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Archive for the tag “poetry”

literary amnesia

stones in the gardenRecently members of my book club were discussing potential books via e-mail, and a book by Marilynne Robinson was suggested. I reminded the group that we had read another book of hers, Home, back in 2009. Some did not recall having read it and were dismayed at this lapse of book memory. I confess that the only reason I remember is that it had been my pick. The responsibility of choosing a book for others to read is weighty and leaves a deeper impression.

Today Daughter #2 told me that her literature class is working on a poetry unit: did I have any poems I suggest she read? What a delicious invitation.

This evening I pulled poetry books from the shelves and we began to read our favorites out loud. We came upon this one by Billy Collins.

Forgetfulness

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never
even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses good-bye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a
bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Billy Collins
Sailing Alone Around the Room

“just another Wednesday”

I have been happily rifling through Elizabeth Hartman’s new book, Modern Patchwork. One of the many things I enjoy about her book is that with every quilt design she offers a section called Alternate Ideas, with mini-quilts demonstrating ways a design can be tweaked.

One riff she suggests for her Xylophone quilt (a stunner that reminds me of chopped carrots, cucumbers and onions on a cutting board) is to cut the strip sets into simple strips instead of wedges—manageable for a newbie like me.

Aha—inspiration for another birthday wall hanging!

I pulled a bunch of reds and grays and hijacked some linen-patterned cotton that I had been saving for the back of another quilt—oh well.

I was taken with the way one of the Alternate Ideas examples was quilted with intersecting straight lines of quilting, so I tried it here using white thread and blue painter’s tape as a guide. I also did some more scrappy binding—it along with the quilting add a sense of imbalance that I like. The wall hanging ended up being 11″ x 25″.

As I assembled the pieces, I decided I would have the wall hanging hang vertically. To me, it resembles an uneven stack of dishes, which brought to mind a Billy Collins’ poem, so I included it on the quilt label.

Here it is, in case you want to read it and not go all squinty trying to read it in my not-so-good photo:

Days

Each one is a gift, no doubt,
mysteriously placed in your waking hand
or set upon your forehead
moments before you open your eyes.

Today begins cold and bright,
the ground heavy with snow
and the thick masonry of ice,
the sun glinting off the turrets of clouds.

Through the calm eye of the window
everything is in its place
but so precariously
this day might be resting somehow

on the one before it,
all the days of the past stacked high
like the impossible tower of dishes
entertainers used to build on stage.

No wonder you find yourself
perched on the top of a tall ladder
hoping to add one more.
Just another Wednesday,

you whisper,
then holding your breath,
place this cup on yesterday’s saucer
without the slightest clink.

—Billy Collins                                                                                                                Sailing Alone Around the Room

A lovely birthday poem, don’t you think?

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