Nancy Willard

Nancy Willard

Hello all Poetry Friday seekers.
I am grateful to Heidi who organizes it here this week.

This week, I am spending time with
my Nancy Willard books,
especially, THE SALT MARSH,
TELLING TIME,
A VISIT TO WILLIAM BLAKE’S INN &
STEP LIGHTLY, Poems for the Journey,
collected by Nancy Willard.

I want to pick one to share Saturday,
when I feel fortunate to be meeting with
teens at the request of a legendary
librarian I treasure, Ms. Lenita Joe.

Since Nancy Willard treasured every poem
she placed in
STEP LIGHTLY,
reading them feels like two chairs are pulled up
before a big window overlooking a salt marsh,
tea is poured and
a conversation begins.

Nearly every selection speaks to me, especially
the poems about writing,
but for this post I’m sharing two lines,
from Emily Hahn, in her poem,

“Wind Blowing”
“I can see everything, all around the earth;
Red sun dying, gold sun’s birth.”

c. Emily Hahn, all rights reserved

I feel that is Nancy’s world now,
stepping lightly,
knowing and seeing everything.

Here is a sweet memory written
just a few days ago by her friend
and former neighbor, poet
Lee Bennett Hopkins.

I was thrilled
to meet Nancy Willard in Roanoke, VA
once, at the graduate program
in children’s literature.

She sat in on a creative writing seminar
I enjoyed so much, led by
Han Nolan. She was available to us –
we were all big fans. I treasure the moon she drew
in my copy of NIGHTGOWN OF THE SULLEN MOON.

When she learned that my thesis
for Hollins University included
serious poems about bears in history, she
suggested I look up the work of her poet
friend, Galway Kinnell.
Reading him was rough work, but it helped me.
In expectation of my editing & layout of a
chapbook of bear poems, experiences &
images, I feel fortunate to have been
touched by Nancy Willard’s
magical presence that summer.

I’ve previously mentioned her books here.
and also here, where I shared her signature artwork
a gift that graces books of many admirers.

And I think NW would have liked the recent honor that LBH earned in my state.

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New Year New Day 2015

New Year New Day 2015 

by Jan Godown Annino

Pairs of coots, licorice gumdrops on the surface

Great blue herons, statues ready to spike fish (frogs, snakes…)

Black anhingas tend wings, arched in pine tree branches

 

Watch animals

Read poems

Make notes

 

My handsome returns from a marsh path, with sightings to report

If we had opened a fortune cookie the night before

it could have read: You will be rewarded for seeking joy in Nature

©Jan Godown Annino

……….

Now we are back, after dark, from a wildlife refuge that lures us down a spindle road in marsh and through ponds to the saltwater coast. Earlier on Day One, 2015, we welcomed young friends in for Italian cookies.

The night before, plunging into NYE we had laughed and clapped in front of a wide stage, with a friend our age, as national & state & local foibles paraded  through a comedy cast who we knew.

After this fine fuss I feel celebratory and exhilaratory about the year ahead of work, the writing work. So I hope these lines from poet Alexis Rotella, who put them in “Purple,” feels like a gift to you, as they have become to me.  With my appreciations for your poem-sharing & story telling that buoyed me in 2014.

from Purple by Alexis Rotella

“In second grade Mr. Barta

said draw anything:

he didn’t care what.

I left my paper blank

and when he came around

to my desk

my heart beat like a tom tom.

He touched my head

with his big hand

and in a soft voice said

the snowfall

how clean

and white

and beautiful

© Alexis Rotella

STEP LIGHTLY: POEMS FOR THE JOURNEY, which is one of the poetry books I like to travel with, especially to a wildlife refuge, is how I learned of Alexis Rotella, through one of my favorite poets, Nancy Willard, who collected the volume.

If you meandered here via Poetry Friday, or even if you didn’t, you’ll be well-rewarded with a toggle over to the nourishing Miss Rumphious Effect, today’s host.

675087

 

I still like paper

I Still Like Paper

I am playing around with a parade of poems that might true up into a collection, one that has pieces for families & their young kiddos.

A poem that may not fit, because it is not silly enough,  but still, I like it,  is  “Thinking Cap.”

Thinking Cap

My aunts and mother loved poetry

They rhymed in time

About bugs

Like Emily’s bees

They recited verse from good to worse

Their performance tickled me

“The Quangle Wangle’s Hat”

by Edward Lear

Was one they held especially dear

They hooted at the way

Critters climbed the hat

And sat

And sat

Now when I feel unfunny

Or if I need some honey

I put on my thinking cap

And feel the memory –

Their performance of

That hat

That hat

– Jan Annino Godown

If you take poetry chapbooks along for travel reading you know they impress older folks, who begin to talk about poetry recitation/elocution/memorization assignments of their Youth. Here are two collections I keep close by on my shelves. And then I pick them up for travel around town or across the states.

Natasha Trethewey  NATIVE GUARD

“…jailors to those who still would have us slaves. They are cautious, dreading the sight of us…”

The biography of Sonia Sotomayer, a photographic history of Florida in the Great Depression & Jimmy Carter’s novel about the American Revolution are among my recent, non-poetry, bedside reads. So maybe it follows that in chapbooks I will migrate to ones that collect real & imagined memories of family & history.

Natasha Trethewey’s NATIVE GUARD marches into my heart with the news that in the Civil War, units formed up beginning in 1862 of black U.S. Army soldiers that would eventually guard Confederate  P.O.W.s  This tinderbox, combined with the author’s own Mississippi heritage of being born to a mixed-race couple at a time when that was illegal, helps form the drumbeat for a stark collection that references Faulkner, the Civil War Diary of Col. Nathan W. Daniels, Nina Simone, Winslow Homer & the murder of this poet’s mother when Natasha Trethewey was only 19. It is not easy to put down, unless it is to stare off  & think long & hard. NATIVE GUARD earned a 2007 Pulitzer Prize. And Trethewey was appointed U.S. Poet Laureate.

Nancy Willard  IN THE SALT MARSH

“My mother’s sisters knew the art

of telling tales, and lies so new

all those who heard them called them true”

Here in North Florida, the Gulf of Mexico coast curves like a dancer’s outstretched arm. A marsh grass shoreline evolves, not good for beach blankets. The rhythms of this Other Coast are described by Jack & Ann Rudloe, Susan Cerulean, Bruce Means & Ellie Whitney, among others.  Their non-fiction about this land dimples my bookshelf with a shallow curve, an echo of the treasured salt grass fringe. IN THE SALT MARSH, poems titled “Deer Skull,” “The Sandbar,” and “The Ladybugs,” could have been inspired from our region.  My favorites, “Houses,” (the fragment above) and “The Way She Left Us,” feel as if the poet is a relative who limned people I loved for these lines. Nancy Willard is from Michigan. She created a 1985 novel set in the 1940s that imagined baseball luminaries in an unusual game,  (before the A Field of Dreams movie arrived, adapted from Shoeless Joe.) Her writing has won the O. Henry Award, the Newbery Award, & the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. She is a retired Vassar professor.  I found her through  children’s poetry & stories that she is beloved for, and continue to learn from her in her guides to writing (especially TELLING TIME), her adult poems, fiction, & her other magic, line drawings.

If you are still with me, when I came through recent astigmatism & cataract surgery (never better, thanks to a precision surgeon & staff) it was a soft notebook of thirsty, flecked, rag paper & a gaggle of pencils & pens that kept my ideas from racing away, before I could return to the glarish (is that a word? glare + garish) computer screen. So, I Still Like Paper, and think that I always will.

artwork c. Nancy Willard from an autograph on TELLING TIME

artwork c. Nancy Willard
from an autograph on TELLING TIME