Poetry Friday: Because I Could Not Stop For Death

Emily DickinsonMy favorite poems are always story poems, but sometimes a poem has such evocative images that even though it doesn’t actually tell a story it almost seems too. Emily Dickinson has a whole bunch of poems like that. She was great at images, but rarely put a narrative to them (and rarely did they need it). One of my favorite of her poems is “Because I Could Not Stop for Death-” because it does have such amazing imagery and creates such vivid pictures.

Because I could not stop for Death-
He kindly stopped for me-
The Carriage held but just Ourselves-
And Immortality.

We slowly drove-He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility-

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess-in the Ring-
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain-
We passed the Setting Sun-

Or rather-He passed Us-
The Dews drew quivering and chill-
For only Gossamer, my Gown-
My Tippet-only Tulle-

We passed before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground-
The Roof was scarcely visible-
The Cornice-in the Ground-

Since then-’tis Centuries-and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses Heads
Were toward Eternity-

I hope that the images in this poem pop out as sharply for you as they do for me! Check out the other great Poetry Friday offerings at the round-up over at A Wrung Spong’s round-up today!

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Poetry Friday: Nursery Games

Pat-a-CakeA big part of looking at children’s literature, no matter what your focus is, is the way kids themselves interact with it. That infuses the whole field and can’t be ignored because if kids weren’t interacting with it, it wouldn’t exist. There are a lot of ways kids interact with stories and books, so it would be impossible for me to look at all of them, but since I also spend a lot of time looking at and working with games I tend to look at how kids play with books, like they play games. How does this get back to poetry? Poems are often the earliest games kids play! We play “Pat-a-cake” with babies, teach “Ring a Round the Rosey” and “All Around the Mullberry Bush” to toddlers and are still playing “London Bridge is Falling Down” in preschool. These are all classic Mother Goose rhymes that have long since had games attached to them because their words and rhythms lend themselves well to it (it’s almost hard to forget the words to “Pat-a-Cake” once you’ve learned them).

One of the funniest things about Nursery Rhyme games is that not only do they stick with you, but you start to forget which ones were games and which ones really weren’t. As I was thinking about doing this post I remembered “Sing a Song of Sixpence” being my favorite, but then on reflection I realized that there was really no game along with it, it was just a poem. It’s the same with “Little Miss Muffet” and “Little Bo Peep” and numerous other Nursery Rhymes. But there were a lot that were games. The thing was, as little kids, you alternate them pretty much randomly because they all seem like games. For kids, they can all be games. They don’t need something to have actions and things that happen for it to be a game. Something can be a poem (or a story) and a game at the same time, with nothing more than the words we see on the page. How do we lose that as adults?

Other people have great poems to share today, so go check it out at the round-up over at Mentor Texts, Read Alouds & More so go check it out!

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Poetry Friday: Jabberwocky

JabberwockyIt’s almost Halloween, so I wanted to post something scary! The poem that scared the snot out of me when I was a kid (and still gives me chills when I read it in a quiet room or hear it well recited) was “Jabberwocky” from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. This is one of those poems that has become more than I think it’s author ever imagined it would be. Words he made up for the poem are used in conversation (especially among kids, there’s whole papers on this topic) and the poem itself is quoted all the time and frequently in the most surprising of places. I don’t think I even realized when I first heard it that the words in it weren’t real words. They flow so perfectly and I was so young, why would it occur to me they might be nonsense words? They were just words I didn’t know yet. But it’s a completely awesome poem. My husband quotes it frequently and counts it among his favorite pieces of literature.


‘Twas brilling, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought-
So rested by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brilling, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Have a great before-Halloween weekend everyone! Make sure to check out the round up over at Literary Safari and see what everyone else is posting today!

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Poetry Friday: After the Storm

Migraine is a diseaseIt’s been raining on and off this week, so my headache has been bad. Because of that, I decided to post this poem from the Help for Headaches and Migraines poetry contest. Rain is always a problem for me because of the changing air pressure and is notoriously a problem for many people with Migraines and headaches. Spring and Fall are my least favorite seasons for this reason. I hate it when people say to me “I just love it when it rains (or thunderstorms), don’t you?” I never know what to say, since I can’t exactly say “No, I hate it. It hurts.” This poem does a good job of conveying the feeling of the end of a long bought of storms, a feeling I’m eagerly awaiting right now, so I thought it would be a good one to share!

Storm Leaves Town

An opening in the clouds
Blue peeks out
The blanket lifts
The iron Blanket of gray pain and
devil-red bolts

Fist behind the eye opens
Loosens its grip
Makes space
The eye can move

Sky opens, fist loosens
Spikes retreat until next time
Open the shades
Soften the brow
The storm has left

Enjoy it now

by Kate McCafferty

I hope you’re having better weather than I am! The round=up is over at Writing and Ruminating, so go check it out!

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Poetry Friday: Russian Ballad

Russian MermaidI was in the mood for something Russian today and this is what I came up with. Somehow I’m never able to find anything happy when I go looking for Russian poetry. There must be some, but I always stop when I find these great story poems. They’re so awesome! I love this one to pieces! It’s not happy at all, though. I love it anyway. I hope you enjoy it too. It’s by the poet Mikhail Lermontov and was written in 1841.


One day swimming his horse was a prince by the sea
When he heard a voice cry: “Over here! Look at me!”

The steed started and snorted, but ‘twas nothing to him
He shook off a spray and continued to swim.

Said the voice: “I am born to the King of the Tide”
“Wilt thou one lordly night in my sweet arms abide?”

And behold! From the wake, there a hand did emerge
Reaching out for the bridle of silk on the surge.

A young, pretty head did the brine then reveal
With long braided hair draped in sea-grass of bright teal.

Two dark blue eyes burned with passion’s pure fire
Sea foam rolled on her cheeks like white pearls of desire.

Thought the prince: “For this moment I surely was made . . .”
And he deftly reached out to catch hold of a braid.

He caught her and held her with a warrior’s arm
She splashed and she struggled with panicked alarm

Heedless he dragged her up onto the shore
Then his shouts to his comrades did loudly outpour

“Fellows! Come and see! I am calling to you!”
“Look what I have fished out of bottomless blue!”

“What are you waiting for! Do not delay!”
“You’ve not seen such beauty in many a day!”

And then he turned back to look down on his prize
But alas! The fire was already leaving her eyes!

For there lying limp on the hot golden sand
Was her green tail, like a fish, out of place on the land

It was covered in scales like that of a snake
Already coiling and drying as the sun did it bake

Sweat streamed from her brow presaging her doom
And her eyes quickly darkened with ominous gloom

Her poor hands grew pale as she clutched at the sand
Her lips whispered something he could not understand

The prince walked away for he could not abide:
Would he ever forget the princess of the tide?

Aren’t the images great? But see what I meant about not being very happy? Oh well, like I said, I love it anyway! And there are more poems to love at the round-up over at Two Writing Teachers! Go check it out!

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Poetry Friday: To Market

A Fairy Went A-MarketingI know it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted. I’ve been doing some work on other parts of the website, though, so I haven’t been completely absent (I’ve just been kind of focused on that). I have a number of books piled up next to the computer to review now, so I’ll try and get back into posting regularly in the next week or so.

Today I wanted to share a fun old poem about a fairy. There isn’t really much of a reason why I chose this poem other than that I like it. It’s cute and has some great images, but it isn’t terribly well known anymore.

A Fairy Went A-Marketing

A fairy went a-marketing -
She bought a little fish;
She put it in a crystal bowl
Upon a golden dish.
An hour she sat in wonderment
And watched its silver gleam,
And then she gently took it up
And slipped it in a stream.

A fairy went a-marketing -
She bought a coloured bird;
It sang the sweetest, shrillest song
That ever she had heard.
She sat beside its painted cage
And listened half the day,
And then she opened wide the door
And let it fly away.

A fairy went a-marketing -
She bought a winter gown
All stitched about with gossamer
And lined with thistledown.
She wore it all the afternoon
With prancing and delight,
Then gave it to a little frog
To keep him warm at night.

A fairy went a-marketing -
She bought a gentle mouse
To take her tiny messages,
To keep her tiny house.
All day she kept its busy feet
Pit-patting to and fro,
And then she kissed its silken ears,
Thanked it, and let it go.

This poem is by Rose Fyleman. I hope you enjoyed it! For more great poems check out the round-up over at HipWriterMama!

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Poetry Friday: Dice

Poetry DiceI don’t have an actual poem to share today, but after Gen Con last week I’ve been thinking about random poetry. I’m weirdly drawn to the dice with letters on them, although I’ve never bought any because I can’t think of an actual use for them (writing letter by random letter sounds way more painful than even I’m willing to put up with) and I haven’t seen a 26-sided die with all the letters (there’s not really a 26-sided platonic solid), so it would involve multiple dice and some kind of system for deciding which die to go with at any given time anyway. Not really the stuff of fun random poetry building. But the *idea* of building random from poetry from dice is still pretty cool. So I went looking to see if anyone had come up with anything interesting along those lines.

What I found was this very intriguing project. Basically, the poet listened to the sounds of the numbers from 1-102 (because dice roll numbers, not letters or words) and chose words or very short phrases that sounded like those numbers. So “fifty” becomes “thrifty” and “sixty-two” becomes “coochy-coo”. Then you roll the dice to see what combination of number/words you come up with and arrange them as you please! Isn’t that creative and interesting? I thought so. I also thought it would be fun to try picking my own words for numbers and making my own set. I think it would be even more interesting to do something like this with a group of kids. It gets them to listen to sounds and experiment with language while having silly fun. You could even get blank dice (they sell them in various sizes and colors, but I’d go with white ones maybe an inch or larger on a side to make it easier to read what you write on them) and actually make your own! I think it would be fun, anyway.

I’m sure everyone else has great poetry today, so go check it out! The round-up is over at The Book Mine Set! Check it out!

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Poetry Friday: The Great War

Vera BrittainOne of my favorite books of all time is Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain. My copy was given to me by one of my favorite teachers when I graduated from eighth grade. I respected her so much that I knew she must have given it to me for a reason, so I gobbled it up that summer. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever read and has stuck with me ever since. I found Brittain’s life and writing fascinating. I even chose two poems from the book to be read at my wedding. I’ve given copies to several people, although it’s never been an easy book to find (I order it now, but I didn’t know you could do that back then). The book starts with a bit of an old fairy tale and a poem and one of my favorite first lines ever: “When the Great War broke out, it came to me not as a superlative tragedy, but as an interruption of the most exasperating kind to my personal plans.” How could you not be drawn in after a line like that?

The book is full of Brittain’s wonderful poetry and the poetry of her friends and her fiance. All of it is well worth sharing (and may show up here some other time), but today I wanted to share the first poem in the book, which is by Vera Brittain herself and was written in 1932.

The War Generation: Ave

In cities and in hamlets we were born,
And little towns behind the van of time;
A closing era mocked our guileless dawn
With jingles of a military rhyme.
But in that song we heard no warning chime,
Nor visualized in hours benign and sweet
The threatening woe that our adventurous feet
Would starkly meet.

Thus we began, amid the echoes blown
Across our childhood from an earlier war,
Too dim, too soon forgotten, to dethrone
Those dreams of happiness we thought secure;
While, imminent and fierce outside the door,
Watching a generation grow to flower,
The fate that held our youth within its power
Waited its hour.

This is a great book and well worth the reading. I’ve never read any of Brittain’s other books, although she did write others. When I was a teenager I didn’t want to. Somehow I felt like reading them would mar this one in my memory, but I don’t think it works that way anymore. I think I may find her other books and read them now, since this one was so powerful and made such an impact. Even if they aren’t anywhere near what this one was to me, they would still be interesting.

There are more poems (probably less heavy ones!) elsewhere today and you can find them by checking out the round-up over at Big A little a!

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Poetry Friday: Summertime

Bed in SummerIt’s summer and the weather is so warm and beautiful everyday that I couldn’t help but think of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem about going to bed in summer! I always identified with this poem when I was a kid (what kid doesn’t, really?) because it’s so awful to have to go to bed when the sun is still up and you could still be out playing! I love that Stevenson so perfectly caught that feeling in this poem!

Bed in Summer

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

At least in summer I didn’t have to turn on a flashlight or lamp to read in secret in my room at night! It’s much easier to hide a book fast than to turn off a light and hide a book before an adult catches you! Still, going to bed when the sun hadn’t set yet was never fun.

Check out what everyone else is sharing today at the poetry round-up over at The Miss Rumphius Effect!

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Poetry Friday: Catullus

CatullusI was in the mood for Latin poetry today. The problem is that much of it is very long and rather… odd. This one is odd, but short. So I thought it would be good to share. I’m assuming that most of the people who are reading this probably don’t read Latin very well, so this is an English translation. We had to translate this one in high school and I remember enjoying it because it was reasonably easy and not about war (mostly we translated accounts of battles because there are lots and lots of them in Latin). So here is one of Catullus’s love poems.

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
and let us judge all the rumors of the old men
to be worth just one penny!
The suns are able to fall and rise:
When that brief light has fallen for us,
we must sleep a never ending night.
Give me a thousand kisses, then another hundred,
then another thousand, then a second hundred,
then yet another thousand more, then another hundred.
Then, when we have made many thousands,
we will mix them all up so that we don’t know,
and so that no one can be jealous of us when he finds out
how many kisses we have shared.

Catullus wrote many poems to “Lesbia”, but it’s assumed to be a cover name for someone else. There are many speculations about who Lesbia might have been. I always thought it kind of sweet he wrote her poetry under a different name. Maybe it was dangerous for him to use her real name? He also didn’t shy away from writing very sexually explicit things to her, but this one is very sweet with it’s many thousands of kisses. Catullus was quite a character, indeed!

The poetry round-up today is over at Check It Out, so go over there to see what everyone else has today!

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