Friday, August 29, 2014

Poetry Friday: Hamlet Edition

I didn't intend to take a break from Poetry Friday, but here it is the end of the third week of school, and I see that I haven't posted since August 8th.  Those frenetic beginning days, when we're training and setting up routines and getting to know new names and faces, seemed to take all my energy.  It's been extremely warm, too, sapping my strength.

I wanted to share, though, about the very cool experience we had here in Haiti last night.  We were privileged to get to attend a wonderful production of Hamlet that was put on by the cast of Hamlet Globe to Globe.

Over two years, this troupe will be visiting every country in the world and performing Hamlet.  Last night they were in Haiti, country #39 of the adventure.  The audience was filled with our students, and we English teachers have been doing a lot of Q and A sessions about the plot and the language.

In honor of our visit to the theater, here's Hamlet's most famous speech.  To be or not to be, isn't that always the question?  We can choose to participate in life or stand aside.  We can choose to feel the pain of our lives and of the world, or we can numb ourselves.  We can "suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," or we can sleep.  I know Hamlet is talking about choosing to die, and there has been so much discussion lately about suicide and how some people feel driven to make that terrible choice.  I'm thinking more, though, of the choice we sometimes make to say no to life and experience, so that even while we are still alive, we are asleep, avoiding "the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to."

I want to choose, every day, to be.

Speech: “To be, or not to be, that is the question”

By William Shakespeare
(from Hamlet, spoken by Hamlet)
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th'oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of dispriz'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th'unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovere'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is here.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Poetry Friday: Holocaust Museum

I have been reading the news out of Iraq and Syria and despairing, learning of another genocide ignored by the world.  This time the victims are Christians and other religious minorities.  There have been Christians worshiping in Mosul, site of the Biblical Nineveh, for 1800 years, but now there are none left.  Other cities are equally empty of Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen. 

We say, "Never again," about the Holocaust, the one with a capital H, but how many small h holocausts have there been since then, that we seem unable to prevent or stop once they are in process, or do anything about except weep uselessly? 

I found a poem about a visit to the Holocaust Museum.  There are three people in the party, and one of them, a Jewish man originally from Warsaw, is blind.  It is a narrative poem, with the punchline in the last stanza, so be sure to click over and keep reading. 

Holocaust Museum

By Jane Shore
We filed through the exhibits,
Charlotte and I taking turns
reading captions to Andy.
Herded into a freight elevator,
we rode to the top floor,
to the beginning of the War

where we were on our own,
descending floor by floor,
year by year, into history
growing darker, ceilings
lowering, aisles narrowing
to tunnels like the progress

of Andy’s vision over the years.
In Warsaw, his family owned
Maximillian’s Fur Salon
like a little Bergdorf Goodman’s,
doorman and French elevator,
furs draped on the Persian carpet,

over the blue velvet Empire chairs.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Poetry Friday: Wendell Berry

My blog has been silent for a whole month now as I have been traveling, visiting friends and family in the US.  Yesterday I got home to Haiti and today I am savoring this last Friday of the summer, since I go back to work on Monday morning.

At the same time, I am sad for the end of the summer, and sad because this is my daughter's senior year, and will be full of "lasts", and sad because of the news of war and destruction and sickness around the world. 

Can I savor and be sad at the same time?  I think so.  This poem is from Wendell Berry's book This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems, which we acquired this summer.  It is in the 1999 section and labeled only with a Roman numeral. 


In Heaven the starry saints will wipe away
The tears forever from our eyes, but they
Must not erase the memory of our grief.
In bliss, even, there can be no relief
If we forget this place, shade-haunted, parched
Or flooded, dark or bright, where we have watched
The world always becoming what it is,
Splendor and woe surpassing happiness
Or sorrow, loss sweeping it as a floor.
This shadowed passage between door and door
Is half-lit by old words we've heard or read.
As the living recalls the dead, the dead
Are joyless until they call back their lives:
Fallen like leaves, the husbands and the wives
In history's ignorant, bloody to-and-fro,
Eternally in love, and in time learning so.

Here is today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Reading Update

It's halfway through the year, and I've read thirty-five books.  Here's the latest batch.

#20 was What We Talk About When We Talk About God, by Rob Bell
#21 was What Came from the Stars, by Gary D. Schmidt
#22 was The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
#23 was Curse of the Thirteenth Fey: The True Story of Sleeping Beauty, by Jane Yolen
#24 was Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford
#25 was Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers, by Penny Kittle
#26 was The Milk of Birds, by Sylvia Whitman
#27 was I Was Almost Five, by Vida Zuljevic
#28 was The Living, by Matt De la Peña
#29 was Peanut, by Ayun Halliday
#30 was Just One Evil Act, by Elizabeth George
#31 was Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength, by Laurie Helgoe
#32 was Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, by Lucy Knisley
#33 was The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri
#34 was The Birth House, by Ami McKay
#35 was Trailing: A Memoir, by Kristin Louise Duncombe

Other books I've read this year:

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Poetry Saturday

Yesterday was another travel day for me, so no post, but here is what everyone else posted. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Poetry Friday

Today is a road-trip day, and I am probably not going to get a Poetry Friday post written.  But here's today's roundup, so you can go read what everyone else is posting!  Happy Friday!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Poetry Friday: Chikungunya Revisited

I said a few weeks ago that maybe I would write my own chikungunya poem, and now I have. For anyone who isn't yet aware of this virus, here is some good information. Here is a recent summary of the situation in the Caribbean, and predictions of this nasty virus coming to the United States.

Everyone in our household except one has now had the fever (and yes, I've had it, too). My husband had a particularly bad case, and was the inspiration for my poem.

My Husband Gets Chikungunya

Everyone’s getting it,
And then Steve does too.
The virus is a mosquito-borne history lesson,
A recap of all the injuries this body in its fifties has sustained.

The right arm that snapped while playing airplanes with Don
The summer between first and second grade,
Now aches as though Steve has once more been propelled through the air
And crash landed.

The two fingers broken in a car accident in college,
When, going too fast, he went off a bridge on a back road in Tennessee,
And the collar bone from that same impact,
Burn again with pain as he relives that night,
A blur of memory now:
Crawling out of his car;
The nurse fainting
As she held his bloody hand, nerves exposed;
Calling his mother.

Random knee injuries and ankle sprains
From years of basketball and softball
Return to haunt him
As he lies in bed, feverish and exhausted.

Some of these wounds predate me,
Like the conked head from falling out of a shopping cart as a two year old,
But some I was around for,
Like the broken coccyx on a cycling trip.
All, all hurt again,
As though to say,
Congratulations on surviving, zanmi mwen,
Tough old guy,
How many times could you have died already?
How blessed are you?

He moans, takes Tylenol, drinks the water I bring him,
And emerges,
Spent and covered in a rash,
From the ordeal of

Today's roundup is here.