a song for father’s day and a summer blog break

Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling . . . 

Whenever I hear this song, I think of my dad.

Since he was such a passionate music lover, there are many songs that remind me of him, but none touches me as deeply as “Danny Boy.”

When I was growing up, music was that special something we could do together. With my brother it was fishing, but with me, James loved to play his harmonica while I accompanied him on the piano.

First, he would line up his instruments — he had several Hohner Chromonicas and a couple of diatonic harmonicas in different keys.

Then we would play our way through my stack of sheet music and piano books — folk songs, church hymns, patriotic songs, show tunes (Rodgers and Hammerstein, Leonard Bernstein, Lerner and Loewe), semi-classical pieces, Strauss waltzes, drinking songs/sea shanties, Christmas carols, on and on.

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cultivating ideas with a blue spade

“The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

“Out of the Mist” by Wayne Millett

All Aboard!

Let’s take a little trip.

“Blue Garden” by Abid Khan
THE BLUE GARDEN
by Helen Dunmore

'Doesn't it look peaceful?' someone said
as our train halted on the embankment
and there was nothing to do but stare
at the blue garden.

Blue roses slowly opened,
blue apples glistened
beneath the spreading peacock of leaves.

The fountain spat jets of pure Prussian
the decking was made with fingers of midnight
the grass was as blue as Kentucky.

Even the children playing
in their ultramarine paddling pool
were touched by a cobalt Midas

who had changed their skin
from the warm colours of earth
to the azure of heaven.  

'Don't they look happy?' someone said,
as the train manager apologised
for the inconvenience caused to our journey,

and yes, they looked happy.
Didn't we wish we were in the blue garden
soaked in the spray of the hose-snake,

didn't we wish we could dig in the indigo earth
for sky-coloured potatoes.
didn't we wish our journey was over

and we were free to race down the embankment
and be caught up in the blue, like those children
who shrank to dots of cerulean
as our train got going.

~ from Glad of These Times (Bloodaxe, 2014)

“Dreampath” by Violeta Lopiz

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Kenneth Koch: “Permanently” smitten


“Write poetry as if you were in love. If you are always in love you will not always write the same poem, but if you are never in love you may.” ~ Kenneth Koch

“Kenneth Koch Reading” by Fairfield Porter (1966)

Happy June! Here’s a little Kenneth Koch to nudge your nouns and activate your adjectives.

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PERMANENTLY
by Kenneth Koch

One day the Nouns were clustered in the street.
An Adjective walked by, with her dark beauty.
The Nouns were struck, moved, changed.
The next day a Verb drove up, and created the Sentence.

Each Sentence says one thing -- for example,
“Although it was a dark rainy day when the Adjective walked by, I shall remember the pure and sweet expression on her face until the day I perish from the green, effective earth.”
Or, “Will you please close the window, Andrew?”
Or, for example, “Thank you, the pink pot of flowers on the window sill has changed color recently to a light yellow, due to the heat from the boiler factory which exists nearby.”

In the springtime the Sentences and the Nouns lay silently on the grass.
A lonely Conjunction here and there would call, “And! But!”
But the Adjective did not emerge.

As the adjective is lost in the sentence,
So I am lost in your eyes, ears, nose, and throat --
You have enchanted me with a single kiss
Which can never be undone
Until the destruction of language.

~ from Selected Poems, 1950-1982 (Vintage, 1985)

“Window” by Jane Freilicher (2011)

Charming, conversational, lighthearted, with quite a surprise at the end. Did you realize this was a love poem when you first started reading it? Love Koch’s disarming approach. 🙂

Perhaps, like me, you were delighted with how he cleverly personified the parts of speech, immediately drawing us in at the beginning with characters we’re more accustomed to diagramming than dallying with.

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[review] the abcs of black history by rio cortez and lauren semmer

#59 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

A is for anthem, a banner of song
that wraps us in hope, lets us know we belong.
We lift up our voices, lift them and sing.
From stages and street corner, let freedom ring.

Surely there aren’t enough letters in the alphabet to describe all the goodness contained in The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez and Lauren Semmer (Workman, 2020). From its rallying Anthem to its triumphant Zenith, this abecedarian is, I dare say, letter perfect.

Now, if I absolutely had to choose one letter to capture the book’s essence, perhaps it would be “R,” as it’s rich, radiant, rousing, readable, and resourceful. But that would only begin to describe it, because in addition to being an inventive alphabet book celebrating Black history and culture, it’s also a story of strength, persistence, and resilience, a timely call to action, and a loving praise song of hope, creativity, and pride.

Written in lively rhyming couplets, the engaging, conversational text draws the reader in right away by addressing him/her directly with the letter “B.”

B is for beautiful — I’m talking to you!
Your voice, your height, your hair, your hue.

B is for brave, for bright, and for bold.
For those who STOOD UP — even when they were told
to step back, stand down, remember their place.

B is for brotherhood, for believing in grace.

Now that the reader feels seen and validated, the enthusiastic narrator continues by using the collective “we” as she shares the seminal events, iconic figures and big ideas, values, and beliefs that define and characterize the African American experience.

Cortez features visionaries from a wide variety of disciplines — heroes, heroines, innovators, explorers, leaders and role models such as the often lauded Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington Carver, Benjamin Banneker, Barack and Michelle Obama, Shirley Chisholm, and Malcolm X, along with lesser known names like organizers Fred Hampton and Diane Nash, and Dr. Patricia Bath, the first African American ophthalmologist.

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Celebrating the Marvelous Mary Lee (she really takes the cake)!

Hooray, Hooray, it’s Mary Lee Hahn Day!

We’re happy to join the throng of well wishers honoring educator, author, poet, baker and fearless Poetry Friday leader Mary Lee Hahn, who’s retiring from her 37-year teaching career and beginning a brand new chapter in her life!

In Dublin City, Ohio (35 years), and Dallas, Texas (2 years), this extraordinary human being has taught approximately 875 students (4th and 5th graders) under the leadership of 10 principals, 7 superintendents, and 2 curriculum directors, and — *wait . . . for . . . it* — her first students are now almost 50 years old. 😮😮😮

Though I often wish I could have been one of her students, I’ve been blessed with perhaps the next best thing — her fabulous posts at A Year of Reading, where she blogs with fellow teacher Franki Sibberson. 

Mary Lee’s poems appear in these anthologies.

I’ve been a faithful Mary Lee reader since I first started blogging in 2007, and I still look forward to seeing what she’s going to share every week. Whether she’s posting an original poem or the work of another, there’s always something new to learn and enjoy. 

Little known fact: I actually got to meet Mary Lee in person at KidlitCon 2009 in Arlington, Virginia. It was only the third kidlit/ya blogger conference of its kind and as a newbie, I was a little starstruck by those whose blogs I loved and admired. 

Mr Cornelius with Mary Lee at KidlitCon 2009

It’s a little surreal after “knowing” someone online for awhile to suddenly see her moving and talking right in front of you. My first thought upon seeing Mary Lee: “Love the cool purple eyeglasses!”

(Of course, everything about Mary Lee is cool, but you probably already knew that.)

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