Poetry from the Garden

Cherry Tomato, take one

the pop of skin–

a rush of sweet and sour
to your tongue

like when you bite
your ripe lip

 

Cherry Tomato, take two

the bite of sudden thunder
a skyful of rain—
sweet relief
tinged with the sour end
of blue skies

 

I love growing cherry tomatoes. I buy small plants in May, transfer them to large patio pots, and water them every day. For this small amount of work, the pay-off is huge. We get bite-sized red and yellow tomatoes for months. They never even make it into the salad because we eat them straight from the vine.

Before I wrote these poems, I went out to the yard and harvested all the cherry tomatoes I could find. I put them in a bowl next to my computer. I ate them one at a time, thinking: how do I describe the experience of eating one? How do I put a taste into words? I tried a bunch of different metaphors, including the two above. In the second version, I kept going back and forth between skyful and mouthful. Which version of the poem do you prefer? Which word–skyful or mouthful?

I’m happy to be back this week. I’ve missed celebrating Poetry Friday with all of you. Life and parenting has been a little too complicated and time consuming lately for me to blog as much as I’d like. While I was away I had a thought about the poems I post here. I think they’re kind of like sketches–they aren’t first drafts and they aren’t fully fleshed out and polished poems. They’re like the doodles you might find in the margins of someone’s biology notes. I’m not saying whose.

For more Poetry Friday fun, visit Amy at The Poem Farm.

Did you notice my new look? It’s all thanks to Gabe Seiden at Connect4Consulting. Thanks, Gabe!

Summer Reading–Time for Poetry

I’m looking forward to lots of things about the summer, including less homework and more time for reading. Of course we’ll be reading poetry! Below are some of the books I’m planning to dive into. In addition to these, I’ll be visiting the library regularly and bringing home plenty of poetry surprises.

 

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Water Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas. Salas’ poetic appreciation of water came out this year. I loved her book BookSpeak! Poems about Books. I’m looking forward to reading this poetic nonfiction book for younger readers, as well as its predecessor A Leaf Can Be. Plus, the illustrations look gorgeous and Salas is giving 10% of her proceeds to WaterAid, a nonprofit organization working around the world to ensure there’s clean water for everyone.

 

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Firefly July and Other Very Short Poems edited by Paul Janeczko. Everyone seems to be talking about this book and the exceptional poems Janeczko has included. I love short poems, and I often feel they get short shrift, so I’m happy to seem them highlighted here.

 

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Hi, Koo! by Jon Muth. I love Muth’s picture book Zen Shorts, I love haiku, and I love cute and clever titles. Need I say more? I’m especially excited to see that these haiku break free of the 5-7-5 syllable rule!

 

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Pirates by David Harrison. When my son finished David Harrison’s book Cowboys, he sighed and said, “That’s all?” Yes, that was all of the cowboy poems, but now we can read about pirates! I especially appreciated that the cowboy book had been thoroughly researched and included poems from a variety of viewpoints. I expect the pirate book will too.

 

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Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian. I can get quirky, crazy, well-crafted poems about vehicles by both J. Patrick Lewis and Doug Florian in one book? Sign me up.

 

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Rutherford B Who Was He? Poems about Our Presidents by Marilyn Singer. My youngest loves history, and Marilyn Singer is the brilliant author of Mirror, Mirror and many other books of poetry. How could we not read this?

 

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Miss Emily by Burleigh Muten. My interest in Emily Dickinson and her work was rekindled a few years ago when I visited her home in Amherst, Massachusetts and read White Heat, a fascinating book about her relationship with Thomas Wentworth Higginson. I’m curious to see how this book in verse for children 7-10 portrays the reclusive but apparently playful poet.

 

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Good Luck Gold by Janet Wong. Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell are the editors of the Poetry Friday anthologies and tireless advocates for children’s poetry. Janet Wong is also an award-winning poet who draws upon her Chinese and Korean cultural heritage in her work. I loved her second book A Suitcase of Seaweed and Other Poems. I’m looking forward to reading her first book Good Luck Gold.

 

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The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. I was completely sold on this book when I read the first four lines on the inside of the cover! Josh Bell plays basketball, and he rhymes, and he has a twin brother, and there’s a new girl in school. I’m guessing this novel in verse for readers 9-12 will interest lots of kids (and grown ups).

 

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The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle. Over the winter holiday I read Engle’s wonderful book Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal. I loved Engle’s use of poetry to tell the story of the many different peoples involved in the project. She even included poems from the perspectives of the animals displaced by the construction. The information was eye-opening, and the poetry was lovely. This summer I’m looking forward to reading more of Engle’s novels in verse including The Firefly Letters which is for readers 10-15 and tells the story of Fredrika Bremer, a Swedish woman who visits Cuba in 1851 and forges relationships with Cecelia, the young slave from Africa who accompanies her, and Elena, the daughter of a wealthy Cuban family.

 

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How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson. In this fictionalized memoir, Nelson uses 50 unrhymed sonnets to tell the story of an African American girl growing up in America in the 1950s. The book, for kids 12 and up, appears to tell an intimate personal story in a powerful historical context.

 

What poetry books are on your summer reading list?

For more Poetry Friday, please visit Carol’s Corner.

Paper Dolls

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The Girl in the Catalog Speaks

Please, I beg you,
find some scissors
and set me free.
Release me
from this empty space,
this frozen moment.
Help me put down
the pink paisley cinch sack
I’ve had in my hand since
long before the season.
Let me have my own
edges. Cut carefully
around my limbs,
my fingers, the strands
of my fan-blown hair.
Once I’m out, please
don’t let me flop.
Give me some cardboard
backbone—a bit of box
will do. Paste it on.
Snip my feet. Slip a tab
into the slots and help me stand
on my own. I wouldn’t mind
some different clothes—
long jean shorts in lime or peach
a ruched knit tank in ultramarine,
or maybe a pine green taffeta skort.
I think you’ll find
they all come in my size.
How I long to drive around
in a shoe box of friends
from other pages,
other companies.
Perhaps we could pose
for a picnic on the lawn,
but please, I beg you,
don’t leave me
in the rain.

 

Lately I’ve been reading blog posts and internet essays about the tradition of making paper dolls. Girls (and boys?) used to wait for the new Sears catalog to arrive knowing that meant it was safe to cut up the old one. The girls would cut out figures, clothes, furniture, and household objects. They would paste them to cardboard and fold the bottom edge back so the pieces could stand. Some girls made box houses for their dolls. Others made cars out of shoeboxes. After the catalogs had been cut to shreds, they went to the outhouse for their third and final use.

For more Poetry Friday visit Anastasia Suen at Poet!Poet!

© Elizabeth Steinglass, 2014, all rights reserved

A Sonnet for My Valentine

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Our Love

Should I compare our love to this full moon?
No way! Each month its light takes off alone.
A rose? The petals swoon and fray too soon.
Our aging love is like an old, gray stone.
We share this ever-present weight, too great
To move, too there to notice much, unless
You stumble into it. Your toe’s poor fate
Reminds you to regard what you possess.
The endless sometime flow of rain and tears,
Unfinished kids, dishes, bills, day and night,
The moments snatched from sleep for all these years,
Has rubbed our stone until it’s smooth and right.
Who cares that others don’t discern its shine.
This old, gray stone is only yours and mine.

 

So many songs, stories, and poems are about the excitement and/or despair of early love. What about lasting love? Does anyone have a favorite text about love that stands the test of time?

 

For more Poetry Friday visit Linda at TeacherDance.

© Elizabeth Steinglass, 2013, all rights reserved

Depression Glass

from wikipedia by lowkeyvision

from wikipedia by lowkeyvision

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lately I’ve been listening to the Poetry Foundation podcast Essential American Poets. Each episode includes a short introduction to a poet’s life and work and a few poems read by the poet. One of my favorite episodes features Ted Kooser. I love his concrete world and his midwestern sensibility. I’m from St. Louis and my father was from a small town in western Missouri. Some of Kooser’s poems seem to describe a life my father lived but didn’t talk about. I never got to use my grandmother’s depression glass, but I’m sure she had some.

I’m going to break with tradition and share the end of Kooser’s poem Depression Glass.

                                          It was hard
to hold up your end of the gossip
with your coffee cold, but it was
a special occasion, just the same,
to sit at her kitchen table
and sip the bitter percolation
of the past week’s rumors from cups
it had taken a year to collect
at the grocery, with one piece free
for each five pounds of flour.

Ted Kooser

Here’s a link to the entire poem.

For more Poetry Friday, visit Jama. I can’t wait to see what she’s serving!