Tag Archives: poetry

The love of doing, redoing and not doing

In a year of great doing, and the sometimes even harder task of not doing, we thought we’d pause and share our appreciation of the things that give us joy, purpose and meaning no matter what is happening in the world around us.

Julie let what she loves–creating images and writing–speak for itself.

Flourish and Grow by Julie Paschkis

By Julie Paschkis

Planting Thoughts by Laura Kvasnovsky

Illustration by Mila Marquis

Here you are again, on your knees in the dirt. 

Close your eyes and feel the sun warm on your back and the dry papery husks of the bulbs in your hand: Muscari armeniacum.

Breathe in the sharp scent of sandy soil and the darker fragrance of compost and leaf mulch, and hear the birds, if they chirp, and the rustle of the breeze.

The earth waits. Dig in and settle the bulbs, grateful for that ancient impulse to grow, to bloom, to go to seed, to fade.

And grateful for the turning of the seasons that finds you here again, on your knees in the dirt.

Mending by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

Dress and photo by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

Close your eyes and think about the clothes you are wearing.

Think about everything that went into making them: 

The people who put them together, somewhere in the world, 

the plants and animals and energy that were used in making them.

We mend in gratitude for all these things. 

We practice patience. We practice acceptance. 

We embrace imperfection as part of what makes everything unique.

Words Full of Promise by Julie Larios

Illustration by Piero Schirinzi

I’m a poet. To me, being a poet means using words – individual words – words made of evocative letters. How can letters evoke feelings? Well, when I see the letter “j,” I love the dip it takes below the line, the little hook that feels rebellious, non-conformist. I love the letter “z” in a word, because it feels (and even sounds) strange; it’s a letter that can’t decide if it wants to go forward or backward. When you write it, it reverses direction. It’s a letter full of doubt, and I prefer doubt to certainty. The letter “k” is a bit aggressive, very certain, the Genghis Khan of letters. Each letter of the alphabet has a unique personality, yet together they cooperate, they cohere, they form little societies called words. 

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for each letter of the alphabet, and for the way letters make words and words make poems, and poems are, by nature, inclusive, they invite people of differing experiences to contemplate shared feelings – they help us share a spot at the Thanksgiving table. 

I invite you to think about the shapes of letters. Rebellious, uncertain, bold, shy – you’ll find their nature if you look. String some together into a word, two words, three. Don’t worry about grammar yet. Build a poem with one-syllable words. Right now I’m thinking of the word “thirst.” Begins with a “t,” ends with a “t.” That word feels suspended in time -something hangs in the balance, makes a growl. Then I consider the word “juice.” Playful. Generous. Put them together for a two-word poem, full of promise – “Thirst? Juice!”

Sleep by Bonny Becker

Illustration by Eugeni Balakshin

Close your eyes and think about sleep.

Turn off noise, color, fear, hate, right, wrong.

Even love can wait.

Nothing needs you right now.

Turn off the story.

Slip over the edge into the velvet void.

Nothing needs you right now. 

Be done today with do.

Rest and begin anew. 





Thank you from all of us to all of you.

Flutter and Hum, Aleteo y Zumbido

I have a new book out! Flutter and Hum, Aleteo y Zumbido.Flutter Hum coverI am not a poet and I my Spanish is awkward, but somehow I wrote a book of poems in Spanish and English. Here’s how it came about.

In 2009 I illustrated a biography of Neruda written by Monica Brown. In order to understand and illustrate Neruda I needed to learn Spanish, so I started classes right away. I loved learning Spanish. I loved the structure of the language and the sound of the words. I illustrated Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People using pictures and words. The words, which are integrated into the art, are in Spanish and English and were influenced by the words of his poems.PabloNerudaWhile I worked on this book I swam in the Spanish language and in the poems of Neruda. That experience changed my life.Paschkis neruda by seaSince then I have taken many more Spanish classes including immersion classes in Guatemala and in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I have visited Chile, Guatemala, Oaxaca, Morelia, Cuernavaca, Mexico City and Spain. I would like to return to all of those places! I continue to study and read and write. My vocabulary is large and I understand the grammatical structures, but my speech is slow and simple.Flutter&Hum snake But in a strange way, my awkwardness with Spanish is what allowed me to write these poems.
When I hear a word in English my mind leaps right to the meaning of the word, bypassing the sound. I am ABLE to hear the sound but I have to make myself listen.Paschkis word birdWhen I hear a word in Spanish I notice the sound and feel of the word first, and then my mind gropes for the meaning.palabra

For example the word PALABRA (which means word), sounds like a shape to me. I hear the beauty of the word before the meaning. I see a shape like this:finialThe poems in this book often started with me rolling a word around in my mouth. The word for moth is polilla – such a soft word. And the word for lightbulb is bombilla. Bombastic! I put together words and ideas in Spanish until I had the beginning of a poem. That is how I began all of the poems. I always started in Spanish. Then I would work back and forth in Spanish and in English until I had a poem that I liked in both languages. I threw myself at the light – sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.Flutter&Hum mothWhen I painted the illustrations for the book I had another chance to play with words in both languages – to pick words in Spanish and English that bounced off of each other and added shades of meaning and emotion.

I submitted the poems to Noa Wheeler who was then an editor at Henry Holt. She liked them, and Holt offered to publish them. It was a leap of faith on her part and I am grateful.
We eliminated some poems and I wrote some new ones. We tried to keep them juicy.Flutter&Hum fresa copyI showed the poems to Marta Seymour, my first Spanish teacher (who is from Costa Rica) and to my friend Fernando Larios (who is originally from Mexico and is married to Julie Larios). They read the poems and pointed out my most egregious errors. Ingrid Paredes also proofread the poems for Henry Holt and offered specific and helpful criticism. The book is dedicated to Marta, for igniting my love of Spanish and for her generosity in reviewing the poems.Marta Seymour

My joy in creating this book was playing with language in Spanish and English, and in painting with words and images. My hope is that the poems and paintings will encourage others to approach both languages playfully and with pleasure, whatever their native tongue.Flutter&Hum parrotIn Spanish you would say that I am a principiante. A princess? No – a beginner.

Flutter&Hum heronP.S. If you are in Seattle please come to a signing for the book at the Seattle Art Museum book store (SAM Books) on September 26th from 1-3. Some of the original art from the book will on display at the SAM Gallery Shop, along with paintings by my husband Joe Max Emminger and some drawings that we did together. There will be a reception for the show from 3-5. And the museum is free that day! The show will be up until October 16th.

P.S. Here is a review of the book by Julie Danielson at Kirkus., and here is a review from Deborah Stevenson at the BCCB . (The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books).

Tell it slant…

Image

“Tell all the Truth but tell it slant–
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind–”      Emily Dickinson

Our first experience with rhyme was probably with nursery rhymes—simple perfect word matches—cat and hat, hog and jog, Horner and corner. But you can work with rhyme in subtler ways. One of my favorite approaches is to “tell it slant,” as Emily Dickinson was so fond of doing.

Slant rhymes, also called near rhymes are rhymes created using words with similar but not identical sounds. Words like ground/down, play/stayed and even more tenuous matches like Dickinson’s delight/surprise and eased/gradually. In some near rhymes the vowels are similar; in some the consonants match.

Why do I like to tell it slant? I love it for its rhythmic surprises. It can help you break away from the singsong, drumbeat that’s easy to fall into with perfect rhyme. But best of all, from a writer’s standpoint, it makes this whole business of writing in rhyme easier.

It’s hard to tell a nuanced story in perfect rhyme—with near rhyme your word choices open up dramatically. It makes it a bit easier to do as Dickinson advices—to tell the truth but tell it slant. It can “ease” the telling–and the receiving—both literally and figuratively.

Like Dickinson, I like to mix both near and perfect rhyme. Here are the first few stanzas of my very first book, “The Quiet Way Home.”

“Let’s go the quiet way home.

Not by the dog who growls at the gate

But the way where the kittens play

Hush. Can you hear it.

Skittle. Skattle. Bat and claw

Kitten paw.

Let’s go the quiet way home

Not by the lawn and the roar as John mows

But the way where Mr. Kay’s garden grows

Hush. Can you hear it?

Chip, chop, dig-a-row.

Garden hoe.

There are a couple techniques embedded in these lines. For one thing, if you’re going to use slant rhyme establish early that this is what you’re going to do. With my first stanza, I’ve signaled immediately that I’m not going with perfect rhyme (gate/play). But as you can see from my second verse, I am promising a similar rhythm and pattern to each stanza. And perfect rhyme at times (mows/grows).

Notice also that I use internal rhyme—that is rhyme within the line itself not just at the end, such as “growls” and “gate,” “roar” and “mows,” “way” and “Kay.” Internal rhyme like that is often slant rhyme and poets use it all the time.

(By the way “hush” is a magic word. I’ve never had a class– from kindergarteners to 6th graders–not hush at that moment and listen. I suspect it’s half the magic of “Good Night Moon.”)

Also, with the important moment—when I identify the object making the noise—I consistently use perfect rhyme (claw/paw, row/hoe). It creates a punchy contrast to the near rhyme. Just as Dickinson uses her one moment of perfect rhyme, kind/blind, to such powerful effect in her poem.

One challenge of slant rhyme is it can get away from you. You don’t have the control of perfect rhythm and rhyme. In my book, “Just a Minute” I go so slant at times that I think I come perilously close to going completely off the track.

It’s a tall tale about a boy whose minute of waiting for his mother gradually seems to balloon into eternity. Here’s how it starts:

“Now, don’t you move,”

said Johnny MacGuffin’s mother.

“Stay right here while I shop.

Auntie Mabel will watch.

I’ll be just a minute.”

And she sailed away,

Past the purses and plates,

Up the up escalator

In Bindle’s Department Store.

“But you’ll take forever!” Johnny cried.

“When you get back I’ll be fossilized!”

But it was too late.

He was stuck in the basement of Bindle’s again.

While Johnny’s mom is away he imagines that Christmas comes and goes, a year passes, then more. He grows up and grows old and Bindle’s crumbles to dust. Finally:

The sun shifted its course

And the seas rose and fell

And rose again…

…[then] the tides came in

and the sun burned to a cinder of vermilion…

All this by the time his mother returns. It’s a rather careening path of rhythm and rhyme, but I think it works for a tall tale of time spinning out of control.

Slant rhyme isn’t “cheating” and it can be a powerful tool for you for telling stories in rhyme. But when to use it depends, as it always does, on what’s right for your story. Don’t use it just to be lazy.

As in the Dickinson poem, with or without perfect rhyme, your goal as an author is to “tell all the truth.” To tell a story as honestly as you can. One that is honest about its message and honest about its techniques, and sometimes the perfect choice will be to “tell it slant.”

Skinny Books, Dust, Dandelions, Sneezes, Apple Cake and Inspiration

Books...

Books…

The other day, with many tasks calling to me, I decided to spend the afternoon doing something that is a ritual task-avoidance activity of mine, something not on any of my To-Do lists: I decided to move books from one place in my house to another place. I do this from time to time; my husband is used to it and he just rolls his eyes and ignores my sneezing (dust) and my talking to myself (about how silly I am to be doing it when I have so much else to do.) Several months ago, we had to eliminate an entire set of bookcases to make room for french doors out to the deck. Total chaos! It seems I’m always carrying big bunches of books from one place to another.

and more books....

and more books spilling over….

When I say “big bunches,” I mean big. This time around, I moved my collection of poetry (about 400 books) from the living room to my study. Why? Well, I didn’t want to do anything on my To-Do list, that was probably the biggest motivator. And I had been looking for some time at how messy the poetry books were.

and the poetry books....

and some of the poetry books….

Minus the Collected Works of someone, and minus anthologies, poetry books are a skinny lot – many don’t even have 1/2-inch spines, and they’re visually “busy”  compared to fiction (which took poetry’s place in the living room.) Fiction is less cluttered, less multitudinous, less random in its trim sizes. The effect of a house over-filled with books is not always calming, and I was going for calm.

and books on chairs...

and more poetry books in stacks and more books on chairs…

No matter what the motivation was, I found myself with stacks and stacks of books, wondering yet again (as I do periodically) about how to organize the poetry. Fiction, no problem – I do it alphabetically. But with poetry I wonder if the  alphabet of last names should prevail.  There are other possibilities on any given shelf of my poetry bookcases:

1. Poets I love 2. Poets who loved each other. 3. Poets by the century in which they lived. 4. Poets by the places they lived – England, France, Russia, Spain, (maybe a shelf of everything in translation?) and the American South, New England, the American West – poets known as “regional.” 5. Poets who have won the Nobel Prize or have entered “the canon.” 6. Poets who are private little discoveries of mine, or so I think. 7. Poets who are friends of mine. 8. Poetry reviews in which I have poems of my own. 9. Poetry criticism by poets. 10.Poetry criticism by non-poets. 11. Big anthologies. 12. Miscellaneous (sometimes, my favorite category – unclassifiable.

In the end, after all the pondering, the alphabet prevailed, except for a few I like to keep handy on my desk.

and a few books on a messy desk....

and more books on a messy desk….

When I’m looking for something, I want to find it fast, so practicality won the day. Admitting this makes me feel slightly ashamed, but there it is. I do manage to keep a few special old books around the house.

and books with hands....

and old books next to old hands….

For one afternoon of carrying great bundles of books from one room to another, thinking about ways these writers related to each other (Should I put Ted Hughes’s Collected Works next to Sylvia Plath’s? Raymond Carver’s next to Tess Gallagher’s? Should I make sure the Welsh and Irish poets do not get mixed in with the English?) and ways I related to them (Do I really love W. H. Auden enough to add him to the shelf with Seamus Heaney and Richard Wilbur? Do I love Walter de la Mare in the same way I love C.K. Williams or Robert Graves?)…for that time of pondering, I was gloriously lost in the world of poetry.

and special books....

and a lion and a foot and complete set of The English Poets, of course……

I opened quite a few books and read a poem or two or ten. And I was inspired. How wonderful to be a poet – that’s what I was thinking at the end of the day.

So I sat down and wrote a poem.

Moral of the story? Avoiding your To-Do list (“Write!”) does not always mean you’re being unproductive. It doesn’t mean you’re wasting time, not always, not if what you have in front of you (a good book…or 400 good books!) inspires you. And inspiration doesn’t always come from something intellectual – not always a book. It could come while your surveying the almost-spring garden, Sometimes it come when you’re in the kitchen – the color of an apple or the smell of an apple cake makes you feel creative and makes you sit down to write a picture book (yes, Julie Paschkis, I mean you.)

I honestly believe that everything a writer does is a source of inspiration. Moving books from one room to another, baking a cake, playing the ukulele, drawing, reading a personal essay in The Threepenny Review (oh, it is so good),  pulling dandelions, pruning a tree, taking a walk, talking to a neighbor. Don’t feel guilty when you spend time not writing. Eventually, the desire to write will overwhelm you – when it does, pay close attention. Heed the call.  Do it. Write. Let it take you over completely.

The author Gordon Lish, photographed by Bill Hayward

And an author and his book (Gordon Lish, photographed by Bill Hayward)

You might not be prolific if you follow my advice. But you’ll stay engaged with the world of real people and real objects. Engagement – that’s a good goal, and I think it’s what makes for good writing – and a good life.  Touch things, move things, make music, bake things, get your hands dirty, unsettle the dust, sneeze.

and books that need dusting! (Achoo! Salud!)

…and books that need dusting! – on my To-Do list!

Then come back to your writing, inspired.

———————————————————————-

Beginnings

Happy New Year 2013!

I am thinking about beginnings – beginning this new year and beginning new projects.J. PaschkisSummer Birds p24-25

Starting anything is exciting but scary. I have to overcome rational and irrational fear to begin. Mainly I am afraid that a new idea is stupid and not worth pursuing. I have to ignore that fear until the idea is big enough to stand up for itself.Julie Paschkis, Root 2004

I am used to riding out the doubt when I am painting.

Julie Paschkis, brown deer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But writing is less habitual and my foundations are shakier.

Julie Paschkis, Illustration from Twist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been beginning to learn Spanish for several years now.   My Spanish is halting but improving slowly. I love learning the words and grammar. This fall I have been writing poems in Spanish and English. I work on the poems in Spanish first. My lack of fluency somehow frees me from my fear of starting a poem. I wander around the words, look at them as strange and wondrous objects and pluck them for my poems. I am distracted from the amorphous fear of creating something from scratch.

Julie Paschkis, Inko

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I have written a poem in Spanish I work on the same poem in English. I go back and forth until both versions work. My final step is to have true Spanish speakers look at the poems and point out the egregious errors: thank you Fernando and Julie Larios, and Marta Seymour.

Punctuation, 19th century engraving

New ideas are skittish. They want to run away, like deer. Here is a sample of one of my bilingual efforts, illustrated with words and image.

Julie Paschkis, Venado

What do you do to keep your ideas from running away?

The Poetry Roller Coaster

On the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz

I know it sounds almost sacrilegious for a poet to say this, but sometimes I get tired of poetry. Its compression exhausts me, and I long for the expansive qualities of fiction – long, languid prose that I hear in my head with a Southern accent so that each syllable is drawn out, drawled out, in less of a rush.  Even in fiction, Hemingway was never my thing; give me Flannery O’Connor every time. I go through phases where all I want is for the words and the world they bring me to unfold slowly.

Then, suddenly, I’ll come on a poem that says to me, “Yoo-hoo, Julie, this is why you love poetry.” Often, it’s a little ditty and not the great, famous poems that call to me that way. For one thing, famous poems rarely say “Yoo-hoo.” They are too solemn for that – at least when I’m in this kind of “Leave me alone” mood – they feel grand and architectural, pillars on the Parthenon. Elegant, accomplished, heady – they are poems to ponder, and when I’m in this mood, they feel ponder-ous.  No, the strong, upstanding, built-t0-last poems are not the ones that lure me back to my love of poetry.

It’s the playful little poems, often for children, that find me when I’m hiding and draw me back out into plain sight, out into the fresh air. Here’s one I found last night which did exactly that.  When I read it, I heard the roller coaster of poetry going back up, up, up – clackety-clacking.  You see, it’s a wooden roller coaster on a boardwalk at the beach, and it’s rickety and makes a  lot of noise, and I draw in my breath and get ready to whiz around and be thrilled.  Hands up in the air – poetry is not for cowards! And I hear someone shouting up to me from down on the beach, “Julie, is there ANYTHING BETTER THAN POETRY????”  And I shout back, “Noooooooooo!”   This little ditty did it:

Moon

I have a white cat whose name is Moon,
He eats catfish from a wooden spoon,
And sleeps till five each afternoon.

Moon goes out when the moon is bright
And sycamore trees are spotted white
To sit and stare in the dead of night.

Beyond still water cries a loon,
Through mulberry leaves peers a wild baboon
And in Moon’s eyes I see the moon.

That’s by a poet named Willam Jay Smith, not one of the pillars of the Parthenon, perhaps, but he knows a thing or two about poetry – was Poet Laureate from 1968-1970 –  and he is a sturdy wooden strut in my poetry roller coaster.

The Cyclone in Coney Island

By the way, it’s Poetry Friday, and if you want to see what people are posting, you can head over to Paper Tigers where Marjorie is in charge of the round-up today.

A New Word: Solastalgia

I like words.  That’s a condition endemic to writers (along with an obsession with stationary supplies) but I don’t think it comes out in quite the way people imagine.  It’s not like I love a thesaurus, which, if used with too much enthusiasm, can produce writing  filled with inflated diction. No, writing like that, all tarted up, is not what loving words is about, at least not in my opinion. I don’t make lists of my favorite words and then look for random places to insert them in my writing. What I’m more interested in, in terms of words, is where they come from – their etymologies and how they made their way from one part of the world and one language group to another part of the world altogether, and how they changed as they moved through time and space. The Oxford English Dictionary handles etymologies brilliantly – I’ll take the OED over a thesaurus any day

Since I love words and their complicated provenance, it makes sense for me to be interested in neologisms – newly-invented words. The other day my sister told me about this one: Solastalgia. It looks a little like something that might send you to bed with the sniffles, or maybe like something in a 19th-century novel when the heroine requires “mustard plasters.”

Actually, the word “Solastalgia,” coined in 2003 by Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht, is a condition similar to nostalgia, with a twist; it occurs not when you are far from home and long to return, but when you are still home and feel the loss of home due to the changed nature of the landscape or environment in general. My sister and I are now convinced we suffer from this condition, since we live in a world so changed from what we remember – we are constantly looking for the landmarks that have disappeared, we keep longing to repair the damage and restore a well-loved spot to it’s former health.

Take Elger Bay, for example, midway down Camano Island in Puget Sound, with its old waterfront cabins from the 30’s (no indoor plumbing, no electricity) replaced now by 6000-square-foot mansions. Signs have gone up saying “Private Beach, Keep Off.” The trees are gone, eagles are gone, driftwood has been replaced by cement bulkheads. The cabin my great-grandmother built with her husband is gone. But what we’re feeling isn’t nostalgia. We’re not longing for a simpler time. This is the heartache (or “psychoterratic illness”) of searching for a landscape that once was whole and now is damaged. Solastalgia (a mix of the root word solacium, meaning comfort, and -algia, meaning pain.)

I don’t imagine that word will  make it into my writing for children any time soon. But what an interesting word it is.  Also, terrible.  I might try writing a story about a girl who is homesick even when she’s home.

All because I heard about a new word and looked it up.

[ADDED NOTE: The Australian blog mentioned in the comments below – Healthearth – has a wonderful explanation of solastalgia – click here for a link. This is the blog of Glenn Albrecht, who first developed the concept of solastalgia and came up with a name for it.]

Cats, Dogs, Rats, Cabbages…

Yesterday it rained. And rained.   Guess I should be used to it after 37 years in the Pacific Northwest, but I admit to feeling a bit “under the weather,” literally.  The French say it another way: Avoir le cafard – “to have the cockroach” – in other words, to be down in the dumps They also say that to be depressed is to “grind the black” – broyer du noir.  Maybe the rain is making me grind a black cockroach, but I sure wish it would stop. Of course, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride….I wonder how the French say that? Outside, the drizzle has chased hummingbirds away from our new feeder; inside this afternoon, I gave up and turned on the heater, and I thought “May 3rd, for heaven’s sake, and it’s raining cats and dogs.”

Why would someone think “cats and dogs” when the rain comes down?  Where do these figures of speech come from? Did you know that in Spain, it doesn’t rain cats and dogs, it rains jugs? Esta lloviendo a cantaros!  In France, it rains ropes.  Odd.  Of course, in some places in America, it rains pitchforks. Odder still, but we just don’t think it’s quite as odd because we’re used to it. One of the wonderful things about studying another language is not only learning new idioms (did you know that while American women “give birth,” Mexican women “give light”?) but also hearing our own language in a fresh way.  And that’s what a writer need to do, too – hear his or her own language almost as if it were a foreign tongue.

My wish that the rain would go away is “pie in the sky” – unattainable – or, as the French say,   prendre la lune avec les dents – taking the moon with the teeth. One of these days, it’s going to stop raining and we’ll go straight from our in-like-a-lion days to the dog days of summer – lions and dogs, odd again – without ever seeing spring.  Rats! (or, as the Italians might say Cavolo! Cabbage!)

I guess I shouldn’t get too cranky about it – the rain, the deluge.  We tolerate, we get by little by little or in fits and starts or in bits and pieces or in – well – andiamo por singhiozzo – we go by hiccups. And it’s important, in Seattle to ponder what the Romans famously said: Nos poma natamus. We apples swim.  We are unsinkable.

Next time I write a poem, I might try to write about people who are like apples floating in water. Or I might write a poem where I sink my teeth into the moon. People ask me where I get my ideas. This is where. Cats, dogs, rats, cabbages, hiccups, the moon.  Language.

It’s Poetry Friday today, by the way, and Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader is hosting the round-up. Head over there to see what poems, thoughts about poetry, and links people have posted.

Here’s to Amazement

Robert F. Bukaty - Maine Cold

I’ve been reading One Hundred Years of Solitude again. I read it every so often – usually after a long period of rain in the Pacific Northwest. The book acts on me like a tonic.  I love the way the inhabitants of Macondo, the village Garcia Marquez creates for the novel, see ordinary things  as wondrous. A magnet, a magnifying glasses, a cake of ice  – the ordinary is extraordinary. Sure, a young woman can float off into the sky – but ice? Ice is a miracle.

Here’s how Garcia Marquez describes the moment a gypsy giant brings ice (hidden in a pirate chest!) to Macondo:

          Disconcerted, knowing the children were waiting for an immediate explanation, Jose Arcadio Buendia ventured a murmur:

“It’s the largest diamond in the world.”

“No,” the gypsy countered. “It’s ice.”

Jose Arcadio Buendia, without understanding, stretched out his hand toward the cake, but the giant moved it away. “Five reales more to touch it,” he said. Jose Arcadio Buendia paid them and put his hand on the ice and held it there for several minutes as his heart filled with fear and jubilation at the contact with mystery

It’s easy on a day-to-day basis to allow the mystery or ordinary things to sink below the surface.  But  part of the joy of reading Garcia Marquez is that wonder  is refreshed. We come away ready to see the world with new eyes.

The photo of the bird above, taken by the wonderful AP photographer Robert F. Bukaty, has the same effect on me.  How unexpected it is – the bird’s breath in the cold Maine air, the frozen whistle.  That photo is a poem.

Which reminds me: April is National Poetry Month. I’m going to read some poetry.  And write some poems.  I might go out and play with magnets or buy a magnifying glass or hold an ice cube in my hand.  I’m going to try looking with fear and jubilation at what surrounds me.  Christopher Fry, the British playwright, once said that poetry “is the language by which man explores his own amazement.”  I’m going to go exploring.

Ice!

My Book Bag

From time to time, I want to share books from my own book bag with you here –  “around the table.”  This is what I have in my book bag today:

FAVORITE POETRY BOOKS FOR CHILDREN – 2011

 

I’ve read so many “Best Books of 2011” lists since January – and discovered so many titles I might otherwise have missed – that I’d like to share my list of nine favorite poetry books for children in 2011.  I chose them based on the craftsmanship behind the poems themselves, the beauty and delight of their illustrations, and the kid appeal (or, sometimes, teacher appeal – though hopefully both) of the whole package. Above are cover images – just click on those for larger images.  And click on titles in the list below to read more about them at Goodreads.com – I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

If you’re interested in these books – either as a reader or a writer –  be sure to follow Sylvia Vardell’s wonderful blog, Poetry for Children as well as Librarians’ Choices, the blog project headed up by Ms. Vardell, where you’ll find a Master List of worthy poetry titles for kids, put together by librarians around the country. And visit blogs of people who participate in Poetry Friday from week to week – you’ll find a list of people who host the Poetry Friday Round-Up through June over at A Year of Reading.

Illustration by Mark A. Hicks