Thursday, December 5, 2013

Poetry Friday-thankful for past history

We are celebrating Poetry Friday with our wonderful host today, Robyn Hood Black of Life On The Deckle Edge.  Visit there for all the Friday links, plus don't forget to visit Robyn's Creative blog, Artsy Letters, that links to her Etsy site-great for gifts for all your creative friends and family.
          I want to offer a blessing for Nelson Mandela on his passing.  I know that South Africa is saddened for the loss of their great leader tonight, as are many in all parts of the world.  This post is also about the loss of a leader.



This post should have been a couple of weeks ago, but I was at the NCTE convention and wasn't able to write it.  There is some history of poets being asked to write for presidential inaugurations, but John F. Kennedy was the first one, and it seems that only Democrats have continued the tradition since that time.  You can read a brief piece about that history here on About.com.  It's wonderful to think that a President of our country would embrace a poem at the start of an administration.  As William Carlos Williams said, “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”  I am ever hopeful that our leaders will take poetry as part of their sustenance in both the challenging and the celebratory times.


It's been 50 years since President Kennedy’s assassination.  I imagine if you are old enough you can well remember where you were, what you were doing.  My ‘then’ fianc√© and I chose to spend the next days at my grandparents.  We talked quietly, played dominoes (my grandfather’s favorite game), watched the tv coverage, and grieved for our President along with our country.  My grandparents helped my future husband and I know that we as a country would survive and go on.  After all, they had lived through two world wars. 

     I thought you might enjoy also the piece on Poet.org about Robert Frost and President Kennedy.  There are several stories in this, some might surprise you. Here is the article, which includes the poem that Robert Frost read, not the one he had written especially for it, but an old favorite of Kennedy's. 
                                                                                         
The beginning

The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,

and the rest of the text is here.



23 comments:

  1. Linda, I have been thinking a lot, the last few days, about how powerful poetry can be, how it can capture a feeling or an emotion better than any other kind of writing that I know. I love Robert Frost, but don't know that I had ever seen this poem. . I was only four when Kennedy died and don't remember it quite as clearly as you do. I am struck by how your grandparents turned to the comfort of ordinary routines on such an un-ordinary day. Thanks, as always, for sharing this with us. And continuing the coffee discussion, are you going to be in town over Christmas break. I will be around the whole time and would love to get together.

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    1. Thanks Carol. I too think it's quite wonderful that different kinds of people use poetry for themselves, those we might never guess. Yes, I'll be here. I'll send an e-mail! Look forward to spending time with you!

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  2. I like the tradition of having poetry read at inaugurations, and the story about Frost at Kennedy's is the best. I do remember well when Kennedy was assassinated. I was in PE class when our Principal announced the tragic news on the P.A. system. My teacher started crying.

    Though Mandela's passing is sad, it's been good to see all the tributes and celebrate his life. The world is in dire need of inspiration and hope right now.

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    1. The reason I wanted to share was that it seems such a wonderful thing to have poetry paired with all the other things in the inaugurations. You're right about Mandela's passing-hope someone else will step forward to take his words for goodness! Thanks Jama!

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  3. "As William Carlos Williams said, 'It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there'." Amen. I didn't realize that only Democrat presidents have kept the inaugural poem tradition going. How sad. The Frost poem is beautiful, of course.

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    1. PS- just finished reading the article in your post. So glad I did! Thank you for sharing.

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    2. Thank you Michelle, so glad you enjoyed it too.

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  4. Frost is so easy to love, and I found it so touching to read that JFK said Frost stole the show wherever he went. Thanks for sharing so much interesting and new info. in your post today!

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    1. Perhaps it is a small thing, but I loved that Kennedy was a friend with Robert Frost-so nice to think about. Thank you, Keri!

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  5. Yes!: As William Carlos Williams said, “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” A sad post and great tribute to two effective leaders.

    Linda, there is an online poetry journal devoted to current events poems. New Verse News publishes a news-related poem every day. Highly recommended.

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    1. Thank you so much Laura. I will definitely add it to my feed!

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  6. Linda ,
    What a delightful and appropriate post. Stuart Udall was very good friends with Robert Frost and was instrumental in getting Robert Frost to be one of the inaugural readers at the opening of the Poetry Center in Tucson. Frost used to send Udall hand made Christmas cards with a poem included and many of the letters between Frost and Udall are in the archives at the Poetry Center. We must put this on our "to do" list when you come to visit me in Tucson.

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    1. Wow-I'd love it, Joy. You know I have had two wonderful experiences in Tucson with students-love your city. Perhaps I can really come visit someday! Thanks for sharing that story-love little stories like that!

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  7. I think it speaks a lot about society when its leader values poetry and considers it a significant part of its administration. it speaks of the soul about to be borne during that leadership. Thank you for sharing Robert Frost's poem and all the valuable backstory. Truly makes one think. :)

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    1. Thank you Myra, I do admire those who show their connection to poetry.

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  8. JFK had a lot of good things to say about the arts. We have been to the Kennedy Center quite a few times and a number of his quotes are engraved there, such as, "I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for our victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit." Which reminds me of Nelson Mandela! Thank you for this lovely post.

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    1. I've been to the center only once, and found it a wonderful experience, for me and for students who were with me. Thanks for reminding me of all those quotes there, Tabatha.

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  9. Wasn't that an interesting story about the Kennedy inauguration?! I always share it with my kids, along with photographs, when we study Frost's poems. I especially loved Richard Blanco's poem for President Obama's 2nd. inauguration.

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    1. Yes, I liked the story about Frost and Kennedy, and love all the poems. Also enjoyed Maya Angelou's poem about Mandela. You do so many good things about history with your students, Tara! Thanks!

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  10. I love this, from the article, "In response to the news that Kennedy had won the election, Frost called the outcome "a triumph of Protestantism—over itself." I love that Frost was so delighted that the arts and politics were coming together. I'm a little appalled by your note that only Democrats have continued the tradition of an inaugural poet. And I nod in agreement with the WCWms quote.

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    1. Yes, I knew about Frost being there of course, but hadn't known about their longer & closer relationship. Interesting about the Democrats carrying on, but not the Republicans. I wonder why? Thanks, Mary Lee

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  11. Great post -- thank you! I read the inauguration poems with my eighth graders in honor of both President Obama's inaugurations, and we learned the story about the sun getting in Robert Frost's eyes.

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    1. So glad you shared with your students, Ruth. Inspiring I think! Thank you!

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