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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Dictionary for a Better World

 

Greetings, Poetry Lovers!

 

For the last decade give or take, I've written for a wonderful Character Education program, CORE ESSENTIAL VALUES, used by schools across the country. (If my editor happens to be reading this, I know I'm behind!  Sorry!  You'll hear from me soon…) A different core value is celebrated each month.  My bits of territory in the greater monthly offerings include an animal profile that somehow links to the value; a color that does the same, and quotations which reflect and expand its meaning.  I'll try to do a real post about it all.  I mention it now simply because I feel that such education is important – vitally important.  Perhaps it reinforces what a student is learning at home, or perhaps it introduces students to ways of being or conversations they don't often experience otherwise.

 

This interest is part of the reason I was so excited about the second book co-authored by my friends Irene Latham and Charles Waters, whose groundbreaking CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?  (Carolrhoda Books, 2018) has helped foster discussions of race relations for all ages. 

 

Chances are you've heard the buzz about, or are lucky enough to have read, DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD – Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z (hot off the press, also from Carolrhoda). "Rich" is the word that fills my mind and heart to describe this unique treasure.  It includes: poetry galore, in many familiar and off-the-beaten-path forms;  quotations that inspire and challenge (from contemporary voices and those that live on through their words); and thoughtful reflections throughout from both Irene and Charles. The back is chock-full of resources, making this volume oh-so-handy for teachers, media specialists, and parents.

 

And, the ART!  Oh, my.  Well, first, I'd dare you to resist the colorful cover.  It is a treat throughout – Mehrdokht Amini's varied images provide surprises at every turn, but are unified with an accessibility and sophistication through bold colors anchored with lots of (wonderful) dark shades, and a downright symphony of lively lettering and type. (Here is her website.)

 

The idea for the book sprouted two years ago when Charles and Irene were each waiting on flights home from snowy Michigan, after their school visit for that day got cancelled because of the weather.  Some free hours in a restaurant, some conversation… and, magic!  A book idea was born.

 

As Charles notes, however, these things are rarely an easy, straight shot.

 

"Through a rejection of another book idea, this book came into being," he says. "When one door closes, find that sliver of sunlight elsewhere."

 

Good advice!

 

And this book is full of good advice.  In addition to a poem to savor, each "entry" on an alphabetical topic (& some letters get more than one topic!) includes a quotation, a reflection (either "Charles says…" or "Irene says…" – or, for the four they co-wrote, "Irene and Charles say…"), and, finally, a "Try It" exercise suggesting ways to incorporate the theme into daily life. 

Many poetic forms will be familiar (cinquain,  persona, found poem), while others might be new to you (tricube, shadorma, etheree).

 

You'll see in the photo above that my Chihuaha's favorite poem was Irene's senryu. My little Rita does love mealtime!

 

SERVICE

 

helping hands fill plates

with meat-and-potato peaks

hope is gravy

 

©Irene Latham

 

The quote that goes along with this poem is from Lao-tzu (Tao Te Ching):

 

"The heart that gives, gathers."

 

Irene's response paragraph introduces us to some of her favorite childhood memories, when she lived down the street from a convent in Louisiana.  "One of my favorite things to do was to hang out in that enormous kitchen and help make cookies and soup to serve at retreats and community events," she writes.   The "Try it" piece invites readers to seek out service organizations and find one that fits.  "Sign up and serve just one shift, and see where it leads you."

 

Speaking of Japanese poetry forms, Irene says, "The poem that went through the most revisions -- and we still wish we could revise it at least one more time -- is 'Equality,' the renga. For that reason, it's one we ALWAYS read at school visits. So kids will know it takes a lot of work to find the right words... and even when a poem looks 'done' (as it does in a published book), there are often ways it can be improved."

 

I'll bet students are eager to add stanzas of their own.

 

Here are a couple from Irene and Charles:

 

...

 

star student, or one

who doesn't enjoy reading

we are all equal

 

whichever bathrooms we choose,

each of us wants to feel safe

 

 ...

 

This book will make readers of many different backgrounds feel safe, and, beyond that, inspired.  And beyond that, hopeful.

 

Certainly welcome in these challenging days! And a great jumping off point for National Poetry Month, don't you think? In fact, Naomi Shihab Nye has chosen DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD as the Young People's Poet Laureate Book Pick for April! :0) Here is a PDF with more of the book's story. (Learn more about Irene here and more about Charles here.) 

 

 

For more great poetry this week, visit our amazing and thoughtful Tabatha, who is always about making the world better, at The Opposite of Indifference.

*(Also, I'm working on my Spring artsyletters newsletter, which will include an old but timely poem and a quote or two, so I'll add the link here when it's ready.)* :0)

 

 Wishing you and yours the best of health.

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Poetry Friday - Now That You Have Time to Read and Write... David G. Lanoue's HAIKU GUY OMNIBUS (& More!)

Greetings, Poetry Lovers!

 

Happy Spring!  It's a comfort that the seasons still appear in turn.  

 

"Surreal" is definitely the word which keeps popping up like the daffodils.  I hope you and yours are well. 

 

If you're shuttered and going a little stir-crazy, maybe you're tackling that big pile of books on the bedroom nightstand?  Or ordering new books?  You might recall being curious about David G. Lanoue's HAIKU GUY series, after reading about it here somewhere, or maybe even half a dozen years ago in a column I wrote on Janice Hardy's Fiction University blog.  Well, good news!  To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the series, David has JUST released the HAIKU GUY OMNIBUS!  

 

This hefty, handy paperback features HAIKU GUY, LAUGHING BUDDHA, HAIKU WARS, FROG POET, and DEWDROP WORLD, all in one place. 

 

The back cover copy explains it well:

 

Five interconnected narratives explore the art of haiku by following the adventures of Buck-Teeth, a fictional student of haiku master Cup-of-Tea (the historical Issa).  Sliding easily back and forth between Old Japan and contemporary New Orleans, between the unfolding stories and the author's writing group commenting on those stories, the five meandering narratives reflect on the meaning of life, the purpose of poetry, and the search for enlightenment.  Though each little novel stands alone, together they form parts of a greater whole that, author David G. Lanoue suggests, can be discovered in the same way that one finds shapes in midsummer clouds - hence his advice to the reader with which he ends his Preface, "Squint hard."

 

These stories are both entertaining and inspiring, and unlike anything you've read before!  If you haven't read them, I know you'll enjoy the journey. 

 

Many of you know David through his "Daily Issa" contributions to your inbox. I don't know about you, but in these more-than-challenging times, I lap these up like a hummingbird at a trumpet flower. Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827) is beloved as one of the early haiku masters who found beauty in and connection with all living things despite a life full of hardships. (Here is info about David's Issa books.) 

 

David teaches English and world literature at Xavier College in New Orleans and is a translator of Japanese haiku as well as a writer. He was president of the Haiku Society of America from 2013 to 2015.  In addition to poetry and these unique haiku/fiction combinations, his books also include scholarly criticism, and the wonderful WRITE LIKE ISSA how-to guide, which I'm thrilled to have a poem in. 

 

Thursday's "Daily Issa" haiku was perfect for the first day of Spring:

 

 

at my dinner tray

a sparrow chirps...

spring rain

 

 

I featured a few of David's Issa haiku on some seasonal business-card-sized poem cards in my Etsy shop, including this one for Spring:

 

 

the mountain sunset

within my grasp...

spring butterfly

 

 

(I've also featured this particular card in a Send Spring Cheer pack I've just come up with. My idea is to encourage folks to send notes to those who might be feeling especially isolated right now.  The pack includes my wren and book note cards, eight first-class flower Forever stamps, eight spring Issa cards, and a sheet of sparkly red heart stickers.  It's listed at just a feather above my cost with free shipping, ready-made with all that's needed for sending, except the writer's personal note and the walk to the mailbox.)

 

Many thanks, and hearty congratulations, to David for the new book!  And much appreciation for the beauty and kindness added to the world through so many works. 

 

Sending love to all in these trying days.  I hope the chatter of birds and the surprise of new blooms can cheer your heart as you venture out for some fresh air and Vitamin D each day.  (And for those of you in snow, I hope Spring arrives soon!)

 

For more poetry (and art!) to help you through, please visit the lovely and talented Michelle Kogan for this week's Roundup.

 

All in this together. XO

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Poetry Friday - Haiku from my Friends for the Times We're In....

 

Greetings, Poetry Lovers - Happy Friday the 13th!

 

Much on our collective minds this week, I know.  I so enjoyed a recent email exchange with my St. Augustine area haiku peeps (they kindly adopted me a couple-few years ago, and I'm just a few hours up the coast!).

 

I thought others might also appreciate the haiku that these talented folks tucked at the end of their messages.

 

Time, the calendar, seasons – this current time we're in.  All of these things are on my mind, often, and are folded into these gems of poems below.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Leap Year

two free cups of

morning coffee 

 

Paula Moore

 

 

 

 

daylight savings

what was never

ours to keep

 

Michael Henry Lee

 

 First appeared in Tiny Words Issue 15.1 March 2015

 

 

 

 

flu avoidance…

a bow at a katana's

distance

 

Dennis (gobou) Holmes

 

 

(*Note from Robyn – a katana is a Japanese samurai sword.)

 

 

 

daylight savings

my dog still knows

what time it is

 

Antoinette Libro

 

 

 

Okay, and one from me for today, about the current state of affairs:

 

 

Friday the 13th

too many cracks

in the sidewalk

 

Robyn Hood Black

 

 

All poems are ©copyright their respecive authors, all rights reserved. Shared with permission of the poets.

 

Wishing safety and good health all around.  At least we can enjoy some fine poetry without leaving home.  Now, keep time with Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme for this week's Roundup!  

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Poetry Friday - Downton Delights...

 

Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  (First, that crazy looking column above really is a series of pictures; click to open in a new window and click to view at a size you can see. ;0)  The Authors Guild websites don't yet offer the option for several pictures interspersed in a blog post.)

 

Last Friday, after my author school visit in Georgia, my third-grade-teacher-daughter Morgan and I took off for a Mama-Daughter Downton weekend at Biltmore House in Asheville. Though we had to drive through snow to get there ("It's Narnia" Morgan said...), we arrived to a beautiful cozy room at the hotel on the estate, and then we blissfully hopped on and off shuttles on Saturday to see the exhibits.  We were celebrating our January birthdays a little late, splurging to stay on the estate at the end of the winter rates, and before the Downton exhibits exit in early April.

 

There's some Downton history here. Morgan's wedding in 2016 definitely had some Downton-ish flair (I put up a few pix on my art blog afterwards here), after Morgan and I fell in love with the TV series and would text about it long-distance.  When the (fantastic!) movie came out this past fall, I drove the 10-to-12-hour round trip just to see it with her in north Georgia. I bought us cheap, fun little fascinator hats and she was a good sport to wear hers to the movie!

 

For Morgan's actual birthday a few weeks ago, I discovered that the costume jewelry company 1928 had a Downton Abbey line (HOW did I not know that?) and I had Jeff help me pick out a long beaded necklace to have sent to her.  Then, last weekend, I took another little box from said jewelry ("jewellery") line - I had bought us matching earrings!  (No, we didn't actually both wear them at the same time. ;0)  )

 

The exhibit at Deerpark at Biltmore Estate was delightful.  Each main character had his or her own display with some background story, costume items in some cases, and 'artifacts' such as letters.  There was an interactive quiz you could take at computer kiosks to apply for a job at Downton - Morgan and I were both suited to be a cook, like Mrs. Patmore!  So much for a life of leisure.  

 

The costume exhibit at Antler Village was much smaller, but oh-so-delicious, with actual apparel worn by the actors, men and women.  Oh, the beaded dresses.... Sigh. And the jewelry!!  Swoon, swoon, swoon.  

 

Okay, this IS Poetry Friday after all, and I've not shared any poetry yet.  In keeping with the general time period, I turned to one of my glorious December Poetry Swap gifts from Linda Baie.  She had given me a copy of THE BEST POEMS of 1930.  (I haven't "recycled" it yet into Etsy items, but I have tagged some pages... ;0)  )  

 

The Downton Abbey TV series takes place from 1912 through 1925.  The movie's setting was in 1927.  But I figured the poetry in this book was close enough to share some of the 1920s sensibilities.  I tried to find a couple of poems that might resonate for diehard Downton fans. 

 

The book, published by Harcourt Brace & Co. with poems selected by Thomas Moult, and "decorations" by Elizabeth Montgomery, opens with this poem:

 

 

A Prologue for Poems

 

by John A. Holmes

 

As music builds a bright impermanent tower

High in the sunlight, wild with birds

And banners, so this chosen hour

Will take you

Briefly from the world.

 

Until the windy flags are furled,

the last page turned, the music ended,

Wander, well attended

Through the gate and climb the stairs.

 

At the top look down, look down, and see

My broad enchanted land

Where south is love, and death lies north,

And oceans on either hand.

 

 

And here's a short poem from within:

 

 

Being but Men

 

by Monk Gibbon

 

Being but men, not gods, we'll need take pride

In all that gives the lie to this mean state;

All moments borne beyond the common tide,

All littleness of heart made briefly great;

All beauty vouched with sudden indrawn breath,

A word, a turn of head, a lovely look,

A gesture grave, a phrase defying death,

Or a chance sentence in an unsought book.

 

 

I hope our little Downton-y Diversion has brought a smile.  The wonderful Rebecca at Sloth Reads has the Roundup this week - and volcanoes and eggs!  Enjoy...

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