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Life on the Deckle Edge

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


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.
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Poetry Friday - Let's Go to Scotland!



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.
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Poetry Friday - Simple, Poetic Holiday Gems...


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.
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Poetry Friday - Young America by Julia M. Dana


Poetry Friday Greetings!

This week, the news left me feeling heavy, again, and dashing off yet another letter to a Senator, explaining that while I appreciate his email survey/solicitation of feedback re. the tax bill, none of that will matter an iota if a big chunk of the world gets blown up because of recklessness. Maybe not quite enough sleep has me overreacting.

I craved something lighter to share, and stumbled upon this offering, one of the "brilliant gems of song" in my book, Among the Poets - The Best Poems by the Best Authors, selected by A. A. Smith (J. A. Ruth & Co., Philadelphia and Chicago, 1886). The book makes me smile, with its ornate cover, fancy type, and still-shiny gilded edges. It's one of the few in my studio that's safe from my, um, repurposing....

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the poem, which I found uncomfortably relevant. Make of it what you will. [I was not able to uncover biographical details about the poet except other publishing credits, some in children's publications. But if Julia were around today, I'd love to meet her for tea!]


           Young America
            by Julia M. Dana

"Come hither, you madcap darling!"
      I said to my four-year-old.
Pray what shall be done to the bad, bad girl
      Who will not do as she's told?
Too well you love your own wee way,
      While little you love to mind;
But mamma knows what is best for you,
"And isn't she always kind?"

So I told her of "Casabianca,"
And the fearful burning ship.
"Do you think," said I, "such a child as that
      His mother would have to whip?"
And my heart went out with the story and
      of the boy so nobly brave,
Who would not dare to disobey,
      Even his life to save.

Then her eyes grew bright as the morning,
      And they seemed to look me through.
Ah - ah, thought I, you understand
      The lesson I have in view.
"Now what do you think of this lad, my love?"
      Tell all that is in your heart."
"I fink," she said, "he was drefful good,
      But he wasn't the least bit smart."




Note - The poem "Casabianca" recounts a story (based on a historical incident) of the young son of a French commander, who would not abandon his post when the ship caught fire without a command from his father, and - died. Wikipedia says the poem was standard fare for schoolchildren in the UK and the US for a hundred years, until the 1950s. (Whew - I was barely spared by a decade or two!)

Speaking of tea, wouldn't you know Mary Lee at A Year of Reading has some ready for us, over at the Roundup? Thanks, Mary Lee!
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Poetry Friday - Little Bits & Leftovers (Found Poetry Ornaments)


Happy Post-Thankgsgiving!

I hope you and yours had a warm and wonderful holiday together. As some face empty chairs at the table, or empty pockets, and as we often cringe to turn on the news, shared times of celebration are to be especially savored.

As are leftovers! Today I have some little bits to share which don't add calories. In recent years, I've been able to find great little gold frames to use for found poem ornaments for my Etsy shop, but they are elusive. This year I found some silver(ish) photo frames made the same way, but they're a bit rough around the edges. They are lightweight - aluminum? - and they have scritches and scratches, particularly at the tops.

No matter - I had to conjure up a few ornaments with them anyway. Two regular sized ones; two tiny ones, for now. (I finished listing these while traveling, and one listing got swallowed up in some cyber black hole on Etsy. I'll get it posted later Friday after I'm back.[Update - fixed now!])

I used vintage stamps for the images on one side of these, and found poems/phrases clipped from GOLDEN DAYS For Boys and Girls, Vol. XVIII -- No. 6, December 26, 1896, (and one from January 22, 1898) [Philadelphia: James Elverson, Publisher] on the others.

The first is my wish for this season:

kind,
indulgent
Christmas Eve
People
everywhere.


It has a postage stamp with a classic painting of the nativity on the back. I'm not sure of its country of origin.

The second, from an article about making Christmas gifts:

you have made
beauty
perfectly
like
old gold and
scarlet


with a beautiful Australian Christmas nativity stamp on the reverse side, printed in a gorgeous red (on my handpainted verdigris background).

The third, a small one and the one temporarily lost on Etsy, has a Canadian Christmas stamp on the back - a jolly Santa! - and the following:

buried up
drifted
what fun it was
all bundled up



The fourth, also small, is perhaps my favorite. And I do hope you'll forgive/indulge me. The stamp side features a four-cent US postage stamp from 1977 which reads, "A Public That Reads - A Root of Democracy" (backed by the handpainted verdigris).

Here's the found text:

heathenish
Christmas
liberal


For this one, a quote by G K. Chesterton (1874-1936) floated in my mind: "Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly."

I've made lots of new magnets this year with letters and vintage literary stamps (new Emily D!), and I posted a bit of a magnet how-to on my artsyletters site. I also featured that Chesterton quote in my new artsyletters letter newsletter, and there's a sign-up button on the right at artsyletters.com. Seasonal only - I won't have my act together to conjure one up more often than four times a year! ;0) Here are links to my Etsy shop magnet section and ornament section. (Free shipping on orders of $25 & up this Black Friday through Cyber Monday!) ;0)

Whatever shape your own leftovers take - culinary or literary - I hope you have a relaxing and peaceful weekend before the whirlwind of December! Continue the poetic celebrating over at Carol's Corner, where Carol is Rounding Up and sharing Carole Boston Weatherford's SCHOMBURG: THE MAN WHO BUILT A LIBRARY.
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Poetry Friday - Haiku by Liz and Yours Truly in ACORN



Greetings, Poetry Friends! For those in the Northern Hemisphere, I hope you are having a lovely fall. Many recent weather challenges in parts of the US, I know.

Fall brings acorns, and if you are a serious fan of haiku, perhaps it should bring the haiku journal Acorn to your doorstep. When I first fell into the form, I fell in love with this gem of a journal. I enjoyed and studied it, and have been fortunate to have my own poems appear in it over the years.

Founded by A.C. Missias in 1998, Acorn was edited by Carolyn Hall when I discovered it. Susan Antolin took over editorial reins in 2012. The selective pocket-sized journal, with its simple layout and contributors from around the world, is published twice a year.

My poem in the current issue is one of several I've written after visiting our son, Seth, in Asheville. He is doing a service-year internship there with an urban ministry program which primarily serves those experiencing homelessness, as well as others in the community. After taking Seth out to breakfast one quiet Sunday morning, as we walked a few blocks back to our car, I was struck by the following image:


empty street
she stoops to pocket
a half-cigarette



©Robyn Hood Black
Acorn, No. 39: Fall 2017



This week Charlotte Digregorio asked if she could feature this poem as a daily haiku on her terrific Writer's Blog. (Thank you, Charlotte!)

(To simply move on from my poem without further explication, skip this wee paragraph.) Heavy-handed poetic devices are avoided in haiku, but subtle ones can be slipped in if they don't detract from the images. In this poem, I thought the consonance of "st" and "p" sounds worked, because the reader is stopped by them somewhat, as the subject stops to pick up a used cigarette. Also, the word "stoop" can carry more than one connotation. Its meaning as a noun might even come to mind, silently suggesting a resting place where an unhoused person might rest or sleep for a spell at the entrance to a building.

Back to Acorn...

I was delighted to see a poem by our own Elizabeth Steinglass in the current issue as well.

Liz is another big fan of the journal.

"I love holding a volume of Acorn in my hand," she says. "It's just the right size and the paper is beautiful, but in a subtle way that provides a perfect backdrop for the haiku."

In the way of haiku, hers is both timeless and timely. I believe many will find that it particularly resonates this week, so I leave you with her rich words.


hands cupped
around a fragile flame
candlelight vigil



©Elizabeth Steinglass
Acorn, No. 39: Fall 2017



(Thanks for sharing, Liz.) Love and light to those who especially need it this week.

One pocket of our Poetry Friday universe which always offers warmth and light is Jama's Alphabet Soup - Visit Jama today for both, and for the Roundup!
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Poetry Friday - POEMS ARE TEACHERS author Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, and a Giveaway!



As I pack up for a week of school visits in the Atlanta area next week, I am SO excited to be tucking in a brand-new, soul-enriching resource, POEMS ARE TEACHERS – How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres, HOT off the press this week from Heinemann. It is the result of the passion, creativity and smarts of our own Amy Ludwig VanDerwater of The Poem Farm. A graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University, and a former 5th grade teacher, Amy is the author of picture books, professional works, and lots and lots of poems!

Each section of POEMS ARE TEACHERS includes a poem by a contemporary adult poet and two poems by students (grades 2 through 8). These are models exemplifying six topics: finding ideas, choosing perspective and point of view, structuring texts, playing with language, crafting beginnings and endings, and choosing titles. Of course, the poems are so rich that teachers and students will find cross-over examples of all kinds of techniques, leading to lively classroom discussions. And the book’s clear organization makes it easy to jump in and out according to specific objectives.

The quality of the poems by adults is a little breathtaking, with names you will surely recognize, including some familiar Poetry Friday contributors. I have to say, the student poems really choked me up (like “What Ifs” by Alex C., grade 8), or made me break out into helpless laughter (such as “A Bacteria Tragedy” by George M., grade 3). These and the other poems by young writers are honest and surprising and fully felt – terrific examples to share in any classroom. (Hats off to the teachers of these young writers.) Each student poem is presented in the author’s own handwriting, making the poetry personal and accessible.

Here’s a sample of a poem by a contemporary adult writer, Kristy Dempsey, in the “Writers Play with Language” section:


Rain Song

Rain taps out a rhythm,
a rapid skipping rhythm
a plitter-plinking, plopping,
hopping, bopping kind of beat.

It starts with just a drizzle,
a syncopated sizzle,
a sound that soon becomes a tune
as raindrops hit the street.

It sets my toes to tapping,
I’m twirling and I’m clapping,
Splashing, dashing, laughing
as I move my dancing feet.

Play the water music,
the thrilling, trilling music!
Spill the notes from every cloud,
DripDrop, PlipPlop. Repeat!


©Kristy Dempsey. All rights reserved. Used with permission. (Thanks for sharing, Kristy!)

Immediately following in “WORDS FROM THE POET,” Kristy says, …To me, all writing is made to be read out loud, to be heard and even performed! When I’m writing, both poetry and prose, you’ll find me tapping my hands or feet, dancing and jumping, and using my mouth and tongue to make sounds – almost like beatboxing – so I can listen to the rhythm of my words.

The book also offers a wonderful foreword by Katherine Bomer, and a heartfelt dedication to Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Ever Amy, the author encourages readers/users of this book to “fall in love first” with texts and poems, and then explore what techniques might be learned from the way those words are put together. The pages of this book are filled with play and with joy – I think lots of teachers will be falling in love! So happy Amy is joining us today for a behind-the-scenes peek.

Welcome, Amy! You are both an award-winning poet and a teacher of writing. How do your own poetic sensibilities inform your teaching?

Because I write and share regularly, I understand the terror associated with writing and sharing. So the more I write, the better I become at approaching young writers with gentleness. I know what it feels like to take a soul-risk, and so I work to listen carefully, to hear what is be most helpful to a writer now, be it encouragement or a tip.

How did the idea for this book come about? What is its own backstory?

Working in the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project office with Lucy Calkins back in the early ‘90s changed my life. During that time as a graduate student, I learned from many brilliant folks including Katie Wood Ray, Carl Anderson, Georgia Heard, and Isoke Nia. I got to carry Katherine Paterson’s backpack and listen in as great minds spoke to groups large and small. I heard gorgeous speeches and watched masterful teachers. Then, several years later, I met Lee Bennett Hopkins, my poetry teacher to whom this book is dedicated. My life changed again as I worked hard to write stronger, leaner poems. This book is a marriage of those two wonderful parts of my learning life.

No two students are the same, of course, but do you find students connect to poetry in a different way than they connect to other genres? (As readers and/or as writers.)

Poetry frees us. Many children and adults discover our beliefs and our voices through poems. Again and again, teachers share with me stories of students who did not connect - who even struggled - with other genres. But with poetry...their voices sang with rhythm, metaphor, and deep connection. Children know that poems are full of love.

What is an example of a bridge students can cross between poetry and fiction or nonfiction?

In poetry, we quickly see how repetition can tie stanzas and lines together. We speak often about repeating words and lines and sounds when we read poems. Yet we find repetition threading through narrative and information and opinion texts too: the recurring image, the last line echoing a first line, the surprising yet perfect alliterative phrase. Standing just on one page, a poem can illuminate all kinds of writing techniques. And once we understand, we can bring these techniques with us; we can welcome them to seep into our prose.

You’ve had lots of experience writing poetry and educational texts. What were some of the delights and challenges of being an anthologist of sorts, working with so many different poets, teachers and students?

It was a gift! To be in touch with so many fabulous poets of all ages and so many wise teachers...this whole thing was a gift for me. But difficult, as I am a disorganized person. And difficult, too, because I have read and admire mountains of professional books. I was scared to do this - What if it didn’t work out? Aside from that, the hardest part was knowing when to stop. How many poems? How many explorations? How many words for each? For there’s no end to the possibility. Fortunately, there was a deadline. My amazing editor, Katie Wood Ray, and everyone at Heinemann was marvelous, making extra space and bigger pages to fit so much goodness from so many talented people. POEMS ARE TEACHERS is: one third poetry anthology, one third professional book, and one third celebration of student writing. I can’t believe it’s out in the world.

Thank you, my friend Robyn, for having me at your place today. I am so happy to be able to share your clever poem “Word Wanted” in this new book...and now I think I’ll go celebrate by shopping at artsyletters!


[She really did, and she insisted on keeping that in there. Thank you, Amy!]

Here’s my poem; I’m beyond grateful to have it included in this treasure of a book:


Word Wanted

POEM seeking just the right word.
Must dazzle when written, spoken or heard.

Slight words, trite words need not apply.
Precise and concise words, give us a try.

Regardless of your part of speech,
a noteworthy job could be within reach.

Endowed with sound second to none?
Potential for growth, if you are the one.



©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.


But wait – there’s more! Heinemann has kindly offered to send a copy of POEMS ARE TEACHERS to one lucky reader of this post! Please leave a comment below by Tuesday, Oct. 31 (Boo!), and I’ll announce the random winner on that Poetry Friday. Many thanks to Heinemann, and bouquets of gratitude to Amy for visiting with us today.

Now, please enjoy ALL the instructive poetry this week over at A Day in the Life, where Teacher/Reader/Writer Leigh Ann has the Poetry Friday Roundup! (Thanks for hosting, Leigh Ann.)
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Poetry Friday - Haiku Old and New (Anthologies)



Happy Poetry Friday the 13th!

Are you a fan of Dover Publications? I seem to have a few in various bookshelves and stacks, including some at my studio with such titles as Masterpieces of Illuminated Letters and Borders and Florid Victorian Ornament, among others. While online recently, I came across a Dover Thrift Editions volume titled THE CLASSIC TRADITION OF HAIKU – An Anthology, edited by Faubion Bowers. At just $3 for a new copy, I couldn’t pass it up! I’m not sure how it had evaded my haiku shelves before.

Originally published in 1996, it includes a short foreword with a bit of history and explanation, and then more than 150 poems written between 1488 and 1902 by Japanese poets, with translations into English by more than 40 scholars. Often more than one translation is provided for a poem.

I am enjoying making my way through this slim volume!

Here is an autumn poem, translated by Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi:

akikaze no / yama o mawaru ya / kane no koe

the autumn wind
resounds in the mountain –
temple bell


Chiyo-ni (1703-1775), one of the few female haiku master poets of her time


You can find this paperback collection at Dover Publications or on Amazon , with online versions free or nearly free as well.

Speaking of anthologies, I’m also enjoying the new Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology for 2017, on down the road, edited by LeRoy Gorman. I don’t always have my act together to submit on time, but I did this year.
(Our own Jone Rush MacCulloch has a beautiful haiku in this collection as well.)

My poem seems timely right about now, so here you are:


sea fog
the ghost story
I almost remember


©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.


Speaking of ghosts, in my studio I’m conjuring up several pieces of haunted jewelry and slowly getting them listed in my Etsy shop this Friday the 13th. Mwah haaa haaa. (Update - I made a separate little "haunted jewelry" section this weekend - Click here if you'd like to see!)

And one more thing about haiku anthologies - The Living Haiku Anthology is an ambitious, online project seeking to collect and present "all styles and approaches to haiku ... from a global perspective, for the benefit of those able to discern those true gems assurgent in the current foment," as described by Dr. Richard Gilbert, Professor, Graduate School of Social and Cultural Sciences, Kumamoto University, Japan, in his introduction at the LHA site. He adds, "Please reach out to other poets and let them know the LHA extends an open invitation to published haiku poets of all countries wishing to be presented and represented." I submitted several poems and my page was added this week. :0)

For all kinds of Friday the 13th fun, please visit our Irrepressible and Iridescent Irene, who is bravely rounding up this week!  Read More 
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Poetry Friday - Poe and Unexpected Gifts


October Greetings, Poetry Peeps! I do love this month so.

At the moment, various projects with a spooky bent are strewn around my studio. I’ve been acquiring vintage or literary-themed postage stamps lately, and when I stumbled upon this recent 2009 image above celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allen Poe, well – more on that in a minute. The 42-cent stamp features a portrait by Michael J. Deas, who, according to the USPS web page about the stamp, is also an expert on portraits and daguerreotypes of the mysterious author and poet.

Even in miniscule form, I find Deas’s portrait haunting and full of life… the eyes really do follow you! I also recently discovered a wholesale supplier of hearty pewter shepherd’s hook bookmarks, ready for the addition of charms or oddities. And I found a wonderful pewter raven charm. Somehow I knew these things all needed to come together, so I placed the stamp on a vintage-y cardstock background (re-purposed from part of an old promotional postcard I’d had printed a few years ago) and made a magnet, then made a bookmark with a few links of black chain and the pewter components, and combined these with a pack of my raven note cards. Voilà – a Raven-Poe Gift Pack. (I’ve gone a little crazy with new gift packs to add to my regulars – other new ones pictured above, all made in a similar fashion, include a Bird Lover’s Pack, a Cat Lover’s Pack, A Book Lover’s Pack, and an additional Teacher Gift Pack.)

Back to Poe - Here are two excerpts from Poe’s 1850 poem, “The Bells”


                     The Bells
           by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

                            I

      Hear the sledges with the bells-
            Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
      How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
      While the stars that oversprinkle
      All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
      Keeping time, time, time,
      In a sort of Runic rhyme,
    To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
      From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
            Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.


                            IV

          Hear the tolling of the bells-
              Iron Bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
      In the silence of the night,
      How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
      For every sound that floats
      From the rust within their throats
              Is a groan. …



For the poem its in entirety, click here.


Speaking of stamps, a Poetry Friday friend emailed to see if I ever used vintage stamps? And here I was, with little piles all around.

And speaking of gifts, I learned a new-to-me word on the subject this week, and I must share it with fellow wordsmiths. We had dinner with another couple Wednesday night, and my very dear friend pulled something from her purse and said, “Here – a sursy for you.”

“A what?” I asked, eyeing the fetching little box of pumpkin spice caramels.

“Sursy,” she said. “A little gift.” Well, I went crazy over the caramels AND the word, and was surprised I didn’t know it.

My friend’s husband started Googling and quickly determined that it didn’t share the same spelling with the goddess Circe – it’s just “s-u-r-s-y.” He found this definition in the Urban Dictionary: “A term commonly used in the South to denote a small, unexpected gift.”

Why didn't I know this word? – I am a Southerner after all, but – okay, perhaps growing up in Florida was not quite the same as growing up in the Carolinas. (A debate for another day.)

I told my friend that I had just received a lovely fall note in the mail from a far-away poetry friend, and it had a little Pumpkin Spice teabag enclosed. I guess it was a sursy?! And wouldn’t it be perfect to sip a cup of that tea with one of those caramels?

I’m grateful to these friends for unexpected gifts. Especially this week, when the horror has not been of the tingly Poe variety, but has seared our hearts.

Poetry Friday, for me, is always restorative. One soul-filling sursy after another. Enjoy each treasure today with our beautiful Violet, gathering all in the Roundup this week.  Read More 
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Poetry Friday - Some Golden Laughs... "Detention Hour"


September is tossing us a few hot-potato days here in the Southeast as we stand on the brink of October… but cooler temps are promised for coming days. In my slightly toasty studio, I decided to pull out some copies of GOLDEN DAYS – a newspaper/magazine “for girls and boys” published in the late 1800s (Philadelphia: James Elverson, Publisher) to see if I had any September issues. Voilà! I found one dated September 11, 1897.

Any poems inside? Well, yes - a couple.

This one made me laugh, so perhaps it can tide us over until the SNL season premiere Saturday night.



            DETENTION HOUR
                by John W. Ellis


The golden sunlight floods the room,
      The flies wheel to and fro,
And throught he open window comes
      A hum of life below.
Three boys, before a battered desk,
      Survey with hopeless gaze
a page of algebra bestrewn
      With x’s, b’s and a’s.

Before a blackboard scribbled o’er,
      In quite a careless way,
with scraps of knowledge gathered from
      The labors of the day,
The master sits with pencil blue,
      And marks without a blench
The erring sum, the misspelt word,
      The French that is not French.

All silent sit the prisoned ones,
      Save when a far-off shout
Brings visions to their restless minds
      Of merry scenes without.
Then inky hands grasp tumbled hair,
      And, like a distant sea,
A murmuring rises through the room
      Of mystic formulae.

And so, throughout a tedious hour,
      The loud clock ticks apace,
Each youth intent upon his book
      With studious, frowning face,
remembering on yester eve
      How simple seemed each rule,
When some inviting game obscured
      The coming morrow’s school.

And now at length the captives rise,
      Each gazing on his book,
And sidle to their jailer’s seat
      Snatching one furtive look.
They stumble through the dreaded task,
      Then cast their books aside,
And speed through the deserted school
      To the glad world outside.

And now the creeping hour is past,
      The silent striving done.
Rebellious z and stubborn y
      Fly with the sinking sun;
And to the east with satchels full,
      Three scholars march with glee,
While westward, with a sober step,
      Departs the dominie.




I couldn’t find any information about this poem online. The only historical John W. Ellis I came across was the pro-slavery governor of North Carolina who lived from 1820-1861. Did he write humorous poetry that an editor would pluck up a few decades later? Hmmm. Somehow that doesn’t seem plausible, but I’m not sure.

An Edward Sylvester Ellis (1840 –1916) was an American author who did write for young readers and had many different pen names! He was also a teacher, school administrator and journalist, according to Wikipedia.

Well, if anyone knows, I’m happy to be enlightened.

I did look up a couple of words in this poem – “blench” means to shrink or flinch; a “dominie” is a schoolmaster.

Perhaps the helplessness before algebra got me, or the line that tickled me the most, “The French that is not French.” (Le français qui n'est pas français?) Ha!

Merci for visiting, and be sure to sashay over to Writing the World for Kids, where lovely Laura has this week’s Roundup.  Read More 
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