Final Day of National Poetry Month - Day 30

National Poetry Month - Day 29


Oh, I was born a lyric babe
(That last word is a bore -
It's only rhyme is astrolabe,
Whose meaning I ignore.)
From cradlehood I lisped in numbers,
Made jingles even in my slumbers.
Said Ma: "He'll be a bard, I know it."
Said Pa: "Let's hope he will outgrow it."

Alas! I never did and so
A dreamer and a drone was I,
Who persevered in want and woe
His misery to versify.
Yea, I was doomed to be a failure
(Old Browning rhymes that last with "pale lure"):
And even starving in the gutter,
My macaronics I would utter.

Then in a poor, cheap book I crammed,
And to the public maw I tossed
My bitter Dirges of the Damned,
My Lyrics of the Lost.
"Let carping critic flay and flout
My Ditties of the Down and Out -
"There now," said I, "I've done with verse,
My love, my weakness and my curse."

Then lo! (As I would fain believe,
Before they crown, the fates would shame us)
I went to sleep one bitter eve,
And woke to find that I was famous. . . .
And so the sunny sequels were a
Gay villa on the Riviera,
A bank account, a limousine, a
Life patterned dolce e divina.

Oh, yes, my lyric flight is flighty;
My muse is much more mite than mighty:
But poetry has been my friend,
And rhyming's saved me in the end.

                                   Robert William Service

National Poetry Month - Day 28

National Poetry Month - Day 27

National Poetry Month - Day 26

National Poetry Month - Day 25

National Poetry Month - Day 24


If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: 

   If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
 If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
   Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
   Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 

  If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
  And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
 And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
    And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch, 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 
    If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And - which is more - you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

National Poetry Month - Day 23

National Poetry Month - Day 22

National Poetry Month - Day 21

A Psalm of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! 
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest! 
And the grave is not its goal; 
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way; 
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle.
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle! 
Be a hero in the strife! 

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant! 
Let the dead Past bury its dead! 
Act, -act in the living Present! 
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate; 
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Winnie-the Pooh"

Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

  • I'm quite horrified that I didn't read it in childhood, but I guess 'better late than never' applies to this! 
  • It's a delightful book full of charm and wonderful characters, and the writing is a treat to read.
  • I was familiar with some of the characters: Winnie, Christopher Robin, Piglet, and Eyeore, but I didn't know what their personalities were like or how funny they are. These are characters worth getting to know. 
  • The natural world is a lovely part of the stories, as I find it is for most stories set in England.
  • The stories have themes of friendship, loyalty, kindness and imagination, all without lecturing and without the over-sweetness of some children's books.
  • I loved it!

National Poetry Month - Day 20

National Poetry Month - Day 19

National Poetry Month - Day 18

National Poetry Month - Day 17

National Poetry Month - Day 16

National Poetry Month - Day 15

National Poetry Month - Day 14

National Poetry Month - Day 13

National Poetry Month - Day 12

The Day Is Done

The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.

For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.

Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

National Poetry Month - Day 11

National Poetry Month - Day 10

National Poetry Month - Day 9

National Poetry Month Day 8

National Poetry Month - Day 7

National Poetry Month Day 6

National Poetry Month - Day 5

National Poetry Month - Day 4

National Poetry Month - Day 3

National Poetry Month - Day 2

National Poetry Month Day 1

Trying to post a poem a day with no plan at all, entirely random choices. Some are my favourites, some are my own, and some will be interesting things I happen upon in the next 4 weeks. Beginning with my all time favorite:

A poem. About nothing.

"Elizabeth and Her German Garden"

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim

  • I couldn't resist this book because of it's title and because Elizabeth Von Arnim wrote The Enchanted April, which I love. I figured anything she wrote would have to be enjoyable.
  • I was right, it was enjoyable. Her writing is pure delight to read and it's a shame her books ever end. 
  • My feelings about this book are very mixed. I love the writing, the setting, and her dry humour, but, oh my goodness, she irritates me sometimes. She lives a privileged lifestyle that few women will ever experience, and yet she tends to look down somewhat on others who don't feel about life as she does. She spends much of her time outside enjoying her luxurious gardens because she prefers that to being confined within walls and she has all the freedom in the world to do so. She has 2 gardeners who do all the work in the garden she's so proud of building, a nurse for her three small children so she has only to play with them and read to them,  a cook to make the meals and do the cleaning up, and maids to do the housework. She does admit to how fortunate she is, but it's a little hard to swallow when she's less than gracious to those less fortunate. At one point she calls her servants "the menials".
  • Conclusion: I enjoyed the reading of it. If I can find more novels by her, I'll read them, but her sometimes flippant attitude toward other people took away some of the enjoyment I might otherwise have found in this personal journal.  

"The Trouble With Goats and Sheep"

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

  • I was drawn immediately into the community setting where neighbours all know each other. I felt quite immersed in Britain while I was reading it and that's always enjoyable. I'd rather a book be set in Britain than anywhere else. Except maybe Middle Earth.
  • It begins: "Mrs. Creasy disappeared on a Monday. I know it was a Monday, because...". I think that way of beginning a story is getting worn, but what follows thankfully drew me in very quickly
  • Though I don't really like mysteries as a rule, this one is nicely quirky, and unfolds in a way that had me often stopping to think "hmmm". It showed me things to consider instead of telling me what to think, and built the story gradually. And it's more than just a mystery. It's really the story of a neighbourhood told though the mystery that takes place there.  
  • I have to say I liked the first 3/4 of the book better than the last 1/4, but I'm not sure that's any problem with the book. I think I just prefer getting into a story more than I do wrapping it up. I've noticed lately I'm enjoying the first part of every book better than the rest of it. I'm finding there's something so sad about leaving the world you've been living in for the past few days. I miss people, places, houses.  
  • I love the title. It's unusual, and by the end of the book you don't have to wonder why it was chosen. 
  • Some chapters are narrated in the first person by a young girl. Others are written in the third person, letting the reader keep tabs on the various other characters, of whom there are quite a few. I kept a list to sort it all out. The child's chapters are priceless. Children may not understand all that they see and hear, but they are refreshingly honest and direct and I think the author captures that well most of the time. There was only one instance where I thought the reasoning attributed to the little girl was more sophisticated than was probable for child of that age.
  • I quite enjoyed the writing. I found it fresh and even poetic at times. A few examples:
"People drove their cars with the windows down. and fragments of music
littered the street." 

"He had tried to carve into the quiet with the television and the radio, 
and the sound of his own voice, but his noise just seemed to grow the silence
 and make it taller, and it followed him from room to room, 
like water pouring from a glass."

"My words faded in my mouth, because they couldn't decide 
if they wanted to be true."     

  • Somewhere in the second half it began to feel a bit muddled, and at the end I was still thinking "hmmm" about many things. I'd like to read it again (but other books keep calling from the bookshelf), taking notes this time to pick up on any of the more subtle clues I think I must have missed. I enjoy endings that aren't all neatly tied up, but I really do think I missed some things in this one. My first thought after closing the book was how I wish I could talk it over with my book club. There would be so many questions to ask and so many theories to test out; what a fun discussion we'd have had. 
  • Conclusion:  Thought provoking story, fresh writing, engaging characters, appealing setting. Just a little confusing at the end. Very glad I read it. 

"The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake"

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

For the first time in almost a year, I've read a book that makes me want to say something about it. Excited? Yes. Intimidated? Yes. Here are the somethings I want to say:
  • If I hadn't read great reviews I'd never have picked it up. At first glance the cover suggested the book might be fluffier than I like, but I think this picture represents the title, and it's a good title, rather than the story. The lemon cake is the door to the story, but there is so much more.
  • When I finished reading, I felt much like I had when I finished Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarter. Exhilarated. Grateful for a writer who can still surprise me. Wishing the book was longer because I wasn't ready to be done yet. 
  • So many times I wanted to underline certain perfect descriptions of emotion, or perfect insights into what it is to be human, but I couldn't because it wasn't mine, it belonged to the library. 
  • I liked every character. Not that they were in any way perfect, they were flawed and confused and just getting through the day the best way they could. In the past few months I've read book after book where I didn't like any of the characters, or at least not enough to really care what happened to them. Finally, a story world I didn't want to leave and couldn't wait to get back to. Why are these books never 500 pages long?
  • The book requires a suspension of disbelief. If you go into it wanting only the reality you know, or want to know, you might not like it. Be prepared to consider that your assumptions about what is possible and what is not may have to be adjusted, that Hamlet was right when he said there were more things in Heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy. 
  • Aimee Bender has that wonderful ability to make the reader feel the ache the characters feel. Or maybe it's simply that these characters ask you to look inside yourself and admit your own ache. Either way, she's good at it.  
  • There is no villain in this story. Nobody to be hated, nobody to be defeated, beaten, killed or moralized away. Just people, strong in some ways and weak in others, who find their own individual ways to adjust to the strangeness, the sadness of life. 
  • This is not a book about light and sweet things. It is a book about living with whatever you are given to live with. There's an existential angst that is neither dark nor depressing. If anything, it's hopeful that there is almost always a way to live with life. And when there isn't, well, there isn't.  
  • This is writing that made me want to swallow the book whole and let the words live inside me. Page after page that made me wonder why I can't say things like that.
  • Back to the cover. I want it to be more serious, something more profound, that would give a potential reader some indication that there is weight to this story. 
  • I'm adding this book to my short list of favourites.
  • Henceforth, I may be more careful about judging a book by it's cover. Maybe. 

Happy New Year!