Hi everyone! Please welcome Dora as our guest host for today’s poetics prompt. ~Grace
“Lights” by Michael Whelan, Acrylic on watercolor board, 1991
Hello, fellow dVerse poets-in-arms! I can feel the brightening of your muses as I write this and am immensely grateful for the privilege of invigorating those poetic lights.
We all feel it this time of year as autumn peaks and rushes on, the gathering crescendo that ends with a bang on New Year’s, Christmas, Hannukah or whatever tradition or celebration you choose to celebrate, when all the hurly-burly of the shopping season finally fades away.
For many, the onset of the celebratory season is just that: a time to shop till you drop. For others, it is a reflective time of faith or doubt or both.
In this vein, the great poet Sylvia Plath’s “The Moon and the Yew Tree” comes to mind.
The Moon and the Yew Tree
This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary.
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.
The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky–
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection
At the end, they soberly bong out their names.
The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape.
The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness –
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.
I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue,
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews,
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
And the message of the yew tree is blackness–blackness and silence.
“How I would like to believe in tenderness –“ As Vijay Seshadri, poetry editor of The Paris Review, has said of this still point in the poem:
[In terms of rhetorical sensitivity] the turn in the poem . . . comes in the third stanza: “the moon. / The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary. / Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.”…. And then the subtle shift, which is where the feeling of the poem kind of rises for a moment: “How I would like to believe in tenderness.” And that kind of comes out of nowhere in this kind of very stately rhetorical movement of simple sentences and declarations, you know, and that’s the turn in the poem. But you hardly notice it.
The turn in the poem is what I’d like us to reflect on. In the middle of the hurly-burly of shopping or preparing for guests or the holiday gatherings, sometimes we experience an unexpected flash of inner yearning where we pause in that twilight world, a moment of peace or epiphany, in the breakneck search for gifts or a moment between faith and doubt, belief and unbelief.
Today I’d like you to write about such a moment in the context of its occurrence (shopping, socializing, celebrating, religious observance), a moment of epiphany.
An epiphany, writes critic X. J. Kennedy, is “some moment of insight, discovery, or revelation by which a character’s life, or view of life, is greatly altered.” Epiphany is from the Greek, epiphainein, “to show forth.” (James Joyce, for example, describes epiphanies in everyday life, using stream-of-consciousness in “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” mixing memories, associations, moral/ideological/religious issues.)
So in the middle of all the holiday activity, whatever it may be, imagine a moment of pausing, a still point of epiphany. Perhaps in that moment, you imagine the upshot of all that shopping and experience a revelation. Or on that DMZ line of the soul’s religious yearning, an unexpected moment of truth. You can write using any poetic form, whatever suits.
What would having an epiphany during this holiday season look like for you (or someone you know or imagine)?
As always, follow these simple rules in order to take part:
- Write a poem in response to the challenge.
- Enter a link directly to your poem and your name by clicking Mr. Linky below,
- You will find links to other poets and more will join so please do check
back later in order to read their poems.
- Read and comment on other poets’ work– we all come here to have our poems read.
- Please link back to dVerse from your site/blog.
Dora fell in love with poetry only after her teachers stopped forcing her to memorize it, her first assignment being Shakespeare’s Mark Antony’s funeral oration at the age of 5. Given the freedom to choose what she liked (mostly), there was no stopping her and a whole new world opened up, but she didn’t actually try to write any herself until college. Afterwards, writing was confined to diaries, as career, marriage, motherhood and, sad to say, a debilitating auto-immune disease took over. Under the urging of her husband, she took up writing poetry again eight years ago as a means to relieving the chronic pain and stress of RA. And it has. And it does, connecting her with so many wonderful poets and writers at the same time through blogging. Find her main blog at PilgrimDreams.com.
A big howdy to all y’all! Dora here as your guest host: welcome to dVerse Poetics! It’s a bit nippy here in Maryland but the sun is out and I’m having a nice hot cup of tea with ginger cookies as I read your amazing poetry. What’s your pleasure, dVersers?
Hi Dora. Very cold up here (Canada) so having a nice hot chocolate myself. Looking to hit the poetry trail in a bit.
Yaay! Hoping to read your soon, Grace. :>)
Björn Rudberg (brudberg) said:
I love ginger cookies… we have a lot of spices for the seasons so it fits so well.
Ginger is a must for my old bones!
Hi everyone! I hope you enjoy the writing challenge for Poetics.
Thank you Dora for being our guest host.
I also wanted to say that I have not yet put up our Christmas tree, lights and decors. It looks like a lot of work for me but I will by December – first week. Like Bjorn, I am loaded with work and looking forwad to the December Holiday & celebration.
My daughter’s looking forward to a tree up right after Thanksgiving! This year will be a bit brighter than the last when COVID fears were on the rise.
Yes, we all need those lights to shine brighter than ever.
Björn Rudberg (brudberg) said:
Hello Dora, so nice to have you guest hosting at dVerse. I did my best in trying to think about the season and everything happening at once… work is still a very big part of my life so thinking about the season is more yet a layer of musts.
On my way to reading yours — sounds intriguing!
This is such a wonderfully thought-provoking prompt, Dora, thank you! I would love some ginger cookies and tea as well please, if I may 🙂
Coming right up, Ingrid! Glad you like the prompt. :>)
Helen Dehner said:
What a delightful prompt … it’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Hi Helen! Glad you can join us and make merry! 🙂
Barbara S said:
Thanks for this challenge. Link nr 5 should be titled ‘Trout on New Year’s Eve’ – some silly editor made a mistake, so the link has the title of the challenge instead. In haibun fashion, th contest of the haiku is explained at the bottom of the post. I hope you like it.Nice to meet you Grace and all.
So nice to meet you too! Just read your haibun, Barbara. The start of a new tradition with your friend is just the icing on the cake . . . or the trout :>)
Hi Dora, thanks for hosting and for a thoughtful prompt! I managed to use this prompt to sneak in yesterday’s quadrille as well, which I missed. Which also fits the prompt, in a way. As I’m still pretending to be at work, I better just stick to hot tea for now.
Hot tea is good! Glad you could join, Xan!
Great challenge Dora – so looking forward to reading what turning points mean as the year ebbs toward its end. “The Moon In The Yew Tree” is truly an odd yet oddly apt choice to demonstrate turning points (especially from any Christian vantage), because it turns toward a faith in “blackness and silence.” For me, it’s one of the most atheistic poems in the literature. “How I would like to believe in tenderness” for me was like looking back into the empty cathedral with a fleeting longing to find something, anything in there that would keep the speaker from going out fully with the tide. Yet in her poetic grammar, that epiphany fed the torrent a year later which unleashed the bulk of her Ariel poems. Bald and wild by then. I think you’re right to pick this poem for the challenge, as in terms of poetic development such epiphanies upwell floods.
I am so glad the prompt engaged you. The first time I heard it read, Plath’s poem just utterly defeated me: defeated me in the sense that it felt so much and made me feel so much, it just swallowed me whole. Hard to emerge from it without having your poetic muse sanctified, to see clearly, write clearly, and bring the moon and the yew along too, with a prophetic voice. I’m going to look again at the Ariel poems that her epiphany poems led to. Now that I’m old, I find I “see” differently (not just because of aging eyesight). Plath never gets old, for the saddest reason of all. She died too soon.
Plath was one of my first poetry loves — she and Theodore Roethke in my early college years in the mid 1970s. The poem was foundational for me too though I “got it” long before I understood it. (Still working on that.) Swallowed whole, yes, into a depth suggested by the deep ends of Shakespeare. It’s a terrifying space but primally true. Like Keats, its hard to conceive what poetry she might have written had she lived longer. How far west of the moon can one go?
How far indeed! Psalm 139 comes to mind —
Starlingsson l'ermite said:
What a wonderful idea. the ‘turn’ or ‘epiphany.’ The epiphany notion is sometimes a feature of haibun, but I gave it a go in a poem at last, always a bit of challenge for someone who is not a poet in a bar full of poets
Highly enjoyable anyway. Thanks again.
I read it, and loved it, and it utterly succeeded in meeting the challenge. Thank you so much for participating!
That is my very favorite Sylvia Plath poem!
She was a glorious poet, and yeah, this my favorite poem too. :>) It arguably rivals any of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Jewish Young Professional "JYP" said:
I like this prompt and ginger cookies are my favorite virtual cookies!
Oh I’m so glad! Thanks, JYP. Here’s some virtual cookies for ya! I was going to make some metaphorical ones too but the similes got in the way. :>)
Thank you for hosting Dora, and thank you Grace for inviting her. I will need time to find an epiphanal moment about which to write. I have been shrouded in darkness in recent months, struggling to rise above — and doing so much too seldom. But, I will poke my head up through the grey and look back to attempt to spot any moments of brilliant light.
What kept popping into my head was Deckard’s dark epiphany as he watched Roy die. “I don’t know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life – anybody’s life; my life. All he’d wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die.”
Again, thank you for the challenge Dora! 🙂
I’m looking forward to what you come up with, Rob. Grey is hard to fight through, but I’m hoping colors will break through for you. Thank you for bringing up one of my all time favorite movies and one of the many moments from it that play around in my mind. Life. You can’t live with it and you can’t live without it. (Sorry.) But you know what I mean. There’s so much to hate but so much to love and finally it’s just too precious to demean by letting it go to waste. Roy fought for it ferociously. I think there’s so much to learn from my all time favorite android. If only he hadn’t taken humans so seriously, but then again . . . He saw something of himself in Deckard, didn’t he?
Yes he certainly did Dora, he may have been “more human than human”! I found my epiphany. It was so obvious I almost missed it. The poetic form I chose was lyrics.
Great! Popping over to read now.
Linda Lee Lyberg said:
Thank you for hosting Dora, and welcome! What an interesting prompt. I’ll try to work on something this week. I had to update my computer today which literally took most of the day. I was on chat with Apple and thank heavens that’s done!
Funny how updates can sometimes put more kinks into the system than not. Glad you got it sorted out, Linda. Thank you for the welcome. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Wow! You have given us a great challenge, Dora. One to think on and reflect on this evening! Great to see you hosting!
Forgot to hit reply, yikes! See next comment. 🙂
Once I thought of the Plath poem, I knew what the prompt had to be. I am so glad you like it, Dwight. Happy writing!
i will see what I can do!
Thank you Grace and Dora for hosting.
I had a good time writing to the prompt reflecting on life. 🙂
Glad it stirred you to join in, Kitty. I’m almost awake this morning. (Yawn) Let me make a spot of tea and I’ll be over to read your musings! 😉
Hi Dora. Guess what! I was having tea with a ginger cookie as I read your post. It is a smog filled day and that’s where I went. Will catch up with reading tonight.
Epiphany was a word I used as a child liturgically as in season of, but as I was an inquisitive child I desired to know its base meaning and it has stuck with me as “Aha”, so welcome this opportunity to delve into this word Dora.
Interesting prompt Dora, I went where it lead … too many Christmases on the front line …
Ain Starlingsson, forestbathing hermit said:
All is quiet now, at this early hour, so I can just sneak in this little 2nd comment to double my thanks — your prompt, dverse and the stunning standard of poems I read from your prompting were all an epiphany in themselves to me. In fact I am still negotiating the wave of realisation that rolled towards me. I studied Plath’s poem you put in your description, read the excellent presentation you wrote, and your wonderful comments, across the board to different poems, and I feel through these and some wonderful interactions with, and readings of some of the very real poets here, I am starting to get a real understanding of, and grip on poetry and the powerful feelings it brings forth. I must also say the words I have read here, and received, have been far beyond the call and duty of humanity normally, and I just cannot express the gratitude they deserve enough.
Hey, Dora. So nice to have you as host today. And what a lovely prompt. I was totally intrigued. Mine has no mention of the merry season but it could very well be set at any season, say in warm climates. (Thus the image)
But I like the piece that resulted from your prompt. xoxo
I’m just waking up. May I please have a strong one— coffee please. ☕️. w/ soy milk please. And why not, I’ll take one of those amazing ginger cookies. Thanks. xoxo