didn’t expect.

My wife Jennifer and I took a short vacation to Florida, and near the end of our visit we settled on the beach in the late afternoon to wait for sunset. Jennifer spent her time quietly reading and dozing off for a nap, and I, bound by my resolution, cracked open my leather-bound poetry journal and scribbled out a dreary something about sunsets and wind and city lights. We got up after a while, went to dinner, and then drove two hours back to my parents’ house to stay the night before the long drive north to Nashville. The next morning when we packed up, my poetry journal was no where to be found. I went to the car, to the last place I’d seen it, and there on the red metal roof was a faint rectangular outline of beach sand. When we left the beach, I’d set the journal on the roof of the car and left it there. Somewhere in the intervening miles, it had flown off and there was nothing left of it but an outline, a sandy ghost.

I told Jennifer and she turned white. She insisted we go back and look for it, but I knew better. We’d driven nearly a hundred miles and the journal could be lying beside the road along any one of them. I shrugged and said, “It’s gone. There’s nothing we can do about it.” And oddly enough, I was okay with that. After all, the point of writing hadn’t been to publish. The point of those 100+ poems had been discipline, and exercise, and practice. And those were things that, once gained, I couldn’t lose.

So I went to the bookstore, and I bought a new journal. And I went on with my resolution. In a last ditch effort, however, I did post an ad on Craigslist. I described the journal and left my phone number and address–just in case. I also added this little vanity:

There is nothing in it to entertain you
And there is certainly nothing to learn
So there’s no point in thinking of ransom
Because it’s more than this journal deserves
I can’t even offer a gracious reward
A writer’s salary is less than you think
The best you can do is return it by post
And trust that I’ll pay you in thanks.

Imagine my excitement when I had a Craigslist response in my inbox the next morning. It said:

“If the poems you wrote in your journal are anything like this one, it’s in the trash where it belongs.”

Ouch.

At least I still had my discipline, if not my pride. And that really was the point after all. I was a better writer after those hundred lost poems than I had been before I wrote them. I didn’t regret writing them, and I didn’t regret losing them. It was exercise and the writing muscle was stronger for it. Move on. Keep writing. Make sure the work isn’t wasted. I went on filling the new journal with new lines and new poems, some good, some dinosaur lovely, and those eventually matured into a marriage proposal in verse that won me the hand of the woman of my dreams.

Poetry has been a part of my relationship with my wife from the very beginning, and I have her to thank for my love of Yeats and his “bee-loud glade.” On one of our first dates, she gave me a suitor’s challenge. “There’s one line in one Yeats poem that perfectly describes how I think a man should feel about me. Find it,” she said. And I did, within hours, though I didn’t tell her so until months later, when I read it to her out of that new journal of poems and she said “Yes.” (The Yeats’ line, if you’re wondering, is: “But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you / And loved the sorrows of your changing face.“)

A few days before the wedding, a package arrived at the house. It was covered in dozens of differently sized stamps and my name was written on it in a bright, jubilant script that I suspect only bubbly, hippie girls master entirely. I tore open the package and inside was a banged up leather journal, its pages filled with lost poems. A stranger had found it on the roadside.

Was I glad to have them back? You bet. There’s something beautiful and possibly even mysterious in the fact that they came back to me only after I’d learned that I could let them go. In losing them I perceived a valuable lesson. There’s high value in taking the time to sit down and create something when you least want to, when you’d rather watch a movie, or take a nap, or read someone else’s words. And sometimes the artist’s greatest reward may be in his creating rather than his creation.

April is National Poetry Month. Create something. It’s worth the work, even if it’s not Yeats, even if it’s never read by another, even if you lose it.

Here’s one of the “lost poems.” I wrote it about this time last year and it’s evidence, I think, that I did eventually make it beyond “dinosaur love.” Share your own–if you dare.

In the early sun, I awake
I move through the city
And the city moves beside me
From each doorway, a rivulet runs
Winding down to the river rushing
We gather, washed up like
Deadened wood at the foot
Of a timeless oak
I stand in a line and shuffle forward
Before me a saint
Behind me another coming
We kneel at a table
We strip off our rags
Naked, we wrestle ourselves down
To still and quiet
And take hold of the broken loaf
And water our roots with sanguine wine
I rise and look behind me
A chain of saints stretches unbroken
Back to the beginning
Before me they vanish into the light
Linked by blood and flesh
Undying, eternal, a memorial
Settled ‘til time and memory
No longer have need
Of our withering rites

Profile photo of Pete Peterson

Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he's the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.


55 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Jonathan Rogers

    Jonathan Rogers

    @jonathanrogers

    Pete, we were reading Yeats in my World Lit class the other day, and I told the story of your ferreting out the line from “When You Are Old.” Swoons all around.

    Someone suggested, however, that the challenge might not have been as hard as it first appeared. Certain lines could easily be ruled out–such as, “What rough beast, its hour come round at last,/Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”

  2. JaimeGj

    Oh, I hate dares, but I’ll take it. I’m a sucker for poetry. 🙂

    Somnolent Ambivalence

    Last night
    I dreamt of rivers, lakes
    and sleeping in boats…

    Places deep
    and deeper.
    Suddenly weedy
    and
    suddenly shallow.

    Things dangerous,
    somnolent by water.

    Careful!
    Don’t wake!

    I found myself
    trying…
    to inflate
    to skim
    over sandbars…

    Little snails in shells
    on rocks
    underwater

    I left them.

    Even though they were
    treasurous…

    My mother
    curled asleep
    in the bow…

    I left her.

    Treasurous…

    ~Jaime Gjerdingen

  3. Jess

    Hurray for bubbly hippie girls. 😉 Your poem is beautiful. I think all that work did pay off after all. I’ll take your dare, although I am loath to show my poetry to anyone but my sister. Here is my first ever attempt at a sonnet, from a month ago (and please don’t laugh):

    I wait alone and stare up at the sky:
    It is so black and dull; where are the stars?
    Some angel caught them in a darkened jar
    And buried them below the earth to hide.
    And my dim eyes, too parched to cry,
    Explore the lonely night, where demons are,
    In hopes of finding light alive, unbarred
    By clouds and hell and multitudes of lies.
    And then I see you, slow and cold but light,
    Emerging, battle-tired and scarred, alone,
    But smiling, laughing, pleased to find me here.
    I run to meet you, heedless of the night,
    So glad at last to have you coming home,
    For where you are, your love replaces fear.

  4. Stephen Clark

    Nice post. I am currently partial to Haikus and am posting a reular torrent of them on the Twitter. Here is a recent one which still makes me, in my infantile and sardonic wit laugh out loud.

    Runover person,
    Why’d you lay in the highway,
    Guess you got tired.

  5. Clay Clarkson

    I commiserate with your experience, Pete. When a missionary in Vienna, we took a trip to Germany. Put my European “man bag” on top of our car and it flew away with my passport, license, and $800. By God’s grace, it was found by a lovely German lady who did the work to find me.

    As to poetry, here you had us all wondering with “dinosaur love” and then ended with anything but. Beautiful poem. As an aspiring dino-love poet, here’s my not-so daring poetic offering, a short homage to artists of all ilks who reveal glimpses of God:

    Panes of Grace

    Windows made of ink and light
    Of color, note, and line
    Dim glass portals fixed within
    This mortal frame of time
    On panes of grace we trace
    The fragile shades of his design
    Creator God, created, and creation
    Hints of places just beyond our grasping
    Seeing through the artist’s heart
    We hold the hope divine

    ~Clay Clarkson

  6. John Barber

    Because I haven’t had any pride since 1998 (I’ll never tell that story! You can’t make me), here you go:

    Only When You Open

    You are a white screen that begs
    Color, that pleads to the deep
    From the deep. Full of meditations
    And repressions, you pursue
    The art of stuffing.

    You are a wheelbarrow.
    So much depends upon who’s
    Pushing you, who’s tilting
    And swaying until the
    Tipping point.

    You are a field, a prairie,
    With white wild flowers that hide
    The moles and worms, but
    Find their life in the
    Ground’s gristle.

    You are a spine that
    Belies the contents. With
    One word you slant and garble
    And disguise the inside. With
    Two words, you truth-tell.

    You are an atlas. There’s
    Not a location or a latitude
    That’s not in you. The maps
    Mark everything, but
    Only when you open.

  7. Eric Robinson

    I wrote this short poem for my brother-in-law

    Regarding Marriage

    Ring of gold; what does it mean?
    worn; one thing
    stored; something else
    a faltering glance
    and flattering words
    turns my glory into shame

  8. Becca

    Wow. I am so glad to hear you found that journal, Pete. When I heard you lost it, I prayed a sensitive soul would find it. It does my heart good to hear that it’s back in your possession.

    I’m loving these RR poems, too. It’s going to be so much fun to savor them later tonight when the house gets quiet.

    Also, I’m jazzed about the gracious exhortation to create as we grow. Poetry snobs are a top peeve of mine. Of course there are poets I love more than others, and there are technical and aesthetic reasons for those preferences. Yet for some reason, I always cringe at the nasal-talking downlookers who often hover around poetic conversations, declaring this or that supreme and this or that invalid, all the while unaffected and unlistening. I cringe especially when I am one of them.

    Today I accidentally ordered _An Experiment in Criticism_ by C.S. Lewis. When I heard about the basic premise of this book, I was blown away. That someone of Lewis’s magnitude would have the humility to approach even the most common writing as a respectful listener, I was moved. So many folks in the art world are elitists, gravitating to the literary haut monde; yet, here is one of the mighty, sitting as a child.

  9. Joe Thacker

    The Innocents

    Peacefully sleeping, without a sound,
    Wrapped in blankets all around,
    Lies my daughter, sweet and mild;
    A joy. A gift. A precious child.
    Tiny fingers. Tiny toes.
    Of these things she is composed.
    Soft and pudgy in her frame;
    Amazed the Savior bore the same.
    She lies there safe and undisturbed;
    Was it the same for the flesh-made Word?
    A tyrant’s price placed on His head;
    The King of the Jews Wanted: Dead.
    With Him to Egypt His parents fled
    Obeying what the angel said.
    Old Herod’s sword in fury stirred,
    On Bethlehem’s boys his wrath conferred.
    Lamentations hardly tame
    By mothers whose sons they’d ne’er reclaim;
    In Ramah’s streets their grief arose,
    No comfort found or calm repose.
    Thus it was for the Promised Child,
    Who came to save a world defiled.
    Sleep on, little girl, in His grace wound,
    For He is life and peace unbound.

    – December 23, 2010

  10. Becca

    -Palm Sunday-

    Forty years I have walked these roads,
    adding one hundred and twenty-eight pounds of flesh
    to the weight of rain and burn of summer sun.

    You have noticed, I am sure,
    how little dust we make as we move.
    I hope you will not think me proud
    if I tell you that it wasn’t always so.

    Weeds grew here when I was seven.
    I would kick at them and beat them over with sticks.
    Every night I would run home with the red Kentucky clay
    stuck in the whites of my socks.

    Forty years I have walked these roads,
    offering myself to the compaction of the earth.
    I have made this path wide and easy.

    And now you, child,

    you come skipping, and laughing,
    throwing branches broken from a tree you did not grow,
    onto this road that I have made.

    Hosanna!

    The word falls through the air like a sparrow diving
    then lands like something atomic.

    Shuddering, the way divides into furrows,
    and I am plowed up–
    forty years of compaction,
    overturned like a new field.

  11. Jake Willems

    I fell in love with the poetry of Wendell Berry while in college. The first book I read was “Given” and I remember loving “To Tanya On My Sixtieth Birthday” immediately.

    For Christmas later that year with my then girlfriend (now wife), I made a slideshow of pictures through the years. It started with that poem, transcribed below:

    “What wonders have you done to me?
    In binding love you set me free
    These sixty years the wonder prove:
    I bring you aged a young man’s love”

    It was then followed by many pictures to the tune of Ben Shive’s “Do You Remember” and Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me.” At the very end I wrote my own poem that I lovingly co-opted from Mr. Berry:

    “Though sixty years we haven’t spent
    That poem’s meaning still is meant
    At twenty-one and twenty-two
    My hear still grows in love for you

    I’m thankful for the time we’ve shared
    While trying to be best prepared
    For all the life still left to live
    With the one to whom my heart I give”

    —————————–
    Poetry is soothing to the soul for me, and I love opportunities to find and engage with more. Thanks for this post, Pete!

  12. Jon Slone

    Great story Pete! To me, that would make for a wonderful poem. Your poems being lost, what that dummy wrote about your stuff (Too much Sanguine wine) you not caring anymore, getting the girl, finding your long lost poetry book….oh yeah, that’s a poem.

    I wrote this poem for my girlfriend…..now she is my wife.

    Like Raiders of the lost ark, there were three total, a trilogy. The first: Digging you. The second: Loving you. The third: Marrying you.

    Here was the first:

    Digging You

    Put a shovel in my hand
    And a flashlight too.
    Just in case you didn’t know
    I’m Digging You!

    With a map to your heart
    And some dirt in my shoe.
    I face the unknown
    Cause I’m Digging You!

    I’m safe by your side
    From all alarms.
    I’m lost in your beauty
    And found in your arms!
    Your velvety skin
    As soft as chalk.
    Your painful laugh
    And the way you talk.

    So roll up my pant legs
    And fetch me a soda.
    I’ve done dug to China and I’m in South Dakota!
    In need of a back hoe
    And trench walls too.
    Stuck here for life
    Cause I’m Digging You!

  13. yankeegospelgirl

    There’s an artist you all need to check out named Jean Watson. If you enjoy contemplative music with a classical flare, she does some of the best. I met her in a coffeeshop concert around Christmastime, and it was loud in there, but she kept singing over top of it all. I was going through a depressing time, and listening to and speaking with her was a healing and inspiring experience. She shared her testimony and the ways God has used her, and even though she’s a very slight woman, I sensed this incredible strength in her. So I went home and wrote this small tribute to her, and I simply called it “Jean”:

    “I don’t know who I am,” you smiled and said
    And yet I knew
    I’d never met
    Someone like you

    You sing as one who hears the song
    As though it fell from God above
    It rises soft as you begin,
    Above the noise and strife

    You speak as one who’s suffered long
    And bears the scars of Jesus’ love
    While soft the Spirit moves within
    And breathes the breath of life

    I see Him on your face and in your eyes
    And in your voice
    I hear Him call
    “My child, rejoice.”

  14. yankeegospelgirl

    And now, on a lighter note, my tribute to Simon & Garfunkel, inspired by a walk across campus with earbuds.Everybody guess which song of theirs I was listening to when I wrote this! (Hint: It’s one of those deep album cuts only the most nerdy fans would instantly recognize.)

    Walking With Earbuds

    I waited ’til I walked out in the sunlight
    To turn the music on
    For there is nothing like music under an open sky
    Especially when the sky is blue
    And the music is 1970

    Two sons of Abraham blending as one
    Still keeping this customer satisfied
    With a melody merry
    And a rhythm so crisp
    I’m walking with more than a bit of a swing

    Passing the people, I think to myself
    “What plays in their ears on this fine sunny day?”
    But whatever their music
    I smile with the secret
    It cannot be better than mine
    No it cannot be better than mine

    This song is much too short
    But its goodbye is so sweet
    A burst of brass glory in my ears
    As the campus flags flutter in the wind

    Well home is where I wanna be
    And I’m on my way

  15. Adam

    Thanks for writing, Pete. I hadn’t thought of the value in simply creating, regardless of the final creation. I keep a notebook of stray lines and thoughts that come to me on occasion. Those moments of inspiration are refreshing. And, since you dared us to share, here’s a poem that was a result of taking time to put pen to paper.

    This hope we have remains steadfast
    An anchor of our souls
    Both sure and true we flee to Thee
    A refuge that will last
    That in your vow we seek none greater
    You swear against yourself
    For in your time the Promise comes
    A peace in which we rest

    Your perfect will to us unknown
    The pathway seems unclear
    But in the moment you pass by
    Your presence is so near
    For when your back is turned to us
    Your glory is revealed
    Sweet radiance, it satisfies
    If only but a glimpse

    And no good thing have you withheld
    Your Son you freely gave
    That in His death we all may live
    The world you came to save
    And though sometimes we fall away
    Your faithfulness remains
    Reminding us we’re not alone
    In these uncertain days

    Enough for me oh Lord art Thou
    Each moment and each hour
    No more or less do I desire
    Than that I see your smile
    If with my life, Lord you are pleased
    That is the highest prize
    To finish well, to hear, “Well done!”
    Gives worth to every mile

  16. Hetty

    Pete, I’m encouraged by your discipline, inspired by your story (I love that Jennifer told you that about the Yeats line!) and love your poem– it is beautiful. I’ll take you up on your dare, here is one of mine:

    Open Invitation

    You rose from waters not yet formed
    in the wind you had in mind.
    Greeting all you created with cries
    of deliverance and songs of gladness.
    Giving love like a dog– loyal to the end.

    Evil you never thought of,
    nor did it enter your mind.
    But like a child planting
    a garden you walked the fields
    throwing seeds of life without reserve.

    Your dance turns the earth upside down and
    breaks it in two; a stumbling block
    to all men: frustrating plans and
    dinner reservations.
    For we all must decide
    to join the dance or leave angry.

  17. Josh

    Hi Mr. Pete,
    I so appreciate your post…God give me grace to love the doing more than the having. I also really enjoyed your poem; thanks for sharing it! Here is a small poem of my own creation in honor of National Poetry Month. It’s grossly unpolished, but my humble skills leave it without hope of having much better.
    Josh

    Treasure
    [One of those newfangled poems in which
    Neither rhyming nor proper grammar, are apparently required.]

    In a field I know quite well, Treasure waits.
    It cannot be taken,
    It cannot be moved.
    It can only be loved.

    And yet, looking within,
    I often find Love’s feeling lacking.
    There are abundant others who take Treasure’s Love:
    Chief among them – Time.

    So in that field, Treasure still waits,
    Silently, expectantly, graciously.
    But standing as far off as my arm can stretch
    I plaintively proclaim that I have nothing more to give.

    For there are abundant others who have taken Treasure’s Love:
    Chief among them – Time.

    And though I know that I can never give enough,
    I know this offering is certainly not enough,
    And so, lacking Love’s feeling,
    Let me find Love’s Purpose.

    Since there are abundant others who take Treasure’s Love,
    Chief among them being Time,
    I know what it is that I must give.

    So I will give my Time to Treasure,
    Exuberantly, extravagantly, lavishly.
    For if Time has my heart, and Treasure my Time,
    I know where my heart will then be.

    For I trust that the Lord of Time
    And the Lord of my heart
    Will let my actions so instruct my Love
    That Treasure will come to be
    All that I love and all that my heart can hold.

    And if one should ever need to find me,
    I trust that I will be found
    In that field I know quite well.
    Lord, let me know it better.

  18. Karen Renee Powell

    I have only just found the Rabbit Room today. Your article was very lovely and enjoyed by the singer/songwriter. My contribution follows:

    The island of me
    is a lonely place,
    one with which
    I can barely face.
    To drain the mote
    and walk across
    seems immense
    and all but lost …
    till it dawns on me
    to breath with gills
    and swim in the sea.
    – Renee Keren

  19. Donna S

    You made it way past dinosaur love!

    Great post, wonderful poem, and such great responses. Once again the RR has encouraged me to just do what I love to do creatively and leave the inner critic behind.

  20. redheadkate

    Jason Gray lead me to the Rabbit Room, but, Pete, it was your writing that kept me coming back. Thanks for sharing this.

    I almost didn’t share my poetry because “silly little rhyming poems” like mine didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the ones posted. But I think that is the beauty of the Rabbit Room – how all these very different people can blend together to create a beautiful community.

    Ode to Being Too Loud

    Their intentions are all very good
    When they tell me it’s time to hush
    But I’m tired of being told
    That my voice is just a bit too much

    Kate, keep it quiet
    Kate, you are too loud
    Kate, keep your voice down
    Now, it’s time to shh!

    I wish I came with a volume button
    For moments as I’ve described
    To keep everyone happy
    At the correct decibel levels prescribed

    Kate, keep it quiet
    Kate, you are too loud
    Kate, keep your voice down
    Now, it’s time to shh!

    I’m not sure why I’m like this
    Always noisier than the rest
    But at times I wish I could change
    And be quiet as everyone requests

  21. redheadkate

    “But it isn’t easy,’ said Pooh. ‘Because Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.” —A.A. Milne

  22. Jen

    Such a beautiful story, a lovely poem… and great writing all around! I’m enjoying reading the words from everyone who took the dare. Creating as you learn for the sake of it, even if it isn’t high art, is such a beautiful idea to me. I’m still learning how to make the inner critic shut up long enough for me to do that. Thank you for this encouraging, gracious post.

    And so, I’m taking the dare. I wrote this four years ago for a creative writing class. The homework deadline was looming and my attempts at writing free verse were failing… so I wrote this out of frustration. And wouldn’t you know, it’s become one of my favorites, very special to me.

    ***

    I know poetry when I see it.
    How it dances and sings and leaps
    Across the page
    How it shapes the white space
    Breathing life into ink marks and wood pulp
    Where there was once nothing

    I know poetry when I see it
    Where only the essence of a truth is compressed
    In a line so small, but so full that
    You read it over and over again
    Just to know it by heart.
    You write it down word for word
    Letter for letter
    Period for period
    For wonder of what it felt
    To write it.

    I know poetry when I see it
    Standing on my toes
    Straining for a glimpse over
    The shoulders of giants
    Feeling small and speechless
    In their presence

    Sometimes

    I feel the surge of words
    Begging to be let out.
    I hear them whispering in the notes of a song
    Or the voice of a friend
    Or a sudden epiphany

    I doubt their worth and wonder if they matter,
    And if they could mean anything
    To anyone
    But me.

    But I write them
    (or at least I try to)
    Desiring to honor in the smallest way
    The poetry I’ve seen.

    Like a little girl
    In her mother’s high heels
    Five sizes too large.

  23. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    “Was I glad to have them back? You bet. There’s something beautiful and possibly even mysterious in the fact that they came back to me only after I’d learned that I could let them go. In losing them I perceived a valuable lesson. There’s high value in taking the time to sit down and create something when you least want to, when you’d rather watch a movie, or take a nap, or read someone else’s words. And sometimes the artist’s greatest reward may be in his creating rather than his creation.”

    I loved this. I have learned a lot about letting go in the past year, and then also creating when I least want to. Rebecca Reynolds has taught me a lot about that.

  24. aimee

    I love the challenge of one poem a day. Or any creative act, daily, for a year. How to choose? One painting, one sketch, one page of prose, one page of poetry? A few more lives would be helpful.

    As I was just telling a roomful of children today that it takes courage to be an artist, I’ll put on a brave face myself…here’s a poem about getting into bed only to find a rush of ideas-

    A torrent of words and sketches
    have shacked up in my chest.
    Poem them, story them, call them wretches-
    If I art them, will they let me rest?

    A relentless slideshow and ranting wordsmith
    are spinning on my hamster wheel,
    they call themselves real and my day job “myth”.

    Pastel them, design them, film them from my head,
    Cut them, collage them, surrender to their quest.
    Just one more question-
    If I art them, will they let me rest?

  25. Megan Behrmann

    Great Poems, all. some made me laugh, some made me smile, some made me cry. I love poetry. something about verse expresses the soul better than prose ever can. it’s the beauty of saying in a few short lines what can never be said in a hundred lines of prose. I dabble in poetry and sketching, and when I write a poem it feels often very much like drawing a picture. one is the visual expression of my emotion, the other, the audible. when I am surprised by Joy in my Creator, or by the compassion of His glory, or the gift of the hope that He brings, I often feel compelled to create either verbally or visually.
    I’m not very good at either drawing or writing, but enjoy both – and the point is very much what Pete said: the act of creating, not the creation. some of my worse poems I treasure the most, not because of their quality but because of what I went through in writing them – because of how they changed me.
    so, because I rarely back down from a challenge, here is one or two poems of mine. Enjoy them or not at your pleasure; but be forewarned: most of the poems I write are never intended for outside eyes.

    The first poem I ever wrote (in High School)

    /An English Sonnet:/
    a sonnet is a tricky little thing,
    with rhyme scheme, meter, and the foot;
    it’s iambic feet are going “da-DING”
    the rhyme scheme really gets you on the hook.
    “ten syllables on each and every line!”
    the unbending pentameter dictates;
    oh that the job of making rules were mine,
    so long to simile and conjugates!
    then there’s the job of looking for subjects,
    interesting ones that are fun to read;
    not filling the page with useless objects,
    but struggles, conflict, and heroic deeds.
    a sonnet that’s easy isn’t as fun,
    as fighting hard poems and finding you’ve won!

  26. Toni Whitney

    Pete,

    I love to start my day with happy weeping. Thank you for this post. Though not a particularly good poet, I have the heart of one. Jennifer = kindred spirit

    Heart Stone

    I saw you standing
    Leaned against the wall
    Playing your guitar
    In sunlight filtered with dust motes
    The bay leaning his head
    Over the stall door
    Dozing
    The smell of new hay
    You looked like an outback cowboy
    Singing a Celtic lullaby
    Or perhaps a warrior’s lament
    Either way
    The crooked grin
    That makes my heart skip a beat
    Is so familiar
    Looking into your eyes
    I could fall in and commit suicide
    Or maybe come out
    On the other side of heaven…
    Instead I turned
    And walked back out the door.

  27. Megan Behrmann

    one of my favorite poems that i’ve written, I hope you all enjoy it – I feel it expresses the emotions of the moment clearly, poor though the verse may be.

    Seeing the Stars

    I looked up at a sky full of stars
    Blinking. Winking. shimmering in the void
    How small they looked, How far away
    What kind of being could create such vast and overwhelming beauty
    That makes me feel so small and insignificant.
    So awed?

    The deep blackness, The gleaming stars
    Too many to count
    Too many to even attempt
    That God could imagine and put into being a world so immense
    And yet pay such attention to detail
    And yet care about
    Know about
    And love, me.

    Seeing stars.
    What an overwhelming journey.

    A private showing of the greatest lights show
    A dance of celestial bodies
    A feeling of delight
    Of my small place in the world
    A feeling of witnessing something special
    Of being privileged
    To view a magical starry ballet
    On stage just for me.

    Some have named the constellations
    Some have named the planets
    Orion, the hunter. Ursa, the big bear.
    Jupiter, Saturn, Sun.
    But who has dared to name the stars
    Or clamed to know them all?

    None but my great God.

    The steps of the intricate dance began
    Before mortals lived to walk the earth
    Viewed only by the master choreographer
    And will continue till time fails.

    Orion chases the big bear across the celestial sphere
    His bow drawn tight
    Faithful Canus Major at his heels.

    Signus, observing her post so gracefully
    The guiding swan
    So that all others remember their course
    And do not loose themselves amidst the skies

    The twelve zodiacal Astronomers
    Taurus, Aries, Capricorn, the crab and the twins.
    Forever circling, weaving, gliding
    Counting the minutes, months, years,
    keeping the rhythm of time to which all stars move.

    They seem to swim through the darkness of night
    Gracefully, patiently, precisely, beating out the rhythm of the stars
    Eternally ancient.

    I Wait and I wonder –
    What will come next?
    I see the stars slowly fade
    as faint tints flow from the horizon
    hidden from the eyes, but never gone,
    they continue to dance,
    to sing
    I close my eyes, listen to the song,
    And find myself,
    seeing stars.

  28. Andrew

    Pete, I’m on my second “Year of Poetry”. I’m glad that there’s someone else crazy enough to attempt it. 🙂

    As you’ve gently thrown down the gauntlet, I’ll have a go. This was written in the midst of a hard year last year…

    Sadness

    Sadness reigns in melancholy happenstance
    Traded in the marketplace of suffering and ‘passioned vice
    Sold by blackguard ranks, unholy sons of death and hell
    Bought by hallow addicts, dying by their pitifully self-fashioned hopes

    Sadness rests in noxious crypts, fulfilled with rotting, dusty flesh
    Mourning in the evening light, sickened by the end that comes on all that live and move
    Weeping for the fading light, in fear succumbing to depression’s long and lonely night
    Hopelessly embalmed in death, forever lost within the paths of hell and sulfur’s ways

    Sadness rides upon a rolling train, inclined behind the engine of humanity’s mistakes
    Submissive in ironic role within rebellion’s course, a bastard born of wicked cold and sin’s unyielding night
    Yielded to the coming doom, to suffer in eternity’s melodious cacophony of pain
    Held within the bond and bounds of human selfishness and wicked, prideful traits

    Yet sadness wilts before the Son of Light, the Savior of mankind, the bloodied, risen lamb
    Before His face succumbs the son of night who fled from love and life
    Redemption flows in crimson streams of joy, employed eternally for wretched sinners poor
    Forever dwells the Lord of life and love with those for whom He bled and died

  29. Jess

    Jen, I’m saving your poem. You said exactly what I mean to say so many times, when all I can do is fail miserably.

  30. Abby Pickle

    The blood of the dying sun
    Spills out into the sky
    Washing over the earth
    It permeates the air
    And ever so gently
    Touches our skin
    We glow
    Made alive
    The sun falls beyond the far horizon
    It is gone
    Gone into the tomb
    And the glowing blood sinks into the ground
    Soaked up by the soil
    Darkness creeps upon the earth
    Creeping up as the sun is dead
    Night is upon us
    We look up at the sky
    And the stars are the only sign of hope
    Our eyes are filled with questions
    And the stars are silent
    Signs of hope in the sky
    The moon keeps its mourning vigil
    Then follows the sun
    The stars are the only sign of hope
    But then when it seems the dark shall never end
    The stars fade behind a purple curtain
    A purple robe to cloth the King
    And living light rises in the East
    It is clean and new
    As if the darkness never was
    And the earth wakes rejoicing
    Because death could not hold back the Sun

  31. JayDeeJaye

    I’m in awe of the imagery I’m reading here. Pete, your poem is almost as good as Jen’s.

    A thousand pardons, I saw the easy shot and I took it. They both take my breath away, equally.

    Poetry mystifies me, but like Stephen I feel like Haiku is within my reach. Here’s one of my favorites from a few months ago:

    I could drive today
    But walking will slow the pace
    And quicken the heart

  32. Caleb

    @ BECCA:
    Lewis’s “Experiment” is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. When I finished it I immediately turned back to page one and started over. I’ve reread a lot of books, but never like that. If anyone wants to read or write better, or even think more clearly about those subjects, it’s the best book I know of.

  33. Becca

    @Caleb, that is awesome to hear! I clicked on _Experiment_ three or four times, drooling over the introductory info. Finally, it body-slammed me to the ground and said, “Woman, purchase me.” So, I did. _The Discarded Image,_ looks so tempting, too. I wonder how many years a girl can go wearing the same Easter dress because she bought books instead?

    On another note, I am loving these poems so much. What fun reading through them!

  34. Tyler

    I wrote this poem while sitting on a rock. So whether it’s good or not, I get some serious Thoreau points.

    Valkyrie

    Under lilting wrens and whispering spring,
    The ladies of old awaken.
    They sigh and sweet savor blossoms.
    They stretch and yawn and blink
    Their white-budding eyes, ever so softly
    Stirring beneath the sleep-thawing sun.
    Death had lain upon their ever-branching reach
    For too long, too long, too long,
    But life holds not its silence.

  35. David Knapp

    I wrote this once before going to bed 🙂

    It is now time to go to bed
    Awake much longer I might be dead
    It is near four in the morning
    Soon I’ll be snoring
    Bugging my wife once the pillow hits my head.

  36. Jen

    Jess: Thank you! That means a lot. I go back and read this every time I feel like I’m failing at writing. You should write out of frustration too. It’s cathartic and surprising.

    Julie JayDeeJaye: Can I frame this comment? 😉 Thank you friend! <3 And haiku is fun!

    YGG: Dang! That was cool. It is very Paul Simonish… would love to hear it with the music.

    I second John… so much talent and beauty! Wish I could comment on all the poems. I love this place so much.

  37. Marsha Panola

    Pete, thank you for sharing your cool story. And I’m glad you got your journal back; it’s amazing how much of yourself can be poured into a piece of paper, so even though you had accepted the loss, I’m happy that kind person sent it to you.

    And thanks for the invitation to share. Here’s one I wrote back when I was still in college, taking art classes. My sister and I took a trip up to San Antonio, and I ran into the work of a Famous Artist…and realized that Famous Artists are real people using real stuff to make real stuff.

    Today I touched

    Is that really a–no, it can’t be–
    yeah, it is
    a Henry Moore, wow
    hidden in the shadows of the overhang
    and the hurry and indifference of downtown.
    I have to touch it, I say
    and leave my sister patient on the sidewalk
    while I hop up on the concrete base
    where curvy pieces of bronze rise and recline.
    The country mouse
    runs fingers across the smooth forms, shoulder-high,
    covered now with city grime, sticky and black.
    You don’t see the dirt in the art books.
    And in my room at home,
    a hundred Moores and Calders and Oldenburgs reside
    together in one shelf-space.
    No, this is different, I think,
    rubbing my fingers on my shorts;
    today I touched a Henry Moore.

    And here’s one more for good measure.

    In never-darkness never-night

    In never-darkness never-night
    never-sleeping eyes watch
    everything
    ever-moving ever-changing
    Never-changing One
    never stumbles
    over his footstool
    never gropes
    ever sees
    new paths
    around the misplaced
    disturbed and discarded
    forever ever
    brightly shines
    into deepest darkest
    nightpain
    throbbing stubbed
    souls
    bleeding silent
    hearts
    buried in wet pillows
    until long sighs come

    Thanks, Pete! And happy Poetry Month!

  38. James Witmer

    Oh, Pete. If you hadn’t made this a question of courage, I could have refrained. But here I am, better never than late, with one of my rare verses…

    My father is the king of kings,
    my mother was a harlot.
    I fear there’s more of her in me
    than him.

    He lovéd her despite her sin,
    and wooed her in the desert.
    She drank there from the Living Spring
    at last.

    Rejoice! her wand’ring eye is fast
    held by his loving mercy,
    but she owns nothing true apart
    from him.

  39. Mike Brown

    Not much of a poet but I wrote this after a trip through Nimblewill NC a few years back.

    I roamed the Hills of Nimblewill
    In the smoky dawn.
    The light crept through the winter breaks
    and cast the shadows long.
    It brought with it a hidden peace
    that rarely found the wood.
    It taught among November’s dread
    that even death was good.

    I walked the ways of Nimblewill
    on tortured earth too still.
    It seemed to speak of rest to me
    nocturnal winks ne’er fill.
    It spoke of hope beyond this time
    a tale few comprehend.
    A tale of lissome, wishful hearts
    longing for a friend.

    I heard the song of Nimblewill
    each note a call to come.
    Each stanza summoned all who would
    but only ghost to some.
    So call out loud dear Nimblewill.
    Cry out to those who hear.
    Though your voice no longer speaks,
    Your message lingers clear.

  40. Gillian

    I’m afraid I’m anything but a poet, but every now and then I’ll write a few lines, though daring to show them to anyone else is something entirely different.

    Still, here’s a sort of poem, more free verse than anything else, that I wrote after hearing about the tragic death of an old friend in a car accident.

    Tires squealing,
    Lights flashing.
    A smoldering wreck
    in the shoulder.
    A life lost.

    A knock on the door.
    Light falls on badges.
    Breathless heartbeat.
    Not my child. No!
    A life lost.

    A blast fills the room.
    The lights flicker
    and grow dim.
    The gun drops from cold hands.
    A life lost.

    Cancer.
    Dreaded word.
    Pale specters loom
    on the threshold.
    A life lost.

    Slicing and cutting,
    Bleeding ribbons
    trickling down.
    Life blood draining.
    A life lost.

    What is this place?
    This world I see?
    Death and darkness
    Reigning free.
    No life, no hope.

    All is despair.
    A moment’s breath,
    a candle’s flare
    snuffed out.
    A life lost.

    What life lost?
    Is there hope?

    This world means nothing.
    This life means nothing.
    If death is all there is,
    then life is only death.
    A life lost.

    Scarlet rain drips down
    From thorns encircling his brow
    His hands, his feet, his side –
    Gaping wounds.
    A life lost.

    His head drops onto his chest.
    Shuddering breaths.
    Rough wood grates raw flesh.
    Is it not over yet?
    A life lost.

    The whole earth trembles.
    Darkness grows.
    He lifts his head and cries
    A name.
    A groan.

    Then the mountain shakes.
    The people quake.
    The curtain breaks.
    A bridge he makes
    with his own life surrendered.
    A life lost.

    A life reclaimed.
    Three days spent in the grave.
    Bursting forth in glorious day.
    Thousands of lives saved.
    In one life lost.

  41. Justin

    I’ve written around a hundred poems or so, but I’m still pretty wary of sharing most of them, because about 80% stink. The other 20% only horrify me part of the time. So it’s very encouraging to see others striving with verse, some with clear success. Also, it occurs to me that without this insecurity, I wouldn’t have enough pathos to seek therapy through poetry.

    Still, a haiku is safe enough. I wrote this one on a hot, dusty day in Iraq:

    Rain drops on dry Earth
    The soil is clenched like a fist
    Gently, the sower weeps.

  42. Bailey Gillespie

    I love reading all these! I was recruited as poetry editor this upcoming semester for my university’s literary journal. I’m all about redemptive art, and reading these poems has been refreshing. Here is one I wrote last year. It was birthed out of an emotional walk around campus in the fields while listening to music.

    Catharsis

    Jolt—
    adrenals awaken
    I board the sonata by moonlight;

    cadence, chords,
    melancholy echoes of shouts
    trapped inside.
    This vehicle, this outlet,
    a labyrinth of arpeggio ties

    Melodic runs gain speed;
    pedantic pedal’s rhythmic beat.
    Staccato thoughts—they flash, churn.
    The fury of Beethoven
    tempts me to relearn what I chose to forget

    Steam-powered tears
    propel the wheels’ crescendo;
    streaked mascara rain
    falls on wet ivory tracks

    My heart only holds
    ‘til it bleeds black & white

  43. Erin

    I, too, have suffered the loss of a beloved journal. On the first page of every new journal, I now write my name, address, and a plea to return the journal if found. I have had two returned to me via post, since then. Your post has inspired me to keep writing. Thank you!

    This is perhaps my most revisited poem: http://www.erintegelerphotography.com/page/2/

  44. Erin

    Pardon me. Here is the poem I meant to post in the previous comment!

    After Millet
    (Noon Rest : Vincent van Gogh Saint-Rémy.
    January 1890. Oil on canvas)

    The reapers in their resting,
    roll into one another,

    Slumped, soundless from sifting
    in the shade of the sheaves.

    At his shoulder, in shadow,
    she sleeps in deep slumber

    With the fragrance of amber,
    unfurling her brow.

    The grasses, gleaming,
    have gradually grown.

    Through stark winter’s weepings,
    they stand stalwartly stiff.

    And granule fragments
    that grow gifting the sifter,

    Lie grazing the ground
    in graceful gold mounds.

    These few, unforgotten
    yet, fallen and trampled

    Are the hope of the harvest
    the next year around.

    The reapers now rising,
    rake hay from their raiment,

    and fasten their feet
    to the threshing floor.

  45. Justin

    Erin, that’s awesome.

    I have to admit, despite the fact that your poem is written as a direct illustration of “Noon Rest,” the painting that lingered in my mind was Winslow Homer’s “The Veteran in a New Field,” in part because I saw it in person a few weeks ago, and in part because the painting was so rich with meaning that your lyrical description of grain could not escape its gravity in my mind.

    But that’s art, I suppose–people internalize it in unanticipated ways.

  46. shane

    1 Corinthians 9: The Apostle

    a callous hard finger reaches down
    pulls rock and weed from the earth
    pitch them with wiry strength
    across a small victory garden
    to land in a small pile
    at the feet of the deacon and i

    we watch in silence
    the man who wears tattered overalls
    and carries twice his given years
    pull weed carry lift hoe till
    battle the sin cursed ground
    with the joy of adam in eden

    a lonely house sits just left
    white paint slowly falls away
    uncovers the gray aged siding
    grass peaks from fissures in the driveway
    a screen door hangs
    not quite straight on the hinges

    the sun weary eyes finally spot us
    standing in the oak tree shade
    just off the drive by the deacon’s sedan
    he calls out, waves a greeting,
    ambles slowly our way
    i hear the deacon grin
    “we don’t pay our pastor much…
    …so he’ll stay humble…”

  47. Renee

    I am discovering a gift hidden inside of my soul. I think it has always been there, waiting for me to let it out. Something happens inside of me when I write. I have a hard time putting just the right words to it. It is a beautiful gift. I have the spiritual gift of exhortation and have been trying to find ways to be useful to God through the gift He has placed in my life. Writing seems to be the path He is leading me down. I do not travel in literary circles, I am not the ‘intelectual’ type, I don’t read a lot of books, and haven’t read much poetry. I am basically unlearned in the ways of writing. Yet, my pen seems to have life of its own, and often when I step back and look at what I have written, frankly, I am surprized that it came from me! So this is new ground for me. I wrote a very short poem a couple of days ago. I wrote it for myself. It is kind of scary to share it, but since I don’t really know any of you, it makes it a little easier. Finding a group of Christian writers is really inspiring to me. Basically I started 2012 off with a resolution in my heart that I am tired of being a lukewarm Christian, and totally gave myself to Jesus. To be used by Him however He chooses. I am willing, even at the risk of making a fool of myself. So here is my little poem,

    Fear comes like the wind
    it tears at the frailty of my heart
    and spills all of my faith

    Glory to God for His indescribable gift!

  48. Renee

    Reading through the comments I discovered that Jen you put into words what I experience when I write! Thank you!!

    Sometimes

    I feel the surge of words
    Begging to be let out.
    I hear them whispering in the notes of a song
    Or the voice of a friend
    Or a sudden epiphany

    I love words!

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