Are you neglecting your blog?

I have been sadly neglecting my blog, but working on other projects — one of which is a picture book for the family about my parents’ lives. Another of which has been reading poetry each morning (and writing one-bad-poem of my own). When I came across this poem by Ted Kooser, I thought of this picture from the family archives.

The Great-Grandparents

As small children, we were taken to meet them.
They had recently arrived from another world
and stood dumbfounded in the busy depot
of the present, their useless belongings in piles:
old tools, old words, old recipes, secrets.
They searched our faces and grasped our hands
as if we could lead them back, but we drew them
forward into the future, feeling them tremble,
their shirt cuffs yellow, smoky old woodstoves
smoldering somewhere under their clothes.

-Ted Kooser (from Kindest Regards: New and Selected Poems; Copper Canyon Press, 2018)

Ted Kooser, The Wheeling Year

Ted Kooser’s The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book has been a favorite on my reading list this year. He doesn’t claim “poetry” for these prose pieces, but they sound like poetry to me. I mean to give the book to a friend, to make a gift of it in all its luscious detail. Instead, I keep carrying it around and not giving it, rereading and writing out these meditative pieces in my own notebook.

Here is one from February:

Maybe we carry too much through the door from the past, propped open with a broom that has swept up so much sentiment it has bent to the shape of its sweeping — like a stiff old floor-length skirt still waltzing — then across the wide porch where those we love, living and dead, sit rocking and talking, all drinking longnecks and laughing together, none of them offering help.

Then over the grass, box after box, to the rented U-Haul that is our life, already stuffed with all we haven’t been able to part with, stale with dead dreams and packed so hastily we will never be able to get to the wisdom we lugged out early and loaded on first.

Twenty-nine dollars a day is the going rate, about what a person could live on if he had to, and the past is right there in the rearview mirror, following close, painted with slogans, its springs bent down from all we ever were. (8)

Wendell Berry

At his recent Seattle reading, poet Ted Kooser suggested that we read about 100 poems for every one we write. I decided I would try to take that seriously. Well, somewhat seriously, and I have been reading poems every morning, even while working on the novel.

Here’s one of the poems I read today — “The Peace of Wild Things,” by Wendell Berry. To hear it, go to this link:

Day 30: The Last Day

“Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what would be wrong with a world in which everybody were writing poems? After all, there’s a significant service to humanity in spending time doing no harm. While you’re writing your poem, there’s one less scoundrel in the world. And I’d like a world, wouldn’t you, in which people actually took time to think about what they were saying? It would be, I’m certain, a more peaceful, more reasonable place. I don’t think there could ever be too many poets. By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say ‘We loved the earth but could not stay.’” 
― Ted KooserThe Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets

from POETRYisEVERYTHING (abbreviated):

THE PROMPT for Wednesday April 30th, 2014

Prompt 30 – Something old, something borrowed, something blue — Our poem will be 8 to 12 lines. Every other line (lines 2, 4, 6 and 8 and possibly 10 and 12) will be brand new lines that you write. One or more of these lines will include something blue.

For lines 1, 3, 5, 7, and possibly, 9 and 11 use lines from two to three of the poems you have written in the last 30 days.

This is what I came up with (tinkered with it a little, losing the 2, 4, etc. organization):


Emma, Playing the Guitar

As a child I fell in love with words, pleats
and plaits, with words like implicate

which means braided into. Words
unfurling, an ocean that my streams ran to,

or out of, like my parents’ shelves of books,
my logger father reading aloud Emily Dickinson and Rudyard Kipling.

Tonight my youngest daughter practices her guitar,

in love with music, making me listen to a blue e-minor chord,
trellises of music like trellises of wisteria,

a wicker chair under a skylight, a scent
of gardenias and lilacs, the heavy bees thrumming.

Bout, fret, strings, saddle and bridge, soundhole, neck.

And her name, a word I’ve counted on
to make the world make sense.