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.

Just Being.

Colleen Persimmon

Sometimes just being needs space to relax. It needs time to pause from the pressure of living up to the duties and expectations of a rigid framework, or rest from showing up in full armor every day to protect a tender internal truth.

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Or sometimes just being needs to cry and feel into coarse emotions for a while.

Colleen Blackberries-2

Whatever it takes for all the layers of what has built up inside begin to unwrap the gift you truly are, deep within, just being. —Susan Frybort


About the Images: The photographs in this post were all shot a few days ago in a moment of “just being.” The ripening persimmon, blueberries, and blackberries are just a few of the treats growing in Colleen’s garden–recently renamed [by me] “Colleen’s Private Farm and Botanical Garden.” Her father spends time in this garden planting and cultivating and just being–a reminder of the beauty that can be produced when we create space to just be.

The Hot Woman

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“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!

God of the Drop-Kick

Unrelated photo-art because I couldn’t find a “drop-kick” pic. :-/

I “found” the poem I’m sharing today “by chance” on novelist Alison McGhee’s blog. The poem, by 14th century Persian poet, Hafiz, reminded me of the conversation a friend and I had a few days ago about the narrow view of God as a docile, old man in the sky. Many of us “speak sweetly” of the gentle “Lamb of God,” but want to deal as little as possible with the Lion of Judah. We certainly don’t want to deal with a God who tires of human foolishness and foibles to the point that He might consider “drop-kicking” us.

Tired of Speaking Sweetly
Hafiz (Translation by Daniel Ladinsky)

Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.

If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.

Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth

That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,

Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.

God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.

The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:

Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.

But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.

Thankfully, despite how impossible we can be, God does love us enough not to harm us. I’m grateful–though He might shake his head or “fist” at me sometimes–His deep love for me and His mercy and grace override any inclination to drop-kick me. This doesn’t mean I get a pass or that He doesn’t get tough with me. He does. But His ways are not our ways. Again…thankfully.


Interesting Fact: Bobby Bare recorded a song in 1976 entitled “Drop Kick Me, Jesus.” Go figure.

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…

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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.

Student Post 3: Three Poems and a Tea

Red and White TulipsThe weather is not being nice to me today [imagine that in a whiney four-year-old voice]! We went from gorgeous, breezy, 80-degree (Fahrenheit) days to a chilly, windy 30/40-degree day!

The temperature thwarted my plans to take long walks between tasks and classes, but it gave me an opportunity to pause, sip tea, and read poetry. Don’t you want to join me?

Well, just grab a cup of your favorite tea and settle in.

I am sharing a few poems written by Na’veh of The Bloggings of V.  Na’veh is one of our department’s most prolific poets, the self-proclaimed favorite student, and my homegirl (from NOLA).

Here are three of her poems–because poems should be read in threes:

If you need more poetry for your tea, you can find Na’veh on her blog or at thewritingsofv on Instagram, where she shares her poetry with complementary imagery.


About the Image: The red and white tulips are from one of my very early spring walks. I was surprised to see the “field” of tulips in a hardly peopled area of campus. Na’veh selected the tulips for this post because she “loves roses.” [Inside joke] 😉