Friday, November 29, 2013


Experts say that if children can't read by the end of the fifth grade, they lose self-confidence and self-esteem, making them more likely to enter the juvenile justice system.
~Dirk Kempthorne

In November, the Maryland Court of Appeals hosted an oratorical contest for youth in Maryland juvenile detention facilities. This year, the youth gave speeches about “The Equipment I Need to Succeed,” based on the poem, “Equipment,” by Edgar Albert Guest.

Reading about this contest, I became curious about the poem. Here's the text, plus a video recital of it. “Equipment” starts about thirty seconds in:

by Edgar A. Guest

Figure it out for yourself, my lad.
You’ve got all that the greatest of men have had,
Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes,
And a brain to use if you would be wise.
With this equipment they all began,
So start for the top and say, "I Can."

Look them over, the wise and the great,
They take their food from a common plate,
And similar knives and forks they use,
With similar laces they tie their shoes.
The world consider them brave and smart,
But you’ve got all they had when they made their start.

You can triumph and come to skill,
You can be great if you only will.
You’re well equipped for the fight you choose,
You have arms and legs and a brain to use.
And the man who has risen great deeds to do,
Began his life with no more than you.

You are the handicap you must face,
You are the one who must choose your place,
You must say where you want to go,
How much you will study the truth to know.
God has equipped you for life, but He
Lets you decide what you want to be.

Courage must come from the soul within,
The man must furnish the will to win.
So figure it out for yourself, my lad,
You were born with all the great have had,
With your equipment they all began.
Get hold of yourself, and say: "I Can."


Carol's Corner has the Poetry Friday round-up today.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Millions of Shells

Seashells remind us that every passing life leaves something beautiful behind.

In 1835, the Shell Grotto in Margate, England was discovered underneath a farmer's field. The grotto, which is covered in about 4.6 million shells, is a 70-foot-long passageway ending in a room known as the "Altar Chamber." You can read about its history here.

Shell Grotto, Margate
photo by Ben Salter

Shell Shapes, Margate
photo by Bruce Stokes

The Shell Grotto, Margate
photo by failing angel

Shell Doorway, Margate
photo by Toby Bradbury

Holey shells, Margate
photo by Toby Bradbury

A Shell to Call One's Home, Margate
photo by failing angel

One more grotto:

Nereid, Leeds Castle Grotto
photo by OFE
The Grotto at Leeds was designed In 1987 by architect Vernon Gibberd, working with sculptor and stone mason Simon Verity and shell artist Diana Reynell.

Monday, November 25, 2013

the little match girl passion

She rubbed another match on the wall. It burst into flame, and where its light fell upon the wall it became as transparent as a veil, and she could see into the room. The table was covered with a snowy white table-cloth, on which stood a splendid dinner service, and a steaming roast goose, stuffed with apples and dried plums. And what was still more wonderful, the goose jumped down from the dish and waddled across the floor, with a knife and fork in its breast, to the little girl. Then the match went out, and there remained nothing but the thick, damp, cold wall before her.
~Hans Christian Andersen

A tragic old tale, a modern composer. This work for four voices and percussion by David Lang really grabbed me.

* You can buy it at Bang on a Can or Amazon.
* A review of the little match girl passion
* A Haunting Tale, Perfect for Christmas

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hidden in This Present Instant

Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard.
~Fra Giovanni Giocondo, attributed

Andi at A Wrung Sponge wrote about Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving, which was compiled by Katherine Patterson and illustrated by Pamela Dalton. I bought it immediately -- what a visually and spiritually lovely book!

Paterson shares this prayer attributed to Father Giovanni Giocondo, circa 1433-1515:

I salute you! There is nothing I can give you which you have not; but there is much, that, while I cannot give, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take Heaven.

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant. Take Peace.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow, behind it, yet, within our reach, is joy. Take Joy.

And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.


Wendell Berry again, Tabatha? Yes...

When I rise up
by Wendell Berry

When I rise up
let me rise up joyful
like a bird

Read the rest here


Katya is the Poetry Friday host today.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Cat's Meow

There are no ordinary cats.

The Internet is full of cats, true? So is art, as you can see in The Cat: 3500 Years of the Cat in Art by Caroline Bugler and this Cats from Art History Tumblr. I have a 15-year-old lap cat who has been overseeing this post:

Tabby Cat
by Takeuchi Seihō

The Hard Word
by Jacques-Laurent Agasse (1767–1849)

Soon, the Black Cat Tour by Rodolphe Salis
by Théophile Steinlen (1859–1923)

There was a dispute going on between the executioner, the King, and the Queen, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
illustration by Charles Robinson

Cat of Kazan
by 18th century anonymous folk artist

from the Haifa Sculpture Garden "Vista Of Peace"
sculpture by Ursula Malbin
photo by Guillaume Paumier

Weingarten (Württemberg), Carnival
photo by Andreas Praefcke

Alsace, Bas-Rhin, Saverne, Maison Katz (XVIIe)
photo by Ralph Hammann

A Saucer of Milk
by Carl Holsøe (1863–1935)

Town Hall Square, Ingelheim
photo by Carin Grudda

How to Draw a Cat

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Visit from St. Alphabet

“Happy Alphabet to all, and to all a good write!”
~Dave Morice

I just finished an interesting book called Dr. Alphabet Unmasked: Inside the Creative Mind of David Morice by Joye Chizek and Thomas Walz. I've written about Dr. Alphabet before (you might remember his Poetry City Marathon). This exploration of his creative process was thought-provoking.

One of his most popular works is the charming A Visit from St. Alphabet, a retake of A Visit from St. Nicholas (Twas The Night Before Christmas) for letter-learners and lovers. You can find it on Amazon or you can buy it directly from Coffee House Press.

Making the Rounds

For this Music Monday, we have Little Dragon from Sweden, Low Roar from Iceland, and Žen from Croatia. I think these songs work together pretty well. What do you think?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

How Big is Your Word-Hoard?

Today's Daily Writing Tip talks about Test Your Vocab, which asks you some questions and then estimates how many words of English you know. The sentence in the description that really struck me was this:
Adult vocabulary size appears to be principally determined by reading habits between ages 4 and 15.
I took the Test Your Vocab quiz, but I can't say how I did because "it’s considered bad form to reveal your score or to ask others how they scored."

P.S. "Word-Hoard" is an Old English term for the words you know: "Words are useful to have, and to cherish as one of The Good People gloats over his gold under the hill."

P.P.S. If you're over 15 & want to expand your vocabulary, don't give up!
12 Ways to Learn Vocabulary with the New York Times
Wiki-How To Build Your Vocabulary

Friday, November 15, 2013


Day 18 by Louise Docker

A bit of wondering from Robert Louis Stevenson this Poetry Friday, which you can take literally or perhaps you can imagine who will be reaping what we sow. It reminds me a bit of San Francisco winding up with air pollution from China:

Where Go the Boats?
by Robert Louis Stevenson

DARK brown is the river.
  Golden is the sand.
It flows along for ever,
  With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,
  Castles of the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating—
  Where will all come home?

On goes the river
  And out past the mill,
Away down the valley,
  Away down the hill.

Away down the river,
  A hundred miles or more,
Other little children
  Shall bring my boats ashore.


Last year, I made a poem ornament for my mom in a hollow ball. This year, I experimented with writing on a blank ceramic ornament. The poem on this one is In The Great Book of Winter.

photo by Elena Y

Here are links to more make-your-own stuff. I would love to hear your DIY ideas!

Jama Rattigan is hosting the Poetry Friday round-up today.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Art is a fight to the finish between black charcoal and white paper.
~Gunter Grass

Charcoal drawings this Art Thursday. Check out the links at the bottom if you are interested in having a go at it yourself.

Theseus and the Minotaur
by Michael Biondo

Portrait of the Sculptor Carles Mani and the Painter Pere Ferran
by Santiago Rusiñol (1861–1931)

Biker Girl H16
by Shawnee Herendeen

Bearded Man
by József Rippl-Rónai

Muscle Man
created by Marcy Ann Villafaña (
copyright © 2013 - 2014 Villafana Enterprises Incorporated

Old Woman
by István Nagy

Portrait of a Chambermaid
by Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)

The Church of Saint-Eugène
by Léon Augustin Lhermitte

Seated Girl
by William Morris Hunt

Charcoal drawing tutorials from The Virtual
Charcoal drawing basics from Art Instruction Blog

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Shop Small

I spend a lot of time looking into where/how things I buy are produced, trying in my own small way to make thoughtful purchases when possible. I like the Shop Small movement and Small Business Saturday, which is Nov. 30th this year. Just thought I would mention it, as I expect it will be overshadowed by Black Friday, which seems to be drifting into Thursday.

* One place to find handmade items is Etsy. Another is ArtFire.
* Ten Thousand Villages and The Hunger Site Store also sell handmade goods.
*VinylHunt can help you find independent record stores near you. Amoeba is a large independent online record store.
* The Indie Bound site will help you locate independent bookstores near you.
* Mountain Rose Herbs is a well-loved online place to buy herbs, spices, and essential oils.

Monday, November 11, 2013


This Music Monday, we have a virtuoso who doesn't take herself too seriously! Never seen a theremin before? Well, there's not much to see...

Same thing, only inside matryoshka dolls:

Play Theremin Now

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Baby's Opera

Rockabye Baby, in the treetop
Don't you know a treetop
is no safe place to rock?
And who put you up there,
and your cradle too?
Baby, I think someone down here
has got it in for you!
~Shel Silverstein

Poems and Illustrations from The Baby's Opera by Walter Crane today. Opera for babies is apparently full of drama, romance, and a bit of nonsense, much like opera for adults. This picture book has many nursery rhymes you would recognize, such as Three Blind Mice, Little Jack Horner, Jack and Jill, Hush-a-by Baby, and Old King Cole. I decided to share some lesser known rhymes today.


There Was A Lady Loved A Swine

There was a lady loved a swine,
“Honey!” said she;
“Pig-hog, wilt thou be mine?”
“Hunc!” said he.

“I’ll build thee a silver sty,
Honey!” said she;
“And in it thou shalt lie!”
“Hunc!” said he.

“Pinned with a silver pin,
Honey!” said she;
“That thou mayest go out and in,”
“Hunc!” said he.

“Will thou have me now,
Honey?” said she;
“Speak, or my heart will break,”
“Hunc!” said he.


Mrs. Bond

“Oh, what have you got for dinner, Mrs. Bond?”
“There’s beef in the larder, and ducks in the pond;”
“Dilly, dilly, dilly, dilly, come to be killed,
For you must be stuffed, and my customers filled!”

“John Ostler, go fetch me a duckling or two,
John Ostler go fetch me a duckling or two;
Cry dilly, dilly, dilly, dilly, come and be killed,
For you must be stuffed, and my customers filled!”

“I have been to the ducks that are swimming in the pond,
And they won’t come to be killed, Mrs. Bond;
I cried dilly, dilly, dilly, dilly, come and be killed,
For you must be stuffed, and the customers filled!”

Mrs. Bond she went down to the pond in a rage,
With plenty of onions, and plenty of sage;
She cried, “Come, little wag-tails, come, and be killed.
For you shall be stuffed, and my customers filled!”


My Pretty Maid

“Where are you going to, my pretty maid?
Where are you going to, my pretty maid?”
“I’m going a-milking, Sir,” she said,
“Sir,” she said, “Sir,” she said,
“I’m going a-milking, Sir,” she said.

“Shall I go with you, my pretty maid?”
“Yes, if you please, kind Sir,” she said,
“Sir,” she said, “Sir,” she said,
“Yes, if you please, kind Sir,” she said.

“What is your fortune, my pretty maid?”
“My face is my fortune, Sir,” she said,
“Sir,” she said, “Sir,” she said,
“My face is my fortune, Sir,” she said.

“Then I can’t marry you, my pretty maid.”
“Nobody asked you, Sir,” she said,
“Sir,” she said, “Sir,” she said,
“Nobody asked you, Sir,” she said.


Two more of the gorgeous illustrations:

Random Noodling has the Poetry Friday round-up today.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thorny Poetry

So they drove again...letting the desert scratch its own thorny poetry on the enormous moon.
~Douglas Woolf

Taking a look at cacti today in all their marvelous variety:

photo by William Warby

photo by Akuppa John Wigham

photo by lezumbalaberenjena

photo by David Sanchez

Cactus Flowers
photo by Cath Walker

Scarlet Cactus
photo by Thangaraj Kumaravel

Cactus Pattern
photo by Boobook48

Cactus Bud
photo by Camelia TWU

Cactus Lanudo
photo by Felix E. Guerrero

Monday, November 4, 2013

More Joy

I love that album cover. Last week for Music Monday, we had a song to warm your spirits, and we have more today. This time, the band is from Norway, although I think they live in Germany now.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Lost and Found

We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.
~Kurt Vonnegut

Invention, creation -- these topics continue to wander into my thoughts. First up, a concrete found poem by Diane Mayr about inventor Alexander Graham Bell. Thanks for letting me share your poem, Diane!

A.G.B. trivia: Did you know that Bell was one of the founders of the National Geographic Society?

Now for a poem about Geppetto of Pinocchio fame:

Geppetto in the Whale
by Tabatha Yeatts

I awake, my head in my arms,
  and draw in the wet air. Still alive.
Beyond my tangled cocoon,
  sounds collide and crash --
the endless pounding of his
rivers of blood roaring past.

I stand, pressing my callused palms
  against the vast wall --
and feel the vibrations
  of his
the entrance, the exit, a circle of wind.

My fingers run
  across his smooth, slippery sides;
fingers which have pried
  shapes from wood, daubed on eyes
and prayed for sight,
  trying to craft
undulating pulse of life.

Listening to the whale's ferocious orchestra,
  I believe if I were granted wood,
I could devise a puppet right there,
  in the dark. I could clothe it
with my own jacket,
  fill it with story,
give it
with my own two hands.


The Poetry Friday round-up is at TeacherDance.