“un libro/es la victoria (a book/is victory).” ~ Pablo Neruda
I’m trying to enjoy my outdoor office space as much as possible as summer winds down and I start to find yellow leaves on the morning glories. The impatiens, however, are still blooming profusely and the August rains created a jungle in my backyard with patches of weeds competing with the herbs and flowers.
There are bumble bees fighting for a spot on the hummingbird feeders and hummingbirds fighting for ownership of the feeders. I just spotted a mother squirrel jumping from the tall holly tree to the dogwood with a tiny squirrel close on her heels, coming down to look for nuts. Our neighbor has a very tall hickory nut tree. Somewhere down the street someone’s mowing a lawn, the garbage truck is beeping as it backs up, and, in the distance, there’s a constant clank and hum of machinery where a new bridge is being built. Lots of distractions to take my mind away from work.
A few jasmine flowers have fallen off, but the bush still has buds to open. These tiny white flowers have the most wonderful scent…
I’ve been reading verse — poems to contemplate, poems to read for fun. A book for adults, two for kids…
I first started reading Pablo Neruda’s poetry more than 20 years ago and have enjoyed poems from various collections. This one, The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems, edited by Mark Eisner is a great introduction to the various styles and themes in Neruda’s work. The collection has several familiar poems, but it also includes many new ones as well as works translated for the first time. (The book has the English and Spanish on facing pages, which is also handy for language students.) A CD with music from the soundtrack for The Postman (Il Postino) is still available and includes a selection of Neruda’s love poems read by Julia Roberts, Madonna, Sting, and various other celebs. Pretty to listen to, pretty to read.
One of my favorites in this “essential” collection is “Oda al Libro (II)” [“Ode to the Book (II)”]…
“Book,/beautiful/book,/miniscule forest,/leaf/after leaf…in your ancient pages/bear hunters,/camp fires/near the Mississippi/canoes/in the islands…stone by stone/the human castle rises,/sorrows intertwined/with strength…from pocket/to pocket,/hidden/lamp,/red star.” ~ Pablo Neruda
It’s not always easy to get young people interested in poetry. Some would rather be doing anything besides reading or writing a poem. Young Jack in Sharon Creech’s two short novels, Love that Dog and its sequel Hate that Cat, is no exception. The novels take place over two school years in which Jack has the same teacher, Miss Stretchberry, who happens to love poetry. In Jack’s poetry journal the reader watches him mature, learn to like poetry and poets, write about the dog he lost and the cats he has come to love. Jack’s poems are modeled after famous poets — Tennyson, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams and others. Both books serve as a great introduction to poetry for young people in the earlier grades.
“That Mr. T. S. Eliot/(is he alive?)/must like cats./And do you think it is/true/that cats have their own/secret names/that only they know–/their “ineffable effable”/names?” ~Sharon Creech
At the moment the only “pets” we have at our house are wild ones — the birds and squirrels that nest in the trees and come every day to the feeders, along with the chipmunks, moles, and rabbits that appear sporadically from time to time, dashing across the yard or stopping to eat clover or burrowing beneath the wood chips. But I have had any number of dogs and cats during and since childhood and have loved them all — most of the time. Wild critters are much easier to take care of. They are less demanding, don’t need to go to the vet, and don’t require litter boxes or pooper scoopers. The downside is that I can’t sit with a warm squirrel on my lap while I watch tv, but the wild things do help make my outdoor office space an immensely enjoyable place.