Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Here's a bit more of a Bird's Christmas Carol. I remember, as a child, I was a bit disappointed to find that ten years had passed between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. I wanted to know more about little Carol's life, which sounded pleasant to me despite her illness. I used to draw characters in favorite story books as what appeared on the page wasn't enough for my imagination.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
"Those Winter Sundays" was printed in one of my reading anthologies when I was a kid -- perhaps seventh grade. What stands out in my mind was reading the lines about the "chronic angers of that house". I think I might have been a bit surprised that this sweet tribute was to an angry man. Parental anger did not evoke in me sentiment, and in this way I was a bit like the poem's narrator. I was old enough to grasp the poem intellectually, but not on an emotional level. To quote Hayden "What did I know of love' austere and lonely office?" Many of us, I believe, come to relate to the poem more deeply as we, and our parents, grow older.
Monday, December 6, 2010
String the words together right, and you can make quite an argument. At once playful and profound, this poem has some logical arguments as to why the brain is indeed wider than the sky and deeper than the sea. A fun writing exercise: How can students extend this little rhyme?
Sunday, December 5, 2010
The holidays, I think, are a good time to deviate from the poetry and record a classic story or two. Last winter, I recorded "The Velveteen Rabbit" and determined that this year's project -- one of them at least -- would be The Birds' Christmas Carol. Time does sneak up on a person! I'll be posting it here chapter by chapter, and hope to get some resources on Squidoo as well.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Yet another poem with a personified flower -- and one which I can relate to. In Seattle where I live, blossoms do bloom out of season. My first full year in the city, I was startled by a rhododendron that sent out a few scattered blossoms in January. Before I saw the blooms, or at least before I was aware of them, I had a dream in which I told the rhododendron to top blooming or it wouldn't bloom when it was time.
In Courage, Robert William service suggests that the little November apple blossom knows exactly what it is doing, and that it is an act of courage, though one that may leave us with a bit of sadness.
Friday, December 3, 2010
We're always asking students to make connections, and to bridge that gap between abstract words and real life. Here's my connection for Sonnet 116: The picture I chose to set my audio read to is a snapshot, perhaps eight years old, of some friends who met as housemates and later got married. There's something about that picture...
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Here is another poem that focuses on music. For me, the poem is evocative, creating a number of connections -- but the meaning is a bit harder to pinpoint. Is it about music or is music the vehicle for metaphor?
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
In this poem, Elizabeth Barrett Browning uses music in "sad perplexed minors" as a metaphor for life's travails. Humans look for "completed cadences" and "certain tune" but angels have tuned their ears to the point where it all sounds sweet.
"Perplexed Music" is a poem of comfort. Due to the difficult vocabulary and sentence structures as much as the metaphor, it is one that many students will need quite a bit of help with.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
In this poem, Jorge Borges takes a look at changing human society by focusing on one concept. The word 'night' has evoked many images over time. I think "History of the Night" could be the springboard for some fun student poetry. What other histories might we tell in poetic form?
Monday, November 29, 2010
"A Winter Eden" -- such a positive title, but the poem leaves us with a wistful, if not somber, mood. It's not that the little winter garden isn't Eden under a sunny sky; it's that the time of light and activity is so short that the speaker casts a bit of doubt on whether it's worth one's while to get up at all.
Robert Frost's winter poems, as a body, give quite a mixture of images; some highlight the season's beauty, others its harshness. "A Winter Eden" includes some very contrasting images.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
"November Evening" can also be considered a Thanksgiving poem: a simple expression of gratitude on a brisk, but not frigid evening. Like so many poems, "November Evening" compares the seasons of life with the seasons of the year. It's an accessible poem, though. Some children and adolescents would be interested to know that the poet is LM Montgomery, best known for the "Anne of" series.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Nonfiction, including poetry that is basically nonfiction, doesn't have to be just about what happened, or what we saw. It can also be about what we thought we saw or what we wished had happened. Robert Frost's "Looking for a Sunset Bird in Winter" explores and expands a brief moment when the narrator thinks he sees a bird. The imagery helps us get a sense of why he might yearn for a bird. What else might he be yearning for?
Friday, November 26, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
A major (for Seattle!) snowstorm hit yesterday, and I found myself walking for about a mile and a half after a bus misadventure. Cutting through campus, the woods was indeed "lovely, dark, and deep" -- though cold.
At one point, I found myself reciting this. It's actually the first poem I ever memorized, at the age of seven. It's also one of the first pieces I recorded, and I made a mistake with it that I ended up liking. This poem was recorded into the netbook mic as opposed to the headset; the audio quality is a bit lower, but somehow it sounded to me as if it was recited in the woods on a snowy evening. The pictures in the video are of Ravenna Woods, located near the University District of Seattle.
You can follow this link for lessons plans for Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and a few other Frost poems.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
There was indeed a dust of snow in Seattle today. Mostly there were soft, wet flakes blowing sideways through town. Here and there, in the northern part of the city, a few stuck to the grass. People on Bus 358 began talking...
This short Robert Frost poem, "Dust of Snow", is a reminder of small moments o wonder.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Here is a famous and oft analyzed poem: Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken". This poem, I think, begs to be analyzed -- and not just in English class. The reason: It's genuinely puzzling. Even as a kid, it played at my mind. Frost seemed to be telling us that taking the less traveled road -- metaphorically, one supposes -- had made all the difference in his life. And yet there are hints in those early lines that he's not sure those roads are different at all.
This poem has often been considered a call to make the lone, less popular choices in life, or a celebration of individualism (two things which I think are in fact not the same). There are some that see the poem in a more radically different light. Could Frost have simply been poking fun at his walking partner? There are lines that might suggest this, but ultimately I think the tone is one of idealism, not mockery. I think the poet himself might have had conflicting thoughts and feelings about roads taken and untaken, and what they meant. Don't we all? Doesn't everyone see those roads in different lights as we walk along them?
Ans as I write that, my eyes are drawn to shifting patterns of light on the picture, where two roads divergent along a not yet yellow Ravenna Woods...
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
"Autumn Daybreak", by Edna St Vincent Millay, is about that pivotal autumn moment when a storm lays the trees bare. Although the persona observes that the seasonal shift has come two weeks later than usual, the reader still gets the sense that, for her, it is too early. (Why might this be?)
"Autumn Daybreak" has strong imagery that may take more than one reading to put together into a coherent whole. Drawing can be a good exercise for imagery development, and this is an excellent poem for practice. Questions for evaluation: Are students able to place the red hill behind the bare maple? Do they recognize that there is no bright morning sun?
Monday, September 6, 2010
Longfellow's "The Day is Done" has a lulling rhythm, and thus is another poem where the structure conveys a part of the meaning. Some critics have called the poem trite or overdone; I find it highly evocative. Reading it, I pondered the ways life has changed since the 1844, and the ways it remains endlessly the same. There are so many more pastimes and trinkets we may use to distract us from our own fears -- few in this day ask to hear a poem at nightfall -- and yet those same feelings creep in. I think a big part of it comes down to this: Our biggest fears as humans are about things that are outside the realm of technology to hold very far at bay.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
In Seattle, the rhododendrons make a stunning display of blossoms in the late spring, then fade away into the green background in summer when the hydrangeas are in full bloom. In July, the hydrangea is surely the showier shrub. The hydrangeas lose both their petals and their leaves, though, before we march too far into fall. As the world around grows more brown and bare, the rhododendrons take on their second beauty. Something I didn't know until my first winter in Seattle: The rhododendon (Washington's official flower) is evergreen.
It's fertile ground for metaphor: the contrast between evergreen and deciduous plants. I have used the image of the rhododendron and the hydrangea in poetry, to illustrate loyalty and enduring bonds. In "Love and Friendship" Emily Bronte uses the metaphor of evergreen holly and deciduous rose-briar to illustrate the lasting bonds of friendship. Love, she suggests, is, like the rose, bare in December.
"Love and Friendship" can be the springboard for some interesting discussion at the middle school and high school levels. As a writing extension, students can select two plants native to their area and use them to represent contrasting human traits.
Friday, August 20, 2010
In Seattle, even in the summer, the cloud cover often doesn't burn off until mid day. People here have a different attitude about summer rain here than they do in Tucson where I lived for so many years. What is the speaker's attitude toward summer rainfall in Emily Dickinson's "Summer Shower"? Does the poem give us any clues about the climate of the land in which she lives?
Monday, August 16, 2010
Classified as poetry, Natasha Tretheway's "Letter Home" blurs the lines of genre. The narrative is an authentic bit of history that dates back to 1910. It tells the story of a young black woman who travels to the big city of New Orleans, seeking opportunities, but experiencing daily frustration and dwindling finances. In an era of extreme racism -- of closed doors -- she is trying to pass as white, but wonders who she is actually fooling.
Friday, August 13, 2010
The return home: another common theme in literature and music. Often it's portrayed as a time of reconciliation or celebration -- hence the word 'homecoming'. In Emily Dickinson's I Years had been from Home", though, fears wins out. The speaker doesn't quite make it through the door.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
It can be interesting to study poems in thematic sets. Here we have yet another meandering body of water. Tennyson's "The Brook" can be contrasted with Frost's "Hyla Brook" and "Going for Water". One of the most striking things about "The Brook" is that the speaker is the brook itself: a personified creek.
In what way does the brook "go on forever"?
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
It's quite a task: learning to analyze literature. When young people are beginning that journey, we often asking them to make connections -- text to self, text to text, text to world. Tagore's "Journey Home" is a good poem for text to text connection as it carries a timeless theme that recurs oft in literature for young and old: We set out to find lives for ourselves and may ultimately find that what we seek has been in us all along -- or that our true home has been waiting the whole time for us to retrace our steps and returns. The images in this poem remind me of The Little Prince (the selected book for the first Global Read-Aloud Project). The brief reference to the multitudinous steps that one may take to create a simple melody... well, that may create text to self connections in music students. I can envision quite a discussion.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
As I post "Tree at my Window", I am inches away from a window where curtains are not drawn nor blinds lowered. But between me and the nearest tree -- unlike the scenario in the poem --I find an alley and buildings.
A message of affection directed at a tree, Robert Frost's "Window Tree" can also be read as a celebration of love between yin and yang: opposites. Much of the poem can be appreciated at either the literal or symbolic level. (The tree is concerned with "outer weather"? Indeed.)
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
This poem is a particular favorite of mine. "Keepsake Mill" is perhaps the most serious and mature of all the selections in Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verses".
In "Keepsake Mill", we find an interesting combination of present and future tenses. Stevenson writes the poem as if childhood -- and the garden -- were the present tense, but alludes to war and other serious and weighty concerns that will come with adulthood: "Years may go by, and the wheel in the river wheel as it wheels for us children today..."
Isn't it amazing and humbling how, even as we are changed so much by the passing years, some object, like the mill in the poem, can remain constant? And isn't it moving to go back and see that object of childhood fascination still there -- and turning yet?
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
There is a bit of playful tone in the early this poem, as the narrator struggles to identify flowers outside the window, succeeding only in identifying what they're not, and wonders if "something was brushed across (his) mind that no one on Earth will ever find".
Like many of Robert Frost's poems, "A Passing Glimpse"contains a direct moral at the very end. "Heaven gives its glimpses to those not in a position to look too close."
Monday, July 26, 2010
Thomas Moore's "I Saw From the Beach" is one of many poems in which a small unit of time -- in this case, a day -- stands for a larger unit of time, a life.
Often the symbolism comes in the form of references to the seasons; here, though, it is morning and evening. I find the image of the bark striking, particularly the line "The bark was still there, but the waters were gone". Here concrete imagery and physical descriptions hint at a meaning which will be explicated in the later verses.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
The title of this Carl Sandburg poem is "Monotone" though the word does not appear anywhere in the poem. The 'monotone' referred to is probably the rhythm of the rain, but something about the poem invites it to be read in a monotone -- The cadence carries a portion of the meaning.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
In "Good Hours", Robert Frost describes taking a solitary winter walk, and sharing, to some extent, in the lives of the people he sees through lighted windows. He describes ultimately turning and 'repenting' -- with 'repenting being one of a couple words used in unusual or unexpected context. Some people complain of modern language being altered as people turn nouns into verbs and otherwise appropriate old words for new uses. That's an art that's been going on a long time.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Stepping back (Aaah!) into summer with Robert Frost's "Rose Pogonias", a poem that, long before the environmental move, expresses the wistful wish that a little glade of flowers would be spared from cutting. The glade depicted in the poem was part of a hay field -- a place where grasses were grown to be cattle feed -- so my picture, taken in the city of Seattle, doesn't capture the literal truth of the poem. Oh, but this plot of flowers is also "jewel-small".
Thursday, July 22, 2010
No audio to post today, but I added printable copies of a few more poems: the Robert Frost classics, "A Late Walk", "Going for Water" and in "In Hardwood Groves".
I also wanted to share a musical version of "Going for Water" that I found online. Curious isn't it how a poem can be interpreted in multiple ways that still stay to the original?
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Love between "Wind and Window Flower"? Alas, twas not meant to be! "Wind and Window Flower" provides a bit of contrast with other Frost poems featured here. The rather farcical tale has a jauncy little rhyming rhythm (though we might find in it a bit of deeper metaphor). In class, it might be interesting to pair the poem with a longer literary work for the sake of comparison... and a bit of fun.
Photo Credit: PDPhotos
Monday, July 19, 2010
"The same leaves over and over again". Indeed. Robert Frost's "In Hardwood Groves" speaks of the cycle of life. Those brown leaves will live again, but first they go back into the ground and be pierced by dancing flowers -- flowers that will have their time under the earth, too.
Is there a bit of wistfulness in the last line, "However it is in some other world, I know that this is the way in ours"?
Printable Copy of In Hardwood Groves
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Some pieces blur the lines between poetry and drama or prose. Robert Frost's "Birches" has the feel of a monologue, especially as he seems to switch his train of thought at moments: "But I was going to say when Truth broke in with all her matter of fact..".
As I read the poem, I wondered if the speaker might be a young Frost, and if so what age. The line about Truth breaking in gave me a sense of someone very young, whereas "So I was I too a swinger of birches" called to mind someone older -- at least a little bit. (Don't the still young have a way of looking at their younger selves as if looking down from a tree?)
Saturday, July 17, 2010
The persona in "The Vantage Point" has not outgrown the desire, often associated with childhood, of having a secret spot: a place of his own. The poem's first line, "If tired of tree's I seek again mankind," is evocative, as the "again" leaves the reader wondering what came before.
Most of us, I bet, would not consider a grassy slope overlooking the places "of men" a place to go when one sought out humans. That the speaker does think so... well, that gives a sense of character, doesn't it?
Friday, July 16, 2010
The title -- "In Spring and Sumer, Leaves May Blow" -- is a bit deceiving. The crux of the poem is not about spring or summer but about (metaphorically) what happens after summer's end.
For me, the strongest image was of the leaf that hold on and on after most leaves have dropped. Such an image of strength -- one that I thought, upon first read, Walter Cantor might leave us with. No, he goes on to compare friendship to those leaves that eventually fall. As for love behaving like those leaves? That he "can not say".
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Another children's anthology poem, Ebenezer Brewer's poem, "Little Things" speaks of how both the physical world -- ocean and land -- and time -- eternity -- are composed of small units. How can the analogy be extended?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
"There is no frigate like a book": a classic poem that appears in many anthologies for young people. A person doesn't have to know what a frigate is, or a courser, to have a pretty good idea what those words mean in the context of the poem. (These days, of course, it often seems there is no frigate like the internet... and that's where some of us find our "prancing poetry".)
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
(If you like the tech on this one, you can create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.)
...taking a rollicking trip, via Robert Frost, on through the seasons! From the looks of the video, we're gearing up for winter -- though that's not what the sunshiny Seattle sky has to say.
The video for "Now Close the Windows" was recorded 7 months ago, using the Animoto video creation platform. Using Animoto for poetry is more time consuming than using Audioboo or Fotobabble (It does take more pictures!) but it can be a fun project. Multimedia Performance Can be Child's Play takes a look at various online programs that are kid-friendly and can be used for children's poetry recital.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Robert Frost's "A Late Walk" is a seasonal poem that captures that bit of sadness many of us feel when nature "closes shop" for the fall. My favorite part of the poem, though, is not the abundant imagery of late autumn chill and dreariness; it's the final image of plucking "the last remaining aster flower to carry again to you". My thoughts are drawn to that unnamed "you" who will receive the flower.
Printable copy of A Late Walk
Sunday, July 11, 2010
"Windy Nights" by Robert Louis Stevenson, is an extended metaphor. On chill evenings is it so difficult to imagine a horseback rider, shrouded in mystery, galloping one way and then another?
It's harder perhaps in the noisy bustle of the modern city -- I had to crop some cars out of this Seattle evening snapshot.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Here, set to a picture of a long ago Easter storm, is Edgar Allan Poe's "Alone". In this rather runaway rhyming poem, Poe speaks of drawing "from every depth of good and ill, the mystery which binds (him) still." The poem is a window, I think, into the spiritual side of "a most stormy life". What can be seen in torrent and lightning?
Here is a printable copy of Poe's "Alone".
Friday, July 9, 2010
Since I used the picture of the little robin to illustrate another poem, I needed something different for "Hope is the Thing With Feathers". I'm not sure if the pigeons outside Seattle's Aurora Discount Grocery have "have asked a crumb of me". Perhaps they have -- they do like crumbs when they find them. Still, something in that barren parking lot spoke to me of the need for hope.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
19th century poems, with their brief flashes of imagery and emotion, can be quite relevant to our lives and those of our students.
What of stories, though? The characters and situations can seem dated or archaic? Sometimes that sense persists, and sometimes it dissipates when we probe further.
LM Montgomery's "The Little Brown Book of Miss Emily" tells a story that can at first seem unbelievable. Why would a young girl give up an engagement that was equated (in that day and age) with having a future... because of some idle words spoken by her then fiancee?
It's not a situation today's young women can relate to, at least not in the United States -- and that is in itself a discussion topic. Yet the story also reminds me of a personal experience not so many years back, involving a young woman who came of age in a very different culture than the one where she was born.
You can find my audio read of the Little Brown Book of Miss Emily, as well as lesson plans and resources, on Squidoo.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
It rained in Seattle on the 4th of July, and we had jacket weather.
Summer is the dry season in the Puget Sound area; still summer rain doesn't get the excitement here that it does say, in Tucson...
So many things we bring with us when we read or interpret a poem -- still more so for children. Now here is another Emily Dickinson poem, "Summer Shower".
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Here's a rather sad metaphorical poem by 19th century poet, Emily Dickinson: "A Door Just Opened on the Street". I like the line that is repeated in both stanzas: "I lost was passing by". What qualities make some poems easier to recite than others? Rhythm, meter... or something more elusive?
Monday, July 5, 2010
This picture, with its far away and none too clear image of a robin, was a bit of a disappointment to me; it was one of those that I scan unsure when and if I'll actually use it.
I read Robert Frost's "A Minor Bird", and suddenly that picture had found a home.
Underlying "A Minor Bird" is regret -- not for some major wrong act, but for wishing a bird that sings in a wrong key would fly away: "... and of course there must be something wrong in wanting to silence any song."
Underlying "A Minor Bird" is regret -- not for some major wrong act, but for wishing a bird that sings in a wrong key would fly away: "... and of course there must be something wrong in wanting to silence any song."
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010
I have a number of photos scanned and saved to my computer, and it can be interesting sometimes to write a post or read a poem and see if some particular image calls to me. This poem and this image were matched instantly in my mind upon first read. No, I don't recall seeing "Purple of the pansy out of the mulch and mold crawl into a dusk of velvet"... but I remember the purple of a February tulip peeking out from beneath a blanket of dead leaves by the entrance of Cowen Park.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Mending Wall is a poem that has been recorded not only many times but in many ways. On YouTube I've seen some unique readings -- as well as one unexpected interpretation that I disagreed with but thought was worth saving. Two narrations that stood out: a modern storyteller dressed in 19th century style and Frost's own voice set against black and white photos from around the Berlin Wall.
On Squidoo, I have a collection of resources for teaching Mending Wall.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
This is somewhat lighter fair. A dedication from the close of A Child's Garden of Verses, it speaks to those things that children ponder and that can boggle their minds a bit... But in a time when we publish ourselves to the world with just a click, it's no longer so surprising to children that unknown people across the ocean were thinking of them while they "thought of nothing and were yet too young to play"!
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Today again I'm posting another Robert Frost creek poem and... another photo of Seattle's Ravenna Creek. This time Ravenna Creek is standing in for "Hyla Brook". I thought I should do this poem before June slips all the way away: "By June our brook's run out of song and speed..."
What I like best about this poem, though, is not the water imagery. It's the last line when I suddenly realize it's not about Hyla or Ravenna either one. It's about... (Well, what do you think it's about? Or who?)
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I've been gazing, for more than a day now, at a site nearly blank save for a few luminous raindrops. What to write first? What to read first -- or rather which of the recordings stored here on my computer to post first ?
I opted for Robert Frost's "Going for Water". It seemed a bit counterintuitive at first: Here in the long warm days of late June, I post a poem about autumn falling into winter.
It feels right.
It's a poem about a creek long ago in New England. It's a poem about a creek restored to its own in Seattle. (At least to me it is.) Stored on my computer I have a picture labeled Ravenna Creek Reflection.
I will have so many decisions to make about what direction to go in these multimedia posts. I'm starting with a creek that I have followed many times. In some sense metaphoric sense, I go where the creek goes.
Printable Copy of Going for Water