Silent Poetry

Blasting You With Poetry: 2022: Week 4

April is National Poetry Month.

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To celebrate, Bonny, Kat, Sarah, and I have been sharing poetry with you each Thursday during April. This week - our last - we're sharing the poems we "carry in our pockets." Y'know. Those comfortable, favorite poems that we "carry around" and share whenever we can. 


Poem In Your Pocket Day . . . is really A Thing, and has been since 2008. It's designed for people to simply share poems they love with others. In the days before the pandemic, I would actually print out copies of a short poem and carry them around with me on Poem In Your Pocket Day. I left them behind on coffee shop tables, in gym lockers, on shelves at the grocery store. That kind of thing. It was fun, even though I imagine most people ignored them or tossed them in the trash.

Anyway, now I'll just share the poem in my pocket here . . .with you!


I Worried
Mary Oliver

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not, how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out in to the morning,
and sang.


Today's poem is from my copy of Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, published by Penguin Random House, 2017. For more information about today's poet, Mary Oliver, click here.


Be sure to visit Bonny, Kat, and Sarah today so you can read the poems they carry in their pockets (fabulous poems, all!). And thank you for celebrating National Poetry Month with us this year.


Making . . . Something Different

If you follow along here, you may have noticed that on Wednesdays I usually write something . . . about something I've made or am in the process of making. It's usually knitting, but sometimes sewing or maybe stitching-ish; sometimes painting or art-ish.

Today? I'm going to show you something different I've "made."


Today, I'm going to show you the poetry collection I've created in my home library.
(Because Poetry Month. . . )

So those top three shelves in the photo above . . . show my entire little poetry library. It's been growing gradually but steadily over the years. I've purchased most of the volumes of poetry myself, although several have been gifts I've been pleased to receive over the years. The first poetry volume I ever purchased is this (now dog-eared) Robert Frost collection. 


That was back in college. It was not the first book in my collection, though. That would be this copy (photo below) of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. I loved Kahlil Gibran back in high school! So much that I checked this very copy out of my high school library - over and over again . . . 


and never checked it back in! That wasn't intentional. In all the hub-bub of graduation, I forgot I had it. The school never asked about it. And then I was gone. Now, The Prophet is the most guilt-filled volume of poetry in my collection! (My apologies to libraries everywhere.) I removed the cover and the glued-in pocket inside the front cover, but the evidence remains.


. . . and moving on . . . 

My personal poetry library is filled with all types of poetry volumes by a variety of poets. My favorites (Mary Oliver or Billy Collins, for example) fill a lot of space on my shelves. But my collection houses all kinds of new favorite poets, too.


During April each year, I try to purchase a few new volumes of poetry for my collection. I like to support books stores, poets, and poetry in general, and I think National Poetry Month is a perfect month to do that.

If you're interested in starting your own poetry collection, I suggest you start with a poet you already know you like . . . and build from there. If you don't have a specific poet you like, then maybe begin with an anthology instead. I think about it kind of like building a music collection . . . 

New works by a single poet . . . are kind of like record albums featuring new music by a musical group or individual. It's usually all "new stuff," created and designed to work together -- maybe to tell a story or support a specific theme. Mary Oliver's Blue Horses or Billy Collins' The Rain in Portugal are examples of volumes of new works.

A collection of poetry by a single poet . . . is like a "greatest hits" album from musical artists. These poetry collections usually contain favorite, more well-known poems by a single poet, and provide a great resource for a deep dive into a specific poet's work. Mary Oliver's Devotions is an example, as is Billy Collins' Aimless Love. Usually the word "collection" appears in the title or subtitle. (Sometimes, usually after a poet has passed away, you can find "complete collections" which include the entirety of their life's work.)

A poetry anthology . . . is like a Spotify playlist. Anthologies contain a variety of work from a variety of poets, usually curated by an editor around a specific theme or time frame. Anthologies are great places to begin a poetry collection, and a perfect place to discover poets you enjoy (and want to read more deeply). 


So. There you have it! A little poetry collection I've "made" for myself! 


How about you? Do you have a poetry collection of your own?

(And in case you care not a whit about poetry, I'll be back next week with the shawl I showed you last week. Because it finished, and blocking as I write.)

Growing Hope . . . From Many Small Kindnesses

Still here, always looking for . . . 


This month, hope showed up for me . . . unexpectedly . . . in many small kindnesses.

When we lost our pup, Jenny, last week, I wasn't quite expecting the outpouring of love and support I received. All of your lovely and supportive blog comments brought me to tears, for example. Special notes and cards and emails from friends did the same. People inquiring about JoJo and how she was adjusting . . . opened the flood gates . I fell apart completely when a dear friend made a donation in honor of Jenny -- one of the most touching things that has ever happened to me. 

So. Many. Kindnesses.

I "collected" all those kindnesses in my heart, and someday I'll be able to pass them on to someone else who needs one. And that, my friends, is . . . hope.

Collecting kindnesses . . . and then sharing them with others in need . . . is what hope is all about.
It's what keeps us going.
It's what helps us keep others going.
Spread the kindnesses, grow the hope.


Earlier this week I came across this poem, which seems to say the same thing (only more beautifully):

How It Might Continue
Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Wherever we go, the chance for joy,
whole orchards of amazement --

one more reason to always travel
with our pockets full of exclamation marks,

so we might scatter them for others
like apple seeds.

Some will dry out, some will blow away,
but some will take root

and grow exuberant groves
filled with long thin fruits

that resemble one hand clapping --
so much enthusiasm as they flutter back and forth

that although nothing's heard
and though nothing's really changed,

people everywhere for years to come
will swear that the world

is ripe with applause, will fill
their own pockets with new seeds to scatter.


I thank you all for sharing your kindnesses (your "exclamation marks") with me last week. I may have shed some tears -- but I was also filled with hope!

I wish you all a restful and hope-filled weekend.


Today's poem is from my copy of How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope, edited by James Crews, and published by Storey Publishing, 2021. For more information about today's poet, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, click here.

Blasting You With Poetry: 2022, Week 3

April is National Poetry Month.

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To celebate, Bonny, Kat, Sarah, and I will be sharing poetry with you each Thursday in April. This week we're sharing . . . poems about forgiveness.


Personally, I've been working hard at forgiveness for the last few years.
It's . . . tricky business.

There's the "easy" kind of forgiveness - the kind most of us think about first when we think of the concept. Y'know  . . . when someone genuinely apologizes for something they've done or said, and you can say, "Okay. I forgive you." And life goes on.

If only it were always like that.

But, it's often . . . not. Sometimes the apology isn't genuine. Sometimes people won't acknowledge or admit they have done anything to harm you in the first place. Or they're clueless about the fact that they did. Or they just won't give an apology. Or . . . sometimes you're too hurt to accept it. Sometimes, forgiveness is a "solo act". . . when we finally forgive someone for hurting us, and then move on from that relationship. And sometimes we just need to forgive . . . ourselves.

 Like I said . . . tricky business.

"It's not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you."
                                            --- Tyler Perry

The poem I'm going to share today isn't about forgiveness, exactly. But it does remind me of the power . . . of those "solo acts" of forgiveness. How we can forgive on our own, and move forward from a freer place. Folding whatever happened - and our forgiveness of it -- into our lives. The same. But also different.


The Cure
Albert Huffstickler

We think we get over things.
We don't get over things.
Or say, we get over the measles
but not a broken heart.
We need to make that distinction.
The things that become part of our experience
never become less a part of our experience.
How can I say it?
The way to "get over" a life is to die.
Short of that, you move with it,
let the pain be pain,
not in the hope that it will vanish
but in the faith that it will fit in,
find its place in the shape of things
and be then not any less pain but true to form.
Because anything natural has an inherent shape
and will flow towards it.
And a life is as natural as a leaf.
That's what we're looking for:
not the end of a thing but the shape of it.
Wisdom is seeing the shape of your life
without obliterating (getting over) a single
instant of it.


Today's poem is from my copy of Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, edited by Phyllis Cole-Dai and Ruby R. Wilson, and published by Grayson Books, 2017. For more information about today's poet, Albert Huffstickler, click here.


Be sure to visit Bonny, Kat, and Sarah today to read more poetry about forgiveness.


Blasting You With Poetry: 2022, Week 2

April is National Poetry Month.

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On Thursdays throughout April, Bonny, Kat, Sarah, and I will be sharing poetry with you. This week, we'll all be sharing poems by contemporary poet Sharon Olds.


There are a few poets that I feel . . . write just for me. I really "get" their poetry. It resonates with me. I read their work over and over and over again; it just never gets old.

Sharon Olds . . . is not one of those poets. I do really enjoy some of her poetry. (Some of it very much.) But there's also a lot that .  . . doesn't quite do it for me.

And that's okay! I think it's worth mentioning this, especially during National Poetry Month. Just because a poet is well-known and has won many awards, or has an excellent reputation in the world of literature . . . well. It doesn't mean that we'll enjoy reading all of it. It's not a "failing" on our part if we don't "get it" or if it doesn't speak to us. Sometimes Art (of any kind -- music, film, literature, visual, you name it) just doesn't appeal to us. It's a personal thing, y'know? A matter of individual taste. And that's okay. We like what we like, and we don't all need to like the same stuff.

Back to Sharon Olds. 

Her personal story is fascinating. She had a complicated upbringing, lived through some traumatic events, fell in love, got married, raised a couple of kids. Then her husband left her after 30 years of marriage. For a younger woman. She works all of this out . . .  in her poetry, which tends to be very personal. Here is the opening paragraph from her bio on the Poetry Foundation website:

Sharon Olds is one of contemporary poetry’s leading voices. Winner of several prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award, Olds is known for writing intensely personal, emotionally scathing poetry which graphically depicts family life as well as global political events. “Sharon Olds is enormously self-aware,” wrote David Leavitt in the Voice Literary Supplement. “Her poetry is remarkable for its candor, its eroticism, and its power to move.” Olds’s candor has led to both high praise and condemnation. Her work is often built out of intimate details concerning her children, her fraught relationship with her parents and, most controversially, her sex life. 

I've read a lot of Sharon Olds' poetry over the years. I find her writing to be powerful, accessible -- and very, very direct. There are several Sharon Olds poems that I include among my "favorite poems," even though some of her work is . . . a little too intimate and challenging for me. Still. I'm always glad to explore the work of poets I'm not immediately drawn to. Because even when someone else's personal pain is so different from your own personal pain, you can usually find that universal . . . sharing of emotion . . .  that comes from poetry.

Like this one that I'm sharing today. It's one of my favorite Sharon Olds poems; maybe a little on the racy side? But a real gem. And it's a great example of the expert way she plays with words to paint a picture of . . . well. You'll figure it out. ;-)



Sharon Olds

After we flew across the country we
got in bed, laid our bodies
intricately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep in your Texas, your
Idaho on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sun rising swiftly from the left your
moon rising slowly from the left my
moon rising slowly from the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities,
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


Today's poem is from my copy of Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002, by Sharon Olds, published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. For more information about today's poet, Sharon Olds, and to sample more of her work, click here.


Be sure to visit Bonny, Kat, and Sarah today to read more poems by Sharon Olds.


Blasting You With Poetry: 2022, Week 1

April is National Poetry Month.

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On Thursdays in April, Bonny, Kat, Sarah, and I will be sharing poetry with you. We've got a loose plan for our posts, with poetry selected around "themes." We're starting out this week . . . with poems about hope.


Last year, I found a new poetry anthology edited by James Crews . . . 


It's a great little collection of poems (really . . . a gem of a collection), should you be looking for something to add to your own poetry collection during Poetry Month. The editor, James Crews, has this to say (in his introduction to the collection) about poetry . . . and hope.

"During these uncertain and trying times, we tell ourselves that joy is an indulgence we can no longer afford. And we've become all too familiar with the despair filling the airwaves and crowding our social media feeds, leading to what psychologists now call empathy or compassion fatigue, whereby we grow numb and disconnected from the suffering of others. We want to stay informed about what's going on in the world, yet we also know that absorbing so much negativity leaves us drained and hopeless. We know it's robbing us of the ability to be present to our own experience and grateful for something as simple as the moon . . . "

Reading poetry is one of the best ways for me to connect back to the present moment; to escape from too much of the harsh news that pulls me down and keeps me feeling paralyzed. When things feel . . . hopeless . . . poetry shines a light for me, and connects me back to a world that isn't only darkness. 

Again, the words of James Crews . . . 

"I trust in the necessity and pleasure of all kinds of creativity -- from cooking a meal to fixing a car to sketching in the margins of a grocery list -- but poetry is an art form especially suited to our challenging times. It helps us dive beneath the surface of our lives, and enter a place of wider, wilder, more universal knowing. And because poetry is made of the everyday material of language, we each have access to its ability to hold truths that normal conversation simply can't contain. When you find a poem that speaks to exactly what you've felt but had no way to name, a light bulb flashes in some hidden part of the self that you might have forgotten was there."

This month, as we share poetry together, I hope that you'll find a poem (or two) that "speaks to exactly what you've felt but had no way to name." May poetry . . . bring you hope.

Over the Weather
Naomi Shihab Nye

We forget about the spaciousness
above the clouds

but it's up there. The sun's up there too.

When words we hear don't fit the day,
when we worry
what we did or didn't do,
what if we close our eyes,
say any word we love
that makes us feel calm,
slip it into the atmosphere
and rise?

Creamy miles of quiet.
Giant swoop of blue.


Today's poem is from my copy of How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope, edited by James Crews, and published by Storey Publishing, 2021. For more information about today's poet, Naomi Shihab Nye, click here.


Be sure to visit Bonny, Kat, and Sarah today to read more poetry about hope.


The Best Thing About April

Welcome April! And welcome to one of my favorite "things" about April . . . 

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Last year, Bonny and Kat and Sarah and I "blasted" you with poetry each Thursday in April . . . and we're going to do that again this month -- starting next Thursday! (So stay tuned.) But I couldn't wait. So I thought I'd get things rolling today . . . with one of my favorite poems about poetry from one of my favorite poets, Billy Collins.

Welcome to April . . . National Poetry Month.
Prepare to be "blasted" with poetry once again!


The Trouble with Poetry
Billy Collins

The trouble with poetry, I realized
as I walked along a beach one night --
cold Florida sand under my bare feet,
a show of stars in the sky --

the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.

And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

and there is nothing left to do
but quiety close our notebooks
and sit with our hands folded on our desks.

Poetry fills me with joy
and I rise like a feather in the wind.
Poetry fills me with sorrow
and I sink like a chain flung from a bridge.

But mostly poetry fills me
with the urge to write poetry,
to sit in the dark and wait for a little flame
to appear at the tip of my pencil.

And along with that, the longing to steal,
to break into the poems of others
with a flashlight and a ski mask.

And what an unmerry band of thieves we are,
cut-purses, common shoplifters,
I thought to myself
as a cold wave swirled around my feet
and the lighthouse moved its megaphone over the sea,
which is an image I stole directly
from Lawrence Ferlinghetti --
to be perfectly honest for a moment --

the bicycling poet of San Francisco
whose little amusement park of a book
I carried in a side pocket of my uniform
up and down the treacherous halls of high school.


Today's poem is from my copy of Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems, Billy Colins, published in 2013 by Random House. You can read more about Billy Collins here.

And if you'd like to learn more about the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti (mentioned in the poem today), you can read about him and sample some of his poetry here. (He's just fascinating, by the way.)


A Week of Gratitude: Thursday

This week I bring you a . . . 


I miss my mom most at Thanksgiving.

I thought of her this morning, as I was peeling potatoes. And I got a bit teary; a bit melancholy. (There was an . . . incident . . . involving potato peelings and a not-so-great garbage disposal and Trouble in a Small Kitchen that was very funny back in the mid-90s.) (And we never let her forget it.) You really never know when grief will rear its head.

Today is Thursday. I'm grateful for memories that bring comfort. Even when they also bring tears.

On days like today, I find poetry to be especially comforting. Here's one that suits my state of mind . . . from one of my favorite poets.


What Came to Me
Jane Kenyon

I took the last
dusty piece of china
out of the barrel.
It was your gravy boat,
with a hard, brown 
drop of gravy still
on the porcelain lip.
I grieved for you then
as I never had before.


Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who celebrate.
And a special hug to all of you who may . . . need one today.


Today's poem is from my copy of Jane Kenyon: Collected Poems, pulished in 2005 by Graywolf Press.

Still Looking, Always Looking

Last fall, I blogged quite a bit about how I was looking for hope. And then the new year arrived, and I just sort of . . . stopped. Not the looking. Just the blogging about it. It wasn't because I'd FOUND hope, really. (Although things were beginning to feel a little more hopeful back then, with a new president and vaccines on the horizon, y'know?) It was more that blogging about my search was hard, and I was ready to stop talking about it.

But I'm actually always . . . 


And I'm feeling like talking about it again. So I'll probably blog about it now and then, going forward. Not on any kind of regular schedule. But every once in a while, I'll share my thoughts.


History says
Don’t hope on this side of the grave
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.
    ---- Seamus Heaney

Lately, I've been feeling a bit . . . off. Not terrible. But also not great. Feeling stuck in an endless loop, and wondering how any of THIS (defined any way you'd like) will End Up. And I know I'm not the only one. Some of you have blogged about feeling this way. My in-real-life friends are talking about it, too. And so is my family.

I think . . . it's These Times.

I mean, we're 18 months into this Covid mess. And the country seems to be . . . well, let's just say . . .  stretched. And it feels like kindness and care and concern have disappeared. And then there's the climate. And . . . ohmygod how can this even BE? 

It's a lot.

Lately, I've been thinking about History.
And my Grandmother.

Even though there has been a lot of History (with a capital H) that has happened since I was born in 1959, it's all seemed kind of distant to me somehow. None of the history-making things of my lifetime have felt all that . . . personal for me. They didn't impact my day-to-day life, for example. They didn't direct what I could or couldn't do or where I could go. Everything kept rolling along . . .  same as it ever was, and I never felt threatened (for lack of a better word) or worried about the future. Even though History was happening all the time, I could still pretty much depend that the future structure of my life would hold.

But now? Well, somehow the future doesn't feel so dependable or seem guaranteed in that same kind of way. And that really does suck the hope right out of the room, doesn't it?

On that cheery note, let's step back and talk about my grandmother for a minute.


My grandmother was born in 1909, and she died just over 100 years later in 2009. Which means she saw a lot of History in her long life, and she lived through a LOT of crises. I mean, think about it . . .  

  • She was a child during World War I.
  • And during the Spanish Flu outbreak.
  • As a young wife and mother, she experienced the Great Depression. On a dairy farm.
  • And in her 30s, she went through World War II separated from her husband for years -- while raising 2 young children. (On a dairy farm).

My grandmother lived through some SERIOUS history.

And somehow, until recently, it never occurred to me to consider what it might have been like for her to live through SO MANY major crises of history -- ALL of them pretty darn personal. During those crises, she woke up every day not knowing how [fill-in-the-blank: WWI, Spanish Flu, The Great Depression, WWII . . . ] would end. She didn't know how any of these stories would turn out while she was living them -- and they really did impact her on daily basis. Restrictions. Rations. Loss. Personal risk. What kept her moving forward? What gave her hope . . . when all of these things were happening during her early life. It must have felt pretty bleak. 

I never really thought about how significant these events would have been for her. First of all, because she never spoke of them. But I think the big thing was that, of course . . . I already KNEW the outcomes! I knew what happened: that the Spanish Flu ended and the Great Depression ended and World War II ended . . . with Victory. So it was easy for me to minimize the reality of how it must have been for her, living through the uncertainty. But my grandmother didn't know. And she got through all it anyway! She must have felt pretty crappy while any of these things were going on all around her. And yet . . . she managed through it. She must have had some hope, and a lot of resilience.


Hope and History.

I think it's hard for us to have hope right now . . . because we don't know the ending of this history we're living through. We don't know what will happen or how things will turn out. And we aren't terribly patient about it either. So it's all this . . . unnerving uncertainty. . .  that's sucking the hope from our lives.

But maybe we can look to the past . . . to see how resilient - as a people - we have been. And how we can be now.

Yes. Things ARE bleak at the moment.
It doesn't feel good.
We don't know any of the endings to our current storylines.
It's unsettling, and uncertainty is never easy.

But History - and my grandmother - show me that we are resilient, and that somehow we find ways to get through whatever History we need to get through. It may not feel comfortable, but we can do it. I think, maybe, that hope and history DO rhyme.

And that's where I'm finding hope today.


(Speaking of rhyming . . . let's have a poem, shall we? Because if this isn't a poem of hope, I don't know what is.)

In Any Event
Dorianne Laux

If we are fractured
we are fractured
like stars
bred to shine
in every direction,
through any dimension,
billions of years
since and hence.

I shall not lament
the human, not yet.
There is something
more to come, our hearts
a gold mine
not yet plumbed,
an uncharted sea.

Nothing is gone forever.
If we came from dust
and will return to dust
then we can find our way
into anything.

What we are capable of
is not yet known,
and I praise us now, 
in advance.


Today's poem was selected for inclusion in How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope, edited by James Crews, Storey Publishing, 2021. Click here for more information about the poet, Dorianne Laux.






UP-rooted: A One Little Word Update



This has been a very one-little-word-ish month for me. Not only was Ali Edwards' August prompt (about the stories we tell ourselves) inspirational and challenging to play with, but my own little health-crisis turned me rather upside-down besides.

I was . . . UP-rooted, you might say.

I'm actually still sifting through the fallout of a very thoughtful month. (You can bet there will be more later.) For now, I'll share a glimpse of my Root journal. And share the poem that's been a companion for me all month long.


The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac (Part 3)
Mary Oliver

I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you're in it all the same.

So why not get started immediately.

I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.

And to write music or poems about.

Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
Bless touching.

You could live a hundred years, it's happened.
Or not.
I am speaking from the fortunate platform 
of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be as urgent as a knife, then,
and remind you of Keats,
so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.


Mary Oliver, “The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac” from Blue Horses (Penguin Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Mary Oliver.