Tag Archive: poetry


I need a vacation from being ill

My last couple of weeks have been fairly eventful and have prevented me from working my regular work schedule, which sucks because I need all the hours I can get. Last week I was got viral conjunctivitis (pink eye) and was quickly followed by a bad case of bronchitis this week. Therefore I have not gotten very much sleep for the past 2 weeks and being sick and stressed out is no fun. It did, weirdly enough, inspire me to write some poetry. It’s probably not my best work, but it made me feel a little better at the time.

Bronchitis

I hate all this coughing,
it makes my head throb
like it will explode
from all the pressure inside.
Then there’s the several minutes,
or so it seems,
later before I can finally get my breath back.
It’s like having a panic attack,
and I have force myself to breathe slower.
Afterwards,
it feels like the elephant in the room
is sitting on my chest
squeezing all of the air out of me.

 

My lower back and ribs
feel as though
I have been stuck in a corset all day,
and not one I am wearing for kicks.
Then of course there’s the block of mucus
that has camped between my sinuses
and my lungs,
refusing to budge,
which is of course
the reason why I can’t stop coughing.
I also have the death rattle,
which sounds almost like
the a needle on a record player
before and after a song ends,
all scratchy and alone.

For some reason,
the coughing is worse at home.
Maybe it’s because my husband
has the same affliction.
Maybe it’s because
Misery loves company,
or because my body knows
I’m trying to go to sleep soon
and it wants to give me the finger again –
the way it does every time I sneeze or cough,
and my bladder is suddenly doing its impression
of Victoria Falls.
Buggery, Buggery, Buggery.
This is the second year in a row
that I’ve gotten this.
Maybe I should’ve sprung for the Albuterol after all,
least then I would have been able to breathe properly.

Autumn

San Francisco Mountains in Autumn

Fall in Flagstaff, AZ with the San Francisco Mtns in the background

It is finally Autumn in Arizona. Now I realize it is late November and winter storms are plaguing most of the Midwest and East coast, but it has only in the last few weeks gotten cool enough here to warrant long sleeves in the morning and evening (with temps in the low 70s – 21C for the rest of the world) and leaves starting to fall. The majority of the trees are still green and still have their leaves. Fall is my favorite time of year. I miss having real seasons in Arizona, we mostly just have a lot of summer with a very small fall/winter/spring. In October, I started craving cozy foods like homemade mac ‘n’ cheese and stews, and more importantly hot tea and cider. And this was when it was still 90 degrees outside. I also started crocheting again, and have made three scarves so far. I have decided to do “Autumn” as my theme for the last DiscoveryTime (DT) of the year. Sadly I can’t do a lot of the experiments I found online because almost no leaves have fallen. I added more songs and fingerplays in though, and an extra book so hopefully that will make up for it. I started doing take-home activity sheets as well, to have the parents and children do something fun related to the storytime.

While I was researching for the DT, I found a couple of poems, one of which I decided to add because it was from an award-winning children’s book called A Child’s Calendar by John Updike, illustrated by Tricia Schart Hyman. I also decided that if it was possible, I would like to include more poetry in my storytimes, as I enjoy it and it would be nice to expose the children to it as well. One that I could not add, not because it wasn’t a great poem (it is gorgeously vivid and lovely) but because it is a bit long and too complicated for 1-4 yr olds to sit through, was the following Keats poem. I’m sure most people have heard of it or heard it quoted before.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Neruda, Cisneros and Mistral

Pablo Neruda

Well, this was supposed to be published last week (the end of April) but looks like my publish scheduler isn’t working. My apologies, here it is now. I work with predominantly Mexican and other Latin American people when I volunteer at the public library once a week for an English Conversation program. I understand a little bit of Spanish, mostly owing to taking Italian in college (as they are very similar languages), though not enough to converse fluently. As with most things I get fascinated with, I want to know more about Latin American culture, art and history. One way, which is rather appropriate as it is National Poetry Month is through poems. I will admit, I am not well-versed in Hispanic/Latino poetry. The first person that comes to my mind is Pablo Neruda, who is not only the most famous writer from Chile (the second most famous being Isabelle Allende of course!), and a Nobel Prize winner for Literature, but one of my favorite poets. I fell in love with his Love Sonnets (especially Sonnet XVII) after watching the film Il Postino. I was trying to come up with one last poetry post to do and at first I thought, why not do some other famous Hispanic/Latino poets in addition to Neruda? I found some information on Ruben Dario and Octavio Paz, which I will probably post on in the future. Then I thought “Hey, it would be cool if I could find some famous female Hispanic/Latino poets.” After some brief searching, I came up with Sandra Cisneros and Gabriela Mistral, as I thought they were the most fascinating.

sandra cisneros

Sandra Cisneros is a Mexican-American writer born in Chicago, though she spent most of her childhood going back and forth between the Spanish-speaking part of that city and Mexico City. She never felt at home in either one, and she did not make friends easily. According to this biography of the author, Cisneros said “We’re always straddling two countries, and we’re always living in that kind of schizophrenia that I call being a Mexican woman living in American society, but not belonging to either culture.” According to Deborah L. Madsen,

“Cisneros wishes to break the longing of Chicanas to be accepted by American or Mexican culture, because it is almost impossible if you are a Mexican-American. Cisneros reveals the conflict between society and women, between women and women, and between women and men. She emphasizes that in Mexican culture, for women, there are two main roles: the virgin or the whore. Cisneros uses main female characters to portray the border between culture and self, and the different identities that come with being a woman of mixed race.”

Gabriela Mistral

Gabriela Mistral (literary pseudonym of Lucila Godoy Alcayaga) is famous not only for being a poet, but for being the first Latin-American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1945. She is still the only Latin American woman to receive the award. She was born in Chile in 1889.  According to this blog post, the early part of her life “was dotted with abandonment by her father, a marriage lasting only three years due to sudden widowhood, and more loss than many young women endure. Gabriela maintained her sense of self through her faith, and the body of her poems.” She was a teacher from early on, and taught in Chile and Mexico, and taught at Columbia University, Vassar College and Middlebury College in the US. She was the Chilean Ambassador to cities in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Brazil and the US.

According to the Poetry Foundation, she was

“Mistral defended the rights of children, women, and the poor; the freedoms of democracy; and the need for peace in times of social, political, and ideological conflicts, not only in Latin America but in the whole world. She always took the side of those who were mistreated by society: children, women, Native Americans, Jews, war victims, workers, and the poor, and she tried to speak for them through her poetry, her many newspaper articles, her letters, and her talks and actions as Chilean representative in international organizations. Above all, she was concerned about the future of Latin America and its peoples and cultures, particularly those of the native groups.”

I had never read anything by the Sandra Cisneros, although I have heard of her book The House on Mango Street. After finding this poem Loose Woman, which is also the title of one of her collections of poetry, I am interested in reading more of her work. For an in-depth examination of the poem, check out this webpage. I knew nothing about Gabriela Mistral’s poem The Stranger and really all of her work, but she sounds like an amazing woman and I would love to read more of her poetry. This webpage is the only interpretation of the poem that I could find.

Ode to a Lemon

by Pablo Neruda

Out of lemon flowers
loosed
on the moonlight, love’s
lashed and insatiable
essences,
sodden with fragrance,
the lemon tree’s yellow
emerges,
the lemons
move down
from the tree’s planetarium

Delicate merchandise!
the harbors are big with it-
bazaars
for the light and the
barbarous gold.
We open
the halves
of a miracle,
and a clotting of acids
brims
into the starry
divisions:
creation’s
original juices,
irreducible, changeless,
alive:
so the freshness lives on
in a lemon,
in the sweet-smelling house of the rind,
the proportions, arcane and acerb.

Cutting the lemon
the knife
leaves a little cathedral:
alcoves unguessed by the eye
that open acidulous glass
to the light; topazes
riding the droplets,
altars,
aromatic facades.
So, while the hand
holds the cut of the lemon,
half a world
on a trencher,
the gold of the universe
wells
to your touch:
a cup yellow
with miracles,
a breast and a nipple
perfuming the earth;
a flashing made fruitage,
the diminutive fire of a planet.

 

Loose Woman

by Sandra Cisneros

 

They say I’m a beast.
And feast on it. When all along
I thought that’s what a woman was.

They say I’m a bitch.
Or witch. I’ve claimed
the same and never winced.

They say I’m a macha, hell on wheels,
viva-la-vulva, fire and brimstone,
man-hating, devastating,
boogey-woman lesbian.
Not necessarily,
but I like the compliment.

The mob arrives with stones and sticks
to maim and lame and do me in.
All the same, when I open my mouth,
they wobble like gin.

Diamonds and pearls
tumble from my tongue.
Or toads and serpents.
Depending on the mood I’m in.

I like the itch I provoke.
The rustle of rumor
like crinoline.

I am the woman of myth and bullshit.
(True. I authored some of it.)
I built my little house of ill repute.
Brick by brick. Labored,
loved and masoned it.

I live like so.
Heart as sail, ballast, rudder, bow.
Rowdy. Indulgent to excess.
My sin and success–
I think of me to gluttony.

By all accounts I am
a danger to society.
I’m Pancha Villa.
I break laws,
upset the natural order,
anguish the Pope and make fathers cry.
I am beyond the jaw of law.
I’m la desperada, most-wanted public enemy.
My happy picture grinning from the wall.

I strike terror among the men.
I can’t be bothered what they think.
¡Que se vayan a la ching chang chong!
For this, the cross, the calvary.
In other words, I’m anarchy.

I’m an aim-well,
shoot-sharp,
sharp-tongued,
sharp-thinking,
fast-speaking,
foot-loose,
loose-tongued,
let-loose,
woman-on-the-loose
loose woman.
Beware, honey.

I’m Bitch. Beast. Macha.
¡Wáchale!
Ping! Ping! Ping!
I break things.

 

The Stranger (La Extranjera)

She speaks in her way of her savage seas
With unknown algae and unknown sands;

She prays to a formless, weightless God,

Aged, as if dying.

In our garden now so strange,

She has planted cactus and alien grass.

The desert zephyr fills her with its breath

And she has loved with a fierce, white passion

She never speaks of, for if she were to tell

It would be like the face of unknown stars.

Among us she may live for eighty years,

Yet always as if newly come,

Speaking a tongue that plants and whines

Only by tiny creatures understood.

And she will die here in our midst

One night of utmost suffering,

With only her fate as a pillow,

And death, silent and strange.

Today is Shakespeare Day in the UK, as it actually is the Bard’s birthday (or a close enough approximation as it the records weren’t that good back in the day, but they know he was baptized on April 26th, 1564). Coincidentally, he also died on April 23 in 1616. April 23 is also St. George’s Day, who is the patron saint of England. I have posted on the unofficial UK holiday in 2012 on this date with historical facts, and again in 2013 with some more factoids and some English poetry. I always liked to celebrate St. George’s Day as I am an Anglophile and my hubby is English.

Shakespeare and Quotes

Back to Shakespeare, like most people, I had to study the Bard in high school and I took a class on him during my undergraduate career as well. In middle school, my favorite play was Much Ado About Nothing, mostly because I was obsessed with the Kenneth Branagh 1993 film version. As I discussed in a previous post about the play (linked above), I also really like the Joss Whedon movie version of the play. To this day, it is my favorite play and this is the one from which I can still quote lines. In high school, my favorite play was Hamlet, which we did read in class. Mostly this was because of my loving Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 film version (what can I say, the man is a good actor and director). I’ve written about more of my favorite Shakespearean film versions in this post. I know a lot of people like to poo-poo studying him because of the language barrier (Elizabethan English can be quite confusing). I guess I never had that issue because although it does sometime take some interpretation, it is worth it because the man is a genius at word play, insults and fantastic memorable monologues, plus its just good writing. If you can, try to see the plays performed. When I was growing up, we used to go to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival to see plays and musicals, and this is where I got to see Hamlet performed on-stage.

Catherine Tate and David Tennant - Much Ado About Nothing

(I think I might have a nerdgasm if I had gotten to see the two of them in this play!)

If you want to get into character for the day, so to speak, check out this link on how to talk Shakespearean. Here are some really cool ways that people are using Shakespeare in our modern world, like helping autistic children communicate and socialize better, and the Sonnet Project, which is about getting all 154 Sonnets read by actors in various locations throughout NYC to make Shakespeare more modern and accessible. This website has a great list of resources and ideas for educators who want to teach Shakespeare. If you would like to read any or all of Shakespeare’s plays, check out the Digital Text Library from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC.

On to the poetry. Naturally because it is Shakespeare Day, I have selected two sonnets of his. Everyone knows Sonnet 18, so I won’t use that one (although it is one of my favorites). I noticed that a lot of the sonnets dealt with marrying and having children, something I never picked up on before (though truthfully I’ve never really study them all that closely). I picked Sonnet XIV (which is amazingly read by David Tennant on the Spoken Word CD From Shakespeare – with love and I had not heard or read it before listening to him read it) and Sonnet CXVI, because I enjoy it.

Sonnet XIV

 Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck;
And yet methinks I have Astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well
By oft predict that I in heaven find:
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself, to store thou wouldst convert;
Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.

Sonnet CXVI

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was born April 13, 1743 to wealthy parents. In honor of his birth, I decided to write a bit about the man and include some Revolutionary Era poetry. He started building his home Monticello when he was twenty-six years old. He did own slaves, and according to the Monticello biography, “In a typical year, he owned about 200, almost half of them under the age of sixteen. About eighty of these lived at Monticello; the others lived on adjacent Albemarle County plantations, and on his Poplar Forest estate in Bedford County, Virginia.” Most people are aware of his owning slaves because of the Sally Hemings debate. I can’t verify that part, but I do know that all of his slaves at Monticello were part of the Hemings family. For another insight into the man, check out this article from Smithsonian Magazine.

Monticello's West Front with Larkspur

He attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, and served as a local magistrate and member of the House of Burgesses, which was the legislative branch of government in Virginia, and later became their General Assembly or State Government. He was a member of the Continental Congress, and is most famous for having written the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statues of Religious Freedom . He left the Continental Congress in 1776, and was governor of Virginia from 1779-1781. He became the American Ambassador to France, succeeding Benjamin Franklin in 1785, and in 1790 became the Secretary of State under our first president George Washington (though he resigned three years later). According to the Monticello biography,

“In 1796, he became vice-president (even though they belonged to different political parties –check this website for more information on Jefferson’s Democratic Republican beliefs) after losing to John Adams by three electoral votes. Four years later, he defeated Adams and became president, the first peaceful transfer of authority from one party to another in the history of the young nation. Perhaps the most notable achievements of his first term were the purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1803 and his support of the Lewis and Clark expedition. His second term, a time when he encountered more difficulties on both the domestic and foreign fronts, is most remembered for his efforts to maintain neutrality in the midst of the conflict between Britain and France; his efforts did not avert war with Britain in 1812. ”

Boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase

Despite already doing so much, he did even more in the last seventeen years of his life. He donated his book collection at Monticello to the federal government to help form the Library of Congress. At age 76 he founded the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He got the legislature of Virginia to approve the charter for the school, found a place to put it, “designed its buildings, planned its curriculum, and served as the first [president].” He died on July 4, 1826, on the fiftieth anniversary of the new United States adopting the Declaration of Independence.

For Revolutionary –Era poetry, I picked Phyllis Wheatley. She is significant because she is the first African-American poet to be published, and a female to book, in London 1773. Her poetry was popular and well-received. The second poet is Philip Freneau, called “The Poet of the American Revolution.” One of his most famous poems was A Political Litany, created before the Revolutionary War, which is explained here.

To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth

  by Phillis Wheatley

HAIL, happy day, when, smiling like the morn,
Fair Freedom rose New-England to adorn:
The northern clime beneath her genial ray,
Dartmouth, congratulates thy blissful sway:
Elate with hope her race no longer mourns,
Each soul expands, each grateful bosom burns,
While in thine hand with pleasure we behold
The silken reins, and Freedom's charms unfold.
Long lost to realms beneath the northern skies
She shines supreme, while hated faction dies:
Soon as appear'd the Goddess long desir'd,
Sick at the view, she languish'd and expir'd;
Thus from the splendors of the morning light
The owl in sadness seeks the caves of night.
  No more, America, in mournful strain
Of wrongs, and grievance unredress'd complain,
No longer shalt thou dread the iron chain,
Which wanton Tyranny with lawless hand
Had made, and with it meant t' enslave the land.
  Should you, my lord, while you peruse my song,
Wonder from whence my love of Freedom sprung,
Whence flow these wishes for the common good,
By feeling hearts alone best understood,
I, young in life, by seeming cruel fate
Was snatch'd from Afric's fancy'd happy seat:
What pangs excruciating must molest,
What sorrows labour in my parent's breast?
Steel'd was that soul and by no misery mov'd
That from a father seiz'd his babe belov'd:
Such, such my case.  And can I then but pray
Others may never feel tyrannic sway?
  For favours past, great Sir, our thanks are due,
And thee we ask thy favours to renew,
Since in thy pow'r, as in thy will before,
To sooth the griefs, which thou did'st once deplore.
May heav'nly grace the sacred sanction give
To all thy works, and thou for ever live
Not only on the wings of fleeting Fame,
Though praise immortal crowns the patriot's name,
But to conduct to heav'ns refulgent fane,
May fiery coursers sweep th' ethereal plain,
And bear thee upwards to that blest abode,
Where, like the prophet, thou shalt find thy God.

A Political Litany

  by Philip Freneau

Libera Nos, Domine.—Deliver us, O Lord, not only from British dependence, but also

From a junto that labour with absolute power, 
Whose schemes disappointed have made them look sour, 
From the lords of the council, who fight against freedom, 
Who still follow on where delusion shall lead them. 

From the group at St. James's, who slight our petitions, 
And fools that are waiting for further submissions—
From a nation whose manners are rough and severe, 
From scoundrels and rascals,—do keep us all clear.

From pirates sent out by command of the king 
To murder and plunder, but never to swing. 
From Wallace and Greaves, and Vipers and Roses,
Whom, if heaven pleases, we'll give bloody noses. 

From the valiant Dunmore, with his crew of banditti, 
Who plunder Virginians at Williamsburg city, 
From hot-headed Montague, mighty to swear, 
The little fat man with his pretty white hair.

From bishops in Britain, who butchers are grown, 
From slaves that would die for a smile from the throne, 
From assemblies that vote against Congress proceedings, 
(Who now see the fruit of their stupid misleadings.)

From Tryon the mighty, who flies from our city, 
And swelled with importance disdains the committee:
(But since he is pleased to proclaim us his foes, 
What the devil care we where the devil he goes.) 

From the caitiff, lord North, who would bind us in chains, 
From a royal king Log, with his tooth-full of brains, 
Who dreams, and is certain (when taking a nap) 
He has conquered our lands, as they lay on his map.
 
From a kingdom that bullies, and hectors, and swears, 
We send up to heaven our wishes and prayers 
That we, disunited, may freemen be still, 
And Britain go on—to be damned if she will.
Cuddlebuggery Book Blog

For badass reviews on all the best Young Adult books

Fat Girl, Reading

loquacious, vivacious, and unapologetic       

Nom Nom Paleo®

"A well-stocked, well-staffed library is like a gardener who plants books, knowledge, and dreams, and grows readers, learners, and do-ers." - Laura Purdie Salas

Art History Teaching Resources

Peer-populated resources for art history teachers

Penny Blake

Extraordinary Everyday

Alejandra Chavez

Inspiration for parents, teachers and anyone who loves teaching art

Ali Does It Herself

adventures in grown-up living

librarylyssa

Come for the library talk, stay for the food.

Inspirational Geek

Inspirational & creative ramblings of a self-confessed geek - Things I like, things I find and things I’m doing.

The Book Wars

💕📚💕

Steve McCurry's Blog

Steve's body of work spans conflicts, vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary culture alike - yet always retains the human element. www.stevemccurry.com

Nerdy Book Club

A community of readers

The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh!

Opening books to open minds.

the quiet voice

my thoughts on life, books, and pop

The Blurred Line

It's the thin line between reality and fantasy. It's the thin line between sanity and madness. It's the crazy things that make us think, laugh and scream in the dark.

David Lebovitz

Paris based chef baking and writing cookbooks