Archive for the ‘Dante Alighieri’ Category

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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poem is on one of the center columns

La Vita Nuova


by Dante Alighieri


In that book which is

my memory . . .

On the first page

that is the chapter when

I first met you

appear the words . . .

Here begins a new life



Until I read this poem I never considered what moment in my life I might mark with the plaque Here Begins a New Life.  As it happens today is a good day to consider the question because today is my husband’s and my 24th anniversary.


I taped Dante’s little poem to a column on the campus of the Jesuit all-boys’ high school my husband attended and where we first met at his school’s low-budget and lumbering production of Damn Yankees. Thirty-one years ago I stepped through this portico into the gym it once housed, and there my life took the tiniest of turns that in retrospect mapped out the rest of my life.


I sat in the bleachers, waiting for play practice to start.  This was in the days before the old gym was turned into a state-of-the-art library, before the school had an 480-seat theater, back in the days when an English teacher with extra time directed the play, when students built sets from plywood and two by fours, and we all learned to project because no one had body mikes.


A boy I had recently become friends with, perhaps the first boy I was ever comfortable enough with to befriend, walked in the gym after spring break.  I hadn’t seen him in over a week, and when he appeared, tall and lanky, with flaming red hair, granny glasses and a face swollen from sun poisoning, I realized I had been waiting for him without knowing it.  I felt a rush of happiness, a happiness I still associate with the heady smell of sawdust and boys’ body odor.  We walked down the length of the gym, side by side, and something wonderful and quiet happened.  I felt I had come home.  Walking side by side with him felt like home.


And that was the beginning of everything.


Since I’m keen on symmetry, I’ll mention that as I write this, I’m waiting to see him after a week’s time and my own face is swollen and red from a bite or allergic reaction.

Beatrice says hello to Dante


The poem is from Dante’s La Vita Nuova, an autobiographical book of poems and prose about his love for the immortal Beatrice.  When he first saw her, he was nine and she was eight.  From that moment he never stopped loving her, even though both married other people. The day she first said hello to him, he was so overwhelmed he had to go home and pull himself together.  He fell asleep and had a dream that became the volume from which this poem is taken.  (Apologies are in order:  my knowledge of Dante is about as deep as this poem is long, and so the presentation is on the shallow side.   Plus it’s Memorial Day and I want to weed the garden before my husband arrives home.)


I will say that I like how the poem takes its time to get to the point. Dante leads his audience down and around a spiral of book, chapter, page, and finally a few words to get to the precious center:   Here begins a new life.


Happy Anniversary, dearest heart.



A Jesuit stops to read Dante's poem

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