Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hands of a Poet

This afternoon millions of people are getting psyched to watch their team charge on to Super Bowl victory, each pass landing firmly in the receiver's ready hands.  Yay!  Or lose because the ball is fumbled and falls into the opponent's hands. Boo, hiss!  Not for me.  I don't even know who's playing, and would much rather think about the miracle of the human hand and more specifically about a poet's hands.   

Hands have been on my mind for a couple weeks now.  The above photo must have prompted a more prolonged meditation than zoom, focus, click, download, save.

On my recent Poetry Safari to Caloosahatchee Regional Park, tucked into my tent, aka Budkowsi, I experimented with a prose-poem variation on the ghazel, which is a  6th-century Arabic poetic form traditionally consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain, each line sharing the same meter.  It's evolved since then and you'll often see ghazals in couplets where a single word and variations on that word serve a desire for sameness and refrain.

I've tried several ghazals recently exploring for the first time how the form works. Last week while tucked inside my tent, I tried a variation sans couplet, but working with variations on, you might have guessed it: hands. Here's what came of my experiment:

Ghazal by Hand 

Human beings make so much of their dexterous hands, handing over survival to opposable thumbs, handily. Breaker, breaker one-nine, this is Handmaid, CB handle for a left-hander with love handles. Let’s hand it to hand signals of catchers to pitchers and hand codes of foreign spies handing off secrets. They’ve been seen on the streets of New York mishandling hands-out panhandlers living hand-to-mouth near Wall Street. Study the artful hands of Georgia O’Keeffe in Stieglitz’s eye; ponder Adam’s holy hand extend to touch the hand of God. I have it firsthand from the Buddha’s praying hands: Faith is a hands-on experiment with hand-me-down koans. So I wash my hands of hand-to-hand cosmic combat. Handmade peace in pieces is handed down to me. Let’s have a show of hands, hold hands, shake hands. Put the handwriting on the petroglyph wall, handsome!


Well, it was fun for me at least.

Since then, I have turned my thoughts back to the photograph that started all this rumination on our ten wondrous digits.

The hands in the photograph belong to William Heyen.  My friend Bill.  He and his ever-delightful wife Han (short for Hannelore) had joined Roger and me for an outing into the 10,000 Islands of Everglades National Park. When the tour  boat picked up speed, we held on to railing, each other, our caps, keeping eyes open for bottle-nosed dolphins (who did indeed appear) and white pelicans (a large flock of them jostled one another on a small white sandbar just on the edge of the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico). I clicked the shutter.  And the photograph featured here got lodged in my brain.

Upon further reflection, I came up with a scherzi sextet, using the short form of thirteen syllables (plus a rhyme) that Bill invented.  Here 'tis:

The Great One on Tour in the 10,000 Islands

The master poet grasps his baseball cap,
both hands, secure.

This poet holds on to his hat,
fingers splayed, firm grip.

This is the poet who keeps his head straight,

Poet of the inner eye stares
into mangrove passes.

I behold the sun-shaded poet
behold the osprey.

Below the brim, the poet’s god
is lost in the Glades.


Two New Books in the Offing!

Meanwhile, back at my desk, this poet's lowly hands have been busy...and brought to me some surprising rewards.

Indeed, I have two books forthcoming!

First to appear -- later this month! -- will be Lithic Scatter and Other Poems, a collection of 50+ Western poems! I'm thrilled Stewart S. Warren accepted (and designed) it and will bring it out from his Mercury Heartlink Press. From Anasazi ghosts to Georgia O'Keeffe, from the Badlands to the Grand Canyon, from giant sequoias to fragrant sagebrush, these poems tell of my adventures (and Roger's) in the West's great outdoors, desert to mountain, arroyo to riverbed. I'll have the opportunity this June-July to promote the book in situ -- Roger and I are motoring West for a six-week jaunt through those beloved, familiar landscapes and already I have readings and one workshop booked! Yippee-kai-yai-yay.

You'll be hearing more about it soon!

And in early May, FootHills Publishing will bring out Attaining Canopy: Amazon Poems (and photographs) whose poems chronicle our travels in Brazil and Peru on and along the Earth's mightiest river.

While you're awaiting arrival of my new babies, check out the following links to poems recently published on line...quite the gallimaufry of moods and subjects, some poems short-short, others on the longer side, but all I hope you'll find worth reading...and pondering.

Thanks for reading.  Time now for the Vagabond Poet to take her hands off the keyboard and hit the cutting board.  Dinnertime calls to the Condo Cook.

Happy Valentine's Day to all. We've already celebrated.  The property I once owned with my brother has been sold and the closing out of the estate is on the horizon after nearly two years.  So, we're taking some of the proceeds from the sale and have booked a safari in Africa for September.  Kenya, Tanzania and we come! 

Thanks for reading.  Time now for the Vagabond Poet to take her hands off the keyboard and hit the cutting board.  Dinnertime calls to the Condo Cook.

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