Intersections: Dual-language poetry

We all wear a lot of hats– look at my Twitter bio and you’ll see that I’m a teacher, parent, musician, German-speaker, Christian, cook and heck, even a soap-maker in addition to being a writer. This past weekend I was at ACTFL – a conference for foreign language teachers – but since I’m also participating in a challenge to write 30 poems in 30 days,* my mind was constantly working on ideas for new poems as well as swimming with new ideas for teaching German.  The result– I decided to write a poem about my conference experience in German (followed by an English prose version– didn’t feel like being crazy enough to make them BOTH rhyme!). This is what my blog Schreibenfreude is all about: the joy (and sometimes overwhelming chaos) of writing AND of language. If you’ve been to a conference or really productive workshop, you may relate:

Auf der Sprachkonferenz

Alles was noch übrig bleibt,
Nach dem langen, vollen Tag
Wie ein Stift, der nicht mehr schreibt,
Wie ein Auto, das versagt,
Ist in meinem Gedächtnis wach.
Bilder Fliegen, Filme gleich,
Jedes Wort, das jeder sprach
Schwmmt wie im bespanntem Teich.

Durchsortieren mit der Zeit
Bringt Verständnis, klärt viel auf.
Doch hilft Abstand nur soweit
Bis Erinnerungsverlauf.

Ganz allein, lieg ich und denk:
Ich bin dankbar für mein Glück,
Was noch bleibt ist ein Geschenk
Auch wenn nur ein kleines Stück.

English Version in Prose:

At the language conference:

All that remains after a long full day,
Like a pen that is out of ink
Or a car that has stopped working,
Is awake in my consciousness.
Pictures fly by like films
And every word that everyone said
Swims like fish in a freshly stocked pool.
With time, sorting through these memories
Brings clarity and understanding…
Yet distance only helps so much until
The memories fade away.
All alone I lie and think:
I am thankful for my luck.
What remains is a gift
Even if only a small one.

*My 30 Poems in 30 Days challenge is part of a fundraiser for the “Center for New Americans.”  Click on the link for more information!


We didn’t start the fire….2016

Got the news yesterday about the death of poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen. Since I’m already writing a poem each day, it hit me hard and I had to pause and look at the wringer we’ve been through this year. All I could think of was the litany of news stories in Billy Joel’s “We didn’t start the fire” — except that his song covers decades and this is all in one year. So much tragedy I know I didn’t hit it all, but if you know the original song, I hope you’ll appreciate it:

We didn’t start the fire: 2016
(To the tune of the Billy Joel song)

David Bowie, EgyptAir
Brussels bombing, Zika scare,
Nancy Reagan, Alan Rickman, Janet Reno

Elie Wiesel, Patty Duke,
Five brave Dallas men in blue,
Leonard Cohen, Anton Yelchin, Umberto Eco

This was our year of trial,
Enough of being mean,
Two thousand and sixteen, because:
This was our year of trial,
It’s time for you to leave,
Can’t wait for New Year’s Eve!

Swimmer Ryan Lochte lied,
Innocent young black men died,
Kenny Baker was the droid we all were looking for.

Prince brought tears of purple rain,
Bastille Day brought France more pain
RIP my favorite Wonka, dear Gene Wilder.

Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe,
Boxer Ali’s gone now.
Trump and Clinton brought the country to a great divide.

Dead Gorilla at the zoo,
Britain’s out of the EU,
Shooting in Orlando and we’re out of tears to cry!

This was our year of trial,
Enough of being mean,
Two thousand and sixteen, because:
This was our year of trial,
It’s time for you to leave,
Can’t wait for New Year’s Eve!

NaNoWriMo isn’t the only writing game…

kimg1342For years I’ve thought Nanowrimo was an amazing challenge, but just out of reach for me. Not only do I tend toward picture books and poetry, but I’m also a full time teacher with two small children — it’s pretty much impossible for me to put everything aside and get the required word count in.

However, I’m always up for a challenge, and writing challenges are a great way to push ourselves to find time to create. About 8 years ago, I took part in “National Poetry Writing Month” (in April) and wrote a poem every day for a month. It was difficult, but exhilarating. I managed to keep it up for five years running.  Then last November, I heard about “PiBoIdMo” — Picture Book Idea Month, coordinated by the great picture book author Tara Lazar (author of Little Red Gliding Hood and Normal Norman). In this writing challenge, picture book authors are tasked with coming up with an idea for a picture book for each day of the month. That was an awesome challenge, and while it wasn’t easy, it was easier for me than a set word count because it only required coming up with the ideas, not fleshing them out. Even better, I now have a whole file full of ideas I can use. This year, Tara made the decision to move PiBoIdMo to next January, so watch for more posts about that in the coming weeks.

What now? It’s all come together in “30 Poems in November” — my 30 day poem challenge, but this time an event put forth by the “Center for New Americans” in Western Massachusetts.  The center works to provide literacy education and other tools to aid immigrants and refugees in reaching economic stability.  For more information, please consult the official CNA webpage. If you’re able, I’d appreciate a small donation. You’re more than welcome to “commission” a poem from me for the month– I love writing poems to honor people and events.

So here I am, back at it writing. I’ve been able to get in a poem a day so far, although a couple of them are unfinished. I’ll leave you with my poem for day 2:

I know why the caged dog bites.

They locked him up because he was a danger,

Then wondered why he growled and bit when the door was opened.

They kept him far from children,

Then wondered why he was not socialized.

They balanced biscuits on his nose

Then wondered why he ate them.

In dreams he runs free,

Without leash, collar or fence,

Without sharp voices cutting at his every leap.

A playful exuberance fuels his rambles over sunlit fields

And into happy waiting arms

That scratch in just the right spot.

His leg kicking reflexively, nose nuzzling, tongue giving wet kisses

In dreams he obeys,

Not for fear of the whip, but for joy

No he does not obey,

It is not a command, then, but merely

An unspoken partnership,

Born in mutual admiration and love.

And then…

With jarring clang the door swings open,

Awakening the sleeping dog with deep accusatory tones,

To play the role for which he has been trained.

November 2, 2016

Copyright MMK