Tuesday, April 30, 2019

NPM: Day 30

Poems definitely add value to my life, but I have to say that the thirty days of National Poetry Month always wear me out. This year was no exception. At least I did a little desktop decluttering with my month-long project of posting links I've been saving, then closing the open tabs. We won't comment on the fact that I've accumulated almost as many new tabs.

For the last day of National Poetry Month, I'm sharing a poem that has only been on my desktop for a few days. It was chosen as Poem of the Day by Poets.org for April 22nd, and it made me snicker.

The Creative Drive
by Catherine Barnett

A recent study found that poems increased
the sale price of a home by close to $9,000.
The years, however, have not been kind to poems.

The Northeast has lost millions of poems,
reducing the canopy. Just a few days ago,
high winds knocked a poem onto a power line

a few blocks from my house.

Here's the rest.

The last line of the Progressive Poem is here!  Thanks for another fun collaboration, everybody! Let's all write our individual poems instead for a while, but see you again next year!

2 Kat @ Kathryn Apel
4 Jone @ DeoWriter
5 Linda @ TeacherDance
6 Tara @ Going to Walden
8 Mary Lee @ A Year of Reading
9 Rebecca @ Rebecca Herzog
10 Janet F. @ Live Your Poem
12 Margaret @ Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine @ Dori Reads
17 Amy @ The Poem Farm
18 Linda @ A Word Edgewise
20 Buffy @ Buffy's Blog
21 Michelle @ Michelle Kogan
22 Catherine @ Reading to the Core
25 Jan @ Bookseedstudio
26 Linda @ Write Time
27 Sheila @ Sheila Renfro
29 Irene @ Live Your Poem
30 Donna @ Mainely Write

Monday, April 29, 2019

NPM: Day 29

I've been reading poems about the natural world with my eighth graders this month. Here are two bird poems I shared with them.

by Craig Arnold

Of many reasons I love you here is one

the way you write me from the gate at the airport
so I can tell you everything will be alright

so you can tell me there is a bird
trapped in the terminal      all the people
ignoring it       because they do not know
what to do with it       except to leave it alone
until it scares itself to death

Here's the rest.

Here's a post from 2013 in which I explained why I think this is a perfect love poem.

And here's "Hummingbird Abecedarian," by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. We also enjoyed some YouTube hummingbirds.

Here's today's line in the Progressive Poem.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

NPM: Day 28

This link from Linda's TeacherDance blog has been open on my desktop for a while. Linda is constantly creative and full of teaching ideas. This one talks about having her students write poems about all different kinds of love. Linda is also a commenter par excellence, and I always love her thoughtful remarks on my posts.

Linda is also a kindred spirit as someone who takes goodbyes seriously. Here's one of her poems, written to say goodbye to her students at the end of the year.

Thanks, Linda!

Here's today's line in the Progressive Poem.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

NPM: Day 27

This link from Heidi's Juicy Little Universe has been open on my desktop for a while.  She shares a Jane Hirshfield poem first about people making the world better in their own ways, and then her own poem about the Building Services people at her school. It touched me, and I wanted to imitate it, and maybe sometime I will, but now that I've posted the link here, I can close the tab.

Thanks, Heidi, for so many inspirations your writing has given me through the years!

Today's line for the Progressive Poem is here,

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Poetry Friday: Dreams Deferred (NPM: Day 26)

This month for National Poetry Month, I have been sharing links that are already open on my desktop. Today's post comes more from what's been happening in my classroom, though the poem I'm sharing is open on my desk, in a file called "Poems to Memorize for Seventh Grade." (I wrote about that here.) This week someone recited the following poem:


What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes

I love the very simple, straightforward way Langston Hughes' poems are written (here's another of his I shared earlier in the month). In this one, he piles perfect image on perfect image as he describes what it's like to wish and hope for something and to be continually disappointed.

This week my eighth grade students responded to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech by writing down some of their own dreams for Haiti. Each student wrote a longer response, but I only chose one sentence to post from each piece.
Some of these dreams have been deferred, and some for a long time. But we keep dreaming. We keep trying. And we hope none of the dreams explode.

Here's what else I posted this week.
On Saturday I posted a prose article that reads like a poem, and found a poem in its lines.  It's about workers in India who make perfume that smells like the rain.
Sunday was Easter, and I posted three poems about the resurrection.
On Monday I posted a John Ashbery poem about what we write about, plus a poem of mine about what I write about.
On Tuesday it was my blog's 13th birthday! Happy birthday to me!
On Wednesday I shared a Louise Glück poem and mused about connections between writing and photography.
On Thursday I linked to some poems about churches, including Notre Dame, and also to an article about grieving buildings.

Today's line for the Progressive Poem is here

2 Kat @ Kathryn Apel
4 Jone @ DeoWriter
5 Linda @ TeacherDance
6 Tara @ Going to Walden
8 Mary Lee @ A Year of Reading
9 Rebecca @ Rebecca Herzog
10 Janet F. @ Live Your Poem
12 Margaret @ Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine @ Dori Reads
17 Amy @ The Poem Farm
18 Linda @ A Word Edgewise
20 Buffy @ Buffy's Blog
21 Michelle @ Michelle Kogan
22 Catherine @ Reading to the Core
25 Jan @ Bookseedstudio
26 Linda @ Write Time
27 Sheila @ Sheila Renfro
29 Irene @ Live Your Poem
30 Donna @ Mainely Write

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is here.  

NPM: Day 25

Last Poetry Friday Glenda Funk posted some poems about Notre Dame, one by Fleda Brown and one by herself. I've been thinking I want to write a poem about it, too, but haven't yet.

Why do we feel such an attachment to beautiful places? This week a BBC article asked that question, using as examples the National Museum in Brazil that burned last year, the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria that was destroyed by bombing in 2017, Dresden's Frauenkirche that was destroyed by bombing during World War II - and, oh yes, a very familiar building to us here in Haiti, the National Palace, knocked down by the earthquake in 2010. The BBC talked to a woman who was in Port-au-Prince in 2010, and in Paris last week when Notre Dame burned. I think I can imagine some of what she must be feeling right now.
Palais National, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Getty Images

By the way, this article uses the figure of 160,000 people killed in the earthquake; that's a figure I haven't seen before. I wrote about some of the controversy about how many died in this post back in 2011. The BBC article touches on the guilt you can feel missing buildings - like, for example, the wonderful Ste. Trinité Episcopal Cathedral that also collapsed in the earthquake - when human beings were lost too, so much more precious than mere structures.

Fleda Brown's poem, linked in the first paragraph of this post, has an epigraph from a Philip Larkin poem. I looked it up and read it; it was somewhat familiar but it had been a long time since I'd looked at it, and in the context of Notre Dame it struck me. (Here it is.) In the poem, Larkin visits a church in England, as I have done many times. When I lived there, you usually found churches unlocked during the week, and there would be pamphlets in the back detailing the history of the place, and a box to donate to its upkeep. Larkin imagines a time in the future when people won't even know what churches are. "Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?" he asks. Although he calls this particular church he's visiting an "old barn," he also recognizes: "A serious house on serious earth it is."

Notre Dame is the same: "a serious house on serious earth." It's a real place of worship, used regularly and in use for Mass when the fire started. It took hundreds of years to build up all the seriousness that this house contains, years when people came there to worship, which is one of the most serious pursuits human beings can engage in. We've all been learning more about Notre Dame's history, or remembering long-forgotten facts. They almost knocked it down after the French Revolution put an end to Catholicism, supposedly forever. Victor Hugo stirred up pride in it again. There were bees living on the roof and they survived the fire.

In the midst of articles telling all these facts and many more about Notre Dame were reminders that other churches have been destroyed recently, by arson, in the United States and Haiti. And then this past weekend, bombings in Sri Lanka targeted Christians celebrating Easter Sunday. More destruction of buildings, and though the humans lost are of far greater worth, it still tears my heart to see the photos of roofs open to the sky.

Let's face it: there's a lot to be sad about during this National Poetry Month, this "cruelest month" of April.

Today's line for the Progressive Poem is here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

NPM: Day 24

This poem by Louise Glück has been on my desktop for a while. It's called "A Summer Garden," and it begins with finding a photo.

Several weeks ago I discovered a photograph of my mother
sitting in the sun, her face flushed as with achievement or triumph.
The sun was shining. The dogs
were sleeping at her feet where time was also sleeping,
calm and unmoving as in all photographs.

I wiped the dust from my mother’s face.
Indeed, dust covered everything; it seemed to me the persistent
haze of nostalgia that protects all relics of childhood.

In four separate sections, Glück explores the photo: the photo itself, as an object, being used as a bookmark; the scene in the photo; the memories it preserves. The photo has frozen a moment "like an afternoon in Pompeii." I love the complex way this poem looks at a single photograph.

When I look for writing ideas, I often use photos. I started this a few years ago with haiku; I would write a haiku to match a photo that I loved. Sometimes when I'm given a particular topic, I use photos to help me get inspired. An example of that is when I've been asked to speak at an eighth grade graduation; I always start by scrolling back through the dozens and dozens of photos I've taken of the class during their two years with me. Sometimes I take photos specifically so I can write about an experience or a scene; the photo helps me to fix some of the details in my mind.

Photography functions in so many different ways for me. Sometimes I draw closer to an object or a person by taking pictures; I explore its angles and look at it from different points of view. Other times I distance myself from a situation by taking pictures, like the first time my husband drove me around Port-au-Prince six months after the earthquake, when I couldn't bear to look directly at the destruction; the camera mediated it somehow, made it possible to think of myself as a passionless observer. Writing has served all of these functions, too, at various times. I know I distanced myself from the earthquake by writing about it so much; if I could make it into a poem or essay over which I had control, it seemed less likely to bury me in fear and panic. At the same time, by writing about it I examined each element of it and knew it more.

In the poem the photo is of her mother, and there are two children in it. When I look at photos of myself as a child, I'm looking at a mystery. That's me, and yet it's such a long-ago me that I can't really identify myself. I'm wiping the dust away, just as Louise Glück does in the poem. I'm peering into the past to see if that person is someone I recognize at all.

The title of this poem, "A Summer Garden," makes it sound generic, but it's quickly clear that this is a specific summer garden, with a very specific person sitting in it: the poet's mother. I love how specific a photo is. You could search for a stock photo of a tree, for example, but every photo of a tree is of a particular tree. It's a certain kind, in a certain place; it's a certain height and width; it's going through a certain season of the year. Especially if you're the person who took the photograph, you know a whole background to it that keeps it from ever being generic.

This article, "The Version We Remember: On the Truth and Fiction of Photography," has only been open a short time on my desktop; it was fascinating reading because it's about photos and memory, and the way we remember an experience in one way, which may not even be the way it happened.

What about you? How have you used photography in your writing? How is a poem like a photo? How is it different?

Today's line for the Progressive Poem is here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

NPM: Day 23: Happy Blog Birthday to Me!

Today I've been blogging 13 years. When I started blogging I had already read somewhere that blogs were "over," and certainly now people say that, but I continue to find my little corner of the internet to be a place where I bloom and grow.

During this NPM, I've been posting from my open tabs on my desktop, and I've started in these three weeks to see that as a wonderful cross-pollination. When I sheepishly confessed that I had had three open tabs from Irene Latham's blog, plus one of her poems from someone else's blog, Irene commented: "Dear Ruth - this post makes me blush and fills me with gratitude and love for you, and for the internet, actually. :) So many times I marvel at this community! I'm honored and humbled to know something I've written may have been an open tab on your computer. Your words and life have been that for me as well, so many times." (You can read that post here.) Wow! What a thought! It hadn't occurred to me that tabs from my site might be open on other desktops.

And then Linda posted that a Pablo Neruda poem I'd shared had gotten her thinking in a creative direction, and Heidi reposted an Ada Limón poem I'd shared, and then I thought back to last May when Margaret organized an exchange. She matched participants up with someone who lived somewhere else in the world, and we sent each other photos, and then wrote poems about each others' photos. Heidi wrote this about mine and I wrote this about hers, and what fun! There's the Progressive Poem every year, and there are poetry swaps in the winter and the summer, and then there are encouraging comments left on posts by people who come to feel like friends even though we've never met. (I have met some of them, too!)

I have a real-life writing group, where we sit in a room together and share what we're working on, and that is life-giving and nourishing. I have my students, and I write with them all the time (not that I count on their responses for any kind of encouragement, but they teach me in other ways). I share writing with family and friends a lot, too. But there's just something about my online writing community. I've mostly talked about Poetry Friday people, but it's not just those folks; some readers tell me straight up they aren't interested in my poetry posts, but just my Haiti ones, or just my Reading Updates. I've got my Spiritual Journey First Thursday buds, my Facebook friends, my online moms' group. They're part of my online community too. (Some posts I'm not sure anybody reads, except for me, but I go back and remember what I was thinking at a certain point, and what books I was reading.)

I'm very glad I started blogging 13 years ago, and stepped it up after the earthquake when I needed a place to mourn, and then gradually became more and more active in different directions of writing. At first blogging didn't feel like real writing, but now it does, and I'm so grateful for my little adolescent blog where I can sing softly to myself, "Happy Birthday to me!" Thank you, readers! Here's to more years of sharing and cross-pollination!

Today's line for the Progressive Poem is here.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Reading Update

Book #36 of 2019 was a devotional by Christine Harms called In the Face of Injustice. For thirty days, there's a daily Bible reading, a prayer, and a link to a related song on YouTube - all on the theme of dealing with the injustice that so often surrounds us in this world. At that link, you can get it FOR FREE until the end of April! Go get it right now! After that it will be available on Amazon.

Book #37 was a re-read, In Other Words, by Jhumpa Lahiri. I wrote about it here. I went back to this book because I read an article about Lahiri editing a book of short stories in Italian. Imagine: Jhumpa Lahiri didn't start studying Italian until she was in college, and now she has written a book in it and edited an anthology full of some of the biggest names in the Italian publishing world. This just amazes me. In the book she talks about how when she moved to Italy, she gave up reading and writing in English, something I can't even fathom doing. This book is a bilingual edition; Lahiri wrote it in Italian, and then someone else translated it into English.

Book #39 was another re-read, Rob Bell's How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living. I wrote about it before here.

Book #40 was The Jesus Life: Eight Ways to Recover Authentic Christianity, by Stephen W. Smith. I thought this had a lot of useful insights, and I was only momentarily put off by his using of the Haiti earthquake as an example of badness: "Our faith is a story. The events of 9/11, earthquakes in Haiti, and economic downturns bring us to our knees." Indeed.

Books #38 and 41 were the two most recent Inspector Gamache novels, Glass Houses and Kingdom of the Blind, by Louise Penny. I really didn't enjoy the drug plotlines, but overall I have liked this series and will probably read the next one when it comes out.

NPM: Day 22

This link hasn't been on my desktop for very long; Karen Edmisten posted it at the beginning of National Poetry Month this year.

Late Echo
by John Ashbery

Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.

Read the rest of it here.

This reminded me a little (the ideas, not the writing, since his is far better than mine) of a poem I wrote back in 2016 and posted here.

We really do keep circling back to the same ideas in our writing - or at least, I do, and John Ashbery apparently did, too.

(Speaking of madness and favorite flowers, I also keep taking lots of versions of the same photos, again and again.)

Today's line for the Progressive Poem is here.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

NPM: Day 21

I didn't have anything open on my desktop appropriate for Easter, so in a conversation with my daughter and one of her roommates on Friday, I asked for recommendations.  Here's what they suggested:

Descending Theology: The Resurrection
by Mary Karr

From the far star points of his pinned extremities,
cold inched in—black ice and squid ink—
till the hung flesh was empty.
Lonely in that void even for pain,
he missed his splintered feet,
the human stare buried in his face.
He ached for two hands made of meat
he could reach to the end of.
In the corpse’s core, the stone fist
of his heart began to bang
on the stiff chest’s door, and breath spilled
back into that battered shape. Now

it’s your limbs he comes to fill, as warm water
shatters at birth, rivering every way.

by Marie Howe

Two of the fingers on his right hand
had been broken

so when he poured back into that hand it surprised
him—it hurt him at first.

And the whole body was too small. Imagine
The sky trying to fit into a tunnel carved into a hill.

He came into it two ways:
From the outside, as we step into a pair of pants.

And from the center—suddenly all at once.
Then he felt himself awake in the dark alone.

by John Updike

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then
regathered Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable,
a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
 Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in The dawn light,
robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

He is Risen! Alleluia!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

NPM: Day 20

This link, an article from The Atlantic called "Making Perfume from the Rain", has been open on my desktop for a while now, and it's not even the first time. Since the magazine first published it, and I first read it, in 2015, it's been reposted more than once on the Atlantic's Facebook page, and I always re-read and savor it. It's a poem in itself. Here's a taste:

"Every storm blows in on a scent, or leaves one behind. The metallic zing that can fill the air before a summer thunderstorm is from ozone, a molecule formed from the interaction of electrical discharges—in this case from lightning—with oxygen molecules. Likewise, the familiar, musty odor that rises from streets and storm ponds during a deluge comes from a compound called geosmin. A byproduct of bacteria, geosmin is what gives beets their earthy flavor. Rain also picks up odors from the molecules it meets. So its essence can come off as differently as all the flowers on all the continents—rose-obvious, barely there like a carnation, fleeting as a whiff of orange blossom as your car speeds past the grove. It depends on the type of storm, the part of the world where it falls, and the subjective memory of the nose behind the sniff."
Isn't that glorious? I love that those things are true, and I love the words the author, Cynthia Barnett, chose to describe them. And I love that she traveled 8000 miles to India to learn about the ancient tradition of making perfume that smells like the rain.

Go read this whole beautiful article!

I chose a few words from it to create this found poem.

fragrance of monsoons

capture the scent of rain
mitti attar
scented earth
leather bottle
the moment you put it on your skin
smell of India

found by Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com, in "Making Perfume from the Rain," by Cynthia Barnett, The Atlantic,  April 22nd, 2015.
Unfortunately, I've never been to India - though I've read so many novels set there that I feel as though I have - but these are some pictures I took in a rainstorm in Kentucky last summer.

Here's today's line for the Progressive Poem.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Poetry Friday: Daffodils and Such (NPM: Day 19)

This year for National Poetry Month, I've been sharing links I already had open on my desktop. I figured I had about two weeks' worth, and by the time those links ran out, I would have more. I'm still working on the original links after almost three weeks, and sure enough, I have a bunch of new ones.

I had some Wordsworth links open because I was writing a daffodil poem. Here's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" and I also looked up "The Preface to the Lyrical Ballads." I had a lot of fun writing that poem, and I like it, but it's not really for sharing.

I shared "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" complete with daffodil pictures taken by me, in 2010, when I was in the US after the earthquake. This year I am far from daffodils, and when I asked my daughter to send me some daffodil pictures, she sent this photo instead:
She took that on Palm Sunday. Not a bit of green in sight, let alone palms or daffodils. But on Wednesday, when I brought up the subject again, she sent me this:
It's comforting in these times of climate weirdness to see things showing up more or less when they are supposed to: the sakura in Japan, for example, and the daffodils in North America.

My son told me on Monday that I should write a poem about Notre Dame. "Write about how nothing lasts forever," he said, and I replied that that's pretty much what poetry is about. Between those flames and the darkness of Good Friday, I feel this poem is more appropriate than Wordsworth for today:

Edna St. Vincent Millay

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Eventually I probably will write about Notre Dame. I'm not quite ready yet. Meanwhile, I wait for Sunday and resurrection; I do believe in it, even on the days when it seems least likely.

Here's what I posted this week for National Poetry Month:

On Saturday I shared an Issa haiku from Mary Lee, and then responded to it myself.
On Sunday I linked to Michelle H. Barnes' interview with Naomi Shihab Nye.
On Monday it was Jim Daniels Day.
On Tuesday I was thinking about sleeping and islands and sleeping on islands.
On Wednesday I shared some Yusuf Komunyakaa.
On Thursday it was Poem in Your Pocket Day, and I wrote a haibun about what was in my pocket.

Today's line for the Progressive Poem is here.

2 Kat @ Kathryn Apel
4 Jone @ DeoWriter
5 Linda @ TeacherDance
6 Tara @ Going to Walden
8 Mary Lee @ A Year of Reading
9 Rebecca @ Rebecca Herzog
10 Janet F. @ Live Your Poem
12 Margaret @ Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine @ Dori Reads
17 Amy @ The Poem Farm
18 Linda @ A Word Edgewise
20 Buffy @ Buffy's Blog
21 Michelle @ Michelle Kogan
22 Catherine @ Reading to the Core
25 Jan @ Bookseestudio
26 Linda @ Write Time
27 Sheila @ Sheila Renfro
29 Irene @ Live Your Poem
30 Donna @ Mainely Write

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is here.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

NPM: Day 18

This link has been on my desktop for a while. It's a photography project, where a mom takes pictures of the contents of her preschool son's pockets each day. I love this idea, and each of the photos could spark a poem.

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day. In other years I've written poems for my pocket (here's last year's post). At the Poets.org link, you can find some poems to print out to put in your pocket this year.

This year I wrote a haibun (or halibut, as helpfully autocorrected by TextEdit) about something else I frequently find in my pocket. (If the idea of a haibun is new to you, as it fairly recently was to me, here's Wikipedia's explanation. Basically it's a short prose piece ending in a haiku. They aren't new - they've been around since the seventeenth century!) I often keep a hoodie in my classroom for when the air conditioning gets too cold, and one of these is usually in that pocket. On Friday at school I had another in my pants pocket.

Prayers in my Pocket: A haibun

Ladies from the church knitted squares of yarn and as they knitted, they prayed. If you gathered them up and sewed them all together, they would be a blanket to wrap yourself in on a cold day, but instead they put them in a basket with a sign saying “Take one.” You could hold yours in your hand and remember that it was full of prayers. My daughter knew I was sad, so she got two for me, and I carried them in my pockets.

“There’s nothing magic about it,” I explained to a friend and counselor. “It’s not a good-luck charm or anything like that. It’s just that it reminds me that people are praying for me and I feel less forgotten.”

She laughed, amused at my earnest theological concerns. “I’m Catholic, so I don’t have to worry about things like that,” she said. She encouraged me to hold on for dear life.

Deep in my pocket
Fingers find tiny afghan
Stitches of comfort

Today's line for the Progressive Poem is here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

NPM: Day 17

I've had this interview with Yusef Komunyakaa open in a tab since last month, ever since I posted his poem about seeing Barack Obama with a copy of Derek Walcott's poems. (You can see that post here.) 

I've been reading Komunyakaa's work, and here are some I found on the Poetry Foundation site that I particularly appreciated:

Islands. This one has an epigraph "For Derek Walcott," and it definitely makes me think of Walcott's long poem "Omeros." (I wrote some about that here.) 

This next one continues the Homeric theme. Infidelity is about Zeus, and the part of the Iliad it refers to is not in the simplified version I read with my eighth graders every year. That's the part where Zeus goes on and on in great detail to his wife Hera about all the other women who appeal to him, apparently thinking she's going to find this somehow an aphrodisiac. 

And this one, Ghazal, After Ferguson, is about an altogether more modern theme. The Ferguson of the title is Ferguson, Missouri. 

Today's line for the Progressive Poem is here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

NPM: Day 16

This link is a recent addition to my collection of tabs. It recommends that I teach this poem: "A Woman Sleeps on an Island," by Marjorie Agosín, and provides the text in both English and Spanish. Scroll down for lesson ideas.

Maybe it's because I do sleep on an island, every night, that this poem appealed to me so much. Some lines I liked: "from her hair is born the dwelling place of memories and wild birds" and "her eyelids trace maps of strange geographies."

This poem, "Together," also concerns sleeping and an island. It's dreamy and mysterious, and it's lived on my desktop for much longer.

And for an island sleeping trifecta, check out this Derek Walcott poem, "Islands."
Today's line for the Progressive Poem is here.

Monday, April 15, 2019

NPM: Day 15

I don't remember who shared this poem on Poetry Friday a while ago; I clicked on it and then couldn't close the link because I was so taken with it. It brought back many happy memories of reading to my children as they fell asleep.

Talking About the Day
Jim Daniels

Each night after reading three books to my two children—
we each picked one—to unwind them into dreamland,
I'd turn off the light and sit between their beds
in the wide junk-shop rocker I'd reupholstered blue,
still feeling the close-reading warmth of their bodies beside me,
and ask them to talk about the day—we did this,
we did that, sometimes leading somewhere, sometimes
not, but always ending up at the happy ending of now.

Here's the rest of the poem. 

I can't remember where I found this Jim Daniels poem, either, but I have it saved on my hard drive, and I've been reading it with students for years. We always discuss empathy and standing up for our friends when we read it. It's simple but profound.

Speech Class
Jim Daniels

We were outcasts –
you with your stutters,
me with my slurring –
and that was plenty for a friendship.

When we left class to go to the therapist
we hoped they wouldn’t laugh –
took turns reminding the teacher:
“Me and Joe have to go to speech clash now,”
or “M-m-me and J-Jim ha-have to go to
 s-s-speech now.”

Mrs. Clark, therapist, was also god, friend, mother.
Once she took us to the zoo on a field trip:
“Aw, you gonna go look at the monkeys?”
“Maybe they’ll teach you how to talk.”
We clenched teeth and went
and felt the sun and fed the animals
and were a family of broken words.

For years we both tried so hard
and I finally learned where to put my tongue and how to make the sounds
and graduated,
but the first time you left class without me
I felt that punch in the gut –
I felt like a deserter
and wanted you
to have my voice.

Today's line for the Progressive Poem is here.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

NPM: Day 14

Michelle H. Barnes published this interview with Naomi Shihab Nye last August. I've had the link open in a tab since then, because it's such a great conversation with a poet I love. You should definitely read the whole thing, but the quote I wrote down after reading it was from this exchange:

I wonder, in your four decades of visiting schools and working with students, have you found that young people’s increased dependence on multitasking has made deeper listening more difficult to come by? Is writing poetry somehow less interesting or achievable for them because of a lack of calm and focus?

I don't think so. Everyone is writing! Everyone is reading! Perhaps our attention spans have changed—I think mine has—to more blip-blip-quick-change energy—and we need the oasis of calm available while working on single poems or pages more than ever—but we just have different tools now. Everything is at our fingertips. That's pretty amazing. Perhaps we need to work a little harder to find our quiet times? Or make a clearer intention about times when we DON'T stay connected through any device. Take breaks. We need more breaks. Someone told me we check our phones—was it 70 or 80 times a day? I'd prefer it to be 7 or 8.

"Everyone is writing! Everyone is reading!" says Naomi Shihab Nye, and what an encouraging way to look at it. It's my experience, too; my students aren't always reading and writing what I want them to, or the way I want them to, or with the focus I'd like, but they are communicating in writing, and they are reading.  I wrote this post in 2011 (original poem included) when I got an email from NCTE headlined "Reading and Writing Need Your Help Now" expressing pretty much the same thing. 

I've posted lots of Naomi Shihab Nye poems on this blog. Here are some: "Steps," "Trying to Name What Doesn't Change," "So Much Happiness," "The List."

Here's today's line in the Progressive Poem.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

NPM: Day 13

Last year, Easter was on April 1st, and so National Poetry Month all fell in Eastertide. This year feels like an uncomfortable mixture of Lent, a time of fasting, and NPM, a time of gorging. At least today I have some haiku, which feels a little bit appropriate, like eating edamame instead of whole boxes of chocolates. (Mind you, I can polish off a big bowl of edamame all by myself...)

This link from Mary Lee's blog has been hanging around my desktop for a long time, suggesting that I try something similar. Mary Lee shared an Issa haiku:

I'm the type
who'd rather have dumplings
than blossoms

Issa, 1814

Click the link and read Mary Lee's responses, and then the responses in the comments. 

I finally wrote some of my own last week.

I’m the type
who’d rather have a train
than a car.

I’m the type
who’d rather have tea
than champagne.

I’m the type
who’d rather have flip flops
than snow boots.

I’m the type
who’d rather have books
than diamonds.

  Here's today's line in the Progressive Poem.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Poetry Friday: Moments (NPM: Day 12)

I like the poem I'm sharing today because I can imagine the scene it portrays so clearly. It's a family moment, like so many others, but there's more to it because of one line: "They don't know this is the last time." We, the readers, sense a significance to the ordinary family dinner that is completely unknown to the children. We know what comes next.

Making Enchiladas
Linda Rodriguez

We set up an assembly line.
I heat the tortillas in manteca
after Crystal dips them in chile ancho
and drains them. Niles carries full plates
of hot tortillas to his father,
who rolls them around spoonfuls of filling.
When we’ve finished the hot, greasy work,
I pour the last of the sauce over neat rows
of stuffed tortillas, sprinkle them with cheese,
clean the stove and counters.
The kids help their father rinse plates and pans.
They don’t know this is the last time.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

I've written many poems that this one reminds me of, poems that are basically a recounting of the details of a family moment, but as I looked through them, they all seemed too intimate to share here. I name everyone (as Linda Rodriguez does in this poem), for one thing.  (I don't know if these are really Linda Rodriguez's children's names or if this is a fictional story.) They are some of my favorite poems to write and reread because they bring back moments better than a photo. A photo just gives you how things looked; a poem also includes how things sounded and smelled and how I felt about it all.

Even though I eventually chose not to share any of those poems, I did find one about a family story.  My children aren't in it because they weren't born yet.


Our first week back from Haiti in 1994
We were driving down US 68
In a borrowed car,
A hulking American-made one from the seventies.
We crested a hill lined with white fences
And there was a cow in the middle of the road.
It stared at us impassively.
We hit it and it toppled over
In slow motion
And then got up again
Only to be hit by the next car
And this time it stayed down.

As we drove on to find a phone
We thought of Haiti.
Hit an animal there
And angry people would appear
Demanding compensation
Maybe even throwing rocks at your car.
Pigs, goats, chickens wander the road
Seemingly ownerless
But suddenly valuable
In the event of their death.
How much, we wondered,
For a grain-fed American cow?

We called the police
And then returned to the scene of our crime
And watched, amazed, as justice took its course.
A policeman filled out a report
On the car behind ours, which was totaled.
Farm workers looked methodically
For the hole in the fence.
The farmer came over
And apologized to us.

Apologized to us?
We stared at him in disbelief,
But he was already off,
Making arrangements to butcher the dead beast.
This was over, and we were free to leave,
Bovine murderers that we were,
Scot-free, without even a dent in our borrowed car.

We drove away, feeling faintly guilty
And confused by the way things work.
Who's to blame?  Who's innocent?
What's the value of a fat animal
Standing on a smooth American road at twilight
Compared with a scrawny one
On a dirt road in Haiti?
Why did the phone work the first time
And the police come right away?
Why did no money change hands?
And what was to become of a ton of beef?
Good thing America has big freezers
And plenty of electricity.

Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

Today's line for the Progressive Poem is here.

2 Kat @ Kathryn Apel
4 Jone @ DeoWriter
5 Linda @ TeacherDance
6 Tara @ Going to Walden
8 Mary Lee @ A Year of Reading
9 Rebecca @ Rebecca Herzog
10 Janet F. @ Live Your Poem
12 Margaret @ Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine @ Dori Reads
17 Amy @ The Poem Farm
18 Linda @ A Word Edgewise
20 Buffy @ Buffy's Blog
21 Michelle @ Michelle Kogan
22 Catherine @ Reading to the Core
25 Jan @ Bookseestudio
26 Linda @ Write Time
27 Sheila @ Sheila Renfro
29 Irene @ Live Your Poem

Thursday, April 11, 2019

NPM: Day 11

One day recently, I was heading back to my classroom after lunch, and I heard an elementary child sobbing on the playground. I don't teach the elementary students, and I didn't know this one, but I rushed over because he sounded so heartbroken. When I asked him what was wrong, he wailed, "I lost a friend! I lost a friend!" When I asked him more questions, he gave me a long explanation that I in no way understood. I suggested a few things he might try to repair the friendship, like talk to his friend again, or maybe see if things were better after the weekend, and he seemed to calm down some. I don't know how this ended, but as he told me his confused story of what had happened, even though I couldn't follow it at all, I felt tears come to my eyes because I know how very painful it is, at any age, to lose a friend.

This Langston Hughes poem is a perfect one. My students can relate to it, and so can I. I've had this article recommending it as "Poetry Rx" open in my tabs for a long time.

Graphic from The Paris Review

I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There’s nothing more to say.
The poem ends,
Soft as it began—
I loved my friend.

Langston Hughes

Today's Progressive Poem line is here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

NPM: Day 10

This poem by Margaret Hasse is open on my desktop. In "First Day of Kindergarten," Hasse writes about the love between a mother and a son, and the moment when he discovers that she keeps on existing even when he goes away. The last line: "I'm his first love and his greatest disappointment" resonated so much with me, as the mother of a much-loved son. (Do click through and read the whole poem here.)

I have written innumerable poems about my son, and here is one he allowed me to share a couple of years ago.

There are many kinds of love, and I'm thankful to have experienced so many of them!

Janet's sharing today's line of the Progressive Poem here.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

NPM: Day 9

This link from Tabatha Yeatts' blog is one I've had open since last May. It's not a poetry link, but an art one - go on, click on over and look. It's about the color blue, and I was so taken by the image and idea of a cyanometer - a tool developed in the eighteenth century by Horace-Bénédict de Saussure to measure the shades of blue scientifically. I wanted - and still do want - to write something about that. But I am closing the link, and just writing "cyanometer" in my list of writing ideas.

Fortunately, many others have written about the color blue. I went looking, and here are some of the ones I found that I liked best:

"Blue," by Sidney Wade
An excerpt:

we watch a cormorant
whose eye is ringed
in blue diamonds,
a shimmering lure,
and we love this blue
and this dark bird
and this deepening sky
that pinks and hums
in the west

"The Blue," by Camille T. Dungy is a wonderful narrative poem about the discovery of a butterfly called the Smith Blue, and what happened to the scientists who discovered it.

"Kind of Blue," by Lynn Powell, is also wonderful, and the link includes a recording of the poet reading it. This one may be the most appropriate to the cyanometer because it talks about varying shades of blue. I tried to excerpt it but I can't - go read it all! It's short!

Tabatha inspires me often with the poems and art that she posts on her blog, The Opposite of Indifference. She finds the most amazing things in her journeys, and writes her own original poems beautifully too. She edited Imperfect, an anthology in which I have a poem. And for NPM, she produced a new treasure, "Poetry in the Halls," a free printable to print out and put up on the wall. These poems are on the middle school and high school hallway walls in our school in Haiti - thanks, Tabatha! This week, she produced even more printables for poetry teachers. You can see that post here.

Today's line of the Progressive Poem is here.

Monday, April 08, 2019


One day recently I got home from school in a grumpy mood; never mind all the reasons why. My husband and son left to do their thing, and I stewed at home by myself. I decided this must stop and took myself out for a walk, changing my shoes but otherwise just in my teaching clothes. My sole purpose: to become a happier person.

I was still within sight of my house when I slid on some sand in front of someone’s gate and landed, hard, on my knee. I tore a hole in my work pants and staggered to my feet with a large black stain on the green linen. Fortunately there wasn’t a crowd to see this happen; a man inside the gate began to talk about how dangerous it was to walk around, and I agreed with him, and kept going, embarrassed and with a smarting leg. I was tempted to head back home, but I had definitely not achieved the purpose of my walk, so I didn’t. I kept on.

Before long the fall began to seem emblematic of the walk. I encountered a dead dog that someone had apparently hit with their car. I stepped over it and kept going. I passed a funeral home and began to think even more gloomy thoughts. I passed the first apartment where my husband and I lived when we moved to Haiti 26 years ago. Instead of focusing on happy memories from those times, I began to scorn my younger self, so full of hope and idealism and cluelessness.

Life is all disappointment and loss, I told myself, as I finished up my walk and headed home. I didn’t even take pictures as I normally do; I’d seen it all before. Why bother?

A few days later, as I soaped myself in the shower, I took a moment to examine my wounds a little more closely. My bony elderly knee was bright yellow, almost a primary color in its brightness. It was covered in spectacular scabs such as I used to have all the time when I was seven or eight years old. I bent it experimentally, but it wasn’t sore, just ugly.

Suddenly I saw that my walk wasn’t about the fall, but about the healing from the fall. Yes, I keep losing and messing up and falling down, but I also keep getting back up. Sometimes people make comments, and I answer them in Kreyol. If they make fun of me, I scold them for talking like that to a granmoun, an older person. But usually they are friendly or indifferent, informing me that I am out walking, or asking me why I am taking pictures, or just ignoring me. They mostly tolerate my oddness and seem to feel I belong here, or at least that I’m not a horrible interloper. 

I’ve been walking in this neighborhood for half my life, alone and with others, pregnant and with babies, grumpy and cheerful. Am I a happier person because my walk, both literal and metaphorical, has taken me down these streets? Who knows? That’s maybe not what matters so much; what matters is that I don’t stop. I keep going, and I keep greeting people, and looking for beautiful things, and healing and getting hurt again and healing some more. This yellow bruise won’t last; it will give way to other yellow and purple and red coloration. But I'll keep going. For as long as I can, I’ll just keep walking down the road.

NPM: Day 8

The Lost Art of Letter-Writing
by Eavan Boland

The ratio of daylight to handwriting
Was the same as lacemaking to eyesight.
The paper was so thin it skinned air.

The hand was fire and the page tinder.
Everything burned away except the one
Place they singled out between fingers

Held over a letter pad they set aside
For the long evenings of their leave-takings,
Always asking after what they kept losing,

Always performing—even when a shadow
Fell across the page and they knew the answer
Was not forthcoming—the same action:

First the leaning down, the pen becoming
A staff to walk fields with as they vanished
Underfoot into memory....

You can read the rest of the poem, and listen to the author reading it, here. That's a link I've had open for a long time, and I've read this intriguing poem again and again. I'm still not sure I completely understand it, but it has so many beautiful lines.

Speaking of lines, you can read today's for the Progressive Poem here.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

NPM: Day 7 (My Line of the Progressive Poem)

Here is The Progressive Poem thus far…

Endless summer; I can see for miles…
Fun, fun, fun – and the whole world smiles
No time for school- just time to play
we swim the laughin’ sea each and every day
You had only to rise, lean from your window,
the curtain opens on a portrait of today

Found Lines:
L1 The Who, ‘I Can See for Miles’ / The Beach Boys, ‘Endless Summer’
L2 The Beach Boys, ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ / Dean Martin, ‘When You’re Smiling’
L3 The Jamies, ‘Summertime, Summertime’
L4 The Doors ‘Summer’s Almost Gone’/ Led Zeppelin ‘Good Times, Bad Times’
L5 Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine “You had only to rise, lean from your window,”
L6 Joni Mitchell, “Chelsea Morning”

Like every year, writing my line for the Progressive Poem has made me reflect on how I normally go about writing.  It's all up to me: mine is the only voice that's heard, unless I choose to write in another's voice, and even then, it's my choice, nobody else's. As always, I feel disoriented as I look at what I have to work with; there are already six other voices involved, and before we're done, thirty people will add to this poem. Thinking about all those voices made me imagine the other writers, across the US and the world, writing. In my case it always includes giggly discussions with my children. My son suggested an Ice Cube line: "Today I didn't even have to use my AK." (Note to gentle readers, children and children's poets in particular: don't Google the rest of that song.)

All of the participants in this Progressive Poem come from different backgrounds; we all imagine different scenes out that mythic window of a childhood summer. That "portrait of today" could be anything at this point in the poem; the only specific we have of the landscape is that there's a "laughin' sea." My problems (again, the same ones I have every year): I have no picture in my head of what is going on here, no idea of who the persona of the poem is, a strong desire to inject some action, a need to respect the rhyme scheme and structure, but not much sense of what they are. Oh, and it's supposed to be a found line. I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to do all of that. In fact, I know I can't.

I knew early on I wanted to find my line from Paul Simon, since he's the one I love ("You're the one," yes, you, Paul Simon, "you broke my heart, you made me cry...") who's the same vintage as most of what my predecessors picked, so I've written it from two of his songs, though one of them is from much later. I really wanted to know what was outside that window, that portrait of today, and what makes up portraits except colors? So here goes:

Endless summer; I can see for miles…
Fun, fun, fun – and the whole world smiles
No time for school- just time to play
we swim the laughin’ sea each and every day
You had only to rise, lean from your window,
the curtain opens on a portrait of today:
Kodachrome greens, dazzling blue

Found Line:
 L7 Paul Simon, "Kodachrome," "Dazzling Blue"

As usual, a whole lot of fuss and bother about a line that ends up being four words.

Tomorrow's line is from Mary Lee, and you can read it here.

2 Kat @ Kathryn Apel
4 Jone @ DeoWriter
5 Linda @ TeacherDance
6 Tara @ Going to Walden
8 Mary Lee @ A Year of Reading
9 Rebecca @ Rebecca Herzog
10 Janet F. @ Live Your Poem
12 Margaret @ Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine @ Dori Reads
17 Amy @ The Poem Farm
18 Linda @ A Word Edgewise
20 Buffy @ Buffy's Blog
21 Michelle @ Michelle Kogan
22 Catherine @ Reading to the Core
25 Jan @ Bookseedstudio
26 Linda @ Write Time
27 Sheila @ Sheila Renfro
29 Irene @ Live Your Poem
30 Donna @ Mainely Write