Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Serengeti

the sun’s ancient eye
on the wild African plain
gathers all the world

Photo: "Sunset on Acacia Tree," Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Credit: Neils Liddle od Neils Photography
(Courtesy of Creative Commons)


Friday, April 29, 2016

April Is Poetry Month: She Sat in Autumn

During the month of April, in honor of National Poetry Month, I am re-posting poems that I have written and shared on this blog. This one is from September 22, 2012.

She Sat in Autumn

My grandmother sat in autumn
Shelling pecans at the kitchen table.
At mid afternoon
The children were at play in the yard;
Parents, at work.
She made herself useful
Preparing a sack of pecans
That would go to candies and pies
Destined for holiday enjoyment.

Her fingers remained nimble
Though hands were darkened
By age spots;
Skin wrinkled by
Time and duty.

She thinks back to younger days 
(My childhood heart knew nothing of her sorrow).
So many years a widow,
She wonders what might have been
If that fiery Irishman, ten years her senior,
Had only had a stronger heart.
She hurts for her son –
The favored one –
Whose life spiraled into alcohol and bitterness.

“How did you keep yourself whole
And loving,” I asked, as the observer
In this autumn-tinted memory,
“So that all I ever saw as a child
Was gladness and light?”

“I had to welcome what life brought,”
Her thin fingers grasped the nutcracker
To loose another autumn kernel,

“I had to be here to shell pecans.”

                                   ~ Charles Kinnaird


Image: "Grandmother Michaud in Silhouette"
Artist: Edouard Vuillard – 1890 
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden – Washington DC
Medium:Oil on cardboard


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Poetry of Perception - "Smell," by William Carlos Williams

Part 4 of 8 in the Poetry of Perception series from HarvardX Neuroscience. For the rest of the features in the series, go to the Vimeo site here.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday Music: Justin Johnson's Haunted Tone

Here's a nice blues number by Justin Johnson playing on a lap steel guitar that was built from an 1840s weather barometer by Roots Instrument aficionado, Charles Atchison.  Wilson has other guitars made out of all kinds of materials from auto license plates to cigar boxes. He has other videos on his Facebook band page,  Justin Johnson and also at

Saturday, April 23, 2016

William Shakespeare, The Bard for All Time

[A version of this post appeared in October, 2011. I am presenting it again in honor of the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death.]

                 "He was not of an age, but for all time." 

                                                           ~ Ben Johnson

  "And thou, whose head did stars and sunbeams know
                  Self-school'd, self-scann'd, self-honour'd, self-secure,
                  Didst walk on earth unguessed at."

                                                    ~ Matthew Arnold
                                                    (from the poem, "Shakespeare")

There was a new movie that came our a few years ago called Anonymous. The movie was promoted with the shocking question, "Was Shakespeare a fraud?" In the trailer, we see the suggestion that Shakespeare wrote nothing and that we've all been played in some big conspiracy. The premise of the film was that it was not Shakespeare, but rather Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford who wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Bear in mind that this conspiracy theory is not new, nor does it carry much weight.

That Shakespeare didn't actually write those plays is an old saw that comes up from time to time. Years ago papers were written claiming it was Ben Johnson, or Francis Bacon, or some other fill-in-the-blank candidate. I think these are simply scholars who want to make a name for themselves  in the academic world. They take pride in their research escapades, desperately clawing their way in the publish-or-perish world of academia. Lacking creativity themselves, they take refuge in throwing darts at the Bard.

There was another film that came out in 1998, Shakespeare in Love, which I thoroughly enjoyed and heartily recommend. The superb screen play was written by Tom Stoppard (who also wrote the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead). Making no claim to be a true account, the movie is a delightful look at the playwright and how he might have been inspired to write Romeo and Juliet. One of my favorite scenes is where Shakespeare, still in the process of writing the play, gives some pages to some actors so they can begin to rehearse. As the actors are reading through the lines of this new play they have been handed, their countenance changes as they realize that these are not ordinary words for an ordinary play. They are struck by the beauty and meaning of the language. It is as though they have been handed a quite remarkable gift. They are taking part in something far greater than they could have imagined.

Reading his poetry and his plays, one realizes that Shakespeare was a genius (we see those from time to time). His words and use of language became the standard for the development of modern English. Shakespeare wrote more about the human condition than perhaps any other author. Within the dialogue of his plays as well as the language of his poetry we see a capacity for inner reflection that was ahead of his time. Those inward reflections still serve as guideposts for us today. He showed us the world and he showed us how to look within our own hearts – and he gave us the language to express our hopes, joys, fears and longings. His influence continues to be seen today in modern literature and the cinematic arts. Psychologists, philosophers, poets, theologians, sociologists and historians alike all quote the Bard to this day. 

Yet there are those who somehow cannot believe that someone not born of nobility or privy to the best education could have possibly held such genius and talent, thus the conspiracy theories on the origins of Shakespeare's works. If we studied the actual works of Shakespeare, we would see far more of humanity. That is time better spent, reading the actual words of the Bard, than time wasted in the vapid air of speculations that Shakespeare could not have been so talented. 

I should add that I am grateful that he was so talented. Our world would have been much the poorer without him. Perhaps you can tell I hold William Shakespeare in high regard. He is one of my heroes. He walked on earth unguessed at.

                                                                                              Charles Kinnaird            

*    *    *    *    *


Saturday Haiku: Seagulls at Sunset

seagulls at sunset
greet the beachside visitor
blessings all around

Photo: "The Birdfeeder," by Zack Dischner (courtesy of flickr)


Friday, April 22, 2016

April Is Poetry Month: Shakespeare's Horse

During the month of April, in honor of National Poetry Month, I am re-posting poems that I have written and shared on this blog. This one is from October 18, 2011. It is appropriate to honor Shakespeare this month because tomorrow, April 23, is the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death in 1616. He was born somewhere around this date in 1564. The only documentation we have of his birth is his baptism day, April 26, 1564.

The following poem was written a few years ago after reading Shakespeare's Sonnet 50 which you may read for yourself here.

Shakespeare's Horse
(In response to Sonnet 50)

Magnificent was the beast
Who carried our noblest poet,
The one who gave voice to humanity's woes and triumphs;
Whose song would be heard for ages to come
And whose words would set the standard
For a new era.

Perhaps it was a country lane,
Or it may have been a London side street
That they traveled that day.

"Beast of burden" is too trite a term
For the equine essence
Who collaborated in the Bard's journey.
The man bore within his heart
All the joys and sorrows of a people,
And enough dreams of love and despair
   to fill the world.
It was not the first time
That a four-legged creature
Carried humanity's hopes
Along an earthly road.

Which is why one is jolted
And dismayed
To hear of the poet thoughtlessly kicking
A bloody spur
Into the side
Of his creature companion.
            How unlike a god.

But here is that redeeming moment seen
Which covers many doubts that might have been:

The horse's groan
Resonated with the poet's own grief
And gave voice to his unutterable heart-felt emotion.
It brought the man to himself
To live in the moment
On the road,
On the journey,
Bearing his own burden.

And the groan shared by man and beast
Spoke more than all the words that would come
From the acclaimed poet's pen.

Charles Kinnaird


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Poetry of Perception - "Split the Lark and You'll Find the Music" (Emily Dickinson)

From the Vimeo site: An eight-part series ( on representations of perception and sensation made for "I haven't understood a bar of music in my life, but I've felt it." Igor Stravinski

Monday, April 18, 2016

Monday Music: Ascanio Trombetti (1544-1590): Diligam te Domine [a6]

The Royal Wind Music is a recorder ensemble from Amsterdam, playing on Renaissance bass and contrabass recorders -- a beautiful sound indeed!

Recorded in April 2010 at De Duif, Amsterdam. For more information go to


Saturday, April 16, 2016

It's a Lovely Day Today

April 16 is National Record Day

When I was growing up, we had one of those RCA Victor record players that closed up like a little suitcase when not in use. On the inside of the lid was an emblem of an old fashioned Victrola with a dog looking into the speaker. The caption read, "He hears his master's voice." The idea was that the sound was that realistic (though it was not an advanced "high fidelity" and certainly not stereo). It would play the standard 78 rpm records, and with an adapter could handle 45's. I suppose it was my older brother who explained to me to dial to "78" for the "little hole records," and "45" for the big hole records. We had quite a variety of children's records, songs from musicals, as well as what had been radio hits in "my parent's day" Some that I remember were, "Shrimp Boats is-a Comin'," "Oh What Beautiful Morning," "When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob-bob-bobin' Along," "Westward Ho the Wagons," "Oh, Susanna," and "The Gandy Dancers Ball," to name a few.

With The Gandy Dancers Ball, we would often dance around the room and hop onto the bed. How could one help it with such a lively tune and words like "they danced on the ceiling and they danced on the wall" followed by "Swing around, swing around, swing around the Jimmy John, Swing the pretty girl around the Jimmy, Jimmy John." We thought the words were "swing around the jibby jop." We had no idea what a jibby jop might be, but we were kids, accustomed to not knowing the meaning of lots of words in use by adults and on TV. All we knew was that it was a fun song.

By the time we were in our "tweens and teens" there were the 45s with the Beach Boys, Ricky Nelson, Herman's Hermits, etc. Then The Beatles hit the Sullivan Show and started selling LPs like crazy. Whenever a few of us gathered at someone's house, a record player was usually utilized. How ever you spin it, records have had an impact on our lives for a long time.

Here is another old tune, recorded on a 78 and played on an old-fashioned record player. I heard this one often on television variety shows growing up. One of the standards from the Great american Songbook. "It's a Lovely Day Today," performed by Perry Como. Take a listen and celebrate National Record Day.


Saturday Haiku: Quiet Moon

quiet moon
above the mountain
lone wolf howls


Photo: Crescent moon near K2, by Raja Islam (Getty Images)


Friday, April 15, 2016

April is Poetry Month: Slowly God Arises

During the month of April, in honor of National Poetry Month, I am re-posting poems that I have written and shared on this blog. This one is from January 29, 2010.

I wrote the poem below back in 2002 after being troubled by the increasing reports of sexual abuse of children by clergy. My consolation then was, at least now we are aware of the problem and are calling people to account. In many ways, we are progressing in areas of ethics, enlightenment and compassion.

Recently, the airwaves have been so full of myopic shouting that I am thinking we take one step forward and two steps back. One thing is for sure, decisions made out of fear will not tend to lead us forward.

I am optimistic that our trend will continue to be upward, though we have witnessed some backward steps of late. I present this poem from eight years ago in affirmation of that upward trend.

Slowly God Arises

And slowly God arises
Arising, God turns
Pulling up tent stakes,
Cracking the foundation
And loosening the ties
Of a stagnant civilization.

One turn showed us not to enslave.
Another turn gave honor to women.
Yet another turn showed us
Not to send our children to factories and fields,
forfeiting their lives for illicit capital gain.

Now the turn shows us
To respect our children
And to protect them from harm.

And slowly God arises
Until a new awareness comes;
An awareness that children have been crippled
By the abusive actions of people we trusted.
No longer can we tolerate such abuse.

Slowly God arises.
Arising, God turns;
Cracking the foundation of tradition,
Breaking the bonds that held us.

With each turn
We are astounded.
Why did we not see this before?
How could we have let this happen?
Yet with each turn
We see that we cannot go back.
Astounded by sight
Loosed by light,
We walk at a new level
As slowly God arises
And rising, God turns.

The church did not show us.
Governments never called for justice
Until sight came upon the people
And scattered throughout the land,
"Just as the lightening comes from the east
and flashes into the west..."
But none can stop the rising
And the turning of a new day.

And slowly God arises.
Arising, God turns
Carrying the pain and the hope
Of broken bonds and shattered illusions.
Arising, God turns
To present us with the challenge of a new day,
To walk on a different level.
We are astounded by sight
And loosed by light

As slowly God arises.

                                                       ~ CK


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Poetry of Perception - "We Grow Accustomed to the Dark" (Emily Dickinson)

Part 2 of the Poetry of Perception by HarvardX.

From the Vimeo site: How do we perceive the world? It's a question that neuroscience has sought to tackle, but which poets and artists have pursued for even longer. The Fundamentals of Neuroscience, a MOOC from Harvard University, is presenting a series of artistic ruminations on the nature of sensation called Poetry of Perception. In this short animation by Hannah Jacobs, Emily Dickinson's classic poem "We Grow Accustomed to the Dark," is put in motion.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Monday Music: Lenny Bruce (by Bob Dylan)

"Lenny Bruce is dead, but his ghost lives on and on." 

Bob Dylan's Shot of Love album was released in 1980 and had several memorable tracks, one of which was "Lenny Bruce." I have been searching for ages to find a good recording of this song on YouTube. The best recording is that on the original album, and finally, someone has uploaded it.

"Lenny Bruce"
by Bob Dylan

Lenny Bruce is dead but his ghost lives on and on
Never did get any Golden Globe award, never made it to Synanon
He was an outlaw, that's for sure
More of an outlaw than you ever were
Lenny Bruce is gone but his spirit's living on and on.

Maybe he had some problems, maybe some things that he couldn't work out
But he sure was funny and he sure told the truth and he knew what he was talking about
Never robbed any churches nor cut off any babies' heads
He just took the folks in high places and he shined a light in their beds
He's on some other shore, he didn't wanna live anymore.

Lenny Bruce is dead but he didn't commit any crime
He just had the insight to rip off the lid before it's time
I rode with him in a taxi once, only for a mile and a half
Seemed like it took a couple of months
Lenny Bruce moved on and the ones that killed him are gone.

They said that he was sick 'cause he didn't play by the rules
He just showed the wise men of his day to be nothing more than fools
They stamped him and they labeled him like they do with pants and shirts
He fought a war on a battlefield where every victory hurts
Lenny Bruce was bad, he was the brother that you never had.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Saturday Haiku: At the Harbor

at the harbor
in misty moonlight
two worlds meet

Image: :"Greenock Harbour at Night" (1893)
Artist: John Atkinson Grimshaw
Medium: Oil on canvas


Friday, April 8, 2016

April is Poetry Month: On the Buddha's Belly

During the month of April, in honor of National Poetry Month, I am re-posting poems that I have written and shared on this blog. This one is from June 26, 2010. 

On the Buddha’s Belly

The terracotta laughing Buddha
Sits beneath the red bud tree
As is his custom.
He casts a knowing glance across the yard
To St. Francis
Who stands beside the juniper.

A lizard crawls upon the Buddha’s belly
And rests in the sun
While a hummingbird gathers nectar nearby.
St. Francis declares that creation rejoices
As the Buddha allows
The humblest of creatures
To rest in the stillness of the day.

Chaos threatens confused rulers of the world
While order and peace reside
In my backyard.

                                                    ~ CK


Upper photo: Forest Buddha by Marianne Williams (Getty Images)
Lower photo: Backyard Buddha by Charles Kinnaird


Thursday, April 7, 2016

April Is Poetry Month

 To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am doing two different things on my blog during the month of April. One, I will be re-posting an original poem each week, choosing some from my Poetry Page (see tab at the upper banner of this blog). Two, I will sharing some posts from Poetry of Perception from HarvardX Neuroscience which combines spoken word poetry with animated graphics. I discovered the series online, and thought it would be a good thing to share during National Poetry Month.

Original Poetry

Poetry of Perception


    Wednesday, April 6, 2016

    Poetry of Perception - Song of Myself (Walt Whitman)

    I discovered this series, Poetry of Perception from HarvardX Neuroscience which combines spoken word poetry with animated graphics. I thought I would share one each week during National Poetry Month.

    From the Poetry of Perception Vimeo siteHow do we perceive the world? This is a question that neuroscience has long sought to tackle, but which poets and artists have pursued even longer. HarvardX's Fundamentals of Neuroscience ( presents 8 artistic ruminations.


    Monday, April 4, 2016

    Monday Music: Awake My Soul (Mumford & Sons)

    It has been a while since I shared one of Scott Wright's videos. He is a talented photographer and has several videos combing his photography with music recordings. This song, "Awake My Soul," by Mumford & Sons, is one that Wright describes as representing his own journey. You can see more of his work at Scott Wright Photography.


    Saturday, April 2, 2016

    Saturday Haiku: Days of Gold

    sudden days of gold
    heavy with springtime promise
    hopeful abundance


    Image: Spring Morning (1900)
    Artist: John Henry Twatchtman
    Medium: Oil on canvas


    Friday, April 1, 2016

    April is Poetry Month: Where Do You Come From?

    During the month of April, in honor of National Poetry Month, I am re-posting poems that I have written and shared on this blog. This one is from October 2, 2013 

    Going home 
    by Tom Roberts
    Last week I saw an interesting post by Chrystal at "Life After Church." She was taking part in a syncblog with She Loves Magazine in which participants followed a template to write out a poem about their personal heritage. I thought it looked like a good exercise in personal reflection. Looking closely at the site, it seemed to be a project for women so I did not try to link up with the project. I did decide to download the template, however, and by filling in the blanks (then adding a little bit) I came up with a snapshot of things I remember from a formative period in my childhood. I chose to look at a window of time when I was about six years old. If I had done this on another day, or picked a different time in my life,  it would have come out differently, but this was a helpful reminiscence.

    I recommend the activity for anyone. Taking a look at where you came from and examining the influential forces in your life - good or bad - can be informative, liberating, and empowering. Besides all of that, it is always good for us to remember where we came from.  If any of you want to try this yourself, you can download the template here.

    This Is Where I'm From
    By Charles Kinnaird

    I am from an old wrought iron floor lamp that I used to stand on
           and pretend I was a koala bear sitting in a eucalyptus tree;
    From white bread and peanut butter.
    I am from the little light green asbestos-siding house on top of the hill just up the road        
           from the fish pond where train comes through.

    I am from the grassy field and woodland stream,
    And the water oak whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.
    I’m from church every Sunday and hand cranked ice cream in the summer. 
    From picking wild plums that grow along dirt roads
    And harvesting vegetables from the family garden plot.

    I’m from the small town Baptist preacher and the high school English teacher,
    From Sunday afternoon naps and sitting around the kitchen table,
    And from trips to the library.

    I’m from “haste makes waste” and “keep your elbows off the table”
    And “Climb, Climb up Sunshine Mountain” that we sang in Sunday school.
    I’m from hanging stockings on Christmas Eve. 
    I'm from birthday parties and Easter egg hunts.

    I’m from the foothills of Alabama just below Appalachia
    And Scots-Irish immigrants of years past whose descendants
                    taught school
                       canned tomatoes
                          did the early shift down at the saw mill
                             stocked shelves over at the general store
                                and worked for Western Union.
    I’m from cotton mill country and field peas with corn bread.

    I’m from seeing ducks on the pond
    And sparrows in the garage.
    From watching over the dog when he was sick,
    And the cat when she got hurt.

    From seeing pets die
    No matter how hard we tried.
    I'm from living with loss 
    Then finding that space to love pets again.

    From the Depression-era mechanic who answered a higher call
           and went off to college,
           not knowing if he would be able to afford the next year’s tuition
           – but by George, he did it!
    From the elephant bell in the corner of the room that was a wedding gift
    And the old wicker-backed wooden rocker where the grandma I never knew
    Combed out her hair in the evening
    So they say.

    I am from a long line of folks who knew how to keep a good name.
    Some were tough as nails
    Some were quiet, some were ornery
    Some a bit odd
    But they were all good folks
    So they say.

                                                                            ~ CK


    Picture: Going Home oil on wood panel
                 painting by Tom Roberts, 1889
                 Public Domain
                 Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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