On Books: A Poem in Honor of Dr. Seuss

Thanks for picking up the hat for me, Butterfly. My own cat has outgrown his hat, but he’ll pick it up again, some day–after the self-conscious tween years, or when he has his own kids. ūüėČ Photo by Meli aka Butterfly’s mom.

It’s been years since my last Dr. Seuss birthday salute. Gasp! How did that happen? When I was finishing up a Dr. Seuss swap way too early this morning, I ran across a couple of Dr. Seuss items that had been hiding in my clutter. I’m sure I intended to blog about them, but well…things get buried in the “to be blogged” pile.

I rescued ¬†a poem to celebrate “Dr. Seuss Day.” The poem was written by swapper Kate Mc (KateKintail, a swap-bot ambassador) for a “celebrate Seuss” swap two years ago .

“On Books”

Sometimes you get bored
and there’s nothing to do.
You stare at the clock
And nudge stones with your shoe.

You flop onto a couch
or a chair or a bed.
You watch infomercials
or do nothing instead.

And just when you think
life isn’t all that,
why, who should arrive,
but the Cat in the Hat!

I’ve come for your boredom.
I’ll take it away.
I’ll bring in the fun
and cheer up your dull day.

I’ve got boxes and bins
full of toys and what-not.
You’ll be amazed
by the stuff I have got.

But for you, my dear swapper,
I’ve got just the thing.
Though not covered in glitter
or tied up with string.

It’s something you’ll like.
Come here, have a look.
I’ll show you what fun
you can have with a book!

Now, don’t make that face.
It’s not what you think.
Don’t rip up this letter
and throw it in the drink.

Books are jam-packed
with bushels of fun.
I really should know–
I came out of one.

So suspend disbelief.
Without further ado,
I shall outline the things
a good book can do.

Open one  up and
fold it just right.
Put it on your head,
and like that, you’re a knight.

With a couple of books
you can make a band.
Clap covers together
with one in each hand.

Or riffle the pages
for a different sound.
Even when its quiet
music can abound.

Find a table or desk
and prop one up on its side.
Grab your favorite food
and behind it you can hide.

You’ll be absorbed
while the world goes on by.
Hidden in knowledge,
new tastes you can try.

Or go to your bookshelves.
Collect a whole stack.
The green, white, and brown ones
the little ones in the back.

Pile them all up
up higher than high,
and pretend to climb up them
all the way to the sky.

Imagine the scenes
you’d pass on your walk.
The places you’d visit
and characters who’d talk.

One foot on Great Gatsby,
another on Dune.
After Gone with the Wind
you’re halfway to the moon.

But maybe climbing
ins’t your cup of tea.
Don’t run away;
please stick here by me.

Put a book on your head
for a balancing game.
Hop on one foot.
Repeat your own name.

Put one underneath
a table’s unwobbly leg.
Then set up a race
with an orange an egg.

Stand many on end
for a fence or a fort.
A beach chair and mai-tai
make it a resort.

An old book is great
if you’re in a craft stage.
Make a purse of the cover
and ATCs of the page.

But the very most fun
can be all in your head.
The best thing is that
a book can be read.

Designed using papers and elements from myfuninvites.com

Be sure to do some reading this weekend in honor of Dr. Seuss!

Literary Wisdom: Still Lives…Waiting

“Chaton entre des livres” (Kitten Between Books)

Life is change. If you aren’t growing and evolving, you’re standing still, and the rest of the world is surging ahead. Most of the people are very immature. They lead “still” lives, waiting. ¬†—Louise Penny, Still Life

Note: A-dor-a-ble postcard from Heather F. (AZmom on swap-bot) for the Cup and Chaucer group’s Literary Wisdom Swap #1. For the series, swappers send partners a book-related postcard with a¬†quote from a fictional or poetic work that enlightens, inspires, or ‚Äúshows us the way.‚ÄĚ [I host the swap in two groups on swap-bot].

 

Dining on Books: What I’m Reading Now

I have been reading voraciously the last week or so–as if I had been locked in some bookless prison the last few months, though that cannot be true. I teach literature after all!

Even though I seriously enjoy the texts I use in the classroom, that reading list is not for me. It’s for students–the texts I think best speak to the people, the milieu, the genre and will best prepare them for work beyond their degrees. After so many readings, those texts no longer feed my soul, fill me up or shake something up inside.

So what have I been reading? And what’s on my reading list for the next week or so?

  • As I mentioned last week, I completed Denis Th√©riault’s¬†The¬†Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman. Immediately afterwards, I quickly devoured The Postman’s Fianc√©e, the (stand-alone) sequel. Both are excellent reads–particularly if you are into haiku. These novels were passed on to me by my friend Cy and I think it’s a good idea to keep them moving. I have in mind who should read the books next, but I’d like to figure out some sort of tracking system, so as the books change hands, we know where they land.
  • Poetry! Th√©riault’s novels guided me back to my daily readings of the haiku masters. But I’ve been reading other poetry as well:
    • rupi kaur’s¬†the sun and her flowers.¬†Finally, finally I have time to savor every raw and simple line of her poetry.
    • I’m also reading Fractal Song: Poems by my friend (and retired? colleague),¬†Jerry W. Ward, Jr. He signed and gifted the book to me when he came to my university to deliver a lecture in October. An incredible gift! Jerry’s poetry is a bit more heady, so it requires early morning reading and contemplating in silence.
  • At the recommendation of one of my besties,¬†The Gifts of Imperfection by Bren√©¬†Brown. The chapter titles alone have me on the edge of my seat.
  • Max Lucado’s¬†Be Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World. The book seriously parses Philippians 4:6-7, a Bible verse I know backwards and forwards and in various translations because I repeat it constantly.
  • A couple of books I rescued from Cy’s toss heap:
    • The Dance: Moving to the Rhythms of Your True Self by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. Love her name!
    • The Simplicity Reader which combines in one volume three of Elaine St. James’ bestsellers–Simplify Your Life; Inner Simplicity;¬†and¬†Living the Simple Life.¬†The book is a little dated, but I love the short, common sense, no nonsense readings.
  • And to balance the list a bit more I’m going to hit the public library tomorrow to pick up some “Shakespearesque” novels and the last book in Francine Rivers’ series, Lineage of Grace.

This should keep me busy till the middle of next week. Then, I’ll shift gears and start thinking about spring semester. ūüėČ

What are you reading for the long holiday weekend?

A Last Nearby Song: Ending Autumn with Haiku

“Native Awareness.” Photo by Gale D. (grstamping on swap-bot)

I just completed the novel¬†The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Th√©riault. It’s the kind of read one can finish in one sitting, but it took me a couple of days because I read slowly while waiting in the carpool line or just before falling asleep. The book is based on the Zen concept of ensŇć. It feels a lot like Kafka, whose absurdist works I love, but it also feels like haiku, which is a prominent feature of the novel.

And that might be the reason I returned to my favorite book of haiku and have been reading haiku all week. However, [Kobayashi] Issa’s¬†poem, which I didn’t see in the collection, is worthy of the last day of autumn:

evening cicada–
a last nearby song
to autumn

Gale D’s photos are brilliant reminders of the best of the season and an appropriate end to the autumn posts for the week. The photos were sent for an “A Thousand Words” group swap. The top photo was shot in Mattawa, Canada. The photo below in Orillia.

“Drive by in Orillia.” Photo by Gale D. (grstamping on swap-bot)

Somehow, the novel set in Canada, the Japanese haiku, and photos captured in Canada come together and make perfect sense for the last day of autumn–in my mind at least. ūüėČ

Guest Post: When I Fell in Love with Words

One of the things I absolutely love about being an English professor is the regularity of my encounters with students who love language and literature as much as I do. I enjoy the connections we make over literature and the animated discussions that result from our (often divergent) readings of the same texts. Today’s post is written by Tyhara Rain, one of the brilliant students I’ve connected with over the last couple of years. Tyhara is a talented writer and artist with a sweet spirit and bubbly personality that draw people to her. She always¬†has a lot to say, and here, she writes about where her love for words began.

Tyhara Rain. Photo Credit: Amanda Pitt

My family and I moved to the United States from Paraguay a year before I was old enough to begin kindergarten. At the time, my sister, Taleah, was six-years-old, so as in most things, she pioneered the way to school in the U.S. As a first grader, she learned the English language quickly, as did I, but she was taught something I could only dream of for two more years.  She learned to read.  I watched as my sister would become engrossed in small books and envied her age and her ability to read.

Although many children learn to read even before attending school, with a working father and a non-English speaking mother, reading before entering the first grade did not happen for me.

Though learning to read was a life changing experience, I cannot pretend to recall the process. It seemed as if I were reborn after the move to this different country. I have very few memories of the first three or four years of living in America, but I do recall my fifth grade year vividly.

With all the initial expenses of our move to the United States, there simply wasn’t enough money for lavish things such as televisions or computers in our tiny apartment. Even as we became more established in the U.S., my parents still did not purchase a television for our home. Therefore, I found my source of entertainment in books. I had a wild imagination and every adjective, noun, and verb written by the author helped me paint the most detailed illustrations in my head as I delved deeper and deeper into the pages of mystery or science fiction novels.

Because of all the reading I did at home, during class free time, and–if the book was really good–during lunch and recess as well, it was no surprise that I had an extremely well developed vocabulary and high reading level.

I remember begging my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Clark, to allow me to go upstairs where the high schoolers were to pick out a book from their much larger and more diverse selection of books. For the first few months Mr. Clark denied my request and told me to read the books that were in his library. It was incredibly irritating; we both knew that I had been reading his books since I was in the third grade, and there were very few books in his small library that I hadn’t read that interested me. To make matters worse, my sister had become less tolerant of my reading books she‚Äôd checked out for herself, so she returned them immediately after finishing them, not giving me time to finish the chapters I still had left to read.

Finally in the beginning of the third quarter Mr. Clark allowed me to go upstairs to Mr. Mugane’s English classroom to check out a book. I was thrilled. Mr. Mugane welcomed me, recognized me as a sibling of one of his best students, and ushered me into his classroom lined with endless shelves of books and a thousand different worlds I could enter simply by opening them.

Reading higher level books had its challenges, especially the frequency with which I would come across new and difficult words. It was much easier to simply ask what the words mean, but my dad was adamant about sending me to look words up for myself if I did not know the meaning. I began to read higher level books with a dictionary at my side, just in case I came across an unfamiliar word. As a result, my vocabulary continued to increase exponentially throughout the next years. Whenever I discovered new words, I found ways to incorporate them into everyday conversations to remember them in the future.

Reading a broad base of authors helped me tremendously with presenting proper sentence structures, correctly spelled words, and different writing styles. As a result, I excelled in English classes. What had once been a simple hobby, morphed into a wonderful passion for words, reading, and writing.

As a thirteen-year-old eighth grader I decided that I wanted to become an English professor. Mr.  Paul Mugane, my incredibly brilliant and dedicated English teacher from Kenya, inspired me. I wanted to verbalize my thoughts like him, compose my sentences as he did, and express myself with the same eloquence. I fell in love with his mind and expressiveness. He had such a way with words I would sit in the front row of class enchanted, like a schoolgirl in love with the classmate giving a presentation, as he taught. I soaked up everything he had to teach from Greek and Latin roots to the different connotations of words.

Mr. Mugane doted on me, as I was one of the most attentive and passionate students he had. He rarely reprimanded me for talking too much–which I always did–and took extra time to grade my papers, writing lengthy notes on the margins and even letting me review my paper with him after class.

In that classroom I truly fell in love with the English language and after sharing this with him, Mr. Mugane told me that to follow in his footsteps I would need to become an English major in college. I kept that information with me as well as my passion for English throughout the rest of my high school years.

Five years later, I messaged him from college, thanking him for the work he invested in me and for nurturing the seed of passion I had for English and for helping me reach a milestone.

As an English major, I am one step closer to reaching my dream.

*Book photos from Pixabay.

Creative Conundrum

I’m on break for seven more glorious days (including the weekend). I desperately need a mental break, so I’m trying not to slip into my old “Thanksgiving Break” habit of spending the entire time grading papers, catching up, and updating my grade book.

There is a pile of books on the floor in my crafting space, paint, ink, and a bin of stamps begging for attention–not to mention the words, words, words in my head needing to come out!

So many things to get into, so little time. ¬†But…I’m determined to get my hands stained with ink and paint and stuck to something this week.

What about you? Are you planning any creative adventures this week?


Poetry Break with Jasmin Oya

“A Moment to Reflect”

For the last several weeks, my mood has been “poetry.”¬† I’ve been reading it, thinking about it, writing it.¬† Perhaps, this mood has been driving my need to get in¬†touch with what I call “ur-Chandra,” the person I was eons ago, before “life” invaded “living.”

When I was a teenager I spent whole evenings reading classic and contemporary poets, memorizing and writing favorites in a red spiral notebook designated for words that struck me in a particular way. (I still have that notebook).¬† I’d then pen my own lyrics till the wee morning hours.

Although my profession allows me to enjoy poetry regularly, long, long evenings with poetry and my thoughts are rare.

A few days ago, I treated myself to time with poetry. ¬†Instead of grabbing one of my¬†“go-to” collections, I¬†read from¬†The Ghetto of Eden, a stirring collection of poetry written and self-published by my mentee, Jasmin Oya.¬†¬†I’ve had the collection for several months now, and though I have read many of the poems, I’ve not been able to give the book¬†the attention¬†it deserves.

The book is divided into two sections–“The Beginning of Man” and “The Fall of Man.”¬† The 143 pages¬†offer¬†a sensual mix of spirit, flesh, and song, a prayer to the sacred and desecrated¬†in all of us.¬†Despite¬†its title(s)¬†the poems are not “religious” in the traditional sense, but they are spiritual.¬†¬† Some of the poems are a little “raw,” but¬†the painful honesty of “the story” that unfolds makes¬†the collection¬†difficult to leave on¬†a shelf collecting dust.

“Time Out for Verse”

Jasmin is one of my favorite people. She is a senior, graduating this year and heading to a prestigious university for graduate school. ¬†I love her to pieces–she is unapologetically Jasmin, and¬†she loves humanity and knowledge and a good challenge.¬†¬†She has been writing poetry since she was a preteen. She performs at various venues and enjoys facilitating poetry workshops for children. ¬†She is a spoken word and a paper and¬†pen poet. ¬†She’s also an activist who often uses her work to speak up and speak out.

I am sharing two poems that demonstrate the flexibility of her artistic expression.  The first is from The Ghetto of Eden:

“The Prayer”

I believe in God like I believe in my mother’s palms.
I believe in Him like I believe in my mother’s mouth
and knees.
Her tongue and every hallelujah that
yawned with it.
I see Him in her posture.
I’ve been trying to¬†mirror it since young
since young,
I’ve been trying to reflect her old.
All the prayers that have seen more days than me.
The ones answered and the ones that haven’t/won’t/will.

For I am no one without them.
For I am one with them.
For I breathe because they did.
I believe in God like I believe in tomorrow.
I believe in Him like I believe in today.
How exhausting they both can be
smelling of morning breath,

prayer and gospel.
These days aren’t easy, most of them are lies about what’s really hurting.

what lies beneath
who we are when
the room is empty.
when they’ve all gone home.

the party is over.     the
decorations are worn.
the night is fast asleep;
you’re left wondering,
who turned off all the music.
where have all the people gone.
who stopped dancing first.

Prayers don’t have room for the pride.
Put that to the side.
Gather yourself away from all the noise.
I’m learning to stop mourning the¬†morning.
Find solace in the silence.
To stop fitting God into the nearest human body.
Believe into what I have yet to see.

The second is a spoken word piece Jasmin performed three years ago¬†for¬†a Black History Month¬†event. ¬†“For the Black Artist”–

If you want to read more of Jasmin’s works, I encourage you to purchase her book on Amazon. ¬†It is well-worth the few bucks.

Be sure to take a poetry break this week!