Tabatha A. Yeatts

Author

POETRY FRIDAY

What is Poetry Friday? Poems and poetic ideas, suggestions, and morsels for students, teachers, and language lovers of all ages. To receive weekly notices when Poetry Friday is updated, send an email to tabatha@tabathayeatts.com with "Poetry Friday" as the subject.
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Friday, December 25, 2009

I love quilts, so I got a big kick out of Anna Grossnickle Hines' poetry books that are illustrated with quilts. She is a persistent and patient woman -- two of the quilts in Winter Lights took 400 hours (each) to make! My hat is off to you, Anna. They are gorgeous.



Friday, December 18, 2009

I obviously have a thing for William Stafford's work, because this is the third time I have turned to his poetry. There's something about the way he put words together.

When You Go Anywhere
by William Stafford

This passport your face (not you
officially, your picture, but the face
used to make the passport) offers
everyone its witness: "This is me."

It feels like only a picture, a passport
forced upon you. Somewhere this oval,
sudden and lasting, appeared. It happened
that you were behind it, like it or not.

You present it--your passport, your face --
wherever you go. It says, "A little country,"
it says "Allow this friendly observer
quiet passage," it says, "Ordinary," it says, "Please."

A link to info for teachers

Diane Mayr at Random Noodling posted the last stanza of Paul Laurence Dunbar's Invitation to Love last week for Poetry Friday and I was so taken with it that I decided to post the whole thing here this week. You can also listen to Herbert Martin read it here.

Invitation to Love
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Invitation to Love
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Come when the nights are bright with stars
Or come when the moon is mellow;
Come when the sun his golden bars
Drops on the hay-field yellow.
Come in the twilight soft and gray,
Come in the night or come in the day,
Come, O love, whene’er you may,
And you are welcome, welcome.

You are sweet, O Love, dear Love,
You are soft as the nesting dove.
Come to my heart and bring it to rest
As the bird flies home to its welcome nest.

Come when my heart is full of grief
Or when my heart is merry;
Come with the falling of the leaf
Or with the redd’ning cherry.
Come when the year’s first blossom blows,
Come when the summer gleams and glows,
Come with the winter’s drifting snows,
And you are welcome, welcome.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Poetry Friday this week is being hosted by Susan Taylor Brown.

Friday, December 11, 2009

This first poem is from the outdoor poetry program, Is Reads.

Baby Cheeks
by Brian Foley

Inside the walls of their mouths
hide the potatoes
that keep them from talking.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


My holiday wish for you

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We are getting ready to put up a tree at our house. I love "put up your little arms/and i'll give them all to you to hold/every finger shall have its ring."

little tree
by e. e. cummings

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see       i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

look      the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

Friday, December 4, 2009

AAP founder Marie Bullock gave this speech back in 1937 at the Chautauqua Woman's Club, Chautauqua, New York to celebrate the creation of The Academy of American Poets. I'm not including the whole thing, but you can read the complete version here

"I want you to carry this message away with you, close to your hearts, into your worlds, when you go home from Chautauqua.

Let us turn to poetry.

Poetry was originally the reply to a crying need. It answered a practical question. The necessity for news. Minnesingers and troubadours on their long journeyings gave a lilt and a rhythm to their messages that made them easier to remember and to tell. Poetry grew with the times. It became the privilege of princes and courtiers and it sang of heroism and of love in all the royal courts of Europe.

Poetry, besides chronicling beauty, has always painted the most vivid picture of its own times. Romantic or stark with facts, it has been the perfect description of the period it sought to depict or the age in which it was composed. And this is true of all countries and all times.

...

Why should poets be the only artists to give away their life-work?

It were well to look abroad and see what is being done in other countries today. Besides the facts that I have mentioned in connection with children and the youth of various nations studying poetry in all its forms, there are certain great organizations to consider.

In France, L'Académle Française; in Germany, the Goethe-Haus; in Italy, d'Annunzio's Accademia, and in England, of course, there is the Poet Laureate as well as the Civil List, upon which we may find some of the most outstanding names in English literature, receiving a life annuity. I shall only mention these. You know them all so well.

Besides all this, the poet abroad has a certain aura of honor about him. His name is spoken with awe; he is honored and admired publicly; his books are read and criticized frequently. He is revered and honored in his own country.

...

Today we are beginning to show an understanding for the needs of poetry in America. We have taken the first step. We have created The Academy of American Poets.

...

It has two principal purposes: first, to encourage and foster the work of American poets of outstanding merit; second, to discover new poetic genius wherever it may be in the United States.

As the main part of this program, The Academy of American Poets plans to award Fellowships which carry a stipend of five thousand dollars for the term of one year.

...

This is a national organization, and you carry its message to all corners of our country. Carry it high in your hearts, carry it foremost in your minds.

Through the stress and strain of daily living, ring your own pure note of idealism and love of beauty. Be an army of builders with a goal of construction. Build beauty for yourselves and for your children.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Poets.org (the Academy of American Poets web site) has, among other things:
poems for every occasion
poetry audio and video
a poetry events calendar
a teaching resource center
and even Advice Dog's Good Advice poems.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Riddle #29
The Moon And The Sun
translated from the Old English

I saw a silvery creature scurrying
Home, as lovely and light as heaven
Itself, running with stolen treasure.
Between its horns. It hoped, by deceit
And daring and art, to set an arbor
There in that soaring castle. Then,
A shining creature, known to everyone
On earth, climbed the mountains and cliffs,
Rescued his prize, and drove the wily
Impostor back to darkness. It fled
To the west, swearing revenge. The morning
Dust scattered away, dew
Fell, and the night was gone. And no one
Knew where the soft-footed thief had vanished.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In a related note, this week for Art Thursday, there is a gorgeous shot of the Earth from the Moon.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Bitter much?

Song
by John Donne, 1572-1631

GO and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear,
No where
Lives a woman true and fair.

If thou find'st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet,
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
Yet she
Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

When
By Andrei Codrescu

Once upon a time when there was no time,
when no one had any need for time because there was plenty of it,
when time was an idea whose time hadn't come,
when the pear tree produced peaches or toy trucks,
when fleas jumped into the sky wearing very heavy shoes,
when everybody ate what they cooked and scientists were always sick
because they had to eat bombs,
when dogs and cats were on the best of terms
and men and women never fought pitched battles
under the pitched tent, when children never took baths because they were always swimming,
there lived a very old storyteller
in a village high in the mountains
who told a very long story
day and night.
No one knew when he had begun telling this story
because he was always telling it
and you could drop by his house and listen to some of it
and then come back when you were old yourself
and listen to some more of it.
When I heard him the story hadn't even begun because he was
still busy telling when the story began.
Maybe, one day, we should drop in on him and listen some more,
maybe he has begun.
We will, okay, one day, when we have the time.

Posted with permission from Mr. Codrescu. This poem is in Wonders: Writings and Drawings for the Child in Us All, edited by Jonathan Cott and Mary Gimbel, 1980.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Poetry by Alice Meynell, 1847-1922.

The Rainy Summer
by Alice Meynell

There’s much afoot in heaven and earth this year;
  The winds hunt up the sun, hunt up the moon,
Trouble the dubious dawn, hasten the drear
  Height of a threatening noon.

No breath of boughs, no breath of leaves, of fronds,
  May linger or grow warm; the trees are loud;
The forest, rooted, tosses in her bonds,
  And strains against the cloud.

No scents may pause within the garden-fold;
  The rifled flowers are cold as ocean-shells;
Bees, humming in the storm, carry their cold
  Wild honey to cold cells.


Drawing of Alice Meynell by John Singer Sargent

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

from Singers to Come
by Alice Meynell

Singers to come, what thoughts will start
  To song? What words of yours be sent
  Through man’s soul, and with earth be blent?
These worlds of nature and the heart
  Await you like an instrument.

Who knows what musical flocks of words
  Upon these pine-tree tops will light,
  And crown these towers in circling flight,
And cross these seas like summer birds,
  And give a voice to the day and night?

Something of you already is ours;
  Some mystic part of you belongs
  To us whose dreams your future throngs,
Who look on hills, and trees, and flowers,
  Which will mean so much in your songs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Your Own Fair Youth
by Alice Meynell

Your own fair youth, you care so little for it—
  Smiling towards Heaven, you would not stay the advances
  Of time and change upon your happiest fancies.
I keep your golden hour, and will restore it.

If ever, in time to come, you would explore it—
  Your old self, whose thoughts went like last year’s pansies,
  Look unto me; no mirror keeps its glances;
In my unfailing praises now I store it.

To guard all joys of yours from Time’s estranging,
  I shall be then a treasury where your gay,
    Happy, and pensive past unaltered is.

I shall be then a garden charmed from changing,
  In which your June has never passed away.
    Walk there awhile among my memories.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Essays of Alice Meynell

More info about Ms. Meynell, including her poems, essays, and biography

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Friday, November 6, 2009

The hatching
by Dove Rengger-Thorpe

Blue egg,
speckle-spattered,
your thin shell is fragile;
it cracks in the hatching,
falls apart.

Small bird,
a whole world is destroyed
so you can stretch
your damp wings
and fly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Another bird poem...Here's the first verse of The Panic Bird:

The Panic Bird
by Robert Phillips

just flew inside my chest. Some
days it lights inside my brain,
but today it's in my bonehouse,
rattling ribs like a birdcage...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A bit of the praiseworthy Crossroads by Joyce Sutphen

...The second half of my life will be ice
breaking up on the river, rain
soaking the fields, a hand
held out, a fire,
and smoke going
upward, always up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I hope you get a chance to click through and read all of The Panic Bird and Crossroads.
One more thing -- Sylvia Vardell has made lists of Crazy Awesome Poetry for Teens, Love Poetry for Teens, Poetry Written BY Teens, Poem Anthologies: On Art & War; Being Young, Latino or Female, Verse Novels: A Sampling, and Books For Midde School Poetry Lovers (Click on her name to go to the post). Isn't that an amazing resource? Thank you, Sylvia.

The Poetry Friday round-up is at the Wild Rose Reader (Thanks, Elaine!).

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Friday, October 30, 2009

A little something in the Halloween spirit.

Medusa
by Louise Bogan

I had come to the house, in a cave of trees,
Facing a sheer sky.
Everything moved, -- a bell hung ready to strike,
Sun and reflection wheeled by.

When the bare eyes were before me
And the hissing hair,
Held up at a window, seen through a door.
The stiff bald eyes, the serpents on the forehead
Formed in the air.

This is a dead scene forever now.
Nothing will ever stir.
The end will never brighten it more than this,
Nor the rain blur.

The water will always fall, and will not fall,
And the tipped bell make no sound.
The grass will always be growing for hay
Deep on the ground.

And I shall stand here like a shadow
Under the great balanced day,
My eyes on the yellow dust, that was lifting in the wind,
And does not drift away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The story of Medusa

How to Make a Woman's Toga

Martha's suggestion for Medusa hair

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Not a poem, but I couldn't resist. So visually arresting!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Two very different poems today.

The Masks of Love
by Alden Nowlan

I come in from a walk
With you
And they ask me
If it is raining.

I didn’t notice
But I’ll have to give them
The right answer
Or they’ll think I’m crazy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Age of Kings

Fear No More
by William Shakespeare

Fear no more the heat o' the sun;
Nor the furious winter's rages,
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney sweepers come to dust.

Fear no more the frown of the great,
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dread thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renowned be thy grave!

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Waves of muscles rolling like a silvered sea! Beautiful.

A Dream of Horses
by Lee M. Robinson

In the dark they left the barn
together, the old gelding
leading the younger
to the far pasture.
The moon was full,
the field like snow.
They stood for a long time
looking into the sky,
lifting their heads
as if listening to the stars.
A shiver
ran the length of the young one’s
nose, along his ivory blaze,
then rippled down his back,
and because
they were so close, traveled
to the other.

Deep in the cedar
the waxwings felt it,
awoke to see the flash of light,
the waves of muscles rolling
like a silvered sea, a pounding
of hooves in air, then the silent
pas de deux of flesh and fur,
bone and sinew, reach and curve,
one leading the other
(now the younger, now the older)
until the sky
could hold them no longer
and they were gone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And a quote to think about:

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.
~T. S. Eliot

Do you agree?
I do.

Poetry Friday is being hosted by Laura Salas.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Another delightful postcard from Endicott Studios.


Art by Virginia Lee

an excerpt from The Night Journey
by Terri Windling

. . .you dream and stir upon your bed
and toss and turn among the sheets,
the wind taps at the window glass
and water tumbles through the leat
and through the garden, through the wood,
and over moss and over stone
and tells you: go, by candle light,
and go tonight, and go alone ...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As long as we're having poems about the night, here's a beauty by Robert Browning (1812 - 89):

Meeting at Night

The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i' the slushy sand.

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro' it's joys and fears,
Then the two hearts beating each to each!

A modern video version of Meeting At Night.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

I know I'm on the tail end of Banned Books Week (September 26-October 3, 2009), but it's not quite over.

Book Talk
by Elaine Magliaro

Dressed in uniforms of blue,
The word police arrived at two.
With laser eyes, they scanned our pages
And locked our naughty words in cages.
Then up we cried: “You’ve taken text!
Will you remove our pictures next?”
“Your pictures?” one policeman said.
“We only take the stuff that’s read.
Your naughty words must be excised.
Let all your authors be advised
To watch their words when they compose
Their poetry…and all their prose.”
Warning given…the men in blue
Then turned to leave. They bid adieu.
We books now left with words deleted
Feel somehow, sadly, incompleted.

A couple of links:

25 Banned Books That You Should Read Today

Info about a school visit by author Ellen Hopkins which was cancelled.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One more thing...a poignant poem by Chrystos called "I'm Making You Up."

I'm Making You Up
by Chrystos

Grandma we all need
partially deaf & busy with weaving
    listens through a thick blanket of years & sore feet
nods     while I cry about everything they did to me
how horrible     & can't stand another
while brown wrinkled you smile at me like sun coming up
    I stand next to you     pass wool absently
    you lay aside the wrong colors without comment
I'm simply     Grandchild
babbling     your sympathy warm & comforting as dust
    I sit in your lap     your loom pushed aside
you feed me fry bread with too much maple syrup
    I pull your braids     you cradle me deeper in
    your legs folded to make a basket for me
Grandma who died long before I was born
        Come Back
            Come Back

for Beth Brant

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Ancient Greek poetry from Sappho this week. She reminds me a bit of Emily Dickinson. Sappho mentions Greek gods and goddesses often in her poetry, so when she refers to "Dawn," she imagines someone like this:

From Sappho: A New Translation, by Mary Barnard, 1958

Standing by my bed

In gold sandals
Dawn that very
moment awoke me

~~~~~~~~

It's no use

Mother dear, I
can't finish my
weaving
You may
blame Aphrodite

soft as she is

she has almost
killed me with
love for that boy

~~~~~~~~

Without warning

As a whirlwind
swoops on an oak
Love shakes my heart

~~~~~~~~

It is clear now:

Neither honey nor
the honey bee is
to be mine again

~~~~~~~~

With his venom

Irresistible
and bittersweet

that loosener
of limbs, Love

reptile-like
strikes me down

~~~~~~~~~

We know this much

Death is an evil;
we have the gods'
words for it; they too
would die if death
were a good thing

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Friday, September 18, 2009

We've got a bit of a running theme today: drama and poetry.

There's a new movie out about poet John Keats and his muse, Fanny Brawne, about whom he wrote: "Yourself—your soul—in pity give me all, Withhold no atom's atom or I die." Looks like it is getting good reviews.

A while back (April 2008, to be precise), I talked about making a poetry calendar. If you are interested in trying that cool project, here's a terrific reference for you: Birthdays of the Poets. Clicking on that will take you to September, but from there you can find the other months in the "blogroll." Today is the birthday of Samuel Johnson, 1709 - 1784, who described actors trying to keep up with the whims and fancies of their audience as chasing "the new-blown bubbles of the day," and he said, in Drury-lane Prologue Spoken by Mr. Garrick

"The stage but echoes back the public voice.
The drama's laws the drama's patrons give,
For we that live to please, must please to live."

Now, let's look at an actor (Matthew Macfadyen) performing a few poems. This actor was new to me and I was impressed by the way he brought the poems to life.
Matthew Macfadyen reads When You Are Old, This Is Just To Say, and Sonnet 29.

Have you visited Favoritepoem.org? They have videos of regular folks talking about/reading their favorite poems. Seph Rodney talking about Sylvia Plath's "Nick and the Candlestick" is pretty special. Also Donna Bickel reading Stanley Kunitz's "Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation." Just wander around, see what you find.

One last thing...I get a huge kick out of Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac (I get the daily email sent to me...you can sign up here). You can go to the site to hear Mr. Keillor read them himself.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Last week, I was looking at war-poems, and I was thinking about war and art over on Art Thursday, but today, let's lighten up a bit.

First up:

Quasi Triolet for Billy the Kid’s Gravesite
by DGB Featherkile
Publication pending at The Lyric magazine.

An outlaw’s worth his weight in gold.
The Kid could outdraw anyone.
Although it’s moldy, sparse, and cold,
his corpse will earn its weight in gold
by coaxing gawkers to unfold
their wallets ­ and without a gun.
This outlaw’s worth his weight in gold.
Our Billy outdraws anyone.

~~~~~~~~

What's a triolet?

A triolet is a poem or stanza of eight lines in which the first line is repeated as the fourth and seventh and the second line as the eighth with a rhyme scheme of ABaAabAB.

You can see some good ones here, here, and here.

~~~~~~~~

Endicott Cards has beautiful free poetry postcards.


"Prayer for Breath," by Munro Sickafoose. Artwork by Mark Wagner

I take
the wings of angels
into my lungs

I can feel them beating

the surge of strong pinions
carrying me

~~~~~~~~

I had to look up the definition of "pinion" with that last poem. I thought of it as something that ties you down. There are two definitions: one is what I was thinking of -- to restrain or immobilize (a person) by binding the arms, and the other is -- the wing of a bird. Just thought you might want to know!

This postcard with a line from Terri Windling's The Night Journey made me think ahead to Halloween.

I like this excerpt from The Bear’s Daughter by Theodora Goss.

But to be the bear's daughter is to be a daughter, as well,
Of the north. To have forgotten a time before
The tips of her fingers were blue, before her veins
Were blue like rivers flowing through fields of ice.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

On a recent visit to the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., I saw a reference to a poem used as a code by the Allies during World War II. I was fascinated by the idea of poem-codes, so I looked it up. Recitation of the first line ['Les sanglots longs des violons de l'automne'] of Paul Verlaine's Chanson d'Automne alerted the French Resistance that D-Day was approaching, and the second line ['Blessent mon coeur d'une languer monotone'] meant that the invasion was eminent within 48 hours.

~~~~~~~~

But that wasn't the only code-poem from World War II, not by a long shot.

Knowing that previously published poems could be decoded by the enemy, England's chief cryptographer Leo Marks wrote original poems to be used as codes. This famous poem was used by spy Violette Szabo.


Violette Szabo

The Life That I Have
by Leo Marks

The life that I have is all that I have
And the life that I have is yours.
The love that I have of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.

A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have,
Yet death will be but a pause,
For the peace of my years in the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.

~~~~~~~~

Bit o' trivia: What did Mr. Marks think indicated a potential for code-breaking talent? An interest in music and an aptitude for crossword puzzles.

Leo Marks wrote a biography called Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945. You can read the first chapter here.

If you're interested in seeing a movie about Violette Szabo, there's Carve Her Name With Pride. (This isn't about Ms. Szabo as far as I know, but there's also Female Agents -- which looks like an action thriller about French Resistance agents.)

~~~~~~~~

OK, so it's not a spy-poem, but this anonymous WWII soldier really captures what's near and dear to his heart:

A dream
Author Unknown

Last night I held a lovely hand,
A hand so soft and neat,
I thought my heart would burst with joy
So wildly did it beat.
No other hand unto my heart
Could greater solace bring
Than that dear hand I held last night:
Four Aces and a King.

~~~~~~~~

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Crossover today.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Haiku by Matsuo Basho, born 1644.

How reluctantly
the bee emerges from the deep
within the peony

Seen in plain daylight
the firefly's nothing but
an insect

Come out to view
the truth of flowers blooming
in poverty

Winter showers,
even the monkey searches
for a raincoat

Ungraciously, under
a great soldier's empty helmet,
a cricket sings

Sick on my journey,
only my dreams will wander
these desolate moors

~~~~~~~~

And here's an original poem:

Nighttime Symphony

With a wave of my hand
The clouds take on new shapes,
Swirling into one another
Like cream around a spoon.
I start the stars
Blinking on and off
With a flick of my finger,
And I raise the cicada's volume
By lifting my palm.
I turn to the bullfrogs,
Nodding for them to enter;
The owls need merely
The lift of my eyebrow
And they join in.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

This week, we've got Roman philosopher-poet Titus Lucretius Carus (known also just as Lucretius). I'm not sure if I've posted any poetry older than this. He died around 50 B.C.

Here's one of the most "wow!" requests for peace I've ever read.

from The Way Things Are
by Titus Lucretius Carus, translated by Rolfe Humphries

In this piece, Lucretius is writing to the goddess Venus:

Your blessing has endowed with excellence
All ways, and always. Therefore, all the more,
Give to our book a radiance, a grace,
Brightness and candor; over land and sea,
Meanwhile, to soldiery's fierce duty bring
A slumber, an implacable repose --
Since you alone can help with tranquil peace
The human race, and Mars, the governor
Of war's fierce duty, more than once has come,
Gentled by love's eternal wound, to you,
Forgetful of his office, head bent back,
No more the roughneck, gazing up at you,
Gazing and gaping, all agog for love,
His every breath dependent on your lips.
Ah, goddess, pour yourself around him, bend
With all your body's holiness, above
His supine meekness, drown him in persuasion,
Imploring, for the Romans, blessed peace.

~~~~~~~~

In another section, Lucretius vividly describes the seasons:

Autumn is one season when the starry halls
Of heaven are shaken, like our world below,
And blossoming spring is such another time.
Not winter, though, when the fires fail, and wind
Blows cold, and the clouds are meager and mean. Halfway
Between the winter and the summertime
We find, in combination, every cause
Of lightning and of thunder. Heat and cold
Mingle and clash, things are discordant, air
Seethes in a turbulence of thermal winds,
And all of this is needed for the clouds
To manufacture thunderbolts. Heat's head
Devour's cold's tail; there's spring for you, a time
Of warfare and confusion, bound to brawls.
The same in autumn, turned the other way,
Winter's raw vanguard chopping at the rear
Of summer's ragged veterans. Call such times
The foul rifts of the year, and do not be
Surprised if many and many a thunderbolt
Is then hurled loose, if skies are dark with storm,
If winds and rain are allies against fire
In wars of which no augur knows the end.

~~~~~~~~

He explains how porous the world is:

...once again
I hammer home this axiom: everything
Perceived by sense is matter mixed with void.
Rocks drip with moisture in caves, and sweat breaks out
All over our bodies. We grow beards, have hair --
No only on our faces. All our food,
Distributed through the bloodstream, nourishes,
Brings growth to even our toe-nails. We can feel
Both cold and heat pass through a bowl of bronze
Or cups of gold and silver at banquet time.
And voices penetrate through walls of stone,
As odors trickle through, and heat and cold
And fire can force a passageway through iron.
Even the chain mail armament of sky
Is penetrable; through its chinks there come
Diseases from a world beyond, and storms
In earth or sky engendered make their way
To sky or earth, reciprocal; wherefore
We say once more, How porous things are!

~~~~~~~~

One last bit:

Also, as years go through their revolutions
A ring wears thin under the finger's touch,
The drop of water hollows the stone, the plough
With its curving iron slowly wastes away
In the field it works; the footsteps of the people
We see wear out the paving-stones of rock
In the city streets, and at the city gates
Bronze statues show their right hands, thinner and thinner
From the touch of passers-by, through years of greeting.
We see these things worn down, diminished, only
After long lapse of time; nature denies us
The sight we need for any given moment. ...

When tiny salt eats into great sea cliffs,
You cannot see the process of the loss
At any given moment. Nature's work
Is done by means of particles unseen.

For more poems, visit Poetry Friday at The Boy Reader.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Can the "weakest" among us resist the strongest? Today we're looking at the opera, Nosferatu, composed by Alva Henderson. Dana Gioia wrote the libretto (words) for the opera and he graciously agreed for me to post excerpts here on PF.

The story of Nosferatu comes from the 1922 movie of the same name, which itself was inspired by Bram Stoker's Dracula. In the opera, the character of Ellen, known for being frail of health, senses that her husband Eric will be in danger if he embarks on the journey he is planning. Despite Ellen's unease, Eric goes to visit Count Orlock (who is actually Nosferatu). In a duet with Nosferatu, Ellen fights from afar for Eric. Here's a little bit of what Nosferatu has to say:

excerpt of Duet: The Battle
By Dana Gioia

(Orlock)
Day is only
Half of life--
Bitter hours
Of toil and strife.
But night restores
The body's ease.
Darkness cures
The soul's disease.

~~~~~~~~

Count Orlock wins, but Eric is the real loser, as he goes mad:

Eric's Mad Song
By Dana Gioia

I sailed a ship
In the storm-wracked sea,
And all were drowned
Except for me.
I swam all night
Through death-cold waves
Till my shipmates called
From their sunken graves,
A lucky life for you, lad, a lucky life for you!

I fought through wars
In a barren land
Till none were left
Of my rugged band.
On a field of dead
Only I stood free.
Then a blind crow laughed
From a blasted tree,
A lucky life for you, lad, a lucky life for you!

I scaled a mountain
Of cold sharp stone.
The others fell,
And I climbed alone.
When I reached the top,
The winds were wild,
But a skull at my feet
Looked up and smiled,
A lucky life for you, lad, a lucky life for you!

Now I sit in my mansion
With my art and my gold,
And a dozen servants
Who do what they're told,
But the nights are long,
And dawn brings no cheer,
And I wake alone,
And the paintings all sneer,
A lucky life for you, lad, a lucky life for you!

~~~~~~~~

Nosferatu can obviously ruin his victims' lives, but at the same time, he manages to be strangely attractive. He captures that mix of menace and temptation in this aria:

Nosferatu's Nocturne
By Dana Gioia

I am the image that darkens your glass,
The shadow that falls wherever you pass.
I am the dream you cannot forget,
The face you remember without having met.

I am the truth that must not be spoken,
The midnight vow that cannot be broken.
I am the bell that tolls out the hours.
I am the fire that warms and devours.

I am the hunger that you have denied.
The ache of desire piercing your side.
I am the sin you have never confessed.
The forbidden hand caressing your breast.

You've heard me inside you speak in your dreams,
Sigh in the ocean, whisper in streams.
I am the future you crave and you fear,
You know what I bring. Now I am here.

~~~~~~~~

Why has he come? He seeks Ellen. Her husband is out of the way, so Nosferatu tries to persuade her that they were meant to be together:

Nosferatu's Vision
By Dana Gioia

You are the moon in a sunlit sky --
Pale, diminished, alone.
All of your life you have traveled toward
The night you have never known.
I am the darkness that falls from the sky,
The blackness that brings you light,
He who reveals your one true form --
Cold, eternal, and bright.

~~~~~~~~

Does Ellen take him up on it? You'll have to read/see/hear the opera to find out.

Links:

Dana Gioia's site
Photos from the 1922 movie
A very cool poster from the 1979 movie remake.

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is at A Wrung Sponge.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Not sure how you would get permission to do this, but here's a free idea for you illustrators... Wouldn't the following poem make a marvelous picture book?

Spells -
By James Reeves

I dance and dance without any feet –
This is the spell of the ripening wheat.

With never a tongue I’ve a tale to tell –
This is the meadow-grasses spell.

I give you health without any fee –
This is the spell of the apple tree.

I rhyme and riddle without any book –
This is the spell of the bubbling brook.

Without my legs I run forever –
This is the spell of the mighty river.

I fall forever and not at all –
This is the spell of the waterfall.

Without a voice I roar aloud –
This is the spell of the thunder cloud.

No button or seam has my white coat –
This is the spell of the leaping goat.

I can cheat strangers with never a word –
This is the spell of the cuckoo bird.

We have tongues in plenty but speak no names –
This is the spell of the fiery flames.

The creaking door has a spell to riddle –
I play a tune without any fiddle.

And here's a haunting short work by Osip Mandelstam (1891 - 1938), translated by Clarence Brown and W. S. Merwin:

You took away all the oceans and all the room

You took away all the oceans and all the room.
You gave me my shoe-size in earth with bars around it.
Where did it get you? Nowhere.
You left me my lips, and they shape words, even in silence.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

People liked the Christopher Morley, so I'm going to give you some more. But first, here's a little taste of Soundings by Joyce Sutphen, who really knows how to translate sounds into words.

Somewhere, between the breeze
and the faraway sound of a train,
comes a line of birdsong, lightly
threading the heavy cloth of dream.

You can read the rest of Soundings here.

Adjustment
by Christopher Morley

In your Great City
I see, in jewellers' windows,
Clocks that tell the guaranteed Correct Time;
And in front of those clocks people always halted
Adjusting their watches.
But suppose there were displayed, beside the street,
Some great poem,
Telling perfect Truth or Beauty,
How many passengers
Would pause to adjust their minds?

~~~~~~~~

An Enigma in the Woodpile
by Christopher Morley

An American friend of mine,
A man in a newspaper office,
Is very wealthy.
He tells me he has an income
Of 10,000 interruptions a year.

~~~~~~~~

An American Mystic
by Christopher Morley

But you do not understand the subway,
Said an American mystic
Sitting next to me at the Rotary Club.
It is a travelling hermitage,
A flying monastery,
A nunnery that moves at fifty miles an hour.
Into its roaring wagons
Thoughtful men and women descend with joy:
They know that there,
The only place in the whole city,
They can meditate undisturbed.

~~~~~~~~

excerpt from The Man With The Rake
by Christopher Morley

...And at such times
I plant the seeds of poems.
It takes poems a long while to grow --
They lie germinating in the dark of the mind;
But next spring, very likely,
There may emerge the green and tender shoots
Of two or three bright stanzas.

~~~~~~~~

excerpt from The Painter
by Christopher Morley

...True! I said --
Beauty is like the Medusa:
Look her in the face, and you run mad;
But like Perseus,
Study her reflection in the polished shield.
Look upon life in the mirror of some art
And, perhaps, you will stay sane.

~~~~~~~~

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy Friday! I have this 'n that for you.

First, the magazine Poets and Writers has a nice list of poetry challenges (prompts to get you started writing) here. Check it out.

Next, I have a snippet of a Bob Dylan song. He conjures up a vivid image with just a few words:

Flowers on the hillside, bloomin' crazy,
Crickets talkin' back and forth in rhyme,
Blue river runnin' slow and lazy,
I could stay with you forever
And never realize the time.


(Can you name that tune? It's You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go)

Lastly, we've got poems from a 1922 collection by Christopher Morley.

A Pragmatist
by Christopher Morley

The American poet Lindsay
(A mercurial fellow)
Began his career
By codifying the ways in which a poet
Can get a free meal.
Here was a seer!
Here was a man with strong grasp of essentials!

~~~~~~~~

Bivalves
by Christopher Morley

The pearl
Is a disease of the oyster.
A poem
Is a disease of the spirit
Caused by the irritation
Of a granule of Truth
Fallen into that soft gray bivalve
We call the mind.

~~~~~~~~


Christopher Morley

~~~~~~~~

A Moment of Meditation
by Christopher Morley

I was told that America was a free country,
But I found many of its substantial citizens
Terrorized by the advertisements
Into believing it was immoral
To wear a straw hat
Later than September 15th.
Wise men know
There is no such thing as a free country --
There never will be.

~~~~~~~~

Advice To Those Hiring Young Mandarins
by Christopher Morley

When I was private adviser
To Her Celestial Serenity The Empress
It was my duty
To interview young mandarins
Applying for important positions.
I always chose those who were shy,
For shyness in a youth
Is commendable.
It is a sign that he is aware
This is a perplexing world
And it is not well to uncover
His golden soul
To those who would not understand it.

~~~~~~~~

Tick Douloureux
by Christopher Morley

I am wounded
In a fatal artery.
The vein of Time is cut,
The minutes are bleeding, bleeding away.
Bartender, make me a tourniquet for this hemorrhage
Or I shall tick to death.

~~~~~~~~

Poetry Friday today is at Mary Lee Hahn's A Year of Reading.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

For openers, here's The Emperor's New Sonnet by Jose Garcia Villa:










That certainly was food for thought, wasn't it? I liked the way the motifs came together unexpectedly.

X.J. Kennedy uses words so beautifully to describe the action of the painting below by Marcel Duchamp -- a "snowing" that sifts, swings, and falls, to finally collect itself at the bottom. This kind of poetry (poetry in response to a piece of visual art) is called ekphrastic poetry.

Nude Descending a Staircase
X. J. Kennedy (1961)

Toe upon toe, a snowing flesh,
A gold of lemon, root and rind,
She sifts in sunlight down the stairs
With nothing on. Nor on her mind.

We spy beneath the banister
A constant thresh of thigh on thigh--
Her lips imprint the swinging air
That parts to let her parts go by.

One-woman waterfall, she wears
Her slow descent like a long cape
And pausing, on the final stair
Collects her motions into shape.

~~

There is a terrific lesson plan about ekphrastic poetry on Read Write Think.

Some examples here. Scroll down a little and read W.H. Auden's Musee des Beaux Arts. Super!

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Friday, July 10, 2009

This week for Art Thursday, I shared a collection of spiders. I'm still in spider-mode, so here's a poem by the creator of Charlotte, perhaps the most beloved spider of all time.

The Spider's Web (Natural History)
By E. B. White

The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unfolds a plan of her devising,
A thin premeditated rig
To use in rising.

And all that journey down through space,
In cool descent and loyal hearted,
She spins a ladder to the place
From where she started.

Thus I, gone forth as spiders do
In spider's web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken thread to you
For my returning.


by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

You can find this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Greetings, Poetry Fridayers!


Willow at Monet's Garden
By Lisa Konkol

Today's poetic potluck is next to a pond. We've got a blanket spread out and weeping willows overhead. The geese are leaving us alone for the moment, eating with their goslings on the other side. There's a blue heron nearby who will probably spread her enormous wings and fly off when one of us makes a sudden movement, but isn't she lovely? Bring your dish and lay it down so we can all take a look.

What did you bring? Something original, perhaps a classic? A dessert? Some music? I will do round-ups periodically. If you have any trouble leaving your comment below, email me at tabatha (at) tabathayeatts.com.

I've got a poem by Darcy Cummings, who says, "the 'Alice' poem is from my book, The Artist As Alice... which is a fictional biography (in poetry) of Alice in Wonderland--her life, after wonderland, as I imagined it. The poems start with Alice at age 10 and end with her death at 85."

Alice at Seventeen: Like a Blind Child
by Darcy Cummings

One summer afternoon, I learned my body
like a blind child leaving a walled
school for the first time, stumbling
from cool hallways to a world
dense with scent and sound,
pines roaring in the sudden wind
like a huge chorus of insects.
I felt the damp socket of flowers,
touched weeds riding the crest
of a stony ridge, and the scrubby
ground cover on low hills.
Haystacks began to burn,
smoke rose like sheets of
translucent mica. The thick air
hummed over the stretched wires
of wheat as I lay in the overgrown field
listening to the shrieks of small rabbits
bounding beneath my skin.

Here's a link to a few more of the Alice poems and some information about the writing of the book.

An additional interview with Darcy Cummings

Our picnic got off to a good start quickly, thanks to the people who arrived early to help me set up:

Diane at Random Noodling gives us a poem by Jane Kenyon with a very satisfying last line.

Kurious Kitty shares a timely Fourth of July Ode AND the definition of "pelf."

Barbara, thank you for this narrative poem, Refugio's Hair, by Alberto Rios!

Julie at The Drift Record brought us a little bit of Italy with her original poem, The Glorio of Rome. She's also got some beautiful (and hunger-inducing) photographs.

Little Willow offers some music to spice up our feast. It's Superboy and the Invisible Girl from the Broadway show, Next to Normal.

Mary Lee takes a break from working hard to bring us a Marge Piercy poem that hits the spot.

Sally from PaperTigers generously shares the view from The Top of a Grain Elevator, a book of poems about Canada's prairies.

I love Debbie's original Seconds. Thanks for sharing!

Ever-bountiful Laura Salas has brought us two dishes today: Two original acrostics from The Miss Rumphius Effect's poetry stretch and a roundup of 15 Words or Less poems inspired by a grassy pic.

Tricia offers the classic Whitman's I Hear America Singing.

Stella has a heartfelt original piece celebrating her eighth year in the U.S. Congrats, Stella! (I like Seasons of Love, too)

Windspirit-Girl brings us a full basket with a post about visual poetry, a lovely video inspired by Guillaume Apollinaire's Il Pleut, plus a link to the French and English version of Apollinaire's poem (with commentary), and a link to the visual poet Carol Stetser's work.

Don't miss Sylvia Vardell's poetic cornucopia of info from a symposium she recently attended in Munich!

Andromeda from A Wrung Sponge brought the raspberries, and did she ever! Thank you. Love the haiku!

Jone captures a warm moment with her granddaughter in an acrostic.

Elaine piled a lot in her sturdy hamper. She's got (at Wild Rose Reader) an original "tortoise" acrostic and reviews of two pictures books with fables written in verse, then at Blue Rose Girls, she has a poem by Jack Spicer entitled Psychoanalysis: An Elegy. Lastly, at Political Verses, she's got poems from Frances Richey's book The Warrior: A Mother's Story of a Son at War. The post also includes a video of Richey and her son speaking with Jeffrey Brown on the Online NewsHour Poetry Series.

Jamie would love to hear your opinion...what's the difference between reading and hearing Helen Frost's Diamond Willow?

Lorie Ann has brought the peanuts and the plum cake! At On Point, she has an original haiku in honor of the Princess Bride (a favorite movie of mine). At readertotz she has The Lion and the Unicorn.

Teaching Authors gives us a useful and fun quiz and follows it with a poetic dessert, all by April Halprin Wayland. Thanks, it was yummy!

What would a picnic be without a little Emily Dickinson? Bri Meets Books gives us Nature Rarer Uses Yellow.

Doug Florian keeps us on our toes with a Poetry Frightday original work!

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast is a favorite blog of mine, so I am happy to have Jules join us with a Jane Kenyon poem.

Want to have your socks knocked off? Check out this 11-year-old poet, featured at the Color Online blog. (While you're there, take a peek at their wish list. It's a good cause!)

Glad you could make it!

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Maybe it's because I've been thinking about Harry Potter lately, but this poem, written perhaps two hundred years ago, seems like it would fit in perfectly if there was an orchard at Hogwarts.

Song of Fairies Robbing an Orchard
by James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784 - 1859)

We, the Fairies, blithe and antic,
Of dimensions not gigantic,
Though the moonshine mostly keep us,
Oft in orchards frisk and peep us.

Stolen sweets are always sweeter,
Stolen kisses much completer,
Stolen looks are nice in chapels,
Stolen, stolen, be your apples.

When to bed the world are bobbing,
Then's the time for orchard-robbing;
Yet the fruit were scarce worth peeling,
Were it not for stealing, stealing.

This week for Art Thursday, we have Artist Trading Cards. They would also be very cool to make with poems on them, like this card and this and these .

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Poetic grab bag this week in honor of summer. I'm still full of nonsense like competitive conversations between body parts, but I have also given myself to dreams, honeyed fellowship, and the evening's quiet breathing.

An excerpt of An Exchange between the Fingers and the Toes
by John Fuller

Fingers:
Cramped, you are hardly anything but fidgets.
We, active, differentiate the digits:
Whilst you are merely little toe and big
(Or, in the nursery, some futile pig)
Through vital use as pincers there has come
Distinction of the finger and the thumb;
Lacking a knuckle you have sadly missed
Our meaningful translation to a fist;

You can read the rest here.

Jin Eun-Young uses words so beautifully in Long Finger Poem

...Look at the tree. Like its longest branch
I touch the evening's quiet breathing.

Lastly, a verse from A Summer Day
by Lucy Maud Montgomery

II

Noon, hiving sweets of sun and flower,
Has fallen on dreams in wayside bower,
Where bees hold honeyed fellowship
With the ripe blossom of her lip;
All silent are her poppied vales
And all her long Arcadian dales,
Where idleness is gathered up
A magic draught in summer's cup.
Come, let us give ourselves to dreams
By lisping margins of her streams.

Twitter-sized poetry here.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Famed Russian writer Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837) wrote a poem that I'm going to spotlight this week. It demonstrates the challenges of translating poetry. I'll include the first three verses of several versions. What's your favorite?

1.

I still recall the wondrous moment
When you appeared before my eyes,
Just like a fleeting apparition,
Just like pure beauty’s distillation.

When I languished in the throes of hopeless grief
Amid the troubles of life’s vanity,
Your sweet voice lingered on in me,
Your dear face came to me in dreams.

Years passed. The raging, gusty storms
Dispersed my former reveries,
And I forgot your tender voice,
Your features so divine.

2.

I can't forget this blessed vision,
In front of me you stood my love,
Like instant moment of decision,
Like spirit beauteous from above.

Through languor, through despair and sorrow,
Through clamor and through restless space,
I heard your voice from night till morrow
And dreamt and dreamt of darling face.

The years of storm compel surrender,
Dispel and scattered dream of mine,
And I have lost your voice so tender
And face so heavenly divine.
Translated by Balanchin.

3.

I remember a wonderful moment
As before my eyes you appeared,
Like a vision, fleeting, momentary,
Like a spirit of the purest beauty.

In the torture of hopeless melancholy,
In the bustle of the world's noisy hours,
That voice rang out so tenderly,
I dreamed of that lovely face of yours.

The years flew quickly. The storm's blast
Scattered the dreams of former times,
And I forgot your tender voice,
And the features of your heavenly face.

4.

A magic moment I remember:
I raised my eyes and you were there,
A fleeting vision, the quintessence
Of all that's beautiful and rare

I pray to mute despair and anguish,
To vain the pursuits world esteems,
Long did I near your soothing accents,
Long did I your features haunt my dreams.

Time passed. A rebel storm-blast scattered
The reveries that once were mine
And I forgot your soothing accents,
Your features gracefully divine.

5.

I recollect that wondrous meeting,
That instant I encountered you,
When like an apparition fleeting,
Like beauty's spirit past you flew.

Long since, when hopeless grief distressed me,
When noise and turmoil vexed, it seemed
Your voice still tenderly caressed me,
Your dear face sought me as I dreamed.

Years passed; their stormy gusts confounded
And swept away old dreams apace.
I had forgotten how you sounded,
Forgot the heaven of your face.
Translated by Walter Arndt

6.

Yes! I remember well our meeting
When first thou dawnedst on my sight,
Like some fair phantom past me fleeting,
Some nymph of purity and light.

By weary agonies surrounded,
`Mid toil, `mid mean and noisy care,
Long in mine ear thy soft voice sounded,
Long dream'd I of thy features fair.

Years flew; Fate's blast blew ever stronger,
Scattering mine early dreams to air,
And thy soft voice I heard no longer -
No longer saw thy features fair.
Translated by Thomas B. Shaw

You can find more Pushkin poems here.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Did you know that if you look up "poem" on YouTube, you will find 134,000 entries. And "poetry" will get you another 137,000. Just sayin'.

Where
By Taha Muhammad Ali,
translated from the Arabic by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi and Gabriel Levin

Poetry hides
somewhere
behind the night of words
behind the clouds of hearing,
across the dark of sight,
and beyond the dusk of music
that's hidden and revealed.
But where is it concealed?
And how could I
possibly know
when I am barely able,
by the light of day,
to find my pencil?

You can hear this poem in Arabic at PBS's Arts Desk

PBS also offers a song-poem maker (You provide the lyrics, they provide the music).Be careful, though -- I typed my song directly into it and mine got erased pretty easily. Make sure you have another copy.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Some entries from the Bay Area Pets First Annual Pet Haiku Contest:

Early morning sun
Just the tip of the dog's tail
Above the seagrass.
-Marianna Monaco

Pop quiz for my cat
"Name in Chinese history?"
Cat blinks once, says "Mao!"
-news2me

Neighbor dog bit ear
Human makes me wear conehead
Not sure whom to hate.
-erinv

Please Forgive Me
Dad, I am sorry
I ate your pricey headphones
They looked like tacos.
-CiscoTheDog

I am not lazy
Napping conserves energy
Wait 'til 2 a.m.
-jalsfo

Those museum cats from
the ancient Chinese paintings
have nothing on you.
-Kate Hilsenbeck

Nose smudge on the glass
I never will erase it
My collie's last mark.
-girlbirl

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Student poetry today.

Tracy Roberts of Purdue University offers a couple great student poems in her article, Teaching Appalachia.

Morning in Blacksburg
By Mary Catherine L., aged 10

To Gemma

Tucked in all warm and cozy
My eyes burst open to the sweet sound of her voice
I go downstairs at a closed-eye mozy
To the smell of rain, biscuits, and oranges
I guess it was the sun's lazy day
Just startin' to peek out from above the branches
When Gemma handed me a warm plate
"Fresh washed." She said
I piled on breakfast and looked around as I ate.

Appalachian Home
by Shelby N., age 14

My home is a land of green
We run barefoot when the air turns warm
An endless exploration, life waiting to be seen
A soft breeze, a waiting storm

My home is a land of brown
Where rising dust follows my footsteps
A quiet walk into town
A storefront bench where I sit and rest

My home is a land of pink
Sweet watermelon falls into my mouth
The sun sets, a slow sink
A single sound, a wandering cow

My home is the color of the mountains.

You can find more wonderful student poetry on the Maryland Humanities Council site, where they have posted children's poems inspired by art.

If you are interested in letting your students try some poetry theater (acting out poems for multiple voices), you can read Kathy Norris's advice. Here's a poem for nine voices entitled "How To Torture Your Students" (written from a teacher's perspective, but meant to be performed by kids).

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Britain has a new poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, who is the first woman and the first person from Scotland to hold that position. Her poem "Light Gatherer" is really lovely -- I hope you will follow the link and read the whole thing.

from The Light Gatherer
By Carol Ann Duffy

When you were small, your cupped palms
each held a candleworth under the skin,
enough light to begin,

and as you grew,
light gathered in you, two clear raindrops
in your eyes,

warm pearls, shy,
in the lobes of your ears, even always
the light of a smile after your tears.

Read the rest here

I may, I might, I must
Marianne Moore (1887-1972)

If you will tell me why the fen
appears impassable, I then
will tell you why I think that I
can get across it if I try.

Cute idea, this:

"Celebrate the Poetry Society's centenary, by helping to create the world's first giant knitted poem.
Knitters everywhere are invited to knit a poem one letter at a time. The final poem, in all its knitted glory will be revealed at the end of the centenary year.
Packs will be available at the beginning of May, featuring knitting templates, and instructions. There will be opportunities for experienced knitters and beginners alike.
To register your interest, send your contact details to:
Rebecka Mustajarvi
Email: officeassistant AT poetrysociety.org.uk
(please use @ instead of AT when sending your email).

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Friday, May 8, 2009

I recently discovered the work of Anne Porter. She was first published in 1994, when she was 83-years-old! It's never too late. I love all the sounds in her A List of Praises. And I also love the "starry silences"!

From A List of Praises
by Anne Porter

...Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away
With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle
As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,
Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh
Of the wind in the pinewoods,
At night give praise with starry silences.

Give praise with the skirling of seagulls
And the rattle and flap of sails
And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell
Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor.
Give praise with the humpback whales, Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.

Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets, katydids and cicadas,
Give praise with hum of bees,
Give praise with the little peepers who live near water.
When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries
We know that the winter is over.

You can read the rest of it here.

Also, here are links to Music and A Short Testament by Ms. Porter.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

I'm not sure what to call what we've got this week. Concrete Poetry? Text Art?

I find Dan Waber's "Strings" fascinating.

View his poidog
Also his You and me

To me, Vertical Music by Karl Kempton is really art rather than poetry, but it is from the Minimalist Concrete Poetry site.

Here's a fun way to make your own concrete poetry.

Even NASA has advice about making concrete poetry!

Robotype lets you make pictures with letters. I got a kick out of this one. I think a lot of us have been at the mercy of our pencil at one time or another.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Music is our theme this week!

From Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing
By James Weldon Johnson

Lift ev'ry voice and sing,
'Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on 'til victory is won.

From On Music
By Thomas Moore

Music, oh, how faint, how weak,
Language fades before thy spell!
Why should Feeling ever speak,
When thou canst breathe her soul so well?
Friendship's balmy words may feign,
Love's are even more false than they;
Oh! 'tis only music's strain
Can sweetly soothe, and not betray.

Written for a Musician
By Vachel Lindsay

Hungry for music with a desperate hunger
I prowled abroad, I threaded through the town;
The evening crowd was clamoring and drinking,
Vulgar and pitiful--my heart bowed down--
Till I remembered duller hours made noble
By strangers clad in some suprising grace.
Wait, wait my soul, your music comes ere midnight
Appearing in some unexpected place
With quivering lips, and gleaming, moonlit face.

From Siren Song
By Margaret Atwood

This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:

the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see the beached skulls...

Read the rest here

Gregory K. shared an acrostic by Avis Harley called Perfect Pitch. Here's the first verse:

When you
Ache to make some music
Though you’re feeling all forlorn; you don’t
Even own a piano or
Recorder or a horn…why not

Read the rest of it (and find out what the poem spells with the first letters of each line) here.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

In March 2009, America SCORES held a fantastic poetry and art event: the Inspired Art Project, a collaboration between SCORES and local artists that showcased the poetry written by 700 low-income youth and the original art inspired by the youths’ words.

Dear Nature
-- poem by Dianna L., age 10 and art by Alisha Wessler

Dear nature thankyou for fresh
air
Dear sun thankyou for waking
me up in the morning
Dear Rain thankyou for coming
Dear flowers thankyou for
being beautiful
Dear grass thankyou for
being greenish
Dear nature thankyou for
Existing

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Celebrating 400 years of the telescope this week, with a hat tip to the planetarium show, Two Small Pieces of Glass.

Two Pieces of Glass
By Tabatha Yeatts

to see the dusty dips and hollows
of our moon,
all you need are two pieces of glass
and a hollow tube
arranged just so.

to witness the busy, burning brilliance
of our closest star,
take two bigger pieces of glass,
add a guarding glass
to save your eyes,
and a hollow tube,
mix and stir.

to watch the galaxies
push away from each other
like grumpy guests
leaving a pool party,
take four pieces of glass
(four fiercely enormous pieces of glass),
in a genuinely gigantic tube,
add centuries of mathematical genius,
and stare.

~~~~

To find out how to really make a telescope, visit the Exploratorium or Storm the Castle. Also, there's Jim Quinn's Stargazing with Galileo.

The International Year of Astronomy site has tips about astronomical dates (this info is from the U.S. section):

Since the most impressive telescopic object is the Moon, and since the Moon figured prominently in Galileo’s work, the ideal time to hold monthly sidewalk-astronomy events is on Friday and/or Saturday evenings near first-quarter Moon, which occurs on the following dates for the rest of this year: Fri., May 1; Sun., May 31; Mon., June 29; Tue., July 28; Thu., Aug. 27; Sat., Sept. 26; Mon., Oct. 26; Tue., Nov. 24; Thu., Dec. 24.

Mercury’s best evening apparition for the U.S. is on Sun. evening, Apr. 26, when the planet sits just below the thin waxing crescent Moon (making it easy to find).

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Happy National Poetry Month! So many wonderful daily wellsprings of poetry have bubbled up for this occasion. Gregory K is offering 30 Poets/30 Days at GottaBook. Anastacia Suen is posting a poem by a child every day during April on her blog, Pencil Talk.

The Academy of American Poets has many activities, like the FreeVerse project I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. This project challenges you to incorporate a bit of poetry into a photograph.

Here are my FreeVerse entries:

This is from "You Can't Have It All" by Barbara Ras, which I talked about a while ago.

And here is my other one. I can't seem to get either of them uploaded properly on the FreeVerse site, but they were fun to make.

These lines are from "Ode to a Skylark" by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The Academy of American Poets is also running an interesting NaPoWriMo event --

How It Works

Write & Post - Challenge yourself to write at least one poem each day, publishing them on your blog or in the NaPoWriMo area of our discussion forum.

Secure Pledges - Ask friends and relatives to sponsor you, pledging to donate a set amount each day you participate. (Minimum total donation per sponsor: $5)

Compete for Prizes - At the end of April, the individuals who raise the most pledged donations in their name will receive poetry prizes and merchandise.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

The Gift To Sing
By James Weldon Johnson

Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day—
I softly sing.

And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
And sing, and sing.

I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
And I can sing.

I think I should read this poem every year or so. It would also be fun to write your own version of this...what you would like people to do with poems, and what you think they actually do...

Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

"Introduction to Poetry" by Billy Collins, from The Apple That Astonished Paris. © University of Arkansas Press, 1996.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day is April 30, 2009. In case you want some help picking a poem for your pocket, check out this selection of ready-to-print pocket-sized poems! Maybe I will use Mice or Lock...

Two poems by male poets about women today.

First, Douglas Florian's Valentina Tereshkova:

Valentina Tereshkova
Shined as bright as any nova-
Won a special spatial race:
The first woman into space.

Mr. Florian explains that Valentina Tereshkova was a Russian cosmonaut -- "the first woman to fly into space aboard Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963. Despite nausea and physical discomfort, she orbited the earth 48 times and spent almost three days in space. With a single flight, she logged more flight time than the combined times of all American astronauts who had flown before that date. She recently won the greatest woman of the century award." And she happens to share my birthday, March 6!

Now our second poem...Lucinda Matlock by Edgar Lee Masters. Masters writes from Lucinda Matlock's point-of-view -- do you think he does a good job?

Lucinda Matlock
by Edgar Lee Masters

I went to the dances at Chandlerville,
And played snap-out at Winchester.
One time we changed partners,
Driving home in the moonlight of middle June,
And then I found Davis.
We were married and lived together for seventy years,
Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children,
Eight of whom we lost
Ere I had reached the age of sixty.
I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick,
I made the garden, and for holiday
Rambled over the fields where sang the larks,
And by Spoon River gathering many a shell,
And many a flower and medicinal weed--
Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys.
At ninety-six I had lived enough, that is all,
And passed to a sweet repose.
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
Degenerate sons and daughters,
Life is too strong for you--
It takes life to love Life.

~~~

Ms. Matlock feels familiar to me, as though I've met her before. (I particularly like the last two lines.)

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Friday, March 13, 2009

From the Nebraska Writing Project

Of Warmth
by Luke Hollis, high school student

Icicle spikes cry.
Snow shovels gnash their teeth against wet concrete-
The green frames grow on snowy lawns.

Our made-up monsters degenerate back to carrots, sticks, and coal
Glacial piles on the corners of parking lots,
Dirtied with gravel,
Shrink like shadows.

Even the hanging sky surrenders,
Bright rays dissecting
Cloud's dam.

All this,
All tells--

Cold melts.

I love the way the rhythm of Roethke's "Night Journey" echoes the movement of a train.

Night Journey
By Theodore Roethke

Now as the train bears west,
Its rhythm rocks the earth,
And from my Pullman berth
I stare into the night
While others take their rest.
Bridges of iron lace,
A suddenness of trees,
A lap of mountain mist
All cross my line of sight,
Then a bleak wasted place,
And a lake below my knees.
Full on my neck I feel
The straining at a curve;
My muscles move with steel,
I wake in every nerve.
I watch a beacon swing
From dark to blazing bright;
We thunder through ravines
And gullies washed with light.
Beyond the mountain pass
Mist deepens on the pane;
We rush into a rain
That rattles double glass.
Wheels shake the roadbed stone,
The pistons jerk and shove,
I stay up half the night
To see the land I love.

I've got a lot to share this week. The Academy of American Poets is holding a Free Verse Photo Competition inspired by this year's National Poetry Month poster. Even if you don't want to enter, perusing the submissions is fun.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

OK, so it's not summer. But why not spend some time thinking about what to do with our "one wild and precious life"?

The Summer Day
By Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I can't believe I haven't included this link before: Suppose Columbus by Charles Suhor.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Notice
By
Steve Kowit

This evening, the sturdy Levi's
I wore every day for over a year
& which seemed to the end
in perfect condition,
suddenly tore.
How or why I don't know,
but there it was: a big rip at the crotch.
A month ago my friend Nick
walked off a racquetball court,
showered,
got into this street clothes,
& halfway home collapsed & died.
Take heed, you who read this,
& drop to your knees now & again
like the poet Christopher Smart,
& kiss the earth & be joyful,
& make much of your time,
& be kindly to everyone,
even to those who do not deserve it.
For although you may not believe
it will happen,
you too will one day be gone,
I, whose Levi's ripped at the crotch
for no reason,
assure you that such is the case.
Pass it on.

from The Dumbbell Nebula, 2000, Heyday Books

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Canadian Alden Nowlan (1933-1983) is the focus this week.

Fair Warning
by Alden Nowlan

I keep a lunatic chained
to a beam in the attic. He
is my twin brother whom
I'm trying to cheat
out of his inheritance.
It's all right for me
to tell you this because
you won't believe it.
Nobody believes anything
that's put in a poem.
I could confess to
murder and as long as
I did it in a verse
there's not a court
that would convict me.
So if you're ever
a guest overnight
in my house, don't
go looking for
the source of any
unusual sounds.

"Fair Warning" is from Alden Nowlan: Selected Poems.

I also totally love Nowlan's The Rites of Manhood. And don't forget He Attempts to Love His Neighbors. And Great Things Have Happened.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) came from an artistic family: Her father was poet Gabriele Rossetti and her brother was the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The painting below is by DGR, and he used his sister Christina as a model.

Monna Innominata [I dream of you, to wake]
by Christina Rossetti

I dream of you, to wake: would that I might
Dream of you and not wake but slumber on;
Nor find with dreams the dear companion gone,
As, Summer ended, Summer birds take flight.
In happy dreams I hold you full in night.
I blush again who waking look so wan;
Brighter than sunniest day that ever shone,
In happy dreams your smile makes day of night.
Thus only in a dream we are at one,
Thus only in a dream we give and take
The faith that maketh rich who take or give;
If thus to sleep is sweeter than to wake,
To die were surely sweeter than to live,
Though there be nothing new beneath the sun.

Rosetti's Up-Hill on the Poetry Out Loud site.

Here's an unrelated, but cool, idea:

On the ProTeacher site, Tracy suggests "Popping Poetry Balloons." She says, "I always start on a Monday morning and when the students arrive they see the class clothesline lined with balloons. After careful inspection, they realize that there is a small piece of paper rolled up inside of each one."
She writes a different type of poetry on each paper. Then the kids pop a balloon and learn about/experiment with that type of poetry.

You could put different bits of speeches and poems in the balloons and let the kids take turns popping balloons and reading what is inside while you (or they) videotape the readings.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

We've been looking at various poetic forms, and this week we have a bunch of classic limericks by unknown authors. I would describe what the elements of the limerick form are, but I think you can figure it out pretty quickly by looking at these:

There was a young farmer of Leeds
Who swallowed six packets of seeds.
It soon came to pass
He was covered with grass,
And he couldn't sit down for the weeds.

There was a young man from the city,
Who met what he thought was a kitty;
He gave it a pat,
And said, "Nice little cat!"
And they buried his clothes out of pity.

There was a young lady named Bright,
Who traveled much faster than light.
She started one day
In a relative way,
And returned on the previous night.

A tutor who tooted the flute
Tried to tutor two tooters to toot,
Said the two to the tutor,
"Is it harder to toot or
To tutor two tooters to toot?"

An unpopular youth of Cologne,
With a pain in his stomach did mogne.
He heaved a great sigh
And said, "I would digh,
But the loss would be only my ogne."

There was a young fellow named Hall
Who fell in the spring in the fall.
'Twould have been a sad thing
Had he died in the spring.
But he didn't -- he died in the fall.

There was a Young Lady of Ryde
Who ate a green apple and died;
The apple fermented
Inside the lamented,
And made cider inside her inside.

There was a young lady of Spain
Who was dreadfully sick on a train,
Not once, but again
And again and again,
And again and again and again.

Don't miss the The Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form (OEDILF). 51,000 limericks and growing!

Math limericks (This site also has a page of "stink pinks," which I always called hink pinks, but either way, they are fun).

A page about famous limerick-ist Edward Lear.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Last week, we had a pantoum; this week, we have the paradelle. A paradelle is a very strict form, but what makes it especially interesting is that it was invented by Billy Collins as a joke.

He says: "What I set out to do was write an intentionally bad formal poem. Auden said there was nothing funnier than bad poetry, and I thought a horribly mangled attempt at a formal poem might have humorous results...Because the humor would arise from observing the performance of an unskilled poet as he dealt with a poetic form well beyond his reach, I had to make up a form whose rules were ridiculously exacting.

Here are the rules:

"The paradelle is one of the more demanding French fixed forms, first appearing in the langue d'oc love poetry of the eleventh century. It is a poem of four six-line stanzas in which the first and second lines, as well as the third and fourth lines of the first three stanzas, must be identical. The fifth and sixth lines, which traditionally resolve these stanzas, must use all the words from the preceding lines and only those words. Similarly, the final stanza must use every word from all the preceding stanzas and only these words."

Billy Collins again: "While the level of difficulty in most verse forms remains fairly consistent throughout, the paradelle accelerates from kindergarten to college and back to kindergarten several times and ends in a think-tank called the Institute for Advanced Word Play."

"I imagined a reader gradually becoming aware of the pile-up of remainder words at the ends of the stanzas as if the poet hoped no one would notice."

When his paradelle (parody + villanelle) was published, many people missed the joke and thought he'd just written a bad poem. Others thought that it was an interesting challenge to write in the paradelle form, especially to create something good! There was a book of paradelles published in 2005 by Redhen Press. (The above quotes from Billy Collins are from the introduction of that book)

Ode to a Paradelle
By Cody Mace

This task is very hard to do.
This task is very hard to do.
But I know I will succeed.
But I know I will succeed.
To but succeed I will do this task,
I know is very hard.

How could you be so cruel?
How could you be so cruel?
I just wanted something simple.
I just wanted something simple.
Something so cruel, how could you?
Just be simple, wanted I.

At least I will get you back.
At least I will get you back.
With a task extremely hard.
With a task extremely hard.
Back extremely, at least,
With a hard task I will get you.

So I just wanted to do,
A hard but simple task at least.
This is something I will succeed.
Know I could be cruel, very hard back.
You get, with how extremely
I will task you!

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Friday, January 23, 2009

This week we have a pantoum by teacher-poet Victoria Rivas to keep us warm. What's a pantoum? It's a poem in which the second and fourth lines of a stanza become the first and third lines of the next stanza. It doesn't have a certain length, but it usually ends with the first line of the poem repeated as the last line of the poem. Also, the third line of the first stanza is usually the second line of the last stanza. Do you think you could do it? Ms. Rivas does a wonderful job with this one:

Huddled Masses
By Victoria Rivas

a pantoum

A fire drill at 8 below zero
must not be a drill. Those are announced.
We are in shirtsleeves, sweaters at best.
Kids can’t go to lockers. Straight outside.

Must not be a drill, those are announced,
I hear another teacher saying.
Kids can’t go to lockers, straight outside,
but this teacher is wearing a coat.

I hear another teacher saying.
Good thing my coat was in the room.
But this teacher is wearing a coat
while her students shiver in the cold.

Good thing my coat was in the room
I share, not here with me. I call kids,
while her students shiver in the cold,
suggest we huddle close together.

I share. Not here with me, I call kids,
the ones wandering away from the group,
suggest we huddle close together,
get cold looks, disgust, in response from

the ones wandering away from the group.
The ones closest move closer still, touch;
get cold looks, disgust, in response from
others at first. It is warmer, so

the ones closest move closer still, touch.
Jason, in shirtsleeves, skinny arms shake
others at first. It is warmer, so
everyone calms down, huddles closer.

Jason, in shirtsleeves, skinny arms shake,
encircled by classmates, gets warmer.
Everyone calms down, huddles closer.
We laugh, complain we can’t feel our ears.

Encircled by classmates, gets warmer.
We are in shirtsleeves, sweaters at best.
We laugh, complain we can’t feel our ears.
A fire drill at 8 below zero.

I also like Ms. Rivas's Three Girls in Three Sonnets.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Author Jeff Anderson describes a good writing assignment he had in a class with poet Naomi Shihab Nye. Nye read them You Can't Have It All by Barbara Ras and then asked them to write their own "you can’t have it all, but you can have this..." poem. Read these excerpts of Ras's poem and you'll see:

from You Can't Have It All
by Barbara Ras

But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green...

you can be ...grateful for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels
sucking up the drops on your clean skin...

You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,
at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping
of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise...

There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother's,
it will always whisper, you can't have it all,
but there is this.

I think winter weather makes introspective poems particularly appeal to me. But I'm going to include an old favorite that is a little less deep.

BOA CONSTRICTOR
By Shel Silverstein

Oh, I'm being eaten
By a boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
And I don't like it--one bit.
Well, what do you know?
It's nibblin' my toe.
Oh, gee,
It's up to my knee.
Oh my,
It's up to my thigh.
Oh, fiddle,
It's up to my middle.
Oh, heck,
It's up to my neck.
Oh, dread,
It's upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff...

Shel's site has some great activities for kids. There's stuff for teachers/parents, too.

You can hear The Chenille Sisters sing Boa Constrictor here.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Libraries can be wonderful resources! The Sacramento Public Library has a list of novels for teens which are written in verse:

Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes:
After studying the Harlem Renaissance, eighteen high school students begin to share their own poetry aloud, revealing hidden truths and showing that each one of the classmates is not who he or she seems to be. Through "open mike" poetry and journal-like entries, the teens start to share their real lives and to form true bonds.

CrashBoomLove: a novel in verse by Juan Felipe Herrera:
"Don't know how it all started. The frozen feeling, / this fender inside me wanting to crash against everything." This is how Cesar Garcia begins describing his struggle to fit in at a new California high school and to deal with the fact that his dad has left to live with a new family.

Jump Ball: A Basketball Season in Poems by Mel Glenn:
The voices of players, fans, coach and teachers tell the story of the Tower High Tigers in their championship season, from its glorious beginnings through all of the real-life issues that come up along the way.

Keesha's House by Helen Frost:
For six high school classmates, this house where Keesha stays becomes a safe place to weather the storms of their lives: unexpected teen parenthood, foster families, coming out to unsupportive parents, and abuse. Their stories are told in the traditional poetic forms of sonnets and sestinas, defined by the author at the end of the book.

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff:
When LaVaughn finds a sign on the school bulletin board announcing "BABYSITTER NEEDED BAD," she takes the job to save some money for college. But as she gets to know her employer, who is a struggling single teen mom with two young children, LaVaughn ends up giving (and getting) more than she bargained for.

Witness by Karen Hesse:
When the Ku Klux Klan comes to a small Vermont town in the 1920s, people of all creeds, races and ages become involved - as onlookers, victims, participants and opponents. This story, told through the voices of eleven townspeople, explores love and hate and the effects of both.

excerpt of VII
by Wendell Berry

I would not have been a poet
except that I have been in love
alive in this mortal world,
or an essayist except that I
have been bewildered and afraid,
or a storyteller had I not heard
stories passing to me through the air,
or a writer at all except
I have been wakeful at night
and words have come to me
out of their deep caves
needing to be remembered.

Friday, January 2, 2009

What Was Told, That
by Jalalu'l-din Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest.

What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that's happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,

in love with the one to whom every that belongs!

From The Soul of Rumi: A New Collection of Ecstatic Poems, translated by Coleman Barks, published by HarperCollins.

Did you happen to hear about Agrippa, the self-destructive poem from 1992? It came back in the news last month because, for its 16th anniversary, a group at the University of Maryland re-released the poem. How did it self-destruct the first time around? It was originally released on a disk that was programmed to erase itself after a single use. It was also published in a book whose pages were treated with chemicals that made the words fade after exposure to light. You can find more about Agrippa, A book of the dead, here.

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