Thursday, October 28, 2010

Poetry, a Passion

I have a new Kindle, which I won as the grand prize at a raffle.  It's a mixed blessing, because in truth, I LOVE the printed page, I LOVE to hold a book, I love paper and ink.   In trying to figure out how to put it to good use, I realized it would make a fabulous reference tool, so I've been downloading poetry books.   One fabulous find was a book called Saved By a Poem, the transformative power of words, by Kim Rosen.   It's a powerful book, highly recommended, and makes the case for memorizing poetry and sharing it.
    I probably did not know it until the past few years, but I have always been passionate about poetry.   It feeds my soul, untangles my mind, reminds me of what is important, and describes things in words that I could never identify in my heart.   Because I was always an elementary school teacher, I spent most of my poetry years in nursery rhymes, fairy tales, folk tales, and fiction.   But along the way, I collected children's poetry books, (Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Arnold Lobel, Jean Little). Hidden in the volumes were gems of the classics, which eventually led me to the "grown-up" poets.   My favorites are Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Naomi Shihab Nye, Antonio Machado, and oh, so many more.   But one poet spans the ages and the decades:   Judith Viorst, author extraordinaire of both children's and adult poetry, and her newest book of the decade is Unexpectedly Eighty, following her other classics, I'm Too Young to be Seventy, Suddenly Sixty, Forever Fifty, How Did I Get to Be Forty, It's Hard to be Hip Over Thirty, When Did I Stop Being Twenty, and ...ta da...If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries.   She has led the way for me through her poetry, and made growing older a bit easier to face.   She perfectly captures life in all it's shades, twists, turns, ups and downs, and in the lastest, she has put down what I feel about being a grandmother.  (Except I'm not quite as clear and mature, which is all right, since I'm only in my sixties,  meaning I'll still push vegetables and have them pick up a few toys). It's classic:

Among My Grandchildren

While I may point out, from time to time, that cheating at Pick-Up-Sticks
Deprives them of that inner satisfaction they can only achieve by playing fair and square,
And while, from time to time, I may deliver a little lecture
On not hurting people's feelings and changing their underpants,
And while I would never hesitate to prohibit the waterboarding of younger brothers,
Or discourage discussion of farting during meals,
I've decided that, for the most part, it is not my responsibility
To improve my grandchildren's character
Or their hygiene.

Nor am I going to urge them to eat their vegetables.
Or tell them they need to look people straight in the eye,
Or remind them to pick up their toys and use a tissue not their sleeve and stop interrupting.
And though I hope they'll be taught
To be modest, responsible, generous, patient, and help set the table,
That isn't my job.

For I have chosen to be a three-desserts grandmother,
A yes-you-can-watch-another-video grandmother,
A why-don't-we-just-forget-your-bath-tonight grandmother,
A clap-and-cheer-and-shower-praise-on-them grandmother,
A grandmother who seditiously whispers in her grandchild's ear,
Don't tell your mom I let you do this--she'll kill me.
A grandmother who insists that it is the duty of the older generations
To improve and instruct the younger generations,
Except--except when I'm among my grandchildren.

And just for fun, I'm adding one more, because it makes me laugh.

E-Mail Is A Wonderful Way to Stay In Touch With the Children

They used to never write and never phone.
These days they also never e-mail back.
No matter how adorable my tone,
Each you've-got-mail is viewed as an attack.
My queries: "Do you hydrate?"
And reminders: "Careless brushing leads to plaque."
Though all well meant, are viewed as an attack.

In order to provide them with a batch
Of articles I feel compelled to share,
I often, when I e-mail, click "attach."
But do they ever download? Not a prayer.
E. coli--where it's hiding.
Mortgage frauds--the latest victims.
And the theft of your identity--beware!
These must be read, but are they? Not a prayer.

My need to guide my children is intense,
But frankly they don't seem to give a d---.
Indeed, they've mobilized a strong defense--
They're sending all my e-mails straight to spam.
I'm trying to alert them
To the risks of daily living,
And to every epidemic, threat, and scam.
But I think they've turned their mother into spam.