Thursday, December 31, 2015

Poetry Friday: The Hours

The year of the earthquake, a friend sent me this book, A Flame of Faith, by Hazel Littlefield, published in 1972, for my birthday.  It's signed by the author for a friend called Amy, and Hazel wishes for Amy "that all her days may be filled with loyal friendships of loyal friends, happy work, good health, courage."  These seem excellent wishes for the new year. 

Here is one of the poems from the book.

The Hours

Shout with assurance to the morning skies,
"The Lord of all creation made me too,
And all my need abundantly supplies;
This day is mine and I shall live it through
Delighting in the gift of every hour;
Not doomed with dullness nor with fear of death,
But life unfolding like a sun-drenched flower
Suffused with the Divine, the Living Breath."

The hours bloom and wither and are tossed,
Uncounted, into swirling centuries,
Like myriad stars in mighty galaxies,
Merged in a brighter whole but never lost.
Time, unrelenting, plucks them one by one;
Breathe while you may their sweetness in the sun.

Hazel Littlefield

Mary Lee has the first roundup of 2016.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What I Read in 2015

Here are links to my posts about the books I read this year.  I didn't write many reviews this year, so mostly this is just a list of titles.

Books 1-4
Books 5-11 (post includes reviews)
Books 12-21
Books 22-34 (post includes reviews)
Books 35-38 (post includes reviews)
Books 39-45 (post includes reviews)
Books 46-62
Books 63-68

I don't think I'll be finishing any more books this year.  Here's the last Reading Update:

Book #69 of the year was Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Book #70 was Comfort Ye My People: The Real World Meets Handel's Messiah, 26 Readings for Advent, by Kay Bruner
Book #71 was The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
Book #72 was Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God, by Lauren Winner
Book #73 was Rising Strong, by Brene Brown
Book #74 was Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Book #75 was Room, by Emma Donoghue

I usually aim to finish about one book a week, so I was a bit over that this year.  I'm enjoying reading other people's end of the year book lists and collecting suggestions for next year.

Speaking of booklists, this post is linked to the January 2nd 2016 Saturday Review of Books.  Lots of bloggers are linking their lists for 2015.  Check it out here.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Poetry Friday

My daughter posted this Tweet on my Facebook wall yesterday.


It has, indeed, been a tough year.  One of the things that helped a lot was poetry, reading and writing it.  I don't have a poem to share today, but I hope after Christmas dinner to have time to come back and read some of the poems posted in today's roundup.  And then there's the traditional post-Christmas beach trip to continue the cheer.  See you in 2016!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

OLW 2015

In 2015, my One Little Word was "unafraid."  I didn't do very well with being unafraid.  In fact, I was frequently afraid.  In May, I updated relatively positively on my progress in this post.  After that, things got worse.  I feared loss and grief, and then it happened, and I muddled through as best I could.  Now I'm hoping 2016 is better, and considering what my OLW will be.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Reading Update

Book #63 of the year was Because We Are, by Ted Oswald
Book #64 was Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen
Book #65 was Armada, by Ernest Cline
Book #66 was Winter, by Marissa Meyer
Book #67 was Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith, by Sarah Bessey
Book #68 was Lila, by Marilynne Robinson

Friday, December 11, 2015

Poetry Friday: Real?

I love this poem and how it plays with what is "real" and what is "invented" in poetry, and writing in general.  The emotion, yeah, it's all real.  The details might be changed a bit, here and there.

Are All the Break-Ups in Your Poems Real?  

by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

 
If by real you mean as real as a shark tooth stuck
in your heel, the wetness of a finished lollipop stick,
the surprise of a thumbtack in your purse—
then Yes, every last page is true, every nuance,
bit, and bite. Wait. I have made them up—all of them—
and when I say I am married, it means I married
all of them, a whole neighborhood of past loves. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Poetry Friday: Odes

It's that time of year again: at Thanksgiving, I always read Pablo Neruda odes with my eighth graders, encouraging them to think about ordinary things they are thankful for, and to write their own odes.  I'm working on mine, but in the meantime, here's the master himself.  (I won't be reading this one with my eighth graders, in case you're wondering.)

Ode to Life
Pablo Neruda
(translated into English by George D. Schade)

All night long
the pain kept hitting me
with an axe,
but sleep
like dark water washed away
the bloody stones.
Today I'm alive again.
Again
I lift you up,
life,
on my shoulders.

Oh life,
clear cup,
suddenly
you get full
of dirty water,
of lifeless wine,
of agony, losses,
appalling spiderwebs,
and many think
you'll keep forever
that color of hell.

Not true.

A lingering night passes,
just one minute passes
and everything changes.
The cup of life
fills up
with transparency.

Spacious work
awaits us.
Pigeons are born at one stroke.
Light reigns again over the earth.

Life, the poor
poets
thought you were bitter.
They didn't get out of bed like you
and face the wind of the world.

They received the blows
without seeking you,
they drilled themselves
a black hole
and became submerged
in the mourning
of a solitary pit.

It's not true, life,
you are
lovely
as the one I love
and between your breasts you
have a smell of mint.

Life,
you are
a full machine,
happiness, sounds
of storm, tenderness
of delicate oil.

Life,
you are like a vineyard:
you treasure and dole out light,
transforming it into a grape cluster.

Whoever disowns you
should wait
a minute, a night,
a long or short year,
to emerge
from his mistaken solitude,
to question and fight, to join
hands with other hands,
not to adopt or flatter
unhappiness,
but reject it, shaping
it like a wall,
like the stonecutter with the stone,
should snip out unhappiness
and make pants
out of it.
Life waits for us
all of us
who love
the savage smell
of sea and mint
nestled between its breasts.

 (Here's last year's ode post, containing a link to others I've written. )

And here's today's roundup.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Poetry Friday: Love and Loss

In Mary Oliver's poem "In Blackwater Woods," she says that there are three things we have to learn in life.  One is "to love what is mortal."  The second is "to hold it/ against your bones knowing/ your own life depends on it."  The third is "when the time comes to let it/ go,/ to let it go."  You can read that whole poem here.

I am very good at the first two things Oliver says I must learn, but very bad at the third one.  This is a time of letting go in my life, not because of death (not this time), but because of people moving on in life to new situations.  Relationships aren't ending, exactly, but they are changing.

So much poetry is about loss.  I had a professor once who said that all poetry is about death, because everything we write about, we will lose.  That's part of being human.  Change is a form of loss, and change is a constant.

I posted this poem for Valentine's Day in 2012.  It's appropriate again now as I think of letting go.  "Time will come and take my Love away."  Whatever or whoever our Love is, that's the truth. 

Sonnet 64
William Shakespeare

When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.


Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup, at Wee Words for Wee Ones.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

WILD!






When Irene Latham invited me to join in her celebration of ten years of blogging by contributing a post on the theme of WILD, I remembered a quote by Czeslaw Milosz that I read a few years ago, as well as the poem I wrote in response.  The quote came from Milosz's poem, Ars Poetica.

Happy tenth anniversary, Irene!  Thanks for all you do to inspire and encourage poetry online and in our lives!


Tiger?

In the very essence of poetry there is something indecent:
a thing is brought forth which we didn’t know we had in us,
so we blink our eyes, as if a tiger had sprung out
and stood in the light, lashing his tail.  - Czeslaw Milosz


Is there a tiger in me?
Ready to spring out and stand in the light, blinking,
Lashing its tail?

More like a groundhog, maybe,
Peering for its shadow,
Trying to forecast the weather
To figure out what to do next,
What contingency plans to make.

Or a sheep,
Wondering what everyone else is doing,
Baaing in wooly conformity.

At the most scandalous,
A house cat in search of supper.
Ferocity, but domesticated,
Hunting instincts lost several generations back.

But a tiger?
Too large, too loud,
Its lashing tail too apt to knock china cups off the table,
Its stripes designed for Asian forests,
And here, in my living room, serving as advertisement
rather than camouflage.
A tiger?
Never.

And yet…
Sometimes a whisper of fur,
A flash of brown and orange,
A gleam of golden eyes.
Something I didn't know I had in me.

Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

Check out Irene's post and the roundup of other WILD! entries.






I Used to Think

I wrote this post for Sarah Bessey's synchroblog.

I used to think that by the time I was the age I am now, I’d have life figured out.  I’d be able to shave my legs without cutting myself, every time.  I’d be able to make Christmas cookies without all the dough sticking together.  I’d know how to respond to criticism gracefully.  I wouldn’t be insecure.

Turns out, I don’t have anything figured out.  And especially that last one.  I think I’m almost as insecure as I ever was, almost as insecure as my middle school students, except that now my insecurities are over different things.  I don’t have problems talking to boys any more, and I rarely worry about the condition of my skin.  Instead, I wonder if I’m communicating at all with kids who think I am so very very old.  I feel irrelevant sometimes.  I worry about whether I’ve accomplished anything worthwhile, and whether I ever will. 

I still get competitive, still feel that I’m not enough, that other people have got it together in a way I never will.  Other people are better friends, better moms, better teachers.  Other people are cooler and more fun.  Other people are aging more gracefully.  I’m mortified to admit that I still get jealous, just like I did when I was fourteen.  Instead of thanking God for what He’s given me, I brood about what I don’t have.  I fight against changes, kicking and screaming and demanding to have the past back again. 

Oh, some things are better.  I’m not the first year graduate student who used to obsess for hours over the mistakes I made teaching, for example.  Now I can shrug and say, “I was wrong.  Here’s what I should have said.”  Sometimes I have moments of awareness that I’ve made some progress, that I reacted maturely to a situation, that I trusted God instead of worrying, that I behaved like the person I want to be.  But sadly such moments are not as frequent as I’d like.

I’m starting to think that I’ll never have life figured out.  I hope I’ll keep caring less and less about what others think of me, and that I’ll learn more and more not to worry about the future, but the fact is that every age I reach has its own challenges.  I’ve got lots of experience being a person, but none living this particular day.  I’ve got years of experience being a mom, but none with these particular kids at these particular ages.  As Sara Groves writes, “The path is worn, but for us it’s new.”  It’s not about figuring it all out and then resting peacefully until death.  It’s about living each day, following Jesus.  It’s about trusting God for this day, for this moment.  I’m learning that not having life figured out is just synonymous with being alive.

Reading Update

Book #46 of 2015 was All the Light we Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Book #47 was Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
Book #48 was Listen, Slowly, by Thanhha Lai
Book #49 was As Soon as I Fell: A Memoir, by Kay Bruner
Book #50 was Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life, by Kathleen Norris
Book #51 was Feeling Sorry for Celia, by Jaclyn Moriarty
Book #52 was The Taming of the Queen, by Philippa Gregory
Book #53 was The Ghosts of Ashbury High, by Jaclyn Moriarty
Book #54 was Euphoria, by Lily King
Book #55 was Untwine, by Edwidge Danticat
Book #56 was In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers who Tried to Build a Perfect Language, by Arika Okrent
Book #57 was Orbiting Jupiter, by Gary D. Schmidt
Book #58 was Holy the Firm, by Annie Dillard
Book #59 was The Longing for Home: Reflections at Midlife, by Frederick Buechner
Book #60 was The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Book #61 was Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
Book #62 was Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine

Friday, October 30, 2015

Poetry Friday: Leaf

We don't have seasons where I live, except hot and a bit less hot, so I always enjoy watching the seasons change from afar.  A friend sent me this photo a couple of weeks ago, and I wrote some haiku to go with it.  
After rough summer,
Bug-chewed, brown spot, scarred by life,
Tough old lady leaf.

Dressed all in yellow,
A beauty in October,
In spite of life's scars.


Which one do you like better?


Here's today's roundup.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Poetry Friday: My Own Heart

Several Poetry Fridays have gone by without a post.  I still seem to be working on getting back my equilibrium and adjusting to the changes in my life.  I wish it would happen faster.  Meanwhile, my daughter texted me this photo of a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem.



Click on the photo to enlarge it, and you may have to enlarge your screen even further after that.  Or just read the text below:

My Own Heart let me more have Pity on

My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst's all-in-all in all a world of wet.

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
's not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather - as skies
Betweenpie mountains - lights a lovely mile.


Amy has today's roundup at The Poem Farm.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Poetry Friday: Turtles

I posted here and here about our Open Mic events that we had here at school last year for National Poetry Month.  This school year we've decided to try monthly events, and then more frequent ones in April.  Yesterday was our first Open Mic of the semester, and though attendance was sparse at the beginning, by the end we had a nice little crowd.  I shared the following poem, written in 2013 about an experience I had with a friend.  I'm hoping that by our October gathering, I'll have some more recent offerings.  I've been writing a lot, but not much that I feel like sharing with a group. 

Meanwhile, this poem is non-fiction, and I've even illustrated it with portraits of the turtles.    



Turtles

On the way to the store, we saw a turtle in the road.
You stopped the car and said I should move it
So I did, lifting it gently
By the sides of its yellow-splotched shell
And placing it in the grass.

I wouldn't say it seemed grateful, exactly,
But it ambled off into the trees,
No doubt to a happy future,
A sweet, docile turtle,
Rescued from the dangerous road.
We drove on,
Pleased by our neighborliness.
Today we saved a life, we said.





On the way home, we saw another turtle in the road.
Another chance for a good deed!
This one looked older, more weatherbeaten.
Its cracked shell studded with snails,
Along for the ride.
It had a tail worthy of a very small dinosaur.
And apparently, it didn't want to be moved,
Since when I picked it up,
It clawed my hand, drawing blood.
Startled and in pain,
I dropped the turtle on its already battered shell. 
It flipped itself over onto its feet again,
A prehistoric acrobat, fueled by anger.

You said you'd try, and approached it,
While it glared at you,
alert to your every move.
You offered it a stick, which it attacked,
Breaking it in half. 

This turtle, dancing with rage,
We left behind us.
Clearly it did not wish for rescue,
And we decided it was on its own.




A visit to Google later taught us
The difference between a box turtle and a snapping turtle,
And which one is best left alone.

But you'd think, wouldn't you,
That we'd have learned by our age to be a bit more wary?
That we'd already know something about what to pick up
And what to leave lying there on the road?
But we don't.  Whatever turtle is there,
We always try to help, get involved, handle it, mess with it,
The ones that wander off amiably
And the ones that wave their fearsome dinosaur tails.

Even now, nursing my wound,
I know that the next time I see a turtle in the road,
I'll rush naively to its rescue.

by Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com


Here's today's roundup.



Friday, September 04, 2015

Poetry Friday: It's September

I'm not sure where August went.  I remember it was a really sad month, as I said goodbye to my firstborn and dropped her off at college.  I remember coming home and starting into the new reality.  I'm figuring it out day by day. 

This D.H. Lawrence poem was in the Poets.org Poem-a-Day email one day last week.  I love the way it captures those moments when you are aware of the existence of your perfect love - for your spouse, your child, your friend - and then the moment when you see the difference between the beautiful ideal and the day to day.  Seriously, why do we suffer when such perfect love exists?  Why can't we live on that plane all the time?  I suspect it has something to do with that line "gone to sleep."  The way your baby is an angel while sleeping, and a needy tyrant once awake.  I want to spend more time being aware of that perfect love.  Sure, the suffering is part of it, but so much gratitude, too, for the love, the love that is "almost bliss."

 

Bei Hennef

 
D. H. Lawrence
The little river twittering in the twilight,
The wan, wondering look of the pale sky,
             This is almost bliss.
 
And everything shut up and gone to sleep,
All the troubles and anxieties and pain
             Gone under the twilight.
 
Only the twilight now, and the soft “Sh!” of the river
             That will last forever.
 
And at last I know my love for you is here,
I can see it all, it is whole like the twilight,
It is large, so large, I could not see it before
Because of the little lights and flickers and interruptions,
             Troubles, anxieties, and pains.
 
             You are the call and I am the answer,
             You are the wish, and I the fulfillment,
             You are the night, and I the day.
                          What else—it is perfect enough,
                          It is perfectly complete,
                          You and I.
Strange, how we suffer in spite of this!


Linda is hosting the roundup here.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reading Update

I seem to have read a lot of forgettable rubbish lately.  I'm embarrassed to include some of them in my list, but here they are:

Book #39 of the year was NOT forgettable rubbish.  It was a reread, Invitation to Tears: A Guide to Grieving Well, by Jonalyn Fincher and Aubrie Hills.  I am sure I will read it again at some point.  It is a quick and helpful book.

Book #40 was Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures, by Amber Dusick.  I really liked her book on marriage, which I thought was hilarious, but this one was just so-so.  This could be because I read a lot of it in waiting rooms and exam rooms during my whole summer biopsy scare.

Book #41 was Bossypants, by Tina Fey.  There was some good stuff in this book.  This blog post by Jonalyn Fincher on how Tina Fey taught her to love her body put the book on my radar, and I enjoyed that section of the book.  I also liked the parts where Fey talked about her stint playing Sarah Palin.  But most of this one didn't make much sense to me because I hadn't seen any of the movies or shows it talked about.

Book #42 was The Furious Longing of God, by Brennan Manning, another exception to the forgettable label, and another one that I'll read again.  I love Manning's focus on grace, grace, grace.  God loves us so much!

Book #43 was Harvesting the Heart, by Jodi Picoult.  Just OK.

Book #44 was Little Earthquakes, by Jennifer Weiner.  Not good.  Don't bother with it.

Book #45 was Dead Time, by Stephen White.  I enjoy this series of thrillers about a clinical psychologist and the messes he gets himself into.  What I like best about them is their ongoing character development.  This one was pretty good.

I'm reading All the Light We Cannot See right now, so things are looking up for my reading.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Poetry Friday: Shakespeare

It's Poetry Friday again!  I have been working in my classroom all week, getting ready for school to start next week.  We are going to start late, due to concerns about election aftermath (we have voting on Sunday).  It's a good thing, because I am not ready for school yet.  And a couple of days after school starts, I'm leaving to take my daughter to college.

There's been some beweeping going on.

And yet I am thankful for the people I have in my life, for my long-suffering husband, my children, my parents and brothers, my friends.  I was thinking of these words this morning: "thy sweet love remembered." When I think of all the human love in my life, both past and present, I really do "scorn to change my state with Kings."

It's hard to say goodbye to people because we love them.  If we didn't love them, how barren would our lives be?  Love and loss - Shakespeare understood.


Sonnet XXIX
William Shakespeare

When, in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possest,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising -
Haply I think on thee: and then my state,
Like to the Lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at Heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love rememb'red such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with Kings.


Here's today's roundup.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Poetry Friday - Repelling Skunk

I missed a whole month of Poetry Fridays!  I am back home now, ready to enjoy the last few days of summer before I go back to work.  The summer did not go exactly as I had imagined.  For one thing, I had a rather unpleasant experience about which I wrote two poems.  The first one was called "Biopsy," but thankfully the second was called "I Don't Have Cancer Day."

I'm not going to share those poems today, but I did want to share an original one.  I wrote this one several years ago, but the friend who had told me the story felt shy about me posting it.  This summer the same friend had an encounter with a raccoon, and that got us talking about the earlier encounter and the poem, and I ended up getting his permission to make the poem public.  I'm glad, because I very much enjoyed writing this one, and I hope my PF buddies like it too.

(By the way, writers, how do you deal with this?  A lot of my poems are written for someone.  In cases like that, I always feel I need the person's permission to share the piece, even if it's a less, well, intimate subject than this one.  Do you feel the same?  Or are you more of the Anne Lamott persuasion, that whatever you experience or hear about is fair game for your writing?   Anne says, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”  Well, this one isn't about bad behavior, and it didn't exactly happen to me, but I am still curious to know your experiences with this aspect of writing, if you'd like to share in the comments.)


Repelling Skunk

The black and white unwelcome visitor
Poked around on the back porch,
And got up on hind legs to peer in the door.

Internet research turned up some useful information:
Pee repels skunks.
So Paul, early morning groggy,
Staggered out back
To do the necessary.

At first he felt self-conscious;
What if neighbors were watching?
But when he started to pee with a purpose,
He couldn't help enjoying it,
Outside, in the morning,
In the chilly September air.

He had plenty of pee,
So he kept on going and going,
Feeling free and like a kid again.
The word "whizzing" came to mind
And he wondered when he'd last used that one.
He thought about traveling as a boy,
A twelve-hour trip with no rest stops except bushes.
He thought about camping trips in the woods.
He thought about winter and yellow snow.

He felt briefly invincible
Summoning the mighty powers of pee,
Considered making the rounds of the neighborhood,
Ensuring a skunk-free environment for all.
But then he remembered his age and
Position in the community
And went back indoors instead.

The black and white unwelcome visitor
Only stayed briefly the next time
Before ambling off;
Was it the pee that repelled the skunk?
Paul likes to think so.

Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

(By the way, as though to remind me that I am home in Haiti, there was a long time between the beginning of this post and the end.  Our backup batteries died, and I had to wait to get the generator going.  It's going now, and I'm going to publish...)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Two Missed Weeks of Poetry Friday!

This has turned out to be a more eventful summer than anticipated.  Here are the links to the last two Poetry Friday roundups.  I'll be back posting regularly soon. 

July 10th

July 17th

Hope you're having a good summer!

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Poetry Saturday

I completely missed that yesterday was Friday.  Such is a teacher's summer.  Here is yesterday's roundup, since apparently some people knew what day it was.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Poetry Friday: Adlestrop

I shared this poem once before back in 2008. I love how specific it is, and how it places us in one unrepeatable moment.


Adlestrop 

Edward Thomas

Yes, I remember Adlestrop –
The name because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop – only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Here's today's roundup.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Reading Update

Book #35 was Handle with Care and #36 was Plain Truth, both by Jodi Picoult.  These aren't great literature, but they are absorbing stories with courtroom dramas at the heart of them.

Book #37 was Flora, by Gail Godwin, a story set at the end of World War Two and involving regret and remorse.

Book #38 was The King's Curse, by Philippa Gregory.  This is the unremittingly awful story of Margaret Pole, who lived in the time of Henry VIII and managed, like so many others, to fall afoul of him.  Pole was from the Plantagenet family, rivals to the Tudors.  She spent years as the governess of Henry's daughter Mary (later called Bloody Mary). 

After these four rather dark books, I really need to find something more cheerful to read!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Poetry Friday: The Art of Losing

I guess this must be one of my favorite poems, since this is the third time I have posted it on my blog.  I shared it in May 2010 and again in May 2013.  The art of losing and the art of living are almost synonymous.  When I posted this in 2013, Mary Lee (who is hosting today's roundup - check it out!) commented: "So why do we need to PRACTICE loss, Ms. Bishop? Why can't we focus on shoring ourselves up for loss with loves (both large and small)?"  She's right.  Love is what shores us up.  But it's also why loss hurts so much.

Thinking about Mary Lee's question, I came to this conclusion: having experienced many losses in the past teaches us that life does go on.  It teaches us that we can survive losses we didn't think were survivable.  In that sense, maybe we make a little progress towards the art of losing.

But I think Elizabeth Bishop is trying to convince herself here.  She is facing a loss that feels like disaster to her.  She is facing it, bravely, not turning away.  She isn't numbing it or pretending it isn't there.  "Write it!" she urges herself.  In saying the art of losing isn't too hard to master, she's saying that it is terribly hard, the hardest.  Frankly, I often want to stop the loving because the losing hurts so much.  I don't want to reach out and attach and care.  But if I didn't, I wouldn't be mastering the art of living.

It's all one.


One Art
by Elizabeth Bishop

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 a disaster.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Poetry Friday: Hafiz

Even though school's been out for a couple of weeks now, I was on campus yesterday looking for a particular book.  I found it, and then on my way home I found a whole stack of books that looked as though someone was throwing them away.  One of them was a book of Hafiz's poetry, and I grabbed that and brought it home for safekeeping.

Here are some poems from the book that I especially liked:










Here's another Hafiz poem I posted back in 2013.

The amazing Jama has the roundup today, and the results are sure to be delicious!


Saturday, June 06, 2015

Reading Update

Book #22 of 2015 was Love at the Speed of Email: A Memoir, by Lisa McKay.  I found this author when a Facebook friend posted an update from her blog after the recent cyclone in Vanuatu.  McKay's husband had just moved there, and she was waiting in Australia to get the all-clear to bring their two sons and join him.  This book is the story of how she and that husband got together, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I could relate to McKay's international background and struggles with identifying home. 

Book #23 was Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, the long-awaited new book by Rachel Held Evans.  Articles about the book have presented it as Evans' less-than-fond farewell to evangelicalism, but it's not really that.  It's more a love letter to the Church and all that is beautiful in it.  With anyone we love and know very well, we can also find plenty of flaws, and Evans does that too.  This book is so wonderfully written - she's getting better and better.  It's organized around the seven sacraments identified by the Catholic church.  I'd love to discuss this with a group; there's so much in it.

Book #24 was Gap Creek, by Robert Morgan.  It was like "Little House on the Prairie" (the TV show) on steroids.  Remember how in every episode there was some kind of horrible crisis?  It's the same in this book, except it all takes place in one year.  A note tells us that it's based on the first year of his grandparents' marriage.  Oh my word.  It's amazing anybody survived Appalachia right after the Civil War.  This book is harrowing but brilliant.  I recommend it, but I had to follow it with some lighter fare.

Book #25 was Greetings from Nowhere, by Barbara O'Connor.  I read this YA book with my seventh graders to finish out the year.  It was maybe a little young for them, but we all enjoyed it, nonetheless.  The book is written in several voices, which we'd encountered before in Seedfolks, and we liked the way it didn't wrap up too neatly.

Book #26 was As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth, by Lynne Rae Perkins.  I finished the year with this in eighth grade, and found it moved a little slowly for that class, who prefer their books a bit more action-packed.  I really liked it, though.  It was very quirky and fun, with characters who were oddly believable in spite of being so bizarre.

Book #27 was I Kill the Mockingbird, by Paul Acampora.  This one was a lot of fun, another YA title, centered around summer reading and some kids who decide to start a campaign to convince people to read To Kill a Mockingbird, using reverse psychology, social media, and ingenuity.

Book #28 was Orchards, by Holly Thompson, the same author who wrote The Language Inside, which I read last year but don't seem to have added to my list or blogged about it, so I'm going to count that one for this year as #29.  Both books are verse novels and both have a Japanese setting.  I chose The Language Inside because it was about the 2011 earthquake in Japan and an American girl displaced to the US by the illness of her mother.  I've used it with students for a couple of years now, and while the kids don't love it quite as much as I do, it does go down well with them, and there's a lot to talk about in it.  Orchards also has cross-cultural themes, as it concerns a girl who is half-Japanese and is sent to Japan to spend time with her family there after a girl in her class commits suicide.  I'm considering this one for a read-aloud next year.

Book #30 was Cruel Beauty, by Rosamund Hodge.  This one is sort of a Psyche and Cupid/Beauty and the Beast/Bluebeard retelling, but with many interesting quirks.  I found the exact plot details a bit confusing at times, but the overall story was very evocative and satisfying.

Book #31 was Why I am an Atheist who Believes in God: How to Give Love, Create Beauty, and Find Peace, by Frank Schaeffer.  Schaeffer has a compelling voice, and that's what kept me reading.  I enjoyed his ruminations on growing up evangelical, and while I don't agree with all of his conclusions, I did find his rather curmudgeonly persona quite appealing.

Book #32 was So, Anyway..., a memoir by hilarious British comedian John Cleese.  It moved along pretty well, with interesting anecdotes, until suddenly Cleese seemed to lose interest and summed up thirty years in one chapter.  So anyway, is there going to be a sequel?

Book #33 was Good Harbor, by Anita Diamant.  This was a bit slight, but entertaining.

Book #34 was Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan.  I read this with a tech-y friend, and we both enjoyed it.  It starts out being about books, and ends up being about the internet, and in between is a lot of fun. 

Friday, June 05, 2015

Poetry Friday: Deep Enough to Dream





This song is pure summer to me; it expresses the feeling of dozing on a hot afternoon, having deep dreams, hearing the buzzing fly, waking up, and dozing again. Chris Rice is dreaming of heaven; what better way to spend a summer afternoon?

Deep Enough to Dream

Lazy summer afternoon
Screened in porch and nothin' to do
I just kicked off my tennis shoes
Slouchin' in a plastic chair
Rakin' my fingers through my hair
I close my eyes and I leave them there
And I yawn, and sigh, and slowly fade away


Deep enough to dream in brilliant colors
I have never seen
Deep enough to join a billion people
For a wedding feast
Deep enough to reach out and touch
The face of the One who made me
And oh, the love I feel, and oh the peace
Do I ever have to wake up


Awakened by a familiar sound
A clumsy fly is buzzin' around
He bumps the screen and he tumbles down
He gathers about his wits and pride
And tries again for the hundredth time
'Cause freedom calls from the other side
And I smile and nod, and slowly drift away


Deep enough to dream in brilliant colors
I have never seen
Deep enough to join a billion people
For a wedding feast
Deep enough to reach out and touch
The face of the One who made me
And oh, the love I feel, and oh the peace
Do I ever have to wake up


'Cause peace is pouring over my soul
See the lambs and the lions playin'
I join in and I drink the music
Holiness is the air I'm breathin'
My faithful heroes break the bread
And answer all of my questions
Not to mention what the streets are made of
My heart's held hostage by this love

And these brilliant colors I have never seen
I join a billion people for a wedding feast
And I reach out and touch the face of the One who made me


And oh, the love I feel, and oh the peace
Do I ever have to wake up

Do I ever have to wake up
Do I ever have to wake up
Do I really have to wake up now


Chris Rice 

Here's today's roundup.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Poetry Friday

I finished cleaning my classroom today and covering all my shelves for the summer.  Tomorrow my daughter is graduating.  I'm not up to posting today, but maybe next week.  Meanwhile, here's what everyone else posted.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

OLW 2015 Check-in

I saw a post on this blog encouraging people to report on how they are doing with their OLW (One Little Word).  Mine this year is "Unafraid."  How am I doing with it?  I have good days and bad days.  There are days when I really am unafraid, trusting, living in the moment.  There are other days when I dwell on the goodbyes to be said at the end of the summer, all that could go wrong, how we will all adjust next year with my daughter gone, in college, and how she will adjust.  Who will she be, living without us in a different country?  (How exciting/terrifying to think about!)  Who will I be without her?  (Not as high a percentage of exciting in that one.)

I've written on this blog before about how I actually worry less since the earthquake than I used to.  This transition so far has been more about grief than worry or fear.  But there is, I confess, a certain amount of fear of the unknown.  It has helped me to focus on this word, and on the kind of person I want to be, that completely unafraid person who is now mostly a figment of my imagination, but who may become more of a reality as I go along. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Poetry Friday, The Fear Factor

Yesterday I read Sara Holbrook's poem "The Fear Factor," from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, with my seventh graders.  In the poem she addresses Courage, who always whispers, "Okay.  Okay.  It's going to be okay."

My favorite part is where the persona lists many things to fear, and then confesses (speaking to Courage) that the greatest one is: "I fear you will abandon me, / evaporate / and not return."

You can read the whole poem here, on Sara's own blog.

Today is my daughter's last regular day of high school.  Next week she has finals, leading up to graduation on Saturday.  I'm clinging to my own Courage, knowing (and yet sometimes doubting) that it's all going to be okay.  She's ready, we're ready (or faking it as well as we can), it's going to be okay. 

Here's today's roundup.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Poetry Friday

Another post-less week.  It's just that time of year.  But look at all the other great Poetry Friday offerings!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Poetry Friday

What with a bake sale today with my seventh graders and catching up on grading, I never got a post done.  But lots of others did, and you can see them here.  Happy Poetry Friday!

Friday, May 01, 2015

Poetry Friday: Another Open Mic and the Progressive Poem, Premiered

Yesterday afternoon we had another Open Mic event at school (here's my post about the one last week), and there's talk of making this a much more frequent occurrence next year.  There was a lot of interest among teachers and students alike, and it will be interesting to see if that could be sustained with a more regular schedule.  I think it could; the chance to perform your work is a great motivation to write more, and you also start to see people responding to what other people have done, so that we're having our own little part of the Great Conversation.

But what I wanted to tell about is that I performed the Progressive Poem for the group.  I think maybe it was the World Premiere, right there in our little library in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  It stood up very well to being read out loud, and got appreciative laughs at the end. 

I tend to be a private writer, not showing anybody my work until it's finished (and often, not even then).  I don't generally collaborate.  I find that writing for me is often about working out what I'm thinking about and putting it into a manageable form, creating something I can control in a world where I can't control much.  The Progressive Poem, however, is about giving up control.  It's about "living without a net," as our opening line put it.  And it's oddly exhilarating.

Thank you to Irene for organizing this every year.  Thank you for letting me participate.  And thanks to everyone who contributed a line.  See you all again next year!

Go here to Matt's blog to read the poem in its final form and - fabulous bonus - to hear Matt read it aloud! 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Progressive Poem, Line 30

“Ocean Dreams”
(The 2015 Poetry Friday Progressive Poem)


She lives without a net, walking along the alluvium of the delta.
Shoes swing over her shoulder,
on her bare feet stick jeweled flecks of dark mica.
Hands faster than fish swing at the ends of bare brown arms.
Her hair flows, snows in wild wind
as she digs in the indigo varnished handbag,
pulls out her grandmother’s oval cuffed bracelet,
strokes the turquoise stones,
and steps through the curved doorway.
Tripping on her tail she slips hair first down the slide…splash!
She glides past glossy water hyacinth to shimmer with a school of shad,
listens to the ibises roosting in the trees of the cypress swamp
an echo of Grandmother’s words, still fresh in her windswept memory;
Born from the oyster, expect the pearl. 
Reach for the rainbow reflection on the smallest dewdrop.
The surface glistens, a shadow slips above her head, a paddle dips
she reaches, seizes. She’s electric energy and turquoise eyes.
Lifted high, she gulps strange air – stares clearly into
 Green pirogue, crawfish trap,
startled fisherman with turquoise eyes, twins of her own, riveted on her wrist–
She’s swifter than a dolphin, slipping away,
leaving him only a handful of memories of his own grandmother’s counsel:
Watch for her. You’ll have but one chance to 
determine—to decide.
Garner wisdom from the water and from the pearl of the past.
In a quicksilver flash, an arc of resolution, he leaps
into the shimmering water
where hidden sentries restrain any pursuit
and the bitter taste of impulse rushes into his lungs.
Her flipper flutters his weathered toes – Pearl’s signal –
Stop struggling. The Sentinels will escort you
He stills, closes his eyes,
takes an uncharacteristic breath of…water!
Released, he swims, chasing the glimmer of the bracelet
Gran gave the daughter who reveled in waves.
Straining for fading incandescence, flecks of silver,
his eyes and hands clasp cold silt,
flakes of sharp shale seething through fingers – crimson palms stinging.
A sea change ripples his shuddering back.
With a force summoned from the depths, her charged turquoise eyes unsuffer his heart
And holding out her hand to him, she knows. He knows. She speaks,
as his hand curls ’round her bracelet-clad wrist,
“Papa, just a little longer in the pool! One more time down the slide! Please!”
He nods; she won’t be his little mermaid much longer.



It's hard to explain how much fun it was to work on that poem!  Can't wait till next year!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Progressive Poem, Line 29

I like where the poem went today.  This seems to explain much.  The formatting, on the other hand, has gone away completely, and the lines are all morphed into each other.  Oh well!  Can't wait to see how this ends!



She lives without a net, walking along the alluvium of the delta.
Shoes swing over her shoulder,
on her bare feet stick jeweled flecks of dark mica.
Hands faster than fish swing at the ends of bare brown arms.
Her hair flows, snows in wild wind
as she digs in the indigo varnished handbag,
pulls out her grandmother’s oval cuffed bracelet,

strokes the turquoise stones,
and steps through the curved doorway.
Tripping on her tail she slips hair first down the slide…splash!
She glides past glossy water hyacinth to shimmer with a school of shad,
listens to the ibises roosting in the trees of the cypress swamp
an echo of Grandmother’s words, still fresh in her windswept memory;
Born from the oyster, expect the pearl. 
Reach for the rainbow reflection on the smallest dewdrop.
The surface glistens, a shadow slips above her head, a paddle dips
she reaches, seizes. She’s electric energy and turquoise eyes.
Lifted high, she gulps strange air – stares clearly into
 Green pirogue, crawfish trap,
startled fisherman with turquoise eyes, twins of her own, riveted on her wrist–
She’s swifter than a dolphin, slipping away,
leaving him only a handful of memories of his own grandmother’s counsel:
Watch for her. You’ll have but one chance to 
determine—to decide.
Garner wisdom from the water and from the pearl of the past.
In a quicksilver flash, an arc of resolution, he leaps
into the shimmering water
where hidden sentries restrain any pursuit
and the bitter taste of impulse rushes into his lungs.
Her flipper flutters his weathered toes – Pearl’s signal –
Stop struggling. The Sentinels will escort you
He stills, closes his eyes,
takes an uncharacteristic breath of…water!
Released, he swims, chasing the glimmer of the bracelet
Gran gave the daughter who reveled in waves.
Straining for fading incandescence, flecks of silver,
his eyes and hands clasp cold silt,
flakes of sharp shale seething through fingers – crimson palms stinging.
A sea change ripples his shuddering back.
With a force summoned from the depths, her charged turquoise eyes unsuffer his heart
And holding out her hand to him, she knows. He knows. She speaks,
as his hand curls 'round her bracelet-clad wrist, 
"Papa, just a little longer in the pool! One more time down the slide! Please!" 









1 Jone at Check it Out
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
17 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
23 Tamera at The Writer's Whimsy
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Progressive Poem, Line 28

She lives without a net, walking along the alluvium of the delta.
Shoes swing over her shoulder, on her bare feet stick jeweled flecks of dark mica.
Hands faster than fish swing at the ends of bare brown arms.
Her hair flows, snows in wild wind as she digs in the indigo varnished handbag,
pulls out her grandmother’s oval cuffed bracelet,
 strokes the turquoise stones,
and steps through the curved doorway.
Tripping on her tail she slips hair first down the slide…splash!
She glides past glossy water hyacinth to shimmer with a school of shad,
listens to the ibises roosting in the trees of the cypress swamp
an echo of Grandmother’s words, still fresh in her windswept memory;
“Born from the oyster, expect the pearl. Reach for the rainbow reflection on the smallest dewdrop.”
 
The surface glistens, a shadow slips above her head, a paddle dips
she reaches, seizes. She’s electric energy and turquoise eyes.
Lifted high, she gulps strange air – stares clearly into
 Green pirogue, crawfish trap,
startled fisherman with turquoise eyes, twins of her own, riveted on her wrist–
She’s swifter than a dolphin, slipping away,
leaving him only a handful of memories of his own grandmother’s counsel:
“Watch for her. You’ll have but one chance to 
determine—to decide.
Garner wisdom from the water and from the pearl of the past.”
In a quicksilver flash, an arc of resolution, he leaps
into the shimmering water
where hidden sentries restrain any pursuit
and the bitter taste of impulse rushes into his lungs.
Her flipper flutters his weathered toes – Pearl’s signal –
Stop struggling. The Sentinels will escort you
He stills, closes his eyes,
takes an uncharacteristic breath of…water!
Released, he swims, chasing the glimmer of the bracelet
Gran gave the daughter who reveled in waves.
Straining for fading incandescence, flecks of silver, his eyes and hands clasp cold silt,
flakes of sharp shale seething through fingers – crimson palms stinging.
A sea change ripples his shuddering back.
With a force summoned from the depths, her charged turquoise eyes unsuffer his heart
And holding out her hand to him, she knows. He knows. She speaks --