April 12, 2016

Friday, December 14, 2012

Poetry Friday: Poetry Postcard 3

It’s Cartoon Mayhem at Author Amok today.

I am making progress on the poetry postcard birthday project, which you may read about here.

My third attempt was in response to this cartoonish antique postcard.

Card by Seminole Souvenirs.

It caught my eye because I have family living in Florida. More importantly, I cannot resist goofiness. And this “Florida State Bird” is pretty goofy. I love his intense gaze, his needle-nose, menacing mouth, stained glass wings and those hairy antennae – nasty.

Before I get to the poem, though, I myself have been cartoonified this week. I have to say, it feels pretty awesome.

Baltimore poet David Eberhardt has put together a reading of “Renegade Poets” on January 6. It doesn’t take much to bring out the feminist in me, so she will be in full-force for this reading, which happens at the famed Minas Gallery. It’s in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood, favorite haunt of filmmaker John Waters and site of the annual Hon Fest.

The artwork by Christopher Morawski strikes that perfect balance between edgy and fun. My good friend, the most excellent poet Kathleen Hellen is reading. Slangston Hughes is a fabulous spoken word artist. Alan Barysh is a new poet for me, so I'm looking forward to hearing him read.

I hope my postcard poem strikes a balance, too. No one was  more surprised than I when a certain classical Greek hero strode into the poem and (ain't it just like a hero?) nearly wrestled it away from the poor mosquito.

The Mosquito

Its formal name is ancient Greek.
Imagine Odysseus plagued
by outsized Cyclops
and the song of honey-throated Sirens.
In his long years wandering,
maybe the hero came across
a trial so small, so commonplace,
as Aedes vexans. Vexed as he was
by Scylla’s hunger and Charybdis’ thirst,
Odysseus found mosquitoes
merely unpleasant and tussled
with exciting monsters first.

Laura Shovan

A note on the poem’s construction:

When it comes to prompts -- rather than those "hit on the head by the Muse" moments of inspiration -- I usually have to find a way into a poem. (See this post about on-ramps in writing.)

What's working for me is examining each post card carefully, writing down every phrase and word I find on the front and back. That word bank is my starting point.

When I looked up “Aedes Vexans” I found out that Aedes is Ancient Greek for distasteful, unpleasant. Since I’d already made notes on the postcard artist’s monstrous portrayal of the bug, I now had a monster and Ancient Greece. It was natural for Odysseus to make a cameo. Heck, he nearly took over the poem.
The marble head of Odysseus. That mosquito
bite looks like it's really bugging him.
My twelve-year-old daughter is a huge fan of Greek mythology, thanks in part to the Percy Jackson and Harry Potter books. This poem scored her approval. Yes!

May your Poetry Friday have no shortage of fun surprises. Our host this week is Her Deliciousness Jama Rattigan. If we’re lucky, she may have some leftover latkes today.

If you would like a poetry postcard for my birthday, please send your address to


iza said...

This is wonderful , clever and so well crafted, Laura! A mix of classic and goofy. What could be better?

Liz Steinglass said...

You did it--both heroic and goofy. Their Greek name suits them well.

jama said...

Only you could pull this off -- Odysseus and a mosquito? Do you think his blood tasted like grape leaves? These old postcards are proving to be fabulous prompts!

Author Amok said...

Thanks, Iza and Liz. Jama, that is a very good question. Maybe Odysseus' blood inspired that lovely phrase from the Odyssey, "The wine dark sea."

Renee LaTulippe said...

I loved Greek mythology when I was a schoolgirl, too, so I give the mosquito/Odysseus pairing two stingers up! The silly/scholarly take on the subject is so clever and well done. And what an honor to be cartoonified!

Tabatha said...

Sometimes it seems like people can take the big trials better than they can cope with the little annoyances. Would Odysseus have had road rage, do you think?
The cartoon image of you is funny ;-)