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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Dear March by Emily D and Irish Blessings


Greetings, Poetry Lovers! Happy St. Patrick's Day Weekend. 


I remember a plaque on the wall of my grandparents' house with (some version of) the famous Irish Blessing:


May the road rise to meet you.

May the wind be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

and rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


(There are variations, of course, and it should be noted this is an English interpretation!  Similar blessings in Irish Gaelic might not be translated correctly.)


Also, wasn't it also at their house - or at my other grandmother's house? - where I was amused by the plaque that read,


May you be in Heaven

a half an hour before

the Devil knows you're dead.


Any other fun Irish sayings/blessings that come to mind? Not everything that circulates is accurate, I'd wager, but we do like to claim our Irish roots, don't we?


Back on this side of the ocean, I'll also celebrate the month with our Dear Emily D. (1830 - 1886).


Dear March—Come in—(1320)

by Emily Dickinson

Dear March—Come in—
How glad I am—
I hoped for you before—
Put down your Hat—
You must have walked—
How out of Breath you are—
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest—
Did you leave Nature well—
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me—
I have so much to tell—


I got your Letter, and the Birds—
The Maples never knew that you were coming—
I declare - how Red their Faces grew—
But March, forgive me—
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue—
There was no Purple suitable—
You took it all with you—


Who knocks? That April—
Lock the Door—
I will not be pursued—
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied—
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come


That blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame—


Wishing you and yours a lovely start to SPRING.  Pear trees and forsythia are blooming in full force here, and a pair of bluebirds has returned to our back yard.


Please wish Tanita a Happy Birthday Month over at {fiction, instead of lies}, and enjoy all the wonderful poetry she's rounding up!  Thanks, Tanita. 

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Poetry Friday - Emily Dickinson's "Winter is Good"

New ornament featuring a vintage Emily Dickinson postage stamp- listing is here in my Etsy shop! (I have William Shakespeare, too. ;0) )


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  I hope you had a good Thanksgiving weekend last week, wherever you were.  Prayers for all with an empty chair at the holidays this year.


Over here  on the South Carolina Coast, Friday morning temps will be in the 40s, which is chilly for us. (Then we'll warm back up.)  But pictures of growing piles of snow from the Northwest to the Plains are something else altogether, like the pictures posted online recently by our own Amy Ludwig VanDerwater up in New York state. 


So here's a little poem by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) for the new season.  (Love the last line... we were happy to say goodbye to the hurricane season, by the way, on Wednesday!)



Winter is good - his Hoar Delights (1316)

Emily Dickinson 

Winter is good - his Hoar Delights
Italic flavor yield -
To Intellects inebriate
With Summer, or the World -

Generic as a Quarry
And hearty - as a Rose -
Invited with asperity
But welcome when he goes.


Happy December! 


Grab your snowshoes and shuffle on over to see our lovely Catherine at Reading to the Core for this week's Roundup!

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Poetry Friday - One More Tiger-y Poem Postcard, and... Birds!

Greetings, Poetry Lovers!


Happy to share one last New Year's Poem Postcard Project gift that stalked its way to my mailbox this week (part of the annual swap organized by our wonderful Jone Rush MacCulloch, whom I get to see soon as she graces this side of the country with a visit!)


This card celebrates the Lunar New Year - The Year of the Tiger (as I chose to do with my own card featured a couple of weeks ago in the mix).  Michelle drew a stately tiger in brown with subtle washes, and added a jaunty message on the right side.  On the back is this poem:


Tiger tiger

by twilight

are you there

within the night?

Heed their call

prevent their plight


©Michelle Kogan.


You can learn more about Michelle and her art (she's a fellow Etsian!) here


And you can learn more about the plight of tigers, and efforts to save them and many other animals, here


Speaking of animals, ones who would generally prefer to be far away from tigers, did you know this weekend is the annual Great Backyard Bird Count?  I'm going to try to participate some again this year - it's been a while since I joined in.  The event, sponsored by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Birds Canada, is now quite smart phone-savvy, with apps (Merlin and EBird), making ID'ing and reporting easier than ever.  No problem if you'd rather use less technology - the organizers welcome results in a variety of forms!  I "attended" a webinar this week in preparation for the Count, and it was nice seeing the dedicated faces who help pull off this oh-so-important project. (I also stocked the bird feeder and cleaned out the bird bath!)


The time commitment is up to you - submit as few or as many results over the weekend as you'd like.  The only requirement about that is that they ask you to devote at least 15 minutes to each counting session.  Learn more about how to participate here


Now, I have to go do a little research or app-perusing to learn about those lovely birds pictured above; I saw them on Thursday, blending in with the rocks at Hunting Island here, and flying off in a short frenzy before settling back down in front of the foaming waves....


In honor of the Count, here are the opening stanzas from a famous poem by our dear Emily Dickinson (1830-1886):


A Bird came down the Walk (328)

A Bird came down the Walk—
He did not know I saw—
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,


And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass—
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass—



(Read the rest here.) 


Now flap those wings and soar on over to Small Reads for Brighter Days, where the ever-delightful Laura is rounding up this week.  Thanks, Laura! 

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Poetry Friday - a Wave from the Road, Holding a Lamp...

Robyn with "Wattson" in 2019

Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  


Just a wave this week, as I'm on the way to my annual week of author visits in schools in North Georgia, as part of Cobb EMC & Gas South's Literacy Week.  The picture above is from our last time all in-person-like, in 2019.  (Some authors have always presented virtually, but most of us travel from school to school.)  Last year, it was all virtual - a challenge, but we did it!  Though that was interrupted by severe storms which wiped out power across counties for days, so that "week" stretched into November, too.  


This year, most of us are in-person, but there are several who will present virtually as well.  It's always a blast, and always completely exhausting. I look forward to sharing the poetry love with hundreds of kids. Or more - I'm not even sure of the exact counts this year on my schedule!


In honor of the vital work our energy companies and co-ops do to keep our lights on and our heat going in the winter, here's a poem by Emily Dickinson for the week:


The Poets light but Lamps — (930)


by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

The Poets light but Lamps —
Themselves — go out —
The Wicks they stimulate
If vital Light


Inhere as do the Suns —
Each Age a Lens
Disseminating their
Circumference —


(Remembering two giants of children's literature whose lights now shine through their many works and the people who loved them - Gary Paulson and Jerry Pinkney.)


Here's to letting your own light shine....

There is always something bright and beautiful over at Jama's Alphabet Soup - head over for the Round-up.  She & Mr. C. have pretty pumpkin cookies....

(& Let me go ahead and wish you a Happy HALLOWEEEEN - I'll be back in touch after that!)

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Poetry Friday - Life Layers


 Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  I have missed much of Poetry Friday this summer, and I've missed you all.  Many thanks for coming by, despite my flitting in and out every few weeks.  


As I'm still (don't judge) getting my artistic house in order, literally, after having to leave my downtown studio space at the end of June, I've been craving some time and orderly space to

c-r-e-a-t-e! Getting there, slowly but surely and all that. 


Putting together the new-to-us second home in the SC hills in recent weeks has certainly offered some creative expression, as I've mixed old stuff and new stuff and upcycled elements to make it, I hope, as welcoming as a cozy pub. It's only a couple of hours for our kids to get to from their respective homes in North Georgia and North Carolina, and we're delighted that they and their dogs are already enjoying going there as much as we are. We've had repairs done, painted a couple of rooms, and fenced the back yard (I held boards while Jeff did all the work!), and we plan to actually spend quality time on the front porch next time we go.


But what I'm craving to get back to soon is collage.  Life is very layered right now….


Son Seth and his girlfriend recently returned from a glorious and ambitious trip hiking in and around Yosemite (a surprise graduation present from her).  The beauty in their pictures, which they said only hints at the grandeur in person, was breathtaking.  Other images on the news from California have been gut-wrenching, in the aftermath of the already relentless fires.


Watching the Olympics was often inspiring, admiring the results of years of individual and team practice and dedication, and records smashed, and frank discussions about mental health, and the unexpected and heartwarming instances of athletes from different countries caught on camera in moments of kindness and cooperation.


And then there's Afghanistan. Right this minute.  (And other hotspots of atrocity across the globe.)


A friend in the next neighborhood sent me a first-day-of-school photo of her precious and eager young son, as he embarks on third grade this week.  I've been cheering from afar as daughter Morgan just launched her third grade class this year, too, with an enthusiastic and sweet group of kids.


And then I've been horrified at what's going on in my home state of Florida (where all of my side of the family lives).  Covid-19 cases have been averaging more than 20,000 per day.  But in schools there – the governor is actually attempting to punish school administrators for trying to keep children alive and well?!


On Thursday afternoon on MSNBC, Dr. Kavita Patel voiced a thought which had crossed my mind when she said, something to the effect of, the current situation evoking similar feelings to those following Sandy Hook.


Don't we want our children to be safe in this country?


Then there's the dire climate report this week, and more stories than I can keep up with.


As often helps, I've turned to the past to find some nuggets of wisdom for going forward. 


A couple of poems about peace seem as relevant as ever.


Here is a short poem by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), which a commentator said likely refers to inner peace but can also describe the longing for peace in the outer world. (This poem can be found in Complete Poems, 1924, Part One: Life, LXXIII.)


I many times thought Peace had come
When Peace was far away—
As Wrecked Men—deem they sight the Land—
At Centre of the Sea—
And struggle slacker—but to prove
As hopelessly as I—
How many the fictitious Shores—
Before the Harbor be—


The search for that peaceful harbor continues.


Then I found a few lines from Rabindranath Tagore (1861 - 1941), a poet I must confess I was not familiar with but who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.  I'm guessing Seth, well versed in a variety of religious literature, and Jeff, well versed in Ayurveda, have read his work.  Tagore, who possessed many talents and was a social reformer, was sometimes called "The Bard of Bengal."


Here is "God in the World" from Tagore's 'Gitanjali':

LEAVE this chanting and singing and telling of beads! Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut? Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee! 

He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the pathmaker is breaking stones. He is with them in sun and in shower, and his garment is covered with dust. Put off thy holy mantle and even like him come down on the dusty soil! 

Deliverance? Where is this deliverance to be found? Our master himself has joyfully taken upon him the bonds of creation; he is bound with us all for ever. 

Come out of thy meditations and leave aside thy flowers and incense! What harm is there if thy clothes become tattered and stained? Meet him and stand by him in toil and in sweat of thy brow.


 Here is a link to The Poetry Foundation's entry about Tagore.  https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/rabindranath-tagore


These lines spoke to me after I was able to watch the first part of an outdoor worship service on Wednesday, livestreamed on Facebook from Haywood Street Congregation in Asheville, where Seth was invited to preach this week.  The recording ended before the main part of Seth's message (which involved the struggle to feel gratitude and praise expressed in some Psalms in the midst of turmoil), but it's always soul-nourishing to witness the dynamic give and take with this congregation.  Services are interactive, and everyone is welcome - housed or not, healthy or struggling, gay or straight, religious or skeptical. Seth was the first live-in intern there for a year right after graduating from college and before going to seminary, which he just completed.  


If you're still reading these rambling thoughts, thank you.  I don't have answers to the strife and troubles which coincide with life's joys and appreciations.  Each day, and each life, is layered, layered.


But I know that peace is always worth keeping a weather eye out for, and God is where the dust is.


Christie is rounding up Poetry Friday this week at Wondering and Wandering - Thank you, Christie!

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Poetry Friday - Boxes, More Boxes, and Emily Dickinson's "Ebon box"....

Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Dickinson, Emily, 1830-1886. Poems: Packet IV, Fascicle 8. Includes 20 poems, written in ink, dated ca. 1860.
Houghton Library - (14c, d) In Ebon Box, when years have flown, J169, Fr180; Portraits are to daily faces, J170, Fr174


Greetings, Poetry Lovers! I've missed you.  We've been happily gallavanting around for weeks to a family wedding, to our son's M. Div. graduation, to a belated "holiday" family gathering, and more.  Very grateful for vaccines.  


AND, life is currently crazy - we are also very grateful to have found a great weekend/holidays family-meet-up house, just a couple of hours away from our grown kids, near the mountains.  (We're closing in a couple of weeks.) Soon in addition to our small coastal cottage in the SC Lowcountry, we'll have a small house in the hills of the SC Upstate.  It's not far from where we got engaged in the mountains decades ago, or from our alma mater, Furman University - and close enough for easy day trips to Asheville, NC, one of our favorite spots on the planet. 


So we have boxes everywhere, with things from here we want to take there, and things I've bought along the way the last couple of weeks.  Seth was here after his recent graduation, and has just moved with his girlfriend to Boone, NC.  So he was elbow-high in boxes, and Thursday was his first time driving a U-Haul truck. From the looks of the pix they texted, he did just fine.


And finally, in the last bit of boxy news, I received an unexpected email on Tuesday that rent for my studio space downtown was going up - way up.  I was fortunate to rent it very reasonably for seven years, and I loved the dappled-light space in the 1889 building, with its high ceilings and windows and worn wooden floors.  But the new cost is beyond my artist's budget, so I'm boxing up my shop this week, too. Whew.  My artsyletters business is still alive and well - I'm just moving all my work stuff to our house and will have a larger footprint at one of the two local shops where I sell my wares.  My Etsy shop still keeps me hopping, and I look forward to devoting more time to it than I've been able to of late. 


Anyway, all of these logistical adventures had me looking for poems about boxes.  I discovered one by our dear Emily, and though it's not about moving boxes, its subject certainly resonates with my artistic endeavors.  (I hadn't read this one before; hope you enjoy!)


by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)



In Ebon Box, when years have flown
To reverently peer,
Wiping away the velvet dust
Summers have sprinkled there!


To hold a letter to the light —
Grown Tawny now, with time —
To con the faded syllables
That quickened us like Wine!


Perhaps a Flower's shrivelled check
Among its stores to find —
Plucked far away, some morning —
By gallant — mouldering hand!


A curl, perhaps, from foreheads
Our Constancy forgot —
Perhaps, an Antique trinket —
In vanished fashions set!


And then to lay them quiet back —
And go about its care —
As if the little Ebon Box
Were none of our affair!


You can find facsimiles of other Emily Dickinson poems, too, at http://edickinson.org.


Move yourself on over to Carol's Corner, where you'll find our wonderful Round-up and some gorgeous writing. Thank you, Carol!

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Poetry Friday - Narrow Fellows in the Grass...


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!


[First, about last Poetry Friday weekend:  apologies if you attempted to visit or leave word at my blog and were stymied.  There was some technical issue, and I couldn't even get to it myself! By Monday the Authors Guild techno-gurus had set all to rights again.]


Last week, I and many other PF bloggers seemed smitten with May flowers.  Well, with all this warmth and growth and flora comes the fauna, too - perhaps you have also had the expected encounters with snakes and bugs and salamanders and such?  They've all been active around here!


The first snake-y encounter this year was when I lifted the lid of our large recycle container outside, and - plop! - a medium-sized garter snake dropped from just inside the lid to the ground.  I wouldn't want to give away any family secrets, but I was glad that happened to me, and not to my  hubby....


I've seen another snake or two while out and about, in the grass or slithering off into a weedy thicket during early evening walks. 


A few weeks ago, I had just returned from a road trip and noticed a package on the front steps of the house. At the top of the steps, I picked up the package and turned around, and that's when I noticed Mr.  (Mrs.?) Good-sized Garter Snake, stretched out on the ground the entire length of the steps (four to five feet?) and watching me intently.  I must have stepped right over him/her. 


Well, Hello there, I said. I was in a wee predicament.  We keep the front screen doors locked because they don't close securely otherwise, and we have a teeny doggie who loves her daily porch time. So I was at the top of the steps holding my box, with my new friend taking up all room from one end to the other at the bottom step.  Now, as you can tell from the photo, we need to paint the steps, and make some needed outside repairs in general.  I was pondering whether to bail and scale the rail (didja like that?) and leap over the side, wondering if all the wood was good!  Pondering time abruptly halted when said snake slid its head over the bottom step in a rather pointed motion my direction - eyes on me still and tongue flickering in and out - coming up to get better acquainted.  I bailed! All was well. 


And time for that wonderful poem by our dear Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), don't you think?



A narrow Fellow in the Grass (1096)

A narrow Fellow in the Grass
Occasionally rides -
You may have met him? Did you not
His notice instant is -


The Grass divides as with a Comb,
A spotted Shaft is seen,
And then it closes at your Feet
And opens further on -


He likes a Boggy Acre -
A Floor too cool for Corn -
But when a Boy and Barefoot
I more than once at Noon


Have passed I thought a Whip Lash
Unbraiding in the Sun
When stooping to secure it
It wrinkled And was gone -


Several of Nature's People
I know, and they know me
I feel for them a transport
Of Cordiality


But never met this Fellow
Attended or alone
Without a tighter Breathing
And Zero at the Bone.



And continuing the theme, here's a little poem I wrote eight or nine years ago, which made an appearance on Tricia's Miss Rumphius Effect site for a challenge back then:




Serpentine S
goes this way and that
Trail in the sand
Tail of a cat

Slithering S
goes that way and this
Starts every snake
Ends every hiss

©Robyn Hood Black
All rights reserved.


Watch your step as you make your way over to Elizabeth Steinglass's place, and be sure to give her lots of high fives celebrating her new book, Soccerverse!  (To this day, I can't see a salamander without thinking of the hikes Liz and I took during a Highlights Founders poetry workshop years ago, and all the little red salamanders we saw!)

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Poetry Friday - Celebrate Indie Bookstore Day!

Book Club Gift Pack - Click here to see in my Etsy shop.


Greetings, Poetry Lovers! Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day, which you can learn all about here. Now, just reading that sentence, didn't your FAVORITE bookstore (past or present) pop right into your mind?  Where would we be without our beloved indie bookstores?


One of my faves here in Beaufort is Nevermore Books, owned by Lorrie and David Anderson.  They started out just off Bay Street in a cozy basement nook of a historic building, shortly after we moved here.  Now they have a bit more elbow room (but still a cool, mysterious vibe) on historic Craven Street.  [I think they moved just to be able to use their tagline, "Look for the Raven on Craven."]  Check out their darkly delightful website here


I was hoping to be there in person Saturday but we've had a change of plans for the day.  I've been conjuring up some items to have available there, though, as it's been way too long since I've restocked artsyletters goodies in the shop. My name ended up in the paper for the celebration (Thanks, Lorrie!), so I'll be sure to send along some old and new things, such as the book club gift pack pictured above, fresh out of the creative oven.   


Do you have a special bookstore (or five) you'll be dropping in on Saturday? New or used, books are treasures.  I've got a 1997 version (with a 2003 preface) of The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Quotations, edited by Peter Kemp.  In browsing the theme of "Books," I found several quotes reminding me that books haven't always been with us humans, and there could be a time when they are not (but I hope that's not true). 


Here's a quote by Martial (A.D. c. 40 - c. 104), apparently written around 84 or 85 A.D., on the codex. The source is Lionel Casson in Libraries in the Ancient World (2001):


You want to take my poems wherever you go,

As companions, say, on a trip to some distant land?

Buy this.  It's packed tight into parchment pages, so,

Leave your rolls at home, for this takes just one hand!


--Catch a running start on our ancient Roman poet, Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis), at OxfordBibliographies.com .


A bit closer to our own time, just a century and a half back, our beloved Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886) penned one of my favorite poems about books, and I'm guessing it's one of yours, too.



There is no frigate like a book (1263)

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.


*Sigh* and *swoon*.  Here's the poem's page at poets.org


For more wonderful poetry today, prancing and otherwise, visit the amazing Carol at Beyond Literacy Link.  And keep checking in on the Progressive Poem - Just a few more days and it will be complete!

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Poetry Friday - Irene, Emily D., and a Bee… and Book Winner!

Happy Poetry Friday, and Happy November!

The end of October always brings a special week my way – and, most years, the most mentally and physically demanding week, but always wonderful. For several years I've had the good fortune to participate in Cobb EMC/Gas South Literacy Week in a couple of counties just north of Atlanta. These energy companies which fuel homes and bring light to read by brighten the lives of school children through sponsoring author visits, with a dozen or so visiting and local authors fanning out into dozens of schools. This year, I believe the tally was something like 44 schools and 24,000 kids! (I saw close to a tenth of those in my visits.)

I try to keep my presentations lively and interactive and multi-genre-friendly, and I always infuse them with poetry (my own and poems by others). This year I was happy to take along the hot-off-the-press POEMS ARE TEACHERS by our own Amy Ludwig VanDerwater (yep – our giveaway winner is announced at the end of today’s post! Click here for my celebratory post of two weeks ago. )

I remember a radio commercial from when I was growing up in Orlando, with a couple of country-fied male characters arguing at a car dealership. The gist and the hook was, “You can’t put two tons of fertilizer in a one-ton truck!” [I can still “hear” that phrase!] Of course, with school visits and life in general, that never stops me from trying.

I didn’t have time to share everything I’d brought with every group, but a couple of times I was able to share Irene Latham’s beautiful poem from POEMS ARE TEACHERS. (She recently shared it with an image of the Van Gogh painting that inspired it here .)

A Dream of Wheat

After Green Wheat Fields, Auvers
by Vincent Van Gogh

From a plain
packet of seeds

comes sun –
sweetened stalks

seasoned by wind
and rain –

birds diving
mice hiding

grasshoppers singing
mice weaving

in a sea of wheat
that will someday

become bread
to eat.

©Irene Latham. All rights reserved. Posted and shared with permission.

I paired Irene’s poem with this favorite from Emily Dickinson (1830-1886):

To make a prairie (1755)

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.

Complete Poems. 1924.

I hope the kids enjoyed exploring how imagination can populate a field, or conjure up a whole prairie. And perhaps they learned a new word, if they didn’t know it already – “revery.” (Reverie – such a lovely word and state of mind!) Many thanks to Irene for sharing her poem today, and to Emily, and to bees.

In this season of harvest, I hope your own fields are golden with poems.

Now, drumroll please –

The randomly drawn winner of POEMS ARE TEACHERS, kindly offered by Heinemann, is…..

KIESHA SHEPARD! (Kiesha, email me your snail-mail address to robyn@robynhoodblack.com, and I’ll get it into the right hands at the publisher.) :0)

For a whole bounty of poetic inspirations, visit Teacher Dance where our lovely and thoughtful Linda B. has the Roundup this week.  Read More 
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