a writer's journey as a reader

NPM: #18–the rhythm of sports

The beauty of poetry is that it embraces a diversity of interests and subjects. I found a elegance of movement in the rhythm of this particular poem as it captures the game.


Fast Break” by Edward Hirsch








NPM: #17–Willow tree

Willow Poem

William Carlos Williams, 18831963

It is a willow when summer is over,
a willow by the river
from which no leaf has fallen nor
bitten by the sun
turned orange or crimson.
The leaves cling and grow paler,
swing and grow paler
over the swirling waters of the river
as if loath to let go,
they are so cool, so drunk with
the swirl of the wind and of the river—
oblivious to winter,
the last to let go and fall
into the water and on the ground.

I grew up with a willow tree in our backyard. I always seemed a sad tree to me, weeping its leaves into our fish pond. I hadn’t thought about that tree until coming across Williams’ poem. Odd. Those willow leaves, as I recall, didn’t succumb to the “kiss of the sun” and fade away into autumn and winter as our maple did so stoically.

a sad dipping into the water–is this what inspired Williams? image: MorgueFile/LoneAngel


NPM: #16 Window Watcher

Athe Window

D.H. Lawrence,1885- 1930

The pine-trees bend to listen to the autumn wind as it mutters
Something which sets the black poplars ashake with hysterical laughter;
While slowly the house of day is closing its eastern shutters.

Further down the valley the clustered tombstones recede,
Winding about their dimness the mist’s grey cerements, after
The street lamps in the darkness have suddenly started to bleed.

The leaves fly over the window and utter a word as they pass
To the face that leans from the darkness, intent, with two dark-filled eyes
That watch for ever earnestly from behind the window glass.


I like how Lawrence personifies nature, how the trees and wind and leaves talk to each other with mutterings and laughter while inside, a person watches unaware. It’s lovely and a bit creepy all the same. It stirs my imagination to thinking of fairy tales.


Is the wind laughing outside these windows? image: Pintrest


NPM: #15–Longfellow’s Children

“The Children’s Hour” was first published in the September 1860 edition of The Atlantic Monthly.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was probably one of the first poets encountered as a child. Who hasn’t encountered his “Song of Hiawatha?” He is well known for many poems, and one of my favorites is his tribute to his children. I can imagine his little “banditti” sneaking up on him and him gathering them up all shrieks and giggles.

The Children’s Hour

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 18071882
Between the dark and the daylight,
   When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
   That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
   The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
   And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
   Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
   And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
   Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
   To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
   A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
   They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
   O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
   They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
   Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
   In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
   Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
   Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
   And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
   In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
   Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
   And moulder in dust away!

NPM: #14–Fishy thoughts

What I most like about poetry is how it nudges me towards new perspectives. For instance, in Nancy Willards’ “A Wreath to the Fish”  I’m thinking thoughts about fish I hadn’t considered before. How they never leave their suit of mail, how they possess an abundance of silver, yet never spend it. How the destiny of a fish is one of thoughtful consideration–dinner? trophy? food for a bear?

Here is a fishy consideration as you contemplate today’s poem.


trotting out trout toed cleats image:


NPM: #13–how history does not sit still

I think I missed an opportunity. Had I known I would be teaching English, especially British literature, I would have minored in history. One cannot properly elucidate on the fineries of poems, prose, and short storis without dipping into the times of the work. There is a definite “why” as to “why” something is written. A mathematical equation of History times People to the greater value of Events–something like that. Which is why I didn’t get on so while in Mathematics.

Howard Altmann explains history’s restless nature. I almost imagine it as a cat that tiptoes around the room, exploring its way about. Or as that sunbeam or shaft of light that panders its way from the chair to the floor to the wall. Here’s the poem and here’s what he said about it:

About This Poem

“This short poem was conceived in Lisbon, where the light never rests on its laurels. It was put to bed a few years later in New York City, where the light crowds out the stars.”
—Howard Altmann (


image: paulabflat/morguefile

NPM: #12–a love poem


William Carlos Williams, 18831963

Love is twain, it is not single,
Gold and silver mixed to one,
Passion ‘tis and pain which mingle
Glist’ring then for aye undone.

Pain it is not; wondering pity
Dies or e’er the pang is fled;
Passion ‘tis not, foul and gritty,
Born one instant, instant dead.

Love is twain, it is not single,
Gold and silver mixed to one,
Passion ‘tis and pain which mingle
Glist’ring then for aye undone.

I first met William Carlos Williams whilst learning how ill-equipped I was to be in the Masters in the Teaching of writing program at Humboldt. I was quite illiterate when it came to poetry and the classics. My writing wasn’t up to snuff either. I even had a professor tersely whisper in my ear how I got in the program. The moment of crisis eventually passed once I gained understanding that poems weren’t really some mysterious language dropped out of the sky for mortals to puzzle over. Dr. Williams lent his red wheelbarrow to me one day, and I began to relax and realize that poetry was simply another way of listening to the heart.

NPM: #11–of clinking to grasshoppers

I do so like a picnic. Sunny skies. Al fresco dining. Good friends. Laughter. Pleasant memories. There is all that plus the snapshot minutia, like a bird’s trebling song, a butterfly drifting by, or even grasshopper stopping to visit. Chase Twichell captures those moments in her poem “Never.”






image: tomaszlach/morguefile

NPM #10: Emily and the sun

Emily Dickinson

National Poetry Month wouldn’t be the same without a guest appearance from Emily. Image: Academy of American Poets

A Day

Emily Dickinson, 18301886

I’ll tell you how the sun rose, —
A ribbon at a time.
The steeples swam in amethyst,
The news like squirrels ran.

The hills untied their bonnets,
The bobolinks begun.
Then I said softly to myself,
“That must have been the sun!”

But how he set, I know not.
There seemed a purple stile
Which little yellow boys and girls
Were climbing all the while

Till when they reached the other side,
A dominie in gray
Put gently up the evening bars,
And led the flock away.

It will no doubt take a lifetime to read and appreciate Emily D’s some 1000+ poems. I do so delight in finding one I haven’t seen before. How does she devise these slips of images that dazzle to the point of pause? What’s interesting to me is that she didn’t capitalize “sun” although she personified it, which did have a penchant for doing.

Have you a favorite Emily? Please share. Maybe I am not aware of it yet and I would like to make its acquaintance.

NPM: #9–Wordsworth praises snow drops

On Seeing a Tuft of Snowdrops in a Storm

William Wordsworth, 17701850

When haughty expectations prostrate lie,
And grandeur crouches like a guilty thing,
Oft shall the lowly weak, till nature bring
Mature release, in fair society
Survive, and Fortune’s utmost anger try;
Like these frail snow-drops that together cling,
And nod their helmets smitten by the wing
Of many a furious whirlblast sweeping by.
Observe the faithful flowers! if small to great
May lead the thoughts, thus struggling used to stand
The Emathian phalanx, nobly obstinate;
And so the bright immortal Theban band,
Whom onset, fiercely urged at Jove’s command,
Might overwhelm, but could not separate!

We all know Wordsworth penchant for daffodils. They are the poster child for spring in my book. Then again, this poem of his extolling the strength of snow-drops has me thinking of how fragile something can appear, yet have a rooted strength unseen. I will have to pay more attention to my snow-drops. I also need to scamper to my allusions dictionary and look up Emathian and Jove. That Wordsworth–he tends to keep me on my toes.

image: OldGreySeaWolf/MorgueFile

Post Navigation


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 872 other followers

%d bloggers like this: