Friday, April 29, 2011

a way

a way

I am not
for now; the five thousand
steps are
too far
and your stones
are pushed down,
buried by sifting, thickened
drifts beyond
my bare foot's reach

another year maybe
will thin, expand
cast a light
rain along your bounds
so that even this blind
I might find
a way across
again, arrive
alone, alive

~ Heidi Mordhorst 2011
all rights reserved

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

the middle is the end and the beginning

In our school district, teachers have been teaching (and testing) for 9 weeks straight without a day off, and if you count all the way back to January, for 15 weeks with only a couple of 3-day weekends to catch a breath. This middle day of April is the end of one butt-kicking passage of time, and the beginning of the most exciting, most needed Spring Break I've had EVER. We're going to Costa Rica!

I'm thankful that I'll still be a presence during NaPoMo, thanks to TOMORROW's post by Gregory K featuring "The Playroom Floor Writes a Novel" at 30 Poets/30 Days, and thanks to Laura Shovan at Author Amok, who is including a new poem of mine in her NaPoMo project featuring Maryland poets TODAY!

For now, in honor of both the wildlife I hope to encounter in Costa Rica and the lifestyle I hope to enjoy there, a classic by Theodore Roethke:

The Sloth

In moving slow he has no Peer.

You ask him something in his Ear,

He thinks about it for a Year;

And, then, before he says a Word

There, upside down (unlike a Bird),

He will assume that you have Heard--

A most Ex-as-per-at-ing Lug.

But should you call his manner Smug,

He’ll sigh and hive his Branch a Hug;

Then off again to Sleep he goes,

Still swaying gently by his Toes,

And you just know he knows he knows.

~ Theodore Roethke

Today's roundup will find us all wrapped up in noodles by Diane Mayr at Random Noodling.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

alice oswald

When I taught in England in the 90's, I was truly surprised to find how few of the books I grew up on--picture books and classic middle-grade novels both--were known at all in the UK, and how many British classics were, in turn, unknown to me. I guess it was surprising because of the place of authors like A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter in the American canon, which could lead a reader to believe that their lesser-known British compatriots were better represented on the library shelves. I just assumed that similarly, Arnold Lobel and Beverly Cleary and their compatriots would be represented in English libraries, but no one there had ever heard of The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!

Although the Atlantic is perhaps not so deep a divide these days, when it comes to poetry the crossover may still be difficult. I think so because of a beautiful book, not published here, given to me by my English mother-in-law. It's Weeds and Wild Flowers by Alice Oswald. Her name was new to me, but for the past 15 years or so (her first book came out the year I left London) she has been rising to the top of the milk can of British poetry.

This collection, for adults but accessible to the YA audience, is striking in its conception, mood and presentation. Each poem is titled with the uncommon name--in most cases unfamiliar to me--of a common plant; Oswald then develops each into a character described in a voice which is so spare and so intimate that when I went to find out more about Alice, I was a little shocked to realize that she actually has an "ordinary" human family. Her deep knowledge of each of these plant-people had me believing that these were her relatives.

Here's a poem for April, not my favorite in the book, but which well represents the prickly surface of her carefully structured pieces.

First of April – new born gentle.
Fleeting wakeful on a Greenleaf cradle.
Second of April – eyes half open,
Faint light moving under lids. Face hidden.
Third of April – bonny and blossoming
In a yellow dress that needs no fastening.
Fourth fifth sixth – she somehow stands
clutching for balance with both hands.

Seventh of April and tiredness shows.
No rest for three days in unwashed clothes.
Asks (eighth of April) for a little water.
Asks asks until the lips dry out. No answer.
Ninth of April. Head flopped over.
Contorted with headache. Seated figure.
Twelfth of April – eyes half closed.
No light moving under lids. Tense pose.

April the thirteenth. Almost dead.
Face like wet paper. Hanging yellow head.
Still there. Still dying. Fourteenth of April.
Face fading out. Expression dreadful.
Fifteenth sixteenth. So on so on.
Soul being siphoned off. Colour gone.
April the seventeenth. Dead. Probably.
Skull in the grass. Very light and crumbly.

~ Alice Oswald from Weeds and Wildflowers, 2009

The monotone etchings by Jessica Greenman intensify the experience of reading this book--simple yet deeply detailed, restrained yet wild the way we are inside our seed-bearing heads.

The schedule says we're all converging at Madigan Reads this week for Poetry Friday.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I get around

April is fun, fun, fun! We all know that poetry is for all times of year, but what poet isn't revved up by the knowledge that this month a nationwide poetry party is going on all night, all day, all ways? I've had some lovely invitations this time around. Look for my work and what wisdom I have to share at these sites. I'll add specific dates when I know them.

ReaderKidz featured essay, "Making a Meal of Poetry" , up now!

Jama Rattigan's Poetry Potluck:"Lasagna Factory," later this week

Gregory K's 30 Poets/30 Days at gottabook later this month:

"The Playroom Floor Writes a Novel"

And in the March issue of the ALA's Book Links magazine, "April Gale" from Pumpkin Butterfly starts off a game of Poetry Tag in Sylvia Vardell's poetry column and features another of my poems offline.


Friday, April 1, 2011

the fuellest month

My universe turned very juicy indeed on April 1, 1999: on this day was brought forth the fresh, hardy, thrive-anywhere perennial who is my daughter Daisy. Nowadays, what with her ever-changingness, the launch of National Poetry Month, all this spring ("as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,/Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes"), the first day of April seems to fill up my tank and fuel fresh starts and forward thrust. Heaven knows I need that! (I also need packages that arrive unexpectedly filled with crazy faith and chocolate-peanut clusters, but that's a whole 'nother heart-tickling story...)

I had a few poems in mind for today's post but now I have a better idea, if you'll join me in some April Fuellishness: a poetry game. I'll start, and as your comment you'll add a line to the poem. It's MiniPoetryTag!

It might work best if you cut and paste previous lines into the comment box before adding your line. My job will be to come back this afternoon and wrap the whole thing up, wherever it may have taken us. Ready? (And don't forget to visit Amy at the Poem Farm for all the rest of Poetry Friday.) Here goes....


Fresh starts, forward thrust--

[to you!]