Thursday, January 23, 2020

Poetry Friday: "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost

A little bit of perfection, so needed in January, from Robert Frost today: 

Dust of Snow
by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

(This poem is in the public domain.)


Kathryn Apel has the round-up this week. 
(Learn more about Poetry Friday here.) 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Poetry Friday: New Year's Morning

I'm a little late with this reflection on New Year's morning, but as Helen Hunt Jackson concludes,
"The new is but the old come true/Each sunrise sees a new year born."

Happy New Year, and Happy Every New Day.

New Year's Morning
by Helen Hunt Jackson

Only a night from old to new!
Only a night, and so much wrought!
The Old Year's heart all weary grew,
But said: "The New Year rest has brought."
The Old Year's hopes its heart laid down,
As in a grave; but, trusting, said:
"The blossoms of the New Year's crown
Bloom from the ashes of the dead."
The Old Year's heart was full of greed;
With selfishness it longed and ached,
And cried: "I have not half I need.
My thirst is bitter and unslaked.
But to the New Year's generous hand
All gifts in plenty shall return;
True love it shall understand;
By all my failures it shall learn.
I have been reckless; it shall be
Quiet and calm and pure of life.
I was a slave; it shall go free,
And find sweet peace where I leave strife."
Only a night from old to new!
Never a night such changes brought.
The Old Year had its work to do;
No New Year miracles are wrought.

Always a night from old to new!
Night and the healing balm of sleep!
Each morn is New Year's morn come true,
Morn of a festival to keep.
All nights are sacred nights to make
Confession and resolve and prayer;
All days are sacred days to wake
New gladness in the sunny air.
Only a night from old to new;
Only a sleep from night to morn.
The new is but the old come true;
Each sunrise sees a new year born.

(This poem is in the public domain.)


P.S. Have you done a round-up of your favorite books of 2019? I shared mine here.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

The Year in Reading

About this time last year, I said I wanted to up my Goodreads game. I joined Goodreads eons ago, then never used it. I'm still not using it a lot. I rarely interact with other people there, and I keep forgetting about the social media aspect of it. I do log most of my books there now, partly because I'm a visual person and I love seeing this little grid at the end of the year. :) 

Some of my favorites from 2019: 

Favorite Fiction: 
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger 
The River by Peter Heller 
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig 
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee 

Compelling stories told in gorgeous prose. Whenever I read Leif Enger, I repeatedly bother people around me with, "Hey! Stop what you're doing! Listen to this sentence." 

Favorite Non-Fiction: 
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb 
Inheritance by Dani Shapiro 
Why We Dream by Alice Robb
Becoming by Michelle Obama 
In Memory of Bread by Paul Graham 

Insightful, intriguing, and interesting. (And we found a new way to make gluten-free birthday cake, so huzzah.) 

Favorite Spiritual Writing: 
The Thorny Grace of It by Brian Doyle 
Stumble by Heather King 

No one could write like Brian Doyle did. His prose and his insights bowled me over every time. And then there's Heather King — Doyle wrote the foreword for her Stumble; he clearly knew a kindred spirit when he read one. ) I'm so sad that he's gone. I pray that Heather King will be around for a long time to come. 

Favorite Re-reads: 
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury 
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead 
I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron 

Dandelion Wine touches something in me; it's that nudge to remember that we're really alive, and to ask ourselves what we're doing with that knowledge. When You Reach Me is a little bit of brilliance that I appreciate more every time I read it. I miss Nora Ephron, so I just have to reread her and laugh out loud every now and then. 

Favorite Books Middle Grade or YA: 
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser 
Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass 
Daddy Longlegs by Jean Webster 
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk 

I love that my daughters (adult and almost-adult) still recommend these books to me. 

Favorite Book About Education 
The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart

And not just because I work for her these days as a writing coach. It's a terrific book full of the kind of stuff that our homeschool has been full-to-brimming with for almost twenty years. I've always smiled and nodded at Julie's philosophies: "Yes, us, too, Julie, us too!" 

Least Favorite Book: 
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides 

Oh. Dear. This kind of thing just isn't my genre, I guess. 


What did you read in 2019? 

Friday, January 03, 2020

Poetry Friday: Journey of the Magi

What else could I post on this Friday before the feast of the Epiphany? It's my annual trek with Eliot.

Journey of the Magi
by T.S. Eliot 

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,


It's an astounding poem. If you've never read it you must go read the whole thing, then listen to Eliot read it, too. (The link is here.)

If you're you're not an Eliot fan, give a read-through anyway. (Remember, he's not responsible for that current cinematic caper about cats. Shudder. I like to think he'd be duly horrified.) Then try to answer these questions with me:

How does he do it?
How did he haul around the reputation of being too scholarly and too philosophical to write poetry, and then do what he does in this poem? 

This poem is such a perfect melding of earthly earthiness and supernatural doings. Eliot captures that down-to-your-bones discomfort, a life-shattering event, the squirming, the revelation, the discovery that this isn't really my home -- that knowledge which at first is both comforting and terrifying.


The round-up today is at Carol's Corner. 

Friday, December 13, 2019

Poetry Friday: Reader, She Finished It

Sharing a rough draft this week. (Pardon us while we're under construction.) :) 

The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted this week by the ever-wonderful Elizabeth Steinglass

Reader, She Finished It 
by Karen Edmisten

she finished it.

Seventeen years old,
read Jane Eyre.
And, oh,
the talk, the
the talk.
Bookish talk
that began
before they could talk.
My daughters
and I whispering
goodnight to the moon,
giggling over Clifford,
silly Amelia. Demanding
justice with Fern,
weeping with Wilbur.
into wardrobes,
in search of kindred spirits.
The talk, the
talk. Little
women, a little prince.
Little talks, looming talks.
Atticus, Scout, back again?
Come in, please,
come in.
Who is proud, who
is prejudiced?
Let's talk of what
has passed
and what's to come.

Reader, she finished it.
But, oh, reader,
we are never done.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Poetry Friday: Wild Gratitude, by Edward Hirsch

I am wildly grateful for Poetry Friday and for the marvelous people it has brought and continues to bring into my life.

Our fearless hostess, Tanita Davis (along with the Poetry Sisters), is focusing on gratitude. Tanita says:

Gratitude is the theme the Poetry Sisters chose this month for our original poems. It’s kind of a low-key challenge for those of us who are in the teeth of exams and end-of-year work emergencies, or who, like me, are preparing for the slog of holiday concerts and staying upright and healthy until the final notes are sung. At this point, we’re grateful for small things, like a full night’s sleep, an unexpected packet of tissues in a cardigan pocket, or the umbrella behind the driver’s seat, and not in the trunk.

One of my dearest friends is a singer, too (can't wait for her concert next week) so the "just staying upright and healthy" bit struck a chord, making me think of her. Then I thought of how grateful I am for her friendship. How grateful I am for so many people who keep me upright and sane.

Tanita's post, her original poem this week, and the Carl Denis poem she shared all fueled my own December gratitude, which I'm trying to focus on more deliberately this year. It can be a beautiful, hard time of year for me. (Every year is different. Why must every year be different? Because change is the only constant.) I love Advent, adore all the preparations for Christmas, but things are never quite as quiet and peaceful as I dream they will be. Just as I always have a skewed vision of summer and its feel but eventually realize that "our days unfold with a lovely balance of planning and coasting," I am open to the unexpectedness of Advent this year, to the deeper ponderings that accompany the whimsy of chocolate coins on St. Nicholas morn. As the short, dark days can fuel the anxiety I battle off and on (hello, light therapy lamps!), I am also grateful for the reminder that darkness will always be swept away by light with every new day.

Last summer, after reading my post about my off-kilter expectations for a perfect summer, my friend the singer said, "Do you think we're just longing for Heaven?"

Yes. And one of the best ways to ponder the thing we long for is to say, over and over again, "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."

Wild Gratitude
by Edward Hirsch

Tonight when I knelt down next to our cat, Zooey,
And put my fingers into her clean cat’s mouth,
And rubbed her swollen belly that will never know kittens,
And watched her wriggle onto her side, pawing the air,
And listened to her solemn little squeals of delight,
I was thinking about the poet, Christopher Smart,
Who wanted to kneel down and pray without ceasing
In every one of the splintered London streets,

(Read the poem in its gorgeous entirety here, at Edward Hirsch's website.)


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

Today I am grateful for unexplained and unexpected beauty. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Poetry Friday: One Last Ode to November

Next week I'll be absent, busy with turkey and family and endless gratitude, so this week I'm sending you to read William H. Simpson's "November."

It's only eight lines so — copyrightly speaking — I don't think I have the right to copy any of it here. Just trust me and pop over to The Poetry Foundation.

Don't the last two lines succinctly sum up how we all make it through winter?

Now, go and enjoy all the other poetic goodness of Poetry Friday. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A quick life lesson (talking to myself)

This morning, just after I got up, I took the dog out, which I do every day. It was dark, because, well, it's November and it was 6 a.m., so.... I was gazing at the stars, drawing lines from the Big Dipper to the North Star to Cassiopeia. Marveling over those stars, really, and pondering the books I'm reading, a book I'm writing, and just generally enjoying the crisp and the morning cold.

Then I realized I'd lost track of the dog. The yard is fenced, so I knew she wasn't lost. It was more about where-had-she-gone-and-how-long-was-she-going-to-take-because-she-certainly-doesn't-always-come-when-I-call-her-and-I-do-need-to-go-in-and-get-this-day-started. I squinted out at the yard. Was she was behind the shed? Investigating bunny homes around the bare lilac bushes? Where are you, doggo? I thought; the annoyance began to creep in. I sighed and shook my head. Here we go, I thought. Who knows how long she'll take?

Then I happened to glance around behind me and there was Doggo, already sitting on the back porch step, waiting for me, patiently ready and waiting to head inside.

And I was annoyed with my own annoyance. Why do I have to learn so many life lessons again and again?

Pay attention to the beauty, and the mundane will take care of itself.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Poetry Friday: Maggie Dietz

Another November poem!

I love these lines from Maggie Dietz, wondering if she loved October well enough. I, too, always wonder with the passing of each season if I did it justice, counted my blessings, knew what I had while it was right in front of me.

by Maggie Dietz

Show's over, folks. And didn't October do
A bang-up job? Crisp breezes, full-throated cries
Of migrating geese, low-floating coral moon.

Nothing left but fool's gold in the trees.
Did I love it enough, the full-throttle foliage,
While it lasted? Was I dazzled?

(Read the whole poem here, at The Poetry Foundation.)


Friday, November 08, 2019

Poetry Friday: November Night

Did I say I was finished with fall poems? 
I lied. 

November Night
Adelaide Crapsey 

Listen. . .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

(This poem is in the public domain.)


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Poetry Friday: I'm Hosting!

This will perhaps be my last ode to autumn.

Or, perhaps not.

I may sing this song into November, as I'm reveling in the glorious golden days we've been having. When our weather is still gorgeous in late October, I think of it, as Helen Hunt Jackson does in this poem, as "one sweet, mad, last hour" and am thankful for days such as these — crisp, crackling, a gift.

Helen Hunt Jackson

Bending above the spicy woods which blaze,
Arch skies so blue they flash, and hold the sun
Immeasurably far; the waters run
Too slow, so freighted are the river-ways
With gold of elms and birches from the maze
Of forests. Chestnuts, clicking one by one,
Escape from satin burs; her fringes done,
The gentian spreads them out in sunny days,
And, like late revelers at dawn, the chance
Of one sweet, mad, last hour, all things assail,
And conquering, flush and spin; while, to enhance
The spell, by sunset door, wrapped in a veil
Of red and purple mists, the summer, pale,
Steals back alone for one more song and dance.

(This poem is in the public domain.)


I'm hosting today!

Leave your links with Mr. Linky, our ever-helpful Poetry Friday assistant. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Poetry Friday: Mary Oliver's "Song for Autumn"

I can't get off this autumn poetry kick. But why would I want to? Autumn is truly, madly, deeply one of my favorite times of the year.

This poem, by Mary Oliver, has me thinking about what else the leaves might be dreaming of, the trees longing for, and what other whisperings are being exchanged, just out of earshot?

And then be sure to check out all the Poetry Friday goodness at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Happy Feast of the Inimitable St. Teresa of Avila

Some words from St. Teresa of Avila that I've returned to often:

"Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life ... If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing."

And, of course:

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

And, of course, of course, I love the story of Teresa questioning God's wisdom during a supremely annoying trial and reportedly receiving the reply, "You are my friend. This is how I treat all of my friends." To which Teresa replied, "If this is how you treat your friends, it is not surprising that you have so few of them!"

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Poetry Friday: Sending you elsewhere

I've been swamped! Between teaching The Writer's Jungle Online over at Brave Writer, and several other freelance projects (things rise and converge, and always at the same time) I've had a full plate.

I didn't get to Poetry Friday yesterday, but loads of others did. Check out their postings at Reading to the Core.