Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Favorite Poems
This week, the gals over at The Broke and the Bookish have left the Top Ten Tuesday prompt wide open. So good…and so bad! While it will be awesome to hop around the blogs and see what others came up with (many which I will lament not having thought of myself) it did mean that I had to sort through a million possibilities in my own head before even beginning this week’s list. Instead of sticking with a typical list of books this week, I’m going to veer off into a different literary genre for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday: poems! I, by no means, consider myself well-read when it comes to poetry, but I do have a core collection of favorites, which are the basis for this week’s entry. (Presented in alphabetic order, just to save me the stress of figuring out which is my all-time favorite, as that distinction is always in flux.)
“A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes– It might not be long, but it packs a punch in its few lines. Our dreams are what make us who we are; dreams are what push us to get out of bed each day and become better. But, if those dreams are stymied over and over, whether by an individual or a government, the power of them is going to have to be released (unleashed?) somehow. What will that explosion look like?
“Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe- This one easily made my top ten and always will. I love the pull between the fairy tale setting by the sea and the macabre final stanza. A love existed that was so precious and pure that heavenly angels crushed it in jealously. That’s some pretty great Gothic imagery.
“I, Too, Sing America” by Langston Hughes- Somewhere along the lines in school I had to memorize this one for an English class and it has been stuck in my brain ever since. I love the strength and conviction in it.
“If” by Rudyard Kipling- Choices and attitude are the underlying themes of this poem, both of which I believe we must actively own. By setting up the dichotomies throughout, Kipling reminds us that we ultimately have control over our actions/reactions. I can choose my behavior and attitude towards a situation, even when I can’t control the details of the event. Not a bad life lesson…
“Oh Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman- This is one of those poems that I can’t read without a swelling of patriotism/pride in my heart. What a beautiful tribute to a rising nation and a fallen leader.
“Oranges” by Gary Soto- I love Gary Soto’s poems and they were always a favorite to teach to middle school students. This one is such a perfect glimpse into early love, the stress of impressing a young girl with just the few coins in a boy’s pocket. It is tender and sweet, but doesn’t discount the nerves as a boy makes his first moves into the world of dating.
“Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou- There is little that needs to be said about this immense poem of strength and resilience. In a world where women (and men) are judged constantly on superficial traits, Angelou reminds us all that we are so much more than that. She reminds us that our power comes from within and that we should not let negativity get us down. Push to be better; push to be phenomenal.
“Warning” by Jenny Joseph- Love this poem! Again, it was a favorite to teach with my middle school students, because after we read it, I would assign everyone to rewrite it in their own style, “warning” us of something we need to know about their future. It was awesome watching kids write poems warning us about when they were famous baseball players, when they were the school principal or when they finally received their driver’s license. The creativity that this poem sparked in my students always made me smile!.
“We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks- Lacking the pretentiousness often associated with poetry, this short work just puts a teenager frame of mind into a new genre, succinctly displaying both the bravado and audacity of teens as they face the world.
“Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein- Of course, a poetry list on this blog would not be complete without an eponymous entry! And, I love that by putting the list in alphabetical order, this fell at the end, as a great wrap-up to the poetry week. Living abroad, moving every few years and traveling as much as possible, I am always in search of the end of the sidewalk, not because I want the journey to end, but because I want to see what is there and then I want to see what is on the other side of “the end.” New people, new places, new ideas. You never know where the sidewalk will lead or what you will find, but it is always worth having a look!
by Shel Silverstein
A piece of sky
Broke off and fell
Through the crack in the ceiling
Right into my soup,
I really must state
That I usually hate
Lentil soup, but I ate
(A bit like plaster),
But so delicious, goodness sake–
I could have eaten a lentil-soup lake.
It’s amazing the difference
A bit of sky can make.
With the wise words of this blog’s muse in mind, I’ll be on a writing hiatus for the next two weeks. Chengdu has been gray for days (and weeks!) on end now, so it is time to escape to a bit of sunshine and Old World beauty. This blogger is off to explore the sidewalks of Italy and Greece, but will return in October with a heart (and head!) full of tales to tell.
Yesterday, to complete my holiday-ification of the consulate, I hung (with care!) stockings outside the Marines’ Guard post, in hopes that our community would help fill them with holiday cheer. To encourage others to stuff the stockings, I (re)wrote a little poem you will all recognize, giving it a decidedly Chengdu feel.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas–Chengdu-Style
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Consulate
Not a creature was stirring, not even a Pol. Officer working a bit late.
The stockings were hung outside Post One with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas (or maybe Ambassador Locke) soon would be there.
The visa applicants were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Vegas danced in their heads.
And a consular officer in his ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a quick, xiuxi nap.
When out on the concrete there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the CLO Lounge to see what was the matter.
Away to the door I flew through the smog,
Through CAC One, out to the guards’ and their dog.
The moon through the Chengdu haze, on the horizon sits low
Gave the same lack of luster as mid-day to objects below.
When, amazed by the sight, I had to stop and stare,
At a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny panda bears.
With a little old driver, who else could it have been?
I knew in a moment it must be Shengdan Lao Ren.
More rapid than visa adjudications, his pandas they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
“Now Lun Lun! now, Mei Lan! now, Tao Tao and Zhen Zhen!
On, Chuang Chuang! On, Chi Chi!, on Gao Gao and Gu Gu!
To the top of the consulate! Over the razor wire wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the compound-top the pandas they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I listened with awe,
To the prancing and pawing of each little paw
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Buzzed through Post One St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with factory pollution and soot.
A bundle of toys on his back, for all who would like
And he looked like a peddler, overloaded with goods, just needing a bike.
His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like lajiao, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a Zhonghua cigarette he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly too,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of mapo dofu!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
Stockings were filled with brilliant EERs and dream posts to bid on in a flurry,
And giving a nod, past Post One and beyond, he fled in a hurry!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Shengdan Kuaile to all, and to all a Wan An!”