Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Grays, Golds

A friend back in Vermont, poet Sierra Nelson, reminded us today over at The Kenyon Review's blog of how beautiful Robert Frost's Nothing Gold Can Stay is. Seems like the right thing to post to the Drift Record today - out the window as I type, the sky is gray and threatening, the crabapple is almost bare-limbed.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Here's a link to a song performed by Old Crow Medicine Show that picks up on that mix of melancholy and beauty I've been both feeling and seeing all around me lately. It's called We're All In This Together.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Poetry Friday: Northrup Frye, My Dad, Edo Painting and Ripe Moons

Autumn Grasses in Moonlight (Shibata Zeshin, late Edo period)

Today was my dad's birthday - he would have been 85 if he had lived past his 61st birthday. Since his death twenty-four years ago, September has changed for me. It used to feel like new beginnings - my mom and dad were both teachers, so the new year started for them when it started for me, at the end of summer when the "new year" took my brother, my sister and me off to new teachers and old friends. That feeling carried on for me when my own kids went to school and my husband became a teacher. From September to June - that was the real year. The summer was pretend - it seemed to happen in a completely different world, unstructured and regulated only by sunrise and sunset. But now, with my kids grown, and my grandson not in school yet, and with my teaching residencies coming in January and July, September feels melancholy - something seems to be drawing to a close. This is the season Northrup Frye associated with tragedy (winter = satire, spring = comedy, summer=romance/full-blown belief ) and it's odd to realize that now September means the year is coming to an end. Out my window, I can see the leaves of the crabapple turning yellow and falling. Even so - who can resist autumn? We love it because of (not despite) its sadness. When I went looking for a poem today, I found one by Margaret Gibson about autumn - just the right mix for the mood I'm in. Gibson is an American poet who teaches at the University of Connecticut. This poem is from her book Autumn Grasses. The title poem refers to a two-panel paper screen (seen above) by Japanese artist Shibata Zeshin, painted with ink, lacquer and silver leaf.

Autumn Grasses

In fields of bush clover and hay-scent grass
the autumn moon takes refuge
The cricket's song is gold

Zeshin's loneliness taught him this

Who is coming?
What will come to pass, and pass?

Neither bruise nor sweetness nor cool air
knows the way

And the moon?
Who among us does not wander, and flare
and bow to the ground?

Who does not savor, and stand open
if only in secret

taking heart in the ripening of the moon?

- Margaret Gibson

The Poetry Round-Up today is over at Susan Taylor Brown's blog. Head over there to see what other people have posted.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Young. Old. Blink of an Eye.

[Though I posted this on Thursday, I'm going to keep it up for Poetry Friday - people can take a look at the poets included. Poetry Friday Round-Up link is at the bottom!]

A former student at Vermont College of Fine Arts sent me a poem she found posted on The Writers Almanac today (thank you, Lynda!) called Getting to Sleep in New Jersey The poet is John Stone, and the poem's subject is William Carlos Williams, whose birthday it is today. It got me thinking about a photograph I saw of WCW taken when he was a young man. The photo startled me. We have images of famous people set in our minds - the "William Carlos Williams" I knew (but didn't know, of course) was the man in the hat - the famous photograph, which must appear on many of the jacket covers of his books. But from the photos, I can see the boy in the man. You have to wonder (or I do, at least) when you see photos like this, about what these great people learned between Point A and Point Z - what's in those iconic heads and hearts that wasn't there yet when they were 13, 19, 25? What did life teach them? You see it in their art, but do you see it in their eyes?

So I thought I'd just pair up some Young/Old photos and let them speak for themselves.




(3 photos: Age 13, Mid-Life, Older - and she apparently loved feathers in hats her entire life....)




VIRGINIA WOOLF (wasn't she ever happy?)

TONI MORRISON (born Chloe Wofford)



Poetry Friday this week is being hosted by Becky over at Becky's Book Review. Thanks!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Poetry Stretch: Pre of the Fixed

Tricia over at The Miss Rumphius Effect is challenging us all to come up with a poem that uses prefixes - here's mine, with a slightly different tweak:


Mal of the proportioned,
the treated and adjusted
the odorous and icious

De of the lightful,
the tested, the sirable,
the lirious and licious,

Mis of the managed,
the spoken, the aligned,
the guided, the giving,
the taken, the erable,

Pre of the liminary,
natal and scient,
determined and destined

Pro of the lific,
the found and the active,
the tracted and verbial

Re of the booted,
the signed and the markable,
the luctent, the silient,
the drawn and the liable.

Dis of the tilled,
the favored and similar,
the puted, the jointed,
the appeared, the appointed,
the tasteful, the able -
Dis of the oriented.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Four Syllables, That's All It Takes.

I admire brevity in poems, probably because I tend to be long-winded and need editing. I did once write a 14-line sonnet where each line had only three syllables, and it rhymed - that's as close as I've come to diamond-level compression. But some people KNOW what a short poem is. For Poetry Friday, I want to post a poem I just read in J. Patrick Lewis's new book, SPOT THE PLOT: A RIDDLE BOOK OF BOOK RIDDLES (illustrated by the very talented Lynn Munsinger, please see note at the end.) I was going to wait until the book actually appeared in bookstores (release date is October) but no, I can't wait. Here's the concept: Each poem in the book describes a character from a familiar children's book, fairy tale or nursery rhyme. And here is the poem Pat wrote, all four syllables of it (and it rhymes!):


No, I'm not going to tell you the answer - it's a riddle, so you have to figure it out. But I am saying this: I wish I'd written it.

Maybe you've noticed I go on and on about J. Patrick Lewis. That's because he knows what he's doing, he's a pro, he honors both the silliness and the sobriety of words, he knows what tickles a kid's funny bone, he's got the courage to be political (you can see some of his political ruminations over at Elaine Magliaro's blog, Political Verses. ) I love Pat's work. When I was little, my dad played around a lot with language, loved to make puns (loved to listen to us groan about them.) One day my dad told me he had memorized a poem, asked me if I wanted to hear it, and I was pretty amazed - he sounded so serious -I was prepared for something elegant. This is what he recited:


Had 'em.

Four syllables (and it rhymes!) and it makes sense. I loved it. So when I read Pat's poem, I thought of my dad, and I thought of my sonnet, and I laughed. Hooray for fun, and hooray for brevity.

Just look at the girls laughing in the photo below. And look at Pat's pleasure in their laughter - that's a joy to see.

Poetry Friday this week is being hosted by Kelly Herold at Crossover.
Be sure to check out what all PoeFri's are up to.

And note re: Lynn Munsinger - I would like a pair of flannel pj's with the same designs she uses for the endpapers of SPOT THE PLOT - birds, cows, pigs, bunnies, cats, bears, dogs, magic wands, clocks, balloons, straw hats....