National Poetry Month: Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver, who passed away this January, remains one of this country’s most popular poets.  She won both the National Book Award for Poetry and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.  On a more personal level, I feel a connection to her work because she was born in northeast Ohio, near where I live.

20190405_224303Oliver frequently uses themes of nature in her work, so it is not really a surprise that she has an entire book of poems about dogs.  Published in 2013, Dog Songs contains many poems about canines in general as well as some specific dogs in Oliver’s life.  There are also beautiful sketches of dogs throughout the book.

Her simple, unadorned structures and word choice fit the topic very well.  You can easily see her familiarity with and love for dogs coming through. From the very first poem I could see how she uses the motif of dogs to discuss issues of identity, love, living well, and even what it means to be human.  

One of the poems that spoke to me immediately was “Her Grave,” as I am also dealing with a recent loss of a pet.  The lines that really struck me:

She roved ahead of me through the fields, yet would come back,

or wait for me, or be somewhere.

 

Now she is buried under the pines.

Specifically, it’s that “be somewhere” that got me.  It seems to me that the essence of grief is distilled into those two little words.  Jolee, my cat, used to be somewhere. He existed. And now he is not, does not. As simple as that.

I may have cried a bit while reading some of these poems.  But that’s good. I think poetry is one of the most powerful tools for processing emotions, both reading and writing it.  I’m happy that reading this book made me get up out of bed in the night and find pen and paper to write a poem myself before it slipped out of my head.  (You’ll be reading that one a little later this month.)

If you are not familiar with Oliver’s work, now is a great time to check it out since April is National Poetry Month.  Let me know which poem of hers is your favorite!

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Lens-Artists Challenge #40 – Something Different

If you guys have been viewing my photos over the years, you know all about my travels and know what to expect–maybe some fields in Ireland, flowers and birds in the Galapagos, or buildings in Rome.

So today we’re throwing all that out the window for something completely different: a simple still life photo of everyday life with a toddler.

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I took this one on impulse with my phone, not staged at all.  The light was pouring in the window and I couldn’t help capturing the moment.  My kid likes to scribble but is mostly interested in simply taking the crayons out of the box and them putting them back in.

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I’m sure next week we’ll be back to Europe for photos.  Don’t worry, I’m not planning on switching to being a mommy blogger any time soon!

You can find more different things at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

Fan Art Friday: Ephant Mon

Welcome back to our Star Wars coloring book club, where Kiri at Star Wars Anonymous and I color the same image every month to compare and contrast.  You can check out her version here.

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This one is nothing spectacular, but I kind of liked that it is simple.  Ephant Mon is a very colorless character, both literally and metaphorically.  He has grey skin (like an elephant) and a very neutral robe, so I put in some happy, spring-like colors to liven up the picture.

Ephant Mon is a very overlooked character from Return of the Jedi; he is one of Jabba’s cronies and appears in one scene in the palace.  His name is literally a corruption of Elephant Man; as a kid I got him confused with Max Rebo, because I thought he looked like an elephant, too.  In Legends stories, Ephant Mon was the head of Jabba’s security force and got his own short story as part of Tales from Jabba’s Palace, called “Old Friends: Ephant Mon’s Tale.”

I have no idea why they felt the need to include him in this coloring book, but I like it!  I had a good time coloring this one because I am watching the end of The Clone Wars before it leaves Netflix.  I had never gotten to see the Lost Episodes.  And there will be more new episodes when TCW moves to the new Disney streaming service!

Lens Artists Photo Challenge #39 – Hello April

I love taking pictures of orchids; they are just so photogenic.  My mom’s petite orchids are blooming in her kitchen window, a lovely welcome to April.

However, here in Ohio, it is snowing and freezing outside.  Check out the ice on the window!

In that second photo, you can see a female cardinal on the bush outside if you look closely in the center.  The birds were very glad for the feed my parents put out today.

Here’s to spring coming soon.

You can find April greetings at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

NaRMo Review: Daddy-Long-Legs

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This review is my contribution for National Book Review Month (NaRMo).

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster is a charming short little novel, more of a novella, that I stumbled upon recently.  Published in 1912, it has a classic feel that has been popular with readers over the years, though I am surprised that it is not better known now.

Jerusha Abbott has lived her whole life in an orphanage, with the monotony of her studies and duties with the younger children broken up only by ice cream on Sundays.  When an anonymous benefactor offers to send her to college, she reinvents herself as Judy, a vivacious coed studying to be a writer. Her benefactor’s only requirement is that she write him letters to keep him updated on her college career, which she addresses to “Daddy-Long-Legs,” because all she knows about him is that he is tall.

Except for short introduction, the book is entirely epistolary in format, consisting of Judy’s letters to Daddy (or other epithets like “Mr. Rich Man” when she’s piqued).  Judy knows that she will receive no reply to her letters, except perhaps curt instructions from Daddy’s secretary, so the story is wonderfully one-sided yet still manages to give an impression of what her benefactor’s actions, thoughts, feelings are.

Most of the letters are amusing and often flippant, but her determination and struggles occasionally break through.  She is both full of goals and dreams for her future and at the same time determined to live life to the fullest here and now.  There are charming details of life at a women’s college mixed with her cheeky passages determining what kind of socialist she is.

The twist to the story was of course obvious to me immediately, but the dramatic irony was really enjoyable as I read between the lines of Judy’s letters to see the relationship taking shape. The ending is a bit abrupt but satisfying.

Webster also wrote a sequel called Dear Enemy, which consists of letters written by Judy’s college roommate Sallie McBride, whom Judy talks into taking over running the orphanage. While equally entertaining as the original, this novel has a few quaint thoughts (some bordering on harmful) regarding “Negroes,” “Indians,” and the “feeble-minded,” which will require some critical thinking for modern readers.  The two books together have some shadows of Jane Eyre, and I can see them being very popular with young women in particular.