Come on, Stretch Those Writerly Brains

I believe in stretching myself as a writer. You know, attempting things that are outside of my comfort zone, tackling things I said I’d never do because “that would be boring … or hard … or ‘not my thing’.”

So in addition to fiction, which I thought was my “thing” but is the “thing” I’ve had the least success with so far, I also host a blog themed around abstinence and renewed abstinence. I write feature articles for a local magazine based on interviews with business owners. I provide web content in the form of weekly blog posts and monthly newsletters for businesses via their account with a marketing firm. I rewrite the basic information for business websites. And on occasion I edit articles written by others.

I noted, repeatedly, that I had no interest in interviewing people like my friend Kayleen does. None at all. But I’ve met so many interesting folks and discovered several “hidden treasures” among the businesses I visited.

I moaned at the thought of researching and writing articles on subjects about which I had little to no interest. Blech… But I’ve learned so much along the way. Many things that will benefit me when I begin marketing my own fiction in what I hope is the not-too-far future.

And because this is National Poetry month, I have challenged myself to compose poetry—one of my very least favorite forms of writing–for you, our faithful Scriblerian followers.

In the past, again to expand my writing skills, I have written poems for special occasions. I once attempted to write a poem each week related to the Sunday School class I taught. “It will be good for me,” I reasoned. That lasted two weeks. Well, actually one and a half as I couldn’t make it through the second round.

So without further ado, I present my poem–

In Honor of Spring

tulips 2

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

But the tulips of spring,

How they make my heart sing.

The grass is so green,

And my, how it grows.

So cool and so soft

Against my bare little toes.

The warmth of the sun

Surrounds the fertile earth.

As the wonders of spring

Fill us each with such mirth.

A confession I must make

Although it pains me so.

Only the tallest part

Of the lawn did I mow.

The day had been long and

Twas already past seven.

My bones were so weary

To rest–that would be heaven.

I’ll finish the job

Before the grass is knee high.

I promise I will

About that I would not lie.

Should anyone be wondering, this is not my attempt to prepare for Chip MacGregor’s famous Bad Poetry Contest held each May.

I challenge you to write a hasty poem, spend fifteen minutes max on it, and share it in the comments. Are you up to the challenge?

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A Baseball Mom and the Mudville Nine

 

My initiation into the world of sports began thirty-three years ago when my oldest son ventured into the world of t-ball. As each brother reached the grand old age of four, he joined the ranks of youth baseball teams. I have no better memories than those balmy evenings in June bruising my behind on bleachers and cheering my little boys to victory.

Tee_ball_player_swinging_at_ball_on_tee_2010

With spring’s arrival, we leapt into all things baseball. Visiting the baseball card shop. Practices. Washing uniforms. Games. Washing uniforms. Concessions. I even sold an article to a magazine extolling the agony and the ecstasy of a six-inning Little League game!

We instituted baseball traditions at home. The season opened with our favorite videos. Major League, Major League 2, The Sandlot, and my husband rediscovered his childhood favorite, It Happens Every Spring. Other baseball movies rotated in and out, but those four were the staples of our viewing diet. To gain relief from hotdogs and nacho dinners fresh from the concession stand, I could be counted on to bring the boys’ favorites of tuna macaroni salad or ham and cheese sub sandwiches to their games. By the time, the youngest was in high school, those subs had won the distinction of a home run meal for the team between doubleheaders.

hs batter

Years passed. The oldest boy dropped baseball to create a successful high school sports career in swimming. The next son earned a college baseball scholarship but declined the money once he realized baseball practice and travel to games plus premed courses and biology labs equaled not enough time to succeed in either endeavor.

With one child left in baseball, I cherished every inning. He did not disappoint. We were able to attend games through all of his college years. Even better, he coaches his own high school team now. My husband will travel out of state to visit him later this month to attend their tournament. I’m jealous.

My boys will tell you that I never truly learned baseball lingo (“It’s not a hit, Mom. He only made contact with the ball.”). I don’t mind the teasing. Even though the words rarely come out of my mouth correctly, I’ve learned a lot more about baseball and life raising my sons than the years my parents dragged me to my brothers’ games.

PleaseGodpleaseGodpleaseGod, don’t let him strike out. PleaseGodpleaseGodpleaseGod, help him to pitch over the plate. Not every one of those prayers was answered with a yes from the Almighty. Through God’s grace, this mom and her kids learned how to handle the success of RBIs and sacrifice bunts, as well as how to endure the humiliation of fielding errors and hitting the batter.

casey at the bat

All of this to say: my favorite sports-oriented poem is “Casey at the Bat.”  As literature, I enjoy the rhythms of the poem. As a baseball aficionado, I appreciate the details of the game. As a Christian, I love the spiritual lesson. If you’ve read it, you know the moral of the story.  If you haven’t, read it! Then comment and let me know what the life lesson is.

Taste of Heaven

Once upon a time, a little girl attended the annual Thanksgiving feast at her aunt’s house and discovered a plate filled with beautiful, glossy miniature fruits. Set apart from all the other appetizers, their brilliant colors called out for more attention than the bold Chiquita Banana Lady in the ads of the era. “Take a bite,” they stage-whispered. “Our flavor is even more exquisite than our beauty.”

The little girl popped an apricot shape into her mouth for she loved apricots above all other fruits. Ohhh. Surely, the taste of heaven filled her mouth! She couldn’t help it. In no time at all four – or was it five – more pieces disappeared from the plate. Sad that she couldn’t eat it all, for someone was bound to notice, she abandoned the table.

I was that little girl, who shortly thereafter suffered a major tummy ache. The candy-fruits were marzipan, the richest, sweetest dessert I’ve ever experienced. Composed of almond paste, molded into complex shapes rarely larger than the diameter of a quarter, and decorated in rich colors, marzipan is a culinary work of art. And NOT to be gobbled. You savor each nibble allowing the flavor to glide over your tongue over and over.

Poetry is served best in the same manner. (See Poetical Immersion) I savor one poem over and over when I read poetry. The marzipan of literature.

I had promised to share a few of my favorites. Here they are:

Eletelephony.” I’m a person who loves mixing and matching words, and Laura E. Richards does a delightful job of making it a game.

I learned two of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems while a young child. Often in bed with strep throat in those early years, I identified with “The Land of Counterpane.”

illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith

illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith

The poem “My Shadow” fascinated me because I had just discovered what shadows can do. Imagine that a grown-up wrote about the same phenomenon!

For rhythm, expression, and fun, I taught Eugene Fields’s “The Duel”  to my fifth-graders. They learned to drop their self-consciousness at the door and use their voices to over-emote the silliness of toys and household objects personified during the ridiculous spat.

Once my students were at ease with the above introduction to poetry, we moved on to “When the Frost Is on the Punkin’” by James Whitcomb Riley. They could use onomatopoeia of “clackin’ and cluckin’” with alacrity, and the class next door could hear the rooster’s “hallylooyer!”

frosty pumpkin

My all-time favorite is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. He offers me ripples of reflection as I consider the what-ifs of life. What if I had chosen a different college? Where would I be living? Who would I have married? What if I had never taken the National Novel Writing Month challenge six years ago? Would I be writing a blog today? What might I be doing instead?

road not taken

“What-if” is the exquisite question to ponder every time I read “The Road Not Taken,” for in life, we truly cannot retrace our steps and find out what might have been. Yes, I will savor the poem and allow it to glide through my mind over and over once again…