A Poem for a Thursday

Photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash

Robert Graves was a British poet, classicist, novelist, and critic. Graves was one of the most well-known WWI poets along with Siegfreid Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. He was one of the first to write poets about what it was really like to be in the front lines.  Graves is also known for his autobiography Good-bye To All That. I found today's poem in a Norton Anthology of Poetry I bought recently. I am not totally sure what he is trying to say but I like the way the words sound and, to be honest, that is mostly how I pick poems.

Children, if you dare to think
Of the greatness, rareness, muchness,
Fewness of this precious only
Endless world in which you say
You live, you think of things like this:
Blocks of slate enclosing dappled
Red and green, enclosing tawny
Yellow nets, enclosing white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where a neat brown paper parcel
Tempts you to untie the string.
In the parcel a small island,
On the island a large tree, 
On the tree a husky fruit.
Strip the husk and pare the rind off: 
In the kernel you will see
Blocks of slate enclosed by dappled 
Red and green, enclosed by tawny 
Yellow nets, enclosed by white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where the same brown paper parcel--
Children, leave the string alone!
For who dares undo the parcel
Finds himself at once inside it,
On the island, in the fruit,
Blocks of slate about his head
Finds himself enclosed by dappled 
Green and red, enclosed by yellow
Tawny nets, enclosed by black
And white acres of dominoes,
With the same brown paper parcel
Still unopened on his knee
And, if he then should dare to think
Of the fewness, muchness, rareness,
Greatness of this endless only
Precious world in which he says
He lives--he then unties the string.

Warning to Children
Robert Graves

Reese at Typings has a poem by Tom Disch this week.

Bookshop Visit//The Book Barn

My sister and I took a day off recently and went to The Book Barn in Niantic, CT. We spent hours browsing in their three locations and we bought way too many books. We easily could have bought so many more and I am already thinking about going back. The main section of The Book Barn is a collection of buildings and outdoor shelving. There are also two smaller bookstores, one right next door and one further downtown. They are in the midst of consolidating from four bookstores to three so what genres are in each location could change but for now, the downtown store has religion, philosophy, cooking, gardening and children's books. The store next to the main location has romance and mysteries with a smattering of other subjects and the main location has a grand mix of everything else.

There were books everywhere. Just when we thought we had looked at it all we would find another section. Many of the older books were only $1.00 each and, since older books are what we mainly look for, this was perfect.

There are also bookshop cats. One of the locations had a leaflet with photos and descriptions of each cat and where they can usually be found. We only saw a few but it definitely added to the charm.

The people who work in the different locations were extremely friendly. We asked for restaurant recommendations and they suggested a Tex-Mex restaurant next door which was very good. The buffalo chicken nachos were especially nice.

My sister and I both have a weakness for old-fashioned romantic suspense so we were thrilled to find the "castles, coaches, and windswept moors" section. A lot of these older books are practically impossible to find in the library anymore and they are perfect escapist fiction.

So, what did we buy? As I said, way too many books. I bought 32 and my sister bought 49. We could have easily doubled those numbers and neither of us spent a huge amount of money. I think the most expensive book either of us bought was $6.00 and most were $1.00. This post is way too photo heavy but I am going to show you all 32 books anyway.

I did already own the book about Jane Austen and City Room is for my dad. My sister sent me a photo of all her purchases. Here it is.

If you are ever in Connecticut then visit The Book Barn. You too can buy way too many books, eat Tex-Mex food and hopefully, go for a walk on the shore. Our walk was rained out but that just provides an excuse for us to go back. And finally here is one more photo because any bookstore that provides wagons for you to cart around your purchases understands its customer base.

The Book Barn
41 W. Main St.
Niantic, CT 06357

A Poem for a Thursday #31

Photo by Roksolana Zasiadko on Unsplash

Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet-diplomat and politician. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Neruda has been called the greatest poet writing in Spanish during his lifetime. He is not more well-known in the English speaking world because his work is viewed as hard to translate. His political affiliations caused controversy since he supported Communism and Stalin. When the Chilean government declared Communism illegal Neruda was expelled from the Senate and went into hiding. Neruda died in 1973 shortly after leaving a hospital where he was being treated for cancer. He suspected the doctor was trying to poison him under orders from Pinochet who had just successfully led a coup d'etat. In 2013 the government issued a statement saying it was "highly likely" Neruda was killed because of "intervention of third parties."  Neruda is commonly viewed as the national poet of Chile. His love poems are particularly well-known. Here is one of them.

I don't love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose 
from the earth lives dimly in my body.

I love you without knowing how or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don't know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams. 

Sonnet XVII
Pablo Neruda
Translated by Mark Eisner

Visit Typings to read another lovely poem.

A Few Good Books

The first Simon Garfield book I ever read was a compilation of Mass Observation diaries that I bought at The Imperial War Museum in London. It is still one of the best books I have read about life in England during WWII and I have read a lot of books about that time period. I have been meaning to read some of his other books so when I saw that In Miniature:  How Small Things Illuminate the World* was available on NetGalley I immediately requested it. Garfield explores why people are so fascinated by miniatures and what drives them to create or play with them. He looks at everything from dollhouses to toy soldiers to model villages to the Vegas Strip. I was fascinated by the section about meticulously recreated crime scenes and amazed to read about the realities of flea circuses. I must admit, I now want to travel to Germany to visit the biggest model train layout in the world. This book is detailed, well-researched and takes the subject beyond the obvious. I wouldn't say I was someone who was fascinated by miniatures to begin with but this caught and held my attention and that readable, detailed account is what Garfield does best.

I have mentioned before that I love the British Library Crime Classics. I regularly request them on NetGalley even though this means I don't get to enjoy the absolutely gorgeous covers. I mean, just look at that cover above. I would happily hang a copy of that picture on my wall and I could say that about all of the covers.

The Colour of Murder* is told from two points of view. The first is John Wilkins talking to his psychiatrist about his life up to that point. Wilkins is not a likable man and he is an unreliable narrator. He is married to a girl that he decides is dull and unsatisfactory after he falls in love with another woman who works at the library. He gets caught up in a fantasy life, follows the woman to Brighton, and she is found dead on a beach. Did he kill her? The second part of the book is the account of John Wilkins trial. I enjoyed this even though it was a bit dark and I didn't really like anyone. It was a bit like watching a train wreck. You know things aren't going to end well but you keep turning the pages.

Another British Library Crime Classic and another gorgeous cover. I want to step right into that picture. The Belting Inheritance* is narrated by Christopher who is eighteen at the time the events in the book take place. He was orphaned as a child and raised by the Wainwright family. One day, one of Lady Wainwright's sons who went missing during WWII returns home. Or does he? Is this man who he says he is? What other family secrets are going to be brought out in the open? Is it possible to get most of the main characters to Paris on what seems to be a relatively flimsy pretext? Read it and find out for yourself. Despite the unnecessary detour to Paris, I enjoyed this.

I have decided that I will pretty much read anything Lynne Olson writes. She makes history completely fascinating. Madame Fourcade's Secret War* is just as interesting as her previous books. Marie-Madeleine Fourcade led the largest spy network in France during WWII. She was only thirty-one, she was female, and she was beautiful. It sounds a bit like the beginning of a blockbuster movie but Fourcade was ferociously intelligent and had nerves of steel. This was real life. Her spies provided vital intelligence to British and American forces and many lost their lives in the process. By the end of the war, Fourcade was in command of 3000 men and women. Surprisingly, few people have heard of her. Maybe Olson's book will change that. I highly recommend this. I already have another of Olson's books on my shelf waiting for me.

*Review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions and raving about cover art completely my own.

A Poem for a Thursday #30

Photo by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash

Ludwig Lewisohn was a literary and drama critic and an editor. He wrote about 40 books and many articles. He also taught, wrote poetry, and translated German literature. Obviously, he was a man of many talents. He wrote this poem about the peace and joys of marriage. Interestingly, he was married three times and had at least two affairs. Take from that what you will.

You and I by this lamp with these
Few books shut out the world.  Our knees
Touch almost in this little space.
But I am glad.  I see your face.
The silences are long, but each
Hears the other without speech.
And in this simple scene there is 
The essence of all subtleties,
The freedom from all fret and smart,
The one sure sabbath of the heart.

The world--we cannot conquer it,
Nor change the mind of fools one whit.
Here, here alone do we create
Beauty and peace inviolate;
Here night by night and hour by hour
We build a high impregnable tower
Whence may shine, now and again,
A light to light the feet of men
When they see the rays thereof:
And this is marriage, this is love.

Ludwig Lewisohn

Read another poem at Typings.

Book Gluttony

I went to two book sales in one day last week. I know. That might be a little much. Hence, the title of this post. That isn't even all I bought. I also bought about a dozen Star Wars novels and a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for my son. I spent $13.00. It averaged out to 38 cents a book. I think the gluttony is understandable.

I went to one of these book sales last year and wrote about it here.  This year I also went to a sale at the library in a neighboring town. Both sales are run by a bunch of little old ladies who spend their time bustling around, getting in everyone's way, and chatting like mad to everyone. They are a joy and a pleasure. When I am their age I shall work at town book sales and get first pick of all the books. I also hope I have glorious white hair like one of the ladies I saw. She was very elegant with beautifully coiffed hair and it is now my goal to look just like her in 25 years.

I'll list the books I bought in case you can't read the titles in the photo.

Giant and Saratoga Trunk by Edna Ferber

The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins

London Under by Peter Ackroyd

Scotland: An Intimate Portrait by Geddes MacGregor

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Never Surrender by John Kelly

Quiet, Yelled Mrs. Rabbit by Hilda Cole Espy

The Great Silence by Juliet Nicolson

The News From Ireland by William Trevor

Red House: Being a Mostly Accurate Account of New England's Oldest Continuously Lived-In House by Sarah Messer

Book of Ages:  The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore

My Love Affair With England by Susan Allen Toth

The Bronte Myth by Lucasta Miller

I Will Bear Witness 1933-1941 by Victor Klemperer

I Will Bear Witness 1942-1945 by Victor Klemperer

The Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay

The Gentle Tamers: Women of the Old Wild West by Dee Brown

Daniel Deronda by George Eliot

The Norton Anthology of Poetry

Many of these are books I don't know much about. They looked interesting and so I threw them in my bag. At those prices, I really didn't need to debate a purchase. I can always read them and then donate them to another book sale. The only ones I have read before are the Edna Ferber novels. Is there anything you recommend or can I just put them all on my shelves and pretend they have been there all along?

A Poem for a Thursday #29

Jane Kenyon was an American poet and translator. Her work is described as "simple, spare, and emotionally resonant."   Her poems are frequently filled with rural images and a love of nature. Kenyon's poems also reference her battles with depression. She was New Hampshire's poet laureate at the time of her death from leukemia at the early age of 47.

I am the blossom pressed in a book,
found again after two hundred years...

I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper...

When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me...

I am food on the prisoner's plate...

I am water rushing to the wellhead,
filling the pitcher until it spills...

I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden...

I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge...

I am the heart contracted by joy...
the longest hair, white
before the rest...

I am there in the basket of fruit
presented to the widow...

I am the musk rose opening
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit...

I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name...

Briefly it Enters, and Briefly Speaks
Jane Kenyon

Visit Brona's Books and Pastry & Purls to read more Poems for a Thursday.

Ephemera in Books

I stopped in at the library where I always found wonderful donated book that are being given away and I picked up a couple of Happy Hollisters books. Did any of you read them when you were little? We had a huge collection of them and I read them over and over. They were ridiculous in the same way Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden is ridiculous. The books are about a family with five children. The parents don't matter. They only exist in order to provide a backdrop against which the children solve complex mysteries, go on adventures, and generally know more than all the adults. Wonderful stuff when you are 7 or 8.

My parents still have the collection in their basement and I picked these up in case they were missing these. They do all blend together so I wasn't sure. I am not sure why I felt we needed to complete the collection. Most of the grandchildren are way too old to be interested in the adventures of Pete, Pam, Holly, Ricky, and Sue. However, I seemed incapable of leaving them behind. When I got them home my daughter was just as nostalgic as I was and promptly decided to read one. That is when we found that someone had left some papers in it.

Notice the handmade paper dolls with very sixties outfits. There is also a joke paper from Bazooka gum, a postcard from the Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, CT (lots of dinosaur footprints, very cool) and a letter written and then translated from a secret code. It says:

I have decided to write a long letter. I have finished my book report have you. I don't think we should write letters in school do you. Please write back. Love, Cori

I think Cori must have been an absolute sweetheart. She also saved a copy of Helen Keller's obituary from The Hartford Courant of June 2, 1968.  Helen Keller was one of my slightly obsessive interests when I was 8 or 9. I didn't remember that she lived in Connecticut at the time of her death. According to the article, Mark Twain (who also lived in Connecticut when he died. Maybe I should move.)  said: "The two most interesting characters of the 19th century are Napoleon and Helen Keller."

I just Googled The Happy Hollisters because, even in my childhood, they were not very common. None of the libraries I went to had them and I rarely run into anyone that has read them. However, there is now a website devoted to them and they are being reprinted. Not only that, but you can buy a Happy Hollisters T-shirt if you want.

A Poem for a Thursday #28

Photo by Stephen Ellis on Unsplash

Wendell Berry is an American poet, essayist, novelist, and environmentalist. He lives on a farm in Kentucky. He strongly believes that frequently too much importance is placed on wild lands without a proper appreciation for farming.  Berry's poetry "celebrates the holiness of life and everyday miracles often taken for granted."

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. 

The Peace of Wild Things
Wendell Berry

Visit Typings for another poem.

A Poem for a Thursday #27

Photo by Guillaume Flandre on Unsplash

Carl Sandburg was a poet, biographer, writer, and editor. He lived from 1878-1967. He won the Pulitzer Prize three times; twice for his poetry and once for a six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln. Sandburg described poetry as "a pack-sack of invisible keepsakes. Poetry is a sky dark with a wild-duck migration. Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment." He also said, "I'll probably die propped up in bed trying to write a poem about America."

love is a deep and a dark and a lonely
and you take it deep take it dark
and take it with a lonely winding
and when the winding gets too lonely
then may come the windflowers
and the breath of wind over many flowers
winding its way out of many lonely flowers
waiting in rainleaf whispers
waiting in dry stalks of noon
wanting in a music of windbreaths
so you can take love as it comes keening
as it comes with a voice and a face
and you make a talk of it
talking to yourself a talk worth keeping
and you put it away for a keen keeping
and you find it to be a hoarding
and you give it away and yet it stays hoarded

like a book read over and over again
like one book being a long row of books
like leaves of windflowers bending low
and bending to be never broken

Love is a Deep and a Dark and a Lonely
Carl Sandburg

Visit Typings for another poem.

Bookshop Visit//Tatnuck Bookseller Gift Gallery & Café

I stumbled upon a bookstore last week. My husband had a doctor's appointment in Westborough, MA to follow up on his concussion recovery and I went with him. We were a little early and decided to get something to eat. Imagine my joy when I realized there was a bookshop and café literally across the street from the doctor's office. My husband had no choice about where we were going at that point.

When I first walked in I did not think this was going to be a wildly successful bookshop visit. The store is huge but a large portion of it is taken up by gift items. Notice "Gift Gallery" in the name. This should not have been a surprise to me but I think I concentrated on the "Bookseller" part. I am not a huge fan of the typical gift shop items. There was a lot of jewelry, bags, china, and other knick-knacks. Most of it was not really my style.

The café was fine. It wasn't anything special but it wasn't bad either. I had a spinach quiche and my husband had a seafood salad sandwich and we split a piece of cheesecake. The workers were extremely friendly and helpful which is always a plus. I ate quickly and moved on to more important things. I only had about twenty minutes to explore before we had to head to my husband's appointment.

They had what seemed to be a large children's section. I didn't look around since my kids are way too old for it but it looked cheerful, inviting, and full of books. The gift section of the store took up most of the front but once I walked towards the back I realized there was a quite good selection. There was a good mix of books some of which I have never seen in my local Barnes & Noble. I obviously did not have time to look at everything but I browsed through the history section and found a number of books I would like to read. You can see the one I chose in the photo at the top of this post. You can also see the mug I bought because of course, I could not leave a Jane Austen mug behind.

All in all, I was pleased. While the gift section was mainly not to my taste and the food was average the book selection was better than I expected. I have already told my husband I will be accompanying him to his follow-up appointment so I can visit the book store again.

Tatnuck Bookseller Gift Gallery & Café
18 Lyman Street
Westborough, MA 01581

A Poem for a Thursday #26

Is there anyone who doesn't know Winnie-the-Pooh, that lovable, loyal, bear of very little brain? I don't remember when I first encountered him. Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga, and Roo; they were all familiar characters. I half-believed that somewhere there really was a hundred-acre wood where the animals lived and frolicked and one day maybe I could join them. At some point during my childhood, my dad (I think it was him) brought home copies of When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. Some of the poems felt a little sweet to me, even as a child,  but some had a rhythm and a flow that I enjoyed. Plus, the books were filled with charming illustrations by Ernest Shepherd. Here is one of the poems I liked when I was little and still like now. It reminds me of my children when they were little. They both had stuffed animals they loved dearly and their stuffed friends went on many real and imagined adventures.

Wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
"Where are you going today?" says Pooh:
"Well, that's very odd 'cos I was too.
Let's go together," says Pooh, says he.
"Let's go together," says Pooh.

"What's twice eleven?" I said to Pooh.
("Twice what?" said Pooh to Me.)
"I think it ought to be twenty-two."
"just what I think myself," said Pooh.
"It wasn't an easy sum to do,
But that's what it is," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what it is." said Pooh.

"Let's look for dragons," I said to Pooh.
"Yes, let's," said Pooh to Me.
We crossed the river and found a few-
"Yes, those are dragons all right," said Pooh.
"As soon as I saw their beaks I knew.
That's what they are," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what they are," said Pooh.

"Let's frighten the dragons," I said to Pooh.
"That's right," said Pooh to Me.
"I'm not afraid," I said to Pooh,
And I held his paw and I shouted "Shoo!
Silly old dragons!"-and off they flew.
"I wasn't afraid," said Pooh, said he,
"I'm never afraid with you."

So wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
"What would I do?" I said to Pooh,
"If it wasn't for you," and Pooh said:  "True,
It isn't much fun for One, but Two
Can stick together," says Pooh, says he.
"That's how it is," says Pooh. 

Us Two
A. A. Milne

Visit Typings for another poem.

Golden Moments #10

I bought this sweatshirt a few weeks ago and it is making me very happy. My son asked if I had it made specifically for myself because it is so on brand. I didn't, but yes, this is me in a nutshell. It is actually quite pink but that isn't showing up too well in the photo. I have no idea why I bought pink, I would usually buy grey or blue, but pink it is and I am fine with that.

I stopped in at a library that usually has a big selection of books that have been donated to the book sale but they think they can't sell them so they give them away. I brought 21 books home with me. Yes, I know that is ridiculous. Yes, it amused my family greatly but yes, it made me happy. There were five or six Charlotte Armstrong suspense novels in the mix. I haven't read those in years and I am enjoying revisiting them. In related news, I decided I didn't need to purchase any books in March. Are you admiring my (relative) self-restraint?

In what my son claims is the most grown-up moment of my life, I am beyond thrilled to have purchased a new vacuum cleaner. I just vacuumed the family room and was simultaneously pleased and horrified by the amount of dirt it picked up. How was my old vacuum missing so much?

I saw my first crocuses and snowdrops of the season last week. Maybe spring is actually going to arrive.

My husband and I are going away for two nights in the middle of April. We haven't had any time away in over a year because of life, stress, my husband's accident, and our son's chronic health issues so we are very much looking forward to this. We are going nowhere exciting and I mean that literally. We are checking into a hotel in a nearby town and we are going to sleep, eat out, go to bookstores, and hopefully have 48 hours of not worrying about anyone or anything. I can't wait.

That is not a bad selection of golden moments considering my whole family has spent the last two weeks dealing with the cold/flu/plague of doom. What pleasant things have happened in your life lately?

A Poem for a Thursday #25

Photo by Viktor Vasicsek on Unsplash
Naomi Shihab Nye was born in Missouri and spent her high school years in Palestine and Texas. Her experiences as an Arab-American woman infuse her poetry. William Stafford has said that "her poems combine transcendent liveliness and sparkle along with warmth and human insight. She is a champion of the literature of encouragement and heart." Nye has written numerous books of poems including several for children.

It is not so much that the boat passed
and you failed to notice it.
It is more like the boat stopping
directly outside your bedroom window,
the captain blowing the signal-horn,
the band playing a rousing march.

The boat shouted, waving bright flags,
its silver hull blinding in the sunlight.

But you had this idea you were going by train.

You kept checking the time-table,
digging for tracks.

And the boat got tired of you,
so tired it pulled up the anchor
and raised the ramp.

The boat bobbed into the distance,
shrinking like a toy-
at which point you probably realized 
you had always loved the sea.

Missing the Boat
Noami Shihab Nye

Visit Typings for another lovely poem.

A Poem for a Thursday #24

Photo by Nick Chung on Unsplash
Ted Kooser is "widely praised for his plainspoken style, his gift for metaphor, and his quiet discoveries of beauty in ordinary things." He served as a Poet Laureate and is spoken of as the voice of small-town America. His style is simple and natural.

Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only 
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up 
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer's retina
as he stood in the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.

After Years
Ted Kooser

Read more poems at Brona's Books and Typings.

Spring Fever

It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine.  
                                                      The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett




Blue skies.

Puffy clouds.

Robins hopping around the yard.

Warm breezes.

Cool winds.

The smell of the earth.

Longer days.

Green things starting to push their way above the ground and unfurl.

The first sight of a crocus.

And then a daffodil.

Being able to go outside with just a jacket.

Regretting that decision when the breeze picks up.

Frosty mornings that turn into warm afternoons.

The green haze of leaves starting to emerge on the trees.


A bit of joy.


A Poem for a Thursday #23

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Elizabeth Bishop was born in 1911 in Worcester, Massachusetts (about 30 miles from me) and grew up there and in Novia Scotia. She was a respected poet in her lifetime but has come to more and more prominence in the years since her death. She only published 101 poems because she was a perfectionist and spent a long time refining each poem. Her poems are "marked by precise descriptions of the physical world and an air of poetic serenity, but her underlying themes include the struggle to find a sense of belonging, and the human experiences of grief and longing." Those themes come through clearly in the poem for today.

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident 
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like ( Write it!) like disaster. 

One Art 
Elizabeth Bishop

Visit Typings and Pastry & Purls for more poems.

On Grumpy Kids and Being Weird

Apparently, the world is caving in around my house tonight or at least it is according to my daughter. Life is unfair, boring, and absolutely not something she is enjoying right now. And no, she isn't grumpy at all. What could I possibly mean? And no, she doesn't want to do any of the things  I suggest. And yes, she is sure everyone else in the entire town is having more fun than her.

What can I say? She might be right. It is 8:23 on a Tuesday evening and we are doing basically nothing. I am happy with that. She isn't. We usually have a meeting we go to on Tuesdays but it is canceled for the week and I thought that meant a nice, quiet evening at home. I don't think nice, quiet evenings are in a 13-year-old's vocabulary.

It is a bit of a shock because I have always called Celia my little ray of sunshine but thirteen is rough and no 13-year-old is ever a little ray of sunshine. I am not sure any 13-year-old would ever want to be a ray of sunshine. It would obviously call too much attention to them. And it would be embarrassing. Moodiness and embarrassment are the two main emotions of a thirteen-year-old. I know this because Celia was embarrassed by me the other day. She informed me that I was too loud. I know most of you don't know me in real life but let me just say that I have never in my life before been told I am too loud. I am told I am too quiet with great regularity but too loud?! It was such a novel feeling that I just stood there and enjoyed it for a moment.

Both kids recently told me that I am weird. I was discussing the slight oddities of someone we know and they told me I couldn't say anything because I am weird too. They say no one else they know has a house made up of books (I wish. It is only lined with books.) and that I am unusually fascinated by London and WWII social history. I think Celia muttered something about my collection of vintage purses and pleated, wool skirts but I ignored that. The kids did point out that everyone is weird in their own way; we just like our own brand of weirdness so we don't notice it as much. I suppose that is true.

I suppose the nice thing about being not-13 is that I don't mind being weird. I don't mind being occasionally too loud. I don't mind being home on a random Tuesday. I definitely don't mind having a house lined with books.

Now if only I could find a way to banish the clouds and bring back my little ray of sunshine.*

*Her brother has somehow cheered her up by insulting her. No, I don't understand why that worked either.  Kids are weird. She also is laughing about how old I am because I said trampoline parks weren't around when I was a kid. Then she worried I felt bad and asked if I felt old. I said no, I liked my age and had no desire to be 13 again. She looked at me very solemnly and said: "I don't think anyone wants to be thirteen." Now she is asking what age I would be if I could be any age. I said 28. What would you say?

A Poem for a Thursday #22

Photo by Aaron Mello on Unsplash
Emily Dickinson lived in Amherst, Massachusetts in relative isolation for most of her life. Much of her interaction with others depended on correspondence. Only a few of her approximately 1,800 poems were published during her lifetime and those were edited to fit in with the poetic conventions of the day. Her poems frequently have short lines, lack titles, and use unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Dickinson was as unconventional as her poems and now, 130 years or more after her death, has a devoted following.

Dear March - Come in -
How glad I am -
I hoped for you before-
Put down your Hat-
You must have walked-
How out of Breath you are-
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest-
Did you leave Nature well-
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me-
I have so much to tell- 

I got your Letter, and the Birds-
The Maples never knew that you were coming-
I declare-how Red their Faces grew-
But March, forgive me-
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue-
There was no Purple suitable-
You took it all with you-

Who knocks? That April-
Lock the Door-
I will not be pursued-
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied-
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come.

That blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame-

Dear March-Come in
Emily Dickinson

Read more poems at:
Brona's Books, Typings and Pastry & Purls

In Defense of Laura Ingalls Wilder

I have always loved Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. I read them over and over as a child and still occasionally reread them now. Both my children read and loved them. Now, society as a whole is telling me that Wilder is "problematic." I just read yet another comment on a blog post saying that the books are too problematic to be read to children these days.

I have issues with that.

There are a few specific reasons why Wilder is being labeled as such and I will address those in a minute but first, let's talk about the problems with deciding that anyone and any book that doesn't conform to a current worldview is problematic. I'll start by saying that yes, there can be books that are just wrong, books that are intentionally cruel and that denigrate people for the fun of it. That is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about books that were written in a different time period when people as a whole had different views. If we eliminate all books that don't line up with current attitudes then we are getting rid of a lot of very good authors. Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice portrays an antisemitic society. Dickens' Oliver Twist contains a Jewish man portrayed as twisted and evil. Just yesterday I read an article claiming that we shouldn't read Dr. Seuss because his political cartoons were racist. What about all the books that insist that a woman's place is in the home and she isn't fit for anything else? Once we start eliminating books where do we stop?

Do we have to agree with every attitude expressed in a book especially if it is a book from an earlier generation? Of course not. Does the fact that a book contains views we are uncomfortable with make it a bad book? Of course not. Previous generations, including our own grandparents and great-grandparents, frequently held opinions that would not be acceptable in the world today. That does not make our relatives bad people. It just makes them people of their time. Sometimes books are of their time as well.

That is where we learn. If we stop reading the books that don't agree with our viewpoint now then we are whitewashing the past. Read the books. Notice the things that have changed. Notice the things that haven't changed. Discuss things with your children if you need to. But read the books.

Now let's talk about Laura Ingalls Wilder specifically. Yes, I started out prejudiced in her favor because these books are such a huge part of my reading history. However, I then went back and looked at the specific issues that are being raised.

The first one is that the Ingalls family displaced the Native Americans. Well, yes, they did. So did most white settlers of the time. That is part of the history of this country. I am not saying it is right, I am just saying it is a fact. Was it necessarily viewed as wrong at the time? No. Would we do it now? Hopefully not. But by not reading about it we are denying it.

Next, the one problem that I view as the silliest. In Little House on the Prairie Laura and her family watch the Indians travel a trail near their cabin. Laura loved the little babies and wished she could keep one. People claim this means she viewed the Indians as other or as objects. All I have to say to that is have you ever been around a very small child? Most small children view almost anything or anyone as something they can possess. That is small kid thinking not racist thinking.

We also have the phrase that is frequently quoted: "the only good Indian is a dead Indian." Yes, that is unacceptable. But who said it? It was the Ingall's neighbor, Mr. Scott. Notice how Pa replies.

Pa said he didn't know about that. He figured that Indians would be as peaceable as anybody else if they were let alone. On the other hand, they had been moved west so many times that naturally they hated white folks.
Little House on the Prairie shows Laura questioning the settling of the prairies. Notice this passage.
"Will the government make these Indians go west?
"Yes," Pa said, "When white settlers come into a country, the Indians have to move on. The government is going to move these Indians farther west any time now. That's why we're here, Laura. White people are going to settle all this country, and we get the best land because we get here first and take our pick. Now do you understand?"
"Yes, Pa." Laura said. "But Pa, I thought this was Indian Territory. Won't it make the Indians mad to have to---"
"No more questions, Laura," Pa said, firmly.  "Go to sleep."

That is a nuanced little passage and I remember reading it as a child. That is why we read these books.

Ma hated the Indians. That is clear in the books and many people have a problem with that. But is Ma a bad woman? I don't think so. If you read diaries of the women that went west many of them lived in fear of Indian attack. If you were Ma you would have lived in fear of Indian attack just as the Indian women would have lived in fear of attack by the white settlers. Instead of labeling her as racist and terrible maybe have a discussion about why she felt that way. It doesn't mean you have to condone her hatred but you do have to put it in its historical perspective. Ma would have been familiar with accounts of Indian massacres. How would you feel on a prairie, miles from anyone else, with your little girls, when strange men walked into your house? You couldn't communicate with them. They lived a life totally foreign to you and you knew that sometimes white settlers were killed. You would be afraid. This is how many of our great-grandparents felt. Is it how we want to feel today--prejudiced against other races? Of course not. But just as our distant relatives were not all bad people so too, Ma was a product of her times and her circumstances.

Pa is also accused of being racist for participating in a minstrel show. Again, and I can't believe I have to keep saying this, put it in historical perspective. Minstrel shows were the popular entertainment of the day. As an indication of how popular they were, in the 1850s ten theatres in New York City were devoted solely to minstrel shows. Are they racist and unacceptable in our day? Of course. But they were obviously not universally understood to be offensive at the time Laura was living or they would not have been so popular. Your great-great-grandparents might have attended a minstrel show. Does the fact that they might have attended a minstrel show negate any good qualities they might have had? Progress is slow and judging people by current standards is unkind. I think it is interesting also to note Laura's reaction to Dr. Tan in Little House on the Prairie. He appears in the chapter in which the whole family is horribly ill.

Then the doctor came. And he was the black man. Laura had never seen a black man before and she could not take her eyes off Dr. Tan. He was so very black. She would have been afraid of him if she had not liked him so much. He smiled at her with all his white teeth. He talked with Pa and Ma, and laughed a rolling, jolly laugh. They all wanted him to stay longer, but he had to hurry away. 

Finally, Wilder used a sentence in Little House on the Prairie that gets quoted a lot in articles condemning her. She wrote "...there were no people. Only Indians live there." Yes, that is not good. However, that is something that, when it was brought to her attention in 1952, Wilder apologized for and changed. She said "It was a stupid blunder of mine. Indians are people and I did not intend to imply they were not." Why are we still talking about a quote that isn't even in the book anymore and that Wilder fixed and apologized for? Surely, people are allowed to make mistakes and to grow.

Children, and hopefully adults, are capable of understanding that attitudes and viewpoints change and that they do not always coincide with personal viewpoints. I asked my children about these books since I read them aloud when the kids were young and they have read them multiple times on their own. They were baffled by the controversy. These are books about the past and about past attitudes. They knew that when they read them when they were little children and they know that now.

I kind of hate the phrase but these books contain "teachable moments." If your kids wonder what a minstrel show is, tell them. If they wonder why Ma was afraid of the Indians, tell them. If they wonder why the Indians were being driven out, tell them.  Children are perfectly capable of understanding that people live and have lived in different ways than them. Isn't that what we want for our children? We want them to grow and learn. We want them to understand the past. We want them to understand people with different viewpoints. We want them to understand that good people sometimes act in ways we don't agree with. We want them to know that things change over time. We want them to know that viewpoints they hold right now might be disapproved of in the future. We want our children to have empathy.

This is the past. This is history. It is a fictionalized history but it is what happened. People went west. People weren't perfect. Little girls wore dresses and sunbonnets. Pigs were slaughtered. Wells were dug. Panthers were encountered. Blizzards snowed you in for a whole winter. Horses were trained. Cows were milked. Locusts ate crops. Life was lived by decent people living the best life they could in a different time.

Don't vilify them. Learn from them. Read about them.

A Poem for a Thursday #21

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Miller Williams was an American poet who produced over 25 books and won many awards. He read a poem at the second inauguration of Bill Clinton. Clinton presented Williams with the National Arts Award. Today's poem is about the art of writing. 

Let Me Tell You

how to do it from the beginning.
First notice everything:
The stain on the wallpaper
of the vacant house,
the mothball smell
of a Greyhound toilet.
Miss nothing. Memorize it.
You cannot twist the fact you do not know.

the blond girl you saw in the bar.
Put a scar on her breast.
Say she left home to get away from her father.
Invent whatever will support your line.
Leave out the rest.

Use metaphors:  The mayor is a pig
is a metaphor
which is not to suggest
it is not a fact.
Which is irrelevant.
Nothing is less important 
than a fact.

Be suspicious of any word you learned
and were proud of learning.
It will go bad.
It will fall off the page. 

When your father lies
in the last light
and your mother cries for him,
listen to the sound of her crying.
When your father dies
take notes
somewhere inside.

If there is a heaven 
he will forgive you
if the line you found was a good one.

It does not have to be worth the dying. 

Let Me Tell You
Miller Williams

Paper Roses

I don't like crafts that require you to destroy a book. It just feels wrong. No matter how boring or unnecessary a book may be I can't rip it apart. However, if a book falls apart on its own it is fair game. I bought this copy of a Georgette Heyer novel online and each page fell out as I turned it. While that was irritating, it did give me the chance to try making paper roses. I had seen them on Etsy and loved them but didn't want to spend money on them because I am...frugal. You can find tutorials for basically everything these days so, after a bit of puttering around online and the purchase of a hot glue gun, my daughter and I were ready to experiment.

They were amazingly easy to make and it is very satisfying. I think I have mentioned before that I am not naturally artistic or crafty so I am always pleasantly surprised when things turn out the way they are supposed to. I made a bouquet for the mantel and will probably add a few more flowers to it when I have a free evening. Celia calls it my "book-quet."

I bought a pad of thick scrapbooking paper and that made very pretty flowers as well. Just how many paper roses does one house need?

I still have lots of pages of the Heyer novel left and I have a Little House book that has fallen apart. I found a tutorial on how to decoupage a kitchen table. I'm tempted.