Thursday, February 22, 2024

Poetry Friday: New QWP

I have a birthday coming up, which means that it's almost time to start the next year of my QWP, or Quinquagenarian Writing Project. I started it the year I turned 50, and since then, from birthday to birthday, I've kept a little file of my writing for that year. This year's file is the smallest yet. Apart from my Birdtober poems (daily bird poems in October, following prompts), I've hardly written anything this year. I've already failed at my New Year's writing goals.

I know several reasons I'm not writing a lot, but I think the biggest reason is just that I'm still learning a new job. It's my second year in a new place, with new textbooks and new curriculum and a whole new educational system. I don't have the bandwidth for much beyond work. It's not a bad thing, exactly, but it's a different season creatively. And maybe I just need to accept it and be glad when I do write something, no matter how small.

Meanwhile, since I have no wise birthday poem for myself, here's one I found called Icarus Turns Fifty.


Tabatha has this week's roundup.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Poetry Friday: In Morning

I knew Naomi Shihab Nye would have something to say appropriate to these days, and I was right. I just found this poem she published in December.

In Morning

by Naomi Shihab Nye


The Palestinian child
does not think about being Palestinian,
but only of how his kitten
slept last night
and why is it not
in its basket.
Before he walks to school,
he will find it playing
with neighbor kittens
outside his house
and make sure it has breakfast.


You can read the rest of the poem, and hear her read it, here

I used one of her lines as a strike line (you'll have to click through to see the bit it came from) for this golden shovel:


When the new day wakes me, each
worry rises too, greets the morning,
rubbing its eyes and joining the others that crowd around as we
all, the whole battalion of us, put
on our work boots and dress ourselves
and prepare to pretend we’ve got it all together.

Each morning we put ourselves together.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Margaret has this week's roundup.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Reading Update

Book #7 of 2024 was The Summer Place, by Jennifer Weiner. This may be the first Covid novel I've read, but it won't be the last. (Book #11, in this post, is another.) I find it stressful to read books where absolutely everyone is hiding something from absolutely everyone else, and that's the case with this one. This is my second Jennifer Weiner book. I liked it better than the first, but I didn't love it.

Book #8 was The Heartbreaker, by Susan Howatch. This is the third in a trilogy, and I'm not sure I had ever read it before. I know I had started it, but I don't think I'd finished it. It's about prostitution, and in many places it was hard to read. Towards the end of the book, Gavin remarks, "All you 'religious' people out there who have been looking down your noses at me and wincing at my filthy language and filthy lifestyle should remember that The Bloke himself never flinched or turned away." "The Bloke" is Gavin's name for Jesus.

Book #9 was The Gift of Forgiveness, by Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt. I said in the last Reading Update that I'm looking for books on forgiveness this year. (This was the second I've read since the beginning of 2024. Does anyone have any other suggestions?) I really liked this one, as Pratt had interviewed many people with huge things to forgive. They all had different ways of approaching the idea, and every one was worth reading.

Book #10 was Yours Truly, by Abby Jimenez. While rather unbelievable, it was a fun read.

Book #11, also a Covid story, was Ann Patchett's latest book Tom Lake. The pandemic has forced the Nelson family's three grown daughters to come back together to the family's orchard. While they do all the required tasks, their mother Lara tells them a story they've never fully heard before, the summer that she acted for a regional theater in Tom Lake, Michigan. People so rarely understand each other, and I enjoyed this story of a time when some understanding, while imperfect, was achieved.

Book #12 was Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, by James Clear. This was a good, readable, and practical book.

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Poetry Friday: Halcyon


(Click on the photo to enlarge it. I took the screenshot here.)


Alcman was a Greek poet who wrote in the seventh century BC. This is a translation of one of his poems by A.E. Stallings. (I have a book of hers, somewhere, in a box, in another country.) 

Halcyon as an adjective means idyllically happy, but as a noun it means a kingfisher. The scientific name of many kingfishers includes the word halcyon, including one of our dear friends where I live, the Woodland Kingfisher (Halcyon senegalensis). This bird is so full of energy, so persistent in diving to catch its prey, and so lovely in its song. This is the one I picture when I read this poem. Or maybe the Malachite Kingfisher, which doesn't have halcyon in its name (Corythornis cristatus), but has the purple coloring mentioned in Alcman's description. See below for pictures of both these beautiful birds, plus a haiku.

Woodland Kingfisher (Halcyon senegalensis)
 Photo Source:
Malachite Kingfisher (Corythornis cristatus)
Photo Source:
Kingfisher spies lunch:
swoops down, splashes, shoots back up,
halcyon blue flash
©Ruth Bowen Hersey

More about kingfishers here. And Carol has today's roundup here.

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Poetry Friday: Herons

Last Poetry Friday, as I mentioned in my post last week, was a holiday. I didn't really take the day off -- I worked almost all day -- but that meant that I had time on Saturday to read all the Poetry Friday posts. I tried to comment on all of them, too, but an inordinate number of my comments disappeared into the ether. Maybe some of them were just awaiting comment moderation. I hope so. In any case, if your post didn't get a comment from me, please don't be offended. I tried.

I recently discovered this poem about the Great Blue Heron, "Great Blue Heron," by T. Alan Broughton.

Here's a bit from the middle: 

Today the bird stays with me, as if I am moving through
the heron’s dream to share his sky or water—places
he will rise into on slow flapping wings or where
his long bill darts to catch unwary frogs.
And here's another line I love:
I only know this bird by a name we’ve wrapped him in,


After reading the poem, I went through my life list to see how many different kinds of herons I've seen. Fifteen! That's just amazing and makes me feel wealthy beyond imagining! (eBird lists 45 heron species in the world. Further research reveals that egrets and bitterns are also herons and if you include all of those, there are 72 species. But I'm sticking with my original 45, which is just the ones with heron in their common name. And out of that bunch, I've seen a third of them!) 


I'll share my list of the herons I've seen at the end of this post. But before that, here are some heron poems about some of my sightings. After all, as Broughton says, we only know these birds by the names we've wrapped them in.


I've only seen Black Herons once, on a boat ride in December. They're not as common as the other kinds we have here in Uganda. They are known for their umbrella style of hunting, which you can see in the video, where it's speculated that hunching their wings in an umbrella shape reduces the reflections and helps them see what could be on the menu for them.



Black Heron


Rainy morning.
Abandoned black umbrella
hunts menacingly in the hallway.
Sorry - no fish here.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey


I have Rufescent Tiger-Herons on seven checklists.  They live throughout much of South America. It's the juveniles that are the stripiest (see the picture), though the adults do have some stripes also.

Juvenile Rufescent Tiger-Heron

Photo Source: Wikipedia

Rufescent Tiger-Heron

Tiger-Heron so Rufescent,
I find your diet far from pleasant.
Your dragonflies I won’t be stealing:
To me they sound quite unappealing.

But I do like your stripy feathers,
The way you hunt in all the weathers,
Your strident bullfrog voice so loud,
Your reddish coloring so proud,
Tiger-Heron so Rufescent
I find you immensely pleasant.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey


I have Great Blue Herons on twenty-seven checklists. Birders talk about "spark birds," the ones that make you start being interested in birding, and the Great Blue Heron is one of mine. I found out in 2018 about a GBH fitted with a transmitter that informed scientists she was wintering in Haiti. I wrote two poems about her: Nokomis, the Great Blue Heron, Winters in Haiti in 2018 and Requiem for Nokomis when she stopped transmitting in 2021. I also wrote this poem about a GBH my son watched in Massachusetts.

Cellphone photo of GBH I saw in Georgia last summer

Here's my life list of herons, from the most recent to the longest ago:

Black Heron

Purple Heron

Squacco Heron

Black-headed Heron

Gray Heron

Cocoi Heron

Rufescent Tiger-Heron

Green Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

Tricolored Heron

Little Blue Heron

Striated Heron

Whistling Heron

Great Blue Heron



Mary Lee has this week's roundup.