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AWADmail Issue 22December 24, 2000
A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages
From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
The theme of words from poetry and the invitation to share your favorite poets and poems brought an overwhelming response. Much like the snow that's falling outside as I look out the window while typing these words. From hundreds of messages and poems selecting only a few is akin to deciding which ones of the snowflakes are more fascinating. Each has its own beauty and charm -- as no two snowflakes are alike. Yet, I've attempted to select a few here and in the interest of presenting more, increased the length of this issue. Thank you, for sharing these lovely, heart-rending, touching poems!
Also, we have invited Joseph Bruchac, a poet of deep sensitivity, for an online chat on Jan 10, 2001. See wordsmith.org/chat for more details. See below for one of his poems.
From: Sonja Hakala (sonjaATtogether.net)
I love the idea that you're taking words from poetry this week. I have a favorite that may not be familiar to many people but it's been close to my heart ever since I read it the first time.
The poet's name is Joseph Bruchac. He's of Native American descent, lives in upstate New York and has a few novels on the market as well as poetry. This poem comes from one of his earliest books, Near the Mountains (White Pine Press).
by Joseph Bruchac
The old man
The rain was falling,
But, leathery hands full
From: Christian Bittman (wowrealtorATaol.com)
That every poet is a fool;
But you yourself may serve to show it,
That every fool is not a poet.
From: Bob and Bev Fahey (parkviewATinterl.net)
We just celebrated our 52nd. Married in 1948 to my high school friend. I just wished I could say it as well as "How do I love thee, let me count the ways."
From: Stephan Fihn (sfihnATu.washington.edu)
I like this current series on words from poetry. Though American, I am currently living in Leiden, the Netherlands. Leiden is a wonderful, small city with many delightful features including a long artistic tradition. It is the birth and/or workplace of Rembrandt, Steen, van Leyden and van Doesburg. One of my favorite aspects of Leiden is a project titled "Dicht op de Muur" (Poetry on the Wall). A group of talented artists has painted poems from all languages on walls of building throughout the city center. So far nearly 50 have been painted on various corners. It is a marvel to be out shopping or simply roaming and to glance up to see a lovely rendering of a verse by Shakespeare, Rilke, Neruda, cummings, Hughes or Yeats overhead. It has also been a chance for me to start to learn a little about Dutch and Belgian poets such as T'Hooft, Lodezein, and Marsman. A block or so from our house here is a short piece by one of my favorite poets, William Carlos Williams. I cannot help but think that Williams would have been absolutely delighted to see this particular poem in big letters on a city wall. The title is also a wonderful English word.
Love is like water or the air,
Love is so precious,
From: Jeni Mahoney (jenidogATaol.com)
Here is the poem that has stuck with me since childhood. I first heard it around a campfire - from someone who had memorized it. I was fascinated that someone had a poem in their head like that ready to perform, and it was one of the best ghost stories I'd heard at the time. So I started to memorize - and I still have most of it in my head to this day. The poet is Robert Service.
Cremation of Sam McGee: www.wordfocus.com/wordactcremation.html
From: Mary-Agnes P Wine (mawineATjuno.com)
I too, love poetry. When I was a little girl I found on my grandma's table in the proper Victorian parlor, James Weldon Johnson's God's Trombones, Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. I sat there transfixed and memorized several phrases right then. I think The Creation may be my favorite, ending with the lines
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in his own image;
Then into it he blew the breath of life,
Thank you for your daily word that I was shown to me by a daughter. Enjoy it very much as well as the Smithsonian article.
From: Anabel Royer (anabeleeAThotmail.com)
Please investigate Issa, a Japanese haiku poet who surpasses all others. His heart and observation in the midst of suffering in one of fundamental compassion.
From: Ewa Nartowska (ewanartoATkrk.pl)
My favorite Polish poem (as I am a Pole) is "Psalm" written by Wislawa Szymborska and translated into English by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh:
How many clouds float past them with impunity;
how much desert sand shifts from one land to another;
how many mountain pebbles tumble onto foreign soil
in provocative hops!
Need I mention every single bird that flies in the face of frontiers
Among innumerable insects, I'll single out only the ant
Oh, to register in detail, at a glance, the chaos
And how can we talk of order over-all?
Not to speak of the fog's reprehensible drifting!
Only what is human can truly be foreign.
From: Margaret Howard (rosebubblesAThotmail.com)
Such a haunting topic! In grade two a favourite teacher asked me to help her clean a closet. It contained books which were to be thrown out. In my child's mind this was a crime. I asked her for one of the books - a poetry book. She said I could not have one as the principal would regard this as favouritism. One poem stood out, it contained the line "It paints the depth of love that lies within a dog's adoring eyes." As a seven-year-old it made me think of my beagle. Over the years I have prowled old book stalls and flea markets looking for this blue poetry book. I am now 56, and still searching for this poem!
From: Joan Cameron (joan.cameronATxwave.com)
This Robert Frost poem, first encountered in elementary school, has been a favourite over the years & always evokes an image of this winter solstice season in the rural southern Ontario, Canada of my childhood. www.yoga.com
From: Michele Partain (michele_partainATp2seng.com)
I love poetry, but have never been a person who could recite long passages to fit every occasion (although I certainly admire those who can do so). My all-time favorite has been Robert Frost. Did you ever hear any Frostiana, some of his poetry set to music? I only hear the word poetry, and snatches of songs flit through my brain. To this day, "The Road Not Taken" is probably the only poem I could recite from beginning to end and be certain I didn't miss a word - simply because I'm still singing it inside my head.
I wish someone with talent would set more of the masters' works to music. Can you imagine humming bits of Ovid, or Milton, or the bard himself?
From: Randy (randyATterra.net.lb)
I think one of the best poems I have ever read is the Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Although I may seem trite quoting one of the most frequently cited verses...
We can make our lives sublime
And departing leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
From: Dorothy Rypka (ddrypkaATworldnet.att.net)
Haiku, particularly Basho's. I seen lots of translations since the first time I read it, but I've never forgotten
From: Elizabeth Gray (grayelATohsu.edu)
You have already printed one of my favorite poems, Jabberwocky by Lewis Carrol. I have many favorites, but one that always moves me is a little poem by David McCord, ostensibly written for children, but surely enjoyed by folks of any age. It is called "Melvin Martin Riley Smith."
Made do without what we do with
For instance, did he have a kite?
He didn't, but he had the right
Amount of string to make one fly
And lots and lots and lots of sky
From: LTJG Kevin Volpe (volpekjATtruman.navy.mil)
I'm a naval officer deployed on the USS Truman. I've been enjoying AWAD for a couple months now. I really dig this week's theme. One of my favorites is Seamus Heaney's "Casting and Gathering".
From: Louis Berney (lbagsATaol.com)
I liked your selection for this week on poetry. I, too, enjoy poetry and feel very touched by certain passages. I also share your love of Wordsworth. I even took a special trip once while in England to visit Tintern Abbey, just because of the poetry he wrote about this magnificent edifice.
Since you asked your readers to submit their own favorites, one of the poems I like best is "The Battle of Blenheim," an anti-war clarion by another English romantic poet, Robert Southey, who was a close friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge, though he is not as widely known today. "The Battle of Blenheim" tells of a grandfather whose two grandchildren have discovered an object that turns out to be a skull - a remnant from the battle of Blenheim. The grandfather (Kaspar) tells them (Peterkin and Wilhelmine) the battle was "a great victory" for the British, and the children ask him to relate tales about the battle. He goes through the various horrors of the war while continually insisting how great the victory was.
Said little Wilhelmine.
'Nay, nay, my little girl,' quoth he,
'It was a famous victory.
'And everybody praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win.'
'But what good came of it at last?'
Quoth little Peterkin.
'Why that I cannot tell,' said he,
'But 'twas a famous victory.'
From: Richard C. Kelleher (q3078ATPrinceton.edu)
As a teenager, the words of Joachim Miller jumped off the page at me, and I've never been able to forget them:
I find so much of goodness still,
In men whom men pronounce divine
I find so much of sin and blot,
I do not dare to draw the line
Between the two, where God has not.
From: Joe Connolly (jjzhouATnetpci.com)
I learned this poem from a Pete Seeger record in the 60's. It is by Nazim Hikmet, a Turkish poet.
But none can hear my silent tread
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead for I am dead
I'm only seven though I died
My hair was scorched by swirling flame
I need no fruit I need no rice
From: Rekha Rao (rekha.raoATus.cgeyc.com)
Having recently returned from a trip to Egypt, I learned that the term 'cataract' has another meaning when cruising down the Nile River. Here, cataracts are points at which the stones are so large that they occlude the river's path, making it impossible to navigate. I believe there are seven such cataracts along the Nile. The first is near the Aswan Dam.
From: Maria Victoria Go (maria_victoria.goATroche.com)
Inspired by one of the AWAD themes - German words that have become English mainstays, I propose we call the Florida election debacle - chadenfreude!
From: Mike Riley (mistermrATaol.com)
Does that mean that when i see a flock of geese flying south for the winter they're just anserine the call of nature? Sorry, I'm feeling a little anserous.
From: Daniel Bloch (dblochATcolumbus.rr.com)
You might find it interesting that we doctor-folk refer to the anserine bursa, also called the pes anserinus bursa. Some anatomist fancifully decided that this place where several muscles attach looks a bit like a goose?s foot. It's on the medial side of the knee, that is the inside, just below the joint itself. It is a common source of annoying knee pain. And I've never yet had a patient find the name as interesting as I do. Sigh.
From: Robert Friedhoffer (rfriedhofferATgc.cuny.edu)
When my sibling asked me a sweeping question about planetary orbits, I replied, "Am I my brother's Kepler?"
From: Verne Marshall (vaurienATepix.net)
Is there a word for the above ability? The ability to "see" any word instantly in the mind, and prove it by stating within one-tenth of a second the number of letters in the word? I have been able to do that all my life, to the astonishment of nearly everyone who encounters the phenomenon. I am unable to explain it myself; and find that I count random words every day, several times a day, with no thought as to how weird it is. Any thoughts?
I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything. -Steven Wright, comedian (1955- )