35. Obama’s Inaugural Poet: Richard Blanco


New Visitor’s…Please read the two paragraphs at the end of this column before beginning your explorations in theater, poetry, children’s literature, movies, television, books, and the Arts. It will say New Visitor’s Greeting and be in boldface.

Saturday Silliness…At a mid-winter golf luncheon, one of the golfers was upset that his wife wouldn’t let him name their two new dogs Chi Chi and Rodriguez. Chi Chi is an old time favorite golfer. This lead to a rollicking discussion of what golfer’s names would transfer to the naming of two dogs. Some names like Tiger and Woods just wouldn’t work. Tiger and Woods do not sound like first names. They reference a favorite golfer, but really don’t seem to work. Here are the top ten of the many bantered around. After giving your “golfer choice” you then had to describe your reason for selecting that particular name combination for your dogs.

Colin and Montgomery (a certain bit of English class)
Payne and Stewart (sounds like book characters)
Rory and McElroy (Scottish clans)
Seve and Ballesteros (swordsmen)
Adam and Scott (way too easy)
Dustin and Johnson (medical experts)
Padraig and Harrington (clothes manufactures)
Matt and Kuchar (wrestlers)
Bo and Van Pelt (vampires)
Phil and Mickelson (authors)

Naturally someone said we should try presidents next amid boos and groans. You will be amazed at how many sound regal, though.

Saturday Silliness II…The Excuse Game

Some people are very good at composing excuses. Here are some of the excuses people have used in pursuing an occupation:

A.  I could have been a dentist, but I couldn’t fill in the exam.

B.  I could have been a crossing guard, if people didn’t stop me.

C.  I could have been a barber, but I couldn’t cut it.

D.  I could have been a glider pilot, but couldn’t get the hang of it.

E.  I could have been a golfer, but couldn’t get into the swing of it.

F.  I could have been an exterminator, if people didn’t bug me.

Fill in the following excuses for each job. Then please send me some of the ones you created that did not appear above or below.

A.  I could have been a pizza maker……….

B.  I could have been a nurse……….

C.  I could have been a singer……….

D.  I could have been a teacher……….

E.  I could have been a banker……….


Children’s Literature…The Shakespeare Stealer By Gary Blackwood should probably be called Backstage at the Globe Theater. The book tells the story of a criminal tradition from Shakespeare’s time. This tradition is called play stealing. It involves going to a play written by a well-known author, writing down all the words and scenes, and then performing it in your own town with your own playgroup. The boy featured on the cover is assigned that task. The problem is he enjoys the play, he is supposed to record. So much so that he stopped recording everything to watch the performance. The playgroup compounds his troubles even more. Misjudging his spirit and enthusiasm for the play being performed, the theater’s players ask him to join their performance group. The group just thinks he is a fan of their work. How does this old time piracy compare to the technology, movie, and music piracy of today is an interesting topic? There is now a pre-movie warning at everyone’s local theater advising against copying the movie you are about to see. This book will start or continue this meaningful copyright and stealing of intellectual rights discussion.

Children’s Literature II…Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach presents a sixth grade child named after one of the characters in Shakespeare’s plays. The child is on a mission to research Edward De Vere because of a broach passed down through the family from feudal times. Many people believe Edward De Vere wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare, because he was closer to the court than Shakespeare could ever have been. This book presents the problem of the origin of Shakespeare’s writings. Another fact not presented in this book is that if it is not De Vere who was Shakespeare, then it is Bacon. The letters in Bacon’s name appears in acrostic form in so many of Shakespeare’s poems that chance would be impossible. After reading this book, you will surely research the origin of Shakespeare’s works even further.

Children’s Literature III…Everything On It By Shel Silverstein contains Shel Silverstein’s unpublished poems and illustrations. This collection of his unpublished works was discovered long after his death. The themes in this book are a welcome addition to the many we have used from his poetry books Where The Sidewalk Ends, A Light In The Attic, and Falling Up. All four books have easy convertible humor for short term projects or modeled writing. Visit one of the most interactive website on the Internet at www.shelsilverstein.com and download his seventeen page Salute to Poetry, teacher’s resource booklet. The lessons are great for any time of the year.


Poetry…In yesterday’s column, the poetry of Robert Frost was featured as it was delivered at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. I did not want to slight President Obama’s choice this year of poet Richard Blanco, who delivered the inaugural poem last Monday. Blanco’s poem features (in my mind) a combination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Langston Hughes. The two lines that stuck out among the many pointed references were: the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming, or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain the empty desks of twenty children marked absent today, and forever.

I hope you enjoy Richard Blanco’s poem if you have not heard it on YouTube or NBC.

“One Today”

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.

New Visitor’s Greeting…Welcome to Let’s Talk, a freewheeling column on movies, theater, television, books, educational practices, current events, and the Internet. If you are a first time visitor to the column, I recommend that you start with the About topic in the Index Bar at the top of the page. Follow About with the Let’s Talk column in archives. It was the first column of the New Year. Proceed to Let’s Talk II and then work your way up to today’s column. These columns will introduce a plethora (a better word choice than myriad) of new ideas and old delights you may have missed. It will give you a foundation for some of the issues we are introducing and following up in newer columns.

 New visitor’s comments are welcome, too. They are immediately placed on this page in the contributor’s comment section or are shared with the column’s readers on Sunday. You are welcome, also, to suggest topics for discussion or enlist help from the site’s family of readers. I am a compendium of useless information. Challenge me, please, with great theater, travel, history, books, movies, and educational issues that would interest a wide audience of readers. The “compendium comment” was stolen from Orson Bean. Bean used the quote many times on television talk show interviews. Please recommend my column to your friends and other lovers of discussion.






About tjpalumbo

Tom Palumbo is a nationally known and award winning author, teacher, technology designer, administrator, and grant writer. He has taught for thirty-five years in preschool through 12th grade classrooms throughout the quad state area. His ideas have made a difference in the way thousands of teachers, parents, and children read, write, do mathematics, use technology, and think creatively and critically. Tom’s twenty books on reading, writing, critical thinking, and mathematics have won four national book awards. 5,000 teachers and home schooling parents have matriculated through his graduate courses/lectures. 12,000 have signed up for his website. As Director of Pennsylvania’s Parent Information Center and New Jersey’s Citizen’s For Better Schools Resource Center, Tom received over two hundred commendations for his presentations to thousands of teachers, parents, and administrators throughout the Florida, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland area. Workshop participants receive idea loaded CD’s, access to hundreds of videos, PowerPoints, curriculum links, games, and lessons on his website, and an activity booklet filled with common core curriculum in line with local, state, and national standards. Instruction, on each of these resources, is presented during his presentation. Mr. Palumbo has over two hundred learning centers, bulletin boards, and project developers in reading, writing, poetry, literature, and math in make-it/take it item format that can, also, be part of any workshop program. Call or email Tom to set up a workshop for your organization. Tom Palumbo tjpalumbo@aol.com 215-262-9986 aimtjp.wikispaces.com
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