The Exceptional

Today is my wonderful niece’s birthday. Because she’s an April baby, I’ve been writing birthday poems for her for several years now. I thought I might have trouble doing that this year — how would I find something in the news that would let me ramble on about how fab my delightful god-daughter is? Well, thanks to Jezebel and Cardi B, I was able to set my worry aside. This poem would need some beyond-the-source-text words to do the things I wanted it to do, but I’m still pleased that I was able to make it work, able to extend my streak of niece poems one more year.

The Exceptional
(An erasure of a review of Cardi B’s album.)

Love, passion,
barbed yet fine.
Highly self-aware,
her wildest, most rancorous emotions
as a means of ascension.
Swaggering persona,
powerful, celebratory, cocky, free.
A glorious, uninhibited style,
original, contentious, true,
galvanizing, hypnotic.
She was worth the wait.
Her aesthetic designed
for authentic finesse.
The balance is proof,
a testament to her currency.
She is fun, perfectly charming,
an evolved reality,
an ambitious woman.


It’s National Poetry Month! Every year, I choose a specific form and try to write a poem a day in that form. This year, I am trying erasure poems and I want to use news articles as my source texts. I’ve practiced a few times, and it’s already feeling difficult! We’ll see how it goes.

Here’s an edited version of the Wiki definition of this form:
Erasure Poetry: a form of found poetry created by erasing words from an existing text in prose or verse and framing the result on the page as a poem. Erasure is a way to give an existing piece of writing a new set of meanings, questions, or suggestions. It lessens the trace of authorship but requires purposeful decision making. What does one want done to the original text? Does a gesture celebrate, denigrate, subvert, or efface the source completely? One can erase intuitively by focusing on musical and thematic elements or systematically by following a specific process regardless of the outcome.
Also, Robert Lee Brewer at Writer’s Digest has some good points to add about ethics and plagiarism:
Quick note on ethics: There is a line to be drawn between erasure poems and plagiarism. If you’re not erasing more than 50% of the text, then I’d argue you’re not making enough critical decisions to create a new piece of art. Further, it’s always good form to credit the original source for your erasures.

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Washington International School

T’s Day

Today is a day off in the A-to-Z Challenge, but even if it was a day on, we’re too early in the month for today to be “T.” But today is T’s day all the same.

Today is T’s birthday. My beautiful, funny, intelligent, writer-thinker-singer-dancer niece turns 18 today. The fact that I didn’t write any poems last April means I missed a year in my collection of birthday verse for her, but certainly represented no falling down in my utter adoration of who she is.

Eventually, I will make her a chapbook of all my April 9th poems. For now, I’ll just post this year’s addition and wish my god daughter, my dearest, darlingest niece a happy 18th. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Eighteen

Today’s gratitude
is easy, a constant love
a genuine force.
Reshapes the capacity
of my heart. Reshapes
my understanding of love.
Reshapes awareness
of who I am in the world.
Eighteen years loving
with everything, my all.
Eighteen years knowing
that love can look like laughter
look like truth-telling
like one beautiful, brown girl.
My heart knows your name,
sings you to sleep from afar,
makes you a praise song
a joyous shout to the gods —
gratitude as you become.

I have no real way of knowing if that poem is any good. I do know, however, that I teared up while typing that last bit, the envoi. That has to count for something … or, rather, something other than my general sappiness.

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A chōka is a Japanese form poem with a specific syllable count per line. The shortest form of chōka  is: 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7. The 5- and 7-syllable lines can repeat as many times as needed. The poem’s end is signaled by the extra 7-syllable line. The final five lines can be used to summarize the body of the poem.



Expanding My Heart

It’s the ninth of April. That means it’s time for another in the line of birthday poems I’ve written for my god daughter, my lovely, lovely niece. She is 16 today, a fact that fascinates me as much as it freaks me out.

Sweet Sixteen

Too old to call “baby.” In my heart, you’re always that two-year-old flirting with the mirror, who already knew what I have yet to fully learn: that she was everything, was enough. I mark this moment of your arrival. This sixteen-year love. There is only this wonder, this devotion, this all-I-have-is-yours. Sixteen years in love with your cleverness, your laughter, your imagination, your charm. Sixteen years. I watch you — taking notes, learning from your lead. Sixteen years. Every truth of you expanding my heart.


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Are you writing poems this month? Where can I see them? Let’s share this craziness!

As I did last year, I’ll be following along with the Poem-A-Day challenge at Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides Blog. Today’s prompt is to write a work poem. Well, not today. Loving my niece is anything but work! You can post your daily poems on Brewer’s page. The top poem from each day will be included in an anthology later this year!

Fifteen Years Ago Today

It’s that time of year again, time for me to add another link in the daisy chain of love poems I write for my god daughter.  My lovely and amazing niece turns 15 today.  So hard to believe.

Girl
on fire.
Fifteen years —
a brilliant torch
 in the thick darkness.
Her
sharp mind
grasps, rises,
illuminates.
I watch with awe. She
grows —
stronger,
more alive.
Comes gracefully
into her power.

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An Arun is a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.  It may be a new thing in the world, made up by me last year.  “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba.

Birthday Arun (9)

Today my amazing and fabulous niece is 14.  So crazy that she can already be 14.  And yet.  If I had any illusions about how grown she is, going to see her in her school musical last month took care of all that:

T-1

Because her birthday is in April, I’ve got a birthday poem for her.

Spring
floods in.
On this day,
love came to town,
born in one baby,
one
brown girl.
On this day
I knew my heart
could fill beyond full.
She
Is loved —
like water,
like oxygen.
My heart smiles in her.

An Arun: a fifteen-line poem in three sets of five lines. Each set of five lines follows the same syllable structure: starting with one syllable and increasing by one (1/2/3/4/5 — 3x).

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Read the rest of today’s slices at Two Writing Teachers!

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I was trying to remember where that “love like oxygen” idea came from when it suddenly surfaced from the back of my brain … and then I remembered:

Oh my.  How did this song manage to stay in my memory?  And really: did anyone ever find these guys attractive?  Anyone?

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Sometimes, anytime’s the right time …

Sometimes, anytime’s the right time.
A moment grabbed,
taken.
Whole
moments savored,
easy
goal.
Held tight-tightly
to your
soul.*

Oh, don’t ask me. It just fell in there. I’m not sure what I think about it, but there it is.

Great afternoon with my family after a really excellent Spanish lesson in which I was able to talk as if I actually speak Spanish.  It’s so strange how up and down my ability is.  Sometimes I have no words at all, can’t remember how to say more than hello.  And then there are times like today when I’m talking about creating a longitudinal data system (no, really) and leadership development in the community and I’m just zipping along as if I chat about these things all the time.  Crazy.  What’s the secret door in my brain that opens in those moments?  I wish I had the key to that door.

This afternoon’s visit with my family was a quick fix, one I was jonesing for big time.  Those few hours were full of a lot of laughter (and truly amazing ribs made by my sister-in-law!).  My niece with her newly-minted thirteen year old self is gorgeous and wild, blowing my mind at every turn.  My nephew was uncharacteristically chatty today, with his lacrosse-made, seven-stitches-worthy cut high on his cheek making him look tough.  These two hold my heart.  Funny, smart, beautiful.  I see them and think of that French phrase, “bien dans sa peau,” to be well in your skin.  They are so themselves, so comfortable with exactly who they are.  It’s fabulous to watch.

We talked about The Hunger Games quite a bit.  My niece had been wanting to see it and finally did this past week.  I wanted to talk about some of the darker things that have come up around the movie, but decided to stick with talking about the story and encouraging her to read the books.  I struggle with determining what is the conversation to have about race with either of them.  I don’t have a sense of how much either of them has had to deal with racism, or of how much my brother and sister-in-law talk about race with them.  With my nephew about to head to college in a few months (don’t get me started on how much that fact freaks me out!), I am feeling the pull toward this topic more and more.  I don’t so much want to upset the apple cart of easy conversations, but I can feel myself moving closer and closer to that moment. 

It will happen when it happens.  Should be interesting.

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* This is a Zeno poem: 10 lines, syllables = 6/4/2/1/4/2/1/4/2/1, rhyme = a/b/c/d/e/f/d/g/h/d.

Love inspires.

Today my niece is 13.  That shocks and amazes me.  Isn’t she still two and a half?  Isn’t she 30?  I’ve written a poem for her birthday each of the last three years, each year that I’ve pushed myself to explore a form for the month of April.  So now she has a tanka, a Rhyme Royale and a nove otto … and now she’ll have a Zeno.  If I somehow manage to keep this up, one day I’ll be able to make her a book made entirely of my love poems to her!

God child. A spring bloom in my life.
Watching you grow,
my heart
lifts.
Your energy —
hot, sharp,
swift.
Our connection,
purest
gift.