In the Company of Poets: Reflections on the Mariposa Poetry Retreat

Mariposa is Spanish for butterfly. In the mind of Maritza Rivera, Mariposa is also the name of a wonderful poetry retreat she organizes and hosts every year in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania at the Capital Retreat Center. This year I was lucky enough to attend with a group of marvelous poets and friends–Patricia Van Amburg, Sue Silver, Grace Cavalieri, and Stephanie Lowery. We renewed friendships, shared meals and wine, and wrote poetry together. Here’s a recap of two of the  featured faculty and a glimpse of the wonderful work we all did together. I’ll feature two more folks in a later blog.

Mariposa Poets, 2015
Mariposa Poets, 2015

Cliff Lynn, a poet from Annapolis, is also co-host of the Evil Grin Poetry Series and the Poet Experience, both held in Annapolis. Cliff has had over 50 poems published in both print and online journals and is an all-around poetry fan. Cliff’s workshop on persona poems, poems in the voice of an inanimate object or a character other than yourself, was popular and inspiring.  Using his usual blend of humor and sensitivity, Cliff led the group in both reading and writing poems. My favorite of Cliff’s poems is about his superhero, “One Sixteenth Man.” Ask him to recite it for you.

I offer Nikki Giovanni‘s persona poem  in the voice of a quilt as an example of a persona poem.

Quilts

(for Sally Sellers)

Like fading piece of cloth
I am a failure

No longer do I cover tables filled with food and laughter
My seams are frayed my hems falling my strength no longer able
To hold the hot and cold

I wish for those first days
When just woven I could keep water
From seeping through
Repelled stains with the tightness of my weave
Dazzled the sunlight with my
Reflection
I grow old though pleased with my memories
The tasks I can no longer complete
Are balanced by the love of the tasks gone past

I offer no apology only
this plea:

When I am frayed and strained and drizzle at the end
Please someone cut a square and put me in a quilt
That I might keep some child warm

And some old person with no one else to talk to
Will hear my whispers

And cuddle
near.

P1010020

Robert Giron, teaches English and creative writing at Montgomery College and is the editor of several literary magazines, including ArLiJo and The Sligo Journal. He is the author of five collections of poetry. Robert’s workshop focused on the formal poetry of villanelle and pantoum. Robert provided all of us with several model poems to illustrate the forms and led us in a discussion. Then he offered everyone a bit of inspiration when he invited us to select a picture from his amazing collection of images and work on one of the formal poems  we had just discussed. As is standard with modern poets, many of us write free verse, so exploring formal structures was both challenging and fun. Many people produced wonderful pantoms or villanelles on the spot.  Once you read this poem, I’m sure you’ll be inspired to try a villanelle.

Here’s my favorite villanelle by Elizabeth Bishop called “One Art.”

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Part two of Mariposa will feature Grace Cavalieri and Sarah Browning. Stay tuned!

 

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