Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Poets and Poetry

Happy February! February is considered by many to be the month of love! And what better time than now to talk about poetry. Poetry has been a big part of my life. Nerds far and wide, unite! I have taken consolation in poetry over the years, and being an English major, I have had to read my fair share of poetry.  Although sometimes challenging, I love all things reading and writing poetry, and naturally, my favorites have risen to the top over time. ;-)

E.E. Cummings
(excerpt!  ;-)

in Just-
spring   when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

What is the value of poetry? I have a memory from when Molly was a toddler and I was pregnant with Frances. One Spring, an elderly lady - very distinguished (instant friends!)- came up beside me at the swings on the playground and started chatting. She asked me several questions about Molly and the baby-to-be as she pushed her grandchild on the swing...😉 Then, out of nowhere, she started quoting this poem:

"How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all-
Over the countryside.

Till I look down on the garden green
Down on the roof so brown-
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!"*

Wow- that was a special moment. It could have happened yesterday, because I remember it so well. Not only did she take me out of my own world, she stamped into my memory a moment I will never forget.  The transcendent spoke to me and stirred something in me- emotions, maybe?- that day.

Poetry is like that. It takes you out of this world. It sparks memories. The elements of poetry: rhythm, meter, rhyme, descriptive words, feeling, creativity, and even rare words occur again and again- which is is what unites all of poetry.  Good poetry leaves behind a moment in time that is never lost. Successful poets transcend our physical modernity, and in turn, their words open a trap door out of the sadness of mortality.  If you haven't found the treasures of poetry, I hope and pray you find it, or it finds you.
A lot of time I see a curriculum list and I think, "Where's the poetry?" Recently, Molly has been encouraged to submit poems to a journal. She came upon this opportunity through school.

Where to start, where to start?!
My favorite poets/poetry:

-Shakespeare's sonnets
-Dante's Inferno
-W.H. Auden
 "Underneath the Abject Willow"
-T.S. Eliot
 The Four Quartets

My favorite poem:

"Morning Song" from Senlin by Conrad Aiken

IT is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
When the light drips through the shutters like the dew,
I arise, I face the sunrise,
And do the things my fathers learned to do.
Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops         5
Pale in a saffron mist and seem to die,
And I myself on swiftly tilting planet
Stand before a glass and tie my tie.
Vine-leaves tap my window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,  10
The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.
It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And tie my tie once more.
While waves far off in a pale rose twilight  15
Crash on a white sand shore.
I stand by a mirror and comb my hair:
How small and white my face!—
The green earth tilts through a sphere of air
And bathes in a flame of space.  20
There are houses hanging above the stars
And stars hung under a sea...
And a sun far off in a shell of silence
Dapples my walls for me....
It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning  25
Should I not pause in the light to remember God?
Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable,
He is immense and lonely as a cloud.
I will dedicate this moment before my mirror
To him alone, for him I will comb my hair.  30
Accept these humble offerings, clouds of silence!
I will think of you as I descend the stair.
Vine-leaves tap my window,
The snail-track shines on the stones;
Dew-drops flash from the chinaberry tree  35
Repeating two clear tones.
It is morning, I awake from a bed of silence,
Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep.
The walls are about me still as in the evening,
I am the same, and the same name still I keep.  40
The earth revolves with me, yet makes no motion,
The stars pale silently in a coral sky.
In a whistling void I stand before my mirror,
Unconcerned, and tie my tie.
There are horses neighing on far-off hills  45
Tossing their long white manes,
And mountains flash in the rose-white dusk,
Their shoulders black with rains....
It is morning, I stand by the mirror
And surprise my soul once more;  50
The blue air rushes above my ceiling,
There are suns beneath my floor....
...It is morning, Senlin says, I ascend from darkness
And depart on the winds of space for I know not where;
My watch is wound, a key is in my pocket,  55
And the sky is darkened as I descend the stair.
There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven,
And a god among the stars; and I will go
Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak
And humming a tune I know....  60
Vine-leaves tap at the window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three dear tones.
My favorite lines:

The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.

Why I love this poem:

You might notice right away the "swiftly tilting planet" line and you betcha Madeleine L'Engle fans will catch her reference to Aiken!   Also, in the Mass the bell is rung three times after the priest raises the host, to consecrate it.  This poem has always made me think of that moment in Church!  I love that this poem has more structure than much of the poetry that is the product of modernity and modern culture, and the repetition and references are oh so fine! I know you're not supposed to use textual criticism based on biographical facts, but Conrad Aiken had an incredibly hard childhood. He saw his Dad murder his Mom and then commit suicide. I'm sure was never the same again. He found consolation in poetry.

When I was in high school I had to memorize a few of Shakespeare's sonnets, so to this day they are among my most favorite. I performed as Ophelia in Hamlet and we studied A Midsummer Night's Dream in depth.  In high school we read and studied King Lear in depth, and I took a Shakespeare class in college for my English Lit degree.

And Dante... oh Dante, you are special.
Special, special
Notes, On why I love Dante so much:

Treasures... oh, the treasures. I had a crush on Dante Alighieri in college because of his good looks. Juuuuust joking. I had to read Dante for a class in college, and to this day I hold him in reverence and a higher esteem in my own mind than any other poet.  He deals with the state of the soul; he counts himself a great poet even in his own day. Once you get to reading it, there is so much to mine in each canto.  You could discuss it and analyze it for forever.;) It has been translated from the Italian numerous times-  quite well by Dorothy Sayers, Anthony Esolen, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and (my most favorite translation) Mark Musa. It's hard to bring the Italian into English well. It is hardest to make it understandable ! ;)

Here is a good quotation from my favorite translation of Dante, on the subject of vanity, no less (!!!) :

"If anyone should want to know my name,
I am called Leah. And I spend all my time
weaving garlands of flowers with my fair hands,

to please me when I stand before my mirror;
my sister Rachel sits all the day long
before her own and never moves away.

She loves to contemplate her lovely eyes;
I love to use my hands to adorn myself:
her joy is in reflection, mine is in act.

And now, before the splendor of the dawn
(more welcome by the homebound pilgrim now,
the closer he awakes to home each day.)

Night's shadow disappears on every side..."

Purgatory, canto XXVII, lines 100-112

Poetry also becomes extra special when you're able to share it with others- namely, your kids! This goes for any book... more wonderful when shared.  Make some tea in a big tea pot, fill the table with goodies (or just pop some popcorn) and start reading it aloud! Do you need some encouragement? There is a great (great!) podcast episode from the RAR podcast about poetry teas and you need to listen to it (right! now!) if you want to be inspired. #rarpodcast Also there is a poetry teatime website (um, awesome.... because, me=nerd).

We've also found that poetry is also more wonderful when tried!  If we listen to poetry or read it only, we're missing an important opportunity, and that would be the opportunity to write our own poetry. My kids love to take a song and make up new lyrics. You could even re-write nursery rhymes, borrowing the meter from these to make up a fun game. Lyric-writing is definitely a form of poetry. If you're missing that piece in your life, I would think writing poetry fills a huge hole in education!! #imho

Poets I have loved sharing with my kids: 

Emily Dickinson

Shel Silverstein

Lewis Carroll

Robert Louis Stevenson

*"The Swing" by Robert Louis Stevenson

What poets/poetry do you like or enjoy the most?
Linking up with Tuesday Talk and cross-posting at the ACWB

Friday, February 3, 2017

Molly's Birthday, Cats, and Liiiiiiife Lately~ 7QT

Well, I don't have anything inspiring to say to kick off this week's quick takes, so I'll just go for it...

~1~ Molly's Birthday

Molly turned 9 this month. Which is just so hard to believe. :-0

We celebrated by eating at Shogun restaurant. She had never been, and she was so impressed to see them "cook in front of you."

Molly is such a gift.
I know Stephen and everyone who knows her agrees... she is funny, smart, creative, a social bug, and artistic. ;-) She loves her friends, playing with her siblings (and being an awesome big sister), riding her bike, and reading.  I love how birthdays give us a chance to highlight the ways our kids are special and unique, and I love how the extra attention and love can really bring them out and make them shine.

We hosted a successful birthday party and made my (not) famous strawberry compote cupcakes.

She got this book as well.

~2~ Cats

In other completely unrelated news, to keep Annabel distracted when she was teething recently, I made a folder on my desktop of pictures from when our cats were kittens. She is completely mesmerized by these, so my trick is working.

Do these not make you so happy? lol
Kittens turning into cats= turn a bad day around for any toddler ;-)

~3~ Valentine's Day

I'm really excited about Valentine's Day this year... I posted about it on Tuesday, so go check out my post... Getting Ready for Valentine's Day I have written several cray cray posts this month so if you're in the mood for something more heartwarming, check it.

Oh and that reminds me that there is a fun instagram challenge going on for February hosted by Our Pretty Little Girls author Beth, and Wife Mommy Me author Stephanie-- Check out all the details here. Or just check out the hashtag, #14daysoflovephoto2017

~4~ Lent Coming

In light of the fact that I am now writing about our cats and posting photos of them, I'm not sure how much I'll be blogging this Spring. #😂 I feel like I may need a Lenten break from blogging. I'm feeling it is time. It is not because I can't make time to scramble together a few thoughts here and there in the little snatches of time I can find. It's simply because of what blogging (and the whole social media game) does to my soul. Break=needed, please and thank you.

I hope you all have a restful and fruitful Lent. I'm sure you'll be fine... as long as you don't give up great TV, disney movies, blueberries, popularity, or cupcakes. ;-)


Speaking of blogging, that sort of leads me to something else I have been thinking about recently, which is... my writing journey.  I was talking to a friend recently about the idea of her starting a blog. Sounds easy, no? When I started, I had a tiny, tiny readership. I kept with it because I had friends and family that I knew were reading. How did I know? If I occasionally put out a little call for comments, I would get confirmation that people were there, and people were reading. It was fun in those days, even though I was reaching only a few.  To people still trying to grow (which I am!), I encourage you to try just a handful of things:

- submit articles far and wide
- find an editor
- find tech-savvy friends
- know thyself

I have submitted articles to many places.... and guess what?! Many of those places rejected my pieces. A few accepted them. One source asked me to submit.  To call yourself a writer, you should do this and also take classes on writing, if you can. 😉  Christina Katz is fun to work with and I know she will be pleased to help you.

You don't want to go backwards by starting out in a sea of confusion, trying to get help only from blogging advice Pins on Pinterest . You've got to get tangible support from people who really do have the credentials they say that they do! Ask someone who is one step ahead of you to mentor you! Find someone to help with all of the pieces to the puzzle that you struggle with- it will be worth it!

There are no hard and fast rules (none, really!) but the thing I can almost 80% guarantee is that persistence pays off, but you need to know your audience, and who might identify with you the most. This means saying yes to some and no to others (in reach and follow). If you are nowhere near where you want to be in terms of reach, blog design, or achievements (and I'm not "there" yet by any means, either), just keep going. Over time- sometimes long, sometimes short- you will see growth, you will see improvement, and you will see achievement. Just don't give up!


The 95% and 5% rule...

When listening to the "Sounds of the Trail" podcast recently, one of the guests interviewed was asked, "How do you cope with all of the difficulties of the trail- cold weather, being wet, blisters or sore feet, sore muscles, hard climbs?"  And his answer was flawless, "The good of being out here is 95% of my experience. The views, the beauty, being out in nature, becoming one with the earth, the people, the community.... and the bad is 5% of the experience."

I would compare motherhood and having kids/ staying home to this analogy. If I could just erase the witching hour, changing diapers in the car on cold days, and illness, etc. my life would seriously be blissful. So much of it is pure bliss and so much fun for me. Mothering, homemaking, crafting, reading to my kids, cooking, baking, enjoying our family time and togetherness, even cleaning sometimes. It isn't just that I'm focusing on the good (although that's a huge piece to the puzzle), but it really is good most of the time.


I made this Slow Cooker Cauliflower Cheese soup this week, and it was so hearty and delicious.  Highly recommend.

I had never cooked with leeks before but seriously.... why didn't anyone tell me leeks are beautiful?!

Speaking of leeks, a couple of nights ago on my walk, I was about a block away from home and took a picture of a tree, because it looked like leeks. (yes I did).  So then right after I took it, I looked closer and our cat was sitting in the very tree I had just photographed. I didn't notice him until *after* I took the picture.  

What can I say? Our cat likes the smell of leeks. Or something.

aaaaaaand that's all she wrote. 😕😉
Linking up with Kelly