Monday, April 24, 2017

Rain



For the next half of National Poetry Month 2017, 
Malvina will Sing It, and I'll write a poem in response.


Another unifying topic in Malvina Reynolds' songs is the environment. The next few days will feature songs written in the 1960's and 1970's, but which are fresh and topical today.





Ode to an Inch of Life-Giving Rain

Oh, Rain!
You fall so abundantly further east
but we treasure every hundredth of an inch
here on the western high plains.

Oh, Rain!
You have rescued the wheat crop,
not to mention the Russian Olives
in the windbreak on the north side of the house.

Oh, Rain!
You lift every spirit.
Are your ears burning? The inch that fell last night
is the topic of every conversation at the post office.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017


Sunday, April 23, 2017

The World's Gone Beautiful



For the next half of National Poetry Month 2017, 
Malvina will Sing It, and I'll write a poem in response.


Another unifying topic in Malvina Reynolds' songs is the environment. The next few days will feature songs written in the 1960's and 1970's, but which are fresh and topical today.





The World is Asking Not to Die

The world is asking not to die,
yet humans look away,

overpopulating the planet,
changing the climate past the point of repair,
destroying biodiversity in a mass extinction,
killing oxygen-producing phytoplankton with nitrogen runoff,
polluting fresh water sources,
acidifying the ocean,
contaminating air, water, and soil with plastics and chemical compounds,
depleting the ozone layer,
clearing forests at an alarming rate.

How can humans look away
from a world that is asking not to die?


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Skagit Valley Forever



For the next half of National Poetry Month 2017, 
Malvina will Sing It, and I'll write a poem in response.


Another unifying topic in Malvina Reynolds' songs is the environment. The next few days will feature songs written in the 1960's and 1970's, but which are fresh and topical today.




wild is worth saving --
find your own Skagit Valley --
fight for our future --


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017


Friday, April 21, 2017

Regrets



For the next half of National Poetry Month 2017, 
Malvina will Sing It, and I'll write a poem in response.


Another unifying topic in Malvina Reynolds' songs is the environment. The next few days will feature songs written in the 1960's and 1970's, but which are fresh and topical today.

Today's poem is a Golden Shovel. The last word in each of my lines reads down, like an acrostic, and is a line from today's song by Malvina Reynolds, "Let it Be." Last month, I buried the story of the loss of two beautiful and magical places inside a book review, and when I set out to write today's poem, it became a lament of the most recent replacement of magic with convenience. Clearly, I'm not over that yet.



Regrets

You do the best you can until you
can do no more. You think
about the choices that
you made and you
wonder if your love
could ever have been enough for her
survival. You planted and
weeded and you
hoped someone else would want
to become caretaker to
this magical place where kids could discover
the workings of nature -- how
intricately she's
designed -- made
with milkweed, for example, expressly so
there can be monarchs. Because you
loved that plot, you take
it personally that they leveled her
and undid all your work; took apart

a piece of what made this world good and
right, wild and free. Your regrets threaten to break
 your belief in yourself, but her
 beauty remains whole in your heart.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017




Sing It, Malvina!

April 1 -- Working for Change
April 2 -- A Lifetime Filled With Change
April 3 -- Red
April 4 -- Little Red Hen
April 5 -- Childhood Dreams
April 6 -- Lonely Child
April 7 -- Quiet

April 8 -- Storyteller
April 9 -- Troublemaker
April 10 -- Girl Power
April 11 -- Choices
April 12 -- My Gal, Mother Nature
April 13 -- Not a Joke
April 14 -- I Don't Mind Failing

April 15 -- What is Feminism?
April 16 -- Holes
April 18 -- We Won't Be Nice
April 19 -- Grass is Persistent
April 20 -- Ticky Tacky
April 21 -- Regrets


Tabatha has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at The Opposite of Indifference.



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ticky Tacky



For the next half of National Poetry Month 2017, 
Malvina will Sing It, and I'll write a poem in response.


One of the strongest unifying topics in Malvina Reynolds' songs is politics and protest. The next few days will feature songs written in the 1960's and 1970's, but which are fresh and topical today.





Ticky Tacky
(to the tune of "Little Boxes")

It’s the sameness, lack-of-change-ness
It’s the absence of diversity
Economic inequality
Absolute conformity

It’s a boilermaker
Never varying
So redundant
Truly tedious

It’s the absence of diversity
And it all looks just the same.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Grass Is Persistent



For the second half of National Poetry Month 2017, 
Malvina will Sing It, and I'll write a poem in response.


One of the strongest unifying topics in Malvina Reynolds' songs is politics and protest. April 16-19 will feature songs written in the 1960's and 1970's, but which are fresh and topical today.





Grass Is

People want to tame me or
Eradicate me. They underestimate my
Root
Structure and my
Indomitable
Spirit. I am
Tenacious. I
Exist
Not to please, but to break concrete and spread
Truth.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017


Monday, April 17, 2017

They Can Have Their Cake and Eat it, Too



For the second half of National Poetry Month 2017, 
Malvina will Sing It, and I'll write a poem in response.

One of the strongest unifying topics in Malvina Reynolds' songs is politics and protest. April 16-19 will feature songs written in the 1960's and 1970's, but which are fresh and topical today.

Let Them Eat Cake was recorded live in concert, November 1972.




They Can Have Their Cake, and Eat it, Too

They sugar coat the truth for us,
fake the daily news,
make us look the other way.
What could they possibly lose?

They divert to keep the facts at bay,
disguise false validations,
sweeten fibs with taradiddles,
no need for vindication.

“What could we possibly lose?” they ask,
on the brink of a nuclear war.
They’re blind to even the simplest truths,
and deaf to our uproar.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Holes



For the second half of National Poetry Month 2017, 
Malvina will Sing It, and I'll write a poem in response.


One of the strongest unifying topics in Malvina Reynolds' songs is politics and protest. The next four days will feature songs written in the 1960's and 1970's, but which are fresh and topical today.

The World in Their Pocket was recorded live in concert by KQED in 1967.




Holes

They say the world is richer,
With jobs and giant bankrolls.
But their logic’s got a hole.

They say we’ll build the pipeline,
Bother with leaks and spills later.
But their logic’s got a crater.

They say the world is safe,
In their constant Twitter spasms.
But their logic’s got a chasm.

When crater, hole and chasm
Become a vast abyss,
They’ll say, “Oops, we were remiss…”


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017


Saturday, April 15, 2017

What is Feminism?




What is Feminism?

Some women
have the luxury of
joining a cause.
Fighting for equal rights
and equal pay.
Finding their voices,
expressing their true identities.

Other women
have the necessity of
work.
Finding the work
and doing the work.
Keeping their families fed,
running the businesses.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017





"My mother came from a long line of women who worked outside the home. Her grandmother ran a deli while her husband read Torah. Her own mother and father ran a naval tailor shop. When I was in the fifth grade, my mother’s father died, and she and my father and grandmother ran the shop together."

http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/malvina-reynolds/

Friday, April 14, 2017

I Don't Mind Failing





Language alert: if watching the video with children, be prepared to hit the mute button at :33-:38 and 4:15-4:20. Also, apologies (and gratitude) to William Carlos Williams.







This is Just to Say

I have failed
the test
that measures
my worth

and which
you were probably
planning to use
to pigeonhole me

Forgive me
I refuse your labels
I am deliciously
worthy and capable


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Not a Joke




Not a Joke

Isn’t it funny
(not a joke
no humor
no puns)
Isn’t it funny
how war creates a necessity
that strips away all the labels
previously preventing a person’s
life work?

Isn’t it funny
(not a joke
no humor
no puns)
Isn’t it funny
how the devastation of war
creates industries
and builds an economy out of
destruction?


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017



“My mother was writing her dissertation when I was little and got her Ph.D. in 1939. But it was the middle of the Depression; she was Jewish, a socialist, and a woman; and she couldn’t get a job teaching. But when the Second World War broke out, she got a job on an assembly line in a bomb factory, and Bud went to work as a carpenter in a shipyard.”

http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/malvina-reynolds/



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

My Gal, Mother Nature




“...it was while doing graduate work in English there (University of California Berkeley) that she did some student teaching. She used pop songs to teach her high school students about rhyme scheme and meter, as they were not poetry readers."

http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/malvina-reynolds/



Malvina Reynolds would have been at Berkeley in the 1920's, and "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue" was a popular song then. Perhaps it was one she used to teach about rhyme scheme and meter.





Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue
Words: Sam M. Lewis and Joseph Widow Young; Music: Ray Henderson (1925)

Five foot two, eyes of blue,
but oh, what those five foot could do:
has anybody seen my gal?

Turned-up nose, turned-down hose
Flapper? Yes sir, one of those
Has anybody seen my gal?

Now, if you run into
a five-foot-two
covered with fur,
Diamond rings,
and all those things,
Bet your life it isn't her

But could she love, could she woo!
Could she, could she, could she coo!
Has anybody seen my gal?


My Gal, Mother Nature

Birds and bees, rocks and trees
Oh the breeze and green green leaves
Has anybody seen my gal?

Skies of blue, rivers too
Nature? Yes we need her hues
Has anybody seen my gal?

Now if the skies are hazed
Parks are paved
Trash everywhere,
Species dead
Sewage spread
Bet your life there’s no clean air

The temps are high, could she die?
Could she, could she, could she die?
Has anybody seen my gal?


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Choices




Choices
Even the right man
Must wait for the right time
Because mother is right
That “career first” is the right path.

But when you're on the left path
Your heart keeps looking for the right man
You left behind
For all the right reasons


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017






“It was while she was in high school that Malvina first met William “Bud” Reynolds, at a socialist dance. He was a merchant seaman, seven years older, handsome, and even more shy than she. He was self-educated, having left school after the eighth grade. They read poetry to each other in Golden Gate Park, but when he proposed, she refused. Encouraged by her mother, she had her sights set on college and a career.

She married someone else, and so did Bud. He ran for governor of Michigan on the Socialist ticket, with the slogan, “You provide the evictions, we’ll provide the riots!” They found each other again after she was divorced, and this time she said yes.”

http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/malvina-reynolds/

Monday, April 10, 2017

Girl Power








GIRL POWER

Gentle and meek are things of the past.
I am
Ready to take on the world. To
Lead,
Persist, and
Open doors
With my own talents, my own skills, and my own
Expertise. World, are you
Ready for me?


©Mary Lee Hahn




Sunday, April 9, 2017

Troublemaker




Troublemaker 
(Ever so slightly to the tune of "Little Boxes")

When we want
What they’ve got
And we ask for it
In the right ways
And the logic’s there
And the signatures
And they still tell us NO

Then we don’t stop
And we’re not quiet
And we make them
Pay attention now
To the voices
Of the people
Who pursue what they’re due.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017


"I had first come to the attention of the principal’s office with a premature women’s liberation movement on the school grounds. At noon, the boys could leave the grounds to play around on the streets and to get hot dogs, hamburgers, coffee, and pop at the little store across the street. I circulated a petition that the girls be allowed out of the yard at noon also. The answer was no. It wasn’t proper for girls to be on the street. [The girls then asked that the boys be restricted, and were told] if the school tried to restrict the boys they’d just climb the fence. Probably in the same situation now, the girls would climb the fence. Then, nothing happened except that quiet, shy me was fingered as a troublemaker."

http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/malvina-reynolds/


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Storyteller




Storyteller

Storyteller, storyteller
come on out.
Tell us a story.
What’s it about?
Pirates or dragons,
a farm or a zoo?
Zebras? Lions?
Kangaroo?

Storyteller, storyteller
spin us a yarn.
Make it a good one,
one that will charm.
One full of laughter,
or one full of fear--
no matter what you tell
all of us will cheer!


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017




"The times I have been happiest were the rare times when I was one of a gang….I had a kind of gang when we lived on Buchanan Street [in San Francisco]. I must have been seven or eight. We would sit in the light of the street lamp in the evening on the high wooden flight of stairs, a dozen of us, and while the bigger boys played “One Foot Off the Gutter,” I would make up long stories to tell the others. I don’t remember what the stories were about, but they must have been interesting; I can remember the young voices in the evening, calling me to come out."

http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/malvina-reynolds/

Friday, April 7, 2017

Quiet






Quiet

Sometimes
it takes a lot of loud
to be noticed.
Roar your truth
in a pride of lions.
Demand change
with signs and signatures.
Surge with the chanting crowd
and be heard.

However
you don’t need loud
to be strong.
Sing your truth
as confidently as a single wren.
Gently nudge change
to the tune of genuine smiles.
Harmonize in a chorus
of allies.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Lonely Child




Lonely Child

I’m quiet
She’s loud
I like alone
She likes a crowd

I’m shy
She’s bold
She likes to tell
I like to be told

I’m a cloud
She’s a storm
Hard to believe
Someday I’ll perform


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017





"I was a lonely child; I can’t remember any friends in grade school except Esther. Why she picked quiet, shy me for a friend, I don’t know. She was bold, laughing, quick. She would sit back of me in school and slowly pull one hair out of my braid. Miss Geary would say, “Hit her! With your ruler!” I never would. I liked Miss Geary. I intended to be a teacher, and would be like her—a good sport….I am still shy with people. I can easily face and talk with and sing to a hundred or a thousand. But at a party, next to a stranger, I haven’t much to say."


http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/malvina-reynolds/


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Childhood Dreams




Childhood Dreams

Dream, child, dream.
Your bed is a boat
on the wide sea
of possibility.

Close your eyes.
Fling your arms wide.
Dance in the light
on the stage.

You’re a movie star today,
tomorrow a dancer,
maybe a teacher.
Dream, child, dream.


©Mary Lee Hahn




“My mother, Malvina Reynolds, once told me that when she was young, she would lie in bed and imagine that she was onstage, dancing, with a spotlight following her. She wanted to be a movie star, but she assumed that that would never happen, so she decided she’d be a teacher instead and work a smaller stage.”


http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/malvina-reynolds/


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Little Red Hen









Little Red Hen

Red is the color of socialists,
and what do socialists believe?
Everyone works, everyone helps,
together, everyone achieves.

Hen asked for help planting wheat.
The other animals said no.
Hen did all the work without any help,
from seed to plant, flour, and dough.

Little Red Hen is a socialist
and what do socialists believe?
Everyone works, everyone helps,
together, everyone achieves.

Work is a part of the process:
no help with the work means no bread,
no help with the work makes you lazy,
when the lazy don’t help they aren’t fed.

Little Red Hen is a socialist,
and what do socialists believe?
Everyone works, everyone helps,
together, everyone achieves.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017



Monday, April 3, 2017

Red




Red

Malvina Reynolds’ parents were Russian Jewish immigrants
escaping discrimination and persecution
opposing World War I
subscribing to socialism
believing in common ownership of resources
wanting democratic control of decisions
hosting spirited conversations
filling the house with working class political activists
influencing Malvina’s young mind
coloring the way she would see the world.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017


Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Lifetime Filled With Change




A Lifetime Filled With Change

Malvina Reynolds was born
at the turn of the 20th century.
1899 turned to 1900.

She lived a lifetime filled with change.

Telephones were new but becoming widely used,
cities were being electrified.

First vacuum cleaner -- 1902.
First flight by the Wright brothers,
First World Series,
First crayons -- 1903.

Women were given the right to vote -- 1920.
Television was invented -- 1927.

Segregation and racial oppression escalated.
The Civil Rights movement
stood up and sat down
until
(and after)
the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Vietnam, Nixon, Apple Computers, Sony Walkmans.
Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Malvina Reynolds lived a lifetime filled with change.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Working for Change




Working For Change

“Anyone
who puts his or her talent and effort
toward changes for the better
has tremendous
muscle.

(Much more than the negative people,
the destructive people.)

Because they have history
on their side
and they have the desires of the people
on their side
so they really can be very powerful
without all that much effort.

If you want to change
you can’t be desperate
even if the situation is difficult.
The fact that it’s good for the cause,
it’s good for you.
Because you become part of a community
that’s working to change
and that’s a very healthy thing.

You’re not just
grousing
and
complaining
but you’re working.

That will take away your blues.”


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017


This is a found poem, a direct quote from Malvina Reynolds, taken from “Love it Like a Fool: A Film About Malvina Reynolds” at 25:35.

https://archive.org/details/loveitlikeafoolafilmaboutmalvinareynolds


Friday, March 31, 2017

Poetry Month 2017




"God Bless the Grass" has been a favorite folksong of mine for many years. Recently, I got curious to know if Pete Seger wrote it, or just performed it. That's when my research brought me to the amazing life and work of Malvina Reynolds.

As soon as I started learning about Malvina Reynolds, I knew that I wanted more people to get to know her, and I could do that with a month of biographical poems about her life and inspired by her songs. Her work is once again quite timely, and I'm looking forward to introducing my students and blog readers to an amazing woman, activist, songwriter, and down-to-earth human being. I want to honor her, and make sure that her creativity remains alive in this world.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Not a Decision

photo via unsplash


Not a Decision

I learned early
the importance of saving, collecting, keeping.
As if in response (or defiance)
my brain is determined to counter educate me 
in loss.

Memories slip away,
names and faces fade,
and though I reach deeply into recesses of thought to
fetch these memories,
no trick or strategy works.

This is a problem,
a puzzle I haven’t the ability to solve
because so many pieces
are inexplicably
gone.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017






This is a poem for Laura Shovan's Annual February Writing Project. The words/phrases for this poem

brain
decisions
memory
puzzle
problem
learn
strategy
flexibility
abilities
fetch

originated here.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mother Nature Gets a Few Things Off Her Chest


photo via unsplash

Mother Nature Gets a Few Things Off Her Chest

The human race
is a disaster.
They use their big brains
to foam with wrath
about fake news and propaganda and change.

They ignore me when they aren't
paving
mining
fracking
polluting
damming
deforesting
acidifying
dumping
obliterating
or otherwise
killing
me.

I am the truth.
I will remain
when the last earthquake
or the last drought
erases
the last human
from this planet.

They are helpless.
I do not practice conservation.
They will pay attention and live in harmony with me
or they will be erased from the equation of life.

They seem to have made their choice.
May the end come quickly.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017




This is a poem for Laura Shovan's Annual February Writing Project. The words/phrases for this poem

truth
nature
earthquake
fake
disaster
conservation
wrath
helpless
propaganda
drought

originated here.



Monday, February 13, 2017

Baking Bread (or Life in The Modern World)


photo via unsplash


Baking Bread (or Life in The Modern World)

Why can't it be easy for once?
Instead, it starts off sticky
and keeps getting stickier
until necessary intervention.

Slow down.
Slower,
less speed,
deep breaths.

Suddenly, stickier becomes smoother
and by now you should know better --
difficult hides behind a screen of pliable
and soft is a precursor to crunchy.

Next comes growth.
A time of pure yeasty optimism
until the smashing and scraping
brings everything back into perspective

and before you know it
the boundaries are set
the heat is applied
the outcome revealed.

There is no such thing as easy,
only repetition after repetition.
Savor the warmth, the freshness.
Then start again.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017





This is a poem for Laura Shovan's Annual February Writing Project. The words/phrases for this poem

screen
shoot
stickier
soft
smashing
scraping
speed
smoother
slower
sticky

originated here.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

They Can't Shut Us All Up


photo via unsplash


They Can't Shut Us All Up

They can shut me up
but they can't change the truth--
I'm Rosa and Hillary, Malala and Ruth.

They can silence my voice
but I'll lead and you'll follow--
I'm Keller and Earhart, Cleopatra and Kahlo.

We rivet and code,
we teach and we heal,
orbit Earth, win Nobels,
go to prison for ideals.

They can't shut us all up
and they can't change what's true--
we're here to write history in PINK, not in blue.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017




This is a poem for Laura Shovan's Annual February Writing Project. The words/phrases for this poem

they
can
shut
me
up
but
they
can't
change
the 
truth

originated here.



Monday, February 6, 2017

We Were Buoyant

photo via unsplash

We Were Buoyant

We were buoyant,
sure and confident.

Now, at the bottom of a chasm,
nearly buried in negativity,

we keep our eye on the edge
and work to relocate,

tow ourselves back up,
weather this disruption of democracy,

melt the ice that encases our heart
and remember who we truly are.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017






This is a poem for Laura Shovan's Annual February Writing Project. The words/phrases for this poem

ice
chasm
buoyant
exploration
relocation
disruption
buried
edge
tow
weather

originated here.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Memories


photo via unsplash


memories of you
hidden in every corner
of my heart


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017





This is a poem for Laura Shovan's Annual February Writing Project. The words/phrases for this poem

heart
women
escapism
roast
pudding
memories
touched
lasting
hidden
inspiring

originated here.