Friday, July 3, 2015

Poetry Friday - Sara Teasdale


Sara Teasdale 1884-1933

This post goes out to my sweet friend of many years, Laura Kvasnosky, who recently gave me a slim volume of poetry by Sara Teasdale, published in 1926, and titled Dark of the Moon. Here is my favorite poem from it: 

On the Sussex Downs

Over the downs there were birds flying,
Far off glittered the sea,
And toward the north the weald of Sussex
Lay like a kingdom under me.

I was happier than the larks
That nest on the downs and sing to the sky,
Over the downs the birds flying
Were not so happy as I.

It was not you, though you were near,
Though you were good to hear and see,
It was not the earth, it was not heaven,
It was myself that sang in me.
                     
                                   --Sara Teasdale

I've always thought memorizing poems was a fine thing to do, and I recommend this one for memorization. It seems to me as golden as any prayer to say each night as you fall asleep or each morning as you get up. 
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The Poetry Friday Round-up is being hosted this week by Donna over at Mainely Write. Head over there to see what other people have posted.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Poetry Friday: Juan Felipe Herrera, Our New Poet Laureate

Our new Poet Laureate

Juan Felipe Herrera has just been named the new Poet Laureate of the United States, and I bet more than a few people are scrambling to catch up & read more of his work, myself included. For Poetry Friday, I'm providing some links that might help, plus I'm including here one of his poems for adults. Herrera also writes for children, and I'm going to run up to the public library this afternoon to pick up the four picture books they have available. He also writes for young adults, so his range is large. Click on a few of the links and read about his childhood (not speaking English, traveling around with migrant parents from field to field in California) and about his introduction to poetry (God bless good teachers!) I love how spare the poem below is, how accessible, no game-playing. yet not completely direct. As readers we're left wondering about what has happened, and I always like that in a poem. Poetry, after all, isn't information, it's impression (plus a few other things :-)

I can't wait to see how Juan Felipe Herrera uses this wonderful opportunity to speak to (and for) Americans about the power of poetry.When asked about not being able to speak English with other children in school, he says, "My tongue was a rock." I know that's still happening to children, and I hope they can look up to Herrera as a role model.  Here's his poem "longtime hermano Bob":



longtime hermano Bob          tells me
one of the monks in brown directs us to the deep sink
made of two sinks the hose & the silver table where all
the spoons & metal tongs are clean
wait at the entrance for directions the monk gave me
but he is in there & points me to another sink
made of two sinks & a silver table where all
the spoons & metal tongs are clean
scrub off the rice burned at the bottom
there it is clinging to the sides of the steel
outside working the hole in the earth
three monks in brown stir the blackish pots boiling
four months of mud cakes for the new lunar year
the dragon the people the monastery the mountains
one monk stands staring into the nothing
no thoughts around him
the other monk descends through the scaly fog two
children angle an exploded tree limb back & forth
so the sparks play with them      to the left
the meditation hall is curved & faces Escondido
down below where my father drove his army truck
& pulled our trailer to a stop on Lincoln Road in ‘54
I watered spidered corn & noticed the deportations
little friends gone the land left to ice alone
lunch is served we go to the line the spoons
and the speckled tongs await by the brown rice
white rice eggplant kim chee & a grey shade pot
pour the seaweed soup we go with our tray & sit
the mud cakes are ribboned in red & gold & green
there is a way to do this
it requires listening & seeing &
silence           silence the bell rings
longtime hermano Bob & I      at the parking lot
we leave brown cloth                           brown cloth
naked spoons      naked pots
steam         rises from the sink &      the view
the view with no one           in front or     in back


Click here for a link to a Parent's Choice interview of Herrera which focuses on his work for children. 

Click here for a link to the first part of a three-part interview by David Lau for the Poetry Foundation, in which Herrera talks about working with kids in the schools, political activism, Chicano culture, his own poetic processes, what it's like being a poet in the public sphere (he was previously the Poet Laureate of California) and many other topics. 

Click here for links to a few of his poems for adults available at the Poetry Foundation site. 

Click here for a biography at the Academy of American Poets site (includes links to a few videos of Herrera reading his work.)  

Congratulations, also, to Jacqueline Woodson, our new Children's Poet Laureate! 

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The wonderful Jama Rattigan is hosting Poetry Friday today at Alphabet Soup. Head over there to see what other people have posted (and to read a delicious blueberry poem by Mary Szybist.) And I've got another post over at Books Around the Table, questioning how porous "a room of one's own" needs to be - you can read it here.




Friday, June 5, 2015

Poetry Friday: Squirrels, Transcendalists, Talents

I watched a Western Gray Squirrel jump along the fence at my mother's house today - fat little guy, but nimble. It's hard not to like a squirrel, even if it is, by nature, a scold, and even if it eats the cherries from my cherry trees before they can ripen - squirrels are in cahoots with the crows on this. They also bury peanut shells around/among the perennials in my yard - where they get the peanuts, I have no idea, but when I turn the dirt, I find the shells. Still, I like squirrels. Such tails! Such chatter! Such unrepentant self-regard! In their honor, I offer up this poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who must have felt the same about the critters. The bottom line of this fable is right there for all to see: "Talents differ."



Fable

The mountain and the squirrel  
Had a quarrel;  
And the former called the latter ‘Little Prig.’
Bun replied,  
‘You are doubtless very big;         
But all sorts of things and weather  
Must be taken in together,  
To make up a year  
And a sphere.  
And I think it no disgrace  
To occupy my place.  
If I’m not so large as you,  
You are not so small as I,  
And not half so spry.  
I’ll not deny you make  
A very pretty squirrel track;  
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;  
If I cannot carry forests on my back,  
Neither can you crack a nut.’

I think I'll memorize this poem, and when things come along that I don't understand, I'll just say, "...all sorts of things and weather / Must be taken in together, / To make up a year / And a sphere."  Thanks again to Mr. Emerson, for transcendentalism and for thoughts on the souls of things large and small.
 
Ralph Waldo Emerson
 The round-up for today's Poetry Friday is over at Buffy's Blog  (thanks, Buffy.) Head over there to see what other people have posted.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Poetry Friday: Sharing Some Shadows



Here's a little poem by Robert Louis Stevenson to accompany Julie Paschkis's reflective new post over at Books Around the Table. When I was little, I remember reading that line about the "india-rubber ball" and thinking it was so exotic, so strange....ditto the word "nursie"....I had to ask my mom what both of them meant! Read Julie P.'s post, then head over to Reflections on the Teche, where Margaret hosts the Poetry Friday round-up.


   

MY SHADOW

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.

He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he's a coward you can see;
I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.