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Hanging with fellow Georgia writers (from top, l-r) Tracy Walker, Heather Kolich, Donna Bowman, (bottom, middle) Janice Hardy and Paula Puckett
photo by Steve Kolich

Susan Rosson Spain, Robyn Hood Black, Elizabeth Dulemba, and Myra Meade at the Hall Book Exchange in Gainesville, Ga.
photo by Mel Hornsby

Southern Breeze Kudos Kites 09 - Donna, Robyn, Heather, Sarah, and Peggy

Robyn with Kathleen Duey, author extraordinaire http://www.kathleenduey.com

Robyn with Alaska Nature Writer Debbie Miller http://www.debbiemilleralaska.com

photo by Robyn Hood Black
Paul B. Janeczko http://www.paulbjaneczko.com

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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Amy Lowell's THE CONGRESSIONAL LIBRARY in light of Parkland, and SCHOOL PEOPLE Book Winner

February 22, 2018

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, Amy Lowell, ponderings, students, school


Thursday morning while sipping coffee and semi-watching the news, I came across a poem by Amy Lowell in What’s O’Clock (Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1925), winner of the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

The words imprinted themselves in my mind and heart as I turned my attention to an interview with an articulate, grief-stricken father. Fred Guttenburg’s beautiful 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was shot in the back with an assault rifle in a hall in her Parkland, Florida high school on Valentine’s Day. Her spinal cord was severed, and 16 other beautiful lives were gone in an instant.

“We start each day at the cemetery,” Mr. Guttenburg said. “That’s what we do now.”

Amy Lowell’s “The Congressional Library” was not written about a school shooting. But its images spoke to me in the midst of our collective sadness and outrage – and the ability/mandate to respond lies in the halls of Congress. Here is an excerpt.


From THE CONGRESSIONAL LIBRARY

by Amy Lowell (1874-1925)


This is America,
This vast, confused beauty,
This staring, restless speed of loveliness,
Mighty, overwhelming, crude, of all forms,
Making grandeur out of profusion,
Afraid of no incongruities,
Sublime in its audacity,
Bizarre breaker of moulds,
Laughing with strength,
Charging down on the past,
Glorious and conquering,
Destroyer, builder,
Invincible pith and marrow of the world,
An old world remaking,
Whirling into the no-world of all-coloured light.

But behind the vari-coloured hall?
The entrails, the belly,
The blood-run veins, the heart and viscera,
What of these?
Only at night do they speak,
Only at night do the voices rouse themselves and speak.
There are words in the veins of this creature,
There are still notes singing in its breast:
Silent voices, whispering what it shall speak,
Frozen music beating upon its pulses.
These are the voices of the furious dead who never die,
Furious with love and life, unquenchable,
dictating their creeds across the vapours of time.
This is the music of the Trumpeters of the Almighty
Weeping for a lost estate,
Sounding to a new birth which is to-morrow.
Hark! This hurricane of music has no end,
The speech of these voices has neither end nor beginning;
They are inter-riven as the colours of the sky
Over the graveyards of ten thousand generations. …



For notes about this poem, click here. For a copy of the entire poem, click here, and for more on Amy Lowell at poets.org, click here.

Thanks to all who came by week before last to celebrate the release of SCHOOL PEOPLE (Wordsong) and enjoy an interview with Lee Bennett Hopkins. I’m delighted to announce that the giveaway winner is…

***Catherine Flynn***

The past 10 days have reminded us that many School People are selfless servants– heroes to us, though they likely wouldn’t describe themselves, or wouldn’t have described themselves, in such terms. “Greater love has no one than this…” (John 15:13)

And I am so proud of those young people turning shock and sorrow into activism – they are amazing. Congress, quite simply, has failed them. Yet they are willing to face professional politicians with unblinking resolve and in the harshest glare of the public arena (and the sometimes-slime of social media). God bless their voices. Many will be voting this fall.

The thoughtful, talented, and active Elizabeth Steinglass has our Poetry Friday Roundup this week. Thanks, Liz.

Poetry Friday - Lee Bennett Hopkins and SCHOOL PEOPLE Giveaway!

February 7, 2018

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, Lee Bennett Hopkins, School People, Wordsong, Robyn Hood Black, school, students, teachers





Is your monitor shaking, or your phone screen, maybe? I’m so excited about this week’s post, I might be jumping up and down a little….


Lee Bennett Hopkins is here!

If you’re a Poetry Friday regular, you know that Lee Bennett Hopkins is a singular force in the world of children’s poetry, holding the Guiness World Record for number of poetry anthologies for children published.

He has received countless awards for his own writing and his collections, including the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, the Florida Libraries’ Lifetime Achievement Award, the Christopher Award, and the distinction last year of being inducted into the Florida Arts Hall of Fame, among others. (Read more about Lee here.)

Today he shares a behind-the-scenes look at his newest anthology, SCHOOL PEOPLE, to be released Feb. 13 from Wordsong, the poetry imprint of Boyds Mills Press (so you know it’s first-class).

From the publisher’s description:


…this collection of poems paired with imaginative artwork introduces readers to the important grown-ups they’ll meet at school. From the school’s own story, written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, to J. Patrick Lewis’s “Principal,” to Alma Flor Ada’s "Spanish Teacher," each poem features the women and men who inspire, encourage, and help children in their own unique ways.


The small format of photos allowed on my blog don’t do justice to the vibrant illustrations by Ellen Shi, but you can get an idea. The publisher kindly shared a couple of interior spreads – “Librarian” by Lee himself, and my own poem, “Lunch Lady.”





LIBRARIAN

He opened the door.
As we walked in
he said,
“Look!
It’s all about books.
And books are you!

Books will lead you
anywhere
everywhere –
to magical places
to meet new faces.”

He opened
one single door
yet he
led us down
pathways
we never
could ever
have traveled
before.


©Lee Bennett Hopkins. All Rights Reserved.



LUNCH LADY

Long before lunchtime
Ms. Bailey keeps busy
stacking towers of trays,
filling the salad bar,
sliding steaming pans
into place.

We swarm the cafeteria.
“Here you go, Honey,” she says,
handing each of us a full plate.

Long after lunchtime,
Ms. Bailey scrubs everything clean,
hangs the last heavy pan.

She rubs her neck,
wipes her forehead,
and changes the menu sign –
for us,
for tomorrow.


©Robyn Hood Black. All Rights Reserved.


How did this collection come to be? Lee generously agreed to share his thoughts.

--How did the idea for SCHOOL PEOPLE come about? (And how long has it been in the making?)

I began my career as a sixth-grade teacher in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, in 1960 at the age of 22, fresh out of college. I taught sixth grade for three years before becoming a Resource Teacher in the same school working with grades K-6.

So – after almost six decades later the idea of a SCHOOL and its PEOPLE pops up. One never knows what memory will uncover. Such an obvious topic.


--Each of your anthologies has a distinct personality – some magic you make out of many different contributing voices. How would you describe SCHOOL PEOPLE?

Yes, each anthology does have a distinct personality. When creating an anthology my mind completely focuses on the topic whether it is a collection as difficult as the recent TRAVELNG THE BLUE ROAD: POEMS OF THE SEA (Seagrass Dreams/Quarto) for Young Adults, or SCHOOL PEOPLE for younger readers. I assign topics to various poets who work with me – a wondrous group of dedicated writers. My role is to put the entire collection into focus before it reaches an editor’s desk. The process of producing an anthology can take years.

--This book should lend itself to all kinds of interactions. How do you envision teachers might use it in the classroom or media center?

There are so many ways to use this book in schools. I envision an assembly program where various school people are invited to sit on stage, introduced as each child reads or performs a poem about them…from the principal to the custodian. Or as a weekly, monthly tribute to each of the people represented.

It can also be used to show appreciation of the work each person does to make a school a whole.
I would encourage young writers to choose one or more of their favorite school people to write about.

SCHOOL PEOPLE is also a nice gift to give to various school personnel. How often does a Custodian or a Crossing Guard get acknowledged?


--How do you hope students will respond to the collection?

Hopefully children might see the diversity of people within a school building - for example, a female coach, a male librarian. Also I hope they will experience empathy for individuals – the Bus Driver with ‘that smiling face’ to bring a child home again, the Lunch Lady who works hard and long hours, the Custodian who is “caring, helpful, smart, and kind,” the Nurse who is there “like the heart in my body/like the moon in the sky.”

--The 15 poems come to life in Ellen Shi’s colorful digital illustrations. Any thoughts about how the text and art work together here?

Shi captures so many different moments via her art depicting emotions that are part of every person involved with children. That caring Principal who could ‘teach a bully/how to be humble”, the Librarian who “opened one single door/yet he/led us down/pathways/we never/could ever/have traveled before.” Each double-page spread has a lot of offer, to linger with.

--Do you have a special memory you’d like to share about a teacher or staff member from your own school days?

It was my eighth-grade teacher, Mrs. Ethel Kite McLaughlin, who saw something in the mixed-up child I was due to growing up in a dysfunctional family. She was the one who turned my life around. Being with her in a self-contained classroom environment for a year convinced me that I, too, would become a teacher…like her. And I did! Without her guidance I don’t know where life would have taken me. One teacher. One voice. As Joan Bransfield Graham writes in “Teacher” – “You stretch my world much wider…I feel I, too, can fly.” Mrs. McLaughlin did indeed stretch my world. Oh, how she helped me to fly!

--I think most would agree you absolutely SOAR. Thank you so much for joining us today!

Thank you, Robyn, for your forever poetry enthusiasm! Hugs.


Other familiar Poetry Friday faces with work in this collection include Matt Forrest Essenwine, Michele Krueger, , Irene Latham, Charles Ghigna, Renée LaTulippe, and Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. And other familiar POETRY faces include Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Ann Whitford Paul, J. Patrick Lewis, Joan Bransfield Graham, Alma Flor Ada, and Darren Sardelli. (So honored to share book pages with these fine poet-folk!)

But wait – there’s MORE. Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press will send a copy of SCHOOL PEOPLE to a lucky reader! Just leave a comment below by Wed., Feb. 21, and you’ll be entered in the drawing. (Be sure the hidden email associated with your comment is a good way to contact you later for a snail mail address, just in case today’s your lucky day.) I’ll be out of pocket next Friday, but back to announce the randomly-selected winner on Friday, Feb. 23.

Sally Murphy has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week – hop, skip, or jump on over (under?) to beautiful Australia for more poetry surprises.

Poetry Friday - A Few Haiku

February 1, 2018

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, haiku, Robyn Hood Black



Greetings, Poetry Lovers!

I hope you had a chance to see the Super-Blue-Blood Moon this week. We were blessed with clear skies. Not the clearest of plans, though, as we mis-read moonrise time for Tuesday night and didn't get in place for proper gawking until the moon had been comfortably released from the horizon. Also, I got up early Wednesday expecting to see the blood moon - brilliant white greeted me, and then I read that the eclipse wouldn't be visible in our corner of the world this time around.

Still, the owls were lively and it was a brilliant way to start the day. No wonder centuries of haiku poets have written about their experiences "moon-gazing."

I don't have moon poems today, but here are a couple more of my haiku published in journals in the fall, and another which just came out (on the first page, even!) in bottle rockets.



longest day
she spells out the words
in the diagnosis


Modern Haiku 48:3, Autumn 2017



empty window
the last of her fur
in the lint trap


Frogpond 40:3, Autumn 2017



bus stop
the hard places
where she sleeps


bottle rockets #38, 2018


Thanks for coming by! For all kinds of poetry that will surely illuminate your weekend, visit our wonderful Donna at Mainely Write. (She also has an inspirational moon post from Wednesday/Thurs., Jan. 31, if you'd like some spiritual moon-swooning!)

Poetry Friday - ISSA's Seasonal Haiku - on Mini Cards!

January 25, 2018

Tags: Poetry Friday, artsyletters, haiku, cards, poetry, Issa, seasons, poem cards, pocket poems, David G. Lanoue



Greetings, Poetry Lovers!

I hope your year is off to a good start. With the turn of the calendar, I got inspired to create some mini haiku cards - one for each season. Each card features a poem by haiku master Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828), translated by Dr. David G. Lanoue. (Hint - need to peruse Issa's seasonal haiku? Just go to David's HaikuGuy.com, find the Kobayashi Issa website page, and type in the season - or any subject - you're looking for, and you'll be rewarded with relevant results from David's 10,000-plus translations! You can also learn how to sign up for "Daily Issa" - a haiku each day in your inbox. I love these and I know some of you are seasoned fans, too.)

Here are the haiku I selected to feature on the cards. Let's start with spring,which, if I understand the Japanese calendar in Issa's time correctly, would be just a week or two away right now and which would herald a new year.


the mountain sunset
within my grasp ...
spring butterfly


summer mountain -
with each step more
of the sea


from leaf to leaf
tumbling down ...
autumn dew


first winter rain -
the world fills up
with haiku



Poems by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue. Used with permission.


For the cards, I lettered each haiku in an italic hand. Then I scanned an antique map (Rand, McNally & Co.'s Map of the World, from an 1885 Business Atlas) into Photoshop as a background, making sure Japan was included in the small section. I digitally adjusted colors to suggest each season - pink for spring (cherry blossoms, after all!), green for summer, browns for fall, and an icy blue for winter. The back of each card is the same, acknowledging Issa as poet and David as translator. I had the designs commercially printed onto 2-inch by 3 1/2-inch cards with gloss coating on the fronts.

I'm making these available in little gift bags with one of each card, or for sale as individual designs. This week I tucked a little bag into a friend's birthday card before mailing! And, well, there's Valentine's Day coming up... click here if you'd like to see these in my Etsy shop.

And be sure to click over to Beyond Literacy Link, where the lovely and tireless Carol has this week's Roundup. She has a call to participate in her Winter Wonderland Gallery, too - check it out for lots of cozy company in poetry and art!

Before you go, what is your favorite season? Can you pick a favorite haiku from the small sampling above?

Poetry Friday - TRAVELING THE BLUE ROAD with Lee Bennett Hopkins, Margarita Engle, & Others...

January 18, 2018

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, Traveling the Blue Road, poems about the sea, sea poems, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Margarita Engle, Bob Hansman, Jovan Hansman


I’m up to my knees in ancestral sleuthing lately, as mentioned in last week’s post. Copying what I’ve seen on other Ancestry.com family trees, I’ve been slowly adding sailing ship profile pictures to folks I can identify as immigrants in my own tree.

Our stories are borne upon waves.

TRAVELING THE Blue Road: POEMS OF THE SEA (Seagrass Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group, 2017) is a recent and breathtaking collection by Lee Bennett Hopkins, featuring works by a dozen of today’s most stellar poets and mesmerizing illustrations by Bob Hansman and Jovan Hansman.

First, the visual.

The violet- and indigo-hued cover is gorgeous, with its subtly-rendered small boat silhouette sailing along a horizon line of water above the title, against a backdrop of what I perceive as bubbly stars. Spot gloss on the boat and text adds to the appeal.

A variety of media is used in illustrations throughout the book, including pastels, charcoal, Conte crayons, cut paper and markers. An endnote about the artwork says, The images evolved over the course of the book, beginning with an entirely “archival” image, gradually blending archival images with drawn images, and ending with entirely drawn images. Even the art, which undulates between ethereal and gritty, is a journey.

The personal and creative story of father-son art team Bob Hansman and Jovan Hansman is amazing – Click here for a 2014 feature in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

There is also a note about the various type fonts employed. (This causes shallow breathing in a lettering & type nerd such as yours truly.) I learned a thing or two, and I so appreciate the care taken with this aspect of the book. Exquisite.

Then – the words.

      Wistful with wind and North Star,
      the sea sailed steamships, …


I fell overboard immediately with those opening lines from Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s Forward poem, “SEA.”

Readers embark on a journey through centuries, from Columbus’s 1492 voyage and The Mayflower in 1620 through The Middle Passage and desperate travels during the Irish Potato Famine, World War II, and the Mediterranean Refugee Crisis, among others.

Here is a poem toward the end of the book from Young People’s Poet Laureate Margarita Engle, about the Mariel Boat Lift in Cuba, which took place over six months in 1980:


      CARRIED ON SWAYING WAVES OF HOPE


      Adiós, Mariel, crowded port
      where boats swoop like seabirds,
      each vessel filled up with people
      who dream of seeing primos, tíos y amigos
      on the far shore
      in La Florida,
      where we will soon
      celebrate a fiesta
      with plenty to eat
      and freedom to speak
      of our past, present, future

      as families
      reunited…

      but still divided.

      Adiós, Abuelita, adiós.
      Will I ever see my grandma
      again?



©Margarita Engle. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


Other contributing poets include Paul B. Janeczko, J. Patrick Lewis, Allan Wolf, Marilyn Nelson, Denver Butson, Georgia Heard, Jane Yolen, Naomi Shihab Nye, G. Neri, and Lee Bennett Hopkins.

The oceans portrayed in this collection are weighty, powerful, full of both promise and threat, as described within the final poem by Lee Bennett Hopkins:


      seas seas smooth seas unfathomable seas titan seas …


After the poetry, brief, thoughtful notes explain the historical context of each poem and the dates of the events they describe. The collection targets ages 8 and up. It has been named a 2018 Notable Poetry Book for Children by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). (Congratulations, all!) Read more, including some stunning reviews, at the publisher’s website here .

What was it like putting together such a challenging collection? Lee Bennett Hopkins shares these thoughts:

      Compiling this anthology was an emotional experience for me. Each poet worked endlessly on each poem. We went back and forth to consider various points of view, honing not only lines and words but syllables! I wanted the poems to read like the waves of the ocean ... calling us, hugging us, showing its strength, power and what it had done, does, and will continue to do forever.

The imagery evoked gave me goose bumps: "Wistful with wind"; "fearless faith'; "facing the blue unknown"; 'the sea was never mine to see". Only poets can do this with language. They capture the sweeping, swooping, clinging, breathing sea.

I am indebted to know these marvelous talents. Ah, poetry. Ah, Poets.


(You caught that, right? The honing not only of lines and words, but syllables? That's why anthologies with Lee Bennett Hopkins's name on the spine are worthy of the accolades received, and then some!)

One final note: So delighted that Lee dedicated this book to Judith Mandell and Stephanie Salkin, whose persistence and organization of many moving parts supported Lee’s induction into the Florida Arts Hall of Fame last February, which I got to see with my own eyes. (A trip on land I’ll always treasure!)

Many thanks to Margarita Engle for sharing her poem here this week, and to Lee Bennett Hopkins for this brilliant collection, another wondrous and important addition to the bookshelf.

Speaking of journeys, for more fine poetry, steer your ship toward A Journey Through the Pages, where our good Captain Kay is rounding up Poetry Friday this week.

Poetry Friday - Let's Go to Scotland!

January 11, 2018

Tags: Poetry Friday, Scotland, Robert Burns, poetry, Elizabeth Dulemba, travel



January Greetings! I hope your year is off to an inspiring start.

We were thrilled to see both our families and our kids over the holidays, though three trips to three different states in those couple of weeks means I am still trying to get my ducks in a row for this new year.

I did manage to corral some traveling ducks this week, though – and we couldn’t be more excited.

A year ago right before the holidays, I made my hubby and kids all spit in vials and sent said spittle off to Ancestry.com to see what we were made of. We said we'd make 2018 travel plans based on the results. Despite some wee bits of diversity, our lot is pretty much British and/or Irish through and through. So this summer, it’s off to Scotland and Ireland for us! (We’ve got Welsh and English roots, too, but we’ll focus on the Scottish and Irish branches this go-round.)

And while I hope our plans will go as smoothly as travel plans can go, perhaps the season of resolutions is the right time to recall our friend Robert Burns’s words to a wee mousie, displaced by a farmer’s plough a couple of centuries ago. Besides, the Scottish poet was born in January – like yours truly and our daughter Morgan (isn’t that a fine Celtic name?).

Click here for the entire poem and more info about the poet. Below are the ending stanzas, with their famous lines:

from To a Mouse

On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough,
November, 1785


….

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' Mice an' Men
            Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
            For promis'd joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
            On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I cannot see,
            I guess an' fear!


Raise a glass to Mr. Burns on January 25, the 259th anniversary of his birth, if my math is right!

One lovely trip bonus is that we will (barely!) overlap with my long-time kidlit buddy/friend Elizabeth Dulemba, who has been pursuing graduate degrees in illustration in Edinburgh, and who comes back to the states during summers to teach at Hollins University. If you don’t know Elizabeth’s work or website, you are in for a treat – she’s garnered awards for both her writing and art. She’s also one of the most generous blogger-folks out there, and her Coloring Pages enrich countless lives each and every Tuesday. (Sign up to receive them!)

She even has a great TEDxTalk called, “Is Your Stuff Stopping You?” It was inspired by the move she made to Scotland in pursuit of her dreams, and the downsizing she and her husband were willing to do to make it happen. (See the link at the top of her site.)

AND, if that’s not all, Elizabeth just featured a terrific interview with our own Irene Latham and Charles Waters about their hot-off-the-press poetry collection from Carolrhoda Books, Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship. I just ordered my copy!

I’ll be spending lots of time on e’s blog in coming months, perusing all her posts on Scotland. To make that virtual journey yourself, click here.

For today’s roundup, get out your poetry passport and head over to bookseed studio, where our amazing Jan is welcoming all with a post on Martin Luther King, Jr.
Happy Travels!

Poetry Friday - HAPPY NEW YEAR & Wander Over to READING TO THE CORE

January 4, 2018

Tags: Poetry Friday



New Year's Greetings! Somehow I'm still on Holiday Break, with the last of three "travel legs" to go to see family today, on the heels of our surprise snow storm here in the Lowcountry this week. Translation: I didn't get a post conjured up. So I'll see you next week, but be sure to start 2018 off on good poetic footing with our Dear Catherine, rounding up at Reading to the Core. Cheers!

Poetry Friday - Simple, Poetic Holiday Gems...

December 21, 2017

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, holidays, Christmas poem, New Years poem, old poems, ponderings


It's been a week... a year, in fact, if you want to know the truth. Some years are like that!

Since posting about the loss of Beaufort's Bennett last week, we swung to the other side of the emotional spectrum with a visit from son Seth, who found out while here that he got into Emory's Candler School of Theology for next year, with good scholarship news as well.

And then, Thursday, we had to say goodbye to the kitty Seth had gotten as a young boy. Lancelot had a good, long life, but it's never easy parting with a beloved four-legged family member.

My recent weeks have also been filled with artsyletters orders, so that's been great - but busy. As I'm still toting around a boot for the Achilles I re-injured last summer, some things just didn't get done this holiday season. Postcards instead of actual cards. And, written on the ones to folks I usually send little holiday goodies to, just a note saying, "Packages aren't happening this year - but sending love."

My hubby set up the tree after Seth got here, and Seth hung some ornaments. I was still hanging after he drifted out of the room. At some point I looked at the tree, looked down at the ornament box, and back at the tree. Despite the fact that several ornaments were still inside the box, I closed the lid. The tree was full enough, for this year anyway.

I finally just bought ingredients and loaf pans for cranberry bread. Maybe it will get made. Maybe some loaves will be given away. And maybe another reason I gave myself a pass on the home front is that we'll be travelling - three little trips - in and out this holiday season to see family, rather than hosting folks here.

So in the spirit of less-is-more because that's all I can manage this year, I went hunting for a simple holiday poem or two. I found a couple of gems in the 1952 edition of THE ARBUTHNOT ANTHOLOGY OF CHILDREN'S LITERATURE, a volume that my mother-in-law loaned me years ago and that somehow I still haven't quite returned....

Enjoy.


GLADDE THINGS

(Unknown)

Of gladde things there be four, ay four:
A Larke above ye olde nest blithely singing,
A wild Rose clinging
In safety to a rock, A Shepherd bringing
A Lambe found in his arms,
And Christmasse Bells a-ringing.


That makes me smile so!

And, because this time next week we'll be getting in from Hither and heading right back out the door to Yon, here's an early New Year's poem.


NEW YEAR'S DAY

by Rachel Field

Last night, while we were fast asleep,
      The old year went away.
It can't come back again because
      A new one's come to stay.



[Rachel Field lived from 1894 to 1942. She won the 1930 Newbery Medal for Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, and penned the gorgeous and beloved poem, "Something Told the Wild Geese."]

Wishing you and yours a lovely holiday season, and remembering those for whom holidays, and winter, are tough. The solstice is just behind us now, so on toward the light of a New Year! (See you in two weeks.)

Follow the light to this week's Roundup, graciously hosted by our beloved Buffy.

Poetry Friday - O Death - Goodbye, Bennett

December 14, 2017

Tags: Poetry Friday, lyrics, O Death, Nathaniel Bennett

Jeff, Bennett, and Seth - 2015


     Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2 , RSV)

Our little coastal town lost an icon Monday night. His death made the front page of the paper, and it’s still on the front page of my heart.

Nathaniel Bennett could drive you crazy. You couldn’t be downtown without hearing his gruffy voice, noticing his shuffling gait, his big presence in a slight, wiry, quick-moving frame.

Hey, can you spare a few dollars for a hamburger and a drink? It costs $7.59 (or some such, and his prices went up, as my husband said, as years went by.) I’m a veteran (fishing a decades-old Army ID from his wallet)….

Or, Hey, can you help me get some pizza? I’ll pay you back….

Or , Can you help me get a hot dog and a pink lemonade? And, can you give me a ride to the corner? They close at four….”

Or, I got paid today – I don’t need any money. Can you give me a ride to AA?

Sometimes he’d be missing from the streets for a few days. He occasionally got banned from one place or another, though restaurant managers still made sure he had something good to eat from the back door. He was sick now and then, hospitalized every once in a while. He wasn't a stranger to jail.

Bennett talked matter-of-factly about his mental illness. And his struggles. Sometimes you had to listen closely to make out what he was saying, especially if he was agitated.

He always remembered exactly how much money I’d given him “last time.” He always asked about my kids, my family. He always expected a little something extra around his birthday. He turned 64 in August.

Bennett was not homeless. He had family in the area, and grown children in different places, and he sounded proud talking about them. He lived in a group home on Duke Street, with some meals provided. He received money from the government and had folks who looked after his finances and his medical appointments.

But his way of being in the world was to create a network for himself, with lots of folks whose cars he recognized and whose habits he noted. I saw him most often at the post office, where sometimes he’d just wait by my car, halfway hiding his cigarette if he had one. (People would joke that he could time travel, the way he could get to different parts of town in the blink of an eye.)

The last time I saw him at the post office, on Monday, he was busy enlisting a young man for some drink money. That night, Jeff and I saw Bennett as we walked out from a restaurant, where we’d met friends for dinner. He had a Styrofoam to-go box in his hands. From across the street, he shouted, “Hey, do you have five dollars…”

“No, Bennett, but do you need a ride?”

He said yes, and crossed the street toward a bench near the barber shop.

“We’ll go get my car and meet you right there.”

A minute later, he shouted, “I got a ride” as he climbed into another car already going his direction. He probably added a "God bless you." He waved. And though it was dark, I know he smiled, too. We waved back.

He died that night, from natural causes, according to the paper.

I found out Tuesday and attempted to go about the rest of my day, with orders to get out for my Etsy shop. I printed two labels for one order (and none for another), not discovering my error until it was almost closing time at the post office, and I couldn’t fix it until the next morning.

I went back to my shop and worked late, again. But it was cathartic, because on my old radio, on NPR's Fresh Air, Terri Gross interviewed a terrific Gullah-inspired band called Ranky Tanky. ("Gullah" refers to the rich culture of the lowcountry sea islands around here, with its African roots.) Click here for the transcript, and here for the podcast from Dec. 12.

The group performed “O Death” on the show.

Here is the first part, in the Ralph Stanley version from O Brother Where Art Thou:

Oh Death,
Whoa, death!
Won't you spare me over 'til another year?

Well, what is this, that I can't see?
Both ice-cold hands taken hold of me
Well, I am death none can excel
I'll open the door to heaven or hell …


Click here for the rest.

The lyrics are rough, but I needed to hear them. (Though I'll admit to running Emily's more gentle "Because I could not stop for Death - /He kindly stopped for me - ..." in my head, too.)

Bennett always slowed me down. Sometimes I even took a different route to avoid him, on foot or by car, if I was in a hurry. It didn’t take me long to learn I wasn’t his only ticket, and that it was okay to say No sometimes, or let him know if I might be having a challenging day myself.

I guess he had heart trouble, but his true heart was open to people, open to some bit of goodness in each new day. Rest in Peace, Bennett. I'll miss your stories, your hugs, your fist-bumps. We all miss you.

From The Fresh Air Transcript:

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOODBYE SONG")

RANKY TANKY: (Singing) Got to be going. Goodbye. Got to be leaving. Goodbye. So nice to meet you. Goodbye. So nice to see you. Goodbye. Got to be going. Goodbye. Got to be leaving. Goodbye. Can't wait to meet you. Goodbye. All nice people.


(Here’s a link to a local story about Bennett.)

For this week's Poetry Friday Roundup, please visit the always-amazing Diane at Random Noodling.

Poetry Friday - Step On Over to Lisa's for the Roundup

December 7, 2017

Howdy, All - Working overtime with the elves in the shop again this week! (I'll even list a few new jewelry items in coming days, for procrasti- er, I mean, last-minute shoppers! ;0) ) Please visit Lisa over at Steps & Staircases for this week's Poetry Friday Roundup. Jingle jingle!

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