Friday, February 10, 2017

More Myra Cohn Livingston Poems

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Katie at The Logonauts for Roundup. While you're there, scroll back to Katie's amazing post for teaching elementary students about stereotypes. I can't wait to try this with students!

Here at Live Your Poem it's been an up-n-down week. I returned from glorious time with my mother and sister, and then skidded on a icy patch of grief for my father. As I was moving through that, I got the disappointing news that a project I'm attached to needs a MAJOR overhaul... and as I was moving through that, I found out a separate project isn't as dead as I thought it was (yay!)... also, I was invited to write a poem for a publication on an interesting and inspiring topic, so... good and not-so-good. Such is life!

Meanwhile I'm continuing my study of Myra Cohn Livingston. Read my post on her book of writing exercises I AM WRITING A POEM ABOUT... here. This week I am excited to share with you A SONG I SANG TO YOU: A Selection of Poems by Myra Cohn Livingston, Illustrated by Margot Tomes. It was published in 1984 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

What strikes me is how simple these poems are. Very easy on the ears and tongue. Really nice rhythms. And lots of indentation! There is nothing particularly earth-shattering about these poems, no surprising analogies or images. But there is a sweetness to these lines, an innocence... they are like comfort food! I think Myra was very good at writing from that child-place inside her heart.

Here are some of my favorites from the book. Enjoy!

 For a Bird

I found him lying near the tree; I folded up his wings.
     Oh, little bird,
     You never heard
     The song the summer sings.

I wrapped him in a shirt I wore in winter; it was blue.
     Oh, little bird,
     You never heard
     The song I sang to you.


Thank you for the sun,
          the sky,
     for all the things that like to fly,
          the shining rain that turns grass green,
          the earth we know --
          the world unseen--
     for stars and night, and once again
          the every-morning sun. Amen.

Tomato Time

On a summer vine, and low,
The fat tomatoes burst and grow;

A green, a pink, a yellow head
Will soon be warm and shiny red;

And on a morning, hot with sun,
I'll find and pick a ripened one.

Warm juice and seed beneath the skin --
I'll shut my eyes when I bite in.

I Don't Know Why

I don't know why
          the sky is blue
          or why the raindrops
          splatter through

          or why the grass
          is wet with dew. . .      do you?

I don't know why
          the sun is round
          or why a seed grows
          in the ground

          or why the thunder
          makes a sound. . .       do you?

I don't know why
          the clouds are white
          or why the moon
          shines very bright

          or why the air
          turns black at night. . . do you?


  1. 'Warm juice and seed beneath the skin --
    I'll shut my eyes when I bite in.'

    Perfect. I can taste/smell/feel it!

  2. "I don't know why" for that little bird is the sweetest poem. I've been reading her "Poem Making" and trying to learn about her magic. And it is magical the way she moves right to the essence of what must be said. Thanks for more of Myra, Irene. I'm glad for your trip, though sad too. Have a lovely weekend!

  3. I love these poems! As you said, these are simple observations but come from her child-heart. I love the comfort and reassurance they offer.

  4. "But there is a sweetness to these lines, an innocence... they are like comfort food!" Thanks for sharing these comforting lines from Myra Cohn Livingston. I actually have her book I Am Writing a Poem About. You make me think it may be time to pull it off the poetry shelf.

  5. Irene, thanks for highlighting Myra's work. Her book POEM-MAKING is my poetry-writing Bible. I learned so much from reading that book. BTW, you selected some of my favorite poems by Myra. I used to share them with my elementary students

  6. These are lovely poems. Thank you for introducing me to a poet I think I'm going to love!

  7. Very touched by the bird poem. I think my favorite may be the prayer, though. Amen!

  8. Comfort food is exactly right, Irene. These are exactly the poems I needed to read today. Those icy patches do sneak up on us, don't they? Hugs to you.

  9. Oh, these were special, Irene. So sweet. Happy that you had the good days, and got through the slippery spots. It is life, isn't it?

  10. I, too, liked the poems you shared. Hope the next week brings less skidding -- though your balance inspires.

  11. I've been having a terribly topsy-turvy week, too - sometimes all we can do is hold on to the things we love and hope that the path straightens out eventually!

  12. Such lovely and comforting poems, Irene.

  13. "For a Bird" is one of my favorite poems. Myra was such a talented poet. I'm glad I have several of her books, some now out of print. Thank you for this lovely tribute.xo

  14. You're's the simplicity that is enticing. I love your study of this poet. Keep going!

  15. Thanks, Irene - like Elaine, I keep POEM MAKING handy on the shelf. These you share today are deceptively simple, no? Wonderful.
    And, what Jeannine said! Hope you have a great week. Valentine hugs from here!

  16. These poems are quiet, sweet delights and as a bird lover, I was especially moved by the poignant "For a Bird". Unfamiliar with Myra Cohn Livingston, I skipped back to your last post and then headed right over to Amazon to order I Am Writing A Poem About. Thank you for sharing her work.

  17. Mmm...fresh tomatoes, hot off the vine. So many memories...

  18. Thinking of you upping and downing and upping again last week, Irene. Isn't that always the way?! Though it never feels "normal"... we might think we should be used to it by now, but that's not how it works.

    Thank you for sharing these poems. What I noticed was not only her earnestness, simplicity, and child-heart, but also how her endings, despite a lack of "wow," still leave a long-lasting impression.


Your thoughts?