“For the whole world was holy,/not just parts of it. The world was the Book of God./The alphabet shimmered and buzzed with beauty.” ~ Barbara Crooker (“The Book of Kells: Chi Rho”)
Happy Almost St. Paddy’s Day!
Today we’re channeling our inner green with a little Irish breakfast and two food poems from Barbara Crooker’s new poetry collection.
The Book of Kells(Cascade Books, 2018)is Barbara’s eighth book, a masterwork of stunning, exquisitely crafted poems that left me breathless with awe and an even more acute yearning to visit Ireland again.
In addition to meditations and musings on the world’s most famous medieval manuscript (four lavishly decorated Gospels of the New Testament in Latin), there are observations about the Irish countryside, its flora and fauna, as well as personal reflections on time well spent during her two residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, Co. Monaghan, Ireland.
Barbara marvels at the beauty and singular magic of the Emerald Isle, whether blackbird, swan, lake, fuschia, wind, rain, the colors of autumn leaves (thank you, fairies), or “the bright splash of daffodils.” Ever present, profoundly human, she writes with an open, generous heart, reminding us to pay close attention to small miracles: “The rain’s thin music has set the world humming.” (“What is this world, but the body of God?”)
And of course I love that Barbara always knows just how to bring the delicious:
By invitation of Poetry Friday host Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core, we are joining today’s celebration to honor notable women. I so admire and respect Maya Angelou, a true Renaissance woman who lived many lifetimes as a poet, autobiographer, playwright, producer, director, actor, singer, dancer, editor, lecturer, civil rights activist, and fierce advocate of strong women.
Her landmark autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings(1969), made her a prominent spokesperson for African Americans and set a precedent, enabling formerly marginalized black female writers to publicly discuss their personal lives. This book and her four subsequent autobiographies are among the most powerful and transformative books I’ve ever read.
Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it, possibly without claiming it, she stands up for all women.
Today, Dr. Angelou is celebrated as an icon of gender equality and social justice, a humanitarian who led by example, promoting peace, inclusion, unity, tolerance, forgiveness, empathy, compassion, and love.
I can’t think of any other modern female poet with a greater gift for oral recitation. She was truly a master of the spoken word — her deep, melodious voice so rich with the joy and pain of vast and varied experience, hard-earned wisdom, and steadfast conviction. She held audiences spellbound at her readings, which many considered moral and spiritual awakenings. All this, from a once mute girl, whose love of poetry, literature, and language enabled her to overcome childhood sexual trauma.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Some of her poems have indeed become anthems. It’s no wonder she was asked to deliver an original poem (“On the Pulse of Morning”) at President Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993. She was only the second person in American history ever honored in this way (Robert Frost read at JFK’s inauguration in 1961).
Her “public poems” redefined poetry for many, prompting the reluctant to open their minds and listen. Her words had the power to move the masses, even as they touched humble hearts.
The honorary duty of a human being is to love.
A few years ago, I shared “Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem,”which she wrote for the White House Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in 2005. It remains one of the most well-visited posts at Alphabet Soup.
I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.
Today I’m sharing “A Brave and Startling Truth,”which she wrote for the 50th Anniversary of the Founding of the United Nations (1995). It’s a timeless poem, especially relevant in our current political climate. What would she say, I wonder, about all the hate and divisiveness in our country today? Probably this:
Don’t just complain about the problems you see and do nothing; roll up your sleeves and get to work finding solutions and remedies. We do a disservice to our children and to the future by not addressing the problems that confront us. Nor should our efforts for change be thwarted or stifled by the obstacles arrayed against us. We must steel ourselves with courage and perseverance and battle on for what is right.
How sorely we need her words of hope right now, her call to action! How empowering to know that as human beings, we have the freedom and ability to choose good over evil.
“Blue is therefore most suitable as the color of interior life.” ~ William H. Gass
THE LAND OF BLUE by Laura Mucha
Across the valley, it waits for you,
a place they call The Land of Blue.
It’s far and near, it’s strange yet known –
and in this land, you’ll feel alone,
you might feel tears roll down your cheek,
you might feel wobbly, weary, weak.
I know this won’t sound fun to you –
it’s not – this is The Land of Blue.
It’s blue – not gold or tangerine,
it’s dark – not light, not bright or clean.
It’s blue – and when you leave, you’ll see
the crackly branches of the tree,
the golden skies, the purring cat,
the piercing eyes, the feathered hat
and all the other things that come
when you escape from feeling glum.
Across the valley, it waits for you,
a place they call The Land of Blue
and going there will help you know
how others feel when they feel low.
As the poet explains at her website, this poem was written for a poetry workshop in response to a painting she saw at the National Gallery in London. The painting featured two mountains with a “land of blue” in the distance. She thought perhaps people went there when they were sad.
Though initially written as a children’s poem, Mucha’s observations about sorrow — that experiencing it ultimately helps us develop compassion and empathy — certainly applies to adults as well. I was also reminded of how Mr Rogers stressed the importance of honoring children’s emotions and encouraging them to speak freely about what they were experiencing.
I do love how art begets more art (which is why I’ve always enjoyed ekphrastic poetry). In Mucha’s case, her emotional reaction to the painting inspired her to explore often untalked-about-feelings within the safe space of a poem.
Every day I look at a lot of art, listen to music, and read inspiring words, both poetry and prose. How effectively a piece is able to instantly make me feel something is a good gauge of its worth.
I agree with William Gass that blue is most suitable as the color of interior life. Picasso comes to mind, with his famous Blue Period.He was going through a profound depression after the suicide of his friend, but just as Mucha suggests about the nature of despondency, he was eventually able to move past his dark mood in a few years.
Although blueis quiteoften associated with coldness and melancholy, we see through the works of other artists that the “land of blue” may also be one of peace, serenity, calmness, reflection, and deep, abiding beauty.
1. Just in case you’re suffering from the winter blues or cabin fever, drink in some of the gorgeous colors, patterns and textures of Este MacLeod’spaintings.
Born in South Africa, Este now lives in London, where she creates beautiful, stylized landscapes, florals and still lives. What a master of layering and composition! There is a certain dreaminess about her work that nourishes the viewer. Shake off the blahs, wake up and embrace the world in living color!
Limited edition prints, notebooks, tea towels and originals are available for purchase at her Etsy Shop.
2. New Book Alert! Sometimes you find the nicest surprises in your mailbox. Recently, THE BOOK OF YAWNS by Carolyn Blasinsky (Blazing Sky & Co., 2018) magically appeared.
This adorable board book is just the thing to get the little ones to wind down at bedtime. Full color photographs of eight wild and domestic animals show them practicing the fine art of yawning. Their facial expressions, whether weary, drowsy, or comical, are just plain priceless, and the simple, repetitive text saying “night night” to each animal is hypnotic.
The thing is, after you’ve turned a few pages, you start to get sleepy too. Yawns are contagious! Whether in the forest, ocean, open plains, arctic or back yard, these creatures demonstrate what we all have in common. I especially like the monkey, tiger and seal. Guess who the last animal in the book is?
I asked Carolyn, who is my neighbor, to provide a little backstory about the book:
I’m a graphic and web designer and have always wanted to do a children’s book – I was just waiting for the right idea to strike. With a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old I read to them nightly and one book showed a character yawning which made us all yawn and I thought – what about a book all about yawns?! Children love animals and it seemed like the perfect combination. I like simple books that are easy to read (for tired parents at night) and love great photographs and clean, beautiful design. Plus – it helps get my little readers sleepy and ready for bed! My kids love the book and I’ve learned a lot in the process. It’s been an interesting project!
A special treat for animal lovers, THE BOOK OF YAWNS is the perfect new baby, shower or toddler gift. I would *yawn* tell you more *y -a-w -n* but I really need *y — a. –w — n* to take a nap.
“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy donuts. And that’s kind of the same thing.” ~ Anonymous
They’re calling me again. I donut know why I can’t resist them.
Ring, filled, glazed, powdered, frosted with sprinkles — they’ve perfected their siren song. At least I’m not alone in this. 🙂
THE YEAR I LIVED ACROSS THE STREET FROM A 24-HOUR DUNKIN’ DONUTS by Edwin Romond
Each day of each month
like Odysseus with his sirens
I’d hear pastries calling, “Come over! Come over!”
and I’d picture glazed and blueberry
doughnuts, almond croissants and cinnamon
coffee rolls, apple fritters and chocolate
scones, and I feared an international crisis
if I ever said no to a Bavarian cream.
Sometimes at night with the moon white
as a powdered sugar munchkin
I’d wake and worry there was one
lonely toasted coconut doughnut left
in a tray all by himself and charity
would demand I get dressed, cross the street
and eat him. Oh, that year of Christmas
tree cookies, Old Glory sprinkles
on 4th of July muffins, and the faith
inspiring Ash Wednesday hot cross buns
that made me thank God for counter girls
who saved my seat by the window, bakers
who took midnight requests, and for Macy’s
who sold expandable stretch waist jeans.
~ This poem first appeared in The Stillwater Review
Since Dunkin’ Donuts originated in New England, it’s fitting that I had my first official DD there — in Bedford, New Hampshire, to be exact.
We were newly married and visiting Len’s family. I remember my father-in-law raving about DD’s coffee and chicken noodle soup. He never mentioned the donuts, though. It seems going out for DD coffee on a Saturday morning was THE thing to do.
We often stayed at Len’s brother’s house, and one morning Len picked up a box of munchkins for breakfast. Up until then, my little nephew — he might have been 2 or 3 years old at the time — had never eaten donuts in any form. Of course he LOVED them, calling them “Nonuts.” We didn’t know then that my SIL had been restricting his sweets. Oops.
So my first Dunkin’ Donut was actually a plain glazed munchkin, and I’ve been hooked ever since. They’re small and (you gotta admit) cute. There’s less of a guilt factor too. Whoever decided to call those donut holes “munchkins” was absolutely brilliant. Such an adorable name. There might even be scientific proof that eating munchkins makes you cuter. 😀
I love Romond’s poem because it’s so relatable. Though I’ve never lived right across the street from a donut shop, just having a Dunkin’ Donuts in the same town is dangerous enough. My highly refined donut radar can pick up those siren signals within a 30 mile radius, at least. So whenever I hear the cry of a cruller, the moanings of a marble frosted, or the lamentations of a long john, I feel it is my civic duty to come to the rescue. I know they long to be eaten. I just want to make them happy.
I would certainly not want to be the last and lonely toasted coconut donut left on the tray. Poor thing. I may be cowardly with some things, but putting donuts out of their misery isn’t one of them. Mine, like Mr. Romond’s, is a noble calling.
What’s your favorite donut? 🙂
The lovely and talented Tara Smith is hosting the Roundup at Going to Walden. Take her a chocolate frosted donut and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Have a nice weekend (eat lots of DONUTS)!