Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Three plus one: four poems for a birthday

I was born the day my mother stopped being pregnant
           a full-baked warm wetness taking its first breath
flame flickering, a miniature torch; a moth fluttering
against the pane, the porch. She held: a curved moon-nail,
thistle-like lock, darkened milk; and the clarinetist curled
slow circles around the moon

the crack of eggs, the weight of flour, chocolate powder
             look with your eyes not your fingers
no matter how blue the cake, as enticing
as fields of broccoli under chocolate snow, smoke-wisped
dreams mummified in molten wax, and then the wish –
clenched and secret

In the starkness of the candlelight, I hold your shadow-
            contoured face in delicious stasis
a moment captured on un-stretched canvas, spread 
on your garage floor, when birthdays were as simple as
ice cream and jelly, butterfly cakes and fairy bread
the candles were extinguished, the parcels passed
scraping marzipan from Christmas memories

The fork poised like a promise – a series of pigtail-framed
              balloon-cheeks in the yellow flamelight
(each year: 365 ingredients whirled around in the mixer,
its new shape given over to rising, a sweet rebirth).
We watch the cake explode in flames

 TP is three plus one. Whoopee! Yippee! Pass the Sally Lunn!


Today marks the fourth birthday of Tuesday Poem. 
The series began on April 13 2010 after a casual start with a bunch of poems on Mary McCallum's blog O Audacious BookFrom there, the group migrated to this site and grew in contributors and mission. Each week a different Tuesday Poet takes a turn at editing the main page here -- selecting a poem, getting permission to run it, and writing up a response. A personal choice and response each week, and many more opportunities to share poetry at members' blogs as well (see sidebar, left). 

We celebrate poetry every week, but birthdays are special because each year in March/ April we build something collaboratively in one giant poetry celebration. Each of our 'birthday poems' has been unique in its blend of voices and rhythms. In 2011, the first birthday saw an ode to Tyr in honour of Tuesdays and the way we celebrate poetry; in 2012 we wrote a collaborative poem line-by-line, each poet building on the previous poet's cadence and image; last year, we chose a jazzy riff as our theme, with participating poets contributing entire stanzas to a poem that unfolded over weeks in rhythm, repetition and syncopation. 

This year, we tried something a little different. We asked contributing poets to send a line that included something about either birthdays or food or both, and to send the line blind -- that is, without seeing any other contributions. We gathered the lines one by one and rearranged them into a whole. We tried several different approaches but we finally settled on four small verses, each creating something special. It was much much harder than we imagined when we set out to paste these lines together -- how to fit blue cake with a clarinetist's curls, or fairy bread with the explosion of candles? In the end, these four vignettes fitted together to form what feels like a whole and including a birth and a light, a cake and a secret, a moment and a memory, and anticipation and celebration.

We hope you are as delighted as we are with how this experiment turned out. What fun to have such rich images to work with. What a pleasure to glue pieces together and watch this poetry page take shape -- this line moved from there to here; this image matched with this sound. 

I should also add the note that only one of the three editors working on this birthday poem knew the identity of the poets submitting, so it's a special birthday surprise as well to see who has contributed such delicious morsels to this sweet feast. Thank you all!  

-Michelle Elvy, TP Hub sub-editor, with Mary McCallum and Claire Beynon

Participating poets, in the order their lines appear (but not in the order they submitted)
TORCH: Rethable Masilo, Renee Liang, Michelle Elvy, Elizabeth Welsh, Claire Beynon
WISH: Mary McCallum, Harvey Molloy, T. Clear, P S Cottier, Helen McKinlay, Catherine Bateson
SHADOW: Andrew Bell, Saradha Koirala, Catherine Fitchett, Janis Freegard, Tim Jones
EXPLOSION: Kathleen Ferber, Helen Rickerby, Eileen Moeller, A J Ponder, Keith Westwater



Kathleen Jones said...

Very pleased with the whole thing - Happy Birthday to us!!! And congratulations to the editors who did such an incredible job of stitching the lines together. You deserve some birthday champagne!
Have tried to post a suitable poem about food (with a difference) on my own blog this week - something about having a bear to breakfast. . .

Janis said...

Well done Michelle, Mary & Claire. And Happy Birthday everyone!

Janis said...
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philipjcowan said...

I thought you might like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3jAnjw_oWQ

Ben Hur said...

Thanks, you wonderful editors. I like broccoli and chocolate, but not together!

AJ Snook said...

I love the poems. I'd love to add a little more poetry to my writing (and improve at them). Thanks for the inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Great work..
Love the poems...