posts tagged with 'poetry'

poetry on his own time

This morning we went to a "poetry teatime". What a great idea! Tea and poetry are definitely among our favorite things. We were almost late because we were having so much fun reciting poems and song lyrics over the breakfast table. And I had to make muffins. Because I don't know that it's possible for homeschoolers to get together for anything without treats—thematically appropriate if possible. Three families came; that meant two kinds of muffins and some scones.

Harvey showed us something else about homeschoolers too. Despite having already read his chosen poem—"The Unicorn", by Shel Silverstein—out loud to his brothers before we went, he wasn't feeling it when it came time to present it to the group. Before we finished up he did read a shorter poem to everyone, but it wasn't until the kids he didn't know as well had left that he opened up and read "The Unicorn", plus a selection of other favorites. He does "The Unicorn" so good: certainly the most hip-hop-influenced delivery of that particular poem you'll ever hear from a child in Bedford.

The problem with school is that you have to do everything on somebody else's schedule. Do poems now. Don't do poems now, it's time for something else. Harvey was still reading from Where the Sidewalk Ends for an hour after the other kids were done with poetry and on to playing—mostly to himself, but sharing a few choice selections with me at the other parent there. Which was totally perfect for the way our time was structured... or un-structured, if you prefer!

Our host's younger daughter wasn't there: last week she started preschool, on her own strong request. So far she's enjoying the chance to be with friends in that environment, so even when offered the chance to stay home and be part of a totally awesome poetry/baked-goods extravaganza she told her mom she had to be at school. Clearly it suits some people better than others. I wonder if she'll keep liking it? And how much poetry do they do there?


found poetry at the office

I work at a church, and when I'm there I make my lunch in the Ministry Center kitchen. Since lots of people share the space, there are labels everywhere to show where you can find plates and bowls, serving utensils, pitchers (and so you can put them away). There are also more pointed notes. Every time I use the sink I'm newly delighted to read the three line poem printed beside it in all-caps label font, each line on its own little sticker:

Do not leave dishes in the dish drainer

Dry them

And put them away

It has a certain William Carlos Williams feel, don't you think? My favorite thing is that (as indicated by contextual clues) each line was added separately, later than the line above it. It's not the most frustratedly direct of the signs in that kitchen, but it's certainly the most delightful!

(Naturally, there are always dishes in the dish drainer. But never mine!)


that sounds like poetry!

For our poetry unit last year we spent much of the time talking about what makes a poem a poem—which is to say, poetic language. Unlike the year before we didn't actually read that many poems, because what tends to make poems interesting to the boys—rhyme and steady rhythm—isn't worth talking much about at this point. Instead, we read well-written prose, mostly in picture books, and noticed consonance and assonance, natural word rhythms, and figurative language. And it was totally worth it because now, a couple times a week, they point out poetic moments in the books we're reading. "That sounds like poetry!" they'll say.

This evening it was a bit from Winter Holiday, by Arthur Ransome. "A few of the oaks still carried some of the dried leaves of last year, which made a noise almost like water when the wind stirred them" called out to Harvey—or Zion, I forget which. Either way, somebody liked it and pointed it out. I enjoyed some beautiful language myself in What Forest Knows, which I read to Lijah this morning: "Forest knows fruit— / berries, nuts, cones / to seed new trees / and feed forest folk / through winter." And there's lots more where that comes from.

I think it's nice to notice that there's not a binary distinction between poems and not-poems. What poets do is pay attention to the sound of words and the way they fit together—but so do all good writers. Sound matters, images matter—to me at least. And, I'm delighted to say, to my children.


Proverbs 31, a more current interpretation

A wife of noble character who can find?
Seriously, who can find anybody of noble character anymore? At this point, I'd be happy with a playdate friend who doesn't introduce my children to Disney characters they've never seen.

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
As long as he doesn't read on Facebook that she just dropped the coffee pot in the sink. Again.

During appropriate daylight hours when it looks like homesteading. And not at three in the morning when it looks like a slow descent into madness.

She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
Except not too far because that goes against our core values.

She gets up while it is still night;
(Yeah, no shit)
she provides food for her family
(If by 'provides' you mean 'nursing the baby while the rest of my family eats cheerios')
and portions for her female servants.
(wait a second, what?)

She considers a field it looks really pretty. Stunningly beautiful in fact. She stands there in mesmerized awe, the kind that can only be triggered by extreme physical exhaustion.

She sets about her work vigorously when her work is making coffee.
Her arms are strong from pushups because she's trying to be her own person for like five minutes a day dammit.

She sees that her trading is profitable when it involves trading snacks for getting little kids into the car.

Her lamp does not go out at night because she's researching purchases on

She extends her hands to the needy and then makes sure everyone uses hand sanitizer.

When it snows, she has no fear for her household
because she just want to BJs and there are A LOT of groceries in the pantry.

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
"Many women do noble things, but this meatloaf is really good. Kids, I don't know why you don't like it, it's not at all spicy. You know what I was just thinking about your mother? I was thinking: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting" (Hey! Wait a minute!) "But a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."


Burns day

We attended a lovely party this evening to celebrate Burns day, as in Robert Burns the Scottish poet. At this stage in life it's nice to be invited out to a party at all. Even better to attend one which features both a live bagpiper and a communal recitation of poetry! In addition to hearing the works of Burns and other famous poets, we were treated to several poems that party-goers had written themselves. This was lovely and made me think I wish I heard personal poetry more often. Why don't we frequently sit around in groups and hear each other's poems? Mightn't it open us up to a relational world imbued with wonder and vulnerability?

Unfortunately there's not much space in my mind for poetry right now. Nor in my life for that matter; taking more than two minutes to write fewer words than a status update seems ridiculous at this point in time. Especially with night-time quiet so scarce. Indeed, were I to compose a verse these days it would sound something like this:

I have no time for poetry
a baby shares a bed with me
and steals the nectar from my flower
eight times a night. Yes, every hour.

And so short blog posts are the thing, at least for now. Still, if anyone is interested in a poetry night, I'll be happy to host. I'd even be willing to cook a haggis.


an almost-Christmas poem

Twas the week before christmas, deep hours of the night
and Mama was riding the exercise bike.
She'd fallen asleep with the children at seven
and there went her sewing time shot straight to heaven.

Then one in the morning she woke with a fret
to the four-year-old screaming "Maaamaaaa! I'm all wet!"
Quick off with his PJs, quick change all the sheets
quick cuddle two shaken boys safe back to sleep.

And then in her head there arose such a clatter
to out-shout the stress of a child's active bladder.
What presents are finished? What still to be made?
Do you have enough thread for the doll's coat's brocade?

How long will the knitting take? How long the baking?
How much are you counting on children not waking?
And what shall they eat while you fill their gift sacks?
Yes, what are you serving for dinner and snacks?

So down from her bedroom she floated etherial
to pour almond milk in a bowl of cold cereal
and try to set goals for the upcoming day
all while biking a few stress-made hormones away.

And as Mama sat cycling she thought of the reason
why Mamas work so flipping hard all this season.
She thought of her children in (pee-smelling) beds
while visions of wrapped presents danced their heads:

The sweaters with bunnies in colors they favor,
the candy like that which we gave to the neighbor,
The robot they asked for in felt that is washable
because they still believe her that ANYTHING'S POSSIBLE!

They still think that Mama makes all things from nothing
that all good things come from some felt, fleece, and stuffing
that whatever they think of, whatever they need,
they can get if they help, choose fabric, and plead.

So she gets off the bike, puts the dishes away
knits a few rows of sleeve to keep worries at bay,
And she prays in her head as she turns out the light:
"Happy Christmas to all! And to Mamas, sleep tight!"


shepherds at the manger

Dan's poem is up on the Waiting Well blog today. The first time I read it I teared up a little bit. My husband, who is so much like a shepherd in his calm approach to birth and mess and and caring for his animals (children included) is also so beautifully poetic.

[edit:] Here's the poem, for posterity after Waiting Well is no more:

Then quiet stillness, dark, absence;
back to night’s chill, sifting mist,
breath wreathing, charged with questions:
was that—
did you—
It doesn’t happen but it did:
heaven’s message boldly delivered,
go and see.

The second stable—breathless search—
look in, enter uncertainly;
used to stables, used to births,
unsure about
But there’s the baby, straw-bedded,
new-born king anointed of heaven:
worship him.

The mother in the background, waiting, still;
resting and recovering, witnessing silently
the first brushes of the world’s attention.
So few
hours old:
their messiah, story for grandsons;
her suckling child, sole charge,
baby boy.


feeling a little overwhelmed (as always) with my radical homemaking to-do list...

Cold weather is coming; your son needs a hat.
And mittens - don't let him go out without that.
And mittens get lost so knit three in each color
or four, if the two sides differ from each other.

Just two months to Christmas - you'd better get going!
If baby is napping you'd better be sewing!
On serger! On Singer! Quilts, toys, all the above!
He's old enough now; he'll remember your love.

Once Christmas is over three birthdays come quickly.
And new baby's growing, so if you feel sickly
remember it's only a sign that you're due
to very soon take on clothes making for two!

It gives you such joy to live out your true function
and take back from industry means of production.
That's why I marked this as your "personal time" hour
which looks like it's ending — so go clean the shower!