Posts Tagged ‘National Poetry Month’

Girl Reading Under an Oak Tree, 1879 (oil on canvas), Winslow Homer
How shall we celebrate poetry month?
Let us count the ways
We could write a poem once a week
Or even once a day
We could borrow books of poems
From the Fremont Library
And read them in a nearby park
Beneath a lovely tree
We could learn about poetry styles and themes
In a Gale Series online
Or read a poet’s biography
Robert Frost or Gertrude Stein
We could check out poetry movies
Such as Sylvia or Howl
Or visit some dear childhood friends
Like Pussycat and Owl
Through April and through every month
Does it matter so much which?
Poems, poem, everywhere!
And every drop so rich.

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Year’s end, all
corners of this
floating world, swept.

                                             -Matsuo Basho

We are busy ,  and one of  the small things  we can  do to  ease our  busy days is to  find  a  small bit of  beauty  or  just a few  words  that add to  our  thoughts.  National  Poetry  month  is a good  time to find some new words  or revisit  some  classics:

to find  more poetry  ,  visit  the Fremont Library facebook page all month.

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First the reminder:  Be smart and back up everything saved on your computer hard drive — today.  Take it from one who learned the hard way.  Our home computer died a couple of months ago and with it went my “stuff”, including photographs, recipes, saved pages and other bits and pieces that meant something to me.  I hope to find someone who can recover things from that dead hard drive, but at odd moments I think of my lost collections and of possibly reconstructing what I had.  I know I lost two poems introduced to me in long-ago high school literature classes.  After leaving home for college, and for the longest time before online searching became possible, every time I found myself in a book store (remember them?) or any library, I would browse anthologies of poetry hoping to find either poem listed in some book’s table of contents or index.

The feelings each poem evokes, if not their words, have stayed with me through the years.  One fires me up, bringing up defiance and strength in the face of adversity.  “Invictus”, Latin for unconquered or unbeaten, is the title of William Ernest Henley’s poem that left a lasting impression on my teen and adult self.  Invictus also is the title of a 2009 movie that starred Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner who spent 27 years in prison for campaigning against apartheid and then served as South Africa’s first black president.  The other poem encourages patience and reflection and reins me in.  At moments in my life, recalling Vernon Watkins’ Triads has guided me to my senses.  I found these poems again online and now I share them here for safekeeping, sort of.  At any time I can search the library catalog for poems, but for now I intend to keep my resolution to do scheduled backups of my computer hard drive.

by Vernon Watkins (1906-67)

Who am I to load the year with continual misunderstanding?
I will not accuse winter of a protracted hardness,
Nor spring of callousness, nor summer of regret.

The oak-leaf changes; green gloss cups the acorn.
First hidden, then emerging from resistance to statement,
The fruit holds nothing in its fullness but the tree.

To have held through hail, stormwinds, and black frost in darkness
Through the long months, gives meaning to the bud when it opens.
Song loses nothing of moments that are past.

So my labour is still: it is still determination
To resolve itself slowly in the weathers of knowledge.
By virtue of the hidden the poem is revealed.

Remember Earth’s triads: the faith of a dumb animal,
The mountain stream falling, music to the wheat-ears;
The salt wave echoing the grieving of the bones.

The lamb leaps: it is stubborn in its innocence.
The hawk drops, in the energy of instinct,
Dawn fires kindle perfection like a sword.

Fires: the hawk’s talons, the tongue of the chameleon,
In a peacock’s wings’ lightning the contraction of glory,
In death the last miracle, the unconditional gift.

What do I need but patience before the unpredictable,
The endurance of the stepping-stone before the footprint,
Cadence that reconciles wisdom and the dance?

I need more, I need more. In the moment of perception
Fit me, prayer, to lose everything, that nothing may be lost.
The stone that accumulates history is falling.

History is a pageant, and all men belong to it.
We die into each other: remember how many
Confided their love, not in vain, to the same earth.


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April will be here soon, and I want to remind everyone that this is a very special month: National Poetry Month.  In our hurry, scurry, rushed world we are lucky if we have time to read something, anything.  Often it is Facebook or Twitter.  Or maybe we even carve out time to read that hot new bestseller everyone is buzzing about.  Often we don’t think about poetry which has a different way of looking at the world.  Poetry has its own pace and rhythm that invites us to take time to ponder, and think about our feelings, our memories, our values.Growing up, poetry was a big part of my life.  My dad loved poetry, and especially a book called “101 Famous Poems”.  He gave me a copy for my 10th birthday, which I still own.  We would read the poems in that book, and often I would memorize them.  I still remember snatches of them some 50 years later.”Daffodils” by William Wordsworth was one of my favorites:

I wander’d lonely as a cloud

that floats on high o’er vale and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils:
That poem not only evokes for me the thought of a beautiful field of daffodils, but also the wonderful times I spent with my dad when we would go on “adventures” all around the Bay Area to local parks.
That little book also contained the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling:
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
Those are words that mean a lot to me, and I still have the poem displayed in my cubicle at work. It reminds me that I can be strong when I am facing adversity. Poems had a huge influence on me as I grew up, and as I mentioned, those poems I learned as a child, can transport me back to those simpler days of my life.
Are there poems that influenced you as a child or teen or perhaps now influence you?  Think about them and why they were or are important to you. What feelings or images do they evoke?
And remember, there is a world of poetry at your local library.  Stop by a branch this April and  pick up a poetry book. Many poems are short, and don’t require the time commitment of a novel, yet contain thoughts, images and ideas that may challenge you, thrill you or widen your horizons.   Read poetry for your own enjoyment or share it with someone.  After all, poetry invites us to read it aloud. Discover or re-discover the joys of poetry!

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Thursday Thirteen #14
April is National Poetry Month, so to celebrate I compiled a list of poets that I’m fond of and went in search of facts about them. I actually ended up with more than thirteen facts, but I didn’t think that you all would mind. As a bonus, you get to discover some of the poets I enjoy. (It turns out that Auguste Rodin was a great deal more influential than I ever knew. He knew two of the poets on this list.)

Thirteen Poets/Thirteen+ Facts
1. Shel Silverstein (American cartoonist/poet, 1932-1999) – Apart from his famous books of poetry for children, Mr. Silverstein also wrote the song “A Boy Named Sue,” made famous by Johnny Cash. (Read some poetry)

2. Maya Angelou (American writer, 1928- ) – Maya Angelou was born “Marguerite Johnson” on 4 April 1928. (Read some poetry)

3. Khalil Gibran (Lebanese poet, 1883-1931) – At one point, Gibran studied under the sculptor Auguste Rodin at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. (Read some poetry)

4. John Donne (English poet, 1572-1631) – Donne was born and raised a Roman Catholic, but eventually converted to Church of England. Later, King James pressured him into becoming an Anglican Priest. He and his wife had twelve children (she died bringing the twelfth into the world.) (Read some poetry)

5. Rainer Maria Rilke (German poet, 1875-1926) – Rilke worked as Auguste Rodin’s secretary from 1905-1906. His birth name was Rene Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke. (Read some poetry)

6. Dylan Thomas (Welsh poet, 1914-1953) – Thomas served as an anti-aircraft gunner during World War II. He was only 39 when he died. (Read some poetry)

7. Emily Dickinson (American poet, 1830-1886) – Dickinson’s poems were not gathered and published without edits until 1955. Only seven of her poems were published during her lifetime, and all were edited by others before publishing. (Read some poetry)

8. Arthur Rimbaud (French poet, 1854-1891) – Rimbaud “fell silent” (stopped writing poetry) at the age of nineteen. It is said that he chose to live life rather than write about it. (Read some poetry)

9. Billy Collins (American poet, 1941- ) – Mr. Collins was the poet laureate of the U.S. from 2001-2003 and the driving force behind Poetry 180. He once appeared on the radio show A Prairie Home Companion and seemed to be having a lot of fun. (Read some poetry)

10. Robert Frost (American poet, 1874-1963) – Frost won the Pulitzer prize for poetry four times. He outlived his wife and most of his children. (Read some poetry)

11. Anne Sexton (American poet, 1928-1974) – Sexton worked as a model at one point. She began writing poetry at the suggestion of her psychiatrist, and was encouraged by him to write more when she turned out to be quite good at it. (Read some poetry)

12. William Shakespeare (English playwright, 1564-1616) – At eighteen, Shakespeare married a woman eight years older than him (Anne Hathaway) who gave birth to her first child six months later. There is some indication that the marriage was a bit…hasty. (Read some poetry)

13. Sylvia Plath (American poet, 1932-1963) – Plath suffered from what was apparently bipolar disorder, and ended up taking her own life at age 30. (Read some poetry)

The Biography Resource Center (Database)
Poets.org from the Academy of American Poets.

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