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.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

April 2nd: Yes

William Stafford

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could you know. That's why we wake
and look out--no guarantees
in this life.

I shared this poem in October of 2014.  You can read the rest of it here, or hear it read. And here's that original post.

I shared another William Stafford poem in January 2008, and I liked that one so much that I shared it again in December 2010.

Tabatha has today's line for the Progressive Poem.

I love April and all the beautiful words it brings.  I hope you are enjoying it too!

Saturday, April 01, 2017

April 1st: "Any fool..."

"Any Greek can get you into a labyrinth
But it takes a hero to get out of one
What’s true of labyrinths is true of course
Of love and memory. When you start remembering."

So ends Jack Spicer's poem, "Any fool can get into an ocean..." 

I shared that poem in this post back in May 2013.  

April seems to be off to a great start!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Poetry Friday: Memory and Desire

Tomorrow begins National Poetry Month.  Every year I quote the line from T. S. Eliot: "April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire."  I've been thinking about that line, and its focus on the past (memory) and the future (desire).  I've also been thinking about the hundreds of poems I have posted on this blog in the nearly eleven years (my blog birthday is this month!) that I've been writing here.

Many of the Poetry Friday bloggers are full of fabulous project ideas for this month.  Amy's writing about colors.  Heidi's on a math kick.  And, of course, Irene's organized the Progressive Poem.  (And there are so many other creative projects planned! Here's Jama's list.)  I know myself better than to commit to writing a poem every day in April, because April in middle school is, indeed, the cruelest month.  Who knows what could happen?  But I do want to do a daily post this month.  (I'll be linking you to each new line in the Progressive Poem, at the very least.)

So here's what I came up with:  six days a week in April, I'll write a post linking up to a wonderful poem or two from my archives.  And on Fridays, I'll post something new.  I'll attempt to make it something newly written (by me), but some weeks it may just be something newly discovered.  In other words, Saturday through Thursday will be about memory, and Fridays will be about desire.  Or something like that.

So for today, I will link to the poems that got me thinking about this idea.  I was browsing past posts, and in June 2012 I had written about my husband reading "Tintern Abbey" while we were on vacation at our friend's cabin in the woods.  I wrote: "As we sat on the porch of the cabin, looking out over the woods, my husband said, 'This reminds me of Tintern Abbey.' He read the poem aloud to us. From now on whenever I hear or read it, I'll think of our friend P. killing bugs in a kind of rhythmic counterpoint."

I love that idea, expressed in Wordsworth's lines below, that our moments are precious not only for the delight they bring us while they're happening, but also for the memories we have to ponder later.

And now, with gleams of half-extinguish'd thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years.

Here's that post.

And in December 2009, I wrote another Tintern Abbey related post, this time referring to Billy Collins' poem "Lines Composed Over Three Thousand Miles from Tintern Abbey."  This one skewers the idea of nostalgia, beginning:

I was here before, a long time ago,
and now I am here again
is an observation that occurs in poetry
as frequently as rain occurs in life.

Here's that post.

In this article, Garrison Keillor tells us that April isn't the cruelest month - March is.  (And it's almost over!)  He also suggests that you shouldn't read poetry, necessarily, but you should definitely write a poem to someone you love, and he gives some tips for doing so.

Here's to a fabulous National Poetry Month!  And Amy has today's roundup at The Poem Farm.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Coming Soon: The Progressive Poem, 2017!

It's almost April, and you know what that means: National Poetry Month!  And you know what else that means: the sixth annual Progressive Poem!

The Progressive Poem travels around blogs all around the blogosphere, with each blogger adding a line.  This year we're doing a poem specifically for kids.  It is always fun, as you can see by looking back at past Aprils.


Below you'll find the schedule for this year.  The fun starts on Saturday!

April1 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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Poetry Friday: A Box Full of Darkness, Response

Last week I shared a prompt from my writing group.  Three of us wrote poems in response to it, and lively discussion ensued.  Here's mine.  I found it a lot of fun to write.  I kept paring it and paring it; my final version was probably a third the length of my first draft.  I enjoyed the process so much - even though the subject of the poem is so sad - that I found myself wondering again why I don't routinely write every day.  The only reason I made myself sit down and write this was that I had my group meeting coming up.  I think the answer to my question is that I usually prioritize my "real work," which involves reading student writing, and on the rare occasions when that is finished, my brain is tired and picking up my own writing seems too much.  Yet writing is the one thing that reliably makes me feel better when I'm tired and down.

Box Full of Darkness

Someone I love gave me
A box

A box full of velvety black-hole darkness,
Sound-swallowing silence,
Absence, not-there-ness, all-gone-ness,
A box filled to the brim with emptiness,
A box of goodbye.

I’d throw the box away,
But it will take me years to unpack,
And besides, it’s from someone I love.

Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

Here's today's roundup.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Poetry Friday: A Box Full of Darkness

One of the members of my writing group sent us this poem to use as a prompt for our meeting next week.  I haven't written anything yet, but I've been thinking about it.  Maybe you'd like to think about it, too. 

The Uses of Sorrow
by Mary Oliver
(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

Here's today's roundup.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Poetry Friday: Birthday Gifts Edition

Today is a busy day for me because it's a due date in both seventh and eighth grade.  The seventh graders made poetry anthologies, and the eighth graders are turning in a variety of things, but the main genre of the quarter was feature articles, and there are lots of very interesting topics, based on interviews they have done.  The piles are a little daunting, but there should be some great reading.

Speaking of great reading, I got some in the mail yesterday, too.  For my recent birthday, I received two Amazon gift cards, and I decided to treat myself to some poetry that had been on my Wish List for a while.  I got three books, one a download and two analog (I've typed and deleted several ways of referring to the book books - I'm not sure what to call them!).  I got a box from Amazon yesterday, and as soon as I get a little control of the grading, I'm excited to dig into these books.

I downloaded Derek Walcott's Omeros, which is a Caribbean retelling of the Odyssey (Walcott is from the island of St. Lucia).  I've been wanting to read this for a long time, and I couldn't wait, so I started it already.  It begins with a description of the building of canoes.  An islander called Philoctete is explaining to tourists:

"Wind lift the ferns.  They sound like the sea that feed us
fishermen all our life, and the ferns nodded 'Yes,
the trees have to die.' So, fists jam in our jacket,

cause the heights was cold and our breath making feathers
like the mist, we pass the rum.  When it came back, it
give us the spirit to turn into murderers.

I lift up the axe and pray for strength in my hands
to wound the first cedar.  Dew was filling my eyes,
but I fire one more white rum.  Then we advance."

I'm sure I'll write about this when I'm done with it, or maybe even while I'm in the process of reading it.

I've been reading poems by Gregory Djanikian for several years, and have posted some on this blog in the past (here, here, here), but have never read any of his books.  The one I got is called Years Later
Djanikian immigrated to the United States from Egypt as a young child, and if you follow the links to the poems I've posted by him, you'll see that he writes a lot about his experiences.  

The third book I got is by Jan Richardson, whose blog I love.  In fact, I've read several of the poems from this book, The Cure for Sorrow, there.  I have been wanting to get the book since it came out.  It's about her sudden loss of her husband after less than four years of marriage, but her format is blessings, with titles like "Blessing in the Chaos," "Blessing of Memory," "Blessing for a Whole Heart." 

There are few better feelings than having a whole little stack of books you are looking forward to reading.  Yay!

Here's today's roundup. I'm looking forward to reading that, too!

Friday, March 03, 2017

Reading Update

Book 6 of the year was Love Well: Living Life Unrehearsed and Unstuck, by Jamie George.  "God does not delete your story - " writes George, "He redeems it!"  He shares his own experiences with God redeeming his life story.

Book 7 was News of the World, by Paulette Jiles.  It's 1870.  Johanna was abducted from her family when she was six, and now that she is ten, she's been ransomed and she's on her way "home."  Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is a a man who travels around and reads newspapers to audiences who pay a dime each to hear the "news of the world."  He's agreed to take Johanna back to her original family, whether or not she wants to go.  I loved this book, with its intricately detailed portrayal of Johanna and Captain Kidd, and the way they grow in importance to one another.  Highly recommended.

Book 8 was Ann Patchett's latest book, Commonwealth.  It took me a while to figure out what was going on here, because there were lots of characters whom I couldn't keep straight very well.  But when, about halfway through, I figured it out, I was glad I hadn't given up.  The book explores issues about childhood, siblings, and how much of our story belongs to us.

Book 9 was The Girl with All the Gifts, by M. R. Carey.  If I had known what this book was about, I wouldn't have picked it up, and that would have been a shame.  I know that is no help at all for you if you're trying to decide whether to read it, but I think it's best read without knowing too much about it, since you're supposed to realize the situation gradually.

Book 10 was The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country, by Helen Russell.  I hadn't read any of the current spate of Denmark books, and knew very little about the country.  I learned a lot reading this book, written by a British woman whose husband got a job at Lego, sending the couple to Denmark for a year.  It's a mixture of very personal memoir and investigative journalism, and great fun.

Book 11 was Three Sisters, Three Queens, by Philippa Gregory.  I have been waiting for this to become available for download from my library ever since it came out.  The three queens of the title are Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII, and her two sisters-in-law, Mary and Margaret.  I'm quite familiar with Katherine and Mary, but Margaret's story is much less known, and while it's pretty harrowing - like all the Tudors and anybody who came near them, particularly women, Margaret had a rough time of it - it also makes for exciting and entertaining reading.  I think I've read all Philippa Gregory's novels about the Plantagenets and Tudors, and now I'm ready for the next one!

Book 12 was A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving.  I've wanted to read this ever since a good friend mentioned years ago that it was her favorite book.  I read it aloud to my husband, and since it's over 600 pages long, it took us a while.  This was only my second Irving book, and my husband's first.  Owen Meany is an unforgettable character, and I loved the leisurely manner in which the story is told.  At times hilarious, at times reverent, at times shocking and profane (language and content alerts for days), always vivid, this is the story of John and Owen's friendship against the backdrop of the late sixties and the beginning of the Vietnam War.  John Irving is a simply brilliant writer, and it's a pleasure watching this story unfold.  As John is trying to figure out how he will handle the threat of the draft, he tells Owen that he wants to go on reading, as a student and a teacher: "I'm just a reader."  Owen tells him that's nothing to be ashamed of, because reading is a gift.  It certainly is, when there are books like this to be read.

This post is linked to the March 4th Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon.

It's also linked to Modern Mrs. Darcy's "What I'm Reading Lately" post for March.

Poetry Friday: Strange Lands

Today, in honor of Billy Collins' 76th birthday this month, we have an all-Billy episode of Poetry Friday.  Our host, Heidi, suggests that "all who care to will post a favorite Billy Collins poem (or Billy-inspired original)." I've got one of each - one of his and one of mine - for you today.

I've been thinking a lot about photography lately, since I'm doing a year-long photo-a-day project.  For the last couple of years, I've also done a photo-a-day project during Lent, so this year during Lent (which started on Wednesday), I'm posting two photos each day on Facebook, responding to prompts I got here as well as the regular ones I got here.  I'm very much an amateur photographer; my husband bought me a nice camera that is able to do way more than I know how to do, but I'm experimenting and learning, and having all kinds of thoughts about connections between photography and writing, photography and being fully present in the moment, and photography and love.  Maybe I'll develop some of these thoughts further in writing in the future.  

Meanwhile, I picked the Billy Collins poem "Strange Lands" to share today.  This poem is from Collins' 1988 collection  The Apple that Astonished Paris.  In the poem, people back from a trip pass out their vacation photos, "like little mirrors," to friends after dinner.  Isn't that quaint and old-fashioned?  Even though the technology is dated, though, I like what the poem has to say about taking pictures and why we share them with others: "to make them believe we really found / some sweet elsewhere, away from here."  

Here's the poem:

Strange Lands
 by Billy Collins

The photographs of the summer trip are spread
across the table now like little mirrors
reflecting our place in European history.

They are the booty of travel, bordered and colorful,
split seconds that we pass to friends after dinner
one by one to make them believe we really found
some sweet elsewhere, away from here.

There we are, the familiar gazing out of the foreign,
stopped in front of a carved Cistercian door,
or leaning obliquely against a kiosk;
frozen behind a blue and white Della Robbia,
or parked at a café table strewn with phrasebooks,
obscured there in the underexposed shadow of an awning.

Here's the rest, including the travelers walking on after taking a photo, "unfocused, unphotographed...two blurs," as though they really only fully exist when they are documenting their travels.  

I wish Billy Collins would update this poem, but in the meantime, I tried my hand at it.  I sound a bit more negative and cynical about social media than I really am; I enjoy connecting with people that way, but it is, let's face it, a pale substitute for being with our friends in person. 

Strange Lands on Social Media
by Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

The photographs of the trip are posted,

like little digital gifts,
ready for friends all over to like,
be startled or saddened or angered by,
or even love.
Pics, or it didn’t happen.

See what a good time we’re having?
That’s us, in the pictures,
smiling, or posing ironically duck-faced.
That’s what we ate, what we drank, 

artfully arranged and gleaming,
the walks we took.
Those are the sights we saw,
and you can see them now, too.

We can’t share the smells or tastes or textures with you - yet -
But you can experience some of the sounds in this short video.

Hear those exotic birds?  Those foreign-sounding voices?
(Feel free to share.)

Do you have any comments for us?
If so, we’d like to read them.

We wish you were here,
next to us,
laughing and swapping stories,

spilling your drinks in an unpicturesque manner,
instead of far away,
scrolling through our photos 

on your phone.

Here's today's roundup.