Friday, June 30, 2017

Poetry Friday: Summer

I just got my laptop back from being repaired today.  I've missed it like a limb!  Here's a bright and breezy summertime poem.  I hope you're enjoying summer as much as I am!

Come we to the summer, to the summer we will come,
For the woods are full of bluebells and the hedges full of bloom,
And the crow is on the oak a-building of her nest,
And love is burning diamonds in my true lover's breast;
She sits beneath the whitethorn a-plaiting of her hair,
And I will to my true lover with a fond request repair;
I will look upon her face, I will in her beauty rest,
And lay my aching weariness upon her lovely breast.

The clock-a-clay is creeping on the open bloom of May,
The merry bee is trampling the pinky threads all day,
And the chaffinch it is brooding on its grey mossy nest
In the whitethorn bush where I will lean upon my lover's breast;
I'll lean upon her breast and I'll whisper in her ear
That I cannot get a wink o'sleep for thinking of my dear;
I hunger at my meat and I daily fade away
Like the hedge rose that is broken in the heat of the day.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Poetry Friday: Summer Dream

Last night I dreamed that I was back at school.

When I wrote that sentence, I realized two things.  One was that it made me think of Rebecca.  Google helped me find out that the opening sentence of that novel is "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."

The second thing I realized was that my sentence was in iambic pentameter.  Before I knew it, I had written the first draft of a sonnet!

Writing is unpredictable.  The other day I sat down to write about my children, and summer, and it ended up being about the meaning of home and memory, and I cried, and typed, and deleted, and wrote for two hours, and produced six short paragraphs that had a few flashes of potential, but not a whole lot.  Today I wrote a sonnet in no time flat.  Something to remember when I go back to my classroom and face students whose writing progresses slowly.

It is way too early to be having stress dreams about school, but I did have fun writing this, and I'm happy to share it with you.  I hope your summer day is lovely and restful, or lovely and productive, depending on what's ahead of you today.

Summer Dream

Last night I dreamed that I was back at school,
The summer ended just as it’s begun.
Instead of resting calmly by a pool
I faced inspectors, glaring, every one.
They filed into the classroom, looking stern
Eager to find infractions everywhere
And I, instead of helping students learn
Sweated and fretted, squirming in my chair.
And in my dream I saw no student faces
Not bored or giggling, cheerful or morose.
Instead, there were sad grownups in their places
And disapproval wrinkled up each nose.

I was so happy when I woke today
And found I still have six more weeks to play!


Heidi has the roundup, so go see what yummy summer poems everyone is sharing!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Reading Update

Book #41 of the year was Passenger, by Alexandra Bracken, and book #43 was the sequel, Wayfarer.  I found the time travel world-building a little hard to figure out in the first book - I kept wondering if I had missed a previous volume - but once I got into the story, I really enjoyed it.  "I believe that nothing breaks the bonds between people, not years or distance," says a character at one point, and I'm a total sucker for that idea. 

Book #42 was Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Willow Chase, the 12-year-old protagonist, tells us, "It has been my experience that rewarding and heart-breaking often go hand in hand."  That's been my experience, too, and that was definitely my experience while reading this book.   It's almost unbearable to go through Willow's loss, but wonderful to watch as her world begins to be rebuilt around her.

Book #44 was If I Stay, by Gayle Forman.  More unbearable loss, more rebuilding.  Oddly for a book with this premise (girl is in life-threatening car accident, girl gets to decide whether to die or keep living), this one was very realistic.  I'm going to grab the sequel on my next trip to the library.

Book #45 was Leaving Gee's Bend, by Irene Latham, an online friend.  (I've reviewed her books of poetry here and here.)  I got this for my classroom a while ago, but hadn't had a chance to read it yet.  I loved this story, set in rural Alabama in 1932.  It's the story of Ludelphia Bennett, who, for the first time in her ten years, is leaving Gee's Bend, because she has to look for medical help for her mother.  Ludelphia and her family have a life of poverty, and I appreciated the way this fact was not romanticized.  However, they also have strong family and community bonds, and nothing symbolizes this better than the quilting theme of the book.  Highly recommended.

This post is linked to the June 2017 Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy and the June 17th Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Poetry Friday: Sun Tea

The second week of summer vacation is ending, and I can hardly point to anything I've accomplished.  I keep dozing off in the tropical heat, my book half-read, my paragraph half-written.  I am steeping in the sun, like the gallon after gallon of sun tea I've been making every day.  I go out barefoot in my pyjamas to get the alchemy started first thing in the morning, and then before I know it, it's night time, and another irreplaceable summer day has slipped away.

This morning I made extra, since we have guests for dinner, and then I came back inside and thought, I should write a poem about sun tea, and then I thought, I bet lots of people have written poems about sun tea, and so I tried Google.

Not as many as I expected, given how beautiful the golden tea gets just before I bring it inside and sweeten it and stick it in the fridge.  Maybe everybody else is dozing off on these summer days, too.  Here are some poems that caught my attention from my Google search:

This one won a prize in the Illinois State Poetry Contest in 2015.  I love the summer skies of "widening blue / spotted with cotton."

This one's about memories of a lost love, and contains reading and writing and a "hot thick humid Ohio summer."

This one begins: "Memories should taste / like a fresh pitcher of sun tea," and they totally should.

This is the kind of day that turns into memories, and before it's over I plan to laugh until my stomach hurts with my son who will only be 14 in June this once, text with my daughter who is in London, kiss my husband, read about teaching and underline a lot and make notes for August, hang out and eat pizza with friends (one couple has been married about six months and the other is expecting a little girl to arrive any day, maybe even today), and perhaps write a poem about sun tea, before the sun sets on this irreplaceable day.

What is So Rare as a Day in June?
AND what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there's never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature's palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o'errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,-
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best? 

Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For our couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing,-
And hark! How clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!
Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;
Everything is happy now,
Everything is upward striving;
'Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue,-
'Tis for the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave not wake,
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season's youth,
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep 'neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.

James Russell Lowell 

Friday, June 09, 2017

Poetry Friday: Summer Begins

I've enjoyed the first week of my summer vacation very much.  It has featured naps and times with friends and time to write.

Today I want to share two recent poems.  The first one is based on a message I recently got from Facebook, informing me of how many likes my posts had garnered.  I was astonished by what a large number it was, and then immediately scolded myself both for caring about whether people like what I post, or write, or am, and also for never, ever being satisfied, for never thinking I am good enough.

The second poem is from a prompt I shared with my writing group.  I got the idea from Irene Latham when I read her book The Sky Between Us.  In my review, I wrote: "Some poems made me want to write responses.  Self-Portrait as Tangerine suggested other self-portraits in the guise of objects, finding points of connection between self and beautiful thing." Here's how I phrased the prompt for my writing group.  First I shared Irene's poem, and then I wrote: "Write a self-portrait, but instead of directly describing yourself, describe an object that obliquely resembles you."

So here goes:


Facebook sent me
a message this week
that said
I have received
on my posts.

(Click, click, click)

So much liking,
so much appreciation,
87,000 reminders
that I am OK.

You’d think
would be enough
for me.

But I am still
the pigtailed fifth grader
who carefully
drew two boxes
with a pencil,
wrote “Do you like me? 
Check yes or no.”
and passed the paper
to her friend.

Do you?

May I ask
87,000 more times?
will you always

Ruth, from

Self-Portrait as Bougainvillea

Purple and yellow

Survives floods and winds and drought.
Heart-shaped leaves welcome;
Thorns and toxic sap rebuff.

Blue and rose

In Paraguay and Argentina called santa-rita,
After the patron saint of heartbroken women,
But in Honduras called Napoleón,
Strutting in military garb, bright and showy and confident.

Crimson and orange

Named after the explorer Bougainville,
Even though it had been there
In South America
Long before he showed up
And it continues to change, making spontaneous hybrids,
Adapting and adjusting, swarming all over walls and gates
From Switzerland to Nepal, the Caribbean to the Pacific,
Basking in the sun from Kenya to Australia.

Fuchsia and scarlet

Bright paper blooms
Shield the delicate white center
Where the real flower lives.


I've posted about bougainvillea before, here and here.

Mary Lee has today's roundup.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Reading Update

Book #37 of the year was The Bride's Farewell, by Meg Rosoff.  The challenges the characters in this book face remind me of Dickens, but without the upward mobility.  Life is always going to be tough for these people, but they are going to find ways, perhaps unconventional ones, to be happy anyway.

Book #38 was a re-read, Learning to Walk in the Dark, by Barbara Brown Taylor.  I first read this back in February 2016 while I was visiting my daughter in college.  I read a copy from the college library, and thought at the time that I wanted to read it again, so when I saw it on sale for Kindle, I downloaded it.  "It is sometimes hard," writes Taylor, "to tell whether you are being killed or saved by the hands that turn your life upside down."  She's describing an experience helping a huge loggerhead turtle that has become disoriented by the lights on the shore and isn't able to find her way back into the ocean.  There's so much to ponder in this beautiful book.

Book #39 was The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue.  My daughter liked this better than Donoghue's previous book, Room.  I didn't, but it was a fascinating read.  It's the story of Lib, an English nurse who's been hired to watch Anna, an eleven year old Irish girl who is apparently surviving without eating anything at all.  The people around Anna find her a miracle, but Lib, with the scientific training she has received from Florence Nightingale, is more skeptical.

Book #40 was Enthusiasm, by Polly Shulman.  Yet another Austen spinoff, this one was a fun, quick read.

This post is linked to the June 2017 Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy and the June 17th Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Poetry Friday

Today I finished up my last day at work for the semester, mostly cleaning my classroom (Wednesday was our last day with kids), and then I collapsed in a heap.  I didn't do a Poetry Friday post today, but lots of other people did.