summer magic and a blog break

“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days — three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.” ~ John Keats

“Wonderland” by Christian Schloe

 

It’s Summer!

Hello, fragrant, fruitful mornings with sunlight streaming through the windows, long lazy days luring us to dreaminess.

 

“Wind, Clouds, and Tea”

 

Awake, abloom, aloft — we eschew the tedium of routine, courting freedom, relaxation, play. William Carlos Williams once said, “In summer, the song sings itself.”

SUMMER SONG
by William Carlos Williams

Wanderer moon
smiling a
faintly ironical smile
at this
brilliant, dew-moistened
summer morning, —
a detached
sleepily indifferent
smile, a
wanderer’s smile, —
if I should
buy a shirt
your color and
put on a necktie
sky-blue
where would they carry me?

“Secret Entrance”

 

There is something so carefree and magical about summer — time of campfires and fireflies, travel and adventure, wonder and romance.

“Fly Away”

 

We need venture no further than the pages of a good book to discover our heart’s delight. Cicero said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

THE HOUSE WAS QUIET AND THE WORLD WAS CALM
by Wallace Stevens

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

 

In the reverie of a fine summer night, the line between reality and imagination blurs. The sky opens wide with possibility, showing off its stars. Novelist Peter S. Beagle said, “Anything can happen in a world that holds such beauty.”

“The Wishing Star”

 

SUMMER STARS
by Carl Sandburg

Bend low again, night of summer stars.
So near you are, sky of summer stars,
So near, a long-arm man can pick off stars,
Pick off what he wants in the sky bowl,
So near you are, summer stars,
So near, strumming, strumming,
So lazy and hum-strumming.

“Night Makers”

 

As we sign off for our summer blog break, we wish you the calm and space to dream, long arms to reach for the stars, and big bowlfuls of inspiration and whimsy.

“Moondrops”

 

🌟 HAVE A TERRIFIC SUMMER AND SHINE YOUR LIGHT!! 🌓

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“Midnight Sky”

 

“All in all, it was a never to be forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”

—L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

 

“Set Your Heart Free”

 

♥️ The digital illustrations in this post were created by Austrian surrealist artist Christian Schloe. See more of his work here.

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The lovely and talented Michelle Kogan is hosting the Roundup. Drift over in your hot air balloon and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. See you in late August/early September!


Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

“relax” with ellen bass

We try so hard. Really we do. But Murphy’s Law usually prevails.

RELAX
by Ellen Bass

Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she’s a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat —
the one you never really liked — will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn’t plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up — drug money.
There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice — one white, one black — scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

~ from Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014)

by Liu Jiyou (1918-1983)

 

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How to reach for that strawberry, and keep the tiger of dread and misfortune at bay?

As Gilda Radner used to say, “There’s always something.” We fret, worry, stress — and what we dreaded so much doesn’t come to pass — something else happens instead. Something we didn’t anticipate, couldn’t possibly prepare for, something totally out of our control. You know, the inevitable, the unavoidable. We are misfortune’s fool.

The Buddhist story Bass cites offers some interesting food for thought. Does the tiger who chased the woman off the cliff represent the past, while the tiger lurking below, the future? Do the black and white mice (yin/yang?) symbolize time? Caught in the middle, knowing she’s going to die, the woman ceases to dwell on the past or worry about her fate. She simply seizes the only moment she has, the present — and it’s sweeter beyond belief.

 

via All the Beautiful Things

 

Learning to relax, living in the moment, and trying to be a lot more ZEN about life in general is an ongoing challenge for most of us. What a good reminder to embrace the gifts that are before us and express gratitude, especially when things are difficult.

And things in this country ARE difficult. What place does poetry have in enabling us to cope?

In a 2014 NYT Artsbeat interview, Bass said:

Poetry is always grappling with the question: how do we go on? And one way is to find beauty — and humor — in the humblest, most unexpected places. And to praise this gorgeous, tender, terrifying life that is ours for just a second or two.

We’re all dangling from that vine. The strawberries are there for the taking.

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Philadelphia-born Ellen Bass co-edited (with Florence Howe) the first major anthology of women’s poetry: No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women (1973). Her recent collections include The Human Line (2007), Like a Beggar (2014), and Mules of Love (2002), a Lambda Literary Award-winner. An advocate for women survivors of child sexual abuse, Bass dedicated years of service to the cause and became a pioneer in the field of supporting the healing process through words, starting with the book (coedited with Louise Thornton) I Never Told Anyone: Writings by Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (1983). This was followed by The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (1988), coauthored with Laura Davis, and translated into twelve languages. Ellen is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and currently teaches in the low residency MFA program at Pacific University. She lives in Santa Cruz, CA, where she has taught writing and poetry workshops since 1974.

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The shockingly clever but not so shockingly talented and beautiful Karen Edmisten is hosting the Roundup this week. Be sure to sashay on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere. Have a relaxing weekend! 🙂


Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

[review in f-sharp] Write On, Irving Berlin! by Leslie Kimmelman and David C. Gardner

“Blue skies, smiling at me, nothing but blue skies do I see.” ~ Irving Berlin (1926)

If you’re American (or a music lover anywhere else in the world), you probably know Irving Berlin’s music — even if you don’t think you do. He wrote for and about us — the average American citizen — whom he considered to be “the real soul of the country.” He wrote from the heart, easily capturing ours. George Gershwin considered Berlin to be the greatest songwriter who ever lived.

His songs are exquisite cameos of perfection, and each one of them is as beautiful as its neighbor. Irving Berlin remains, I think, America’s Schubert. But apart from his genuine talent for song-writing, Irving Berlin has had a greater influence upon American music than any other one man. It was Irving Berlin who was the very first to have created a real, inherent American music.

At Berlin’s 100th Birthday Celebration at Carnegie Hall in 1988, Walter Cronkite said:

[Berlin] helped write the story of this country, capturing the best of who we are and the dreams that shape our lives.

So when we celebrate major holidays, Berlin is there (“Easter Parade,” “White Christmas”). He’s with us when we watch a classic musical on the telly (“Top Hat,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “Annie Get Your Gun”). Since many of America’s most popular singers have recorded a Berlin tune or two (Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Rosemary Clooney, Willie Nelson, Bing Crosby), all of us would have likely heard at least one of Berlin’s songs somewhere, sometime.

Most notably, whenever we gather to honor our men and women in uniform, we sing Berlin’s signature song, “God Bless America,” the lyrics of which we’ve known by heart since childhood.

Last month, a new picture book biography was released that introduces young readers to Berlin’s extraordinary life and legacy. Write On, Irving Berlin! by Leslie Kimmelman and David C. Gardner (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018), traces Berlin’s life from the time he arrived in America with his family in 1893 until his death at age 101. He wrote some 1500 songs, comprising a substantial part of the Great American Songbook.

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[author chat + giveaway] A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet by Astronaut Clayton Anderson and Scott Brundage

#56 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

Clayton Anderson in the Destiny module of the International Space Station

 

“T minus 10, 9, 8, 7, main engine start, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and LIFT OFF!”

B is for Blastoff, a powerful thing!
When those engines are fired, it’ll make your ears ring.
There is smoke — and vibration — as we launch into space.
And we do it with flair, with excitement and grace!

 

On June 8, 2007, Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson launched to the International Space Station aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. As Expedition 15 Flight Engineer and Science Officer aboard the ISS for five months, he performed three space walks. He returned to the ISS in 2010 on a resupply mission, and in 2013 retired from NASA after 30 years of service — 15 as an engineer and 15 as an astronaut.

These days, Clay is an author, motivational speaker, and part-time Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University. In March 2018 he published his first children’s book, A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet, illustrated by Scott Brundage (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018).

In this entertaining and informative picture book, we are invited to fly with Clay on a fun, out-of-this-world A to Z tour that draws on his wealth of firsthand knowledge and unique insight.

From Astronaut and Blast-off, to Galaxy and Meteors, right through to Rendezvous and Zulu time, the short lively poems paired with fascinating info sidebars will appeal to spaceniks and science buffs of all ages, stirring their wanderlust and inspiring them to dig a little deeper.

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bob dylan birthday blues

“The land created me. I’m wild and lonesome. Even as I travel the cities, I’m more at home in the vacant lots.” ~ Bob Dylan

Since the man is turning 77 today, we’re gonna sing a little birthday blues by featuring some of Dylan’s “blue paintings” paired with bits of his song lyrics.

Did you know that besides being a 12-time Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter, poet, author, small-batch whiskey entrepreneur, metal works artist, and Nobel, Pulitzer, Medal of Freedom, Oscar, and Golden Globe winner, Dylan is also an accomplished painter?

We first saw his work gracing the covers of two 70’s albums (Self Portrait and Planet Waves), but he didn’t start seriously exhibiting and selling his paintings until 2007. Like many extraordinarily gifted creatives, his output benefits from the cross-fertilization of art forms.

Dylan is that rare person who can move effortlessly between music, word, ink, paint, as if he’s just futzing around with a few different instruments in the studio. Yet again and again he reflects life back to us with a truth and simplicity that defy words . . . seemingly unworried about how something looks, he’s not after artistic perfection, but something larger, a moment, a feeling. The effect is enthralling.

~ Marisha Pessl, New York Times

I love his frequent use of blues, and of course how often he depicts eateries. It’s fascinating to see the world through Dylan’s (blue) eyes 🙂 — he’s drawn to back streets, alley ways, country roads, bridges, train tracks — landscapes and urban scenes “unpolluted by the ephemera of pop culture.” There’s a noted absence of people in most of these paintings, conveying a sense of loneliness and a nostalgia for simpler times.

“Nowhere and Anywhere” (2017)

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