Ten of my favorite poems – a challenge

My friend Sally Allen at BoooksInK challenged her readers recently to produce a list of their ten favorite poems. I thought this would be simple, but when it came right down to it, I found it hard to choose. Still, I did, and this post explains my choices, since I notice that I chose them for various reasons that include: if I ever learned one by heart, if it says something about a certain time in my life, if it makes me laugh, if it makes me cry…so many reasons. Anyway here they are:

1.      Some one by Walter de la Mare

This may be the first poem I learned as a little girl. It’s a great poem for kids, because the metre, repetition and rhyme make it easy to remember. And it tells a story with a mystery at its heart. It’s got everything.

2.      The Lady of Shallott by Alfred, Lord Tennysonshalottcircle

This poem I love because it reminds me of my mother, who knew parts of it by heart and would recite it in lieu of a bedtime story. It’s very visual and the parts she remembered were about how the Lady, imprisoned in the Tower of Shallott, becomes desperate. Good stuff.

3.      Morning has broken by Eleanor Farjeon

Who couldn’t like this one? I know it’s a hymn, but it’s also a poem, and it makes me happy to recite it to myself. Or sing it, Or listen to Cat Stevens sing it. All good.

4.      I remember, I remember by Thomas Hood

006_2We had a wonderful cleaning lady who used to teach me poems as I followed her around while she tidied the house. I must have been a pest, but she never complained. This is a very sentimental poem, but it meant something to me when my grandparents’ house by the sea (see left), where I was born and spent my summer holidays, was sold. Mrs Ryder taught me another one but I can only remember the title and the first 4 lines. Harry and the Cake: Run off to school, Harry/Why do you wait?/ Nine o’clock striking/And you will be late.

5.      When icicles hang by the wall by William Shakespeare (from Love’s Labours Lost)

This I learned in high school, and it’s so very evocative of the perishing cold winters we’ve been having recently that I’ve remembered it again. It cheers me (somewhat) to know that winters were hard four hundred years ago, too.

6.      The Conway Stewart by Seamus Heaney

This is a poem about a pen, the brand name – Conway Stewart. I had a fountain pen in high school, because we had to write everything by hand. I think my favorite was a Waterman, because they were also my mother’s favorite, but I went through more than one including Parker and the eponymous Conway Stewart. Hopeless show-off, I used turquoise ink, which if it ever leaked, was a disaster because it wouldn’t wash out, unlike the Royal blue washable used by sensible people.

7.      Granchester by Rupert Brooker brooke

Another sentimental poem. Written just before World War 1, in which the poet died (unsentimentally, of dysentery). Rupert Brooke was beautiful to look at, and I read him at an age when romance was all. The poem ends with the famous lines: Stands the Church clock at ten to three?/And is there honey still for tea? In the late sixties, British comedian Peter Sellars wrote and performed a fake travelogue: Balham  – Gateway to the South. (Balham was a very boring suburb of London.) The final lines are: Stands the Church clock at ten to three?/And is there honey still for tea? To which a waitress replies: Sorry honey’s off, dear. (Meaning there wasn’t any.) Perhaps you had to be there…

8.      Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

On a much more serious note, this poem, written by Wilfred Owen was a devastating indictment of World War 1. Owen was killed just before the end of this war, and we studied the war poets in High school. The impact on me was extraordinary. When I won a prize for English they asked me which book I’d like and I chose Men Who March Away. At about the same time, the BBC was showing a 26 part series called The Great War. Using archival film footage and interviews with the survivors, they retold the story. As a child in the fifties, my sisters and I would see the veterans sitting in wheelchairs outside the Star and Garter Home in Richmond. My mother would explain that they had been gassed in World War 1 and would have to live there all their lives. I have never been able to look at war with any shred of romanticism since then.

9.      The Lanyard Billy Collins

Back to the cheerful. When I first heard Billy Collins reciting his poem, I was entranced by the deadpan way he managed to capture a relationship between a boy and his mother. It’s funny and serious. Just listen to it.

10.  Mrs Icarus by Carol Ann Duffy

icarus

As for this, it’s only five lines, but it makes me laugh out loud. A pillock, for my American readers, is a fool. Surely I’m too young to be cynical? Helena Bonham Carter reads it with aplomb.

Are any of these your favorites?

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A Tangerine tangle of subjects for you

I promise this is the last of the promos for Tangerine Tango, the bright orange little book that all your friends are hoping to get for Christmas. (They may not know that they want it, yet, but the minute they see that you’ve bought it for them…) All the proceeds from sales (not just a measly 10%) are going to help fund research into Huntington’s Disease, so you can feel virtuous about each copy you buy.

This last set of extracts is pretty much a catch-all. Hope you enjoy them. You know where to find the rest of each article!

Stacey Caron is an antiques dealer and appraiser in New Jersey. She happens to love cooking and has her own blog devoted to food. She writes about traveling abroad via recipes and gives a wonderful recipe for a tart from Seville, Spain.

I love to travel.  Every night I travel to Italy, Spain and France – via my computer.  I guess you can call me an “armchair traveler”. I could tell you every good hotel in Piedmont and fabulous château in Bordeaux. What airline flies direct from New York to Milan and how many miles between Paris and Provence via the high-speed train.

I am always planning my next vacation, years in advance. Though we only take 1 trip a year, I make it worthwhile. I do as much research as possible, using  Google maps, best places to eat, neighborhoods, Tripadvisor, Yelp reviews, word of mouth, blogs, etc. In the end, it makes for a memorable vacation.

Try it. French, Italian or Spanish.  Open a good bottle of wine from the region, a cheese from the same region and make a simple recipe from that same place, and for an evening you are transported to somewhere special. 

I have just saved you a lot of money on airfare.

Judy Ackerly Brown works at a retreat center in North Carolina, and writes about nature:

There’s a new type of therapy called Green therapy or Eco-therapy. The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. Even the name sounds soothing.

Green therapy is said to help children with ADHD, reduce stress and pain, increase immunity and even help nursing home patients who suffer from dementia-type anxiety.

I find this concept ironic but affirming. It is so basic. Our ancestral hunter-gatherer relatives are probably shaking their heads in disbelief, Fresh air and absorbing nature is now a therapy!

Barbara Chapman is one of life’s survivors, having beaten cancer and lived with MS for years. She works at a hospice in Connecticut, and thinks it’s the best job ever.

I have the dream job. I work for Hospice.

I immerse myself into the life of someone who is in the process of making that final surrender and immerse myself in the lives of the loved ones gathered bedside; haggard, sleep deprived, and in tremendous emotional pain.

I am often asked how I could do this kind of work because it is so sad.  I tell them. Yes, it’s sad but also  a time of great honesty and vulnerability. I am invited into the tight circle of a family when they are spent. No one cares what they look like; no one remembers when they last ate. I plunge into the midst of it. It is an honor.

Take Merrill. He is listening to his favorite country western singer, Johnny Cash. In the final stages of Huntington’s Chorea,  Merrill’s body flails around in his bed uncontrollably. I sit beside him and initiate the same conversation I have had with him for several weeks. He doesn’t recognize me, so the conversation is always new. “Merrill”, I say, “Is it true that you were a paratrooper in the Korean War?”

 Leah Singer is a writer and blogger. You can read her other work on her blog, Leah’s Thoughts, but here’s something from the pieces she wrote for Tangerine Tango:

It has been a year since my husband , Bryan, and I said “I do.” It was a beautiful wedding. We stood under a chuppah adorned with flowers and there was just enough of a breeze to keep the July evening from becoming too warm.

While the wedding was certainly lovely, getting to the chuppah was not an easy task. Especially because Bryan and I were an interfaith couple looking to plan a wedding that was welcoming to our families and held to our own religious beliefs.

I was raised in what I would call a culturally Jewish family, but certainly not religious. We celebrated the Jewish holidays at home but never went to synagogue. As I grew older and went to college, Judaism became much more important to me and I began to seek out ways to bring it into my life. Bryan’s family was Catholic, and like me acknowledged holidays and little else.

 

Give a Tangerine for Hanukkah: 4

I’m still showcasing the writing in Tangerine Tango, the nifty little book edited by Lisa Winkler and perfect for a small gift during the holiday season. Since Hanukkah gift-giving is largely about children these two selections are on that subject.

Dawn Quyle Landau blogs at Tales from the Motherland and lives near the sea in the Pacific Northwest. Her daughter lives a long way away, and here’s some of Dawn’s article on that topic…

Kids are wired to grow up and shake the tree, right?  

So when our daughter threw us a curve ball, it was bound to be something truly noteworthy.  It was; and it all comes back to Israel. Yep, that tiny country that everyone seems to fight about is where my girl got interrupted. It’s where our solid relationship took a hard right. First, she went on a two-week trip with Birthright, the winter of her freshman year at college. There, she fell in love with an Israeli man. She returned the following summer and fell in love with the country… And then she fell deeply in love with her faith. Our daughter told us that she was going  to study in Israel her junior year, and she came home deeply immersed in a faith that we barely recognize as our own.  

 My husband, who I’ll call Smart Guy, is Jewish, and we’ve raised all three kids in the Jewish faith, but our faith is the Reformed brand. The watered down, less strict, simpler brand of Judaism, which (I admit) does what’s easiest, while still remaining Jewish.  We raised our kids in a Jewish faith that called for years of Sunday school, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and attendance on the High Holy Holidays.  Our faith leaves room for bacon, Dungeness Crab, driving on Fridays and Saturdays, using light switches, and calling ourselves Jews even though we do all of those things. (More in the book!)

Madeline Taylor is an elementary ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher in Silver Spring, Maryland. The relationship she forged with her siblings as a child is still very strong, as you’ll see…

When I first joined Facebook, I  wrote my  “25 Random Things” list to tell readers more about me. Communicating on the telephone with my siblings came to mind. 

I wrote:

I speak to my sister, Lisa 4 times a day. I speak to my sister, Naomi 4 times a week and I speak to my brother  4 times a year.

I have no animosity toward my brother. Growing up, we were really close. We’re 11 months apart and shared a room until we were 9 and 10, seeing no reason to be separated except other people thought so.

It’s just that as adults and as parents, we seem to have less to talk about  and I have so much more to say to my sisters, especially on the phone.   We can chat about every mundane tidbit of our lives.  We can multi-task while sharing our stories.  We’ll be on the phone while cooking in our respective kitchens, sharing the steps and outcomes of our endeavors, wishing we lived closer for tastings.   We scrub the tub, load the dishwasher, or make a salad without missing a syllable.

 We talk about everything and nothing. I need advice on SAT tutoring for my daughter, Lisa needs to know why her banana cake doesn’t come out like mine, Naomi shares the latest news about her kids and our cousins. (You know where to find the rest…)

 

Give a parent a tangerine for the holidays: 3

My holiday gift shopping is about halfway done, I think. It’s not easy, with six children, six grandchildren and various other people to buy for. But at least I’ve solved the problem of stocking stuffers, hostess gifts and the like. I have a little stack of Tangerines, so I won’t be caught out wondering what to give the person I forgot about. The tangerines are, of course, copies of Tangerine Tango, the lovely little book that contains some of my work. The book’s available at Amazon in either paper or digital form.

I’ve already written about some of the pieces in the book. Today, I’m going to give you a few samples of the articles about parents. We’ve all had them, and no matter how much we vow we’re never going to become them, it’s amazing how often we find ourselves doing or saying something that could only have been learned from them. I expect my own children have occasional moments like that, poor things.

Donna Barry is a blogger, nurse practitioner and cyclist, among other things. Here’s part of her essay about gardening with her dad:

From the time I was old enough to walk I spent my early days following Daddy around the yard. Each summer evening after supper, he’d leave the inside work behind and tend the flowers and garden. Never mind that he’d just spent all day working in someone else’s greenhouse – this was the work he loved. We’d putter in the yard together. I’d follow along while he carried buckets of water, sifted composted soil and scattered pink fertilizer around the stems of young tomato plants. I learned the names of every kind of petunia, marigold and tomato. Big Boy, Early Girl, beefsteak, and cherry tomatoes, all went into the garden behind our greenhouse. Tiny tomato sprigs that Daddy had painstakingly started in our cellar from seeds back in March were now brave little plants that grew into bushes under our care. At the end of our gardening, there would always be time for a wheelbarrow ride, then sitting in Daddy’s lap in the cool darkness of the porch until bedtime.

Today, I no longer grow tomatoes, but I have flowers. Perennial gardens of Black-Eyed Susan, Sedum and Euonymus edge the house and yard…(the rest is in the book…)

Chris Rosen had this to share about her mother(s):

Born in 1908, Gertrude Smith was a flapper. Barely 5’2” tall, her blonde hair was neatly combed into a Marcel wave ending just below her ear. She told me once or twice, that when she was young she was a “rebel.” Her ancestors were Irish coal-miners, who settled in Scranton, PA. She was widowed three times. Although I wasn’t actually raised by my birth mother, I visited her often and eventually at the age of eleven moved into her home. I was her last child, and these are some of the things she taught me.

“Signs are for sheep.” My mother could always find her way in, around, over or under a problem. She encouraged us to think for ourselves, never to take “No” for an answer, and to always hit back harder when faced with a bully. She did not suffer fools at all. When Nell (who was my foster-mother) and my mother first met as teens, she was sporting a black eye. When asked how she got it, Nell said, “Your mother could swear like a sailor.” They didn’t know then that both women would become my mothers.

“I’ll not only walk again, I’ll dance on your grave!” After losing her husband to a brain tumor, and surviving a near-fatal car accident in that same year, 1949, this is what she had to say to her doctors.

There’s much more to read in Tangerine Tango. Just the book to dip into over the holidays, when a refreshing break in someone else’s world can help pep you up!

Give someone a tangerine (and some fudge) for the holidays: 2

As my regular readers know, some of my personal essays and a poem were published recently, along with those of 11 other writers, in a great little book called Tangerine Tango. Great, because it’s the perfect size holiday gift for a hostess, mother, stocking stuffer or just because. So I thought I’d share some of the pieces with you between now and Christmas. The book’s available at Amazon in either paper or digital form.

The writers represented in Tangerine Tango come from different parts of the country and have different outlooks on life, which is what makes this book so much fun. Since the holidays are approaching, I thought I could do worse than to give you a taste (Ho. Ho.) And today’s topic is fudge. At least three of the items in the book mention fudge.

Along with writing her blog, Friend for the Ride: Encouraging Words for the Menopause Roller Coaster, Barbara Younger is the author of 21 books for adults and children. She lives in a 180-year-old house in Hillsborough, North Carolina with her husband Cliff and collections of everything from old toys to hat boxes. Here’s one of her contributions to the book.

Fudge Prayer

Dear God,

I can’t decide if fudge,

Is good or evil.

Cocoa beans, sugar, rich butter,

Confection of good delight

Or calories of evil to the body temple.

The fudge is gone,

Swallowed,

Not unlike the cat and canary.

And now I offer this

Grateful Prayer of Thanksgiving

Or this humble Prayer of Repentance.

Amen and Amen.

You can follow Barbara on Twitter and Facebook.

Patti Winker , author of an online cookbook  Memory Lane Meals tells the story of how she came to own a fudge store, and what happened once she started making fudge:

I learned how to make beautiful pans of fudge.   I made sheets of pecan turtles, lovingly constructing each one with my own hands, decorating each with a little “S” swirl on the chocolate top for “Sweetie’s.”  Chocolate-covered cherries and fudge-filled chocolate cups.  I mixed batch after batch, late at night, and lined them up attractively in the display cases.

Then came the morning,  time to open the shop. And in came the customers.

I couldn’t deal with sending my creations, even if I was paid, away, to be eaten and destroyed.

My husband, in contrast, loved seeing the boxes and bags going out the door every day. He became puzzled at my increasingly sullen mood as business improved.  The more fudge and turtles I sold…(buy the book to read the rest!)

And our editor, Lisa Winkler, included her favorite fudge recipe. (Buy the book etc…)

Bon appetit!