Friday, March 27, 2015

Poetry Friday: Looking Forward to National Poetry Month

Thanks to Jone at Check it Out for hosting Poetry Friday this week!

* * * * *
Wednesday, April 1st marks the beginning of this year’s National Poetry Month! I look forward to April each year and the poetry-related festivities that abound throughout the month. It is a wonderful time to revisit familiar poems and poets, discover new favorites, and celebrate poets and poems around the world.
Each year, the Academy of American Poets publishes a poster to promote National Poetry Month. I absolutely love this year’s poster, which was designed by Roz Chast and features a line from Mark Strand’s poem, “Eating Poetry”:
 

Here are some great resources to help celebrate this year’s National Poetry Month:
The Academy of American Poets

Education Place

Edutopia

Reading Rockets

readwritethink

Scholastic

School Library Journal

During National Poetry Month this year, I plan to explore “new to me” poems and poetic forms. How will YOU celebrate? Happy Writing!

Friday, March 13, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: Spring is finally here… right?

          Thanks to Laura at Author Amok for hosting Poetry Friday this week!

* * * * *
For Poetry Friday today, I wrote a haiku to celebrate spring’s long awaited arrival in my little corner of the world. Just in the last week, blooms have begun to peek out here and there, and birds are suddenly everywhere. We’ve had a few false starts lately, though, so I hope spring is here for real this time!

Free at Last

Spring pings from flower to tree,
A bouncing wild child,
Free from Winter’s grip.
 
 
Any day now, the first peach blossoms will pop out around here. I look forward to this every year!
Thanks to FreeBigPictures.com for this beautiful image.

I hope you’re enjoying YOUR first taste of spring, as well! Happy Writing!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Reflections on France

My poor little blog has been a bit neglected over the last month or so, but I have been busy writing, revising, reading, and playing catch-up on several different projects. I can’t believe it is already mid March! Time really does fly…

Since I’ve returned home from France, several friends have asked for my top three impressions from my trip. Just for fun, I thought I’d share them here (I promise—all of this does have something to do with writing☺). 

First of all, I have decided that everything tastes better in France! Seriously, EVERYTHING—from simple bread and butter to meals made with super fresh ingredients straight from the butcher, bakery, or farm. I enjoyed lots of great food while I was away, but one of my favorite meals was the Beef Bourguignon that my friend’s husband made for dinner one night. It was amazing! When I got home, I tried my own version. It was good, but still not as good as what I had in France (click here for an easy Beef Bourguignon recipe). Paired with fresh bread and a good French wine, it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time!

Another culinary highlight was our lunch at a Creperie in Arras.

 
Here I enjoyed a galette (an open-faced buckwheat crepe made with meat and other ingredients) and a wonderful apple cinnamon dessert crepe topped with ice cream and whipped cream. The cappuccino was amazing, as well. Doesn’t this look like the perfect afternoon treat?
 
Another thing that I realized during my trip is there is so much I did not know about the history of northern France, WWI, and WWII. I went through high school and college as a mostly-straight-A student, and thought that I at least knew the basics of French history. I’d also traveled abroad to Europe during college and learned quite a bit then. But it was on this trip that I learned the most about northwest France’s turbulent and often bloody history.

The Nord-Pas-de-Calais (northwest region of France) is bordered on the north by the English Channel and the North Sea, and on the northeast by Belgium. In the south it is bordered by France’s Picardy region. The Nord-Pas-de-Calais encompasses what was once the French part of Flanders, and the old province of Artois. Historically, it has been one of the most coveted sections of land in Europe, and over the years has been fought over by the French, the English, the Austrians, the Spanish, the Dutch, and the Germans, just to name a few. During World Wars I and II, this region saw many bloody battles. Driving around the French countryside, I saw many bunkers, cemeteries, memorials, and even bomb-cratered areas of land that remain as reminders of lives lost. World Wars I and II are not just historical events here, but are still very much a part of the collective memory of this area.
A memorial to fallen soldiers in Arras, France, with fresh flowers.

I enjoyed exploring many of the towns in this area, including Boulonge sur Mer, Lens, Arras, Calais, and the tiny fishing village of  Audreselles, where I stayed. From the beach down the street from my friend's house, you can just catch a glimpse of England's White Cliffs of Dover across the English Channel.
You can just barely see them here...

On this trip, I was reminded once again that the world really is a BIG place, and our individual experience is just a little tick on history’s clock.

I read an interesting fact a few weeks ago: If the history of Earth were compressed to a single year, modern humans would appear on December 31st at about 11:58 p.m. (To read more about this and other interesting time-related facts, click here.)

There is so much more than what we personally know and experience, which is easy to forget in our hectic lives where everything seems so immediate and important. Traveling to new places always reminds me of this, especially when the site I’m visiting is rich in history and has a story behind it, which includes just about everywhere I visited during my trip.

An impromptu stop along our route to Paris towards the end of my visit was one of the highlights of my trip. This explains it better than any words of mine ever could...
 
So what does all of this have to do with writing? Just that every story we write, every poem we compose, every single line is born out of how we experience our world. Whether this experience comes through research, reading, or travel, it plants tiny seeds of inspiration that have the potential to grow into future poems, plots, and characters. 

I am not exactly sure what will come of this for me, but I suspect that somewhere down the line I'll find out. The seeds of inspiration have definitely been planted!

Happy Writing!

Friday, February 13, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: Celebrating Eleanor Farjeon

Thanks to Cathy at Merely Day by Day for hosting Poetry Friday today!
* * * * *
Last week I returned home from a trip to France, where I had a wonderful time visiting friends, sightseeing, and taking in the details of a different culture. I learned so much about the stormy, often tragic history of northwest France, where I was staying, and enjoyed the bread and chocolate immensely! I will share more about my trip later, but today I am happy to rejoin the Poetry Friday party and catch up with my writing friends! ☺

Today just happens to be the birthday of a poet that I admire very much, Eleanor Farjeon, who was born on February 13, 1881. During her career, Farjeon published numerous books, stories, and poems for children and adults, and earned several honors, including the Hans Christian Andersen and Carnegie Medals. One of my personal favorites by Farjeon is “Morning has Broken.” Farjeon was commissioned to write the lyrics for this hymn in 1931 for the hymnbook “Songs of Praise.”
I love this photograph of Ms. Farjeon!
 
Since Valentine’s Day is upon us, I thought today would be a great time to share two poems by Farjeon that celebrate two of her great loves—books and poetry. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!  

Books
by Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965)

What worlds of wonder are our books!
As one opens them and looks,
New ideas and people rise
In our fancies and our eyes.

The room we sit in melts away,
And we find ourselves at play
With some one who, before the end,
May become our chosen friend.

Or we sail along the page
To some other land or age.
Here's our body in the chair,
But our mind is over there.

Each book is a magic box
Which with a touch a child unlocks.
In between their outside covers
Books hold all things for their lovers.



Poetry
by Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965)

What is Poetry? Who knows?
Not a rose, but the scent of the rose;
  Not the sky, but the light in the sky;
Not the fly, but the gleam of the fly;
  Not the sea, but the sound of the sea;
Not myself, but what makes me
 See, hear, and feel something that prose
Cannot: and what it is, who knows.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and Happy Writing!
 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Intentions for the New Year

2015 is rolling right along—I can’t believe it is already January 21st! This year promises to be exciting and fun, but very busy, both personally and writing-wise. In anticipation of this, I’ve been contemplating and prioritizing my commitments, and making adjustments where necessary. I have a tendency to over schedule myself, and I’m hoping to find better balance in 2015.

So besides the writing goals that I have set for this year, I am setting the intention to guard my time more carefully, both my writing time and my family time. This means planning my schedule more mindfully and not cramming too much into one day. I am also working on not saying “yes” so much to commitment requests from others. While volunteering in different capacities is very important to me, “no, thank you” has always been difficult for me to say. But this quote from Carl Sandburg says it best:

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.
Image courtesy of Phaitoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I am heading off on a grand adventure tomorrow and will not be blogging again until February. I hope the rest of your January is calm and cozy! Happy Writing!

Friday, January 16, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: Marjory Wentworth, SC’s Poet Laureate

Thanks to Irene at Live Your Poem for hosting Poetry Friday today!

* * * * * 
Happy (belated) New Year! I am jumping back into Poetry Friday today with a nod to SC’s Poet Laureate, Marjory Wentworth. If you haven’t already heard, this week during Governor Nikki Haley’s second inauguration, Ms. Wentworth was not allowed to read the poem she prepared for the occasion. A rep for Governor Haley cited “time constraints” as the reason. Since it is traditional for our Poet Laureate to write and present a poem for each gubernatorial inauguration, this has caused somewhat of an uproar here in South Carolina (and elsewhere).

Wentworth’s poem, “One River, One Boat,” is a beautiful and intelligent tribute to South Carolina’s unique and often tragic history. Acknowledging past mistakes doesn’t forgive them, but can help move us forward along the path toward healing and progress. But not allowing this voice to be heard pushes us backward a step, instead.

So please read Wentworth’s poem today. I am hoping that this omission will ultimately bring the poem to more readers than if it had been read at the inauguration—wouldn’t that be a happy irony? Wentworth has already been invited to read her poem at the SC NAACP chapter's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march this Monday, January 19th!
One River, One Boat                                                                                                    by Marjory Wentworth
I know there’s something better down the road.
-- Elizabeth Alexander

Because our history is a knot
we try to unravel, while others
try to tighten it, we tire easily
and fray the cords that bind us.

The cord is a slow moving river,
spiraling across the land
in a succession of S’s,
splintering near the sea.

To read the rest of Ms. Wentworth’s poem, click here. And tread more on this topic, check out these articles:
Have a wonderful holiday weekend! Happy Friday, and Happy Writing!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Everything!

This holiday season has passed in the blink of an eye, and once again I am wondering where the time went. Every year I decide that “next year” I’ll cultivate a slower holiday tempo, but then December rushes in and takes over (again). It’s been a fun month, though!

Yesterday, while taking a much-needed break to refocus on writing-related endeavors, I came across this post by fellow writer and blogger Tabatha Yeatts. I recognized a kindred spirit in Tabatha and especially love the poem that she shared, which I am "resharing" below. Thanks so much, Tabatha, for introducing me to this lovely, soothing poem! 
Reflections on a Scottish Christmas
by Johnny Cunningham

 
The dark of winter wraps around us tight.
The lamps are fired, and flickering light
beats time to the fiddle as notes float softly down, like the years' first snow.
While outside the window a blast of late December wind
whistles harmony to the drone of the pipes.
We push the old year back against the wall
so we can dance a jig for Christmas and welcome in the new.
 
 So on this Christmas Eve, I wish you all a little more “Silent Night” and a little less “Fa la la la la.” Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Joyous Kwanzaa, or whatever else you and your loved ones may be celebrating this week! And Happy Writing!