Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Mountain and Man - Companion Poems

I wrote these poems in 2009, during my Fellowship at the Uconn Connecticut Writers Project in Storrs, Connecticut. 

I am enamored with all things Mount Everest, and read every book I can find on the subject. I wrote these poems shortly after reading yet another book, pondering why certain people have such a drive to climb this mountain. 

I took on both the persona of the mountain and of "Everyman" to explore how nature might "feel" to have humankind scrambling all over leaving chaos in their wake. In fact, they say the mountain is actually shrinking due to the constant climbing. 

There are a few footnotes which are in brackets because I don't know how to superscript on the blog. Like this: [1]. 

“Everest and Everyman: Unlikely Bedfellows” 

To the Mountain:
“Goddess Mother of the World”[3]

You are no mother --
You fling your offspring
From the hem of your garment
And hold yourself high in disdain.

Pilgrimages in vain
To gain your grace
But you play favorites,
Acting the coquette.
Hiding behind your white scarf.
Seeking only worship,
But denying blessing to most
Who come to pay homage
At your throne, and find only
Icy rock, airless space.

Suffocating your children
So they cannot see your face.
You bury your young beneath your dress,
Your cold gaze ignores
The dead ones at your feet.

This is the place where hell freezes over
And like the ancient god, Molec,
Who demanded child sacrifices to the flame,
Your children throw themselves instead
Down ice crevasses,
To be buried in your stony heart.

[1] Highest peak in the world
[2] Sherpa name for Mt. Everest
[3] Meaning of “Chomolungma”

To all Seekers:
You are right to say,
I am no mother.

I do not take away the sins of the world.
You who grovel at my feet
And clamor at my hips
Yellow and red hovels clinging
Like sucklings to a mother pig.

You call me mother,
Then entreat me with
Oedipelian desires, each hungry
To consume their anointed mother
To assuage their lust for glory.

These are not my children who ravel
Their ropes to pin me down.
And each spring rebuild
Their Babel[1] on my flanks.

You worship to ensure your own glory.
Waving flags like rags
Of victory, while excrement
Runs like rivers soiling
My snowy skirts.

Who said I wanted sacrifice?
I used to honor those who came alone,
Without the trappings of an army,
True worshippers who knew
How to step with caution
and breathe with reverence.

I would not claim you as my child—
No child of mine
Steps over outstretch hands to gain a crown
Or walks by frozen eyes that still see
One last chance at life.

Fair warning that I am shrinking
In your estimation,
By naught but your own trammeling
And scraping
At my very bones.

[1] Refers to ancient Tower of Babel built to reach God until work halted when their languages were confounded (see Genesis 5)

I'm curious to hear your thoughts after reading these poems! Thank you!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

{Book Review} Raising Your Kids to Love the Lord by Dave Stone (Rated 3/5)

You've heard it. You know it. Children learn from what they see their parents doing. But it's easy to forget this vital truth. Here's a practical book that reminds us of all the truths we probably already know... but often let slip to the back of our mind.

After reading Pastor Dave Stone's book Raising Your Children To Love the Lord - I was torn about how to rate it.

Although full of practical advice, tips and examples for raising godly children, frankly, this book just does not delve deep enough, spiritually.

Sometimes, the advice in the book seems merely "moralism" though and not true Christianity (Christ-following). For example, in the section on dads - great points:
1. Love their mom
2. Teach respect
3. Make memories
4. Give spiritual direction
5. Encourage your kids
6. Invest quality time

Good points, right? But... even including #4, what about this is any different than a parent who is, say, Jewish or Muslim? It's good morality, but not distinctively Christian. And... while I read these points, I could immediately think of Bible verses that would definitely support these tips. But none of these verses were included in the text at all!!!

And therein lies another criticism I have of this book - if you're writing a book about teaching kids to love the Lord - doesn't that come from loving the Word of God? Therefore, wouldn't you want to include SOME scripture to back up what you're saying? (I'm not saying it needs to be whole chapters, but maybe each chapter or section could have a key verse listed?).

Now, I have no doubt the author, as a pastor, COULD have included more Scripture - so, it makes me wonder why he didn't.

Also, surprisingly missing from the book was discussion about leading your children to Christ. Teaching them about the grace of God leading them to repentance. About how salvation does not come through following a list of do's and don't's. About true repentance and throwing yourself upon the mercy of a loving God and not resting in your own righteousness (which, I'm afraid a list of do's and don't's often leads to!).

Now, perhaps that's because the author assumes that if you "raise your kids to love the Lord" this will happen somewhere along the way. Or, perhaps since this book is one of a trio, this topic is covered in one of the other books? I will try to give the benefit of the doubt here. But... how can a child "love the Lord" when they have not learned of the Lord as their Savior? One wonders.

As a piece of writing - it's smooth, clear, and filled with enjoyable anecdotes, and it's written from a Christian/Protestant perspective. I did appreciate the tender, loving tone. Certainly, it's a clear overview of practical parenting, and the main positive take-away for me was to remember to be intentional about how I parent.

I am giving this book just three stars, because I feel it is "lightweight." It's great as a gift-able book, or for parents who are new Christians, or perhaps not raised with a Christian heritage or strong Bible background. This, then, would be the perfect quick read for new believers to start to employ Biblical truths for raising kids.

However, I think any parent who has been raised in a Christian home/school/church their entire life, the tips and points in the book - while all  true and necessary - will seem rather obvious.

I'm just saying it wasn't all I was hoping for in a Christian parenting book. Had there been more depth, and more Scripture backup, I would have given this book a higher rating.

What do you look for in a Christian parenting book? Do you have any you'd recommend?

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Twice as much to write about...

I'm sure you've read all about it on my Facebook and our family / review blog... but wanted to be sure to spread the news that we've added to our family!

Our second son joined the world just three weeks ago! We're so blessed to have him! Big brother is doing great with him, but wondering why he doesn't want to PLAY!
And now... I have twice as much to write about with two boys in the house!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Today is Poem in your Pocket Day!

Today is National Poem In Your Pocket Day 2012!

How does it work? Simply find a poem you like (or write one), jot it down or copy it. Fold it up and stick it in your pocket (or purse, or diaper bag...). Carry it around all day and find opportunities to share it with people you meet! Spread the poetry love!

To celebrate, I'm hosting a poetry linky on my other blog A Year With Mom and Dad! Create a simple post that shares a favorite poem (that you read or wrote!), and then link up.

**Please be careful when you republish a poem on your blog that it is in the public domain to avoid copyright issues.

Here's one of my favorite poems, as a writer, because I understand how it feels to have something you wrote feel like a child you want to see succeed in the world!

The Author to Her Book

by Anne Bradstreet

Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
The visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save homespun cloth i' th' house I find.
In this array 'mongst vulgars may'st thou roam.
In critic's hands beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known;
If for thy father asked, say thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.

What's your favorite poem?

Friday, April 20, 2012

My poem was syndicated on!

Very exciting news for this writer-poet!

Yesterday, I received word that my villanelle, "Planting" was chosen as the winner of BlogHer's NaBloPoMo weekly poetry contest!

I was so thrilled to hear that, then even more excited to find out my poem would then be syndicated on the website! Today my poem went live to the world! Click here to have a read, leave a comment, share with friends!

Thanks for celebrating my good news with me!

Have you had the joy of having your writing published or winning a contest? It's so fun!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Favorite Poetry Books for Children

This is reposted with (my) permission from my other blog A Year With Mom and Dad!

I'll admit I have grown to love children's poetry (sophisticated verse created for little ones, not just silly rhymes!) a bit more than "grown-up" poetry. It's light, lyrical, well-crafted, and still conveys deep and poignant messages. Here's a few of my favorite poetry books for children. Toasting Marshmallows by Kristen O'Connell George Come along with a girl and her family through an entire camping experience - from pitching tent, to fishing her little brother out of the lake, to discovering abandoned cabins and cars in the woods,... and of course, to toasting marshmallows by the fire. The writing is light, lyrical, and conveys a strong sense of setting. You can hear the owl's "one lone vowel," sense the vastness of a "small me...staked to a huge planet," see the "scribbles" of the "river messages." Listen to some excerpts.
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech Verse novels are one of my favorite "new genres" of writing. Love That Dog is a novel written in poetry (verse) that tells the story of a boy named Jack who hates poetry... yet, he's struggling to tell the story of his dog, Sky. As his teacher offers him poems to try on for size, he finds a way to share the whole story of his dog through poetry. I love how a selection of great, well-known poetry is presented throughout the novel, and readers can learn a little bit of poetic styling as Jack attempts to understand and emulate each poem. The end of the book includes the original poems that Jack studies in class. (I'd recommend this book for 3rd grade and up). Read an excerpt.
Twilight Comes Twice by Ralph Fletcher Fletcher is a gold mine of an author - writing in a range that extends from this picture book poem, to chapter book novels, to handbooks for parents and teachers to learn and teach writing! I'm a huge fan as a writer, teacher, and book-lover! Twilight Comes Twice is not only gorgeously illustrated, but the poem describes the day from sun up to sun down in magical free-verse stanzas. Watch as the words paint the picture: "With invisible arms, dawn erases the stars from the blackboard of night..." (gorgeous, right?). Full of repetition, personification, simile, and stunning imagery, this is a poem you'll want to share with your children (and savor for yourself) over and over. The entire book is one poem, presented stanza by stanza on each page, so to a child, it may not even seem like poetry - a great way to sneak in a little beautiful verse without them flinching!

What's your favorite poetry book, poem, poetic author you like to read to your children? (Check your picture books - you'll be surprised to find so many are actually poems in illustrated disguise!).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Teaching Children Poetry With Onomatopoeia

Reposted with (my) permission from my other blog A Year With Mom and Dad:

Here's one of my favorite poetic sound devices: Onomatopoeia!

(ON-OH-MAH-TOE-POE-EE-AH). Onomatopoeia is a big huge word that means: words that imitate or suggest the source of the sound being described. For example:
  • Choo-choo imitates the sound of a train.
  • Beep imitates the sound of a car horn.
  • Moo imitates the sound a cow makes.
  • Whirr suggests the sound of a fan.
And so on. Although it can be a fine line, try not to confuse Onomatopoeia words with a word that just states the fact a sound was made. As in, "laugh" - sure, a laugh IS a sound, but the words that imitate the SOUND of laughing are, "ha ha ha!"
Many times onomatopoeia words are completely made up, like describing a scraping noise as "sccrrettt." Other times people have used the sound word so much, it's become an "actual word" as in the case of animal noises like "cluck," "peep," and "meow." Cartoons make use of onomatopoeia with words like "Kaboom, Blam, Boom!"
I love to use sound-play with my toddler because it's so easy for kids to do, you can do it anywhere, and kids loooooove to make up silly sounds. Try these activities with your child to get them excited about playing around with words and the sounds they make:
  • As you look at picture book, take advantage of the photos / illustrations to ask your child what sound that object makes - guitars strum, drums dum-dum, toaster dings
  • As you drive, point out various animals / objects that make noises and teach your child the sound word - beep, honk, vroom, grrr
  • Take a nature walk, specifically looking for things that make sounds - rustle, shhh, crack, sccrrrch
  • Play with kitchen tools that make different kinds of sounds - clink, bang, ding, bam
  • Create a spontaneous silly sound poem. Maybe a farm poem, or a construction site poem, or a sitting by the creek poem full of sounds. Older children will be able to rhyme sounds as well adding another layer to their poem
  • Create a word cloud like the one above to print or share online using Word It Out! (For older children, or to display for younger kids).
Since poetry is highly auditory, playing with sounds teaches children to use one of their five senses to explore and explain the world! If nothing else, to celebrate poetry and onomatopoeia this week, try singing lots of Old MacDonald Had a Farm!

How else would you use sounds in word-play games for children?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Announcing the Poem in Your Pocket Blog Event!

Announcing a blog event for poetry-lovers - hosted on A Year With Mom and Dad, April 26, 2012!

Visit the to get full details on this day, along with listings of events, ideas for sharing poetry, and a huge poetry database you can browse to find a poem! Here's their description of Poem in Your Pocket Day:
The idea is simple: select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends. You can also share your poem selection on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.
To celebrate National Poem in Your Pocket Day, and also as part of my monthly challenge to help my readers "grow your own poetry," I'm hosting a Poem in Your Pocket Blog Event on my other blog. On April 26, 2012, I'll post a favorite poem of mine suitable for families, mothers, and/or children. I'll briefly share why I enjoy that poem, and then post a linky for other readers to do the same on their blogs and link up!

Maybe we can all discover some great poetry from each other! (Linky will only be open for April 26th so have your blog post ready to link up!). If you'd like to participate, start looking for a poem you'd like to share now - you can create your blog post now or later, just remember to link it up on the day of the event!

Please keep the poems you select family/child-friendly! Thank you!

Raise your hand if you're going to join in!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

7 Ways Children Learn from Poetry

Reposted with (my) permission from my other blog A Year With Mom and Dad:

I believe poetry has power to develop learning skills in young children that translate across all other avenues of learning. Passive reading of poetry for pleasure is a great start to help kids develop an affinity for the poetic form. Yet understanding the way poetry aids development helps us as parents take a more active role in regularly reading poems (and stories) to our children.

Listening to poetry read aloud helps children 1) recognize rhythm patterns, and verbal phrasings.

The short lines and repetitive phrasings of poetry teach children to 2) chunk information into manageable parts.
As children chunk in
formation while listening, they 3) strengthen their listening skills, as they focus on hearing the various patterns.

Recognizing patterns allows children to start 4) forming logical conclusions about "what comes next?"

Making educated guesses about what rhyming word/phrase comes next (which can be a fun game) 5) develops a child's inferencing skills!

Since poetry is rhythmic and patterned, children easily memorize lines and entire stanzas of poetry (especially when set to music!).

The 6) rhythms of poetry aid in developing memory skills - important for your non-reading toddlers, who must rely on their memory to "accumulate text" (remember what just happened while receiving more new information) to understand a story as they cannot re-read the text.

And of course, these easy-to-learn patterns and rhythms 7) helps children learn any number of other skills, such as counting, vocabulary building, and imagination-stretching!

What are some other ways poetry can help child development?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Did you know this poem is about Connecticut?

Wallace Stevens spent the last half of his life in Connecticut. And had some interesting thoughts about blackbirds. Thirteen, to be exact!

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
by Wallace Stevens

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

Do you have any local poets you enjoy?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Planting - A Villanelle

Sunday I posted a Sestina form poem - Today I'm posting a villanelle I wrote to participate in NaBloPoMo's Poetry Contest - click the link to find out more about this French form that makes use of repetition as a main part of its poetic structure.

Planting - A Villanelle

The seed that wants to live must learn to die
To grow, unhindered by what makes afraid,
Where tears have watered ground that's hard and dry.
The soil of trials cover light, and sky
Grows far and faint.  And under burdens weighed,
The seed that wants to live, but has to die.

While others from the sight have turned their eye,
The ground gives way, turned over blade by blade,
Where tears have softened ground that's hard and dry.

In darkness, dank and deep, the seed must lie
Until, in death, a tender life is made.
The seed that wants to live must learn to die.

No place remains for those who only try,
Or count the cost, or measure what is paid.
For tears have watered ground that's hard and dry.

Committed ones don't ask the question, "Why?"
They don't regret, who in their graves were laid.
The seed that wants to live must learn to die,
And tears will soften souls grown hard and dry.

Have you ever written a villanelle or other form poem?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Oldest Poem I Know...

that first came to mind was Western Wind... then as I thought more, I remembered Caedmon's Hymn, which I really enjoy once it's translated from Old English. (And I really enjoy remembering Dr. Hurst from college recite this from memory IN Old English!).

Then there are haiku, which I wonder if they predate the English poetry... I'm not sure because I think haiku didn't start being written until the 14th century.

I suppose I should even go back as far as Biblical / Hebrew poetry, since I know many of the Psalms quite well... that is some old poetry. (and studying Hebrew poetic form is quite fascinating).

I guess I know some pretty old poetry. I like it best.

What's the oldest poem you know?

Monday, April 09, 2012

Teaching Toddlers Poetry with Fingerplay!

**Reposted from my family / parenting blog A Year With Mom and Dad**
You already know that this month is National Poetry Month, and I'll be challenging all of us as parents to add a little more poetry to our family's lives!

Even if you hate poetry yourself, I can't underscore the importance of including poetry in your children's lives... rhythm, memorization skills, pattern-recognition - these are all important ways poetry can help a child learn.

It's never too early to introduce poetry to children... and don't limit yourself to just children's verse - kids often enjoy more advanced poetry selections as well if you read it in a lively and upbeat way!

For preschoolers, many books they read already have some kind of rhyme or poetic quality. So here's a fun Tot Exploration way to ramp up the poetry in your house using books and rhymes you probably already have around.

Fingerplays are simple motions and signs you can use along with reading to help toddlers engage with the text.

One of my son's favorites is Itsy Bitsy Spider:

The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout, (thumb and fingers “walk” up like spiders - actually my son likes to walk the spider up his arm as in the photo above!)
Down came the rain and washed the spider out, (fingers trickle down like rain.)
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain, (Move hands up over your head in a circle like the sun.)
And the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again. (thumb fingers “walk” up again.)

In this simple song, you have rhyme, some repetition, and motions to help your child remember the meaning of the words.

Fingerplay is especially important when kids don't quite know what all the words you're saying mean. You could also do fingerplays with mini finger puppets or props to create more visual poetry for your child! Any time you find action words in poetry, act it out with your fingers or even your whole body.

MANY nursery rhymes and poems already have finger/hand motions that go along with them, but don't be afraid to make up your own as you read poems and rhymes to your children! It'll help them love the lyrics so much more!

Do you share poetry with your children? How do you keep them engaged with this genre?

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Ressurrection Sunday Poem: Gardens

I wrote this Resurrection Day poem in 2007. Today I dust it off, tweaked it, and am sharing it with you all...

It's written in one of my favorite forms - the Sestina. A six stanza poem, each stanza six-lines long. The ending words of each line repeat in each subsequent stanza, and rotate up one line each time. The ending of the poem is a three-line stanza that makes use of the six repeating words in pretty much any order, although I like to use a middle/end framework.

All these rules make the sestina a somewhat difficult and cumbersome form to squeeze a meaning into at times. At the same time, it's easy in that you don't have to rhyme or follow a certain meter.

What I love about the sestina is the circular nature of the poem, which lends itself greatly to discussing life topics, as we all know how life tends to go in cycles or circles.

While this poem still has some rough edges, I figured it could use an airing on this glorious Resurrection Sunday!

Thanks for reading!

In the Garden

“Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free?
No there’s a cross for every one, and there’s a cross for me.”

I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses, And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own, and the Joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.

The presence of God once touched this garden,
Precious hours spent as He walked down the path
In the cool of the day. But one day, in shadows,
Two betrayers hid their faces in naked shame;
Once-friends of God, now blushed to speak His name.
Cast out, path to God choked with nettles and thorns.

God’s Son came to earth, knelt on a garden path
Blood fell like tears, while foes came in shadows.
Twice betrayed, friends sleep, run from His shame,
Deny Him to men, fear to speak His name.
So He took on Himself a crown of thorns
While He prayed “Not my will” in the garden. 

Heavy on His shoulders, the cross’s shadow
Fell across the earth as He bore our shame.
Friends gone, ashamed to confess His name.
The King, cast out, wore a crown of thorns
To Calvary from Gethsemane’s Garden –
The way back to God, a blood-stained Path. 

Day became darkness, great with His shame –
Jesus, “King of the Jews,” they mocked His name
Crushing sin pained Him more than the crown of thorns,
As He looked back in time to that day in the garden
Where two sinners stood shamed in Eden’s path –
Cast out into death, living under sin’s shadow.

How precious is that Holy Name!
How blessed the blood that fell from those Thorns
How beautiful the Savior who knelt in that Garden
Choosing rather to suffer that sin-laden Path
So I might be hid underneath His Wings’ Shadow
To save me from suffering, sin and Shame

Could I have borne one sharp sting of those Thorns?
Would I have watched with Him in the Garden?
Would I have fled as others away down the Path?
Or hid, denied him, while watching in Shadows?
Can I bear the thought I caused Him such Shame?
Can I be worthy to call on His Name? 

He left Eden’s fair Garden for the Cross of Shame,
Took my crown of Thorns, took my hell-bound Path,
Hid His Glory in Shadows, so I could profess His blessed Name.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Book Review: Writing Personal Poetry by Sheila Bender (Rating 5/5)

NaBloPoMo April 2012

There was a time in my life where my favorite books to read were about how to be a writer. Ironically, also during most of this time, I was not writing. I just so enjoyed reading about HOW to write that I had no time for actual writing!

But one book that ACTUALLY made me start writing again (this was after graduating college when I had no more "deadlines" hanging over my head), was Sheila Bender's book Writing Personal Poetry.

Although I'm actually a fan of form poetry and formal styles, Bender's book brought me to a place where I could write just from my own experiences. Which I previously thought too ordinary for poetry.

Bender walks you through steps including even WHY to write personal poetry and how to give yourself the nudge to go ahead and write. She talks about what makes good poetry (and it isn't the going on and on about your personal grievances or sappy love stuff!).

She discusses my favorite topic - using mentor texts to inspire your own writing (reading poetry to help you write poetry!).

And uses good sense when it comes to discussing author's craft - including not generalizing, not using elevated speech (purple prose that I hate so much!), not simply categorizing or summarizing a feeling as if you're writing a news article. LOVE her discussion of being specific and using the five senses to bring the reader into the NOW.

Best of all, she has several times throughout the book where she shows an example poem "progressing" through several drafts, so you get to see the poem take shape and become more specific, more personal.

Bender's book is also actually FUN to read because the writing style isn't heavy or technical in nature. I really enjoyed reading her advice, tips, examples and sample poems from herself, well-known poets, and students of hers!

A book worth getting if you're new to poetry, or looking to rejuvenate yourself!

Do you have any writing / poetry writing book recommendations to share?

Friday, April 06, 2012

My Favorite Poets / Poems (at the moment)

NaBloPoMo April 2012

So a lot of the blogging prompts at BlogHer's NaBloPoMo for this month so far have been like, "what poem is best when you're sad?" and so forth.

I don't read poetry that way. I don't turn to a poem or specific author when I have certain feelings or life events. I just kind of have favorite poems, poets, or even just a favorite LINE of poetry that strikes me.

I don't sit around like a college student (no offense) and just read piles of poetry books for days on end (um, I'm a mom, remember)... I just like to have poetry and poetic words "around" to inspire me, dwell on, and make me think.  
Here's a few authors whose poetry I enjoy:
  • Shakespearean sonnets - for their complexity
  • John Donne - for his metaphysical references that intrigue me
  • e. e. cummings - for his unusual and whimsical style
  • William Carlos Williams - for his often-curious brevity
  • Mary Oliver - for the way she makes one think about life and living in a deeper way
  • Langston Hughes - for his imagery
  • Theodore Roethke - for his poetic devices

You may wonder that some magificent and wonderful poets are missing from my list. I'm sure some are unintentional as I am making this list on the fly.

Some poets, I have just one poem of theirs I love, but the rest I am not a fan of - so I didn't include them in this particular list.

And others, I couldn't QUITE include as I don't LOVE their poetry as some do. For example, Robert Frost, Emily Dickenson - I enjoy studying them, and I have learned a lot about style from their writings... but I don't necessarily have them come to mind as poets I "love." I hope that makes sense.

I also don't really enjoy modern poetry so I haven't read much of it past the 1960s... I may be missing some rare gems in this regard... but what can I say? The classic poets have so much to offer, I feel that my time is taken up with them!

Who are some poets you just LOVE? I'd like to meet some new poets to love!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

In the style of WCW, I apologize....

NaBloPoMo April 2012

This is just to say...

I have neglected
to write
a poetic post

And which
you were probably
around on Facebook to see

Forgive me
I was so tired
and so

~ by me

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

~ by William Carlos Williams

Monday, April 02, 2012

The First Poem I Ever Memorized

NaBloPoMo April 2012

Oh the first prompt is an easy one... what was the first poem I ever memorized?

There may have been other poems in elementary school, but I distinctly recall my seventh and eighth grade literature teacher (they were the same both years!) making us memorize AND RECITE a poem to her ... and the poem I recall first is "If" by Rudyard Kipling:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

It's a poem worth memorizing... don't you think?

Other poems I recall having to memorize were I remember, I remember, and Jabberwocky (which I can still recite!).

Did you ever memorize a poem? What was it? Or what poem would you like to memorize?

Sunday, April 01, 2012

April is National Poetry Month!

NaBloPoMo April 2012
Of course, poetry being my favorite genre of writing, I HAD to sign up for the BlogHer NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), because the whole month will be dedicated to ...

I plan to write a post every day. Maybe I won't write a POEM every day, but I'd like to share my thoughts on poetry, my favorite poems, and books that have helped me along the way!

I hope you'll join me by reading, commenting, sharing, and maybe writing some of your own poetry!!

AND... stay tuned because April 26th is National Poem in Your Pocket Day - a simple day to celebrate poetry simply by carrying a copy of ANY poem in your pocket...try to read it throughout the day and/or share it with others in your life!

Do you love/hate poetry? Will you be doing any poetry-related activities this month?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Book Review: The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck ~ Fiction (Rated 2/5)

Flashing back and forth from modern-day Charlotte, to historical Emily, we see the romantic tale of a mysterious wedding dress take shape. When Charlotte, a wedding shop owner, finds herself the owner of a unique wedding dress just as her relationship crumbles, she sets out to discover the meaning behind the dress. Emily, the original owner of the dress, has her own romantic turmoil as she struggles with keeping her word to protect the family honor, or being truly happy with her real love.

The two stories converge as Charlotte discovers two other women who hold keys to unlocking the mystery of the gorgeous gown. Along the way, each woman shares her love story, and helps Charlotte determine where her heart lies.

Unfortunately, as wonderful as the concept is (I love historical fiction!), I was extremely disappointed by this novel. I had hoped it would have more solid historical fiction grounding, but it turned out to be a stereotypical Christian romance.

The characters are mostly static; Charlotte, the main character, has little complexity, and relies on others for emotional support.  I didn't find Tim to be a sympathetic character, although Charlotte can't manage much righteous indignation at him for breaking up with her, dating his ex the next day, yet still wanting her back. Apparently Tim's manly scent, longing gaze, and muscular arm are all it takes to win back Charlotte's heart - but that is not enough for me.

The plot kept my interest because the flashbacks between the two stories held me in suspense. Otherwise the two plot lines lacked depth and offered few intriguing twists. The historical implications of suffrage and the plight of the blacks in the South during 1912 were of interest, but were not pulled into the plot the way they could have been (a la The Help).

I didn't mind the point of view shift from Charlotte to Emily, however about three-quarters of the way through, the point of view suddenly shifts to the ex-fiance and other characters, which I found distracting.

There are several loose ends - such as how the dress passes along to the first three women in very realistic ways, but Charlotte receives the dress mysteriously and inexplicably, even after all her sleuthing. Then there's the mystical nature of the dress fitting FOUR different women over 100 years while needing no alteration (reminiscent of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). Also, the mysterious men in purple, who appear at just the right moment and seem to know all about Emily / Charlotte though they've never met. These plot points seemed unrealistic and warranted explanation.

Most frustrating to this literature-lover was the gushing "purple prose" scattered frequently and randomly throughout the novel. The constant personification of wind, fragrances, textures, etc. quickly got  wearing. Also some imagery was, frankly, quite jarring ("And her heart crawled out of her chest and perched on her arm." - yikes!) or downright saccharine ("The creamy tenor of his voice sank through Charlotte like sweet caramel."). We are constantly told what brand of clothing characters are wearing, or minute details of Charlotte's grocery bag - these  details were distracting and, did not further the plot or characterization.

Although it's a "clean" novel with no swearing or sex, the characters constantly have "amorous" kissing episodes that leave them on the brink of breaking their convictions. I didn't see the point of including quite so much of this and so little detail about the actual relationships.

Christianity is a thin veneer over the plot - if you took out God and church references, I felt  nothing integral to the story would be missing. Charlotte finds her holy place at her job looking at the purity of wedding dresses, or feeling the beat of worship music, or wandering in a field - her walk with the Lord seems very emotionally based.

The author leaves us little to discover for ourselves; most of the theme and message of the book is constantly TOLD to us through the character's dialogue in a heavy-handed way. At the end, through Thomas's words at the midnight wedding we are told the meaning of the dress. The author does little to explain the concept of "Redeemed" which keeps being mentioned by multiple characters throughout the novel.

I am certain the author herself intended for readers to get more out of this novel. The discussion questions and author note at the end were more revealing than the novel itself. You can tell from these sections the author was hoping to impart a deeper meaning to the dress itself and the soul-searching the characters do. But the theme is not developed at a deep level to promote vigorous discussion.
The author had an intriguing concept for a historical/modern day blend of a novel. And, I do love a touch of romance, so the wedding dress story was appealing, but for me, it just did not deliver. Perhaps as an English teacher, with a degree in English literature, I was hoping for a richer literary experience?

I give it 2 stars because if you LOVE the romance genre and a quick read, you'll probably like The Wedding Dress, and it's good for a light read on a plane or the beach...

If you've read this book, or others by Rachel Hauck, I'd love to hear your thoughts!
(Remember, commenting is open to thoughtful, constructive comments only).

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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