Tag Archives: Poetry

The Poetry Project

poetry projectLu has asked those involved with the Poetry Project to take a moment to reflect back on the project so far.  Except for the times when I have been just to frazzled to remember to read poetry, the project has had me reading more poetry, introduced me to poets that were new to me, and to poetry I might not have been all that comfortable with.  I appreciate the time and energy that Lu and Kelly have put into this, and am glad to have found others who enjoy reading and discussing this varied and amazing use of language.

So here, for Winter,  from one of my favorite poets, is a poem about snow:

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Once with my scarf knotted over my mouth
I lumbered into a storm of snow up the long hill
and did not know where I was going except to the top of it.
In those days we went out like that.
Even children went out like that.
Someone was crying hard at home again, 
raging blizzard of sobs.

I dragged the sled by its rope, 
which we normally did not do
when snow was coming down so hard,
pulling my brother whom I called by our secret name
as if we could be other people under the skin.
The snow bit into my face, prickling the rim
of the head where the hair starts coming out.
And it was a big one. It would come down and down
for days. People would dig their cars out like potatoes.

How are you doing back there? I shouted,
and he said Fine, I’m doing fine, 
in the sunniest voice he could muster 
and I think I should love him more today
for having used it.

At the top we turned and he slid down,
steering himself with the rope gripped in
his mittened hands. I stumbled behind
sinking deeply, shouting Ho! Look at him go!
as if we were having a good time.
Alone on the hill. That was the deepest
I ever went into the snow. Now I think of it
when I stare at paper or into silences
between human beings. The drifting 
accumulation. A father goes months 
without speaking to his son. 

How there can be a place 
so cold any movement saves you.

Ho! You bang your hands together,
stomp your feet.  The father could die!
The son! Before the weather changes.

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Filed under Poetry Project, Thoughts

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.


Filed under Poetry, Poetry/Read More/Blog More

Goblin Market – A Classic Poem for R.I.P. VII

The theme for this month’s Poetry  Project is Classic Poetry, not my favorite, as I sometimes find it too dense and convoluted (this probably has something to do with a lousy high school English lit teacher).  Then I thought about R.I. P VII and got all excited.  There are several options, Poe being the most obvious,  then I remembered a poem I heard someone read it aloud at an All Hallow’s Eve party a long time ago.

Goblin Market
by Christina Rossetti

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—

Goblin Market is  Rossetti’s  most familiar poem.  It tells a story that is similar to many folk and fairy tales.  Someone comes in contact with fabulous beings or crosses into a mythical land and, because they eat  food, or dance, or take a lover,  fall ill or are kidnapped.  Two sisters spy on Goblin merchants, who gather each evening and call out the wonderful qualities of their produce.  Both sisters  know that buying and eating this fruit will have deadly consequences but Laura is so enticed that she can’t help herself.

Curious Laura chose to linger
Wondering at each merchant man.
One had a cat’s face,
One whisk’d a tail,
One tramp’d at a rat’s pace,
One crawl’d like a snail,
One like a wombat prowl’d obtuse and furry,
One like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry.
She heard a voice like voice of doves
Cooing all together:
They sounded kind and full of loves
In the pleasant weather.

Of course, we all know where curiosity leads.  It falls on Lizzie to save Laura and she does so by enduring great suffering.  The images in this poem are very rich, very sensual, some are intensely sexual, but I won’t give any more away.

Rossetti used irregular meter and an uneven rhyme pattern in Goblin Market, building excitement and dread.  Critics tend to see this poem as an expression of growing feminism against Victorian social norms and of Rossetti’s possible sexual orientation.  There are elements of temptation, seduction,  and even the “fall from paradise”.  I prefer to see it as very dark enchantment, and the lengths to which one sister will go to save another.  You can read the entire poem here, thanks to The Poetry Foundation.  Please come back and tell me your thoughts.  And join the Poetry Project  in October for Halloween Poetry!


Filed under Classic, Poetry Project, R.I.P. VII, Thoughts

The Poetry Project 2012-2013

Thanks to Vasilly , I’ve learned about the Poetry Project revamp organized by Lu at Regular Rumination and Kelly at The Written World.  The event is a year-long project and originally had folks posting at the end of the month.  Now participants can write about poetry, poets and poetry events any time they want.  If you are stuck for an idea there are monthly prompts and there will be a Mr. Linky post up on the first Wednesday of the month.

For the revamp Kelly and Lu have asked participants to answer a few questions:

Why do you want to join for the Poetry Project? I enjoy poetry, love to read it, love to listen to it and have on occsion attempted to write it.  I have always been hesitant writing about poetry so I feel this project is a , good way to start.
Do you have a favorite poet? I have many favorites and am adding more to my list all the time.   Naomi Shihab Nye, Joy Harjo, Mary Oliver, William Stafford, W.S. Merwin, John Haines, Richard Hugo, Linda Bierds , Louise Gluck, Bridget Pegeen Kelly, Adrianne Rich, Thomas McGrath, Marianne Boruch are just some names from my poetry bookshelf.
Hopefully this will go longer than a year. Do you have any suggestions for themes? Others have mentioned some great themes but I would add poetry in translation and possibly regional poetry.
What are your experiences with poetry in the past? Have they been positive or negative? I have heard many poets read their work and have read different kinds of poetry.  My experiences have been wonderful.
Tell us about a poem or poet that has had a profound effect on you. If you can’t think of a poem, how about a song? Or a line from a story? There is a poem by William Stafford that I have returned to again and again…

THE WAY IT IS – William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

What frustrates you about poetry or the way we talk about poetry? I have often found poetry “criticism” very elitist and distancing.  I would like us to write and talk about poetry the way we write and talk about other forms of writing, fiction and non-fiction, the way we share our thoughts through book blogs.
Tell us something about yourself that has nothing to do with poetry!  I love gardening…


Filed under Events, Poetry, Poetry Project, Thoughts

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.


Filed under Criticism, Poetry, Poetry/Read More/Blog More, Thoughts

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.


Filed under Events, Poetry, Poetry/Read More/Blog More

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


Filed under Childrens, Poetry, Poetry/Read More/Blog More, Thoughts

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


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


Filed under Poetry, Poetry/Read More/Blog More

The Snowbound City by John Haines

The Snowbound City

By John Haines

I believe in this stalled magnificence,

this churning chaos of traffic,

a beast with broken spine,

its hoarse voice hooded in feathers

and mist; the baffled eyes

wink amber and slowly darken.

Of men and women suddenly walking,

stumbling with little sleighs

in search of Tibetan houses —

dust from a far-off mountain

already whitens their shoulders.

When evening falls in blurred heaps,

a man losing his way among churches

and schoolyards feels under his cold hand

the stone thoughts of that city,

impassable to all but a few children

who went on into the hidden life

of caves and winter fires,

their faces glowing with disaster.

From The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer

* * * * * * * * * *

I was saddened to learn that John Haines died at the end of February.  He was one of my favorite Northwest poets.

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Of Politics, & Art – Norman Dubie

In honor of National Poetry Month I thought I would share some of my favorites over the next few weeks. I first heard this poem read by a colleague at a staff retreat two years age. I hadn’t heard of Norman Dubie before. I love this poem.

Of Politics, & Art
by Norman Dubie

-for Allen

Here, on the farthest point of the peninsula
The winter storm
Off the Atlantic shook the schoolhouse.
Mrs. Whitimore, dying
Of tuberculosis, said it would be after dark
Before the snowplow and bus would reach us.

She read to us from Melville.

How in an almost calamitous moment
Of sea hunting
Some men in an open boat suddenly found themselves
At the still and protected center
Of a great herd of whales
Where all the females floated on their sides
While their young nursed there. The cold frightened whalers
Just stared into what they allowed
Was the ecstatic lapidary pond of a nursing cow’s
One visible eyeball.
And they were at peace with themselves.

Today I listened to a woman say
That Melville might
Be taught in the next decade. Another woman asked, “And why not?”
The first responded, “Because there are
No women in his one novel.”

And Mrs. Whitimore was now reading from the Psalms.
Coughing into her handkerchief. Snow above the windows.
There was a blue light on her face, breasts and arms.
Sometimes a whole civilization can be dying
Peacefully in one young woman, in a small heated room
With thirty children
Rapt, confident and listening to the pure
God rendering voice of a storm.

From Poets.Org


Filed under Poetry