Tag Archive | National Poetry Month

Something on which to chew

(National Poetry Month, Day 30)

We wrap up National Poetry Month with a tasty morsel: a favorite poem from middle school forensic competitions of days of yore.

Peanut-Butter Sandwich
by Shel Silverstein

I’ll sing you a poem of a silly young king
Who played with the world at the end of a string,
But he only loved one single thing—
And that was just a peanut-butter sandwich.

His scepter and his royal gowns,
His regal throne and golden crowns
Were brown and sticky from the mounds
And drippings from each peanut-butter sandwich.

His subjects all were silly fools
For he had passed a royal rule
That all that they could learn in school
Was how to make a peanut-butter sandwich.

He would not eat his sovereign steak,
He scorned his soup and kingly cake,
And told his courtly cook to bake
An extra-sticky peanut-butter sandwich.

And then one day he took a bit
And started chewing with delight,
But found his mouth was stuck quite tight
From that last bite of peanut-butter sandwich.

His brother pulled, his sister pried,
The wizard pushed, his mother cried,
“My boy’s committed suicide
From eating his last peanut-butter sandwich!”

The dentist came, and the royal doc.
The royal plumber banged and knocked,
But still those jaws stayed tightly locked.
Oh darn that sticky peanut-butter sandwich!

The carpenter, he tried with pliers,
The telephone man tried with wires,
The firemen, they tried with fire,
But couldn’t melt that peanut-butter sandwich.

With ropes and pulleys, drills and coil,
With steam and lubricating oil—
For twenty years of tears and toil—
They fought that awful peanut-butter sandwich.

Then all his royal subjects came.
They hooked his jaws with grapplin’ chains
And pulled both ways with might and main
Against that stubborn peanut-butter sandwich.

Each man and woman, girl and boy
Put down their ploughs and pots and toys
And pulled until kerack! Oh, joy—
They broke right through that peanut-butter sandwich.

A puff of dust, a screech, a squeak—
The king’s jaw opened with a creak.
And then in voice so faint and weak—
The first words that they heard him speak
Were, “How about a peanut-butter sandwich?”

king and peanut butter


On experiencing a small setback in recovery from her knee surgery

(National Poetry Month, Day 29)

I first encountered John Milton’s “On His Blindness” when I was 16 and taking a British Literature course in high school. I got it, but I didn’t get it. I encountered it again when I was 23 and in graduate school. I got it, but I didn’t really have time to think about it. This year, it has popped into my head innumerable times. I get it now, and I can see that it means something very important.
Over the past year, I’ve learned that the hardest thing about being patient is learning to be patient with oneself.
And I’ve learned that limitations are often very cleverly-disguised opportunities.


On His Blindness
by John Milton


When I consider how my light is spent,
E’re half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide,
Lodg’d with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, least he returning chide,
Doth God exact day labour, light deny’d,
I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts, who best
Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’re Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and waite.

sunrise over continuous passive motion machine (with flowers)

sunrise over continuous passive motion machine (with flowers)

Good morning, a few hours early!

(National Poetry Month, Day 28)

Good night, friends! Get a good rest, so that your day tomorrow may begin more pleasantly than Daniel’s begins, in this poem.

Daniel at Breakfast
by Phyllis McGinley

his paper propped against the electric toaster
(nicely adjusted to his morning use),
Daniel at breakfast studies world disaster
and sips his orange juice.
the words dismay him. headlines shrilly chatter
of famine, storm, death, pestilence, decay.
Daniel is gloomy, reaching for the butter.
he shudders at the way
war stalks the planet still, and men know hunger,
go shelterless, betrayed, may perish soon.
the coffee’s weak again. in sudden anger
Daniel throws down his spoon
and broods a moment on the kitchen faucet
the plumber mended, but has mended ill;
recalls tomorrow means a dental visit,
laments the grocery bill.
then having shifted from his human shoulder
the universal woe, he drains his cup
rebukes the weather (surely turning colder),
crumples his napkin up
and, kissing his wife abruptly at the door,
stamps fiercely off to catch the 8:04

coffee and newspaper

“JP2, we love you!”: a poetic chant for a poet

(National Poetry Month, Day 27)

pope stadium

I am a member of the John Paul II generation. I was beyond excited when he visited our archdiocese when I was fifteen years old. Tens of thousands of others and I boarded buses from our parishes on a rainy Thursday morning and arrived at Giants stadium, where we waited for hours in the torrential rain to celebrate Mass with Pope John Paul II and many of the faithful. It was an unforgettable experience for me (perhaps because it resulted in my contracting a protracted case of bronchitis, which turned into pneumonia…but also for other reasons). In the years since, I have met an incredible number of people, many of whom are now friends, who were also in the stadium on that day. For so many people of my age, Pope John Paul II, the only pope we knew until we were in our mid-twenties, represented the best in the Catholic faith, and his leadership helped us to define how—and why—we would live out this faith in our lives. When anyone says “the pope,” I still think first of John Paul II—and I probably always will.

Yesterday’s canonization in Rome of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II officially recognized the contributions to the causes of all of humankind that each of these men made during his lifetime. The pastoral, theological, and social contributions of these newly-canonized saints are far too numerous to discuss here, but I will mention one important contribution that Saint John Paul II made to the human experience: his poetry!

The poetry of Saint John Paull II, from early through late, is published in many languages and in several collections, and has been the object of the attention of literary critics and theologians.

I have not read much of the poetry of Saint John Paul II, but I would like to—and plan to—read more of his poems and learn about them soon.

In the meantime, here’s one of his most well-known poems for us to enjoy together.

by Saint John Paul II

So many grew around me, through me,
from my self, as it were.
I became a channel, unleashing a force
called man.
Did not the others crowding in, distort
the man that I am?
Being each of them, always imperfect,
myself to myself too near,
he who survives in me, can he ever
look at himself without fear?

A New Jersey poet

(National Poetry Month, Day 25)

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that when I hear “Joyce Kilmer,” the first thing that comes to mind is the Joyce Kilmer Service Area on the NJ Turnpike—because at this stop is the closest Roy Rogers to my home!

However, Joyce Kilmer was famous in the first place for other reasons—perhaps most notably for his poem “Trees.” It’s short and sweet, yet evocative and profound. As the leaves emerge over the next few days, think of this poem!

by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

dogwood and fir and sun

‘Twas down the glen one Easter morn to a city fair rode I

(National Poetry Month, Day 24)

flag of irish republic

In observance of today’s 98th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Ireland, I present “Easter, 1916” by W.B. Yeats. I’ll let the poem speak for itself in this blog post, but I welcome discussion in the comments!

Easter, 1916
by W.B. Yeats

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse –
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.