Friday, December 21, 2012

Poetry Friday: light the darkest night

Poetry Friday is here and now, on the Winter Solstice, when the sun stands briefly still at its lowest point on the horizon.  All day shadows are long, and the night, when it comes, is the longest night of the year.  But take heart, diurnal creatures:  poetry has the power to light the dark! 
Susan Cooper (yes, that Susan Cooper, of the The Dark Is Rising series) leads the procession of those who call the sun to return.
The Shortest Day | Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - listen!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.

Welcome Yule!

A couple of folks who don't blog sent me poems to light the dark ahead of time.  This one, by the woods-whisperer Joyce Sidman, reminds us that furred and feathered creatures also eat and drink of the light.
Winter Solstice, At the Feeder | Joyce Sidman

In your burrows under the snow
all you will hear
is the dry swirl of frozen breath,
the rasp of bare limbs,
the slow stamp of some large creature. 
On this coldest of mornings,
when all is either stone or dust
and the shadows reach blue fingers
into the splintered air,
I am planting flowers of the sun. 
Each seed drops into the powder,
a striped case holding its secret map
of burning velvet yellow.
Can you smell it, this promise,
this nugget of unconsumed heat? 
I can see by your footprints
that you have been here before.
Pheasant hen, finch and mouse:
when I am gone, come and eat.
Turn your faces toward the light. 
from Like the Air, Finishing Line Press, 1999.  Reprinted with permission.

Another echo, unclad of the mists of time, came to my inbox via the Academy of American Poets.  In it, Jake Adam York (go to the obituary of this suddenly, recently departed poet to wish for More Time) addresses not the literal sun, but a musician who knew himself to be of the "Angel Race" of Saturn. Reading this poem, I felt the longing many of us have, as we rush around the shopping malls and freeway interchanges, to connect with the ebb and flow of the cosmos.  To see, "To get it dark enough," we "have to fold back/into the hills, into the trees."

Letter Already Broadcast into Space | Jake Adam York

                         -To Sun Ra, from Earth

You are not here,

you are not here
in Birmingham,
        where they keep your name,

not in Elmwood's famous plots
                or the monuments
of bronze or steel or the strew

        of change in the fountain
where the firehoses sprayed.

                In the furnaces, in the interchange sprawl
        that covers Tuxedo Junction,

in the shopping malls, I think,
                they've forgotten you,

the broadcast towers, the barbecues,

        the statue of the Roman god,
spiculum blotting out
                part of the stars.

To get it dark enough,
        I have to fold back
into the hills, into the trees

                where my parents
planted me, where the TV
        barely reaches and I drift

with my hand on the dial
                of my father's radio,

spinning, too, the tall antenna
        he raised above the pines.

I have to stand at the base

                of the galvanized
pole I can use as an azimuth
        and plot you in.

The hunter's belt is slung again,
                and you are there

in the pulse, in the light of
        Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka,

all your different names,

                you are there
in all the rearrangements
        of the stars.

                        Come down now,
come down again,

                like the late fall light
into the mounds along the creek,

        light that soaks like a flood
to show the Cherokee sitting upright
                underground, light

like the fire they imply.

        Come down now
into the crease the freight train
                hits like a piano's hammer

and make the granite hum

                        Come down now

as my hand slips from the dial,
                tired again of looking
for the sound of another way

        to say everything.

Come down now with your diction
                and your dictionary.

Come down, Uncle, come down
        and help me rise.

I have forgot my wings.
Some remember their wings through a rather famous book of poetry.  This piece is contributed by my father, a Lutheran pastor.  The poet is John (yes, that John, of the New Testament).

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth."
Gospel of John, selected verses 1-14

And how does a nice Lutheran girl, a PK, become a pagan-tinted Unitarian Universalist who tracks the sun's journey around the wheel of the year?  I can only say that it's there in my cells (and in Pumpkin Butterfly).
Solar-Powered Sun Puppet | Heidi Mordhorst
the dark side of me
glowers inside
drags at the tips of my toes
it feeds on clouds
on rainy skies
and only my shadow knows:
how heavy
the day is
how low the horizon
how sodden
and sad
I am
then sweet sun punches a hole in the clouds
sizzles and swims in my eyes
my shadow spills out through a hole in my sole
my darker side hung out to dry
how sudden and mad I am!
I’m sunny side up
I’m pumped full of light 
my silhouette dances on walls
Now I can see clearly:
my dark doppelganger
freed by the sun's high call
my demon cast out, my shadow of doubt
is the shadow that proves that I am!
I hope that you and yours will find living light--outer and inner--on this shortest day, this darkest night and all through the season.  Now for the Round-Up!

April Halprin Wayland led us to the archway of the Solstice with an original poem she posted last week at Teaching Authors, her last post for 2012.  It's called "Winter Solstice: Girl Talking to the Sun."

Irene Latham leads on with an original poem "First Day of Winter" that appears in her book WHAT CAME BEFORE.

More ways to see winter come from Laura Purdie Salas, who gives us a triolet of icicles to catch the glancing light.

Bridget Magee joins us from Wee Words for Wee Ones with a "Solstice Song." 

Diane Mayr shares a slew of seasonal selections.  At Random Noodling she has 2 original poems with two very different views of St. Lucy's Day.  St. Lucy's Day originally coincided with the winter solstice.  At KK's Kwotes there's a quote by A. E. Housman and at Kurious Kitty a Housman poem.  It's not a celebration of the solstice, but echoes her feelings this week. And finally, at The Write Sisters, Diane has an original solstice tanka in an illustrated form.

Nonfiction expert and poet Buffy Silverman has done us the honor of writing her very first blog post ever for today's Winter Solstice celebration.  She brings us the "Colored Candles" of Chanukah.  Welcome, Buffy!

Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference takes us back to the beginning with a poem about the Norse goddess Freya, and, coincidentally...

Robyn Hood Black celebrates the Winter Solstice with Tabatha's "In the Great Book of Winter" at Read, Write, Howl.

Mary Lee Hahn shares an original from the Winter Poem Swap organized by the very busy Tabatha, called "Sensing the Solstice."

Amy Ludwig Vanderwater joins in with "A Candle No One Else Can See" at The Poem Farm.

Laura Shovan writes, "My post is in response to the Sandy Hook shootings. After 9-11, I heard a Wendell Berry poem that begins, 'Now you know the worst we humans have to know about ourselves.' It has always stuck with me, and came to mind last week. It is about combating darkness with the light of love."
From Liz Steinglass at Growing Wild, a piquant mouthful called "Seasonal Feasts."

Marjorie brings some Caribbean sunshine to our northerly darkness with a post on John Agard at Paper Tigers.
Linda Kulp shares granchildren rhymes at Write Time.

Tara's offering is Mary Oliver's "The Gardener," from her new collection.
Matt Forrest Esenwine has cookies over at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme.  Yum!

Margaret Simon is lighting the dark with some reflections.

Renee LaTulippe is playing with homophones today at No Water River, and my apologies for an oversight...Renee also has a Grinchy Christmas poem and poetry video by guest poet Penny Klostermann called "Max Mostly Moves On":

Matt Goodfellow has a poem inspired by information on the Solstice.

Iza has "Christmas Memories" from New York from us on her blog.

Violet shares a two-part poem that riffs on various aspects of Christmas.

Today Linda at TeacherDance hones in on the important things in life--a good exercise at any time of year.

More music for us at Mother Reader:  Peace Love and Understanding!

Ruth is in with "Winter Stars" by Sara Teasdale.  It's killing me that I don't have time to go and read these until tomorrow!

Little Willow has posted Last Answers by Carl Sandburg at Bildungsroman.

Kate's "darkness into light" poem is here at Book Aunt.

Charles Ghignawould like to help light the dark with "Present Light" at The FATHER GOOSE Blog.

Fats Suela is in today at Gathering Books with Jack Prelutsky's "I'm Wrestling with an Octopus." It's far from being a solstice poem, but definitely in keeping with the bimonthly theme "Stream of Stories and Whispering Water Tales."
Sheri Doyle is in with a poem and a song about light and dreams.

Joy has not only ornaments but poetry crafts at Poetry for Kids Joy!

Gregory K has surprised himself by posting an original poem today:  Oh, Well

Thanks to all who are brightening a grey and rainy morning here in Bethesda, and who helped me ready this post along with the gingerbread men, chestnut pate and parsnip roulade.  I'll be rounding up again at 1:30 or so, but by evening my family will be lighting the 12 candles on our Yule tree and speaking our Winter Solstice words:  "On this dark night we celebrate light and power of the human spirit to brighten and warm the season of cold and dark..."  Thanks for visiting, and I look forward to making my way to all your postings during the weekend!


  1. Hi Heidi,
    My solstice poem "Seasonal Feasts" is at
    Thanks for organizing this poetic celebration.

  2. Good morning Heidi, I'm in today at Write Time with grandchildren rhymes. Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season full of peace, love, and joy!

  3. Hi, Heidi. What a beautiful post -- so many offerings of light on this short day. I was just thinking about Susan Cooper's "The Dark is Rising," with its beautiful Christmas scenes this morning!

    My light in the darkness is a Wendell Berry poem that begins, "Now you know the worst."

  4. Thanks for hosting today, Heidi! My contribution is Mary Oliver's sublime "The Gardener" from her most recent collection.

  5. What a spectacular offering, Heidi! I've been looking forward to your post, and it's beaming.

    Thanks for the special Roundup. (So happy to share Tabatha's poem, as you noted. The specific link now is - :0) Warmest wishes to you and yours.

  6. What a beautiful, hopeful, light-filled post. Thank you, Heidi, for hosting and lighting the way for us this Friday. I wish you and yours a beautiful dinner and celebration tonight! xo, a.

  7. Hi Heidi, wow, I just barely woke up & you've got a full slate of people on your list! It's going to be a busy day. I've got cookies over at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme:

  8. Thanks for hosting today. Here is my contribution to lighting the darkness:

  9. Hi Heidi,

    Thanks for hosting! I'm in today with a Grinchy Christmas poem and poetry video by Penny Klostermann called "Max Mostly Moves On":

  10. It's me again! I've also got an original holiday homophone poem to share, called "Holidaze! or, Santy Claws Gnu What Eye Kneaded"

    Thanks again, and happy holidays to you!

  11. Hi Heidi, I have a poem inspired by the information in the link you posted!

    best wishes,


  12. What a stunning selection of poems! Some much needed light on this dark, rainy day here in NY.

    My poem is "Christmas Memories" at:

  13. What an interesting collection of poems here, Heidi. I especially like the Sidman one--and yours! And thanks for hosting.

    My contribution today is a two-part poem that riffs on various aspects of Christmas. "Two poems about Christmas" is here:

    Violet Nesdoly

  14. What a beautiful collection, Heidi. I love "then sweet sun punches a hole in the clouds" and that you shared a poem by Jake Adam York. I am here in Denver & my daughter is friends with him, works at the Museum of Contemporary Art who are all in shock at his passing too soon!
    Many tough things have happened recently, so my sharing today is honing in to the important things in our lives through a poem I found recently. Thanks for hosting and Happy Solstice!

  15. I'm sharing another song as poetry installment - Peace Love and Understanding - over at MotherReader:

    Thanks for hosting!

  16. Thanks for hosting. I'm in with "Winter Stars" by Sara Teasdale.

  17. Happy holidays, everyone! Thanks for hosting, Heidi.

    I posted Last Answers by Carl Sandburg at Bildungsroman.

  18. Hi Heidi! Here's the link to my "darkness into light" poem at Book Aunt today. Happy Solstice!

  19. Thanks for hosting today, Heidi. My post about Mary Lee Hope's "Turn Again to Life" is here:

  20. Thank you, Heidi! We'd like to help light the dark with "Present Light" at The FATHER GOOSE Blog

  21. Hello Heidi!

    Thanks for hosting Poetry Friday today. I adore the poems you've shared! I'm in today at Gathering Books with Jack Prelutsky's "I'm Wrestling with an Octopus." It's far from being a solstice poem, but definitely in keeping with our bimonthly theme "Stream of Stories and Whispering Water Tales."

    Then again it made me think... Maybe an octopus would like to wrestle during the winter solstice? ;)


  22. Gorgeous post, Heidi! Thank you for hosting.
    I am in with a poem and a song about light and dreams.

  23. I have Christmas ornaments waiting for my poetry friends and a fun craft / poetry exercise at

  24. Hi Heidi,
    Thanks for the feast of poems--and I hope your holidays are sunny side up!

  25. I didn't follow the Solstice theme, but did end up surprising myself and posting an original poem today:

    Oh, Well

    Thanks for hosting and sharing!

  26. Heidi, excellent post with many offerings. I'm sharing an original Christmas poem at Musings.
    I love the Susan Cooper poem reminding us of how the light was even more important before the days of artificial light. Sidman's poem is a delight. I love her description of a sunflower seed: "a striped case holding its secret map of burning velvet yellow." Thanks for posting your dad's offering of the description of the ultimate Light, too. I feel both the absence and bursting of light in your lovely poem. My favorite line is: "my shadow spills out through a hole in my sole my darker side hung out to dry."

  27. Hi Heidi! Thanks for putting up my homophone poem link, but I also had another one, if you don't mind. This one is a guest poet, so I'd love to have her listed if possible. Here's the info:

    I'm in today with a Grinchy Christmas poem and poetry video by Penny Klostermann called "Max Mostly Moves On":

    Thanks again, and happy holidays!

  28. Loved visiting and the shared poems filled me with light. Thank you!

    At readertotz we have a snippet of Polar Bear Night, and at On Point, I have my haiku for today, In Line.

    Thank you!

  29. Thank you for picking up my post earlier - and for hosting on your holiday - It's now nearly midnight here in the UK and we wish you light in the darkness.

  30. What a beautiful selection of poems to share, Heidi. I especially wallowed in the luxury of yours and Joyce's:>) I'm looking forward to traveling around and reading everyone's poems over this next few days--a gift to me:>)

  31. What a brilliant light-filled post to welcome the return of the light! I love all of the poems, but this is my favorite bit:

    "my shadow of doubt
    is the shadow that proves that I am!"

    Thank you for being the solstice hostess with the mostest!

  32. Thanks once again to everyone for joining in! If you're receiving this as a follow-up comment, please do revisit Renee LaTulippe's post featuring Penny Klostermann--I omitted that link on Friday and you don't want to miss it. Sorry, Renee and Penny!


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