Friday, June 09, 2017

Poetry Friday: Summer Begins

I've enjoyed the first week of my summer vacation very much.  It has featured naps and times with friends and time to write.

Today I want to share two recent poems.  The first one is based on a message I recently got from Facebook, informing me of how many likes my posts had garnered.  I was astonished by what a large number it was, and then immediately scolded myself both for caring about whether people like what I post, or write, or am, and also for never, ever being satisfied, for never thinking I am good enough.

The second poem is from a prompt I shared with my writing group.  I got the idea from Irene Latham when I read her book The Sky Between Us.  In my review, I wrote: "Some poems made me want to write responses.  Self-Portrait as Tangerine suggested other self-portraits in the guise of objects, finding points of connection between self and beautiful thing." Here's how I phrased the prompt for my writing group.  First I shared Irene's poem, and then I wrote: "Write a self-portrait, but instead of directly describing yourself, describe an object that obliquely resembles you."

So here goes:


Facebook sent me
a message this week
that said
I have received
on my posts.

(Click, click, click)

So much liking,
so much appreciation,
87,000 reminders
that I am OK.

You’d think
would be enough
for me.

But I am still
the pigtailed fifth grader
who carefully
drew two boxes
with a pencil,
wrote “Do you like me? 
Check yes or no.”
and passed the paper
to her friend.

Do you?

May I ask
87,000 more times?
will you always

Ruth, from

Self-Portrait as Bougainvillea

Purple and yellow

Survives floods and winds and drought.
Heart-shaped leaves welcome;
Thorns and toxic sap rebuff.

Blue and rose

In Paraguay and Argentina called santa-rita,
After the patron saint of heartbroken women,
But in Honduras called Napoleón,
Strutting in military garb, bright and showy and confident.

Crimson and orange

Named after the explorer Bougainville,
Even though it had been there
In South America
Long before he showed up
And it continues to change, making spontaneous hybrids,
Adapting and adjusting, swarming all over walls and gates
From Switzerland to Nepal, the Caribbean to the Pacific,
Basking in the sun from Kenya to Australia.

Fuchsia and scarlet

Bright paper blooms
Shield the delicate white center
Where the real flower lives.


I've posted about bougainvillea before, here and here.

Mary Lee has today's roundup.


Mary Lee said...

Ruth as Bougainvillea. I like it! She is bold (and also shy), colorful, an adaptable survivor, creative. Your like/don't like poem took me right back to grade school! We haven't really grown up all that much, have we?! :-)

Linda B said...

Your first poem touches the second in a way, I think, that part about Napoleon, wanting to be liked as a young girl. Perhaps that's the motivation of Napoleon too? I know the ages you teach, and you've shown the feelings so well in the FB poem. The early adolescents need such tender care. As for the Bougainvillea, so striking that it needs a vast array of personalities, a reveal of you? My thoughts entirely, Ruth. I love the poems.

Jane @ Raincity Librarian said...

It's terrible how easy it is to get trapped in a cycle in which nothing is quite enough - the more likes we get, the more we need them, and a number that amazed and delighted us once quickly loses its wonder as we search for more. We're always looking forward outward validation, when really, the only validation we should really need should come from within. Easier said than done, of course!

Molly Hogan said...

Your first poem really resonated with me. That uncertain, vulnerable child still lurks within us all--closer to the surface for some than others.

Violet N. said...

Ah Facebook--isn't it a love/hate place!? So often it makes me feel, like you express, back in grade school, insecure and needy!

I had never seen Bougainvillae until I saw them in Hawaii a few years ago. The are gorgeous! Lovely self-portrait.

(Also, from a prior post of yours, I found CY365 and for the last about three weeks have been following the daily photographic prompts. Another "like" on that, Ruth!)

Linda Mitchell said...

Ruth, I would love to share the facebook poem with so MANY people including middle schoolers I know. Well, maybe also adults...OK, me. Boy, you get to the heart of it. I'm still the pudgy fifth grader who couldn't figure out how to swing having a best friend. I do like you. 87,000 times and more.

Anonymous said...

That first poem... We grow into our skin - but that insecurity still squeezes in there with us. But that's a lot of likes!! :P

And your Bougainvillea is a treasure!

I #Like them both. And you too. :)

jama said...

I will think of you whenever I see bougainvillea from now on! Love all the facts you wove into your poem.

FB has been successful because it preys on the human desire to be liked and/or loved. We can never have enough. Your poem is so true and definitely resonates. :)

Brenda at FriendlyFairyTales said...

I like that you've followed through and written these. You shared that you might on my post, where I did used that poem as a mentor, too. :-) Great job on it. Congrats on all the likes. My blog has been loved thoroughly also. It's a funny feeling. Not quite fully real, but wonderful.

Irene Latham said...

Oh those numbers are so seductive, aren't they?! And my answer is YES, I like you 87,000 times and then some (though I am not on Facebook!). And YOUR SELF-PORTRAIT is so colorful and full of magic and history... really beautiful. I'm so glad you wrote it. Happy to know you, my friend! xo

Kay said...

Both of these poems moved me. I can certainly relate to the thrill of many likes and the vulnerability those likes create. And yes, I'll check yes again and again. I may have to try writing a poem that describes me using an object.

michelle kogan said...

I like the many layers you've created Ruth in your "Self-Portrait as Bougainvillea" paralleling perhaps your many layers. Bougainvilleas are gorgeous flowers that spill all over an area, as you've described. I first saw them in Florida, and wished that I could have one in my Chicago backyard garden. Perhaps they will one day adapt here with our unfortunate warming climate changes.

I like your FB poem. Lots of likes, good to have–but can we–or do we ever need them all . . .

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Your prompt is a great one (thank you, Irene) and similarly, I just told Margaret Simon that her I Spy prompt would be great for helping kids to write more descriptively and more "obliquely" about objects--same word, and my favorite approach in poetry. I guess it's just "metaphorically" on the slant!

Yes, I LIKE it, and I LIKE you, 87,000 times over, and also I get you. Social media is a little dangerous for those of us who crave recognition and approval, isn't it? And yet your bougainvillea poem shows that you are much more complex and hardy and adaptable than even your routinely excellent Facebook posts suggest.

Enjoy summer!