Fractals | Artistry, Magic, and Song

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About five years ago, my friend, international poet and scholar, Dr. Jerry W. Ward, Jr., published a collection of poetry entitled Fractal Song. I have yet to speak with Ward about the title of the collection. I assumed it was connected to his interest (and degree) in mathematics. If you’ve been paying attention, you know my relationship with mathematics is an only-when-necessary one. For that reason, I gave the title and cover (which features a fractal) only cursory acknowledgment until I started playing around with my own fractal art.

The poems, which deal primarily with Black experience, possess cadences akin to traditional Black music forms–jazz and blues and maybe, even hip hop. At times, the words mimic the woeful whine of a saxophone, just grazing the deep ache of our longing. At other times, the poems hit the wry tone and rhythm of blues. Reality is matter-of-fact. We note it and we find ways to go on, laughing to keep from crying. Then, there is in some of the poems the flippant, unapologetic, unvarnished truth-telling, which makes hip hop so appealing.

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The word fractal has its roots in the Latin fract-, “broken” from the verb “frangere,” which means to break. When I look closely at the fractals created from my photographs, I notice there is a slight break or opening that begins or disrupts (?) the pattern, so I’ve been thinking about the etymology of the word and how it impacts my reading of Ward’s poems.

There is much in Fractal Songs that opens and “breaks.” Traditional and experimental lines break. Time breaks as the poet traverses various historical and literary moments. And, certainly, there is his handling of much that is dark and broken in the African American (particularly) male experience.

Ward’s poems will not leave one feeling warm and fuzzy, as some expect when they encounter poetry. The poems in the collection are gritty and rugged. However, like fractals, there is artistry, beauty, and magic–even in the brokenness.


fractal song coverYour Voice
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

It’s a magic thing
Sun and rain and poetry
Flooding in my memory,
But all I can remember
Is how you got over
A deep river
With amazing grace
And cursed your blues
With natural rhythms.

1LW: The First to Rise

IWD 2021 from Lori-Anne

Soon a host of lovely flowers
From vales and woodland burst;
But in all that fair procession
The crocuses were first.

–from “The Crocuses” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911)

The magnificent artwork above is the second precious gift Lori-Anne C sent in honor of my one little word (1LW). [See previous post for the first]. She sent it with the following note, explaining its serendipitous connection to my 1LW:

. . . No matter how I worked your tulips, they kept looking to me like crocus.

It got me to thinking of how the crocus is often our first flower to pop up through the cold dirt and show its glory . . . spring! As though it’s celebrating the returned warmth of the sun . . . in deep yellow and purple.

Maybe this year, a crocus is good . . . for both of us.

Your word “rise” —

A crocus isn’t very tall, but its colour and determination to push through and rise are deep and strong.

Yes, the early crocus and what it has to survive and grow through [especially in Ontario, Canada] to reach the sun and bloom strong may, in fact, be perfect [for your one little word].

Lori-Anne intended to send the flowers for International Women’s Day, but her muse had other plans. The sunflowers and crocuses and her meditation on the crocus’s struggle and determination to rise contribute beautifully to my journey.

1LW: When I Rise Up

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Georgia Douglas Johnson’s poem, “When I Rise Up Above the Earth” was the first poem I ran across related to my “one little word.” Of course, I am familiar with Maya Angelou’s popular “Still I Rise,” which gives voice to a collective Black [women’s] “I”–talking back to and ascending in spite of an oppressive system. However, Johnson’s poem speaks to the journey I’m on as an individual wrestling with and rising above personal challenges. [Plus, lines 5-6 present a strong image that I would also illustrate, if I had the skills 😉 ]

“When I Rise Above the Earth”
Georgia Douglas Johnson

When I rise up above the earth,
And look down on the things that fetter me,
I beat my wings upon the air,
Or tranquil lie,
Surge after surge of potent strength
Like incense comes to me
When I rise up above the earth
And look down upon the things that fetter me.

My friend, Cy, also posted about her 1LW today. She, too, chose a poem. Be sure to check out her post on “boundaries,” her one little word. 


The “Rise” pennant in the photo above was made by my Love Notes friend Lori-Anne C. This is one of two precious gifts she sent in honor of my 1LW. I recently moved it from my home office to my work office where it hangs as you see it with a sunflower art by Ty, one of my former students. The sunflower reminds me of a sunRISE, so I couldn’t resist placing them together.

The Hot Woman

La FemmeJPG

“La Femme” from paruspaper

It’s probably not best to begin a “Happy Summer” post with the one reason I do not like the summer season so much. However, I stood in the hot sun for almost two hours this morning at a grand opening event, so I am really not too fond of the “return of the sun.” Of course, here in the Deep South, it’s been “summer” for a while, so today feels less like the first (full) day of summer and more like midsummer hell (to those of us who do not like the heat). 

Thus, I say, “Happy Summer” with a bit of sand and ocean from my Love Notes friend and literary twin, Gina B. (whose favorite season is summer), and a poem by Derek Walcott. “Midsummer, Tobago” perfectly describes early summer (or late spring) in certain parts of the USA and the long days of the (paradoxically) brief summer season. 

Midsummer, Tobago
Derek Walcott

Broad sun-stoned beaches.

White heat.
A green river.

A bridge,
scorched yellow palms

from the summer-sleeping house
drowsing through August.

Days I have held,
days I have lost,

days that outgrow, like daughters,
my harbouring arms.

Happy Summer, Y’all!

The Sacred | #PocketPoem

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Image by Lisa Runnels from Pixabay

I’m back with a poem in my pocket!

What am I carrying? “The Sacred” by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Stephen Dunn. The poem speaks plainly and authentically about an everyday occurrence in which we (can) find a small, sacred moment of freedom.

After the teacher asked if anyone had
a sacred place
and the students fidgeted and shrank

in their chairs, the most serious of them all
said it was his car,
being in it alone, his tape deck playing

things he’d chosen, and others knew the truth
had been spoken
and began speaking about their rooms,

their hiding places, but the car kept coming up,
the car in motion,
music filling it, and sometimes one other person

who understood the bright altar of the dashboard
and how far away
a car could take him from the need

to speak, or to answer, the key
in having a key
and putting it in, and going.

Life gets so busy, so complicated, so crazy at times that I look forward to those small moments in the car alone with my thoughts, my music, my podcasts. One of my colleagues gets in her car and drives to a parking lot to get work done. I get it. That cramped space with windows “uncurtained” is the perfect hiding place from the world.

Did you share a poem on your blog today? Be sure to drop your link in the “Comments” section below.

Fall in Love…

Daffodil

I had planned to share poetry on the blog every day this month–as I did last year–but reality dictated otherwise. What was I thinking, anyway? Last April we were “sheltering-in-place,” so I had time to read and think about poetry for pleasure. This April, hmm…not so much.

However, I will take advantage of the last three days of National Poetry Month and share a few poems.

For today’s literary treat, I’m sharing one from Morgan Harper Nichols‘ book, All Along You Were Blooming, which I talked about in a previous post. She has a gift for speaking to whatever moment I’m in; I am sure many feel the same way. The poem I share today is a lighthearted reminder to love life in all of its simplicity and complexity.

Fall in love with the art of living.
Fall in love with letting things be.
Fall in love with listening.
Be still in the sun,
where the winds ever-gently blow,
knowing it is here,
in moments like this,
you are living,
and you will grow.

Morgan Harper Nichols, from All Along You Were Blooming

Tomorrow is “Poem in Your Pocket Day,” so let’s have a link party! Join me by sharing a poem on your blog–yours or someone else’s. Be sure to come back here and add your link to the comments. I don’t want to miss your poems! Maybe, I’ll “discover” a new poet!

Let’s share until the very last minute of National Poetry Month, 11:59 PM.

Check out some other ideas for PYP Day by downloading a PDF filled with ideas and poetry from the Academy of American Poets.

#ThursdayTreeLove | The Prayer I Needed

Impressionist Cherry Blossoms

A brief encounter with the cherry blossoms was the prayer my soul needed.

Praying
Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post. If you need more cherry blossoms, click the link.

Suddenly Spring!

Suddenly the archetypal
human desire for peace
with every other species
wells up in you. The lion
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,
queen of the weeds, revives
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt
there is a leaf to cure it.

 

The Japanese magnolias and flowering pear trees have reached full bloom. Soon the blossoms will fall and the branches will fill with the cheerful green of early spring.

Winter has its purpose, but oh, how I’ve longed for this first day of spring! After a few days of rain, the day is bright and beautiful, and I’m looking forward to some much-needed time in the sun!

Nothing says spring in certain parts like the daffodil. I’ve been seeing clusters of them crop up in the last few weeks–at the edges of driveways, encircling trees, around mailboxes, and in the floral section of the grocery stores–like an invitation to this moment.

I was happy to find the cheerful watercolor of daffodils [above] in my mailbox. Eileen V, one of my Love Notes friends, sent it in celebration of International Women’s Day, but in the dismal last few days of winter, it was a welcome reminder of the sunny, hopeful, healing days to come!

Wishing you a…

Happy Spring!

When You See Me Standing…

may i grow
so tall and bright,
so free and wild,
so brave and vibrant
that when you see me
standing
you think i am
a sunflower.

Gaby Comprés


About the image: I received such beautiful cards and messages for International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month that I decided to share some on the blog this week. The sunflower above is from Diane W, one of my Love Notes friends. Her card was the first to arrive, and it was such a pleasure to open her sunflower-adorned envelope and find the sunflower inside with other goodies–the poem above, a “Horned Poppy Fairy” postcard, and positive affirmations neatly penned on daisy-shaped cutouts. Diane enjoys making cards using postage stamps, but this was her first time making sunflower cards. This unique beauty is on its way to my sunflower wall!

“A Valentine”

A Valentine (1906)
Priscilla Jane Thompson

Out of the depths of a heart of love,
     Out of the birth-place of sighs,
Freighted with hope and freighted with fear,
     My all in a valentine, hies.
     Oh, frail little missive
            Of delicate texture,
     Speed thee, on thy journey,
            And give her a lecture! 

Fathom her heart, that seems to me, cold,
     Trouble her bosom, as mine,
Let it be mutual, this that I crave,
     Her ‘yes’ for a valentine.
     Oh, frail little missive,
            In coy Cupid’s keeping,
     Oh! speed back a message,
            To set my pulse leaping.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Focus on Black: Click the link and learn a bit about Priscilla Jane Thompson.