Friday, January 27, 2012

Mary's Mixed Bag

Hi Toads and Friends.  Mary here again with a new "Mixed Bag" that I hope you will enjoy. In brief, I would like you to think about conversation and how to work conversation into a poem. You could write poetically based on a conversation you have had, a conversation you fantasize , a conversation you overheard, a conversation you would like to have, etc. Just be sure that your poem involves conversation

I am going to share a few 'conversation poems' which may (or may not) inspire you. I generally find that the work of other poets inspires me, and maybe this is true for you too.

Naomi Shihab Nye is one of my favorite poets. I heard her read her poetry once, and believe me it was wonderful. The first Naomi Shihab Nye conversation poem I am sharing is "Kansas" from her book Words Under the Words.


Driving across the centre of Kansas
at midnight, we’re talking about
all our regrets, the ones we didn’t marry,
who married each other, who aren’t happy,
who should have married us.
Ah, it’s a tough world, you say,
taking the wrong road.
Signposts appear and vanish, ghostly,
I’m not aware it’s the wrong road,
I don’t live here,
this is the flattest night in the world
and I just arrived.
Grain elevators startle us,
dark monuments
rimmed by light.
Later you pull over
and put your head on the wheel.
I’m lost, you moan. I have no idea where we are.
I pat your arm.
It’s alright, I say.
Surely there’s a turn-off up here somewhere.
My voice amazes me,
coming out of the silence,
a lit spoon,
swallow this.

Interesting how she worked conversation into that poem, don't you think?

Now that you have taken a look at that one, I am going to share another one by Naomi Shihab Nye. Actually this is a favorite poem of mine.  I decided to share it second rather than first. It is "The Art of Disappearing" also from Words Under the Words.

The Art of Disappearing

When they say Don’t I know you?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.

Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say we should get together
say why?

It’s not that you don’t love them any more.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

If you would like to hear Naiomi Shihab Nye read the above poem, watch this video. It is worth it. Naiomi Shihab Nye reads The Art of Disappearing.

Here is another conversation poem, a bit different. It is "Lesson" by Ellen Bryant Voight, from her book Shadow of Heaven:


Whenever my mother, who taught
small children forty years,
asked a question, she
already knew the answer. "Would you like to" meant
you would. "Shall we" was
another, and "Don't you think."
As in "Don't you think
 it's time you cut your hair."

So when, in the bare room,
 in the strict bed, she said, "You want to see?"
her hands were busy at her neckline,
untying the robe, not looking
down at it, stitches
bristling where the breast
had been, but straight at me.

I did what I always did:
not weep --she never wept--
and made my face a kindly
whitewashed wall, so she
could write, again, whatever
she wanted there.

The last poem I am going to share is "The Telemarketer's Call" by John Lehman. It was included in his book Dogs Dream of Running.

The Telemarketer's Call

Tonight, as I finish making calls,
a man tells me, "I'm going to die."
He's taken pills and now the pain
of age and losing those he's loved
is draining from him fast. What
he wants is forgiveness and since
I've phoned, mine will do. I sit
listening and think about my life,
scrambling for money while you
eat dinner with your wife or watch
TV with children on some couch
or, for spite, pretend you're dying.
I hesitate, then hang up.

The poems above are a few examples of 'conversation poems.'  I have faith that each of you will take the prompt in your own direction.  I look forward to reading what you come up with. Post the link to your poem using Mr. Linky below!  Have fun.


Brendan said...

Great challenge, Mary -- I'm going back to an old conversation that has shadowed my career since, one with the voice inside the voice I actually heard. - Brendan

Mary said...

I actually wrote this Thursday (the day before my prompt was scheduled to appear), just had a bit of fun with it; but I do hope to write something of a more serious nature IF I find the time. I will look forward to seeing what others come up with. Have a great weekend too.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Ah, this is a lovely challenge, Mary. I shall do my best to respond though I'm a bit brain-dead on Fridays. Thank you for all the effort that went into this post. I loved the poems you used as examples.

Fireblossom said...

Wow, I knew Naomi when I lived in Texas, long ago. She used to throw me a reading here and there.

Anyway, mine is up.

Brother Ollie said...

maybe this is a failure, like my actual conversation

Semaphore said...

'La Conversation Galante', the title of my piece, can be translated as 'Civil Conversation'. What was interesting to me while writing it was that I tried to write it as a one-sided conversation, where what is not being said is as important as what is.

Laurie Kolp said...

This is great. Thanks, Mary!

Ben Ditty said...

I learned a lot :) Great post!

Marian said...

a conversation i have never forgotten. thanks, mary, for the opportunity to revisit & write about it :)

Sherry Blue Sky said...

FANTASTIC prompt, Mary - the poem The Art of Disappearing is one of my favorites too and I had forgotten about it. Thanks for all of this inspiring material.

wkkortas said...

I am all about the narrative thing.

Margaret said...

I hope mine works on some level... Thanks for the challenge an I'll be back later tonight to see how everyone has done.

Teresa said...

I really enjoyed this challenge! What a delightful task.

Kay L. Davies said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Just getting start with contributing here at this great site.
Today my conversation is focused on a cardinal, made by an artist.

Kay L. Davies said...

I withdrew my post and my previous comment. I have a bad cold and it is interfering with my better judgment, it seems.

Kateri said...

New here--just followed Teresa over. It sounds like it okay for none members to link? The challenge brought together a piece I have had in my mind for the past two weeks. I love the poem The Art of Disappearing. Looking forward to more reading.

Ella said...

Suffering sinus issue again, but I am intrigued! Hope to give this attempt tomorrow~

Kerry O'Connor said...

Anyone is welcome to join in the RT challenges and prompts. Glad to have you sharing your work with us.

Isadora Gruye said...

I tried something a little more experimental. such a great prompt to challenge me. Thanks.

Isadora Gruye said...

On a roll, submitting 2.

Ruth said...

I love writing poems with bits of conversation thrown in... just posted a new one

Mary B. Mansfield said...

I took a slightly different take with the prompt - most of the conversation that takes place in it is nonverbal. I think in some ways this poem was quite different than the things I normally write. What a great challenge!

Mary Ann Potter said...

Ooops. Wrong spot for this comment. Sorry about that. Conversational poem not yet written. 8-(