Friday, August 1, 2008

Poetry Friday

We are very fortunate here in New Hampshire. Besides our production of maple syrup, apples, and granite, we also seem to be able to nurture something else: great poets. Four of the U.S. Poets Laureates have lived in our little state:

Robert Frost (1958-1959)

Maxine Kumin (1981-1982)

These two served when the job was still called "Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress."

The following men served under its new title: "Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry."

Donald Hall (2006- 2007)

Charles Simic (2007-2008)

While it is a source of pride for our state to claim some ownership of any of these wordsmiths, I must confess a personal bias towards Donald Hall. He, too, writes for children. His charming The Ox Cart Man is the most basic and colorful explanation of the annual circle that is all our lives.

"In October he backed his ox into his cart
and he and his family filled it up
with everything they made or grew all year long
that was left over."

While set in a long ago period dominated by home-grown foods and home-made products, the book reminds us to look for systematic repetitions that mark our own seasons. It may not be harvesting, going to market, inside chores, and planting as is the case for Hall's oxcart man, but we, too, mark time in our own ways: buying school supplies, holiday preparations, spring yard clean-ups, summer vacations. Life, no matter what the century, is lived in a circular fashion.

Like many others I have used The Oxcart Man in classrooms, for inspiration, and for the simple pleasure of reading the succinctness of the words. But, it is not my favorite book by Hall. My favorite opens with this sentence: "I've never worked a day in my life."

In Life Work Hall reveals the contentment, ease, and joy of earning a living with words. How many of us wish to be able to do so?

"Almost twenty years ago," Hall writes, "I quit teaching--giving up tenure, health insurance, and annual raises... I worked like crazy to pay tuitions and mortgages--but because I loved my work it was as if I did not work at all."

May we all feel as if we do "not work at all."

Note from Diane: This Friday's Poetry Round-Up is at the Well-Read Child. Stop by!

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