Peace Postcard Project

Handmade card by Mimi Shapiro, sent for 2016 Peace Postcard Project

Handmade card by Mimi Shapiro, sent for 2016 Peace Postcard Project

“Peace poems can lead to peace-filled conversations and guide our thoughts and efforts in the months ahead.”  What a delight to open my email and find Carla Shafer’s message. Carla is a poet, founder of the Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theater, and originating collaborator of Bellingham Repertory Dance Company of Phrasings: In Word and Dance, an annual event combining poetry and modern dance.

Last year she was inspired  to launch Peace Postcard Project after participating in World Poetry Canada’s poetathon. A peace enthusiast and mail exchange fan, I signed up as soon as I heard about it.

The concept was simple. I was put into a group of 28 writers who pledged to send one another an original poem each day in February. The practice was a lovely way to slow down, focus on peace, and send out the result. I didn’t think much about writers doing the same until lovely, soul-stirring postcards starting arriving. I’ve saved every one. I want to share them all here but will try to restrain myself.

Peace Postcard Project

An array of postcards from all over.

And oh, these words!

And oh, these words!

If you’re interested in taking part, you’ve got only a few days to register.

Peace Poetry Postcard Month   February 2017

JOIN poets from around the world (28 to a group) and send one of your original peace poems on a postcard for the 28 days of February.  Sign-up by January 30! 

To SIGN UP, send an email to worldpeacepoets@gmail.com 

Use the subject line: Peace Postcards

In the body of the e-mail provide:

Your Name, Street Address, City, State, Country and Postal Code.

For every 28 poets who sign up, a group is formed. You will receive an e-mail with your list as soon as your group reaches 28 names and addresses.

Process:

  1. On the first day of February (or before) write an original poem on a post card of your choice and send it to the person whose name is listed below your name.
  2. Proceed down the list sending a new post card every day.
  3. Circle back to the top of the list until you come back to your own name.
  4. It’s that easy!

Postage:

  • From the U.S. International postage is 1.20 per card or 4 first class forever stamps.
  • Within the US, postcard stamps at 0.35 (cents)

Prompts:

Original poems about peace in these anxious times. You may also be inspired by a postcard you have received or by a prompt listed at World Peace Poets Facebook page. (Feel welcome to post your peace poem and comments on the World Peace Poets FB page if you wish.)

You might want to write poems with a child or a neighbor. You might want to post poems you’ve received on your fridge, on social media, on a community bulletin board.  As Carla said in an interview with the Bellingham Herald,  “Every time people speak their hopes, address their losses and fears and listen to each other, we are taking a step toward peace.”

Ways of Speaking

faith like a spider

 

Ways of Speaking

 

I’m weary of those who talk

in slogans stamped and packed

by someone else, like

long distance truckers paid to drive

without knowing the weight

hauled onto that dark highway.

 

I want to walk, instead

where I can read the body’s slow knowing.

Where each thing watched long speaks aloud.

 

A spider tossed by the breeze reaches one strand

thin as faith. As it takes hold she dances between twigs

and waits within a design both beginning and end.

When the web breaks she begins again

tiny legs speaking in ways

we’re meant to hear.

 

Laura Grace Weldon

Find this and other poems in my collection, Tending. 

 

Oil & Gas Pipeline Closing In On Our Township

oil and gas pipeline through rural areas

No! No! No! 

Pipeline Protest 

 

Its name is Nexus,

from the Latin

meaning to bind, fasten, tie.

The pipeline, nearly as wide

as a kindergartener is tall,

will cut through

dairy farms and backyards,

hurtling high-pressure

danger for profit. Always profit.

 

Maybe it’s another wake-up call,

like the one Bush offered

by invading a sovereign nation;

brutalizing the Iraqi people

we claimed to be saving.

Brutalizing ourselves.

 

Of course we keep hitting

the snooze button.

Waking up isn’t easy.

Birds flounder

in oily waters

and we’re desperate

to sleep a little longer.

 

Today you and I stand

amidst hand-lettered signs:

Windmills Not Oil Spills,

Eminent Domain=Greed,

Fuck Fracking.

Cold wind brings tears to our eyes.

 

Fear brings us here. Anger too.

And bone-deep grief

for this lovely lovely planet.

Awakening shows us a million ways

to climb past despair.

I want us to do it for love.

 

Laura Grace Weldon

 

Originally published in the Blue Collar Review. Find more poetry in my collection, Tending. 

 

  • Here’s more about the Nexus pipeline including the route and blast radius in Ohio.
  • Here’s an article I wrote about how fracking might affect my family, and yours.  (First published on Wired.com.)
  • Here’s a glimpse at just how shady the oil and gas industry can be. More than 100 letters sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC) in support of the pipeline are fakes, using names and addresses of Medina County residents who did not write them or sign them. A FERC project manager said the falsified letters would remain on the docket.
  • Here’s recent disheartening news. An appeals court, using a 65 year old Ohio law meant to facilitate the construction of utility infrastructure after World War II,  has ruled against the rights of property owners. This means pipeline surveyors are free to intrude on the yards and farms of 65 landowners who have actively objected. Yesterday armed security guards stood by as surveyors took measurements on a horse farm just south of the fairgrounds, a farm that’s bordered on three sides by wetlands and park property. As resident Paul Gierosky said in a recent article, “NEXUS is no more a utility than I’m an astronaut. This pipeline is not a public agency designed to service the people along its route. It’s a for-profit company that’s going to sell the gas to a foreign country.”
Image: Garry Knight, CC by 2.0

Image: Garry Knight, CC by 2.0

Summer Day at Huntington Beach

poem, Lake Erie shore

Summer Day at Huntington Beach

 

I tick with alarm clock worry.

My sister is afraid of nothing.

Not the dark or death or

Jay Preslan down the street

who pushes kids in front of cars.

 

Look at her run into the water

while I stand squinting.

She doesn’t pinch her nose

to dive under. Doesn’t pause

before splashing back

strange splashing kids. Doesn’t heed

the lifeguard’s megaphoned warning

to stay away from the ropes.

 

Lake Erie grabs at the shore,

slurps it greedily in foaming waves.

I picture monstrous goggly-eyed fish

lurking under the pier,

ships skudded in the depths,

lost sailors forever unburied.

I inhale the curved scent

of suntan lotion, clench my toes

in the sand, stand still. Far out,

bobbing in foil-bright waves,

my sister is another being entirely,

straining at the boundary ropes

trying to see all the way to Canada.

 

Originally published by Silver Birch Press.  Find more poems in my collection, Tending. 

Failure Too

 

Failure Too, a poem

Failure Too

 

Failure is more than shame’s

hot tar and feathers.

 

It’s cancer cells

destroyed daily

in the body’s

relentless furnace.

 

The unseen mugger

turning away

as a friend’s greeting

crosses the street, bright

streamers through the dark.

 

The beads of a broken necklace

rolling in his mother’s

dresser drawer, evidence

of that long gone afternoon

he scooped blue stones and dust

from the floorboards,

weeping till she soothed

with words softer

than her disappointment.

 

Finding them the week she died

he’s glad the necklace broke,

carries those stones

in his pocket to this day,

as ruins remind

us of splendor

in civilizations that spawned us.

 

Laura Grace Weldon

Originally published in Mom Egg Review.  Find more poems in my collection, Tending. 

Perfectly Good

"Perfectly Good" by Laura Grace Weldon

 

Perfectly Good

The chair broke years ago

leaving jagged oak

at its topmost edge.

Repairs never held and

here my youngest son sits

his face lit from within

like all God’s children.

If I could I’d fashion everything broken

into a greater whole, forming

a bridge to his highest possibilities.

Instead he eats supper

with sharp wood bristling at his ear

and when I suffer it aloud

the boy says, “It’s perfectly good.”

 

This was the mantra of my childhood.

Spoken over fat and gristle

left on my plate till I forked those last bites

in my reluctant mouth. Invoked with each

hand-me-down, though Jennifer Kling’s

mother always made me wear suspenders

at her house to spare her

my sagging trousers. Implied

in a fistful of stubby No. 2 pencils

my schoolteacher father saved

from the classroom trash can,

the same ones my mother darkened

her eyebrows with each morning.

 

Today my son helped with yard work

at my childhood home, then stopped

CSI-faced, to hold up a dark loamy figure.

My mother dismissed it casually,

“Oh, the overcoat in the azaleas.”

Her father’s moth-eaten wool coat,

good tailoring still apparent in the shoulders,

was too good to discard, but perfectly suited

to smother weeds forty long years.

 

Standing next to her in the doorway

I knew identity as something

broader than a name.

This is who we are.

Resilient enough

to chew the fat, hitch up our pants,

and raise our brows— smoothing the way

for our children the best we can.

I grew up missing my grandfather,

yet all the while his coat

lay right outside the window

arms spread wide,

keeping a place for flowers to grow.

 

Laura Grace Weldon

Find more poems in my collection, Tending. 

Fog is composed of…

Fog As Visible Dreams

Fog As Visible Dreams

 

Mysteries flicker under each tender eyelid.

Become mist. Pass through walls.

Crowd the street, stories in symbol

lingering over a neighborhood asleep.

 

Houses and mailboxes

walk toward my headlights,

ghosts stepping into form.

I see each thing clearly

only as it passes by.

 

Laura Grace Weldon

Originally published in Shot Glass Journal.   Find more poems in my collection, Tending. 

 

fog as visible dreams

The Great Dying

http://www.tovima.gr/science/article/?aid=583936, Methanoscarcina caused The Great Dying

 Significance of Planetary Flatus

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Evidence that methane emitted by the single-celled Methanoscarcina caused the largest mass extinction on Earth.

 It is called The Great Dying.

250 million years ago

(only seconds in Earth’s long day)

90 percent of all species perished.

 

It’s blamed on gas.

 

Eon’s amnesia hides certainty,

yet experts say our verdant Earth

was broiled and poisoned

by these likely suspects:

 

  1. Methane clathrate,  known as “fire ice”  (hat tip to Robert Frost).
  2. Massive volcanic eruptions.
  3. Asteroids slamming into shale deposits, instigating a sudden Permian-Triassic fracking.

 

Now, research incriminates

one-celled Methanosarcina.

It bloomed across oceans,

converting marine carbon

into so much methane

the weather broke.

 

You who insist humans

can’t change the climate,

consider this microbe.

It waits on the ocean floor.

It waits in your convoluted guts.

It asks you to remember.

 

Last time

our blue green world

needed ten million years to recover.

Laura Grace Weldon

 

First published by Litbreak. Find more poems in my collection, Tending. 

Holding Together

Hubble telescope poem

Too Little

 

Nose pressed in tiny squares

against the screen, I watch

casual laughing gods

walk home from school.

I envy their long legs

and glossy notebooks,

their unseen power

to unlock

words from shapes,

 

My sister drops A+ papers

and library books

on the speckled Formica table.

Asks me how many times

a butterfly flaps its wings.

Tells me I’m wrong.

Eats two cookies.

Announces we’re made up

of tiny things called cells,

made up of tinier things

called atoms,

also made of what’s smaller.

 

The kitchen walls stretch

to galaxy proportions,

the table a raft among stars.

I hold tight to my chair

and concentrate,

keeping my short legs,

my clumsy fingers,

the balloon of my body,

from dissolving into bits.

 

Laura Grace Weldon

 

Originally published by Litbreak. 

Poetry Writing Hacks: 7 Playful Ways To Create Poetry

Spine poetry

Spine poetry

I’m eager to liberate poetry from that stuffy good-for-you closet where it’s so often kept. That is, as long as I can do so playfully.

Each time I lead poetry-writing workshops I learn from students as young as eight years old. I see them write in a direct line from experience to meaning, use metaphor intuitively, and fiercely adore their own work. Our time together often looks like crafts or games, but it’s much more. We draw faces on peanut shells, glue them to cardboard, and write poems around them. We use bright permanent markers to adorn an old footstool or rocking chair with poems to make a classroom Inspiration Seat. We ask stones to tell us what they’ve seen over their long geologic history, then write down our impressions. We compose from the perspective of carrots as we bite, chew, and swallow them. We write on prayer flags to let poetry fly with the wind. We write and release poems in public places for others to find. It’s never, ever boring.

The following poetry writing hacks are fun to do with kids. But don’t forgot they’re great to do with anyone—your book group, at a family reunion, as a party game, even to liven up a meeting.

 

Stack up spine poetry

Ever noticed a stack of books with titles that, together, form unintentional wordplay? That’s spine poetry. Over 20 years ago, artist Nina Katchadourian started the Sorted Books Project,  creating clusters of books that display clever idiosyncrasies and themes. (Some images were published under the title Sorted Books.)

To create your own spine poetry start by looking through books you have on hand and pull out titles that appeal to you. Then arrange them spine out to form poems. Take a photo to preserve your literary remix. If you’d like, share your images on Twitter as #spinepoem or #spinepoetry.

 

Play Exquisite Corpse

This absurdly pleasing game was dreamed up during the Parisian Surrealist Movement. There are a variety of approaches. Basically you start with a good-sized piece of paper. Each person writes a phrase or sentence, folds the paper to conceal lines from previous contributors, and passes it on to the next player with only the newest passage revealed. Keep going around until the paper is used up, then read the whole construction aloud.

 

Encounter unexpected poetry

Collect a variety of everyday objects. You might come up with an apple, peanut butter jar, mitten, shoe, flashlight, toy dinosaur, and nightlight. Then label each object by taping a word where it can’t be readily seen, perhaps folding the word to the inside or hiding it underneath. You don’t want the labels to read “apple” or “peanut butter jar.” Instead use unrelated yet evocative words like “beast,” “messenger,” “neck,” “song,” “intention,” and so on.

Each person picks one of the objects and writes a poem fragment leaving a blank for the object. If someone gets stuck, encourage them to simply write two or three adjectives and a verb. You might study the apple, then write, “Red, round _____ crisp on my tongue.” When the apple is turned over, a label reading “silence” transforms the poem fragment into: “Red round silence, crisp on my tongue.”  Or you might pick up the flashlight, write, “High intensity _______ let’s me see where I’m going” only to find that it’s labeled “wrath.” Change word tense to fit the poem fragment as necessary. If inspired, turn the fragment into a longer poem.

 

 

Keep a perpetual poem going

There’s something freeing about adding to an evolving verse. There are no rules, only possibilities. Start it with a line stuck with magnets on a file cabinet or fridge door. Or paint a cupboard,  wall, even your car with chalkboard paint  — keeping chalk handy for anyone to use. Or cut strips of paper to leave out in a container next to a jar of markers and a box of poster tack, letting contributors stick the next line right on the wall. In my house we use dry erase markers on a laminated world map mounted in the kitchen.

 

Make collage poems

Collect words and phrases from all sorts of sources such as food containers, magazines, and junk mail. Provide heavy paper or mat board so each person can glue their word choices into a collage poem.

 

Write an erasure poem

Choose a page from a magazine, newspaper, or unwanted book, then blot out some of the words to reveal a new meaning. You can also make erasure poems digitally using the Erasures site via Wave Books. They provide classic texts and the e-tool for erasures. Check out Austin Kleon’s erasure poems in his book Newspaper Blackout.

 

 

Pull a poem from a bag

Romanian poet Tristan Tzara was denounced by his fellow Surrealists when he proposed making a poem by pulling words from a hat.   In 1920 he wrote “Dada Manifesto on Feeble & Bitter Love” which contains these instructions:

To Make a Dadaist Poem

Take a newspaper (or magazine or other printed resource)
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that makes up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are – an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.

 

This article was originally published in Poet’s Quarterly.