Friday, February 22, 2019

Poetry Friday: Tulips by A.E. Stallings

Tulip Fields in the Skagit Valley, Northwest Washington

There was no doubt in my mind what poem I wanted to share this week for Poetry Friday. I can feel something new in my bones and in my head and in my skin and my lungs: Spring is coming, bringing the daffodils and tulips. Glory be, hip, hip, hooray, hallelujah!



The tulips make me want to paint,
Something about the way they drop
Their petals on the tabletop
And do not wilt so much as faint,

Something about their burnt-out hearts,
Something about their pallid stems
Wearing decay like diadems,
Parading finishes like starts,

Something about the way they twist
As if to catch the last applause,
And drink the moment through long straws,
And how, tomorrow, they’ll be missed.

The way they’re somehow getting clearer,
The tulips make me want to see
The tulips make the other me
(The backwards one who’s in the mirror,

The one who can’t tell left from right),
Glance now over the wrong shoulder
To watch them get a little older
And give themselves up to the light.

Poetry Friday this week is being hosted by Robyn over at Life on the Deckle Edge. Head over there to see what other people have posted. And if you're in the mood, check out a few sources of inspiration I'm sharing (including this poem) over at Books Around the Table.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Poetry Friday: In the MIddle of Winter, A Summer Day

Image result for mary oliver
Well, I've had the holidays so I've not posted recently. I've had a busy few weeks. And...and, and. Excuses, excuses.  But the news that Mary Oliver died has nudged me into a Poetry Friday post.
I can sometimes be cynical. I can sometimes be satisfied with what amounts to clever wordplay  in my own poetry. I'm terrified of sentimentality. But the poem you see below, written by Mary Oliver, full of sentiment, is not sentimental. It's also more direct with its final question than I normally like, being a fan of indirection. Still, I like it. It's clean and clear - and it's clearly felt. The description of the grasshopper is not too embroidered - it's fresh and clean. Strong descriptions which are free of aggressive adjectives are rare. This poem has been a favorite of mine for quite a few years and - since the death of my mom - has floated up to the surface again. Now it's coupled in my mind with the death of the poet.

Here it is, hope it gives you pause, and hope you enjoy it.

The Summer Day

Who made this 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?

                                      -- Mary Oliver

Poetry Friday is being hosted this week at Going to Walden. Head over there to see what other people have posted.


Friday, December 14, 2018

Poetry Friday - Patrick Kavanagh's Childhood Christmas

It's been a long time since I posted here at The Drift Record, spending most of my blog-time over at Books Around the Table  ( my most recent post over there: all about a gingerbread house contest! ) But today, rather late in the day, I want to share a poem by the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh. As usual, I'm posting a poem I wish I had written - this one, in particular, has such sweetness behind it, such open joy, it's not ashamed to be nostalgic, to talk about lost innocence. But it's also not afraid to go a little dark.  Hope you enjoy it. If you scroll down all the way, you'll see a link to the Wikipedia page about him - his formal education stopped in the fifth grade! - but for The Drift Record, I just want the poem to say its piece.  Wishing you all Happy Holidays and a fulfilling new year - 2019!

A Christmas Childhood
by Patrick Kavanagh


One side of the potato-pits was white with frost –
How wonderful that was, how wonderful!
And when we put our ears to the paling-post
The music that came out was magical.
The light between the ricks of hay and straw
Was a hole in Heaven’s gable. An apple tree
With its December-glinting fruit we saw –
O you, Eve, were the world that tempted me
To eat the knowledge that grew in clay
And death the germ within it! Now and then
I can remember something of the gay
Garden that was childhood’s. Again
The tracks of cattle to a drinking-place,
A green stone lying sideways in a ditch,
Or any common sight, the transfigured face
Of a beauty that the world did not touch.


My father played the melodion
Outside at our gate;
There were stars in the morning east
And they danced to his music.
Across the wild bogs his melodion called
To Lennons and Callans.
As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.
Outside in the cow-house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of her stable-lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.
A water-hen screeched in the bog,
Mass-going feet
Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.
My child poet picked out the letters
On the grey stone,
In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.
Cassiopeia was over
Cassidy’s hanging hill,
I looked and three whin bushes rode across
The horizon — the Three Wise Kings.
And old man passing said:
‘Can’t he make it talk –
The melodion.’ I hid in the doorway
And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.
I nicked six nicks on the door-post
With my penknife’s big blade –
There was a little one for cutting tobacco.
And I was six Christmases of age.
My father played the melodion,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.

[From Collected Poems (2004). Edited by Antoinette Quinn, Allen Lane. An imprint of Penguin Books.]
 Patrick Kavanagh
He looks like someone who could give us a good poem at the local pub, doesn't he?

 Click here for a link to Kavanagh's biography at Wikileaks. Click here to go to Books Around the TAble and read about those gingerbread houses. And click here to head over to Laura Shovan's blog, where you can read what other people have posted for Poetry Friday.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Poetry Friday: Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye

A little over a year ago, I posted this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye after hearing that she had been chosen to deliver the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture in 2018. Then I found out the location at which she would speak: Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. - my new home town!

Well, two weeks ago she delivered her talk to an enthusiastic crowd, and I attended with my good friend and fellow writer, Laura Kvasnosky.We both scribbled notes as she talked about the joys of writing poetry for children. Her lecture was most notable for its anecdotes about school visits and interactions with kids - I'm hoping Laura will write about it this week on our shared blog, Books Around the Table, so I won't go into specifics here. But I do want to repost this poem, my favorite of Nye's, titled "Two Countries.".As an Arab-American, Nye spoke passionately at WWU about her own two countries - Palestine and the United States - and about the need to be open-armed and generous-spirited about immigrants during this difficult period in America's history when intolerance and xenophobia are rearing their ugly heads.  Here is the poem I love, and I love it not only for its message (that we live in our own "skin," our bodies, but the world is larger, there are other travelers)  but for its technical precision - the abundant internal rhymes and near rhymes (step/swept/slept, known/nose/dome, rope/hope/road, own/alone) which make it both song and poem.

TWO COUNTRIES by Naomi Shihab Nye
Skin remembers how long the years grow
when skin is not touched, a gray tunnel
of singleness, feather lost from the tail
of a bird, swirling onto a step,
swept away by someone who never saw
it was a feather. Skin ate, walked,
slept by itself, knew how to raise a
see-you-later hand. But skin felt
it was never seen, never known as
a land on the map, nose like a city,
hip like a city, gleaming dome of the mosque
and the hundred corridors of cinnamon and rope.
Skin had hope, that’s what skin does.
Heals over the scarred place, makes a road.
Love means you breathe in two countries.
And skin remembers—silk, spiny grass,
deep in the pocket that is skin’s secret own.
Even now, when skin is not alone,
it remembers being alone and thanks something larger
that there are travelers, that people go places
larger than themselves.

The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted today by the marvelous Jama Kim Rattigan over at her blog, Jama's Alphabet Soup. Head over there now to see what other people have posted.  And you might enjoy this interview of Nye at the On Being Project site.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Happy Birthday, Lee!

Happy Birthday, Lee Bennett Hopkins! 

Today is the birthday of poet and anthologist-extraordinaire Lee Bennett Hopkins. To celebrate, I'm offering up readers of The Drift Record his poem about spring, titled appropriately "Spring."  No doubt at all that it will be posted by other Poetry Friday contributors - we're celebrating him today and honoring his presence among us. One of my favorite birthday tributes to Lee comes via a YouTube video posted by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater - click on that link to see 1st graders reciting one of Lee's poems ("Librarian") and singing Happy Birthday. Such a sweet bunch singing to such a sweet poet!



cloud-bursting showers

April fools
fledglings on wing

no thing 

              ---Lee Bennett Hopkins (from Sharing the Seasons, 2009) 

Thank you, Lee, for inviting us to share your love of poetry, your delight, your energy, your enthusiasm.

One of my favorites of Lee's own work, a memoir: Been to Yesterdays (1995)
 I'm proud to have a poem of mine in Lee's upcoming anthology A Bunch of Punctuation, due out this summer.  Can't wait to see it! Here's the cover: 

Whee! Love this!!

 Today's Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted by Robyn Hood Black. Head over to her blog to see what other people have posted!