A Monumental Poem

This week, with all the talk of refugees, I’ve found myself thinking of the poem, “The New Colossus,” written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 to help raise funds for the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal and posted on the interior of that pedestal in 1903. I love that a poem is connected to this grand monument.

The Statue of Liberty. New York Harbor. I took this photo myself, in 2012.

The Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor. Those little dark spots at the bottom are people. The gold-coated flame shines in the sun. (Photo by Karin Fisher-Golton, 2012)

For three of my great-grandparents this figure was likely part of their first views of land after crossing the ocean, and leaving close family and their former lives behind. One of them was 17 and traveling alone. Two years later, her sister made the same trip alone at 15.

“Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Those lines are probably familiar, but do you know the rest? Here is the poem, a sonnet, in its entirety:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

—Emma Lazarus

What a powerful sentiment to have, where the edge of our country meets the ocean. May we find our way to keeping it true.

Thank you, Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect for hosting Poetry Friday. Find and enjoy more poetry there!

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A Cento for National Poetry Month

My children’s poets group chose to write cento poems for our National Poetry Month project. For those who don’t know, a cento is like a poem collage. The poet takes exact lines from existing poems and arranges them to make a new poem. I want to particularly thank my poet-friend Judy Gamble for exposing me to a yet another poetic form that I have come to love.

For my cento, I limited myself to poems by children’s poets who have inspired me and whose work I have particularly enjoyed either during my childhood or as an adult. This meant that I got to identify who those poets are for me and take a new look at their work–a very satisfying activity for National Poetry Month.

As I picked out lines I liked, a theme of children’s imaginative play emerged. I began to seek out lines that fit that theme. Soon I had a large group of potential lines from the poets I’d identified. I decided that I could use multiple lines from the same poet, but not from the same poem, and began the exciting process of choosing, arranging, and rearranging to create the new poem, “Play.”

“Play” has 25 lines from 25 different poems by 18 different poets. The poems are all referenced below, so you can check out the wonderful and fun poems that make their little cameos together.

Tomorrow is Poetry Friday, so soon you can also visit ellenleventhal.com for even more poetry. Thank you, Ellen, for hosting! (For now, Poetry Friday links are here: readingyear.blogspot.com/2015/05/poetry-friday-emotional.html. Thank you, Mary Lee, for temporarily hosting!)

Play

A Cento in Celebration of Children’s Poets and Children’s Play



We burst forth,1 

Lost in cloudy hallways2

Into the hammock and wound round the stairs,3

i twirl in rhythm to the dance4

Behind the beat, around the beat5

we leap into the wind,6

Down and around and up on the crest of a breeze7

Up in the air and over the wall,8

For there’s no more UP to go.9

are you grinning10

There are no rules.11

Perhaps I am a Postman. No I think I am a Tram.12

Resemblance to both mud and lace.13

and onion ring fryers—14 

Pieces out of picture puzzles,15

spitting papaya seeds!16

Where ferns uncurl17

Whispers18

     like

          bright

               chips

                    of sunlight19

These are my two drops of rain20 

These jewels of color!21 

I really hold a million million rocks here in my hand22

Let the rain kiss you.23 

the sun is where the sun should be—24 

There’s laughter and smiles galore.25

© Karin Fisher-Golton, 2015

“Play” includes lines from 25 different poems by 18 different poets. Each line appears in 
its entirety and unchanged except one minor punctuation change as noted. Author, poem, 
and collection sources are below.

1. Joyce Sidman, “The Season’s Campaign,” Song of the Water Boatman and Other 
          Pond Poems
2. Leland B. Jacobs, “E,” An Alphabet of Girls (period at end of line omitted)
3. Shel Silverstein, “Spaghetti,” Where the Sidewalk Ends
4. Nikki Giovanni, “November,” The Sun Is So Quiet
5. Walter Dean Myers, “America’s Music,” Jazz
6. Kristine O’Connell George, “Tree Horse,” Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems
7. Alice Schertle, “A Silver Trapeze,” A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic 
          Forms
8. Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Swing,” Sing a Song of Popcorn: Every Child’s Book 
          of Poems
9. John Ciardi, “How to Tell the Top of a Hill,” Sing a Song of Popcorn: Every Child’s 
         Book of Poems
10. Paul B. Janeczko, cinquain that begins “Oh, cat,” A Kick in the Head: An Everyday 
          Guide to Poetic Forms
11. Ogden Nash, “The Mule,” A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms
12. A.A. Milne, “Busy,” Now We Are Six
13. Joyce Sidman, “The Lichen We,” Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors
14. N. M. Bodecker, “Sing Me a Song of Teapots and Trumpets,” The Random House 
          Book of Poetry for Children
15. Shel Silverstein, “Hector the Collector,” Where the Sidewalk Ends
16. Janet S. Wong, “Mountain Gorilla,” National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry
17. Margaret Wise Brown, “Green Stems,” The Random House Book of Poetry for Children
18. Valerie Worth, “Crickets,” The Random House Book of Poetry for Children
19. Joyce Sidman, “Always Together,” Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow
20. A.A. Milne, “Waiting at the Window,” Now We Are Six
21. Valerie Worth, “prism,” Peacock and Other Poems
22. Florence Parry Heide, “Rocks,” Sing a Song of Popcorn: Every Child’s Book of Poems
23. Langston Hughes, “April Rain Song,” The Random House Book of Poetry for Children
24. N. M. Bodecker, “Good-by My Winter Suit,” The Random House Book of Poetry for 
         Children
25. Shel Silverstein, “The Land of Happy,” Where the Sidewalk Ends
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A Rainbow in California, with Tanka

While most of this country was experiencing a snowy-stormy winter, here on the California coast we had an unusually balmy one. So last Monday morning, walking in some good ol’ San Francisco Bay Area fog seemed refreshing. I was surprised when those misty droplets got heavier, and I found myself caught in the rain.

For a reason I don’t recall, I stopped and looked behind me. A rainbow shined in the sky.

Though this was not the actual rainbow I saw, the scene was quite similar. This one is from public domain photos. Double rainbow by Andrew McMillan

Though this was not the actual rainbow I saw, the scene was quite similar. Double rainbow by Andrew McMillan from public-domain-image.com.

I had my rainbow pause—my moment with that amazing sight.

Then I was amused. Isn’t that just like California in 2015? When we get rain, we get a rainbow, too.

I’d been looking for a topic to respond to Margarita Engle’s tanka poem challenge on Today’s Little Ditty, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’ blog. (Read about the challenge following Michelle’s great interview with one of my favorite authors: here. A tanka is a poetic form from Japan with a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable pattern. In other languages the lines can be short-long-short-long-long.) I had just found my topic. Here is the poem:

Amidst a dry March,
this misty California
morning turned rainy.
I turn around to find a
rainbow, smiling upside-down.


© Karin Fisher-Golton, 2015

After a draft or two, I realized an upside-down smile is also a frown. That seemed fitting too, in a time of climate change and in a poem with turns and words with multiple meanings.  Poetry, whether it’s mine or someone else, so often helps me notice more.

To me both meanings of the rainbow are true, the smile and the frown. Whatever meaning I give it, as with any rainbow, its awesome beauty was undeniable.

You can find many more poems for this Poetry Friday at Jone MacCulloch’s website, Check It Out, and mine and other tankas in response to Margarita Engle’s challenge on Michelle’s blog, Today’s Little Ditty.

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More February Poems

My poem-a-day-for-February month is winding up. As long as nothing unexpected happens by Saturday I’ll have written at least thirty poems this month. (So far there have been two days when I wrote two.)

The experience has had an ease about it that I didn’t feel last year. What a good reminder that, for just about anything, practice helps.

In celebrations of Poetry Friday, I’m posting a few of my poems from the past week. Visit Heidi Mordhorst’s My Juicy Little Universe for links to more poetry and many reasons to get excited about MARCH.

February 21: I wrote in response to the prompt: “Write a poem inspired by a favorite word or a word you find interesting.” I’ve always loved the sound of “petunia.” Plus, it’s fun to say. Try it.

Petunias

Petunias

Petunia

tune in to color
and put petunias into the ground
bright as sound
the tune of petunias

© Karin Fisher-Golton, 2015

February 24: This poem was inspired by underwater sounds as part of Laura Shovan’s sound poem project on Author Amok. Here is a link to her page with a gorgeous photo of a sea turtle, more watery poems, and a link to the sound: http://authoramok.blogspot.com/2015/02/2015-sound-poem-project-day-24-sea.html

The Underwater Way

Undersea sounds—
soothing splashes
babbling bubbles
rhythmic wash. 

How in the midst
of this aquatic lullaby
can there co-exist
a fish eat fish world? 

The underwater citizens
confine their violence
to a snap
               then quickly resume
their peaceful flow.

© Karin Fisher-Golton, 2015

February 25: In honor of all the furry office companions, and especially in memory of my two:

The Poet’s Assistant

The poet’s assistant provides
quiet companionship
in the indoor office space.
The assistant is available to hear
the poet’s readings, joys, and woes.
Additionally, the assistant bestows
its soft furry head and back
to receive pats that connect the poet
to the present time and place.
And when the poet needs to walk
in the outdoor office space
to discover what poetic thoughts
are to be found there,
the poet’s assistant is happy
to oblige with a walk.
 
© Karin Fisher-Golton, 2015

February 26: Another poem inspired by Laura Shovan’s sound poem project on Author Amok. Yesterday, before I wrote I saw that the prompt was train sounds. Then while was out in the morning I had an experience much like the one described in this little poem. More poems inspired by train sounds are here: http://authoramok.blogspot.com/2015/02/2015-sound-poem-project-day-26-train.html

Rolling Rhythm 

I hear the beat of drumming, rhythmic rising cross terrain.
I glance and see no drummers drum—the sound comes from a train. 

© Karin Fisher-Golton, 2015

Thank you visitors and friends of poetry!

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February Poems

We are past mid-February in the poem-a-day month I am sharing with my poetry group. As anticipated, I feel more at-ease with the project than I did last year–in fact the month seems to be going by a bit fast.

In honor of Poetry Friday, I’m posting a few of my February poems. Visit Linda Baie’s web site, teacherdance, for links to more Friday poetry.

February 4: I am co-teaching an afterschool poetry class which began this month, so February has been doubly rich with poetry. We started with cinquains. One of my students finished her first and asked if there was time for a second. With about 10 minutes left, I thought it was borderline, but said, “yes, go ahead.” Less than 10 minutes later this nine-year-old came back to me and had written a very clever cinquain that was also an acrostic. I still needed to write a poem that day, so after class, I challenged myself to an acrostic cinquain. For the record, this little poem took me more than 10 minutes to write.

Cool drops
Latch together
Out over oceans, high
Up above mountains, hills, plain, then
Drop rain.

© Karin Fisher-Golton, 2015

February 8: I am not usually a big acrostic person, but I wrote another I like this month. February is full of surprises.

Luminous Arc

Rainbow—
Apple-y red fire engine arches
Insistent citrus orange-color California poppy
New day, new light, new yolk yellow then
Boreal lush-living wet grassy green over
Ocean sky blueberry blue to indigo
Wowing plum purple-y violet complete

© Karin Fisher-Golton, 2015

February 9: The moment described in “Picture This” had me thinking, “There’s a poem in that!” One benefit of poem-a-day month is that I notice even more poetry in life than usual.

Picture This

today I saw a woman with a phone hovering
over a parking lot planting strip

my device-judgment radar on high
I cursed the ubiquitousness of phones

then realized she was taking a photo
but of what? curiosity slowed me down

I looked as I passed and saw a
dew-covered web tucked in green
 
I glimpsed a world where cell phones
make people halt for beauty and art

© Karin Fisher-Golton, 2015

February 12: Some February days it’s handy to have a short poem possibility. One of the members of our group remembered the 11-syllable lantern poem. We are enjoying it and not just for its brevity.

      Above

        sky
     expanse
realm for wings
 sector of stars
      space

© Karin Fisher-Golton, 2015

February 19: Laura Shovan at Author Amok is doing a month of poetry prompts based on sounds, another synergy with our poem-a-day month. I highly recommend heading over there and delving into the excellent array of poems on 19 February days, so far. It is fascinating to see how different poets respond to the same sound. Today I was inspired by this sound:

Museum Stairwell
 
in the museum’s grand stairs there are echoes—
echoes of conversation, echoes of anticipation
conversation anticipation stairwell
echoes off metal, echoes off marble
metal marble stairwell
echoes of art, echoes of story
art story stairwell
stairwell echoes
echo

© Karin Fisher-Golton, 2015

 

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A Poem a Day for February

Last year the members of my children’s poets group set out to write a poem a day in February. All four of us did just that. Some days one of us wrote two.

On the last day I wrote a poem called “February 28.” It reminded me of accomplishment and possibility. I transcribed it onto a scrap of paper and put it in a central location on my desk where it has stayed for eleven months.

Poem by Karin Fisher-Golton, 2/28/2014

Poem by Karin Fisher-Golton, 2/28/2014

A new February is about to begin, and we’ve decided to do the same exercise again. Last year at this time, the goal seemed daunting. I was making plans for how I’d keep going and encourage others to keep going when we got stuck or distracted and didn’t write poems for days. None of those plans were necessary.

Now I’m just excited that it’s almost February.

This is a good moment to express my appreciation and esteem for the other three poets in my group: Sheri Doyle, Judith Gamble, and Carol Shank. I am fortunate to study poetry with, be inspired by, and enjoy the friendship of these three talented women. Thank you, Sheri, Judy, and Carol!

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Paul Hankin’s These 4 Corners blog.

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Stay Calm, Leave Room For Gratitude

(This post is identical to the one I posted earlier today on my book’s blog, OurAmazingDays.com. The two blogs overlap so much, a merge may be forthcoming. Meanwhile, I want to share this here, too.)

I’ve been noticing lately that “stay calm” is a great lesson of parenting. Things just work better when I stay calm. With parenting there are so many opportunities to practice: Stay calm when your precious child is bleeding and sobbing. Stay calm when your innocent child says something completely inappropriate for a situation. Stay calm when your adorable child makes a mess that you never thought possible. Stay calm when your sweet child whines with a marathon runner’s tenacity. Stay calm when you realize you forgot to stay calm.

I was contemplating this just last night. That turned out to be fortunate timing because this morning, when my 9-year-old son and I were putting away clean dishes and I was facing away from him, I heard a very loud crash with metallic tinkling overtones. Without turning around I said aloud, “I think I just heard the sound of the silverware drawer falling on the floor…now I’m going to turn around and see what that looks like.” In that brief moment I’d taken, I’d already reminded myself to stay calm, which was a good thing because not only did I see the silverware all over the floor, but I saw sharp knives next to my son’s sock-clad feet.

I asked him to notice the knives and walk carefully away. In an alternative not-so-calm universe I would have had dramatic and loud things to say, that would have included keeping him out of the room entirely, while I fixed everything myself, perhaps alternating with demanding he do some particular task in a stressed-out voice.

Instead, I asked him to get a dish towel from the drawer in the dining area so that we could put the clean silverware from the dishwasher on the towel to make room in the dishwasher for the silverware on the floor. While he was out of the room, I picked up the knives. Then we started cleaning up together.

I didn’t point out that it’s not a good idea to pull out the drawer vigorously. I think he already got that message. In fact, I think being calm left space for it to sink in.

Being calm, also left space for gratitude—gratitude the knives hadn’t landed on his feet, gratitude I’d remembered to stay calm, gratitude that he could help in this situation, gratitude for the opportunity to remind him and myself that when we make mistakes we can just simply fix them, gratitude for his good company.

What could have been an unpleasant interlude turned into a sweet time together.

512px-Jean_Nouvel_silverwareWarburg

photo by Warburg

 

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