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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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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[furry review] If You Go Down to the Woods Today by Rachel Piercey and Freya Hartas

Brush your fur, wash your paws, and spiff up your whiskers — it’s time to join Bear as he shows us around his magical woodland home with cheery poems to read and wondrous things to find.

If You Go Down to the Woods Today by Rachel Piercey and Freya Hartas (Magic Cat Publishing, 2021), is, as Kirkus called it, “a tour de force of interactive two-dimensional nature.” And when they say “tour de force” they really mean it.

I read many poetry picture books throughout the year, and this is one of the few that literally had me squealing with delight and disbelief when I first saw the art. Wow!

“Bunny’s Birthday”

Before reading any of the poems, I joyously pored over the incredible pictures, my eyes getting wider and wider because there was just so much to see!

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Three Poems from Nikki Giovanni’s Make Me Rain

It’s always a good day when poet, activist, and professor Nikki Giovanni showers us with the power and wisdom of her words.

I love her latest book, Make Me Rain: Poems and Prose (William Morrow, 2020), which is by turns celebratory, conversational, tender, soul nourishing, and ablaze with fierce conviction. Her heart and refreshing honesty are on display whether the subject is deeply personal or politically controversial. She begins with this lyrical restorative gem:

MAKE ME RAIN

make me rain
turn me into a snowflake

let me rest
on your tongue

make me a piece of ice
so I can cool you

let me be the cloud
that embraces you

or the quilt
that gets you dry

snuggle close
listen to me sing

on the windowsill

make me rain
on you

What a beautiful way to invite us into this collection! As a poet and person, she is wholeheartedly in service of language and its critical role in the healing and nurturing of humanity. Water, which sustains every living thing, is a recurring theme in the book.

The book’s cover is an homage to Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album, recently ranked #1 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

There are other joyous and life affirming poems about family, friends, mentors, and dreams to soothe the spirit. She often uses the quilt metaphor not only as a symbol of comfort and safety, but as a way of stitching together precious memories and illuminating the uncommon strength that comes from unifying diverse elements.

“Pictorial Quilt” by Harriet Powers (1898)
(From Nikki's poem, “Quilts”):

Some folk think
a quilt is leftover
clothes
but we know
it is made up
of loved pieces
we have saved
then sewn
together . . . 

America is a quilt
made up of different
folk
we came together to build
something warm
and good

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