Guided By the poems of Hazel~January Poet Guide

My January notebook is painted and awaiting the scribed words for the cover – ones from the poet Hazel Hall that wish to be my guide throughout the month of January.

Let me tell you about some of my writerly rituals for the beginning of a new month.

My notebooks are these pink leatherettes from Walmart. I do love them and fill one notebook each month. They are cheap and sturdy, with paper thick enough to resist the bleeding of any pen. My only angst is that I can only find them in the color of pink. It didn’t used to be this way. Walmart used to carry them in a variety of colors – but no more. Only pink they offer. So, I started painting them. A lovely color of the month adorns each notebook, along with some artful designs. A wide open space is left in the center for the poetic words chosen from my poet guide of the month. I often don’t know what those words are until mid-month – the words that keep appearing in my days become the chosen words.

A couple of years ago, I read a post by Austin Kleon about how he starts his notebooks. What stood out specifically was his ritual of adopting a guardian spirit over the notebook. I tucked this idea away to let it marinate for awhile and this year poets began waving their hands at me, asking to be personal guides for my writing and my living. I remembered Austin’s ritual and decided I would choose one poet each month as a guide for my writing, notebook and living to see what would evolve.

I hold an audition the first day of January inviting a few poets that might fit the job description for the month as Poet Guide. Auditioning this month were four poets I’ve had my eye on. January’s preferred requirements: give insight to my ancestry (great grandmothers), poet’s subjects speak to my January themes, poet’s work has craft that is admirable AND within my reach (so I might try it out in my own poems).

Here’s who have appeared:

1. Ted Kooser/ I bought his book Winter Morning Walks and so want to explore it deeply. As a Winter Walker, I’m already seeing with new eyes because of his words;

2. Willa Cather/a female poet from the early 20th century (and there are so few), who writes of the prairie and nature;

3. Julia Hartwig/a Polish poet, again female who wrote a book of poems titled In Praise of the Unfinished, and I think she may know me;

4. and finally Hazel Hall/ because I’ve been saving and admiring her poem “Mending” for months and a seasonal theme for January is mending. She writes of sewing, loneliness and being lost and I intend to begin two quilts this month. She’s an overlooked poet and is said to be the utmost poet of observation.

*****Hazel Hall was my chosen guide.

Just look at her and her poems! How could I pass her by?

After a little play in my notebook, adding her images in dedication to this notebook honoring her words as guidance, and making a little book to fill as I learn more about the life of this lovely human being, I glue an old envelope in (this one, an old birthday card from my mother – see her beautiful handwriting with my name?). Then, I do some googling and search for poems and I fill the envelope with Hazel’s poems, keeping them at the ready for the days of January.

The notebook is ready. And my guide awaits her role as daily mentor, wise way-shower and poetic hand-holder.

Not every day, but many days out of the month, I reach for a poem after my daily entry. Magically, the words resonate with the words I’ve scribed on the pages of my notebook for that day. And, I feel enveloped in compassion, knowing another soul understands my angst. Gratitude is given for her gift in stringing together letters, words and phrases to meet me here.

Closing my notebook, I say thank you. Thank you to Hazel, to the moment of connection, to the words captured in my notebook for safe-keeping of who I was on this day. And, I await for the next time we are to meet – here – in this space I’ve carved for us each day.

I am participating in today’s twowritingteachers Tuesday Slice of Life. Please head over to their page to read the smallish stories that describe the moments of of other slicers. They are delightful.

Or, add your own.

Poetry Friday: Banishing Expectations

swimming with a buoy

My husband is trying to teach me to swim this year. I’ve never liked swimming. I think I was traumatized in middle school during swimming lessons with water up my nose and a stolen swim suit. Regardless, I’m determined to test my edges this year, and say yes to the things I’ve most often avoided. Swimming is one of those things.

Yesterday was my 10th visit to the pool with my husband. I was able to swim an entire lap (50 yards) of the American crawl. . . with a buoy between my legs to keep me afloat and allow me to focus on my breathing. My husband, who swam in high school and college, hailed this as progress.

The moment begged to be a poem to document the event.

Scaffolding ~

She began her quest of 1000 yards
of the American crawl
or front crawl as originated 
by Ojibwa swimmers
named Flying Gull and Tobacco
some time in the early 1800's.

Tending to her breath
arms and legs neglected
her body sank
like a ship with too much cargo
a buoy placed between her thighs 
supported her to the end

You're doing it hon, he cheered.
You're actually swimming!
Applauding her progress, 
a beaming smile admired her
yet. . . 

she resisted - shaking her head.

It's like cheating, she degraded herself
Needing a device to keep me afloat?
I should not need this extra help.
The yards do not count. 
They are cheapened.

Yes, they do count, he assured her pride
I count my yards swimming with buoys and boards.

You do? she questioned her All American Swimmer.
I didn't know. . . 

Who do I think I am? her expectations chased away
by the sword of the teacher.
8 tons of cargo
lifted from her drowning ship.

Shari Daniels; draft 2022

I’m taking part in Poetry Friday this year and if you’d like to join us and add your poem, head over to Carol’s site at Literacy Link and join us! Or, you might just like to grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the poems that others have shared there.

Whatever you decide, I hope you are safe and warm today. Take tender care of yourself and those you love.

Finding A Way Out of Darkness #SOL 19/31 ~ 2021

Directions for Light

Find an old notebook
any will do
composition notebooks
more forgiving
than fancy sketchbooks

listen to music
Helen Jane Long
and piano is lovely
or David Nevue

dip a brush in some color
sweep it across 
the width of the page
extra water
brings some light
to the darkness

let it dry
blow on it if you must

draw some letters
start with the alphabet
do it again
and again 
if you like
you don't have to
if you don't want to

write one sentence
with letters you like
any sentence will do
whatever comes to mind

doodle some flowers
colored daisies are nice
use a marker 
instead of a brush
any color is fine

there
now you've made 
a pretty picture
all ready
for the first day
of spring

and there will be
light

i promise

Shari Daniels draft


I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge.

I’m also participating in Poetry Friday this week. If you’d like to immerse yourself in poetry in this weekend, Linda at Teacherdance is hosting the party. Stop by and read some poetry or add your own!

For One Who Is Exhausted ~ #SOL 18/31~ 2021

The well is dry. For not lack of topics, wonders, stories or thoughts, but for the sole purpose of the fingers who resist the keyboard tonight. They are tired.

There are no breaks this semester. Spring break cancelled to prevent students from traveling. A few study days sprinkled here and there. But, that’s what they end up being. Days of study. 

I’ve lightened our loads. Checked in on my students. How are you holding up? I ask. 

Barely, they reply.

Teacher and student both yearn for new sights, for long nap-pish days, sun soaking into our skin.

But, carry onward we will. And, I’ll gift them a poem from John O’ Donahue.

But, it’s me who needs it more.

A Blessing For One Who Is Exhausted

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laboursome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have travelled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of colour
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

~John O’ Donahue from his book To Bless The Space Between Us ~ A Book of Blessings

If you need the healing of O’ Donahue’s Irish voice, have a listen to his conversation here.

I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge.

February Confusion ~ Poetry Friday

When February rolls around, teachers feel the pressures of the days. 
And, such a short month we're given to squeeze it all in. 
I often wonder what our students think. This poem came from those wonders.

February Confusion

It’s Black History month
my teachers say
Ground hog’s day
I love to read 
Love and hearts and 
Random acts of kindness
and a day to celebrate 
our presidents
Also, the biggest football 
game of the year

But, I’m so confused.
My teacher also said
that one day not so long ago
Blacks were not allowed to read
and presidents owned slaves
And, I found on the internet 
the groundhog is right 
less than half the time.

My teacher also taught us
about racism and stereotypes
and said how far we’ve come. . . but
I saw white Chief fans dressed up 
as Native Americans
painting their faces red
beating on drums
Chanting and singing
and the Tomahawk chop. . .

Be kind I keep hearing
Make it random
We write letters
and give cards with hearts
to our friends
This makes us all feel good
inside the walls of our classroom

I don’t know how to 
wrap up this poem
Something is missing
and I’m not sure what it is

But things are not all
what they say it is

©Shari Lynn Daniels 2021 (draft)

I'm participating in Poetry Friday where others who are sharing and writing poetry come to gather. You can find more poems to read this week here at the site of Molly Hogan, who is hosting Poetry Friday this week. 

Forgetting Fears ~ A Poem

Already I’ve forgotten
what your smile looks like
crinkled cheeks and gentle warmth

Wear a mask

My arms no longer
reach out
to embrace

Keep your distance 

Avoiding eye contact
puts more space
between us

Keep safe

It’s only for a few months
they said in March
The calendar says
nearly a year has passed by

What will happen
if we forget
what we’ve been
forbidden
to do?

I’m participating in Poetry Friday where others who are sharing and writing poetry come to gather. You can find more poems to read this week here at the site of Jone Rush MacCulluch, who is hosting Poetry Friday this week.  

When a Poem Lands on You ~ SOL 2020

As I pulled on the right leg of my black leggings this morning, around 6:00 am, leaning back in my chair, both feet lifting high into the air, as if gravity was going to lure these things on, the words of a childhood poem washed over me.

“Monday’s child is full of grace,” it whispered, as poems sometimes do.

Even though I know not the exact words of this nostalgic nursery rhyme, parts of it are lodged deep within me somewhere, and I thought,

“Wait, I don’t think Monday’s child is full of grace. It’s Tuesday’s child!”

But I’m telling you, Monday’s child needs it.

The words swirled and played in the dance of a new poem being born as I reached for my “Monday” dress, a free flowing knit, waist free, forgiving, stretchy, throw in the dryer, no-need-to-iron kind of dress. It wears on me whether I am a size 4 or a size 14. I hoover somewhere in between, depending on the day, the month, the season or the year.

Still – this dress embraces me and says, “It’s okay, I’m here for you, Shari.”

Topped off with my favorite black vest and knee high boots, Monday arrives in the comfort of my Friday jeans, even after a weekend of pizza, too many cookies and a little (okay, a lot) of laying around.

Gosh, I love a dress that can do that to a Monday.

Oh, the poem. It’s been marinating all morning. Here’s what I’ve got so far. . .

Monday’s dress is full of grace,

A thank you melts across her face,

None is there of shameful woes, or

Regrets of weekend diet foes.

With the stretch of lycra, loving and giving

Enabling her to go on with her living

A life that is so good and gay

A gift to savor on the morn of Monday.

Gosh – writing that just made me so happy! Poetry can do that, you know.

Slowing Down and Finding Words

unnamed

I don’t know what this post is about.  It’s a ramble and I apologize upfront.

I’ve been having trouble lately putting words to the images, thoughts and feelings I experience.  It’s not that I can’t recall them, it’s just that I’m struggling for the right fit – the perfect description.  Maybe I’m just exhausted.  Well, it halts me in my tracks.  I get frustrated and end up writing clichés or simple phrases just to hold on to the moment.

Last Friday was the most beautiful September day.  As I walked from my car to the school door, carrying my bags and coffee in hand, I caught sight of the horizon.  Fog blanketed the playground and a layer of dark clouds rested along this horizon.  Just at the crust of these clouds, light beamed.  The sun, not showing itself yet, was announcing it’s arrival. The entire sky was glowing with rays of light.  I stopped for a moment to take in its beauty. It filled me.  I had no words.

At lunch, as I walked to the mailbox, I heard honking above.  As I craned my neck to the sky, hundreds of geese flapped their wings in the most magnificent V of geese I have ever seen – all heading south.

Again.  I stopped to take in the awe.

A boring description – again, I apologize.

As I reached for a poetry book off my shelf this morning, John O’ Donohue, one of my favorite poets and also an Irish teacher, jumped into my hands.

Here was his first poem:


Somewhere, out at the edges, the night
Is turning and the waves of darkness
Begin to brighten the shore of dawn

The heavy dark falls back to earth
And the freed air goes wild with light,
The heart fills with fresh, bright breath
And thoughts stir to give birth to color.

Oh my heavens.

The words I had been clamoring for.

I printed it off and pasted it to my September Birthday Poems collection.

John O’ Donohue understands poetry.  He put words on the page to paint the description of my experience.

For this, I am grateful.

Each day, we have moments of awe.  It’s difficult to describe their significance and maybe we don’t have to.  We can just feel them.  But, sometimes, I want to put it in writing.

John O’Donohue describes it as such:

There is a quiet light that shines in every heart.  
It draws no attention to itself, thought it is always secretly there.
It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty,
our desire to seek possibility, and our hearts to love life.
Without this subtle quickening, our days would be empty and wearisome, 
and no horizon would ever awaken our longing.
Our passion for life is quietly sustained from somewhere in us
that is wedded to the energy and excitement of life.
We enter the world as strangers who all at once become heirs
to a harvest of memory, spirit, and dream that has long preceded us
and will no enfold, nourish, and sustain us.
The gift of the world is our first blessing.

There are days when it seems these quiet gifts of the world come pouring in.  There are other days where it feels like God forgot that I’m still here.  Perhaps other people need more, on those days, and He thinks I’ll be fine.  But really, it’s the days that I am so consumed with the pace of life that I am blind to what is in front of me.

Slow down, I hear.

Slow down.

The moments are there.

And the words will appear.

 

A Poem A Day: Birthday Gifts To Me

unnamed

There is something about a poem that reaches into your soul and grabs you there.  A poem can speak loudly in so few words  causing you to pause for a moment to say the words over in a hope that they might land in your memory for you to retrieve at a later time.

Maybe that’s why I love them so much.

When life moves into auto pilot, I neglect poetry.  But, somehow, it always seems to find it’s way back to me.  We are like old friends – so grateful to have crossed paths again and we reminisce for a spell.

September is my birthday month.  I enjoy giving myself small birthday gifts during the entire month of September.  These gifts do not usually cost anything; a walk along the river, a drive to the library or finding a small space amongst the trees in my backyard to write.  The best gifts are free.

This month, I’m giving myself the gift of poems.  A poem a day.

Some poems are from my poetry books, some I write.

Today’s poem found me.

Garrison Keillor, at his website, The Writer’s Almanac, posts a poem a day, along with other literary and historical notes about the current day in history.  It’s a lovely site.

Today’s featured poem was written by Kate Barnes.  Kate’s words could be my own words as I reflect on my birthday, time and getting older.  I’m only 51 years old, but I appreciate poetry that celebrates getting older.  We need to look forward to what many are not able to.

Here is her poem.

And my gift to myself today.

Future Plans

by Kate Barnes

When I am an old, old woman I may very well be
living all alone like many another before me
and I rather look forward to the day when I shall have
a tumbledown house on a hill top and behave
just as I wish to. No more need to be proud—
at the tag end of life one is at last allowed
to be answerable to no one. Then I shall wear
a shapeless felt hat clapped on over my white hair,
sneakers with holes for the toes, and a ragged dress.
My house shall be always in a deep-drifted mess,
my overgrown garden a jungle. I shall keep a crew
of cats and dogs, with perhaps a goat or two
for my agate-eyed familiars. And what delight
I shall take in the vagaries of day and night,
in the wind in the branches, in the rain on the roof!
I shall toss like an old leaf, weather-mad, without reproof.
I’ll wake when I please, and when I please I shall doze;
whatever I think, I shall say; and I suppose
that with such a habit of speech I’ll be let well alone
to mumble plain truth like an old dog with a bare bone.

“Future Plans” by Kate Barnes from Where the Deer Were. © David R. Godine, 1994. Reprinted with permission.