A Poem for a Thursday #67

Photo by Antonino Visalli on Unsplash

U. A. Fanthorpe was a British poet who published nine volumes of poetry during her lifetime. She taught at Cheltenham Ladies College for sixteen years and then left to work as a clerk and receptionist at a psychiatric hospital. She said:

Poetry is important because it reaches the places that other kinds of writing can't reach. I became aware of this myself when I worked as a receptionist in a hospital, and saw how much the doctors and nurses had to leave out of the queerness and sadnesses of the patients because they were confined to prose... Poetry has all the voices--wit, sincerity, pastiche, tragedy, and delight and most importantly it's with us from the start of our lives to the end:  at the start of our lives, with lullabies and mothers crooning to babies, at the end of our life, with hymns over the grave. 

 There is a kind of love called maintenance,
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

Which checks the insurance, and doesn't forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes, which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains, 
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living; which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing 
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.

U. A. Fanthorpe

Reese shared a Vikram Seth poem this week.

A Poem for a Thursday #66

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

Robert Service was born in England, grew up in Scotland, and sailed for the Yukon Wilderness in 1894. He was a prolific poet and became known as the "bard of the Yukon. He was a correspondent during the Balkan Wars for the Toronto Star and an ambulance driver during World War I. His rhythmic, story-telling poetry was very popular.

When you're lost in the Wild, and you're scared as a child
And Death looks you bang in the eye,
And you're sore as a boil, it's according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and...die.
But the Code of a Man says:  "Fight if you can,"
And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it's easy to blow...
It's the hell-served-for-breakfast that's hard.

"You're sick of the game!" Well, now, that's a shame.
You're young and you're brave and you're bright.
"You've had a raw deal! I know--but don't squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It's the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don't be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it's so easy to quit:
It's the keeping-your-chin-up that's hard.

It's easy to cry that you're beaten--and die;
It's easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope's out of sight--
Why, that's the best game of all!
And though you come out of each grueling bout,
All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try--it's dead easy to die,
It's the keeping-on-living that's hard.

The Quitter
Robert Service

Reese has an Emily Dickinson poem this week.

Things That Make Me Happy

Books, stacks of books all around me so I always have plenty to choose from.

Second-hand bookshops with plenty of treasures to be unearthed.

Thrift stores for the same reason.


Waking up on the first morning of a vacation with plenty of time in front of me.

A new, pretty notebook.

Fountain pens.

Baking cookies.

Walking on the beach.

A hug from one of my kids.

A hug from my husband.

Occasionally, a few hours home alone.

Writing something I am kind of, a little bit, maybe, happy with.

Listening to music in the car with my daughter.

Walking around a city where no one knows me.


Talking to an old friend who always understands.

Taking photographs.


A week at our favorite farmhouse in New York.

Being driven to helpless laughter by my son who can talk circles around me.

Books. Did I mention the books?

A Poem for a Thursday #65

Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash
Willa Cather was an American author who wrote novels about frontier life on the Great Plains. She grew up from the age of ten in Nebraska where she lived among European immigrants. Her books portray the lives and cultures of the people she lived among. For many years she was dismissed as a regional author but she is now appreciated for her nuanced writing and the descriptions she provides of immigrant life.

A crimson fire that vanquishes the stars;
A pungent odor from the dusty sage;
A sudden stirring of the huddled herds;
A breaking of the distant table-lands
Through purple mists ascending, and the flare
Of water ditches silver in the light;
A swift, bright lance hurled low across the world;
A sudden sickness for the hills of home. 

Prairie Dawn
Willa Cather

Reese at Typings has also shared a poem.

Reading Recently

This past weekend I realized I was reading four books at once. That is a lot, even for me, and I usually have a couple of books going at once. I kept enthusiastically starting a book and then, just as enthusiastically, I would start another book. And another. And another. I have managed to finish two of the four and am restraining myself from picking up any more books until the other two are finished.

I reread Little Women and it made me happy.  It was one of the first books I fell obsessively in love with. I think I was six or seven. I read and reread it many, many times over the years. I have strong opinions about it (no, Jo should not have married Laurie) and I strongly feel that if you don't love it too you are wrong. Yes, it is a bit old-fashioned but it is a heart-warming story about people who feel real. Real things happen to them; they argue, they laugh, they marry, they are disappointed, they are imperfect and therefore, loveable. I firmly believe every one of us has a bit of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy in us. I am planning on going to see the new movie because I hear such good things about it but I am a little nervous. It might be excellent but it might not be my Little Women. We shall see.

My next great book love after Louisa May Alcott was Jane Austen. I went on to read her novels just as obsessively and I still do. I am slowly working my way through the volume of essays in the photo. So far, they are all very good. I especially enjoyed this quote in the introduction.

Other novels can be read through once and soon forgotten, but our favorite Austen novels haunt us our entire lives, inform our understanding of what it is to be human, and in the end fuse so wholly with our thoughts and feelings that it would be difficult to imagine the sorts of people we might have become had we never encountered them. We read her novels to identify and to improve, to laugh and to sympathize, to enjoy the present and to revisit the past, and at times to escape our own muddled lives for a bit and find the clarity that only the best fiction can provide. 

I have been reading a few books about language lately. I reviewed Kory Stamper's Word By Word here. My husband bought me Dryer's English last week. I started reading it in the bookstore and couldn't put it down. I wasn't going to buy it because hardcover books are expensive and I am trying to be extra practical these days but he saw how much I wanted it and took it out of my hands and bought it. I loved it. I also am now a bit paranoid about all the grammatical mistakes I am sure there are in my blog. On page four he suggests you go an entire week without writing very, rather, really, quite, and in fact. Has he been reading my blog and I didn't know it? I use those words, or similar words, all too often. He said this about the English language.

The English language, though, is not so easily ruled and regulated. It developed without codification, sucking up new constructions and vocabulary every time some foreigner set foot on the British Isles—to say nothing of the mischief we Americans have wreaked on it these last few centuries—and continues to evolve anarchically. It has, to my great dismay, no enforceable laws, much less someone to enforce the laws it doesn't have. 

Dreyer goes on to discuss punctuation, differences between British English and American English, frequently misspelled words, and all kinds of other fascinating subjects. I mean that sincerely. Not only is the book informative but it is witty and fun to read. I read it through like a novel because it was so interesting and I am sure I will refer to it many times.

The last book I am currently reading is The Priory by Dorothy Whipple. Whipple reminds me a lot of D. E. Stevenson. They are relatively light yet well-written books about the everyday life of middle-class, mid-century families. They frequently have a bit of a bite to them underneath the frothy exterior. The Priory is about the Marwood family. Their lives are disturbed when the Major decides to remarry. I am not too far into it but I am enjoying it.

What have you been reading lately? Do you read more than one book at a time?

A Poem for a Thursday #64

Photo by Dustin Scarpitti on Unsplash
Philip Booth was an American poet who lived from 1925 to 2007. His poetry "written in spare language and dealing with New England settings, has garnered critical acclaim for its quiet power."  I read this poem and couldn't get it out of my head. It is beautiful and somehow comforting.

Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man's float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you. 

First Lesson
Philip Booth

Brona has shared a poem today.

Here is one from Reese.

Golden Moments #12

I haven't written one of these posts since last May. I suppose that says something about the past year. However, I am making an effort to concentrate on the positive so let's give this a try.

I am reading Little Women for the five millionth time. It is possible that number is accurate. I read it over and over and over when I was a kid and I still read it regularly. It is like sinking into a warm bath or climbing into a freshly made bed. So comforting. I know exactly what is going to happen and exactly what everyone is going to say and I wouldn't have it any other way. I am hoping to go see the movie this weekend. I am making my daughter come with me. I still haven't managed to convince her to read the book (one of my parenting failures) and I am hoping she will like the movie so much she will cave in and do my bidding!

My husband and I ran away overnight. We were gone a grand total of 24 hours but it was lovely. We ate yummy food, wandered through a couple of bookstores, and simply enjoyed each other's company.

My husband bought me a copy of Dreyer's English. I am on a roll with books about words and language and I have wanted it for a while. I started reading it in the bookstore and then put it back because I rarely buy new, hardcover books. He grabbed it and bought it anyway. What a nice man.

We called an old friend we haven't talked to in ages. He lives halfway across the country and we have known him so long he is more like family than anything else. It was very nice to catch up and it made my husband happy to talk to one of his oldest friends.

I took my daughter and her best friend ice skating. Celia has wanted to go for a long time and we have never gotten around to it. Her friend already knew how to skate but Celia was an absolute beginner. It was harder than she expected and she fell down a lot. It didn't come easily to her but she didn't give up, she kept smiling, and she had a blast. I sat on the sidelines and chatted with her friend's mom but next time I am going to skate too. It has been many, many years since I have skated so it should be interesting.

That isn't a particularly long list of golden moments but it is a list and that is a success in and of itself. What nice things have happened in your life lately?

A Poem for a Thursday #63

Photo by Jennifer Arrington on Unsplash

William Henry Davies was a Welsh poet who lived from 1871-1940. When he was 22 he received an inheritance and used it to purchase a boat ticket to New York. He then spent the next six years traveling across the United States and Canada until he was injured while train hopping. He had to have one leg amputated below the knee. He then settled in London and spent his time writing poetry. That simple description of his life contains a novel in itself. I have so many questions about him now.  I am featuring this poem because I think we all should take a little time to stand and stare.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?-

No time to stand beneath  the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare. 

William Henry Davies

Brona shared a poem here.