Thursday, March 09, 2006

Momaday's poem and Creativity

A while back Sarah Ann Smith used lines from N. Scott Momaday's poem "Earth and I Gave You Turquoise" as the basis for a beautiful quilt. I've finally gotten around to cleaning out the filing cabinet where I knew I had a copy of the poem (could not find a copy on the internet, and Sarah only had the first few lines). I copied the poem from a tape about creativity by Gabrielle Rico (thank goodness I wrote that on my notes). To Write Is To Know by Gabrielle Rico is an edited recording of a workshop and is excellent. The tape was from the library, but now I'm tempted to order it, as I review the 5 single-spaced pages of notes and quotes I made at the time.

Earth and I Gave You Turquoise

Earth and I gave you turquoise
when you walked singing
We lived living in my house
and told old stories
You grew ill when the owl cried

We will meet on black Mountain
I will bring corn for planting
and we will make fire
Children will come to your breast
You will heal my heart

I speak your name many times
the wild cane remembers you
My young brother's house is filled
I go there to sing
We have not spoken of you but our songs are sad

When Moon woman goes to you
I will follow her white way

Remember, my version is from something I heard, not read. Any errors in structure, etc. are mine.

Here are some of my favorite quotes that Rico used to reinforce her talk:

from Dance to the Piper by Martha Graham

"...There's a vitality, energy, a quickening translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is now, how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly. To keep the channels open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channels open."

Ray Bradbury on improvisation: "In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write--the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping on truth--which is the only style worth tiger-trapping."

and also from Bradbury: "Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because if flexes muscles you don't often use enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand, and above all, poetry is compacted metaphor and simile. Ideas lie everywhere through the poetry books, yet how rarely have I heard teachers recommending them for browsing."

I've tossed pounds and pounds of paper, but rescued tons of odd poems that I read and copied from various books that were not in my many anthologies. Old friends that will help "[flex] muscles [I] don't often use enough."


  1. Jan, I think you and I have similiar relationships to poetry. When I can't read anything else, I can loose myself in a poem and be filled greater than any novel.

    I'm going to look for Rico's tape.

  2. Very cool poem.

    Did you know that one of the many, many themed blog thingies around is "Poetry Thursday", which tries to encourage participants to post a favorite poem each Thursday? So you posted it on poetry day whether you knew it or not!

    I haven't been doing that one, as my taste in poetry tends to run more towards Ogden Nash or Dr. Suess, but I appreciate the beautiful ones when other people find them and stick them in front of me. ;-)

  3. Your link to Rico is not working :(.

  4. Karoda, it is amazing how far a poem can take you isn't it? Try this
    if the link still doesn't work.

    DebR - no I didn't know about "Poetry Thursday" and will look it up because I'm a "collector" creating my own private anthology. :) Thanks!

  5. What a great blog you have! I've loved the poetry. The poetry part of my mind has dried up since I started doing so much sewing. It's as though the visual crowds out the verbal--odd. Anyway it's good to be reminded. Also I love your comments on McMansions. This is true synchronicity since I had been thinking about putting them into a quilt as a follow up to my SUV quilt.

  6. Kay - thanks for the nice comments. Oh, I do hope you will end up putting the McMansions into a quilt! What irony to have those massive, ubiquitous, souless things immortalized in the symbol for homey comfort...


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