Thursday, November 15, 2012

Poetry Friday: Calm before the Storm

Last month I experienced, literally, the calm before the storm.

On Friday, October 26, I left for a writing retreat with my friend, poet Virginia Crawford. Ginny and I co-edited Voices Fly: An Anthology of Exercises and Poems from the Maryland State Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Program.(Get the free PDF here. It's chock-full of poetry lessons and student responses.)

Michael S. Glaser, a former Maryland poet laureate, and his wife Kathleen led the retreat. It was held at Kirkridge Retreat Center, on Bangor Mountain in the Poconos, Pennsylvania. The title was "Returning Your Heart to Itself: Poetry and the Opening Door." I learned a little bit about Kathleen’s work with Courage Renewal, a program based on the fascinating work of Parker Palmer.

All weekend, we talked about the weather. Sandy was already approaching. How bad would it be? Would everyone make it home safely?

Of course, we didn’t spend the whole time panicking about what might be. Michael and Kathleen led us in discussing our creative work, how that relates to our day-jobs and our lives. We also had time for writing, and we had a chance to visit Columcille, a megalith park, just down the hill.

During our free-writing time, I drafted a couple of quick poetic sketches in response to the photos I took at Columcille. Here is one of my favorites, followed by an in-progress poem:

View from the Bell Tower at Columcille.
Window

The view is shaped --
a pointed steeple
without brick or slate
or people, no
weather vane
to top it off
or give direction.
Strange to call
an opening barren,
too small for all
but a leaf or two
stuck to stone.
Through this
narrow hall,
that tree alit
with brackened bark
red, orange leaves
in motion. A window
is a curse I think
for those who wish
to hide. Every time
I look, it calls,
“Outside! Outside!”

by Laura Shovan

I wish I had a good shot of the moon we saw on Saturday night. Not only was it full, and visible in spite of the gray weather, but it was surrounded by a huge ring of light – far distant from the moon itself. The ring made a giant circle in the sky. Remarkable. I’ve never seen anything like it.

By Sunday night, the rain was falling. Most of Maryland was spared the worst of Hurricane Sandy. However, the area where I grew up – northern New Jersey – was badly hit.

I hadn’t thought of this poem as a response to the storm (or even to the weekend, despite the word "opening" in the retreat's title!). But the poem does deal with that outside/inside pull those of us who live urban and suburban areas often feel. We certainly felt it when my family spent those two stormy days stuck indoors, thankful we had power.

Family and friends in the area now have power and are back at school, but many people are still homeless. You can donate to the Red Cross here.

This week's Poetry Friday host is Anastasia at BookTalking. I'm grateful to our host -- and sure you will find more poetry to be grateful for at the Poetry Friday blog roll.

17 comments:

Violet N. said...

What a lovely photo! The poem gets into a nice swing by the end. Love those last lines "Every time I look it calls,
"Outside, Outside!"

Your thoughts about this retreat, in the context of waiting for the storm remind me of a beautiful family wedding we attended just days before 9-11. Though we had no premonition something bad was going to happen, looking back on that day, it always seems like it was in a different era--before innocence was lost.

Linda at teacherdance said...

I like hearing about your retreat & that time before Sandy. Things do change drastically don't they, and we never know what or when. Your poem is interesting, with the photo it's clearer, along, elusive to me. I love the first line, Laura, which seems to tell that life is already happening, no choice to make-DONE! The rest can be intriguing, within the limits-some choice. Thank you for the thoughtful words. And thanks also for the PDF, what a wonderful project you and your colleague accomplished. Congratulations!

Susan Taylor Brown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Susan Taylor Brown said...

Oh Laura, the ending of this poem just really hit me...I guess because it is pretty much my life every day.

" A window
is a curse I think
for those who wish
to hide. Every time
I look, it calls,
“Outside! Outside!”

It's a wonder I ever get any work done with all the temptations on the other side of the glass.

Thanks for sharing your lovely poem (and photo) with us.

Tabatha said...

Your poem and photo fit together so perfectly, Laura! That is a really remarkable photo. "Courage Renewal" is a great name for a program.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

So happy that you had a chance to get away like that, and yet I can imagine the unease of being away from home as the storm approached.

Your poem is interesting...what worries me is that I'm not sure as many feel that inside/outside pull these days. Windows make ME want to go out, for sure (but not tunnels!). This is a no-poem, in case somehow you hadn't realized. : )

Author Amok said...

Good morning, everyone! Thank you for the comments. Violet -- I have been thinking of 9/11/01 as an unnatural disaster in NYC and the region. How many times will they have to rebuild?

I appreciate all of your comments on the poem and photo. Of course, I already see potential revisions! Distance of time is a window, as much as a physical window, to help us see things clearly.

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

Great imagery! Like Violet & susan, I really like the ending...both poem & photo ork well together!

jama said...

Loved hearing about the retreat. Beautiful poem and photo,Laura.

Anastasia Suen said...

What an inspiring image! Thanks for sharing!

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

The photographs are just amazing - especially the one of the moon, whcih looks so luminous. Your retreat sounded wonderful - and the PDF is my weekend project, now. So much to explore!

Author Amok said...

I'm so glad some of you are discovering Voices Fly. Only limited copies were printed by the state arts council, so enjoy that PDF. I hope you can use it in your classroom, Tara.

Liz Steinglass said...

I especially love the beginning--shaped and slate, the line break before or people, and the idea of no weather vane to give direction. I have started yearning for a poetry retreat myself.

Renee LaTulippe said...

I see this as a poem of longing, probably my own because I always want to be outside - those shaped views call to me incessantly as I sit tapping at the computer. Perhaps I should build a treehouse office. I would be happy there. :)

Lovely imagery throughout - and when I got to the two leaves I immediately scrolled back to the pic and was pleased to see those two leaves there!

Thanks also for the fabulous PDF! Downloaded, reading it...:)

Author Amok said...

Thanks for visiting, Liz and Renee. I appreciate the feedback. Renee -- there was one lonely leaf in the first draft, but when I looked at the photo, two!

A treehouse office is something I could go for, also.

Doraine Bennett said...

Your retreat sounds wonderful! What a beautiful photo. I want to see what's behind the camera and what's beyond, in the outside! Lovely poem.

Mary Lee said...

I'm on my home from NCTE, so it feels greedy to wish for a writing retreat...but I am!