Archive for April, 2012


I keep poems I’ve copied and can’t use for my blog the way some people keep slices of meatloaf in the freezer—-why throw away what can be consumed later?   I had dozens of poems leftover from my niece’s recent wedding (link here), two or three extra copies of poems I’d already written about, as well as a handful of poems that were either too long to post or were written by poets I’ve already posted a poem from.


So when I received two emails reminding me that today is National Put a Poem in Your Pocket Day, I knew my re-use and recycle moment had arrived.    I spent last evening wrapping a shoebox and taping signs to it.  Here’s the result:


Why is everything I do slightly askew?



Either my crafting skills stalled around fourth grade or I took Emily Dickinson’s dictum to “tell all the truth but tell it slant” a little too literally.  In my defense, I was hurrying because Revenge was coming on soon.


Anyway, my box does the job. A nice clerk at the post office okayed my display in the lobby.


I wish I had the dolphin-shaped surveillance camera that Revenge‘s Nolan uses so I could watch my box to see if anyone participates in this national whimsy.



Next on my list of tasks related to Poem in Your Pocket Day is to change out of my yoga pants (which I have no business wearing in public anyway) into clothing with pockets.


Deciding which poem to pocket could take me half the morning.


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Tommy aka 'Byron Bay Dancing Man' and star of 'I'm Free To Be Me' by TropfestA quickie post while I figure out what poem I’ll post next and where I’ll put it.


My daughter sent me a video I want to share.  The title, “Free to Be You and Me,” sounds like a coloring book for a self-esteem presentation.  Self esteem presentations make me gag.  But I didn’t gag watching this.  Mostly I laughed, and when I finished I wanted to dance and did.


Tommy Franklin, the subject of the short film, loves to dance in public spaces.  Cynics will call him an attention hound.  I call him a really really great dancer who’s spreading joy and kookiness in a world that needs both.


I love his advice to viewers:  “If you’re out of your cage, by all means, flap your wings.”  If I had a tattoo, that would be it.  If you’re out of your cage, by all means, flap your wings!


I relate to this guy in a particular way because when I was in 7th and 8th grade and as odd as odd can be, I used to tap dance on my patrol post in the morning.  (Which was, by the way, an entry ramp to the Capital Beltway along a very busy road—no kid would be given this responsibility today.)  A classmate’s father later told me that he’d see me on his way to work and it made his day to see me shuffling away on the sidewalk. Yes, I was showing off (albeit in a socially suicidal fashion), but doggone it, I was born to flap my wings.


Here’s the link.  Enjoy!


And R.I.P., Mr. Mullholland.  That was a beautiful compliment to share, one I’ve held onto all my life.  And, er, uh, I take back what I said about self-esteem presentations.  The one he gave had me smiling for hours.  Years, even.


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My niece and goddaughter got married last weekend in Maryland.  It was a great occasion to celebrate with my family (70 and counting), and a great occasion for poem elfing.



There’s no poem hidden in this picture but I do think I captured one in her expression. Look how she grips her father as she walks down the aisle towards her beloved with such transparent joy.  She can hardly hold it all in.  If I could have placed a poem on her person it would be this, from an unknown Chinese poet:

If I were a tree or a plant

I would feel the soft influence of spring.

Since I am a man . . .

Do not be astonished at my joy.


But I did manage to hide a few poems over the weekend.  I tied a Rumi poem to the bouquet Tricia used for rehearsal:



You can’t go wrong with Rumi for a wedding.



Tricia was a very happy bride, dancing and laughing all night, but at no point did she reach the “disgraceful” or “crazy” stage.  Neither did Poem Elf, I’ll have you know.   Still the poem’s a useful reminder to switch gears from planning to  celebrating.


Tricia didn’t notice the dangling poem until I pointed it out.


I planted another poem in the office of the father of the bride, my brother Donnie.


poem is taped to phone in foreground


I found “The Giving” in a collection of poems by someone named Max Ellison in a used bookstore in northern Michigan last summer.



I’ll reprint the words because I’m sure someone searching on “wedding poem” will want to copy them:


The Giving

by Max Ellison


Who give this woman to be wed?

Her mother and I.

We gave her dawn.

We gave her grace.

We stamped our image

On her face.

We gave her books,

And through the years

We calmed her early

Childhood fears.

We gave her faith.

We gave her prayer.

She walked our road.

She climbed our stairs.

And now in solemn troth

We swear,

We can not give.

We only share.


I love this poem.  At first I had reservations about the whole idea of “giving” a woman to a man or “sharing” her, but in the face of such loving fatherly sentiments, those reservations be darned.  This poem is just flat-out sweet and true.  We are each of us a gift to the world.


Poet Max Ellison was less obscure than I originally thought.   Well-known in his hometown of Bellaire, Michigan, he sold his books on street corners, spoke at Governor Milliken’s inauguration, and may have been—although I can’t confirm—the poet laureate of Michigan. He lived simply in a house he built called “Frog Holler,”  which had no running water or electricity.  His poetry is also simple, in the best sense:  clean and straightforward and honest.  No frippery.


In the goody bags for the out-of-town guests staying at the hotel, I left Dante’s “La Vita Nuova.”



I’ve already written about this poem, so I’ll include the link, post the picture and not say one more word about it:


Poem Elf got fancy with vellum and ribbon


Finally I included this poem (or excerpt from a poem) with the newlyweds’ wedding gift, a lamp.  I forgot to take a picture of the actual lamp with the poem, so I put another copy in my front window:



The poem provides an answer to the question Rodgers and Hammerstein posed in Cinderella:

Do I love you because

you’re beautiful

or are you beautiful

because I love you?


I can’t find a thing on the poet, Fulvia Lupulo, except that’s she’s Mexican.  Tricia’s husband is also of Mexican descent, so I hope this poem finds a special place in his heart.


And here’s the bridegroom himself, with my mother at the rehearsal dinner:



I can’t resist including two more pictures of my mother at the wedding.  First, dancing with one of her grandsons:



And then surprised by her grandsons’ Zou Bisou Bisou:



Ain’t love grand?


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2008 April, poetry month 2 by Ras_BisLibIf you haven’t heard, April is National Poetry Month.


Let the celebration begin.




Let your inbox fill with unread poem-a-day emails.  Let national magazines feature a token article about the relevancy of poetry. Let teachers assign haikus and limericks to display in cinder block hallways.  Let the New York Times hand over the op-ed page to poets for one day of the year.


I’ll break from my sourpuss act for a moment to admit that as far as secular celebrations go, National Poetry Month is as good as any.  Just as well to celebrate poetry as to celebrate amateur radio and soft pretzels (also on the national calendar for April).  But the designation smells of resignation.  It’s as if poets and poetry publishers have given up on anyone reading poetry during the rest of the year and are trying to shove a whole bunch of poems down the national throat in one month, like a hostess pushing leftovers on guests who didn’t like the dinner in the first place.  Need it be said that no one finds it necessary to have a National Pornography Month or National Young Adult Dystopia Novel Month?


Maybe I just don’t like excessive scheduling.  Pull out the iphones, folks, time to schedule a love for poetry!   As much as I wish it weren’t true, an enjoyment of poetry can’t be forced and a need for it can’t be penciled in the calendar.   Poet Jane Hirshfield, in an interview in The Atlantic, speaks to this point:


People talk about poetry’s having a diminished life in the current culture, or else they talk about its current renaissance, but I think that in good times or bad times for poetry as a whole, people will always have periods in their lives when they turn to poetry. Dealing with grief or falling in love, people will look for a poem or perhaps write one in the attempt to sort through and understand their most powerful experiences. Or, for the occasions of large transition — a marriage or a funeral — they will ask someone to read a poem that marks and holds the feeling. One of the jobs of poets is to keep making those holding words available, so that when other people need them they will be there.


My search stats confirm the truth of her words.  For those of you who don’t blog, let me explain.  Host sites provide statistics on how many views a blog gets, how many clicks to links in a post, how many referrals, how many subscribers, and most entertainingly, what search terms lead readers to the blog.  Sometimes these searches are funny, sometimes creepy, sometimes sweet, and sometimes—many times actually—affirming of the need for poetry in everyday life.


Mother and son by Ben McLeodNot a day goes by when at least one person isn’t looking for a mother of the groom poem.  During the past seven days at least fifty people have searched for a mother of the groom poem.  From June of 2010 when I first posted Seamus Heaney’s “Mother of the Groom,” over 1,000 people have searched the words in the title.  That’s a significant number for a blog with a small readership like mine.


Other common searches are poems for a daughter, children, or kids leaving home (thank you, Linda Pastan); good poems for teenagers; grief poems; poems for a funeral; and even what someone called pissed off poems.


Lots and lots of people want funny Valentine poems, but only in February.  Readers want elf poems year round.   Students always need poems, or at least an analysis of one when a search on enotes turns up nothing.  I can often tell when a teacher or professor has assigned a certain poem:  I’m flooded (okay, to the extent that I can be flooded—maybe dripped on is more accurate) with searches for one particular poem along with the words explanation, what does it mean, what kind of poem is it.   Lately it’s been Louise Gluck’s “Gretel in Darkness,” a poem I love and posted but did not, sorry kiddos, analyze.


Some of the searches touch me right to my very poem-elfing soul as I consider the specific ways people need poetry:  poem for a nephew going into the navy, poem today’s pain will pass, tumor poems, great poem for a great mom, will you go to prom with me poems.


Some searches leave me wondering how quickly a reader realized that what was being sought would not be found on Poem Elf and how quickly the search terms were erased from the user’s computer:


Hungarian girl on toilet

deep panty line

panty stain

woman jockstrap

women and underwear in sexy situations

mistress flush slave head in toilet

which poems of Christina Rossetti are graphic


(Have no fear, at least from me, if you’re an oversexed lover of poetry with a secret interest in Hungarian girls and their underwear.  I have no way of knowing who searched on what.)


Other searches make me laugh or at least smile, as if I were hearing, like Whitman himself, America singing:


my first baby poem

poems that will make my grandma cry

poems for spring cleaning

body_odor by Izzdamanpoems about body odor (this search has come up more than once)

poems I love my husband’s smell


And so, on with the celebrations!  Turn on the transmitter, eat your soft pretzel, and read Yeats!  NOW!  I mean it!

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