Friday, February 27, 2015

Monuments Men and composition students...

As the quarter comes to an end, the grades are recorded and we take a much needed week's break to regroup and get ready to finish the year.

But taking a break never means taking a break from learning or feeling compassionate or sitting idly by watching the world go to hell.

My freshman composition class is required to read Monuments Men. Actually this was my choice for the second semester. We all read the book for the first semester, and we were allowed to choose if we wanted to continue. I did.

I did for a couple of reasons. I like having the students immerse themselves in a book; they often do not do that. I also want to help them reach down inside their own core and find their compassion. We spend a lot of time discussing that.

We discuss what they love or what they feel in this world is worthy of their lives. We talk in-depth about the Monuments Men and their sacrifices for art and for preserving history. It isn't enough to just read words, I stress in my class, but we must understand what they mean. We must put ourselves into the words, the story, the book.

There are times in my class that I cannot contain my weeping. I know they look at me strangely and become very quiet, but how can we not weep for the greatness of the Monuments Men? How can we not want to take Harry Ettlinger's hand and shake it feeling the strength he still possesses in his heart and soul.

The Monuments Men do not exist as they did during WWII, yet the destruction of he world's greatest treasures continue. I was appalled to see the above video. I was appalled to read of the burning of the manuscripts in Mosel. 

I wish in my blog I had an idea, something concrete to tell you, or some kernel of knowledge that would set the world right. 

I do not.

Maybe sometimes the only thing we can do is to know and feel the compassion, especially towards the younger generation. If they do not see compassion from us, then where will they see it?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

If you were coming in the fall....

Emily Dickinson 1830-1836

I often think of Emily Dickinson, sometimes more than other times. Perhaps it was the way the waxing moon shone down on my town last night after dark. Or perhaps it was the way Jupiter looked in the eastern sky as I meandered down the quiet, snowy streets of winter last night.

I think winter nights give us pause to think...maybe it is because of the darkness or the quietness of streets and towns filled with snow. Maybe it has to do with the beating of our own hearts knowing that kitchens full of leftover soup or glasses of wine wait for us.

Yet, could it be in the possibilities that stretch out across the tundra into places in our imagination that we never thought possible?

Whatever it is, I am glad we have poets and star gazers and wanderers to help us put all of these thoughts into words. As for the words I am choosing on this day, it is Emily Dickinson and her poem. If you were Coming in the Fall. It is one of my favorite poems. I have a basket full of yarn in my parlor (living room), but maybe I could roll it up into the dresser and wait...and wait.

My basket of yarn.

IF you were coming in the fall,
I ’d brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.
If I could see you in a year,        5
I ’d wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers,
Until their time befalls.
If only centuries delayed,
I ’d count them on my hand,        10
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen’s land.
If certain, when this life was out,
That yours and mine should be,
I ’d toss it yonder like a rind,        15
And taste eternity.
But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time’s uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,
That will not state its sting.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Morning with Donald Hall...

One of my favorite poets is Donald Hall. I have always loved his writings in whatever category I could find them. When I worked in an elementary school, I loved sharing his book, Ox Cart Man.
This book resonated so much with me. Perhaps it was because I lived on the farm and I could understand this poignant look at the seasons of the year...of the gratitude of hard work...or the rewards of the labor even if it was just a bag of peppermint candy.

Once I wrote to Hall asking him about his lovely old farmhouse. He wrote back telling me (and the students) that he had several rooms in his house and when he woke in the morning, he would choose which room to write in. Perhaps he felt like poetry...or essays... or fiction. I loved that idea.

I have a wonderful book in my library, Seasons at Eagle Pond. This book was published in 1987 with wood cut illustrations by Thomas W. Nason. My personal copy was actually a gift to my dad in the same year it was published. My inscription reads: Merry Christmas Dad, 1987, from your eldest daughter. After my dad's death most of his books were gifted to me in my own library.

In this Youtube video Hall talks about Things in his life and what might happen to them after his own death. I have also included a small portion of an interview he did with NPR this past winter.
I hope you enjoy both. I would love to hear how Hall has shaped your life.

"I really feel better about aging at the age of 86 than I did at 70. I cannot drive, I can't walk except by pushing a Rollator, but I feel a great deal of energy and excitement. Obviously death is ahead of me. I don't look forward to dying one little bit, but I simply don't worry about it because it's going to happen to me as it does to anybody. ...

I write as good as I can, and don't try to turn that into some hope for a future that I could never know. I've had some people tell me that they knew they were great and that they would live in literature forever, and my response is to pat them on the back and say, "Maybe you'll feel better tomorrow."
my favorite writers and poets is Donald Hall.At some point in this book I said that I expect my immortality to cease about seven minutes after my funeral. I have seen so many poets who were famous, who won all sorts of prizes, disappear with their deaths." NPR Interview.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Winter won’t last, enjoy it to the bitter end....

Here is the link to this week's column. Just click on the above site!

Also I will be picking up the Snowman Stories from the Herald tomorrow so you still have today to get those stories in for the writing contest. The address is at the end of the column!! The two winning stories will be published in next week's column.

The photo below is from my front porch. They are not my ice skates, but they did belong to one of my sons. We spent our farm winters ice skating on the pond as well.

As I said, enjoy this winter to the bitter end!

Lou Ann

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Gift of Poe...

Looking closely you can read the date of October 7, 1949 from Richmond, Va.

Yesterday morning I was gifted the above envelope. At first I didn't realize it was a gift of keeping, I thought it was a gift of sharing.

I could barely hold the envelope in my hands, and I even exclaimed, "This should be in a protective holder."

The date is October 7, 1949. That is the 100th anniversary of Poe's death, and it is postmarked Virginia. The envelope is yellowed with age and has symbols of and photos of Poe, the raven, a quill pen, writing tablet and his cottage in New York.

When I handed it back to the person I was told it was a gift and I should keep it.

Tim Hopp is an academic professor of writing and theatre at Trine University. Our offices are adjoined and he is always keeping my coffee cup filled with very unusual blends. Most of the time we discuss poetry. This week it was the death of Philip Levine and the song of "February" by Dar Williams.

It is wonderful for me to know I have someone who shares my love of poetry and understands my search for poets...alive or dead!

Thank you, Dr. Hopp, for this lovely gift. I have already placed it in plastic (after the photo), and will treasure it always.

Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"O My Luve's Like A Red, Red Rose..."

This is my piper friend, Mark Gropp.

In keeping with the Valentine's theme, one of my speech classes hosted Robert Burns Night at the University on Monday. This was a tribute to Robbie Burns from Scotland, of course.

The students chose poetry, rehearsed, and stage our evening performance. I must say it was absolutely delightful to see these students all dressed up in black and reading poetry on a stage on a cold winter's night.

The only student who differed was Sam. He went out and bought a red shirt because his poem was "O My Luve's Like a Red, Red Rose."

Karen Homan came an hour early to put stage make-up on all the students. There was much rumbling amongst the gentlemen students, but alas, all looked great on the stage.

Mark Gropp, my friend and personal piper, played me into the theatre. It was a wonderful night of poetry and music. I was so proud of the students and I thank everyone who came out on that blustery February night.

If you are not familiar with the poetry of Burns, here is a lovely youtube video of the above poem.

Poetry and music in your pocket, or in your mittens, is a sure way to stay warm this winter!

Lou Ann

Saturday, February 14, 2015

It’s never too late to share a few words of love - KPCNews...

Here is the link to this week's column on Love Letters. I hope you enjoy it and perhaps you want to share your favorite love letter as well. Just click on the above link.

Thank you for reading, as always.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Lou Ann