PARTICULARLY PASSIONATE, POWERFUL AND PERCEPTIVE POETS – Rich Paschall

National Poetry Month, Rich Paschall

Perhaps you did not know we have a National Poetry month. It has been celebrated each year since 1996. It is a way to honor the genre that gets little notice outside of high school and college Literature classes. Events are organized. “Poetry slams” are encountered. Bookstores feature poetry. Literate Presidents provide proclamations. For many, it is an important spotlight for this literary art form.

In high school we learned all about the literary devices that are important to many poems. It is not just end rhyme that is important, as many poems do not include this. It is also alliteration, that is the repetition of initial consonant sounds as in the title above.

There is also rhythm which helps the lines to flow or give it that musical quality. Of course, rhyme, particularly “end rhyme” also plays into this. I always thought that the Carol King Tapestry album demonstrated the use of sound devices quite well. In my mind it is one of the most brilliant and literate albums of all time.

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold

This brings me to a salient point for the non believers of the importance of poetry. Many will say they do not read poetry and in fact do not know any poems. Of course, this is not true. Most of us can recite poems without any problem at all. That is because we all have song lyrics embedded in our memory banks.

We sing along with songs on the radio and before long we know the lyrics. We play our favorite albums often and the words can be quickly recalled. We know these lyrics, that is the poems, better than any we encountered in school. While some could not think of a poem from class that they still know, they can recall song lyrics at a moment’s notice.

In college, at proms and dances, even at weddings Beginnings by Chicago was a popular song in the 1970s. I recall the song today  just as I did back then. The poem has stayed with me and I am always happy to sing along. The words did not rely heavily on sound devices. It let the music and the meaning carry it.

When I’m with you
It doesn’t matter where we are
Or what we’re doing
I’m with you, that’s all that matters

On the 1st of April, 1996 President Clinton told us: “National Poetry Month offers us a welcome opportunity to celebrate not only the unsurpassed body of literature produced by our poets in the past, but also the vitality and diversity of voices reflected in the works of today’s American poetry.” He went on to tell us “creativity and wealth of language enrich our culture.”

If you listen to a lot of music on the radio, you may think that much of what you hear resembles bad fifth grade poetry with an obnoxious meter designed to drive you crazy. This is not unique to today’s song lyrics. After all our generation had “bubble gum music:”

Yummy, yummy, yummy
I got love in my tummy and I feel like a-lovin’ you
Love, you’re such a sweet thing, good enough to eat thing
And it’s just a-what I’m gonna do

We will spare you the link to this Ohio Express “classic.” I will force you to search the internet for it yourself. Don’t worry, every bad song is immortalized on You Tube.

Aside from your favorite Carol King or Chicago song lyrics, there are many poets sending a message without music. These hard-working scribes need an extra push to catch the attention of the reading public. National poetry month is meant to help that along.

Did you know that the United States has an official poet? The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, better known as the United States Poet Laureate, is Tracy K. Smith. The person serving in this capacity “seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.”

Library of Congress in D.C.

The post was started in 1937 as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, but was changed by Congress in 1985 to its present title. The post has been held by such literary heavyweights as Robert Penn Warren, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, James Dickey, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others. You may have read some of them in school.

I recall Frost from my school days. I always saw the importance of his work, The Road Not Taken, and probably appreciate it more now than I did then. You can support poetry this month by doing more than bad karaoke at the local inn. Read a poem, buy a book of poetry, listen to poems on Audible or some poetry site. You may find works that are more important than the lyrics to your favorite song.

Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE – Marilyn Armstrong

By Clement Clarke Moore


‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads.

1864
1864

And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap —
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

1883
1883

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

1886
1886

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:
“Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
“On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen;
“To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

1896
1896

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys — and St. Nicholas too:
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack.

1898
1898

His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

1901
1901

He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight —
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


A quick note:

Back when newspapers were getting read by normal people, every year The Boston Herald printed this poem on its front page. The Herald was disbanded this year, a very sad day for Boston now reduced to just one newspaper, so I have undertaken to print the poem myself.

The pictures are originals of the book’s covers through the years. Sometimes called “The Night Before Christmas” and other times called “A Visit From St. Nicholas” and periodically both, the covers show this variation.

Most people know it by both titles anyway. I used to know it by heart.

Songs for the seasonally challenged III… – Reblog – Sue Vincent

Songs for the seasonally challenged III…

To the tune of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen:

Related image

God rest ye merry gentlemen…

There’ll be no rest for me!

I’ve got to cook and clean and wrap

And then put up the tree…

For Christmas cheer won’t make itself

That I can guarantee…

Oh, oh, we’ll bake the ‘comfort and joy’,

Wrap up a toy,

And that ruddy Christmas song will soon annoy…

*

“A woman’s work is never done”

And Christmas time is worst!

You never get a chance to breathe

For putting others first;

You cook and roast and decorate…

They eat until they burst!

Oh, all diets one Christmas will destroy,

Can you enjoy

Knowing e-e-lastic waistbands are a ploy..?

*

God rest ye merry gentlemen…

You ate the ruddy lot!

You stripped the turkey, ate the cheese,

And cleaned out every pot!

You drank the wine and fell asleep

After that second ‘shot’…

Oh, oh, tidying up is not a joy

Never a joy…

And sometimes I wish that I had been a boy.

INSPIRED: WHY I WRITE WHILE YOU PREFER GOLF – Marilyn Armstrong

Wednesday RDP – INSPIRE

A friend asked me why I do this, why I blog. So I asked her why she plays golf.

This is an evergreen post for me. I’ve modified a bit with each iteration, but it says something that’s fundamentally true about the creative process and certainly about my creative process. Writing is me. It’s the sport I play, the goal I seek. Sometimes, I need to remind myself of things I already know, so here it is, again.


We do what we do because we love it, need to do it, or both. For me, writing is like breathing. If I don’t write, I strangle on words never used. My friend needs to compete, to be active. To play golf or she will suffocate.

I can’t begin to count the number of people who have told me they want to be writers, but don’t know how. They want me to tell them how. That they asked the question makes me fairly sure they are not writers.

If you are a writer, you write. You will write and will keep writing because it is not what you do, it is what you are. It is as much a part of you as your nose or stomach.

75-FadedBooksFloatingWordsNK-004

I started writing as soon as I learned to read, which was about 45 minutes after someone handed me a reading primer. It was as if a switch had been thrown in my brain. Words felt like home.

Writing was (is) exactly the same as speaking, but takes longer. I have never minded spending the extra time. I love crafting sentences until they are just right. I love that I can go back and fix written words, that unlike words you say, you can take them back.

Raison d’être? I write because I’m a writer. Writing is how I express myself, how I interact with the world. It’s my window, my doorway, my handshake, my dreams.

If you are going to be a writer, you probably already know it. Practice will make you a better writer, can help you understand the techniques you need to build a plot and create books that publishers will buy. Writing itself is a gift.

If you have it, you know it — and most of us know it quite young.

computer gargoyle

Writers have words. They collect in your mind, waiting to be written. We have heads full of words, sentences, pronouns, adjectives, and dependent clauses.

My advice to everyone who aspires to be a writer is to write. Don’t talk about it. Do it. Whatever medium works for you. Blogging, novels, short stories, poetry. Whatever. I’d also advise you to not talk about your work until you’ve done a significant amount of writing. I can’t count the number of great ideas left on barroom floors, talked away until there was nothing left but a vague memory and a lot of empty wine glasses. Save your words to a better purpose.

Write a lot even if it’s mostly not very good. Sooner or later, you’ll find your thing. Or not.

But at least you will know you did your best, even if your best wasn’t quite up to snuff. If you don’t write, it might be a personal loss for you, but possibly, it’s the world’s loss.

You will never know how good you can be if you don’t at least give it a try.

THE SECOND COMING – W. B. YEATS

THE SECOND COMING – William Butler Yeats


The Second Coming” is a poem written by Irish poet W. B. Yeats in 1919, first printed in The Dial in November 1920, and afterward included in his 1921 collection of verses Michael Robartes and the Dancer.

OUR MOMENT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Moment

This is a moment. Well, really, the last year and a half (is it longer? shorter? interminable?) has been a “moment.”

For me, it has been a long and painful moment of realization. This catastrophe in which we have been engulfed didn’t just “sort of show up” in 2016. It isn’t something that dropped in from the outer limits. As Americans, we’ve been building towards this monumental, momentous calamity for our entire history.

We have done great things. We have also done horrendous and unspeakable things. We have — as all countries do — glossed over the unspeakable and put a lot of our energy focusing on the greatness. We have ignored our failures and failed to grow up, nationally speaking.

One of the many important things Obama said in his recent lecture was that we had made progress and so we assumed that this progress meant that we had left “the bad stuff” behind and moved on.

But that isn’t what happened at all. Briefly, our better selves dominated politically, but all the rest of it was still right where it had been before. Our Civil War is more than 150 year in our past, yet for many people, it is still going on. Despite the obvious that this entire country — unless you are a Native American — is built on immigration, we have forgotten who we are and where we come from and that it is the energy and willingness to “go the distance” that gave the United States its vitality.

We also forgot that we got our big bang of industrial power from the decimation of Europe following two devastating wars. Yes, we fought in them, but they took place elsewhere. Not on our shores and if we want to pause briefly and ponder Pearl Harbor and 9/11, we can only imagine how different this country would be if the wars fought had been fought here.

Not “over there.” Not on some foreign shore, but in our backyard. We never had to rebuild our entire infrastructure. We have been political fools. Not only now, but in many earlier times when we elected immoral, mentally challenged morons as our leaders.

It matters more now because we gained so much power. And because the speed of events has increased and we don’t wait for news anymore. Everything is instant, continuous, and migraine-inducing.

We didn’t get here by accident or because of one bad election. We have never demanded our citizens vote or even get a decent education. We have never required our citizenry behave like grownups, either. Why should we be surprised we find ourselves in this unreal, treasonous, and terrifying scenario?

Map of Nazi conquest of Europe as of 1940

This is our moment to consider who and what we want to be as a nation. Do we want to be the perpetual international fools and morons? Do we want to pretend that all the really important things — decency, morality, safety, protection, equality, liberty and fair government — are trivial? That the only thing that matters is greed? As long as someone promises to lower our taxes, nothing else counts?

If we continue thinking like that, we will be lost in history, a mere blip on the timeline. And because we have had so much power, we might take down other nations with us. Who knows how many?

We are not an island, nor do we exist alone and separate on this planet.


No Man is an Island – John Donne

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.


MEDITATION XVII
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne