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)

It Doesn’t Make Sense

           

Richard Ford, American novelist (“Canada”), was born today in Mississippi in 1944. He could’ve been talking about yesterday’s verdict in another southern state known for inequality in their treatment of African American male victims, when he once wrote, “I have a theory… that someplace at the heart of most compelling stories is something that doesn’t make sense.” My husband was born today, in 1950, in Tallahassee, Florida, but was raised in the Harlem neighborhood of NYC. When he was 12, his mom shipped him down to Florida to live with relatives for minor offenses in NY, such as skipping school. A little Caucasian girl with her mom pointed at him and said, “Mommy there’s a N____,” which offended, angered and hurt him…the next day his dog was found dead outside the front door…murdered. He was shipped back up to NYC…went to school every single day…got his BFA and MFA. My husband will never return to Florida. He’s retiring and we will continue to live in the Northeast since he loves the changing of the seasons and we also never want to be far from our children. I am the mother of an African American male and I worried about him as a teenager and young man from the moment he left the house until he returned. As many of you know, he’s living and teaching in southern India for 2 years. He mentioned that he may go visit New Delhi and I warned him that there have been incidents in New Delhi of Africans being attacked and I told him not to go. Will he listen to me?  Who knows? It’s a scary world. We raise our children and prepare them the best we know how in navigating their world and hope for the best. Jordan Davis in Florida was America’s son, America’s child and he was murdered, “…for something that doesn’t make sense.” How the jury couldn’t convict the defendant for first degree murder is incomprehensible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

Showing Up

 

Knowing how nervous I would be to drive to mom’s this morning, my husband drove me early at 7am so as not to interfere with his going to work. I just needed to see for myself that mom was ok since I didn’t see her yesterday. She was fine. My husband also shoveled a bit at mom’s even though our service shoveled there last night; it snowed in the wee hours of the morning again. That’s love. Showing up.

 Very True Haiku for My Husband:

He promised my Dad

A meal I would never miss

He has kept his word.

This is absolutely true; my dad was concerned that my husband had no money and wasn’t earning much money and came from a family that struggled and couldn’t help us. He told my dad I would always be well fed.

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.

“Write What You Know.”-Mark Twain

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”-William Wordsworth

You’ll notice that yesterday and today, I’ve just wanted to write simple poems…poems that come instantly, nothing profound. As a child, I wrote all the time; teachers loved displaying my poetry on the hallway and classroom bulletin boards; in school newsletters. Once my dad gave the Trinity Church in lower Manhattan my Laura Nyro-inspired poem, “Save the Children” and they printed it in their newsletter. (Laura’s great song, “Save the Country” had the line, “Save the Children.”) Today, before I rised, I just looked at my husband sleeping and I smiled. He’s just the nicest person I know and for over 30 years, he’s been my anchor in the most positive of ways!!!!

I wanted to just get up and write

Something meaningful; something deep

Instead I think of your eyes and how they pierce into me

I think of your gentleness and how it guides this family

I think of your steadfastness calming my nerves

I think of you…always you.