Friday, July 30, 2010

Poetry, Politics, and Culture Around the World

Instead of a poem for this week's PF, here's a selection of international articles about poetry:

How I Used Poetry And Drama to Resolve Communal Conflict by Greg Mbajiorgu (All Africa: Nigeria)

Towards a culture for peace: poetry, drama and music in Somali society by Maxamed Daahir Afrax

In Yemen, Fighting Illiteracy Through Poetry
(National Geographic)

Silent Voices: The Role of Somali Women’s Poetry in Social and Political Life by Zainab Mohamed Jama (Oral Tradition)

An article about Chernobyl poet, Lyubov Sirota, by Adolph Kharash and Sirota's poems

Egyptian court frees poet who was given a three-year sentence for insulting the president (BBC)

In 2009,Turkey posthumously reclaimed their most famous poet, Nazim Hikmet Ran. During the Cold War, they stripped him of his citizenship for his political views and he died in exile.

Police brutality towards visiting poets at Woordfees, South Africa (2008)

A link to my own post about City of Asylum poet Huang Xiang.

The Time Has Come: Poetry and Drama Use in the Geography Class by Joseph A. Weber

An upcoming event: August 26th Benefit for Gulf Coast marine habitat featuring poets, artists, and musicians. Poetry Never Sleeps!

Edited to add:
Warwick Medical School in England had their first International Symposium on Poetry and Medicine this year and awarded an International Hippocrates Prize for poetry and medicine.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Don’t think I don’t know who’s been spreading gossip about me… After all the nice things I’ve said about that hag [Bette Davis]. When I get hold of her, I’ll tear out every hair of her moustache!
~Tallulah Bankhead

Moustache Sculpture
By Jenni Tieaho

An Open Mind
by MicahAilie

Relative Motion, A. Einstein (Starry Night, VanGogh)
by Sue Tower

Swamp Brim Jim
by berkleyillustration

By Alberto Cerriteño

Poster: Frank Zappa as the Mona Lisa

Cool book cover for Dali's Mustache: A Photographic Interview

And a photo of Salvador Dali himself:

For your entertainment:

* An instructional video about applying fake facial hair
* A printable mustache mask sheet
* Cartoon: Who keeps putting mustache wax on my grocery list?
* Guys with Extreme Mustaches
* Mustache Thievery by Sukumar Ray
* Cartoon: The Final Round of the Ultimate Moustache Tournament-- Who will win?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Extreme Cello

The Extreme Cellists are three musicians who have been playing in unusual locations since 2003.

They are currently doing their "Coast-to-Coast Challenge":

Between 24 July and 6 August, the Extreme Cellists are undertaking the English Coast-to-Coast walk (as made famous by Alfred Wainwright), carrying and playing their cellos as they go. This is to raise money for two charities, Aspire and PACT.

Visit their site

Friday, July 23, 2010


Evangeline Monument in St. Martinville, LA

When I was in Chéticamp, Cape Breton, I learned about the deportation of the French Acadians from Nova Scotia by the British in 1755.

In 1845, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow heard the story of the Acadians while at Nathaniel Hawthorne's home and asked if he could write about it. With permission granted, he set to work. Longfellow's epic poem Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie was released in 1847.

The basic story is this: An Acadian girl named Evangeline Bellefontaine is about to marry her beloved, Gabriel Lajeunesse, but the British separate them when the Acadians are deported from Canada. The poem then traces Evangeline's steps as she looks for Gabriel across America. She finally becomes a nun, working with the poor in Philadelphia. While Evangeline is taking care of victims of an epidemic, she finds Gabriel, who dies in her arms.

Here are some excerpts from Longfellow's Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie (and I've got links to the full text and more at the bottom):

THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

FOUR times the sun had risen and set; and now on the fifth day
Cheerily called the cock to the sleeping maids of the farmhouse.
Soon o'er the yellow fields, in silent and mournful procession,
Came from the neighboring hamlets and farms the Acadian women,
Driving in ponderous wains their household goods to the seashore,
Pausing and looking back to gaze once more on their dwellings.

Acadians in Chains
Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; engraving from a design by Jane E. Benham.

From Françoise Paradis's commemorative edition.

MANY a weary year had passed since the burning of Grand-Pré,
When on the falling tide the freighted vessels departed,
Bearing a nation, with all its household gods, into exile,
Exile without an end, and without an example in story.
Far asunder, on separate coasts, the Acadians landed;
Scattered were they, like flakes of snow when the wind from the northeast

Evangeline and Priest

Here on its fragile stalk, to direct the traveler's journey
Over the sea-like, pathless, limitless waste of the desert.
Such in the soul of man is faith. The blossoms of passion,
Gay and luxuriant flowers, are brighter and fuller of fragrance,
But they beguile us, and lead us astray, and their odor is deadly.
Only this humble plant can guide us here, and hereafter
Crown us with asphodel flowers, that are wet with the dews of nepenthe."
So came the autumn, and passed, and the winter -- yet Gabriel came not;
Blossomed the opening spring, and the notes of the robin and bluebird
Sounded sweet upon wold and in wood, yet Gabriel came not.
But on the breath of the summer winds a rumor was wafted
Sweeter than song of bird, or hue or odor of blossom.
Far to the north and east, it said, in the Michigan forests,
Gabriel had his lodge by the banks of the Saginaw river.
And, with returning guides, that sought the lakes of St. Lawrence,
Saying a sad farewell, Evangeline went from the Mission.
When over weary ways, by long and perilous marches,
She had attained at length the depths of the Michigan forests,
Found she the hunter's lodge deserted and fallen to ruin!


She found him at last:

Heard he that cry of pain, and through the hush that succeeded
Whispered a gentle voice, in accents tender and saint-like,
"Gabriel! O my beloved!" and died away into silence.
Then he beheld, in a dream, once more the home of his childhood;
Green Acadian meadows, with sylvan rivers among them,
Village, and mountain, and woodlands; and, walking under their shadow,
As in the days of her youth, Evangeline rose in his vision.
Tears came into his eyes; and as slowly he lifted his eyelids,
Vanished the vision away, but Evangeline knelt by his bedside.


Maidens still wear their Norman caps and their kirtles of homespun,
And by the evening fire repeat Evangeline's story,
While from its rocky caverns the deep-voiced, neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

An exhibit from the Historic New Orleans Collection about Evangeline: From Tragic Heroine to Cultural Icon
The Story of Evangeline's Empty Grave: A Louisiana Tale
A History of Evangeline Paintings by George Rodrique
Resources for Teaching Longfellow
Evangeline: The Musical
The Full Text of Evangeline from Project Gutenberg

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is at Language Literacy Love.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Curses

Edmund Lester Pearson, American librarian and author, wrote a Curse Against Book Stealers which might amuse you, but before I get to that, here's some background info from Wikipedia:

"In a column from 1907, Pearson printed a paragraph supposedly from an old librarian's almanac. Response from colleagues and friends lead him to expand it to a 34 page pamphlet that was published in 1909 as The Old Librarian's Almanack. On the title page, the Almanack is described as "a very rare pamphlet first published in New Haven Connecticut in 1773 and now reprinted for the first time.'

The pamphlet was reviewed seriously by The New York Sun, The Nation, The New York Times, and several other publications before the hoax was generally known. In 1927, the magazine Public Libraries called the hoax 'a good piece of foolery, bright, clever, with the verisimilitude of authenticity.' Even today, a humorous faux-medieval Curse Against Book Stealers from the pamphlet continues to be portrayed as real."

And here is the curse:

"And what Condemnation shall befit the accurst Wretch (for he cannot justly claim the title of Man) who pilfers and purloins for his own selfish ends such a precious article as a Book? I am reminded of the Warning display'd in the Library of the Popish Monastery of San Pedro at Barcelona. This is the version English'd by Sir Matthew Manhan, who saw it writ in Latin in the Monastery, as he himself describes in his learn'd Book, Travels in Spanish Countries, 1712

"The Warning reads thus:

'For him that stealeth a Book from this Library,
let it change to a Serpent in his hand and rend him.
Let him be struck with Palsy,
and all his Members blasted.
Let him languish in Pain,
crying aloud for Mercy
and let there be no surcease to his Agony
till he sink to Dissolution.
Let Book-worms gnaw his Entrails
in token of the Worm that dieth not,
and when at last he goeth to his final Punishment
let the Flames of Hell consume him for ever and aye.'"

Reminds me a little of Hogwarts librarian Irma Pince's warning: "If you rip, tear, shred, bend, fold, deface, disfigure, smear, smudge, throw, drop, or in any other manner damage, mistreat, or show lack of respect towards this book, the consequences will be as awful as it is within my power to make them."

That was just a warning about messing up books, but apparently curses about stealing books were actually added during medieval times, when books were much harder to come by:

"It was traditional, particularly before the invention of the printing press when books were all hand written manuscripts, to letter a curse into the book to prevent theft. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have worked very well, as the books also had to be chained into place. Even chains had limited effect. Witness the many ancient libraries where there are still chains in place -- but no books."
From Littera Scripta

More on Book Curses from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The End of Land

Middle Head Trail in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada was breathtaking.

Here is a poem by the cliffs at the end of the trail

It says (in English and French):

The end of land
We belong to ocean and sky
Clean air, clean water, food
Gifts to all
We ruin with pollution and greed
The end
No life
Cloud, ocean and sun
Waiting for time
Like the beginning

Today's Poetry Friday round-up is at My Juicy Little Universe.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ex Libris

The library didn't only contain magical books, the ones which are chained to the shelves and are very dangerous. It also contained perfectly ordinary books, printed on commonplace paper in mundane ink. It would be a mistake to think that they weren't also dangerous just because reading them didn't make fireworks go off in the sky. Reading them sometimes did the more dangerous trick of making fireworks go off in the privacy of the reader's brain.
~ Terry Pratchett in Soul Music

Are you familiar with bookplates? They are pasted in the front of books to show who owns them, which is handy if you are loaning them out. According to my children, the fine art of book loaning is alive and well. My oldest child and her friends had a complicated system of passing around the Twilight books when they came out, and last spring my sixth grader loaned out one of his books seven times! By the time I got to read it, it was pretty battered and worn. Well-loved, you might say.

We haven't used bookplates yet, but seeing these made me interested. It's fun to imagine what your custom bookplate might look like. I've seen lots of cool quotes on them, too -- what might yours say?

The University of Louisville has a great collection of bookplates by designer Ainslie Hewett (1880-1963).

Elizabeth Powell Allen bookplate
by Ainslie Hewett

Harvey Myers bookplate
by Ainslie Hewett

Milton Eldridge Giles bookplate
by Ainslie Hewett

Alexander Mackenzie Watson bookplate
bu Ainslie Hewett

Minnie Lee Dodd Hill bookplate
by Ainslie Hewett

Bertha Lizette Guntermann bookplate
by Ainslie Hewett

Do you know why they are called "Ex Libris"? It's Latin for "From the Library of..."


The fabulous Pratt Library Ex Libris Collection
A really lovely Ex Libris post at the Dark Roasted site.
A cool Green Man Ex Libris stamp
Another customizable bookplate...this one is a cliff dive.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I'm Back!

Had a great trip, which I'm sure I will be talking about over the weeks!

I thought I would post a snippet of a poem that was on the blackboard of a one-room schoolhouse I visited in the Highland Village Museum in Iona, Cape Breton, Canada.

Stranger! henceforth be warned; and know that pride,
Howe'er disguised in its own majesty,
Is littleness; that he, who feels contempt
For any living thing, hath faculties
Which he has never used; that thought with him
Is in its infancy. The man whose eye
Is ever on himself doth look on one,
The least of Nature's works, one who might move
The wise man to that scorn which wisdom holds
Unlawful, ever. O be wiser, Thou!
Instructed that true knowledge leads to love;
True dignity abides with him alone
Who, in the silent hour of inward thought,
Can still suspect, and still revere himself
In lowliness of heart.

~ William Wordsworth

I like that children were pondering Wordsworth's complicated language. And I like Wordsworth's thoughts on pride and humility. "...he, who feels contempt For any living thing, hath faculties Which he has never used; that thought with him Is in its infancy...O be wiser, Thou!"

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Contract of Glory

A Kite is a Victim
by Leonard Cohen

A kite is a victim you are sure of.
You love it because it pulls
gentle enough to call you master,
strong enough to call you fool;
because it lives
like a desperate trained falcon
in the high sweet air,
and you can always haul it down
to tame it in your drawer.

A kite is a fish you have already caught
in a pool where no fish come,
so you play him carefully and long,
and hope he won't give up,
or the wind die down.

A kite is the last poem you've written
so you give it to the wind,
but you don't let it go
until someone finds you
something else to do.

A kite is a contract of glory
that must be made with the sun,
so you make friends with the field
the river and the wind,
then you pray the whole cold night before,
under the travelling cordless moon,
to make you worthy and lyric and pure.

Like kites? You can also visit the Kite Flyers Poetry Page. Today's Poetry Friday round-up is at Carol's Corner.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Make Your Own Art Supplies

Today's focus is on ways to make your own art supplies. Maybe you don't need to make your own, but you might feel like coming up with a new color, or doing it on the cheap, or just feel like getting your hands dirty:

A couple from my blog --
~Make Your Own Pastels
~Two Gesso Recipes

Tony Johansen offers a long list of ways to make art supplies, including:
~Making Oil Paints
~Making Watercolors and Gouaches
~Making Acrylic Paints
~Making Egg Tempera has How To Make Art Charcoal

~Instructables' Do It Yourself Vinyl Wall Art

~Make Your Own Frames by Colette Theriault

~A pictorial about stretching a canvas

~Der Mad Stamper offers How To Carve Your Own Rubber Stamp

~Make Your Own Mask (Halloween-style) instructions

~Recipes for homemade art supplies for kids (like cinnamon clay and fingerpaints)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Finding the Right Word

Want to learn a little something about words?

I signed up a while ago for a free email subscription to Daily Writing Tips and I find it both interesting and helpful. I've written the Daily Tipper a couple of times with questions or comments, and she has been very responsive.

I used to forward tips to my kids occasionally, but then my high schooler got her own subscription. She says that the tips have been startlingly timely -- sometimes a tip will have something to do with that day's schoolwork!

Friday, July 2, 2010

For the young who want to

For the young who want to
by Marge Piercy

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don't have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.'s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else's mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet,
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you're certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

Posted with permission of the poet.
Copyright Marge Piercy
from Circles on the Water,
Alfred A. Knopf, New York

Marge Piercy's A Work of Artifice stayed with me long after I read it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Liquid Sculpture

Martin Waugh explains how he goes about making his amazing work: "I craft the liquid shapes by carefully controlling the physical properties and positions of drops. I use high-speed photography to capture the resulting figures."

Juggling Red and Blue


Fire Pool

Midsummer's Night

Big Wet One Red

Bead Chain

Mr. Waugh gave tips in Amateur Photographer magazine for people who want to give drop photography a try:

"There are two main issues: stopping the motion and timing when the image is captured. The classic means of stopping motion is to use a short-duration flash. Most modern “speedlite” type flashes allow for a manual setting of 1/64th power or so... Timing is a bit more complicated. The common method is to use an electronic timer circuit triggered by a photo-interrupter. Building one is a good hobby project (Make magazine has a kit, and has some plans). And there are a few retail units available ( and

One other issue is getting the correct focus...I solve this by positioning a dummy of some kind right where the drops land, and focus on it. Once the focus is right, the stand-in is removed and I’m ready for a splash. A macro focusing rail is still a handy tool have for fine tuning.

It was fascinating (and a bit humbling) for me to read about the work of A. M. Worthington (“A Study of Splashes”). He spent years exploring drops and splashes in the late 1800’s using nothing more than an open-air spark gap for light and a falling iron ball for timing."

A Discovery Time Warp video showing Martin Waugh filming (as opposed to taking stills of) drops of water.