A poet in January

January bliss: a comfy chair, poetry, and tea in a lovely cup given by a dear friend.
You’re invited to drop in and tell us your favorites– poets, teas, or both!

“When one reads a poet in January, it is as lovely as when one goes to walk in June.”
Jean Paul Friedrich Richter

If you’ve been reading this blog very long, you know how much I love walking, especially in mild weather. But I think Jean Paul was right about poetry and January, which seem to go together like soup and snowy weather, or friendships and firesides.

Many of us who live north of the equator have been enduring record-cold temperatures. Some have been hit with a particularly nasty flu or other seasonal aches and pains. Power outages, weather delays and traffic snarls, along with wind chills below zero, can make wintertime something to dread. So let’s get cozy and enjoy what’s good about this season.

Brew a cup of your favorite cold-weather beverage. Pull up a comfy chair, light a crackling fire, or if you don’t have that kind of fireplace (alas, I don’t), try switching on your gas or electric fireplace, or just snuggle up with a warm fuzzy throw. Take out your favorite poetry book, or grab your laptop, tablet or phone and go on a poetry scavenger hunt for some wonderful undiscovered gems, or lifelong favorites you can’t fully remember.

If you find anything lovely, funny, thought-provoking or heartwarming, we’d love to have you share it with us here. For every comment that links us to a poem, I’ll answer with a favorite of my own for us to read. Our high school English teachers would be proud!

Let’s bring our virtual Verandah indoors while it’s too cold to be outside. What we lack in sunshine and warm breezes we can more than make up for in congenial online company and realtime hygge.  Cookies, pastries and savory snacks optional.

21 Comments

  1. raynard

    Julia, the first thing that came to my mind was” The old Dionne Warwick song” Walk on By” Then Italian Wedding soup. I’ve been drinking lately lots of Peach and Lemon Herbal tea.I have to get back to my books I purchased on ” my old Google Tablet. Just recently got a Kindle Fire which , well ” the jury is still out on( but it has a nice clear screen and two cameras front and back. Gone are the days of” ” Instant” ( like coffee) I digress. Oh before I forget ” Happy New Year”( Since Mary’s birthday is Wednesday I won’t bother her about” taking down the Christmas Tree. Suppose to be” a heatwave this week ( 40’s and 50″s) Is it just me or” the Urgent Care Clinics and Pharmacies are” grinning and rubbing their hands together” counting co pays and” scripts” I digress.

    • Raynard, Jeff loved the Kindle Fire I got him (after totally ignoring the iPod touch I had given him a couple of years earlier — “that screen is too small” 😀 ) I think the Fire is great for everything but reading actual books, for which I prefer the Kindle Paperwhite that Jeff got me long before I got him the Fire. To me, the Paperwhite is the most like an actual print book, with all the advantages of digital. Hey, we had a heatwave yesterday and today (in the 60’s) but it’s going to disappear by tonight, so they say. But it was nice while it lasted. Y’all stay warm!

  2. Harry Sims

    For goodness sake explore this website.
    Open the links just out of curiosity and be justly rewarded.
    Pay attention to Hygge,
    Sometimes I think Julia is inexhaustible but I find myself still be wrong a lot.
    Harry

    • Thank you Harry. I’m actually repeatedly exhausted, or at least think I am, but God has always been able to do amazing things with a few loaves and fishes. Like the Widow at Zarephath in I Kings 17, I’ve been expecting to run out any day, and never (so far) quite get to that point.

  3. My earliest association with poetry came in a small, leather-bound book, read aloud by my father. Beyond simple rhyming verse, he also read to me the lengthy lay by Thomas B. Macaulay.Thus Horatius became the earliest of my pre-American heroes. Oh the depth of wonder provided by such readings!

    • Eric, I remember that book! I think it must have been this edition, or something very like it. But I don’t remember that poem, because the book went missing when I was still too young to appreciate Horatius. (My memory says that Daddy allowed Carla to take the book to school to share, and it was promptly ripped off and never seen again.) I can remember that Daddy was pretty good at reciting poetry. He seemed to prefer singing ballads such as “The Flying Dutchman” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky” but who can forget his popular recitation of an obscure parody of Poe’s “Raven” (always preceded by a disclaimer that he loved the poem and meant no disrespect to Poe). I never knew the name of that parody until Carla told me about it recently. It’s amazing to me how well Daddy could say it from memory, because I have a hard time even reading it aloud, it’s such a tongue-twister.

  4. MaryAnn Clontz

    Thank you, Julia for this treat! The following poem is one of my favorites. Last year, a lady at church did something very special for her daughter’s 13th birthday. She asked some of the ladies, who are so well loved by this family, to write what we see in her as she has grown & some bits of advice. I chose this poem to add to my encouraging words. The mother had each of us read what we had written. It was quite an emotional time. When I read the read the last lines of this poem, it felt as if this is good advice for a teenager. God does want us to choose the “one less traveled by.” Sending much love!
    The Road Not Taken – Poem by Robert Frost

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    • Mary Ann, thanks for sharing that poem with us and taking the time to type it out! Robert Frost is one of my favorites. A friend of mine used this poem as the theme of his high school graduation speech which I got a sneak peek at because I typed it up for him. Here is one of many poems he wrote that I admire greatly. I tried to find an online link to it, but could not, so I’ll do as you did and paste it here:
      “Choose Something Like a Star”
      (Robert Frost, 1916)

      O Star (the fairest one in sight),
      We grant your loftiness the right
      To some obscurity of cloud–
      It will not do to say of night,
      Since dark is what brings out your light.
      Some mystery becomes the proud.
      But to be wholly taciturn
      In your reserve is not allowed.
      Say something to us we can learn
      By heart and when alone repeat.
      Say something! And it says “I burn.”
      But say with what degree of heat.
      Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
      Use language we can comprehend.
      Tell us what elements you blend.
      It gives us strangely little aid,
      But does tell something in the end.
      And steadfast as Keats’ Eremite,
      Not even stooping from its sphere,
      It asks a little of us here.
      It asks of us a certain height,
      So when at times the mob is swayed
      To carry praise or blame too far,
      We may choose something like a star
      To stay our minds on and be staid.

  5. Amy Hill

    Here are a couple of my favorites. As you know Matt introduced me to Writers Almanac and I miss it very much. I often heard some great poems there.

    Blessings by Ronald Wallace

    occur.
    Some days I find myself
    putting my foot in the same stream twice;
    leading a horse to water
    and making him drink.
    I have a clue.
    I can see the forest
    for the trees.

    All around me people
    are making silk purses
    out of sows ears,
    getting blood from turnips,
    building Rome in a day.
    There’s a business
    like show business.
    There’s something new
    under the sun.

    Some days misery
    no longer loves company;
    it puts itself out of its.
    There’s rest for the weary.
    There’s turning back.

    —————————————————————————————————————

    No Man is an Island by John Donne

    No man is an island
    Entire of itself
    Every man is a piece of the continent,
    A part of the main.
    If a clod be washed away by the sea,
    Europe is the less.
    As well as if a promontory were
    As well as if a manor of thy friends
    Of of thine own were:
    Any man’s death diminishes me,
    Because I am involved in mankind,
    And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
    It tolls for thee.

    • Amy, I miss it too. I keep thinking they will bring it back, but I think when they fired Keillor, he (understandably) took his work and his rights to it with him. Perhaps he will come up with something of his own, but maybe not. It was an amazing archive that could be accessed fully, complete with text and audio, all the way back to the earliest years before they even had audio. A big loss to everyone, collateral damage out of the justifiable downfall of so many. I still don’t understand it; there is almost no work of art not connected in some way to someone of questionable character or reprehensible deeds. Does anyone suggest we stop quoting Shelley or Byron? But I digress. OK, I will share the poem you introduced to me when we walked through Arlington while planning for Jeff’s funeral:

      Epigrams: Sixty-Eighth Birthday
      By James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)

      AS life runs on, the road grows strange
      With faces new, and near the end
      The milestones into headstones change,
      ’Neath every one a friend.

  6. Good morning, Julia! Following your suggestions enhances my day. I found some tea from Teavana that I’d left in the cupboard. Ruby … something. I’ll try it with a poem, and possibly a fire. 🙂

    • Hi Susan! I’m not sure whether you’re still in Minnesota, or back in New England– but either way, you need that fire and tea! Hope it was good.

  7. Sheila

    Julia, there’s just something about “warm and in a cup” that feels so right. My coffee that I’m sipping in a beautiful handmade mug feels so perfect this morning. The lady fingers are packaged in SIX for a reason. Thank you, again. 💙 I miss Garrison Keillor and the daily email I received for years. I think Jeff and Matt read those too. I look forward to the comments and poems. My favorite must be “Thank You Friend” (Grace Noll Crowell). A dear neighbor enclosed it in a note on moving day for us, many years ago. It’s been my favorite ever since. I must add they were from Atlanta! 💖 Hugs crossing the miles for you and Matt. Love, Sheila

    • Thank you, Sheila! I may have read that poem before, but I had forgotten it. Here’s a similar one that I sent to a friend a few years back, which came to mind when I read the one you shared. Doesn’t a poem become much more special when someone gives it to us? A friend of mine gave me this poem by Marge Piercy many years ago, and though I have lost touch with her, I will always remember that she gave it to me. Sending hugs right back to you as I sip my Cinnamon Spice tea! ❤

  8. There is not a breath of poetry in me as my English teacher was mostly into grammar vs style. I’m a “facts” kind of writer so there is not a lyrical bone in my body. But I do love to sit inside and read a cozy book when the weather turns gloomy and chilled. We have been lucky this winter so far. My heart went out to all of you who had to endure those arctic storms. I’m grateful I can sit inside and watch from my window, though this morning will be a walk in the rain to a neighbors house as we collect to kibitz and hand sew. The temps are reasonable and the walk will do my old body some good. I love your tea cup. Do you have many that are so delicate? Giant hugs and stay warm.

    • Marlene, I mostly have serviceable lidded mugs, which I adopted after ruining a computer with spilled coffee. But, aside from the cups and saucers that go with my china sets, I do have at least three nice cups. The one in the photo above was given to me by my friend Renee. Then I have an exquisite cherry blossom cup and saucer that was given to me by Kelly (a.k.a. Boomdee). And I have a lovely English china cup that my friend Kathy sent to me while she was living in England. Some people say that everyone has a bit of artist in them, whether they know it or not, and I tend to think that is true of poetry as well. But I do know that some are very practical and factual in their approach to life. For you, here is another poem by Robert Frost, one that is perhaps among my top 5 favorites of all time:

      Fire and Ice by Robert Frost

      Some say the world will end in fire,
      Some say in ice.
      From what I’ve tasted of desire
      I hold with those who favor fire.
      But if it had to perish twice,
      I think I know enough of hate
      To say that for destruction ice
      Is also great
      And would suffice.

  9. Julia, Sounds like the best way to spend a day in an artic blast.
    -Alan

    • Yes, it definitely takes the sting out of the cold. I keep reminding myself that each day we get one more minute of sunlight!

  10. Ann

    Here’s a quote from Dr. Seuss. “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened“

    • Ann, that’s very good advice. I’ve been trying to teach Matt (and myself) to keep it in mind! ❤

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