Evening Poetry, May 31

River Fall

by David Whyte

We follow

the river’s fall

down through

the mountains

all day, but now

our bodies

have stopped

to rest,

the water still flows on

without us.

You can find this poem in the collection The Bell and The Blackbird by David Whyte.

Inspiration (Links I Love)

This is where I will share my sources of inspiration from the past week: it could be from books, podcasts, blogs, films, artwork, food/recipes, etc. I hope you find some encouragement here as well!

Trees

Yes, you read that right! Trees. There is research to support what we know–that being outside does a body good. They help us de-stress, benefit our overall health, and even help us socially. Read this article!

Podcasts

This week I listened to some notable podcasts! How I Built This with Guy Raz is a podcast featuring owners/founders of successful companies like Burt’s Bees, Lyft, and Zappos. I am usually inspired by their stories of starting small and building something big and all the obstacles and struggles they had to overcome along the way.

My recent favorite is the episode with farm-to-table movement founder Alice Waters, who’s been cooking at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA since 1971. What a lovely woman with such a lovely vision for local, sustainable, ethical food. Listen here!

This What Should I Read Next episode featured Michele Cobb, publisher of AudioFile Magazine talking all things audiobooks with Anne. She gave some great recommendations and also talked about the free summer audiobook program for teens called SYNC. This is fourteen weeks of free audiobook downloads: two each week! If you have teens at home, see if they know about it.

Seth Godin’s podcast, Akimbo, had an episode that I wish every person would listen to, but especially entrepreneurs, small business owners, and thoughtful people everywhere. In the episode BREATHE, Seth talks about the status quo and the environmental crisis the world is facing as a result of marketing gone bad. Please listen to this one, think about it, and have conversations with friends and family. The planet’s future is up to us.

Books

I just finished On The Come Up by Angie Thomas. I listened to it on audio and the main character, Bri, a teen who has a gift for rapping, definitely grew on me as the book progressed. The narrator does a fantastic job of bringing all the characters’ personalities to life. The parts about her church experiences are very entertaining and I could definitely relate to some of it-especially the length of the services! Highly recommended–especially in audio. I listened to The Hate U Give also by Angie Thomas last summer and it opened my eyes to experiences that are part of everyday life for some people that are very different from mine. Also recommended on audio!

As far as poetry goes, I finished Otherwise by Jane Kenyon. I’ve been featuring plenty of her poems in Evening Poetry probably because the subjects she writes about: living in the country, her family, her religious upbringing, her mental illness, and her everyday experiences hit home. When poetry “gets you in the gut”, as my friend Britt wrote to me a few weeks ago, then you know it is speaking your language.

Music

English folk singer/songwriter/musician Kate Rusby’s album just came out!!! It’s called Philosphers, Poets and Kings and it is just the sort of beautiful, original music fans that like me love her for. This is a must listen!

Alright, that’s all for this week! I’d love to hear about what’s been inspiring you lately in the comments.

Evening Poetry, May 30

Setting The Table

by Dorothy Aldis

Evenings

When the house is quiet

I delight

To spread the white

Smooth cloth and put the flower on the table.

I place the knives and forks around

Without a sound.

I light the candles.

I love to see

Their small reflected torches shine

Against the greenness of the vine

And garden.

Is that the mignonette, I wonder,

Smells so sweet?

And then I call them in to eat.

You can find this poem in Favorite Poems Old and New.

How To Make Alan Pollack’s Indian Red Curry with Shrimp

Alan surprised me with a new curry recipe for dinner earlier this month; it was so delicious I begged him to make it again last week and to write it down so I could share it with you. He started with a Red Curry Lentils recipe from Pinch of Yum and in the fashion of all true cooks, he added a bit more of this ingredient, eliminated that ingredient, and before he knew it, he had a whole new recipe. If you are a fan of spicy Indian food, you will want to make this ASAP!

Alan’s Indian Red Curry With Shrimp

serves 4-6

1/2 large onion, diced

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons red curry paste

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon garam masala

2 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ginger, minced

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 14-ounce can tomato puree

1 14-oz can coconut milk

Juice from 1/2 a lime

I lb. or so baby bok choy or spinach

2 cups green beans, ends trimmed

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pepper, sliced or cut into pieces

1 lb. shrimp, thawed and peeled

Cilantro for garnishing

Rice for serving

In a large saucepan, melt the coconut oil, add onion and sauté for a few minutes. Add spices and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomato puree, stir until spices are evenly distributed.

Add green beans, sweet potatoes, peppers, bok choy, and coconut milk, and cook until veggies are soft, 15-20 minutes. (If using spinach, wait until the last few minutes.)

Add shrimp, if using, the last few minutes and cook until done. Add lime juice and cilantro (if using) and serve over rice.

Happy cooking, readers! Oh, and you should definitely check out Alan’s art on Instagram or his website.

Evening Poetry, May 29

A Birthday

by Christina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird
                  Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
                  Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
                  That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
                  Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a dais of silk and down;
                  Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
                  And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
                  In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
                  Is come, my love is come to me.

You can find this poem in The Complete Poems by Christina Rossetti.

Poetry is for YOU (plus, a GIVEAWAY!)

I know plenty of people who are bookworms but not poetry lovers. Maybe they were forced to read poetry written in archaic language when they were in high school and then asked to write a dreaded analysis. That kills it for so many people!

Or maybe they just think poetry is full of flowery language that they can’t understand or relate to. No one wants to feel stupid, so poetry gets shelved along with old yearbooks. Let me just say, this is not the point of poetry at all! It’s not meant to be only for those “brainy, heady types”. Poetry is for everyone!

For me, poetry is a breath of fresh air. It’s a way to connect emotion, intuition, and mystery with words. It’s fluid and freeing and touches me deeply in a way that prose cannot.

For those of you whose interest in poetry has been blighted by education’s withering hand, I entreat you to try this: Go to your local library or bookstore. The children’s poetry is often an easy, accessible entry point. Pick up a book of poetry and open it. If one poem doesn’t appeal to you, turn a few pages and try another one. If that particular poet doesn’t appeal to you, set that book down and reach for something else. If you feel brave, find the grown-up poetry section and repeat.

I promise: there is poetry for you, for where you are at right now, and for the kind of language your heart speaks. You don’t have to decipher the meaning, write an analysis or attempt to understand every line. You just have to listen with your heart and see if the poet is speaking to you.

If you’re brand new to poetry, head to The Poetry Foundation’s website to read more poetry than you can imagine. Here are a few poets you might want to start with:

Shel Silverstein

Mary Oliver

Jack Prelutsky

Maya Angelou

Ogden Nash

Wendell Berry

OK, about the giveaway! **U.S. Residents ONLY** I am giving away a brand new copy of Plough Publishing’s poetry book The Heart’s Necessities to one reader. Read my review here. To enter: 1. Subscribe to this blog. 2. Follow me on Instagram. I will choose one reader at random on Friday May 31st. Good luck, readers!

Evening Poetry, May 28

Ironing Grandmother’s Tablecloth

by Jane Kenyon

As a bride, you made it smooth,

pulling the edges straight, the corners square.

For years you went over the same piece

of cloth, the way Grandfather walked to work.

This morning, I move the iron across the damask,

back and forth, up and down. You are ninety-four.

Each day you dress yourself, then go back to bed

and listen to radio sermons, staring at the ceiling.

When I visit, you tell me your troubles:

how my father left poisoned grapefruit on the back

porch at Christmas, how somebody comes at night

to throw stones at the house.

The streets of your brain become smaller,

old houses torn down. Talking to me

is hard work, keeping things straight,

whose child I am, whether I have children.

You can find this poem in the collection Otherwise by Jane Kenyon.

She’s My Dad (Book Review)

I have to be honest: when the invitation to read this e-galley popped up in my inbox, my very first reaction was that I wasn’t interested. Why? For the boring reason that I don’t know anyone who has transitioned gender, so I didn’t think it was something I needed to read.

My next thoughts countered my initial reaction: I needed to become a more diverse reader. I needed to read more books that were completely outside of my personal experience and outside of my comfort zone. I needed books that challenged my pre-conceived ideas, my natural aversions to certain subjects, my tendency to read about subjects I felt familiar with. So I accepted the invitation to read She’s My Dad: A Father’s Transition and a Son’s Redemption by Jonathan Williams with Paula Stone Williams.

Right away, I realized I did have something in common with the author and his father. They came from an Evangelical, non-denominational church culture that took the Bible as objective truth and considered it the Word of God. This was the culture I was steeped in my whole life until just a few years ago.

This culture said they loved the LGBTQIA community, but because of a handful of Biblical passages, considered the queer lifestyle sinful and wouldn’t allow anyone in the LGBTQIA community to join the church, serve in the church, be baptized, etc. Does that sound like love to you? Nope, I didn’t think so.

This story is centered around an Evangelical thirty-something pastor, Jonathan, and his dad, Paul (also a pastor). Paul comes out to his family and tells them he’s a woman. He changes his name to Paula, begins hormone therapy, and begins to act and dress as a woman: hair, makeup, clothing, etc. He loses his job as a pastor and has to start his life over.

Although the book is interspersed with a few chapters from Paula’s perspective, it is mainly about how Jonathan, as a son, deals with his father’s gender transition, both internally and externally.

He has to grapple with the grief, anger, denial, and the decision whether or not to accept his father as woman. He has to deal with the effects of the rejection his father experiences once his transition becomes public. He has to decide what to do about the church network he’s a part of that does not welcome gay or transgender people. He has to look at the Bible in new ways and think long and hard about theology that he has always believed to be true.

As so often happens when I read or listen to the story of the “other”, someone who seems so different from me, I discovered common ground. In addition to growing up in a similar church culture, I also experienced rejection from the church as a result of my decision to divorce. Whether it was letters and “return to God” messages or the “Great Silence” that accompanied disapproval, disappointment, and an ineptitude for dealing with someone who stepped out of the box, I experienced rejection as well, although on a much less dramatic level than Paula and Jonathan.

I am glad my better nature won the day I was deciding whether to read this book. It has been helpful for me to learn about gender transition and to think about how much of the Christian church has failed to show love, humility, and grace to those it doesn’t have a doctrinal box for. And how parts of the church are showing up and just loving people no matter what. I’m grateful that Jonathan shared the journey of how he dealt with his dad’s transition. If you are interested in transgender issues in the Evangelical church, I recommend She’s My Dad by Jonathan Williams.

Evening Poetry, May 27

May

by Christina Rossetti

I cannot tell you how it was;

But this I know: it came to pass

Upon a bright and breezy day

When May was young; ah, pleasant May!

As yet the poppies were not born

Between the blades of tender corn;

The last eggs had not hatched as yet,

Nor any bird foregone its mate.

I cannot tell you what it was;

But this I know: it did but pass.

It passed away with sunny May,

With all sweet things it passed away,

And left me old, and cold, and grey.

You can find this poem in Rossetti: Poems.

Sweet Finger Lakes Getaway

Keuka Lake view from the Bluff.

Last summer at one of our Inner Crazy performances at Treleaven Winery, Alan and I had the privilege of meeting Bill and Mel. This couple were immediately warm and friendly, complimenting us on our singing and playing and sharing their musical interests with us. They have since become two of our most loyal fans, as well as good friends. Whenever we play in the Keuka Lake area, they are sure to show up. And they frequently surprise us by turning up to shows farther afield.

In March, right after our wedding, we played at White Springs Winery in Geneva and Bill and Mel came to hear us. We chatted with them during our breaks and told them all about our wedding. When we got home and looked in our tip hat, we saw a note from them. We were surprised and touched to read that they wanted to give us a couple of nights at their rental cabin overlooking Keuka Lake as a wedding gift! Since our kids were going to be on Spring break mid-April, we arranged with Bill and Mel to come then.

When the day arrived, it was sunny and cool and as we rolled into the driveway, we took in the vineyards to the right, the lake below, and the charming little cabin. Inside was perfect: sweet, clean, and it had everything one could need for a getaway.

The sleeping area was a part of the one-room floor plan, with a queen-sized bed (with a comfortable mattress) and bunk beds. There were also air mattresses available for more sleeping options.

The kitchen was complete with pots and pans and cooking utensils, plates, cups, flatware, a toaster, a blender, microwave…even a wine cooler, and an ample bar counter and comfortable bar seats.

The living room had comfy chairs and a sofa, a coffee table and end tables, a TV and DVD player and sliding glass doors that led onto the deck and had a view of the lake. The deck had a table and chairs, and the backyard had both a fire pit with seating and a gas grill.

The bathroom was well-equipped with towels and toiletries one might forget to bring, and even had a washer and dryer. Did I mention how clean everything was? I’m a neat-freak and appreciate clean spaces and surfaces, so this place was a delight.

We made ourselves right at home. Alan had a cold at the time and I was recovering from that horrible back spasm thing so we took naps, read, and cooked most of our meals in the little kitchen. It was peaceful and quiet, so we slept well, and felt rested and refreshed during our stay.

I think this would make a perfect writer’s or musician’s retreat, as well as being just right for a romantic getaway. And of course it absolutely would work if you have children.

If you’re interested in a visit to the Finger Lakes Region, Alan and I recommend staying at Bill and Mel’s The Place in the Woods. We both highly recommend it! You can find it here on VRBO.