Thursday, December 31, 2020

Poetry Friday: Happy New Year!

Welcome to Poetry Friday and to 2021! I am hosting the roundup today. Leave your links in the comments, and I will round us up the old-fashioned way. Comment moderation is enabled, so don't panic if you don't see your comment right away. I will publish them as fast as I can. 

Naomi Shihab Nye's poem "Burning the Old Year" seems the most appropriate thing I can share for this, our first Poetry Friday of 2021. 

Burning the Old Year

Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds

Notes friends tied to the doorknob,

transparent scarlet paper,

sizzle like moth wings, 

marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable...

Here's the rest.


But most of us would probably be able to identify some things from 2020 that we don't want to burn. In spite of everything, there really were moments of delight, weren't there? As Jane Kenyon puts it, "There's just no accounting for happiness."



Jane Kenyon


There's just no accounting for happiness,

or the way it turns up like a prodigal

who comes back to the dust at your feet

having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?

You make a feast in honor of what

was lost, and take from its place the finest

garment, which you saved for an occasion

you could not imagine, and you weep night and day

to know that you were not abandoned,

that happiness saved its most extreme form

for you alone.

Here's the rest.


Here in Haiti, we have an additional reason to celebrate on the 1st of January. It's Independence Day, commemorating the day in 1804 when Haiti declared its independence from France, having kicked out the slave-owners in the most successful slave rebellion in history. We will be eating pumpkin soup, the traditional festive food for this day. 


At the beginning of December, Bon Appétit magazine published a recipe for pumpkin soup. You can see it here, but you'll also see that the magazine changed the name of the soup to remove the word "Haitian," after thousands of Haitians responded overwhelmingly negatively. "Ou pa wont?" said one commenter. Aren't you ashamed? Pumpkin soup isn't something you mess with around here. It was forbidden to the slaves, so it represents freedom; every Haitian cook makes it slightly differently, but no Haitian cook puts spiced nuts in it.  My mouth waters as I write this (on December 30th), anticipating the lovely smell of the fragrant soup rising up through our neighborhood on Friday. Here's a more traditional recipe. We'll also be eating mochi, because of my husband's childhood in Japan. Here's an article about that. I don't know how many people in the world eat both, but I bet you Naomi Osaka does. Like other New Year's foods around the world, these are supposed to confer good fortune on the upcoming 365 days.


Pumpkin soup, mochi,

Black-eyed peas on New Year's Day -

Better luck this time.  

Pumpkin Soup (the real thing)


Consider responding to one or more of these questions when you leave your link in the comments. What do you want to burn from last year? What unexpected happiness of 2020 will you be holding on to?  And/or, what will you be eating to celebrate the New Year? 


Here's wishing for better days in 2021, for you and for the whole world. And here's to poetry, and all its ability to comfort and sustain. 

The Links:

I always think of Margaret Simon's Thursday feature "This Photo Wants to Be a Poem" as a prelude to Poetry Friday. Here's this week's edition.


Linda Mitchell is sharing her OLW (One Little Word). I'm loving the fairy-tale quality of Linda's poems lately, and today's is no exception. Head on over and read her word and what she's done with it here


Tabatha has two quirky poems for us today. The first is "If You've Met One Autistic Person, You've Met One Autistic Person," by Tom Hunley, and the second is "Order on the Phone to a Large Department Store," by Sally Heilbut, who died of COVID this week.  You can read Tabatha's post here.


Robyn's share for today is the perfect New Year's choice, and I echo her wishes for 2021. You can read all about that here.  

Michelle Kogan has a new teaching job this year for which she's very thankful, and she also has a wonderful poem full of new things.

Little Willow is also thinking about what's new, with a poem "That New" by Susan Rothbard. This poet is new to me, but I would love to read more of her work. Read "That New" here.


The amazing Jone has written a poem in Scottish Gaelic, and made a video of herself reading it. I can't play the video yet, because I'm updating the roundup next to my still-sleeping husband as the sun is just starting to come up outside, but I'll be back later to watch and listen! Jone also shares two postcards from PF writers. You can see all of that at Jone's blog.


Linda B. has a poignant, beautiful look back at 2020 called "The Way We Were," with perfectly chosen details that bring back each challenging month. Read it here.

Bridget Magee's post today is all about the number ten. Her blog is ten years old (Happy birthday, Wee Words for Wee Ones!), and to celebrate, she's curating an anthology! Go read the details, and think about what you can contribute.

Now that I'm all caught up on the links that came in last night, I'm off to sit on my front porch and do some New Year's Day birding. I'll be back soon to see what else is in my inbox!

I'm back from birding. What a great haul today! I saw three Mourning Doves, three Palmchats, an American Redstart, and four Bananaquits. I heard a Hispaniolan Woodpecker (and that counts). I was really hoping to start the year well with a Hispaniolan Lizard-cuckoo - and I saw TWO! One had something in his mouth that looked like a piece of straw, so I wondered about nest-building, but when I looked through my binoculars, he was carrying a tiny - and apparently dead - lizard. And so my eBird streak is kept alive. Today is Day 116! (It's a big challenge for me not to add multiple exclamation marks to my comments on my eBird checklists. I don't really have the scientific detachment down yet, and just want to jump up and down!)


While I was away from my computer, I also ate the first of today's pumpkin soup. Haitians eat it for breakfast, but since I've already had breakfast, I will eat mine for lunch. I had to eat some, though (and take a picture, of course), so I ladled myself out a little tiny bowl. It was wonderful. 



Irene Latham is also sharing her OLW, and it's a juicy one! She's going to be writing poems through all four seasons, and we get to read the first one today, a wintry offering, that somehow manages to be warm in spite of the season. Go read it immediately!


Myra of Gathering Books is joining us from the United Arab Emirates, and she too has some Naomi Shihab Nye to share today! This one is new to me. It's called Dear Sky. I think this would make a great writing prompt, too!


Margaret Simon is eating black-eyed peas this morning in Louisiana, and she's also sharing a breathtaking photo and poem. The poem is called  "Bayou Being Green." She shares the prompt that inspired it, too, plus a place to get more prompts all year. Thanks, Margaret!


Tiel Aisha Ansari doesn't participate in Poetry Friday, but I've been a devoted reader of her poetry blog for many years, and I hope she doesn't mind me linking to her New Year's Eve poem, which I think everyone will agree is perfect. Here it is. While you're there, you should check out some more of her beautiful poems.

Laura Purdie Salas shares a stunning Richard Wilbur poem, one I'm going to save to read again and again. "These sudden ends of time must give us pause." Indeed, they must. Laura's post is here.


Christie Wyman takes us on a visit to Ponyhenge, an odd local attraction, with a poem and photo which you can look at here

Mary Lee has a poem with an intriguing title, "Things I Didn't Know I Loved." Her poem is inspired by two others that she links to. I'm thinking I'm not the only one who will be inspired by this idea to write one on the same topic. There are so many things to love! Thanks, Mary Lee!


Carol has a perfect choice for the New Year, "Ring Out, Wild Bells," by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. I'm saying Amen to the sentiments in the poem and in Carol's post.   

The next link to come in is from another Carol, Carol Labuzzetta. She shares her OLW for 2021, plus a poem that goes with it. You can read her thoughts about that here


Tanita Davis shares a poem by C.S. Lewis, with perfect advice for the new year ahead: "Often deceived, yet open once again your heart." Here is her post.


And it's another Carol! Carol Varsalona has a lovely gallery of images and thoughts including a variety of possible choices for her OLW. Like me, she is waiting until Thursday to write a post about her OLW for the year, and she says she'd better hurry up and pick one! You have some wonderful options, Carol!  


Susan Bruck is beginning 2021 with haiku about snow and reflections on loss and the weirdness of this year's holiday season. Happy New Year, Susan!


Also thinking about loss is Laura Shovan, who shares "Poem," by Langston Hughes. This is a perfect poem about the blah sadness you feel when you lose a friend. Socially distanced hugs to Laura and everyone who is feeling this way.   


Ramona calls her post Poetry Friday (on Saturday), and she shares a poem she wrote in March of 2020, a golden shovel that turned out to be a keystone for Ramona for the rest of the year. Head over and read her poem "Moving Forward."  

The first link in this roundup is to Margaret Simon's weekly feature "This Photo Wants to be a Poem." Well, Fran Haley took this week's photo and ran with it for her Poetry Friday offering. She's written a Spirit's Vessel poem, which is part acrostic, part intricate three stanza six line six syllable creation. Follow the link to read her poem and see what she has done with this prompt and how it relates to her choice of OLW.

Thank you for participating, everyone, whether by sharing poetry or reading it or both. Thank you for filling this first day of the year with poems! Join us again next week, when Sylvia Vardell will be hosting at Poetry for Children


Linda Mitchell said...

Oh, my goodness....Pumpkin soup is one of my favorites! I think it might be worth the trip to Haiti to try all the different kinds that there are. I love that story in your well as the poetry. I want to burn animosity from 2020. There was so much of it. I will hold on to the amazing amount of technology I've learned from having to teach and be a virtual librarian. It's not perfect and I do see the losses. But, I am much more tech-savvy than before 3/13/20.

Tabatha said...

We just finished reading our "Good Things Jar 2020," and there were a surprising number of good things this year. It was funny to hear the ones from January. Like another world.
Haven't tried pumpkin soup, but I adore mochi. Do you make your own??
Thanks for hosting! I have a post up at

Robyn Hood Black said...

Happy New Year, Ruth, and Thank You for the appropriate and wonderful usherings out and usherings in over here today. I'm in with a tried-and-true, but somehow that "cup of kindness" seems relevant as ever. Thanks for hosting!

Michelle Kogan said...

Yum on the pumpkin soup, it looks and sounds delish, I'll have to try it, and soon! Thanks for Jane Kenyon's "Happiness" Poem which I'll never tire of, and Naomi Shihab Nye's poem too. My unexpected Happiness, I have a new teaching job, online, at Harper College, if the class fills, fingers crossed. I'm continuing to teach online at the Evanston Art Center, and am very thankful for it, it's kept my family afloat this year. Thanks for hosting, and Happy New Year! My post is on New Year 2021 at:

Little Willow said...

Thank you for hosting! Enjoy the soup. Happy new year, everyone!

Poetry Friday link: That New by Susan Rothbard - at Bildungsroman (Little Willow)

laurasalas said...

Happy New Year, Ruth! I'll be back tomorrow to read your post. I'm in with a Richard Wilbur poem at Thanks for hosting!

Jone said...

I love the Naomi Shihab Nye poem. I am sharing two New Year Postcards and a recording of a Scottish Gaelic poem I wrote.

Linda B said...

Dear Ruth, it's a lovely post to start the new year, wonderful poems from Nye & Kenyon, and your special connection with the pumpkin soup. I will try it! I have a great squash soup recipe that we all love, and pumpkin pie is a favorite all the year because of a granddaughter who adores it, has it for her birthday, too. She also likes pumpkin bread so she and I will have to try this new way to use her beloved pumpkin! No matter fewer visits, the ones I had with family, the grand-girls more than anyone, will be the times I will keep. We spent a lot of time either outside or making things & it was terrific. My poem today are things that are not necessarily favorite memories yet they are ones I want to keep because all of us lived it, did the best we could day by day and I am proud of that. Thanks for hosting, Ruth. Happy New Year and Independence Day! My link:

Bridget Magee said...

Happy New Year! Happy Independence Day! And thank you for hosting, Ruth! Yum to the pumpkin soup. My unexpected happiness of 2020 that I will be holding on to is the monthly Zoom calls with my 92 year old mom and all of my 9 siblings, their children and their children. We average around 40+ people per call - from Australia, the Middle East, here in Switzerland, and various regions of the US (it's tricky accommodating all the time zones but SO worth it :)
Today I am sharing my blog's 10 birthday with a submission opportunity for an anthology I am curating:

Irene Latham said...

Pumpkin soup! That looks delicious, and thank you for sharing its significance in Haiti. Here it's a big football day, so lots of finger foods... cheese fritters and artichoke tartlets among them. I'm celebrating the new year with a new word and a new poetry theme. Thank you for hosting, Ruth! xo

GatheringBooks said...

Hello! Not sure whether my comments are getting through, but thank you so much for hosting on New Year’s Day. Here’s my PF contribution:

Margaret Simon said...

What a tasty and thoughtful post. Two of my favorite poets! I love reading about traditions from other places. I had no idea about pumpkin soup symbolizing freedom. Around here the argument is over gumbo. Usually our town has a Gumbo Cookoff with thousands attending and a competition for the top spots, but not this year. Of course I think my husband's is the best. Chicken and sausage (no okra!).
I made a big pot of black-eyed peas that are still smelling up the kitchen.
Thanks for posting the Photo post. Here's the link to my PF offering:
The absolute best memory of 2020 is the birth of my granddaughter Stella! She is precious and perfect and my daughter is in love, which is heartwarming to see.
Happy New Year! Happy Independence Day! Thanks for hosting.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

I learned so much today, Ruth. Thanks for the poems, the controversy (which is so emblematic of this time where white Americans try to get things right and fail all over again we're learning) and the soup. I'm not posting today, but I came to make sure you had plenty of company on this holiday Friday. Happy Independent New Year!

Christie Wyman said...

So much for you to celebrate today, Ruth! Happy Independence Day, and enjoy that pumpkin soup -- one of my favorites. It's always on our Thanksgiving table in November. An unexpected happiness of 2020 was new-found time to volunteer weekly at our local food pantry. When school shut down on March 11, I was able to reconfigure my teaching schedule to allow time for helping my neighbors in need. Here is a link to my post. Many thanks for hosting, Ruth.

Mary Lee said...

I'm in with a draft-poem fresh from the first page of a new writer's notebook for the new year. Thank you for hosting, and for the two contrasting poems. My poem is filled with contrasts as well.

Happy Independence Day. May we all take inspiration from what was accomplished in Haiti in 1804, and continue that work in our zones of influence.

Happy Pumpkin Soup Day! We have veered slightly away from the German tradition of pork roast and sauerkraut. We do grilled brats with our sauerkraut. There will be piles of mashed potatoes, too, and glasses of eggnog for dessert.

Here's my link:

I don't think I want to burn anything from 2020, but I'll definitely hold onto the sweet and unexpected classroom community that has developed in spite of the screens that separate us.

Carol said...

Thanks for hosting! Pumpkin soup sounds yummy! I might have to make some today.

I want to burn the perfectionism that so often keeps me from writing and creating and loving well and just go for it this year.

In that spirit, I'm in, not with a new or original poem, but with a very old poem/prayer, "Ring Out Wild Bells" by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Carol J. Labuzzetta said...

Ruth, Thanks for the delicious post and for hosting this week's round-up. Happy New Year to you in Haiti! I hope you enjoy your soup! I would like to burn anxiety that eats up time, decisions, and sleep! My unexpected happiness is finding that a different venue (our cabin) with different traditions that can be(and was)just as satisfying as trying to hold on to old habits from my own childhood when we celebrate the holidays. It is okay to be different, appreciate those differences, and apologize to no one about them! Thanks again for inspiring some delicious thoughts!

tanita✿davis said...

Oh, my goodness, BA just canNOT get it right some days. Good for them for re-specifying that it's a TAKE on Haitian soup, not the real thing! While I empathize with people's frustration with the swift backlash, it's all too easy for big corporate versions of things to take over sometimes... the real history and truth of the dish is so much more fascinating than the bland write-up the magazine gave. I enjoy the similar give and take of the two poems you presented.

Thank you for hosting, happy Independence Day, and enjoy your soup!

Carol Varsalona said...

Ruth, I am so sorry for entering late to Poetry Friday. There is so much to take care of with our trip to our new home this week that I still am juggling balls in the air. Thanks for hosting PF today and I wish you a happy new year and many blessings as we enter a new time period. Best lines: Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.
Happiness is coming-YES!
I'm making butternut squash and cranberries. My husband is grilling a steak. YUM. 2020 was not all lost: My grandbaby was born on Jan. 9th and we built (through hard virtual work). What I want to burn away: the devastating damage of COVID-19 that has now hit my 92-year-old uncle.
Here is my offering for today: My last Abundant Autumn Gallery Walk that shares a variety of one words for 2021. (I guess I better pick mine before SJT this week).

Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

Happy New Year and happy Independence Day!

And thank you for your support. I've appreciated your comments throughout this difficult year.

Susan Bruck said...

Happy new year--and happy Independence day, too! Thanks for sharing those thought-provoking poems, too. There is much that I'm happy to leave behind from last year. But my dad died in October from Covid complications, and leaving 2020 feels like leaving him in a different kind of way. But 2020 was also a year of bountiful creativity for me--and moving into a wonderful new house with a dear friend as my housemate. I'm glad she and the house will be with me in the new year! And hope for another creative year, too.

Thanks for sharing all the delicious foods. I hope you enjoyed the pumpkin soup and mochi. They both sound wonderful!

Susan Bruck said...

Oops--I forgot to add my link:

laurasalas said...

Naomi Shihab Nye and Jane Kenyon--wow, two worthy poets to usher in 2021. And I love your ending: "Better luck this time." Not "next time." This time. This is what we have to work with, and we are in it, so let's make our own better luck right now. That's what it says to me. I pondered on losses of 2020 a few weeks ago, but my poem ended up being an ode to all the things that 2020 didn't steal, all those moments of joy. A few things that I will remember with a full heart are our older daughter's wedding (pandemic style), her Zoom bridal shower, our younger daughter's 8 months with us and then her safe return overseas, and all the ways my husband and I adjusted our own schedules to make room for each other (now that I'm not the only one working at home) and to cherish each other--and, funnily, our zillion fast food meals eaten at a park table or now (in winter) in our car, looking at nature around us, playing Scrabble, and laughing together. Thank you, Ruth! I hope your pumpkin soup (was) and your 2021 will indeed be delicious.

Ramona said...

Arriving late to Poetry Friday and sharing a poem I wrote in March. It has sustained me for months and works for the new year too.
I love Jane Kenyon's poem.
Thanks for teaching us about Haiti's Independence Day. Your pumpkin soup look so delicious! I'm clicking on the recipe now.

Fran Haley said...

Dear Ruth: Happy New Year! Thank your for hosting, and for the amazing smorgasbord of poetic offerings. I would love to try that pumpkin soup!

I tried a new, invented form of poetry today:

Robyn Hood Black said...

(PS - the NAMES of all those birds! Love those! I got a fancy bird feeder set-up from my hubby for Christmas [had already bought myself David Sibley's wonderful latest book] - and so far the chickadees and bluebirds have found it, with a cardinal visitation or two. It has a squirrel baffle, which seems to be living up to its name.) ;0)

author amok said...

"Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,/ an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space." I'm feeling these lines as we close out 2020.

Thank you for adding me to the round-up, Ruth. I had trouble figuring out who was hosting and appreciate the help!