Saturday, April 30, 2016

final npm pmmu #30: echoes and toys

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month, and while folk like us act as though every month  is Poetry Month, there is something special about an official National Poetry Month.  We don't like to see it end.  I'm finishing up with a last-minute response to the Ditty-of-the-Month Club challenge set by Marilyn Singer over at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes's blog, Today's Little Ditty.  Marilyn's new collection of reversos based on Greek myths is Echo Echo, and we were all challenged to write a poem (not necessarily a reverso) inspired by the word echo.  Here's mine, in under the wire.

empty tunnel
calling long:
hollow hello
our own song
echoes strong but
somehow wrong

Linda Baie of TeacherDance closes out our month of Poetry-Music Match-Ups with a poem and a song decidedly for young children--which has proved trickier than I expected.   She writes, "Growing up, my children loved listening to "The Marvelous Toy" and other songs sung by Peter, Paul & Mary. We even got to see them once with front row seats! ... another poet I shared quite a bit with them was Eugene Field. I thought "The Duel" might make a good connection, both toy adventures!" 

I know this poem very well indeed, from a deeply familiar red-and-gold-bound collection of children's poems my mother read to us often...but "The Marvelous Toy" (much more modern!) wasn't part of my childhood experience.  Hope you they are, and thank you, Linda!

The Duel || Eugene Field

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
‘T was half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t’ other had slept a wink!
      The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
      Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
            (I was n’t there; I simply state
            What was told to me by the Chinese plate!
The gingham dog went “Bow-wow-wow!”
And the calico cat replied “Mee-ow!”
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
      While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
      Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
            (Now mind: I’m only telling you
            What the old Dutch clock declares is true!
The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, “Oh, dear! what shall we do!”
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
      Employing every tooth and claw
      In the awfullest way you ever saw—
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
            (Don’t fancy I exaggerate—
            I got my news from the Chinese plate!
Next morning, where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!
      But the truth about the cat and pup
      Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
            (The old Dutch clock it told me so,
            And that is how I came to know.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

npm pmmu #29: the ways we tree

Today's Poetry-Music Match-Up comes to us from Laura Purdie Salas.  She's sharing a classic poem that I think of each time I pass a certain Service Area on the New Jersey Turnpike...

 Trees | Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

For those who don't know, Joyce was a man, and this poem was published in 1914, four years before he enlisted in WWI and was killed at the Battle of Ourcq.  I recall reading it in 2nd or 3rd grade and enjoying the "leafy arms" and "intimately living with with rain" but being completely distracted by the flowing breast and the snowy bosom.  But let not my childish frissons distract you from this poem's expression of the nobility of trees.

Laura says, "I adore [this] song and the whole love/tree analogy," and I do too.
                                                                      "The Way I Feel," by Gordon Lightfoot, 1967

"The way I feel is like a robin
Whose babes have flown to come no more
Like a tall oak tree alone and cryin'
When the birds have flown and the nest is bare"


"Your coat of green, it will protect her
Her wings will grow, your love will too"

Lovely! Thank you, Laura--that's a song I've never heard before, but it will certainly stay with me.  I still have one day of Poetry-Music Match-Ups unclaimed, if anyone would like to send me their ideas.. just email using the link on the right, and I'll be delighted to close out April 2016 on your notes!

The Round-Up today is with  Buffy at Buffy's Blog, and don't miss Line 28 of this year's Progressive Poem--scroll down to yesterday's post!

npm: the Progressive Poem is here (with bonus music!)

Welcome, all who journey line by line!
          Welcome, all who seek to read the signs!

For those who don't know what the Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem is, welcome to a yearly event conceived and hosted by poet Irene Latham.  Each day the poem travels to a different blog, and each blogger adds his or her line.

Our poem grows here thought by thought;
Does it build or turn or what?
The only way to know's below.
I toss my line into the flow...

But I'll admit, it's been quite a bit more deliberate than that word "toss" suggests.  I've struggled to find and flow with the current of this one, dear poets, and now I shall dare to boldly, brashly reconstruct the whole darn thing through the use of a title and some powerful punctuation.

Is mine the last word?  Oh, no, indeed!  Tomorrow's poet may see things very differently, and if I've overstepped in supplying a title before the end, all should feel free to ignore it.  I'm down with that.  But I myself needed a clearer structure to proceed, so here goes: a dialogue.

West Wind Dreams of Taking Shape

A squall of hawk wings stirs the sky.
A hummingbird holds and then hies.
“If I could fly, I’d choose to be
Sailing through a forest of poet-trees.”

A cast of crabs engraves the sand
Delighting a child’s outstretched hand.
"If I could breathe under the sea,
I’d dive, I’d dip, I’d dance with glee."

A clump of crocuses craves the sun.
Kites soar while joyful dogs run.
"I sing to spring, to budding green,
to all of life – seen and unseen."

     Wee whispers drift from cloud to ear
     and finally reach one divining seer
     who looks up from her perch and beams —
     "West Wind is dreaming May, it seems."

"Golden wings open and gleam
as I greet the prancing team.
Gliding aside with lyrical speed,
I’d ride Pegasus to Ganymede."

To a pied pocket, the zephyr returns.
      Blowing soft words the seer discerns
     from earthbound voyage to dreamy night,
     "The time is now.  I give you flight!"

"Yet I fear I am no kite or bird–
I lift! The world below me blurred

by tears of joy.  I spiral high,
I hum, I dive, I dip, I hive!"

The list of those who have contributed to this wonder of a poem is below, and I pass West Wind on to Sheila Renfro....And now for the bonus music! Today's Poetry-Music Match-Up takes us way back to 1972 or so, when I learned to play a junior version of this on the piano as a gift for Mother's Day.

Will Sheila grant West Wind a new shape, or take a wild waggle in another direction?  And what of the seer?  Stay tuned, friends, for the building finale!



2  Joy at Joy Acey
3  Doraine at Dori Reads
4  Diane at Random Noodling
5  Penny at A Penny and Her Jots
6  Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink
8  Janet F. at Live Your Poem
9  Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
10  Pat at Writer on a Horse
11  Buffy at Buffy's Blog
12  Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
13  Linda at TeacherDance
14  Jone at Deo Writer
15  Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
16  Violet at Violet Nesdoly
17  Kim at Flukeprints
18  Irene at Live Your Poem
19  Charles at Charles Waters Poetry
21  Jan at Bookseedstudio
23  Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
24  Amy at The Poem Farm
25  Mark at Jackett Writes
26  Renee at No Water River
27  Mary Lee at Poetrepository
29  Sheila at Sheila Renfro
30  Donna at Mainely Write

Sunday, April 24, 2016

npm pmmu #24: prince, of course

Tabatha's been following my match-ups as well as the news, and suggested a perhaps lesser known hit by our lost treasure, Prince. This is the best linkable version I could find.

"Diamonds and Pearls" from the album of the same name
by Prince and the New Power Generation, 1991

Her poetry match is this short, beautifully wrought poem by Yeats: 

          Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven | W.B. Yeats

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,   
Enwrought with golden and silver light,   
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths   
Of night and light and the half light,   
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;   
I have spread my dreams under your feet;   
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
A hundred years apart, both artists have spread their golden and silver, blue and purple dreams under our feet.

Prince's lyrics:

This will be the day
That you will hear me say
That I will never run away
I am here for you
Love is meant for two
Now tell me what you're gonna do
If I gave you diamonds and pearls
Would you be a happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give you the world
But all I can do is just offer you my love
Which one of us is right
If we always fight
Why can't we just let love decide (let love decide)
Am I the weaker man
Because I understand
That love must be the master plan (love is the master plan)
If I gave you diamonds and pearls
Would you be a happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give you the world
All I can do is just offer you my love

Friday, April 22, 2016

npm pmmu #22: copland and crane

Happy Earth Day, everyone!  It's hard to remember amid the delegate-counting of primary season, in April with its too many nasty anniversaries, that Americans are also known for a rugged cheerfulness--and yet that's exactly how this week in Maryland felt.  It's also how this work by Aaron Copland sounds.  I've had it on my mind for a few days.

I'm pleased to say that it wasn't hard to find a similarly cheerful, very American piece of poetry to go with it.  Perhaps Aaron Copland even took his inspiration from Hart Crane (as well the well-known Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts.")  Crane's language is wild and loose and, like its subject, uncivilized (in the best possible meaning of that word).  However, contrary to the 1930 reviewer of this book-length poem, I do not find that "its effectiveness will be found on analysis, to lie in its lack of intelligibility."

from The Bridge: The Dance || Hart Crane

I left the village for dogwood. By the canoe
Tugging below the mill-race, I could see
Your hair’s keen crescent running, and the blue
First moth of evening take wing stealthily.

What laughing chains the water wove and threw.
I learned to catch the trout’s moon whisper; I
Drifted how many hours I never knew,
But, watching, saw that fleet young crescent die,—

And one star, swinging, take its place, alone,
Cupped in the larches of the mountain pass—
Until, immortally, it bled into the dawn.
I left my sleek boat nibbling margin grass . . .

I took the portage climb, then chose
A further valley-shed; I could not stop.
Feet nozzled wat’ry webs of upper flows;
One white veil gusted from the very top.

O Appalachian Spring! I gained the ledge;
Steep, inaccessible smile that eastward bends
And northward reaches in that violet wedge
Of Adirondacks!—wisped of azure wands,

Over how many bluffs, tarns, streams I sped!
—And knew myself within some boding shade:—
Grey tepees-tufting the blue knolls ahead,
Smoke swirling through the yellow chestnut glade . . .

A distant cloud, a thunder-bud—it grew,
That blanket of the skies: the padded foot
Within,—I heard it; ’til its rhythm drew,
—Siphoned the black pool from the heart’s hot root!

This section of Crane's poem is called "Powhatan's Daughter," not a cheerful story in itself, but what the reviewer calls "the piling up on startling and widely disparate word-structures so that for the mind the cumulative result of skyscrapers for the eye when looked on through a mist"--I find that thrilling and irresistible...not unlike spring in Appalachia or anywhere that I've lived.

Which means that I might disagree with the Shakers about simplicity.  : )

Simple Gifts

Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup, where things tend to be richly complex as well as delicious!   The Progressive Poem, meanwhile, has reached Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

pmmu #18, 19, 20, 21: catching up!

Somehow I can never remember that, outside of Spring Break, April is not the peaceful, warming float through National Poetry Month that I'm hoping for.  Instead it's the start of the fourth marking period, the start of the youth soccer season, and this year it included a stint by my spouse on the Appalachian Trail.  Single parenthood this week pushed me over the edge of "through-careful-organization-and-a-neglect-of-sleep-though-not-exercise-I-can-do-1001-things"  into ""  I'm behind on my project by 4 days!

So here I am with a chance to catch up, on Poem in Your Pocket Day!  (Which also came upon me as a surprise; I'd looked it up and I was sure it was April 28th.) In honor of pockets, here's today's poem:
Boy, boy, crazy boy,
Get cool, boy!
Got a rocket in your pocket,
Keep coolly cool, boy!
Don't get hot,
'Cause man, you got
Some high times ahead.
Take it slow and Daddy-O,
You can live it up and die in bed!

Boy, boy, crazy boy!
Stay loose, boy!
Breeze it, buzz it, easy does it.
Turn off the juice, boy!
Go, man, go,
But not like a yo-yo schoolboy.
Just play it cool, boy,
Real cool!

You know what that is, right?  It's Riff singing to the Jets before the rumble in the stage musical West Side Story, with music by Leonard Bernstein and  lyrics by Stephen Sondheim from 1956.  In the movie version, the song is sung by Ice instead, after Riff's death.  I'm interested to learn from Wikipedia that this "song is known for its fugal treatment of a jazz figure, described by one writer as "possibly the most complex instrumental music heard on Broadway to date.  Let's watch the gang dance it out and remember that real dancers don't need spandex.

I'm now going to catch up with some not-too-fancyposts that are other songs whose lyrics, all by themselves, with or without their music, sound like poems to me.

Happy Rocket in Your Pocket Day!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

npm pmmu #20: viriditas

VIRIDITAS.  Now that's a wonderful word.  Pieced together from some excellent Latin roots by the abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), the word "viriditas" has mystic Christian connotations of newness and creativity, vigor and, of course, greenness. What I like about Hildegard's outlook (and also her introspective perspective is that she was clearly an Earth lover, possibly the first conscious Planet Protector in history.

This scholarly work about her music & writings says they're "noted for their idiosyncratic use of language, neologisms, and inventive imagery.[1] A phrase from the sequence “O ignis Spiritus Paraclitii” provides a ready example, “terra viriditatem sudat,”[2] which has been translated the following ways: 
“the earth exudes freshness,” 
earth swells with living green,” 
“the earth sweats out green things growing,” 
"washing the evergreen globe.”[3] 
The variety of translations stems from the word viriditas, a word that appears often throughout her writings and has challenged translation by Hildegard scholars.[4] Its literal English equivalent is “greenness,” yet such a term still remains enigmatic in its English form."

I'm fascinated. So I selected and cut and pasted some pieces of Hildegard's own writing to make an Earth Day poem for all ages. 

Viriditas | composed from the writings of Hildegarde of Bingen
Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars.
Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings.
Now, think.
Holy persons draw to themselves all that is earthly. . . .
The earth is at the same time mother,
She is mother of all that is natural,
mother of all that is human.
She is the mother of all,
for contained in her
are the seeds of all.
All nature is at the disposal of humankind.
We are to work with it. 
For without we cannot survive.

If you jump to minute 15:43 of this recording you'll hear the piece mentioned above. Viriditas be with you!

Monday, April 18, 2016

npm pmmu #18: caught up in the green

Catching up with some lyrics that are poems all by themselves.  I know it's not May yet, but here's Natalie Merchant again, with 10,000 Maniacs and line breaks by me.
These Are Days

These are the days.

These are days 
you'll remember.
Never before and never since, 
I promise, 
will the whole world be warm as this.
And as you feel it, 
you'll know it's true 
that you are blessed and lucky.
It's true 
that you are touched by something 
that will grow and bloom in you.

These are days 
you'll remember.
When May is rushing over you 
with desire
to be part of the miracles you see
in every hour.
You'll know it's true 
that you are blessed and lucky.
It's true 
that you are touched by something 
that will grow and bloom in you.

These are days.

These are the days you might fill with laughter 
until you break.
These days you might feel a shaft of light 
make its way across your face.
And when you do 
you'll know how it was meant to be.
See the signs and know their meaning.
It's true, 
you'll know how it was meant to be.
Hear the signs 
and know they're speaking to you, 
to you. 
Play loud, like the sunrise and the leafing trees and the sprawling tulips.

"These Are Days" by Natalie Merchant and Rob Buck
from the album Our Time in Eden, 1992

Sunday, April 17, 2016

npm pmmu #17: I go and lie down

This month I'm posting daily Poetry-Music Match-Ups, and you're invited to join me! 
(See the bottom* of the post for ideas.)  When I don't have a crowd-sourced combo 
scheduled, I'll share one of my own many, many PMMUs!  If something comes to your
 mind, send it to me HERE.
    Today the exquisite new green of the trees against our blue, blue Maryland sky put me in mind of this poem, even as I heard on the radio about the Pacific “ring of fire” and not one but two places on earth quaked to pieces.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1998.
Source: Collected Poems 1957-1982 (Counterpoint Press, 1985)

I’ve heard this musical setting (by Malcolm Dalglish) a number of times and even sung it myself—curious to consider how a composer deals with a free verse poem like this one, when music wants so often to be patterned and cycled and symmetrical.  There are several different compositions for "The Peace of Wild Things";  everybody wants to feel that, I guess.

performed by The Starry Mountain Singers

Friday, April 15, 2016

npm pmmu #15: kindness

This month I'm posting daily Poetry-Music Match-Ups, and you're invited to join me! 
(See the bottom* of the post for ideas.)  When I don't have a crowd-sourced combo 
scheduled, I'll share one of my own many, many PMMUs!  If something comes to your
 mind, send it to me HERE.

Today our match-up is suggested by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater and some of her family.  She starts us off with a poem she calls "everyone's favorite."   We can't know exactly when it was written or why, but it feels absolutely of the moment.

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995

For a noisier counterpoint to this quietly powerful poem, Amy introduces me 
to a new artist with this song by Fred Small.  The lyrics of this song, below, highlight for me the difference between the quality of narrative vs. poetry and also lyrics vs. poetry--a narrative lyric can get to the same place, but via very different roads of experience. 

Scrambled Eggs and Prayers || Fred Small

Five convicts broke free from the Braden prison yard
Five men armed and dangerous, five hearts stony hard.
They ran down to the bottom where the Hatchie runs black
Where many have fled but few have come back
Louise and her friend Renzie were talking on the phone
All about the fugitives desperate on the run
She just had time to whisper, "Renzie, call the police"
When he stepped up with his shotgun, saying, "Everybody freeze."
She said, "Sit down, young man, I don't want no violence here
I can see your body's weary and your soul laden with care
I'll cook you up some breakfast, you put that gun away.
Now sit down, young man, and pray."
He said, "Lady, I'm so hungry, I ain't eaten for three days"
She took out her skillet, fixed him bacon, bread, and eggs.
She talked about the bible, eyes crinkled when she smiled
He set down that shotgun and obeyed her like a child
She said, "Where is your mother?" He said, "I wish I knew."
She said, "I know your mother is praying for you.
I'm seventy-three years old, raised two boys of my own
And I know we must face judgment when we have done wrong."
He heard the cruiser coming, the cops were at the door
He looked out the window, said, "They'll kill me now for sure."
She said, "Finish up your breakfast, I'll let them do no harm."
He left the shotgun on the sofa and surrendered unarmed.
Now some folks might have meekly done whatever he had said
And some folks might have jumped him and probably turned up dead
You can tell it to your daughters and teach it to your sons
That scrambled eggs and prayers are stronger than guns.

from the album No Limit, 1985 

As if that weren't enough richness for one day, Amy and her daughter Georgia take this match-up game a little further, suggesting this short story by Langston Hughes, Thank You, Ma'am, and this musical scene from Les Miserables.  You see it here from the 2012 movie version:

"The Bishop" from Les Miserables

Over and over we see sorrow and hardship and forgiveness and generosity, but we never stop needing the lesson (especially in 2nd grade):  be kind. 

Today's Poetry Friday round-up is hosted by Michelle at Today's Little Ditty.  It's another place to sip from many cups of kindness!