30 April 2011

"News from Poems"

On the last day of National Poetry month:

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
   Yet men die miserably every day
        for lack
of what is found there.

William Carlos William

The wisdom of William Carlos William registers immediately when reading this.  We instinctively know this to be true and it drives me to read and, sometimes in gifted moments, to write poetry. I'm glad we have a month every year to celebrate this great art form and to share inspiration with one another. 

Two places, just in my limited blog world, that offer poetry to startle, delight, and expand are: Ruth at synch-ro-ni-zing and, through the wonders of blog sharing, Ruth introduced me to Terresa at The Chocolate Chip Waffle. Ruth featured Terresa's wonderful poem "Red Shoes" and Terresa featured Ruth's amazing poem, "I Dreamt You Were Eating Dirt" as well as poems of other bloggers. Give yourself a treat and check out these blogs. Then seek out favorites sites for yourself and continue to spread the news because: 
it is difficult
to get the news from poems
   Yet men die miserably every day
        for lack
of what is found there.

29 April 2011


From an Irish Poet during National Poetry month:

A great and important Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, shows in this poem his sharp, accurate description of what he sees and hears that nonetheless brings us, his reader, to a whole other more universal meaning. It's the absolutely gorgeous, astounding delight of poetry that it can accomplish this time and again.


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into the gravely ground:
My father, digging. I look down.

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The course boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney
from: Selected Poems 1966-1987

My husband's cousins live in the west of Ireland, County Clare. Their home backs up to bog land and Aidan still digs turf for winter fires which fill the house with an ancient earthy scent. So this poem rings ancestral chimes for me on the one hand and accurately depicts the sight and sound (the sheer sound of this poem is a delight) of work that's still going on and that I've seen on the other.

But on a another level, I love his reference to his father's and his grandfather's digging "down for the good turf" and his own digging with his pen knowing that as a poet he must dig deep as well. And isn't that our challenge, too?

County Clare bog land and lake.

Turf drying.

27 April 2011

"The Glass and the Bowl"

From a Native American writer during National Poetry month:

I love the writings of Louise Erdrich, a prolific author of novels, including Love Medicine and The Plague of Doves, children's books, including The Birchbark House  and poetry, including Baptism of Desire that contains this lovely poem.

Her poem captures that incomparable fullness of feeling that comes unbidden in precious moments of parenting when "nothing seems withheld" even in the "absence of refuge in the design". Those moments are sweet and we need them.

The Glass and the Bowl

The father pours the milk from his glass
into the cup of the child,
and as the child drinks
the whiteness, opening
her throat to the good taste
eagerly, the father is filled.
He closes the refrigerator
on its light, he walks out
under the bowl of frozen darkness
and nothing seems withheld from him.
Overhead, the burst ropes of stars,
the buckets of craters,
the chaos of heaven, absence
of refuge in the design.
Yet down here, his daughter
in her quilts, under patterns
of diamonds and novas,
full of rich milk,

Louise Erdrich

What sweet moments are you savoring?

25 April 2011

Amazing Grace in Rome

This is a gorgeous version of Amazing Grace sung by four tenors in the Colosseum in Rome. Stay for the middle part which will knock your socks off! That's all- music for your enjoyment and inspiration.

Click here: AMAZING GRACE sang beautifully by four Tenors!

What inspires you these days? 

24 April 2011

Sonnet 18

From a British Poet during National Poetry month:

William Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 is perhaps the most famous of his 154 sonnets.  Reference to the first line pervades our literature and language. Some see this sonnet as a tribute to the power of art or as the appreciation of the transient nature of life and beauty. But the sonnet is also a beautiful tribute to love.

So I dedicate this sonnet to my love, John, to celebrate his birthday and his exquisite love for me, our daughter and our grandchildren. "As long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee." Those who know John know how true this is, his love for family and friends defines him, gives him life.

Give yourself a treat, read this with fresh eyes as if you had never heard it before. Let it delight you.

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometimes declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest:
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

William Shakespeare
(1564 - 1616)

This is quintessential John: piled high with stuffed animals and dolls by our granddaughter for their photo together and he just said "sure".

p.s. Buona Pasqua (Happy Easter)!

22 April 2011

Happy Earth Day

I was puttering on my balcony today, talking to my plants and herbs and re-potting a holly tree I gave my husband at his birthday request. She's a lovely lass. So many of the blogs I follow were lamenting the tardiness of Spring this year. So I want to share a glimpse of things to come, from my little corner of the earth. They make me happy and I hope tending them makes earth happy.

Rosemary made it through the winter and is bigger and more beautiful than ever. She's on tonight's roasted potatoes.

These open in the sun and close at night or when sun goes in. My neighbor loves that!

We're harvesting herbs daily. Dill on tomatoes with fresh mozzarella is my favorite. Mint, which made it through the winter well, goes in the sun tea. Celery is about to become soup stock.

The lavender made it through the winter as well and is thriving again. Hot peppers next to it then jasmine.

This is called rucola here and I put it on my sandwich or salad every day, also yummy on pizza.

Gardenia laden with buds before it blooms.

Holly, the lovely new family member, She'll fill up that corner nicely. Did you know holly can be male or female? Maybe I'll get her some company.

…Ah, to understand how to bloom: then would the heart be carried beyond all milder dangers, to be consoled in the great one.

from: "How to Bloom"

What green things are you doing today?

21 April 2011


From an American poet during National Poetry month:

Mary Oliver is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet whose poetry is both accessible and profound. She starts with the very specific in front of her and ends up talking in such a way that I'm swept up into her vision knowing it's about what I know too but challenging me to move a little further


If I envy anyone it must be
My grandmother in a long ago
Green summer, who hurried
Between kitchen and orchard on small
Uneducated feet, and took easily
All shining fruits into her eager hands.

That summer I hurried too, wakened
To books and music and circling philosophies.
I sat in the kitchen sorting through volumes of answers
That I could not solve the mystery of the trees.

My grandmother stood among her kettles and ladles.
Smiling, in faulty grammar,
She praised my fortune and urged my lofty career.
So, to please her I studied- But I will remember always
How she poured confusion out, how she cooled and labeled
All the wild sauces of the brimming year.

Mary Oliver
from: New and Selected Poems, Volume One

I love this tribute to the importance of grandmothers. How we can "pour confusion out" for our grands, "how we cool and label all the wild sauces of the brimming year." What a great description of the role we can play!

19 April 2011

Johnny Be Good

Last night I went to a little local pub called, of all things, Johnny Be Good, in Silvi Marina, the community next to us here in Italy.  Z Z King was the group appearing, singing the blues with all their hearts and inviting their friends up onto the stage to jam with them. It was wall to wall people, the crowd loved this group and the music was great, hand clapping, toe tapping fun.

But what I noticed more that anything else was just the sheer physicality of the folks there. Italians are such physical people. People come in, hug, kiss each other on both cheeks, look each other in the eye, stand and talk for awhile, stroke each others hair or face or back while talking. This is men greeting men, women greeting women, men greeting women, women greeting men, old greeting young, young greeting old. When they part, the kissing starts again and the lingering, the taking time to separate as if they're reluctant. Good-byes stretch out.

Because it was my first time there and I knew only one other person besides my husband, I had a chance to really observe for the evening, in between foot stomping and cheering for the musicians. As an American, the cultural difference was startling.  It seemed such an elemental way to contact one another, to connect with one another. I saw their pleasure in each others company and their freedom to express it. This is a good way to live. A way of simple pleasures.

And then, when it was time to leave, my friend, who hadn't seen us since the summer, invited my husband and me to walk with him to his apartment a short distance away so he could give us some of his favorite cheese and some pasta sauce his mother had just made. He hugged us, kissed us on both cheeks, talked of events coming up where we might meet, told us how his wife and son were, took a long time to say good-bye, seemed like he was reluctant to have us leave. I felt special. I have a lot to learn and I like this way of learning.

What are you learning these days?

14 April 2011

"Love After Love"

From a West Indian poet during National Poetry month:

Derek Walcott was born in St. Lucia and now lives in Trinidad where my daughter and her family lives. My favorite poem of his is one I've treasured for a long time. It gave me hope that I could be found when I felt lost and then it gave me back my heart when I was in need of that gift. I've loved it ever since and it means more to me each tine I read it. It's wise.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door,
in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread.
Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott
From Collected Poems 1948-1984

Has a poem ever helped you through a tough time?

13 April 2011

" The Necessity for Irony"

From an Irish Poet during National Poetry Month:

Another of my favorite poets is Eavan Boland, an Irish poet who writes about myth, history but also her life and the experiences we all have. She writes in a fresh way that makes things, nonetheless, familiar.

The Necessity for Irony

On Sundays,
when the rain held off,
after lunch or later,
I would go with my twelve year old
daughter into town
and put down the time
at junk sales, antique fairs.

There I would
lean over tables,
absorbed by lace, wooden frames,
glass. My daughter stood
at the other end of the room,
her flame colored hair
obvious whenever-
which was not often-

I turned around.
I turned around.
She was gone.
Grown. No longer ready
to come with me, whenever
a dry Sunday
held out it's promises
of small histories. Endings.

When I was young
I studied styles: their use
and origin. Which age
was known for which
ornament: and was always drawn
to a lyric speech, a civil tone.
But never thought
I would have the need,
as I do now, for a darker one:

Spirit of irony,
my caustic author
of the past, of memory,-
and of it's pain, which returns
hurts, stings-reproach me now,
remind me
that I was in those rooms,
with my child,
with my back turned to her,
searching- oh irony!-
for beautiful things.

Eavan Boland
From The Lost Land

This reminds me to cherish each moment of now less I search for beautiful things and miss what's most important in my life.

Dedicated to my daughter.

12 April 2011

New Awning, New Room

After the profound poetry I've been re-reading for postings this month, something simple and wonderful happened. Our balcony faces south so the good news is it has sun all day. On hot days, some of which we've been conjuring up lately, it's too hot to sit out mid-day. But, last week our local Home Depot type of store had a special on awnings and one of them coordinated beautifully with our apartment colors and my next door neighbor and I decided to buy one each.

The men came today to put it up and I love it! It provides just the right shade to use the balcony for all three meals and projects and lounging and reading, etc. So one awning provides a whole new room. That's all from my little corner of Italy. Nothing heavy, deep or real just a new way to enjoy my life here. Simple pleasures, wonderful enough in their own right.

10 April 2011

"The Wild Iris"

From an American Poet during National Poetry Month:

Louise Gluck is one of my favorite poets. One I go to when I want to enter a new world, want to see things in a new way or to be amazed and delighted. My copy of one of her books, The Wild Iris, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1993, is worn by my many returns to it's pages. The signature poem of this remarkable series is entitled "The Wild Iris" and, like all the poems in the book, speaks in the voice of the flower.

The Wild Iris

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Here me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.

Louise Gluck

How remarkable to see the world through the eyes of an iris, to hear its descriptions of the world, to recognize its wisdom.

08 April 2011

"I Said to Poetry"

From an African American author during National Poetry month:

I Said to Poetry

I said to Poetry: "I'm finished
with you."
Having to almost die
before some wierd light
comes creeping through
is no fun.
"No thank you, Creation,
no muse need apply.
Im out for good times--
at the very least,
some painless convention."
Poetry laid back
and played dead
until this morning.
I wasn't sad or anything,
only restless.

Poetry said: "You remember
the desert, and how glad you were
that you have an eye
to see it with? You remember
that, if ever so slightly?"
I said: "I didn't hear that.
Besides, it's five o'clock in the a.m.
I'm not getting up
in the dark
to talk to you."

Poetry said: "But think about the time
you saw the moon
over that small canyon
that you liked so much better
than the grand one--and how suprised you were
that the moonlight was green
and you still had
one good eye
to see it with

Think of that!"

"I'll join the church!" I said,
huffily, turning my face to the wall.
"I'll learn how to pray again!"

"Let me ask you," said Poetry.
"When you pray, what do you think
you'll see?"

Poetry had me.

"There's no paper
in this room," I said.
"And that new pen I bought
makes a funny noise."

"Bullshit," said Poetry.
"Bullshit," said I.

Written by Alice Walker

Alice Walker is a wise woman and a poet/ writer who understands the world around and within her. You know what she's saying, don't you? But, April is the month that celebrates the taking of pen to paper (or cursor to screen) so that poetry can say to us: "think about the time…" and we do and we capture it.

Do you write poetry?

06 April 2011

Eat Locally

Barbara Kingsolver's first non-fiction book: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year Of Food Life is a great read that really made me think. It presents her disturbing research about the current state of the food industry and chronicles her family's year of eating food grown either in their own garden, in their neighborhood, or doing without it. Revolutionary concept these days and not easy, as her book describes. But she also shows it can be delicious fun. She includes favorite family recipes with most chapters. 

Turns out that eating locally is not only good for our bodies but good for our planet since it uses less fuel to get to our plate and maintains diversity. Farmer's markets are plentiful here in Italy (ours is on Wednesdays) and in most States as well. Our stalls carry the veggies and fruits picked that day by our local farmers and sold by them or their family. They sell direct, I know their name, I hug the woman who calls "Bella, Bella" as I approach. The food is fresh, I can get cooking suggestions or recipes, the food is abundant. 

Local food is different, more diverse, not just chosen for its ability to survive long distances. For example, delicate edible flowers or a tomato that looks like a little soft green pumpkin but is the yummiest, juiciest, tastiest tomato ever! The older women selling them swoon over them and get me over my American reluctance to buy tomatoes that aren't red and I buy them and then get oh, so rewarded with every caprese sandwich or salad I eat. Local food hasn't had to survive long trips from wherever during which time all its nutrients fall out. It still has its nutrients. It's food not just food cadavers. 

Do you know where your food comes from? Who has grown it? Have you been surprised or delighted by your food lately? Wouldn't you like to be?

Then, delight your senses, make your body healthier, support local farmers, save the environment and heal the planet. Eat locally grown food.

Do you have a farmers' markets in your area?

04 April 2011

Spring Gratitude

Poems added for National Poetry month

I thank you God for this most amazing day, 
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, 
and for the blue dream of sky 
and for everything which is natural, 
which is infinite, which is yes. 

~ e. e. cummings

These photos are from a trip this weekend to friends in Arsita, Italy up into the Apenine Mountains on a perfect Spring day.

Gran Sasso

Winding Mountain Road

New Green on Old Stone

Peach Tree Blooms

Daisies in Ancient Cobblestones

Tile Roofs and Mountains

Spring Clouds on Gran Sasso

Threshold of Spring

Harshness gone. All at once caring spreads over
the naked gray of the meadows.
Tiny rivulets sing in different voices.
A softness, as if from everywhere,

is touching the earth.
Paths appear across the land and beckon.
Surprised once again you sense
its coming in the empty tree.

(Uncollected Poems)

Taken  from A Year With Rilke 

posted  today 

by Lorenzo and Ruth.

01 April 2011


To celebrate National Poetry month


And you wait. You wait for the one thing
that will change your life,
make it more than it is--
something wonderful, exceptional,
stones awakening, depths opening to you.

In the dusky bookstalls
old books glimmer gold and brown.
You think of lands you journeyed through,
of paintings and a dress once worn
by a woman you never found again.

And suddenly you know: that was enough.
You rise and there appears before you
in all its longings and hesitations
the shape of what you lived.


This wise poem by Rilke reminds me to be grateful for my life just as it is. It is already exceptional; stones awaken and depths open to me in the family and friends with whom I have the great honor to be in relationship. On this journey through remarkable lands, I've discovered treasures, and one of them is me "in all my longings and hesitations". I have enough. I am enough. 

For more inspiration by Rilke, give yourself the gift of  "A Year With Rilke" generously posted by Lorenzo and Ruth.