Thursday, November 12, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday: My Mother's Poetry Book

My treasure is not all that old, or expensive, or fancy, but it is treasured.

In 1945 my Grandmother Sigford gave this book, The Standard Book of British and American Verse, to my mother on her 25th birthday. At time I was ten years old and I hated doing dishes at night. No electric dishwasher for me, just whining and complaining. One evening after dinner, while I had my hands immersed in a dishpan of soapy water, my mother placed this poetry book on the window sill above the sink. She made a makeshift stand, and so that I could turn the pages she gave me a long pencil with a good eraser -- in our house erasers dinna last as long as the pencil.

Night after night, I emoted, cried, laughed, as I read poems by Marlowe, Yeats, Shelley, Noyes, Burns, Dickenson, and Poe - to name a few of my favorites. I was not the fastest dishwasher, but now a happy one. My mother considered the activity of reading was something only done when work and chores were finished -- which, in my mind, was never. Those nights of reading from her "poetry book" still permeate my being, my heart, mind and soul.

Below is a portion of a 2002, letter I wrote to Mother thanking her for those memories.

"--- so on this Mother’s Day I am thanking you for the gift of poetry that you brought into my life.

"As I was perusing THE POETRY BOOK ---the book that your mother gave to you, the book that I emoted over as a teenager, and the book that you then gave to me --- I read the Preface. The words Christopher Morley penned in 1932 are as true today as then.

A generous anthology of verse is a household necessity; it is the pantry-cupboard for the spirit on whose shelves are the nourishment for any emergency. … the poets have stored meat and wine and spices for every requirement. With queerly mingled joy the old lines come back to us …. We sing them to ourselves to a tune of our own:

"And now my own tune lives in my head: When I have fears that I cease to be; Come live with me and be my love; When in the chronicle of wasted time; Go and catch a falling star; When as in silks my Julia goes; Let the toast pass, drink to the lass; Wee, sleekit, cowerin’, timorous beastie; O my love is like a red, red rose; Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled; God save thee, Ancient Mariner; She walks in beauty, like the night; Dash down yon cup of Samian wine; My name is Ozymandias, king of kings; How do I love thee, let me count the ways; Sunset and evening bar, and one clear call for me; That the wind came out of the cloud by night, chilling and killing my Annabel Lee; Aye, tear her tattered ensign down!; The owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat; O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done; I am nobody! Who are you?; The walrus and the carpenter were walking close at hand; But I shall name you the fisherman three, Wynken, Blynken, and Nod; Home is the sailor, home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill; I never saw a purple cow; The fog comes on little cat feet; I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree; The woods are lovely, dark and deep; The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees, the moon a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas.

"A million thanks for the “meat and wine and spices” that have, sometimes unknowingly, shaped my view of the world. Thanks for making dishwashing an adventure."


  1. Love your treasure. As I read your clips that live in your head, I was reminded of the many poems and prose I have read growing up.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Joan,
    You can pick up the new Kreativ Blogger Award at Branching Out Through The Years http://branchingoutthroughtheyears.blogspot.com/2009/11/new-kreativ-blogger-award-thanks-linda.html
    Thanks for sharing in such a great manner.

  3. What a great story - lucky girl to have such a mum!