Thursday, November 26, 2020

Poetry Friday: Thanksgiving, an Ode to Poetry, and Birthday Gifts Edition, #2

This year, I'm thinking about how thankful I am for poetry. In this post, I'll tell you some books of poems. Last week I wrote about one of the books I got for my birthday. This week I'm going to write about three others, and then share an ode I wrote for my Thanksgiving tradition. (Here's last year's ode post, with links to previous ones.)

 

Camille Dungy's website calls her book Smith Blue "a survival guide for the modern heart."  The poems are about, as Dungy puts it in "Daisy Cutter," "the world we have arranged," the mess we've made of it all. 


I wrote a little bit about Agha Shahid Ali's book A Nostalgist's Map of America here. Ali writes about deserts of all kinds, from his original home in Kashmir, to South America, to the American west. It's hard to find anything short to quote, because it's all part of the whole, but here's one of his poems (not from this book), and Poetry Foundation has several more, too. 


I also received Ten Poems about Art, selected and introduced by Geoff Dyer, a wonderful selection of ekphrastic poems. 

 

Every year I read odes at Thanksgiving with my eighth graders, and we write them, too. This year I shared Neruda's "Ode to an Apple," which seemed to fit with the book we're reading, The Giver. I also shared "Ode to Subway," an ode by a middle schooler included in Nancie Atwell's anthology Naming the World. And here's the one I wrote this year:

 

 

Ode to Poetry


You have words to say it all,
Poetry,
even what can’t ever be said.

I read you or write you
when I’m happy,
or when I can’t bear it any more.
Sometimes I send you to others,
and sometimes I clutch you close,
keep you all to myself.

You’re filled with nouns:
flowers and dust,
onions and garlic,
American redstarts
and emptiness.

You’re filled with verbs:
snack and giggle and rest,
yearn and caress and lose,
blurt,
dream and wake and
love.

You’re filled with moments:
an afternoon in Paris,
feeding pieces of schwarma to the pigeons;
a morning in Port-au-Prince,
watching tires burn;
bath time,
soothing a baby in warm sudsy water.

You are deep and wide,
like a steamer trunk I’m packing for an ocean voyage,
or like the ocean itself,
stretching endlessly into the horizon,
with room for complications.
With room for all of it.
 

Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com 

 

It occurs to me on Friday morning that I ought to add - the American redstart is not some kind of political reference, but a beautiful little black and orange migratory bird that visits my yard this time of year. I wrote him his own poem, plus there's a photo, here.


I took this picture in Jacmel almost a year ago - the last time I was at the beach.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Slice of Life Tuesday: Shoes

 


I got new hiking shoes. I really needed them; it had been several years since I got some new walking shoes, and they had already been repaired with Superglue. Last time we went hiking, I wore sandals instead, and came home with mud all over my feet. My husband said he'd order me some new hiking shoes.


Sure enough, a while later, a box arrived. But I could tell before I even opened it that we had a serious problem. Instead of ordering my size (8 1/2), he had ordered size 5 1/2. He had ordered shoes for a woman with teeny tiny little feet. No such woman lives in our house. 


Don't worry, though. There's a happy ending. We found a woman with teeny tiny little feet who could use the hiking shoes. And my husband ordered more shoes, this time in my actual size. And on Saturday I wore them for the first time, and they worked very well. 


That's it. That's the whole story. It's not exactly a slice of life - more a crumb than a whole slice. But it made me happy. 



Thursday, November 19, 2020

Poetry Friday: Birthday Gifts Edition, 2020, #1

I got some Amazon gift money for my birthday back in February, and the books I ordered with it arrived right before lockdown began. Somehow, I never got to writing about the poetry, so I'm going to try to remedy that over the next few weeks.

 


 

 

I had A.E. Stallings' book Hapax on my wishlist for a long time. (I had shared some of Stallings' poetry in 2010 and again in 2013.) I knew I liked Stallings' wit and her unfashionable use of rhyme, but it was really the title of this one that drew me. A hapax legomenon is a word or phrase that appears in surviving ancient literature just once. You can imagine that it wouldn't be easy to know exactly what this word means, since you don't have anything to compare it to, so you're forced to rely solely on context clues. 


Stallings, the back of the book informs us, "studied classics in Athens, Georgia, and now lives in Athens, Greece." Many of her poems tackle classical subjects, both mythological and grammatical. In one, "Dead Language Lesson," she writes,

 

I confiscate a note in which

The author writes, "who do you love?" --

An agony past all correction.

 

I think, as they wait for the bell,

Blessed are the young for whom

All languages are dead: the girl

Who twines her golden hair, like Circe,

Turning glib boys into swine.

 

A series of limericks ("XII Klassikal Lynmaeryx") includes, among many good ones:

 

With a great mind so tragically fertile

Aeschylus won wreaths of myrtle.

And yet his demise

Could win Comic first prize --

To be brained by a hurtling turtle!

 

Here's part of "Minutes," which uses the metaphor of minutes as beggars:

 

Minutes swarm by, holding their dirty hands out,

Begging change, loose coins of your spare attention.

No one has the currency for them always;

            Most go unnoticed. 


If you, like me, find yourself wanting to read more Stallings, you can find some of her work at the Poetry Foundation.

 

This week's roundup is here.

 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Slice of Life Tuesday: Bird Calendar

I got a bird calendar for Christmas in 2019. Each week, there's a new bird each day for the five weekdays, and then some kind of birding tip for the weekend. I took the calendar to my classroom, but when the Coronavirus lockdown started on March 19th, I brought it home. 

 


 


Since March, my son and I have developed a little routine with the calendar. We look at the bird photo, study the map on the back of the page that shows the bird's range, read the facts. Then I find the bird on the bird identification app Merlin, and we listen to its sound. 

 


 


In September, I went back to school, but I left my calendar at home. I piled up the pages under it, all of them since March 19th. The pile got taller and taller as we learned about more and more birds. 

 


 


Now, it's November. We've started thinking about next year's calendar. Should we get a worldwide one? Is there a Caribbean one, specifically for our region? Or should we go for a US one again? 

 


 


I've loved the daily bird habit this year. It's been a reminder of the amazing diversity of avian life, even on days when our lives seemed the opposite of diverse. 

 


 




Sunday, November 15, 2020

Reading Update

Book #66 of the year was The Mother-in-Law, by Sally Hepworth. I found this novel about a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law and their relationship to be readable but also quite forgettable, and can remember little about it. 

 

Book #67 was Virginia Woolf's first novel, The Voyage Out. "'D'you know,' said Mrs. Elliot, after a moment, 'I don't think people do write good novels now - not as good as they used to, anyhow.'" I haven't found any Woolf books as good as Mrs. Dalloway yet, but I did enjoy this.  

 

Book #68 was Ahab's Wife, or the Star-Gazer, by Sena Jeter Naslund. I haven't managed to get all the way through Moby Dick yet (though I'm still working on it), but I picked up this novel imagining a marriage for Captain Ahab, on the recommendation of a friend. It was well-written and readable, though full of highly traumatic events and taboos; "the catastrophic superimposed itself on the ordinary," as Una, the wife in the title, tells us. Whaling, lighthouses, childbirth, shipwreck, women's suffrage, slavery, art: all these things are explored in the story, as Una makes her way through an extremely eventful life. 

 

Book #69 was Anne Bogel's Don't Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life. Normally I would start my review by confessing to be something of an overthinker myself, but Bogel's first suggestion is to stop thinking of yourself as an overthinker. Here's a taste: "At my church, we regularly sing a song in which the chorus repeats, 'God will delight when we are creators / of justice and joy, compassion and peace.' The first time I heard it, I was captivated by the idea that we don't have to settle for merely yearning for these things; we can also create them." This is a quick but useful read.

 

Book #70 was a recommendation from my daughter, Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke. Fascinating and enigmatic, this book begins with an epigraph from The Magician's Nephew, by C.S. Lewis.  Think about the place in that book when the children wake the statue of Queen Jadis - a place like that is the setting for this one. 

 

Books #71 and #72 were both mermaid stories. In Into the Drowning Deep, by Mira Grant, an oceanographic cruise sets out on a voyage of mermaid seeking, and much mayhem ensues. These mermaids are apex predators, better called sirens, and boy, can they cause trouble! In The Deep, by Rivers Solomon with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes, mermaids are descended from the people thrown overboard during the voyage across the Middle Passage. This painful history is too much for them to live with, so they entrust it to one mermaid, the Historian. But it's too much for her, too: "History was everything. Yetu knew that. But it wasn't kind." This is short - it took about an hour to read - but intense and worth discussing. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Poetry Friday: Napoleon

Here's a poem that illustrates how many people develop their view of current events and history. And when you've read this one, Robyn has the roundup, where you can see what others have posted today! 



 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Slice of Life Tuesday: Ficus

A ficus tree in our yard is covered with fruit. The birds know it; the tree is full of birds each morning when I step outside at first light with my binoculars around my neck. When I try to write about it, though, I hit a vocabulary problem. What are those fruit called?


 

I could just write "fruit," but that's so generic. Since it's a ficus, maybe they are figs. But they sure don't look like any figs I've ever seen. I want to call them "ficus berries," but I just made that up, so I'm pretty sure it's not a real name. 

 

I ask my Facebook friends for help, and receive this article in response. Yes, it turns out, these small spherical berry-like fruits are properly called figs. But they aren't actually fruits, they are "inflorescences," or "synconia." 

 

If I write, "The palmchats are eating the figs," you get a completely different mental picture from what's actually happening, but if I write, "The palmchats are eating the synconia," you (or at least I) get no mental picture at all. 


But my main response to this article is wonder. All I wanted was a vocabulary word, but here is a world I didn't even know existed. Pollination takes place by the intervention of a wasp. And not just any old wasp. "Most fig species have their corresponding fig wasp." Except the ones that can produce fruit without pollination, called parthenocarpic. And there are more than 850 kinds of ficus tree!


Amazing! And still the palmchats are chomping away on the fruit. Ficus berries. Figs. Synconia. Fruit.





Friday, November 06, 2020

Poetry Friday: PFAMS in 2020

On Thursday morning I grabbed my phone and found, to my surprise, that I had to prove my identity before I could check my email. By that I don't mean put in my passcode, or use my thumbprint, but enter a number where they could send me a code, and then enter another code, and then remember another code I'd created who knows when. All of this happened because I had downloaded software updates overnight. Amazingly, I managed to gain access, but not before I was starting to doubt that I was who I say I am. Talk about getting your adrenaline going first thing in the morning! 


It seems pretty common these days that I feel that way, that I may not actually be myself. I'm a teacher who believes in Writer's Workshop, but am I doing WW? Um, not really. I'm a teacher who has silent reading in class every day, but am I doing that this year? Nope. And I'm a teacher who teaches a poem every day - well, except this year. There are several reasons for this, such as the hybrid format, now changing to a less hybrid but still a little hybrid format, and the addition of another grade, and the new online curriculum I've been given to support the hybrid setup. But the main reason is that last year I had 80 minutes with each class each day, and this year I have 45 minutes. Who am I as a teacher this year? Couldn't really tell you.


BUT! I have my PFAMS, or Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School! This book, compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, is rescuing my classroom from a poetry-deprived existence. Each week, PFAMS has a poem for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, complete with a list of suggestions for how to approach it. The whole thing takes about ten minutes. Done and done. I am only teaching one poem a week instead of four a week plus a song on Friday (my usual plan), but at least I'm teaching one. It is good enough for 2020. And because of PFAMS, the poems are wonderful and already selected.


This is week ten, so today I'll be reading Julie Larios' "Names" with the sixth grade, Mary Quattlebaum's "What I Want to Be" with the seventh grade, and Heidi Bee Roemer's "Food Fest" with the eighth grade. The theme across the board is Food, and all three poems come with activities, which always get me thinking of my own. (The blog, http://pfams.blogspot.com/, is a great resource, too.) If I have extra time I can expand this, but since I usually don't, I can give it the minimum time and still be doing poetry with my kids. (I'm really looking forward to teaching "Names" because it's about nicknames, which are ubiquitous in Haitian culture. In the poem, everyone has nicknames, and the pastries the poem's persona is buying have nicknames too. I'll ask the kids what their nicknames are, and I can already hear the chorus that will ensue.)


Another fun aspect is that I know many of the poets represented in this anthology; many of them are Poetry Friday regulars. In week two I taught "Locker Ness Monster," a very fun poem by Robyn Hood Black. In week three I did Irene Latham's "Biking Along White Rim Road" with the seventh graders, and in week eight, Mary Lee Hahn's "Spiral Glide," a poem about a hawk. 


I've taught poems from this book before (I wrote about it here and here and here, among other places), but I've never before used it as it's intended to be used, going through and doing the poems one after another throughout the school year, starting with week one and ending (I hope I hope I hope we'll still be meeting in person in spite of pandemic and social unrest and elections) week thirty-six. I'm so glad to have this book to use, and to help me remember my teacher identity, in this strangest of years.


Today's roundup is here.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Gratitude



I'm hosting today, so welcome, fellow SJT writers! Leave your link in the comments, and I'll round them up. Even if you're not a regular SJT writer, feel free to leave a gratitude list in the comments, anyway, or to link us to something on your blog. I intended to post this on Wednesday evening, but instead posted it early Wednesday morning. But I guess that's OK - maybe we needed an extra boost of gratitude on Wednesday this week.

 

I signed up for this job before 2020 began, and because it was November, I chose the theme of Gratitude. This year hasn't been at all as I had envisioned, but being grateful is still the best way to view the world, and I have so many reasons for gratitude. 


Recently, I sat in a doctor's office next to my husband, listening to the doctor talk about exercise and my husband tell about his cycling. The conversation made me think about sitting in a doctor's office in that same practice (though the practice has expanded and moved to a new location since then, and this was a different doctor), as my OB and my husband talked about cycling, a sport they both did avidly. I often felt like saying, "Hey! Remember me? I'm the one who's pregnant here - let's talk about me!" A lot has changed since those conversations years ago, and my babies are all grown up. But listening to my husband and his doctor, I remembered so many years of marriage, so many bike trips. I felt deep gratitude.


Here are some things, big and small, on the gratitude list generated in my head at that doctor's appointment:


1. A husband who still loves me and thinks I'm beautiful, after 31 years of marriage

2. Our children, one of whom texted while we sat there, having just arrived safely home from a bike trip of her own

3. Doctors to help us when we're sick and to encourage us to stay healthy

4. Health, and a continued ability to walk and bike and enjoy the world, even though lockdowns of several kinds have narrowed our world lately, and sickness has slowed us both down

5. This gorgeous, complicated island where we are so privileged to live

6.  Books to read, including on the electronic reader that was in my bag and that I'd been reading in the waiting room before the appointment

7. Birds, including the ones we'd seen from the car on the way there

8. COVID rates in this country that are far lower than what was predicted, even given the incomplete statistics we have (when we discussed this with the doctor, and asked for his opinions, he said he thought God had been good to us)

9. Friends, including the one we'd talked with in the waiting room


"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

 

"We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory." The General Thanksgiving, Book of Common Prayer


Carol  has a bunch of goodies for us this month, from gorgeous fall photos to a found poem to a suggestion to take an "awe walk." So many reasons for gratitude! 

 

Linda shows us a wonderful thing for which she's grateful, and even included a photo and a poem!

 

Fran is speaking my language by quoting Reepicheep, the gallant mouse!  


Margaret is in with a gratitude poem, a lovely photo, and an invitation to participate in gratiku.


Karen  talks about a book she's been reading called Liturgy of the Ordinary (it's been on my wishlist for a while, and maybe this is the push I need to read it!), and shares a gratitude list. 

 

Ramona went for a walk and took glorious pictures!

 

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Slice of Life Tuesday: Holiday and Feathers

Yesterday was a holiday here in Haiti. November 1st and 2nd are All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, and both are important holidays. 

 

I don't know if you noticed, but there's a lot going on right now. In the US, and in Haiti. We are all preoccupied by what's in the news, and what's going on with our families, and what's supposed to happen today and in the weeks ahead. The news is bad everywhere.

 

But yesterday? Yesterday was a holiday. I woke up very early, which I do every day, and read for a while, including a chapter from the Bible. And then it started to get light, an hour earlier than it used to just a few days ago. I grabbed my binoculars and went outside at 5:30, before it was really light enough to see, and watched birds in my yard. Seven species on my eBird checklist, and Day 56 of my checklist streak. What a way to start the day!


I had breakfast with my husband, and I chatted on Zoom with a friend on another Caribbean island, and yeah, I worked (I am a teacher, after all). I ate some leftover pizza for lunch. I worked some more. I rode six miles on the exercise bike. We had talked about taking advantage of the long weekend to try to make some more complicated plans, find something fun to do, but there was just too much going on. Today we are going to a new setup at school, with twice as many students on campus. That's required a lot of preparation, plus Friday was the end of our first quarter, so there was grading, always and always the grading. 


But I did get to take a few minutes to work on my bird biology course (I wrote more about that here). The current chapter is about feathers. That may seem like a trivial or insubstantial topic, but believe me, it isn't. There's much more to feathers than meets the eye. As I read about the different kinds of feathers and how they are counted and how they grow and develop and how molting happens and how feathers are pigmented, I thought about the words of the twelfth century mystic Hildegard of Bingen, who called herself "a feather on the breath of God." 

 

All we have is the present moment, this day. Our concerns for the future, our regrets from the past, our worries over all the things: the election in the US and the stories of grisly crime in the Haitian news and the new demands at work - these are all beyond our control. We are feathers on the breath of God, buoyed up on His love and asked only to do our best and to trust Him for the outcome. 

 

And even for the feathers that we are, it's always good to have a day off, to rest and refocus so we can go back to work with some new energy. Here we go!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Poetry Friday: This Poem is a Nest, by Irene Latham

I’m not sure how many reviews of Irene Latham’s new book This Poem is a Nest I had to read before I decided I had to order the book. I’m pretty sure I wanted it after the first one. Now that my copy has come in the mail, and I’ve read the whole thing, I decided that I need to write my own review. (And here's an interview with Johanna Wright, who drew the lovely pictures.)

I already own several of Irene’s books (here's a post about her I wrote for National Poetry Month last year, including links to several reviews of her work). One thing I love about her writing is how it always inspires me to try some of the same things she’s doing. And this one was no exception. After telling you about the book, I’m going to share some of my own efforts at nestlings.

Irene starts this book with a long poem called “Nest.” It explores the four seasons of a birds’ nest. In spring the nest houses baby birds, in summer it watches young robins fly away, in autumn it overlooks deer and a turtle, and in winter a mouse moves in. Each season is full of memorable language and perfectly chosen words. And it’s those perfectly chosen words that lead us to the next section of the book, when Irene presents 161 found poems using those words from “Nest.”

All I can say is wow as I look through the variety of subjects she’s found in her own writing. She writes of times of day, months (all twelve), colors, planets, emotions. She writes alphabet poems and a whole “Ars Poetica” section. This is a tour de force, ideal for sharing with a class of just about any age, and fun to read for an adult, too. She calls these found poems “nestlings,” and at the end, there’s a three page section of tips for writing your own.

 

Here are a couple of examples of Irene's nestlings:


 

I loved the idea. First, I was fascinated that you could find poems in one of your own poems. I tried it. And then, I tried finding one in Irene’s “Nest,” with its evocative words.

I picked this one of mine, written last summer after my husband and I took an anniversary trip while visiting family and friends in Kentucky.


30th Anniversary

When we were newlyweds,
we went to the cemetery.
Remember?
We just had two weekends for our honeymoon
with our first week of graduate school in between,
and when we wanted to see at least one tourist sight in Frankfort,
we found everything closed.
So we visited the floral clock behind the Capitol building
and we walked around among the dead.

Daniel Boone’s grave overlooks the Kentucky River,
a proud monument with scenes of his exploits on three sides,
and then on the back,
with no view of the river,
his wife Rebecca, mother of ten,
can be seen milking a cow.

Daniel and Rebecca are surrounded by other graves,
two hundred years’ worth.
There’s a monument devoted to Kentucky soldiers,
and the Civil War tombs
house both northern and southern boys.

Thirty years later,
we went back to recreate our honeymoon.
We drove around looking for familiar sights,
revisited the floral clock,
found the bed and breakfast where we stayed
(you remembered the blue stained glass window),
ate fish at the same restaurant by the river.

And yes,
we stopped by the cemetery.
We took pictures this time:
the river,
American flags, Confederate flags,
monuments of all eras,
Daniel and Rebecca Boone’s spot.

I don’t remember if back then,
young as we were,
we discussed thinking about
death on our honeymoon,
whether either of us made the obvious remark
that one day one of us would bury the other.
 
We’re both grayer in our riverside anniversary selfie
than we were in our wedding photos
(though you were already bald when I married you).
Thirty years have given us plenty
to be happy and sad about,
births and deaths and earthquakes and Caribbean adventures.

I hope we have another thirty years to love each other,
to remember the promises we made on that steamy August afternoon,
and that long-ago walk in the cemetery,
and the blue light in our honeymoon suite.

Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com





I wrote two nestlings from this poem. First I just chose words, and then in the second one, I tried Irene’s alphabet technique of writing down all the words starting with a particular letter in the poem (in my case, A), and then taking out the ones that didn’t go together. Both of my nestlings really fit in with the original topic of the poem, so I didn’t achieve Irene’s variety at all.


Newlywed
weekends
we walked,
surrounded
by adventures,
love -
remember?



Anniversary
and
adventures -
August
afternoon.


Then I tried writing a nestling from Irene’s poem, “Nest.” I picked one word from each section of the poem to write my own four word nestling.


Blue seaglass,
imagine boat.


You should buy Irene's wonderful book! Read it and use it to inspire your writing!


The lovely Linda at TeacherDance has today's roundup.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Slice of Life Tuesday: Morning

 Out of the Morning

 

Will there really be a morning?

Is there such a thing as day?

Could I see it from the mountains

If I were as tall as they?

 

Has it feet like water-liles?

Has it feathers like a bird?

Is it brought from famous countries

Of which I have never heard?

 

Oh, some scholar! Oh, some sailor!

Oh, some wise man from the skies!

Please to tell a little pilgrim

Where the place called morning lies!

                             

Emily Dickinson

 


 

No matter how many worries there are the night before, morning keeps coming, with its new chance to get things right, its new light and its birds singing. I usually wake up well before light, and I lie there quietly, adjusting to life again, remembering the people I love, praying for them. I get up and visit the bathroom, take my medicine that needs to be taken pre-food.  I get back in bed and check my email on my phone. I read my notifications on Facebook. I post my daily photo. 


But soon the light comes. None of that other stuff can compete with the light. Sometimes, when it's especially breathtaking, I rush downstairs and out my gate to take pictures of it. My pictures don't ever come close to doing justice to that beautiful light. Here it is, another morning! What are you going to do with it? 


By the time we leave for work, the spectacular morning colors have faded. There is such a thing as day. Here goes.




Thursday, October 22, 2020

Poetry Friday: Conversation with a Ghost from Derek Walcott's Omeros

I've been rereading Derek Walcott's Omeros, a Caribbean retelling (sort of) of Homer's Odyssey. I could keep reading it forever, always finding new aspects. Sometimes something incredibly complex like this work is what you want to read, something that you have to wrestle with and read again and again. At least, that's how I feel. (I wrote more about Omeros here.) After I share an extract from Walcott, I've got a poem I wrote using some of his words.

 

I picked this to share today because of the way I've been kept from travel the last 16 months or so. I'm "stuck" here on a Caribbean island, which is not at all the worst fate one could imagine. I miss the family members I can't go to see, especially my daughter, but there's so much that's beautiful here.


In this extract, Walcott (or the version of him in the poem) meets the ghost of his father (who died when Walcott was a child) on the cold beach in Boston. (You can see what I meant by calling this "a retelling (sort of)." There's a lot of other stuff in it as well.) 


By the way, in the Odyssey, Odysseus goes to the underworld to meet the ghost of his mother, but he never goes to Boston to meet the ghost of his father.

 

Walcott is talking as the extract begins, telling his father's ghost that this place is too cold for them to talk. His father suggests a warmer place, and then talks about his travels around the world, and how he ended up coming back to his island and loving it.  


"cherish our island for its green simplicities"



I said, "This is hardly the place; maybe I called

but it's too cold for talk; this happens to old men,

and I'm nearly there. You could have been my child,


and the more I live, the more our ages widen."

"We could go to a warmer place." My father smiled.

"Oh, not where you think, an island close to Eden.


But before you return, you must enter cities

that open like The World's Classics, in which I dreamt

I saw my shadow on their flagstones, histories


that carried me over the bridge of self-contempt,

though I never stared in their rivers, great abbeys

soaring in net-webbed stone, when I felt diminished


even by a postcard. Those things I wrote to please

your mother and our friends, unrevised, unfinished,

in drawing-room concerts died in their own applause.


Way back in the days of the barber's winding sheet,

I longed for those streets that History had made great,

but the island became my fortress and retreat,


in that circle of friends that I could dominate.

Dominate, Dominus. With His privilege,

I felt like the "I" that looks down on an island,


the way that a crested palm looks down from its ridge

on a harbour warmer than this one, or my hand.

But there is pride in cities, so remember this:


Once you have seen everything and gone everywhere,

cherish our island for its green simplicities,

enthrone yourself, if your sheet is a barber-chair,


a sail leaving harbour and a sail coming in,

the shadows of grape-leaves on sunlit verandahs

made me content. The sea-swift vanishes in rain,


and yet in its travelling all that the sea-swift does

it does in a circular pattern. Remember that, son."

The surf was dark. The lights stuttered in the windows


along the empty beach, red and green lights tossed on

the cold harbour, and beyond them, like dominoes

with lights for holes, the black skyscrapers of Boston.


Derek Walcott, from Omeros, Chapter XXXVI

 

 

I took a quote from this passage and wrote a golden shovel poem:

 

 

Sometimes you don't know what you cherish

Until you can't have it any more - our

Affectionate kiss of greeting on this island

                                Is gone for now; for

Now we stay apart as contagion spreads its

Dangers. But rain falls gently, the world is green,

We hold our families, fall back on simplicities. 

 

Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com



Jama has today's roundup.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Slice of Life Tuesday: Weight

"I lost 17 pounds!" announces my husband triumphantly as he bursts out of the bathroom.

"Seventeen pounds? Really? How on earth did you do that so fast?" I ask. I mean, it just isn't fair the way he decides to lose weight and it's gone.

"Well," he says virtuously, "I've been eating better, and I've been exercising. Yeah! I was..." and he tells me what he weighed to start with and what he weighs now.

"Um," I say, manipulating the numbers in my head, "that's not seventeen pounds. That's twelve pounds."

I think now I know how he loses weight so fast. It's a matter of the math. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Poetry Friday: Short

Today I have three short poems for you. I wrote one back in March, and the other two, this week.

 

I’m reading in bed
in the early hours of the morning
because I can’t sleep,
and suddenly a mosquito appears.
I kill it with my thumb
against the background of
the article about the breakdown of the healthcare system in Italy,
so that its body,
filled with blood already drained from me,
is smooshed on my phone screen.
Seems appropriate.

 

Birds on wet branches -
Dislodged by palmchats' breakfast,
Last night's raindrop falls.

 

Bougainvillea:
fruit-punch colors, spiky thorns,
Haitian October.

 


 

Here's today's roundup.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Slice of Life Tuesday: Hair

My last passport had a terrible photo on it. It looked as though I hadn't even combed my hair that morning (maybe I hadn't). I had a baby at the time, and was taking him to get his first passport. His photo was adorable. 

 

Every time I traveled with that passport, I wanted to explain. I don't really look like that. I was getting my baby ready that morning, and didn't even look in the mirror. That's why it looks like a mugshot. I'm not a felon, honest. 

 

I feel that way all the time now, now that I haven't had a haircut in eight months. Honestly, I didn't grow this terrifying mop of grey elflocks on purpose. I prefer to have my hair cut every eight weeks. I don't really look like this. 

 

So I was surprised the other day at work when a high school student walked by me and commented, "Miss, you're so pretty! I love your hair! It looks like the seventies!"

 

I managed, "Thank you," but other than that I was rendered speechless. Probably just as well.


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Reading Update

Books #59, 63 and 64 were the last three in Gary Paulsen's series about Brian, Brian's Winter, Brian's Return, and Brian's Hunt. I enjoyed this series very much, and I think my students will too, now that we've finished reading the first one together. "He had forgotten the most important thing about living in the wilderness, the one thing he'd thought he would never forget - expect the unexpected." In one of the books, Paulsen has an author's note where he explains some of his own experience in living and surviving in the wild, and reading that helped me understand how vivid his descriptions are, both of Brian's surroundings and of his sensations, physical and emotional. 


Book #60 was a reread, Learning to Walk in the Dark, by Barbara Brown Taylor. I often read this when I wake up in the night and can't sleep. I've written about it before herehere, and here

 

Book #61 was Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor. This is the very heavy, sad story of the Logans, a sharecropping family in Mississippi in the 1930s. It goes well with a book I read recently, The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson. (I wrote about that book here.) Because of reading Wilkerson's book, I didn't take any of the Logans' experiences as fictional. They were so real, so typical of the way African-Americans lived at the time, with a maddening lack of justice and agency, as possible victims of whatever white person might happen to come along. It's not that I wasn't aware of these realities before reading The Warmth of Other Suns, but that book added context and depth and emotion. 


Book #62 was Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson. I liked this book (it was the second or third time I'd read it), but I'm not sure it's a great choice for eighth graders.  From the crush on a much older man to the lactation-related resolution, this seems more appropriate for someone with a little more life experience, like, maybe, my age. I didn't pick it, but I'm going to teach it. I'll let you know how it goes.


Book #65 was The Mirror and the Light, the third in Hilary Mantel's trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's secretary/fixer/victim. I wrote about the first two here after I read them in 2013. This was absorbing and kept me reading even though I knew exactly the tragic way it would end. ("Sometimes it is years before we can see who are the heroes in an affair and who are the victims.")

 

Book #66 was A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. I read this first when I was ten years old, then again (at least once) as a teenager, then again a few years ago when I taught it to the seventh grade (they begged for it because the movie was coming out). It didn't go very well in seventh grade; I had forgotten how static and full of philosophy it is. I'm going to teach it to the sixth grade now (again, not my choice). But oh, it's so good. I sobbed through the last chapter. If anything, the book has even more power over me than it did over my fifth grade self. 

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Poetry Friday: Louise Glück and a Zoom Poem

I read this week that Louise Glück won the Nobel Prize for Literature this year. Some of her poems I have shared before: here and here. Congratulations to her!

 

Last Sunday I tried to go to the Family Quarantine Assembly (which is what my brother has named our family Zoom meeting), and failed. For over an hour I tried, but never succeeded for more than a minute or two at a time. 

 

So I wrote about it.

 

 

Zoom Poem

 

Zooming
away from here
to see you all,
I
got sidetracked
by who knows what.

Somehow
I
couldn’t reach you,
just sat here
watching the circle spin,
promising connection
sometime.

A few times
I
reached the virtual room
where you all sat
but only for a moment.

Someone said
I
sounded as though I was melting
and someone else
wondered why
I
was singing.

It stretches out every syllable you say
,
someone started to explain
but 

was already gone
Zooming
away
from there,
from the Family Quarantine Assembly.

Someone said
She’s trying to be here,
and
I
was,
until the meeting was over,
and 

was left
sitting here
(not there)
alone.

 

Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

 

Bridget has today's roundup.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Slice of Life Tuesday: First Year Teacher


 

Today I said to someone that my job in 2020 feels like being a first year teacher. I'd said it before, and I'll probably say it again. I'm learning new software, teaching almost all novels I've never taught before (some of them I'd never even read), making do with half as much class time as last year, adding on a new grade level. I'm keeping a week or two ahead of my students, using a curriculum I've never used (purchased by the school to make the back and forth between online and in-person more doable), and managing both groups (online and in-person) at the same time. I'm Zooming and wearing a mask and disinfecting desks after the kids leave the room. It all feels new and strange.

 

Then I started thinking about my actual first year of teaching, a very long time ago, in a different millennium from this one. I was 21, a first year graduate student, and in addition to the courses I was taking, I was given two sections of college French 101 to teach. I was a newlywed, living in our first apartment, reading many fat novels, and writing about them, in French. Those were exciting days.


But though I would love to relive some aspects of that life, I wouldn't want to be a first-year teacher again. I'm grateful for that year of experience, and all the others since, and in spite of everything that is new this year, it's the experience that makes the difference. 


I remember how I used to agonize over the mistakes I made in class, and there were many. Each one would bother me for weeks, and I'd get hot and cold all over when I thought of them. I had a tiny fraction of the grading I have now, but it overwhelmed me. I dreaded teacher evaluations, from my students or my professors, and would fixate on the (few) negative comments and forget all about the (many) positive ones. I had no confidence at all, none. I faked confidence every day, pretended I knew what I was doing, and knew deep down that I didn't. 

 

And now? While still a pretty intense over-thinker, I am completely chill compared to that long ago youngster who had the same name as I have now. When I make mistakes, I fix them and move on. Although I have mounds of grading, I can handle it, and in fact I pride myself on getting it done and turning work back quickly. I don't love being evaluated, but I don't worry about it, either. (And it can't really happen this year, anyway, since we can't fit any more people in the room and still distance appropriately.) Best of all, I have confidence now. I do know what I'm doing. There are still many things I don't know - I learn new facts and skills every day - but I know now that it's not about me, performing at the front of the classroom, but about my kids, and figuring out how to reach them. I'm not faking any more. If I don't know the answer, I don't hesitate to say so and to look it up, sometimes right there in front of my students. (We didn't have the internet when I was a new teacher - how did we manage?) I've been teaching much longer than my kids have been alive, and I've learned a trick or two along the way.


Yes, 2020 brings challenges I haven't faced before. No, it won't be an easy year. But as the T-shirt says, "You can't scare me; I'm a middle school teacher."

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Poetry Friday: Joyce Sutphen

The more ridiculously busy I am, the more I find I have to read in order to maintain my equilibrium. So, among other things, I've been reading some Joyce Sutphen. Many of her poems are about lost love. Here are a couple I really liked. They are very personal, and the emotions come through, and yet there's also a universality in them.

 

Notice

 

Notice how you show up here and there among

The words I use, that there are small details

 

that only you would notice, especially when you

notice that I am saying things that I never  


said before. And see how easy it is to hear

them now that I am not speaking directly


to you.

(Here's the rest.)

 

 

Not for Burning

 

I come across your old letters,

the words still clinging to the page,

holding onto their places patiently,

with no intention of abandoning

the white spaces. They say

that you will always love me, 

and reading them again, I almost 

believe it...  (Here's the rest.)

 

 

Tabatha has today's Poetry Friday roundup. 


Michelle Kogan shared my Poetry Swap offering and responded with a poem of her own.



Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Separateness & Unity

Our host this month, Margaret, sent us a quote. Here's part of it: "in Holy Love, our sense of separateness dissolves, and we know ourselves as arising from the brilliant light of Divine Love that creates and sustains the universe."

 

During this time of pandemic, I have definitely experienced a sense of separateness. We've been unable to spend time with friends as we usually do, or to travel to see family and friends who live in other places. Even at work, we seem more isolated, though we do have students here. We gather less frequently, and there's something about all the masks that limits interactions. 

 

I miss people. 

 

This morning, we celebrated the milestones of our sixth graders going to seventh grade, and our eighth graders going to ninth grade. We were supposed to do this back in May, but ... well, you know. So the students are already a month into their new grade before they are dressing up, receiving their certificates, getting their pictures taken.  Then I came back to my classroom for some Zoom calls. Today's our distance learning day for everyone, and then tomorrow and Friday we're back to smaller groups in the classroom, masked and distanced. Sure, everything is more subdued than usual, but it's important to mark the moments, to gather however we can safely, and to just keep going.


That's what I'm trying to do in this season. Celebrate, mark the moments, make the best of things, laugh. Keep going towards unity and community even when separateness feels like all there is. God is still with us. God who created the universe is still sustaining us. 


Monday, September 28, 2020

Slice of Life Tuesday: Birds

“The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” T.H. White, The Sword in the Stone


I got a new book in the mail last week. But it's not a novel or a book of poetry, like most of the books I order. In fact, it has nothing to do with my usual life, in which I read and write and encourage my middle schoolers to do the same. Instead, it's a giant textbook. I stood on my bathroom scale holding it so I could tell you its weight: five pounds. 


 

I'm taking a bird biology course from eBird, that is to say, through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  I'm doing it because it's fascinating and fun, because the birds have been there for me through this whole pandemic horribleness, and other varieties of horribleness in the past, because sitting down on my chair on my front porch with my binoculars is a surefire way to quiet my mind and slow down my heartbeat - until it speeds up my heartbeat again with a rush of wings. 

 

But as I read the second chapter of my new giant book, getting ready for a quiz (What on earth are they going to ask me? Just because this course is at my own pace doesn't mean my nerdy grade-conscious self goes away. How can I learn all these things?), I realize another reason to learn about birds: learning about birds makes my world big again.

 

My world has been small for a while, due to political lockdown and then COVID-19 lockdown, and it's been a while since I've gone anywhere but work and home. Church has been over the internet, and so has socializing, and even my writing group (we're in three countries now, and I keep getting kicked off the Google Meet at the most inopportune moments, so aware that this place where I am isn't all there is, but left sitting on my bed again, the voices of my writing buddies silenced as my screen tells me that an attempt to reconnect is in process). 

 

But oh, the birds. They aren't limited by quarantines or national boundaries or shutdowns of any kind. They soar over our heads, arriving here from up north for our balmy weather, heading back up there to breed. Our year-round inhabitants are pretty amazing too, though not as diverse as I'd like in my own yard, where I'm often stuck lately. And then there's the giant list in chapter two, seventeen orange pages labeled: "Box 2.09 A survey of avian orders and families Contributed by Shawn M. Billerman." 

 

Shawn M. Billerman introduces me to bird families around the world, each more unlikely-sounding than the last. Words like "strange," "bizarre," and "odd" abound, and my favorite: "little is known." Almost any description I could quote fills me with delight as I imagine other parts of the world and the dawn chorus they must have there.

 

"Apterygidae. The kiwis are a small group of small- to medium-sized, flightless birds found only in New Zealand. Covered in fine, brown, hair-like feathers, kiwis are mainly nocturnal and forage primarily on earthworms. They lay the largest egg proportional to their body size of any living bird."

 

"Otididae. Bustards are medium-sized to very large terrestrial birds found across open grasslands and savannas of the Old World. The bustards include the world's two heaviest flying bird species: The Great Bustard (Otis tarda) of Europe and western Asia, and the Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori) of sub-Saharan Africa."

 

"Stercorariidae. The skuas and jaegers are seabirds found in oceans worldwide, but they restrict their breeding to high latitudes. They feed primarily by pirating food from other birds, particularly gulls and terns."

 

How, I wonder, did people come to learn all these facts? Who measured the kiwis' eggs? Who weighed the bustards? Who watched the skuas stealing food from the terns?

 

And every page has more gems like that. What does a "frugivorous, cave-dwelling Oilbird (Steatornis caripensis)" look like? (Sounds like Dr. Seuss made that one up.) Who first found out that Mousebirds "huddle together in groups for warmth?" What kind of observations and experiments were required before someone figured out that "The Crested Pitohui, like other distantly related poisonous pitohuis, incorporates toxins into its feathers?" 

 

After I read these descriptions, I feel as though I live in a huge, colorful world, full of a multitude of birds, flying and foraging and creeping and scrambling - that last word is from a description of Atrichornithidae: "Scrubbirds, unlike most birds, lack a furcula (wishbone) and are very poor fliers."

 

And then, as I'm almost at the end of the survey of avian orders, I find a familiar friend. 

 

"Dulidae. The Palmchat (Dulus dominicus), the only member of this family, is endemic to the island of Hispaniola, where it constructs huge stick nests high in trees that are occupied by multiple pairs. The Palmchat has brown, streaky plumage and forages in groups, primarily on fruit."

 

Maybe my world isn't so small. There were, after all, lots of Palmchats in my Haitian front yard this morning, filling the ficus tree with squawks and stripping it of its orange fruit. I saw two of them touching their beaks together - what was that about? I can't make any interpretive leaps, my studies tell me, and I mustn't anthropomorphize (Were they kissing?), but I can certainly watch and wonder. I can rejoice as my binoculars bring the fuzzy bird shape into sharp focus, and as I notice the streaky brown plumage of its breast and the way it hovers at the end of the branch before settling down to its meal.

 

Mysterious, omnipresent, beautiful birds. I love them, and I love to learn about them. I go to recess duty with my binoculars around my neck, and sometimes the kids talk to me about birds in their trademark middle school mocking way, as I point upwards: "Look! A hummingbird on the wire! See that? It's an Antillean mango." Or more often: "Yeah, those are all house sparrows. Did you know they live almost everywhere in the world?"

 

Look up! There are always birds. The world is bigger than you think.


 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Poetry Friday: Belated Summer Poetry Swaps

When I got sick this summer, I dropped several balls, and one of them was the Poetry Swap. (A sports metaphor like "dropping the ball" doesn't really work for me because I tend to drop all balls when I play any sports.) It wasn't until last Friday that I sat down to go through my email and find out how delinquent I was. There were two people whose poems sent to me I hadn't shared yet, and one of those I hadn't even acknowledged. And there were two people for whom I hadn't written anything. So I sent out apologies and spent some time last Saturday writing poems. 

 

One of the people I sent a poem was Jone, who's hosting our roundup today. Be sure to visit her blog to see what everyone is sharing. Jone has invited contributions in honor of National Math Storytelling Week.


Today I'm going to share two poems I received this summer, and since fall came this week, we can call them Fall Poetry Swaps. Thank you to Tabatha, who came up with this whole Poetry Swap thing, and who does so much for poetry all year long.

 

Margaret Simon, who blogs at  Reflections on the Teche, impressed me to no end by not just writing about Haiti, but including Kreyol in her poem.  Her first line is a proverb that means "Behind the mountains there are mountains." It is used often here to refer to the complications that exist behind even the simplest things, the way there are always more mountains in Haiti. Later Margaret refers to the lambi, which is the conch shell that the enslaved people would blow to summon their armies, with which they successfully fought off the French in their revolution.

Haiti Love Song

 

Dèyè mòn gen mòn

Beyond the mountains, mountains

as lambi calls an echo, echo

Orchid opens just once. Once,

We held hands along the shore, shore,

felt the waves singing more, more, 

collected shells that shone, shone,

knowing we'd never be alone, alone.


Linda Mitchell, who blogs at A Word Edgewise, spent the summer making Junk Journals. Her lovely poem describes the process and the beautiful products that resulted:


In Praise of a Junk Journal

 

 

In praise of junked books: yellowed pages. Wise
                 words for readers moved on or gone. Pen and ink
illustrations. Art I can make in a new way. Praise
                           the endpapers, faded – elegant adornment still.

 

Removed from shelves and circulation. My scissors cut
         and trim chapters into strips to frame a new page,
using margins and line spacing as straight edge, guide:
         what was junk becomes new treasure.

 

Farewell outdated copyright, hardcovers spoilt by rain
         Hello! Transplanted print. Meet my paintbrush
distressed ink pad and mod podge. In my studio
         we rearrange and take shape in new ways.

 

No need to conform to metric or template. Each spread
         from ditch to edge is its own. A palette
of my own making with recovered headings and hues.

 

A bit of poem here – a slice of map there and wow
         this old encyclopedia illustration fits it.

As I’ve cut and brushed and pieced and polished

         no thoughts of the world have interrupted


I am an artist up to my elbows in junk
         and I love it.

 

~Linda Mitchell Summer 2020

Monday, September 21, 2020

Slice of Life Tuesday: Email Me a Pity Party

 


In July, a friend wrote and asked how I was doing. It took me a week to write back. I kept trying to answer, and then deleting everything I had written. Finally I sent her an email telling the absolute truth. I didn't know what to say because every time I wrote something, it sounded so full of self-pity. I was fine, safe, but miserable.

 

Within a month I had found out what was wrong with me, and it was a physical problem causing my emotional state. (Of course, there was plenty in the world to make me sad; this was beyond that.) But even though I am so much better now, I still appreciate my friend's answer to that one liner from me. Instead of telling me to cheer up, she responded that I should never feel bad about sounding pitiful with her. "So if you ever want to have a pity-party in an email with me, I would gladly read and welcome it."

 

Everyone needs friends like that.  People who understand that sometimes you just feel rotten, lousy. Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad. People who just listen, and who don't think worse of you. People who don't say, "Why don't you just..." but instead "I'm really sorry." (Come to think of it, this friend isn't shy about excellent advice, either; she's the one who, when I called her crying once on a gray winter day a month or so after the earthquake in Haiti, when I was away from home in the cold US and my tropical self was grieving and also freezing, said, "Put on your walking shoes, go outside and start walking." And she was absolutely right.)

 

I'm feeling good these days - energetic, cheerful. I don't cry every day. (I still cry, but not excessively, just a reasonable amount for an emotional person living life and teaching middle school during a pandemic.)  I'm loving my family and friends, eating well again, appreciating my students. I'm enjoying being healthy. But it's good to know that even when I'm no fun at all to be around, there are people who are willing to receive my pity party. Not just to receive it, but to welcome it. 


Thanks, friend.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Reading Update

Book #53 of the year was a reread, and in this post you can read what I wrote about it back in May when I first read it. The book is Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid. I reread it because we talked about it in my book group. It was my choice, and as I always find, nobody else liked it quite as much as I did. But we did have a good discussion, which is, of course, the goal.

 

Book #54 was The Long Run: Meditations on Marriage, Dementia, Caregiving, and Loss, by Richard Sherry. This is a beautiful book, and one I'd recommend to anyone who is facing dementia in a loved one. Dr. Sherry was a professor of mine in college, and his lovely, intelligent wife worked in the library at the same institution. I was surprised when I saw her at a reunion, and she recoiled from me when I tried to hug her. Clearly she had no idea who I was. I soon found out that she had begun to develop dementia. That was our last class reunion she attended. This book goes into the details of how difficult the whole transition was for both of them, but especially for the caregiver husband who narrates the story. Looking back at memories of their whole long marriage, and including updates he posted on Facebook as things progressed, he shows us beautiful, painful glimpses of their life in those last few years before her death. I appreciated his honesty and the practical details he explained, and was inspired by the love that survived, in spite of everything. He ends with some reflections on life after losing his wife of over fifty years, including how hard it is to stop taking care of everyone when that is the pattern you have fallen into at home out of necessity. 


Book #55 was The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and what they Reveal about Being Human, by Noah Strycker. This was a gift from a friend who left Haiti early in the pandemic, and I enjoyed reading it and remembering her and her thoughtfulness. She's a fellow bird lover, and she knew I would be fascinated by the essays in this book, which deal with such topics as how birds remember where to migrate, and whether birds are self-aware. I'm sure I'll reread this one.

 

Book #56 was Brazen in Blue, by Rachael Miles. This is the fifth in the Muses' Salon series. I pre-ordered it and read it as soon as it came out, as I did with the firstsecond, third, and fourth. I enjoy her knowledge of the regency period, and these are all fun reads. 

 

Book #57 was Orlando, by Virginia Woolf. This was the second Woolf book in my quest to read all her novels. I didn't enjoy it as much as Mrs. Dalloway. It is written in a breezy style reminiscent of Voltaire's Candide, which was entertaining for a while but began to pall as Orlando lived for centuries as first a male and then a female. I did enjoy gems like: "Green in nature is one thing, green in literature another." 


Book #58 was The River, by Gary Paulsen. I am reading the first book in this series, Hatchet, with my eighth graders right now. I didn't like the second as much, but it was fast-moving and now I can tell my students a bit about it. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Poetry Friday: What's it Like to be a Bird?

I wonder what it's like to be a bird. I want to write about it. I know that birds don't live carefree lives; they spend all their time feeding themselves, and they fall prey to so many dangers. Nevertheless, because they fly, they seem effortlessly happy.

At the moment when I took these photos of an Antillean mango hummingbird on a wire right above our gate, we were hearing about chaos and burning on the streets of our city, Port-au-Prince. The bird, above it all, didn't care. Instead, he danced.

 

Here's a poem I read this week about a bird asking the opposite question: what's it like to be human?

 

Funny

by Anna Kamienska

translated by Grazyna Drabik and David Curzon


What's it like to be a human

the bird asked


I myself don't know

it's being held prisoner by your skin

while reaching infinity


being a captive of your scrap of time

while touching eternity


being hopelessly uncertain

and helplessly hopeful

 

Here's the rest. Read all the way to the end to see the punchline, the bird's response to the human's description of what it's like to be human.

 

Matt Forrest Esenwine has the roundup this week.