Thursday, November 25, 2021

Poetry Friday, Gratiku Day Twenty-Six, Odes, and a Day After Thanksgiving Roundup: A Cornucopia of Blessings!

I'm hosting Poetry Friday this week, the week of Thanksgiving! Leave your links in the comments and I will round them up, old-school style. I have the day off today, so why not?




I have so much to be thankful for, and I know it even when times are challenging. One of the things I am thankful for this time of year and all the time is poetry. Last year I wrote a whole ode to it, later published in the Birmingham Arts Journal, edited by Irene Latham. (Here's the pdf of the whole issue.) This year a haiku may be all I can manage (although I did try an ode this week too - read on to learn more about it). 


The middle line of today's Gratiku comes from Coleridge's definition of poetry, and in the last line I was thinking of Shakespeare, promising his girlfriend that she would live forever in his verse: "as long as men can breathe, and eyes can see." (I don't really think anything I write will last that long.) See that? Coleridge and Shakespeare in seventeen syllables? Am I an English teacher, or what?

Bounty of poems
(The best words, the best order)
Lines may outlive us.

I read (somewhere) that people were writing odes to autumn for this week, so I decided to try one. I looked up Keats' famous ode, beginning "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" (you can read the whole thing here). At first I thought I would try to write a humorous parody, but it ended up not being humorous at all. My first line parodies Keats' first line, and the first line of the second stanza is straight out of his poem. There are a couple of other echoes from Keats, too. (A machann is a merchant, in this case a lady selling fruit by the side of the road. And yes, that conversation mentioned in the poem really happened.)

Ode to Autumn in Haiti, 2021

Season of strikes and utter hopelessness,
No gas, no jobs, no peace, no anything.
Pa gen fig,” says the machann in the street,
Explaining that bananas can’t be bought
Because there’s too much gunfire in the town.

"Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?"
It seems a while since there was spring-like hope.
It’s always warm, the skies are always blue,
Each gorgeous day has still its music too,
But chaos fills our hearts with suffering.

The tires burn, the smoke spreads out like mist,
The Embassy suggests folks pack their bags --
Well, that suggestion’s for Americans --
And if you’re Haitian, settle in for more,
As autumn turns to winter, one more year:

More scoldings from the countries all around,
More troubles everywhere we turn our heads,
More shortages of all the things we need,
More crime, more heartache, more impunity.
But lovely weather, that we always have.
Yes, lovely weather, that we always have.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey



I did my annual Thanksgiving Odes lesson with my eighth graders. This year I taught it to a few kids sprinkled around my classroom (maintaining distance) and others on the Zoom screen (some faces, but mostly rectangles with their names on them). We watched some YouTube videos of renditions of Neruda odes, then brainstormed a list of possible topics (things for which they were thankful), then went to work. Here are some of their topics: showers, chocolate, boba, soap, Oreos, EDH (city power here in Haiti, often lacking lately), gas (also often lacking lately).  You can see some of their brainstorming in the photo below. (The kids in the room wrote ideas on the whiteboard and the kids Zooming wrote theirs in the chat.) This is one of those assignments almost everyone gets into. It doesn't matter that they don't understand every single allusion in Neruda; they get that he is over-the-top enthusiastic, uses all his senses, and seems to be having a great time. I'm looking forward to reading what they come up with! It's due on Monday, and as I'm writing this, I've only seen one, a fabulous ode to books.

Leave your offerings, whether odes, Thanksgiving fare, or something quite different, in the comments! Comment moderation is enabled, so don't worry if yours doesn't appear right away. I'll get to them as fast as I can!

Margaret moved her weekly "This Photo Wants to Be a Poem" feature from Thursdays to Wednesdays since the last time I hosted Poetry Friday, but I still feel as though it's the beginning of Poetry Friday every week. Check out the locks photo and the responses here to start getting in the poetry mood.


Susan at Chicken Spaghetti shares an absolute delight of a poem, "Not-Yet-Official Girl Scout Badges," by Chloe Martinez. The list of badges is a portrait of an absolute delight of a child. I'm sending this one to my daughter. 

Michelle Kogan has an Ode to Autumn and some beautiful photos from her neighborhood to go with it. She also has an update on her Bearded Iris, if you've been following its story, as I have! 

Kat Apel's post has a cute alert in the title this week, and let me tell you, it's fully justified! Head on over to watch an adorable video of someone reading Kat's book The Bird in the Herd. Kat also left a bird photo just for me - thank you, Kat, for that and your kind words! 

Alan J. Wright has a lovely poem this week about things he's done only once in his life. But I can't help loving his ending best. 

Whenever I host, I like to link to Tiel Aisha Ansari, even though she doesn't participate in Poetry Friday. Her poem about November 2021 from a couple of weeks ago fits in perfectly today.

Sally Murphy has been hard at work on a project that sounds amazing, the Australian Verse Novel Resource. Go and read about it, and how great it's going to be for kids, teachers, and a whole list of others. Bonus: Sally reads from her own verse novel, Pearl Verses the World.


Linda Mitchell is in with an ode to November full of perfect images and leading us into winter in the last line. She also links us to a prayer by her ox friend, Hamish. (I know I'm not the only one who has been enjoying Linda's OLW "Ox" all year long. I'm already wondering what she'll choose for 2022! No pressure, Linda.) 

Janice Scully has a Thanksgiving Mouse for us this week, plus some poems by other people about mice. She's right that mice are popular poetic subjects; I have noticed this before, and I've also noticed that I enjoy these creatures much more in print than in my kitchen -- or my classroom, as has also happened. 


The inimitable Jama is serving soup today on the day after Thanksgiving. She has a wonderful poem, photos, and even a recipe. 


Laura Salas  has an ode to that quintessentially November thing (in northern countries): bare branches. And it's also about what Laura needs these days - and maybe all of us. (If not all of us, at least me.)

I'm loving the odes this week - and here's Linda's at TeacherDance. Yes! She has autumn just right!

I haven't seen anything in the comments yet from Irene Latham, and I know she's had trouble commenting here lately, so I went looking for her post. Sure enough, she's got an autumn poem up, beginning, irresistibly, "We are both nameless -- the trees and me --"...

I totally get what Tricia says today in her comment about how everything she writes these days is about her mom. Her ode to autumn is also an ode to memories of her mother. Lovely, Tricia! 

Margaret, too, was writing about autumn and thinking about a loved person -- in her case, Molly, who lost her father on Thanksgiving this year. It's beautiful, Margaret, and we are so sorry, Molly!


And continuing on the theme of poetry's penchant for being about more than one thing, Sara's ode to making carmels with her daughter made me catch my breath. Favorite words: "she sluices desiccated sunlight." 

Denise is thinking about Ahmaud Arbery, and has a found tanka about Wednesday's verdict. Powerful! 

Heidi dazzles, as always, with her ode that turns out to be also an acrostic! I agree with her assessment of acrostics, both in previous scorn for them and in a growing appreciation for what they can be. I missed her no/de from a couple of weeks ago, and she links to that, too. 

At The Poem Farm, Amy demonstrates personification and invites us to try it. I love her meditation on leaves and goodbyes. 

Mary Lee has an ode to autumn too, and links to an ode to Thanksgiving from yesterday. She also waxes philosophical about what an ode actually is, and I completely agree with her assessment. I love how she shows us various steps in autumn's life-cycle. 

Christie shares a wonderful collaborative poem by her kindergarteners. They are thankful, and so are we! 

Jone has an ode to November that brings out the beauty of what has always seemed to her a sad month. She also has some ideas for 2022: join her in sending out New Year postcards, and buy her new calendar, with photos and poems. It looks bright and lovely! 


Donnetta really needed a break!  (Me too, Donnetta!) She's written a TankaYou about her gratitude for this holiday. 

Carol Labuzzetta has been thinking about music, a "Simple Gift" for which she's grateful. She asks us to consider what our "Simple Gifts" might be.

Carol Varsalona is celebrating a birthday with an ode to autumn, and also by producing the final installment of the Bedecked in Autumn Gallery of Artistic Expressions. She links to five years of previous galleries, too. Such a cool tradition! Happy birthday, Carol! 

Tanita has an ode to autumn that's also about musicians getting ready for a concert. And Tanita is a virtuoso herself, working with rhymes! 

So much beauty this week! Thank you, everyone, for participating! Have a wonderful weekend!


Susan T. said...

Hi, Ruth. Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you so much for rounding up. Your ode to fall in Haiti is heartbreaking, and I do hope things will get better. In our next-door-neighbor town here in CT, one of the top languages after English is Haitian Creole, and I know that is because of immigration away from the sorts of things you are describing...and experiencing.

My post today is about a poem I heard recently that I really liked; that poem concerns fictitious Girl Scout badges.

Michelle Kogan said...

Hi Ruth, hope you are all okay, the news never seems to stop from Haiti, I can hear Mother Nature through your poetry lines inviting a bit of respite amongst the turmoil…

Love all the ideas your students brainstormed for their poems especially like the book, river, and stars, seems like there still some hope poking around in there.
Thanks for hosting the roundup, and wishing you and your family well!

My post is an ODE TO AUTUMN, in free verse form, and here's the link:

KatApel - said...

I would write an ode to you, Ruth. Because whilst your posts reveal (a little of) how tough things are there, they also reveal your heart, and it is beautiful. Mine hurts for you, and this country and people that you love. Thank-you for being their voice - a voice of compassion and reason. And for keeping my heart soft and my ears open.

I left a little something for you on my blog today. I also left a precious something that is the cutest thing that ever landed on my blog. But it's not just cute. It's also the perfect advertisement for shared reading, and the early years, for poetry and vocabulary. I think this adorable little video encapsulates everything I value about writing for children - and writing *poetry* for children. It's pure joy!

And just for some more gratitude and joy - we are currently getting good rain. A second dam is full. And it is very much looking like our crucial big dam will fill this weekend. My heart is ready to burst its banks!

Alan j Wright said...

Tumultuous autumn events are so expertly captured in your Ode, Ruth. Amid the chaos, confusion, your words ring out. I note the homage to Keats in your opening line, and yet, so clearly the antithesis of Keat's autumn scene. Be Well, be safe.
My post today is inspired by a writer's notebook list of things I have only done ONCE in my life. The link is:

Sally Murphy said...

Ruth, I love your ode - that you find blessings amidst tumultuous times is evident even while you deftly show how difficult it is in Haiti at present. Thank you for this glimpse.
My post this week is sharing the launch of the Australian Verse Novel Resource, which I attended yesterday even though it was on the other side of the country. I am thankful for Zoom (and other modern marvels) that allow us to gather even when apart.

Linda Mitchell said...

Ruth, what a lovely post. My heart breaks for Haiti. What these young people are facing is monumental...and they are fortunate that you are a teacher with such a love of Coleridge, Shakespeare AND Naruda. I learned a bit with this post too. Thank you for hosting our round-up on this holiday. Sending you hugs.

Linda Mitchell said...

ooops! I forgot to leave my link! Sorry about that.

Janice Scully said...

Ruth, your ode to Autumn is so moving about such hard times. Thank you for sharing your teaching life. I find hearing about the children fascinating. My post is about a visitor I found in my kitchen over the holiday, and I shared my poem and some others about mice.

jama said...

Your ode is powerful and heartbreaking, an unforgettable first person account of what's going on in Haiti. You've captured the feeling of hopelessness and devastation so well. Thanks for sharing what you're doing with your students, and thanks for hosting this week.

I'm sharing a soup poem and recipe at Alphabet Soup:

My link will go live at 6 a.m. Friday morning.

laurasalas said...

Thanks for hosting, Ruth! Back to read this weekend! I'm in with an ode to bare branches this week:

laurasalas said...

What a lovely post. Your haiku, your ode, and your students... It's sometimes a surprise and always a blessing that every human can find things to feel grateful for, no matter what hardships they face. Thankful for this bounty, Ruth!

Linda B said...

Ruth, I'm watching for your news every day, hoping that there will be some progress, some help for all those who simply want to live and safely, in the country they love! Your post, like all those you've written to share your gratiku, helping us to have the news that isn't always available. Thank you! And, I wrote an ode, too, sharing it here:

Irene Latham said...

Dear Ruth, this post is so full of EVERYTHING, an ode of sorts to poetry and this community of word lovers! Thank you! And thank you for hunting my post...I'm feeling sluggish this morning, and it's wet-cold out, which doesn't invite activity, either... so very thankful for you! xo

Tricia said...

Good morning. I hope you are well. I think of you and Haiti often. Please know that you are daily in my prayers. And thank you for hosting and sharing this incredible ode. Mine today is only slightly on the theme of autumn, but I can't escape the subject of my mother sneaking into all my poetry these days.

Margaret Simon said...

I love how you used the ode form to tell the truth of Haiti in all its harshness. Makes me so sad for you and for the people there who feel so little control over it all. I also tried writing an ode to autumn. I learned on Thursday that our dear friend Molly's father died on Thanksgiving Day. I wrote about our fall here in Louisiana but was thinking of her and her faithfulness to her dad and the grief she must be feeling. Thanks for hosting today:

Sara said...

Lines to outlive us is so elusive and yet so glorious a goal..and I'm grateful for all the poets before us, who dared to try and left a trail of beauty for us to follow. I'm writing odes with my Poetry Sisters today, so I loved seeing yours! Here's the link:

Denise Krebs said...

Ruth, what a treat this post is. So much poetry love during this Thanksgiving week. Your gratiku about words is true and sweet. I enjoyed seeing your lesson brainstorming and reading Neruda's "Ode to Socks" after I read your post. Your "Ode to Autumn in Haiti" is the highlight of the post for me, though. You have captured so many of the nuances of living in Haiti now:
"And if you’re Haitian, settle in for more,
As autumn turns to winter, one more year:"
And that powerful repeated ending about the good weather really captures our attention. I have a quick thing I'm thankful for today:

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Dearest Ruth, I cannot wait to come back and read with full attention all that you're sharing today...but first I have to finish my own post, which is also gratitudinous and odinous. Thank you for hosting and hanging in there!

Amy LV said...

Ruth, I am thankful for your beautiful words and too, for your necessary reminder to find the beauty where it lies. Your students are fortunate indeed, for as people survive and work and hope for change, we need to be sustained. You offer this hope and these slices of beauty to all of us. Thank you for hosting.

I am in at The Poem Farm with a little poem about an oak in my yard and an invitation to personify bits of nature.


Mary Lee said...

Thank you for hosting, Ruth. Your gratitude and positivity are inspirational.

At first I was calling my Ode to Thanksgiving an Angry Ode, but I think I'll change that to a Truth-Telling Ode. Ours have much in common, especially the turn of "And yet..." That ode went live yesterday (it's linked in today's post). My Ode to Autumn is really just a description of the entire season, but I'm calling in an ode.

Christie Wyman said...

My heart goes out to you and all Haitians, Ruth. I know we all dream of the day that brings change. Yet you, as others have mentioned, always remain positive and hopeful. Blessings to you. My offering this week is a collaborative poem written by my Kindergarten poets. Their first, I might add.

Jone said...

I love the word cornucopia and now want it in my ode. You ode to Haiti is poignant and has all the feels.

I have an ode to November, New Year Poetry Postcard invite and an offering of my 2022 calendar for sale.

Donnetta Norris said...

Ruth, thank you for hosting Poetry Friday!

My poem is a #TankaYou that expresses my gratitude for a much needed break.

Carol Labuzzetta said...

Ruth, I appreciate your gratitude postings this month! And, thanks for hosting today. Music is important to me, so today I offer a post about that -

Carol at The Apples in my Orchard

Carol Varsalona said...

Ruth, thank you for hosting Poetry Friday. Congratulations on your poem that was published. Your ode about Haiti is heavy with emotion and the reality of your daily life. May peace surround you, my friend. Since yesterday was my birthday and little time to write, I am adding my ode in draft form free verse. I am also celebrating the final edition of my Bedecked in Autumn Gallery.
It will take me the weekend once again to make my rounds. Have a wonderful weekend yourself.

tanita✿davis said...

Late but finally here with yet another ode! ( Thanks for joining us in writing one, Ruth! It's utterly heart-wrenching, and yet - in a way, the fact that you can both clearly see the injustice and strife yet still love the weather is a gift.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Ruth, I'm back to say that clearly over-the-top odes are just the thing for 8th graders, and should they need to sing the praises of Spongebob or Oreos, let it be so! Can't wait to read them. Your own ode, though, is necessarily wise, pained, beautifully so: ay, lovely weather, that we always have. I might need to golden-shovel these lines, if you don't mind:
bananas can’t be bought
Because there’s too much gunfire in the town.

Sending love!