NATIONAL POETRY MONTH CONTINUES

I have been seeking to post a poem a day, either on this blog or on Literacy and Me, often drawing from blogging friends who are also poets. Some are funny, some inspiring, and some are. very timely dealing with the coronavirus or our current isolation. Today’s poem is on the lighter side: a limerick.

This is a limerick I found back in the 70s in a student issue of Read Magazine put out by Scholastic. I don’t even know if that valuable teacher resource is available any more, but it was a lifesaver to use with my reluctant readers in both seventh and eighth grade. Here is one that “stuck with me,” and I used once when guest lecturing at a sister university:

“There once was a student named Esser,

Whose knowledge grew lesser and lesser.

It soon came to fall,

He knew nothing at all.

And now he’s a college professor!

This is by no means a put down of professors (I am one.). Instead it allows me to make the point that if we are not willing to poke fun at ourselves, we will “suffer the outrageous slings and arrows…” (to mangle Shakespeare) and we will be so stiff and uptight, taking things personally that we will be hurt and sometimes even damaged in the teaching profession. I learned in my first 18 years of teaching that junior high is “Put Down City,” and the students’ favorite target is the teacher. I remember as a young twenty-three year old, ten years older than my students, an eighth grade girl I had become close to (too close to–I didn’t know about the necessity of keeping one’s “professional distance” in those days) had shared crushes and problems at home, etc.  with me before and after class. I thought she liked me, but one day when I came into the class, she said in front of the class, “Mrs. L, does that lipstick glow in the dark?” The class had a good laugh at my expense. This is just an example of how peer pressure can cause students to make fun of even teachers they like.

I am blessed to have GenX’ers and Millennials this semester who are kinder and constantly reinforce my faith in the next stewards of our world. Many have reached out and asked how My Better Half and I have been doing and checking on us in general. It is heartening that I now have the kindness and respect I worked so hard to earn in my 51 years of classroom teaching. Hmmmmmm maybe I need to attempt a poem expressing my feelings about this. LOL

MONDAY MUSINGS

” Kindness is like a boomerang–it always comes back to you.”

“When you put your comfort and convenience aside for the sake of another’s need, you are a special angel in that person’s life.  When you give of your resources, time, energy, and expertise to fill someone else’s lack, what you get back in gratitude, good feelings, and heartfelt appreciation far surpasses anything you have given. Whatever you give of yourself, it’s win-win all around.”

This was my devotional for today. How appropriate it is for these trying times. Pass it on.

MONDAY MUSINGS

I have been working on my Advanced Writing class, which begins on August 28th, all morning. Perhaps this is why my thoughts have turned to art. The core of the class will be art majors, so I read Art for Dummies as a crash course in “the basics.” That strategy was only semi-successful because the book is more of a reference book than a textbook on art. However, I did come across this definition of art from Hoving, the former curator of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art:

“Art is when anyone in the world takes any sort of material and fashions a statement with it.”  Whoa, that blows my mind. It reminds me that like beauty, “[Art] is in the eye of the beholder.” This was brought home to me by a children’s poem, “The Secret of My Art.”

The Secret of My Art

“It’s a beautiful whale,” my teacher declared.

“This drawing will get a gold star!”

“It’s a beautiful whale,” my father declared.”

“Your talent will carry you far!”

“It’s a beautiful whale,” my mother declared.

“What a wonderful artist you are!”

Well, maybe it is a beautiful whale…

But I was trying to draw a guitar.

Only the individual artist knows whether their work of “Art” fits the concept of what is considered to be “Art,” and what the exact definition of that concept is. So then, anything is art? From Hoving’s definition, Yes.  Graffiti is art? Give that a definite YES!  Meditations in sand, drawn by Tibetan monks, which last a few minutes, then blow away in the wind? Yes. The definition of “Art” changes from generation to generation and from age to age. Art is in flux, constantly changing, constantly being dissembled and reconstructed. As long as artists and the creative urge continue, the “definition” of Art will change.

MONDAY MUSINGS SOPHIE’S WORLD by Jostein Gaarder: A Review

The paperback edition I read was a 20th anniversary edition and was advertised as being about “life, the universe, and everything” which made me think of Douglas Adams.  However, two books could not be more unalike.  Sophie, the fourteen year old protagonist who is about to turn fifteen and is just beginning to be aware of herself, her surroundings, and her life in general, begins to receive strange postcards and letters addressed to another fourteen year old girl halfway around the world named Hilde.  The letters seem to be from Hilde’s father who is making plans to return to her on her fifteenth birthday, but strangely enough they are sent in care of Sophie and addressed correctly to Sophie’s address.

The plot alone is enough to keep the reader interested, but the book turns out to be a study in philosophy from Plato and Socrates to Marx and Sartre. Sophie in Philosophy World takes twists and turns similar to Alice in Wonderland.  The book, as one critic said, is an “easily grasped way of thinking about difficult ideas. If nothing else, the book is highly original.

Published first in 1995, the paperback edition of this YA “classic” is available as of 2015, thus the 20th anniversary of its publication.

At times this is a hard read, but it is good review of the study of philosophers with examples given that are fairly easy to comprehend and apply.  This book will answer many questions, but it will keep you coming up with questions of your own.

A FEW MORE QUOTES ABOUT BOOKS

Recently I blogged giving some of my favorite quotes about books.  Here are a few more I didn’t have room for:

“There are worse things than burning books; one of them is not reading them.”  Poet Joseph Bradsky

“A  classic is a book people have heard of, but never read.”  Mark Twain

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” Italo Calvino

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who can not read.” Mark Twain

” A great book should leave you many experiences, and slightly exhausted.  You should lead several lives while reading.” William Styron

MONDAY MUSINGS

A book that has caused me to muse on faith and its various manifestations for the past few weeks is Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies. Published in 1999 by this renowned essayist and novelist, it’s messages are still just as relevant as ever.

As one critic said, Lamott can be “…both reverent and irreverent in the same lifetime…sometimes in the same breath.” She gives the reader stories of her life and about her son, Sam, at an early age.  It is “tough, personal, affectionate, wise, and very funny.” It covers from her troubled past through her enlightened life today.  My favorite essay was from the “Fambly” section, titled “Mom”.  In it Lamott writes, “In the photo (of her mother and herself) I am looking over at her with enormous gentleness because I sometimes feel this…But I was only feeling this about half the time that day. The rest of the time, I was annoyed…she is not at all whom I would have picked at the Neiman-Marcus Mommy Salon.”

Lamott makes the reader smile; she makes her/him tear up, but she always makes the reader want to read on.  I rationed my reading to one or two essays a day, for I wanted to savor each one, to ruminate and muse on the kernel of each one, to restore my faith and to understand the otherness of friends’ brands of faith and in whom/what they have faith. Lamott allowed me to do just that.

Monday Musings

Still thinking about poetry after a couple of sessions with an old poetry anthology, skipping here and there to “old favorites,” noting the comments scribbled in the margins of the poems.

I wrote about the sound and then the structure of poetry; today I want to put the two together to discuss meaning. Poems are not merely lyrical expressions of ecstasy that sound good. They must deal with the relationship of the poet to the world.  Indeed, poetry is something that connects the world and man, “trap[ping] Heaven and Earth in a cage of form.” (LuChi) Form refers to meaningful shape or structure, a shape to which our emotions respond.

In order for poetry to be a “means to a meaning, “(Ezra Pound), it must have an appropriate form.  Good poetry takes ordinary words and places them in the poem in an arrangement that signifies something “more.” Pound also writes that every word is “charged with meaning.” Placed within the form of the poem, the same ordinary words will strike differently, but directly at the reader’s emotions. If the poet changes the sound or structure of the poem, he changes the meaning.  The meanings and emotions of love are enhanced by both the sound and structure traditional to the sonnet.

Blending sound and form (or structure) are two of the poet’s tools which he uses to enhance both meaning and draw out emotion. Taking a “sound check” of a poem and deciphering its structure can only enhance one’s enjoyment of a poem.

Monday Musings

Today’s musings are on the sound of poetry.  It was brought about when a new friend shared some of her “trivial” (her words) poetry which has definite appeal because of her mastery of using sound(s) to create poetic images and fun.

Taking a “sound check” of a poem may be a valuable exercise when evaluating poetry. A poem’s meaning is often conveyed by the sound of the words, simply as sounds, which eventually imbues and enhances the lines and phrases with meaning. For example, words that begin with the “bl” sound, swollen and bloated: blimp, blurb, blubber,  balloon.  Words that begin with “sn” have a certain sneakiness to them: snide, sneer, snake, snarl.  Certain vowel sounds convey brightness, where others are “dark.” Some consonants are harsh, where others seem “tender.” Onomatopoetic words  are words that carry meaning through sound like “buzz”, “whizz”, “bam!” In addition to these words and sounds that convey meaning directly through sound, others suggest meanings by association.

“Content is grey/And sleepiness too./They wear grey suede gloves/When touching you…”The phrase ” “grey suede gloves” sounds like the tactile experience one would have if grey suede glove-covered fingers were to touch or stroke his/her skin.  In the lines, “The sound of black is/Boom! Boom! Boom!/Echoing in/An empty room,” the repeated Booms! have an echo-like quality that is expressed through the repetition of the double o sound and is easy to imagine in a darkened, empty room.  It has a hollowness and eeriness that one would experience in such a setting. These lines are from a children’s book of poetry titled Hailstones and Halibut Bones, one which has inspired every group of poets I’ve ever worked with, regardless of their age.

Sometimes jump rope rhymes and chanting games are so much fun simply because they sound like fun. Sometimes the beauty of poetry and the conveyance of a poem’s meaning has its origin in the sounds of words and phrases. I will be happy to tell my new friend that her poetry is not trivial at all, but conveys her emotion and meaning through the use of sounds.

Monday Morning Musings

Ok, ok, so it’s afternoon.  We all get a bit behind sometimes, and besides I just fixed the best spicy chicken, black beans, corn , onions, and green chilies tortilla roll-ups for lunch, using up leftover vegetables and giving us an early, well-deserved, healthy lunch.

What I’m musing about today is the fun I have stolen time for to spend on catching up on e-mails and mailings from the blogging world–especially all things bookish and Halloween. The trick or treaters coming tonight are always one of my favorite things of the year.  I love to see the little ones’ costumes with sometimes also dressed up mom and dad taking them into the neighborhood before it is even dark out.  We try to be one of the “good stops” with miniature candy bars, “Yes of course you should take two!” and Skittles, which are always crowd pleasers.  I even enjoy the junior highers who put blood (lots of blood) sweat, tears, and thought into their costumes.  Some will even sweet talk this old grandma-type into giving them more by saying, “Oh, lady you seem so nice; you remind me of my grandma!” Little manipulators!  They are so much fun and that age, and I remember teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth graders for the first twenty of my almost-fifty years of teaching.  I think of them  as my first loves.

Looking forward to reading:  Commonwealth by Ann Patchett.  I’ve read such diverse reviews.  I have it on hold at the library.  The Best We Could Do, a graphic memoir by Thi But, which I borrowed from a friend’s Little Free Library to read tonight. The morning Houston Chronicle, and several back issues from The New Yorker.  Except for the fiction stories each month, I’ve just about caught up with October’s issues and hope to get a start on November’s. I have the bad habit of wanting to read everything because I seem to get interested in everything.  And, after all…if it’s good enough to be published by The New Yorker…

Checked out from the library:  The Thoughtful Dresser, which I’m enjoying immensely and The Gentleman from Moscow, which I’ve admired the cover of and read ABOUT. It promises to be a very good read.

If I know what’s good for me, I’ll stop musing, clean up the kitchen, and unpack the candy for tonight.