Month: August 2016

Music In Poetry

I don’t know a thing about music, not really. I know what I like and what I don’t like. I was the kid the first grade music teacher gave the tambourine to and sat in the far corner. LOL. Maybe that was ADD, but back in the 70’s they didn’t know about that.  Her lack of patience is painful to think about to this day. This might be the reason I cringe when music is talked about in relation to poetry.

It was difficult to get HTML to display House Of Eternity correctly, so what you see isn’t exactly what was intended. It is hoped the “music” comes across though, regardless of the spacing between what is being thought of as string notes on a cello – pluck    boing.  With less spacing could it be the “notes” are “heard” faster than the “notes” with more spacing? I hope it makes the poem a little dramatic, and even more non-sensical – maybe non-Suessical, but Dr. Suess rhymed more.

I still love Dr. Suess. My favorite book is “Oh The Thinks You Can Think.” I read it to my boys all the time when they were little. Sometimes I think I need to buy them a copy, now, to remind them “if only they try.”

Gertrude Stein must have been on my mind ,too, when this piece was written. She was all about how things sound rather than mean.

In a video, poet  Robert Hass said two lines in a poem are “being” lines, or lines that are grounding: in the body. And he said said 3 or more lines in a stanza are becoming lines: lines that are of the mind. I like that idea: a mixed number of lines per stanza in a poem must make it both being and becoming – like music, it is moving. So the other lines have one foot in the grave? 😦 They certainly aren’t American Sentences. LOL.

Thanks for reading! I’m always learning. A lot was certainly learned while writing this post.


House of Eternity
by Anni Johnson

The day starts with a bang.          pluck   boing   smack
Depression-era Lap-Landers lick
consciousness from cold toes.     pluck        boing       smack

I want to work, but it’s too hard to concentrate,
too painful to try.

pluck boing boing smack

I’m condemned to a life of books
whispering, This is what life’s about – laughing the way they do.

pluck       pluck

I lapse between two worlds
with a jerk. By my side
sits redemption on one hand,
and justification on the other –
no praise in sight.

Trying to purge,
trying to purge,
trying to heal open wounds,       pluck       boing
but lingering pus filled thoughts…   linger.

pluck   boing   boing   smack

She flashed in and flashed out of the blue.
A distance forever farther away,
never to be seen again.

I dream,
I dream,
I dream you into existence: pluck   boing   smack
a wily smile,
a devil’s quivering lips,
eyes that pierce my soul.   pluck       boing

You alone know Me – whoever that is…       smack!

Image credit:

Scrying Ghosts

What is your definition of poetry? The definition of poetry is up in the air for me. I can’t decide if I want to define poetry in a way that  includes verse, free verse, or prose poems – to rhyme or not to rhyme. If you’re in the same poetry boat as I am you might want to give the free Coursera online course, ModPo, a try. A new session begins September 10th. This will be my third year exploring all that ModPo offers from Walt Whitman and Emily Dickenson to modern day experimental poetry. There are no tests, and you can watch videos discussions any time you want. Once you’re signed up for ModPo,  you’ll always have access to the vast amount of information.

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think.


Scrying Ghosts
by Anni Johnson

Ranunculus asiaticus, I found you
at the Frog Pond (not so small,
but largely filled with natural delights).

I spied your effervescent pinkness
in front of the cornbox: clever sandbox
that Mother wanted to play in, but I said, No!

I adored your sweetness – spring fever –
while Ma admired the bananas – crazy, $1 a bunch.
You could almost give them away at that price.

I liked your name. Wordsworth liked
your buttercup form so much
he had it carved in stone.

You reminded me of Shandy –
Tristram, not the drink, but the one
who, as a homunculus, was quite auspicious.

Now homunculus, there’s a thing:
little man at its root grows in darkness – arcane vessel –
like a soul imprisoned in the body.

But you’re Latin ranunculus, not like the little frogs
she once scared us with – they’re not so cute.
Funny you should enter my darkness

to dream forth light from delicate, crepe paper –
thin petals, looking like an origami masterwork
holding salvation.

On The Nature Of (W0)Man

“Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away/ You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.” ~Robert Frost

This poem is for my sister, Michelle, who is in need of many prayers right now.

I guess I have a deep personal interest in metaphorical walls; they’ve come up in all my poems this week. Sartre wrote a story called “The Wall.” I haven’t read it yet, maybe it will shine some light on the subject. (FYI -It didn’t.)

How do you feel about esoteric poetry? Do you think  you get something from a poem, even if it expresses a completely personal theme to the poet? When does a poem become too esoteric?

Are you familiar with Hippocrates’ Humours/Temperments?

Thanks for visiting! Comments are always welcome.


On The Nature Of (Wo)man
by Anni Johnson

Lost in the middle,
you built your wall,
you feisty feminine warrior.

The bee that stung you
transformed your face
for battle: an epic
middle man journey

that would land you
on your back, monitors beeping.

An imbalance of humours
causes the body pain. Yellow bile
leads your injury: bitter taste,
followed by excessive thirst.

We had joy, we had fun,
we had seasons in the sun… 
but the fabric of life allowed
the devil’s pocket to open.

The past and the here and now
are never very far from each other.
A tasty organ of life
dilled in a fine brine
will eat you alive.

You guard your secret heart
that sits to the side
and bleeds.

The Most Eminent Of Idiots

“Anyone who reads at all diversely during these bizarre 1920s cannot escape the conclusion that a number of crazy men and women are writing stuff which remarkably passes for important composition among certain persons who should know better. Stuart P. Sherman, however, refused to be numbered among those who stand in awe and admiration of one of the most eminent of the idiots, Gertrude Stein. He reviews her Geography and Plays in the August 11 issue of the Literary Review of the New York Evening Post and arrives at the conviction that it is a marvellous and painstaking achievement in setting down approximately 80,000 words which mean nothing at all.” ~James Thurber

I don’t think the roaring 20’s has much on 21st century “Trumpism.”  What could get more bizarre than right here, right now?  I keep waiting for Trump to spout, “Is you is, or is you ain’t, my constituency?”

This poem, written several months back in an attempt to mimic Gertrude Stein, has been sufficiently rejected by every journal I thought might publish it. I feel it deserves at least a handful of public readings. After all, it does speak of ecopoetics and climate change. LOL

Can poetry keep up with the absurdity in American politics? Should poems have plots? How much mystery can you tolerate in a poem before you stop reading? Keats called the ability to live with unknowing “negative capability.” Rebecca Solnit talks eloquently about being able to sustain unknowing in her book of lyrical essays “Field Guide To Getting Lost,” 2005. Solnit is one of my all time favorite contemporary writers.

Thank you for visiting! Comments are always welcome.


Sor Juana’s Hummingbird  by Anni Johnson 

 They are mowing. He is mowing. She is mowing. Together they mow. Mowing they do together.

Often they mow. Often they mow together. Mowing often together they mow. They mow often together. Often together he and she mow endlessly.

Endlessly mowing oil. Oil. Oil endlessly mowing. Mowing oil. Mowing grass with oil. Oil.

Grass. Mowing. Mowing endlessly never knowing. Never knowing they are mowing. Never knowing they are mowing grass. Never knowing grass. Never knowing food. Never knowing grass food. Never knowing. Never knowing in the grass is food. Food in the grass. Grass food in the grass. Fast grass. Fast grass food they never know they mow. They never know they mow fast grass food. Food for him. Food for her. Food is in the fast grass. Food they need.

Food they need. They need food. They need fast food fast. In fast grass grows fast food for them. Fast food for them that travel far. Far from fast food. Far from fast food they search fast for fast food. They search for fast food. Fast food Sor Juana  once fed them fast.

Sor Juana once fed them sweet fast food. Sweet food. Sweet fast food. Nectar from gods she sweetly fed them. She sweetly fed them fast. She fed them fast food fast.

Frieda should have painted them. She should have painted them fast. Fast she should have painted them before they fled that land. Before he and she fled that land. Before they fled sweet fast food Frieda should have painted them. Before they fled toward oil mowing fast grass.

In spring they fled before she painted them. In the spring they fled to unknowing mowing fast food. They mow fast food. They travel far. Those that travel far sweetly need fast food they mow. Unknowingly they mow fast food.  They mow frequently fast. They mow fast frequently. Unknowing.

To Verse Or To Free Verse

What inspires you to create art, or write a poem? How do you feel about meter, blank verse, and free verse? Have you been influenced one way or another?

I  been reading lately about the poetry of Charles Olson and J.H. Prynne. Olson created a manifesto and began what is called Projective Verse. The guiding motto for the Projective Verse: “The head to the ear by way of the syllable, the heart by way of the breath to the line.”   Here’s a video explaining Projective Verse on YouTube. (Good watch, even if the presenter is a bit overly animated.)

I really like the intuitive sense Olson imparts in his school of thought. It seems to me that John Ashbery’s poetry also follows a similar system of creation even though he prefers not to associate with any particular school: He is often associated with the New York School   – think Surrealism and Modernism. I’ve also found his name related to Organic Poetry.

It can take weeks or months for a journal to review and reject a poem. I’d rather share with the world sooner, so I’m posting the poem I wrote today now. After all, it is a first draft.

Constructive feedback is welcome.


To Verse Or To Free Verse
by Anni Johnson

Mine: A horse with barbed wire bit
feeling blindly for the bard. Drip. Drip.

The pounding. The pounding.

Incandescent flashes: Constructs of the ego. The pounding.

The pounding. Is there anybody in there?

Mind bombs, or heart
breaking forms.

A right or wrong path?
Does a “firm persuasion” exist?

The pounding.

The pounding the way music passes
in organized chaos
like knots
interdependent, connected.

The whole orchestral potential
ending with frog phobia.

I just tied up my gladiolas.





Who Am I?


In those quiet places sandwiched in daily chaos, who hasn’t asked their self “Who Am I?” I think most people busy their days trying hard not to think existential questions – unless you’re David Hood – but sooner or later…

I came across the poem “Who Am I,” penned by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, during one of my daily internet haunts. Bonhoeffer was a Polish theologian and anti-Nazi dissident: ever seen the movie “Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace”? (It’s a good watch.) Two weeks before the end of WWII, Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging at Flossenburg Concentration Camp for plotting against Hitler – awful!  My husband is a big war history buff so I had seen the movie, but I had no idea Bonhoeffer was also a poet. I have read several of his poems online ; they’re all heavy existential hitters – with a Christian twist. But according to WIKI, Bonhoeffer saw the potential for a world that would be “Spiritual” rather than Christian, and I like that.

I am sharing Bonhoeffer’s poetry today hoping it will help us lift that slice of bread to look beneath the baloney.

Who Am I?
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing
My throat, yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person to-day and to-morrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely question of mine,
Whoever I am, Thou Knowest, O God, I am thine.”

*Featured photo: Sculpture by Edith Breckwoldt, The Ordeal.