Friday, December 28, 2012

Poetry Friday: A Blessed Illusion for the New Year

Antonio Machado and his wife, Leonor.

For the new year, here is a poem from Antonio Machado. I found it while reading Naomi Shihab Nye's lovely collection, HONEYBEE,  in preparation for my January residency lecture at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Nye uses Machado's poem as an epigraph to her book, guiding the tone and musical key of her own poems.

Last  night I dreamed -- blessed illusion --
that I had a beehive here
in my heart
and that the golden bees were making
white combs and sweet honey
from my old failures.

          --Antonio Machado
             Translated by Robert Bly

"Old failures" - I can think of many of my own. But here's wishing us all a 2013 filled with white combs and sweet honey. 
Naomi Shihab Nye with her father, Aziz Shihab
P.S. When I read interviews, I'm often impressed by the intelligence of the people being asked questions, but I don't usually find myself thinking, "This person would be a lovely friend." In the case of of this interview of Nye, I did think so.
The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted today over at Carol's Corner. Head over there to see what other people have posted.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Poetry Friday: Jack Gilbert

Many years ago, I was in a small workshop led by Jack Gilbert, a lovely poet who died this month at age 87. He was already frail then, and I tremble to think of him living for years with Alzheimer's. Such a lovely man, so spot-on about what did or did not help a poem be at its best. In honor of him, I'm posting this poem for Poetry Friday. You can read more of his work in his critically-celebrated new COLLECTED POEMS, just out this year, and a fine interview with him about "The Art of Poetry" over at THE PARIS REVIEW.

Horses at Midnight Without a Moon  
by Jack Gilbert 

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there's music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise 
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing. 
Our spirit persists like a man struggling 
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.
I've posted a little something about leftovers, longing, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ken Burns, Maria Popova, writing, honesty, usefulness, sandwiches and soup over at my other blog (shared with my writers group) at Books Around the Table.

The Poetry Friday round-up is hosted by Mary Lee Hahn over at A Year of Reading. Head over there to see what other people have posted.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Poetry Friday: Barley-Corn Thoughts

Walt Whitman - "This is the city and I am one of the citizens...."
Three weeks before an important election, and I have been thinking about participatory democracy, and about how far removed poetry feels from politics. But partly due to a recent trip to New York City (which is a poem  - a multitude of poems - in itself)  I've also been thinking about the most democratic of poets, Walt Whitman - how he embraced life, embraced people, valued them, refused to assign them "high" or "low" status, simply breathed the multitude in. And that man could BREATHE. I wonder what he would think of America in 2012?Would he have been saddened by the devisiveness? Of course, he lived through the Civil War, so he knew a bit about intransigence and combativeness. Just look at the young man in the picture above, and the Walt Whitman of later years. He still seems to have the ability, with that face, to pull you toward him. He still held multitudes. 

If you last read Whitman when you were a student in high school, read "A Song of Myself" again before you vote.

"...for every atom belonging to me, as well belongs to you...''

"In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less...

"I am large, I contain multitudes."

I'll be thinking about these words - about our deep connection to all people - "none more and not one a barley-corn less" than me -  when I cast my ballot in a few weeks.
The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted by Irene Latham today over at her blog, Live Your Poem. Head over there to see what other people are posting.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Poetry Friday: James Arthur

For Poetry Friday, I offer up this lovely poem by the talented young poet (and my friend, I'm happy to say - we went through the MFA program together at the Univ. of Washington) James Arthur. He read Tuesday night from his new book, Charms Against Lightning, just out from Copper Canyon Press, as part of the Castalia Reading Series at Hugo House in Seattle.

On Day and Night

And as the neighbors' guests retire, coaxing their cars
into the snow (we're gazing through the curtain
into winter's pale hub), two girls gaze up. They're all
going home, like wheels correcting
into steering hands, or drawn breath returning to the air,
but you can't come back to anywhere—there's no perfect here
and there, or now and then—but here we are,
again. A silverfish crosses the windowpane. We peer
into the street, and up at the stranded moon. White wheel,
black field. Black winter, white road. White silence,
black wind. White cars, black wires.

Just look at how he controls sound in this poem, obscuring to the reader's eye the rhymes and near-rhymes while still letting them chime in the ear. In other words, he allows readers to hear the music of the poem (air/there/anywhere, air/are, hub/up, then/again, we're/steering/here/peer, and the bookended rhyme of "retire" in the first line with "wire" in the last line - like the echo of a bell)  without it becoming sing-song.

And I simply love that ending - white/black, black/white, white/black, white/black, the slight crossing of the order of those just once, in the same way black wires seem to cross at one telephone pole and then uncross at the next as you drive down a long highway. This is what good poetry does - the words are evocative on more than one level. They paint the scene (or, in this case, possibly, photograph the scene in black and white) but they mimic the visual pattern found in the scene, as well as the rhythm of the scene - listen to the heavy syllables of those last sixteen words, like tires turning over and over as they come down a road - boom, boom, boom, boom.  In this way, form approximates content.

This is SO much harder to do than it looks - present rhythm and rhyme to a modern reader who has been trained to think formal elements are fusty and archaic - and to do it subtly. It's even harder if you're not just playing a game with the language but you're saying something meaningful, as James is, something with heart. For me, this poem fulfills Ezra Pound's mandate that a poem must appeal to sound (melopoeia), sight (phanopoeia) and mind (logopoeia.)

James Arthur is a poet to watch - just look at the high honors he's already won (taken from his website): "His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Poetry, Ploughshares, and The American Poetry Review. He has received the Amy Lowell Travelling Poetry Scholarship, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Poetry, a residency at the Amy Clampitt House, and a Discovery/The Nation Prize...He's currently a Hodder Fellow at Princeton."

Definitely look for this book - it's filled with poems that - well -I'll just admit it: that I would love to have written.
You'll find the Poetry Friday round-up this week over at Lura Salas's blog, Writing the World for Kids.  Head over there to see what people are posting.   And just in honor of those last lines of James's poem, I'll post this black/white white/black photo of a road in winter: 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Poetry Friday: A Graphite "Poem"

Can a drawing be a poem? Granted, no words, but "a poem" all the same, in the same way it can be a song, with a certain melodic line floating on top and a heartbeat underneath? And with the same sense of wonder (about the straight, true, beautiful and ordinary objects of this world) that underlies so much good poetry? Here to prove it, a graphite drawing by the Maine artist, John Whalley, titled "Three Nozzles."

I think that drawing is pure poetry. How I wish I could write as clearly and simply, and with as much technical control, as that. Thanks to fellow author and friend Patrick Downes for the heads-up about this wonderful artist and  - yes - "poet."
You'll find the Poetry Friday round-up today over at Paper Tigers. Head there to see what other people have posted.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Poetry Friday: Mbarka Mint al-Barra'

Artisans from Fez at work constructing the Moroccan Courtyard - Art of Arab Lands, Metropolitan Museum of Art

I got home recently from a wonderful trip to New York City, where I fell head over heels in love with the new Art of Arab Lands galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (under renovation and construction for the last eight years.) You can read all about my trip here (Books Around the Table - the blog I share with my writing group - please do go there to catch the links to the Met website about this project) and what the craftsmanship on exhibit in these galleries did to me...stopped me in my tracks, wowed me, thrilled me, awed me, amazed me,...I'm not sure I've found the right verb for it yet. They certainly made me wish I had another whole week just to take in everything on view. In honor of that experience, I'm posting a poem written originally in Arabic by the poet Mbarka Mint al-Barra' of Mauritania (just south of Morocco in West Africa) for today's Poetry Friday. Not sure how good the translation is, but here is an excerpt from it. The full poem can be found at the link below and at the website of the Poetry Translation Centre. I don't know anything about the poetry of the Arab world - time to learn!

Poetry and I 

The sin is that I wasn't a stone
     And the troubles of the world make me sleepless
And I shield myself with poetry
     And it keeps me company when I'm far from home
And poetry is my satchel that I will always carry with me
     It holds the taste and fragrance of the earth
It holds thickets of prickly branches
     It holds palm fronds loaded with dates
It paints all the stories of love in my language
     Its colours form the spectrum from grape to dawn....

[Read the full poem here....]

Textile Fragment, 14th Century, Nasrid

Mihrab - Prayer Niche

13th Century Astrolabe from Yemen - Brass - Cast, Hammered, Pierced, Chased, Inlaid with Silver
For a gorgeous educators' guide to the galleries (or just to see more of the collection) go here for a PDF that is not to be missed.
And for more Poetry Friday poems, head over to the round-up at NO WATER RIVER, blog of the wonderful and energetic Renee LaTulippe, who knows a thing or two or three about good poetry.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Julie Paschkis's APPLE CAKE Is On the Table!!!

Well, it's September, and I have apples on my mind. Our apple tree branches are bending down, loaded with Liberty apples - an old-fashioned apple I love - and we can pick and gobble that luscious fruit whenever we like (and we do like, often.) So I'm thinking of apple poems - Robert Frost drifts up, of course, as do several nursery rhymes, but so do these lines (you can see the whole poem by Hattie Howard here):

Oh, the peach and cherry may have their place,
And the pear is fine in its stately grace;
The plum belongs to a puckery race
And maketh awry the mouth and face;
But I long to roam in the orchard free,
The dear old orchard that used to be,
And gather the beauties that dropped for me
From the bending boughs of the apple tree.
From the bending boughs of the apple tree.

One other reason for thinking about apples: Julie Paschkis's new book, Apple Cake: A Recipe for Love, has just been released by Harcourt, and - no surprise - it's wonderful. Such a sweet story, and it's good for all ages (makes a nice wedding/anniversaty gift, too) plus Julie added a recipe for apple cake on the end page. Yummmmmm. Here's the glowing review from Kirkus:

“Beautiful, kind, brilliant Ida… / always had her nose in a book.” So begins this lighthearted and airy tribute to the powers of love and persistence. Alphonse tries to be interesting, but he is unable to get Ida’s attention. He presents her with bouquets and butterflies and serenades her with guitar music, but still her eyes never leave the pages. He makes a cake, which turns into quite a production indeed. Paschkis takes a marvelous detour from her familiar style here. The pages are open, filled with white space and almost translucent gouache colors. Readers see Alphonse going to the ends of the earth for the ingredients: riding a horse up a mountain for apples, harvesting butter from the sun and sugar from clouds, climbing a tree to grab an egg from a nest, spooning salt from the sea and catching flour and baking powder from the sky. If all this weren’t enough to prove his love, Alphonse dives into the bowl himself to stir the cake! The smell of the cake baking eventually gets Ida’s attention, releasing a flood of butterflies and sunshine onto the final pages. Sweethearts of any age will celebrate the joy of love and shared simple pleasures. 

Hooray for simple pleasures! Fall is just around the corner - so write an autumn poem and bake some apple cake!
Happy apple eating, everyone!


The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted this week by Katya Czaja over at Write. Sketch. Repeat. Head over there to see what other people have posted.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Poetry Friday Anthology!

A terrific new anthology of contemporary poems for kids, 
collected by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. 
One poem per week per grade level, through the entire school year. 
75 poets, 288 pages
Click here to order.


The schedule says the round-up is over at Andi Jazmon's great blog, A WRUNG SPONGE. But I don't see any posts there since July 20, and I know Andi and her family have been having a hard summer. Send good thoughts her way, and I'll update in the morning (it's 1:00 a.m. right now) if there's a change.

Monday, August 6, 2012

August 6th: Just Another Summer Day

August 6th sneaks up on me every year. Often I'll be fixing a picnic, feeling the release that true summer brings me - the obligation to accomplish something recedes, and the new obligation to surrender to sunshine takes over. I look for shade, think about a swim in the saltwater, eat some potato salad, drink some lemonade, turn on the sprinklers, any one or all of the above. Pure glorious summer stuff....then I realize it's August 6th, the anniversary of our bombing of Hiroshima, and it's like I fill to overflowing with dark feathers and can't breathe for a minute, and the heat intensifies in a disturbing way. These lines come to mind, from the poem "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold.  

"...we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night."
And, of course, I think of John Hersey's terrible and beautiful book, Hiroshima, which I read in college when the war in Vietnam was raging. I still have my marked copy, and I usually find some time before the end of the day to find it and look through it:

 “The crux of the matter is whether total war in its present form is justifiable, even when it serves a just purpose. Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good might result? When will our moralists give us an answer to this question?” 
John Hersey, Hiroshima 

Hiromi Tsuchida, Lunch Box. Reiko Watanabe (15 at the time) was doing fire prevention work under the Student Mobilization Order, at a place 500 meters from the hypocenter. Her lunch box was found by school authorities under a fallen mud wall. Its contents of boiled peas and rice, a rare feast at the time, were completely carbonized. Her body was not found.

I don't have anything new to say or add. Having grown up with this anniversary haunting and worrying me, eventually what can be said is said, and I have to be satisfied with how impossible it is to articulate what I feel. But I do think there is an obligation to mark the moment. My dad fought in the Pacific in WWII, and my mom sometimes suggested, as I was growing up and asking questions, that the dropping of the bomb forced the end of the war and saved lives - it was what she needed to believe because it brought my dad home to her. My parents belonged to "the greatest generation" and accepted the official line - at least in this case, they did. The next generation down - my siblings and friends and I - had a different take on war in general, and we embraced the idea of questioning authority. I thought we were the generation of activism, but maybe we were, and are, the Doubting Generation, the generation of cynicism and irony. I don't know whether my own grown children even think about the bomb on August 6th, though they certainly suffered through my talking about it each year. In some ways, it would be nice for them - and for their children and for all our children - if it were just another happy summer day.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Poetry Friday: Ursula Le Guin, Poet!

The multi-talented Ursula K. Le Guin - "Art is work. No one ever said it was going to be easy."
I'm pleased to hear that a book of new and selected poems by Ursula K. Le Guin will be published soon. The title is Finding My Elegy, due out in September. Le Guin is not thought of as a poet, but a poet she is and has been since before she was publishing fiction. As a poet, she summons not only the necessary leap of imagination good poetry requires, but also a fine control of the formal elements of a poem. These qualities show up in her fiction, of course. Here are two of my favorite Le Guin poems; both can be found at her website, along with many others, and I have my fingers crossed that they will be in the new volume of her work. if you came to The Drift Record today via Poetry Friday, please go read a few more poems at her website after you finish the PF rounds. While you're at it, sample the essays, prose fragments, writing advice, speeches, political writing, rants  - she calls them rants -  and links inspired by her social activism. She's amazing. And thanks go to Leda Schubert, for pointing me to this interview today in Slate and to Uma Krishnaswami for this audio conversation with Le Guin and Margaret Atwood on Oregon Public Radio.

The Old Lady

I have dreed my dree, I have wooed my wyrd,
and now I shall grow a five-foot beard
and braid it into tiny braids
and wander where the webfoot wades
among the water’s shining blades.
I will fear nothing I have feared.
I’m the queen of spades, the jack of trades,
braiding my knives into my beard.
Why should I know what I have known?
Once was enough to make it my own.
The things I got I will forget.
I’ll knot my beard into a net
and cast the net and catch a fish
who will ungrant my every wish
and leave me nothing but a stone
on the riverbed alone,
leave me nothing but a rock
where the feet of herons walk.


Learning the Name 
               for Bette

The wood thrush, it is! Now I know
who sings that clear arpeggio,
three far notes weaving
into the evening
among leaves
and shadow;
or at dawn in the woods, I've heard
the sweet ascending triple word
echoing over
the silent river —
but never
seen the bird.

The wood thrush sings a song of its own.

Le Guin is also a translator of the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. I wish all poets took it upon themselves to do some translation work - it makes a difference in our own writing to have studied at such a close level the musicality and rhythms of poetry written in another language. 
Gabriela Mistral

You'll find the Poetry Friday round-up this week at Life Is Better with Books. Head over there for links to what other people have posted.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bad Signs and Omens

Face in a window, window cracked....bad sign...

It's Friday the 13th - superstitions abound. Mustn't rock a rocking chair if no one is in it. Mustn't open an umbrella indoors. When I was in Rome several years ago, I wrote a poem about "bad signs" - all a part of the world of superstition. You'll find it below. And don't miss the post (and wonderful illustrations) of my fellow blogger, Julie Paschkis, over on Books Around the Table - she's thinking Friday he 13th, too!

Yellow hen in the left hand,
left hand touching dead fish,
dead fish on a white plate:
Bad signs, sorrow-bait.
Listen for bells, don't wait.

Bells on the right: Bad night.
Bells on the left: Love in doubt.
Bells straight ahead: Watch out.
Bad sign. Touch salt.

Salt spilled in the morning hours,
flowers tossed in the afternoon:
Tears soon, sighs soon.
Tall flowers in a short vase,
black sky: Hide your face.

Face in a window, window cracked:
Bad sign, worry and waste.
Bread in half, in half again,
crumbs in a circle: No friends.
Circles in a square, squares in a line,
lines in a circle: Bad signs.

Circling swallows, no rain:
Roll the dice. Try again.

Roll the dice...try again....

Dead fish on a white plate...bad sign....
 The Poetry Friday round-up today is over at CHECK IT OUT, so head over there to...check it out.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Poetry Friday: The Poetry Roller Coaster

I'm putting a few posts up over at Books Around the Table - my critique-group blog. Head over there to read a lovely little poem by William Jay Smith (Poet Laureate 1968-1970) titled "Moon" (no, it's not about the moon) and to hear some thoughts about the "roller coaster" ride that poetry is for me.

The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted by Marjorie over at Paper Tigers. Head there to find all kinds of links to what people are posting. And for a list of upcoming Poetry Friday round-ups, July-December 2012, go to this post at A Year of Reading. (Schedule is now full, but the the list is helpful.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Poetry Friday: What's Great, Wide, Beautiful and Wonderful?

When the sun comes out, is there anything better than a walk? It can be brisk. It can be a stroll. The pace doesn't matter, as long as you can take the world in with all your senses. Yesterday I posted some thoughts on what walks can do for writers on one of my other blogs, WRITE AT YOUR OWN RISK (it offers up "shop talk with the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.") If you follow the link below, you'll see a poem by William Brighty Rands. I thought it was by Robert Louis Stevenson, but my memory fooled me. My brain's default poet for children is Stevenson, and sometimes it goes there even when directed other places.

This is not the first time I advocate getting away from your desk and getting some fresh air. I've been known to do it before. But this time I added pretty pictures. Check it out.

Here's a peek at the poem and at 3 of the photos. The poem answers the question I posed in today's post title, in case you couldn't guess it.

Great, wide, beautiful, wonderful World, 
with the wonderful waters around you curled, 
and the wonderful grasses upon your breast,
World, you are beautifully dressed....

(See more here.)

Leaves in sunshine and shade....

A blue woman falling apart on a wall....

A raspberry, plain and simple and not so simple....
The Poetry Friday round-up today is hosted by Amy over at The Poem Farm. Head over there to see what other people have posted.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Poetry Friday: Robert Frost in a Mood

Robert Frost 1958 - Photo by Yousuf Karsh

For Poetry Friday, I'm just going to post this photo of Robert Frost owning a chair. He looks pretty relaxed for a guy who thought in iambic pentameters, though maybe the height of his waistband says something about that. Love the tie going the opposite direction of the body. Love that dog, who seems to have survived a Frost-like blustery day in New England.  The photo is by Yousuf Karsh, a wonderful Armenian-Canadian photographer - when you think of portraits of Winston Churchill or Ernest Hemingway (in his Papa Hemingway years), you're probably thinking of iconic photos by Karsh. I wonder if he had to tell Mr. Frost, "Try putting your right leg up over the arm of the chair"? Or maybe he just asked politely. Or maybe Frost just sat like this with no urging - what a wonderful thought.

I should really post a poem by Frost, too, but somehow the photo is a poem of its own. To give credit where credit is due, I found the photo over on, at the top of a review of the new book The Art of Robert Frost by Tim Kendall, which I am going to go right out and buy. Sounds terrific. I hope this photo is on the cover. I might just make it my screensaver.

The Poetry Friday round-up is hosted today by Mary Lee Hahn over at A Year of Reading. Head over there to see what other people have posted.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Poetry Friday: Thomas's Halfmoon with a Vegetable Eye

Just offering this up to readers today, Poetry Friday, for pleasure. Imagine being able to write this, a traditional sonnet - well, the rhyme scheme is his own - but traditional iambic pentameter, and come up with breath that burns a bush, love that can be pared, stars with husks, a halfmoon with a vegetable eye. A wonderful combination of traditional form and modern language. We can do this, you know - bend the form, make it our own.

I'm typing this up from Cannon Beach, Oregon, where the wind is blowing and rain lashing - a "discordant" June beach, if there ever was one.


When all my five and country senses see,
The fingers will forget green thumbs and mark
How, through the halfmoon’s vegetable eye,
Husk of young stars and handful zodiac,
Love in the frost is pared and wintered by.
The whispering ears will watch love drummed away
Down breeze and shell to a discordant beach,
And, lashed to syllables, the lynx tongue cry
That her fond wounds are mended bitterly.
My nostrils see her breath burn like a bush.
My one and noble heart has witnesses
In all love’s countries, that will grope awake;
And when blind sleep drops on the spying senses,
The heart is sensual, though five eyes break. 
                                              —Dylan Thomas
The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted this week over at Jama Rattigan's 
wonderful Alphabet Soup. Head over there to see what people have posted.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

Poetry Friday: Past the Moon and His Mama and Papa Sleeping Tight....

Three "rabbis" on the set of Angels in America: Tony Kushner, Meryl Streep and Maurice Sendak

 My kids grew up on Maurice Sendak's books. I can't count how many bedtimes there were when we cuddled up and read one of them - Pierre, Chicken Soup with Rice, One Was Johnny, Alligators All Around, Where the Wild Things Are...all wonderful books...but In the Night Kitchen was the one that really got to us. So strange and wonderful, so many buildings shaped like things that we could find in the kitchen - cartons of milk and lemon squeezers and nutcrackers...and up in the sky, that wonderful moon, and little naked Mickey floating around "past the moon and his mama and  papa sleeping tight and into the light of the night kitchen." Now my grandson and I are sharing that book and loving it. Pure magic.

Here's one of Sendak's poems set to music by Carole King. Sendak was a grump and a curmudgeon and a tortured soul with a wild imagination; he was brilliant and we couldn't get enough of him; he'll be missed.

The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted by Irene Latham at her blog LIVE YOUR POEM. Head over there to see what other people are posting.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Idioms, Anyone?

Over at Books Around the Table today, I'm taking a look at idioms in different languages. Head over there to see what the following photos have to do with it all:

The Poetry Friday round-up today is being hosted by Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader. Head over there to see what other people have posted.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Poetry Friday: No Water River, but Plenty of Poetry Splash

Renee LaTulippe * No Water River

Over at her blog No Water River,  Renee LaTulippe has been knocking herself poetry-silly all through April with readings-on-videos and interviews of people who write poetry for children: Laura Purdie Salas, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Kenn Nesbitt, Charles Waters, Irene Latham, Lee Wardlaw, Deborah Diesen, Greg Pincus, and J. Patrick Lewis (whose reading and interview will be posted next Monday.) I'm proud to have been included with this group of poets and to have my reading of an unpublished poem,  "No Strings Attached," be part of Renee's video archive now. The interview questions she sent me were special not the usual, and I had a lot of fun answering them.

You can also find Renee at her own No Water River You Tube channel,  at the All About Learning Press blog (where her alter ego, The Chipmunk of Doom, muses and rants) and at the WordSpark Editing site she maintains as part of her editorial work with writers. Busy lady!

Wish I could fly over to Italy, where Renee lives, and buy her a thank-you cappuccino, wish her a belated "Happy Birthday" (yesterday!) and talk about poetry. Or maybe just talk about rivers with no water and the Mediterranean Sea (with plenty of the same.)

Buon Compleanno, Renee!

The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted this week by Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference. Head over there to see what other people have posted.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Holding a Book in Your Hands

Isn't a well-made book just a beautiful thing? Practically intoxicating. Watch this!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Poetry Friday: Herrick's Brooks, Blossoms, Birds and Bowers

"I sing of brooks, of blossoms...."

It's blossom-time in Seattle. I'll just let the 17th-Century poet Robert Herrick speak for me this week.

The Argument of His Book
by Robert Herrick

I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds and bowers,
Of April, May, of June, and July flowers.
I sing of Maypoles, hock carts, wassails, wakes,
Of bridegrooms, brides, and of their bridal cakes.
I write of youth, of love, and have access
By these to sing of cleanly wantonness.
I sing of dews, of rains, and, piece by piece,
Of balm, of oil, of spice, and ambergris.
I sing of times trans-shifting, and I write
How roses first came red and lilies white.
I write of groves, of twilights, and I sing
The court of Mab and of the fairy king.
I write of hell; I sing (and ever shall)
Of heaven, and hope to have it after all.
Poetry Friday is being hosted this week by Diane Mayr at Random Noodling. Head over there to see what other people have posted. 

"I sing of Maypoles, hock carts, wassails, wakes...."


Friday, April 13, 2012

Poetry Friday: Happy Birthday, Seamus Heaney!

Seamus Heaney...

It's Seamus Heaney's birthday today. I once got to share a ham sandwich and a pint with this wonderful poet. He joined a half dozen students (me among them) at the College Inn Pub when he was in Seattle for a reading at the University  of Washington. It was quite a long time ago, but wow, I remember everything about it. The man was absolutely beautiful - relaxed, funny, generous-hearted, talented beyond belief - and that shock of white hair! And that Irish lilt! He didn't disappoint, that's for sure. 

Here's a poem of his that I love:


And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

                              - Seamus Heaney
                                 from The Spirit Level

And click here to hear the man himself, reading it.  
You'll see what I mean about that Irish lilt.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Heaney!

...and Seamus Heaney.

Poetry Friday today is being hosted by Anastasia Suen at her blog, Booktalking.  Head over there to see what other people are sharing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

10th Line for the 2012 KidLit Progressive Poem!

Today, as part of the ongoing celebration of National Poetry Month, I'm contributing the tenth line in the 2012 KidLit Progressive Poem, dreamed up by Irene Latham. My friends and I used to do an "Exquisite Corpse" version of this at our annual retreats. We passed a single sheet of paper around and each person contributed a line, but as we did so we had to fold over all but the preceding line. By doing that, we couldn't really tell where the poem had started nor where anyone meant the poem to go - things got pretty wild with those rules. You ended up with odd poems, not exactly sensible - or, if one of the poems made sense, it thrilled us. Insensibility and unplanned sensibility have their  roller-coaster charms. We even created a fake poet to sign the poems and send them out to reviews to see if we could get them published. Never did.

In this incarnation of the game, we could actually see the cumulative growth when we wrote our own lines. We could see where the poem started, and the course it had taken,  but we didn't know what direction future poets would make it go.

Here's the poem as it stands right now, with my contribution. Tomorrow, it moves on to Kate at her blog, Book Aunt. She'll see what she thinks her job is - maybe to make it clearer or to calm it down, speed it up, throw a curve, make it sadder, make it sillier, make it more cerebral or more emotional  - we won't know until tomorrow. And who knows what will happen by the 30th of April??

If you want to see my thoughts about why I wrote the line I did, just read the P.S.

Thanks for setting it all up, Irene - fun!

If you are reading this
you must be hungry
Kick off your silver slippers
Come sit with us a spell
A hanky, here, now dry your tears
And fill your glass with wine
Now, pour. The parchment has secrets
Smells of a Morrocan market spillout.
You have come to the right place, just breathe in.
Honey, mint, cinnamon, sorrow. Now, breathe out


P.S. Here are my thoughts about adding a line: In a poem like this (actually, in all poems, but even more so for this kind) I think there should be a few surprises. Different voices contribute, with different tastes in choice of words, images, and rhythms. Shifts along those lines can be interesting. Predictability and accessibility are not the be-all nor the end-all when the structure is cumulative, with many poets contributing. For me, adding a line meant seeing how the poem was doing in terms of surprises, and throwing in a curve or two. When I saw tears and a hanky and wine, I figured it wasn't a poem for kids. I also got worried because oh-oh, a crying jag was coming on. My inclination at that point would have been to introduce a laugh and not let the poem get over-emotional. But looking at the additions in the last couple of days, I have to say I love where it's gone - the jump to the parchment, and to Morocco - both so mysterious! So I wanted those smells and that mystery in my line, and I wanted not only a metaphorical breath in, but a physical, cleansing breath out.

Can't wait to see where this thing goes.See the schedule, below.


Here's the Progressive Poem schedule - follow along and watch it grow!

2012 KidLit Progressive Poem:  watch a poem grow day-by-day as it travels across the Kidlitosphere! April 1-30

Dates in April: 

1  Irene at Live Your Poem 
2  Doraine at Dori Reads
3  Jeannine at View from a Window Seat
4  Robyn at Read, Write, Howl
5  Susan at Susan Taylor Brown
6  Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
8  Jone at Deo Writer
9  Gina at Swagger Writer's
10  Julie at The Drift Record
11  Kate at Book Aunt
12  Anastasia Suen at Booktalking
14  Diane at Random Noodling
16  Natalie at Wading Through Words 
17  Tara at A Teaching Life
18  Amy  at The Poem Farm
19  Lori at Habitual Rhymer
21  Myra at Gathering Books
22  Pat at Writer on a Horse
23  Miranda at Miranda Paul Books 
24  Linda at TeacherDance
25  Greg at Gotta Book
26  Renee at No Water River
27  Linda at Write Time
28  Caroline at Caroline by Line
29  Sheri at Sheri Doyle
30  Irene at Live Your Poem

Friday, April 6, 2012

Poetry Friday: A Photo Poem

Happy National Poetry Month! Christopher Fry, the British playwright, once said that poetry “is the language by which man explores his own amazement.” 

I think this photo/poem is amazing, and I write more about amazement today over at BOOKS AROUND THE TABLE.  

Just look at that frozen whistle. Hope you enjoy it. 
Photo by AP photography Robert F. Bukaty: "Maine Cold"
Poetry Friday today is being hosted by Robyn Hood Black over at READ, WRITE, HOWL. head over there to see what other people have posted.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Poetry Friday: Kites, Books and Blogs


I'm pleased to say that Sylvia Vardell's new book is out, titled The Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists. It contains "155 different poetry bibliographies and research-based strategy lists featuring 1500 poetry books for children and teens (ages 0-18.)" Click here to go to Sylvia's blog, Poetry for Children, where you can learn a little more about the new book.I'm going to get a copy for sure and recommend it to my MFA students. It sounds like a wonderful reference tool.

Hopefully, getting poetry into more teachers hands will help answer Janet Wong's recent call-to-arms over at Friends of the ALSC Poetry Blast (on Facebook):  "If you are in a position of power in ALA, how about asking (again) why there isn't a poetry award? If you are active in IRA, NCTE, or some other group that is planning a big convention/conference, how about suggesting a poet for the keynote or luncheon speaker? Lee Bennett Hopkins or J. Patrick Lewis or Joyce Sidman or Nikki Grimes? We cannot be content with preaching to the choir at our lovely poetry programs (where everyone in the audience knows everyone else); we need to get out and reach those people who haven't heard a poem in 20 years."

Head over to my juicy little universe to see what other people are sharing for Poetry Friday.

Also, don't miss new posts over at Books Around the Table - Julie Paschkis reflects on Imperfectionism, Margaret-Chodos Irvine on Beauty in Limitations: A Printmaker's Perspective, Laura Kvasnosky on Responding with Wonder, I offer up my choices for the Best Children's Poetry Books of 2011. 

There have been some lovely posts lately by colleagues of mine (in the MFA-Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts) over at Write at Your Own Risk.