“Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”

Singer/songwriter pianist Nina Simone singing Bob Dylan’s song “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” — from her album “To Love Somebody” (released: 1969)

“Desert Rose”

Sting, Morocco, 2015

“Unpacking a Globe” — Poem in Your Pocket Day, April 30th

Unpacking a Globe
by Arthur Sze

I gaze at the Pacific and don’t expect
to ever see the heads on Easter Island,

though I guess at sunlight rippling
the yellow grasses sloping to shore;

yesterday a doe ate grass in the orchard:
it lifted its ears and stopped eating

when it sensed us watching from
a glass hallway—in his sleep, a veteran

sweats, defusing a land mine.
On the globe, I mark the Battle of

the Coral Sea—no one frets at that now.
A poem can never be too dark,

I nod and, staring at the Kenai, hear
ice breaking up along an inlet;

yesterday a coyote trotted across
my headlights and turned his head

but didn’t break stride; that’s how
I want to live on this planet:

alive to a rabbit at a glass door—
and flower where there is no flower.

(Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2015)

Notes: the Kenai is a river in Alaska

ArthurSzePhoto1                ArthurSzePhoto2 (2)         

Arthur Sze, Chinese American poet (born 1950 in New York City)
Among this poet’s honors and awards, he was the first Poet Laureate
of Sante Fe, New Mexico 2006-2008 where Mr. Sze lives.

~ Earth Day — Happy 50th Anniversary, April 22, 2020 ~

GeorgiaOKeefeRedPoppyEarthDayApril222020                  SunflowerGeorgiaOkeefeEarthDayApril222020

“What a desolate place would be a world without a flower!  It would be a face without a smile, a feast without a welcome.  Are not flowers the stars of the earth, and are not our stars the flowers of heaven?”

–Clara Lucas Balfour (1808-1878)  English author and lecturer

squash-blossoms_painter-georgia-o-keeffe__86161__32063__37438.1566784665                FlowersPetuniasGKEarthDayApril222020

 

All paintings by artist, Georgia O'Keeffe (1887 - 1986):
Red Poppy, 1927
Sunflower, New Mexico, I, 1935
Squash Blossoms, 1925
Black and Purple Petunia, 1925

Canadian Poet, Lucy Maud Montgomery

SmallposterNationalPoetryMonthApril2020                 SmallNationalPoetryMonthCanadianPosterApril2020

Created in the U.S. in 1996, and joined by Canada in 1998, April is National Poetry Month

A Canadian writer/poet, often considered a children’s author, actually wrote and published poetry in various North American publications before she published her first novel in 1908.  This writer/poet is Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874 – 1942), famous for creating the character, “Anne” Shirley, of the Anne of Green Gables book series.  Ms. Montgomery is, also, known publicly as L.M. Montgomery and to her friends and family as “Maud.”

It wasn’t until 45 years after Lucy Maud Montgomery’s death that a book compilation of her poetry was published.  Entitled The Poetry of Lucy Maud Montgomery, this book of poems appeared in October 1987.

205px-Lucy_Maud_Montgomery      lucymaudwrite              LucymaudMontgomery-Lucy-Maud

In Port 

Out of the fires of the sunset come we again to our own­
We have girdled the world in our sailing under many an orient star;
Still to our battered canvas the scents of the spice gales cling,
And our hearts are swelling within us as we cross the harbor bar.

Beyond are the dusky hills where the twilight hangs in the pine trees,
Below are the lights of home where are watching the tender eyes
We have dreamed of on fretted seas in the hours of long night-watches,
Ever a beacon to us as we looked to the stranger skies.

Hark! how the wind comes out of the haven’s arms to greet us,
Bringing with it the song that is sung on the ancient shore!
Shipmates, furl we our sails we have left the seas behind us,
Gladly finding at last our homes and our loves once more.

Night

A pale enchanted moon is sinking low
Behind the dunes that fringe the shadowy lea,
And there is haunted starlight on the flow
Of immemorial sea.

I am alone and need no more pretend
Laughter or smile to hide a hungry heart;
I walk with solitude as with a friend
Enfolded and apart.

I tread an eerie road across the moor
Where shadows weave upon their ghostly looms,
And winds sing an old lyric that might lure
Sad queens from ancient tombs.

I am a sister to the loveliness
Of cool far hill and long-remembered shore,
Finding in it a sweet forgetfulness
Of all that hurt before.

The world of day, and its bitterness and cark,
No longer have the power to make me weep;
I welcome this communion of the dark
As toilers welcome sleep.

 

Countee Cullen — Poet

CounteeCulleenWarrenGoodsonPaintingCropped                    cullen_counteephoto2

            Countee Cullen —
Portrait by Warren Goodson

Poet Countee Cullen (1903-1946), during the 1920s, was a beacon of the Harlem Renaissance era as his poetry was often published to considerable acclaim during that time.  An adopted son of a Methodist minister in New York City, Cullen was able to receive the benefits of education, attending a reputable boys’ high school in Manhattan and earning college degrees at both New York University (NYU) and Harvard.  It was while attending NYU that Cullen established his substance and style as a poet.

From 1925 until 1929 Cullen published four books of poetry: Color (1925); Copper Sun (1927); The Ballad of the Brown Girl (1927) and The Black Christ and Other Poems (1929).  He was the recipient of several poetry prizes as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship during these years.

In the early 1930s Cullen published his novel One Way to Heaven (1932) and also acquired his teaching certification from the New York Board of Education.  This certification fulfilled a way for him to continue to live in New York City, and by 1934 Cullen began teaching in the New York public schools full time. From the mid-1930s into the 1940s he published a translation of a Greek drama, The Medea and other Poems and two children’s books The Lost Zoo (1940) and My Lives and How I Lost Them (1942).

After Cullen’s death in January 1946, at age 42, the work On These I Stand: An Anthology of the Best Poems of Countee Cullen, selected by the author was published posthumously in 1947.

If I Should Go

Love, leave me like the light,
The gently passing day;
We would not know, but for the night,
When it has slipped away.

Go quietly; a dream,
When done, should leave no trace
That it has lived, except a gleam
Across the dreamer’s face

Saturday’s Child

Some are teethed on a silver spoon,
With the stars strung for a rattle;
I cut my teeth as the black raccoon—
For implements of battle.

Some are swaddled in silk and down,
And heralded by a star;
They swathed my limbs in a sackcloth gown
On a night that was black as tar.

For some, godfather and goddame
The opulent fairies be;
Dame Poverty gave me my name,
And Pain godfathered me.

For I was born on Saturday—
“Bad time for planting a seed,”
Was all my father had to say,
And, “one mouth more to feed.”

Death cut the strings that gave me life,
And handed me to Sorrow,
The only kind of middle wife
My folks could beg or borrow.

— Countee Cullen (poems from: Color published 1925)

ColorbyCCullen                CopperSunCounteeCullen                     TheBlackChristAndOtherPoems1929CounteeCullenVersion2

 

J.R.R. Tolkien & Father Christmas

FatherChristmasLetterSelfPortraitEdited1931 It is the birthday of English writer and scholar, J.R.R. Tolkien (born January 3, 1892). Among his now published writings is a series of his letters from “Father Christmas” (aka Santa Claus) to his children in years 1920-1943. Tolkien’s children are John, Michael, Christopher and Priscilla.

These annual letters include lively snippets of the life of this Father Christmas whose residence is in the North Pole. Among the cast of characters who assist Father Christmas are Polar Bear and his visiting nephews, Paksu and Valkotukka, and an elf assistant, Ilbereth. As they grapple throughout the year with various calamities including too much snow or flooding, goblin attacks and other misadventures, Father Christmas and his helpers strive to make sure Christmas deliveries can be made on time every December.

Tolkien drew colorful pictures to accompany the text of the letters. Following Tolkien’s death in 1973 and beginning in 1976, several different compilations and editions of these “Father Christmas” letters have been published.

LettersFromFatherChristmasPicture1 (2)

FatherChristmasLettersNorthernLights

1926 — The Northern Lights

FatherChristmasLettersPolarBearGoblins&FatherChristmas

1933

FatherChristmasEnvelope1937

1937

PolarBear1931932

NPB (North Polar Bear) named Karhu

 

LettersFromFatherChristmasHarper&Row                                   LettersFromFatherChristmasHoughtonMifflin

That’s Entertainment!

I recently saw for the first time the 1953 movie musical “The Band Wagon” where the song “That’s Entertainment” is from (this song subsequently became the title of the mid 1970s documentary “That’s Entertainment” that highlighted the late 1920s – late 1950s era of the Hollywood musical).

I wasn’t aware that there was actually a song that the documentary film title was based on.  This song’s lyrics, to a large extent, seem to speak to the love of theater in terms of plot scenarios…

“That’s Entertainment” by songwriter, Arthur Schwartz

Anything that happens in life
Can happen in a show
You can make ’em laugh
You can make ’em cry
Anything, anything can go

The clown
With his pants falling down
Or the dance
That’s a dream of romance
Or the scene
Where the villain is mean
That’s entertainment!

The lights
On the lady in tights
Or the bride
With the guy on the side
Or the ball
Where she gives him her all
That’s entertainment!

The plot
Could be hot
Simply teeming with sex
A gay
Divorcee
Who is after her ex
It could be Oedipus Rex
Where a chap kills his father
And causes a lot of bother

The clerk
Who is thrown out of work
By the boss
Who is thrown for a loss
By the skirt
Who is doing him dirt

The world is a stage
The stage is a world
Of entertainment!

That’s entertainment!

That’s entertainment!

The doubt
While the jury is out
Or the thrill
When they’re reading the will
Or the chase
For the man with the face
That’s Entertainment!

The dame
Who is known as the flame
Of the king
Of an underworld ring
He’s an ape
Who won’t let her escape
That’s entertainment!

It might
Be a fight
Like you see on the screen
A swain
Getting slain
For the love of a queen
Some great Shakespearean scene
Where a ghost and a prince meet
And everyone ends in mincemeat

The gag
Might be waving the flag
That began
With a Mr. Cohan
Hip hooray
The American way!

The world is a stage
The stage is a world
Of entertainment!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rider

“The Rider” by Naomi Shihab Nye is from a group of suggested poems designated for this April 2019’s “Poem in Your Pocket Day.”  Part of National Poetry Month and sponsored by the National Academy of Poets and the League of Canadian Poets, April 18th was the day this year people were encouraged to “carry a poem, share a poem, or start your own Poem in Your Pocket Day event.”

The Rider

A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,
the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.
What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.
A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.

–Naomi Shihab Nye (1952 – )
from Fuel: Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1998

naomi-shihab-nyeFuelNaomiShihabNye

A poem for Earth Day

Pragmatics

In your story of bees,
they slowly fill an outside wall—
three stud-spaces wide, two storeys high—
in the front bay of your old farmhouse.
You first try all the poisons,

even your pickup set
to run all day, its exhaust
piped into a hole in the wall—
while you go away, hoping the fumes
will kill them. But no.

So on a winter’s icy morning
you pull the siding off
and scrape out, storey by tall storey,
thick clots of comb and honey,
clumps of stiff, chilled bees.

They had to go. No question.
But tell me again, please,
how you stood inside and breathed—
in summer’s reckless heat—
the fragrance of their work,
wild perfume of wax and flower.
Say again how you pressed your ear
tight to the wall, heard the house humming,
felt its blur of countless wings,
a fine, even tremble.

— Paulann Petersen, 1998 (born in Portland, 1942)
Oregon’s sixth Poet Laureate (serving two terms: 2010 – 2012 and 2012-2014)

Refuge

“Refuge”

by Kirah Van Sickle
Mixed media and collage on paper