Friday, October 28, 2011

Poetry Friday: The Joys of Poetry 180

Are you familiar with Poetry 180? It's a program designed to help integrate poetry into the daily lives of high school students. Founded by poet Billy Collins during his tenure as poet laureate, it offers up an incredibly enjoyable poem every day for all 180 days of the school year.

If you explore the Poetry 180 site, you're bound to find a gem that you haven't read before. Better yet, you can subscribe and have each day's poem delivered directly to you. A collection of the 180 poems has been published as a book and it was so successful they published a second collection, too.

Poetry 180 is one of my favorite sources for discovering new poems. Once you start exploring it, you'll have trouble stopping. Check out Poem #36, which was delivered to me earlier this week:

The Printer's Error

Aaron Fogel

Fellow compositors
and pressworkers!
I, Chief Printer
Frank Steinman,
having worked fifty-
seven years at my trade,
and served five years
as president
of the Holliston
Printer's Council,
being of sound mind
though near death,
leave this testimonial
concerning the nature
of printers' errors.

First: I hold that all books
and all printed
matter have
errors, obvious or no,
and that these are their
most significant moments,
not to be tampered with
by the vanity and folly
of ignorant, academic
textual editors.
Second: I hold that there are
three types of errors, in ascending
order of importance:
One: chance errors
of the printer's trembling hand
not to be corrected incautiously
by foolish professors
and other such rabble
because trembling is part
of divine creation itself.

Read the rest of the poem here. I think it's a brilliant piece, don't you? There's a lot there for students to sink their teeth into. I hope you find some time to explore Poetry 180. Let me know what you think.

Poetry Friday, my favorite day of the week, features a round-up of bloggers which this week is hosted by the awesome Diane at Random Noodling. If you liked this post, you'll love the collection of posts featured there. You'll also want to be sure to subscribe to this blog via email in the handy sidebar widget or via RSS.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Poetry Friday: Poetry Mix Tape for Autumn 2

It has been quite some time since I put together a Poetry Mix Tape. Since autumn is in full swing here in Michigan, I thought it would make for the perfect topic. I mixed some poems on autumn for you last year, but I think I like these even more. I hope you like them, too:

Theme in Yellow by Carl Sandburg
Aftermath by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
October by Bobbi Katz
Fall, Leaves, Fall by Emily Bronte
After Apple Picking by Robert Frost
Late Autumn Wasp by James Hoch

And perhaps my new favorite poem about Autumn by Juhan Liiv...

"Leaves Fell"

A gust roused the waves,
leaves blew into the water,
the waves were ash-gray,
the sky tin-gray,
ash-gray the autumn.

It was good for my heart,
there my feelings were ash-gray,
the sky tin-gray,
ash-gray the autumn.

You can read the rest of the poem here. The ending is good. Really good. And while the mood of the poem is kind of down, I like it for the complexity that's hidden there. The repetition and the imagery. I like it a lot.

If you like it, too, let me know. And if you like poetry, you'll love Poetry Friday, which today is being hosted at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Jama's also sharing some autumn poetry today (and one delicious-looking photo of a doughnut). So be sure to check it out!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Poetry Friday: Poet Laureate Philip Levine

Time is a tricky thing. It seems like W.S. Merwin was just named U.S. poet laureate a few days ago. But apparently his term in that position is nearly over. While The Small Nouns was on hiatus this summer, Philip Levine was named to the post. In typical fashion, Mr. Levine's response to his appointment included this nugget: "If you take it too seriously, you're an idiot."

His career is quite accomplished. He has published over 20 books and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. I'm particularly fond of his poems because of Mr. Levine's roots--he was born and raised in Detroit, the city I grew up not far from and in which I currently work. He has written about Detroit often and, in my opinion, some of his poems reflect an urban "grittiness," that definitely resonates with Detroiters.

So while I'm a few months late to the party, I want to showcase a few of Philip Levine's poems here for my weekly Poetry Friday post. I start with one about a Detroit landmark:

Belle Isle, 1949
By Philip Levine

We stripped in the first warm spring night
and ran down into the Detroit River
to baptize ourselves in the brine
of car parts, dead fish, stolen bicycles,
melted snow. I remember going under
hand in hand with a Polish highschool girl
I'd never seen before, and the cries
our breath made caught at the same time
on the cold, and rising through the layers
of darkness into the final moonless atmosphere
that was this world, the girl breaking
the surface after me and swimming out
on the starless waters towards the lights
of Jefferson Ave. and the stacks
of the old stove factory unwinking.

Read the rest of this poem here. It's worth it. I just love the imagery. Here's another, the title poem of his Pulitzer Prize winning book:

The Simple Truth
by Philip Levine

I bought a dollar and a half's worth of small red potatoes
took them home, boiled them in their jackets
and ate them for dinner
 with a little butter and salt.

Then I walked through the dried fields 
on the edge of town. In middle June the light
hung on in the dark furrows at my feet,
and in the mountain oaks overhead the birds
were gathering for the night, the jays and mockers
squawking back and forth, the finches still darting
into the dusty light. The woman who sold me 
the potatoes was from Poland; she was someone
out of my childhood in a pink spangled sweater and sunglasses
praising the perfection of all her fruits and vegetables
at the road-side stand and urging me to taste 
even the pale, raw sweet corn trucked all the way, 
she swore, from New Jersey. "Eat, eat" she said,
"Even if you don't I'll say you did."
Some things
you know all your life. They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering 
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.

Read the ending of this poem here. His poems, in my opinion, have a similar voice, but each stands out on its own as unique somehow. Also, they all seem to have really good endings. The last few lines of "The Simple Truth" contains this amazing line: "Can you taste what I'm saying?"

Here's the ending of "He Would Never Use One Word When None Would Do:" 

Fact is, silence is the perfect water:
unlike rain it falls from no clouds
to wash our minds, to ease our tired eyes,
to give heart to the thin blades of grass
fighting through the concrete for even air
dirtied by our endless stream of words.

I love that. The rest of the poem can be read here

I hope Philip Levine's poetry appeals to you as much as it does to me. I can see how it might not, but if it doesn't, give it another chance. You might change your mind!

Poetry Friday is hosted at fomagrams today. Please get over there and check it out!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Poetry Friday: Fill in the Blanks

I recently attended the TEDxDetroit conference and got filled up with a day's worth of motivation and great advice. I think the event was aimed mainly at entrepreneurs, but there was a good deal of stuff that had implications in education.

One of the tidbits was provided by improv comedienne and self proclaimed "Idea Goddess," Hailey Zureich. She proposed that in order to be successful, you must "articulate your reality." In other words, say it out loud...this will help make it so. She offered this as an explanation: "Every day, when you wake up, you make the decision of whether you're going to have an 'oh sh** day' or a 'hot sh** day.'" Making that decision, articulating your reality, saying it out loud...this goes a long way towards making it happen.

I found this to be fairly insightful. And it somehow brought to mind a poem by Lou Lipsitz that I came across a while back:

"Have a _____ Day"
by Lou Lipsitz

Have a nice day. Have a memorable day.
Have (however unlikely) a life-changing day.
Have a day of soaking rain and lightning.
Have a confused day thinking about fate.

Have a day of wholes.
Have a day of poorly marked,
unrecognizable wholes you
cannot fathom.
Have a ferocious day, a bleak
unbearable day. Have a
riotously unproductive day;
a grim jaw-clenched, Clint Eastwood vengeful
law enforcement day.
Have a day of raging, hair-yanking
jealousy and meanness. Have a day
of almost grasping
how whole you are; a finely tuned,
empty day.

Have a nice day of walking and circling;
a day of stalking and hunting,
of planting strange seeds and wandering in the woods.
Have a day of endearing nonsense,
of hopelessly combing your hair,
a day of yielding, of swallowing
hard, breathing more deeply,
a day of fondness for beetles
and macabre spectacles, or irreverence
about anything you want, of just
sitting and wondering.

You can read the rest of "Have a ___ Day" here. (Try reading it out loud, it makes this one even better.) I hope you're able to fill in your own blanks today. I hope today is the kind of day you want it to be. I hope you say it and make it so.

I also hope you check out the Poetry Friday round up at Great Kid Books. There's SO much great poetry to read about today. Enjoy!