Showing posts with label poetry blog by Joyce Mason. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poetry blog by Joyce Mason. Show all posts

Friday, September 3, 2010

Your Handwriting

Neat and beautiful,
penned perfectly
across a year’s worth of cards
scattered on my desk,
your handwriting paints
a gorgeous sunset
onto my home office landscape.

Loving notes fill Valentine’s,
anniversary, birthday cards.

But by autumn
your handwriting was shaky.

There were no more cards
with your signature.

You were gone just past Thanksgiving:

now only memories
and Hallmark
to remind me what you wrote
in big letters across my heart.

© 2010 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, August 28, 2010


When is the right time?
The time to say
“I love you” or
“I’m done with this?”

When is the right time to put down
the dog
the cat
or say goodbye
to shoes so old
their price tags
make you laugh?

The head says,
“Set goals,
give them time limits.”
The heart often
better of it.

Where is the cosmic alarm clock?
The oven timer
that tells you when
something is cooked?

I will go deep within
my biological clock
set to cosmic cycles.

I will await word
from the falling star
of inner knowing.

© 2010 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 23, 2010


Marriage aroused me
long before you leapt
into my life
knocked me down
with over-enthusiasm
from all that commotion.

The intimacy:
watching two touch

At dinner
I watched us
like I’ve watched
so many couples before
high on connection

And even before the lobster melted
on my palate
so did I
in your eyes.

Later, when your lips
were cinnamon sugar,
I laced my legs through you
in order to keep my feet on.

© 2010 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved


Photo credit: Intimate couple close-up © Alexandr Stepanov |

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Rhapsodes Left Words—and Crowds—in Stitches

How My New Blog Got Its Name

© 2010 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

A rhapsode or in modern usage, rhapsodist, refers to a classical Greek professional performer of epic poetry. Rhapsodes performed the epics of Homer but also the wisdom poetry of Hesiod and the satires of others. Itinerant performers, they often customized their presentations. Improv figured highly in their offerings. [1] As I say of myself in a post on one of my other blogs, they were very verse-a-tile!

The term rhapsode is derived from a Greek word that means to sew songs together.

A rhapsode was known on sight by his long flowing robe and staff. The rhapsode built his repertoire in diverse myths, tales and jokes. His performance of epic poetry was called in classical Greek rhapsodia and its performer a rhapsodos. According to some sources, the “outer shell” of a given work would be kept intact keeping secure such underlying themes as morality or honor. Some modern scholars argue that the rhapsodos was by definition a performer of a fixed, written text. I resonate to the idea of a fixed core with wiggle room around the edges. The lifestyle of the rhapsode was consistent with a free spirit, unlikely to relish poetic confines.

The word rhapsodos was in use as early as works of Greek lyric poet, Pindar (522–443 BC). Pindar offers two different explanations of the term, "singer of stitched verse" and "singer with the staff". The idea of stitched verse is correct from an etymological standpoint, as already mentioned. The reciter held a staff, perhaps like the scepter in the Homeric assembly as a symbol of the right to be heard. (It reminds me of the Native American talking stick.) The staff may also have been used, according to some sources, to emphasize the rhythm or as a prop for “giving grandeur to their gestures.” The word derivation meaning, stitched verse, is a precise metaphor about what oral narrative poets do, stitching together formulas, lines, and scenes during a performance.

Later evidence supports the idea that the rhapsodes were forced to work from written text, even compelled by law to do so.

Let me say it outright. I’m at least two-thirds rebel, and I only stitch verses according to the beat of my own drummer!

Poetry Contests and Mass Communication

Much as we’d like to think we invented poetry contests in modern times, rhapsodes performed competitively way back when. They vied for prizes at religious festivals, a practice already well established by the fifth century. Read the Wikipedia article, linked at the end, for more juicy details.

Another interesting idea to contemplate. Poetry reading through the rhapsodes was an ancient form of mass communication! Mass communication begins with an audience of more than one. According to another source, the rhapsode was considered special as a “news producer.” In some societies, the news producer was a rhapsode, griot, or one of a thousand other names suggesting wisdom, experience and cultural memory. “Singer of Tales" is still a main source of such cultural riches in the Balkan countries. [2]

Poets and lovers of poetry: This is our history.

Why I Fell in Love with the Rhapsodes and Got Fired Up to Start This Blog

I have always considered myself a weaver. Someone who takes diverse concepts, topics, and experiences, then stitches them together in a cohesive, helpful, healing picture—a mandala that someone can use for deeper self-understanding.

My life has been a tapestry of rich and radiant reunions. (Apologies to Carole King.) After reuniting with birth mother, boyfriend/great love, and finally, my first boyfriend who is now my husband: I realized I was more than fond of The Re-do. (While we’re on the subject, I also married and divorced my first husband twice.)

Lately I’ve started having reunions not with not just people but things I love. One of them is poetry. After a hiatus of over three decades, I’m back in the saddle, stitching together my first poetry collection, available this fall, Thick Water: Poems on Bonds of the Heart.

Yet it took another poet’s book to turn me onto how this thing I do naturally creates a tapestry out of “my mishegaas,” as my dear friend Esther puts it. The Yiddish term mishegaas says it so much better than mere English, how strange, mixed-up, and misfit my diverse interests appear at first. For a long time, they seemed an odd mixture, even to me. What thread can possibly connect writing (poetry in particular), astrology,  and cosmic signs (synchronicity, oracles, dreams)? The thread is symbolism but more importantly, it’s the sewing—taking disparate parts of life experiences and weaving them into a whole picture. Making sense out of mishegaas.

But it’s more. According to Kim Rosen in Saved by a Poem, the rhapsodes ultimately evolved to be part of the Olympic Games and other competitions. For a fee, a person could ask the rhapsode a question and receive a personal passage from Homer as a form of guidance or divination. Ancient fortune cookies, compliments of the rhapsode. I know people who do “Bible dipping,” open the Good Book to a page and point their finger on some text. Wherever it lands, that’s their personal passage, their modern Christian version of the oracle at Delphi speaking. This oracular spin on the rhapsodes puts poetry right in my trick bag of tools for divine guidance. Divine guidance is the thread, but we don’t see the tapestry or big picture unless we sew.

As ye sew, so shall ye reap.

My first reaction to this inspiration? I need a third blog like a hole in my head. Then, on second thought, maybe I need it more than I know. Now that I’ve been blogging for nearly four years, it’s second nature to share what I’m learning with others … and it keeps my website tidier to have links to separate blogs for major topic areas or writing genres. That’s what the link is for, to create threads with many weavers who sew together ideas and inspiration on the massive tapestry of the World Wide Web.

Everything I do is a form of healing, helping people to feel more whole, what stitching something together is all about. We are stitched back together when we’re hurt. Humor is a huge piece of it, the most healing thing the gods and muses ever bestowed on humanity. When someone makes us laugh so hard we could bust a gut, we say they keep us in stitches. Poetry heals both poet and audience. I still am amazed at how my most personal poems hit universal chords in my readers and listeners.

Besides, I need practice being “out there” with my poems. It’s been a long time.

Welcome, and thanks for being here. I hope I keep you in stitches for years to come.


Next Up: What you came for—a poem! Just a little more waiting is fullness.


[1] Wikipedia - Rhapsode

[2] ENGLISH 104 (Spring 2005) MEDIA HISTORY: A brief guide to the grand tour
[3] Kim Rosen, Saved by a Poem, p. 105.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Waiting Is Fullness"

A quote from Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. 

Stitched Verse will launch with its first official post on Friday, August 13, at 8:28 pm PDT.