Friday, July 29, 2011

Poetry Friday: A Summer's Day

A search of my archives shows me that I have posted five of Shakespeare's sonnets here. But I'm surprised that I haven't posted #18, and I'm going to remedy that today. This is one of Shakespeare's most famous sonnets and it's appropriate for this last Friday in July. "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" he asks, and then enumerates the reasons why his love is much better than a summer's day. He ends with a promise of immortality; she will live forever in his verse. And sure enough, five hundred years later, we're still reading his love poem to her.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Summer's lease really does have all too short a date, and the lease is almost up. Back to school in just a couple of weeks. Enjoy the last few precious days of summer.

You can find today's roundup here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Poetry Friday: Consolation

Billy Collins just knows how to put things. Here he is on the pleasures of spending the summer speaking English and hanging out with others who do the same.

by Billy Collins

How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Here's the rest of the poem.

Here's Billy Collins reading it:

And here's today's roundup.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Poetry Friday: "How to Pay Attention"

Photo Credit: Matsu

I spent a few days this week enjoying nature, and taking lots of photos, which I have yet to upload. Forests and mountains and wildlife gave so much to look at. Around every corner was another beautiful sight to capture.

This dragonfly, landing briefly on my husband, made me think of the grasshopper in Mary Oliver's poem "The Summer Day."

The Summer Day
Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

A camera helps me pay attention, focuses me on what is in front of me. Everything does die at last, and too soon. A summer day is the perfect time to pay attention to all the blessings God has given me.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Poetry Friday: "Trying to Name What Doesn't Change"

Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change
By Naomi Shihab Nye

Roselva says the only thing that doesn’t change
is train tracks. She’s sure of it.
The train changes, or the weeds that grow up spidery
by the side, but not the tracks.
I’ve watched one for three years, she says,
and it doesn’t curve, doesn’t break, doesn’t grow.

Peter isn’t sure. He saw an abandoned track
near Sabinas, Mexico, and says a track without a train
is a changed track. The metal wasn’t shiny anymore.
The wood was split and some of the ties were gone.

Here's the rest of the poem.

And here's today's roundup.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

From Haiti

Tara has posted some great stuff lately, including this piece about cholera in Haiti and this one about telling other people's stories.

"The patients are in the tents 24 hours per day. I have no idea how they do it especially with acute cholera.

These tents remind me of the tents in Port-au-Prince camps that are 'homes' to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people from the earthquake. These tents and camps in the capital are pure hell.
The social dynamics in the cholera tents here at the Cholera Treatment Center are interesting and say a lot about poor Haitian society."
"We're sharing Haiti from one unique perspective that certainly cannot even begin to cover all of the angles. We're not experts on this culture or country. We never will be.
We're learners. We're learners that care about Haiti."

Friday, July 01, 2011

First World Problems

Poetry Friday: July

Rereading this post, getting ready to publish it, I notice that I've used the word "perfect" three times. You know what? I'm not even going to change it. It fits.

How could it be July already? In the last weeks of the semester I read poems with my students about summer, and many of them referred to winter. Why, I asked my students, did poets do that? Why think of winter now?

Of course we appreciate summer more because we know that winter is coming. Summer, like everything in our lives, is temporary. It's ours to enjoy now, and to remember later.

I love this poem, "Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity," with its idea of pickling the memories of summer so that they can be enjoyed. John Tobias writes:
The bites are fewer now.
Each one is savored lingeringly,
Swallowed reluctantly.

But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.

While I was looking for the perfect July poem this morning I found "The Months", by Linda Pastan. Here's the July segment:


Tonight the fireflies
light their brief
in all the trees

of summer—
color of moonflakes,
color of fluorescent

where the ocean drags
its torn hem
over the dark

Fireflies are the perfect metaphor, aren't they? I just saw the first one a few days ago, and all too soon I'll see the last one for this year. Those "brief candles" will go out. How precious they are, until they do.

Today's the Daily Photo Blogs' theme day, and today's theme is green. Perfect. Take a look at thumbnails here.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.