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.

poetry friday roundup is here!

“The bluebird carries the sky on his back.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

WELCOME TO POETRY FRIDAY AT ALPHABET SOUP!

Please help yourself to warm blueberry muffins and green tea. 🙂

Something I look forward to every Spring is spying that first flash of blue alighting on a bare branch outside my window. Bluebird!

If the sun’s out, the bluebird’s feathers dazzle. He must know how handsome he is. Before the trees have budded, this show of color offers hope and such joy. It’s amazing how just one little bird in a natty blue coat can transform a landscape.

The bluebird has been considered a harbinger of happiness by many world cultures for thousands of years. On this Mother’s Day weekend, here are bluebird poems by Emily Dickinson and Mary Oliver. I love the shared delight of these two poets, born 105 years apart.

Wishing you the gift of sweet birdsong amid the din, a spot of beauty to light the way, and many happy moments.

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by Deidre Wicks

 

THE BLUEBIRD
by Emily Dickinson

Before you thought of spring,
Except as a surmise,
You see, God bless his suddenness,
A fellow in the skies
Of independent hues,
A little weather-worn,
Inspiriting habiliments
Of indigo and brown.

With specimens of song,
As if for you to choose,
Discretion in the interval,
With gay delays he goes
To some superior tree
Without a single leaf,
And shouts for joy to nobody
But his seraphic self!

(1896)

 

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by Suren Nursisyen

 

WHAT GORGEOUS THING
by Mary Oliver

I do not know what gorgeous thing
the bluebird keeps saying,
his voice easing out of his throat,
beak, body into the pink air
of the early morning. I like it
whatever it is. Sometimes
it seems the only thing in the world
that is without dark thoughts.
Sometimes it seems the only thing
in the world that is without
questions that can’t and probably
never will be answered, the
only thing that is entirely content
with the pink, then clear white
morning and, gratefully, says so.

~ from Blue Horses (Penguin Press, 2014)

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Now, please leave your links with the dashing Mr. Linky below. I hope you enjoy flitting from blog to blog, sampling all the poetry goodness laid out for the taking. Thank you for joining us this week!

 

 

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by EO Prints

 

“A man’s interest in a single bluebird is worth more than a complete but dry list of the fauna and flora of a town.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

DON’T FORGET TO THINK BLUE.

🐦 HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!! 🦋


*This post contains an Amazon Affiliate link. When you purchase something using a link on this blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a small referral fee (at no cost to you). Thank you for your continuing support!

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

kobayashi issa: a little haiku blues

Issa is probably my favorite of the four great haiku masters. I love the endearing humanity in his poems and seeing traces of his personality shining through. How could I not appreciate a poet whose pen name translates as “cup of tea,” or, “a single bubble in steeping tea”?

Recently, I was happy to stumble upon some of his “soup” haiku (many about pufferfish soup). While I’ll pass on pufferfish every time, I can certainly get behind this poem:

thin mist —
night after night
vegetable soup

Don’t you think Issa wrote it with me in mind, knowing its irresistible aroma would awaken my senses 213 years later? 🙂

Because May is the fifth month, today I’m serving up five of Issa’s “blue” haiku, paired with Japanese woodblock prints. Enjoy these lovely one-breath poems (all translated from the Japanese by David G. Lanoue). I hope their beauty will add a little joy, light, and the sweet fragrance of revelation to your day.

 

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[review] H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z by Sydell Rosenberg and Sawsan Chalabi

#55 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

Children’s umbrellas glistening in the rain, roadside sunflowers turning their heads, a dreaming cat encircled by its furry tail.

These are a few of my favorite “small moments” from this charming new picture book, H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z by Sydell Rosenberg and Sawsan Chalabi (Penny Candy Books, 2018).

According to her daughter Amy Losak, “Syd” (who passed away in 1996) had a “gift for life,” a unique ability to find joy in small everyday moments that the average person might overlook. A keen observer with an innate spirit of adventure, she was able to make the ordinary extraordinary through her haiku and senryū.

 

Syd and Amy

 

Syd started writing poetry as a child, and for decades while teaching in NYC public schools, she published both poetry and prose in various journals and anthologies. She was also a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968. But Syd was never able to fulfill her dream of publishing a book of haiku for children until now.

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