Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I just visited a friend whose child took his own life three weeks ago. I returned to the library to do a storytime and now I feel guilty for feeling lucky! My overwhelming feeling after seeing my friend was that I wished the clock could fly backward and this tragedy could be averted but under that was a feeling of, phew! My son is still alive.

So listen to me, anyone reading this. If your life is so black and awful that you think the world will be better off without you - YOU ARE WRONG!!!! Someone will miss you with a pain so all encompassing that their days will be hell on earth. And not just one person either. Talk to someone. Tell someone. Keep talking to people about your pain until you find someone to help you.

And tell the people you love that you love them every chance you get. Bye now, I have a phone call or two to make.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Michael Auberry, the North Carolina Boy Scout who was lost for three days, may be alive today because he read "Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen. Or, so it's been reported on CNNnews. Reading can save your life.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I want a channel on television devoted to helping people and encouraging universal values - or examining values - like honesty, kindness, generosity, hard work, creativity, thrift.
Every channel I enjoy watching - HGTV, Food Network, TLC, even Discovery - emphasizes what people HAVE, rather than what they do or are.

I'm tired of watching shows that make me unhappy with what I have. On my new channel - which could never succeed because it could never attract enough advertisers - shows would explain how to make the most of what people have. Stories about people who volunteer, give to charity, recycle, use alternative energy sources, mentor students, fight for affordable health care, work towards world peace - that's what I want on this new channel.

Although the channel may feature Christian families, Jewish families, Muslim, Buddhist, Baha'i, atheist, Hindi families and activists, this channel will not underwrite any one religion. No televangelists will offer to pray for donors' souls. No one will try to convince anyone else that one way is the only way.

It's a nice dream. Now, that I've written it down, what can I do to make it happen?
Where have all the poems gone? You know - like "I think that I shall never see/a poem as lovely as a tree."
Or, "Blessings on thee, little man /barefoot boy with cheeks of tan..."

The first is by WWI poet Joyce Kilmer - back when Joyce could be a man's name - from his poem "Trees".

The second is by John Greenleaf Whittier, who if I remember correctly was also responsible for the immortal lines , "Under the spreading chestnut tree/ The village smithy stands."

Back in the way, way, way olden times, we had a thing called "Poem Study" in grade school. We had to learn a poem every week and be prepared to stand up and recite it from memory. Since I went to a parochial school, our poem study book had standard poetry in it and poems from Catholic poets like Kilmer. But the poems all had classic rhythmns and they rhymed - all of them. When we got to seventh and eighth grade and were lucky enough to read some Gerard Manley Hopkins (I read him in fifth grade because I was a poetry geek), we learned that poetry that rhymed and had rhythmn could also be exciting and bizarre. We also experienced some Walt Whitman - a poet who rhymed only when he absolutely had to -"Oh Captain, my Captain".

In high school, I fell in love with free form poetry, Allen Ginsburg, and oh my heavens - one of my favorites still - e. e. cummings - Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Dylan Thomas, beloved because a folksinger changed his last name to the poet's first name, T. S. Eliot - heavy intoxicating stuff, even some of the writings of Teillhard de Chardin... and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Sara Teasdale, H. D. Doolittle, Emily Dickinson.

But for recitation purposes, the poems of James Whitcomb Riley still stand firm - "Frost on the punkin", and "Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay/ to wash the cups and saucers up/ and brush the crumbs away..."

My MIL is nearing the end of her life. She asked someone to buy her a book of poems - "Best Loved Poems" But times have changed and only one or two Riley poems were in there. He wrote thousands, you know. She asked me to find "Out to Old Aunt Mary's" a couple of weeks ago - but I got busy and then I got sick and I found it only today - Thanks to the 24/7 reference "AskPA" , a 24 hour online helpline staffed by public and academic librarians from around the state and beyond. (You can access AskPA from your public library's website - if you live in Pennsylvania). Claire from New York (New York has a similar help line) found a full text version of this extremely long, maudlin poem with the tear-jerker ending that people of my MIL's generation loved. But in my search, I thought of several other poems that I loved when I was small.

Like "Out to Old Aunt Mary's", the poems are nostalgic, rhythmic and rhyming. Some told stories and others were silly and I love them all.

I have a new quest. I will hunt down and find the best of the old recitables into my personal collection.

Do you have a favorite recitable poem? Let me know.