Ars Poetica is in its ninth year here on the west side of Puget Sound. Poets living in Kitsap, Jefferson, and Mason (that's me) Counties submit up to three poems to a jury of local artists who choose one or more poems to interpret in their chosen medium.
When complete, the art is displayed in participating galleries, and usually culminates in author-artist events at the galleries, where the poets read their poems standing alongside the artwork inspired by their poems, and the artist speaks about his or her creation, and how the poem inspired it.
This year, of course, everything is different and the displays as well as events have been canceled.
Fortunately members of the Bainbridge Island Photography club have been connecting via email with the poets whose words they interpreted. Here is the beautiful digital photograph created by Chuck Eklund in response to my poem, "Drifting to Sleep."
Drifting to Sleep
We gather behind the curtain of imagination
waiting in the wings as the orchestra
conducts its overture before crimson velvet
All our cares flutter toward the sky
as our dreamtime ballet begins
How quickly the fantastic takes shape
beneath our star-fused eyelids
galaxies glide through our minds
like ballroom dancers spinning
tales across the glittering floor
and the universe bursts into story
Here's what Chuck Eklund has to say about his art:
This photo is set in Lake Brienz, in Switzerland. We hiked around the lake and spent the night in the village of Brienz. Even though it was summer, during the day it rained on the lake and snowed on the mountains. Amazing. The building, mountains, and growth are all around Brienz. The stars were beautiful that night. However, I didn’t have a tripod and could take only a limited exposure with camera balanced on a towel on a wall. No way to get the stars. The stars and Milky Way are from Idaho. I have always regretted not getting the stars in Brienz. Your poem made me think that I would combine the two images.
Thank you, Chuck, for making such a beautiful photo. I definitely feel the flight into the dream realm as my eye is drawn to the upper edge of the photo. I'm glad we could share this virtually.
In German, they call today Karfreitag (Sorrowful Friday).
Here's a poem I wrote in response:
Bowl of Sorrows
On Good Friday 2020
This morning I place an empty bowl atop my coffee table
a vessel in which to pour our suffering and sorrows --
our beloved dead we cannot mourn together
our ill and dying lying in isolation
our elders in lockdown waved to from windows
our incarcerated overcrowded and incited to riot
our perilous pre-existing conditions
our harrowed healthcare providers working in horror
our first responders risking their families
our homeless without a place to call or stay home
our immigrants and refugees who can’t find refuge
our fear of black men wearing masks
our fear of everyone unmasked
everyone who lacks the privilege to shelter in place
the classrooms closed field trips furloughed
the commencement ceremonies unscheduled
the valedictory addresses vanished
the college tours cancelled libraries locked
the athletic seasons suspended
the wedding festivities forgotten
the dissolutions of marriage delayed
the tempers flared the doors slammed
the abuse behind curtains closed ever tighter
the mutual understandings unraveling
the first loves by distance fractured
the workplace identity whittled away
the blurred boundaries between work and home
the emptying pantries and pocketbooks
the layoffs and lost jobs
the indecipherable applications for assistance
the travel plans terminated border barricaded
the birthday parties banished
the beaches bunkered campgrounds closed
the worship services via wi-fi
the hugs held hostage smiles masked
the stress-snacking and viral insomnia
the gray roots exposed the ends splitting
the things I cannot even think of
The heartbreak of being healthy and happy
the shame of sacrificing nothing for my safety
No grief is too insignificant to acknowledge
or too monstrous to mourn
When Jesus suffered the unspeakable
he pleaded for our pardon
Before it was finished
he fashioned a family
Together we carry this bowl of sorrows
I had a memoir writing workshop scheduled next Saturday and was looking forward to leading the participants in one of my favorite exercises: using smells to spark our memories. I usually have a variety of items available to sniff before we write, but wanting to be cautious here in Washington state, I decided to come up with a list of smelly items rather than bring the items themselves. That way, we wouldn't all be touching the items. But yesterday, I cancelled the workshop, a prudent decision coupled the widespread closure of schools, libraries, worship services and offices in my region.
Many, many of us will now find our activities being curtailed for several weeks at least, and I'd like to do my small part to provide an alternative to the anxiety of the news as we stay close to home in the form of a creative writing exercise.
Here is my "smellphabet" list of fragrant (some pleasant, some not) things in alphabetical order. I hope you'll find something on the list that reminds me of you a time and place in your own life. If you do, take a few minutes to jot down the story (somewhere between 5 and 20). Once you've written your memory, I invite you to share it with someone. Was there someone else in your memory that'd get a kick out of reminiscing with you? Email them the story, or give them a call. You are also welcome to post your story as a comment here, or email it to me. I'll be sure to respond with encouragement!
~Compiled by Cathy Warner
A Air freshener, asparagus, ammonia
B Baby powder, baking bread, bubble gum, bleach
C Chanel No. 5, cigarette smoke, cough syrup, cinnamon, cabbage
D Diaper Cream, Dove soap, dog (wet)
E Eucalyptus, eggs, earth
F Fish, forest, formaldehyde, Fritos
G Grass, grape (artificial), ginger, gardenia, gasoline
H Hairspray, hay (wet), ham
I Illness, Irish Spring soap, icing
J Juicy Fruit gum, juniper, jasmine
K Kelp, kirsch, kabab
L Lysol, lavender, lacquer
M Mint, mouthwash, maple syrup, menthol
N Narcissus, naan, napalm
O Oranges, olive brine, onion
P Puppy breath, Playdough, permanent marker, pencil dust
Q Quince, quinine, Quaker oats
R Roses, rain, rodent droppings, red wine
S Spray paint, sauvignon blanc, skunk
T Thanksgiving turkey, tobacco, tires, tar, turpentine
U Urine (animal or human), udon noodles, urethane
V Vick’s Vaporub, violets, vomit
W Windex, wax, Windsong perfume
X X-14 spray, Xerox copies, xylitol
Y Yeast, yard clippings, yogurt, yam
Z Zoo, Zippo lighter fuel
According to neuroscientists, smells have a stronger link to memory and emotion than any other sense. Read more about that here.
A young woman lit up with new love
the radiant smile of a groom
the inner glow of a pregnant woman
beaming parents, a newborn child
the long-married luminous and dancing under the moon
the light that gentles us from this life into the next.
Each brush with love transforms us
if only temporarily and like the sun
it burns so bright we must look indirectly or go blind.
We can only come so close to the Great Source
before we catch fire from the inside out.
Like Moses our beards shimmer
Like Jesus our garments blaze white.
This is transformation--
shining from the mountaintop
in momentary perfection
dumbfounding those in our presence.
As the blush fades we descend from the peaks
to the plains of our existence
uttering our small prophecies.
We are no longer dazzling or set apart
but, oh, we have been changed.
I began blogging about "This or Something Better" in 2011 when my husband and I were discerning what came next in our lives, which turned out to be relocating to Puget Sound from our Native California. My older posts can be found here.