Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring is Like a Perhaps Hand

By e. e. cummings (1925)

Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and from moving New and
Old things,while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NOLA Rocks! Part 1

Okay, I must confess that I've sort of been avoiding writing about our trip to New Orleans. The reason is the magnitude of the task. New Orleans is not a place where descriptions can be short and sweet. It is steeped in history, overflowing with charm, and bursting with fascinating people and places. We loved our visit, and I will do my best to communicate why.

First things first. We arrived on a Saturday, stayed at the Hotel Monteleone. It turns out that there are some good things about an economic downturn, and getting to stay in fancy hotels at cut-rate prices is one of them! M, in his trip planning brilliance, got us the flight and the hotel for a very good price, and so we were able to stay for five full days instead of just doing the long weekend. We did several activities per day, but we still didn't quite manage to see all the things on my list. Still, I think this is a good problem to have.

It occurs to me that I don't really need to tell this as a story. You, reader, probably don't care that much about the order of events, so I will just tell about things in vague categories. Food, for example, was a major part of our trip (please forgive me if I can't quite make the pics behave):

Coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde are a must. They cost only $1.83 for each item, and the cafe is open 24 hours a day. It's far easier to get a seat on the patio at midnight than it is during the mid-morning rush. That was only the beginning.

My favorite meal of the trip was at a place called The Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter. Not only did they have vegetarian gumbo, but several tasty sides as well. M also enjoyed many wonderful seafood dishes. Every place we tried seemed to have some version of oysters, muscles, or different kinds of fish.

Don't forget the desserts! There were many tasty options including these strawberry crepes.

I am the People, the Mob

By Carl Sandburg (1918)

I am the people--the mob--the crowd--the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world's food and clothes.
I am the audience that witnesses history.
The Napoleons come from me and the Lincolns.
They die.
And then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.
I am the seed ground.
I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing.
Terrible storms pass over me. I forget.
The best of me is sucked out and wasted. I forget.
Everything but Death comes to me and makes me work and give up what I have.
And I forget.
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history to remember.
Then--I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the lessons of
yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year, who played me for a fool--
then there will be no speaker in all the world say the name:
"The People," with any fleck of a sneer in hisvoice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob--the crowd--the mass--will arrive then.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost (1916)

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Lovliest of Trees, the Cherry Now

By A.E. Housman (1896)

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Crossing the Bar

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1889)

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar

Thursday, April 23, 2009


The RIF fairy has finally come to our town, and she is not pretty. The RIF line has been established, and roughly the bottom 20% of our teaching force is gone. I ended up being safe by hundreds of places. Whew, one thing off my worry plate. Now we are on to the excessing and re-assignment phase of affairs.


By Emily Dickinson (1886)

A narrow Fellow in the Grass
Occasionally rides --
You may have met Him -- did you not
His notice sudden is --

The Grass divides as with a Comb --
A spotted shaft is seen --
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on --

He likes a Boggy Acre
A Floor too cool for Corn --
Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot --
I more than once at Noon
Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash
Unbraiding in the Sun
When stooping to secure it
It wrinkled, and was gone --

Several of Nature's People
I know, and they know me --
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality --
But never met this Fellow
Attended, or alone
Without a tighter breathing
And Zero at the Bone –

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Still No News

Today was supposed to be "the big day" for news about our lay-offs. However, at our staff meeting this morning, we were not really told anything except how the process will work once they know all the numbers. At the staff meeting tonight, the board is supposed to release the RIF line. That is where they sort all the teachers by seniority, figure how many have to go to meet budget targets, and then they draw a line somewhere on the list to determine who goes and who stays. I "should" be safe from the RIF line because of my seniority, but I may have a change in what I actually teach if they need to move around those who stay behind. Now the new target is May 1st for the next level of concrete news. We shall see.

The Noiseless Patient Spider

The Noiseless Patient Spider
By Walt Whitman (1881)

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood, isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my Soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my Soul.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How Do I Love Thee

How Do I Love Thee
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1850)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to loseWith my lost saints, ---
I love thee with the breath,Smiles, tears, of all my life! ---
and, if God choose,I shall but love thee better after death.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Raven

The Raven (first four verses)
By Edger Allan Poe (1845)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,

'Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Concord Hymn

Concord Hymn
By Ralph Waldo Emerson (1837)

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled;
Here once the embattled farmers stood;
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps,
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream that seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We place with joy a votive stone,
That memory may their deeds redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

O Thou who made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
--Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raised to them and Thee.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The World's Dumbest Car Scene

Okay, I must confess that sometimes, especially on vacation, I do read schlocky novels. Right now I'm reading The Villa which is a murder mystery set in Napa Valley. This is certainly not literature, but it's done a decent enough job of keeping me guessing without being too embarrassingly bad in the writing department. Then I came to the thrilling climax with the run-away car. What follows has been deeply paraphrased for the sake of space:

Person 1: OMG! The brakes! I don't have any control!

Person 2: OMG! What will we do?!

Person 1: I will steer this speeding car along this curving road that has a cliff to one side!

Person 2: You won't make it! Look at those s bends up ahead!

Person 1: OMG! Try pulling the emergency brake!

Person 2: It doesn't work either!

Person 1: OMG! We're going to die! (car fishtails wildly around bends, tires squeal, other cars honk in protest)

Person 2: What about shifting? I'll try down shifting through the gears. Hold on, this is going to hurt! (crunches car into fourth)

Person 1: (whacking head on steering wheel) OMG! That hurt! We're still going waaay to fast!

Person 2: Here we go again (shifts into third, then second, then rams it into first with a horrible twisting of metal, but the car finally stops)

Person 1: OMG! I think someone is trying to kill me! Thank goodness you knew what to do!

Sure, it's a badly written scene, but there have been many badly written scenes in this book. What makes this scene hilariously bad is the one key omission. Did you spot it? At no point, in all that frantic action, did anyone suggest the driver take her foot off the accelerator. Sure, the author could have claimed the pedal was jammed, or that the car was going down hill, but she didn't and that makes all the difference. I can hardly wait to see what will happen when they finally catch the killer. Maybe it will be as unintentionally funny as this part. I guess this is what happens when you try to write 27 books per year.

She Walks in Beauty

She Walks in Beauty
By George Gordon, Lord Byron (1815)

Note: Did you know that, notorious rake, Byron was the father of Ada Lovelace? I didn't until quite recently. I'll have to do a little more research, and then do a separate post about that connection.

She walks in Beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Kubla Khan

Kubla Khan (excerpt)
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1816)

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
a stately pleasure-dome decree,
where Alph, the sacred river, ran
through caverns measureless to man
down to a sunless sea,
so twice five miles of fertile ground
with walls and towers were girdled round.
and there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
where blossom'd many an incense-bearing tree.
And here were forests as ancient as the hills,
enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Crimes Against Capitalization

Let me start by saying that I frequently comit crimes against punctuation, spelling, and grammar. I know this. It stems from my unwillingness to treat my blog like a professional task. Nevertheless, I do know conventions crimes when I see them. On our vacation in New Orleans, I saw such an interesting example of a conventions crime that I had to take pictures to share. Perhaps there is some sort of capitalization rule for wine descriptions of which I have not previously been aware. I especially love "elegant California Creaminess."

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud
By William Wordsworth (circa 1800)

I WANDERED lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Waiting for Mssr. Guillotine

We are back in school today after one week off for Spring Break. While M and our friends and I had a fabulous time in New Orleans (more on that later) the big topic of the day is lay-offs. With less than ten days to go before Pink Slip Day, the anxiety level is ramping up. Some of my co-workers know for sure, due to their lack of seniority, that they are gone. Other people are pretty sure to be gone, but they may get called back if they get lucky. Still more people are wondering if they will avoid the lay-off entirely. Without knowing exactly how many teachers are being cut, it is impossible to tell for sure if you will be one of them. Nine days left.

The Tyger

The Tyger
By William Blake (circa 1790)

Note: Would someone please explain to me why geeks seem to like this poem so much? It's certainly a good one, but computer people seem to have a particular passion for it. Is there some sort of joke that I'm just not getting?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Gather Ye Rosebuds

To Make Much of Time
By Robert Herrick (circa 1620)

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Twa Corbies

Some medieval bard must have thought that yesterday's poem "Three Ravens" was overly melodramatic because this parody appeared during the same era. It has the hawk and the hound and the lady fair all running off and leaving the poor dead night to the crows.

Twa Corbies (A parody of “Three Ravens” by an anonymous poet of the same era.)

As I was walking all alone,
I heard two crows (or ravens) making a moan;
One said to the other,
“Where shall we go and dine today?”

“In behind that old turf wall,
I sense there lies a newly slain knight;
And nobody knows that he lies there,
But his hawk, his hound and his lady fair.”

“His hound is to the hunting gone,
His hawk to fetch the wild-fowl home,
His lady’s has taken another mate,
So we may make our dinner sweet.”

“You will sit on his white neck-bone,
And I’ll peck out his pretty blue eyes;
With one lock of his golden hair
We’ll thatch our nest when it grows bare.”

“Many a one for him is moaning,
But nobody will know where he is gone;
Over his white bones, when they are bare,
The wind will blow for evermore.”

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Three Ravens

This poem was written to show how loyal and devoted the hawk and the hound and the "doe" were to the knight. Why burying the knight had to kill the "doe" I'm not exactly sure. Maybe she's supposed to have died of grief.

Three Ravens
Written down in 1611, but probably sung for many centuries before.

There were three ravens sat on a tree,
downe a downe, hay downe, hay downe,
There were three rauens sat on a tree,
with a downe,
There were three rauens sat on a tree,
They were as blacke as they might be.
With a downe, derrie, derrie, derrie, downe, downe.
The one of them said to his mate,
Where shall we our breakfast take?
Downe in yonder greene field,
There lies a Knight slain under his shield,
His hounds they lie downe at his feete,
So well they can their Master keepe,
His Hawkes they flie so eagerly,
There's no fowle dare him come nie
Downe there comes a fallow Doe (note, this really means a woman!),
As great with yong as she might goe,
She lift up his bloudy head,
And kist his wounds that were so red,
She got him up upon her backe,
And carried him to earthen lake,
She buried him before the prime,
She was dead her self ere euen-song time.
God send euery gentleman,
Such haukes, such hounds, and such a Leman.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Another Ancient Poem

No, I did not mention to the kids the name of Sappho's home island. All I told them is that this poem was found written on a crumbling piece of parchment, and that the first and last verses are probably missing. Some words are the translator's best guess because pieces of the original material were actually torn away.

Ancient Greek Poem
Sappho (circa 600 b.c.e.)

Now she shines forth among the Lydian
Ladies, when as the sun sinks low,
The rosy-fingered Moon
Surpasses all the stars.

The light spreads over the salty sea
As over the many flowered fields
The delicate dew falls, they bloom ----
The roses and tender anthrusca and
The flowering honey-lotus.

And she, often wandering back and forth
Remembers gentle Atthis with longing
And eats away at her tender heart for your fate.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Ancient Poem

This poem reads a bit like a better quality pop song from the modern era. However, it is actually at least 3000 years old. It turns out that men haven't changed all that much since ancient times. Racier translations also exist.

Egyptian Love Poem
Author Unknown (circa 1000 b.c.e)

She is one girl,
there is no one like her.
She is more beautiful
than any other.
Look, she is like a star goddess arising
at the beginning of a happy new year;
brilliantly white, bright skinned;
with beautiful eyes for looking,
with sweet lips for speaking;
she has not one phrase too many.
With a long neck and white complexion,
her hair of genuine lapis lazuli;
her arm more brilliant than gold;
her fingers like lotus flowers,
with long legs and girt waist.
Her eyes offer her beauty,
with a brisk step she treads on ground.
She has captured my heart
in her embrace.
She makes all men turn their necks
to look at her.
One looks at her passing by,
this one, the unique one.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Gay Rights Victory

Wow! A little good news from the gay rights battlefield today. Out of Iowa of all places.

Friday, April 03, 2009

National Poetry Month

Welcome to National Poetry Month! Okay, I guess it did start on April 1st, but if I'd mentioned it then, you would have thought I was kidding. Some may think I'm kidding now. National Poetry Month!? Who wants to spend a whole month on something as boring/painful as that? I can almost hear them clamoring about it now. However, lots of us (no, not just English teachers) enjoy poetry, and a whole month of celebration sounds just about right.

As part of the celebration here at school, we are having our version of a poetry slam at the end of the month. Our rules for "Slamming" are a little more relaxed than the official ones; the main difference being that the kids can use poems written by others if they so choose. Therefore, this is really a poetry delivery contest rather than a true slam. However, the kids really get into it, and they read and hear a lot of poems, and that is all that I really care about.

In preparation for the competition (we have a bracket and everything!) we read lots of poems out loud to explore different styles, eras, and themes. I try quite hard to get the kids to focus on the more literary end of the poem spectrum since I figure the more everyday stuff (music lyrics, jingles, silly verse) is around them already. This year, to facilitate our lessons, I've created a master list of poems that are suitable for the sensitive ears (okay, maybe the parents are the ones with sensitive ears) of brand new teens. Allow me to abuse your patience with poems for the next few days.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


I was just in my boss' office to discuss an upcoming activity with him. While there, he quickly took a phone call, and I was left looking around and waiting for him to finish. I happened to look up at the scheduling board where he plans the schedule from one year to the next. What I expected to see was this year's schedule still posted because he can't start scheduling for next year until the lay-offs are announced. Ha!

Everything's been re-arranged, so I know he's at least playing around with numbers from somewhere (maybe he's just guessing, but more likely he knows things that we don't). Then it hit me. There was my very unique schedule with someone else's name next to it! Is he "demoting" me from special programs to a regular schedule?! That doesn't make sense, but then again maybe I don't know all the facts that might be in play.

I know, I know, I can hear you now telling me to calm down. I don't really know what's going on, and I shouldn't freak out until I hear it for real. I really am trying, but I'm finding the calm to be sort of elusive. I just want all these stupid unknowns to be resolved, so we can get down to the business of picking up the pieces. I'm resisting the urge to sneak another peak while the boss is at lunch.

Happy Birthday C!

Today my friend, C, is having a very important birthday. I hope she has the wonderful day that she deserves. C is, to quote Cushman, a very roomy-hearted person, and I am very much looking forward to knowing her for many decades to come.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sneezing Our Way Into Spring

The sun may not be fully out yet, and the flowers may be delayed, but spring is definitely here. How do I know? My nose never fails. Spring "sent a green letter for all the trees to read" and they responded by producing a pale yellow snowfall of pollen. This is not a slight case of the sniffles, but a full-blown allergic response. The nose, eyes, ears, and skin are all in on the show. For some unknown reason I seem to be immune to all commercially available anti-allergy medicines. Thus I'm honking and blowing my way through my second day of work as her royal highness, Queen Sneeze of Itchland.