Friday, August 26, 2016

Poetry Friday: Beannacht

This is a busy day, with a full day of teaching and planning, plus an Open House in the afternoon.  Still, I don't want to let this week pass by without posting for Poetry Friday, and I've chosen to share a poem I read on Monday, the day we dropped our daughter off at the airport for her flight - alone this time - to college for her sophomore year.  That day, at a most appropriate moment, this poem appeared.

by John O'Donohue

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

Here's the rest of it.

I hope this poem fills you with as much happiness as it gave me on a difficult day, and if not, you can maybe find something in the roundup that will.  I see Heidi has an Open House today, too! 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Poetry Friday: Color

I love the color poems in Hailstones and Halibut Bones: Adventures in Poetry and Color, because they talk about the smell of a color, the sound of it, the emotion of it.  I always share some of these with my seventh graders at the beginning of the year, as we talk about literal and figurative language. Here's one that I'll be sharing next week, since purple is one of our school colors.

What Is Purple?

Time is purple
Just before night
When most people
Turn on the light –
But if you don’t it’s
A beautiful sight.
Asters are purple,
There’s purple ink.
Purple’s more popular
Than you think….
It’s sort of a great
Grandmother to pink.
There are purple shadows
And purple veils,
Some ladies purple
Their fingernails.
There’s purple jam
And purple jell
And a purple bruise
Next day will tell
Where you landed
When you fell.
The purple feeling
Is rather put-out
The purple look is a
Definite pout.
But the purple sound
Is the loveliest thing
It’s a violet opening
In the spring.

Mary O’Neill
(from Hailstones and Halibut Bones)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Reading Update

I went back to work this week, and kids come back next week, so I expect my reading rate to slow down.  This has been the biggest reading year I have had in a while, and I've speculated before on this blog that that may have something to do with several events in my life that I've wanted to escape from.  I generally average about a book a week, and so far this year I have read 109.  Here's the latest nine books:

Book #101 of the year was What Comes Next and How to Like It: A Memoir, by Abigail Thomas.  The library didn't have the Kindle version, but only another funky format that I had to read on my laptop screen.  Even so, I liked it.  It's about a long friendship, a platonic male/female friendship that survives over thirty-five years in spite of all the things that life brings.

Book #102 was Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World, by Anthony Doerr.  This is Doerr's book about his time in Rome on a writing fellowship.  I recently read both of Doerr's novels, and I enjoyed this book, too.

Book #103 was The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, by BrenĂ© Brown.  This is Brown's book on wholehearted living, and it covers a lot of the ground from her first Ted talk, though obviously in more detail.  Good stuff.


Book #104 was The Odyssey, which my daughter and I read aloud to each other in the Fagles translation.  We enjoyed it immensely.  I wrote some about it here.

Book #105 was Arcadia, by Lauren Groff.  It's about Bit, who grows up in a utopian commune in the 60s.  We get to follow the rest of his life, too, as a grownup.  I really loved this book; it was beautiful and I appreciated the portrayal of long-term relationships.  I didn't grow in a commune, but I did grow up in a subculture that's different from the mainstream, and as such I could relate to some of the struggles the characters experienced.  (Thankfully, substance abuse isn't one of the struggles I can relate to.)

Book #106 was What She Knew, by Gilly Macmillan, a book about a woman whose eight year old son disappears.  This moves quickly and there's more going on than meets the eye.

Book #107 was No-Man's Lands: One Man's Odyssey Through The Odyssey, by Scott Huler.  I liked this very much, and wrote more about it here.

Book #108 was Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Curtis Sittenfeld.  Lizzy and Jane behave in ways and use language that Jane Austen would not approve.  Reality TV is involved.  Why do I read so much Jane Austen fan fiction?  I have no idea, but I just can't resist it.  This was less disappointing than most, I have to say.

Book #109 was Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living, by Shauna Niequist.  I had pre-ordered this in February, it came out on Tuesday, and I already read it.  I can relate to a lot of this, and there are things in it that I need to think more about, so I'll probably read it again.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Poetry Friday: My Husband's Hands

My Husband's Hands

Do you remember the first time you kissed me?
First you held my hand
And showed me yours.
You explained the scar,
How it came to be there,
Told me about the car accident
And going over the bridge.
I felt dizzy from holding your hand.

How could I have known then
How I would come to love those hands?
Those hands that cook and compute and write
That play chess and ping pong and basketball
Those hands that pack the car when we go on a trip
And unpack it when we get home,
That load the car with groceries
And unload them into the kitchen,
That make me tea again and again and again.
Sometimes they try to text, with clumsy thumbs.

Those hands always bring me pleasure and never pain.
I can trust those hands.
Those hands hold me, and held our babies,
Gently cupping their heads
As you carried them around proudly.

Do you remember the first time you kissed me?
I thought the kiss was the wonder -
That was what sent me floating back to my dorm.
But what really mattered was those hands.
You were showing me your history, scars and all;
You were giving me your hand
And taking mine as we walked into the future,
Which on that long-ago afternoon we knew not at all.

Ruth, from

Here's the roundup.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Poetry Friday: The Odyssey Again

I've been reading this book:

It's the perfect book for someone who recently read The Odyssey.  Scott Huler recreates the trip Odysseus took, and so this is part reading the Odyssey, part travel narrative, part life lessons - but humorous and not taking himself too seriously.

Huler referred to this poem, and though I had read it before, I'd forgotten about it.

C.P. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Here's the rest.

And here's the roundup.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Poetry Friday: The Odyssey

My daughter and I have been reading the Odyssey together this summer,  and we finished it yesterday.  Just as the Iliad is mostly about all the different ways to get killed in battle, the Odyssey, we learned, is mostly about eating sides of meat.  Until the end, that is, when Odysseus kills the suitors and piles up all their corpses - then it becomes about all the different ways to get killed in battle, just like the Iliad.

Seriously, though, we really enjoyed reading this 24-book poem aloud to each other.  I picked a part to share with you, and I think it's appropriate because it's about stories.  Odysseus is constantly telling stories, most of them largely untrue, but here, he's in Alcinous' court, listening to the bard entertaining the dinner guests (as they eat sides of meat), and it turns out the story is about him, even though Alcinous and the other guests don't know who Odysseus is, just that he's a stranger they are taking in.

We read from the Fagles translation, and this is Book 8, lines 559-600.

Stirred now by the Muse, the bard launched out
in a fine blaze of song, starting at just the point
where the main Achaean force, setting their camps afire,
had boarded the oarswept ships and sailed for home
but famed Odysseus' men already crouched in hiding -
in the heart of Troy's assembly - dark in that horse
the Trojans dragged themselves to the city heights.
Now it stood there, looming...
and round its bulk the Trojans sat debating,
clashing, days on end.  Three plans split their ranks:
either to hack open the hollow vault with ruthless bronze
or let it stand - a glorious offering made to pacify the gods -
and that, that final plan, was bound to win the day.
For Troy was fated to perish once the city lodged
inside her walls the monstrous wooden horse
where the prime of Argive power lay in wait
with death and slaughter bearing down on Troy.
And he sang how troops of Achaeans broke from cover,
streaming out of the horse's hollow flanks to plunder Troy -
he sang how left and right they ravaged the steep city,
sang how Odysseus marched right up to Deiphobus' house
like the god of war on attack with diehard Menelaus.
There, he sang, Odysseus fought the grimmest fight
he had ever braved but he won through at last,
thanks to Athena's superhuman power.

That was the song the famous harper sang
but great Odysseus melted into tears,
running down from his eyes to wet his cheeks...
as a woman weeps, her arms flung round her darling husband,
a man who fell in battle, fighting for town and townsmen,
trying to beat the day of doom from home and children.
Seeing the man go down, dying, gasping for breath,
she clings for dear life, screams and shrills -
but the victors, just behind her,
digging spear-butts into her back and shoulders,
drag her off in bondage, yoked to hard labor, pain,
and the most heartbreaking torment wastes her cheeks.
So from Odysseus' eyes ran tears of heartbreak now,
But his weeping went unremarked by all the others;
only Alcinous, sitting close beside him,
noticed his guest's tears.

Incidentally, the bard in this scene is blind, and I wonder if Homer was writing about himself.  That would be kind of meta - Homer the bard writing about Odysseus listening to a bard singing about Odysseus.  Even though both the Iliad and the Odyssey are in many ways very macho, it's always interesting to me how in tune Homer is to the fate of women in war (and what theme could be more modern?).  Homer constantly reminds us that everyone has a story.

Here's today's roundup.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Books to Cheer You Up

Here are some books that cheer me up when I'm sad.  And here are some that Modern Mrs. Darcy recommends.

What do you read when you're feeling down?