Feeling a Warm Embrace from a Tortilla

Every once and a while, I come across some true weirdness in the New York Times. I actually love when the Times gets odd and unpredictable. A phrase from today's paper (online edition) inspired this doggerel poem, which I wrote before reading the article. It was just too delicious to pass up.


Feeling a Warm Embrace from a Tortilla

(headline on the front page of the New York Times, web edition, Wednesday, October 2, 2013)

When I hugged a cucumber,

It didn't hug me back

Cold, lifeless, green,

It stared without seeing,

wordless, rejecting, and cold.

I turned to the tortilla,

Soon to become my taco.

And wrapped it 'round my shoulders,

Savoring its warm embrace,

This humble shawl of corn,

Destined for the dinner plate.

A comfort food who

Put the cuke to shame.

Poetry Friday: Copy What?

I worry


Do I have 
to post an entire work, a photograph, a painting by
a poet? A lyricist? An artist?
Public domain? What's that?
Fair Use? Who's she?
Is Intellectual Property
really that smart?

Copyright resources

There's the Cardinal. 
Copyright & Fair Use at the Stanford University Libraries.
And Gov.
US Copyright Office at the Library of Congress
Go, Gophers.
Understanding Fair Use at the University of Minnesota Libraries.
Plus Eff.
Electronic Frontier Foundation, Legal Guide for Bloggers.
Then CC.
Creative Commons.
Not to mention
Blogger copyright tips.

A college is even offering
a free course on
copyright, but I missed
the deadline.

Maybe next time?

Weekend Poetry: Chicken Spaghetti

Chicken Spaghetti 4

Photograph by Saroy. Source: Flickr. Used under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDervivs 2.0 Generic license. 

When I started this blog in 2005, my first idea was to make the whole thing about chicken spaghetti, a favorite casserole of my Southern childhood. I thought about posting variations on the recipe and photos of how they turned out. However, I soon realized that an audience for such a blog would be non-existent tiny. So, instead I turned my attention to kids' books, but kept the name since it seemed child-friendly.

I still think about the dish, though, and, after a Twitter search, have located my fellow casserole people. Like me, lots of other folks like their mom's version, Grandma's, Aunt So-and-So's, and when they're really pleased with their own efforts, they post pictures.

On Twitter, chicken spaghetti = happiness, and these tweets are music to my ears. I removed hash tags, added some punctuation, and stirred some of the short odes into a poem. Here goes:


Chicken Spaghetti: A Found Poem from Twitter

Y'all, I can cook.

Sauteeing burns my eyes

but it is worth it

in the end.

My dish!!

Chicken spaghetti.

Remember how excited we got

when we thought about

chicken spaghetti?

Ya girl throws down

chicken spaghetti

                    and garlic bread.

Anna Beth is at it again.

Chicken spaghetti!

Chicken spaghetti, rolls, corn on a cob,

                    kiss the cook.

And on the 8th day

God made chicken spaghetti,

and all was good.

I'm cooking collard greens, 

chicken spaghetti and fried porkchops!! 

Jalapeño cornbread! Boom!

                                                  If you can cook chicken spaghetti, I'll probably

                                                                    marry you. 

Poetry Friday: Walk This Way


In case you're reading this post on a mobile phone, the above work of art reads,

A poem doesn't do everything for you.
You are supposed to go on with your thinking.
You are supposed to enrich
the other person's poem with your extensions,
your uniquely personal understandings,
thus making the poem serve you.

Gwendolyn Brooks, (1917-[2000]), "Song of Winnie"

The sidewalk on the south side of 41t Street leading up to the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue is called Library Way, and contains many of bronze plaques like the one above with quotations about literature and writing. Sponsored by the New York Public Library and the Grand Central Partnership, Library Way stretches from Park Avenue to Fifth, and was created by the artist Gregg LeFevre.

The Gwendolyn Brooks excerpt is about poetry, sure, but it's also an extended metaphor, encouraging an active engagement with life and the world around you. That's why I liked it so much, and took a picture one sunny morning last summer.

For other poetry posts this morning, see the roundup at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.

Found Poetry: Fascinating...and a Invitation (for Poetry Friday)

Rhymes with Fascinating


Aggravating, calculating, carbon dating,

figure skating,

in-line skating,

maid-in-waiting, nauseating, open dating,

operating, penetrating, suffocating, titillating.


Source: Merriam-Webster Online. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fascinating Website accessed 12.15.12.

I am seeing poems all over these days. (Uh, oh.) Last week it was in a nonfiction YA book; today the poetry comes via the Merriam-Webster online dictionary entry on the word "fascinating." I cracked up when I read the above. It struck me as a delightfully weird collection of rhyming words. If someone were writing a poem, would she really like to rhyme "fascinating" with "carbon dating"?

Heck, yeah.

So, of course, I had to try my hand at it.


Rhymes with Fascinating II

Overrating, understating, mammal mating,

Silver plating, shark baiting, beagle crating,

Syncopating, procrastinating, cheese grating,

Enervating, table waiting, double dating,

Seven eighting, railroad freighting, irritating.


Other children's book bloggers are also talking about poetry on Friday. (I am posting a little early). See the Poetry Friday roundup tomorrow at Kate Coombs' blog, Book Aunt.

And go ahead. Take a shot at your own "Rhymes With Fascinating" in the comments.

Poetry Friday: Bootleg (Found Poem)

Bootleg: A Found Poem


Blind tiger, bootlegger, booze
Flapper, hooch, moonshine

Rumrunner, speakeasy, teetotaler

The days
of outright prohibition
and likely will
will never return.

Source: Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition, by Karen Blumenthal (Roaring Brook, 2011)

9781596434493I'm just starting Bootleg, which is popping up on year-end best-kids-books lists, including those from School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews, as well as the YALSA Nonfiction Award finalists.

I'm curious about the subject since saloon keeping and home brewing were activities enjoyed by a number of my kinfolks during the same era. Well, the saloon keeping (of one Bismarck Saloon on the town square in Waco, Texas) was just prior to Prohibition, for obvious reasons...

The glossary words in Blumenthal's book read like poetry to me, and I liked her conclusion at the end. That's where I concocted the poem above. The nonfiction book is geared toward readers 12 and older.

Other children's books bloggers are writing about poetry (and not moonshine) today; see the Poetry Friday roundup at Read, Write, Howl for more selections.

From "The Anti-Romantic Child"

"One day that winter, as [5 year old] Benjamin and [his father] Richard were standing in the parking lot of his nursery school listening to the fire alarm from a distance, Benj cried, 'Daddy, I am not afraid! Just like Frog and Toad!'—a reference to a story called 'Dragons and Giants,' in which Frog and Toad face down some scary experiences by telling themselves that 'they are not afraid.' "

from The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy, by Priscilla Gilman (Harper, 2011)

This is a moving book written by a literary agent and former English professor and Wordsworth scholar. Gilman's older son, Benj, read early. By the time he was two and a half, he could fluently read a page from her dissertation. The precocity was unusual, but accepted as evidence of the boy's intelligence and the family's devotion to the written word; Gilman's husband, mother, and father also had careers concerned with literature. But Benj's sensitivities and intolerance to other stimuli worried Gilman, and eventually he was diagnosed with hyperlexia, defined by Merriam-Webster as "precocious reading ability accompanied by difficulties in acquiring language and social skills" and sometimes associated with autism.

I was curious if Gilman's work on The Anti-Romantic Child affected her interactions with her son's various schools and teachers over the years. She doesn't say. No matter. Her hopeful and well-written story, about Benj's struggles and triumphs—and the gradual shift of her own expectations—ought to appeal to parents and teachers of children of all abilities, not to mention anyone interested in reading. A number of poems by Wordsworth, to which Gilman turns for solace, are woven into the fabric of the book.

September 10-11, 2011

Remembering ten years ago, I want to highlight a prose poem I love, Linsey Abrams' "The New Century," which can be found online here.

An excerpt from "The New Century":

Not that a human chain is the best metaphor for a policeman leading a whole floor of people by
hand down 95 flights of a pitch black stairwell, albeit with a better than average flashlight. 
Maybe picture DNA, so unfathomable as to be beautiful.  Or something ordinary but almost
crazy, like a conga line.

Meanwhile, I read an excellent book recently: The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal. It's about art, architecture, family history, great sorrow, and survival. De Waal's descriptions of the Nazi takeover of Vienna, where his wealthy Jewish grandparents lived, broke my heart, leaving me with an echo of the why? why? why? feeling of 9/11.

Tomorrow my family plans to be out and about, savoring the end of summer. There's an Internet nature project happening—International Rock Flipping Day—and we're hoping to participate. The blog Wanderin' Weeta has the details. Check it out and join in if you'd like! I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a kids' book that fits the theme well:  Compost Critters, a picture-book photo-essay by National Geographic photographer Bianca Lavies (Dutton, 1993).

  Rockflipping b



Poetry Friday: Poets' Letters and Memoirs

Over the years I've enjoyed many poets' autobiographies and books of letters. So why not make a list of favorites! The following titles are for adults, but some teenagers might like them, too, particularly the ones by Eileen Simpson, Jackie Kay, Mary Karr, and Natasha Trethewey.

Poets in Their Youth, by Eileen B. Simpson (Random House, 1982) Berryman, Lowell, Schwartz, et al.

Red Dust Road: An Autobiographical Journey, by Jackie Kay (Atlas, 2010). Kay's search for her biological parents, one in Scotland, the other in Nigeria.

Lit, by Mary Karr (Harper, 2009). Karr's road to sobriety.

Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, by Natasha Trethewey (University of Georgia Press, 2010) Trethewey returns to her hometown, where her mother was killed and her brother incarcerated.

The Virgin of Bennington (Riverhead, 2001) and Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (Ticknor & Fields, 1993), by Kathleen Norris

Randall Jarrell's Letters (Houghton Mifflin, 1982). Mary Jarrell, editor.

One Art: Letters, by Elizabeth Bishop. Robert Giroux, editor. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994)

Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009)

Heaven's Coast, by Mark Doty (Harper Collins, 1996)

The Triggering Town: Letters and Essays on Poetry and Writing, by Richard Hugo (Norton, 1979)

A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright. Anne Wright and Saundra Rose Maley, editors. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005). I read half of this one and got overwhelmed several years ago, but want to return to this book and finish it. 

I may have to revise as I remember more. What are your favorites?

Today is Poetry Friday on many of the children's literature blogs. Karen Edmisten is rounding up the posts at Karen Edmisten: The Blog With The Shockingly Clever Title. For an explanation of Poetry Friday, check here

New Poet Laureate: Philip Levine

Today the Library of Congress names a new poet laureate: Philip Levine, an eighty-three-year-old Detroit native who has written extensively about blue-collar work. Levine succeeds W.S. Merwin.

Book critic Dwight Garner writes an appreciation of Levine's work over at this morning's New York Times. "It is a plainspoken poetry ready-made, it seems, for a time of S&P downgrades, a double-dip recession and debts left unpaid," Garner says.

Readers will find poems by Levine online at the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Foundation. From the latter, here's an excerpt from "Belle Isle, 1949". Sentimental it is not.

We stripped in the first warm spring night
and ran down into the Detroit River
to baptize ourselves in the brine
of car parts, dead fish, stolen bicycles,
melted snow.[...]