Mom is the core of the family… here is what my Dad and I made for Mom and sent her today. He wrote the poem, and I chose the photo – it’s of Priest River, Idaho, which is where we spent a couple years homesteading when I was young.
If you want to draw your readers to your poetry, add color. Better yet, add a drawing or photograph. It can be surprisingly easy to pair a poem with an appropriate photograph. Here I’ll share some tips for doing just that!
First, start with your poem. I’m using this one, recently written by poet Lenore Plassman.
Birds down in the creek dive and chatter
the cells in my ears twitch in acknowledgement
tomatoes ripened to a mirror shine
my bones stretch to grasp flown over,
common doves arc my synapses alert,
sucking in moisture another Sunday,
another tromp humble pie and humble be
for now that’s what I get:
another moment piled into all that live
cell into cell, above, below.
It’s nice, and could use an interesting photo to draw her readers in. So I noodle around on Pixabay (I’m a contributing member, but you don’t have to be) and select something that matches the mood and theme of the poem. I look for something with an area on it that could be overlaid with text. I come up with this image:
That works okay. Next, I think about my text. I decide to go with a simple font in white to match the simple words of the piece. I use GIMP, a free program, for all my editing needs. I work in layers to make things easier. You could do most of this in Paint if you wanted to. I placed my text, picked a size that was readable, tweaked the position of various things, and cropped my image to make the poem the focal point. I got this:
Simple, eyecatching, and great for Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. You can even have the poem printed out at a drug store or online, and make little handout cards with them. Happy creating!
The ball of calico fluff extends
then longer still…
she uncurls herself,
displaying proudly floofy belly
till the last thing to curl
is her pink, barbed tongue
in a heroic yawp
We thank the ones who tilled the land
and farmers, with fields so grand
We thank the bees who pollinate
and the seeds that germinate
We thank the workers who picked the crop
and labored hard, from start to stop
We thank the trucker in his rig
and all the loaders with arms so big
We thank the stockers in the store
and cashiers and baggers even more
We thank the cook with pan and stove
who made this food with simple love!
Today I’ll post a copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem, in honor of my Mom, who is named…
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—Only this and nothing more.”Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrowFrom my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—Nameless here for evermore.And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtainThrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—This it is and nothing more.”Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—Darkness there and nothing more.Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—Merely this and nothing more.Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—’Tis the wind and nothing more!”Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—Perched, and sat, and nothing more.Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;For we cannot help agreeing that no living human beingEver yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,With such name as “Nevermore.”But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke onlyThat one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”Then the bird said “Nevermore.”Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and storeCaught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful DisasterFollowed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden boreOf ‘Never—nevermore’.”But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linkingFancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yoreMeant in croaking “Nevermore.”This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressingTo the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease recliningOn the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,She shall press, ah, nevermore!Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censerSwung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent theeRespite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sittingOn the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floorShall be lifted—nevermore!
-Edgar Allen Poe
I see a maple’s sunlit dream
of flight, in early seed-hood.
Giant’s reaching roots drink deep,
but stretches yearning branches high.
Remembering that first, best spiral
when wind-swept ‘cross veiny airfoil
and landing, settled to the ground.
Who first taught a tree to fly?
What evolutionary climb
gave wings like owls, and sparrows
and Beeches, and Cessnas?
Next time I spy a maple seed
helicoptering from heights
I’ll listen closely for the whoop
of dizzy joy and pure delight!
My grandmother is nearly 97.
In many ways, she is a lovely person – but at the same time, she has held on to so much of her timidity and worry about life that she has little left at this point. She had to be a strong person when she was younger, and she went through hardships. Sometimes she did everything without a husband to help her, including raising eight kids.
She’s fairly deep in dementia now, and I find it sad to see how so much of her good memories have gone and how she focuses on her worries more than her joys. I think of her when I need a reason to be positive. And I write her letters, so she knows she’s not forgotten. I want to lay up such a store of positive, empowering thoughts that when I am old it will still be there to sustain me, and my twilight will be a good one. In a way, I wrote this bit of free verse for her.
the ebbing mind
slips from its moorings
a remnant of bitter flavor
acrid on the tongue
memories flow and ripple
through clutching mental fingers
to satisfy that need
for steady ground on which to stand
A brilliant branch
It roars, reaches,
and crashes again.
Pregnant clouds play catch
with balls of rolling thunder.
Rooster tails of water spray.
and water fills the air
till it can hold no more.
The blood-warm mist
and steam wraps my skin.
I drink the wine
of the new mown lawn,
taste the rich
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul. -William Ernest Henley
This poem is truly inspiring to me. Though it seems a bit trite because it’s been quoted so often, it shows me a better, stronger, more enduring path to walk in life. At times I think “am I lying to myself? My head has been bowed by circumstance plenty of times, I have been an incredible coward.”
However, reading this poem and learning it is not about honesty – it’s about replacing old thoughts with new. It’s about convincing myself that the old way of doing things is wrong, that there’s a better way. It acknowledges that life is tough but I can make it. It gives me good, strong, positive thoughts to fasten on, so that when a weak, cowardly thought comes up, there’s something to stand up against it. In effect, it’s “perseverance practice.”
The only things I have done in my life that were worthwhile, happened because I didn’t give up. Invictus is a poem about not giving up. I wish I had learned this poem as a kid. I wonder if I would have been stronger?
Is there a poem or quote that you use to become a better person?