bbAm I embarrassing myself?

A reasonable question:  I’d just posted a poem that invoked love, loss,  Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca and included a joke about sex.  I cannot count the ways that might be bad.

Poetry is new territory for me.  It arose from a desire for something freer:  language liberated from literality into forms that speak as much as content,  creations that have the capacity to delight or move, sometimes mysteriously.

I’m nearing 60, an age by which cognitive erosions are palpable and mounting.   The memory fades; the clarity; the sharpness.  Distressing, and yet perhaps also an opportunity:  Maybe the involuntarily loosening mind can more readily align with the non-linear nature of poetry, as the cohering mind of youth more readily acquires a foreign language.  This is what I hope:  that the wild discipline of poetry might teach me to speak loveliness in a new way before I am without a tongue to do so.

Even a fragment of what once was can shine with the beauty of the whole, as Rainier Marie Rilke writes in Archaic Torso of Apollo:

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.


You must change your life:  The call to something finer, which even the aging ear hears.

So I have been attempting poetry, seeking something other than the defaced expression of my younger self that prose sometimes seems to offer.   Occasionally, a line will glisten, often not, and I fear the overall effect is to confuse or alienate longtime followers of my prose.  Poetry worthy of the name requires more of readers as well as writers, a closer attention, a certain kind of exertion; a failure of one or the other can occur in the writer’s call, the reader’s response, or both.   Consideration of my own certain failings prompted that painful question, addressed to a fellow blogger:  Am I embarrassing myself?

I admire Robert Okaji’s poetry — so distilled and quietly muscular that it steals the breath while permeating the mind — and his response was heartening.  (Bob said my poetry has “mouth-feel” — a kind of instinctive appeal — which, for a brief time,  made me inwardly prance like Eddie Murphy’s donkey in Shrek when the princess calls him a noble steed.)  He also suggested I write a post explaining the changing nature of my writing;  this is the best I can manage.  And that I alternate forms for readers accustomed to prose offerings, which I will likewise do.

And then Bob leveraged his considerable readership by re-blogging one of my poems, generating encouraging likes and appreciative comments.   His spontaneous kindness  surprised and restored me, reminding me that our species is capable of great tenderness, as well as great cruelty. I am grateful.

And I am grateful to you, too, for sticking with me as I attempt poems,  for being — to paraphrase Edward Hirsch in How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry —  the friends I only hope exist, or will exist, the ones my words are seeking.

Despite Bob’s assurances, I suspect I am often a donkey.  Yet the gift of your attention makes me feel like a noble steed.  If you were here, I’d make you waffles.




  1. […] Poetry takes all forms and there are readers here who run with that. Some poems are stories, leaving us to divine the message. lifecameos from New Zealand tells all kinds of tales. Read her latest “Tea Party Chimps“. For Haiku, jokes, and fun art work, visit Steve at Heed Not Steve. And I’ve introduced her before, but Cate at Meditatio Ephemera just wrote about her own foray into poetry in the post “Donkey“. […]


    1. Thanks for the mention, Michelle, and for your respectful tribute to the place and power of poetry.


  2. I think that you are brilliant as a poet. I only have to bring to mind a previous poem that you published here; I believe is was called “A Winter’s Day”. That poem was one of the most powerful and touching ones I have ever read. Your painting an exquisite picture through words of something so real and universal was like watching a little piece of heaven unfold in front of me. Please, please, do keep writing poetry. I suspect that the muse will work its way out into the open as you attempt this path. I look forward to reading all that you publish on this new journey. Thank you for including us all.


    1. Samten: You have been so consistently, powerfully supportive and encouraging of my writing, an exemplar of the kindness I have found among fellow bloggers who are, technically, strangers, but who feel deeply like kindred spirits. As you say on the “About” page of your gentle and wise blog (, “our actions, our thoughts, and our words have an effect both on ourselves and on others.” Thank you for the positive effect you continue to have on me!


  3. I promise to keep donkeying along, in this year which will, in a few months, mark the 30th anniversary of my thirtieth birthday…


    1. You sir, ARE a noble steed. And I will be trotting close behind you in likewise celebrating that 30th anniversary …

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I came to poetry in my 40s and laugh looking back at how the younger me wanted everything stated explicitly, precisely, for quick and easy “knowledge”. I began writing poetry in parallel with beginning to see my own life as more questions than answers. Roughly 30 years back, and I continue to evolve in what I write about, as well as how the lines, phrases align. Poetry is a marvelous elixir – both the writing and the reading. Enjoy!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re so right; it encourages the mind to use language more freely. I was trained in the rigor of journalism, so it’s a welcome liberation for me. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the humble donkey and like you at past 60 have been freer to be the clown and make people talk to each other. It is a gift to say… I am a little odd and it is ok to laugh with me.

    Go girl!! open the world up to all the uptightness in others

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! I may have all I can handle with my own uptightness, but all important ventures seem to begin with that home base. 🙂


  6. Reblogged this on bodyandsoulnourishmentblog and commented:
    Poetry is music for the soul. I was inspired by Cate as she explores a new a creative expression through poetry in her blog. I look forward to reading your explorations Cate 🙂


  7. Congratulations Cate! You are an inspiration and a very talented writer. I enjoy the new creative expression of your blog! I am re-blogging your post to further inspire others. The language of Poetry does take us on a trip to a different dimension of thought & emotions, and open us to new perspectives.It’s music for the soul 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your encouragement and the kindness of reblogging this post, Amira! I’m sure there will be clunkers as well as keepers, so I appreciate your forbearance. 🙂


  8. How can we be more than what we are unless we’re willing to embarrass ourselves? I have to remind myself of that all the time. It perhaps is the reason that the themes of my current novel are borders – personal and geopolitical – and how we can choose to push them farther out, taking more risks or we shore them up, making our world so much smaller and confined, essentially imprisoning ourselves.

    It’s all a break for freedom, Cate. Poetry on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m breaking! I’m breaking! Love the way you said this, Michelle. Thank you … and I hope that new novel is keeping you up nights in the best way.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I find not a thing embarrassing about your writing (as my slightly older than you self wrote righting–ack).
    Challenging yourself where the growth is makes eminently good sense to me, and I find myself banging allover the place with this blog adventure, and why not? I also appreciate the comment that both reading and writing poetry does require a different level of attention/mindset. I certainly find that to be true when reading. One can scan prose and get a decent sense of it. A poem. No.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Steph. You and Michelle make the same basic point — that trying new ventures comes with an increased potential for embarrassment. But there are worse things — including doing the same old, same old when something potentially more exciting beckons. Creatively, it’s sort of like killing the time and possibility you have left instead of exploring it …

      Liked by 1 person

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