The Madness of Poetry in March

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on Tuesday – increased parenting duties and less available time to write can put a crimp in one’s blogging schedule – but I had to share a quick little update about a fun competition that is underway. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, a fun, familiar poetry challenge is back for another year!

What used to be known as MMPoetry (short for March Madness Poetry), has now been reborn with a new website and new name: Madness!Poetry. As in past years, Ed DeCaria at Think Kid, Think! hosts a bracketed poetry competition similar to that famous March college basketball tournament which is full of “madness,” but which we can’t speak of by name due to potential infringement of a registered trademark.

The premise is simple: each of 64 “authletes,” as Ed calls us, competes against another by writing a poem using a specific word we’ve been given. (In my case this year, that word is “behemoth” – which may sound challenging, but it’s better than past words I’ve been saddled with, like “appendage” and “verjuice!”) Fellow writers, teachers, students, and the general public are encouraged to vote for their favorites, and whoever wins each match-up moves on to the next round, then the next round, then the next round…until two authletes go at it head-to-head, mano a mano, to determine the champion.

Ed has been quite a busy fellow; for the past year, he’s been tweaking the structure and voting process, creating a new website, and basically re-branding the entire thing, now that we all have seen just how huge this little idea of his became. You can learn more about Madness!Poetry and see who is battling who by checking out the website HERE.

I submitted my First Round poem on Monday afternoon, and all the poems will be posted Tuesday morning at the Madness!Poetry website – so please check out all the poems as they are posted, vote for your favorites, and keep following along! It’s a lot of fun even if you’ve never written children’s poetry, because some of the solutions the writers come up with in order to use their words are pretty creative. After 4 years of competing, I’ve never made it out of Round 1…so I’m hoping this is the year…we’ll see!

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Poetry Friday: “Honesty” – and Billy Collins’ early birthday

poetryfridaybutton-fulllMy friend and fellow writer/blogger Heidi Mordhorst reminded me last week that former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, will turn 76 on March 22, and told me she was planning on a big shindig today to celebrate a little early. She invited a number of us to share a Billy Collins poem – or Billy Collins-inspired poem – which is precisely what I’m doing.

Collins wrote a poem titled “The Golden Years,” which begins:

All I do these drawn-out days
is sit in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge
where there are no pheasants to be seen
and last time I looked, no ridge.

The poem, which you can read in its entirety HERE, struck a chord with me, so I decided to write my own poem which expands upon some of what he writes about, but in a much different voice and context…

Honesty

Someone once said
the definition of suburbia
is where they cut down all the trees
and then name streets after them.
Truth is, it’s worse than that.
Everything that was once
is dismissed, removed,
or chased away; trees are only
the beginning.

I knew a family
who lived on Deerhaven Road,
an oxymoron
for there were neither deer
nor was it a haven;
habitat destroyed, the animals
moved on. I’m guessing
they didn’t use the freshly-paved route
connecting a half-mile of houses
bearing their name.

Then there was Rattlesnake Hill which,
once it was suitably transformed
into every urbanite’s impression
of what rural life should be,
contained neither rattlesnake
nor hill.

This is why I much prefer the city
or the country to the soft,
doughy middle. Out in the boondocks
where the bears, deer, fox, and pheasants
have yet to be honored with pavement,
one can watch them wander across streets,
worn and dusty, into the neighbor’s
front yard. Likewise, in the city,
there are no turkeys, moose, or coyotes, and everyone
is fine with that; no one
has taken it upon themselves
to recognize the lack of wildlife
by naming a parkway after them.
City or country, there is no pretending
to be one thing or another; it is an honesty
with oneself, with nature, with the streets
that connect us.

– © 2017, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Heidi is hosting Poetry Friday today, so you can visit the “All-Billy Birthday Extravanganza” – along with all of today’s Poetry Friday links and fun – on her blog, My Juicy Little Universe!

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Thanksgiving Day: The one blessing we overlook

This post was originally published on Nov. 20, 2013, but between food prep, writing, voiceover work, and chasing after a 3-year-old, my time is extremely limited this week! So I thought it might be appropriate to dust this off and re-post it for any of my followers who hadn’t caught it the first time around. I hope you enjoy your week, whether or not you’re celebrating Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and be grateful…that you have the capacity to be thankful!

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Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. will be here in two days, and everywhere you turn, people are talking, writing, and blogging about all the things they’re thankful for.  I, for one, am growing weary of it.

Now, please don’t get me wrong; it’s good to be grateful.  Indeed, we should be thankful – and display that thankfulness – every day of our lives.  We should reflect upon our blessings on a regular basis and never hesitate to show our appreciation for what we have.

My problem is not so much with the thankfulness; it’s that we’re missing an important reason to be thankful.

The Usual Suspects

Again, please don’t misunderstand me; I’m glad people are thankful for their blessings.  But there are certain blessings that show up on nearly everyone’s lists – our faith(s), our families and friends, our lives, our pets, our homes, our talents.

Some people may be thankful their loved ones made it home safely from being abroad; others may be grateful that they received a year-end bonus, or even have a job at all.

Even the poor and destitute among us may be thankful for things like the warmth of the sun or the kindness of a stranger.

I can say honestly that I am truly, truly, TRULY thankful for all these things…but you probably could have guessed that, even if you had never met me or had never even heard of me or this blog.

These are the blessings that most of humanity celebrates – and the acknowledgement that we should be grateful for these things is rooted in the love, compassion, and empathy that separates our species from the rest of the animal kingdom.

We recognize the importance of both gratitude and thankfulness.

A quick vocabulary lesson

Gratitude and thankfulness are not necessarily interchangeable.

I’m no lexicographer or linguist, but it has always been my understanding that these words had different meanings.  To be thankful means you’re appreciative that something that you wanted came about; to be grateful indicates you are appreciative towards someone or something.

(Any English professors in the house?  Please correct me if I’m wrong!)

The reason it’s important to know the difference is because gratitude is directional; thankfulness is not.  Feed a hungry animal and it may be thankful it received food, but it might not be grateful toward you for feeding it.  I know pet owners will disagree with that – having two dogs and two cats of my own, I’ll admit that some animals probably are grateful to the person taking care of them – but how many of these animals understand what it means to be grateful or thankful?

And therein lies the rationale for my previous statement that our recognition of the importance of both gratitude and thankfulness is one of the important qualities that elevates us above the rest of the animal kingdom.

Little blessings, and the BIG one

As I ponder this, I come to the conclusion that the human condition of feeling gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation is itself a blessing.

Yes, I’m thankful for all those things we talked about earlier.  I’m thankful for my family, our friends, and our pets.  I’m thankful I live in a country that promotes freedom of speech, religion, and personal excellence.  I’m grateful to God and Jesus for their love and sacrifices; I’m grateful to my wife and family for supporting me as a self-employed stay-at-home dad; I’m grateful to Al Gore for creating the internet.

(I’m also thankful – or grateful – to whomever or whatever was responsible for getting my 2-year-old to finally stop waking up at 5am…daylight savings time really screwed up the poor little dude’s internal clock for a couple of weeks!)

But I don’t want to overlook this very important aspect of our humanity; that is, the recognition of the importance of gratitude and thankfulness.

Thankful…for being thankful?

Yes, that is basically what I’m saying.  Chuckle if you’d like.  However, when you actually think about what it means to be thankful for having the comprehension of what gratitude, appreciation, or even indebtedness mean…I hope you will understand why I believe it is so important.

We humans are not simply grateful, or thankful.  We comprehend – and celebrate – the importance of being grateful or thankful.

So this Thanksgiving Day, while we’re giving thanks for all we have, think about why you are thankful.

Think about why you are grateful.

And give thanks that you are.

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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Revelations from the state fair, Vol. V

hsflogo-lg

Every Labor Day Weekend, I spend Friday through Monday working at the local state fair as the PA announcer, a position that requires not just a lot of talking, but a lot of walking and a whole lot of preparation.

It’s one of the most fun jobs I’ve had in my life, and I look forward to it every year. One minute I’m heading over to one of the small stage areas to double-check times or check out an act I hadn’t seen before; the next, I’m inside the administration building chowing down on a loaded baked potato piled high with every ingredient known to mankind.

(Trust me, when it comes to fair food, one needs to pace oneself.)

As has been tradition here at Triple R, I always share some of the things I’ve learned from each fair, because it’s not just an enjoyable work experience – it’s a learning experience, to boot. In the past, I’ve learned the most despised candies in the universe;  why environmentalists hate truck pulls; and even the best time to “smell” the fair.

So what nuggets of wisdom did I glean this year?

  1. The threat of a hurricane drives up Friday attendance. There was a lot of talk about whether or not Hermine would make it to the New Hampshire coast, and when. We were anticipating getting hit Sunday and Monday, the latter half of the fair, which is why I think our Friday ticket numbers were off the charts. As it turned out, Hermine never even made it, and we had a stupendous weekend all four days!
    .
  2. sandtasticSand used for sand sculptures is not normal beach sand. As Sandtastic Sand Sculpture Company’s sculptor (pictured) explained to me, the sand they use is comprised of faceted grains, which help the sand to wedge together and stick to itself. Conversely, beach sand is worn smooth from being tossed in the water and therefore is much more difficult to work with.
    .
  3. Speaking of sculpting…chainsaw sculptors use specially-designed chainsaws. I was chatting with Ben Risney, whose chainsaw
    risney-1
    (Click to enlarge)

    carvings are masterful, when he told me that some of his smaller chainsaws are custom-designed, industrial-grade. His larger saws are standard chainsaws, but the smaller ones, like the one pictured, have an angled bar and run at twice the RPMs of a normal chainsaw. The primary benefit of using a saw with such high RPMs is that the cuts are so smooth, he rarely needs to sand the sculptures once they’re completed! You can see Ben in action and more of his handiwork HERE.
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  4. “Battered Savs??” Who knew? corn-dogs
    .
  5. Some folks take their fried foods way more seriously than others. I was walking along a pathway when I overheard two young women chatting behind me. The conversation went something like this:
    “So, so sad.”
    “Yes, it is.”
    “Such a sad situation.”
    “Things like that just shouldn’t happen.”
    It was at that moment I realized they were talking about a piece of fried dough that lay on the ground; perfectly elliptical, not one bite had been taken out of it. I shed a tear, as well.
    .
  6. Saw blades are high-tech pieces of equipment. One of the many attractions at the fair this year were the Axe Women: Loggers of Maine, featuring championship women loggers competing in axe throwing, log rolling, cross-cut sawing, and a number of other events. I learned that their crosscut saw (bottom photo) is made in New Zealand of a special metal alloy that is strong and smooth – but is extremely sensitive to moisture; in fact, if the blade is not kept properly oiled, under very humid conditions it will start rusting within 30 minutes.
    axe-2  axe-1
    axe-3
    .
  7. Deep-fried pickle chips are superior to deep-fried pickle spears. This is not a decision I came to haphazardly; I spent a number of years researching the merits of each. You’re welcome.
    .
  8. dino-2 Dinosaur costumes are a lot heavier than they look. Really high-quality costumes, I should say. I had an opportunity to chat with John and Chance Bloom and their family, who run (among other things) a business called Dinosaur Xperience – which brings a walking, talking T-Rex right to your event.
    Chance told me the lifelike suit is 80-100 pounds, and contains a metal cage around the  head and thorax, which allows for

    dino-1
    Yes, even dinos need ID.

    electronically-controlled motion and sound. She can tolerate about 30-40 minutes inside the outfit before she needs to get indoors to cool off and re-hydrate…so thank goodness her husband and their 4 kids are all part of the act, helping her!

.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little review. It’s amazing the things one can learn at the fair – and spending so much time at this one allows me ample opportunity to discover things I might never notice otherwise. And for writers, learning and observing is crucial!

Until next time, have a good week! (and seriously, let me know your thoughts on the deep-fried pickles!)

risney-3
Some examples of Ben Risney’s work, which were featured around the fairgrounds.

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Poetry Friday: Throwback Summer concludes in “Stride”

Let me just tell you.. I am SO glad I didn’t need to come up with anything too long or witty for today’s post – I simply could not have done it.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllJust before 3pm on Thursday afternoon, I was ripping out part of our garden when I apparently disturbed a yellowjacket nest. I was promptly stung about 8 times, primarily on my scalp. Not fun.

Then, after my wife came home from work, we were eating dinner when the crown on my right front tooth fell out – and rather than relax for awhile, I was on my way into the city half an hour away to get to a pharmacy for crown repair cement. Doubly not fun.

And this is all happening the day before I begin a long, 4-day weekend as the PA announcer for the local state fair! Triply not fun.

I’ve been trying to maintain a positive attitude about all this (hey, at least I didn’t have a serious allergic reaction to the stings, right?), but in all honesty, I’ve had enough. I’m exhausted, and my bed is looking really good right now.

So with that said, I can now present the final installment of my Throwback Summer series, which started when I discovered my old high school journals and other papers in my parent’s attic.

Today’s poem was written in my college Creative Writing class, and I was still trying to get a handle on free verse at this point. I really liked rhyme and structure and that sort of thing, so free verse took some getting used to. And unlike most of the Throwback Summer poems I’ve shared here, this one isn’t too bad. Yes, it has its faults, but compared to everything that has come before…I think it holds its own…

Stride (poem)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down Memory Lane – it’s certainly been eye-opening for me, to recall what I was writing and doing back then. And it’s quite a relief, to know that my writing has gotten (marginally) better! Speaking of writing, Penny Parker Klostermann is hosting Poetry Friday today, so please stop by and check out all the links and fun!

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How I saved a butterfly, told the story in 10 words, and ended up on a blog

Just goes to show, one never knows from whence inspiration might come…

DMC_ColorMichelle H. Barnes over at Today’s Little Ditty is holding her “Ditty of the Month Challenge” writing prompt, and this month’s challenge follows her interview with children’s poet/author Diana Murray. Diana challenged blog readers to write poems based on unlikely heroes, and it took me nearly all month long to discover I was the hero I would eventually write about.

Our family was at a local farm over the weekend, and while inside the gardener’s shed I discovered my subject, having a very difficult time trying to get out of a plastic-sheeted window. When I got home, I wrote a haiku about it -and today, Michelle is featuring it on her blog! I hope you’ll stop by and check out my poem along with all the others…there are some very good poems there, written by many talented folks.

And by the way, I’ll be wrapping up my Throwback Summer series this coming Friday, with another one of my early free verse poems, that I wrote in my college Creative Writing class. It’s verbose and overdone, but not half-bad – so please come back  and let me know what you think!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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Poetry Friday: Throwback Summer takes a 180 turn…

…into Not-Quite-So-Bad Land.

As you might have heard, I’m sharing some of my old high school poetry each Friday this summer – and yes, most of it has been painfully horrendous.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllBut as we’re coming to the final stretch of this series (I anticipate wrapping up this trip back in time the first week of September), I’m now sharing a couple of poems I wrote in college. And although they are not the best poems ever written, they are nowhere near as vomit-inducing as most of the previous ones I’ve subjected you to.

(In other words, if you were expecting another “Ode to a Dishrag,” prepare to be disappointed)

Today’s poem was one of the first free verse poems I ever wrote. (The very first one was actually published!) It was written for my college Creative Writing class with Dr. Joyce Thomas, at Castleton State College, Vermont. I recall revising it a number of times, so I think  this was the final version. If you don’t mind mixed metaphors, verbose lines, and obvious connections, read on…

The Performance

Houselights down:
the sky grows increasingly dark
pinholes of stars shrouded
by clouds fully drenched with water;
giant sponges
floating in the otherwise barren atmosphere,
waiting to be squeezed by some giant hand.
A burst of light, center stage –
a short flash of lightning illuminates the earth below,
the black, India-ink sky turns to a dull gray.
The celestial sphere appears as an oyster shell.
Two more bolts spotlight the event;
……….Act I, Scene 1.
Hesitant only for a split second
lightning’s comrade enters stage right,
jarring the thoughts of those already attentive.
The deep baritone voice of the leading man
echoes throughout the auditorium;
more loud rolls of thunder echo each other,
flowing over grassy hills that provide proper acoustics.
the curtain of soaking rain
drops from the proscenium
to a captive audience lost
in bewilderment.

The show begins.

– Matt Forrest Esenwine, 10-20-88, Class: ENG465

This is one of those poems that I’d really like to shave down and rewrite…but I have so many other more pressing things to do I’m sure it’ll never happen! The one thing I like best about this is the fact that I was able to combine a narrative with some poetic imagery and internal rhyme, even if it was quite amateurish and clunky.

My professor (a published poet), knowing how bad most of my poetry had been up to this point, seemed genuinely impressed that I had somehow knocked this out onto paper. With her encouragement, I soldiered on and wrote many, many more truly horrible poems in-between a handful of publishable ones. I like to think that I have now turned that ratio on its head…but that might just be me being delusional.

Ready for some more poetry? Much better poetry? Then please visit Doraine Bennett at Dori Reads for today’s complete Poetry Friday Roundup!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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