Thursday, 11 January 2018

Happy Poetry Friday! Jan Godown Annino is putting on a poetry spread for us this week at Bookseedstudio.

This is a year of big transitions for my family. Our youngest turns 18 this week and is preparing to make the leap from high school to college. Shortly after that, Mr. S turns 50 and our eldest celebrates his 21st birthday.

(All of our birthdays, including Sam the dog’s, fall within five weeks. Mine is the last and — hard to believe — we are usually caked out by then.)

I am relying on long-term projects to sustain me in 2018. There are writing projects, of course. A new book is in the works, but my first goal is to finish the 2017 February Poetry Project prompts before February 2018’s new daily prompts begin.

27 down and 1 to go! More on that in a second.

I’m using nine colors in a variety of weights, but mostly sock yarn.

My second project combines knitting and science. A friend shared this pattern with me and I am in love. You pick yarn colors (9, 10, 15 — knitter’s choice) and create a chart of temperature ranges with corresponding colors. Over the course of the year, you chart the temperature (I’m doing daily highs), and knit a row or two in the corresponding color.

Instead of stockinette stitch — and after frogging a few false starts — I’m doing a K1, P1 rib.

I am having so much fun with this project! Here is the pattern at the Ravelry crochet and knitting site. It’s beginner friendly.

Back to poetry. When our children were small, we planted a tree for each of them not far from the kitchen window. Our eldest chose a gingko. Despite the cold weather, as evidenced by my knitting project, the tree is covered with little knobs. These will become buds in a few months.

As I work on the last few poems (late — so late!) from last year’s daily poetry project, it’s the ginkgo I see from my work space. And that’s how the tree found its way into this poem.

2/27/17 #10FoundWords prompt from Mary Lee Hahn
Source: “Could a Bumblebee Learn to Play Fetch? Probably”

10 Words: abilities, brain, decisions, fetch, flexibility, learn, memory, problem, puzzle, strategy

By Laura Shovan

The gingko tree’s ability is rest–
long months of buds capped
tight under winter scalps.
Green brains sleep there,
ready to make decisions
to become fan-shaped leaves
fetching sunlight and rain.
The tree sleeps on its problems–
draught, neglect—forms
strategies for next season.
To do: learn to be flexible
in the wind.
I like to think
memories are stored
in the gingko’s puzzling mazes
of would-be leaves, because
then it could be true for all of us.
In the place where old growth
breaks away, something new
is considering spring.


Currently reading: No One Waits for the Train, by Waqas Khwaja

34 responses to “Poetry Friday: Gingko”

  1. This poem has a great story arc….AND you used all the words. I’m a little nervous about writing a poem daily. But, if I have extra time to finish….woot! I can do that.
    I like the details that focus on one’s head. Caps, scalp, brains, sleeping on problems, learn, listing. It’s literally a smart poem. Bravo!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Linda. I’m glad you like the poem. There’s always a risk involved in sharing something brand new.

      No worries about the daily prompt. You can take your time with them, or only respond to the ones that speak to you.

  2. I adore ginko trees! Every time I’ve visited Japan they’ve been a glorious golden riot of colour, so striking against the bright blue sky. Every time I see one I’m reminded of my travels, which always brings a smile to my face!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Agreed! Our tree is a gorgeous deep yellow in the fall. All the leaves drop at once, creating a skirt around the tree. Glad to smile with you today.

  3. Your poem’s a budding tribute to the Gingko tree. I love the “Green brains sleep there, ready to make decisions.” And the analogy of our old growth and the Gingko’s and new growth forming–beautiful poem Laura.

    Gingko’s are a favorite tree of mine, I’ve been watching my neighbors Gingko grow next to our yard for close to 30 years. I love the telegraphic branches they have and all the bumps on them, they are truly amazing trees.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      They are fascinating, Michelle. I remember something about the gingko being such an old creature/plant that it is quite unlike most modern trees.

  4. Sally Murphy says:

    Beautiful poem about a beautiful tree. I love those closing lines and the idea that it could be true for people as for trees.

  5. Laura, I am new to #10FoundWord poetry. I will have to try it out for myself. This was a beautiful poem. The more I read it, the more I found myself connecting to the message. I don’t know that I have seen a Ginko tree; here in Montana I think our garden zone doesn’t support them. 🙂 I might be wrong though! Love your tradition of planting trees for each of your children. Caked out by your birthday? …ever tried Jell-O instead? 🙂

    • Laura Shovan says:

      That’s too bad, Dani. The leaves turn a brilliant yellow in the fall — and they have such an interesting fan-shape.

  6. Beautiful poem–and so fitting for the changes you are facing this year. I’m right with you as the Mr. in our house turns 50 as well (and I’m not far behind) and we are adjusting to having our one and only in England for the semester. We even share closely spaced birthdays and, yes, it is possible to get caked out. Good thing my husband prefers pie. And I’ve been considering tackling some of last year’s poem prompts that I missed. The blank pages with word lists are waiting in my journal!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      It sounds like we have a lot in common, Kay. Pie is a great option! I may have to try that. (Good luck with 2017 prompts. I finished February, but know that I missed a few of the extras we did over the year.)

  7. Donna Smith says:

    That was a wonderful poem and so unexpected a topic with those words! AND I do love the knitting/weather project. That would be a fun way to do a yearly afghan.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thank you, Donna. I’m already planning to do the temperature knit again next year — perhaps a hat or a baby blanket.

  8. Tabatha says:

    I had to send my mom the scarf idea, Laura. I’m sure she’ll love it.
    Your poem is gorgeous. I think it is “true for all of us.”

  9. These are my favourite lines:
    “I like to think
    memories are stored
    in the gingko’s puzzling mazes
    of would-be leaves, because
    then it could be true for all of us.”
    — truly beautiful. I know what you mean about “transitions” – that seems to be my word for 2018 too.

  10. Linda Baie says:

    I have been so amiss at finishing the recent challenges, just cannot find the time, so good for you for finishing with such a flourish, Laura. This gives a tidy recipe for life, and I love “The tree sleeps on its problems–
    draught, neglect—forms
    strategies for next season. Well done!

  11. Molly Hogan says:

    I’ve read and reread your poem and find something new to enjoy/admire each time. Those ending lines are fabulous, and like Linda, I also love all those head-related word choices. I’m looking forward to the February challenge and hope I increase my participation rate. I’m so impressed that you’re finishing up last year’s prompts and so glad you did! Love this poem! Oh–and your scarf project intrigues me and I hope you’ll share the finished project.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      I appreciate the comment, Molly. My poetry muscle had been a bit flabby after working on a prose novel most of this year. I’m excited about the February daily write-in.

  12. Mary Lee Hahn says:

    That is one zinger of an ending to your gingko poem. Yes, yes, yes!

    And knitting the year’s temperatures into a scarf–wow! Makes me want to take up needles again! I few rows a day is my kind of project.

    I’m a little nervous about the poem-a-day. I’m in a bit of a writing slump/drought and I’ll also admit to some intimidation. I’m trying to switch my thinking from “I’m not good enough” to “I’ll learn lots.”

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Mary Lee. I hope to see you over at the project. You’ll find lots of support there, no matter how often you’re able to participate.

  13. Ruth says:

    Your projects are always inspirational! I love gingko trees, too!

  14. (Cyberspace just ate my lengthy comment. Trying a shorter one from my phone.) So much to love in this post – and “fan-shaped leaves/fetching sunlight and rain” is just dreamy. Happy 2018!

  15. Brenda says:

    I adore your ginkgo poem, and I love the contextual depth of the post as well. My youngest is 8, but I already dread the grown and flown scenario. Will I be ready? My middle one is on a sleepover, and I feel resentment enough. LOL

  16. Keri Collins Lewis says:

    I love ginkgo trees, and this poem *rocks*! You make poetry of great insight and multiple levels look so easy Laura!! You inspire me!

  17. POETRY cake! I love everything about this post. It is layered with Love. And I am going to give our winter-weary fig tree some love, inspired by your brilliant thoughts of your son’s Gingko. The knitted scarf pattern according to cold/hots & temps in-between makes me smile. Lastly but not lastly – early HB! cake to you, dear Laura. It was a mighty day when you were born.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Jan! Maybe I should ask for a poetry cake this year? I’d love to read that fig-tree poem of yours.

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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