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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday: Hospitality Through the Centuries

with Claudia, who even loaned me a hat!, and fabulous Hostess with the Mostest Joan. The bottom photo is from 1994 - at Penshurst with the Harrises.

At last month’s Poetry for All Highlights Founders Workshop, Eileen Spinelli told us that a writer needs time to meander. So please bear with me – I’m meandering today!

Last weekend, I had the terrific good fortune to attend the SCBWI Southern Breeze summer retreat, “Show Don't Tell: How Acting Techniques Improve Writing” led by Hester Bass. At first I thought I’d find a poem celebrating acting for today, and then I wanted to celebrate hospitality – shown by Hester in her leadership, shown by Joan Broerman, our region’s founder, who along with hubby Neal welcomed all of us into their home for sessions and meals, and shown by co-RA Claudia Pearson, who graciously offered me her gorgeous guest room to bunk in for the weekend.

A search for poems on “hospitality” led to Ben Jonson’s 1616 poem, “To Penshurst.” Well, this poem led me to an old photo album. Jeff, myself and Morgan, age two at the time in 1994, made a trip to England for our 10th anniversary. We were covered up with hospitality and wonderful day trips by friends of Jeff’s family – John and Pauline Harris, and their son Chris. Their home was in Sevenoaks, Kent, not far from the Penshurst estate, and off we went. John and Pauline are both gone now, but I will always remember their warmth and enthusiasm.

I’ll also always remember that trip to Penshurst – the medieval banquet hall and its chestnut beams and long, long tables transported us back to the fourteenth century! According to my notes, we stopped for a decadent cream tea in the Tea Room on the way out, where we were bid goodbye with double rainbows outside.

I figured since the poem was written by Ben Jonson, dramatist and contemporary of Shakespeare, it qualified as both acting-related and hospitality-related. It’s an “estate poem” which looks at nature, culture and social relationships. Here’s a taste with the beginning and a bit from later on:

To Penshurst

by Ben Jonson

Thou art not, Penshurst, built to envious show,
Of touch or marble; nor canst boast a row
Of polished pillars, or a roof of gold;
Thou hast no lantern, whereof tales are told,
Or stair, or courts; but stand’st an ancient pile,
And, these grudged at, art reverenced the while.
Thou joy’st in better marks, of soil, of air,
Of wood, of water; therein thou art fair.

But all come in, the farmer and the clown,
And no one empty-handed, to salute
Thy lord and lady, though they have no suit.
Some bring a capon, some a rural cake,
Some nuts, some apples; some that think they make
The better cheeses bring them, or else send
By their ripe daughters, whom they would commend
This way to husbands, and whose baskets bear
An emblem of themselves in plum or pear.
But what can this (more than express their love)
Add to thy free provisions, far above
The need of such? whose liberal board doth flow
With all that hospitality doth know;
Where comes no guest but is allowed to eat,
Without his fear, and of thy lord’s own meat …

For the entire poem, click here.

Oh – and did you know Ben Jonson is the only person buried in an upright position in Westminster Abbey? (Click here for more. Told you I was meandering.)

Thanks for visiting, and meander on over to Mary Lee’s A Year of Reading for the Poetry Friday roundup!
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Poetry Friday: Of Pocahontas, Bungee Jumping, and Motherhood

My daughter, Morgan, bungee jumps in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Kia Ora! (That’s a Maori greeting from New Zealand). My daughter, Morgan, returned yesterday from a Furman University Education Dept. May-mester foreign study trip. On their last day, she was first in line to bungee jump from the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown (the world’s first commercial bungee jump!).

Watching the video, I was amazed at how she leapt without hesitation, and with grace to boot! You see, she had said she would do a Pocahontas swan dive, and she did.

And with her halfway through college, and my son Seth a rising high school senior, I can’t help thinking about leaps from nests. (Echoes of last week: my preoccupation with nests continues with wrens just outside the back door, and a new little peeping occupant – probably a robin – high up in a camellia.)

Morgan and I always loved the movie, “Fly Away Home” (1996), about a 13-year-old girl sent to live with her sculptor father in Canada after the death of her mother. She ends up raising a motherless brood of Canada geese, and with her father’s knowledge of Ultralight planes, they lead the young geese on their first migration south, ensuring their survival. Inspired by a true story, there’s plenty of drama (and doses of humor) in this tale of growing up and of tricky family relationships. The movie also features one of my favorite songs of all time, “10,000 Miles," by the incredible Mary Chapin Carpenter. (If you haven’t heard it, grab a hanky and treat yourself . ("Fare thee well... .")

Thanks for indulging me in an original, personal poem this week.


When I was little,
my grandparents gave me
a Pocahontas doll.
I loved her red dress,
her smooth coffee skin,
her jet black hair.

I didn’t know I’d grow up
to have a real little girl
obsessed with Pocahontas , the Disney version.

In a flash she was a big girl, teasing her beloved AP History teacher:
Can’t we watch the movie in class?

I didn’t know this girl
would be so thirsty for the rush of air
that one day she’d leap
(held only by a cable)
40 meters down
from a bridge 10,000 miles away
in a perfect

Someday, I know,
she’ll leap from this nest.

I’ll dry my eyes,
smooth my feathers,
and sing to the wild, swirling world:

See that one there? Soaring with those iridescent wings?
She’s mine.

©Robyn Hood Black, all rights reserved

Thank you for visiting! Flap on over to Carol’s Corner for today’s Poetry Friday Roundup.
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Poetry Friday - Thinking Snow...

© Robyn Hood Black, all rights reservedDuring some snow days last year, my hubby and son had a little fun making a Snow Buddha.

Okay, it’s well above freezing and sunny today here in the north Georgia mountains, but there were a few flurries afoot just a few days ago. We usually eke out a handful of snow days in the season. Before you Northerners scoff at our weather wimpy-ness, remember – no one around here has chains for tires, and the cities don’t have a lot of heavy equipment. Plus, we’ll take a heavy dusting of snow or ice as an excuse to sit by the fire and drink hot chocolate. And read, read, read!
Since winter’s on its way, I thought we’d ring it in with Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882):

The Snow-Storm

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,

Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,

Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air

Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,

And veils the farm-house at the garden's end.

The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet

Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit

Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed

In a tumultuous privacy of storm.


Don’t you love that “tumultuous privacy of storm”? You can read the rest of the poem here, and cozy up to some more great poetry with Carol at Carol’s Corner for the Poetry Friday Roundup. [Which, by the way, will be HERE next week! :0) ] Read More 
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Poetry Friday - Flat Tires and a poem by Tess Taylor

Twice in the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent hours waiting on tires to be replaced. First was with my car, not long after we realized that the red plastic top my husband stopped to pick up on the road in front of our house was part of someone’s dislodged tool box, and nails were scattered all over the street.

The fallout didn’t happen for us until the next day, hours away in Nashville, and needing to get the youngest child to a college preview day. (Many thanks to the nice and wise hotel shuttle driver, who said, “Don’t let that flat tire ruin your day!”)

Yesterday aforementioned son called on the way to school and said, “My tire light is on.” Just the sudden changes in weather, I thought, but I switched cars at his school and took the car in for a quick oil change and a check. Five and a half hours later, I was finally leaving – the nail in his tire couldn’t be plugged and the dealer didn’t have the same tire in stock, so we had to wait on one to be delivered….

Well, I met some nice folks in the waiting rooms, because that’s how we do things in the South. I hope Gabriel’s first birthday party went well last night (what an excited young dad), and that the man whose grown daughter with Down’s Syndrome lives in Florida can settle down soon in a house he wants here in Georgia.

What does any of this have to do with elk? Well, nothing – except that in my search for a poem about a flat tire I stumbled on this one, in May’s POETRY which I have but confess must not have read, because this poet and poem were new to me. Somehow it spoke to me today, on the heels of All Souls Day and The Day of the Dead and all, and I found it quite moving:

This is from the last part of

Elk at Tomales Bay
by Tess Taylor

All bare now except
that fur the red-brown color

of a young boy’s head and also
of wild iris stalks in winter

still clung to the drying scalp.
Below the eye’s rim sagged

       flat as a bicycle tire.

The form was sinking away
The skin loosened, becoming other,

shedding the mask that hides
but must also reveal a creature.

Off amid cliffs and hills
some unfleshed force roamed free. ….

Click here to read the complete poem.

And for more great poetry, visit Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for the Poetry Friday Roundup!
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Of wee things and fairy dust...

A cantaloupe no bigger than an apple! For dinner, I halved it and put into two wee dishes, and my hubby filled the centers with grapes. ;0)
Some of you may recall my tragic garden-variety tale of a plundered cantaloupe a few weeks back.

Imagine my delight to discover a wee little cantaloupe this week, stem drying out and ready for “picking,” near the same spot. I’ve always been fascinated by tiny things and spent endless hours pretending I was one of Mary Norton’s "Borrowers" growing up!

So this week I’m offering a nod to all diminutive folk with a poem from Rose Fyleman (1877–1957). Her Wikipedia bio states that her her first publication, "There are Fairies at the Bottom of Our Garden," appeared in Punch in May of 1917. [I also like stories of people making their first splash into publishing at age 40 or later - ;0) ]

While I wouldn’t say the writing is spectacular, I personally needed something as light as fairy dust after a week of such heavy remembrances.


“The Best Game the Fairies Play”

by Rose Fyleman

The best game the fairies play,
The best game of all,
Is sliding down steeples—
(You know they’re very tall).
You fly to the weathercock,
And when you hear it crow,
You fold your wings and clutch your things
And then let go! …

For the rest of the poem, click here.

To slide down more poems, visit Amy at The Poem Farm for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup.
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The Greater Good

A New Year is the perfect time to renew our commitments to make a difference in the world, or to start a new habit that does.

An amazingly simple, effective way to help the planet and its human and animal inhabitants is simply with a click - or a few - a day! Since 1999,the GreaterGood Network has donated more than $20 million dollars to charities across the country and around the world,with grants distributed through, an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

I have a link to The Literacy Site on the right of this website.  Read More 
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On My First Baby's Leaving the Nest

Not long ago I was in the back yard with the dogs.

A brown thrasher squawked and carried on in the branches above me. Why was it moving closer rather than farther away?

Then I saw it - a brown thrasher baby, inside the tennis court fence and inside the half-filled dog water bowl. Now there was a dilemma.  Read More 
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