Friday, April 18, 2014

William Blake Talking to the Angels: Easter & National Poetry Month

Fourviere crypte agneau pascal
(By Lucien Bégule (Photo Thierry Wagner) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a3/Fourviere_crypte_agneau_pascal.jpg)

William Blake, British artist and poet from 1757-1827, said he talked to the angels from the time he was a youth.  Once he told others that he could "see a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars" (Alexander Gilchrist, Life of William Blake: Pictor Ignotus, 2 volumes, London: Macmillan, 1863; enlarged, 1880).

He poured his visions into poetry and art, combining the two into what he called "illuminated writing." The Poetry Foundation describes the process:  "Blake's technique was to produce his text and design on a copper plate with an impervious liquid. The plate was then dipped in acid so that the text and design remained in relief. That plate could be used to print on paper, and the final copy would be then hand colored." 

His poems from Songs of Innocence are often anthologized for school students. They may be easy enough to read, but contain layers of meaning.

For this Easter weekend, I'll feature one of those, which happens to be one of my favorites.

(Public Domain, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Songs_of_Innocence_copy_B_1789_Library_of_Congress_object_29_The_Lamb.jpg)

The Lamb

LITTLE lamb, Who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee,
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,        
Softest clothing woolly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
  Little lamb, Who made thee?
  Dost thou know who made thee?       
Little lamb, I’ll tell thee:
Little lamb, I’ll tell thee:
He is callèd by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek and he is mild,       
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are callèd by his name.
  Little lamb, God bless thee!
  Little lamb, God bless thee!

British composer, Sir John Tavener, set Blake's words to this haunting music:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!” 
(Revelation 5:13)


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fiddle a Happy Tune: National Poetry Month

Apple Blossoms (4532239974)
By John Fowler from Placitas, NM, USA (Apple Blossoms  Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AApple_Blossoms_(4532239974).jpg

I regularly play in children's poet, David L. Harrison's Word of the Month poem challenge. Each month, Harrison posts a word, and anyone is welcome to write and post a poem using that word. This month's word is BLOSSOM, fitting for many places in April, but not here yet!

Here's my attempt:

At the Old-Time Fiddler Competition:
Junior-Junior Division, Round 2

Waiting in the wings
For her turn in Round Two,
She tried not to tap her booted toes
To “Old Joe Clark,”
A classic her main competitor mastered
Technically.
But she knew she’d turned hearts
In Round One
With “Ashokan Farewell”
When a judge dabbed his eyes
With his blue bandana.

Name called, she stepped forward
And announced, “Apple Blossoms,”
Lifted her fiddle and made melody
That could coax a fruit tree to bloom
With sweetness
In time.

Fiddle contests take place across the country with categories for all ages. Here are the Dillion Junior Fiddlers playing "Old Joe Clark:"

and a young champion fiddler playing "Apple Blossoms:"

What kind of tune says "spring" to you?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hai-KOOL! National Poetry Month

Spring has been slow to arrive where I live, so instead of whining I decided to try writing a couple of haikus about the situation. I am calling them "hai-kools" for the weather they represent. Check out another playful form of haiku on Laura Purdie Salas' blog, where she is writing a riddle-ku a day for National Poetry Month.

Our dog, Watson, is always an inspiration.


wrestling with snowflakes
snapping them out of the air
Watson wins a round.


impending snowstorm
laughs at April calendar.
"Take that, Spring!" it says.



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Wind! Happy National Poetry Month

Wind Swept Trees at Carskiey. - geograph.org.uk - 255753
Steve Partridge [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

When you live on the prairie, wind is constant and inevitable. Some days are windier than others, but it's seldom completely still. And when it is, just like caring for toddlers, you'd better watch out.

In early elementary school, I memorized the poem "Who Has Seen the Wind" by Christina Rossetti, and I have recited it many times since. It's one of those poems that is easy to learn and easy for me to relate to.

Since we have just endured a late blizzard with exceedingly strong winds, and April 1 begins the celebration of National Poetry Month, I thought this poem is fitting for today. Read the text here. And take a moment to enjoy the spring breeze here:



What are your favorite weather poems?

Happy National Poetry Month! Happy Spring!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Seeking Answers to Life's Great Questions

Blue question mark
(Salazar210 at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons)

"The unexamined life is not worth living," declared Socrates. And most people do spend at least a little time pondering life's great questions.  "What is my purpose in life?" "What is true love?" You know. Those questions.

The Thinker, Auguste Rodin
(By Karora (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)


I recently read Lorna Landvik's Welcome to the Great Mysterious. Geneva, a Broadway diva, returns home to Minnesota to take care of her thirteen-year-old nephew with Down Syndrome while her sister and brother-in-law take an overseas vacation. In her sister's house, she makes a great find--a box containing The Great Mysterious. Now, it's not too much of a spoiler to tell you what the great mysterious is. It is a scrapbook created by Geneva and her sister when they were kids at their family cabin. Written out of boredom, it bore precious wisdom as they returned to it years later.

(By La Melodie, http://www.flickr.com/photos/melodyyys/6180032531/http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)

In the Christian calendar, it's Lent, the time before Easter set aside for self-examination. Maybe it's time to create your own Great Mysterious with a group of friends or family, especially in a reunion or retreat setting. On one page, write one of life's big questions. Glue a pocket on that page and put some blank strips of paper in it. Or leave blank slips of paper and a pen near the scrapbook. Then as people wander by, they see the question and write their answer on the paper, and put it in the pocket. Later, around a campfire or coffee table, read the answers and see where the discussion takes you.

(By Brett Jordan, http://www.flickr.com/photos/x1brett/11654753993/,http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)

What questions would you ask? Whose answers would mean the most to you?


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cozy up to a Good Mystery

(photo by OokamiKasumi, http://ookamikasumi.deviantart.com/art/Fireplace-157530084)

Driving to a work site two hours away in a ground blizzard, I was thankful to reach my destination safely and check into my motel. The lobby fireplace was flanked by wingback chairs and bookshelves. "That looks cozy," I said at the check-in desk.

In my room, I enjoyed another kind of cozy--a mystery novel. The definition of a cozy mystery varies, but it usually includes an amateur female sleuth. Her occupation gives her skills that she uses to solve the mystery. These books are usually set in a small town with the usual small town goings on--but no sex!

My cozy in this case was debut novel Debits and Credits by Lyn Fraser. Fraser used the axiom "write what you know," and fortunately, she knows a lot! As a Texan and Coloradan, a teacher, business woman, hospice chaplain, spiritual writer, and golfer, Fraser gave Grace Edna Edge many of those traits. Grace's occupation is an unusual one--forensic accounting. In this book, Grace snoops into the sudden death of her aunt's friend on behalf of her aunt and the deceased's nephew. As usual in these books, the police are skeptical of Grace's suspicions, but one detective is interested in finding out more--about Grace herself. Fraser populates the book with a gamut of characters from all walks of life to make an interesting story containing laugh-out-loud lines. I hope this is the first of a series.

( By Club-oracle (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

True confession: I have to be in a "cozy" mood to enjoy these, as there often seems to be so much "side story" (those small town goings on) that the main action sometimes seems shoved into the background. Other cozies I have liked include the Goldy the Caterer series by Diane Mott Davidson, the Hannah Swenson series by Joanna Fluke, and the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter by Susan Wittig Albert.

(photo by Mark Larson, http://www.flickr.com/photos/marklarson/6826864102/, Creative Commons)

Full disclosure: Lyn Fraser is a friend who kindly gave me her book for Christmas. Would I have liked the book anyway? Yes, I would! Grace Edge seems to lean more toward the Edge than the Grace, which leads to laughs. She is also smart and unafraid.

What cozies do you like? With or without a fireplace?


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Solstice



It's Winter Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere--the shortest day, and this year, a very cold one. It's 2 degrees F as I type this. I join many of you in being thankful that the days will start getting longer. Gimme sunshine!

To mark the occasion, I share with you a poem based on riding the school bus to school for 6 years through the countryside.



A Rural Ride

Cold winter mornings,
The yellow school bus
bumps along gravel roads,
loading children,
one farmstead at a time.
The sun pinks the sky,
Sheens the snow,
Steams the lake.
In the pastures, cattle’s breath

Rises like prayers.

copyright 2013, Jane Heitman Healy, all rights reserved


(photo by ed_needs_a_bicycle http://www.flickr.com/photos/omcoc/8315302454/)

Please share your winter memories in the comments section!

This poem also lives on poet David L. Harrison's Word of the Month blog, where everyone is invited to try writing and posting a poem based on a word that changes each moth. Come and play! 

(Internet Explorer 11 seems to have hijacked my Thanksgiving post. If any of you have experience in dealing with IE11 and blogger, let me know. So, I'm trying this on Chrome and hoping for a better result.)