Category Archives: Poetry

Celebrating Shel Silverstein–and St. Patrick’s Day

I discovered Shel Silverstein’s poetry as an adult, although I had always bean aware of his book The Giving Tree. To this day, I have mixed feelings about the book. In 2011, Everything On It was published. This poem is from that collection:

 

YEARS FROM NOW

Although I cannot see your face

As you flip these poems awhile,

Somewhere from some far-off place

I hear you laughing–and I smile.

 

Here I go down Circle Road

Strong and hopeful hearted

Through the dust

And wind up just exactly where I started.

 

Check out his website also.

It wasn’t until I read A Boy Named Shel by Lisa Rogak that I learned he wrote “The Unicorn Song,” which is very popular on St. Patrick’s Day. Here are two versions. I love the art in the second one. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

Image result for free clip art st. patrick's day

Image result for free clip art st. patrick's day

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Biographies, Children's Books, Classics, Poetry

Garden Time — The Poetry of W.S. Merwin

I am familiar with W.S. Merwin because Garrison Keillor has read his work often on The Writer’s Almanac. Merwin has written more than 50 verse collections in his 89 years. Visit the Merwin Conservancy for more on the poet, his work, and love for nature.

Garden Time, Merwin’s most recent work (I hope it’s not his last), is the only one I’ve read so far. I was very surprised by its brevity. I was drawn to it by its garden theme (apparently a favorite pastime for him). He also writes about memories, favorite places, love, and loss. In fact, as he was working on this, Merwin was dealing with losing his eyesight. I’ve watched people go through this, and it’s not fun. It absolutely sucks.

I enjoyed the entire collection. Two poems lodged in my memory and didn’t let go. Later, when I looked up specific details, I realized they were about paintings. Most of us think we can interact with art only in a visual way. In reality, many options exist. I hope that Merwin does not give up his interest in art.

One poem reflects on a work of the late Morris Graves, called “Blind Bird.” Here’s a picture:

Morris Graves Paintings | morris graves "Blind Bird"

Merwin based the poem “The Mapmaker” on Vermeer’s The Geographer. Here’s a really fabulous interactive page that explains the painting’s details.

And the painting:

 

https://i2.wp.com/www.staedelmuseum.de/sites/default/files/styles/col-8/public/staedel_altemeister_vermeer_johannes_dergeograf_1669.jpg

 

Last fall, I wrote about Picture This tours at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The article starts on page 10. The tours are intended for people who have low vision, but everyone is welcome. They alternate between the East Building and West Building the last week of each month, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Attendees examine one or two paintings in depth. I have attended several of these since the story was published, and it helped me to see in different ways.

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Appreciating Langston Hughes

February 1 was the anniversary of the birth of the poet, playwright, and short story writer Langston Hughes. He’s always been my favorite. I recall one of his poems that appeared in one of my elementary-school language arts textbooks. I can’t recall whether it was “April Rain Song” or “Autumn Thought.” In any case, that poem was my introduction. Today, I have the Selected Poems of Langston Hughes on my Nook. There are plenty of longer anthologies as well. I’m pleased that all his works, including the two volumes of his autobiography, are still easy to find.

Years later, I got a complete picture of his work–and of Hughes as a person. He was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance. For a brief time, he lived in Washington, D.C.

Google commemorated his birthday with the following musical Google Doodle:

The following is a list of some favorite Hughes poems. Which are yours?

“Dreams”

“Theme for English B”

I relate to the feeling of being “different” in this poem. The other reason I like the poem is that I saw and heard it recited several years ago by Will Farley, then a student at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. He was a guest on a Memorial Day weekend performance of “A Prairie Home Companion,” which my aunt and I saw and enjoyed live. Here is a poetry recap show of “Prairie” where you can listen to the poem.

The Trumpet Player

I never read this one without recalling Louis Armstrong.

In Time of Silver Rain

I didn’t know until I looked it up recently that Hughes dedicated this work to Lorraine Hansberry, the playwright who wrote A Raisin in the Sun–a favorite play of mine. He had learned she had cancer.

Here it is set to music:

Mother to Son

I always liked this one because it shows parental teaching and encouragement. The mom is trying to inspire determination, strength. and resilience in her son, because life is hard sometimes. It’s so important to keep going.

This YouTube video shows Langston Hughes himself reading this poem at the end. This is the first time I have ever heard his voice.

Finally, here is “Bad Morning”–another one I can relate to. Believe me, if all that happens to you on a bad morning is mismatched shoes, you’re doing pretty well. 🙂

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Filed under African American Literature, Classics, Poetry

The Red Balloon

I know this entry isn’t directly literary, but I thought I would include it anyway. I happened to look at the TV listings last night, and noticed that Turner Classic Movies was running the 1956 short film, The Red Balloon, as part of its “31 Days of Oscar.”

I tuned in, very excited, because it has been years since I’ve seen it. I saw it several times in school and always liked it. I loved the story, but I was also intrigued by Paris, France. At the time, I didn’t know anything about its background or many awards.

When I watched it again last night, I thought about how much kids love balloons, how colorful they are, and how, for a time, they are like friends. Those filled with helium, especially, spark the imagination. If I’m outside and I let go, where will it travel to? Balloons are also something to enjoy as much as you can, because most of the time they last only for a short while. To this day, I become overly startled when a balloon pops.

In the film, the balloons give color and brightness to a city that was still faded and shell-shocked from World War II. Knowing now that most of the section of Paris depicted in the film was eventually torn down, the film is a powerful commemoration.

Here is the full, original movie from YouTube. Enjoy!

I also recalled reading a poem as a kid by E.E. Cummings about a balloon man and enjoying the illustrations. I remember wondering why the lines looked funny. Now I know that it’s called “in Just spring.” Here is the author reading the poem, which is really great because I never knew what Cummings sounded like:

Here’s another favorite by him–“i thank You God for most this amazing.”

Most days may in fact not be that remarkable. Feeling gratitude anyway is a wonderful gift to have, and with it you can see the extraordinary.

 

 

 

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Filed under Children's Books, Classics, Film, Hope, Poetry, Uncategorized

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” Aloud

Dr. Seuss’s animated  TV show, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” has been a favorite for many years. Some time ago, my aunt started to sing the theme song and other tunes from the program, and to watch it with me. One year, I was inspired to give her the video as a Christmas present. We drag it out every year, and every year I see or hear something different in it. The rhythm of the words and the poetry. Even as a kid, I loved Dr. Seuss’s playfulness with language. But every year its central message becomes clearer: “Maybe Christmas, perhaps, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” My other favorite part is how “the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.”

 

 

It is of course narrated and sung by Boris Karloff–a huge departure from most projects in his career. It took a while for me to appreciate Boris Karloff. The movie of the original story has also been around for some years.

I always loved Max, the Grinch’s dog–the antithesis of his owner.

 

This year, I wanted to read the story. I have no memory of it being read to me, either by family, friends, or teachers. Today was challenging in many respects, so I sat my aunt down and insisted on reading it to her. She said, “Do we have to go through this again?” But as I read I showed her the pictures, and I think she liked it. The day ended with hugs. The book is different from the animated program in several ways, but it still retains the basic messages and themes.

 

Dr. Seuss's The Grinch

 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas book cover

 

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Filed under Children's Books, Classics, Everyday Goings-On, Poetry

Poppies–In Remembrance

Today is Veterans Day. The news had a lot of coverage about Britain marking the centenary of WWI through the poppies art exhibition at the Tower of London. Here is an early August skip from the BBC:

And of course, it brings to mind the poem by John McCrae, “In Flanders Fields.”

Today, many programs and nonprofits exist to serve vets and their families, including those who have disabilities. Employment is a major issue, as well as many others. If you have time, find a vets’ organization in your area and help out in some way.

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Filed under Helping People, History, Hope, Poetry

Ferdinand the Bull

The other day, I ran across this poem in the October 4th edition of The Writer’s AlmanacI didn’t know the book The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf when I was growing up. But when I watched the movie The Blind Side several years ago, a very touching scene built around the story kept it in my mind. For the family in the film, the book was a beloved childhood memory.

One day at the library, I decided to take a look. It’s very cute–about a bull who doesn’t want to fight. He likes to sit among the flowers.

Anyhow, I liked the following poem:

 

The Story of Ferdinand the Bull

by Matt Mason

Dad would come home after too long at work
and I’d sit on his lap to hear
the story of Ferdinand the Bull; every night,
me handing him the red book until I knew
every word, couldn’t read,
just recite along with drawings
of a gentle bull, frustrated matadors,
the all-important bee, and flowers—
flowers in meadows and flowers
thrown by the Spanish ladies.
Its lesson, really,
about not being what you’re born into
but what you’re born to be,
even if that means
not caring about the capes they wave in your face
or the spears they cut into your shoulders.
And Dad, wonderful Dad, came home
after too long at work
and read to me
the same story every night
until I knew every word, couldn’t read,
just recite.

“The Story of Ferdinand the Bull” by Matt Mason, from The Baby That Ate Cincinnati. © Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission.

 

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Filed under Animals, Children's Books, Classics, Poetry

Remembering Winnie the Pooh

I now know that A. A. Milne wrote so many more plays, stories and essays besides Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, and the poetry books Now We Are Six and When We Were Very Young. There have been a few good biographies of Milne over the years. But this quartet of books are childhood classics.

I was no exception. When I was eight, my uncle gave them to me in a boxed set just before I was supposed to go into the hospital. He, like everyone else, knew that I liked to read more than to watch TV. After I got home, I drove everyone crazy memorizing the verses and reading them out loud umpteen times. I still can’t write poetry, but I love reading it.

Those paperbacks were soon dog-eared and well used. Eventually, I donated them to my school library. A couple of years ago, I got nostalgic. I was using a favorite bookmark that a college friend had given me. It shows Christopher Robin and Pooh leaning against a fence, with the quote: “Promise you won’t forget me. Not even when I’m a hundred.” I thought I might like to read them again. As luck would have it, my local library had audio versions on CD. It would be a new way to experience them. It all came back. I never forgot the words completely. The actor reading them did an excellent job voicing all the characters. But I had the speaker of the line on my bookmark wrong. I thought Pooh said it, but it was Christopher Robin–who had to start school and put childish things aside. I’ve never quite done that. I still love stuffed animals.

I also remember having fun with an arts and crafts kit where you could make stencil drawings of each of the characters. Tigger was my original favorite; I named one of my stuffed tigers after him. These days, I really love them all. I can’t pick a special one.

Of course, there were earlier animated versions of the stories. “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day” has a special place in my heart. It’s narrated by Sebastian Cabot, who played the butler on Family Affair. One weekend evening, just after dinner, they decided to show it on TV again, so I decided to watch it. Turns out that our cat, Miranda, just a kitten at the time, liked it a lot, too. She was transfixed by the images on the screen.

Every once in a while, I want to hear “Return to Pooh Corner,” shown below along with scenes from Disney’s movie Winnie the Pooh, which was also very good. Kenny Loggins updated the original song in the 1990s. This version is much more hopeful. Grownups also need a place they can escape to once in a while to leave behind the heavy responsibilities of adult life. And if you’re lucky enough to share memories with children in your life, all the better. I’ve included the words as well. I got them from the website The Page at Pooh Corner. Enjoy!

 

Return to Pooh Corner
Written and performed by: Kenny Loggins

Christopher Robin and I walked along
Under branches lit up by the moon
Posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore
As our days disappeared all too soon
But I've wandered much further today than I should
And I can't seem to find my way back to the Wood

So help me if you can
I've got to get back
To the House at Pooh Corner by one
You'd be surprised
There's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh

Winnie the Pooh doesn't know what to do
Got a honey jar stuck on his nose
He came to me asking help and advice
And from here no one knows where he goes
So I sent him to ask of the Owl if he's there
How to loosen a jar from the nose of a bear

It's hard to explain how a few precious things
Seem to follow throughout all our lives
After all's said and done I was watching my son
Sleeping there with my bear by his side
So I tucked him in, I kissed him and as I was going
I swear that the old bear whispered 
  "Boy welcome home"

Believe me if you can
I've finally come back
To the House at Pooh Corner by one
What do you know
There's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin
Back to the ways of Christopher Robin
Back to the days of Pooh

© 1969,1994 MCA Music Publishing, a division of MCA Inc.


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Filed under Children's Books, Classics, Poetry

Footprints

The first time I saw the poem “Footprints” was on a poster in my cousin’s room. There is wisdom and encouragement in it. I bought a bookmark years ago to always remind myself of it.

I don’t think I’v talked much at all about poetry, but I have always enjoyed it. When I was in third grade, I kept checking out a poetry anthology–how I originally learned “The Highwayman,” “Lochinvar” and  “Paul Revere’s Ride.” I’ve owned many anthologies since.

I found this version on a website called Poet Seers, which looks very cool. But there are many additional resources. The Poetry Foundation is one of the best

Footprints

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord,
‘You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?’

The Lord replied,
‘The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you.’

-Mary Stevenson

footprints in the sand

 

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I wish you enough…

I first heard this poem several years ago on the radio, and it’s always stayed with me. Sometimes, life throws you WAY too many curves all at once, but there is so much wisdom in this. Some things are very hard to accept. I guess it means that life is a balance. But sometimes it seems like there’s too much gray, too much pain, and too much loss, and not enough hellos. But we go on–or at least we try.

Here lately, I have shopped a lot for things I needed and many things I really enjoy. But it should not become a hobby. After a rude awakening, I finally feel like I have enough…that all the things  I have must be used before getting more, and other aspects of life–and the people around you–are more important.

I Wish You Enough

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how grey the day may appear.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.

 

–Author unknown

And here’s the original link where I got it:

via Saturday poem: I wish you enough… | Creating life with words: Inspiration, love and truth.

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Filed under Favorite Essays, Poetry, Uncategorized