“Hedonist’s List of Desert Island Essentials” by Vivien Steels

“Hawaii Retreat with Palm Trees, Sunset” via Beyond Dream Art.

It’s always fun to play with the “stranded on a desert island” trope: what item, other than food and water, would you take/most like to have with you?

Before the age of laptops and smart phones, people cited favorite books, or maybe a diary or radio. It’s quite a challenge to figure out exactly what physical possession you just couldn’t live without.

But what if the opposite were true: that you could be on that island with anything your heart desires (no limit with regard to quantity or practicality)? Say the word, and it’s yours.

British poet and artist Vivien Steels has come up with quite a provocative scenario.

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“Hot Chocolate” by Brett Humphries (oil on board, 2020).
HEDONIST'S LIST OF DESERT ISLAND ESENTIALS
by Vivien Steels

Blue iceberg from Arctic shores
melting into cool, mountain streams.
Chocolate Emporium effusing cocoa --
door always open, shelves always filled.
Cooking pot permanently flame-hot
to bubble water within its depths for
Chinese Jasmine-scented tea,
fragrance rising in coils of steam.
Tent, the size of small bungalow,
with bathroom 'en suite' included.
Bombay Curry House,
waiters and cooks ever-ready
to conjure spiced masterpieces
served on white plates.
Library, walls resplendent with books,
superb poetry section --
no overdue charges.
Softest duvet fattened with duck down,
hammock fittings to lasso two palm trees
under indigo sky christened with stars.

~ This poem first appeared in 21st Century Poetry (October 2001).
“Significance” by Elena Tuncer (oil on canvas).

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Ho Ho Ho and Fa la la: Three Spunky Cups of Christmas Tea (+ a holiday blog break)

Merry Merry!

You know what they say: Christmas is for kids. Well, here at Alphabet Soup, we hope to bring out the kid in you.

Look who dropped by for tea: Madeline, Anne Shirley and Eloise! Three spunky girls we all love for their inimitable personalities. They each agreed to share a little something from their stories if we bribed honored them with special treats. We were more than happy to oblige, yet with these three, you just never know.

So here’s to a little magic, some quality kindred spirit time, and lotsa ho ho ho zippity jingle Christmas cheer. Put on a cheery bib and ring when you’re ready to join the fun! 🙂

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🇫🇷 MADELINE’S MADELEINES 🐕

Bonjour, Madeline!

Who can forget your iconic opening rhyme:

In an old house in Paris
That was covered with vines
Lived twelve little girls
In two straight lines.
They left the house at half-past nine
in two straight lines, in rain or shine.
The smallest one was MADELINE.

She was happy to tell us about one of her favorite adventures. It took place one Christmas Eve, when everyone (including Miss Clavel) was in bed with miserable colds. It was up to brave Madeline, the only one up and about, to take care of them.

Art by Ludwig Bemelmans.

When a rug merchant knocked at the door, Madeline purchased all twelve of his rugs, a good solution for their “ice-cold in the morning feet.” But the rug merchant soon regretted the sale, for without his rugs he felt very chilly outdoors. Madeline welcomed him back into the house, where she gave him medicine to help him thaw out. 

Wishing to show his gratitude, the rug merchant agreed to help with the dishes.

His magic ring he gave a glance
And went into a special trance –
The dirty dishes washed themselves
And jumped right back upon the shelves.

Then, with a profound abracadabra, the rugs turned into magic carpets, flying all twelve girls home to surprise their parents on Christmas day. 

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a fresh look at Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost

Let’s take a peek at the first two titles in the new Illustrated Poets Collection just released in August by Bushel & Peck Books.

Both The Illustrated Emily Dickinson and The Illustrated Robert Frost were edited by poet and educator Ryan G. Van Cleave, Creative Writing Coordinator at the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.

They each contain “25 Essential Poems” paired with David Miles’s gorgeous full color collages (he had me at those beautiful eye-catching covers). 🙂

~ from The Illustrated Robert Frost

In his welcoming series introduction, Van Cleave offers friendly suggestions for making the most of the books. He encourages readers to simply “enjoy the poems” rather than puzzle over the poet’s intentions or dwell on other people’s interpretations.

Next, it’s good to engage with the poems by asking questions such as:

  • What do you notice about this poem?
  • How does this poem make you feel?
  • What else have you read/seen/experienced that connects with this poem?

Finally, it’s important to “be your own boss” – read the poems in order or jump around as one sees fit. Share them with others or savor them by yourself. Read them aloud or “whisper their words in your heart.”

~ from The Illustrated Robert Frost

Ultimately, “there is NO wrong way to experience a poem.” This reminds me of Lee Bennett Hopkins saying that a poem is meant to be experienced rather than analyzed, and I think this goes a long way in making poetry less intimidating for the average reader.

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“In Praise of Dreams” x 2

“After Midnight” by Rene Lynch
IN PRAISE OF DREAMS 
by Wislawa Szymborska

In my dreams
I paint like Vermeer van Delft.

I speak fluent Greek
and not just with the living.

I drive a car
that does what I want it to.

I am gifted
and write mighty epics.

I hear voices
as clearly as any venerable saint.

My brilliance as a pianist
would stun you.

I fly the way we ought to,
i.e.,  on my own.

Falling from the roof,
I tumble gently to the grass.

I've got no problem
breathing under water.

I can't complain:
I've been able to locate Atlantis.

It's gratifying that I can always
wake up before dying.

As soon as war breaks out,
I roll over on my other side.

I'm a child of my age,
but I don't have to be.

A few years ago
I saw two suns.

And the night before last a penguin,
clear as day.

~ from Poems: New and Collected, 1957-1997, translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh (Ecco, 2000).
“Dreaming Girl” by Gilly Marklew.

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Dreams, whether fleeting daydreams, wish fulfillment night dreams, or long held desires — are important indicators of who we are, what we value, and sometimes they serve to motivate us to achieve certain life goals.

They’re also a fun way to consider the subconscious, unleash the imagination and verbalize the unbelievable.

Szymborska’s poem inspired California poet Gary Soto to write about his own dreams.

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“The Guitar Player” by Fabian Perez.
IN PRAISE OF DREAMS
by Gary Soto

after Wislawa Szymborska

In my dreams,
I lasso a wild steer on the first try.

I chauffeur Picasso
To meet up with Dali --
None of us is happy about this summit.

After licking my fingertips,
I play guitar masterfully.

I use index cards to make sense
Of the universe.

I discover my childhood cat in the neighbor's tree--
So that's where you've been, you little rascal.

I beg the alligator, por favor,
To make a snap judgement,
Will it be my leg or my arm?

Picture me swimming with dolphins.
Picture me with these dolphins
Sitting in lawn chairs.

I'm full of gratitude--
The lightbulb comes on
When the refrigerator door is opened.

Yes, I'm the scientist who solved laryngitis--
Now all of us howl at our own pleasure.

I get to throw a trophy from a moving car.
When I park my car,
I'm awarded another trophy --
Someone above is giving me a second chance.

~ © 2020 by Gary Soto. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 29, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
“Restraint 2 Cowboys Roping a Steer” by Don Langeneckert

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Szymborska seems to value artistic mastery as well as superhuman powers like flying and breathing under water, enabling her to face adversity, survive catastrophes and achieve a kind of immortality. She’s more philosophical and symbolic than Soto.

I like how Soto injects humor and a fond memory in his poem. His voice is conversational and accessible. Who can resist, “licking my fingertips,” the “snap judgement” of the alligator, or those “dolphins/Sitting in lawn chairs”? 🙂

Both express gratitude for their lives in lovely, distinctive ways.

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Of course I couldn’t help but think about my own dreams. Not only fun, but empowering. Fantasy makes life more bearable. Part of me says “impossible,” while the other part says, “why not?” Doesn’t writing make it so? 🙂

~ Maira Kalman (What Pete Ate from A-Z, 2003)

IN MY DREAMS

Sam Heughan begs invites me to live with him in Scotland.

I teleport myself to England at whim and the weather is always good.

I own Harrods.

The real Paddington Brown lives with us.

I am fluent in at least 10 different languages.

I live at the Plaza Hotel and join Eloise for tea in the Palm Court every week.

I bake the biggest, most delicious pie the world has ever seen and the people who eat it are deliriously happy for the rest of their lives.

My house cleans itself.

I inherit Maira Kalman’s inimitable talent.

Colin Firth and Paul McCartney have me on speed dial.

My singing is simply divine and I look good in hats.

I can leap tall buildings in a single bound – with my eyes closed.

I win a tango championship in Argentina with Robert Duvall.

Jackson Browne is a neighbor and whenever I pop over he sings for me.

Whenever I read a good book, I can step right into it and become any character I choose.

When Shakespeare, the Brontës, Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Michael Bond visit the Cornelius Rattigan Tea Room, we assure them they will be read and loved forever and ever.

I see my parents again.

There is no such thing as hate.

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Speaking of Vermeer:

Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth in “Girl With a Pearl Earring” (2003).

What do you dream of?

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The lovely and talented Catherine Flynn is hosting the Roundup at Reading to the Core. Bounce over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere this week. Happy December!


*Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

🥧poetry friday roundup is here🌽

Please help yourself to apple cider, chocolate chip pumpkin bread, oatmeal raisin cookies and a Dreamy Pear slice.

Welcome to Poetry Friday at Alphabet Soup!

So, it’s almost turkey o’clock. Does Thanksgiving fill you with dread or anticipation? Will you find the holiday relaxing or stressful? A good sense of humor is essential whether you’re dealing with dry turkey, lumpy mashed potatoes, or high drama with relatives.

Mr Cornelius contemplates giant oatmeal cookies.

The older I get, the more I appreciate Melanie White’s Instagram caption: “Thanksgiving – when the people who are the most thankful are the ones who didn’t have to cook.” 😀

True, yet when you don’t cook, you don’t have any leftovers, which I think are actually the best part of Thanksgiving (hello, hot turkey sandwiches, apple pie for breakfast, sausage stuffing for lunch). When all the niceties and formalities of the holiday are over, you can finally be alone with your food and have your way with it.

Austin poet C J Beaman’s parody says it all.

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A THANKSGIVING POEM
by C J Beaman

Twas the night of Thanksgiving, but I just couldn't sleep, 
I tried counting backwards, I tried counting sheep. 
The leftovers beckoned - the dark meat and white, 
But I fought off the temptation with all of my might. 

I tossed and I turned with sweet anticipation, 
As the thought of a snack became infatuation. 
So I raced to the kitchen, flung open the door 
And gazed at the fridge, full of goodies galore. 

I gobbled up turkey and buttered potatoes, 
Pickles and carrots, beans and tomatoes. 
I felt myself swelling so plump and so round, 
'Til all of a sudden, I rose off the ground. 

I crashed through the ceiling, floating into the sky 
With a mouthful of pudding and a handful of pie. 
But I managed to yell as I soared past the trees... 
Happy eating to all! Pass the cranberries, please! 

May your stuffing be tasty, may your turkey be plump, 
May your potatoes & gravy have nary a lump, 
May your yams be delicious, may your pies take the prize, 
May your Thanksgiving dinner stay off of your thighs. 

Remember to share with those less fortunate,
And may your Thanksgiving be blessed!

~ Copyright © 2001, C J Beaman. All rights reserved.
“Pie in the Sky” by Dan Craig.

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🐜 TRUMAN’S AUNT FARM GIVEAWAY WINNERS! 🐜

Thanks to all who left interesting comments about your aunts. Thoroughly enjoyed reading them! After Mr Cornelius wrote all the commentors’ names down on pieces of paper, he tossed them into Paddington’s bush hat so Aunt Lucy could pick two winners. And they are:

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🥁 drum roll please 🥁

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🌽 JONE RUSH MACCULLOCH 🍗

and

🍁 MARY LEE HAHN 🥧

🎉🎉Congratulations, Jone and Mary Lee!! 🎉 🎉

Please email your snail mail addresses and we’ll get the books out to you lickety split!

Thanks again, everyone. 🙂

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Now, please leave your links with the dapper Mr. Linky below. Better take a few more bites to sustain you while you zip around the blogosphere reading all the fine poems, reviews, and poetic ruminations being shared by our poetry peeps this week.

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“Mulberry Cake” by Loré Pemberton

🥧 HAVE A SAFE, DELICIOUS, AND VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! 🍗


*Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.