After Herrick – “Even During Festivities”

Brain in Snow Drift

Even During Festivities

The brain will strain against the now;
so hard to stay right here.
Mind wanders lonely as a cloud
above communal cheer.
is not the word–for love
(but to itself) proclaims
“I hear,”  “I do,” “I will”–
all ruse of cerebellum’s Tao
to never be quite still.


The above is sort of a draft poem written for a prompt by the wonderfully gifted Kerry O’Connor on With Real Toads to write a poem in a form developed by Robert Herrick.  Kerry sets great mini challenges with traditional and not so traditional forms  – this one has various meter and rhyme requirements which Kerry can explain much better than me. 

I have difficulty at times in group situations, parties!  (Though not sure this poem quite describes it.)  And my brain does seem to get stuck in drifts – even outside of parties.  (The pic’s a repost, I’m afraid, suitable for all too many occasions.)  

Check out Kerry’s post and, if you have time, also my books!  

Poetry, GOING ON SOMEWHERE, (by Karin Gustafson, illustrated by Diana Barco). 1 Mississippi -counting book for lovers of rivers, light and pachyderms, orNose Dive. Nose Dive is available on Kindle for just 99 cents!

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37 Comments on “After Herrick – “Even During Festivities””

  1. You have definitely infused this piece with modern flair, but I like the nod to Wordsworth’s daffodils. It really gathers pace from line 5 all the way to the end where it calms with Tao wisdom.

  2. Mary Says:

    I understand “mind wanders lonely as a cloud above communal cheer.” So often this has happened to me in the midst a crowd of people! There is NO greater loneliness than that.

  3. G-Man Says:

    Your brain will never freeze!!!!
    Thanks for all of your brilliance…
    Happy New Year Karin……..Galen x

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha! Thanks so much, Galen. I love your wonderful sense of humor and poetry and your great site! Thanks for the opportunity to link up with you – and the happiest and healthy of new years. K.

  4. Marian Says:

    cerebellum’s Tao! love it. 🙂

  5. lolamouse Says:

    Yes, it is difficult to live in the “now” as Tao advises. Your poem describes your lament very well!

  6. Susan Says:

    How I love your use of Wordsworth here! Stillness is not a quality of a loving living brain, no! You use the form well to show us so!

  7. janehewey Says:

    great poem and brain. I am thoroughly attached to mine and look for as many tools as I can to calm it. really love your cerebellum’s Tao. This fun form poem encourages me to connect With Real Toads in the new year.

  8. cloudfactor5 Says:

    This brilliant poem is so in the moment, great brain/mind play! and I love the ending! excellent example of the form!
    “all ruse of cerebellum’s Tao
    to never be quite still.”

  9. Mama Zen Says:

    I really like this. It flows beautifully.

  10. brian miller Says:

    nice…it is hard to stay in the now, mind always drifting…it def takes some discipline…

  11. I like these lines K:

    all ruse of cerebellum’s Tao
    to never be quite still.

    I know what you mean about the mind floating even in the midst of festivities ~

    Wishing you Happy New Year ~

  12. Lots for me to like about this poem, Karin. I caught the reference to that feeling you have at parties…perhaps because I share that feeling. I really enjoy Herrick, the form, and the subtle reference to Wordsworth’s lonely cloud. I also wish you a wonderful 2013 and return my thanks for your support and thought-provoking poetry. Oh, and fun illustrations.

  13. Sabio Lantz Says:

    @ ManicDdaily,
    Your afterward tells us that you have “difficulty at times in group situations, parties! ”

    Your first two lines speak for people in general — we all drift from the now.
    But he next couplet however speaks of your mind — for certainly not all of us have problems at parties. We don’t get cloudy.
    So, maybe the first line could be “This brain…” Keeping the poem personal and not trying to tell us something about all of our minds.

    The middle part about “love” etc I can’t follow.

    Why did you choose “cerebellum” when you get specific and scientific, it triggers that sort of analysis — so I am thinking:
    “all trick[ruse] of coordination center’s [cerebellum] path[Tao].”
    But that is unclear.
    Except that you say, “never be quite still” makes it sound like a neurological disorder.

    But overall the image of the poem for me is:
    “I can’t stay focused at parties, they make me dizzy and I drift off.” But the thing about love does not fit for me.

    Well, now I will read the comments to see if they help.

    Well, folks are saying you are alluding to Wordsworth — well, if it is a literary elite allusion, then this is not written for me. No wonder I can’t get it. Agghh. I tried.

    I liked Herrick’s poem, I understood that.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Hi Sabio,

      In my defense (!), the poem is a both more complex and straightforward than you are making it. Yes, as my afterword mentions, it is about being in group situations – communal cheer– but it is also more generally about the brain operates for many – even non-psychotic brains.

      The Wordsworth reference is I wandered lonely as a cloud, which may be a bit of a congenital problem for someone whose head is in the clouds (and is also a bit of a paradigm for a “Romantic” artist’s temperament. I am using Romantic in more of a historical sense here, which I think has more to do with the ego of the artist, and not so much about romantic love.)

      You are right that I should possibly say “this” brain–I did not use “my” brain, because I was aiming for iambic pentameter and I liked the lighter weight of “the.” That said – I think it’s pretty true that many brains have a problem with staying in the moment – it seems to be related to the human condition for many–n the absence of real practice of focus, meditation or discipline – a kind of distractedness or restlessness seems pretty common.

      Love comes in as a correction to the wandering”above the communal cheer.” The idea is that someone – let’s say the narrator – who is not completely fitting in the moment is not truly intending to put him or herself “above” the communal moment; is not holding him or herself superior or even apart from the moment – but is just outside of it, even if loving the other participants, and even if loving the idea of the communal moment. So, for example, a person can feel very happy to cook a dinner for a large group or throw a party, and really love all the participants, and yet, during the moment of the event, feel apart from it. The love proclaiming itself both aloud (but actually inside the person – so silent) is meant to be part of this conflicted wish to be part and to be present, and to be engaged–that is what all of the “I hear” and will and do refer to – even bringing in the “I do” of a partnership–but also not fully able to.

      And this, in the poem, is blamed on the brain – I used cerebellum, again truly for sound – but I probably should have used the cerebrum or something related to the cortex as it is a more analytical part of the brain. If I revise this, I will aim for something more on those lines – but the cerebellum is not a terrible word because this lack of fit, this kind of conflict, runs very deep in some personalities–it is part of the posture of who the person is. (I don’t think it’s a psychosis!)

      The use of the word Tao is ironic here. Because as I understand it – and my understanding is limited – actual Taoism deals with the development of a kind of connection between things, and implies again, a kind of discipline – but here – the tao or path or way of this brain is really the opposite = its knee-jerk response is not to be still or focused or particularly connected, despite its wish to be. So this is truly meant as a joke at the end of the poem – a turning of Tao on its head, as it were.

      The poem – all of my poems, other than ones I’ve taken from my book, are pretty much drafts – so I am quite sure it can be improved upon. That said, they do tend to have pretty specific, thought-out meanings. Of course, in working with a form, there tends to be a compression of some of this.

      • Sabio Lantz Says:

        @ Manic,

        Thank you much for you exposition.
        I can see now what the intent of your writing was.
        Even with your explanation of the lines about “love”, when I look back at your words in the poem, I don’t see any of that.

        Yes, I get that this is a draft == that is part of why I am offering feedback.

        I’d love to see what percentage of commentors who complimented your poem, understood that part. The I hear, I do, I will part — for example.

        Anyway, our intent on what we want to say is tough to get in a poem that is short and constrained. I hope my comments were useful.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Hi Sabio,

        I am always glad to get feedback. As I’ve said before, I really do try to communicate pretty directly with my poems – but the element of sound is also tremendously important to me – and sound is not completely or straightforwardly verbal. Also, one looks – I look, at least – when writing, for connections I’ve not always made before, and these are also not very straightforward sometimes. Poetry would be very boring if there were not some quirkiness! k.

      • Sabio Lantz Says:

        Yeah, sound is fun — and I am learning more about it.

        I read lots of poems I can understand and that are not boring and get in occasional quirkiness, lots of sounds and metaphors but without losing the reader — that is the trick. Tough to do– that balance between meaning, sound and depth. I get it. My own challenges abound! (in prose, poems and conversation!)
        That is the problem I see with poetry blogs — we never get accurate feedback to what the reader is really hearing. We assume with that any positive comment means it worked. And it may not have at all. It is almost like we should say, “in the comments, tell me what this poem means to you.”

        I wager with those sorts of comments that many people would be incredibly surprised at how precious little they are getting across that they imagined were obvious in their writing.

        As you know, I think “intent” is important. But that is my aesthetics — like broccoli.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Yes, I understand. And I do think some people may read fairly superficially. But it’s somewhat important, I think, not to conflate your own understanding with others; or also not to understand that some people really are mainly writing for encouragement and the support helps them develop as much as a critique. Not always certainly. But broadening one’s taste is not necessarily lowering it.

        On Mon, Dec 31, 2012 at 11:36 AM, ManicDDaily

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      PS – Here’s a site to the Wordsworth –

      One thing I would note – I don’t think the poem requires that one knows Wordsworth. That said, I would hate a poetry that forsook allusion! There’s a ton of Eliot that I don’t get, for example, or Yeats, or more modern poets too, but I don’t think they are putting things in to fool me. There’s a richness that is being mined with most allusion. I wish I could get all of it – as the parts I do get enrich me too. That’s my thought anyway. I do know that a lot of allusion can be annoying – but usually I am annoyed that I didn’t learn or can’t remember whatever I did learn. Certainly, I like poems without allusion too.

      • Sabio Lantz Says:

        ohhhh, I really enjoyed Wordsworth’s poem — I can deeply sympathize with it. Thanx.
        Yeah, I agree about the balance of allusion vs. none. With the internet — things have changed. We can supply a link or two for readers who want to understand our allusions. The trick is, the poem (or prose) has to be interesting enough to get folks to click.

        You use WordPress like me. How many people do you find clicking your links. For me (for all the effort I put into supplying them), it is almost zero (given the number or ‘readers’). So, either I have not made it interesting enough, or they don’t visit for the reasons I hope. What do you think? I think most visit in hopes of being visited — like most conversations — most make a facade of listening, so they can deceive themselves that others are listening to them. (oooops, I forgot to take my anti-cynicism pill this morning, sorry). 🙂

        Wordsworth was fantastic — thank you kindly. You broadened my poetic world by pointing me again to poetry I can say I love.

  14. Sabio Lantz Says:

    ooops, forgot to follow. Do you know when TOADS prompt ends? They don’t tell us.

  15. Sherry Marr Says:

    You executed this form brilliantly – very intriguing line breaks and meter. It really works. Loved it, especially its closing lines.

  16. David King Says:

    Several times I saw this form used when visiting other blogs yesterday. I must say I was intrigued by it, didn’t think I quite had time to try it out just now, but made a note of it. Yours is a splendid use of it. I’m even more motivated now. This poem is a little gem!

  17. I especially love the first couplet,k, and the way each line faultlessly feeds into the next–this style suits and emphasizes your technique of flow-through line breaks with its unorthodox but reiterative rhyme scheme, also–really a lovely little compact package of all a poem should be. And has it been pointed out yet that in your pic, your floating brain resembles a primitive red furry stuffed elephant? (Just sayin.) Happy New Year, dear karin.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha! Thanks. Yes, I was working on the first lines for a different poem which I had not finished so adapted it into this form. I love rhyming and iambic forms, but this particular form I found a bit rigid with the 8/6 lines. I prefer more even lines, I think – still, all interesting.

      No one has noted the stuffed elephant brain – or should I say brain stuffed with elephant? – it is an older painting, pre-iPad. (I hope to get back to those as there is nothing like true gouache/watercolor.) I can definitely see what you mean.

      Thanks again for your great kindness.

      k. On Mon, Dec 31, 2012 at 10:48 AM, ManicDDaily

  18. Anonymous Says:

    After all the intense discussion above, Karin, I can only say I love this poem.
    I also love your book title “1 Mississippi”!
    I like the way your mind works.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha! Thanks so much! Check out 1 Mississippi! If I say so myself, it is kind of cute – lots of elephants swimming around in watercolors.

      I’m sorry for the intense discussion – so much longer than the poem. k.

      • Sabio Lantz Says:

        oooops, I didn’t know that “intense discussion” was something to apologize for. In the future, I will keep it to simple, short compliments.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Now you really have forgotten your anti-cynicism pills. Not necessary. I am a free agent. I can answer or not any comment. Though honestly, I am a bit tired and sick today. Not from any party! A very busy December. k.

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