Rogue Homilies by Deidre Price

a study of life that smacks of the divine

Category: Literology (page 1 of 4)

“The Method to My Madness, or How to Write a Poem” by Deidre Price // 2016 Poem-a-Day Challenge

The Method to My Madness, or How to Write a Poem

 

For Billy Collins

 

When a poem starts, I start with I.

I follow I with a certain verb–

steady sureness like I know and I am,

abandon my perhapses,

leave breadcrumb maybes in my margins.

 

When a poem starts, the speaker finds me,

tries on my every word, losing lipstick to heavily starched syntax

cast off to the dressing room floor of my page.

She leans into the light until it flatters for me,

the best friend standing by, opinions clenched in fists.

 

I want to see what happens.

 

I quiet as the show begins and silence my phone.

Language takes the stage–adolescent, unruly

with packed pocketfuls of bribes for candy rhymes.

The I arrives and says this music has to die, then Tybalt

stabs the adverbs like Mark Twain told him to.

 

I keep my Descartes close because he tells me what I like:

People cannot tell the difference between the dream and the world,

so we can stop pretending in the distance between them–

and the distance between us.

 

A miniature Anne Sexton descends like Tinkerbell might.

I can see her wires but do not care.

I clap and amen because I believe.

 

A chorus boos my jokes as critics censor from too many front rows.

I hear them backed by half a dozen echoes of dying fathers.

These voices linger, ruthless, proud, like Lost Boys’.

 

Suddenly, I become everybody’s mother.

 

I threaten to turn the poem around so fast their heads spin.

The back seats quiet.

I remember I know all the lines.

 

Sylvia commiserates

then bakes us pies.

 

methodtomadness

April 2

An idiom is a phrase or a fixed expression that has a figurative, or sometimes literal, meaning. An idiom’s figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning. 

The meaning gets lost over time and what was once a new and interesting expression becomes “old hat.” 

You’ve heard them, “A penny for your thoughts, back to the drawing board, devil’s advocate, just to name a few.”

For today’s prompt, take a popular idiom ( or more than one if you can manage it), and recreate its meaning. Make it fresh again.

Share your idiom poem in the comments, and join us tomorrow for another! 

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A Good Friday Reflection from a Mother to a Mother

Blood Moon

I hold my son closer on Good Friday,
the day another mother could not hold her own.

I cut crusts from turkey sandwiches,
send him off for a preschool party
where he will find plastic eggs and joy in grass.

Another mother stands in sand,
sees her son given over to death
for three hundred dollars by a friend.

My son’s friends say goodbye
with hugs in hallways
near Resurrection signs in construction paper.

But today another mother grieves
sweat and blood and breath,
sees him thirst.

My son thirsts, too, and I pass a cup
he fills with crushed ice and pure water.
He drinks in peace.

This other mother’s son dies in front of her
as she hears the words, “It is finished.”

Still a blood moon comes tonight
and I keep holding my son closer,
the day another mother could not hold her own.

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Do I Bother You Like Plexus? – #NPM15

I try not to talk about my weight
in the same way I try not to talk
about my children at work.

But I’ve become the elephant in the room,
conspicuous as a Cheerio stuck to my sleeve,
the constant yogurt on my shoulder.

Weight is easier to carry than pictures of my children.
I lose one and keep the other.
I bore easily at “my, they’ve grown.”
“My, you’ve grown” lives only in texts and whispers.

But online…

Online the potion peddlers find me,
give themselves away in Drink Pink! hashtaggery
hidden in sentences that wind
like country roads.

Online they tell me to Think!
But would you believe I work better with a little clutter?
And I’ve been thin before, so it’s nothing novel.

Online they meme away,
testify revival-tent-style,
selling something that will save us all.

But we all preach a little Plexus
with our causes and elbows we serve at the dinner table,
from Namaste to Obama,
War Eagle to Who Dat?
All cheers and jeers form alphabet soup
that stoops lower than the Tide sometimes.

I post poems like written saviors.
I say, “You can start today!
Everyone starts somewhere!
Ask me how!”

I share stories that aren’t mine
so you can see yourself in them,
at first before, then one day after
and you, the literary paper doll,
a living Mad Lib.

Take this sole solace:
At least there’s only one of me.

This poem was written as part of a poem-a-day challenge for National Poetry Month! Write your own and tag #npm15. And leave comments in response! I’d love to hear from you.

Remember that the poems that appear as part of this challenge are dirty drafts; they may change with each visit to the site.

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Dirty Apples and the Friends Who Eat Them – #NPM15

She wasn’t scared when I inquired about the state of her apples,

red and suspicious instead of delicious,

looking as though they’d been painted to look like mimes,

then wiped clean by a lazy person who may have mumbled,

“oil based” and “impossible,”

my go-to words for laundry and for art.

 

She said, “I soaked them in vinegar,

heard ten minutes does the trick.

So I soaked them all night.”

 

The wax gave up and fell,

dried back in new formations.

I swore I could see Dali’s clock on one,

sheet music on another,

a coffee mermaid,

Nietzsche’s moustache,

Doc McStuffins,

math and eggs,

little apples on the apples.

 

“Peel them!” I said and then waxed on

about big cancer counts in Washington,

how the peel’s the worst part.

I talked dirty dozens and pesticide hauntings,

whispering Monsanto.

 

“But the fiber!”

“Get organic!”

 

Another friend made a shoe shine motion on her thigh,

said she doesn’t wash them, just brushes them off knowingly—

like a Disney stepmother who’s already put poison inside.

 

“We just grab them off the counter.”

 

My mind limped back through all their kitchens,

IKEA bowls and see-through drawers.

 

Fear drove my worry to Washington and back,

mulling over seeds and stems, cores and flesh—

so many stovetop ciders—

 

the cold kind of fear that’ll find me faster than

any apple cancer can.

 

This poem was written as part of a poem-a-day challenge for National Poetry Month! Write your own and tag #npm15. And leave comments in response! I’d love to hear from you.

The poems that appear as part of this challenge are dirty drafts; they may change with each visit to the site. See you tomorrow!

xoxo,

Deidre, poet in progress

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If Readers Were Like Runners…

I’m convinced my friends are among the smartest and most compassionate on the planet when they, year after year, go to Disney World to run their half-marathons and 10Ks and don’t invite me.

What on this earth would a thirty-something desk-fat workaholic do on an exer-cation in the middle of February? The answer is fall deep-and-ugly behind in the thick of editing season and probably develop a raging case of hives from the student emails piling up in the meantime.

Also, death.

Yes, death could happen. If not a literal death from exer-shock (it’s a thing, I’m sure), then a certain albeit metaphorical death of embarrassment would follow my attempting either of these races, and my friends love me enough to spare me that kind of struggle.

Either that or this is their days’-long free pass to talk trashy trash about me without fear of a digital trail.

I choose to believe it’s the love. The dirt I have on them wouldn’t be worth the risk. And, like I said, I have smart friends.

Still, the anomaly me wonders what a marathon-ish thing would be like for the lovely literati among us. We deserve this kind of hubbub that makes us our own tutu’d princess-celebrities for a day so that we, too, can bask in the glory of all that is the Instagrammed Dole Whip and the famed Mickey head on a stick.

What if readers were like runners? Here’s my to-do list on how to prepare for a literary marathon and, perhaps in the process, avoid the apocalypse.

  1. Plan and interval train. Seuss, limericks, acrostics, and a haiku or two are the regimen for week one. Minimalist short stories like Raymond Carver’s “Popular Mechanics” are up next before moving on to that awe-inspiringly efficient first line of Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” which contrasts as a novel on a page. It’s a warm-up, work-out, and cool-down in one. It really teaches you to breathe. It models proper form. These are fundamentals, like stretching or breakfast.
  1. Get your interest piqued with Tina Fey, David Sedaris, then Flannery O’Connor. Transition into drills with Salinger and Twain, setting Dickens’ Pickwick Papers up like obstacle course tires before working up to the longer stuff. By month two, we’d add incline excerpts from Joyce and Faulkner and then tackle Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, depending on the humidity, time of day, and our elevation.

Continue reading

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If Anne Lamott Were My Godmother

In the parallel universe where there exists a Catholic me with a godmother, I call Anne Lamott.

Whenever I finish an Anne Lamott book, I feel like our tin-can telephone string has just been pulled taut again, and our houses, never more than yards apart, are somehow dually warmed, root to rafter, by just our words.

My Jonathan gets pseudo-angry when I read Annie. I kind of moan amens as I go, laugh out loud a little, grunt preach from my pew. Again, it’s like that line’s pulled taut, so who’s to say she can’t hear me? Who’s to say she doesn’t know I’m here in Florida feeling all kindred about her?LamottLamott 2 Lamott 3

Lamott copy

When I think of godmother situations, I think of freak airplane crashes, fires, and people stranded on those little inflatable boats that last maybe a day or two in the best conditions, which of course, you cannot have if your real boat has just be compromised.

When I think of godmothers, I think of them swooping in. In the parallel universe where I understand football metaphors (this universe sits adjacent to the one wherein there is a Catholic me with Anne Lamott for a godmother), I’d say she’s the Hail Mary Pass of People—the one who comes in, near-extinct eagle style and saves me from ravenous serpents or something dragon-esque and fire-breathing.

When I think of godmother situations, I think of belated birthday cards and random book gifts dropped into the mail which you uncover days later on the dining room table, a veritable chicken noodle soup just lying there in paper packaging, something that means to woo you back to life when you’ve nearly given up all your ghosts.

Continue reading

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Book Review: Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted

I first met Jen Hatmaker on the pages of 7: An Experimental Mutiny against Excess. Her story of moving away from our mindless materialism into more conscious consumption is illustrated through a monthly endeavor to sacrifice luxury for the sake of peace and good stewardship. The experiment she conducts is extreme: eating only seven foods for a month, limiting the items of clothing she wears, and having everyone in her household give away seven items a day. In the book, she writes about her practice of mindfulness and, consequently, graciousness in seven areas: food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress.

7

In 7, Jen conveys several revelations, some of which connected with my own convictions about living open-handedly. I’m a terrible stuff-monger with serious willpower issues in most aisles of Target. Many of my day-to-day problems are easily solved—from complaining about a too-small house, to complaining about the overflowing laundry baskets and toys strewn across the floor of every room, to not knowing what to do for dinner when we have two refrigerators crammed full of food and nuisance cabinet doors that remain somewhat ajar from being overfull. These issues are easily solved by my giving in and cutting back, and they are solved by my being wide awake and gracious for that which I have and far slower to complain about the problems others would view as blessings. Continue reading

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All the text is backwards (mea culpa), so just pretend I encrypted it for the Little Orphan Annie club. Get out your decoder rings! I may or may not include some Ovaltine with the book for the winner. No promises there.

Here’s a recap in case you couldn’t make it through the three-minute video:

  •  I’m giving away a copy of Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity  by Jen Hatmaker.
  • Send your name to writeprice@gmail.com by Friday, August 15, 11:59 p.m. (CST) with the short note, “I want the book.”
  • I will post my review of the book by Friday and announce the winner of the giveaway the evening of Saturday, August 16.
  • Go forth and be generally awesome.
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Last Call for Summer Reading!

In June I challenged readers to take part in The Little Literati Summer Reading Challenge, and I was overwhelmed by the response. From Jacksonville, Florida, to Missoula, Montana, Little Literati picked their books and started off on their separate reading adventures! My littles were included in this challenge (although they’ll be going prizeless; my being their mother is likely prize enough, I’m sure), and we have delighted in old reads and new.

Libraries are free for most people, but the Prices racked up record fines this past month. I regret to inform you that we were not the best of bookish citizens. My personal apologies to anyone looking for Aquarium Fish on the Destin Library shelves in the past month. Some lunatic put it in a basket with things we could knit with if we knitted. It was E. She can’t be trusted.
Another E I’m especially fond of is one of our fellow Little Literati. Her mother is an avid Instagrammer and hashtagged her heart out during the challenge.
Here is E working her way through her picks this summer. If this doesn’t just inspire you to get thee to a library (or have half a dozen daughters), I don’t know what will.
Keep reading, everyone! The last day to send in your contest submission is August 1, 2014. 
And don’t forget that very nearly equally awesome adult challenge here.
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Making It New / Review: The First Time We Saw Him by Matt Mikalatos

One of my favorite things about living in a house with people who are drawn to art and creative things is that we often find overlap happening among our current projects and interests (read: obsessions). The connections are profound sometimes, and so interesting to me that, despite our varied interests, we find so much common ground.
We’ll start with the one closest to the ground. Atticus, our three-year-old is hooked on Super Why!Thanks to this show and the benefits of having a literary mama who is obsessed with the written word—okay, mostly the show—Atticus knows nearly all his letters already, capital and lowercase. It’s impressive enough to justify my obnoxious bragging. What I like about the show is how it takes children’s stories and reinvents them by showing how changing a word or two can change the ending of a story, even save the day.  So, for example, in the story of Little Red Riding Hood, if we change the sentence to read that “slippers” were in bed instead of the wolf, boom—sad ending averted. No one dies. This model borrows from the old to make the new. It makes a story that was once passive become interactive.
Daina, our thirteen year old, has recently become fascinated with the show Once Upon a Time, a show that also takes known fairytales and makes them new by locating some of the storylines in the modern-day town Storybrooke. It’s no surprise that she loves the show since she also loves Doctor Who, which calls into question time’s being linear in nature and, consequently, conventional narratives. In both cases, there is rewriting being done. Reinvention is happening, and as a result, the same stories hit us in a new way—we are reawakened.
This is not a new concept.
The fragmentation and reassembling in an attempt to make something new is something we see in music as early as the 1960s’ dance hall in Jamaica. Prior to this, in art we see artists like Picasso fragmenting images and reassembling them, enabling us to see conventional images in unconventional ways because of how they’ve been newly pieced together—same concept, new format.
Prior to this, we have Ezra Pound’s modernist literature paired with the preaching of “Make it new!” and the hope of a new era of literature that broke away from all that had been done to death before.
Ezra Pound (poet among other things)
One of my favorite of Pound’s contemporaries is Gertrude Stein, writer and a friend of Picasso, who played with words in order to wake people up to the newness of them, to refresh the words—or at least refresh our eyes to seeing them in that new light. Of her sentence “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” she said the rose had never been as red as it was before that sentence.
Gertrude Stein (yes, she’s a woman)
My husband Jonathan designs pedals and amps and does woodworking. He loves analog and throwbacks. His book stacks are stocked with books on fine woods and dovetail joints and joiners and other words I’m not comfortable using in sentences. He is investing his time in seeing how things were done when they were done well. Through his work, he is recreating what he loves and presenting it in a new way so that we also might appreciate it in a new way.
I have no idea what this is. Location: bathroom sink, circa 2014
The idea of taking something known and adjusting our vision so that we can really see it as we had the first time when it was new and all its details soaked into our skin, that’s the goal of so much of the literature I’ve been adoring lately. It’s not changing the content so much as it’s changing my perspective so that I can see it in a new light—really see it again as if for the first time.
I finished a book this evening that offers reinventions of known stories. In The First Time We Saw Him, Matt Mikalatos posits what the Biblical accounts of Jesus’s life would be like if they were to have happened in twenty-first century life.
The book upsets routine retellings with beautiful, poetic passages that illuminate new meaning like in the modernized version of Mary who takes a pregnancy test she buys at the convenience store. She sits at home, “staring at the test, waiting, and the small blue cross slowly appeared, bright and certain and shining like a star.”
The stories are intermingled with exegesis, in which Mikalatos explores familiar questions, such as where God is during dark times, in very unfamiliar ways. This is Mikalatos’s gift: He stays true to the core of the text, but he turns it on its head in such a way that you cannot see it the same way again. You simple can’t.
If chapters got shout-outs, I’d give one to Chapters 5, 7, 8, and 12 through the epilogue. You see, I was reading along, minding my own business, until Chapter 5 called “The Billionaire and the Teacher” high fived me in the face. I want to cut and paste his casserole joke here (something all Southern church-folk should ‘get’), followed by his explanation of what it must have been like for the disciples to bring their lives full-stop and follow him. I want everyone I know to read pages 62 and 63. He is honest about how bizarre some of Jesus’s miracles were, and he is honest about how we respond to these so many years later, many of us far too close to callous. We’ve just heard them so many times. Are we really hearing them? Is it possible to experience them in the same immediate way that his disciples did? Do we get it?
On page 92, he calls me out. Just gloss that. Keep walkin’ by. Try not to cry like I did on page 94.
Around Chapter 8 is when you begin to hope the book doesn’t end. It’s powerful.
Most refreshing to me about The First Time We Saw Him is that it offers not only a new way of seeing Jesus but also a new way of seeing ourselves. It invites us to engage more deeply with these texts and to think critically about the ways we’re living—or not living—in response to them.
If I had a billion dollars, I’d buy you all a copy. Because I don’t, you’re on your own, with a pocketful of promises from me that you’ll love it.

This book does exactly what I love about books in general. When I finished, it left me different, and that’s an incredible thing and an incredibly hopeful thought, that we can rewrite ourselves and make better pages of our days, that we can make new things–be new people. That nothing’s done and nothing’s perfect, that we’re all works in progress with the power to revise and be revised. I just love that. 

Thank you for reading.

I know I write long.

Bless it—and me—and you.

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