Category Archives: Poems

Visited by words

Visited by words
cursive unrestrained
a tremulous quality

a struggling brush
in and out of favour
empty before reinking

imaginary characters break free
interact with rhythm
a destructive fragmentation

dramatic periods of restrictions
run dry before reinking
heart print of the writer

The prompt today at napowrimo.net challenged us to: “write a poem based on the title of one of the chapters from Susan G. Wooldridge’s Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words.” I chose the chapter ‘Being visited by words’, as I’m sure more of you will have done. We know the feeling, after all 🙂

I wrote the poem using words from the description of this art work on The Met, and from phrases taken from the audio fragment. I recommend you listen to it, as it’s rather poetic in its wording and content. Very fitting for poet, calligrapher, and Chan (Zen) Buddhist adept, Huang Tingjian “who believed that calligraphy should be spontaneous and self-expressive—“a picture of the mind.”
Object Details
北宋 黃庭堅 草書廉頗藺相如傳 卷

Title: Biographies of Lian Po and Lin Xiangru
Calligrapher: Huang Tingjian (Chinese, 1045–1105)

Period: Northern Song dynasty (960–1127)
Date: ca. 1095
Culture: China
Medium: Handscroll; ink on paper
Dimensions: Image: 13 1/4 in. × 60 ft. 4 1/2 in. (33.7 × 1840.2 cm)
Overall with mounting: 13 1/2 in. × 71 ft. 5 5/8 in. (34.3 × 2178.4 cm)
Classification: Calligraphy
Credit Line: Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988
Accession Number: 1989.363.4

Good looks

If looks could kill
would we wear eye masks
keep a sight line’s distance
cuddle blindfolded

If looks could kill
would we get our shots
from needles
instead of the old fashioned way

If looks could kill
would we look 
at each other
longingly?

They can
we do
good looks
can kill
yet we bomb
everyone

Our prompt today at napowrimo.net: “Today, I’d like to challenge you to stop fighting the moon. Lean in. Accept the moon. The moon just wants what’s best for you and your poems. So yes – write a poem that is about, or that involves, the moon.”

I love the moon. I’ve never had the urge to write one word about her. It made sense to me to not fight that. So I offer this one instead, With art from The Met of course.

Title: Fragment of a Queen’s Face
Period: New Kingdom, Amarna Period
Dynasty: Dynasty 18
Reign: reign of Akhenaten
Date: ca. 1353–1336 B.C.
Geography: From Egypt; Probably from Middle Egypt, Amarna (Akhetaten)
Medium: Yellow jasper
Dimensions: h. 13 cm (5 1/8 in); w. 12.5 cm (4 15/16 in); d. 12.5 cm (4 15/16 in)
Credit Line: Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926
Accession Number: 26.7.1396

A curse unknown

A gnome
in Rome
roams his home
for a poem

the devil’s own
a curse unknown
a poem grown
from the witches’ throne

he’d been on the phone
when the wind had blown
the wretched poem
into his home

the devil’s own
a curse unknown
a poem grown
from the witches’ throne

with a groan
he’d known
he was being shown
his future overthrown

the devil’s own
a curse unknown
a poem grown
from the witches’ throne

he couldn’t leave it alone
this evil poem
it couldn’t be thrown
out of his home

the devil’s own
this curse unknown
a poem grown
from the witches’ throne

the witches are gone
but the gnome of Rome
is still known to roam
through homes alone

whispering his poem
from the witches’ throne
leaving a dead zone
for your cellular phone

Let it be known
phones are the devil’s own
devices grown
from a witches’ throne

Have them thrown
out of your home
or you’ll moan
just like our gnome

Not sure I’ve made the prompt today, but it was my starting point: “Because it’s Friday, today I’d like you to relax with the rather silly form called Skeltonic, or tumbling, verse. In this form, there’s no specific number of syllables per line, but each line should be short, and should aim to have two or three stressed syllables. And the lines should rhyme. You just rhyme the same sound until you get tired of it, and then move on to another sound.”

I’ve added this drawing because I liked the title of the series: imaginary prisons. It seems a good definition of a curse. And of a cell phone.

Art from The Met:
Title: The Round Tower, from “Carceri d’invenzione” (Imaginary Prisons)
Artist: Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Italian, Mogliano Veneto 1720–1778 Rome)

Publisher: Giovanni Bouchard (French, ca. 1716–1795)

Date: ca. 1749–50
Medium: Etching, engraving, sulphur tint or open bite, burnishing; first state of four (Robison)
Dimensions: Sheet: 24 13/16 x 19 1/2 in. (63 x 49.5 cm)
Plate: 21 7/16 x 16 5/16 in. (54.5 x 41.5 cm)
Classification: Prints
Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1937
Accession Number: 37.45.3(27)

Dethroned deity

I can see you
stuck in the future
obsessed with what should be
fighting what is

Did you see me?
Stuck in your future?
Fighting for what should be.
Ignoring what is.

We didn’t see him
stuck in our future
he focuses on what can be
and devours the now

Somehow the prompt on napowrimo.net combined with a visit to The Met to look for art, brought me to this poem. We’re on day 15 of #NaPoWriMo, which means we’re half way. It’s been a great first half of the month so far!

Title: Enthroned deity
Period: Late Bronze Age
Date: ca. 14th–13th century B.C.
Geography: Levant
Culture: Canaanite
Medium: Bronze, gold foil
Dimensions: 5 3/8 × 1 7/16 × 1 11/16 in. (13.7 × 3.7 × 4.3 cm)
Classification: Metalwork-Sculpture
Credit Line: Gift of George D. Pratt, 1932
Accession Number: 32.161.45

Laughing like Messerschmidt / The artist as he imagines himself apologising

Who cares if I put a gun to your face?
It was for art’s sake and – just so you know
– it could have been a cannon
I’ve decorated enough of those
to know how they work

It was for art’s sake only, I promise
I didn’t enjoy the look of terror on your face
I just wanted to study it

I’m sorry I scared you, but 
it wouldn’t have been the same if I’d asked
I needed your raw emotion
to express the Gestalt of fear

It could’ve been worse you know
I could’ve sent a hornet from the future
a Schnellbomber carrying my name
would you have liked that any better?

I assure you I tried to use my own face
but I find it hard to scare myself
more than the evil spirits inside me
already do

I’ve laughed, I cried,
pinched myself in front of mirrors
documenting the deformations
disarming the dangers
of being peculiar

For art’s sake, remember?
my intentions were good
sixty-nine Kopfstücke 
the face an index of the mind

unnamed - words blind us to the truth
what is it that we have in common?

tin for tat
hard features, soft stone
chips not chisels

uncontemporary art
unprecedented
unshouldered the burden to please

I imagine myself apologising
Laughing like a Messerschmidt they say
That would be funny
Title: A Hypocrite and a Slanderer, Maker: Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (German, Weisensteig 1736–1783 Pressburg) Date: ca. 1770–83, Culture: Austrian, probably Pressburg (Bratislava), Medium: Tin alloy
Dimensions: Overall (wt. confirmed): 14 9/16 x 9 5/8 x 11 5/8 in., 25lb. (37 x 24.4 x 29.5 cm, 11.3399kg)
Classification: Sculpture, Credit Line: Purchase, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Fund, and Lila Acheson Wallace, Mr. and Mrs. Mark Fisch, and Mr. and Mrs. Frank E. Richardson Gifts, 2010
Accession Number: 2010.24

The Met brought me another case of love at first sight today. Check out this 30-minute documentary if you want to fall in love too:

The prompt at napowrimo.net today was to “write a poem that delves into the meaning of your first or last name.” I started to look for names to write bout on the website of The Met, because I want to feature one of their art works every day this #NaPoWriMo. I’m so glad I did.

Reblog: A Peek into the Pulse of Past and Future #Day12

 Marcellus, Marcus Claudius stared into the streets--
 its painted statues towered over market stalls,
 while oblivious to it all, the masses throbbed 
 onward, 
 onward,
 pulsating in the rhythm of the Tiber.

 Public slaves lined the walls,
 whitewashing them to conceal
 the graffiti that would insult any senator, 
 while onward, onward, 
 one after another 
 lecticae jostled past.

 He didn't need to see the occupants to know that, 
 adorned in crimson-striped togas, 
 each senator sat upward behind curtains of his lectica--
 to not be thought of as effeminate.
 And so twirling his thumbs until hypnotized into the fourth dimension,
 Marcellus, Marcus Claudius walked with the Tiber beating inside him.

***
© 2021 selmamartin.com

First things first today. I want to introduce you to this #NaPoWriMo featured poem on day 13, in case you missed it! There’s so much to read, it’s hard to keep up with. I had the honour to be together with Selma as a featured participant, because Maureen, who provides us with napowrimo.net “couldn’t pick just one”. I love that!

I’ve spent some time on the website of The Met again, looking for an art work that suits the poem. Selma added a beautiful picture of the arch of Titus to her post, which beautifully suits the open air image op the poem. I chose a simple pin head from wondering if it’s an object Marcus Claudius Marcellus could’ve held in his hand one time.

If you read this poem already and want to read more by Selma, I recommend this one: https://selmamartin.com/youre-doing-it-again-ma-cant-rest-in-peace/ And, of course, browsing through her blog!

Humanity’s got talent

Universal elections will be held in 2222

All inhabitants of the world who identify as human will be sent a ballot (shape and material will be announced later). 

They will have the right to outvote one of the following issues
(the exact list is under discussion and will be kept secret until definite):

war
wealth
hunger
disease

health
poverty
overeating
nationalism

drugs
reality
science
idealism

religion
docusoaps
psychology
human rights

When critical journalists inquired if racism, sexism, ageism and totalitarionism will be on the list, they were informed that those will be abolished before then. 

Government officials’s reponses have been universally positive. Our translators reported:
awesomesauce
bee’s knees
interesting
cat’s pajamas
jewel in the crown
best thing since sliced bread
supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

No campaigning or political parties will be allowed for these elections. A spokesman for the organisation said education should suffice.


As soon as I found this work on the website of The Met, I wanted to use it this month. It’s so beautiful!

I was surprised when I read the description of the function of a mirror bearer: “The mirror-bearer to the ruler was an important role, sometimes filled by a woman, but more often by courtly dwarves. Their primary function was to reflect the image of Maya lords and ladies as those dignitaries preened in self-regard.”

Today’s prompt at napowrimo.net was to “write a poem in the form of a news article you wish would come out tomorrow.”. When I was a child I would have instantly chosen world peace. As I got older, things got more complicated. To have this planet live happily ever after (after what?) seems a greater challenge then ever.
Title: Mirror-Bearer
Date: 6th century
Geography: Guatemala or Mexico
Culture: Maya
Medium: Wood, red hematite
Dimensions: H. 14 1/8 x W. 9 x D. 9 in. (35.9 x 22.9 x 22.9 cm)
Classification: Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number: 1979.206.1063

Divination

The seer warned us
we would be declared unpersons 
unless a libation of griffin tears
was offered in time

We started to hurt griffins 
maim them
kill them
they never cried

We abducted their young,
hunted their old
we just couldn’t 
make them cry

At the panhellenic sanctuary
we spilled griffins’ blood
poored it fast, poored it slow
from a gold phiale, to no avail

We fought, we lost,
we were declared 
unpersons
humans banned us
from this worldlet 

Only three of our kind
reached the escape ship
survived gravity withdrawal
remained in cryosleep

As light-centuries passed
we hacked the future
found a probability world
reinstalled our overmind 

Recently a chronoscopy has shown
griffin tears are no unobtainium -
you just need to make ‘em laugh

We won’t let it happen again
There’s a disintegrator
aimed at their class M planet now

No dystopic earthman shall contaminate 
multiverse with meatspace again

The prompt at napowrimo.net today was “to write a poem using at least one word/concept/idea from each of two specialty dictionaries: Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary and the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction.” Which made searching for art at The Met easier today. I simply searched their Greek and Roman Art department until I found a piece of art that invited a poem…

Title: Bronze man and centaur
Period: Geometric
Date: mid-8th century B.C.
Culture: Greek
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: H. 4 3/8 in. (11.10 cm)
Classification: Bronzes
Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number: 17.190.2072

I care

Dear U,

Have you had any trouble with that devil after I left? I’m sorry I had to leave so soon. They took me away early. Mary called that the baby was sick. When the others in the cloister heard I was around, they wouldn’t let me go. Here’s the advice I promised: 

Brush and comb 
Trim and manscape
Freshen up with a wash
Moisturize with a leave-in oil conditioner
Apply a balm or cream
Wax to style and protect it

Sincerely yours, Anthony

Dear A.,

I’ve had no trouble at all. That staff through the mouth really worked. I’ve been resting since. The pomegrates have ripened and are seed-laden. I don’t care for their taste, but it’s nice to lay beneath them and let the juice drip on me. 

I think you may have misheard me when I said I wondered about what to advise the bride and groom. I was torn between wild orchid, bistort, and thistle. Maybe after your grooming advice you can add some bridling advice in your next letter?

Say hi to baby J. Let him know he can ride on my back when he’s old enough to not fall off.

Hope to see you soon!

Uni

The prompt today at napwowrimo.net was: “I’d like to challenge you to write a two-part poem, in the form of an exchange of letters. The first stanza (or part) should be in the form of a letter that you write either to yourself or to a famous fictional or historical person. The second part should be the letter you receive in response. These can be as short or long as you like, in the form of prose poems, or with line breaks – and of course, the subject matter of the letters is totally up to you.”

This is where it lead me. Saint Anthony Abbot mistakingly giving beard grooming advice to a unicorn. Here are the details The Met provided about these art works:

Object Details

Title: The Unicorn Rests in a Garden (from the Unicorn Tapestries)

Date: 1495–1505

Geography: Made in Paris, France (cartoon); Made in Southern Netherlands (woven)

Culture: French (cartoon)/South Netherlandish (woven)

Medium: Wool warp with wool, silk, silver, and gilt wefts

Dimensions: Overall: 144 7/8 x 99 in. (368 x 251.5 cm)

Classification: Textiles-Tapestries

Credit Line: Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1937

Accession Number: 37.80.6

Object Details

Title: Saint Anthony Abbot

Artist: Attributed to Nikolaus von Hagenau (German, ca. 1445–died before 1538)

Date: ca. 1500

Geography: Made in Strasbourg, Alsace, present-day France

Culture: German

Medium: Walnut

Dimensions: 44 1/4 × 17 1/4 × 10 3/4 in., 66 lb. (112.4 × 43.8 × 27.3 cm, 29.9 kg)

Classification: Sculpture-Wood

Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1988

Accession Number: 1988.159

Mechanical dog

To fetch every vowel you throw at me

To stop and look

To innocently visit life

To expose the moon

To enjoy your laughter

To crossbreed marble with flesh

To push sweet nothings in my ear

To vote against televizing the rebellion

This was the second one I made for yesterdays prompt. I ended up with two poems, with very different atmospheres. This is the lighter one. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do the day 10 prompt. I like it, but I’m having a life today and since that’s rare in Corona times, I might choose life over poetry.

Title: Mechanical Dog, Period: New Kingdom, Dynasty: Dynasty 18
Reign: reign of Amenhotep III, Date: ca. 1390–1353 B.C., Geography: From Egypt
Medium: Ivory (elephant), Dimensions: L. 18.2 × H. 6.1 × W. 3.6 cm (7 3/16 × 2 3/8 × 1 7/16 in.)
Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1940, Accession Number: 40.2.1

This leaping hunting dog can be made to open and close its mouth using the lever beneath the chest. Originally secured by means of a thong tied through the hole in the back of its neck and two in the throat, the lever was later attached with a metal dowel in the right shoulder. When the mouth is opened, two teeth and a red tongue are visible.

Source: The Met