Category Archives: Poems

Narration

This was one of the poems last week on Writer’s Almanac.

The Cross of Snow

In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
A gentle face—the face of one long dead—
Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died; and soul more white
Never through martyrdom of fire was led
To its repose; nor can in books be read
The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Although I’ve never been a huge Longellow fan, I had been thinking of Rhiannon right before I clicked on the site, so this poem really spoke to me.

Of course, I had to look up “benedight” (it means blessed) and that led me down a rabbit hole where I eventually found this spoken version on YouTube.

The poem is read by Jean Aked, but I found it a little off, partly because it’s a woman’s voice narrating a poem from the point of view of an older man, but also because of her English accent; Longfellow was such a quintessential American poet.

Several years ago I might not have really noticed this, but listening to lots of audiobook has made me a bit of a voice “connoisseur”.  There are quite a few book narrators whose voices I recognize when I hear them and I have favorites: Simon Vance, Robert Bathurst, Jayne Entwhistle.  I usually like it when authors narrate their own books (like Bill Bryson) because they bring a special nuance to their own material.  Occasionally I don’t like a narrator at all, which can actually sour an audio book for me.  One of the most prolific audio book narrators is George Guidall.  Unfortunately, the very first audio book that I heard him narrate was something I just couldn’t stand.  So even after several years, every time I hear his voice it takes me right back to that dreadful book and I have to really concentrate to get past my negative feelings.  But he is a very good narrator so I continue to try to get past this.

All this leads me back to the Longfellow poem.  I’ve heard two narrators read it now and I think I’ll stick with the Garrison Keillor version!

It’s the story of your life.  Who would you like to narrate it?

Reading Mystery

A few years ago, back when a librarian needed to check out your books for you, the older red-haired librarian at the desk (Anna would know her name) said “My, you have a wide set of topics here.” I don’t remember what I was checking out, but I do read across a fairly wide swath.  Science fiction, fiction, mystery, a variety of science, biography, history, philosophy, fantasy, kid lit, thrillers.  About the only thing I don’t read is romance if I can help it.

It was about that time that I started keeping track of how I got the idea to read a particular book. I have several categories for this – my book clubs, BookPage from the library, Writer’s Almanac, my various “lists” (English Monarchs, Presidents, Newbury & Caldecott winners, etc.) and the Trail. By far the biggest category is O&A (Out & About), a catch-all for everything else.

I’m pretty good at remembering where I find a title that I want to read, but every now and then I am surprised when I go to my hold shelf in the library. I knew from looking at my online account that there was an InterLibrary Loan titled Meetings with Remarkable Trees waiting for me.  It had the sound of poetry and many of the poetry books I look for end up coming from other libraries: I assumed it was poetry.  So imagine my surprise it’s a lovely photo book with essays about specific trees.  It’s fascinating but I’m not sure where the idea came from?  It’s not exactly the kind of thing that you find in the mainstream.

So I’ve decided it must be something that was recommended to me on the Trail. It’s about nature, so it might be Clyde (he is usually my go-to for travel books, but it seems like something he might like).  But it has absolutely lovely nature photos, so it might be the kind of thing recommended by Steve or Cynthia or BiR.  It’s a little off the beaten path, which has Bill written all over it.  The author is originally from Ireland, which means that it might have been recommended by PJ, who has a broader range of non-American authors.  I’ve haven’t gone back to the Trail and done a search: for now it’s a nice little mystery.

Do you do well at taking advice? Or do you prefer to GIVE advice?

My Favorite Food

It seems that whenever Husband and I go to the grocery store our cart is full of dairy products. We are big milk drinkers, and we use lots of butter, cheese, sour cream, ice cream, yogurt, and skyr. I put half and half in my coffee.  Thank goodness I don’t have lactose intolerance.  I even have read reports recently that whole milk and full fat dairy products may help to prevent heart disease. Our son and daughter-in-law are instructed by the pediatrician to feed their son whole milk. I was told to offer 1% milk when our children were young. Things have changed.

One of my favorite memories of living in Winnipeg was attending the Winnipeg Folk Festival. I loved the music, of course, but also some of the non-musical acts like the poet Peter Paul Van Camp. He is an Ohio native and was a regular on the Canadian folk festival circuit and lived for a while in Winnipeg.  He writes and recites some wonderful and clever poems. I wouldn’t be surprised if most Baboons know of him, but if not, I am happy to introduce you.  It was really something to be at the Winnipeg Festival out under the stars and hear several thousand people shout,  “DAIRY PRODUCTS”, until he began his recitation. The following YouTube clip was filmed at a smaller venue:

What is your favorite food? Write a haiku for hot dogs or a sonnet for soup.

A Decade on the Trail

This is Part 1 of a two part trip down memory lane from Barbara in River Town.

We’ve been blogging here for (are you ready?) 10 years. For anyone new to the Trail, this group started when we were still listening to a beloved (Minnesota Public Radio) Morning Show that aired from 6 – 9 a.m. in the 80s, 90s and aughts (2000s). It was an eclectic music extravaganza peppered with cleaver (see Glossary above) ads, zany characters and radio plays put together by Dale Connelly (a master of parody and verse) and Jim Ed Pool (aka Tom Keith, the super sound effects guy for Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion). When Jim Ed retired at end of 2008, Dale stayed on, and the program morphed into an online streaming station called Radio Heartland https://www.thecurrent.org/heartland/ . Dale also created a blog in early 2009 called the Trial Balloon, in which he’d write an introductory piece about anything under the sun, talk about it on the radio, and ask a question at the end to get an online conversation going.

Dale, our Alpha Baboon, hung in there posting 6 days a week for most of the next 5 years. By the time he decided it was time for a sabbatical, he had written 1,166 of the 1,397 posts (231 of them being guest posts provided by the Baboon Congress when he was away). Here is his June 3, 2015 entry:   https://trailbaboon.com/2015/06/03/five-year-plan/  at the end of that phase.

The Baboons rose to the challenge, and kept the blog going with a wide-ranging collection of guest posts for the next 18 months or so, with Dale chiming in from time to time with a post. In early 2017, Dale “cut the umbilical cord”, and we got our own url: www.trailbaboon.com/ , with Verily Sherrilee and Renee in North Dakota taking the reins of the blog, on alternating months. (This statement doesn’t begin to cover the work and commitment involved – I don’t even know how to describe it – and how grateful we are that they’ve taken this on.) Other baboons provide guest posts that we send to them by email (though not as often as we should).

At some point early on, we started also gathering in the space-and-time realm… I believe the first book club meeting was in June of 2010. (Go to above left under Blogroll: Blevens’ Book Club – there are even minutes to the first meetings!) And we started doing “field trips” – anyone know what year the Russian Art Museum trip was?

Over the years various baboons have come and gone, and occasionally come back – life happens, and some months or years work better for blogging than others. A core group of us are still here, several of whom have been posting and commenting almost from the beginning. Old-timers check in occasionally, and we love it when they do. We’ve found we just enjoy connecting most mornings (and sometimes late in the evening) in this mysterious place in cyberspace, to exchange thoughts, experiences, recipes, songs, book/movie recommendations, health info, travel or garden tips, musings on the English language…

What’s the strangest group you’ve ever hung out with? (…besides this one)

Cruel April

I just read the NOAA weather map for later this week. Oh my! Minnesota Baboons may get a lot of snow! Son and DIL could get 20 inches in Brookings.

It has warmed up sufficiently here that people are jumping into yard work, cleaning flower beds and mowing lawns (which they oughtn’t do yet as it is too early).  Husband and I are waiting to do any yard work until we return from a trip next Sunday.  We first plan to prepare the garden for pea, lettuce, and spinach seeds, which we will plant later in April.  Husband tilled last fall, so we won’t need to do that now. The tomato and pepper seedlings are coming along under the grow lights, Tulips are up and crocuses are blooming.  We have pruning and flower bed cleaning to do, too.

I always find April a chancy month to garden. One April many years ago I was awaiting the first blooming of some tulips I had planted in the fall, when, on April 28, we got 18 inches of heavy wet snow. The tulips had flower buds just ready to open, and there they were, frozen solid just above the snow line. I had to wait another year to see them bloom.   April is the cruelest month. Sometimes March is just as bad, though.

What are your favorite and least favorite months? Any favorite T.S. Elliot poems? 

 

Cubicle Christmas

We’ve been getting things back from our desks that have been salvaged and cleaned after the big fire. Boxes of items have been delivered to us and everywhere people are unwrapping items and exclaiming over surprises.  I’ve gotten quite a bit back that I figured I would never see again.  My CD player, my mug warmer, all YA’s photos, and gymnastic magnets, my beaded warthog and my little fan.  Today I got the little plastic panic and eject buttons that I had pasted onto my monitor.  It’s like Christmas all over again!

So, to celebrate – a little cubical haiku.

the big office fire
scorched all my accessories
only buttons left

What was your last little surprise? Extra points for haiku.