Friday, December 02, 2016

Cloister Ekphrastic Free Verse


This month, in our year of writing poetry together, my Poetry Sisters have called on me to supply the art for our ekphrasic poems. I've chosen to share my photos of the cloisters of Glencairn Museum, a place I love to visit. You can read about the cloister here. The mansion was built as a family home for Raymond Pitcairn and his family in the 1930s, and later turned into a museum for religious art. Of the southern side of the house a cloister garden is built, surrounded by columns carved into depictions of 12 different bird species.

This is the place I find a peaceful retreat most often now. The family that build the house was railroad/oil baron rich; sort of like an American Downton Abbey, if you will. Now the house/garden is open to anyone, so it ends up being for the people in a way. The Pitcairns built the house with the cloister to be their family home. They raised 11 children. Raymond collected medieval art, and wanted the home to display his collection. When I am there I always imagine Mildred, the wife/mother, living there. Her bedroom is just above the cloister, where she had a huge bathroom with windows over the tub (they were one of the first to have lavish indoor plumbing) looking out over the cloister, gardens, and open valley below. They also had a sleeping porch, and could spend the nights out under the stars.

Cloister Home

She gathers
on the grass; children,
wine, cheese, bread, and
veggies cut and diced.
The littles fling
round the fountain,
laughter rising
on the cool evening
air. Light soft, stone hard.
They circle her. Their eyes
bounce from bird to bush
and back to her.
The older ones want to talk.
They hesitate,
spill stories; seek what
she knows but never says.

Bold Miss will always ask -
Where is daddy?
Still at work, darling.
Here. He comes
up the hill, seeking
them in the cloister.
Where cool breezes
find and lift
sweaty smocks,
limp locks,
sometimes torn knees
or slight limps.
Nearing end of day
and no one’s cleaned up yet.

Their voices lilt
across the valley
hidden behind the stone.
Stone carved to birds;
wings, bills, eyes
downcast. We must lift
to look; they gaze low
reminding us
nothing is heavy
that sings.

And then
in the dark
all comes to rest
on the sleeping porch
above the white garden.
Above the shushing
fountain catching
peace as it rises
off the star lit 

 Please take some time to visit the blogs of my Poetry Sisters and enjoy their poems as well:

Laura Purdie Salas
Tricia Stohr-Hunt
Sara Lewis Holmes
Kelly Fineman
Liz Garton Scanlon
Tanita S. Davis 

And don't forget to visit the Friday Poetry roundup, hosted by: 
Bridget Magee at wee words for wee ones. Enjoy!

Friday, September 02, 2016

Clogyrnach: a Welsh poetic form

My Poetry Sisters and I are trying out a new-to-me form this month, something I have found quite tricky. I only just pulled something out that I am willing to share. I need to work on this one a bit more; it's a challenge!

Trisha had posted about the Clogyrnach form on her Monday Poetry Challenge last year, explaining it this way:

Clogyrnach is a Welsh poetic meter that falls under the poetic form of awdl (odes). Clogyrnach are composed of any number of 6-line stanzas. Each stanza has 32 syllables. The first couplet is 8 syllables with an end rhyme of aa, the second couplet is 5 syllables with an end rhyme of bb, and the final couplet is is 3 syllables with an end rhyme of ba. In some variations the poem is written as a 5-line stanza with the 5th line composed of 6 syllables.  

I had a terrible time trying to write something that didn't sound completely sing-songy at first, then awkward, and finally falling flat with cliche. Finally I started to concentrate on a sky view I had enjoyed a few days ago on my lunch walk, and my thoughts seemed to fit the form. 

Above the Valley

Puff clouds stretch out across the sky
Above the treetops, float and fly
Boats that bob and toss
Made of cotton floss
Race across
Wave goodbye
      - Andromeda Jazmon

Please go see what the other Poetry Sisters have done with this form- they are so clever!

Laura Purdie Salas
Tricia Stohr-Hunt
Sara Lewis Holmes
Kelly Fineman
Liz Garton Scanlon
Tanita S. Davis 

And don't forget to visit the Friday Poetry Roundup at A Penny and Her Jots!

Friday, August 05, 2016

An Ekphrastic Poem for WONDER


You know how much I love house plants and greenery of all kinds. I don't have a green thumb, and my plants don't always do well, but I am stubborn and don't give up easily. My office is full of plants. sometimes they get those really annoying fungus gnats, so I am continually in a battle of control. 

There was an outbreak the same week that my Poetry Sister Sara shared her photos of the art instillation "Wonder"at the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in DC, which was somewhat ironic to me. The part of the show by  by Jennifer Angus called "Midnight Garden" featured a huge exhibition of insects arranged in fantastic patterns and glued to the wall. I know, right? Bugs. But these are really amazing bugs.

Jennifer Angus' "Wonder" exhibit; made of insects

The entire wall space of the room is covered with insects displayed in elaborate patterns. The website of the Renwick Gallery states:
 "Yes, the insects are real, and no, she has not altered them in any way except to position their wings and legs. The species in this gallery are not endangered, but in fact are quite abundant, primarily in Malaysia, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea, a corner of the world where Nature seems to play with greater freedom. The pink wash is derived from the cochineal insect living on cacti in Mexico, where it has long been prized as the best source of the color red."
 Isn't that AMAZING? And a little creepy. I couldn't help but put the two experiences together in my mind as I worked on this months' Poetry Sisters challenge: ekphrastic poems in any style or form, in response to the art at Renwick Gallery when Sara visited in May.

Artwork © Jennifer Angus, photographs © Sara Lewis Holmes 


The bug
pinned to the wall
(arms splayed, wings
just so, legs akimbo)
is never the one
bothering you.

what bugs you
is the gnat
between you
and the screen.

   -Andromeda Jazmon

Can I get a witness?

Don't miss the other poems written for this month's challenge at the Poetry Sisters' blogs: 

Laura Purdie Salas - Laura's in the cheering section this month, as life took p residence over blogging.
Tricia Stohr-Hunt  - She can hear them breathing, and they're coming for us.
Sara Lewis Holmes - Tells the story of visiting the gallery, with more pictures and amazing poetry!
Kelly Fineman
Liz Garton Scanlon - opening drawers full of surprises
Tanita S. Davis - Uses words like "
chitinous" perfectly poetically!!

And don't forget to stop by the Friday Poetry Roundup hosted by Tara at  A Teaching Life! 

Friday, July 01, 2016

In the school of Kay Ryan

Every so often the Poetry Sisters and I like to try writing In the Style of... a poet whose skill we admire. In the past we looked at e.e. cummings and wrote poems somewhat like his. This month we are echoing Kay Ryan, US Poet Laureate from 2008 -10 and Pulitzer Prize winner in 2011. Ryan is known for short lines, brevity, alliteration and internal rhyme, or what she calls "recombinant rhyme". I like that very much!

Here is my echo of the style of the poem "Turtle" by Kay Ryan:


Who would be a ‘skeeter who could help it?
A whiz-buzz on the wind, risking a slap.
She takes leave of sense, mindless missile locked on
your bright breath’s beacon; answer to her longing.
Zoom - she’s on you, mad dashing to hot blood.
No plan for retirement, no thought for tomorrow;
only tonight, and those infuriating screens.
Hounded by citronella and DEET, she
dodges light and smoke for just one meal.
Nothing lost, nothing gained, she only wants
one blind chance to kiss the back of your knee
(skin love for the the sweetest spot).
In exchange, her gift to you -
the unavoidable mindfulness
of irrepressible itch.

                    -Andromeda Jazmon 2016

Go see what wonders my Poetry Sisters have done!
and be sure to check out the Poetry Friday Round up by 

(I don't have any photos of mosquitos, so I have to use some of my mosquito-repellent plants. Citronella for the win!)

Friday, May 06, 2016

Woods Walk

I've been trying to spend more time outside this month, following the Rewild Your Life 30 Day Challenge, and getting more connected to nature after reading Jon Young's books What the Robin Knows and Coyotes' Guide to Connecting with Nature. I've loved bird watching for many years, but man, there's a lot more to know about those humble backyard birds!

I am fortunate to work in a place that is right next door to a natural area, and I often go walking there at lunch. My Poetry Sisters and I are working on writing tritinas this month, so I thought I would use a reflection on a recent woods walk for the subject of my poem.

The lovely Trisha, from the Miss Rumphius blog, explains the form: "The tritina is composed of 3 tercets and a final line that stands alone. Like the sestina, it uses a set of alternating end words–in this case three. The tritina form is a mini-sestina, using only 3 words instead of 6." Trisha has led us in the Monday Poetry Stretch doing this form several times, with amazing results. Our poetry group agreed to work with a personal choice of three words from these six held in common: sweet, cold, stone, hope, mouth, thread.

Here's my first attempt: 

Woods Walking

A day in April; passing sweet -
The sun is bright, the wind is cold.
Our forest breaks at quarry stone.

The dappled shade caresses stone.
A warbler’s calling “Sweet, sweet, sweet!”,
as if we’ve never know the cold.

Or; Welcome it! Refreshing cold!
that echos from old piles of stone
to magnify the warbler’s sweet

sweet song that sings the cold from stone.

Andromeda Jazmon

Be sure to visit my Poetry Sister's blogs to read their tritinas!

 And check out the Friday Poetry round up by Sylvia at Poetry for Children!

Friday, April 01, 2016

Watching TV in the Presence of Christ

This month my poetry sisters and I are experimenting with Ekphrastic poems. Laura Purdie Salas chose the image for us and we all went off in different directions, responding to the images as we were called. Ekphrasitc poems are written in response to visual art; an image, a painting or a sculpture. The images we are working with this month are photographs of the ceiling frescos of Mark Balma (, part of a 7-part ceiling fresco at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. Balma studied the art of fresco painting with an expert in Italy. The unique thing about this type of painting is that the pigment is ingrained into the plaster while it is wet, so that it dries as a permanent surface. The series is called "The Seven Virtues". Here is the image I chose to write about:

I did some searching for information on allegorical representation of The Seven Virtues in Christian tradition, as represented by animals. I found a lot on animal imagery, but nothing about grasshoppers watching TV, which was the part of this image that really grabbed me. What is going on here?

Old skool technology, the "boob tube" as we used to call it, captivating grasshopper's attention while all the other wild and crazed creatures turn toward the LORD and bow, offering what-have-you (honest or not...). That spoke to me. I decided to revisit the Sedoka Japanese poetic form that we used last month, and explore that connection.

Watching TV in the Presence of Christ

Bug-eyed, she lounges,
reclined in Holy Presence;
eyes fixed on flickering screen.

Her LORD approaches
barefoot upon Holy Ground.
All worship; she surfs the screen.
   -Andromeda Jazmon   

Take a look at what the my Poetry Sisters have written this month at their blogs:

And don't forget to visit the Friday Poetry Roundup at The Poem Farm
April is National Poetry Month, and Jama is rounding up kidlitosphere bloggers who are doing special poetry projects. Enjoy!


Friday, March 04, 2016

Sedoka Poems to Bring in Spring

I just realized that March 9, 2016 is my 10 year blogoversary!!! Hard to believe how fast that has flown. Back then I was doing a lot of parent blogging and also reviewing children's books more, as I was an elementary school librarian. I haven't been blogging as much lately, what with a new job since last summer (Reference librarian in a small college close to home = YAY!), but I am still enjoying the ride. I am inordinately inspired and challenged by my Poetry Sisters and the poems we have written together over the past eight years. We started with a Crown of Sonnets in 2008. I am so honored and thrilled to be part of this sisterhood! And on it goes...
Here's another spring photo for you, just because.

As winter ends (we made it through another one!) and spring blows in (March in my part of the world is all about wind and unpredictability...) the Poetry Sisters are writing Sedoka. Sedoka is an ancient Japanese form going back to the 6th century. It consists of two three-line stanzas with a 5,7,7 syllable count, not rhymed. The trick is to present two contrasting views of the same subject, rather like the way good haiku contrasts two images to give a new insight. I've had some up and down days this past month, with sick children and snowy days mixed right in there with warm breezes, the first spring flowers, and seed catalogs arriving. They are calling for snow tomorrow, and 70 degrees on Monday.

I've tried to paint a picture of contrasts with these, and had fun doing it. I've always loved playing with haiku and squeezing images into short poems, so I'm sure I'll come back for more. Here's my first few attempts:

An infant at night
on the pediatric ward;
watched where lights never go out.
His waking cry calls
a nurse; not mother’s crooning.
His voice tips toward blind outrage.

 - Andromeda Jazmon 2/29/16


Spring ruffles all things;
flocks of robins on the grass
flushed as tender swollen buds,
while scrims of ice hold
the pond; eyelashes freezing
still with winter’s tears.

 - Andromeda Jazmon 3/1/16

My Poetry Sisters have more to offer at their blogs: 

And don't forget to visit the Friday Poetry Roundup at Teacher Dance. Enjoy!

Friday, January 08, 2016

A Crown of Sonnets

For the past several months my Poetry Sisters have been working madly behind the scenes, creating a Crown of Sonnets. That's seven linked sonnets, each one starting with the ending line of the one that came before, the last one ending with the first line of the first, in a wonderful circle. Wow. We did it once before, several years ago, and were just crazy enough to try it again, after a full year of writing different forms together every month in 2015.

I am in a new job since July of this year, however, and this term has me racing just to keep my feet on the ground as I learn a new library, new campus, new faculty and new student body. So for this round of sonnet writing, I took a back seat. I'm in the cheering section this month, just promoting what my amazing poet sisters have done. Really, you need to sit back and take some time to explore this remarkable ensemble. You can read each sonnet individually at the blogs, and then re-read the whole crown in sequence at Trisha's blog.

The organizing subject for the crown was the Periodic Table of the Elements. Each sonnet takes a row and goes to town. And isn't it fitting that we have just heard they've completed filling in the seventh row with newly named elements! Are they on point, or what?

Here are the links:

Row 1: Laura Purdie Salas
Row 2:Tricia Stohr-Hunt
Row 3: Sara Lewis Holmes
Row 4: Kelly Fineman
Row 5: Liz Garton Scanlon
Row 6: Tanita Davis
Row 7: Tricia gives the whole Crown at once

Wowza!! After you catch your breath from that extravaganza, a little more fun: Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference has the Poetry Friday Roundup!