Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Poem

So much for my hiatus...this poem came to me via an email subscription and I felt compelled to share it.

Such a large part of the holiday season, no matter what or how you celebrate, is made up of memories. As I share my own favorite Christmas memories (those that I remember; there seem to be so few, but I guess that's an issue for another day) with my children, I realize that so much of this time of year revolves around nostalgia and the pangs of missing those that can't be with you. It can really be a sad time of year if you think about it in the wrong way.

Jeanne Marie-Beaumont writes about it far more eloquently than I ever could in "When I Am in the Kitchen:"

When I Am in the Kitchen
by Jeanne Marie Beaumont

I think about the past. I empty the ice-cube trays
crack crack cracking like bones, and I think
of decades of ice cubes and of John Cheever,
of Anne Sexton making cocktails, of decades
of cocktail parties, and it feels suddenly far
too lonely at my counter. Although I have on hooks
nearby the embroidered apron of my friend's
grandmother and one my mother made for me
for Christmas 30 years ago with gingham I had
coveted through my childhood. In my kitchen
I wield my great aunt's sturdy black-handled
soup ladle and spatula, and when I pull out
the drawer, like one in a morgue, I visit
the silverware of my husband's grandparents.
We never met, but I place this in my mouth
every day and keep it polished out of duty.

Read the rest here, at And subscribe to their Poem-a-Day email. It's worth it. And please have a safe and happy holiday season.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Hiatus

I think I'm going to shut it down here at The Small Nouns for the rest of 2010. There's just not enough time it seems to get anything posted.

But fear not, faithful readers, one of my (many) 2011 resolutions is to blog more. So check back in early January for our return.

In the meantime, why not check out some great bloggers in my blogroll, or peruse the Small Nouns archive.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Poems I Haven't Been Reading

Seems like every month I say, "I think ____ is the busiest month of the year." An easy excuse for not getting anything done? Maybe. An annoying exaggeration? Probably. Either way, the poems are stacking up around me and I haven't had time to enjoy them. I've been trying to collect and save them from my various online sources, but I've barely had a chance to do more than scan the poems I've bookmarked. I keep meaning to go through them and identify the ones I like most and the ones I want to share in the classroom and here on the blog, but in all seriousness, I think December is the busiest month of the year, and I just haven't gotten around to it.

Luckily, though, I do have a little time this morning to read through some of my bookmarked poems, and I think I owe it to my faithful readers to share a few of them...

Our Bed Is Also Green
by Joshua Bell

Please speak to meonly of the present
            or if you must            bring up the past
bring up only thatwhich you and I
            don't share. I know            this is a selfish
thing to ask. Yes, as Ihave often
            remarked, shore lunch            at hanging rock
was lovely. Yourhair and mine
            stayed put. Later on            we didn't, as we
do now, pull it fromeach other's clothes
            as if for final proof            that we've been
sleeping witheach other. In the glorious
            picnics of the past            we simply knew
such things. The rockupon which
            we sat, ran beneath            the lake, and was
the same rock wewere both looking
            over to the other            side at. I almost
felt, believe me,as if we were
            two people. Person,            I nearly could
have said, hold on.Instead, I used
            the name we had            agreed upon. Not
your fault. A nameis useful, it helps
            with the blankness            I am sometimes
feeling in regardsto you. I apologize
            for saying this            out loud. You are not
the blanknessI am speaking
            of. Plug your thought            or daydream
into me, and theyor I will often
            fail to light. You are            beginning to see
what I mean aboutthe past, how I,
            despite my facility            with pliers, and eye
for detail, may notbe suitable. What was
            your name? I am            not kidding. What comes
will run us throughfrom the front, we
            pull our way            down its length
if only to see, at lastwhat has ahold
            of the spear-grip.            Therefore, the future,
as a topic, is sadlyalso out.

Please read the rest here and let me know what you think. I'm enchanted by the layout of this poem. The two-column format with alternating indentations...I'm not sure I know what that's about (which my most faithful of readers know I love), but I like it. The symmetry makes me wonder if the speaker is talking to another person (hence the two columns) or if he's talking to himself (hence the mirror images). And the choppiness of the breaks and space and indentations...I bet this poem is terrific when read aloud by the poet.

On to another great piece, this one by Catherine Bowman and delivered through the Poem-A-Day email. I really like list poems and litanies. (Remind me to blog about my all-time favorite someday soon). They're great as mentor texts for teaching poetry writing and they're fun to read for poetry novices and experts alike. This poem reads like a litany to me...

by Catherine Bowman

When he procured her, she purveyed
him. When he rationed her out, 
she made him provisional. On being

provisional, he made her his trough.
On being a trough, she made him her silo. 
At once a silo, he made her his cut. On being a cut,

she made him her utensil. On being
a utensil, he turned her downhill. So being
downhill, she made him her skis. 

When she was his stethoscope,
he was her steady beat. From beat
she was dog, from dog he was fetch,
from fetch she was jab, from jab
he was fake. When he was her complex
equation, she was his simple math. 

So she turned him into strong evidence,
accessory after the fact.
Read the last few stanzas here. There are great twists and turns here and I really enjoy line and 
stanza breaks. Oh, it also has a terrific ending. (Choosing where to end a litany must be challenging.) 
But I'm pretty sure I need someone to define the word "stet" for me. I thought it was a verb.

If you have more time than me, check out some of the other good poems I haven't had gotten a chance
to explore:

"Jet" by Tony Hoagland
"Dawn Dreams" by Rachel Hadas (This one will "insinuate all day at the corner of your eye." Brilliant.)
"Interruptions" by Mary Crow
"Alone for the Fifth Day" by Jason Shinder
"The Coming of Light" by Mark Strand

Hopefully you'll be able to take a moment and enjoy one or all of these. Let me know how it goes.

(I don't know what's messing up the format of this post, sorry. I can't figure it out!)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Poetry in Movies: Take Two

I recently posted questioning the existence of poetry in movies. Can movies be considered poetic? In my first post, I discussed the film Inception, which has been stuck in my head since I saw it a few weeks ago. Last week, I believe I confirmed the poetic possibilities when I revisited one of my all-time favorites, The Royal Tenenbaums. It, too, has lodged itself in my brain--just like a good poem does.

It's certainly a different kind of movie, to say the least. Not everyone will find the dysfunctional Tenenbaum family to be as entertaining and endearing as I do. The trailer doesn't completely do the movie justice, but it certainly has a "love it or hate it" quality. You'll know right away if you're like me and this is a movie you'd adore or if you're not and this is one you'd rather skip:

But trust me, there is poetry woven throughout. If you watch this clip or this markedly sadder one, you can certainly find it. At least I think so.

Like so many great poems, this film is alternately touching and hilarious. It's certainly quirky and could be perceived as "weird," like so many poems (and movies, and songs...) that I love. It's not for everyone, certainly. But it's nothing if it isn't poetic.

Above all else, though, is the fact that every single part of its design is so intentional, from the colors used in the set design or the reappearing taxi cabs of the "Gypsy Cab Company." And as my students tire of hearing me say, even though it's absolutely true, there are no accidents in poems. Everything on the page is there for a reason. Every word is carefully chosen with deliberate intent. The same is true of The Royal Tenenbaums. And, thus, it feels like a poem to me.

What's the most poetic film you've seen? Let me know, please and be sure to check out the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect!