Sunday, November 14, 2010

Marilyn Singer and Footprints on the Roof

I've been a facilitator for Project Learning Tree for some time now. When I lead workshops I always read this poem from Marilyn Singer's book Footprints on the Roof.

Trees are go-betweens
        listening to the stories
of both earth and sky
           the conversations
of vireos and star-nosed moles
       of eagles and worms
Trees know the soft secrets of clouds
       the dark siftings of soil
The hear the high keening of squalls
           the deep rumbling of rocks
Trees whisper for the sky's damp blessings
       and the earth's misty kisses
They issue warnings
They offer praise
       This is trees' work
and they do it with such uncomplaining grace
       it never seems like work at all
Here's what Marilyn had to say about this book.

It's obvious that I'm a nature-lover. I'd done several books of poems about the natural world before FOOTPRINTS, but I'd say that the poems in it are more sophisticated. FOOTPRINTS represents my reflective side. One reviewer wrote that my work is the poetry of questions. I really, really like that because, in terms of the natural world, I think I'm always asking myself questions, trying to puzzle out what things mean , how they work and what our place is in relation to them. I like feeling a small part of a large universe.

FOOTPRINTS is part of a series of three books which focus on those questions. The others are HOW TO CROSS A POND: Poems about Water and CENTRAL HEATING: Poems about Fire and Warmth. These books represent a kind of intersection of science and poetry. I write both nonfiction about the natural world and poetry. To me, both are about curiosity and wonder. Nonfiction can explain things we take for granted or things we find mysterious and make us appreciate them. Poetry can take these same things and make them mysterious or relatable in surprising ways. The excitingly strange can become intriguingly familiar, and vice versa, all leading to that sense of wonder. That's what I've tried to do with these poems--give the reader a bit of a surprise, make him or her curious, and encourage him or her to take delight in the wonders of our world.

The three books in this series are wonderful little packages full of surprises. The trim size is small, but don't let that fool you. These little gems are filled with Meilo So's gorgeous India ink drawings on rice paper (grays in FOOTPRINTS, blues in HOW TO CROSS A POND, and reds in CENTRAL HEATING) and poems that in turn will make you laugh then nod and smile in agreement. Here are two favorites from the other books in the series.
What Water Can Be
(from How to Cross a Pond)

A furrow that's filling
       Water, collective
Your face in the puddle
       Water, reflective
A network of rivers
       Water, connective
Your boat drifting downstream
       Water, directive
A storm in the city
       Water, objective
One drop on your eyelash,
       Water, selective

(from Central Heating)

Holidays are marked by fire:
Sparklers in summer,
Jack-o'-lanterns in fall.
Menorahs, luminarias,
Christmas lights mimicking flames
       of yuletides past.
Paper lanterns afloat
       in Japanese harbors,
           sending departed spirits on their way.
Clay lamps shining
       in Indian streets,
           greeting goddesses and each new year.
So much light and warmth,
So much hope reflected
       in watchful eyes,
           joyous or solemn,
           pale or dark,
All year long in our brilliant worldwide
If you are interested in seeing Meilo's work, visit her blog Meilo So Illustration.

Unfortunately, finding these books in print can be difficult. I've done particularly well with Abebooks and found nice copies of Central Heating and How to Cross a Pond.

All poems ©Marilyn Singer. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I only came across this series a few months ago and I love it. I got hold of my copies through Better World Books...