Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Keepsake Mill

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

A Passing Glimpse

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

I Saw From the Beach

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

Good Hours

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

Rose Pogonias

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

Printouts and Music

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

To Any Reader

Child of Air
One of the dedications at the end of Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verses", it's titled "to any reader" but I'm always tempted to call it "Child of Air".

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wind and Window Flower

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

In Hardwood Groves

leaves,in hardwood groves
"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


ravenna creek,seattle
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 Vantage Point

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

In Spring and Summer Leaves May Blow

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

Little Things

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

"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

Now Close the Windows

(If you like the tech on this one, you can create your own video slideshow at

...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

A Late Walk

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

"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


ice storm,easter,family
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

Hope is the Thing With Feathers

pigeons,Aurora Grocery,Seattle
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

The Little Brown Book of Miss Emily

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

Summer Shower

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

A Door Just Opened on a Street

Blue Door
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

A Minor Bird

Seattle Robin
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."

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Seattle,Lake Union

"Waiting" by Carl Sandburg: A poem about a day spent at the harbor... or a poem about a stage of life? (What is the "quest of an unknown shore"?)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Answer

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

stone wall,tuxpi
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

To my Name-Chid

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"!