Today I posted a review of a book on Amazon--something I do rarely; the book was published in 1940. This is what I said: "Is this a NYTimes Bestseller? No, but I read this book as a child, and due to some water damage, retrieved it from a box in my storage area a couple summers back. I reread it last week--and I'm hoping to pivot around the story in a poem I'm working on for a manuscript. The story is timeless--or so it seems. It's about a migrant worker family (and I research and learn that "The International Labour Organization estimated in 2014 there are 232 million international migrants worldwide who are outside their home country for at least 12 months and approximately half of them were estimated to be economically active (i.e. being employed or seeking employment)," about a child feeling lost and "homeless" and friendless (in a time in the U.S. when so many people have lost homes due to economic factors, flooding, fires). I'm sure I cried when I was a child and read the ending. I'm no less sentimental now, and yes, the ending takes a turn that echoes of rescue and aid and kindness and good people. And that I applaud each and every day!"
Doris Gates's book, sometimes called the juvenile "Grapes of Wrath" and "the first social- or realistic-problem novel for children," was actually named a Newberry honor book in 1941. As a former middle school librarian, I'm impressed. And I'm glad that it still moves me. It's a timeless story--people seeking "home." I am startled by what defined home for the spunky young protagonist of the story--the promise of being able to stay in one place for a while, her most valued possession, a single blue willow plate, the only tangible connection to her birth mother, a caring teacher, and a friend, one friend. Home had nothing to do with the house though she was constantly looking for signs that where she landed might be a place where she could set aside her fear of having to move again. The signs are illuminated when she finds the replication of a scene on the plate at the river nearby, receives kindness from a man who had time and an ear for such a young child, and from an itinerant teacher.
In August and September raging fires threaten homes and livelihoods in the West, particularly Oregon, Idaho, and Montana while raging flood waters and furious winds topple, destroy, contaminate, and render homeless thousands and thousands of people, first in Texas and Louisiana, and then Florida and a half a dozen or more islands off the coast. For so many people there is no going back. Anything they once thought of as "home" may actually be completely destroyed. Even those they might have called "home-makers"--fathers, mothers, grandparents, siblings, may be gone.
Janey's blue willow plate is her hope for the future and her connection to the past, but ultimately it is not what makes "home" possible. I'm glad for Janey Larkin who finds a home in Doris Gates's Blue Willow. Home is not a structure. And Janey's not even particular about the location of her new home. All of the "home" magic happened because of people acting humanely and with heart. I can only hope that we continue to see more reports of that kind of magic in the news, to experience it daily among us. To all that have helped make survival and rescue possible, my gratitude. I'm even grateful for the mini-flood in my storage area that put Blue Willow back in my hands again.
I know I am guilty of "ecstatic gratitude" at times, and today is one of those times. Now 27, this guy, whom I met when he was 12 and who had just arrived in the United States after having been separated from his mom since he was 6 years old, contacted me yesterday to get together. When he came to the U.S., he was in classes all taught in English, and he knew none, so he was often sent to the media center (where I spent the last 6 years of my middle school teaching career) to "hang out." He brought a smile and a bit of mischief whenever he walked through the door. He remembers that the first book I read him in English was David Goes to School by David Shannon!!! When he graduated from eighth grade, I made him an award that said "Best Smile in the Whole Wide World." Obviously the smile hasn't gone away.
We've seen each other off and on over the years; I've tried to help him get into college. He is an AMAZING guy, AMAZING and VERY SPECIAL, (so much wisdom for so few years on the planet) and several times tears just streamed from my eyes today while he talked. He's worked his way from McDonald's worker to manager to a warehouse job and now to the engineering department of a company. He's managed to go to school at COD on his lunch hour, start his own DJ business, get his own place, buy a car for transporting his equipment, and he has a plan for becoming the "boss" of this DJ business down the road with a specific timeline in mind, but he won't just be hiring other DJs--but teaching them how to do a good job.
Since I saw him a year ago, he's been working on his English at my urging so he can communicate better in his current and future roles. He uses vocabularly .com when he looks up a word he doesn't know and encounters a word that's part of the definition that is unfamiliar; he practices public speaking/English by recording himself on his phone and listening to it back. He's studying adjectives right now so he can be more specific in his writing course, writing five sentences using the adjective to reinforce its meaning and its usage. He has a book and a bookstand at his work desk so he can read when he has extra time; he plans to read at least five books this year not in his comfort zone. He prefers to hang around "older" adults at times because they are wise and have things to teach him. He has role models, and he credits his grandfather and uncle in Mexico for planting the seed about how important education is. He is a teacher's dream!
"You can always make more of yourself." I don't know another person who has made better use of his time and been more motivated to succeed than Carlos. He has hit some bumps in the road, but he is single-minded. I could not be more proud to have been his teacher. He is why I love teaching. Forgive my effusiveness. I can't help myself. Lucky lucky me. I'm pretty sure that when he has thanked me over and over again these past 15 years that it is I who should be thanking him.
It wasn't much of a poetic stretch to see a nation, a world ripped at the seams when I took a solo "march" earlier and saw this ball lying in winter's dried field. People marched this day for so many reasons. The overwhelming sentiment that I had about the marching was that it was to defend voice. So so many people lose their voices when there is an abuse of power--women in particular have been vulnerable for years. And I mention them specifically because it was the voices of women who shined today, who came together to say "no." I wanted to be a voice and a witness with the masses, to feel the exhilaration of unity, but I have to represent with words this time. Abuses of power undermine confidence and self-respect, alter one's physical and emotional well-being, and can be irrevocably life-altering. They change people, cultures, and nations. I end this day keeping in my mind and my heart ALL whose voices have been muffled. I think of women I know who have been or are in such situations, and I will carry them with me in the days ahead. May we be given voice. I thought of this poem I wrote several years ago, and I post it here now.
Anatomy of a Voice
muscles of the larynx
unite with air and space
tongue and teeth
palate and lips
to give voice--
like fish bones
stuck at lips’ gateway—
when no longer hushed
can spring forth--
laced with gravel
spun from silk
The Revival Tour
Poet Bloggers 2018
Kelli Russell Agodon-
Donna Vorreyer – https://djvorreyer.wordpress.com
Beth Adams – http://www.cassandrapages.com
Sandra Beasley – http://sbeasley.blogspot.com
Carolee Bennett – https://gooduniversenextdoor.com/
Mary Biddinger – wordcage.blogspot.com/
Andrea Blythe – http://www.andreablythe.com
Dave Bonta – http://vianegativa.us
Jim Brock --
Angela T Carr
Kevin Connor – https://ordinaryaveragethoughts.wordpress.com/
Jared Conti – http://www.theoracularbeard.com
Jenelle D’Alessandro – http://www.borderandgreetme.com
Laura E. Davis – http://www.dearouterspace.com/
Kate Debolt – http://www.katedebolt.net/blog/
Heather Derr-Smith – ferhext.com/
Risa Denenberg – https://risadenenberg.weebly.com/blog
Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow http://cschwartzbergedlow.blogspot.com
Lou Faber – https://anoldwriter.com
Jeannine Hall Gailey – webbish6.com
Gail Goepfert –In the Mix gailgoepfert..com/blog
Sarah Kain Gutowski – mimsyandoutgrabe.blogspot.com
Erin Hollowell – http://www.beingpoetry.net . T
Crystal Ignatowski – http://somehiatus.tumblr.com/
Charles Jensen – https://charles-jensen.com/kinemapoetics-blog/
Jill McCabe Johnson http://jillmccabejohnson.com/blog-chanson-daventure.html
Collin Kelley http://www.collinkelley.blogspot.com
Anita Olivia Koester https://www.forkandpage.com/
Lakshmi – thiswinterheart.tumblr.com
Courtney LeBlanc – wordperv.com
Lorena P Matejowsky https://nothingbutblueskies.wordpress.com/
Marilyn McCabe O
Ann Michael – www.annemichael.wordpress.com
Amy Miller – http://writers-island.blogspot.com/
James Moore – jameswmoore.wordpress.com
LouAnn Sheperd Muhm – https://louannmuhm.com/
Gill O’Neill – http://poetmom.blogspot.com
Shawnte Orion http://batteredhive.blogspot.com/
Susan Rich – http://thealchemistskitchen.blogspot.com .
Lee Ann Roripaugh https://runningbrush.wordpress.com/
Sarah Russell – https://sarahrussellpoetry.net
Kim Bailey Spradlin – www.kimbaileydeal.net
Bonnie Staiger –https://bonniestaiger.com/
Rosemary Starace https://thresholdview.wordpress.com/
Hannah Stephenson – http://thestorialist.com
Stephanie Lane Sutton
Christine Swint – https://balancedonedge.blog/
Dylan Tweney – http://dylan20.tumblr.com/
Michael Allyn Wells:
Allyson Whipple http://allysonmwhipple.com