welcoming 2020 with the barbara crooker blues

“If the politicians and the scientists, or both working together, cannot save us, perhaps those less practical friends and aiders of those who would live in the spirit, the poets, can provide us with a vision we can trust and live with?” ~ Hyatt H. Waggoner (Visionary Poetry: Learning to See, 1981)


Happy True Blue Year!

Yes, we’re going blue again in 2020, hopefully a year marked by truth and clarity. With 20/20 vision, we must resolve to see things as they really are by taking a good look at the facts and focusing on what is truly important for our survival as citizens and human beings.

In previous years, we made progress with THINK BLUE and BELIEVE IN BLUE. We now have a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, and in 2019, Virginia turned blue and you-know-who was impeached. Step by step. In this all-important Presidential election year, we must take blue to the finish line. 🙂



Ahem. I suppose you know what the Pantone color of the year is:



Here is why Classic Blue was selected:

We are living in a time that requires trust and faith. It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on . . . Imbued with a deep resonance, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue provides an anchoring foundation. A boundless blue evocative of the vast and infinite evening sky, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious to expand our thinking; challenging us to think more deeply, increase our perspective and open the flow of communication.

~ Leatrice Eisman (Executive Director, Pantone Color Institute)

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2019 Poetry Friday Archive

l. “Joy Soup” by William Palmer

2. “The Year I Lived Across the Street from a 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts” by Edwin Romond

3. THERE WAS AN OLD GATOR WHO SWALLOWED A MOTH by B.J. Lee and David Opie (Q&A with B.J.)

4. THE HOME BUILDERS by Varsha Bajaj and Simona Mulazzani

5. HANNAH’S TALL ORDER:  An A to Z Sandwich, by Linda Vander Heyden and Kayla Harren

6. “The Land of Blue” by Laura Mucha

7. “A Brave and Startling Truth” by Maya Angelou

8. Two Poems from Barbara Crooker’s Book of Kells

9. THE NIGHT THE FOREST CAME TO TOWN by Charles Ghigna and Annie Wilkinson

10. PANCAKES TO PARATHAS: Breakfast Around the World by Alice B. McGinty and Tomoko Suzuki

11. Interview with Barbara Crooker (Book of Kells)

12. “The Dining Car of the Southern Crescent” by John Campbell

13. Easter poems by Jack Prelutsky, Bobbi Katz, Clarence Day, and Carol Ann Duffy

14. “Love at First Sight” from A Suitcase of Seaweed by Janet Wong

15. “May Night” by Sara Teasdale and “From the Book of Time” by Mary Oliver + Poetry Friday Roundup

16. “The Grammar of Silk” by Cathy Song

17. Brother, Sister, Me and You (guest post by Mary Quattlebaum)

18. “The Perfect Day” by Alice N. Persons

19. “Sifter,” “The Traveling Onion,” and “Arabic Coffee” by Naomi Shihab Nye

20. “My Valhalla” by Robert Phillips

21. “How to Be Perfect” by Ron Padgett

22. “Soup” by Timothy Walsh

23. Three Poems from Mothershell by Andrea Potos

24. WILD IN THE STREETS: 20 Poems of City Animals by Marilyn Singer and Gordy Wright

25. FINDING TREASURE:  A Collection of Collections by Michelle Schaub and Carmen Saldaña

26. PICK A PUMPKIN by Patricia Toht and Jarvis

27. “At Night the Characters on My Classroom Shelves Come Out to Party” by Edwin Romond

28. Three poems from Dear Poet: Notes to a Young Writer by Charles Ghigna + Poetry Friday Roundup

29. MR. PUMPKIN’S TEA PARTY by Erin Barker

30. HOW TO READ A BOOK by Kwame Alexander and Melissa Sweet

31. CARAVAN TO THE NORTH: Misael’s Long Walk by Jorge Argueta

32. “November Eyes”/How to Love a Country by Richard Blanco

33. “América” by Richard Blanco

34. “Poem for Ross Gay” by Jeff Friedman

35. “Gate C-22” by Ellen Bass

36. “Anniversary Ode” and “In the Garret” by Louisa May Alcott-


* A link to this archive can be found in the sidebar of this blog.

alcott’s little women: a pair of poems and yummy gingerbread (+ a holiday blog break)

“I do think that families are the most beautiful things in all the world!” ~ Jo March


Season’s Greetings!

Are you excited about the Little Women movie opening on Christmas Day?

To get us in the mood for all things Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Marmee and Laurie, I’m sharing two poems from the novel and a recipe from the new Little Women Cookbook by Wini Moranville (Harvard Common Press, 2019).



I think most of us can remember when we first read Louisa May Alcott’s classic — I was nine, staying with two older girl cousins downtown for about a week during the summer. We spent most of our time playing “school,” and during one of our “classes,” I began reading Little Women.



Since I wasn’t able to finish before it was time to return home, my cousin Judy let me take her copy with me (it was an abridged edition published by Whitman in 1955). I can’t remember if it was a loan or a gift, but I do remember her telling me how much she loved the book and that I should definitely read it.

Fast forward to 6th grade, when we acted out the opening scene in English class. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” was my Jo March ‘stage debut,’ marking the first time I would read the entire novel. Like so many others, generation after generation, I was hooked for life.



I so wanted to belong to the March family, to experience that deep bond of sisterhood. I had a huge crush on Laurie, and loved Mr. Laurence because just like Beth, I loved music and playing the piano. Of course I identified with Jo, because she was a writer, only wishing I could be as feisty and forthright. And wasn’t Marmee the best mother anyone could ever ask for? As the child of a working mother, I envied children whose moms had the time and patience to listen to all their concerns.

Just like The Secret Garden made me fall in love with England, Little Women made me long to visit New England — the gorgeous autumn colors and beautiful winter vistas! the rich history and Colonial architecture! the lobstah rolls, fish chowdah, maple syrup, brown bread, baked beans, boiled dinners, Indian pudding, Yankee pot roast . . . *drools* . . .  “licks chops”. . . oh wait, where was I?



With the new movie coming, I decided to reread the book, since it had been about a decade since I last gave it my full attention. When I scanned my bookshelves, I found Judy’s copy alongside my Little, Brown edition. Didn’t realize I still had it! It’s probably the only book that survived my childhood. My mother gave away my entire Golden Books collection (still grieving), and though I read voraciously, I didn’t own many novels — mostly everything came from the library.



One of the things I especially enjoyed this time around was taking a closer look at the poems Alcott included in the story. There was the elegaic “My Beth” of course, as well as the incantations in Jo’s play featuring Hagar, Roderigo, and Zara. In a letter Jo sent to Marmee, she included “a silly little thing” for her to pass on to Father about helping Hannah with the wash, the delightful “A Song from the Suds.” And who can forget that splendid Christmas when Jo and Laurie made a snow-maiden,  complete with a crown of holly, a basket of fruit and flowers, and a carol, “The Jungfrau to Beth,” to cheer up the convalescent?


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a kiss is just a kiss, or is it?


When is a kiss more than just a kiss?

Read for yourself.




by Ellen Bass

At gate C22 in the Portland airport
a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
a woman arriving from Orange County.
They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
like he’d just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
like she’d been released at last from ICU, snapped
out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.

Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
the way it gathers and swells, sucking
each rock under, swallowing it
again and again. We were all watching —
passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling
sunglasses. We couldn’t look away. We could
taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.

But the best part was his face. When he drew back
and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
what happened after — if she beat you or left you or
you’re lonely now — you once lay there, the vernix
not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you
as if you were the first sunrise seen from the Earth.
The whole wing of the airport hushed,
all of us trying to slip into that woman’s middle-aged body,
her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.

~ from A Constellation of Kisses, edited by Diane Lockward (Terrapin Books, 2019)


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[scrumptious review + recipe] Wintercake by Lynne Rae Perkins


What ingredients would you need to have a wonderful, jubilant, extra-happy, a little bit mysterious winter holiday?

Hmmm, perhaps two furry brown animals (one adorably stout, the other tall and sleek), a perky, yellow-feathered birdie, a warm hollow with a cozy fire, and CAKE!

For added flavor (why not?), add a bustling tea room with chatty critters in the middle of the woods, a basket of dried fruit, and three mistakes (that’s the mysterious part) — and you have the utterly charming new picture book, Wintercake (Greenwillow, 2019), written and illustrated by Newbery winner Lynne Rae Perkins.

You could say this one was written with my name all over it. I will say it’s one of my top three fave picture books of the year, and definitely one of my all-time favorite holiday books. After all, I do love little furry animals (I’m married to one), we do live in the woods (I dream of opening a tea room), and after eating enough cake, I could very well be described as stout. 😀

What’s that? You’re a little concerned about the ‘mysterious mistakes’? I thought as much. Don’t worry, because in this story, we see how mistakes can lead to good things — an adventure, new friends, new traditions — all cause for celebration. Let me explain . . .



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