Dog Songs


Mary Oliver died January 17th, prompting me to remember when I wrote about her…and to remember a favorite dog.  (


Today’s New York Times Book Review is dedicated to poetry, prompting me to reread the favorites on my shelf and introducing me to a new poet, Mary Oliver, with her 2013 book of poems Dog Songs.

“True to its title, the book gathers poems (and one essay) about dogs. ‘I think they are companions the way people aren’t,’ Oliver told the Times when it was published in 2013. ‘They lie next to you when you’re sad. And, they remind us that we’re animals too…'”

Gregory Cowles, Inside the List

After downloading the sample book, I realized I needed this book in print – to appreciate all the pictures of dogs included. My library system has 24 books of poetry by Mary Oliver; besides Dog Songs, I’ve also ordered ThirstWhy I Wake Early, and American Primitive, the book that won her the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984.

9780143125839_p0_v1_s192x300Here’s a teaser from the sample:


I have a bed, my very own.

It’s just my size.

And sometimes I like to sleep alone

with dreams inside my eyes.


But sometimes dreams are dark and wild and


and I wake and am afraid, though I don’t know


But I’m no longer sleepy

and too slowly the hours go by.


So I climb on the bed where the light of the


is shining on your face

and I know it will be morning soon.


Everybody needs a safe place.


Try Writing a Haiku

poetry-clip-art-1Do you remember a well-meaning teacher assigning a haiku for homework – maybe to instill a love of poetry. The products often resembled Ogden Nash poems – lots of nonsense but without his wit.

Alan Feuer’s “The 3 Lines of the Haiku Train Make 61 Stops in Manhattan” – online at Haiku Challenge in the Sunday New York Times – offers a short review of the style and samples from New Yorkers who participated in the paper’s challenge to write about the city in the three-line verse. Poets wrote about Central Park, the subway, Times Square… My favorite came from an online reader in Dallas –  Sharon Cohen wrote:

Union Square Market
Blueberries for ten dollars
New York City blues

Thinking about the city I live in now, I am working on a verse to celebrate the end of national poetry month – ocean, sun, surfers – not that easy to create three lines with 5,7,5 beat – and a punch line at the end of the 17 syllables. The New York Times offers  “a quick 101 guide on writing a haiku”:

• Only three lines.
• First line must be five syllables.
• Second line must be seven syllables.
• The third line must be five syllables.
• Punctuation and capitalization are up to you.
• It doesn’t have to rhyme.
• It must be original.

Have you tried writing one?

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