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July 31, 2009

Poetry Friday--Put on Your Dancing Shoes!

Photo by Giuliagas

For some reason I feel like dancing. Maybe it's because it's Friday! Yay!

Since I've got dancing on my mind, I thought I'd share the first two stanzas of a surprising poem by Cornelius Eady, "The Empty Dance Shoes."
My friends,
As it has been proven in the laboratory,
An empty pair of dance shoes
Will sit on the floor like a wart
Until it is given a reason to move.

Those of us who study inertia
(Those of us covered with wild hair and sleep)
Can state this without fear:
The energy in a pair of shoes at rest
Is about the same as that of a clown
Make sure you read the rest here to find out the number of different things that can be compared to empty dance shoes.

This week, the Poetry Friday Round-Up is being hosted at Poetry for Children. Make sure you stop by, and then, go out and DANCE!

July 28, 2009

Got Time?

Well, kiss it goodbye if you visit Mr. Picassohead!

To see how I spent a few minutes this afternoon, click here.

July 26, 2009

Playing for Change

I challenge you to watch the video below and not feel that change is possible. I've viewed it several times since I first saw it on Bill Moyers Journal last fall, and every time I do, I get all choked up.

I urge you to visit the Playing for Change website and take a look, and a listen, at what's being done. While you're at it, think about supporting their mission! The CD/DVD combo, Playing for Change: Songs around the World, is lovely, and cheap enough so that you can buy one for yourself, and another for a friend, your local public library, or the music department at your local high school.

Bill Moyers interviewed Mark Johnson, the creator of the Playing for Change project, I thought you'd like to hear how he got started:
MARK JOHNSON: The idea came about ten years ago, here in New York City. I was in a subway station on my way to work. You know, every day in the subway, people are just running around like crazy to get wherever they have to go.

BILL MOYERS: Oh, tell me about it.

MARK JOHNSON: But this particular day, I was in the subway and I heard these two monks playing music. And they were painted head to toe, all in white, wearing robes. And one of them was playing a nylon guitar and the other one was singing in a language that I didn't understand and I imagine most people didn't understand.

BILL MOYERS: Everybody was just standing around. I've done that. Yeah.

MARK JOHNSON: You know, there were about 200 people just stopped. Didn't get on the train and started watching this music. And I looked around and I saw people with tears in their eyes. And I saw jaw dropping. And I just saw this collection. And it occurred to me that here is a group of people that would normally run by each other. And here they are, collectively coming together. And it's the music that brought them together.

So it really inspired me. And it occurred to me that when there's no separation between music and people, when music is just happening and people can walk by and it can affect them, that this is an opportunity for us to really find a way to bring people together.

I'm from the Woodstock generation, one of those quarter million who attended the first festival 40 years ago next month (I still have my ticket--$18 for a three-day pass!), so I believe that there can be peace and music. But, I'm also a realist and I know that peace--through music or otherwise--is something that has be worked on CONSTANTLY! I'll close with a few more words from Mark Johnson:
But at the end of the day, there's also so much hope because I can assure you, all over the world, people are beautiful and they want to unite together.

July 24, 2009

Poetry Friday--Get Started!

Do I hear a plaintive cry--"What can I write about?"

If you want to write poetry, there are plenty of poetry starters on the web, a simple Google search using the terms "poetry starters" or "poetry prompts" will turn up quite a few. Another way to get started is to find a photo. You can't beat Flickr for photos. Browse through a few of the several thousand that have been uploaded in "the last minute" and write a poem based on a photo, your reaction to a photo, or anything else about a photo that inspires you!

Most public libraries have a book called Chase's Calendar of Events in their reference sections. Visit your local library and spend a few hours flipping through a year's worth of celebrations, commemorations, anniversaries, etc., and I'm sure you'll come up with interesting or fun topics to write about. There's an abbreviated Chase's list of daily events online, too, click here.

Photo by Jeremy Brooks

One of today's events is "National Drive-Thru Day." Now there's a challenge--write a poem about, or inspired by, "National Drive-Thru Day."
Guy at the Drive-Thru

In line at Borgari's Burgers
There's three cars in front
Of me. There's time
To compose myself.

I'm next. Oh, God...
Calm down, calm down,
Where's my money?
Okay, okay, drive forward.

No eye contact, barely a word
Spoken, but, I make sure
I brush his hand as he
Counts out my change. Drive

Away! Now wait
Twenty minutes before
Going through again
For dessert.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved

I had fun, but I hope you can do better!

Visit A Year of Reading for the Poetry Friday Round-Up, and, have a great weekend!

July 20, 2009

Wild Things

From www.wherethewildthingsare.com

My friend, Andy, and I were discussing the fact that Maurice Sendak's picture book, Where the Wild Things Are, will soon be a feature film. How will they take a 336 word text and expand it to fill more than an hour of film? How can they take a children's classic book and do it justice? It appears, not easily. A year ago, an article in the L.A. Times outlined some of the problems encountered in bringing the book to film. According to the article,
The script got good early reviews. But for months the Web has been pulsing with rumors and in-depth accounts that when Jonze had a research screening last December, kids in the audience were crying and fleeing the theater--not exactly the reaction the studio had hoped for.

We'll have to wait until October 16 to pass judgment on the film, but you can judge the trailer by visiting the film website. For me, the boy actor looks much too old to be Max. I've always thought that Max is 5 years old--young enough to still get caught up in an imaginary world, yet old enough to be able to separate himself from that world. The young actor seems out of place in a footed pajama costume--like maybe the kid has a bigger problem than just a bit of mischievousness?

One thing is certain, the merchandising is about to begin. The 40-page picture book is going to become a 300-page novelization--covered in fur, no less!

If you're a fan of Where the Wild Things Are art, you may enjoy Terrible Yellow Eyes, "a collection of works inspired by the beloved classic, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak."

July 18, 2009

A Girl's Gotta Eat!

And if she's gonna do it, she might as well do it right! I have a few dietary restrictions, so I was pleased to come across the FoodieView site.

I sometimes spend hours looking for recipes (it's an idle pastime since I don't really cook). In the past I've gone to allrecipes.com. It's chocky-block full of recipes, but if there's a good way to sort them by restrictions, then I haven't found it. You can search under the term "diabetic," or "gluten-free," or whatever your restriction is, but it's not a particularly efficient way to search since you might turn up hundreds of recipes without differentiation. (You do have the option of narrowing your search by category such as "breakfast and brunch," but not by ingredient.) FoodieView has a better way to search recipes. Click on the "Recipe Search Engine," and from the drop-down menu you can choose from "diabetic," "gluten-free," "heart-healthy," "low-carb," "vegetarian," and "vegan." You're taken to another page where you can put in an ingredient, a type of cuisine, the name of a dish, or something random like "high fiber."

If you live near a major city, the site has a restaurant guide. And, if you're really into cooking, there's a section under the tab "tools and resources," which covers cookbook reviews directing you to tested "must have" cookbooks. (Great if you want to purchase a cookbook as a gift!)

It's only 4:28 pm and for some reason I'm ready for dinner!

July 17, 2009

Poetry Friday--"The World Is Too Much With Us"

Photo by neil1877

There is a tendency on my part to dismiss the poets who I was forced to read in college English lit courses. The funny thing is, though, bits and pieces of some of them have the ability to speak to me today as a citizen of the 21st century. Take for example, these first four lines from "The World Is Too Much With Us" by William Wordsworth:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
How could Wordsworth have foreseen a time in which we would be obsessed with consumerism, thus damning ourselves with our shameful waste of the natural world? Am I reading something into the poem that isn't there? Perhaps, but the next few lines reinforce our apparent disregard for nature:
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God!
"Great God!" He should have stopped with those two words. Unfortunately, the poem goes on and there it falls apart for me. Here is the poem in its entirety for you to judge for yourself.
The World Is Too Much With Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreath├Ęd horn.

Today's Poetry Friday Round-Up is being held at Becky's Book Reviews.

July 15, 2009

R.E.A.D. Dogs

Today, at the library, we had a small group come in to talk about a service dog program where dogs are brought into a school or library to be read to by children. A golden retriever, Jake, and a border terrier, Tate, came with their trainers and were nearly loved to death by all who attended.

The specially trained dogs sit next to the child. Some know to "look" at the book when a child points out a picture. The dogs listen, but they do not judge. They sit patiently and do not make fun of the child who misses a word. Their trainers try not to intrude, but they may say something like, "Could you repeat that word again, I don't think Jake understood it."

The dogs wear a bandanna or a vest which means they are on duty. The organization that visited our library, New England Pet Partners, can bring along a hypoallergenic dog if there are allergy problems!

Not only do the dogs participate in the reading program, they also visit nursing homes, cancer wards, and other places where their love and patience is needed.

It is a fabulous program, and if you'd like to find a program near you, visit the Delta Society website.

July 10, 2009

Poetry Friday--New Hampshire

Photo by mwri

Today I'm enjoying a little mini-vacation with friends up in northern New Hampshire. I thought, therefore, that I'd share a poem about New Hampshire, by a New Hampshire poet, Donald Hall, and appropriately named, "New Hampshire"

A bear sleeps in a cellarhole; pine needles
heap over a granite doorstep; a well brims
with acorns and the broken leaves of an oak
which grew where an anvil rusted in a forge.

Inside an anvil, inside a bear, inside a leaf,
a bark of rust grows on the tree of a gas pump;
EAT signs gather like leaves in the shallow
cellars of diners; a wildcat waits for deer

on the roof of a car. Blacktop buckled by frost
starts goldenrod from the highway. Fat honey bees
meander among raspberries, where a quarrel
of vines crawls into the spilled body of a plane.

from Old and New Poems (Ticknor & Fields, 1990)

Today, the Poetry Friday Round-Up is being held at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup. Stop by!

July 8, 2009

This Deserves a Closer Look

I've been doing a little research on Massachusetts history and I came upon the name Shadrach Minkins. Minkins was a slave who escaped from Virginia and made his way north to Boston around 1850. He got work there as a waiter.

With the passage of a more stringent Fugitive Slave Law, in 1850, federal agents were allowed to seize escaped "property." An older Fugitive Slave Act passed by George Washington in 1793, left enforcement up to individual states. In states like Massachusetts, which had outlawed slavery, enforcement was ignored.

So, with the new law in effect, federal agents captured Minkins at his place of employment and took him to the court house. Boston abolitionists made their way past guards, into the courtroom, and carried him away. After being hidden in an attic, Minkins was taken to Canada by way of the Underground Railroad.

That's the condensed version of the story. I hope to learn more some day--I'll add it to my list of "things to look into." If anyone else finds the story intriguing, there's this book on the subject, Shadrach Minkins: From Fugitive Slave to Citizen by Gary L. Collison, published by Harvard U. Press.

July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

I hope you all have a wonderful day! Here are photos from the Library of Congress taken in the 1910s that show us Independence Day parades in New York. It's a lovely example of the diversity of America. Enjoy!

This one is a little hard to read, it's "Japan (Wasada ball team)"

The following ones are from 1922 and were taken in Tacoma Park (the state is not listed, so it could be in a number of states).

July 3, 2009

Poetry Friday--How I Find a Poem

Let me tell you about the way I look for poetry. I go to the poetry section at the library and pull a book from the shelf. I open it at random and start flipping through the pages. If the poems are all long, if there are no white spaces, I shut the book and pull another off the shelf.

I had my fill of long, dense poems, in college. After I graduated, I stopped reading poetry. I had had enough of "What is the theme?" "How does the poet use metaphor?"

I eventually found my way back through children's poetry. Children's poets say what they have to say then close their mouths and move on. No overblown language, no hidden meanings, no extended metaphors, etc. Clear, concise, playful, understandable!

Now, I look for big-people poets who have a talent for clear, concise, playful, and understandable writing. I don't want to have to unravel a literary allusion, or read a poem that is eight pages long, so I go for short. If I find a short poem, I'll stop and read it. If it speaks to me, then I'll read more from the poet. Perhaps it's because I'm easily distracted, or maybe it's pure laziness, but it works for me!

Yes, I admit I may miss out on some outstanding longer poems. So be it. I've never claimed to be well-read!

Today, I'd like to share the following with you, from the late Jane Kenyon. It's one of those poems that make you say, with great satisfaction, "Ah, yes."

Finding A Long Gray Hair

I scrub the long floorboards
in the kitchen, repeating
the motions of other women
who have lived in this house.
And when I find a long gray hair
floating in the pail,
I feel my life added to theirs.

This week's Poetry Friday Round-Up is taking place at Tabatha A. Yeatts.

Have a great 4th of July weekend!