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! 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Poetry Friday: Walter de la Mare

Illustration by Belarusian Artist Anna Silivonchik
Over at Books Around the Table this week, I wrote about the extraordinary fact that Moscow experienced only six minute of sunlight this December - six minutes for the whole month. That's the time it takes to soft-boil an egg...divided by 31 days. You can head over to Books Around the Table to read my thoughts about how much we all need sunlight during the winter - bottom line is this: BUNDLE UP, GET OUTSIDE, GO FOR A WALK. 

But here at The Drift Record's Poetry Friday, it's all about poetry - hurrah! Here is a seasonal favorite of mine from Walter de la Mare. I love the mood, the unusual rhyme scheme (AABCB) and oh, the strange and wonderful ending with its unexpected metrical shift (not to mention the alliteration before the white moon...sigh....)  Enjoy! 

Clouded with snow
The cold winds blow,
And shrill on leafless bough
The robin with its burning breast
Alone sings now.

The rayless sun,
Day's journey done,
Sheds its last ebbing light
On fields in leagues of beauty spread
Unearthly white.

Thick draws the dark,
And spark by spark,
The frost-fires kindle, and soon
Over that sea of frozen foam
Floats the white moon.

              Walter de la Mare
 The Poetry Friday round-up this week is being hosted by Carol of Beyond LiteracyLink. Head over there to see what other people have posted. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Poetry Friday: Bomb Cyclones - Say What?

What a bomb cyclone looks like from the sky...

 Out here on the Left Coast, we've heard about the winter storms hitting New England. One day last week the high temperature in Montpelier, VT, was -1. That was the HIGH temperature. Low was  -17!! And this week we're hearing about hurricane force winds combining with those freezing temperatures. Weathermen are talking about bomb cyclone conditions. "Bomb cyclones"?

...and from below!

I'm going to try to remember not to complain about the Pacific Northwest's relatively mild winters. For now, I send warm wishes, along with wishes for warmth, to all my friends and colleagues at Vermont College of Fine Arts who are meeting for their Winter Residency. Warm hugs to, to my daughter and her family in gobsmacked Boston. Bundle up, sweet people, and have a few cups of cocoa!!

VCFA in the snow....

Here is a poem for Poetry Friday, written by Mary Oliver.


In winter
   all the singing is in
       the tops of trees
           where the wind bird

with its white eyes
   shoves and pushes
       among the branches.
            Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep
   but he's restless---
       he has an idea,
            and slowly it unfolds
from under his beating wing
    as long as he stays awake.
        But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.

So, it's over.
     In the pine-crown,
         he makes his nest,
             he's done all he can.

I don't know the name of this bird,
     I only imagine his glittering beak
          tucked in a white wing
               while the clouds---

which he has summoned
     from the north---
          which he has taught
               to be mild, and silent---

thicken, and begin to fall
     into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
              of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent---
         that has turned itself
              into snow.

Bird Print in Snow (photograph by Joe Sebastiani)

Mary Oliver 

The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted this week by Catherine at Reading to the Core. Head over there to see what other people have posted. And, since we're still only four days in, I wish you a happy, healthy and creative new year. 2018!!!