Tuesday, April 30, 2013

a poetry month wrap-up.

I had grand plans for poetry month; reading a daily poem, discovering new poets and favorites, writing several poems of my own and sharing them all with you. Oh, the best laid plans...

I hope you found time to soak up the beauty of a well-placed turn of phrase, a precisely chosen rhyme or ingenious metaphor.

I did want to share the one short verse I did manage to compose along with a vow to strive to be a bit more diligent about posting. (But no guarantees!) 

comes in tiny packages
little bits at a time
like strands of rope
breakable strings 

on their own
yet wound together
you find yourself bound
for greatness

c-Amy McMillan, 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

a newly discovered gem.

I came across this poem earlier this week, fell in love and had to share. I'd seen bits of it swirling around the interwebs after the Boston attack and finally found it in its entirety.  While it is specifically about tragedy and survival the idea that our lives can change in an instant (for the good as well as the not-so-good) is a powerful one and leads me to believe in all the possibilities of the future.

There is the hope that something difficult can be overcome and the reminder that good things rarely last forever and that the pendulum can swing from one apex to the other in just the blink of an eye. Appreciate what you have, don't give up just yet, and don't be afraid to marvel at the miracles of the millions of interactions and near misses that make up our amazingly wonderful lives.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

a birthday to celebrate.

If you're a Google visitor you've undoubtedly noticed their doodle honoring Ella Fitzgerald today. So, I thought it more than appropriate to share a song or two in her honor.

Two of my most favorite people in the world.  Man, can't wait to get to heaven for a live performance like this!

And doing what only she can do. Nobody else comes close.

Happy birthday to one of the greatest female vocalists to ever live!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

a book of poetry.

As poetry month draws to a close I wanted to feature a few of my favorite books written in verse.  Often we think of poems as a series of short stanzas or maybe an epic narrative (generally translate from Greek or something!) but there's a relatively modern trend of using a series of shorter verses (often confined to one or two pages) that build on each other to tell a complete story. I've read some that follow very strict formatting rules (each character 'speaking' in a different poetic form, for example) though most tend to lean toward free verse. The great thing about these books is they tend to be very quick reads. So, take a half hour or so and dive into one of these fun books in verse.

Three Rivers Rising
A novel of the Johnstown, Pennsylvania flood of 1889. (Ages 12 and up)

Your Own Sylvia
A biographical glimpse into the life of Sylvia Plath. (Ages 12 and up)

Odette's Secrets
A young Jewish girl is forced to leave her home in Paris when the Nazis invade. Based on a true story. (Ages 10 and up)

May B
A young girl is separated from her family by a snowstorm on the Kansas prairie in the 1870s and must use all her wits to survive. (Ages 9 and up)

Kaleidoscope Eyes
During the Vietnam War era, a girl enlists the help of her friends in searching search for pirate treasure after finding clues in her grandfather's attic. (Ages 10 and up)

All the Broken Pieces
After leaving his home in Vietnam during the war, a young boy, now living in America, struggles to find his place in the world. (Ages 9 and up)

Inside Out and Back Again
Forced to flee her home in Saigon, a young girl and her family fight to make a new life for themselves in America.  (Ages 9 and up, Newbery Honor)

Love That Dog  and its sequel Hate That Cat
Forced to compile a poetry notebook for a class assignment, Jack concedes that even boys can write poetry as he discovers other truths about himself and mourns his faithful companion.  (Ages 9 and up)

And as a bonus, here are a couple of books that feature poetry throughout the plot

Edgar Allan's Official Crime Investigation Notebook
When the class fish disappears and a poem is left in his place, Edgar Allan is on the case to find out who fishnapped Slurpy.  (Ages 9 and up)

Destiny, Rewritten
A young girl, named after Emily Dickinson, fights against a future that was fated to her at birth and learns a few things about herself along the way. (Ages 9 and up)

Most, as you can see, hit the middle grade reading range with only a few reaching into the young adult level but I'll vouch for them all as being delightful enough to keep older readers (and even adults) entertained. I'd love to hear about others you may have read, specifically those written just for adults. Any suggestions or recommendations?

Friday, April 19, 2013

some thought-filled words.

In light of all that has been going on the last couple of days I've had a phrase running constantly through my head.  "Things shouldn't be so hard." *

I feel grateful to have a spiritual background that gives me a bit of peace in the midst of confusion and pain even if it doesn't always answer the questions. Don't get me wrong. The pain is real and still hurts, but the peace can eventually soothe it to a dull ache and allow us to go on with our lives.  My heart goes out to all who are suffering in any way and hope that they find their moments of peace and maybe even answers. Life is hard but it is usually through the 'hard' that we learn lessons and grow our character and prove that we can both rise above and not go down without a fight.

Thoughts and prayers with all those affected by the events in Boston. God bless us all.

*Taken from this poem by Kay Ryan

Friday, April 12, 2013

great music.

I tend to go through waves in my music listening.  Sometimes I just put the ipod on random and see what happens but often I'll get in genre moods and inundate my ears with everything I have stuck in a particular grouping (my definitions and qualifications are fuzzy at best and no musicologist would be able to find much of a scientific basis for what counts as what in my world...but hey, it's my world!) Lately I've been on a 'jazzy' kick. This means anything from Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong to Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble and even Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson. Today's artist of choice though is a pure classic and this song just seems to sum up how I feel right now.  (No, I'm not in love. But spring just has this effect on me!) 

Hope your weekend is full of wonderful surprises and even more wonderful music.  Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

a bit of poetry.

As most of you most likely already know (but I'm going to tell you anyway) April is National Poetry Month.  This year I'd made a New Year's resolution to read a poem a day.  I haven't quite made it daily but I figure many days I've read more than one so it's probably come out about even so far.

I'll be sharing a few of my favorite poems throughout the rest of the month but I wanted to start off by sharing some new favorite collections to give you all some ideas for your own reading as the days tick on.  Maybe you'll discover a favorite or two for yourselves!

Most of these are cataloged as children's but even adults will find something to appreciate within the lines and stanzas.

When Thunder Comes  by J. Patrick Lewis
The poems in this collection are each dedicated to a different civil rights leader. The usual suspects (MLK, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi) make appearances but lesser-known names are introduced as well.  Internment Camp member Mitsuye Endo, Native American Dennis James Banks, Astronaut Ellison Onizuka and more lives all make for interesting reading.  Each poem is also illustrated by a different artist.  Lots of great info in this book.

I Haiku You by Betsy E. Snyder
A short picture book with sweet watercolor illustrations contains a bunch of haiku poems all declaring their love for someone/thing. A perfect little giftable tie-on for the love of your life!

Stardines Swim High Across the Sky by Jack Prelutsky
THE name in children's poetry (particularly humorous poetry) and the king of creature mash-ups (umbrellaphants, wiguanas, halibutterflies) has teamed with a spectacular illustrator for his latest edition of crazy creature verses. You almost believe that they're real, pinned into the pages like an old-fashioned album or naturalist's collection.

Follow Follow by Marilyn Singer
A companion to her earlier Mirror Mirror, Singer's reverso poems focus on fairy tales and their characters presented in an enchanting and clever way. Here's an example so you can see how it works.  (In the author's note in Mirror Mirror she shares this, the first reverso she'd ever written.)

A cat                                   Incomplete:
without                               A chair
a chair:                                without
Incomplete.                        a cat.

The others in her book are more lengthy which makes them all the more fascinating and would make a perfect jumping off point for a lesson on punctuation (it's amazing how she uses so many different kinds to help make her meaning change subtly.) 

Next week I'll be back with some more ideas and a few poems to enlighten your minds.  Because every day should have a bit of poetry in it. You'll thank me later, I promise!

 Any healthy man can go without food for two days--but not without poetry.
~Charles Baudelaire

Monday, April 8, 2013

a change in the weather.

Spring has sprung! And it's about time!

This weekend saw a shift in temperatures and finally the blossoms and buds are out in full force and the sun seems to have a bit of warmth in its rays again. (Unfortunately the heating/cooling system at work doesn't shift quite so easily so we've still got the heat blasting to counteract the unseasonably cool temps.  Translation=work felt like a sauna.  And not in a good way.)

But the scenery more than makes up for that.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

a weekend spent in uplift.

My favorite weekends of the year come every six months.  In April and again in October there's a world-wide gathering of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints where members are taught by the leadership of the church. It's 8 hours of inspiring messages, counsel and guidance that feeds my soul for the coming months. I love it!

There's always a common thread that seems prevalent, though each speaker prepares his/her remarks independent of everyone else.  This time there were a lot of messages of hope in adversity, the roles and blessings of individuals (male and female) within the bounds of the church structure and society, and a call for a return to the basics and foundations of spirituality and morality (prayer, obedience to the 10 commandments, mutual respect for others). Written transcripts of the entire proceedings can be found here a few days after the fact but there are links to the recorded messages up live. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Jeffrey R. Holland, Lord I Believe

Whitney L. Clayton, Watch and Learn

M. Russell Ballard, This is My Work and My Glory

How was your weekend?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

a good book.

How Music Works
Author: David Byrne
Pages: 352
Age Range: Adult
Published: 2012
Genre: Non-fiction
Cover Score: ***
Overall Score: ****
Rating: PG-13 (some language)

It is no mystery that David Byrne (creative force behind Talking Heads) is knowledgeable about the ins and outs of music. Sprinkled with terms such as "sonic landscapes" and "tonal architecture", his book chronicles the changes in technology and culture that have aided in the evolution of music its composition, performance, and enjoyment (recordings, live concerts etc.) and Byrne's place in it.

Half of the book holds the general history while the other half contains Byrne's own personal experiences from his garage band days, as a part of Talking Heads and his various collaborations.  These weren't quite as interesting because I’m not familiar with his albums and music so many or the songs and people were unknown to me.  I admit I skimmed these sections a bit. But I did love some of his insights and could relate to many of his experiences.

After hearing the song ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ for the first time he said, "The world was suddenly a bigger, more mysterious, and more exciting place—all because I’d stumbled onto some recording." (94) Oh, how many times I've felt that way after hearing a piece of music, sometimes even re-hearing a piece in a way I'd not heard it before. Music can open up a realm of new possibilities and ideas.

He goes on to say:
Music tells us things—social things, psychological things, physical things about how we feel and perceive our bodies—in a way that other art forms can’t. It’s sometimes in the words, but just as often the content comes from a combination of sounds, rhythms, and vocal textures that communicate, as has been said by others, in ways that bypass the reasoning centers of the brain and go straight to our emotions. (94)

Later on he waxes poetic about mixtapes, calling them “pocket-sized audio wonder cabinets.”  I think this is a fabulous term! Obviously I'm a bit partial to the idea of mixtapes and think he summed it up quite nicely here.

The mixtapes we made for ourselves were musical mirrors. The sadness, anger or frustration you might be feeling at a given time could be encapsulated in the song selection. You made mixtapes that corresponded to emotional states, and they’d be available to pop into the deck when each feeling needed reinforcing or soothing. The mixtape was your friend, your psychiatrist, and your solace. (110)

The history portions were fascinating, filled with questions to ponder about the nature of music and our relationship to it (some along the lines of "if a tree falls in the wood...") and showing that the pulse of our world is often a rousing drumbeat.  Highly recommended for anyone at all interested in music.

And just for kicks...