Friday, February 22, 2019

Poetry Friday: QWP

Last year I marked turning 50 by setting myself a big writing goal that I called my Quinquagenarian Writing Project (QWP). After my birthday I just kept going, and I have more than sixty essays and poems in this year's folder as I reach this year's birthday.

I have several thoughts as I look at the year's writing all in one place. One thought is that I often write when I'm sad, and boy, can I be self-absorbed and angsty! I spend much of my life reading writing by teenagers, and honestly there are times when my own resembles theirs more than I like to admit. More and more, I realize that those big feelings of 13 and 14 year olds don't change that much; you just get more experience in dealing with them.

Another thing I notice is how often I have written around a topic again and again, circling back obsessively until I bore myself to tears. But sometimes I end up rewriting the ending, writing myself to a better way of seeing something, to acceptance of a situation that's been bugging me. How wonderful when that happens! It makes the angst worth it. When I see the squirming and obsessing as part of the solution, it helps me be less impatient with myself and my process of figuring things out, and it also helps me do the same for my students.

But sometimes writing works completely differently; it helps me focus on something else besides what I'm worrying over. Here, for example, is a poem I wrote this summer after visiting the Art Institute of Chicago with my daughter and seeing this Monet painting.

Cliff Walk at Pourville, by Claude Monet

The wind blows colors:
Patches of white in clouds, sails, skirts,
A pink parasol,
Blues of sky and sea,
Greens and grays of the cliff.

The wind blows lines:
Rippling, ruffling,
Chaotically planned,
Scientifically random,
Piles of still movement.

The wind blows ideas:
Cleans out the head,
Sweeps away the worries and words,
Carries away yesterday and tomorrow,
Flying over the waves and out of sight.

Ruth, from

You can see the painting more closely and learn more about it in this video:
Robyn has today's roundup.

(Speaking of things I worry about, here's a quick update on the situation in Haiti. Thanks so much for all your concern last week, Poetry Friday friends. Although many schoolchildren in the country are still staying home, our school re-opened on Tuesday and we had a calm, peaceful week. Perhaps three quarters of our students showed up for school; some had left the country during the riots. Many NGOs and international organizations asked their personnel to leave, as did the US Embassy. Haiti's travel advisory was raised to a level 4, putting us in the same category as countries like Syria and Afghanistan. We are concerned about the possibility of more unrest, because the underlying issues have not been resolved, but we're encouraged to have had a nearly normal week.)


skanny17 said...

I love ALL of this, Ruth, but your poem, your poem is fabulous. I am writing "off of" paintings, too, a little. Glad to hear a little update on the situation in Haiti.

Irene Latham said...

Dear Ruth, I have been living in my little lake bubble of late, and wasn't aware of the unrest in Haiti. Sending hugs and hope -- and gratitude for your post. 60 writings is a huge accomplishment! I, too, love how writing reveals us... nice to see all that angst moving us toward something, too. Your art poem is lovely -- love how you extended it beyond the frame, brought a bit of YOU to the poem. thank you! xo

Tabatha said...

60 essays and poems! Terrific that you kept going.
I love that the wind keeps us in the present.
"Nearly normal" can be such a blessing.

jama said...

Thanks for the update about the Haiti situation. Glad your school reopened and you had an uneventful week. Finally heard a little on the news about the unrest. Scary!

Love your writing project. Impressive that you've written so many essays and poems! Great practice and emotional release. You're right that basically our feelings/obsessions remain constant throughout our lives. Hopefully we learn how to better cope as we age.

Thanks for sharing your lovely Monet poem, too. He's one of my favorite artists. :)

Robyn Hood Black said...

You had me at "The wind blows colors..." - thank you for sharing all of this, Ruth. And, like Irene, I'm afraid I've been out of the greater news loop; glad to hear you are okay and will pray for continued peace for you and yours and the country. CONGRATS on all that writing!!

Mary Lee said...

Another thanks for the update. Glad you had a fairly normal week. Your wind reminds me of Tabatha's peaceful raging river.

Linda B said...

Congratulations on 60 poems and essays, Ruth. I certainly enjoy every time you share some of your work. I love that you can use it to figure out good ways to help those students, too. I taught the same age, understand how much they do write of their worries, and then often mask them by trying out something to laugh about. This poem is beautifully reflective of the painting but can be a standalone for life, too. I love "Piles of still movement." especially. And, glad you had a calm week. Best wishes for more.

Brenda Harsham said...

Glad you are well and back to a tentative calm. I hope it spreads rather than shreds. I hope your migrating students find calm harbors. I understand the teen voice, the angst and the desire to focus on Monet. Perhaps all poets are fragments of the same soul.

Christie Wyman said...

Impressive, Ruth. Congratulations on your stellar accomplishment. Keep going! I've always loved that particular Monet painting and just adore your last stanza, in particular:

"The wind blows ideas:
Cleans out the head,
Sweeps away the worries and words,
Carries away yesterday and tomorrow,
Flying over the waves and out of sight."

The power of wind and weather.

Be safe and well. Keeping all of you in our prayers. -- Christie @

Michelle Kogan said...

I like how you repeated this line as a refrain, but then changed the last word of each line,
"The wind blows colors:"
"The wind blows lines:"
"The wind blows ideas:"
And where these ideas carried you in the last stanza.

Congratulations on all the writing from the last year. Glad to hear things are a bit better, hope they continue to get even better. What a dichotomy to live with the tumult of the area and the beauty of the area, I think I could write many poems just on that, thanks Ruth, be well.

BTW if you are in Chicago again the Art Institute will be having an exhibit on Manet, opening in May–he's one of my favorites. Give me a holler if you drop in.