Thursday, July 30, 2015

Of Athena, Greece and Olives

It’s Poetry Friday and Keri is hosting at Keri Recommends. Thanks, Keri!

Athena, New Acropolis Museum, Athens
I’m popping in with a poem inspired by my recent trip to Greece. For a long time, it has been my dream to walk in the homeland of my grandfather John Brousaides, who emigrated to Boston in the early 20th century. He fled to avoid conscription into the Turkish army where he would have been forced to fight against his Greek countrymen.

My husband Bob and I crossed off this bucket list item as our 50th wedding anniversary celebration. And our family and friends came along!

I didn't get as far north as Mount Parnassus, but came within sight of the Muses' mountain at magnificent Delphi. I'm still awash in the memories of olives, feta, Greek yogurt and honey, the many hues of Aegean blue, and the outpouring of hospitality from the Greeks we met.

Olives growing in Athens - my photo

This poem with Greece personified in Athena surfaced on the plane ride from Toronto to Athens. Pantoums always seem like a good place to start when I don’t know where I want to end up. Believe it or not, the biggest challenge for me here was the choice between dreamt and dreamed! Any votes for either one?

Many thanks to David John at My Favourite Planet for permission to post his lovely photos of Athena's statues. If you're a traveler or  researcher, check out My Favorite Planet for amazing photos and commentary.

 Athena, Pergamon Museum, Berlin

In Search of Athena

The Greek goddess beckons me
to cross my own boundaries,
to reach back and grasp the hands
of kin who dreamt among the olives.

Crossing my own boundaries,
I hear stories pouring from Parnassus
of those who dreamt among the olives
rich with the oil of belonging.

Stories pour from Parnassus
of brothers who fled their homeland,
denied the oil of belonging
cold-pressed from Athena’s tree.

Brothers fled their homeland
leaving behind the olives
cold-pressed from Athena’s tree
for other fruits and new dreams.

Leaving behind her olives,
the Greek goddess beckons me
to taste the fruits and share the dreams
of those who reach to clasp my hand.
                                ~ Joyce Ray, 2015 All rights reserved

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Nanny's Violin

I've been absent for ages, but I'm happy to be popping back in with a poem inspired by my latest challenge. Buffy hosts today, so pop over for more Poetry Friday offerings.

When my children surprised me by refurbishing my grandmother's violin on the sly, I took up the challenge and signed up for lessons. Not that my writing isn't challenging enough, but that old violin had sat in our closet for most of my childhood, its strings snapped and horsehair hanging off the bow. I never heard my grandmother play the violin, but I have a picture of her in a girls' string orchestra and another of her as a young woman cradling that instrument like it's pretty important to her.

Velma Collemer Brousaides played in one of the Boston orchestras started under the WPA in the 1930s. At least once she played in the Hatch Shell along the Esplanade beside the Charles River.

How could I let her beloved violin remain silent? So here I am, two months into private lessons. My optimistic teacher says I'll be a fiddler by the fall. My calloused finger tips think I'm a fiddler already, but my fingers (which don't cross strings easily) and my bowing arm (which still produces plenty of scratchy notes) think otherwise.

But my persistence (which I learned by writing!) has led me from "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" to some simple fiddle tunes (slowly, still). When I can't manage to tune the violin, my accomplished cellist granddaughter rescues me so I can continue to enjoy this bond with the grandmother I remember.

This poem is in the style of the "Say" poems by the wonderful poet Nikki Grimes in her book Words with Wings. I love using "Say" poems to encourage kids to pile on words!

Say “violin”
and my fingers try not to grip the bow,
my wrist tries not to go begging for G
with my elbow too high or too low,
and when the SCRATCH says begin again
I picture my grandmother on the Esplanade 
playing this violin, and I relax, 
let the bow glide down and up
over the sweet spot, my fingers arched
over the neck playing "Sweet Betsy from Pike"
for Nanny and for me.

                                Joyce Ray

Friday, January 30, 2015




The recent blanketing of snow is just what I've been waiting for. Not because I like to shovel, but because it's the perfect time to share a snowy day poem. With her permission, I'm sharing Diane Mayr's poem, her gift to me for the Winter Poem Swap along with a delicious poetry collection entitled The Bees, by British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. How lucky for me that Diane took a break from her amazing Kud-dos to Emily project to participate in the Winter Poem Swap. Keep an eye on her blog Random Noodling for haiku paired with Emily Dickinson's poetry.

 "A Snowy Monday," a painting by New Hampshire artist Lilla Cabot Perry, inspired the poem of the same title. It's a series of haiku, but perhaps it's also a modern haiga because Diane, so practiced in this art, paired her poem with the painting. And that makes me think it's also an ekphrastic poem!

A Snowy Monday

early morning
silence before
the snow plow

snow day
no good reason not to
have another cup

they check
the root cellar 
for a nose

from the safety
of a snowy hemlock
house sparrows scold

a little color
into the day

radiator clink
the smell of wet wool

         ~dmayr says "While the haiku and the painting in a haiga share the same space, they are meant to complement, and not explain, one another." And the poem "A Snowy Monday" does just that. The eye takes in a scene so familiar to those of us who live in the north, while the ear hears the plow rumbling by, birds chattering, the radiator churning out heat, and the nose inhales the aroma of brewed coffee or tea. It's the last olfactory detail that really makes me love this poem. It brought me right back to my childhood -  "the smell of wet wool mittens."

Skip over to These 4 Corners for the Poetry Roundup. Thanks, Paul!

Friday, November 7, 2014




Welcome to Poetry Friday. I'm sharing one haiku today. Click over to  Diane, Queen of Haiku, at Random Noodling for lots more poetry and inspiration.

This fall we took in the Bernard Langlais retrospective exhibit at the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, Maine. My husband took lots of photos.

 Langlais dotted his Maine property with fantastic animals created from any kind of wood he could find. The animal sculptures delighted me and inspired this haiku.


lions, tigers, bears

a wooden menagerie

barnyard fun - oh my!

I love writing from museum experiences. Though I wouldn’t exactly call this an ekphrastic haiku! Fun, though.

Langlais’ sculptures are placed throughout Maine on an art trail, and a preserve is being created on his property in Cushing.