Friday, November 24, 2017

Poetry Friday: Odes

Welcome to my traditional annual Poetry Friday post on odes.  Here's last year's, with links to others.  I always do odes with my eighth graders during Thanksgiving week.  This year we looked at Pablo Neruda's Ode to a Tomato, Ode to Scissors, and Ode to a Hummingbird.  We talk about the ecstatic, over-the-top quality of these poems, and we brainstorm a list of possible topics of our own.

This is last year's list - I forgot to take a picture of this year's.  There is some overlap from year to year, but also lots of quirky originality.  This year one girl said "bras," and while I'm pretty sure she was trying to be shocking, I put it on the list, because well-fitting underwear is definitely ode-worthy.

So here's one I found this year, in my copy of Five Decades: Poems 1925-1970, by Pablo Neruda (this is a bilingual edition, with facing page translations into English by Ben Belitt).  It seems appropriate for several reasons.

Ode on Ironing

Poetry is white:
it comes out of the water covered with drops,
it wrinkles and piles up in heaps.
We must spread out the whole skin of this planet,
iron the white of the ocean:
the hands go on moving,
smoothing the sanctified surfaces,
bringing all things to pass.
Hands fashion each day of the world,
fire is wedded to steel,
the linens, the canvas, coarse cottons, emerge
from the wars of the washerwomen;
a dove is born from the light
and chastity rearises from the foam.

This year I am thankful for many things, but one of the greatest is writing: writing that I do, and writing that I read.  I'm thankful for novels and poetry; for thank-you notes; for my students' writing prompts, sitting in a heap on my floor waiting for me to grade them (OK, I'm not as thankful for those).  I'm thankful for my Quinquagenarian Writing Project.  I'm thankful for the way writing helps us smooth out the sanctified surfaces, figure out our lives, make the miserable parts bearable and the beautiful parts longer-lasting.  Anne Lamott writes, "My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I'm grateful for it the way I'm grateful for the ocean. Aren't you?"  Yes, I really am.  

I'm looking forward to reading posts from this week's roundup, hosted by Carol at her corner.


Carol said...

I love the idea of writing odes on Thanksgiving week. And I agree with you and your student, well-fitting (and comfortable) underwear is definitely worth writing about! As is they rhythmic comfort of ironing!

Linda B said...

I remember your doing this last year, Ruth. It is wonderful how Neruda stretches us to "see" more than what is right in front of us and wonderful that you show your students how they might look more deeply too. I too feel as if writing "smooths the santified surfaces" of my life.

Mary Lee said...

If only the world were as easy to smooth out as an old cotton pillowcase!

Tara said...

Those last two lines....they made me sigh, and almost weep!

Buffy Silverman said...

Your student's addition of bra to the list of ode topics made me laugh.. I'll bet they wrote some interesting poems!

Sally Murphy said...

Oh I love this idea. Such a wonderful way to get kids writing poetry of their own: to make the mundane or everyday ode-worthy.

Kay said...

Odes are a great form for Thanksgiving. And yes, I am thankful for writing that smooths and sanctifies and helps me to figure things out along the way.

Michelle Kogan said...

What an interesting and challenging writing prompt for your students, and the "ode on Ironing how enchanting–almost makes you want to iron–but I rarely do. I have to agree with you I also think that writing "makes the miserable parts bearable," thanks Ruth!

Violet N. said...

I so enjoy Pablo Neruda's odes--so original and yet pitch perfect. I love the little (prose poem) ode to writing with which you end your post. I agree. I can't imagine a world without it.