National Poetry Day in Britain

logo-no-dateIn the United States, April is designated as National Poetry Month, but September 28th is Britain’s National Poetry Day with this year’s theme of freedom.  The official website offers many poems – Poems on Freedom – not all by British poets, but I like this one by Mary Coleridge:

I had a boat, and the boat had wings;
And I did dream that we went a flying
Over the heads of queens and kings,
Over the souls of dead and dying,
Up among the stars and the great white rings,
And where the Moon on her back is lying.

One of my favorite poets is William Butler Yeats, who received the 1923 Nobel Prize for Literature.  When I was in Dublin, I visited the exhibition of his work at the National Library of Ireland, and I bought a small illustrated anthology of his poetry – one of the books I treasure on my limited bookshelf.

Yeats’ The Lake Isle of Innisfree is among the poems on freedom included by the National Poetry Day site. Perhaps you remember memorizing it in school. My favorite stanza…

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

As I read through my small volume of Yeats: Romantic Visionary, I was struck by this one:

The Song of Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
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On the Day After the Election…

Looking to literature to provide some inspiration on the election results in the United States, I looked to The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and poetry from Maya Angelou and Rudyard Kipling, but the one I settled on is from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (living in Hawaii may have influenced my choice):

THE TIDE RISES, THE TIDE FALLS 

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

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Dog Songs

Today’s New York Times Book Review is dedicated to poetry, prompting me to reread the favorites on my shelf and introducing me to a new poet, Mary Oliver, with her 2013 book of poems Dog Songs.

“True to its title, the book gathers poems (and one essay) about dogs. ‘I think they are companions the way people aren’t,’ Oliver told the Times when it was published in 2013. ‘They lie next to you when you’re sad. And, they remind us that we’re animals too…'”

Gregory Cowles, Inside the List

After downloading the sample book, I realized I needed this book in print – to appreciate all the pictures of dogs included. My library system has 24 books of poetry by Mary Oliver; besides Dog Songs, I’ve also ordered ThirstWhy I Wake Early, and American Primitive, the book that won her the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984.

9780143125839_p0_v1_s192x300Here’s a teaser from the sample:

EVERY DOG’S STORY

I have a bed, my very own.

It’s just my size.

And sometimes I like to sleep alone

with dreams inside my eyes.

 

But sometimes dreams are dark and wild and

creepy

and I wake and am afraid, though I don’t know

why.

But I’m no longer sleepy

and too slowly the hours go by.

 

So I climb on the bed where the light of the

moon

is shining on your face

and I know it will be morning soon.

 

Everybody needs a safe place.

 

Christmas Dog

One of my favorite Christmas poems from one of my favorite poets…

 CHRISTMAS DOG  

by Shel Silverstein

Tonight’s my first night as a watchdog,
And here it is Christmas Eve.

The children are sleepin’ all cozy upstairs,

While I’m guardin’ the stockin’s and tree.
What’s that now–footsteps on the rooftop?

Could it be a cat or a mouse?

Who’s this down the chimney?

A thief with a beard–

And a big sack for robbin’ the house?
I’m barkin’ I’m growlin’ I’m bittin’ his butt.

He howls and jumps back in his sleigh.

I scare his strange horses, they leap in the air.

I’ve frightened the whole bunch away.
Now the house is all peaceful and quiet again,

The stockin’s are safe as can be.

Won’t the kiddies be glad when they wake up tomorrow

And see how I’ve guarded the tree.

Literary Maine

Overwhelmed by the beauty of the foliage as I drive through Maine, I’ve decided Brunswick is my favorite place, maybe because it’s a college town. Although Longfellow wrote his first published poem at twelve years old, Bowdoin College was where he studied Latin and Greek, and became familiar with the rhyme scheme he later used in “Evangeline,” the sad tale of lovers torn apart when the British banished the French Acadians (now known as the Cajuns) from Nova Scotia. It seemed like a good idea to download the poem (free online) to reread it while here.

Brunswick also claims Harriet Beecher Stowe who lived in a house near campus with her professor husband for only two years before moving to Andover in Massachusetts. During his tenure at Bowdoin, Harriet wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” to supplement his low salary. Their house has changed through the years and the college now uses it as a dorm. I’ve never read this famous book (I do remember the play rendition in the movie “The King and I”). Have you read it?

Of course I’ve been seeking and finding bookstores: the Bowdoin College Bookstore, The Gulf of Maine in Brunswick, and Sherman’s – Maine’s oldest bookstore – in Bar Harbor. And the weather is great for reading.

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