Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Poetry Stretch - Magnitude and Scale

I missed you last week, but I was putting the finishing touches on a grant application, one that came in at 1.8 million dollars. Think about that for a minute. That's a lot of money. Just a few days before finishing this application, I heard the President speak at UR. The numbers he tossed around were in the trillions. Even with my knowledge of math, those are numbers that are hard to understand.

While I was thinking about these big numbers, I was also working on some lessons in nanotechnology. So, I've been thinking about extremes, from very large to very small in the last week. Size can be relative though, because things that seemed enormous when I was a child often appear much smaller today.

As I ruminate on the big and the small, let's write about magnitude and scale. Anything on the continuum is fair game. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.


  1. I've worked and reworked this poem, which touches on the scale of things, and I'll leave it here, as is, for today:

    I Am the Seed

    I am the seed only earthworms have seen
    Through the sensitive cells in their skin.
    I want to be grass, and I want to be green.

    But ending outright is no way to begin
    For a seed, or a worm, or a man:
    One owns up to a loss, and earns any win.

    I am the shell that entraps as it can,
    And it must—that's the path that it's on.
    I am the gulf that no girders will span.

    I am also escapist—I’m here, then I’m gone—
    From the shell, from the cell, I will run.
    I am the sleeper who rises at dawn

    To greet and exalt inexhaustible sun
    For its labors—a matchless machine,
    That once it starts up, is never outdone.

    I am the seed, and I weave what I mean.
    I want to be grass, and I want to be green.

    ©2011 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

  2. Forgot to mention: The poem above is my variation on terza rima.

    Also, I invite you all to join Poetry Advocates for Children & Young Adults, a new grass-roots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting poetry for every age group:

  3. Third time! Blogger keeps eating my comments and won't let me Post them! Enjoyed your seed poem, Steven.

    The Loudest Quiet

    The screen door bangs shut behind me, and then
    it is quiet

    I call out "Pebbles!" but
    it is quiet

    I listen for nails on floor
    It is quiet

    The house is wrong
    It is too quiet

    --Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved

  4. Nice, Laura. I love the openness of this -- the refrain and the spaces between stanzas create a kind of echo chamber. The words "Pebbles!" and "nails" and "wrong" are arresting.

  5. With much gratitude and respect for the Lacks family:


    They took us from her
    when she was dying
    sliced us from
    the growth
    that brewed inside
    then divvied us up
    dropping us into
    skinny glass tubes
    they shipped around the world
    went and made us look like floozies
    coloring our hair with fluorescent dyes
    pink  blue  green  and stuck us under
    microscopes for all to see
    makin' up highfalutin stories
    even accusing us a contaminatin' others
    while we sat around in these petri plates
    waitin' to be all cultured up
    trying to say it's for the good of humankind
    but ain't we a human
    born from a Mamma   who
    never quite knew what was
    going down     or
    how she would
    go about
    the world.

    © Carol Weis 2011 all rights reserved

  6. Thanks for sharing this, Carol. I like the bouncing, almost rollicking rhythm this has in spots. A surprising, but great, subject for a poem!

  7. Thanks, Steven. Of course, I'm reading THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS, which is having a deep impact on me, and as soon as I saw this challenge, the words started squirming inside my head.

  8. A little late, but here's my response:

    Define Your Terms

  9. Nice work, Greg! You pack a lot of energy into a few words.

  10. later still...

    How many?

    How many
    does it take
    to widen
    into lakes?
    And just
    how hot
    must deserts
    before their cacti
    to sweat?

    How long?

    How long
    a flower
    before it
    to wither?
    how long
    snakelet grow
    before it
    to slither?

  11. Hi, All--I'm new to this site, so not quite sure how things work. But here are my thoughts on this week's poems...

    Steven--this is (so far) my favorite of your poems! Very rhythmic, very lyrical.

    Laura--nice to see you here (have come across your name on many other sites). Enjoyed your poem about Pebbles--it's the truth, ain't it--too quiet IS wrong!

    Carol--very nice poem. Reminds me to finish Henrietta L. Incredible story... loved your take on it, especially the last line.

    Greg--hello, Greg. I've visited your site before, and am glad to finally 'meet' you. Love your puddle poem--short and sweet!

  12. Thanks, Julie, for the sinuous, sensuous poem -- and for the nice comment!