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

 

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“How Poetry Comes to Me It comes blundering over the Boulders at night…” Gary Snyder

Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows in the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in the cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

Dawn

Rolling snow turned peach-color
the moon
left alone in the fading night
makes a soft cry in the heavens
and once more
drinks up the scattered light

–From the collection of poems The Back Country by Gary Snyder, published 1968.

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Gary Snyder (1930-) is an American award-winning poet, environmental activist, Zen Buddhist and educator (also considered one of the Beat movement poets.)

 

From COLD MOUNTAIN POEMS – The poems of Chinese
poet, Han Shan (c. 680-760) in a translation by Gary Snyder

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There’s a Naked Bug at Cold Mountain

There’s a naked bug at Cold Mountain
With a white body and a black head.
His hands hold two book-scrolls,
One the Way and one its Power.
His shack’s got no pots or oven,
He goes for a walk with his shirt and pants askew.
But he always carries the sword of wisdom:
He means to cut down senseless craving.

 

“How Poetry Comes to Me It comes blundering over the Boulders at night, it stays Frightened outside the Range of my campfire I go to meet it at the Edge of the light”
–Gary Snyder

 

Kathe Kollwitz, German Expressionist artist & activist (1867 – 1945)

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Considered one of the foremost artists of social commentary of the 20th century, Kathe Kollwitz (formerly Kathe Schmidt) grew up in an open minded German middle-class family that encouraged her to pursue a career in art.  Studying painting in Berlin and Munich, she eventually found her calling in graphic art, focusing on etchings, lithographs, woodcuts and drawing.

After marrying Karl Kollwitz, a doctor, in 1891, it was in his working-class patients in Berlin that Kathe discovered new subject matter.  With empathy and insight, she began to depict in her work the day-to-day struggles of poor and working-class families.  She directed her attention to portraying, in particular, the oppression of women and children, and discovered printmaking as a worthwhile medium for creating and distributing what would be regarded as controversial artwork.

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Kollwitz was additionally influenced by such writers as Emile Zola, Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Gerhart Hauptmann, whose play “The Weavers” had inspired her first series of prints. The series portrays the story of a group of Silesian weavers who staged an uprising during the 1840s to revolt against extremely low wages and poor working conditions.

In 1920 Kollwitz was elected a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts, the first woman to be so honored.  Membership entailed a regular income, a large studio, and a full professorship. When Hitler came to power in 1933, however, Kollwitz was forced to resign from her academy post.  Her art was classified as ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis, who barred her from exhibiting her work.  She was humiliated and marginalized by the dictatorial regime until her death, which came just two weeks before the end of World War II.

Ultimately living through both World War I and World War II and losing a son and later a grandson in each of these, Kollwitz’s art reflects the upheaval and turbulence of the first half of the 20th century.  Devastated by the death of her son in 1914 in the first world war (that lead to a prolonged depression), Kollwitz worked for several years to create a memorial in his honor entitled The Grieving Parents.  Her art was both personal and political.

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Fire Breathing Dragon

FireBreathingDragonOverIcelandFeb2019

 Iceland, February 2019

Up on the Roof

The Beatles singing “Get Back” on a London rooftop, January 1969

 

Irish rock band, U2, live performance of song “Where the Streets Have No Name,” Los Angeles rooftop, March 1987

The Sky Swan

“The Sky Swan” — Federico Bottos, photographer

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https://unsplash.com/photos/XAf8in4t8kE

 

“Yellow”

There is a backstory about the compelling letter that Director Jon Chu wrote to the members of the band, Coldplay asking permission to feature a cover of their song “Yellow” in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians.”  I’m very glad Coldplay agreed!!

This is sung in Chinese by Katherine Ho.

 

The movie takes place in New York City and Singapore and features an all Asian cast.  The film is based on the first book of a trilogy written by author, Kevin Kwan: Crazy Rich Asians (Book 1); China Rich Girlfriend Book 2); and Rich People Problems (Book 3) .

Agatha Christie — Writer, Traveler, Playwright, Wife, Mother, Surfer

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This weekend (specifically Saturday, September 15, 2018) was the birthday of the British writer, Agatha Christie.  Born in 1890 in Torquay, Devon in southwestern England, Ms. Christie is best known for her detective mystery novels and short stories.  The youngest of three children in an upper middle class family (her father was American and her mother British), Ms. Christie was educated at home by her mother and later studied, also, in Paris.

It is believed Ms. Christie began writing detective stories during World War I when she worked as a nurse volunteer.  Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published in 1920.  In this story readers are introduced to one of Ms. Christie’s best known fictional characters, the eccentric Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.  Along with Poirot, the other well known, albeit, “amateur,” detective fictional character that eventually also became familiar to readers is the elderly spinster woman, Miss Jane Marple, who began appearing in Ms. Christie’s novels and stories in 1927.

While Ms. Christie’s crime stories brought her much professional success, her private life was not without heartbreak.  Her father died when she was 11 years old and her mother in 1927.  In the late 1920s, her 1914 marriage to Archibald Christie, with whom they share a daughter, ended badly.

In 1930 Ms. Christie fell in love and married the archaeologist, Max Mallowan.  This pairing proved to be happy, and Ms. Christie often accompanied her second husband on his archaeology digs in the Middle East as well as spent time traveling with him in Europe and Asia.  Ms. Christie began to feature the places they visited and spent time in as locations in her some of her novels including Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express.

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A prolific writer, Ms. Christie is now recognized as one of the most widely read authors in the world.  In 1971, several years before she died at the age of 85 in 1976, Ms. Christie had been given the title “dame” by the British Empire.  Along with being credited with writing 66 crime novels, 16 plays and numerous short stories, Ms. Christie also wrote 6 psychological romance novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott — this is something the public did not know until it was revealed in 1949 that Ms. Westmacott was actually Agatha Christie.

There have been many films made of Agatha Christie novels and short stories (just recently, for example. a 2017 movie adaptation of the novel “Murder on the Orient Express” was released).  One of the most memorable movie adaptations of an Agatha Christie story, made while Ms. Christie was still alive, is the 1957 movie “Witness for the Prosecution” starring actors Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton and Elsa Lancaster and directed by filmmaker, Billy Wilder – this film still captivates movie goers today!

MurderOntheOrientExpress                            WitnessFortheProsecution

 

“You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way”

Elvis Costello song from the 2017 movie “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” (featuring actors Annette Bening and Jamie Bell)

 

Another one for nature and National Poetry Month

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A Buffalo Skull

No fine white bone-sheen now;
a hundred hard years
have worn it away, this stump
washed up on a bar
in the river, its horns
like broken roots,
its muzzle filled with sand
and the thin gray breath
of spider webs.  Once,
they covered the grasslands
like the shadows of clouds,
and now the river gives up
just one skull, a hive of bone
like a fallen wasp’s nest,
heavy, empty, and
full of the whine of the wind
and old thunder.

–Ted Kooser (American Poet — born in Ames, Iowa, 1939)  This poem is from One World at a Time, published 1985

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