One of my reading goals for 2021 was to read more poetry. Thanks to Dewey’s 24 Hr. Readathon and a gift book from a friend, I have been able to do just that. One of the books I finished during Dewey’s last Saturday was Margaret Atwood’s Dearly. I have always had great respect for Atwood as a novelist, but now I am looking at her as a poet. (Later I intend to read her essays and short stories because the book I “look into” this versatile author, the more impressed I am.)
This collection is divided into five sections, each section untitled, but definitely grouped. Since many of her poems are lengthy and do not lend themselves to typing them, you will have to take my word that they are striking. Some are dark, something Atwood never shies away from, and some are about environmental concerns. This is not a collection to be taken lightly, but pondered upon and throughly digested, seeking the aftertaste of each poem. Often in the days between finishing the poems and today, a line, a phrase would surface in my mind, and I would wonder…and wonder.
One thing I emphasize in my Advanced Writing classes is word choice, choosing the exact word to “get the job done’/convey the message one wants to send. Often the word choice (and the phrasing of those words) lends a poetic tone/sense to what the writer puts on paper.
One of my favorite illustrations of this concept is the following poem by David McCord, “Take Sky.”
“Now think of words. Take sky
And ask yourself just why–
Like sun, moon, star, and cloud–
It sounds so well out loud,
And pleases so the sight
When printed on black and white.
Take syllable and thimble:
The sound of them is nimble.
Take balsam, fir, and pine:
Your woodland smell and mine.
Take kindle, blaze, and flicker–
What lights the hearth fire quicker?
Take bucket, spring, and dip
Cold water to your lip.
Three words we fear but form:
Gale, twister, thunderstorm:
Others that simply shake
Are tremor, tremble, quake.
But granite, stone, and rock:
Too solid, they, to shock.
Put honey, bee, flower
With sunny, shade, and flower;
Put wild with bird and wing
Put bird with song and sing.
Aren’t paddle, trail, and camp
The cabin and the lamp?
Now look at words of rest–
Sleep, quiet, calm, and blest;
At words we learn in youth–
Grace, skill, ambitions, truth;
At words of lifelong need–
Faith, courage, strength, and deed;
Deep-rooted words that say
Love, hope, dream, yearn, and pray;
Light-hearted words–girl, boy,
Live, laugh, play, share, enjoy;
October, April, June–
Come late and gone too soon.
Remember, words are life;
Child, husband, mother, wife;
Remember, and I’m done:
Words taken one by one.
Are poems as they stand–
Shore, beacon, harbor, land;
Brook, river, mountain, vale,
Cow, rabbit, otter, quail;
Oak, apple, water, snow,
Wind, weather, flood and floe.
Like light across the lawn
Are morning, sea, and dawn;
Words of the green earth growing–
Seed, soil, and farmer sowing.
Like wind upon the mouth
Sad, summer, rain, and south.
Amen. Put not asunder
Man’s first word: wonder…wonder…
(Copyright@1962 by David McCord)
READ A POEM TODAY!
BOOKS I STARTED THIS WEEK
The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins
The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin–this is the third in the “Broken Earth” Series
which I started a couple of years ago. My Better Half and I read the first book aloud to each other; I read the second on my own, and started the third. This week I dragged it out from my book closet in my office and re-started it.
Mindfulness by Lisa Brooks and Marie D. Jones–a 2019 publication I found in Barnes and Noble’s “Book Annex” (markdowns) section on a recent visit.
Dearly by Margaret Atwood–her latest collection of poems I hope to finish during National Poetry Month
Searching for God…Knows What by Donald Miller–a hand-me-down from a friend
DEFINITELY SOMETHING FROM THE CLASSIC CLUB
I have until April 30th to read something from the jar (already set up) full of selections listed on strips that are considered classics.
I have everything all set up, butI am sooooo busy with end of semester grading (6 of the 24 students worked ahead and have finished the semester); observing National Poetry Month on my blogs; throwing a “Celebration of Books” last Sunday outdoors where we gave away over 100 free books in two hours–attendance was poor, but many neighbors “saw” our Little Free Library for the first time, which led to more “stops” later in the week and two bagfuls of donated books; and being a “social butterfly” this week having another couple over for coffee and leftover cookies from the party; having a former student and her ten-year-old son over for supper Friday night; and having a children’s author from a nearby city and her nine-year-old daughter over for lunch (They brought then lunch from a local Mexican restaurant.) and a three hour visit today to talk about her writing career start and to receive her first kid’s novel for me to review soon. This is the first time I have received an advance copy . More on this later!
Whew! I plan to do nothing but minimal grading, reading and resting on Sunday. It is supposed to be a day of rest anyway, and I need one. LOL
Today I received my newsletter from The Academy of American Poets in the mail. Some of the more interesting points were as follows:
“Twenty-five years ago in April of 1996, it was Academy of American Poets members who provided the initial seed money for us to announce and carry out National Poetry Month for the first time…
Over the years, our annual celebration of poets and poetry has been recognized in The New York Times, USA Today, Time, The Washington Post, People magazine , and thousands of other publications…
…the month of April has become by far the most important time of year for the release of new poetry…and sales of poetry by recognized authors and new poets alike [increase].
…events numbering in the hundreds of thousands have taken place–no exaggeration–at libraries, community centers, places of worship, at parks, town squares…all aimed at bringing poetry into the lives of local citizens and fostering a greater appreciation for beloved poets of the past as well as today’s new voices.”
The organization sent me a National Poetry Month poster, and they will be sending weekly lesson plans to 35,000 teachers nationwide. Other online programs, readings, and celebrations will be held as well.
I plan to celebrate National Poetry month with a poetry contest in my Advanced Writing class and to personally read a new poem each day of the month. Let me share today’s with you. This is from Margaret Atwood’s Dearly, her latest collection of poems:
“Cats suffer from dementia too. Did you know that?
Ours did. Not the black one, smart enough
to be neurotic and evade the vet.
The other one, the furrier’s muff, the piece of fluff.
She’d writhe around on the sidewalk
for chance pedestrians , whisker
their trousers, though not enough when she started losing
what might have been her mind. She’d prowl the night
kitchen, taking a bite
from a tomato, a ripe peach there,
a crumpet, a softening pear.
Is this what I’m supposed to eat?
Guess not, but where?
Then up the stairs she’d come, moth-footed,
like a tiny, fuzzy steam train: Ar-woo! Ar-woo!
So witless and erased. O who?
Clawing at the bedroom door
shut tight against her. Let me in,
enclose me, tell me who I was.
No good. No purring. No contentment, Out
into the darkened dining room,
then in, then out forlorn.
And when I go that way, grow fur, start howling,
scratch at your airwaves:
no matter who I claim I am
or how I love you,
turn the key. Bar the window.”
Margaret Atwood’s voice is a strong one in her poems. Often her “messages” or thoughts are not what we expect, but she is always unique, a voice to be heard. Thanks to my friend, Mary Allen, who gave me a signed copy of this 2020 collection of Atwood poems. I hope to read the entire collection this month to celebrate National Poetry Month, 2021.
No April Fools about it, April 1st marks the beginning of National Poetry Month.
National Poetry Month is finally here! I have been looking forward to it all semester. Other than writing and/or analyzing love poems for extra credit back at Valentine’s we have concentrated on argumentative writing for an academic audience. This month my students will be able to flex their creative muscles.
I will celebrate on other levels as well. The weekend after Easter weekend, I will host a “Celebrate All Things Bookish” in my yard with free books, plenty of cookies and lemonade, and a drawing for journals and a gift card to Half-Price Books. Hopefully, it will be fun for all. I am inviting my neighbors, friends, and all the patrons of my Little Free Library. Maybe I will have someone read a poem in honor of National Poetry Month, or better yet, hold a Limerick contest. I can hardly wait for this month to get underway.
I worked in my flowerbeds all afternoon and ended up watering many of the plants up close to the back entrance. We need the rain. North of us, there were terrible thunderstorms and mini-tornadoes as close as Huntsville, Texas last night. A student replied when I had told her I was “reading up a storm,” that my reading must have caused the rainstorms they had at her house, northwest of Houston in the night. Narry’ a drop 30 miles south of Houston where I live. We are scheduled to have thunderstorms around midnight, so we shall see.
In hopes of hinting to April that there should be showers, here for National Poetry Month are a few Rain poems: The first is simply titled “Rain” by Myra Cohn Livingston
is soft and cool,
so I go barefoot in a pool.
But winter rain
is cold, and pours,
so I must watch it
If you listen closely as you read the poem’s rhythm, you can hear the falling of the raindrops.
A famous rain poem by Emily Dickinson reads as follows:
“A drop fell on the apple tree
Another on the roof;
A half a dozen kissed the eaves,
And made the gables laugh.
A few went out to help the brook,
That went to help the sea.
Myself conjectured, Were they pearls,
What necklaces could be!
The dust replaced in hoisted roads,
The birds jocoser sung;
The sunshine threw his hat away,
The orchards spangles hung.
The breezes brought dejected lutes,
And bathed them in the glee;
The East put out a single flag,
And signed the fete away.”
This poem demonstrates to students Dickinson’s unique use of slant rhyme, later taken up by other poets and even later accepted by readers of poetry.
This rain poem by Elizabeth Coatsworth is easy for children to understand and a great tool for teaching older children similes and personification.