Colleen Chesebro’s weekly poetry challenge inspired me to write the following. I know a haiku is supposed to be about nature, but even for those of us who aren’t birds, it’s natural to spread our wings and try new things. You’ll note that I’m using the synonyms “attempting” and “existence.” This poem emphasizes what I told nursing home residents when encouraging them to participate in new activities. You don’t know until you try. You can click on the Play button below to hear me read it.
attempting new things
happy with my existence
even in failure
Author Alice Massa inspired this post. On her blog, she has devoted an entire month to posts about things for which she’s thankful. I doubt I have enough material for a month of posts on this topic, but maybe I’ll try to list at least five things for which I’m thankful for each year. Here are my five for this year.
I’m thankful to be alive and safe. I’m glad I don’t live in California amid wildfires that have claimed many lives and that I wasn’t in the bar in Thousand Oaks or the synagogue in Pittsburgh where the mass shootings occurred. Of course, I don’t frequent such establishments, but this goes to show that no place is sacred, and life and safety should not be taken for granted.
I’m thankful for basic necessities: food, shelter, clothing, plumbing, the Internet. The Internet, you say. Many people don’t even have access to running water, let alone the World-Wide-Web. Yes, this is true, but because I’m a writer with a website and blog, the Internet is my livelihood. When I was without it for six days last Christmas, I learned not to take it for granted.
I’m thankful for parents who spanked me when I was a child. This may sound strange, but it’s true. I recently heard on National Public Radio that the Academy of Pediatricians says that spanking impacts a child’s brain development. Well, being spanked as a child doesn’t seem to have affected mine. This is one thing wrong with the world today. Many children are not well-disciplined, and this could be contributing to the rise in crime and violence. I’m not a parent, but looking back on the way I was reared, I believe that punishment should be swift and sure,h so that children will learn that actions have consequences. The NPR report also stated that children shouldn’t be punished in a way that humiliates them. Well, if I hadn’t felt humiliated when I’d done something wrong, I would never have learned not to repeat the bad things I did. I’m not advocating beating a kid with a belt or board, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a few good swats on a child’s bottom. It’s unfortunate that nowadays, this can be considered child abuse.
Speaking of abuse, I’m thankful I was never a victim of domestic violence. My late husband Bill was a gentle soul. He rarely got angry, and when he did, it only lasted ten seconds. He never raised a hand to me, and he never said anything verbally abusive. Not every woman is as fortunate. You can learn more about me and Bill by reading My Ideal Partner.
I’m thankful to be a U.S. citizen and not one of the many immigrants trying to cross our borders in search of a better life. What President Trump and those who support his immigration policies don’t understand is that those immigrants are no different from the pilgrims who first came to this country and celebrated the first Thanksgiving. What if, God Forbid, when those first settlers arrived, they couldn’t live here because of a ruler like Trump.
What about you? I’d love to read about what you’re thankful for this year, either on your own blog or in the comment field below. If you post your list on your blog, please provide a link to this post, so I’ll be sure to read it. I hope you have a happy and safe Thanksgiving with lots of good food and good company.
I wrote the following poem for my niece in Florida who is celebrating her eighteenth birthday this month. You can click below to hear me read it. The title poem in my collection, That’s Life, is also dedicated to her.
TO ANA AT EIGHTEEN
At thirteen, all you wanted to do
was go to the beach or mall with friends.
When your aunt from Wyoming visited at Christmas,
you reluctantly accompanied the family
to a performance of The Nutcracker.
Now you’re eighteen.
You still like to hang out with friends,
but you have more important things to think about:
This feature was created by Colleen Chesebro. Click here for guidelines. This week’s words are “ghost” and “hollow.” In celebration of my late husband’s birthday, which was yesterday, the following Tanka depicts my life without him. Because the trick of this challenge is to only use synonyms of the words, you’ll note my use of the words “spirit” and “empty.” Enjoy, and have a great day.
The release of this author’s poetry collection coincided with his 75th birthday. Most of the poems in this collection are apparently based on observances in public places. A good example of this is the title poem, in which an elderly man is seen cutting a sandwich in half and serving one half to his aging wife. Others are about ordinary life events such as a car pulling to the side of the road and the couple in the car changing places. The book also includes a longer narrative in which the author reflects on a house where he and his wife first lived, upon learning of a murder that was committed there after they moved out.
I like Ted Kooser’s poetry because it tells a story in a manner that is straightforward and not abstract. I was fortunate several years ago to attend a writers’ conference at which he was the keynote speaker. One point he made was that a poem’s title can be used to set the scene.
This is exactly what he does with his own poems. The title tells the reader either the location of the story in the poem or what action takes place. The poem is thus written around the title.
Take, for example, “At Arby’s, at Noon.” He starts by describing a typical lunch hour in a fast food restaurant. Then, he paints a picture of a woman who is blind kissing a man with a disfigured face while life goes on around them.
For this reason, I highly recommend Ted Kooser’s work. Even if you don’t like poetry, I think you’ll appreciate the way he weaves words into stories about ordinary and not-so-ordinary events.
This excerpt is from That’s Life: New and Selected Poems. Click here for more information and ordering links. I wrote this several years ago after visiting my brother and his family in Florida and dedicated it to one of my nieces. Click here for a recording of me reading it.
Oh you of thirteen years,
when told you can’t go to the mall
or sleep over with a friend,
please understand that’s the way life is.
If you grow up thinking
you’ll always have your way,
you’ll be sadly disappointed
so better put on your big girl pants—
deal with it.
It’s pretty obvious from the title that this collection of poetry and prose is about dogs. Some poems are from the point of view of a dog while others are from the point of view of a dog owner. There are blocks of poems about a specific dog. Amid the poetry is an essay entitled “Ropes.” Here, the author shares her experiences with a dog who could chew through any rope and climb any fence and loved to roam free.
I didn’t particularly care for Mary Oliver’s work until I found this book. The material here is straightforward, funny, and touching. I especially liked “If You’re Holding the Book,” in which Oliver explains that one of the things she enjoys seeing the most is dogs without leashes. It reminded me of the good old days growing up when there were few leash laws, and people didn’t have to worry about picking up after their dogs. If you love dogs, and even if you don’t love poetry, I highly recommend this book.
The poems in this collection reflect on various aspects of life. The book is divided into numbered sections with the title of the first poem in each section being that section’s title. Some poems are inspired by paintings.
Years ago, I attended a writers’ conference at which Ted Kooser was the keynote speaker. One thing he said stuck with me. The title of a poem should set the scene.
Titles of poems in this collection, like “Walking on Tiptoe,” “Tattoo,” and “At the Cancer Clinic,” give the reader a general idea of what the poem is about. I especially liked “A Rainy Morning,” in which he describes a woman in a wheelchair pushing herself in the rain. I highly recommend this book.