Bright Shadow, Chiaroscuro, Doghog day, El Greco with Elephant, Groundhog Day poems, Karin Gustafson, Manicddaily, Pearl!, poetics
Manicddaily, a/k/a Karin Gustafson, here on February 2, a/k/a Groundhog Day! (The above is my dog, Pearl, who is a bit confused about the day.)
And for you who are also confused: Groundhog Day is the day upon which a rather large brown rodent decides the next six weeks’ weather.
The story–I guess you could call it an “old wive’s tale”– is based on the idea that the groundhog tends to stir from his winter’s hibernation right around February 2nd. If, upon drowsily emerging from his den, the groundhog catches sight of his own shadow, he supposedly gets so freaked out that he ducks back down for six more weeks of sleep. Thus, bringing on six more weeks of winter.
If, however, the groundhog emerges and does NOT see his shadow, he will NOT be frightened back into hiding, and the rest of winter will be mercifully short.
When I was a child, what always seemed odd to me about this story (setting aside the question of how a rodent, even a large rodent, controlled weather systems) was its contrariness. Since a groundhog could only see his shadow on a day of bright sunshine, it was a sunny February 2 that foretold an extended winter, while a grey dank day was one that promised spring.
It made no sense to me. Now, that I am both older and married, however, I try to look for inner truths in this type of folklore. I won’t bore you with my machinations about brisk wintry weather as opposed to damp springlike weather. Where the story feels more grounded in meaning to me (and not just hog) is in the landscape of the mind. What supposedly scares the groundhog is not the sun, but his shadow–his fear, in other words, of a looming opponent, or perhaps just of brightly-edged darkness, his delusion, his blinking disorientation.
So, finally, we get to my idea of the Art, the Poetry, of the day. This interplay of bright and shadow, the real and the quasi-real, protective fears and delusional fears, and how the self fits into all of it–are themes artists/poets deal with all the time.
In painting, the drama of light and shadow comes up not just in subject matter, but technique, particularly in “chiaroscuro”–literally bright shadow–which was developed in the Renaissance and beyond as a means of sculpting images through the drama of light and shadow.
In poetry, the exploration of shadow comes up in innumerable different ways – poems that speak of light and dark, delusion and reality, the inferred and the concrete, what one takes and what one leaves behind, one’s caught vision of one’s self, the passage of time and people….
Due to copyright concerns, I won’t post complete poems, but here are very short excerpts of some shadow poems that I found especially striking: from Charles Wright’s, A Short HIstory of Shadow: “Tonight, in the unconditional, what moves in the long-limbed grasses,/ what touches me/As though I didn’t exist?”
Arguing with Something Plato Said,by Jack Collum, which begins:“As ashes are the shadow of smoke,/panic is the shadow of light,/ beef is the shadow of grass,/ love the shadow of attention….”
From “Song of the Barren Orange Tree,” by Federico Garcia Lorca, translated by W.S. Merwin (the first two stanzas only):
Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of seeing myself without fruit.
Why was I born among mirrors?
The day walks in circles around me,
and the night copies me
in all its stars.
(I urge you to read each of these poems in their entirety.)
So, Poets, that’s your prompt: “bright shadow.” Take it where you will – focusing on physical light and shadow, metaphorical light and shadow, chiaroscuro if you’ve got a tilt towards Renaissance or Mannerist painting, Bill Murray if your taste runs to fun movies, or, if you absolutely must, big brown rodents. (I am a bit phobic so would prefer you didn’t, but hey, if that’s what floats your poetic boat–)
And after posting – poke your head out of your digital den, and check out your fellow poets!
Here’s the drill for those who are new to this community:
- Write a poem jumping off (or into) bright shadows. Post it to your webpage.
- Click the Mr Linky button below and enter your name and direct URL of your poem
- This is where you will also find the other participants, read, give feedback to the other poets. (Don’t lurk in the shadows, however bright!)
- Promote your own poem and the prompt on the social media of your choice, if you include @dversepoets it will be easier for us to find you.
- Have fun.
Finally, all rights on the above, especially the images, are reserved to Karin Gustafson, a/k/a Manicddaily. However, if you want to see more of Pearl! or elephants!, check out my blog or books.
an excellent prompt for groundhog day and with many different paths to go as well… that is a fantastic pic of pearl as well… you kinda have to search a bit for her as she’s almost invisible with all the snow around…smiles… happy saturday everyone.. this is going to be a fun time..
Yes, Pearl got a bit lost in the snow, and the pic is a bit big. It was honestly really hard to make her sit up in that hole outside! She kept whining, etc. I had to tell her it was all for Art! k.
haha.. i’m sure she’s a dog who understands art… i’m honored to have met her personally…she’s a pearl indeed..
Looks like Shubenacadie Sam has blessed us with a bit more winter…they even sell tshirts for him now…wow…but this is one wanna-be poet who has a Mom celebrating a birthday…will be back to comment and read when I can…thanks for an awesome prompt 😀
Hope your mom has a nice birthday, Tash. k.
happy birthday to your mom tash…enjoy the celebration and eat a piece of cake for me…
Laurie Kolp said:
I love your personal touch to the El Greco painting… and thanks for this wonderful post. Groundhog Day always seemed silly to me, too, but I welcome spring nonetheless.
It is silly! A good movie though! k.
yep…it is a good movie..
Kelvin S.M. said:
…that was really interesting Karin… i initially didn’t know anything about the groundhog thing ’til googled it earlier upon seeing Claudia’s poem and then read it here now… ha, how i wish we have same celebration here but no.. winter is not for Philippines… we only have two seasons here: dry & wet season… hihi… hope the groundhog will be favorable enough with his prediction/s… smiles…
Thanks, Kelvin! My sense is that the groundhog’s prediction depend where he is in the country- or she! Silly but kind of fun. k.
Kelvin S.M. said:
..yes…it did look & sound fun… and i wonder if Pearl can make better predictions…haha… just loved her photo there…really cute…:-)
Lovely post K ~ Will check out the links and fellow poets ~
Happy Saturday to everyone ~
Thanks, Grace! Same to you.
brian miller said:
ha…absolutely love your visuals for this k…and a great prompt…there is so much to light and shadow…and hopefully a few funny groundhog day ones as well…smiles…
i am traveling…just got out of an awesome overtime win for the Tarheels basketball team…and going to catch up real quick before we hit franklin st. to celebrate…may be a little slow getting around but will catch up again this eve…(fingers crossed, smiles)
Have a super great time, Brian, and a much deserved break!
Delaina Miller (@DelainaMiller) said:
What a fantastic prompt. I have a list a mile long but I might just have to hang with you all tonight. Cheers!
Look forward to it! Thanks. k.
nice…have fun celebrating!!!
Howdy gang! Posting one I wrote earlier this week. It only loosely fits the prompt, but I hope it’s close enough.
I’m sure it will be fine. It’s a pretty broad prompt! I will feel very bad if you don’t have a little curly-haired dog in it though, Charles! k.
it def. fits the prompt charles.. dang…guard duty during war..so tough..
Madeleine Begun Kane said:
Thanks for a fun post, and happy Groundhog Day! Here’s my Limerick Ode To Groundhog Day.
a groundhog day limerick…fantastic!!!
Madeleine Begun Kane said:
HI Poets – shadows are lengthening in North East where I have been inside almost all day since digging that hole for Pearl to pose in. (A lot of work!) So I will be out briefly but will be back soon to check up on all the great poems. Thanks much. k.
i can imagine that it was a lot of work…the ground must have been frozen… enjoy the timeout…
Happy Ground Hog day. Good prompt. Hope even if winter lingers, it feels like spring to you.
good to see you myrna…enjoyed your cleansing memoir..
It is about ten degrees where I am. It feels like winter! Ha! My fingers are actually killing me from being out even with gloves. k.
Karin, a fascinating article you wrote. Thank you for that, and also for ‘tend!ing bar’ here today. Just have to say as well you have a very cute dog
Thanks, Mary. You know my very first dog that was all my own (as a child) looked very much like your little black and white ones. I always think of her when I see the cute pictures of yours. k.
brian miller said:
alright…caught the first 19…back out the door…see the rest of you late tonight…
Glenn Buttkus said:
I got in at 30 minutes after the doors opened, and will live with my #22 posting. I have always been curious about the history of animal predictions for the weather, so I really did enjoy writing about Phil & others; thanks for the cool prompt.
cool that you really wrote a groundhog poem…enjoyed the read..
You are welcome, Glenn. Enjoyed the stories in yours. k.
good afternoon…Karin, Pearl fits right in with the prompt as she is as ‘light’ as the snow ;)…glad to be an early visitor today; love El Greco reference and that the breadth of the theme covers my entry today..cheers all..
…and there’s poetry even in power outages…cool piece katy
Thanks so much. k.
alright poets…bedtime for me over here..will be back in the morning to check out the overnights…
Pearl is SO cute!
She is. She is seventeen and a half now, and sadly blind. But she has been a great great dog and still is, in a very subdued wandering into walls kind of way. k.
LOVE this prompt, Karin! hopefully, i’ll be back tonight.
I’ll be up – back and forth –but up! k.
ND Mitchell said:
This is a nice prompt. Look forward to checking on it.
The theme is quite dramatic. I am excited to read through the links. 🙂
They are lovely poems. I confess to especially liking the Lorca as it is so simple and forlorn and lovely. k.
Hey K and gang, I did not intend to get serious, but did. I expect to return to this posting later in the week to make another take on the topic. I find I have to get through the autobiographical before getting to the art, but today I m too tired to persist. I love the prompt and the essay and pics! And I like so much the Elephant whether cleaning up for or being martyred in the place of . . .very interesting idea.
Ha. Thanks, Susan. I think the elephant is trying to pull the arrows out of Saint Sebastian’s chest. It’s a helpful sort of elephant. Much enjoyed your post. k.
Samuel Peralta / Semaphore said:
Happy Saturday, Karin! It was cloudy today, there were no shadows in sight – I’m not necessarily sure what that means, but I’m crossing my fingers!
Me too! k.
brian miller said:
ha. hmmm…is it a world without shadow or a world covered in shadow when the clouds are out…smiles….
back in the hotel room and making the rounds…
Ha. Hope you had a good game. Don’t spend too much time online. (I’m speaking for your wife here!) (Double ha.) k.
Fantastic prompt, Karin!
Ha. Thanks, Jane. Hope you have time for it. k.
Björn Rudberg (brudberg) said:
Hat an inspiring subject. No groundhogs here in Sweden, but shadows we know well. And winter will stay a while longer. Thank you
ha…def. wintery in your corner of the earth…just coming back from the doorsteps of sweden and had snow and freezing cold winds…ha..smiles..
made my morning round and will check in later in the afternoon again…
I bet. On the other hand, you have your wonderful summer! Still, it must be hard. k.
i didn’t link my “groundhog” post ~ love the idea of brightness and shadows together so wrote a new poem for that. it’s after 3:30am here but i’ll be back to visit on Sunday.
Great. Willl go check, Dani. k.
David King said:
So, at last I know what Groundhog Day is all about! One puzzle down, one attempted. Thanks for both. I love a brain tease.
Ha–I am thinking now of one of your poems about physics! They are always super interesting. k.
Sabio Lantz said:
That was a fun story about the Groundhog dilemma. And the prompt to discuss shadows made me write a comparison of Japanese and attics I have always wanted to tell. Only after writing my poem did I read the examples you linked for us:
(1) Charles Wright’s poem was fascinating – and I loved the reading. Interestingly, like mine, his touches on the shadows in language too:
I loved that whole section!
(2) Jack Collum’s poem
I could only read part of his poem — too obscure, private, showy and abstract to tolerate that length. I only endured 4 of 18 stanza and then scanned the rest to see no promise of relief. My tastes are still undeveloped and narrow, I guess.
(3) W.S. Merwin
That was a heavy poem and a little obscure. But it was short, so I enjoyed it and reread it 3 times to see if I could feel some connect to the writer’s intent. I turned it lighter by imagining the freedom gained when a fruitless tree is cut and shadows set lose to make room for new growth.
After reading the poems you offered, only Wright was inspiring and fun for me. Though he made many obscure allusions, he also filled his poem with essential, earthy language to offer a good balance that stretched me. So to undo the tension I felt in struggling to read the less palatable Collum and Merwin (proving how irritating Poetry can be to me often), I re-listened to Wright’s poem twice so as to act as inspiration and help me go back to my poem and continued with my 12th, 13th and 14th rewrite — only to yield the rough crass draft I have posted this morning.
Thanx again Karin!
Sabio – you have picked my very favorite lines of all the poems. I like that section of the Wright the best too. (I didn’t quote it in the article because it was a more abstract version of the subject, but it is lovely.) The Wright is a lovely poem.
I agree that the Collum gets a big abstruse. Though, funnily, I picked it with you in mind! I really liked the way he handles shadow at the opening – I found this very creative–and I thought some people with a philosophical bend (i.e. you) might find the logos stuff interesting and the involvement with Plato and the cave. I am not someone who has studied much philosophy–I have a very hard time with it as an academic discipline, my brain is just not disciplined enough —so I did not want to weigh down the post with that shadow stuff of Plato–but thought it might be good to sneak it in through the Collum poem. I agree that the poem goes on for a very long time and becomes harder to follow.
What you are referring to as Merwin is by Lorca, translated by Merwin. I think that’s really a beautiful poem. I don’t think it is about making room for new life, personally, as the tree asks for its shadow to be cut down, not itself. For me, it has a lot to do with self-awareness, the wish for less of it sometimes, the trailing of sorrow, what one is followed by in that sense — I don’t know. I like it a lot but I know that Lorca is not everyone’s taste.
Anyway, thanks for your careful readings. I like every poem I link, but sometimes I am looking for something that I can take an excerpt from that is relatively short and will flow with the post.
Oh, there was one I really liked that I did not put in as it was hard for me to take a little excerpt. That was Thomas Hardy – Shadow on a Stone or something like that. It is really a beautiful beautiful poem.
Anyway, I look forward to your poem. k.
Sabio Lantz said:
I found Hardy’s Poem here. And a fine review here.
I loved these lines:
How boldly honest! His druid nod was not one to magic, but to honesty instead of fantasy, it feels to me.
It’s a very beautiful poem. I did not want to emphasize the death aspect of shadow in my post, but the Hardy is lovely. I’ve only read a few others of his – famous ones- but he’s just great. k.
Louise Gallagher said:
Love the photos! Here in western Canada — the groundhog has gone back for a nap.
Yes! Here too in upstate NY. k.
Arnab Majumdar said:
Been a long time since I’ve done a dVerse prompt, but I told myself that I wouldn’t miss it, no matter what. I’m glad that I stuck to my word, even if the poem at the end came out a bit hurried. I also didn’t have the time to come up with a title, so I just borrowed the prompt itself for it… hope you guys like this…
I haven’t yet commented but read and really enjoyed your poem. Thanks so much Arnab. k.
Sorry I’ve been out and about a bit, but back now, and looking forward to more poems. k.
Just linked up I HAVE A VOICE, Deborah, who has a beautiful poem Pulsar and wasn’t quite sure how to link. Hope I got it right! k.
Beautiful prompt, Karin. As always, I am blown away by the work you pub tenders put into these prompts. Thank you.
Ha. Thanks, Lydia. I frankly don’t know how Claudia and Brian manage especially with all their commenting too. k.
Sharp Little Pencil said:
Whenever I shoot Brian a link, he invariably pays a visit and offers a cogent, encouraging comment. Same with Claudia. I wonder if they have clones to perform their “real” jobs….. wink
I was too late! But I had fun with the subject…