Sonnet for Shakespeare on his 453rd Birthday

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Really, he doesn’t look a day over 380…

O Bard immortal by the Avon born,
in humble cottage to ambitious dad:
I give you greetings on your birthday morn
with tidings: The world so wide still is glad
that the work of your life and pen yet lives.
The curtain never comes down in this globe
but there is applause; each hearer forgives
some tin-tongued actor in a worn-out robe,
when your Hero emerges from the grave
or Hamlet drinks down the pearl of great price,
or Hotspur leaps to war, foolish and brave,
or Antipholus’ friends see him twice.
The faeries in their revels bless us still,
and your fame? Endures forever, sweet Will.
Composed 23 April, 2017.

What I Do: Vision Statement #makered

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My friend Stephanie challenged me to write a marketing plan for my business (Watermountain Studios), in sonnets.  I don’t know that I can write a marketing plan in sonnets, but I can write two that qualify as a vision statement, I suppose.

The human hand used to shape all our needs
and make all our wants from creche to casket;
the old factory is now choked with weeds,
and we mock those who can make a basket.
Robots build cars, machines sew our raiment
and the sweat of slaves dapples our plastic toys…
our children sit idle, workshops vacant —
we test to exhaustion both girls and boys.
Yet numbers and letters can still be learned
through artisan’s arts of loom, forge, and press.
By hand and eye’s labor are truth discerned
and concrete order made from abstract mess.
Children learn best when their hands learn to make,
for artistry helps our minds to awake.

To start a MakerSpace right now is hard:
we sold off the shop tools and burned the scrap,
put abstract thought on every student’s card,
and put computers in each student’s lap.
We tested for phonics and random facts,
and jumped for joy at every new reform —
yet abstraction has been a kind of trap
to make a man who thinks instead of acts.
Ask me — I’ll guide you through these thickets,
to where your students thrive with tools in hand
making theater props, posters and tickets,
costumes, the stage — instruments for a band.
When children make, they become more adept
at fixing the world that broke while we slept.

 

Tai Chi Poem on Amazon

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I’m pleased to report that the Tai Chi Poem I composed in 2015 is now available for Kindle from Amazon.com.  All sixty-two sonnets in order, together with the diagrams I composed for the poem, are now in a single digital document and available for $4.49.  You can go through the back entries of this website and find all the poems — they were composed in 2014 and published here — but now they’re available as a convenient download.

The Tai Chi Poem

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In 2014, I composed sixty-two sonnets describing the process of moving through the tai chi form that I first learned in 1998 in northeastern Connecticut.  That sonnet sequence is now available as a downloadable Kindle file from Amazon.com.

Like most of my sonnets, these are Shakespearean or Elizabethan sonnets, in iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme running ABABCDCDEFEFGG.  Some portions of the sequence may be useful to tai chi teachers for creating effective mnemonics for their own students, but I don’t recommend trying to learn tai chi from reading the poems aloud or reciting them.  Some things are better left to professionals rather than me.  I also think the poems are quite beautiful on their own.  My goal, overall, was to create something akin or in the tradition of the traditional martial arts and tai chi manuals, a combination of simple diagrams and poetic descriptions of the movements. The work is dedicated to my teacher, Laddie Sacharko of Star Farm Tai Chi.  The tai chi poem will always be available exclusively from Amazon in print form.

Other Works

The Tai Chi Poem also joins my other book, Poems for the Behenian Stars  for $9.99 on Amazon.  This second book, a poetic exploration of the fifteen stars of H.C. Agrippa’s list of the major stars of the northern celestial hemisphere, is also available as a PDF download from Etsy for $10.  I earn more royalties from an Etsy download, but I understand that Kindle grants me access to a wider audience.  Feel free to tell your friends!

Poem: Sunflowers for Healing

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A friend of mine is quite ill at the moment, and she’s asked her community of healers and well-wishers to imagine a field of sunflowers as a place from which she can draw strength and healing energy.  Many have sent her photographs of such fields; I chose to send a poem.

The greenery overhangs the fences,
the railings shielded behind lancet leaves;
each leaf absorbs sunlight and condenses
sugars into a stem of woody greaves
that reaches skyward to support a Sun.
Earth thus stretches upward to touch the sky,
and in this field, a nursery’s begun—
a nebula, from which new stars shall fly.
Broad the field where ten thousand new stars bloom,
each itself a sun—each a source of strength,
shining yellow even in twilight’s gloom,
facing the Sun across the meadow’s length.
no flower blocks light for another’s seeds—
but each spreads its shade to starve out all weeds.

I ask you, readers, to read this poem in particular aloud, to allow the shape of your breath to help you connect your breath temporarily to this image of the field of sunflowers, and to imagine that field as a place of health and healing.

Poem: The Bear (1 & 2)

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For EarthSpirit’s Yule gathering this year, I played the part of a bear going to sleep in hibernation, and getting his bed ready for a long winter’s nap.  For Imbolc, I played the part of the bear temporarily roused from sleep, in order to crown the stag king.  The EarthSpirit community holds the Stag King’s Masque at Imbolc annually, and there a group of men perform an elaborate … dance? battle? to choose the Stag King for the coming year. This year, the storyline of the rite involved waking the bear so he could crown the newly-chosen king. These were my lines:

I. To Sleep (Yule)

I ate a couple of rabbits last week,
then some sticks, some grasses and leaves today.
My cave is ready with the bedding I like:
Pretty soon I’ll sleep the whole winter away.
Down in the darkness and down in the cold,
covered with leaves and nested in the earth.
If you find me asleep, don’t be too bold:
let me keep sleeping, until my rebirth,
for we’re known to be grump when we wake,
quite hungry, too, after a three-month nap.
When spring arrives, there will be much at stake
at second thaw, when icicles drip.
I’ll rise and squint at the returning Sun,
and roar. Meantime, I’ll sleep ’til winter’s done.

II. To Wake (Imbolc)

A dream of spring awakened me from sleep,
the scent of tulip bulbs spreading out roots.
The cold of winter has made me dream deep —
but I have heard the jackdaws in their moots,
and felt the maple sap starting to rise.
You behold only ice and slush and snow:
but we bears hear and smell the secret fire
in both the acorn and the raven’s cries.
Our fur tingles, as the Sun start to show
his true colors and warmth — and desire
for food grumbles in my hungering guts.
Come, Spring, and soon — though storms are yet in store.
But hark! — the drumming of deer hooves in their rut?
Come, see the stags choose their year-king once more.

Tai Chi Y3D272: Oh Right… This was the mistake.

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I was looking for the poem that came next after False Close from yesterday’s artwork, and found this mess today from Day 147: Oh, I’d forgotten this mess. The finished poem from False Close wound up looking something like this:

From this braced posture, the right hand retreats, (swings high)
but right elbow remains just in its place
The left hand rises too, moves also, and it entreats (cuts by)
the opponent as it travels side-swipes through space
until fingertips graze the bent right arm.
Thus a right angle is ordered — and stands
between the forearms on the right and left:
This is a posture of defensive hands,
for the arms can shift with movement so deft
to deflect the strike.  Once the hands are firm,
weight can shift away from the front right foot;
the left leg can carry the weight a term —
but neither leg should move from where it’s put
Sweep both hands down and sideways to the left,
to guard the flank that in this move’s bereft.

What a mess.  This poem doesn’t match with the drawings I’ve done at all.  The drawings don’t make sense with the actions.  You can’t interpret one from the other. I don’t know how to do the next drawing.

Excuses.  Yeah, that’s easy.

But doing the work is hard sometimes.  And there’s backtracking to do, and reorganizing the material, and re-thinkiing it. That’s what this blog is for. Right? Right? That’s why you’re coming here — to read about the challenges and difficulties of the daily work… and this is one of those places where I made a hash of things in poetry, and I’m going to have to fix it one of these days.

Retreat to Mountain Even in the drawing, I can see that it’s wrong. The last image, the guy is hunched over at the neck, not with a straight spine. Duh. But it’s a detail that’s hard to get right.  And, one has to know that the previous drawing involves standing with fire at one’s back, and now water and earth, and now earth, and now earth and air, are at one’s back.

Truth be told, I’d never considered this deeply how the directions interplayed with tai chi before. It’s clear that it matters which direction one faces in practice. I always begin in the east, but I’ve seen practitioners label the directions 1-2-3-4 in videos before.  This is somewhat different.  There’s a notional east, of course, which is different from true east, which is different from “the direction from which I’m attacked.” The movements must be suited to the moment at hand.

My tai chi practice has been speeding up of late. I made a deliberate effort to slow down today, but I’m also looking forward to taking some time over the upcoming vacation to really slow it back down again. The Yule/Christmas season always seems to sneak up on me and zoom past in a rush, and it’s been working its way into my form-work. Time to push back against that tendency and slow down.

Poem: The bear

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I was a bear, about to go into hibernation, last night in EarthSpirit’s open Yule celebration this year.  The little kids tucked me in and gave me a teddy bear to go to sleep with, and put me under blankets.  I got to snore my way through the ritual, to add verisimilitude to my performance.  My lady says that I didn’t do the “grumpy when we wake, quite hungry” lines; but I think I did…  anyway.  A lot of fun, and several people insisted it was very cute.  Composed this poem to get in the right headspace to be a slumbering bear, and to recite at my appearance.

I ate a couple of rabbits last week,
then some sticks, some grasses and leaves today.
My cave is ready with the bedding I like:
Pretty soon I’ll sleep the whole winter away.
Down in the darkness and down in the cold,
covered with leaves and nested in the earth.
If you find me asleep, don’t be too bold:
let me keep sleeping, until my rebirth,
for we’re known to be grumpy when we wake,
quite hungry, too, after a three-month nap.
When spring arrives, there will be much at stake
at second thaw, when icicles drip.
I’ll rise and squint at the returning Sun,
and growl. Meantime, I’ll sleep ’til winter’s done.

This is now the second or third time that I’ve done a bear transformation like this.  It’s sort of fun, but a bit of typecasting.

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