When Great Trees Fall: Remix

Black and white image of a fallen tree on an i...

Lake Claremont, Western Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the beginning of June I had recorded a poem on SoundCloud in honor of Maya Angelou, and I wrote a about how her work had influenced me. I don’t really have anything new to add to that this evening, except to say that it was my friend Jody who brought the poem to my attention. And upon reading it, I knew I had to record it.

The poem paints an emotional picture of how the deaths of great people, ones whom we admire, affect us. I don’t think Dr. Angelou ever thought of this poem as something that would refer to her own self. But despite criticism and prejudice, great is exactly what she was.

You can find the entire text of the poem “When Great Trees Fall,” read the article, and listen to my original recording of it by clicking right here. But I would also like to share with you a remix done this week by my friend, the caretaker, the Hausmeister as he mysteriously calls himself. He has done me the honor before of laying down tracks with my voice, and I always enjoy his creations. It’s fascinating what emotions can be heightened and complimented when spoken word meets music and mixology.

What a joy and a privilege when ones love of an art inspires another in his or her own work. Thank you for letting me share this, my friend.

100,000 Hits and a Face Lift

A Small Milestone

A small but encouraging milestone.

It happened on the eve of my birthday a couple of weeks ago. I was waiting for it, but it was a pleasant birthday gift just the same. And my aversion to meta-blogging aside, I finally have time to tell you about it today.

So I am hoping my long-term readers will forgive my obvious self-absorption and extreme narcissism as I get this post out of my system.

My period of months of working two jobs is now about to settle into mostly one job and more time for my poems and projects, so this seems like a good springboard into the next phase of my blogging activity.

Luckily I managed, quite by luck, to catch the moment on the stats page when The Dad Poet hit the benchmark of 100,000 hits. Honestly, it took quite a while to get there, and I feel sheepish when I think about how I started this blog as a combination of exercise and therapy in September of 2008.

But then again, those first four years were little more than three to four thousand hits each. It wasn’t until I started blogging in earnest and sharing my videos for National Poetry Month in 2012 that the whole thing suddenly burst into blossom, bringing over six times more traffic than before. And it’s never returned to those early low numbers. .Not bad, I thought, for a part-time poetry blogger who throws in a bit of nature and a great deal about his family.

We focus too much on stats because they can be so utterly fascinating. Unfortunately they can also be puzzling. My best day ever was last September when search engines returned tons of hits for my review of Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem “One Today.” Odd thing was, the inauguration was not in September, and I’ve never been able to figure out why the spike happened that day.

A rise in views always happens in April when I’m posting readings of favorite poems every day, either on SoundCloud or YouTube. But this also happens around Valentine’s Day whether I post or not because folks are looking for love poems. It seems that love poetry is always a popular search, no matter the time of year.

top posts yesterday

This graphic shows the popularity of posts just yesterday, and right behind the main pages are posts from my series Love Poems You Wish You Had Written. This sort of thing is ALWAYS the case here on the blog.

No, seriously, every day. Usually, as yesterday, E. E. Cummings leads the pack with Walt Whitman gaining right behind. Sometimes old Walt passes his young protegé and often Wendy Cope, shown in third place here, cuts loose and breaks ahead of everyone.

There is also a graph where I can see who is searching for what, and what Bing-ing and Goog-ling leads readers to my blog. Although lately with many of Google’s search terms encrypted there is less information than there used to be.

Still along with the others I’ve mentioned, searches for Maya Angelou, Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwayman,” and the illustrations by Charles Keeping get tons of searches. A blogging hint: If you use illustrations, always include the hidden description of the image you upload. This helps you show up in image searches.

And while the list below is nicely representative, there are times when very strange search terms lead people to your site. That may be worth a meta-blog post of its own some day. The Laughing Housewife sometimes posts ones that bring quite a chuckle.

Search engine termsI’ve been thinking for sometime that the Dad Poet blog was in need of a face-lift and a more grown-up look. So in honor of the 1000,000 hit milestone I bring you this new theme. Many of the header images from now on will be nature shots from here in Pennsylvania, including the one above which is a view of my home town here where the rivers meet. It was taken by my good friend John Helwig and I am grateful for his permission to use it. I’ll incorporated more on sort of a random rotating basis in the future, but this one feels like home.

I also did quite a bit of tweaking and agonizing over the details in the header, footer and sidebar. They are of course not the most important aspects of this blog, but I want them to be relevant and useful. Cosmetically I am very pleased with the way it all looks now, though there is still some serious updating to do in the bio pages, particularly on the Poet page regarding recent publications and upcoming events.

And don’t worry, I know many of you have expressed your fondness for photos of my sons and me. This will continue of course, but they are getting much bigger these days, and I’d like to grace the pages of the blog with some newer and better quality photos of them. I don’t want them to be merely background decorations.

To those who have been reading here for some time now, I am grateful. Thank you for your eyes, a tiny spot in your day that could be spent doing other things (especially when it comes to this sort of navel gazing post). And thank you for all the likes and the comments. I look forward to embarking on a period of my life now where I can once again be a little more involved in this WordPress world and the writers and readers here that bring me joy. Thank you!

“The next suitable person you’re in light conversation with…

David J. Bauman:

This is one I’d like to try. Funny, and frightening how true this is of people. I’ll have to put Wallace’s book on my reading list.

Originally posted on Words for the Year:

“The next suitable person you’re in light conversation with, you stop suddenly in the middle of the conversation and look at the person closely and say, “What’s wrong?” You say it in a concerned way. He’ll say, “What do you mean?” You say, “Something’s wrong. I can tell. What is it?” And he’ll look stunned and say, “How did you know?” He doesn’t realize something’s always wrong, with everybody. Often more than one thing. He doesn’t know everybody’s always going around all the time with something wrong and believing they’re exerting great willpower and control to keep other people, for whom they think nothing’s ever wrong, from seeing it.”

David Foster Wallace, The Pale King

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Thursday Love Poem Throw Back: “Cleaving”

love-picture-quotes_3019-1I know my UK friends are already on to Friday where they used to post Flashbacks, before the silly hashtag of #TBT. And while I think Throw Back Thursday was just a trick used to freshen up the classic Flashback Friday, the trick fails for me. As I’ve said before, if you are a fisherman in Pennsylvania (not that I am, but I come from a family of them), throw-backs are fish that were too small to keep, not enough meat in them, not material for digesting. Toss ‘em back and let them grow a while before reeling them in next year.

Still, it is Thursday, the day for the infamous Thursday Love Poem . But it’s only Thursday for a little while so maybe we are close enough to Flashback Friday for me to post a Thursday poem that I placed on these pages two and a half years ago. I guess in the poem I was the Throwback, not a keeper. So perhaps this fits all possible meanings of both hashtagged days.

You can read the post from two point five years ago here, and how my two youngest boys help me film, produce and edit, not only the film, but the poem itself. Read more about Thursday Love Poems and their origin as a regular feature by clicking here. These are not your grandmother’s love poems, as they are inspired by Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem, entitled “Thursday.”

AND if I loved you Wednesday,
Well, what is that to you?
I do not love you Thursday–
So much is true.

And why you come complaining
Is more than I can see.
I loved you Wednesday–yes–but what
Is that to me?

The coolest thing for me about this piece wasn’t so much the story as the chance to play with a word that means two opposite things, what some call an autoantonym, or the word I am more familiar with, contronym. To cleave could mean to cling tightly to or to cut in two, as in the word cleaver, a rather scary image for me in this video.

Why not look up more contronyms and maybe try a poem exploring the tension between the two meanings of a word yourself?

Read more about Thursday Love Poems and their origin as a regular feature by clicking here.

One Perfect Thursday Love Poem, with Dorothy Parker

quotes-oh-life-is-a-glorious_5971-0We’re due for another Thursday Love poem feature, and so in the spirit of “Thursday,” a sort-of love poem by one of my poetic heroines, Edna St. Vincent Millay, I give you a piece from another New York mistress of words and wit, Dorothy Parker.

If you’re not familiar with the Thursday Love Poem feature, just go ahead and enjoy the poem below first, but then go back and click on that Thursday link in the first line of this post in order to get the original poem that inspired this irreverent tribute to love.

Like Vincent (as Millay liked to be called), Parker was both a poet and a social activist in the 1920’s New York literary scene. They were quite progressive ladies, though their poetry did not go the way of the Modernists, into ideas and abstractions, in the mid 30’s.

The Dorothy Parker Society has created a great little website dedicated to her and you should check it out. They even have a pretty hefty audio archive of Dorothy’s readings, including today’s:

A single flow’r he sent me, since we met.
All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet–
One perfect rose.

I knew the language of the floweret;
“My fragile leaves,” it said, “his heart enclose.”
Love long has taken for his amulet
One perfect rose.

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
One perfect rose.

Sterling Brown Speaks 76 Years Later–Ferguson, No Isolated Case

quote-the-sincere-sensitive-artist-willing-to-go-beneath-the-cliches-of-popular-belief-to-get-at-an-sterling-brown-325378I have to avoid the comment sections lately (see word to the wise below), but these last ten days of US news have been very disturbing to say the least. Not too far in the past one of my own sons was questioned by police officers while he and his friends stood on a curb debating which house was the house of their mutual friend. Nobody had the guts to just go knock and find out. You know, kids can be socially awkward. And oddly enough, nobody had a cell phone on them at the time. They were however wearing hoodies, and the awkward teens looked suspicious to a lady who owned the car they were standing near.

I’m sorry to say that the thing that probably saved them from too much trouble was they all were white. Had they been black boys in hoodies in the Trayvon Martin days, in our tiny town in Central PA, a community with very few black residents, I am certain it would be a different story.

Did Michael Brown rob a store? Video evidence seems inconclusive. Did officer Darren Wilson know about the robbery before he stopped Brown and his friend? Reports vary. Was Wilson Assaulted? Evidence so far seems to say yes. Witness accounts conflict with each other. But since when were Swisher Sweets worth a man’s life? Did anyone see a gun in that store surveillance video? Brown was unarmed, and even if he did physically go after the officer . . . six bullets pumped into him? Really? How many bullets does it take to stop an unarmed 18-year-old?

Of course the problem is much bigger. Statistics seem inconsistent, but USA Today reports that between 2007 and 2012 police have killed two black men per week in this country. And let’s not forget stop-and-frisk policies that target minorities. Fortunately I don’t need to teach my sons extra tips on how to act when approached by authorities.

Is rioting and looting and violence a proper response? Of course not. But if you want to incite a riot it seems the best thing to do is dress up in riot gear.

Okay, enough from me. Let’s hear from a better poet. I shared this poem as part of my MLK Day post back in January, but it’s been on my mind all week. Sterling A. Brown first published this piece in 1936. How much have things changed?

Southern Cop

Let us forgive Ty Kendricks.
The place was Darktown. He was young.
His nerves were jittery. The day was hot.
The Negro ran out of the alley.
And so Ty shot.

Let us understand Ty Kendricks.
The Negro must have been dangerous.
Because he ran;
And here was a rookie with a chance
To prove himself a man.

Let us condone Ty Kendricks
If we cannot decorate.
When he found what the Negro was running for,
It was too late;
And all we can say for the Negro is
It was unfortunate.

Let us pity Ty Kendricks.
He has been through enough,
Standing there, his big gun smoking,
Rabbit-scared, alone.
Having to hear the wenches wail
And the dying Negro moan.

by Sterling Brown

Partisan Review, 3 (October, 1936), p. 220-21.
Published in the Collected Works of Sterling Brown in 1980.
Word to the Wise: If you plan on leaving argumentative comments on this post I assure you I will delete them. Discussion is fine, encouraged even, but ultimately I’m the author and editor of this blog and while your constitutional right to free speech protects you from governmental intervention, it doesn’t allow you to say whatever you want wherever you want. It doesn’t protect you from the consequences of being a hateful jerk, nor does it protect you from me in the comment section.