Monday, February 21, 2022

From Poets to Memoirs to Gratitude

 Today, it’s a hop, skip, and jump from poetry, to my “granddaughter,” to my gratitude for all of you. So, let’s begin:


On February 6, I posted about Sister Mary Lee who introduced the fifth-grade class, of which I was a part back in 1946-47, to poetry. She began with “story” poems, which I detailed in that posting.


Soon after we’d memorized the first of these story poems, she introduced us to a much shorter poem that lent itself to interpretation: “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost. After she’d handed each of us a copy of the poem, she invited us read it in unison. 


Then she asked us what story the poem told. As we shared the story that had come to our minds, it became clear that the poem brought different stories to individual minds. That was a revelation to all of us.


Then she asked what the final stanza meant to each of us. There, too, we encountered differences among us. Another revelation.


For the rest of the year, she introduced us to poems that lent themselves to individual interpretation—like “I’m Nobody. Who Are You? By Emily Dickinson. 

Sister Mary Lee was such a fine teacher; her enthusiasm and nonjudgmental acceptance of our responses to poems touches my life still. She has truly gifted my life.



Elisa, the young woman who has become like a granddaughter to me and whom I introduced to you in posting back in November 2020, is doing well with her Stage 4 Melanoma cancer. She has been writing about it and now has a contract for a memoir that will be released in June of this year.



Starting now, I’m making a commitment to myself to post every other Monday, at least for 2022. I’m announcing this because letting you all know that creates an imperative for me. And believe me, with my tendency toward “when-in-doubt-about-what-to-do—Read! Nap! Watch BritBox!” I need something to goad me on to getting in touch with all of you. Reaching out, as it were. 


Because of not driving, I’ve truly become a recluse since October 2016. However, I’m extraordinarily fortunate in that I have friends living here and there—Minnesota, California, Boston, etc.—and I talk to two or three of them each week. So, I do stay connected with the human race via a voice on the phone. 


These long-time friends share their happiness and sorrows, their woes and triumphs, their heartwishes and health with me; they keep me from the self-absorption that can come from living alone. Also, from the self-pity that can ferment in seclusion. In their graciousness, they are the mainland of my solitude.


As are all of you with whom I want to stay connected. Through the years of blogging, you have become treasured and cherished virtual friends. I am so grateful for all of you. When I visit your blogs, in which you share the ups and downs and realizations of your lives, I step out of my own remoteness and enter your daily routines, your philosophical realizations, the books you’re reading, the friends you cherish, the incidents that bring joy or confusion to you lives. 


That is so wonderful, whether you be in the states of Washington, California, the Carolinas, New York or in Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan or anywhere else in this country or around the globe. All of you bring me the sustenance of life. Thank you. 


Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers and that we meet in the Holy Oneness of All Creation. That is, in the great river of grace that flows toward the depth-less ocean of Love.



Sunday, February 6, 2022

Songs, Poems, and Memorization


Words have always enthralled me. My real appreciation for their power, beauty, and background came in the fifth grade at St. Mary’s Grade School on Liberty Street in Independence, Missouri. That year—1945-46—Sister Mary Lee, a short, enthusiastic educator—came to our classroom each Wednesday to introduce us to the realm of poetry.  


She started with lyrics to popular songs. Most of my classmates listened to the radio and knew the songs of the earlier decades as well as the patriotic songs of World War I and II and the songs from Hollywood musicals. 


Just the year before, Bing Crosby had sung “Swinging on a Star” in the musical “Going My Way.” All of us—some twenty-one students—knew that song: it’s lyrics; its beat; its cadence. The melody coursed through our bodies so that our feet got the beat, our hands clapped the cadence.


In our first poetry session in September 1945, Sister Mary Lee invited us to sing the Academy Award song. Then she invited us to recite the words and let our bodies feel them. 


For each stanza as well as the refrain, she asked one of us to act out the words with our bodies—face, hands, feet. She had us laughing with one another as individual students pantomimed the four animals—mule, pig, fish, and monkey—of the song.


The following week, she directed our attention to the words the song writer had chosen. She suggested other words, and we discussed why the lyricist perhaps hadn’t used them. 


She’d ask, “What picture comes to your mind with this word . . . that word?” “How does that word make you feel?” “What memories come to mind?”


In the following weeks, we studied two or three other songs. Then Sister Mary Lee introduced us to “poems” without melodies. Depending on their length, we learned one poem a week for the remainder of the school year. In the beginning, these poems were stories in verse. For instance: 

·       “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat” by Edward Lear

·      “The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat” by Eugene Field 

·      “The Ride of Paul Revere” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

·      “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer 


Each week, after Sister Mary Lee read aloud the new poem, we discussed its story, savoring its words, pictures, and rhyme. As the weeks of that school year progressed, we learned alliteration, rhyme scheme, cadence, stressed and unstressed syllables. That is, we began to study some of the tools a poet uses.


At the end of each Wednesday class, Sister Mary Lee gave us our weekly assignment: Memorize the complete poem or, for longer verse stories, memorize a certain number of lines. 


“Be ready,” she’d always say, “to recite for me and your classmates next week! Practice in front of a mirror! Listen to yourself! Feel the words in your mouth. On your tongue. Whisper some. Shout others. Give this all you’ve got!”


That was the beginning of my memorizing each poem I met and liked in the years ahead. 


Next week I hope to introduce you to some other poems introduced to our class by Sister Mary Lee—poems that led to my burgeoning desire to write. 


I’m wondering what poems you remember learning in grade school. Did you memorize some of them?




PS: I finally responded to your welcomed comments on the three postings I did right before Christmas. If you have the time, energy, and inclination, you may want to scroll down and read my responses.