The Comfort Book by Matt Haig offers just that–comfort.
Opening it at random this morning before returning it to the library, I found these words as a reminder of how to start and spend my day:
“A Thing I Discovered Recently”
“I love stillness. Slowness. When nothing is happening. The blueness of the sky. Inhaling clean air. Birdsong over traffic. Lone footsteps. Spring flowers blooming with defiance. I used to think the quiet patches felt dead. Now they feel more alive. Like leaning over and listening to the earth’s heartbeat.”
In an effort to read more poetry this year than last (a 2021 goal), I am challenging myself with a short objective–to read a poem a day for ten days. And, what better way to do this than to use poets.org, the “original poetry service publishing new work by contemporary poets.” I subscribed today, Sunday, August 22nd, 2021.
Today’s featured poem is by Walter Everette Hawkins, a native of North Carolina, born in 1888.
The poem is titled, “The Drowsy World Dreams On.” In it, the poet marks the occurrence of many things, while “the drowsy world dreams on,” oft repeated as the final line of each stanza.
The final stanza of the poem sums up the world’s indifference to daily happenings, both large and small:
“And the dreary old world’s growing gloomy and gray,
While the joys that are sweetest are passing away;
And the charms that inspire like the picture of dawn
Are but playthings of Time–they gleam and are gone,
While the drowsy world dreams on.”
I will not post a poem a day and my interpretation of it, for the goal is to read poetry, not write about it. Instead, I would encourage you readers to choose a poem a day service and read a poem a day for whatever amount of time you choose to challenge your self for. Happy Reading–of POETRY!
One of my 2021 reading goals was to read more poetry. I have not read as much poetry as I would have liked, but recently, I checked a book out of my local library that was about poetry
The colorful cover attracted me, and I have always admired e.e. cummings. Although the publication date was 1958, the book was a fascinating read of essays and other pieces by cummings himself. In the first section, an essay by cummings “Is Something Wrong?” poses the question, “Is something wrong with America’s creative artists?” cummings’ answer is a yes and no. Also, he points out that each of us has a poet within, and he gives this advice: “Do not fear the artist in yourselves, my fellow citizens. Honor him and love him. Love him truly–do not try to possess him.” He ends this essay with, “Only the artist in yourselves is more truthful than the night.”
In the second part, an essay, “A Poet’s Advice to Students,” cummings defines the poet as: “A poet is someone who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words.” He continues, “…And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world–unless you’re willing, but glad to feel and work and fight till you die. Does this sound dismal? It isn’t. It’s the most wonderful life on earth. Or, so I feel.” cummings’ feelings about being a poet is that it isn’t easy; it’s hard, but it’s “the most wonderful life on earth.”
Confession time: I did not read this book cover to cover; I read the essays that “called out to me.” As my grandson would say, “I did not read the entire book; I ‘used’ it.”
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.
In honor of National Poetry Month, today’s Saturday Mornings for Kids will feature renowned children’s poet, Shel Silverstein.
My introduction to Silverstein came as a sixth grade teacher, who after seeing a review of Light in the Attic in the Houston Chronicle, asked for a copy for her birthday so she might share it with her students.
Not long after, Silverstein published Where the Sidewalk Ends, and I treated myself to a copy. This was followed by a purchase of Falling Up.
Becoming enamored more and more by Silverstein’s poetry, I took the poetry collections to school, introduced them, and read several poems aloud, sharing the illustrations like a teacher of much younger students might, holding up the book and panning around so all could see them. Afterwards, I would place the books on a side counter, encouraging students who had finished their work to go over to the counter and look at/read them. We even started a “game” where students would take a fancy bookmark left in each book and move it to one of their favorite poems. I think the students were as interested in each other’s tastes in poetry as they were in the poems themselves. I began this introduction to poetry the second or third year I taught sixth graders, and continued it the remaining four years I taught sixth grade in an elementary setting.
Silverstein has something for everyone. The Giving Tree, one of his most emotional narrative poems, appeals to all ages, and touches the hearts of the hardest-hardened adults.
On the top shelf is collectible decanter and four glasses purchased from the Franklin Mint during the American bicentennial, which celebrated America’s 200th birthday (1996).
On the second shelf is a Bulgarian stacking doll (Does anyone know the correct term for these dolls?) a friend gave me after her trip to Europe, a “Teacher” appreciation card with two hand-dipped candles attached from one of my favorite former students (She came through in 2009.) It is perched atop various collections of poetry by poets like Maya Angelou, a signed Margaret Atwood (a gift from a friend), a book on writing haiku, and other smaller poetry books. To the right are the larger books: Shel Silverstein, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, and a couple of others. Standing upright at the far right, poetry anthologies from college courses and some anthologies too tall to stand up on the shelf. In the foreground are, a bronze cat, which was a gift from my mother; a blown glass cat, a gift from a friend who went to Peru, and the business card of an artist, former student Jacq.
Peeking from underneath is the backboard of my desk, decorated by a sign for my performance at a primary school for Read Across America Day, flanked by an authentic Taiwanese prayer flag display and on the far right, facing inward a student-framed- gift-copy of my teaching motto, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”(Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life.) On the far left, a play on Churchill’s poster from WWII parodied, reading “Keep Calm and Teach On.”
Who could not get good work done surrounded by such an environment?
(I saw this idea first on O.D.’s Book Reviews over a year ago and have been wanting to do one ever since.)
A “shelfie” could be a shelf of books TBR, a shelf just read, or a shelf you have read and are keeping. Challenge: SHOW US YOUR SHELFIE! Post your blog address below and let us have a look.
Today’s Friday Firstliner comes from Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again.
“Part One, Saigon
1975 Year of the Cat
Today is Tet.
the first day
of the lunar calendar.”
The entire book is written in poems! What a discovery, and what a reading treat. I will write more about this book on Saturday Mornings for Kids, and then I will pass it on to a student I have this semester who is of Vietnamese background, and whose mother’s war experiences resemble this author’s.
This is a book I have copied many poems into my Quote Notebook from, even making a poorly-executed copy of her illustrations:
Not only is Kaur a spokeswomen for young women everywhere, she is old beyond her years in advice and thought. I first heard of her in a review from Hooked on Books’ Jee Wan, who was very impressed by this poet. Jee is an excellent poet herself, so I ordered a copy to form my own opinion. Impressed is a mild word to describe my reaction to Kaur’s poems–they are spot-on, often dealing with darker things women might not want to reflect on. But there is hope as well, always hope, offered in this slender volume.
Two more poems from this collection that “spoke” to me are here:
‘you might have done
the external work
but your mind is starving
for internal attention
“not everything you do has to be self-improving
you are not a machine
you are a person
your work can never be full
without play your mind can never be nourished
In an effort to read more poetry, I plan to start January with a book of poems and continue to read at least one collection each month. As slow as I read poetry ( because I tend to slow down to digest it), it will take me all month to read each collection.
Join me in this celebration of poetry and what it can do for us in 2021 if you wish.