Category Archives: Poems

Words!

I lamented a few months back the loss of one of my favorite daily websites, “The Writer’s Almanac”. Well the good news is that it’s back! Not on MPR, mind you, but back nonetheless. The same comforting music and narrative voice and the same format: notable birthdays or events in history and then a poem. And now I get an email every day instead of having to remember on my own.

About the only difference I can tell is that many more of the daily poems are public domain than not, which says to me that he has a much smaller budget for this than MPR did. This is not a problem for me.

Today the poem was by John Milton, to commemorate his birthday. One of the fun facts was a list of some of the more than 600 words that Milton coined: dreary, flowery, jubilant, satanic, saintly, terrific, ethereal, sublime, impassive, unprincipled, dismissive, feverish, fragrance, adventurer, anarchy. I can’t imagine a world where there words don’t exist and it makes me wonder how often I need a word that doesn’t exist yet.

For example, I need a word for the feeling that comes on me when YA isn’t home at the agreed upon time, worry and irritation at the same time. Worritation?

What new word do YOU need?

 

 

 

Hunter’s Moon

There was a beautiful full moon last night-The Hunter’s Moon. It is the second full moon of autumn, and was named by the Algonquin tribes as the moon for the time to go hunting and prepare for winter. The sky was quite clear and the moon was huge as I drove home from work at 7:00.  It had an orange tint.  The night before last it was almost full, and there were wavy wisps of clouds in front of the moon, making it look like the perfect backdrop for a a witch on a broom.

Tell about all the books, plays, stories, poems, and music you know of that are concerned with the moon. What are your own moon stories? Why is the moon so inspiring?

 

Telling Tales

Today’s post comes to us from Cynthia.

Every April for the past 11 years I have gone to a weekend Norwegian language camp for adults at Concordia Language Camp near Bemidji MN.  Last year one of the attendees gave a presentation on the Norwegian poet Olav Hauge with several references to Robert Bly’s translations. So this past April I volunteered to do a little presentation about my friendship with Robert (and Ruth) and tell three fairy tales.

I met Ruth and Robert when they first moved to Moose Lake, MN, in 1980…a town just down the road from Mahtowa, where I live. Many of our first conversations were about fairy tales.  On Robert’s 63rd birthday, Ruth organized us to do an enactment of “Vasalissa the Beautiful” as a gift for him.  It is a Russian fairy tale that features Baba Yaga, a witch who lives in a house that revolves on a chicken leg. I played the witch. We had recently butchered chickens and I used rooster legs for my hands.  Robert fell asleep. When he woke up he asked to keep the legs.

In 1984 while traveling around Ireland on a tour with Robert, Ruth and Gioia Timpanelli, I was mesmerized by Gioia’s telling of the Irish legendof Diarmuid and Grania.

Sometime around 1986 or so, Robert began an annual Valentine’s Day free reading in Moose Lake. He read his poetry;, he read other poets’ poems. And he almost always told a fairy tale.

So started me on my love affair with fairy tales. But then Ruth and Robert moved to Minneapolis so I had to learn to tell the fairy tales myself.  I loved telling them to children when I taught day care, but this year I discovered that telling them to adults is equally fun. At Norwegian camp I told three of my favorite Asbjørnson and Moe tales: Askeladden (The Ash Lad), Lurvehette (Tatterhood), and Tre Bukkene Bruse.  I told the first two in English, the third in Norwegian.  For fun, I am sharing Tre Bukkene Bruse with you in the Norwegian, because it is such fun to tell it that way and I trust you will recognize the story from your childhood even if you don’t know norsk.

Tre Bukkene Bruse

Det var engang tre bukker som skulle gå til seters og gjøre seg fete, og alle tre så hette de Bukkene Bruse. På veien var det en bro over en foss, som de skulle over, og under den broen bodde et stort, fælt troll, med øyne som tinntallerkener, og nese så lang som et riveskaft.

Først så kom den yngste Bukkene Bruse og skulle over broen.

Tripp trapp, tripp trapp, sa det i broen.

“Hvem er det som tripper på mi bru?” skrek trollet.

“Å, det er den minste Bukkene Bruse; jeg skal til seters og gjøre meg fet,” sa bukken, den var så fin i målet.

“Nå kommer jeg og tar deg,” sa trollet.

“Å nei, ta ikke meg, for jeg er så liten jeg; bi bare litt, så kommer den mellomste Bukkene Bruse, han er mye større.”

“Ja nok,” sa trollet.

Om en liten stund så kom den mellomste Bukkene Bruse og skulle over broen.

Tripp trapp, tripp trapp, tripp trapp, sa det i broen.

“Hvem er det som tripper på mi bru?” skrek trollet.

“Å, det er den mellomste Bukkene Bruse, som skal til seters og gjøre seg fet,” sa bukken; den var ikke fin i målet, den.

“Nå kommer jeg og tar deg,” sa trollet.

“Å nei, ta ikke meg, men bi litt, så kommer den store Bukkene Bruse, han er mye, mye større.”

“Ja nok da,” sa trollet.

Rett som det var, så kom den store Bukkene Bruse.

Tripp trapp, tripp trapp, tripp trapp, sa det i broen; den var så tung at broen både knaket og braket under den!

“Hvem er det som tramper på mi bru?” skrek trollet.

“Det er den store Bukkene Bruse,” sa bukken, den var så grov i målet.

“Nå kommer jeg og tar deg,” skrek trollet.

“Ja, kom du! Jeg har to spjut, med dem skal jeg stinge dine øyne ut! Jeg har to store kampestene, med dem skal jeg knuse både marg og bene!” sa bukken. Og så røk den på trollet og stakk ut øynene på ham, slo sund både marg og ben, og stanget ham utfor fossen; og så gikk den til seters. Der ble bukkene så fete, så fete at de nesten ikke orket å gå hjem igjen, og er ikke fettet gått av dem, så er de det ennå.

Og snipp snapp snute, her er det eventyret ute.

What was your favorite childhood fairy tale?  Do you have a favorite now?

 

 

 

Ode to Gardening

You all knew that you weren’t going to get through the summer without me waxing rhapsodic about my garden at least once. Wait no longer; today is the day.

The flowers are wild in the front… just about any color you can imagine but it’s my straw bales that are bringing me joy right now. Everything is flourishing beyond expectations.  The basil has exploded (pesto, here we come) and all the tomatoes are growing out of their tomato cages, with green tomatoes starting on all five plants.  Even the jalapeño is breaking all records for us.

And thanks to Linda, I have raspberry canes that are starting to pop. Today was the first day I picked enough to carry into the house (the last couple of days, raspberries went straight from cane to mouth).  Looks like there will be plenty of berries in the weeks to come.

As a city girl who never gardened growing up, all this generosity on the part of Mother Nature makes me absurdly happy. Every day I pinch the little flowers off the basil, pull the stray tomato stalks up through the tomato cage, water all the floral baskets, sigh deeply.  And then I think about Nathanial Hawthorne and his thoughts on gardening.

“I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.”

~Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from an Old Manse

What should I do with all my basil? Extra points if you can do it with a haiku.

The Wind Died Down

Last Friday, Husband and I left Jamestown, ND after playing hand bells at an Eastern Star convention. (That is a post in itself! ) We left about 7:00 pm.  It was still pretty light, as far north as we are.  By 8:00 we ran into the worst rain storm I have encountered on the road.  We could see the storm coming for miles, a rotating cloud of blue black, with white wind clouds on the fringe, threatening hail.  We learned later that the wind was blowing at 70 mph in this storm. The storm hit with a hard punch, and the rain was torrential. I pulled over and put my emergency flashers on,  since I couldn’t see the road, anything that was in front of me, or any exit from the interstate. It took a good 20 minutes for the storm to diminish and for us to cautiously proceed on our way home.  I found I  was only 20 yards from an exit, but it was obscured by the rain and wind. We saw a pickup and trailer in the ditch not far from where we pulled over. There was no hail, I am happy to report.

We have lived with the wind for 30 years out here.  It is a force to contend with.  Our house is perpetually dusty.  On Saturday, the wind blew steadily at 35 mph with gusts up to 45. The tomato and pepper plants  tossed all day.  They were wind whipped and twisted. They amazingly recover every time this happens.  We chose to stay indoors and dust and clean.  It was so unpleasant to even step outdoors.  One of my secretaries said they were branding calves on Saturday and they had to close the barn door because the wind was blowing dust all over the food for the people helping them.

The wind finally died down on Saturday night. It was such a relief.  Sunday was calm, and we watered and  recovered from the gusts of the days before. In  Giants In the Earth, Rolvaag writes of women going mad with the wind in Eastern South Dakota.  I can relate to them.

Tell about memorable storms. Tell about stories and poems of the wind.

Sharing Spaces

I got a credit collection call today asking for “Jane”. When YA was younger and still needed daycare and after-school care, I rented out a room in my house to cover the costs.  Over the years I had a variety of housemates, some great experiences (still friends with Fredrick) and some sad (Dawn passed away a year after she lived here) and some just downright weird.

My first suspicion that Jane was a little on the weird side was the day she moved in. We had agreed on the day; I had told her I would be home about 5. When I arrived home, her car was parked in the driveway and she was asleep in the front seat.  I knocked on the window, she rolled down the window, said she’s be in shortly.  Then she went back to sleep and didn’t come in until 2 hours later.

She wanted to set up a weekly house meeting which I resisted; that’s too formal for my taste. Our dog, Katy Scarlet, didn’t like her.  She was estranged from her adult daughter but wouldn’t tell me why.  She never got a job, although she talked about looking quite a bit.  When she’d been living at the house for about 5 months, she told me she would have to travel to Colorado for something and due to a previous legal problem, she might be arrested and have to spend a couple of months there.  She never went to Colorado.  Then at the 6-month mark, massive numbers of forwarded pieces of mail started showing up for her.  One day I counted 44 of them and this went on for about 3 weeks.  She never explained.  Did I mention the dog didn’t like her?

At the 9-month mark, she made coffee in her little coffee pot and then left about an inch of coffee in the pot for days on end, never cleaning it. I asked her about it a few times and she always said “Oh, sorry, I’ll get to it today” but never did.  When the coffee had completely dried up, she moved the pot to the top of the refrigerator.  At this point I told her that things weren’t working out and that she’s need to find another place.  She didn’t argue.  The day she moved out, I took the ratty coffee pot and set it on top of one of her boxes.  She moved it to the counter.  I carried it out and put it in her car. After that day I never saw her again or even heard from her.

The credit collection calls began about 6 months after she moved out. These calls came from Colorado, Arizona, California and also here in Minnesota.  And the callers asked for her under a variety of names, although they were all a variation on “Jane”. They did slow down and then trickle off but over the years I’ve probably gotten 50 of these calls.  Today’s call was almost exactly 22 years since she moved out.

Tell me about a “colorful” housemate/roommate that you’ve had.

Beautiful Lake Baikal

I have stacks of unread books on various horizontal surfaces in several rooms. Every once in a while I stop and pick one up and start reading. This weekend I did just that. I picked up “Sacred Sea” by Peter Thomson. I was checking it out before handing it on to a young friend. It is a fascinating account of Thomson (who is an environmental journalist, formerly of NPR’s Living on Earth) journey to Lake Baikal with his younger brother. Then, of course, I needed to listen to a Russian male chorus singing “Holy Sea, Lake Baikal.” It wasn’t the same recording as Dale and Jim Ed used to play, but it was beautiful. That led me to wondering what the lyrics were, so I googled and found a translation. I was very surprised to learn it is a poem written in 1848 devoted to fugitives from prisons, “Thoughts of a Fugitive on Baikal” by Dmitri Pavlovich Davydov. The music was composed by unknown prisoners working in the Nerchinsk mines.

Славное море – священный Байкал!
Славный корабль – омулёвая бочка!
Эй, баргузин, пошевеливай вал, –
Молодцу плыть недалечко. 
Долго я тяжкие цепи носил,
Долго бродил я в горах Акатуя.
Старый товарищ бежать подсобил,
Ожил я, волю почуя.
Шилка и Нерчинск не страшны теперь,
Горная стража меня не поймала,
В дебрях не тронул прожорливый зверь,
Пуля стрелка миновала.

Шел я и вночь, и средь белого дня,
Близ городов, озираяся зорко,
Хлебом кормили крестьянки меня,
Парни снабжали махоркой. 

Славное море – священный Байкал!
Славный мой парус – кафтан дыроватый!
Эй, баргузин, пошевеливай вал,
Слышатся грома раскаты.

Glorious sea the sacred Baikal!
Glorious ship – the omul fish barrel!
Hey, the Baikal wind, stir the billowing waves –
The lad doesn’t have far left to sail.
I’ve been wearing heavy chains for a long time
I’ve been  wandering in the mountains of Akatuy
An old pal helped me to escape,
And I returned to life, feeling the newly found freedom!
I’m not afraid of Shilka and Nerchinsk anymore –
The mountain guards didn’t manage to catch me,
The wild beasts didn’t touch me in the thickets,
And the shooter’s bullet passed me by…

I was going at night time and in the day time
Near the towns I was carefully looking around.
Country women fed me with their bread
And lads supplied me with tobacco.

Glorious sea the sacred Baikal!
My glorious sail – the caftan all in holes!
Hey, the Baikal wind stir the billowing waves –
The rumble of thunder can already be heard!

From http://www.lkharitonov.com/critical/glorious-sea-sacred-baikal-expanded-history/

Then the first comment below the lyrics:

Justus Naumann says:

August 5, 2011 at 10:16 am

Thank you, thank you. Finally the lyrics and a translation to this beautiful song I have listened to for nearly 30 years. A public radio program in Minneapolis, KSJN, had a “roots” and folk music show for many years. Every once in a while they would play Beautiful Lake Baikal by the Pyatnitsky chorus, and even without knowing the words it always brings tears to my eyes. Thank you.

Have you had any pleasant (or otherwise) surprises recently?