Friday, September 19, 2014

ASHLEY BRYAN - NATIONAL TREASURE



Welcome to Poetry Friday and the many poems Amy is rounding up over at The Poem Farm.

Today I want to share a wondrous day filled with generosity and poetry on Little Cranberry Island, also known as Islesford, off the coast of Bar Harbor, Maine.

The sky was clear blue and the ocean sparkled in the sunlight as the mail boat ferried us past lobstermen hauling traps on a late August day. My husband and I were on our way to the new Ashley Bryan Center to pay homage to the 91 year-old storyteller, poet, artist and illustrator I had met thirteen years ago at my MFA program. We also were meeting a relative who lives on this special little island.

Because angels and perhaps muses were leading the way, we met Ashley at the Center, and he invited us to his home. Now you have to understand that Ashley is the most gracious, kind soul on the planet. He travels far and wide to inspire others, supports literacy and well building projects in African countries, and dearly loves the children in the island school named for him. He is the best performance poet, performing files of poems from his spacious memory. And he was part of the Normandy Invasion!



At the small Center, we followed the timeline of his life, discovered his stained glass windows, and marveled at the puppets he has created from flotsam and jetsam found on the island's beaches. His new book gives each puppet its own poem, like the one for Kwesi the elephant.


Later, Jeri, our lunch host, brought us to Ashley's home. The creative energy in that space is astounding. Paintings, puppets, mobiles, African carvings, statues, shells, stones cover every inch of space on walls, surfaces and ceiling. He welcomed us upstairs in his studio where illustrations for his new book are on one work surface, stained glass on another, and large, new paintings stand on the floor. He told us how his long ago introduction to the cellist Pablo Casals changed his approach to painting. Ashley began to follow the rhythm of his hand to paint the interaction in a scene rather than try for realism.

Downstairs at his table, he recited Keats, Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Rilke in both English and German, all to illustrate points he had made about rhythm. He autographed the book I had purchased by the harbor, and acted like we had honored him by visiting on our wedding anniversary.








After saying goodbye, we walked a pebbled beach on Ashley's island. It was one of the most perfect days I can remember.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

POETRY FRIDAY



 

Host Irene at Live Your Poem challenges us with a theme today - MISSING. Of course, I chose my contribution before knowing this, but certainly the work of both poet Philip Booth and artist Andrew Wyeth are missed! Does this count?

After spending a sparkling day on the Maine coast yesterday, I found "A Choice of Horizons" by Maine poet, Philip Booth in Maine Lines, edited by Richard Aldridge, Lippincott, 1970. 

My day was awash in Booth’s “naked ridgepoles, salt-bleached shakes, and “the sea, the sea, the sea,” a choice of horizons, indeed! The day ended with a visit to the Wyeth exhibits at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland. It’s a joy to read this poem after dwelling awhile with Andrew Wyeth’s paintings. I can “see” paintings like “Christina’s World” and others through Booth’s words and marvel at how he makes us look at that one boy out-pedaling the wind on his bike "to shelter  behind some town the man he must be."

Booth, a New Hampshire native, studied with Robert Frost at Dartmouth and spent his childhood on the coast of Maine. “A Choice of Horizons” was first published in 1964 just when “Christina’s World” brought the world’s attention to Andrew Wyeth.

This poem is MISSING online. Quoting a section wouldn’t capture its beauty. Here’s a jpg from my copy of Maine Lines.

"A Choice of Horizons" by Philip Booth   


Click on over to the Roundup at Live Your Poem to see if anything else is Missing or maybe FOUND!





Friday, August 8, 2014

WELCOME TO POETRY FRIDAY



Pashupatinath on the Bagmati River in Kathmandu - Bob Ray photo
TERZA RIMA TRIAL

A poem has bubbled up from my visit to Nepal last year at just this time. In Kathmandu, we visited Pashupatinath, the most scared Hindu temple, where we were only allowed outside. It was the first time we had witnessed cremation, which takes place around the clock on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River. It was a somber experience and Bob tried to be sensitive with his photography.

My first poetic attempt was in free verse. Yesterday I tried it in a form completely new to me. At first I got the rhyme scheme wrong and had to go back and fiddle with the lines, so I think some parts seem forced. And I think it came out in tetrameter, not pentameter, but maybe that’s okay. 

So I’m sharing my draft of my first Terza Rima which I read about in J. Patrick Lewis’s Poetry Calisthenics, posted on Poetry at Play, and further researched on Poets.org. Feel free to comment, help me out, make suggestions. I’d love your feedback.

Thanks to Mary Lee who is hosting the Roundup today at A Year of Reading.


Cremation pyre - Bob Ray photo
Pashupatinath Temple

On the shore above Bagmati
Shrouded bodies rest on stone pyres.
Monkeys chatter a litany.

Kindling smokes into flame and fire,
crackling like a snappy chorus
decked out in marigold attire.

I have known cremation minus
incense or wood smoke in the wind.
My dear ones’ ashes knew no fuss.

They have joined the soil or commend
themselves to dance with ship’s bows. 
We’ll meet and mingle in the end,

because now your temple allows
no beef eaters, although my God
was first warmed by the breath of cows.

       ~ Joyce Ray - All Rights Reserved

Thursday, July 31, 2014

MORE BUILD A POEM




Horton Center, New Hampshire
I’m glad to be back after a long absence which included two months volunteering in Japan, writing a new picture book manuscript, and the launch of my YA historical novel. I haven't written much poetry, and I’ve missed the richness of this community! This week's Roundup is at Reflections on the Teche. Thanks, Margaret!


Last year I shared a Build-a-Poem poetry workshop for middle-graders. I’ve just used the same basic building idea with a group of terrific young teens at a New Hampshire camp in the White Mountains. They gave me permission to post some photos.



The week’s theme was “Get Real-Finding Your True Self.” Each day they studied what that might mean as a Christian. So with a few paint chips, a handful of words from a word pool, and my own example, they wrote poems with new names for this self they were discovering.





Scaffolding consisted of “My real name is..., My name used to be…, In my dream my name was…, and Tomorrow my name will be… .” This Re-naming poem is not my original idea, and I am sorry to say I can’t remember the source! If anyone is familiar with this exercise, please help me out.



It was a fun exercise, and not too academic for a summer activity. Two Deans and other camp staff  jumped right in and wrote poems, too! In one hour we had built a poetry wall.