Friday, December 26, 2008

Monstrous Alliances

There are two wonderful things I'd like to share with you this week. One is a poem by Wm. Stafford. The other is environmental poetry resource packs from the Poetry Society U.K. Enjoy and see you next year!

How These Words Happened
By William Stafford

In winter, in the dark hours, when others
were asleep, I found these words and put them
together by their appetites and respect for
each other. In stillness, they jostled. They traded
meanings while pretending to have only one.

Monstrous alliances never dreamed of before
began. Sometimes they lost. Never again
do they separate in this world. They are
together. They have a fidelity that no
purpose of pretense can even break.

And all of this happens like magic to the words
in those dark hours when others sleep.


The Poetry Society UK commissioned award-winning poet, ecologist, and educator Mario Petrucci to develop the following Environment-centred resource packs, designed for schools, young adults and poets:

1. Poetry: the Environment: Four of the most pressing Environmental themes, comprehensively explored through poetry.

2. Biomimicry: Poetry. This fascinating new branch of science is concerned with solving problems by imitating Nature. Mario’s unique poetry pack explores Biomimicry to support independent imaginative writing activity and National Curriculum alike.

3. The Green Poetry Pack: Poems and writing ideas to engage with the natural world, soil and trees, and local self-sufficiency.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Merry Melange

Merry Christmas! First, porcelain artist Laura Peery...

Black Ruffle
By Laura Peery

Understanding Midnight
By Laura Peery


Lines and Colors, a terrific art blog, has compiled 2008 Best Graphic Novel Lists. If you like graphic novels (or are wondering what they are), take a look.


Aren't these ear ornaments from the 1400s-1500s amazing? They are made of wood and feathers!

Pair of Ear Ornaments
Chimú/Inka; 15th–16th century
American Museum of Natural History, New York

Friday, December 19, 2008

Everywhere They Are Wisest

In our house, we have an advent calendar which is based on a Muppet version of O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi. No one can really do Kermit's voice successfully, but that's not to say we don't try. has a neat poetry lesson plan based on The Gift of the Magi. I like how they mix the story with poetry and music.

If you'd like to listen to the original The Gift of the Magi, you can on LibriVox. In addition to audio options, they also have text versions.

While we're thinking about meaningful gifts, here's an excerpt from Giving by Kahlil Gibran:
You give but little when you give of your possessions.

It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.

For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?

And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?

And what is fear of need but need itself?

Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have - and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.

And there are those who have little and give it all.

These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.

You can read the rest here.

Lastly, if you'd like to hear Twas the Night Before Christmas, LibriVox has that too.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mikhail Vrubel

Russian artist Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910) is our focus this week.

Demon Seated
By Mikhail Vrubel

Demon Seated (1890) was Vrubel's first large canvas, which, though vehemently criticized by contemporaries, elevated Vrubel to a whole new plane of artistic expression. Vrubel had developed the theme of Demon, a hero of Mikhail Lermontov’s poem, from 1885. With Vrubel, Demon becomes the incarnation of the romantic spirit. Demon starts out full of hope, searching for harmony and truth, beauty and love. For a brief moment, he even seems to find what he longs for. But eventually his hopes are crushed. He becomes disillusioned and boils with rebellion. In the end, he himself is crushed and thrown out. This world has no place for him. (Information from Russian Art Gallery, Victor Potoskuev)

The Pearl
By Mikhail Vrubel

By Mikhail Vrubel

By Mikhail Vrubel

You can read more about Vrubel's creative life and his sad end here.

Some other great works from the Russian Art Gallery include Ilya Repin's Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan, Nikolay Yaroshenko's Life is Everywhere, and Victor Vasnetsov's Sirin and Alkonost, Birds of Joy and Sadness.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Moving Slowly Through The Stars

A pair of Native American poets today.

Winter Evening
by Chrystos

in the northern mountains
Moon is a silver turtle
moving slowly through the stars


excerpt from Perhaps the World Ends Here
by Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

An anthology of 20th century Native American poetry and a collection that mixes traditional with modern
A Native American poetry workshop lesson plan
There is Nothing Like an Idea by Nora Naranjo-Morse
My Mother and My Sisters by Simon Ortiz
'Twas the Night Before Ojibwe Christmas by Tara Prindle

Thursday, December 11, 2008

She Rides the Lion

Sonia Romero paints, prints, and offers workshops from her wonderfully-named "She Rides the Lion" studio in California. She worked with a team of youth to create East Los Angeles public pool murals:

She is working on a Macarthur Park Metro Station installation, with thirteen linoleum cut and airbrush designs picturing positive community uses of the Macarthur Park area, like the one below:

Langers Delicatessen

This reminds me of a book illustration! The artist sells prints of her hand carved linoleum cuts in her Etsy shop. (Etsy! My favorite "mall"! So great for presents.)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Even Monkeys Like Haiku

First, it's time to announce my new contest for young writers! You can get the details here. Don't miss it!

A little poetry from a monkey and her friend this week.

Julie sent her monkey friend this haiku:

I don't believe you
I will not look behind me
There is no monkey

And monkey replied:

how silly you are
frida is not behind me
no, i will not look.

I love haiku conversations between friends.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Nikolas Schiller

D.C.-based artist Nikolas Schiller uses aerial photographs as a starting point for his art, which he calls "conceptual cartography." I'm showing some today from his Lenz Project. There are so many that make me say "Wow!" that I have to include links to a few more: here, here, and here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Poetic Miscellany

Poetic Miscellany this week!

MTV's Poet Laureate

Did you know my favorite football team is named for a poem? Their mascot is named Poe.

Also, Whittier College is known as the Poets.

Our president-elect was spotted with a book of poetry.

Poetraits (I thought I just made up that word, but I found it had already been used here)...poetry and portraits by Evan Bissell.

Cool bookmarks with poems on them

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bruegel's Hunters in the Snow

This week, we're just looking at one painting, but we're looking at it closely. The painting is Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel, 16th century.

Wish I could see it in person!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Masaoka Shiki

Japanese poet Masaoka Shiki is said to have breathed new life into the traditional art forms of haiku and tanka during his short lifetime (1867-1902).

Poems By Masaoki Shiki

on the pine needles,
each of the slender needles,
a dewdrop rests—
a thousand pearls lie
quivering, yet never fall

On how to sing
the frog school and the skylark school
are arguing.

Here is the dark tree
Denuded now
Of leafage...
But a million stars

entangled with
the scattering cherry blossoms-
the wings of birds!

far away
under the skies of America
they began
I could watch it forever!

Visit a monthly haiku contest named in Shiki's honor.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Anatomical Art

You just don't know what to expect from me, do you? To illustrate that, this week we've got anatomical art.

By Simon Renard de Saint-André, 1613-1677

I like street art, and this "rib cage in Paris" pleased me with its imaginativeness. How nice to be able to see something ordinary and envision it as something else.

I saw the rib cage on Vanessa Ruiz's Street Anatomy site, which also had this charming couple:

Muscles and Brain
By Alesha Sivartha (1834-1915)

By Alesha Sivartha

Artnatomy is a pretty amazing tool by Victoria Contreras Flores for artists, students, and others. The official description says "Anatomical Basis of Facial Expression Tool," but just go fiddle around with the faces and see what's underneath.

For a historical look at anatomical art, read the article "The Fine Art of Anatomy" by medical student Rohin Francis.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Delicious Autumn!

Ah, autumn! "The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn." ~ John Muir.

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." ~George Eliot

Before you think I'm getting too carried away with the beauty of fall, I'll take a moment to offer this Simpson's animated video version of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. (I wonder if they have videos for other poems?)


Come Little Leaves
By George Cooper

Come, little leaves,
Said the wind one day;
Come to the meadows
With me and play.
Put on your dresses
Of red and gold;
For summer is past,
And the days grow cold.

Soon as the leaves
Heard the wind's loud call,
Down they came fluttering,
One and all.
Over the meadows
They danced and flew,
All singing the soft
Little songs they knew.

Dancing and flying,
The leaves went along,
Til Winter called them
To end their sweet song.
Soon, fast asleep
In their earthy beds,
The snow lay a coverlet
O'er their heads.


From The Milkweed
By Cecil Cavendish

The milkweed pods are breaking,
And the bits of silken down
Float off upon the autumn breeze
Across the meadows brown.

How To Make an Autumn Leaf Bookmark

Thursday, November 13, 2008

We've Got The Whole World In Our Hands

We're up to our eyeballs in globes this week. I think there's something inherently beautiful about globes, and apparently I'm not the only one. (I like maps, too, but that will have to be another week.)

The Astronomer
By Jan Vermeer

Celestial Globe (detail)
By Giuseppe de Rossi, 1615

Detail from a painting of St. Augustine, c. 1480
by Sandro Botticelli
Some info from Wikipedia about armillary spheres:
"Renaissance scientists and public figures often had their portraits painted showing them with one hand on an armillary sphere, which represented the height of wisdom and knowledge. Armillary spheres were among the first complex mechanical devices. Their development led to many improvements in techniques and design of all mechanical devices. The armillary sphere survives as useful for teaching, and may be described as a skeleton celestial globe, the series of rings representing the great circles of the heavens, and revolving on an axis within a horizon."

The Globe of Found Objects
By Holly Hughes

This 1996 community collaboration was designed and built by Holly Hughes with the help of 2000 volunteers, including artists from 17 countries. It is made entirely of recycled items.

More globes, plus some "do it yourself" sites:

~ Simeon Solomon's The Vision in the Crystal Globe
~ Frank Meisler's Large Jerusalem Sphere
~ Artistic Globes by Sabine Réthoré
~ A self-portrait in a reflecting globe by Maurits Cornelis (M.C.) Escher
~ The nonprofit organization, Cool Globes, is using art to raise awareness and inspire individuals and community leaders to embrace solutions regarding global warming.
~ How To Make a Paper Mache Earth
~ How To Make an Armillary Sphere

Friday, November 7, 2008

I Guess That Sums It Up

from a t-shirt

Pat Schneider

Poet Pat Schneider offers up some good advice to young writers on her web site. Among other things, she says, "A writer is not someone who is published, or someone who is famous. A writer is someone who writes...All important things need practice. Writing is like dancing or painting or sports -- the more you do it, the deeper and better the work will be."

(You can read the rest of her advice here under "Poems for Young Writers.")

I especially like the last line of the poem below.

The Patience of Ordinary Things
By Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they're supposed to be.
I've been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Theme or No Theme?

Before we get to this week's art, let me tell you about the free online games on Artsology. There's so much there!!

And one more thing... if you live near our nation's capital, you might want to check out FotoWeek, a celebration of photography taking place during November 15-22, 2008.

There's no theme for this week (unless you can spot one).
The Fish Bucket
by Gifford Beal, 1924

Alma Sewing
by Francis Criss, ca. 1935

Legend and Fact
by Willem de Kooning, 1940

A detail

(OK, it's not exactly a theme, but they were all painted in the U.S. during the first half of the 20th century. Both Criss and de Kooning were born in England but moved to the U.S. I can think of a couple other things two out of the three paintings have in common. You?)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Mwa Ha Ha!

Halloween! We have two haunted house poems today...actually, one is a poem and one is a song. They couldn't be more different, which is the great thing about poetry -- its phenomenal diversity.

Haunted Houses
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses.Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air...

By Elsa Mora

And here's the closing verse of The Twelve Houses of Halloween, Author Unknown:

At the twelfth house on Halloween my neighbor gave to me...
twelve cherry bonbons,
eleven creamy nougats,
ten shiny pennies,
nine orange gumdrops,
eight chewy caramels,
seven candied apples,
six peanut clusters,
four peppermints,
three sticks of gum,
two lollipops &
a large piece of chocolate taffy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phil Fung

The colors! The shapes! Phil Fung!

Imagine John Peace Koi
by Phil Fung

Kenya Face
by Phil Fung

Sea Turtle Summer
by Phil Fung

Friday, October 24, 2008

Charles R. Smith, Revisited

This week, I'm revisiting Charles R. Smith, Jr., who was the first poet featured on this Poetry Friday journal. Mr. Smith has a book called The Mighty 12: Superheroes of Greek Myth that caught my eye. He recites four poems from the book on his web site (about Ares, Athena, Medusa, and Zeus).

Interested in sports/history? He has also written about legendary boxer Muhammad Ali and offers recitations of four of those as well.

Looking to illustrate your poetry? Don't miss his suggestions for photography exercises for budding photographers (He took up photography at age 16 when he joined his school yearbook staff).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's Alive!

We have more impermanent art today. Daniel Dancer creates art that HAS to last only a short time -- it's fashioned out of people! Mr. Dancer has worked with schools, groups, and companies to create living art that seems to have as big an impact on the people who are in it as the people who see it.

The Sky Grizzly
Badger Two Medicine area, Blackfeet Reservation, Montana, 2004. 400 Blackfeet members participated.

Moon Goose
750 students and staff of Jewell Elementary School.

In addition to the 750 people, 12 yards of shredded bark for the "moon" and a truck load of black and white clothes form the Canada Goose flying across the moon.


"Living art" photographs have been created since the invention of photography. For instance, here's a shot by Arthur Mole and John Thomas from 1918, using 18,000 soldiers:

The Human Statue of Liberty
Mole and Thomas

This site of older photos is worth a look.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Baby, Baby!

I said, Baby! Baby!
Please don’t snore so loud.
Baby! Please!
Please don’t snore so loud.
You jest a little bit o’ woman but you
Sound like a great big crowd.

~ Langston Hughes, from Morning After

I decided to do things backwards this week and start right in with a poem. I saw this stanza in the Smithsonian in Your Classrom "The Music in Poetry" lesson plans. We are lucky to have these wonderful free resources.

Here, you can listen to music snippets that go along with "The Music in Poetry." Paul Robeson singing "Amazing Grace" gave me goosebumps!

A tip of the hat to young Kenzi B.! Kenzi used Art Thursday works as the inspiration for four poems, then she put together a book of her poetry with those and other works. Nicely done, Kenzi!