Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Celebrating Reading

One of my tasks in this last week of classes is to pass out the students' reading folders and have them count how many books they finished this year.  I don't ask them to estimate, but only allow them to count books whose titles they have listed in the folder.  We make a ceremony of writing all the totals on the board and adding them up.  This year I impressed the seventh graders by adding them faster in my head than they could using calculators.  A student called me "Flash" and marveled that I'm even wearing a red shirt.  (I'm not sure what any of that means, but I take my compliments where I can get them.)

The seventh graders read 444 books this year.  (There are 24 students in the class.)

The eighth graders read 795 books this year.  (There are 21 students in the class.)

I asked them to write down the favorite book they read this year.  I'll come back after school is out and add links to the list, but I want to go ahead and post it so you can see that it's not necessarily about reading classics; it's about reading.  I want these kids to enjoy reading.  I consider it a success that every single kid found books they loved this year.  (Or at least books that they'd finish and enjoy pretty well.)  I read books with them, too - books I chose, books we discussed and took quizzes over - but these are the ones they chose themselves.  I forced them to read, I say without shame, but I let them pick what they wanted.  I celebrate and honor the reading they chose to do this year. 

7th graders - 444 books

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series
Percy Jackson series
She’s With Me
Charlotte’s Web
Looking for Alaska
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, two votes
Chasing Red
Captain Underpants series
Anna Dressed in Blood
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Twilight series, two votes
Big Nate series
Every Soul a Star
Keeping the Moon
SAS Survival Handbook
Finding Audrey
The Clique
The Red Pencil

8th graders - 795 books

Bluford series
Lionel Messi and Maradona (autobiographies)
Counting by Sevens
Saving Everest
Art Eyes
The Heroes of Olympus two votes
Salt to the Sea
The Lost Hero series
Amulet series
Alex Rider series
Gone series
Divergent series
Auggie & Me
Everything Everything
Harry Potter series
Who Was series
Princess in Love
Good Omens

Friday, May 19, 2017

Poetry Friday: Days I Delighted in Everything

Days I Delighted in Everything
by Jessica Greenbaum 
I was listening to a book on tape while driving
and when the author said, “Those days I delighted in everything,”
I pulled over and found a pencil and a parking ticket stub
because surely there was a passage of life where I thought
“These days I delight in everything,” right there in the
present, because they almost all feel like that now,
memory having markered only the outline while evaporating
the inner anxieties of earlier times. Did I not disparage
my body for years on end, for instance, although, in contrast
that younger one now strikes me as near-Olympian?
And the crushing preoccupations of that same younger self
might seem magically diluted, as though a dictator
in hindsight, had only been an overboard character — 
but not so.

Here's the rest.

I know there have been days in my life when I have delighted in everything, but I have wasted so much time in fear and worry.  And there's so much to delight in.

Hope you're delighting in today.

Here's today's roundup.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Reading Update

We have the day off today for Flag Day (flag below, and national anthem in this post), so I am celebrating by writing a Reading Update post and also grading many papers.

Book #28 of 2017 was At the Edge of the Orchard, by Tracy Chevalier.  Most of Chevalier's books that I've read have been centered on art of one kind or another, but Remarkable Creatures, which I read in 2014, was about fossil hunting, and this one continues in that more science-y direction.  This one is about trees - apple trees, redwoods, sequoias.  Turns out that working with trees is more of an art than I'd ever realized.  I really liked this book.

Book #29 was Glitter and Glue, by Kelly Corrigan.  I enjoyed this memoir for its portrayal of a complicated mother-daughter relationship.  Corrigan's mother said once, "Your father is the glitter but I'm the glue" in the family.  When Corrigan goes to work as an au pair in another family, one where the mother has been lost to cancer, she starts to see her own family in a different way.  I could relate to the way looking at other people's experiences helps you figure out your own and also how intense experiences, however short, can be life-changing.

Book #30 was The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey.  I loved how I was never completely sure whether this book was realistic fiction, fantasy, magical realism, or some bizarre combination of all three.  Fairy tales, Alaska, snow: ultimate escape from my tropical reality.  Yes please!

Book #31 was Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  This was my third Chimamanda book.  (I like to fantasize that we are friends and I call her Chimamanda, which is such a fabulous name.)  Have you watched her TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story?  This book is about Africans in America, African-Americans, Americans in Africa (Nigeria, to be precise), hair care, and many other things, but it is most definitely not about a single story.  The brilliant author plays with stereotypes and shows us that each character is unique and that attempting to generalize would be ridiculous.  Plus, the book is compulsively readable.

Book #32 was Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult.  I find Picoult's novels pretty uneven, but this one, I liked.  It's a story about white supremacists who go to the hospital to give birth to their first child, and run into a highly competent African-American labor nurse, whom they hate on sight due to her race.  Drama ensues.

Book #33 was The Edge, by Roland Smith.  I've been reading Smith's book Peak with my seventh graders for the past few years, and this is the sequel.  Peak is climbing again, but this time in Afghanistan.  Drama ensues.

Book #34 was drama-free, which I kind of enjoyed after all the drama.  It was The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and "Women's Work", by Kathleen Norris.  Short, profound, and worth rereading.

Book #35 was Devotion, by Dani Shapiro.  This is a spiritual memoir, and while I can't agree with lots of aspects of Shapiro's mixture of Judaism and Buddhism, her questions and struggles in "the afternoon of life" do resonate.

Book #36 was the fourth Inspector Gamache book, A Rule Against Murder, by Louise Penny.  I did like this one the best so far, so I guess I'll continue reading this series.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Poetry Friday: Bougainvillea

Last week for Poetry Friday Michelle Kogan shared a poem about Mexico that included this phrase: "the red bougainvillea raves."  I've been thinking about that verb choice all week.

This year I am doing a photo-a-day project, and following prompts that I get from Capture Your 365 (here are the May prompts).  It's amusing to me how many of the photos I've taken so far this year have been of bougainvillea.  It's the ultimate tropical plant, thriving through all seasons in a variety of intense colors, rioting over walls and gates and mixing its thorns with the razor wire that tops those walls and gates as well.  There's nothing subtle about it (though there are some paler colors that are a bit more delicate).  It's confident and happy.  It doesn't care whether you're looking or not; it's just busy being beautiful.  Cut it back to a stick, and it returns more luxuriant than ever.  I love it so much, and I aspire to be more like it.

I'm going to share a few bougainvillea photos in this post and then a little bit of information about bougainvillea, and then end with the poem Michelle shared.

According to Wikipedia, "The first European to describe these plants was Philibert Commerçon, a botanist accompanying French Navy admiral and explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville during his voyage of circumnavigation of the Earth, and first published for him by Antoine Laurent de Jussieu in 1789.[2] It is possible that the first European to observe these plants was Jeanne Baré, Commerçon's lover and assistant who was an expert in botany. Because she was not allowed on ship as a woman, she disguised herself as a man in order to make the journey (and thus became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe)."  

What a story!  Has someone written a novel about it?

And here's the poem, set in the Oyamel Forest of Mexico, where the monarch butterflies go in the winter.

Song of the Oyamel

On the other side of this door

You are an oyamel native to the mountains of Mexico

Rising in a cloud forest of sister evergreens
Shedding pollen cones, shedding winged seeds

Our lost wings
                    singly and in pairs.

This is why the monarchs vanish    
Raising sienna-hued colonies longer than my arms

Hibernating in Mexico where it’s hotter in January
                than my front yard, where the red bougainvillea raves

Here's the rest.

Here's a poem I wrote about bougainvillea in January of 2016.

You can find today's roundup here.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Poetry Friday: Daylight Savings

During National Poetry Month, I got a poem-a-day email from Knopf, and on the 9th, that poem was Jill Bialosky's "Daylight Savings." 

Daylight Savings
 by Jill Bialosky

There was the hour
when raging with fever
they thrashed.  The hour
when they called out in fright.
The hour when they fell asleep
against our bodies, the hour
when without us they might die.
The hour before school
and the hour after.
The hour when we buttered their toast
and made them meals
from the four important food groups -
what else could we do to ensure they'd get strong and grow?

Here's the rest of the poem, which concludes that all those hours are precious, and we don't want to lose any of them.

Jama's someone who knows how to make the most of hours, and she's hosting the roundup today.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

April 30th: Blessing that Does Not End

What with National Poetry Month and Lent and some rough emotional experiences in the past few months, I've had lots of opportunities lately for reflection and growth.  Growth is often not much fun, but we have to grow or die, and so I'm grateful.  Loss and goodbyes and endings are hard, and I'm one of those people who has to experience every emotion to the fullest - not because I want to, but because that just seems to be the way I'm built.  The upside is that I feel happiness very deeply and intensely, just as I do pain.

This poem by Jan Richardson is a beautiful and comforting way to end National Poetry Month and celebrate this Sunday.  It's in her book, The Cure for Sorrow, which I bought with my birthday gift certificate, and she also posted it on her blog this week.

It begins like this:

Blessing That Does Not End
From the moment
it first laid eyes
on you,
this blessing loved you.

This blessing
knew you
from the start.

It cannot explain how.

It just knows
that the first time
it sat down beside you,
it entered into a conversation
that had already been going on

Believe this conversation
has not stopped.

Here's the rest, along with more of Jan's reflections.   I think she wrote this poem for me, but I'm happy to let you share it, Reader.

Today, Laura is finishing up the Progressive Poem with her line.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

April 29th: Elm Trees in Detroit

I've been reading poems about nature with my eighth graders, and since we live in the city, I'm always on the lookout for great nature poems set in urban environments.  I love this one, by Marge Piercy, and it works well with some reading we did when they were in seventh grade about a guy who worked with elm trees.

 Source: detroityes.com

It starts like this:

The streets of Detroit were lined with elms
I remember elm trees that were
the thing of beauty on grimy
smoke-bleared streets stinking of death
and garbage, but over the cramped
rotting houses, the elms arched.

They were cities of leaves.
I would lie under them
and my eyes would rise
buoyed up and surfeited
in immense rustling viridescence. 

Here's the rest of the poem.

My son, who is also one of my students right now, enjoys that word "viridescence," and many days he uses it as we walk to school and pass the things of beauty on the "grimy smoke-bleared streets" that are the trees of our neighborhood (not elms, but lovely tropical plants).  I love the "cities of leaves"; I love looking up at them and away from trash and rats and mud and whatever else is at my feet on any given day.  

Here's a sad article about what happened to Detroit's elms.

Charles has today's line in the Progressive Poem.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Poetry Friday: All About ME

Because my husband knows that my love language is language, he wrote this poem for me.  It made me very happy, and I'm sharing it with his permission.

Lonely Russian women want me badly.
So badly that they send emails (to me
And others) in sensual perfect English
Pleading, begging, repeatedly asking
If they can satisfy my every whim
And fantasy. I haven’t answered yet
And I’m feeling sorry for the lonely,
Frustrated women who desperately write
Such longing letters offering themselves
To me. And so I’m tempted to reach out
And share my long-held deep desires, my view
Of flourishing, bliss, joy, and happiness:

A mug of steaming coffee, piping hot
Sipped in a room that’s over-filled with books.
And by my side, a lovely girl named Ruth,
My fantasy, and that’s the honest truth.

by Steve, husband of Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

The Progressive Poem is nearing its end, and Michelle has today's line.

Today's roundup is here.

Hasn't it been a great National Poetry Month?  I know I've enjoyed it. Here's to poetry, all year long! 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

April 27th: To a Frustrated Poet

Four years ago yesterday, I shared "To a Frustrated Poet," by R. J. Ellmann.

... it's no fun having a frustrated poet
In the Dept. of Human Resources, believe me.

Matt has today's line for the Progressive Poem.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

April 26th: Before the Rain

In this post from February 2011, I shared the poem "Before the Rain," by Lianne Spidel.  I commented on how it caught a good note talking about rain, and the hardships it sometimes brings.  This is appropriate right now in Haiti, where once again there is flooding in the south.

Renée has the line for the Progressive Poem today.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

April 25th: Tiel Aisha Ansari

In January 2009, I linked to this poem by Tiel Aisha Ansari. Through the years I have shared several of her poems, including this one in 2007 about the California wildfires, this one called "Living with Angels," and this one, about a Tetris nightmare.  Here's a more recent entry, a stunning political poem called "You Bring Out the Lynch Mob in Me."

Check out Tiel Aisha Ansari's blog  - there's always something great to read.

Robyn has today's line for the Progressive Poem.

Monday, April 24, 2017

April 24th: Dickinson on Grief

In September 2010, I posted an Emily Dickinson poem about grief.  It begins like this:

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes –
I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long –
Or did it just begin –
I could not tell the Date of Mine –
It feels so old a pain –

I wonder if it hurts to live –
And if They have to try –
And whether – could They choose between –
It would not be – to die –

You can read the rest of the poem at the original post here.

Every grief is unique, but we can learn so much by listening to others talk about theirs, and eventually everyone gets a collection of them.  I hope you have people to talk to about yours today.

And on a lighter note, Amy has today's line for the Progressive Poem.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Progressive Poem is Here, Plus Happy Blog Birthday to Me!

I signed up for April 23rd to add my line to the Progressive Poem because it is the birthday of my blog.  Today my blog is eleven, and like any eleven-year-old, I am very excited and would like lots of birthday wishes.  Plus cake, if you have it.

But in the meantime, I have to add a line.

So, I've been reading and rereading the poem much of the day, in between grading and lesson plans, and I think that the boat that was added at the beginning of this stanza is not a real boat, but actually scenery on a stage (think something like the photo below, which I got from tripadvisor.com).

I say that because our persona/protagonist was on a stage, having climbed the stairs and turned to face the crowd, and was saying lines s/he had learned by heart, when suddenly the boat was mentioned.  I think this person/dragon/person in a dragon costume is acting in a play.  Perhaps s/he wanted to be a knight, but that part was taken by someone else, hence removing the spurs and armor.  Maybe s/he has been told that a dragon can't be an actor.  And it seems there's someone in the crowd who is a surprise, or someone s/he is afraid of.  Or it could just be the crowd, because it can be pretty surprising when you're on stage to see all those seats full, all those eyes staring up at you...

What on earth?

You see, the thing with the Progressive Poem is that no one person is in charge.  When I write one of my own poems, I can make it take whatever direction I choose, but with the Progressive Poem, I only have one thirtieth of the power, and I can puzzle out all I want, but I'm never going to have more than one thirtieth.  (In my post from yesterday, you can see the full list of all the participants.)  I can add my line, but then I have to stand back for everyone else, and all my puzzling may not be how the people who come after me see our little scenario.  Every year this exercise reminds me of how much I like to be in control, but, as in life, I'm not.  All I know is that we need a strong verb here; our protagonist needs to do something, standing there on the deck of the ship...

Here we go.  My line is at the end, in bold.

I’m fidget, friction, ragged edges–
I sprout stories that frazzle-dazzle,
stories of castles, of fires that crackle
with dragonwords that smoke and sizzle.

But edges sometimes need sandpaper,
like swords need stone and clouds need vapour.
So I shimmy out of my spurs and armour
facing the day as my fickle, freckled self.

I thread the crowd, wear freedom in my smile,
and warm to the coals of conversation.
Enticed to the stage by strands of story,
I skip up the stairs in anticipation.

Flip around, face the crowd, and freeze!
Shiver me. Look who’s here. Must I disappear?
By hook or by crook, I deserve a second look!
I cheer. Please, have no fear. Find the book. 

But wait! I’ll share the lines I know by heart.
Mythicalhowls, fierytones slip from my lip
Blue scales flash, claws rip, the prophecy begins
Dragonworld weaves webs that grip. I take a trip…

“Anchors aweigh!” Steadfast at helm on clipper ship,
a topsail schooner, with sails unfurled, speeds away
As, true-hearted dragon pirate, I sashay 

Your turn now, Amy!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Progressive Poem so far...

Tomorrow is my day to contribute a line to the Progressive Poem, so I'm reading it in-depth this afternoon and considering the possibilities.  Here it is so far:

I’m fidget, friction, ragged edges–
I sprout stories that frazzle-dazzle,
stories of castles, of fires that crackle
with dragonwords that smoke and sizzle.

But edges sometimes need sandpaper,
like swords need stone and clouds need vapour.
So I shimmy out of my spurs and armour
facing the day as my fickle, freckled self.

I thread the crowd, wear freedom in my smile,
and warm to the coals of conversation.
Enticed to the stage by strands of story,
I skip up the stairs in anticipation.

Flip around, face the crowd, and freeze!
Shiver me. Look who’s here. Must I disappear?
By hook or by crook, I deserve a second look!
I cheer. Please, have no fear. Find the book. 

But wait! I’ll share the lines I know by heart.
Mythicalhowls, fierytones slip from my lip
Blue scales flash, claws rip, the prophecy begins
Dragonworld weaves webs that grip. I take a trip…

“Anchors aweigh!” Steadfast at helm on clipper ship,
a topsail schooner, with sails unfurled, speeds away

1 Heidi at my juicy little universe
2 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
5 Diane at Random Noodling
6 Kat at Kat's Whiskers
7 Irene at Live Your Poem
8 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
9 Linda at TeacherDance
10 Penny at a penny and her jots
11 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
12 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
13 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
14 Jan at Bookseedstudio
15 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
16 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
17 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
19 Pat at Writer on a Horse
20 BJ at Blue Window
21 Donna at Mainely Write
22 Jone at Jone Ruch MacCulloch
23 Ruth at There is no such thing as a godforsaken town
24 Amy at The Poem Farm
25 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
28 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
29 Charles at Poetry Time
30 Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids

April 22nd: Mary Oliver

In July 2012 I posted this Mary Oliver poem.

Jone has today's line for the Progressive Poem.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Poetry Friday: Syllabus

Last week I wrote this National Poetry Month haiku:

Inbox of poems:
April’s blooming gift of words
Transforms a Tuesday

I do love all the poetry that is around this time of year, but I am starting to get a little overstimulated by it all, and to wish that it would be a little more spread out over the months.  Nancie Atwell says somewhere that reading poems is like eating chocolates, and it's possible to overdo.  There are so many great projects going on right now, and I have an inbox full of poems, and I already consume quite a bit of poetry at normal times.  Poetry friends, I wish I had the time and energy to read all the amazing things you're doing.

On Sunday it will be my day to add to the Progressive Poem, so of course I have been following that closely.  Today's line is here.

I've also been doing daily posts, mostly linking to great poems from my archives, but occasionally sharing a new find.  

Here's a poem I received in my inbox before National Poetry Month even started.  I loved the creepiness of this poem, and I was intrigued by the syllabus format:

Syllabus  for   the   Dark    Ahead

by Jehanne Dubrow

Throughout this course,
we’ll study the American
landscape of our yard, coiled line


of the garden hose,
muddy furrows in the grass
awaiting our analysis,

what’s called close reading
of the ground.

 (You can read the rest at the link above.)

I decided to imitate this (not the creepiness, but the format), and below is a first draft of my poem.

Syllabus for Eighth Grade

Throughout this course,
we’ll explore the art of being thirteen
going on fourteen.

We’ll practice sitting on a chair
without falling on the floor,
posting in the class group chat
without hurting anyone’s feelings,
having a crush on a ninth grader
without losing your dignity.

In our year together,
we’ll entertain a range of emotions,
with frustration being a frequent visitor.

We’ll experience rejection,
some days, all before lunch.

There are tissues on the teacher’s desk.

Bathroom humor will be tolerated
on a limited basis.

The teacher will try not to roll her eyes at you
if you try not to roll yours at her.

We’ll read what many others have written
about being alive,
and we’ll write what we think and feel,
or at least some of it.
Some of it we’ll bury on the playground
when nobody’s looking.

Evaluations will be gentle,
since nobody has ever mastered the art of being thirteen
going on fourteen.
Or any other age, really.
We’re all just figuring it out as we go along.

Ready?  Let’s begin.

Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

Today's roundup is here today, at Tabatha's blog, The Opposite of Indifference.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

April 20th: Laundry

Today's offering is another one that isn't in my archives; my daughter sent it to me yesterday.  It's a poem about laundry.

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World
by Richard Wilbur

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul  
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple  
As false dawn.
                     Outside the open window  
The morning air is all awash with angels.

    Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,  
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.  
Now they are rising together in calm swells  
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear  
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

    Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving  
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden  
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.

Here's the rest.

The illustration is from the Heartline Maternity Center in Port-au-Prince.  There aren't pulleys on this line, but this clothesline is what I thought of when I read this poem, and particularly the title:  "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World."  There's a lot of laundry to be done in a place filled with births and newborns, and it's faithfully done, day after day, in this place where sunshine and love are the two inexhaustible resources.

Here's today's line in the Progressive Poem.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April 18th: Prufrock

Back in April 2009, the official poster for National Poetry Month had a quote from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."  (There's a photo of the poster in the link below.)  I posted that poem, commenting that I loved it because of a certain lecture in American Lit in college.  I wish I could bring a poem - or anything - to life for my students the way that professor did for me.  (And that was also the class in which I met my husband, so it was pretty life-changing, all the way around.)

Here's the post.

And here's today's Progressive Poem line.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Reading Update

Book 22 of 2017 was Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  This is a terrific, vivid, heartbreaking book about the Biafran War, which took place during my childhood but which I knew nothing at all about.  Highly recommended.

Book 23 was The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief, by Jan Richardson.  A beautiful book, and one I'll be returning to many times, I'm sure.

Book 24 was Susan David's Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life.  This was a very useful read, and David says a lot of the things my counselor said.

Book 25 was Years Later, by Gregory Djanikian.  These poems, though sadder and darker than others of Djanikian I'd read, were great on first reading, and I'm sure they'll grow on me even more as I reread.

Book 26 was Omeros, by Derek Walcott.  As soon as I started reading Walcott's work, he died, so there were lots of articles about him showing up in my newsfeed.  He was the grand old man of Caribbean poetry.  This was a retelling of the Odyssey - sort of.  Actually, there's a whole lot going on in this work, and sometimes it was difficult to switch gears with Walcott and follow, wait, who's talking now?  Where?  When?  In spite of that, individual sections were incredibly vivid and beautiful, and I was highlighting like crazy in my Kindle edition as I read.  I was very much aware that once is not enough to get everything, but I loved it.  Impressions include the yellow of butterflies and the dress of the maid Helen, the green and blue of Saint Lucia, Maud's embroidery of birds.

"I miss the light northern rain, I miss the seasons,"
Maud moaned, implying the climate lacked subtlety.
Some breeze reported the insult, since the monsoon's

anger coarsened the rain, until between the sty
and water-roped porch grew an impenetrable
jungle that drummed with increasing monotony,

its fraying lianas whipping from each gable,
the galvanized guttering belching with its roar,
Then, soaked like paper, the hills were a Chinese scroll

and she saw a subtlety where none was before.
Bamboo strokes.  Wet cloud.  Peasant with straw hat and pole.
Fern spray.  White mist.  Heron crossing fresh waterfall.

Here's another section I loved:

 ...I ladled the fragrant steam

of my stew in thick portions, the dark full of fireflies
that never catch the leaves.  It's as clear as a dream,
but more real.  Well, folks lived for centuries

like this with candles and airs on the piano,
the love-songs fading over a firefly sea,
their mouths round as the moon over a black canoe
like the one I smiled at today: In God We Troust.
But then we all trust in Him, and that's why we know
the peace of a wandering heart when it is housed.

That boat, In God We Troust, belongs to an islander named Achille, by the way.

(I wrote a bit about books number 23, 25, and 26 in this post.)

Book 27 was Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler.  I went through a big Anne Tyler phase at some point in the past (in my twenties or thirties - I'm not sure, because it was before I started blogging, back in the days when I kept no record of my reading), but it had been a long time since I had read one of her books.  This one, a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, was fun and clever, a quick read.

This post is linked to the April Quick-Lit post at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

April 15th: Jailbreak

I know my plan was to share from my archives this month, but this one just seems so appropriate for Holy Saturday and springtime that I have to share it.

by Maya Spector

It’s time to break out —
Jailbreak time.
Time to punch our way out of
the dark winter prison.
Lilacs are doing it
in sudden explosions of soft purple,
And the jasmine vines, and ranunculus, too.
There is no jailer powerful enough
to hold Spring contained.
Let that be a lesson.
Stop holding back the blossoming!

Here's the rest of the poem.

And Brenda has today's Progressive Poem line here.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Poetry Friday, Good Friday

I was looking back through the poems I've chosen for past Good Fridays, and I discovered that in 2008 I posted some George Herbert, in 2009 the hymn "Abide with Me," and in 2010 some Shakespeare (seasonally appropriate but not so much for Good Friday). In 2012 I paired Housman and HopkinsIn 2014 I shared Andrew Peterson's song "The Silence of God."  In 2015 I chose Luci Shaw and last year, E.A. Markham.

While I was doing that retrospective of Good Fridays past, I accidentally deleted my 2013 post, where I had posted a video of "O Sacred Head."  The video had been removed from YouTube, so I was trying to replace it, when, oops, gone.  (So much for things lasting forever on the internet.)  So here's another video of that hymn, one of my favorites.

The words are attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux.

This year, I'm sharing an Emily Dickinson poem.

To know just how He suffered — would be dear —
To know if any Human eyes were near
To whom He could entrust His wavering gaze —
Until it settle broad — on Paradise —

To know if He was patient — part content —
Was Dying as He thought — or different —
Was it a pleasant Day to die —
And did the Sunshine face his way —

What was His furthest mind — Of Home — or God —
Or what the Distant say —
At news that He ceased Human Nature
Such a Day —

And Wishes — Had He Any —
Just His Sigh — Accented —
Had been legible — to Me —
And was He Confident until
Ill fluttered out — in Everlasting Well —

And if He spoke — What name was Best —
What last
What One broke off with
At the Drowsiest —

Was He afraid — or tranquil —
Might He know
How Conscious Consciousness — could grow —
Till Love that was — and Love too best to be —
Meet — and the Junction be Eternity

Jan has today's line for the Progressive Poem.

Dori has today's roundup.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

April 13th: Lullabye

I'd forgotten all about a poem I shared in September 2012 in this post, "The Sciences Sing a Lullabye," by Albert Goldbarth.

Today's line for the Progressive Poem is here, with Margaret.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

April 12th: Acceptable and Unacceptable

I'm teaching mythology in eighth grade right now, and I love finding poems that go along with the mythological stories.  Here's one that I haven't ever shared with my students, "Parable of the Hostages," by Louise Glück.  I shared it in this post in April 2010.  The original post has one of my own poems in it, too.

Today I'm particularly struck by these lines:

There on the beach, discussing the various
timetables for getting home, no one believed
it could take ten years to get back to Ithaca;
no one foresaw that decade of insoluble dilemmas—oh unanswerable
affliction of the human heart: how to divide
the world’s beauty into acceptable
and unacceptable loves!

Do you have any favorite mythological poems to share?

Janet has today's line for the Progressive Poem here, at Irene's blog.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April 11th: Touch a Hundred Flowers

In September 2011 I shared this Edna St. Vincent Millay poem, "Afternoon on a Hill."  I love the idea of enjoying and appreciating without needing to possess.

I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.

You can read the rest of the poem at the link above.

And you can read today's Progressive Poem line here.

Monday, April 10, 2017

April 10th: Beannacht

I shared this beautiful poem in August of 2016 in this post.  It appeared in my inbox, in an On Being email, the day we had to take my daughter to the airport to fly back to college.  I was pretty down that day, and the poem helped immensely.  I hope it takes the edge off Monday for you.  At this link you can hear the poet read it in his lovely accent.

by John O'Donohue
On the day when
 The weight deadens
 On your shoulders
 And you stumble,
 May the clay dance
 To balance you.

And when your eyes
 Freeze behind
 The grey window
 And the ghost of loss
 Gets into you,
 May a flock of colours,
 Indigo, red, green
 And azure blue,
 Come to awaken in you
 A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
 In the currach of thought
 And a stain of ocean
 Blackens beneath you,
 May there come across the waters
 A path of yellow moonlight
 To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
 May the clarity of light be yours,
 May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
 May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
 Wind work these words
 Of love around you,
 An invisible cloak
 To mind your life.
And here's today's line in the Progressive Poem! 

Sunday, April 09, 2017

April 9th: Naomi Shihab Nye

One of my favorite poets is Naomi Shihab Nye.  I've posted many of her works over the years.

Here's "My Uncle's Favorite Coffee Shop" from May 2010.

In September 2014 I shared a video of her talking about teaching poetry.

I shared part of "Morning Glory" in October 2013, "The List" in October 2012, and "So Much Happiness" a year ago.  In July 2011, I posted "Trying to Name What Doesn't Change," in November 2008, "Steps," and in October 2008, part of "What Travel Does." 

What's your favorite Naomi Shihab Nye poem?

Linda has today's line for the Progressive Poem.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

April 8th: Japanese Poetry

In the wake of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, I read a lot of Japanese poetry, and started to understand that the whole melancholy, wabi-sabi ethos of it is at least partly due to the effect of living in a country prone to earthquakes.  Here's a poem I posted in July of that year.

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.

by Izumi Shikibu, tr. Jane Hirschfield and Mariko Aratani

Here's another post about Japanese poetry from September 2010.

Today's line in the Progressive Poem is here.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Reading Update

Book 13 of 2017 was Breathing Room: Letting Go So You Can Fully Live, by Leeana Tankersley.  I enjoyed this book very much.  Here are some tastes:  "The calendar will not serve me in matters of the soul.  I don't need to assess how worthy or unworthy my losses are, how they do or don't stack up to someone else's plight. . . . The most revolutionary thing we can do is choose to see the fullness instead of the lack, no matter where life has us.  We look for the portals.  Not as an escape, but as a reminder of his kingdom come.  As a posture of plenty."

Book 14 was The Irrational Season, by Madeleine L'Engle. I had read a few of the Crosswicks Journals series, but not this one, and I love her ponderings.

Book 15 was Milk and Honey, a book of poetry by Rupi Kaur.  This was much steamier than I was expecting, especially since it was loaned to me by one of my eighth graders.

Book 16 was The Mothers, by Brit Bennett.  This is a novel about Nadia, who is seventeen and loses her mother.  She subsequently gets pregnant and the decision she makes has long-term repercussions, as do her friendships and how they intersect.  The mothers of the title are the women of her church.  A quote: "“It was strange, learning the contours of another’s loneliness.  You could never know it all at once; like stepping inside a dark cave, you felt along the walls, bumped into jagged edges.”

Book 17 was The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life, by Ann Voskamp, and Book 21 was Voskamp's earlier book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  I'm coming a bit late to the Voskamp party, though I have read her blog off and on.  I found both these books to be full of nuggets of truth and beauty.

Book 18 was Columbine, by Dave Cullen.  This is an in-depth look into the shootings that took place at Columbine High School in 1999.  It's about the attacks and the boys who carried them out, but it's equally about the way the media covered the story, and how wrongly they approached it.  This reads like a novel, and while it's heart-breaking, it is fascinating and well worth reading.

Book 19 was The Language Inside, by Holly Thompson.  I have read this book several times - I teach it to my eighth graders - but this time I read it aloud to my husband.  I wrote a bit about the book in this post and this one.

Book 20 was Stephen King's 11/22/63.  I'm not a big Stephen King fan; in fact, the only book of his I had read before this was On Writing, which I wrote about here.  But this book was so good; I couldn't put it down.  It's a time travel story, and I'd say its main theme is that what we do really does matter. 

This post is linked to the April Quick-Lit roundup at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Poetry Friday: Gratitude List

More than a year ago, I read this post and thought, I should write a poem like that.  This week, I finally did.  Both Mary Lee's poem and the one she used as a mentor text were about mornings, but I decided to make mine about the evening.  Writing it gave me a great sense of well-being, as I kept adding details that all added up to how blessed, cared for, and loved I really am. 

Gratitude List

Praise be this evening for work ended,
the bare feet, the droning fan,
the smell of soy sauce floating upstairs from the kitchen.
Praise be the doves outside my window,
the dried eucalyptus in the bottle,
the empty mug, my tea already drunk.
Praise be the books on my shelves,
the photos of friends who smile at me benignly,
the fully-charged laptop, playing music I’ve chosen.
Praise be the lizard, scampering across the wall,
digesting bugs that will not trouble me tonight.
Praise be the quiet, the nobody needing anything,
the slight rumbling of my stomach that will soon be quelled,
the peace, and sleep not far off.

Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

I've enjoyed writing daily posts for National Poetry Month this week, highlighting poems from my archives.  On Saturday I shared a Jack Spicer poem, on Sunday some William Stafford, on Monday an Elizabeth Bishop poem on travel, on Tuesday Wislawa Szymborska's poem "The Joy of Writing," on Wednesday three poems about motherhood, and on Thursday, Shakespeare's Sonnet XXIX

Irene is hosting the Progressive Poem and the roundup today. 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

April 6th: Shakespeare's Sonnet XXIX

Shakespeare's twenty-ninth sonnet is one of my favorites, and I shared it in August 2015 and September 2011.  It's comforting to know that even Shakespeare felt insecure sometimes, and abandoned, and jealous of other artists (hard to imagine).  And it's made all better, so beautifully, by the final couplet:

For thy sweet love rememb'red such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with Kings.

Today's line for the Progressive Poem is here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

April 5th: Motherhood

If I had never become a mother, I would be a completely different person from who I am today.  I certainly don't believe that every woman has to be a mother, and there are plenty of other life paths, but for me, motherhood has been transformational.  I love Idra Novey's description of her son as "the mixed-fruit marmalade in the kitchen of me."  I shared that poem in this post in June 2013.

I was thinking this week of a poem I wrote in 2015 about motherhood, because I am reading a retelling of the Iliad with my eighth graders, and the poem was about Thetis, Achilles' mother, and how she tried hard, and ultimately in vain, to protect her son from danger.  Here's that post.  (My poem is the second half of the post; it starts with a little Keats.)

In January 2012 I shared "A Mother to her Waking Infant," by Joanna Baillie, in this post.

You'll find today's line of the Progressive Poem here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

April 4th: The Joy of Writing

I shared this poem, by Nobel winner Wislawa Szymborska, back in February 2012, in this post.

Here's some more from her.


Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence — this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word “woods.”

Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they’ll never let her get away.

Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.

They forget that what’s here isn’t life.
Other laws, black on white, obtain.
The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof’s full stop.

Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?

The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.

~ Wislawa Szymborska

Monday, April 03, 2017

April 3rd: Travel

Everyone's posting photos of trips on Facebook, that or road races, and my daughter sent an audio file of herself reciting the prologue to the Canterbury Tales in Middle English from memory ("Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.")

Wish I were going somewhere, but I'm not.  Spring Break is a distant memory, and summer is still far off.

Well, here's a poem about travel, anyway.  I shared it in this post in February 2016.

Questions Of Travel 

by Elizabeth Bishop

There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
- For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren't waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there's a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

Here's the rest.

Dori has today's line of the Progressive Poem.