Category Archives: Poetry/Read More/Blog More

All Soul’s Night

Our task for the monthly poetry event was to read a “Halloween” poem.  My search for something a bit different led me to Poets.org, where I found many poems on ghosts and hauntings and All Hallow’s Eve.  The one I chose is actually titled All Soul’s Night, the Christian version of the Pagan holiday, Samhain.

Some of the most striking poems I came across were written in the middle of the second decade of the Twentieth Century, during the time of the First World War.  That war brought terrific loss of life and horrible images to a world not prepared for such an event.  Many of the poems carry images of ghosts returning and of people struggling with the loss of a loved one.

The following poem is written by Hortense Flexner King, a poet I had never heard of.  Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky she eventually taught at Bryn Mawr and Sarah Lawrence.  I found this poem extremely moving.

All Soul’s Night
by Hortense King Flexner

You heap the logs and try to fill
The little room with words and cheer,
But silent feet are on the hill,
Across the window veiled eyes peer.
The hosts of lovers, young in death,
Go seeking down the world to-night,
Remembering faces, warmth and breath—
And they shall seek till it is light.
Then let the white-flaked logs burn low,
Lest those who drift before the storm
See gladness on our hearth and know
There is no flame can make them warm.

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Beautiful & Pointless by David Orr

Beautiful & Pointless {A Guide to Modern Poetry}by David Orr

Harper Collins, New York, 2011

Borrowed from my local library.

I don’t usually read how-to-read-a-book  books or how-to-read poetry books, for that matter but I fell in love with this book’s title the moment I heard it.  Some times I understand modern poetry, sometimes I’m completely lost.  David Orr’s book starts with a brilliant premise.  Read poetry as if it were  a foreign country, specifically Belgium.

The comparison may seem ridiculous at first, but consider the way you’d be thinking about Belgium if you were planning a trip there.  You might try to learn a few useful phrases, or read a little Belgium history, or thumb through a guidebook in search of museums, restaurants, flea markets, or promising sounding bars.  The important things is that you’d know you were going to be confused, or at least occasionally at a loss, and you’d accept that confusion as part of the experience.  What you wouldn’t do, however, is become paralyzed with anxiety because you don’t speak fluent Flemish, or convinced that to really “get” Belgium, you need to memorize the Brussels phone book…from the introduction.

Orr writes about poetry as it is written today.  The personal, the political, forms of poetry and how modern poetry became modern in the first place.  He discusses different poets, their styles and life in the modern poetic “fishbowl”.  He even makes an attempt at answering that big question, “Why Bother?”.   Beautiful & Pointless is written in a conversational tone, light and with a touch of humor.  In the end we all are individuals, and read poetry in our own ways, and no one came tell us our way is better or worse than anyone else’s.   This little book certainly helped alleviate some of my mental anxiety.

David Orr writes for the New York Times Book Review.  I read his columns. This post is written for the Poetry: Read More/ Blog More monthly event hosted by Lu and Kailana.

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Poetry:Read More, Blog More – Poetry Out Loud

This is a once a month event organized by Lu and Kelly to entice us into reading and writing about poetry.  While I have been reading several collections over the last few weeks,  I decided to write about hearing poetry out loud.

Hearing poetry live  is what brought me back to it after a long separation.  One way to experience this is to visit a near-by poetry festival.  There will be some good poets and some not-so-good ones, but you will be able to enjoy poetry the way most poets mean it to be experienced, as a spoken thing, like music or bird song.   You can check your local calendar listings,  schools, public venues and bookstore often have author readings, some of them by poets.

There is a great selection of poetry in audio format, either at your local library or available over the internet, but it is a different thing listening along in a room filled with other people.  Listening to and talking about poetry with a group opens me up to different interpretations, different ideas about the words, their meaning and how they are strung together.  The shared experience brings me back to a time before the written word, when news and stories were carried from town to town by travelers, some news spoken, some stories sung.

Here is link to a festival I would have loved to go to if I had been in Washington, D.C. this past weekend.

Thanks to Lu and Kelly for organizing Poetry:Read More, Blog More.

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Poetry: Read More Blog More – Poetry for Children

Lu at Regular Ruminations and Kelly at The Written World are hosting a monthly poetry event.
Why don’t you join in? You can find out more about it here.

One of the things that brings me joy in my work and my daily life is introducing  poetry to children.  How words connect to children’s’ lives and how they carry them into youth and adulthood can start with something as simple as a nursery rhyme and continue on with songs and picture books.

When I visit my library and have time to wander in the stacks I always search for one or two picture books to bring home.  I found an old favorite this week.

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Illustrated by Susan Jeffers.

Dutton Children’s Books, New York, 1978

A timeless classic poem brought to life with stunning illustrations.  This book is simply beautiful.  I have a friend who gives this as a gift to every expectant woman we know.

And I picked up a book by an author new to me.

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night By Joyce Sidman

Illustrated by Rick Allen

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, New York, 2010

Wonderful poems in different styles with beautiful illustrations along with explanations of how animals and other living things survive at night.  I plan on giving this one to my friend Morgan for his sixth birthday.

Welcome to the Night

All of you who crawl and creep,
Who buzz and chirp and hoot and peep,
Who wake at dusk and throw off sleep:
Welcome to the night.

To you who make the forest sing
Who dip and dodge on silent wing,
Who flutter, hover, clasp and cling:
Welcome to the night.

Come feel the cool and shadowed breeze,
Come smell your way among the trees,
Come touch rough bark and leathered leaves:
Welcome to the night.

The night’s a sea of dappled dark,
The night’s a feast of sound and spark,
The night’s a wild, enchanted park:
Welcome to the night!

From page 6

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Poetry by Wislawa Szymborska

One of my first posts on this blog was a very short review of a book of poetry titled Monologue of  a Dog by the Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska.  I had been introduced to her work by a friend and promised myself that I would read more of her work.

I now own a couple of her books, View with a Grain of Sand and Miracle Fair.  I find Szymboska’s work very accessible.  It is grounded in everyday things and occasionally takes leaps into the unknown.

Here are a couple of her poems.  A sad note:  Wislawa Szymborska passed away on February 1st, 2012.  She was 88.

A Note
Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain
from everything it’s not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble upon a stone,
end up soaked in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;
and to keep on not knowing
something important.
.

by Wislawa Szymborska

from Monologue of a Dog
translated by S. Baranczak and C. Cavanagh

Possibilities

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

By Wislawa Szymborska
From “Nothing Twice”, 1997
Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh

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