an e.e. cummings poem for april

“Then it was spring; and in spring anything may happen. Absolutely anything.” ~ E. E. Cummings

“Bouquet in White Vase,” by E. E. Cummings (1947)

 

Spring, April, Poetry Month: a welcome trifecta of hope, beauty and possibilities. It’s a time of birdsong, thoughtful reading, invention, and above all, celebration. We celebrate and marvel at words, which, according to Wordsworth, can capture “the breathings of your heart.”

Nobody does Spring better than my favorite poet E. E. Cummings. It’s fitting that my first encounter with Cummings was his iconic “in-Just/spring” —  I remember meeting the “little lame balloonman” in high school and I haven’t been the same since.

In college, his “sweet spring” was on continuous loop as I read, read, read, wrote, wrote, wrote, and learned how to learn:

sweet spring is your
time is my time is our
time for springtime is lovetime
and viva sweet love

As a young teacher, I shared “Spring is like a perhaps hand” and “O sweet spontaneous” with my students. We discussed the inherent musicality of language, with Cummings the prime example of a poet who reveled in experimentation and innovation. Words are living, breathing entities, after all — why not make them sing?

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nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Recently I’ve been on a Becca Stadtlander kick, browsing her work online and catching up with the children’s books she’s illustrated so far.

You might know her from David Elliott’s On the Wing (Candlewick, 2014), Eugenie Doyle’s Sleep Tight Farm (Chronicle Books, 2016), or maybe even the two Classics Unfolded titles she’s done — The Secret Garden and Pride and Prejudice (these are 14-scene concertina fold-out books).

I particularly love her still life paintings. Her fine lines, delicate details and pleasing compositions lend a unique beauty to everyday objects.

And isn’t this butterfly painting gorgeous?

You can purchase prints at her Etsy Shop and greeting cards at Red Cap Cards. And do look for the books she’s illustrated if you’re not already familiar with them. Just lovely!

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[review + giveaway] World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins

 

On this, his 80th birthday, we are honored to feature Lee Bennett Hopkins’s most recent poetry book for young readers. Everyone in the world, make way for this stellar author, poet, educator, editor, and master anthologist!

 

 

We are first introduced to this beautiful collection of ekphrastic poetry with this perceptive quote and sketch by Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci:

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.

“A Bear Walking” by Leonardo da Vinci (ca. 1482-85)

 

In his Foreword, Hopkins explains that the book’s title was inspired by da Vinci’s drawing:

Though rough, the sketch reveals sharp details of the animal’s strong facial features, powerful muscles, and grasping claws — a stance as if the bear forewarns: World make way!

In World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Abrams BYR, 2018), we are treated to 18 original poems written by contemporary poets in response to 18 visual masterpieces from the Met’s vast collection. The art represents a diverse world view, spotlighting different time periods, artists, and cultures, and it is rendered in a variety of media (oil, tempera, pencil, ink, watercolor, silver, gold, acrylic) on different bases (canvas, paper, wood, silk, PVC panels). The poets (who were specially commissioned for this project), are among the finest writing for children today. In short, an exquisite book — a heartful, soul nourishing feast for the eyes and ear.

Here are the poets (*swoon*):

Alma Flor Ada
Cynthia Cotten
Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Julie Fogliano
Charles Ghigna
Joan Bransfield Graham
Lee Bennett Hopkins
Irene Latham
J. Patrick Lewis
Elaine Magliaro
Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Marilyn Nelson
Naomi Shihab Nye
Ann Whitford Paul
Marilyn Singer
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Carole Boston Weatherford
Janet Wong

Art begetting art — what could be more life affirming or gratifying?

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loving india tresselt’s beautiful fiber art

“Thread by thread, stitch by stitch, row by row—this is how I build my work, and my life.” ~ India Tresselt

Until I visited India Tresselt’s website Yarndance, I knew very little about temari balls, a traditional Japanese handcraft that originated in China.

Temari were first made from wadded up clothing remnants as children’s toys. They gradually evolved into an art form incorporating elaborate and intricate embroidery, and today are considered valued and cherished gifts.

India, a fiber artist based in Vermont, has loved fiber, color, and texture since childhood. She taught herself how to knit, and as a serious knitter for many years, worked in a yarn shop teaching knitting classes. She once stumbled upon a temari book that included a starter kit, and has been making temari ever since. She blends traditional with original patterns, stitches and colors to create these beautiful and coveted decorative objects.

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Chatting with Andrea Potos about Arrows of Light

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.” ~ John Keats (Endymion, 1818)

Andrea at the Promega Employee Art Fair (Madison, Wisconsin, 2018)

 

The first poem in Andrea Potos’s chapbook Arrows of Light begins like this:

The lake is a blue scarf ironed
by stillness, locust leaves burnt
yellow, everywhere, softness
in September air.

Her exquisite metaphor took my breath away as I envisioned the tranquil autumn scene. Potos next quotes Keats:

The first thing that strikes me on hearing
a misfortune having befalled another is:
Well it cannot be helped — he will have
the pleasure of trying the resources of his spirit

Miles away, Andrea’s mother is undergoing cancer radiation treatment. The doctor “will aim one perfect arrow of light in the errant spot that would claim her if it had its way . . . ”

 

This poignant opening poem, “Morning of My 56th Birthday,” sets the stage for 25 other luminous and poignant ruminations about beauty, light, loss and grief. With her mother’s decline, each precious moment is amplified, bringing intense clarity and love.

Even as Andrea grieves, she celebrates life. Light and dark, joy and sorrow, flip sides of the same coin. She juxtaposes these two elements with extended metaphors of blue and gold: the blues of lake, sea, twilight, flowers, sadness; the golds of autumn, sunlight, Van Gogh, and radiant childhood memories.

“Grief, he told her, is the exhale of love (the ache of breathing) . . . “

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