Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “New Year”

POM: a bit of hope


January is a paradox for me. It’s both the longest month and shortest month. It seems long due to the dark and dreary everlasting winter days, yet short because of looming finals, grading papers, and preparing lessons for second semester. This is why I’m a fan of February. I could say it’s because February is the shortest month which means I’m that much closer to June and summer break. It could be because it’s the month of Valentine’s Day, and who doesn’t appreciate a holiday filled with love and chocolate?

I actually favor February because it’s a month that is filled with hope. Days are getting longer, snow is giving away to grassy patches, there is the sense of completing another school year as graduation day is nearer on the horizon. There is also the moment of pause to think, “This year will be even better than last year.”

To celebrate this feeling of hope, the Poem of the Month is “To Hope” by  Charlotte Smith

 Oh, Hope! thou soother sweet of human woes!

How shall I lure thee to my haunts forlorn!

For me wilt thou renew the wither’d rose,

And clear my painful path of pointed thorn?

Ah come, sweet nymph! in smiles and softness drest,

Like the young hours that lead the tender year,

Enchantress! come, and charm my cares to rest:—

Alas! the flatterer flies, and will not hear!

A prey to fear, anxiety, and pain,

Must I a sad existence still deplore?

Lo!—the flowers fade, but all the thorns remain, 

“For me the vernal garland blooms no more.”

Come then, “pale Misery’s love!” be thou my cure,

And I will bless thee, who, tho’ slow, art sure.

image: morguefile/lisasolonynko

Happy New Year!


For most people, January marks the start of a new year. However, as a teacher, September is the beginning of the year for me. September is when the odometer of the year’s passing begins once again. August is the last of my holiday months and each day draws me closer to the start of my calendar year: September. I actually consider January as my mid-point.

As I write this post I am lounging in bed at 8:25 am. This is the last Monday of the school year where I won’t have either essays to grade or think about assigning. I’m usually up by 5 or 6 am, so staying in bed past 8 0’clock is borderline sloth for me.

As I proofread this post it’s 6:09 am and I have four minutes before I must scamper into my morning routine. It’s Friday of my first week back to school. How can four days make one weak?

A new year typically calls for new year’s resolutions. I don’t much prescribe to resolutions,  instead I form goals. Here are a couple so far:

1. Go deeper instead of wider. I teach seniors which means they are maxed out on absorbing much more information. This year I’m going for them really understanding at least one aspect of each unit. They don’t need to know the entire litany of Anglo-Saxon history,  but knowing that Beowulf was one of the first epic hero archetypes is something that will distinguish a faithful film adaptation from a ridiculous one (Angelina Jolie’s version).

2. Mix more fun in with firm. I have the reputation as a toughie–my son would bear the brunt of this distinction when he was in school. “Dude, your mom yelled at me.” He would then say something like, “You probably deserved it.” They had nowhere to go on that one. But, I also have a sense of humor, and I’m sure I can combine a jib with a jab when the occasion calls for it.

3. Be a more of duck than a sponge. Both deal with water, which I translate to stress.  A duck lets water roll off its back and swims merrily around in the pond, whereas a sponge absorbs the water until saturated and can’t properly function anymore. 

4. Work smarter, not harder. Testing for comprehension is big news these days. We are all tired of being over-tested. Students especially. Grading tests is not so great either. Measuring academic success can take the  form of discussion, a presentation, or a project. I’m hoping for less paper proof of knowledge and more creative measures of learning achievements.

5. Respond more than react. Reacting is typical: “Are you kidding? You are 20 minutes late to class and now you want to go to your locker?!?” Or “Admin is switching to early release schedule for a pep assembly!!! Finals are coming up–what are they thinking?!?” If you have a proper response to these scenarios let me know. I realize it involves something to do with removing exclamatory tone and waving of arms.

Anyone else consider September their new year beginnings? Parents? Students? Other teachers?

As with my resolutions, these will no doubt epic fail before October is ready to roll. That’s why I disguise  them as goals–if I fail, I have an excuse to keep trying.

33 in 2015: a love story


Marriage is like a long-playing record–a bit of static, some scratches, a couple of skips now and then, but overall the music compensates for the irregularities that occur. image: bunko/morguefile

 

33 years ago, my hubs, whom I affectionately designate as MEPA (most excellent personal assistant) and I, stood on a slip of beach in the calm of a January storm and exchanged vows. I was 25 and he 36.

Neither one of us thought marriage when we first met. Both of us, tired of the dating game and relationships gone wrong, thought it satisfying to have a working relationship. You see, I hired him to help me remodel the little shop I had decided to set up my balloon bouquet delivery service. The landlord had cut me a deal: remodel the store–I provide labor and he provide material. I gained six months free rent from that little agreement. I signed the line and upon recommendation, hired the cute guy sporting the fu manchu and curly hair who worked at the local hardware store. Auburn gingers are a weak spot.

The first night of work involved sheet-rocking the ceiling. It took the two of us, my entire repartee of elephant jokes, and about five hours to finish the job. I paid him the agreed sum of $65 and threw in a deli sandwich.
We met in October. I proposed two weeks after meeting him and we eloped 56 days later. I thought getting married January first would be a significant way to start our new life together. Too broke to afford a reception or honeymoon, we found a pizza place open and had the place to ourselves.


Last night we celebrated our anniversary with dinner at a new restaurant and the owners sent over a delicious complimentary slice of key lime pie. The evening was topped by watching Anything Goes with Donald O’Conner and Bing Crosby. The Cole Porter score fits the general theme of our marriage: a bit whirlwind and somewhat lyrical.
We are opposite in tastes, strongly singular in outlook, and much more mellow than we used to be.
33 used to be a LP record designated for long playing–yup, just like it should be for marriage.
Happy New Year!!

Verse for Wear


1st edition

1st edition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First word purging and now onto verse wearing.

Throughout the year I also collected poems from my daily feeding from www.poets.org. Daily offerings are contemporary, while weekends focus on past classics. I began subscribing for a couple of reasons:

1. Poetry appreciation came into my life later than sooner and I’m making up for lost time.
2. Since becoming an AP teacher I figure it’s best practice to move beyond my basic knowledge of Frost–doctors must keep up on new practices, so as a practicing English literature teacher I should as well.

After a year of daily dosing of poems I have found I’m still drawn more to the classic poets, yet still appreciate the “now” of poetry today and listen, for the most part, what is being said.
So, here are the poems that I keep in my “save” file. I plan to wear these verse offerings by pulling them out for discussion in class. And here, as well. Any comments? Are you more contemporary or classic in your poetry choices?

All poems and bio information are from poets.org

Edgar Guest:
Guest has been called “the poet of the people.” Most often his poems were fourteen lines long and presented a deeply sentimental view of everyday life. When his father died, Guest was forced to drop out of high school and work full time at the Detroit Free Press, eventually considering himself “a newspaper man who wrote verses.” Of his poetry he said, “I take simple everyday things that happen to me and I figure it happens to a lot of other people and I make simple rhymes out of them.” 

Only A Dad
Edgar Guest 

Only a dad with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame
To show how well he has played the game;
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come and to hear his voice.

Only a dad with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd,
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad but he gives his all,
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing with courage stern and grim
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen:
Only a dad, but the best of men.

From the book "A Heap o' Livin'" ©1916



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I appreciate this poem because it gets a shout out to dads. There are so many poems that exult moms (which I don’t mind) and I think fathers get shorted on all they do and how we feel about them.
Radar Data #12
by Lytton Smith
 
It was in the absence of light
as when near new moon and 
no moonlight; as when a part 
of a picture is in shadow (as 
opposed to a light); as when 
in the condition of being 
hidden from view, obscure, 
or unknown–in concealment, 
or else without knowledge 
as regards to some particular; 
and of the weather, season, 
air, sky, sea, etc., characterized 
by tempest; in times, events, 
circumstances etc. subject to 
tempers; inflamed, indicative, predictive, or symbolical of 
strife (harbinger of coming 
trouble)-a period of darkness 

occurring between one day & 
the next during which a place 
receives no light from the sun, 

and what if it is all behind us? 
I no longer fear the rain will 
never end, but doubt our ability 

to return to what lies passed. 
On the radar, a photopresent 
scraggle of interference, as if 

the data is trying to pretend 
something’s out there where 
everything is lost.

About This Poem   
“People are always curious where a name like ‘Lytton’ comes from–and it’s not from modernist biographer Lytton Strachey, but gothic novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton. He famously came up with the opening phrase (in Paul Clifford) ‘It was a dark and stormy night.’ But I’ve begun to feel guilty mentioning that; his opening sentence is actually pretty good, so I’ve begun writing a whole series of poems that try to translate, rework, recuperate it.”  Lytton Smith

This is My Life
by William Stanley Braithwaite
 To feed my soul with beauty till I die;
To give my hands a pleasant task to do;
To keep my heart forever filled anew
With dreams and wonders which the days supply;
To love all conscious living, and thereby
Respect the brute who renders up its due,
And know the world as planned is good and true-
And thus -because there chanced to be an I!

This is my life since things are as they are:
One half akin to flowers and the grass:
The rest a law unto the changeless star.
And I believe when I shall come to pass
Within the Door His hand shall hold ajar
I’ll leave no echoing whisper of Alas!

Over the course of his career, Braithwaite founded a publishing company and taught creative writing at Atlanta University. His poetic style was influenced by English Romantic poets John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Wordsworth.
This poem smacks of resolution for the New Year. It stirs a resolve to become better than I am and to leave no regrets at the passing of the day. Yup, that’s what a poem should do–get some soul stirring going.
My hopes are that your New Year will be filled with verse, be it created or found, and that the words will resonate in your life into others!

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