Lately, I've really been digging into Medium and posting much of my work there. Unfortunately, that has taken me away from this blog and Throwback Thursday Poetry posts. In June, I launched Poetry in Form, a publication on Medium and I have been absolutely blown away with how it is taken off. I started with a simple idea that I didn't think would generate much interest, but was of interest to me - writing poetry in traditional forms. As it turns out, writing poetry in form can be quite addicting and it is a great way for writers and poets of all kinds to challenge themselves creatively. At Poetry in Form, I post new poetry nearly every day written by myself or by the many contributors and my hope is that these poems inspire readers to try traditional forms out themselves and see what they can come up with.
While I plan to continue to put much of my time and energy into Poetry in Form, I have not ignored other writing and have made some strides in other projects, as well. Being a part of the Medium community has given me so much confidence in my poetry writing, which felt refreshing after putting so much effort into my novel. This inspired me to compile my first poetry manuscript which I hope to publish in the future. As for my novel, I have not given up! I am actively working to get it published and I am trying to remain positive even though querying can be a frustrating process.
I hope to back here sooner rather than later to post more updates on my original "hub".
Emerging from thawed soil
Like organ pipes,
Hostas form a field of flutes,
Singing songs of praise
To a generous April sun.
Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day!
Don't get me wrong, I love Indiana. But, when you grow up near the water, it is hard not to miss it when you no longer have it right outside your back door. This is a poem I wrote during that time when a Great Lake was only a hop, skip, and a jump away.
A Story of Sea and Daylight at the DNR Site
Two miles up the road
The waves and water
Beat against a muddy shore,
It is January and warm
This is my own place
On the Anchor Bay.
The sun lights up the olive drab
Oscillations, glossing over the surface.
I sit on a drifted log,
I have drifted so that I can’t see
The city, only bay and shoreline
I cling to the illusion that the sea
Stretches for miles beyond miles.
My morning horoscope
Predicted sudden curves
Like the dangerous curves
In the road that leads to the DNR site
But that they are for a definite reason,
“Sweet Illumination,” it called for.
So I am here in the daylight once
And the sea oats look black against
The sun reflected off the waves
Like sweet illumination
It is not perfect-
Trash rolls on the beach
Where ducks call and sing to mates
But it is on the way.
When I was a teacher, I would always fantasize about a day when I would have the opportunity to write every day or almost every day. While teaching, I was often too exhausted at the end of the day to get motivated enough to work on my novel or write a short story or poem. When I did write, I would try to fit it in on the weekends, spending an hour or two here and there on writing new material or editing what I had previously written. That was my routine for about 5 years. When my daughter was born and I made the decision to stay home instead of going back to teaching, my goal was to work in a good amount of freelance writing to earn some extra income. Thankfully, I have found a decent amount of work writing web content. So, just as I once wished, I do write each and every day now, but the reality doesn’t look too much like my fantasy did.
When do I write now? Instead of taking advantage of quiet moments on the weekends, I now squeeze writing in whenever I can. Unlike before, I have deadlines now which often means staying up late, going on writing binges, and spending long hours staring at a computer screen. As taking care of my daughter is my top priority, the writing often happens at inconvenient times, times when I’m not inspired, and times when I honestly don’t feel like writing! So, in a way, I got forced into practicing some self-discipline with my writing which I never really did before. As with anything in life there are the pluses and the minuses. My writing life looks nothing like the dreamworld I created in my head 5 years ago, but that isn’t all bad. Here are my pros and cons of writing every day.
Sweet Tea Rings on the Coffee Table (2006)
Sweet tea, lazy
On an afternoon
Wrapped in the comforting
Embrace of the South.
I read of desires
For it was desire
That brought me here,
To my empty house
In Dixie, the dream.
I am exactly where they wanted,
So they send their furniture here,
To my home in the sun.
The Canadian frosts melt away
To reveal mom’s chair,
Dad’s sofa, and a low,
Worn coffee table.
Old ideas in a home
Of youthful desire, I
Rest my sweating glass
On the new old table,
It leaves a watery ring
On the faded wood, I
Let it lie. Mom preferred coasters,
Dad may not have minded.
Hot air filters through the window,
I dream of riverboats
Like Dad once dreamed of this.
My Thoughts Today:
I remember this one well. It was an assignment for a college poetry class. The instructions were to set my alarm clock for 3am and write about whatever dream I was in the midst of. And this was my dream. That I was drinking sweet tea in a home that I had just moved into and some handmade Canadian furniture was being delivered (it was sent by my parents). What I concluded from the dream was that I was thinking about my past and future all at once and I was finding it a bit overwhelming. It's not unlike the way I'm thinking/feeling now. Life happens in seasons and cycles. Its funny how every month, every season conjures up feelings of that same time in previous years. I'm acknowledging that today and focusing on it. How comforting is it to know that after every fall comes a winter, and after every winter comes a spring, and so on? I know I wrote this poem based on a dream I had, a very eventful but pleasant dream. I am longing for a peaceful sleep like that now, as I spend my nighttime hours comforting my 5-month-old. I will try to keep in mind, as I rock her and rock her for what seems like forever, that after this night, morning is sure to come.
"Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love - that makes life and nature harmonise. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one's very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
How perfect is this quote from George Eliot about autumn? I always find myself so reflective during the month of October. It doesn't matter how many Octobers I've been through, I can't help but marvel at the changes that take place in the world around me. The cooling air, the smell of dying leaves, and the sound of acorns falling on pavement never cease to excite me year after year. Sometimes I just need to pause and take a minute to enjoy it all.
Shining through Half-Rain
Breaking through Half-Clouds
Breaking in the day.
Half-Sun you're all I need
To make it through
Which brings Half-Moon
World, see my Half-Smile
Living and loving
My Thoughts Today:
I decided to go WAY back today! As promised, I didn't edit this even though it pained me not to. I think this is one of the first poems I ever wrote. This poem is like a song that is always stuck in my head. It's funny that even though I wrote it years ago, I sometimes find the sing-song-y words going through my head. I choose this poem to post today because yesterday it found its way into my head as I was looking up at a beautiful half moon.
One thing I've always acknowledged as being a benefit of being a writer is that you get to have a physical record of memories even if those memories are just from an average day when nothing particularly special happened. I'm sure I just wrote this while sitting in my desk in some high school class while waiting for the bell to ring and I bet that, even at the time, I knew I was writing about a pretty average day. I'm glad that I have a record of that day, though. As it turns out, it was a very important day - the day I decided I wanted to do this thing called writing.
Everything Blue Means (2005)
At night I sleep
On blue gingham sheets,
I begged for books to teach me
Everything blue means,
I am Aphrodite, most instrumental,
This we know for sure
But every time Medea kills Jason
I feel a mix of pride and grief.
Can you hear my voice?
I know you know my cries
High and distinct like sharp-edged kites
Sound and pitch erratic like butterflies,
You ask me "why?" as I scream "why!"
I am Ophelia, Cordelia, Juliet,
This we know for sure
But every time I open my eyes
I see myself standing on such a thin line.
Can you speak my language?
I know you know my tongue
You feel everything young about me,
You've chased the air from out of my lungs,
But not the words from my lips
I am Lady Lazarus,
This we know for sure
But every time I think of despair
I think of Ted Hughes.
Can you read me?
I know you know you want to
At times, maybe, you've forgotten to,
Just listen to the rings of things,
The trebles and lows, the variance of tones,
I am Alice down the rabbit hole,
This we know for sure
But every time I drink you up
I shrink before I grow.
My Thoughts Today:
Here's a weird one! This poem is a great example of the way I used to write. When I first started writing, I had a tendency to be sort of cryptic and this poem is a great example of that. It was like I wanted to write about something I was feeling deep inside, but I also wanted to hide that feeling away. So, attempting to have my cake and eat it too, I would write about something personal in such a way that anyone who read my poetry would have no idea what I was talking about it. I wasn't winning any poetry contests in 2005. Surprise, surprise.
That said, I can see in this poem that I was starting to move toward clarity and creating written works that others could read and understand. I started experimenting with some techniques that would later help me to create more readable poems when they were used for a purpose. First off, I created my own form here and I followed it for the most part. Secondly, I went wild with the literary allusions. Allusions have long been one of my favorite literary devices and I use them regularly in my fiction writing. Let's just hope the ones I use now aren't as glaring and awkward as they are in this poem.
To conclude, I'd like to mention that I still haven't discovered everything blue means. Nor have I figured out what this poem actually means. It turns out my habit of obscuring my feelings in my poetry has worked so well that I can even confuse myself. However, if nothing else, this poem does prove one thing: I was pretty well read for an 18 year old.
I dug up another one of my old poems for this week's TBT poetry post!
Our Fat, Fat Fingers (2009)
Do you remember
Ben Folds Five and then
Quiet feelings and
Coffee colored evenings?
Our fingers got fat
From playing piano,
Callused and fat
From music and writing.
Do you remember?
I could say nothing
And be something!
I’d whisper and ears
Would shift like a cat’s.
Do you remember?
Do you remember that September
Feeling the autumn chill
Creep over the lake and
Crawl between our fingers,
Our fat, fat callused fingers
That said everything so
Our mouths didn’t have to?
My Thoughts Today: While 2009 isn't all that long ago, I felt compelled to choose this one because of the late September, chilly autumn vibe. Unlike last week, I do remember what I was writing about here and it is fitting for me to post this on a throwback Thursday because I was writing about my memories of being in high school. In 2009, I was living in Chicago and struggling to find good jobs. I had just returned to the States from Mexico and I felt really lost. Reverse culture shock is a real thing that not many people talk about. So, in this poem I was reminiscing about high school and, I believe, I really conveyed how much I missed that time. The reason why I missed that time was because, during that time, I was so free to be creative. I played piano and flute, I wrote poetry, I read for fun, I even drew and painted. After college, it seems like all of that sort of disappeared. When you're working or looking for work, you don't have time to just pick up the flute and play and, furthermore, it is not likely that you can fit (or afford) a piano in your studio apartment. The pressures that come with being in your 20s really wore on me and I felt like I couldn't be me when I was unable to truly be creative. Obviously, I found a way regardless. I have a ton of poems from this time in my life. They are written on napkins, on the back of receipts and in these tiny little notebooks I used to carry in my purse. And, when I read these poems now, it almost seemed like I was fighting for it, struggling to hold on to one creative pursuit from my teenage years.
Another thing that struck me about this poem is that, without thinking of it, I wrote a short story that mirrors this sentiment just last year called "Für Elise". It is clear I still long for those carefree, creative days of my past, but now I'm expressing it in different ways. Instead of bearing that weight entirely on my shoulders, I shared it with a character and that feels right, too. Now that I'm taking a look back at these old poems, I am beginning to see certain themes in my writing as well as things that I have allowed to evolve. And that's really cool.
If you read my "about" page, you know that I started writing poetry at age 16. Now in my late 20s, I occasionally write poetry, but my focus has been more on my fiction. Since I don't want to lose my love for poetry (it's what got me started as a writer, after all), I want to start a new tradition on my blog: Throwback Thursday Poetry. Every Thursday I will post a "throwback" poem from my earlier days and my thoughts on it now. I pledge not to edit these gems no matter how cringe-worthy they may be. Let me grab a tattered notebook from my youth and we'll begin!
Each morning I awake to feel you,
Sharp, pulsating, and vengeful
The tight red cords of muscle
Pulling together to form a knot
Between my shoulder blades,
Aligned with my spine,
Where you punch and kick and bite
Like a newborn infant crying
For my attention, I rise
To carry you, stuck on my back,
My papoose, silent, growing like a weed,
I can’t reach to touch you, stroke you
I can only suffer you nagging at me,
Forcing me to hunch over, and
Battering the tears out of my eyes,
I cannot escape you knowing that
Only the hands that spin the knot
Are the ones that can massage it away.
My Thoughts Today:
First of all, I just want to say that I can't believe I have poems older than the iPhone. Ok, on to my more serious thoughts. I honestly can't remember writing this and I certainly can't remember what it was about as I'm sure the muscle ache is a metaphor for something. But, I'm glad to rediscover it as I can truthfully say that I enjoyed reading it. It's funny how reading your old writings can be so much like reading something someone else wrote. We, as humans, are constantly changing and I can really feel this when I read this poem. I'm going to go ahead and guess that I was thinking about an ex here when I wrote this, but I'd like to toot my own horn for a minute and say that I really nailed it when I was describing physical pain. And, 2006 Rachel did not even know what real pain was. But, after labor and childbirth, you better believe she does now. My daughter was born almost 4 months ago so the image of the newborn baby is really resonating with me today. It's clear from this poem that, in 2006, I viewed having a child as being nothing but a huge burden. I am happy to report that my present self has a completely different sentiment. In fact, no matter how much I hurt on a daily basis (it seems), I love carrying and holding my baby. I know she won't be this little for long.
On the whole, I like this little poem. I think I carried out the metaphor quite well and my descriptions of physical pain are spot-on. I wish I could remember what prompted me to write this, but I guess part of reading poetry is speculating what was going on in the poets mind. I can't wait to see what else is in these notebooks of mine, tune in next week for another TBT poem!
Rachel Boury Baxter
Writer: web content by day, fiction by night.