Friday, July 30, 2010

can't help myself

Those of us who thrive in the classroom environment have now been out of school long enough to be thinking of "next year." (Actually we were probably scheming about how do everything Better, Stronger, Slower before school was over, or that might just be me.)

So I woke up this morning (too early; bad cat!) thinking about the sense (or not) in a class mission statement, which led to a picture of me and my new reading class of 2nd graders making our silent and stealthy way ("Your mission, should you choose to accept it...") through the halls of our new school building, occupying and exploring our new room, and in the background was playing the theme from Mission Impossible (click to get the effect), which vision only works if you participated in Pallotta TeamWorks AIDS rides of the 90's, the motto for which was (and here finally is today's poem, a brilliant one-word piece of punctuation genius)--


I think my second-graders just became the I-Team. Poetry Friday is at Irene's Live. Love. Explore! blog today.

Friday, July 23, 2010

the badnesses of this world

My preference is usually for "uplifting" poetry, that which (along with everything it does for cognition and imagination by sounding good to your ears and feeling good in your mouth) leaves me with a reverberating sense of wonder at the goodnesses of this world, kind of like the ones I posted back in January that suggested some animal spirituality.

I'm having trouble therefore understanding why the poem below keeps me coming back to it. I received it courtesy of The Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day service. The pain barely contained in it is enormous and frightening and wonderful.

Prayer for the Man Who Mugged My Father, 72
by Charles Harper Webb

May there be an afterlife.

May you meet him there, the same age as you.
May the meeting take place in a small, locked room.

May the bushes where you hid be there again, leaves tipped with razor-
blades and acid.
May the rifle butt you bashed him with be in his hands.
May the glass in his car window, which you smashed as he sat stopped
at a red light, spike the rifle butt, and the concrete on which you'll

May the needles the doctors used to close his eye, stab your pupils
every time you hit the wall and then the floor, which will be often.
May my father let you cower for a while, whimpering, "Please don't
shoot me. Please."
May he laugh, unload your gun, toss it away;
Then may he take you with bare hands.

May those hands, which taught his son to throw a curve and drive a nail
and hold a frog, feel like cannonballs against your jaw....

Take a deep breath and read the complete poem here. Poetry Friday is hosted today by Breanne at Language, Literacy, Love.

Friday, July 16, 2010

come on in; the water's fine

Welcome to my first-ever Poetry Friday host post! I'm thrilled to have the honor and let me say it was no small thing to get a slot--this community is full of eager beavers, swimming through the hot dams of summer to get in line for this job. Thanks to Mary Lee for sharing.

With the beach and the pool and camps called "Adventure Island" and "River Ecology," not to mention the family foray Tuesday night out into a drizzle that became a shower that became a torrent complete with lightning and thunder, I'm feeling pleasantly water-logged. Here's a suitably wet poem from my files that I just rediscovered.

Water Becomes You

This water coming into your hands,
it’s old—older than today,
older than you are,
older than the oldest people you know.

This water has been around:
playing over and under the world,
coming up in different wells,
turning through the air into nothing.

This water will make its home in you,
become a part of you,
moving in your very thoughts:
old water welling up in new hands.

~Heidi Mordhorst 2007
all rights reserved

I'm looking forward to whatever you're sending my way, Poetry People.
Leave your links as comments and I'll compile them morning, noon and night!

Early Birds

Shelley points us in the direction of her "grassroots epic" Rain: A Dust Bowl Story in poems which recreates our grandparents' era. I'll need some time at this site...

Tabatha has returned from Canada with a bilingual poem she found by the cliffs at the end of the trail, The End of Land. I always wish for more "situational poetry" installations, for the chance to be surprised by a poem in an unexpected place.

Little Willow shares Egyptian Serenade by George William Curtis. Nice to meet you, LW, and thanks for leading me to GWC--an interesting guy, especially for us UU folks.

At the Poem Farm, Amy has her own poem about poetry (#8 of 107 in her PoWriYe) as well as a few comments on her free verse inspirations. : )

Charles aka Father Goose has been getting kids going at summer poetry workshops with Riddle Rhyme poems--two of which are perfect companions to Amy's "Flying My Poem"!

Oops--I made a mistake earlier...Laura E. is "out of the office" but leaves us with a piece by Mirabai and her reflections on it at Teach Poetry K-12. I'm grateful for the introduction to a new voice.

Mary Lee at A Year of Reading is contemplating a visit back home to a small town with an exquisite poem by Gregory Djanikian. There is surely another exquisite poem lurking in the detonation of Matchbox cars on the 4th of July...

Toby is buzzing about the thoughts of bees at The Writer's Armchair, just long enough to give her easy-over detective time to get wired for an encounter at the self-storage place. I'm intrigued...both by what bees think and the fate of Emma Trace!

At Author Amok I find that like me, Laura Sh. loves no-poems (which is funny 'cause I think we are both yes-people). No-poems are unrelated to noh-drama, but couldn't we all use a summer like that? Sadly, this is not to be for Laura; see her No-ode to Summer.

Laura #3 of the morning (Laura S.) has a laugh for anyone who may be a beginning writer, a jaded and uninspired writer, or a writer who doesn't know how to take the piss, particularly out of herself: "Do You Have Any Advice for Those of Us Just Starting Out?" by Ron Koertge.

[Report on the experience of hosting: I have nothing--NOTHING--else to do today, so I can follow and wallow to my heart's content in every linky direction y'all are taking me, and it's putting me in a VERY good mood!]
Midday Muses

Diane weighs in with writing advice from Snoopy at Random Noodling, introduces us (or maybe just me) to Eleanor Ross Taylor at Kurious Kitty, and quotes the eminent Eleanor at Kurious Kitty's Kwotes. [Fancy keeping up with THREE blogs!] Personally I think Eleanor deserves an award simply for titling a 1960 collection of poems Wilderness of Ladies, but I'm sure there's more to discover than that.

Over at Dori Reads, Doraine shares Two Voices in a Meadow as a metaphor for the writer's life, an interpretation that adds a new layer of interest to Richard Wilbur's finely tuned milkweed and stone.

Jama whets our appetite just in time for National Ice Cream Day on July 18th with two video scoops of Bleezer's Ice Cream! Sadly, the recommended strawberry-vanilla twist would not crank my freezer; my standard order is mint chocolate chip in a cup, with Coffee Heath Bar Crunch reserved for special occasions. And I have fond memories of Haagen Dazs cappucino flavor back in the 80' doesn't exist anymore, but check THIS out, speaking of beezzzz!

And in a graceful transition, we flow from cappucino ice cream to free verse coffee in a cup: Stenhouse offers a mentor poem from Liz Hale.

Alison extends us a "don't be creative" creativity challenge in the form of a photo at
Wistful Wanderings. I'm thinking that we need an expression like "Break a leg" for writers who need encouragement to get on with our creative work but who might be stifled by that often vacuous "Be creative!" command....

Linda of Write Time reminds us that all those disused objects we hang onto DO have an important use, with a couple of
poems about objects that hold memories.

This morning I the early-bird managed to sleep through a
3.6 magnitude earthquake here in Maryland. It was just a rumble under the bed, but I was sorry I missed it--until it hit me that with Haiti's 6-month tribulation in mind there might be something wrong about wishing to experience an earthquake. And now look who has dropped by to bring weight to this feeling: Ruth at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town, who lives and teaches in Haiti, and who shares earthquake poems by Haitian poets. I stand shaken. I hadn't met Ruth before; hello to you!

I'm also pleased to meet B.C. of
The Small Nouns, who shares a brave-indeed poem about the lost habit of flying, plus some sources for those looking for a poetry stretch. I'll be heading to ohboywhatfun Big Tent Poetry so that I can fail to muster up any response to those as well as Tricia's Monday Poetry Stretches at The Miss Rumphius Effect. *sigh*

And now a sigh of satisfaction at the romance and gravity of a wedding: over at Wild Rose Reader, Elaine's daughter is now married! Today she shares her
wedding poem for (and some great photos of) the new couple, inspired by a Margaret Atwood work. All good wishes for this new beginning!

Always happy to meet another fan of Mary Oliver ("poet laureate of UU's"). Nancy at
Maine Mornings joins Poetry Friday for the first time and shares a poem that "more or less//kills me/with delight" called "Mindful". Scroll down to read a very mindful visit to Nancy's garden for dinner. Bliss.

Andromeda is in today with a review at
a wrung sponge of African Acrostics by Avis Harley. Ya gotta love a reviewer that can inject poetry into her description itself: "These poems can be drunk in quickly in long droughts of gold and dusk or drawn out lazily ..." Because of their ritual abuse in classrooms across America I have held acrostics in low esteem, but I can see that I have been hasty...just compare this zebra example to the wild stripes included in Andi's review!
[Hm. 10:40 pm. Guess I did have a few other things to do today.]

Janet has Mouse Mess for us at
All About the Books, a favorite read-aloud for early grades.

At Check It Out, Jone shares her progress through and response to
Ted Kooser's Poetry Home Repair Manual. As if that weren't enough, she has a response to this week's Poetry Stretch at Deo Writer!

Theresa at Looking for the Write Words shares thoughts on how to be a
good friend today--and stay that way!

Until I read the Richard Wilbur poems over at Dori Reads today, I didn't know I might like to listen to
Richard Wilbur talk. Karen makes it easy at The Blog With the Shockingly Clever Title (TBWTSCT?) by directing us to The Web of Stories, which looks like a cool place to hang out, too. Very cool.

Barbara of the Write Sisters fogs up the place with a
steamy poem from Pattiann Rogers which brings new meaning to the idea of "the birds and the bees."

Linking nicely to Linda's poems about memorial objects, Jeannine writes today about
Stuff and Silence and choosing both what to keep in your house and in your writing. And indeed, the mess gets worse before it gets better!

Erin's posting for the first time today with
a poem every child should know (what a good idea for a modern series too!) at Little Kid Lit. I like the old-fashioned idea that poetry is a duty as well as a delight.

Kelly finishes up with a not very "cheatery" post that leads to some good basic reminders on going beyond the polished poem to a polished manuscript. Nothing like a little practical advice.

Thank you, thank you to all who participated today! And now I shall follow that most reliable piece of practical advice and Go To Bed. See you next Friday!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

how could I forget?

Yee-haw! By special arrangement with Mary Lee over at A Year of Reading, the Poetry Friday Round-up will be HERE next week. See you on the 16th!

Friday, July 9, 2010


I've been a fan of Natalie Merchant since near the beginning, and many of her songs with the band 10,000 Maniacs are in my top 50 of all time (however, do not ask me to list my Top 50 of All Time; I'm nowhere near ready to commit. But "These Are Days" is in the Top Ten). Today I'm finally getting around to enjoying a (March) birthday present from my mother: Natalie's new project, Leave Your Sleep.

Leave Your Sleep is a collection of 26 songs, all of them composed around poems by a wide variety of well- and lesser-known poets including Rachel Field, Jack Prelutsky (the only one still living), Ogden Nash and Eleanor Farjeon. The year-long project "represents parts of a long conversation I've had with daughter during the first six years of her life."

The two CDs come packaged in a fetching small book which includes short biography and a black-and-white portrait of each poet--a treasure trove for anyone who has wondered, like me, why more popular songs aren't set to poems.

Easily my favorite so far is "maggie and milly and molly and may"--lyrics by e. e. cummings, a poet also dear to my heart. Click here to listen to a snippet of this lovely piece that gives, as my own read-alouds often fail to do, a seemingly simple narrative poem all the glow and gravitas in the atmosphere as it has inside us.

maggie and milly and molly and may
~ e. e. cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

Friday, July 2, 2010

blasted poets!

At the ALA in Washington Monday, on the way from Gianormo Convention Center Building #1 to Gianormo Convention Center Building #2, I asked directions to Room 144A, scene of this year's Poetry Blast, and then heard two stylish and colorful women behind me doing the same. As we crossed the street together, one commented on my own pink-with-orange ensemble. I did not realize, until we all reached the front row of chairs where the Blasting poets were gathering, that I had been complimented on my chromatocombo by Lois Ehlert herself!

I have participated in three what you might call "national" poetry readings now, and every time it is such a thrill to meet and hear in person writers who have existed for me only as names on a book jacket. And I was so relieved to hear famous* children's poets greeting other famous* children's poets saying, "I've heard your name but I'm not familiar with your work," since I often feel terribly ignorant of all the excellent work out there. I guess we all have a blanket of acquaintance with the work in our chosen field, and then, as someone put it, we have "deep shafts of knowledge" here and there.

I shall be digging some deep new shafts next week (once the blasted public charter school appeal is done) to know more about Debbie Levy (what range!), George Ella Lyon (what delightful diction!), Tony Medina (what humor!) and Carole Weatherford (what living history!).

Thanks to all at the Blast for another great show, especially Barbara Genco and Marilyn "Six Stars" Singer!

My lame but heartfelt reverso about the Poetry Blast...

had to be

to catch every nuance

it was worth the effort,

it was worth the effort
to catch every nuance
had to be