Thursday, April 29, 2021

Poem In Your Pocket Day

Hello and welcome to our last post for National Poetry Month - Poem In Your Pocket Day! It was started in 2002 in New York City, and in 2008, the Academy of American Poets helped spread it to all fifty states in the US. In 2016, the League of Canadian Poets extended Poem in Your Pocket Day to Canada. 

Poem In Your Pocket Day is really just another way to share poetry. Here are some ways you can participate from the Academy of American Poets
  • Select a poem and share it on social media using the hashtag #PocketPoem. 
  • Print a poem from the Poem in Your Pocket Day PDF and draw an image from the poem in the white space, or use the instructions on pages 59-60 of the PDF to make an origami swan. 
  • Record a video of yourself reading a poem, then share it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or another social media platform you use. 
  • Email a poem to your friends, family, neighbors, or local government leaders.
  • Schedule a video chat and read a poem to your loved ones.
  • Add a poem to your email footer.
  • Read a poem out loud from your porch, window, backyard or outdoor space. 
The poem I'm sharing with you today is maybe just a little bit longer than ideal, but I love how it expresses that poetry really is for everyone. I intend to literally put this one in my pocket and share it with anyone that seems willing to accept a poem on my walk today. I think this might be better received than if I try reading it out loud from my porch to passers-by on the sidewalk.

How to Read a Poem: Beginner's Manual
Pamela Spiro Wagner

First, forget everything you have learned,
that poetry is difficult,
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,
with your high school equivalency diploma
and steel-tipped boots,
or your white collar misunderstandings.

Do not assume meanings hidden from you:
the best poems mean what they say and say it.

To read poetry requires only courage
enough to leap from the edge
and trust. 

Treat a poem like dirt,
humus rich and heavy from the garden.
Later on it will become the fat tomatoes
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.

Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true
doing holy things to the ordinary.

Read just one poem a day.
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun.

When you can name five poets
without including Bob Dylan,
when you exceed your quota
and don't even notice,
close this manual.

You can now read poetry.

From We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders by Pamela Spiro Wagner. Copyright © 2009 by Pamela Spiro Wagner.

Be sure to visit Kym, Katand Sarah today to read their Poem In Your Pocket Day poems and thank you so very much for reading poetry and celebrating National Month Poetry Month with us. I hope you've gathered the courage to leap from the edge and trust, and maybe even enjoyed the process a little bit!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with the second Nervous Breakdown once again. 

Not a terrific photo but you can see that progress has been made. 

I've been content to work work on it, especially because I can see the ball of yarn getting smaller and I'll have to start a second skein soon. 

This photo is just because I love how apple blossoms are pink until they open. 

This week I finished three 4-star books, Woodswoman, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and Goldenrod. Woodswoman let me know that I am probably not cut out to escape to the woods in upstate NY, build my own cabin, and live in it by myself, but it was a compelling book. Mrs. Frisby was one of those books I saw was available to download from the library, vaguely remembered the kids enjoying the animated version when they were younger, but didn't remember ever reading. The book was a quick listen and Mrs. Frisby was a remarkably plucky and determined mouse. I didn't think that Maggie Smith could meet or exceed Good Bones in terms of good poetry, but she did just that with Goldenrod. I'll sneak in some poetry a day early with this poem that @maggiesmithpoet shared on instagram:

What are you knitting and reading this week?

Monday, April 26, 2021

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... is a day to enjoy your new mug and sew some more matching masks. 

Thanks to Vera for letting me know that my favorite fabric print was also available on a mug. I've had it for several weeks, started using it as soon as I opened the package, and have even debated buying a second one to use in MD.

It seems as if we will be using masks for a while, so I'm also taking this opportunity to sew a few more of these. Some days (and they are often Mondays) the mug and the masks express just the right sentiment. I hope your week is off to a good start!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Humor/Cleverness in Poetry

Today's poetry post is about humor (or cleverness) in poetry. I thought it would be easy to choose a humorous poem that I really liked, but that presented some problems. Many of them were limericks, and while that is a valid form of poetry, they just seemed mediocre to me. So my choices today are definitely more clever than humorous. And because I was having trouble narrowing them down, you get two poems for the price of one today. 

“Forsythia" (1966) Mary Ellen Solt
You can read more about the poet here.

The first one is an example of visual or concrete poetry. This is defined as "an arrangement of linguistic elements in which the typographical effect is more important in conveying meaning than verbal significance. It is sometimes referred to as visual poetry, a term that has now developed a distinct meaning of its own. Concrete poetry relates more to the visual than to the verbal arts although there is a considerable overlap in the kind of product to which it refers. Historically, however, concrete poetry has developed from a long tradition of shaped or patterned poems in which the words are arranged in such a way as to depict their subject." That's a fairly dull and dry definition from wikipedia, but I was taken by this poem, thought it could be called clever, and it's certainly fitting for spring.

This next one intrigued me for several reasons. It's a mathematical expression, a limerick, and it's by Leigh Mercer. He is the British mathematician who wrote the famous palindrome, "a man, a plan, a canal—Panama!” First the mathematical expression:

((12 + 144 + 20) + (3 × √4)) ÷ 7 + 5 × 11 = 9² + 0

And here is the same thing stated in limerick form:

A dozen, a gross, and a score,
Plus 3 times the square root of 4,
Divided by 7,
Plus 5 times 11,
Is 9 squared, and not a bit more.

Clever, indeed! 

Be sure to visit Kym, Katand Sarah today to read their funny and/or clever poems and join us next week for Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with some sock possibilities. These are the socks I was overthinking and unraveling a couple of weeks ago, and the overthinking continues. First I knit my usual 16 rows of ribbing with green, and then started the body of the sock with the bright self-striping yarn, but that much ribbing was clearly too much. The stripes are only about 5 rows each, so I tried something else. 

This is the sock with 10 rows of pink ribbing, but I still wasn't sure about the number of rows of ribbing, and I'm not sure I like the pink next to the orange.

I folded over the 10 rows of ribbing to get an idea of how 5 rows of pink ribbing might look. Hmm ...

This is 5 leftover rows of the green ribbing so I could imagine how that might look. The solid green that I used doesn't match perfectly outside in daylight, but it looks okay indoors.

But wait, there's more! I couldn't bring myself to actually knit 5 or 10 rows of ribbing with this yellow, but I thought I could get an idea of how it might look. I do like this because it would fit in with the stripe sequence and not look too weird next to the orange. 

I know this is just a sock and not a momentous, life-changing decision, but I was telling Ryan about the pros and cons as I was knitting, so he's looking also looking at the photos and will let me know his thoughts. He's never led me wrong where yarn was concerned, so I'm anxiously awaiting the ideas and opinions from my color consultant. 

I read a quick, fun book of short stories this week, mainly because I liked the title: The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg. The title story was the best one in the three-star collection. Many of the stories seemed fluffy and frivolous, but there was also a more serious underlying theme. I doubt that I'm the only older woman who feels as if she is slowly becoming invisible, and many of the women in these stories also realize that they are neither seen nor heard. Sad, but true. 

I also received a copy of Maggie Smith's most recent book of poetry, Goldenrod, from Netgalley. I've read through it once and now I'm re-reading these stunning poems. It's due to be published July 27th and it is wonderful.

What are you knitting, overthinking, and reading this week?

Monday, April 19, 2021

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... is a day to work your grumpies out. 

This is the first book Justin read all by himself, and it's been a family favorite for 25 years. Apologies in advance because Mr. Grump does look like a very angry man with severe hypertension, but he turns out all right in the end.

I don't have one big thing that's making me grumpy today, but there are a bunch of little things that have added up. I spent what I had hoped might be a relaxing weekend in NJ getting the furnace fixed. I thought I was going to be staying in NJ this week, taking the overflowing recycling to the collection facility, mowing the lawn, doing some much-needed catching up on paperwork, and most importantly, getting my hair cut. 

But, it turns out that John scheduled a Zoom meeting for Thursday about retirement/financial stuff, and I should really attend. There are also several long and involved computer issues, so what this means is that I had to spend several hours inputting financial details into the retirement planning site this weekend, order a new laptop for John, drive to MD so I can be here to set up the computer for him (his expertise is limited to pushing the power button on and off), and then be here to attend the meeting on Thursday. 

But next week, I am definitely staying in NJ and getting my hair cut. Nothing fancy, but hopefully when I'm done it won't look like I've been cutting my own hair for a year (which is exactly what I've been doing). 

I hope this Monday doesn't find you too grumpy, with too many broken things that you seem to be in charge of fixing, or other people making choices for you and just assuming that you will take part. I hope you have a good week!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

New Beginnings

Hello and welcome to this week's poetry post and New Beginnings. Sometimes a poem suggests itself to me immediately, and other times I search and search but nothing seems quite right. And then there are the times when a friend sends you the perfect one. That is what happened this week when thoughtful commenter Becky forwarded 7 Poems to Read This Spring from The Atlantic. (If you think I'm including the link as a way to give you seven poems in one post, you might be right.) 

Kym said she was thinking about spring, but I especially love this poem because to me it includes many types of New Beginnings — spring, the end of an awful winter, maybe some hope as more people get vaccinated and we can meet for coffee (or at the ice cream truck), and my fervent hope for New Beginnings for all of us with someone, somehow.

Uptown, Minneapolis, Minnesota
by Hieu Minh Nguyen

Even though it’s May & the ice cream truck
parked outside my apartment is somehow certain,
I have a hard time believing winter is somehow,
all of a sudden, over — the worst one of my life,
the woman at the bank tells me. Though I’d like to be,
it’s impossible to be prepared for everything.
Even the mundane hum of my phone catches me
off guard today. Every voice that says my name
is a voice I don’t think I could possibly leave
(it’s unfair to not ask for the things you need)
even though I think about it often, even though
leaving is a train headed somewhere I’d probably hate.
Crossing Lyndale to meet a friend for coffee
I have to maneuver around a hearse that pulled too far
into the crosswalk. It’s empty. Perhaps spring is here.
Perhaps it will all be worth it. Even though I knew
even then it was worth it, staying, I mean.
Even now, there is someone, somehow, waiting for me.

From Poetry magazine, December 2018
You can read more about the poet here.

Be sure to visit Kym, Katand Sarah today to read their New Beginnings poems and join us next week for some humor in poetry!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with a return to the Nervous Breakdown. After my unraveling of the socks last week, I ended up ordering a couple of skeins of bright Opal colors (pink and green) to use for the cuffs, heels, and toes. They hadn't arrived by the time I drove back to MD, so I've been focusing on this Hitchhiker.

I have a second skein of the Nervous Breakdown yarn, but I'm not sure how well it matches the first one. I found this Hi-Vis Yellow in my stash (I have no memory of buying yarn that bright!), and think I might use it somehow. Stripes, a large block of color, or both? I'll see what I feel like when I get to that point (or I might just ask Ryan what he likes better).

In reading, I finished The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street and The Light of the World. Duchess was not nearly as good as Helene Hanff's preceding book, 84, Charing Cross Road, but I was glad to finish her story. The Light of the World is Elizabeth Alexander's (our poet of the week last week) memoir about her marriage and the sudden death of her husband, and it was equally as good as her poetry. I'm still reading Woodswoman and Shuggie Bain, and equally immersed in each book.

What are you knitting and reading this week?

Monday, April 12, 2021

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... is a day when I can really begin to see (and believe!) some glimmers of hope. 

John and I both got our second Moderna shots last Wednesday, so I'm very glad and thankful to be fully vaccinated. The side effects kicked my butt on Thursday, but I slept much of the day and felt great on Friday.

Since we are on our way to feeling safer doing things (still masked and socially distanced), we are starting to think about the real possibility of helping Ryan move back east. We've just started to look online at possible places for him, and even though it's early days, it's exciting. In a few weeks we may even venture out with a real estate agent to look at some houses in person. Ryan has had his first shot, will get his second one soon, and is also ready to re-enter life. There are a lot of plans, packing, and driving that will have to occur, but it finally looks like they just might happen.

It's felt a bit like we have been living in suspended animation, waiting for our lives to begin again. I've been a little bit afraid that there might not be much of the life I once loved left when we were able to resume. This is the first time I've felt real hope and can see possible good things in the future, and I hope the same is true for you.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Poet of the Week

For today's National Poetry month post, we've chosen a "Poet of the Week". There are thousands of poets, and we considered quite a few before we arrived at Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander receiving the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal in 2019.
It is Harvard's highest honor in the field of African and African-American studies.

She was the Inaugural Poet for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration in 2009 with "Praise Song for the Day", but that was the only thing I knew about her. Elizabeth Alexander was an accomplished academic and poet long before that, and continues to be an important voice as a poet, educator, writer, and cultural advocate.

Elizabeth Alexander was born in Harlem, but grew up in Washington, D.C., the daughter of former US Secretary of the Army and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission chairman, Clifford Alexander Jr. and Adele Logan Alexander, a professor of African-American women's history at George Washington UniversityI can only imagine the conversations that may have taken place around the family dinner table! Ms. Alexander holds degrees from Yale, Boston University, and the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently the president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest funder in arts and culture, and humanities in higher education.

She is not only an academic. Her poetry book, American Sublime, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and The Light of the World was nominated for the Pulitzer in the Biography/Autobiography category. Ms. Alexander has authored or co-authored 14 books. She writes about what she knows — race, gender, politics, history, and motherhood. I think that she has written something for everyone.

Since this is a celebration of National Poetry Month, I'd like to share one of Elizabeth Alexander's poems. This one is entitled "Race" and it was intriguing to me as soon as I read it. It's a poem about "Great-Uncle Paul" passing as white and the family and wider implications.

Elizabeth Alexander

Sometimes I think about Great-Uncle Paul who left Tuskegee,
Alabama to become a forester in Oregon and in so doing
became fundamentally white for the rest of his life, except
when he traveled without his white wife to visit his siblings—
now in New York, now in Harlem, USA—just as pale-skinned,
as straight-haired, as blue-eyed as Paul, and black. Paul never told anyone
he was white, he just didn’t say that he was black, and who could imagine,
an Oregon forester in 1930 as anything other than white?
The siblings in Harlem each morning ensured
no one confused them for anything other than what they were, black.
They were black! Brown-skinned spouses reduced confusion.
Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
When Paul came East alone he was as they were, their brother.

The poet invents heroic moments where the pale black ancestor stands up
on behalf of the race. The poet imagines Great-Uncle Paul
in cool, sagey groves counting rings in redwood trunks,
imagines pencil markings in a ledger book, classifications,
imagines a sidelong look from an ivory spouse who is learning
her husband’s caesuras. She can see silent spaces
but not what they signify, graphite markings in a forester’s code.

Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
The one time Great-Uncle Paul brought his wife to New York
he asked his siblings not to bring their spouses,
and that is where the story ends: ivory siblings who would not
see their brother without their telltale spouses.
What a strange thing is “race,” and family, stranger still.
Here a poem tells a story, a story about race.

Alexander, Elizabeth. "Race". Antebellum Dream Book, Graywolf Press, 2001

You can read a Poem Guide from the Poetry Foundation here

Be sure to visit Kym, Kat, and Sarah today to read their Elizabeth Alexander poems and join us next week for some poetry about New Beginnings!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with some actual unraveling! After finishing the Creamsockles, I wanted to knit some more socks, this time in bright colors. I found those bright colors in Neon Nebula from PK Yarn on etsy. I cast on as soon as it arrived and started knitting happily.

But when I was approaching the end of the cuff ribbing I started to think. Because I used the Twisted German cast on, some of the yarn in the first orange stripe got consumed in casting on. It might have been better to use a coordinating yarn for the cuff, heel, and toes to solve this problem. So I searched my stash and came up with two possibilities.

The orange is probably better suited for socks, but that might mean I should start the leg of the sock with the pink stripe so I don't have too much orange next to each other. I haven't decided yet, partly because I'm not sure what the pink yarn is. So the sock now looks like this:

I'll quit overthinking and decide what to do soon so I'll have something to knit after I get my second vaccine shot this afternoon!

As for reading, I finished The Memory Collectors by Kim Neville and Night Waking by Sarah Moss. I'm taking a short break from reading Sarah Moss before I start Signs for Lost Children because I'm still reading Shuggie Bain (our next Read With Us book in case you missed that announcement). I've also just started a book that sounded perfect for reading just in case I'm suffering from post-vaccine side effects, Woodswoman by Anne LaBastille. It comes highly recommended from two people that I think are excellent judges of outdoor and nature writing, Vera and Jane

What are you knitting, reading, and unraveling this week?

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Read With Us (New Book Edition)

We had a difficult time settling on a new book for Read With Us. Suggestions were made, mulled over, books were read, and we still couldn't arrive at one. But finally, we're ready to announce the new book. 

Ta-Da! It's Shuggie Bain, a debut novel by Douglas Stuart. And as usual, I find the differences between the US and UK covers interesting.

Whichever one you read, Shuggie Bain is the recipient of the 2020 Booker Prize. The blurb on the prize page says, "Laying bare the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love, and the hollowness of pride, Shuggie Bain is a blistering and heartbreaking debut, and an exploration of the unsinkable love that only children can have for their damaged parents."

I'll be honest, I resisted reading this book for a long time. I was afraid it would be too depressing, too realistic. Yes, it is both depressing and realistic, but after reading about half of the book, I wonder why I was afraid. Poverty and alcoholism are very real problems now, just as they were in Glasgow in the 1980s in the throes of Margaret Thatcher's policies. I don't know very much about the political background of this time and setting, but I am learning more from this book, just as I'm learning about alcoholism and family dynamics.

We're compressing our normal schedule a little bit, but still allowing plenty of time for obtaining and reading the book. We'll do our usual promotion posts on  April 27, May 4, and May 11, with the blog and Zoom book discussion tentatively scheduled for June 8th. Hopefully you can find the book at your library, obtain a copy through Overdrive or Hoopla, and it's also available on Amazon, Audible, and your local bookstore (if you're lucky enough to have one)! I am reading a real copy from the library, but I'm also alternating my reading with listening to the audiobook. This has proven ideal to get the full flavor of the dialogue and dialect.

I don't know how the story will end or what will happen to Shuggie Bain, but I do know that despite the despair and bleakness, I have been completely engaged in the book. I do hope you'll take a chance with us, resist your fears, and Read Shuggie Bain with Us.

Monday, April 5, 2021

I Before E

 ... except after Y.

This is the newly-painted Contractor Pick Up at our local Home Depot. I'll be interested to see if they leave it this way. :-)

I hope you had a lovely Easter if you celebrate, and a very good weekend no matter what!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

We're Not Fooling!

A little while ago Kym came up with one of her great ideas and asked Kat and I if we were interested in coordinating some poetry posts for National Poetry Month. She thought that since we all post poetry fairly regularly, we could do something together. We've figured out some fun things to do on Thursdays this month, so we hope to provide you with some questions, answers, poets, themes, and of course, poetry.

We're starting National Poetry Month off today with our answers to "Why poetry?" What purposes does poetry serve? Why do we like it and what do we get out of it? 

Those are some deep and personal questions, but I would agree with Robert Frost and extend his quote to include "Reading a poem is discovering." I had the usual exposure to poetry in school. This included memorizing a few lines of well-known poems and learning how to write haiku in elementary school. In high school English we had units on poetry that included endless analysis of poems, and my teachers were most often concerned with their students arriving at the correct answer that was given in the teacher's edition. It was enough to suck any life, joy, or celebration out of the poems we were reading, and it definitely had that effect on me. 

But one day in 2007 I was making the bed and listening to NPR. There was a piece about the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska in which she read her poem "A Tale Begun". She captured my attention immediately and I stood by the bed, mesmerized and spellbound. This was a poem that seemed to capture many of my own feelings, and she expressed them better than I could myself. That is probably one of the main reasons I enjoy poetry; it can express things I might not have even known I was feeling. It can unite people in feelings, language, and words. Poetry can provide delight, expose us to the unexpected, and show us details of the everyday. Poets give us economy of language, are evocative, and they are sometimes soothing and reassuring. Poetry is a way to express deep emotion, from intense joy to crushing grief. It has provided a meaningful way for me to deal with the pandemic. 

Szymborska won the Nobel prize for literature in 1996. The following is from her acceptance speech where she talks about the astonishment of everyday life:

"Astonishing" is an epithet concealing a logical trap. We're astonished, after all, by things that deviate from some well-known and universally acknowledged norm, from an obviousness we've grown accustomed to. Granted, in daily speech, where we don't stop to consider every word, we all use phrases like "the ordinary world," "ordinary life," "the ordinary course of events." ... But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone's existence in this world.

Poetry reminds us that our world is astonishing in so many ways.

A Tale Begun
by Wislawa Szymborska

The world is never ready
for the birth of a child.
Our ships are not yet back from Winnland.
We still have to get over the S. Gothard pass.
We've got to outwit the watchmen on the desert of Thor,
fight our way through the sewers to Warsaw's center,
gain access to King Harald the Butterpat,
and wait until the downfall of Minister Fouche.
Only in Acapulco
can we begin anew.
We've run out of bandages,
matches, hydraulic presses, arguments, and water.
We haven't got the trucks, we haven't got the Minghs' support.
This skinny horse won't be enough to bribe the sheriff.
No news so far about the Tartars' captives.
We'll need a warmer cave for winter
and someone who can speak Harari.
We don't know whom to trust in Nineveh,
what conditions the Prince-Cardinal will decree,
which names Beria has still got inside his files.
They say Karol the Hammer strikes tomorrow at dawn.
In this situation let's appease Cheops,
report ourselves of our own free will,
change faiths,
pretend to be friends with the Doge
and say that we've got nothing to do with the Kwabe tribe.
Time to light the fires.
Let's send a cable to grandma in Zabierzow.
Let's untie the knots in the yurt's leather straps.
May delivery be easy,
may our child grow and be well.
Let him be happy from time to time
and leap over abysses.
Let his heart have strength to endure
and his mind be awake and reach far.
But not so far
that it sees into the future.
Spare him
that one gift,
0 heavenly powers.

View with a Grain of Sand, copyright © 1993 by Wislawa Szymborska, English translation by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh copyright © 1995 by Harcourt, Inc.


Be sure to visit Kym and Kat today and read their answers to "Why poetry?" and join us next Thursday for our Poet of the Week!