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,

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,

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 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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
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. - - 255753
Steve Partridge [CC-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!