Friday, July 22, 2016

remember the raspberries

"I want my word to be the thing itself,
 created by my soul a second time."
                    --Juan Ramon Jimenez

"A poem should not mean, but be."
                   --Archibald MacLeish

This week I presented at the Millersville University Poetry in the Classroom Institute, directed by Dr. Lesley Colabucci.  Along with Jacqueline Jules, Marjorie Maddox, Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, I "worked" poetry with a great group of Pennsylvania educators.  There was talk of the many ways to read poetry, write poetry, share poetry, collect poetry, teach poetry, learn poetry, and my particular contribution was a look at the nuts & bolts of establishing a workable poetry routine in the classroom. Meanwhile, I created my own writer's retreat here in Lancaster, PA, and excavated a whole crate of writing from as far back as 1992--not notebooks, but drafts of stories and memoir and poems and manuscripts, some with my notes, some with critique group notes--tons of material remembered and yes (I have a really faulty memory), forgotten.

This has given me the impression of eating, sleeping and breathing poetry all week, and yet for me there has hardly been a moment of letting a poem "be the thing itself," of letting it "not mean, but be."  These words are the epigraph to a double collection of poems by my youngest cousin Meredith, which I rediscovered in my trove of writing.  So to conclude my week, I'm going to let these two poems by Meredith be the thing itself, created a second time out of her college experience of brain cancer and long recovery

from Roots: Living With(Out) Cancer
grass || Meredith Tracy
       Part I: Another Voice in the Darkness, 1999

Dad wheels me along
the paved pathways, careful not
to tip me sideways
I remember how the familiar feel of
each individual blade
on my bare feet
stunned me as I stood up
out of my wheelchair.

Taking in the fresh air,
an unexpected treasure--
raspberry bushes:
ruby fruit
that melts on my tongue.

A respite from hospital air,
nutrients/food.  A reminder of life.

I am alive.

remember the raspberries|| Meredith Tracy
     Part II: Remember the Raspberries, 2009
i need to remember that
unexpected pleasure of
the rubyfruit melting on
my tongue.

that moment when I was
outside, no longer a
patient, but an outsider
seeing the unexpectedness
of life, the surprises that
appear so suddenly, th
pieces of a light-full life
to be lived, even if only
day by day.

i need to forget the
dark half of the room
i shared with a stranger.
the dark half that seems
to follow me, not
letting me go
until i can shed this
darkness and walk out
into the light.


The roundup today is with  Chelanne at Books4Learning.  Let the poems be.

Friday, July 15, 2016


When is the new year?
not on the calendar's first day
of January,
not even on the solstice night
of winter,
not the solstice day of June.

The new year arrives
on some
unmarked day
of summer, when

an unnamed energy,
submerged in
sun and water and soil,
counts a number of ticks
known only to its own
atomic clock

and rested, wakes,
resonates, reanimates,
swings its pendulum
of light, wet and polished,
beaming up
the new year.

draft (c) HM 2016

The roundup today is with Mary Lee (Moo!) at A Year of Reading.

Friday, July 8, 2016

watermelon teatime

Despite my firm and abiding belief in public education (maybe not the system we've got, but in the ideal of it), I think often about other models:  unschooling and homeschooling and cooperative schooling.  Lately the crew at Brave Writer has had me wishing that I'd set out on the homeschool journey (even though everyone knows that we moved to France for a year just so that I could avoid teaching my son in nursery school).  They offer homeschoolers many resources for teaching writing, including online courses, but their greatest invention is (are you listening, Jama?) ........

The basic idea is that a family sets aside regular time for 
Poetry + Tea + Treats = Enchanted Learning and Magical Family Time!

Brave Writer supports this ritual with a website dedicated to it alone.  Posts come from the Brave Writer staff, who recommend books, recipes and related projects, and from homeschoolers who keep Poetry Teatime weekly with their families.  You will also find interviews with poets, and I was recently invited to respond to a set of questions about writing and poetry--you can read the full interview here. I'm in extremely good company; Poetry Teatime has featured Marilyn Singer, Amy Ludwig Vanderwater and Joyce Sidman too, and their interviews are fascinating.

Here's one snippet that goes to the key elements: the pairing of poetry and food!

We love to pair tea and food with poetry. Many of your poems mention food—for example, your book Pumpkin Butterfly features wild strawberries, lemons, and cherries. How can poetry and food complement each other? Do you have any favorite food/poem pairings, either of your own or of others’ work?

A tea party is a special way of enjoying food and drink that gives extra weight and importance to the flavors and the company. Poetry is a special way of enjoying words and ideas that gives extra weight and importance to the meaning and the metaphor. They go together beautifully! 

My family just celebrated the Summer Solstice with a big evening picnic in a park where we always serve watermelon—one of the very best flavors of summer. Here is a watermelon poem that goes with my poem from Pumpkin Butterfly called “Winged Solstice.”

Ode to a Watermelon
by Pablo Neruda

Round, supreme, celestial watermelon
The fruit of the tree of thirst
Green whale of summer.

Oda a la Sandia
por Pablo Neruda

La redonda, suprema y celestial sandia
es la fruta del arbol de la sed.
Es la ballena verde del verano.

I also include an easy watermelon recipe to try that's a far cry from scones or cinnamon toast, but is a perfect summer teatime finger food!

And of course, with Poetry Teatime coming in one ear and this "Poetry Peek" post from Amy's Poem Farm about poetry and popcorn coming in the other, my teacher brain is ruminating on how to bring a similar ritual into my classroom next year.  I already do our daily chapter book reading during snack time, and not only because our crammed schedule requires multitasking.  While it's true that the children are not all ranged, rapt, at my feet as I read about (for example) Gawain's escape from the courtroom to freedom and isolation across the lake in The Real Thief, my standing position as they eat at their desks allows for a dramatic and energetic rendering of the action and, I hope, creates an association for the kids between food for the body and food for the spirit.  I believe in that yet more firmly and abidingly than the belief I began the post with!

Today's host for Poetry Friday is Katie at The Logonauts--pour yourself a cup of tea (iced if it's 93* as predicted here) and enjoy the ritual!

Friday, July 1, 2016

back in the saddle and living a lie

File under Silver Linings:  last week's episode with the unwelcome visitors (which seems to be concluded by the application of a fierce indoor heat treatment) required a kamikaze decluttering effort which laid bare the deeper strata of stuff in our house.  In the aftermath, we find ourselves putting back the essentials and opening up boxes like the very heavy one, taped shut since 1998, that has stood in our bedroom draped with a cloth and pretending to be a coffee table.

Lo, it contained notebooks!  My notebooks and journals from the very early years--high school, college, my 6 months in Germany after college.  Amid the excruciating details of my forever overlapping love interests-- (how the world has changed! My own 17-year-old, nor most of her friends, does not concern herself with boys or girls or any love interests but with her own mighty path of becomingness.  Is this true in other parts of the world, or is this specific to her and her microcosm?)--there are POEMS to discover, including this one, typed on an actual typewriter and then marked up and down.  It was folded into my journal from 1984-85, my senior year in college.

Careful readers of  Squeeze may recognize a precursor to my poem "The Moon Moves," which in more than one place I claim to have written first as a 2nd-grader.  Apparently I have been living that lie for all it's worth!  The original version above is clearly based on bike trips I took in the dark during my summer at home in Richmond in 1984, where I visited childhood stomping grounds and viewed them with all the wisdom and perspective of a 20-year-old--"old rounds, new."

Of course, nothing is exactly proven except the fact that I have a a really faulty memory.  It is still possible that somewhere I might turn up an original first poem about riding my bike in the dark at age 7 or 8 (mothers let their kids do that back in 1972).  But I think, in trawling my mind for material for Squeeze, that I neatly bypassed the memory of this composed college version of my kid experience and recreated it as a directly experienced episode of my childhood.

But wait!  There's more!  Looking yet more closely at my 1985 draft, I also see elements of another Squeeze poem, "Singing the Swing:" 

old rounds,                                                                  new

Now I swing and point my toes                                   reach out with your toes
straight into the mottled sky.                                        kick at the clouds

I, the chains and the earth,                                           hold safe to the chains
we swing a scalene explosion                                      you're rooted in earth but you're singing the swing

However it has all developed, the Silver Linings file is getting fat, because THIS is why I keep stuff!  Too much stuff, to be sure, but I keep it because

1) the proven fact that I have a really faulty memory
2) writers should never erase or trash anything--
    you never know when or why it may come in interesting, if not actually handy, and
3) "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," and I prefer to repeat my past with a sense of awareness.

I look forward to a steadier, more reciprocal participation in Poetry Friday for the rest of the summer.  Thanks to Tabatha for hosting today at The Opposite of Indifference, where her theme of mistakes offers ample room for my lie the size of the moon!

Friday, June 24, 2016

unwelcome visitors

shiny brown
seeds of doom

whenever we seek you
in daytime
whenever we sleep at
sowing rows

of round red

The relaxed first days of summer vacation are somewhat marred by the discovery of Cimex lectularius in our house.  Luckily they are confined to one room only, as far as we know (the trained sniffing terrier who is coming by today will confirm that, we hope), and they have managed to create a poetic feeling in me, so there's that!

Enjoy the infestation of poetry found today at Random Noodling with Diane.  She's celebrating John Ciardi, whose autograph I cherished in a white wooden jewelry box for many years.  Where could it be now?

Friday, June 17, 2016

leaving the dwarf orchard

also... it's not all about me
Today is the last day of my first year in second grade.  It brought some surprises, and then other surprises came from without and within. Small tumults.

Tonight it's storming; the sky dogs are baying.

Now summer drifts up like a watermelon boat, a banana hammock hung from broccoli trees, and I will get in.

After Reading Tu Fu, I Go Outside to the Dwarf Orchard || Charles Wright

East of me, west of me, full summer.
How deeper than elsewhere the dusk is in your own yard.
Birds fly back and forth across the lawn
                                                                                           looking for home
As night drifts up like a little boat.

Day after day, I become of less use to myself.
Like this mockingbird,
                                                     I flit from one thing to the next.
What do I have to look forward to at fifty-four?
Tomorrow is dark.
                                           Day-after-tomorrow is darker still.

The sky dogs are whimpering.
Fireflies are dragging the hush of evening
                                                                                              up from the damp grass.
Into the world’s tumult, into the chaos of every day,
Go quietly, quietly.

It's good to be back among you.  I read miles and miles of poetry last night to find this one, and it was like eating again after a long fast.  Thanks to Carol for hosting over at Carol's Corner, and I'm looking forward to a summer of reading and writing with this Poetry Friday community!

Friday, May 6, 2016

mother may I?

(c) Robbie Nuwanda 2015
mother may I
take a break
sisters may I
slow on down
cousins may I
sleep and wake
in tune with moon and sun?
every day is raced away
lists are long
with oversight/s
mother may I
fail to strive
let nature drive
for 40 days?

daughter yes
do breathe and rest
if anyone is asking why
why lay by?
why go slow?
"I'm the mom
and I say so."


See you all in mid-June.
The roundup is hosted today by Sylvia at Poetry for Children.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

final npm pmmu #30: echoes and toys

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month, and while folk like us act as though every month  is Poetry Month, there is something special about an official National Poetry Month.  We don't like to see it end.  I'm finishing up with a last-minute response to the Ditty-of-the-Month Club challenge set by Marilyn Singer over at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes's blog, Today's Little Ditty.  Marilyn's new collection of reversos based on Greek myths is Echo Echo, and we were all challenged to write a poem (not necessarily a reverso) inspired by the word echo.  Here's mine, in under the wire.

empty tunnel
calling long:
hollow hello
our own song
echoes strong but
somehow wrong

Linda Baie of TeacherDance closes out our month of Poetry-Music Match-Ups with a poem and a song decidedly for young children--which has proved trickier than I expected.   She writes, "Growing up, my children loved listening to "The Marvelous Toy" and other songs sung by Peter, Paul & Mary. We even got to see them once with front row seats! ... another poet I shared quite a bit with them was Eugene Field. I thought "The Duel" might make a good connection, both toy adventures!" 

I know this poem very well indeed, from a deeply familiar red-and-gold-bound collection of children's poems my mother read to us often...but "The Marvelous Toy" (much more modern!) wasn't part of my childhood experience.  Hope you they are, and thank you, Linda!

The Duel || Eugene Field

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
‘T was half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t’ other had slept a wink!
      The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
      Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
            (I was n’t there; I simply state
            What was told to me by the Chinese plate!
The gingham dog went “Bow-wow-wow!”
And the calico cat replied “Mee-ow!”
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
      While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
      Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
            (Now mind: I’m only telling you
            What the old Dutch clock declares is true!
The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, “Oh, dear! what shall we do!”
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
      Employing every tooth and claw
      In the awfullest way you ever saw—
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
            (Don’t fancy I exaggerate—
            I got my news from the Chinese plate!
Next morning, where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!
      But the truth about the cat and pup
      Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
            (The old Dutch clock it told me so,
            And that is how I came to know.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

npm pmmu #29: the ways we tree

Today's Poetry-Music Match-Up comes to us from Laura Purdie Salas.  She's sharing a classic poem that I think of each time I pass a certain Service Area on the New Jersey Turnpike...

 Trees | Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

For those who don't know, Joyce was a man, and this poem was published in 1914, four years before he enlisted in WWI and was killed at the Battle of Ourcq.  I recall reading it in 2nd or 3rd grade and enjoying the "leafy arms" and "intimately living with with rain" but being completely distracted by the flowing breast and the snowy bosom.  But let not my childish frissons distract you from this poem's expression of the nobility of trees.

Laura says, "I adore [this] song and the whole love/tree analogy," and I do too.
                                                                      "The Way I Feel," by Gordon Lightfoot, 1967

"The way I feel is like a robin
Whose babes have flown to come no more
Like a tall oak tree alone and cryin'
When the birds have flown and the nest is bare"


"Your coat of green, it will protect her
Her wings will grow, your love will too"

Lovely! Thank you, Laura--that's a song I've never heard before, but it will certainly stay with me.  I still have one day of Poetry-Music Match-Ups unclaimed, if anyone would like to send me their ideas.. just email using the link on the right, and I'll be delighted to close out April 2016 on your notes!

The Round-Up today is with  Buffy at Buffy's Blog, and don't miss Line 28 of this year's Progressive Poem--scroll down to yesterday's post!

npm: the Progressive Poem is here (with bonus music!)

Welcome, all who journey line by line!
          Welcome, all who seek to read the signs!

For those who don't know what the Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem is, welcome to a yearly event conceived and hosted by poet Irene Latham.  Each day the poem travels to a different blog, and each blogger adds his or her line.

Our poem grows here thought by thought;
Does it build or turn or what?
The only way to know's below.
I toss my line into the flow...

But I'll admit, it's been quite a bit more deliberate than that word "toss" suggests.  I've struggled to find and flow with the current of this one, dear poets, and now I shall dare to boldly, brashly reconstruct the whole darn thing through the use of a title and some powerful punctuation.

Is mine the last word?  Oh, no, indeed!  Tomorrow's poet may see things very differently, and if I've overstepped in supplying a title before the end, all should feel free to ignore it.  I'm down with that.  But I myself needed a clearer structure to proceed, so here goes: a dialogue.

West Wind Dreams of Taking Shape

A squall of hawk wings stirs the sky.
A hummingbird holds and then hies.
“If I could fly, I’d choose to be
Sailing through a forest of poet-trees.”

A cast of crabs engraves the sand
Delighting a child’s outstretched hand.
"If I could breathe under the sea,
I’d dive, I’d dip, I’d dance with glee."

A clump of crocuses craves the sun.
Kites soar while joyful dogs run.
"I sing to spring, to budding green,
to all of life – seen and unseen."

     Wee whispers drift from cloud to ear
     and finally reach one divining seer
     who looks up from her perch and beams —
     "West Wind is dreaming May, it seems."

"Golden wings open and gleam
as I greet the prancing team.
Gliding aside with lyrical speed,
I’d ride Pegasus to Ganymede."

To a pied pocket, the zephyr returns.
      Blowing soft words the seer discerns
     from earthbound voyage to dreamy night,
     "The time is now.  I give you flight!"

"Yet I fear I am no kite or bird–
I lift! The world below me blurred

by tears of joy.  I spiral high,
I hum, I dive, I dip, I hive!"

The list of those who have contributed to this wonder of a poem is below, and I pass West Wind on to Sheila Renfro....And now for the bonus music! Today's Poetry-Music Match-Up takes us way back to 1972 or so, when I learned to play a junior version of this on the piano as a gift for Mother's Day.

Will Sheila grant West Wind a new shape, or take a wild waggle in another direction?  And what of the seer?  Stay tuned, friends, for the building finale!



2  Joy at Joy Acey
3  Doraine at Dori Reads
4  Diane at Random Noodling
5  Penny at A Penny and Her Jots
6  Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink
8  Janet F. at Live Your Poem
9  Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
10  Pat at Writer on a Horse
11  Buffy at Buffy's Blog
12  Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
13  Linda at TeacherDance
14  Jone at Deo Writer
15  Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
16  Violet at Violet Nesdoly
17  Kim at Flukeprints
18  Irene at Live Your Poem
19  Charles at Charles Waters Poetry
21  Jan at Bookseedstudio
23  Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
24  Amy at The Poem Farm
25  Mark at Jackett Writes
26  Renee at No Water River
27  Mary Lee at Poetrepository
29  Sheila at Sheila Renfro
30  Donna at Mainely Write