party down, mr. romond!

 

The best things happen at night while we’re asleep. Toys come alive and book characters escape from their pages so they can party. I know this definitely happens at our house because most mornings I smell mint juleps and have this strange compulsion to change my name to “Stella.”

First he told us what English teachers dream about, and then he brought us donuts. Today, Pennsylvania based poet Edwin Romond throws a literary party. What a guy. 🙂

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AT NIGHT THE CHARACTERS ON MY CLASSROOM SHELVES COME OUT TO PARTY

by Edwin Romond

Captain Ahab peers in his telescope and yells, “All clear!”
and the rest unpage from the bindings of shelf life.
Gatsby’s first in his golden Rolls, screeching around,
nearly hitting Laura Wingfield, who’s with Stanley Kowalski,
her latest hope from the Literary Computer Dating Service.
And there’s Macbeth lecherously proclaiming, “Tonight
and tonight and tonight!” as he watusis with the witches,
which irritates Jonathan Edwards who’s mingling
and telling everyone to go to hell. The Duke and the King
try to sell Mississippi time shares to Hester, but she’s busy
with my grade book changing all the marks to “A’s.”
And there’s Old Rip scribbling on my desks, “This class
puts me to sleep,” but Blanche DuBois is really in trouble
depending on the kindness of strange Edgar Allan Poe
who’s moaning how lovely she’d look in a casket.
Then “Better Late Than Never” Reverend Dimmesdale
preaches from Planned Parenthood Journal to Oscar Wilde,
who is not interested. The party’s getting hot now
which makes Lady Macbeth tell the fur-coated Jack London,
“Off, off, damned coat!” just as the cast of “The Lottery”
arrives to suggest that everyone get stoned. They all go wild
till poet Emily, who never left the shelf to begin with,
peeks out to whisper, “Homeroom!” and they all scurry back
like illegal aliens. But poor Hamlet can’t find Hamlet
so he jumps into “The Lady or the Tiger?” where he stares
at both doors before turning to the crowd to warn,
“You’d better get comfortable. This might take a while.”

~ from Dream Teaching: Poems by Edwin Romond (Grayson Books, 2004)

 

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[review + giveaway] Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections by Michelle Schaub and Carmen Saldaña

I literally squealed with happiness when I first heard about and then finally read Michelle Schaub and Carmen Saldaña’s new poetry picture book, Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections (Charlesbridge, 2019).

As some of you may have guessed, “Collector” is my middle name. I’m what you’d call a born collector — it’s part of my DNA. It began with Japanese rice candy sponge animals, Crackerjack toys and Golden books during childhood, and has continued throughout my life: character wristwatches, hearts, rubber stamps, stationery, fountain pens, finger puppets, salt and pepper shakers, pigs (a passing phase), tea and tea paraphernalia, Coach leather bags, doll furniture, music in various formats, Beatrix Potter everything.

And then, of course, my most enduring obsessions: foodie picture books, poetry, literary cookbooks, china and crockery (mostly English), and teddy bears (especially Paddington!). Indeed, we had to move into a larger house just to accommodate the bears. 😀

In Finding Treasure, a delightful story told in 18 fetching poems, our young narrator is feeling a little panicky about a school assignment:

 

My teacher gave us homework
that has me quite perplexed.
He asked us all to bring to class
something we collect.

 

All her classmates have things to share — marbles, arrowheads, teddy bears — but the girl doesn’t have a collection, so she studies the collections of family and friends for ideas and inspiration.

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[review + giveaway] Wild in the Streets: 20 Poems of City Animals by Marilyn Singer and Gordy Wright

Imagine visiting New Delhi and seeing dozens of rhesus monkeys scampering down the street, climbing atop walls and buildings, even having them steal your food. People who live there are used to such monkey business, which is especially problematic when the animals break into and destroy homes and offices.

Monkeys are considered sacred in India, so it’s illegal to kill them. Though rhesus macaques have traditionally been cared for in temples around the country, many have been displaced due to a variety of factors. Today, there are an estimated 30,000 rhesus macaques running wild in New Delhi, and persistent efforts to chase them away remain futile.

This is just one of the interesting scenarios described in Marilyn Singer’s new poetry picture book, Wild in the Streets: 20 Poems of City Animals (words & pictures, 2019). Illustrated by British artist Gordy Wright, this unique collection introduces readers to creatures around the world who have adapted well to urban life, citing why they may have left their natural habitats.

 

 

We meet each animal through a poem and nonfiction note, sometimes hearing their voices and candid observations about being city dwellers.

From the monkeys saying, “Give us/give us/what we want, what we need;” to the wily Chicago coyotes demanding the kind of respect afforded their domestic canine cousins, “We came on foot,/crossing dangerous terrains . . . give us welcome to rid you of your mice and rats;” to the wild boars in Berlin expressing their gratitude, “Thanks for knocking down that wall./Thanks for your delicious corn./We declare a free-for-all;” we can better appreciate their amazing ability to trade “forests, caves, prairies, rocks,” for “bridges, rooftops, city blocks” — and thrive!

Using a variety of poetic forms, including haiku, villanelle, acrostic, sonnet, free verse, and her famous reverso, Marilyn captures the essence of each animal’s reality, sometimes creating an emotional context or painting a striking lyrical image. We can easily picture beautiful monarch butterflies traveling long distances “across wild mountains, tame gardens, familiar parks and distant plains.”

 

 

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three poems from Mothershell by Andrea Potos (+ a giveaway!)

 

Andrea Potos’s ninth poetry collection opens with this John Keats epigraph:

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

~ Endymion

It is true that the beauty in this world sustains us. Even after physical manifestation or terrestrial existence has ceased, the idea, essence, soul of the person or thing endures.

When a loved one passes away, he or she truly remains “forever in our hearts.”

Judging by the poems in Mothershell (Kelsay Books, 2019), Andrea’s late mother embodied a rare brand of temporal as well as spiritual beauty. Though beauty is always in her line of sight (as it is with most poets), when it is viewed through the lens of personal loss and grief, it acquires tender and poignant facets as it becomes an agent of solace and healing.

Sorrow heightens perception as emotional guard rails fall away. When we mourn, we are blessed with divine clarity.

In these exquisitely crafted poems, Andrea honors her beloved mother by distilling memories that emerge like scattered shells on a beach: “I hold them up/to my ears. On certain days/inside their silence I can hear/the echoes of your voice.”

We get an intimate sense of her mother’s  loveliness and presence through color, light, sensation, sound, image, impression — beautifully sculpted moments that transport us to the center of love and longing: “These pink lilies rising from clear stillness,/ these yellow butterflies stitching a path through daylilies and reeds,” “a fragrance beyond air/a whole melding of the lost rooms of my mother’s house, vanilla scent of her coffee, her Greek oregano, cinnamon just past its freshness but potent enough to be here,” “tranquil joy/on her face like/Renoir/might have painted,/light dappling around and through her.”

Andrea also writes about her other loves — art (Renoir, Cassatt), literature (Dickinson, Alcott), faraway places (Ireland, Italy), her daughter and grandmother — all of which informs and enriches her poetic vision.

I love how she illuminates the eternal bond between mother and daughter with her elegant flashes of beauty:

 

WHERE YOU MIGHT FIND HER

In the dusky sky before dreaming,
behind the cobalt
curtain of your eyelids as
you descend

or rise —
on that landing just before waking–
precipice of expression — her face
like goldleaf shining.

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JUNE SONG

one year later

Through the marrow
of summer
she was gone
through the hollow
of light
she moved
into the bone-
core of our longing,
now everywhere
peonies bloom
the colors of
her coral blouse
scattered with tiny
daylight stars.

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Oh, the beautiful anguish (“the bone-core of our longing” kills me . . . )!

With Mothershell, Andrea has created “a bower quiet for us,” a place both prayerful and powerful in its emotional scope.

Here are three more of my favorite poems from the book:

 

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welcome friends, soup’s on

 

*enters kitchen, eats three pieces of chocolate, then takes out the soup pot. . . *

Hello, Cutie Pies!

Yes, we’re finally back. 🙂

It’s so good to know I can type a few words, find you here, and share this small, safe space with you — cause things in this world seem to be getting scarier and more tumultuous with each passing day.

It’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening to our country with everyone fighting and on edge all the time.

 

 

We’re exhausted, frustrated, demoralized, fearful. We feel broken and powerless in the face of unmitigated hate, corruption, and greed.

And then there’s the profound sadness —  three recent mass shootings, and the loss of Toni Morrison and Lee Bennett Hopkins last month.

What to do? How to cope?

Toni Morrison’s words inspire, ground, and uplift:

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.

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