He’s Still Waiting!

 

“A Brave Man and a Brave Poet.”-Bob Dylan on Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Today is the birthday of one of America’s best poets, in my opinion, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and he is 95 years old!  I used to read and carry around his “A Coney Island of the Mind,” which contained a fave poem of mine, “I Am Waiting,” with the great line, “and I am waiting for a rebirth of wonder.”

He was hip, he was cool and he opened a bookstore that I would have liked to have visited, but never got the chance: City Lights Bookstore in North Beach in San Francisco.

I am so happy to celebrate his birthday with you today!

He was born in Yonkers and when his dad died when he was a few months old, his mom was committed to a state mental institution and Lawrence was sent to France to be raised by an aunt. He returned to the states, served in WW II in the Navy, and opened his bookstore, named after the Charlie Chaplin movie, “City Lights,” because, “Chaplin’s character represents for me … the very definition of a poet. … A poet, by definition, has to be an enemy of the State. If you look at Chaplin films, he’s always being pursued by the police. That’s why he’s still such a potent symbol in the cinema — the little man against the world.” writersalmanac.publicradio.org)

“To Survive You Must Tell Stories.” –Umberto Eco

 

What a wonderful way to begin the first of March with the celebration of 3 writers born today!  Ralph Ellison, novelist and essayist, was born in 1914 in Oklahoma; poet Robert Lowell was born in Boston in 1917 and poet Richard Wilbur was born in 1921 in NYC. Ellison didn’t grow up believing he would be a writer; he was more interested in composing, but after meeting Langston Hughes and Richard Wright, his direction changed. Lucky us!  Robert Lowell had bipolar disorder and struggled with that in and out of mental institutions all of his life. Richard Wilbur started out as a journalist, but while serving in WW II, he read a lot of Edgar Allan Poe and started composing poems about the loneliness he was feeling. Wilbur wrote, “I would feel dead if I didn’t have the ability periodically to put my world in order with a poem. I think to be inarticulate is a great suffering, and is especially so to anyone who has a certain knack for poetry.”The Writer’s Almanac   

The opening line of Ralph Ellison’s most famous novel and even the very first paragraph of that novel continues to be studied throughout the world:

”I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”  Sadly, we still have too many “invisible” men, women and children throughout the world.

On a lighter note, The Who’s Roger Daltry is 70 years old today!!!!!!   I have great memories of seeing The Who several times at the Fillmore East in NYC.

 

 

 

 

 

“I Lit My Purest Candle…”-Tim Buckley

 

You see, I am a poet, and not quite right in the head, darling. It’s only that.”

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Tim Buckley’s “Morning Glory” song is one of my favorites of all of his compositions. Another poet who used a candle in one of her most famous poems was born today in 1892 in Maine: Edna St. Vincent Millay.  Coming from an impoverished background, Millay couldn’t afford college; one day a woman heard a young Edna recite one of her poems and decided to pay Millay’s tuition for Vassar College. After graduating, Edna St. Vincent Millay made her home in Greenwich Village along with so many other writers and musicians. She was very popular during the Jazz Age.  Millay was the first female to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for her poetry volume, “The Harp Weaver,” which contains a favorite childhood poem of mine, “The Ballad of the Harp Weaver,” which begins with:

“SON,” said my mother,

  When I was knee-high,

“You’ve need of clothes to cover you,

  And not a rag have I.”

My Lazy Days of Winter

      

      

“Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.”-Tchaikovsky

It has been 4 days since my last posting. Just didn’t know what to write about. Life has been OK, no emergencies…Mom’s doing all right, though she’s been in the house for weeks due to the weather and the mountains of snow; yet she doesn’t complain. As long as I always have library books for her and she does her daily crossword puzzle, she’s not bored. How lucky I am that she has never been a demanding person who needs to be entertained. Speaking of Mom, I’ve written before on the time she took me uptown to see a panel discussion on Civil Rights in the early 60s at the NY Society for Ethical Culture. The society is over 100 years old. I definitely remember Sydney Poitier and Harry Belafonte being on the panel and I think James Baldwin also was there among others. Well, today is Mr. Poitier’s 87th birthday!!!  I remember mom and I going to the movies to see “Lilies of the Field” and singing “Amen” along with Sydney Poitier and the nuns. I’ve seen every one of his movies. Today also marks the death of the great Frederick Douglass in 1895. It was a sudden death after having a very nice and productive day at a Women’s Rights conference. Folksinger, Buffy Sainte-Marie was born today in 1941. Always loved her music.

So, I found a little inspiration today to do my blog posting! Yay!

Hope all are well out there in WordPress Land!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day Part II

For my music buffs…I could’ve gone on and on with this, it was such fun! Should I provide an answer key?

 Some of Our Favorites by IleneOnWords

Dylan sings, “My love she speaks like roses”

Jimi twangs, “And the wind cries Mary”

Joni still promises, “I could drink a case of you”

Tracy remembers her Mama’s, “All that you have is your soul”

Ella scats, “Let’s do it, Let’s fall in love”

Frankie croons, “One for my baby and one more for the road”

Billy serenades “I love you just the way you are…” Our song forever

Eric invites you to “Take off your thirsty boots and stay for a while”

Hartmann & Coltrane collaborate “My one and only love”

Carmen claims, “It never entered my mind”

Sarah’s “In a sentimental mood”

Bill declares “Ain’t no sunshine when you’re gone”

Joan knows Bob believes “Love is just a 4-letter word”

Me…I agree with Pete as he affirms, “Kisses sweeter than wine.”

Speaking Clearly and Mr. Tolson

    

“Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.”Oliver Wendell Holmes

As an educator, I’ve always found it very important to enunciate each and every sound for my students as I spoke and also to be a model for how they should speak. My students came from all over the world and I would put them in situations where, even though they didn’t know English, they were supplied the words in order to make them feel comfortable, have the new words roll around their tongues, feel good about themselves and shine. The classroom was our stage and we also used the auditorium stage as well as marching into other classrooms and performing. They loved performing, even if they just entered my classroom that day!  It was always an accepting learning environment. A few years ago, the movie, “The Great Debaters” came out starring Denzel Washington as the debate team’s coach, Melvin B. Tolson. Well, today is Mr. Tolson’s birthday and he was born in 1898 in Missouri.

In 1924, Melvin Tolson accepted a position as instructor of English and speech at Wiley College. While at Wiley, he taught, wrote poetry and novels, coached football and directed plays. In 1929, Tolson coached the Wiley debate teams, which established a ten-year winning streak. The Debate Team beat the larger black schools of its day like Tuskegee, Fisk and Howard.

 After a visit to Texas, Langston Hughes  wrote that “Melvin Tolson is the most famous Negro professor in the Southwest. Students all over that part of the world speak of him, revere him, remember him and love him.”

 According to James Farmer, Tolson’s drive to win, to eliminate risk, meant that his debaters were actors more than spontaneous thinkers. Tolson wrote all the speeches and the debate team memorized them. He drilled them on every gesture and every pause. Tolson was so skilled at the art of debating that he also figured out the arguments that opponents would make and wrote rebuttals for them-before the actual debate.

 In 1930, he pursued a master’s degree in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University; met V.F. Calverton, editor of Modern Quarterly; wrote “Cabbages and Caviar” column for The Washington Tribune and organized sharecroppers in South Texas.

 In 1935, he led the Wiley Debate Team to the national championship to defeat the University of Southern California before an audience of eleven hundred people. In 1947 he was appointed poet laureate of Liberia by President V. S. Tubman. He left Wiley to become professor of English and Drama at Langston University in Oklahoma.”Wiley College

Melvin B. Tolson was also a writer and a poet. I love his ode to Louis Armstrong:

                                      Old Satchmo’s

                   gravelly voice and tapping foot and crazy notes

                                      set my soul on fire.

                                            If I climbed

                         the seventy-seven steps of the Seventh

                 Heaven, Satchmo’s high C would carry me higher!

                      Are you hip to this, Harlem?  Are you hip?

                           On Judgment Day, Gabriel will say

                                  after he blows his horn:

                    “I’d be the greatest trumpeter in the Universe,

                         if old Satchmo had never been born!”

 

 

 

“February is Merely as Long as is Needed to Pass the Time until March.”-Dr. J.R. Stockton

Haiku by Ilene OnWords

February’s here!

We’re 1 month closer to spring,

THAT should bring a smile!

 “No great poet has ever been afraid of being himself.”-Langston Hughes

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite, favorite poets, Langston Hughes who wasn’t “afraid of being himself” as he faced very uncertain and dangerous times to be a Black man in America and a gay one at that. When I was a child, my mom used to read aloud his column, “Simple” in the NY Post. Simple was a character who was anything but simple and was Langston Hughes’s alter ego to comment on society.”In 1942, during World War II, Hughes began writing a column for the African American newspaper, the Chicago Defender. In 1943 he introduced the character of Jesse B. Semple, or Simple, to his readers. This fictional everyman, while humorous, also allowed Hughes to discuss very serious racial issues. The Simple columns were also popular–and they ran for twenty years and were collected in several books.”-kansasheritage.org  If you never read his biography, it’s well worth reading; he had an extremely interesting life; a troubled relationship with his dad; traveled widely; wrote prolifically and documented history through his poetry. I would use his poetry in my classroom and read his poems to my own 2 children.