Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Have you ever sat down to write something and felt like an overwhelmed dry well?  It's like the torrent of input is still brimming over, the soil is saturated and no end to the rain.  Maybe I'm receiving a vision of tomorrow's weather.  Maybe I'm over burdened with information about how to treat storm water runoff after digging out a twenty seven foot length of black corrugated drainpipe and replacing it with polyvinyl chloride drain and sewer pipe.  Maybe it was waking up to a song that was stuck in my head all day and I can't remember the lyrics. 

Okay, it's been a day and I remember the song.  It was Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car."  What a great song, but really, no one should be asked to handle a trip like that at 5:40 am.  The guitar riff was in my head all day.  Unfortunately the tune in my head has changed to Kings of Leon "Use Somebody," which isn't a very good song, I'm sorry to say, and I can't trade it back.  

I guess for now I'm just happy I could figure out the name of the song.  Maybe I'll have time to actually pick up my guitar soon.  Stranger things have happened. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

The tension of opposites... a line from Tuesdays With Morrie that has me thinking a lot.  Reflecting upon some recent lessons, I can see that I've been using the concept to talk to the kids about poetry.  For example comparing Anne Bradstreet's "To My Dear and Loving Husband" to Jean Toomer's "Her Lips are Copper Wire."  The theme is Love.  "To My Dear and Loving Husband" is a sentimental poem and "Her Lips are Copper Wire" is a sensory poem.  I admire the latter for its relatively unique metaphor, and I kind of despise the former for its Hallmark qualities.  Regardless, the lesson really got to the heart of what I want to say about poetry without my stammering for the words, or repeating "The Red Wheelbarrow" a hundred times hoping they will understand.

We deepened our study of these themes with modern music.  "Real Love" is the Beatles song we used, which is a jewel, but what a sentimental mess.  I juxtaposed it with Pearl Jam's rendition of "Last Kiss," which is a sentimental mess, but also an actual mess: "something warm rolin' through my eyes."

Here are some of the other "opposite" poems we discussed:

Follow links for supplemental You Tube goodness (The Builders link is especially strange):

Advice: "Mother to Son" & "The Road Less Traveled" & "Let it Be"
Work: "The Builders" & "I Hear America Singing" & "Wichita Lineman"
Death: "Thanatopsis" & (I had them choose their own) & "Last Kiss"
Freedom: "To the Honorable William Earl of Dartmouth" & "I Too" & "Blowing in the Wind"
Nature: "The Snow Storm" & "Birches" & "The Horizon Has Been Defeated"

Highlights: Skarl karaoke singing "Blowing in the Wind" when he realized the you tube link scrolled lyrics but no words.  Some clapped, some stared in horror.  Ah, these are the best days of our lives.

This week we're reading Anne Sextons' "Riding the Elevator into the Sky" and drawing creative interpretations.

Soon we'll be onto riddle poetry. Until then, folks.  Keep it fresh.  And it doesn't hurt to sing, either.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Thoreau for Toddlers

It's been awhile since Wyatt was a tiny tot, strapped to my back as we hiked the woods around Walden Pond. I'm sure it's going to be one of those non-memories for him captured in never enough pictures; a trip we can, as parents, throw in his face when he becomes a teenager, listening to loud music and acting in ways that imply we didn't love him enough. "But what about the time we took you to Walden Pond, dear?" And then we'll have to pull out the pictures because he won't remember.  When he reads Walden and expresses an interest in the ideas as well as the place, maybe even suggests we take a family trip, we'll smugly remind him that he was already there. "Don't you remember?"

What I remember of that day was the unseasonable warmth, the verde stone quality of the water....and the bugs. Millions of flying ants had hatched on that day and hung thick in the air.  We literally parted them like a living curtain as we hiked.

Among other strange phenomenon were the fraternity brothers (oddly skinny and awkward) hiking the trail in the opposite direction.  Greek letters across their chest, one of them on his cell phone: "...yeah, this guy just lived out here and shit..."  Also, the guy working in the gift shop was a brooding thirty-something in a Steeler's jersey. I remember thinking that even God is likely a Steeler's fan. After some conversation we found out the giftshop clerk was a Thoreau impersonator (imagine Thoreau after a bad romance with the Industrial music scene), and a native of Highland Square. Yes. Akron. It felt somehow scandalous that I came all this way just rub elbows with my evil twin.

We bought a few things, among them this book.

The book is still a little too long for Wyatt, but I've read it at him a few times; at first he was content to look at the nice illustrations of Thoreau in motley looking ponderous stroking his patchwork beard amid a city full of smokestacks and bustling individuals. By the time Henry begins building his own little house, Wyatt is out of my lap running his cars over the furniture. I tell myself that one day soon enough he will react with indignation at Mayor Fogg's scheme to build a toothpick factory next to Walden Pond. For now I'm pretty sure he doesn't even know what a toothpick is, much less have an opinion on them.  Until then, I'll continue to read the books he insists upon: a horrible Thomas the Tank Engine that I'm planning to hide in the closet, the How does a Dinosaur...? series, and, when I'm feeling poetical, Lewis Carroll's nonsense.