Friday, November 21, 2014

Poetry Friday: Odes

I always do odes with my eighth graders at Thanksgiving.  I think I've started about four posts with that sentence so far on this blog.  (Here are my previous ode-related posts.)  We read several examples, and some of them write one. 

Here's a wonderful one, Ode to a Box of Tea, by Pablo Neruda.  It starts like this:

Box of tea
elephant country,
now a worn
sewing box,
small planetarium of buttons:
you brought
into the house
a sacred,
unplaceable scent,
as if you had come from another planet.

You can hear my brother reading the whole thing here.  

If you need some odes and don't have any Pablo Neruda books on hand, here's a link to a nice pdf collection you can start with, including the full text of the Ode to a Box of Tea:  Odes.

Why not write an ode to something you're thankful for?  And check out today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Poetry Friday: Beach Music

Last Saturday we went to the beach.  We went because our neighbors were having a party on Saturday night, and when they have a party, nobody in our house sleeps.  There aren't noise ordinances where I live, so the best way to handle it, remain on good terms with the neighbors, and sleep, is to go away somewhere.  When that somewhere is the beach, so much the better.

We slept peacefully and had a great time, but during the day, there was music playing most of the time.  On Sunday morning the morning peace was shattered by a DJ blasting out Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust."  Repeatedly.  At mealtimes in the hotel restaurant there were many musical offerings, such as "Turn Up the Love."  (This lyric made us giggle: "We're breathing in the same air/ So turn up the love...."  Our paraphrase: "You exist and so do I!  Turn up the love!"  Seems like a pretty low set of requirements to hook up with someone.)

But the one that amused us the most was a song called "Give me everything."  You can watch it here.  The lyrics, subtly, request, "Tonight I want all of you tonight/ Give me everything tonight/ For all we know we might not get tomorrow/ Let's do it tonight..."  The first time this song played, I commented, "Hey!  It's gather ye rosebuds while ye may!"

So in honor of our beach music, here's Gather Ye Rosebuds...

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
Robert Herrick
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
   Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
   Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, 
   The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
   And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
   When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
   Times still succeed the former. 

Then be not coy, but use your time,
   And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
   You may forever tarry.

So yeah, we might not get tomorrow, yo.

We also thought of Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress."  Robin Hood Black posted it here back in September with appropriate musings about carpe diem and poetic invitations.  Marvell starts out:

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime. 

He goes on to explain that they don't have world enough and time, and in fact, turn up the love! You can read the rest, expressed far more beautifully, here.

I don't really have any profound conclusions to draw here, but as I commented on Robin's post in September (linked above), I think it's funny when people talk about poetry as something for sissies.  So much of it is about seduction.   My daughter asked whether I thought these poems, by Herrick and Marvell, were effective in their day, and I said, "Oh yes." I find them more effective than "Give me everything," for sure, but maybe that's just me.

Turn up the love and have a great Friday!  Here's today's roundup

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wandering in my Neighborhood

Rachel at Djibouti Jones recently learned the French word flâner, to wander without a goal, and encouraged us to become flâneurs in our own neighborhoods and write about the experience.  Today she's featuring my post about my neighborhood.  See with fresh eyes, she said, but that was a little harder to do than it seemed.  You can read my attempt here.  

Friday, November 07, 2014

Poetry Friday: Dinner with a Friend

Over the summer, my family and I got to have dinner with a friend from way back, someone we hadn't seen in years.  He and his wife (whom we hadn't met) joined us at an Indian restaurant one evening during our travels.  Afterward I wrote this poem. 

Dinner with a Friend, July 2014

You talk at dinner about what you’ve been reading,
A book on the geology of Tennessee. 
You tell us about the four layers of rock in the earth
And how you can see millions of years of history
And find fossils of ocean creatures along the freeway.
You talk about the New Madrid Fault
And how a giant earthquake there like the ones in 1811 and 1812
Would destroy Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis…
In 1811 the shaking rang church bells in Montreal.
Oh, and, you say, a book about the problem of evil.
And I smile and say I remember
That’s what you were reading the last time we talked about books
Years ago when we were all in our twenties
And most of our lives hadn’t happened yet,
All those earthquakes real and figurative.
I don’t know about you, but back then I had a strange idea
That the world would pretty much stay the way it was,
That the problem of evil was mostly an intellectual one
To be discussed over our kitchen table or yours
Rather than a battleground of pain and blood,
And that the forests we hiked through and the roads we cycled
Were there to stay, solid under our feet.
These days it’s easier for me to imagine everything changing,
Buildings falling, landmarks gone, bodies in the streets,
Ocean creatures swimming down highways in a landlocked state.
I know now that someday soon we’ll all be gone.
That thought does make me shudder a little,
But it also focuses my attention on the delicious naan I’m eating right now
And how good it is to see you again.

Here's today's roundup.  Happy Poetry Friday!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Poetry Friday: Yes

William Stafford

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could you know. That's why we wake
and look out--no guarantees
in this life.

Here's the rest (and you can listen to Garrison Keillor read it). 

It's so true -- no guarantees.  But if you clicked through, you saw a stanza full of bonuses.  

Linda is hosting today's roundup here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Poetry Friday: Death, Be Not Proud

Next week will be the seventh anniversary of our loss here at school of a beautiful, popular, fit, twenty-five year old teacher.  She went to bed one night and didn't wake up the next morning.  We were stunned, all of us.  That week I read this poem with my students.  My grandmother had recently died, and my brother-in-law had sent me the poem, which I had read before, but which was fresh in my mind and so appropriate for the occasion.  Since I thought Donne might be a bit much for my middle schoolers, I wrote my own paraphrase, too. 

Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)
by John Donne

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Death, don't think you're all that, even though some have said you're mighty and dreadful - you aren't. You think you're defeating those who die, but that's not the way it is, and you can't kill me, either. We get pleasure from rest and sleep, which are just imitations of you - won't we get even more pleasure when we die? As soon as good people die, they get rest for their bodies and freedom for their souls. You, Death, are a slave to many things - fate, chance, rulers, criminals. You hang out with poison, war, and sickness. If we want to sleep, we can always take Tylenol PM and get a better rest than you can give us, so what do you have to be proud about? After a short sleep, we'll wake to eternal life, and you, Death, won't even exist any more. Death: you're going to die!

This post is pretty similar to the last time I shared this poem, and at that link you can find links to the original event, including my musings about middle school and mourning.

Here is today's roundup.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Poetry Friday: Dessalines Day

Today in Haiti we have a peaceful, quiet day off school to celebrate Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who was anything but peaceful and quiet. He was brutally treated as a slave, and he in turn was brutal to his enemies. He had the nickname "The Tiger" because of his ferocity in battle and
"Fearing a French resurgence and the reinstatement of slavery that would accompany it, he ordered the massacre of approximately 5,000 of the island’s white men, women, and children declaring 'I have saved my country. I have avenged America.'"
The effects of slavery on this world are horrifying and long-lasting. In honor of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, let's keep fighting slavery of all kinds wherever we find it.

Here are the lyrics to the songs Sara Groves is singing, her version of an old spiritual.  I hope you can see the video; my internet is so slow today that I really can't be sure. 

Hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
Well, the only chain that we can stand
Are the chain of hand in hand
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Got my hand on the freedom plow
Won't take nothing for my journey now
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Paul and Silas bound in jail
Got no money for to go their bail
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
Paul and Silas thought they were lost
The dungeon shook and the chains fell off
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Freedom's name is mighty sweet
And one day soon we are gonna meet
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
I got my hand on the gospel plow
Won't take nothing for my journey now
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

The wait is slow and we've so far to go
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
The wait is slow and we've so far to go
Keep your eyes on the prize

Only chain a man can stand
Is that chain of hand in hand
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
Ain't no man on earth control
The weight of glory on a human soul
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

The wait is slow and we've so far to go
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
The wait is slow and we've so far to go
Keep your eyes on the prize
Keep your eyes on the prize

The wait is slow and we've so far to go
Keep your eyes on the prize
Keep your eyes on the prize
The wait is slow and we've so far to go
Keep your eyes on the prize
Keep your eyes on the prize
Keep your eyes on the prize

When you see a man walk free
It makes you dream of jubilee
When you see a child walk free
It makes you dream of jubilee
When you see a family free
It makes you dream of jubilee
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Photo Source: article on Jean-Jacques Dessalines from Wikipedia.

This is a repost of my Dessalines Day offering for 2011.  Today's Poetry Friday roundup is here.