Friday, August 28, 2015

Poetry Friday -- as the hummingbird sips the nectar

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Bill Gracey

Jan Burkins, Steve Peterson and I have collaborated on another renga. Our first renga (and notes about the form) are here. Here's our second renga:

as the hummingbird sips the nectar

round moon not yet full
finds my cracker--full ‘til bitten
life full with roundness

sharp as a wheel of cheddar
smooth and creamy as brie

under the gnarled oak
an old couple tosses
dry crusts to the pigeons

we become what we take in
fresh foods, sour moods, vast ideas

mountain peaks tower
above the endless plains
full -- sharp -- old -- vast -- inspiring

toward evening, golden sunlight
settled on her wrinkled face

inside she’s a girl
surprised by her reflection
in her dreams she runs

river carries silt downstream
building up the new island

sweet alchemy --
orchard apples filled
by the light of a star

loose tooth lost with first bite
red orb of bittersweet

cold front passes through
scrubs away humidity
wren sings from the fence

once, he learned to see rainbows
in the oil on a street puddle

a skill important
for grownups who are often
too busy measuring

too concerned with to-do to
barter duty for beauty

When we chatted via conference call about the finished poem (on the afternoon before Steve's first day back), I loved what Jan said about the process, how it's like laying one stone out at a time, building a path as we walk forward.

As we talked about our inspirations for each of our stanzas, or the stories behind our words, it was amazing (again) to learn from where in our lives these words had come.

I was the one who divided the poem into sections this time. I was working (probably too left-brainedly) to find a flow of meaning throughout the whole poem. While I couldn't find it throughout the whole, I did find it in these sets. 

Steve gave us our title, and I think it's quite brilliant. 

This is what I'm learning from Steve and Jan as we write together -- how to string pearls.

Sylvia has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Poetry For Children.


  1. This is brilliantly crafted. I love the images that I can sit next to. I also love the deep thoughts of "we become what we take in" and "grownups who are often too busy measuring."

  2. Anonymous7:42 AM

    Mary, I love this poem and the story of its creation. I like
    " once, he learned to see rainbows
    in the oil on a street puddle." Happy Poetry Friday from a fellow 5th grade teacher!

  3. Anonymous7:47 AM

    This is so lovely. Like Margaret, I love those last lines. I need daily reminders not to be so concerned with "to-do." I'm sure you know this Julius Lester quote, but I'm sharing it in case others don't: “Literature is a way to link our souls like pearls on a string, bringing us together in a shared and luminous humanity.” So grateful to be linked with this luminous community.

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  5. Mary Lee,
    As in the first poem who three wrote I am excited to interact with the text and be swept up in the panorama of poem that reaches across time zones and thoughts. The last set of thoughts provided meaning for me as we often get caught up in a world where we do not stop to see the wonders of life and note their importance. Collaborative poetry is alive and full of promise in this process.

  6. It's a collaboration of kindred spirits it seems, how the lines flow with and against each other, sparking other thoughts for me, the reader. I love the little moments told, like 'scrubs away humidity', and the lines already highlighted above.

  7. It IS quite brilliant. And it flows beautifully.

  8. Anonymous10:41 AM

    Hummingbirds are precious.

  9. I love this. The images are lingering: gnarled oak, barter for beauty. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Wow --I'm thoroughly impressed! What gorgeous images and I love the little surprises. Brilliant work!!

  11. Stringing pearls indeed--thanks for sharing this beauty. I was particularly taken by the stanza that starts: Inside she's a girl...Do we ever outgrow our ten-year old selves?

  12. I loved the surprises--like cheese, "fresh foods, sour moods," "loose tooth lost,"

  13. Different sections of the poem had me going in in different directions although the entire poem has a nostalgic feel to it. In that vein, I love this paragraph of your explanation: "As we talked about our inspirations for each of our stanzas, or the stories behind our words, it was amazing (again) to learn from where in our lives these words had come.." I sensed stories in the lines and they were sending me back to my own. Thanks for sharing this interesting and rich collaborative poem.

  14. "Stringing pearls" and "building paths"-- beautiful process imagery, beautiful poem. Thanks, Mary Lee! And thanks for swinging by for Poetry Friday at my blog, too! Wishing you a wonderful new school year!

  15. "How to string pearls." priceless!

  16. It's been great fun "stringing pearls" with you and Jan, Mary Lee! And I love Jan's image of laying a path as the poem is built. With the title, I think I was reminded of the way the Psalmists often phrased their verses: "As the hummingbird sips the nectar/so shall you find sweetness for the long journey, which is pretty much what writing these poems with you and Jan has meant to me. Thank you!

  17. Beautiful! I love the way the poem meanders, a bit like a path.

  18. Stringing pearls is just the right image for your collaboration! Thanks for sharing.

  19. Mary Lee, I love the stringing pearls analogy. It is so apt. I've been thinking about the stones metaphor, too. It's laying stones to make a path without looking up. Just thinking about where the stone you are laying fits best against the stone you are standing on. Eventually you end up on the other side of the field, and a birds-eye view of the path will show the way it meanders. I love this collaboration. :)

  20. Anonymous8:23 PM

    Renga with friends is fabulous fun. We did it as one of our activities for MoP this year. :) These are beautiful individually, and as a part of the greater whole. But I also love Jan's reflection; 'laying one stone out at a time, building a path as we walk forward.' Perfect!


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