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My family was never very big on Christmas presents. Aside from cramped work and school schedules, there loomed the shadow of the long-past, but deeply imprinted, Great Depression. This tended to discourage planned extravagance.  (It did not stop occasional unplanned, oh-what-the-hell extravagance, but that kind did not often coordinate with holiday gift-giving.)

Despite the relative simplicity of our presents, we had elaborate rituals associated with their presentation.  Rhyming clues would be scribbled on notes affixed to wrapping paper that we would then have to sit, puzzle and laugh over before opening anything.

I loved making up these clues.  (I, if you haven’t guessed from the elephant, am Karin Gustafson, a/k/a Manicddaily.)  Some Christmases I would be so forlorn when the guessing games were finished–the presents all unwrapped–that I would run down to our basement to grab old books, forgotten tchockes or clothes, even abandoned toiletries, to quickly wrap as “new” presents, coding them with brand new clues.

Okay, that sounds sort of pathetic.

But it also seems to me to be a curious analogy for what poets do: we take bits and pieces of our particular world, wrap them in words, all the while tucking in clues as to what’s really there under the outer trappings, the creased corners and crumpled scotch tape, of both our words and our world.

Poems certainly can feel like presents to a poet.  Some like to think of them as gifts from a muse. (Unfortunately, this always makes me picture a mermaidy sort of mayfly flitting above my head.) I prefer to think of poems as gifts of presence.

Because to make an effective poem, it’s not enough just to wrap up and code (or decode) a bit of the world; it’s also necessary to be fully present to that bit of world; to not get stuck in one’s own musings about what one writes, but to be actually awake to the gift of the moment that is to become your poem, to be fully awake, too, to the writing of that poem.

This kind of awareness is useful even if the moment is long gone.  Being awake when writing of the past can mean the difference between taking bald tires down memory lane and wheels that truly get traction.

So your prompt for today: to write about presents/presence–separately, together–whatever gives you a poem.  (Feel free, people!)

And so you don’t feel required to attack this only from the holiday front–I know that many of you may not be celebrating Christmas or any particular holiday–here’s a video of Billy Collins reading his wonderful poem “The Lanyard” detailing his memory of a childhood gift to his mother.  Among the many notable lines–“She gave me life and milk from her breasts/and I gave her a lanyard.”

For another very different, but also beautiful poem dealing with presents/presence:  check out “Gifts” by JULIANA HORATIA EWING, in which a woman talks to her lover of the gifts he should bring back from a trip afar, asking only for a true heart.

Speaking of true hearts, there’s Claudia and Brian.  I want to take this opportunity to thank them and all the staff at dVerse as well as each of you for the presents of this community, your poetry, and your presence in each of our writing lives.

So, poets, get to work!  And if you think that you don’t have time because of shopping or cleaning or cooking chores—tell yourself (as I do!) that your full and attentive presence is one of the best presents you can give to loved ones, a presence that will be ineffably sharpened by your writing, reading, and commenting upon poetry!  (I’m not sure that they will buy that, but it certainly sounds good!)

Here’s the drill:

  • Write a poem!  Be fully present to it!  Give it as a gift to the rest of us by posting and linking up!  (The gift does not involve any transfer of rights!)
  • Click on the Mr. Linky button below and enter your name and url and click enter.
  • This is also where you will find the presence of those who also given us poetry today–read, comment, enjoy, feeling free to share your link and a link to dverse using the social media of your choice.

(PS – all rights reserved as always, especially on the elephants.  And Pearl! And, if you are running out of last minute Christmas ideas – check out my books and those of lots of dVerse poets! In my case, there’s one for every age! Especially second childhood.)