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,
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,
dream and wake and

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 


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.


Linda Mitchell said...

Ruth, this is absolutely beautiful. I love your ode to Poetry. I love how you name the parts of speech and give examples and bring those moments right to us readers. This poem is a keeper.

Irene Latham said...

THIS POEM. Ruth, I am in love with this steamer trunk of words and emotion! Please email me. With your permission I'd love to include it in a future issue of Birmingham Arts Journal (quarterly print and online literary magazine for which I serves as poetry editor.)

Carol said...

I love your ode to poetry. I especially love the nouns and verbs and images you chose. Such specificity. Such a range! Absolutely gorgeous. I hope you will allow Irene to put this poem out into the bigger world. It's perfect!

Liz Steinglass said...

This is lovely!

jama said...

Wonderful ode, Ruth!! And it "is" exciting to get new poetry books -- thanks for sharing yours. :)

mbhmaine said...

I love this ode to poetry, Ruth. That final stanza is a wowzer--actually the whole poem is! Thanks so much for sharing.

Carol Varsalona said...

Ruth, your ode to poetry is one that many should read. I think it is fabulous that Irene would like to place it in Birmingham Arts Journal online literary magazine.

Mary Lee said...

You captured both the ocean-width of poetry's themes and the seashell-specificity of its moments. Perfect!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

I'd climb into your steamer trunk, Ruth! I went and introduced myself to Camille T. Dungy--thanks for pushing me that way, and for a broadening post all around.

Janice Scully said...

I agree with all above. Your poem describes with great images what poetry makes possible.

laurasalas said...

Ruth! This poem is absolutely gorgeous. Your last stanza slays it. That steamer trunk--what a fabulous metaphor.

laurasalas said...

My comment disappeared, and I'm not sure if it's just awaiting moderation or if it was kidnapped. This is brilliant, Ruth. And that last stanza--the steamer trunk metaphor is brilliant!

Jone said...

What a beautiful ode. Thank you for the gift of book titles. Hope you had a wonderful birthday.

michelle kogan said...

Gorgeous poem and post Ruth–I love what you filled your Ode with and especially this stanza:

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

Loved the beach scene too, good painting material… Thanks!