“—I get up. It’s lighter.”

January 9, 2023 @ 2:23 pm | Filed under: , ,
Two young children reading together side by side

This photo is dated October 2016, which seems too recent? Huck would have been six and Rilla around ten. I think. My time-math is blurry. Huck will be fourteen this week. Can you even?


Well, here they are, my last two homeschoolers. We kicked off a new high-tide season this morning, lightly. It struck me recently that while poetry has been a staple of our lesson times since forever, I hadn’t introduced much contemporary poetry to these two. Which is odd, because I read so. much. of it myself. At least one poem a day, often many more than that.

This revelation made my 2023 Fresh Start plans easy: I have loads of lovely and arresting poems I want to share with Huck and Rilla. We’ll keep reading our old favorites, of course, but I plan to dip frequently into the two gorgeous collections edited by James Crews: How to Love the World and The Path to Kindness, as well as Poetry Unbound, Poetry 180, and all the slender, marked-up books on my shelves.

(I say slender, because ages ago I learned a big lesson about myself: I don’t like reading poems in big fat Collected Poems volumes. I want a slim, portable book. I seldom go for a Best Of.)

Today I knew exactly what I wanted to reach for: Olav H. Hauge’s beautiful The Dream We Carry. We read “One Poem a Day” and I was delighted by how much Rilla loved it and saw in it. Huck was reserved at first but warmed to the poem as we discussed it.

One Poem a Day
by Olav H. Hauge
translated by Robert Hedin

I’ll write one poem a day,
every day.
That should be easy enough.
Browning did it for a while, though
he rhymed
and beat time
with his bushy eyebrows.
So, one poem a day.
Something strikes you,
something occurs,
something catches your eye
—I get up. It’s lighter.
Have good intentions.
And see the bullfinch rise from the cherry tree,
stealing buds.

That last image always goes straight to my core. The way he, after mapping out a simple, spare plan for himself, does just what he has resolved to do, capturing some small, striking observed moment in a few lines—lines that represent exactly what the poet does. Like the bullfinch, he rises up, carrying something small, simple, full of promise, the bud of an image that will unfurl into a poem.

Oh, I love him.

Something especially fun about the way our lessons have worked these past few years is that Scott is present for them. He’s got his coffee and his computer, but he listens to the readalouds (of which, despite the kids’ ages, there are many, because we all like learning that way) and he chimes into the discussions, and when I want to show the kids a picture of a bullfinch, he’s already got one pulled up on his screen.

We also began our next Moomins book (Tales from Moominvalley) and watched a couple of scenes from Taming of the Shrew, just for the fun of seeing John Cleese as Petruchio.

A mellow beginning, and then lunch.

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17 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Kortney Garrison says:

    We started today off with “Notice” by Steve Kowit.


  2. Jennifer says:

    Still doing read alouds here too, with my hs senior even! I hope we never stop. ❤️

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      When our oldest was a newborn and nursing her took both my hands (and tbh I could have used a third), Scott would read to me. We did a thing where we took turns picking favorite books from childhood that the other one had missed. Great Brain for him, Harriet the Spy for me, etc. And he read them aloud & it was the sweetest time.

  3. Tabatha says:

    Olav Hauge
    Leaf Huts and Snow Houses

    These poems don’t amount
    to much, just
    some words thrown together
    at random.
    And still
    to me
    there’s something good
    in making them, it’s
    as if I have in them for a little
    while a house.
    I think of playhouses
    made of branches we built
    when we were children:
    to crawl into them, sit
    listening to the rain,
    in a wild place alone,
    feel the drops of rain on your nose
    and in your hair—
    or snowhouses at Christmas,
    crawl in and close it after
    with a sack,
    light a candle, be there
    through the long chill evenings.

  4. Selvi says:

    I hadn’t heard of Hauge, but it’s a beautiful poem and I wanted to try reading it in the original. I read Danish, and Norwegian is close enough to sometimes understand. I tried to guess the title, but no luck. Does your book give the title in Norwegian?

    I feel like you might have quoted that line before. It is lovely, and true now, these days, even though there’s still so much cold weather ahead.

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      The book I have is a Copper Canyon Press publication that prints each poem in Norwegian on the left and the English translation on the right. Such a gem. The title comes from the first line of a poem called This Is the Dream (Det er den draumen) and the opening line is “Det er den draumen me ber på.” Is that close to what the Danish would be?

      That whole poem in English (another deep favorite of mine) is:

      This is the dream we carry through the world
      that something fantastic will happen
      that it has to happen
      that time will open by itself
      that doors shall open by themselves
      that the heart will find itself open
      that mountain springs will jump up
      that the dream will open by itself
      that we one early morning
      will slip into a harbor
      that we have never known.

      (English translation by Robert Bly)

      One of Hauge’s best, methinks.

  5. Anna Rose Johnson says:

    I just read Tales from Moominvalley recently and was so enchanted by two stories especially–the Fillyjonk with her disasters, and the Hemulen who wanted silence. <3 How are your kids enjoying the Moomins?

    The 'poem a day' reminds me of when I did that for Lent in 2021. Each day I wrote a poem, and I ended up really loving some of them. It definitely stretched me creatively.

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      Our Moomin binge is years-long now! I started reading the books (a little out of order) to my two youngest a couple of years ago. We got to the end (minus Tales of Moominvalley and the two Moominpappa books) and Huck & Rilla—by this time both in their teens—insisted we start all over again at the beginning & read the entire series straight through. This time, Scott joined us for the ride. And it’s been just marvelous.

      I’ll probably repeat this in my Moominmamma post when I get around to writing it! 😉

  6. Katie @ The Cozy Burrow says:

    Thank you for sharing this poem! I’m relatively new to poetry and Hauge is new to me. I’m always looking for ways to incorporate more poetry into our homeschooling day… consistency isn’t my strong suit!!

    We had a summer full of moomins last year and it was so much fun. We read three of them! I’m not sure what our summer theme will be this year but time will tell.

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      A Moominsummer trio! Perfect!

      Have you read Carol Kendall’s books? If not, she’d make a fun summer theme…My favorite is The Firelings, but I’d save that for last. First The Gammage Cup and its sequel, The Whisper of Glocken. If you search her name in my sidebar you’ll find some posts gushing about those books. She’s one of my favorite writers. I read those three books to Huck & Rilla a while back and they were what launched me into my current novel-in-progress.

  7. KC says:

    That is my favorite Moomin book!

    (… the one thing is that the bud the bullfinch stole will never open into a flower and produce fruit, since it is now disconnected from the tree. Its potential as a future cherry has been replaced by its potential as a bird snack. This is perhaps part of why I am often not great with poetry.)

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      No, it’s a totally valid observation! For me it speaks to the magic of poetry. The ‘stolen’ buds remain on the tree, in the world, and thus ripen into fruit in a literal sense—potential realized but impermanent, since the fruit will eventually rot or be eaten—and in a much more enduring figurative sense, in the poem. That one bud Hauge watched the bullfinch steal is still here, vivid in our imaginations. When I really unpack it, his artistry takes my breath away.

  8. Penny says:

    …just like the old days of reading your blog…I read… I buy a book. ❤️ It’s good.