Celebrating National Poetry Month With The Geek Moms

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We thought it would be fun to wind up National Poetry Month with some of the Geek Moms’ favorite poets and poetry.

My own memories of poetry are quite early. My mother lived in Los Angeles and my father lived in the mountains over six hours away. This was back in the 70’s, so long before books on tape or DVD. So what did my father do to entertain one bored tween and two rambunctious younguns?

Why, recite 19th and 20th century poetry to us, of course. (Can you tell his mother was a librarian?)

My father has this deep, rumbly voice that was just perfect for reciting The Charge of the Light Brigade, Hiawatha, The Highwayman, or If. He could also whip out a mean rendition of Custard the Cowardly Dragon, one of my personal favorites when I was young.

My taste in poetry has changed a lot over the years. I am now much taken with Mary Oliver and still have a fondness for T. S. Eliot, most especially this bit from Burnt Norton (The Four Quartets):

What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?

In fact, I think that poem helped seal my desire to be a writer–to be able to explore the paths not taken.

Here are some other geek moms and their favorite poems:

Rebecca Angel:

The only poem I have ever memorized, and unfortunately I don’t know the source (I got it from a calender). I’ve tried looking for it for years, and the best I could find was something like “Antiphon Anglicus” which basically means it was written a very long time ago. It’s my favorite because it proves even hundreds of years ago being smart was cool.

Sabrina has a thousand charms
to captivate my heart.
Her lovely eyes are Cupid’s arms
and every look a dart.
But when the beauteous idiot speaks
She cures me of my pain.
Her tongue the servile fetters breaks.
And frees her slave again.




“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty place from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death
Out, out brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more
It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Shakespeare, Macbeth. (I had it memorized, but I did go double-check to make sure I had it exactly.)

Whenever I think of this in my head, I heard Christopher Plummer’s voice as I saw him play MacBeth on Broadway a loong time ago.

Sonnet 73:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

–Usually it’s the last line that is quoted but I love the whole thing. It may help that Edward Woodward recited it on an episode of the Equalizer. I’m a sucker for great English voices.



The only poem I have ever memorized is not suitable for GeekMom, even if it is about parents! (Warning: It is NSFW!)

Philip Larkin – This Be The Verse


When I thought about it, I realized a lot of those K-12 years stuck! I think I can still do all of “Annabel Lee,” which I performed for my 8th grade English class. I competed in the Poetry category of forensics for a long time with “Death of the Hired Man,” so I can do a chunk of that, as well as a few of the short Robert Frost poems. Oddly enough, I married into a lengthy arm of his family (my mother-in-law’s maiden name is Frost, and her brother is Robert). I still remember chunks of “Jabberwocky,” too.

Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me;


‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep

O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done;


That’s my last duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive.


Cathe Post:

From the Pocket Book of Ogden Nash


The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.

From the first book (possibly the first thing)I ever purchased with my OWN money – Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

THE BAGPIPE WHO DIDN’T SAY NO (Poem selected because I loved bagpipes growing up)



Kansas City Octopus by Calef Brown from the book Polkabats and Octopus Slacks

Kansas City Octopus
is wearing fancy slacks.
just got ’em,
fifty bucks including tax.
Red corduroy,
and boy-o-boy,
they fit like apple pie.
Multi-pocket snazzy trousers
custom made for octopi.
Fantastic plastic stretch elastic
keeps ’em nice and tight.
Kansas City Octopus
is looking good tonight!

When I first read this I thought, “that’s what the English language was born to do.” And, I now like saying that things fit like apple pie.


Kathy Ceceri:

What came to mind for me was Laws Concerning Food and Drink; Household Principles; Lamentations of the Father by Ian Frazier. I thought of it as a poem (I had only heard it read aloud, on “A Prairie Home Companion”) but now that I’ve looked it up, it is formatted as prose, albeit Biblical. Here’s the opening line (the entire piece is rather long):

Of the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea,
and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may eat,
but not in the living room.

There’s also Soap Soup by Karla Kuskin. I still think of it when I set the table:

Put the dinner
on the table.
Then sit down
and eat it, Mabel.

And if you are able,
you may also eat
the table.


Kristen Rutherford:

Favorite! I love Lorca – whenever I read his work, I feel like I have to put my hand over my heart as a shield to protect myself!




The still waters of the air
under the bough of the echo.

The still waters of the water
under a frond of stars.

The still waters of your mouth
under a thicket of kisses.


Suzanne Lazear:
I’ve always loved this poem because it’s a reminder of how fast our kiddos grow up and that we should cherish those small moments as they come.

Song for a Fifth Child

by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth
empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
hang out the washing and butter the bread,
sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
and out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
but I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.



I have to throw a shout out to Billy Collins! A must-read for moms is “The Lanyard” – here’s a portion:

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

And here’s part of one that cracks me right up – “Nightclub” – also by Collins:

You are so beautiful and I am a fool
to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.
I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.
You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don’t hear.
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.


Patricia Volmer:

I was in 5th grade.  I was in a gifted/talented elementary school program.  We were asked to learn a poem to recite, and we chose from a variety of poems presented to us as options.  I picked this one, and worked SO HARD to learn it, it has stuck with me 27 years later!

Is it necessarily a favorite?  I’m not sure it’s a favorite, but it’s truly inspirational, and I’ve even used it (the first two stanzas) in several of my military briefings as an icebreaker when presenting something challenging.

Ahem….here goes!

Titled “It Couldn’t Be Done” by Edgar Guest.

Someone said it couldn’t be done
But he with a chuckle replied
That maybe it couldn’t but he would be the one
Who wouldn’t say so until he had tried.
So he started right in with a trace of a grin
On his face.  If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, as he did it.
Somebody scoffed “Oh you’ll never do that;
At least no one we know has done it”;
But he took of his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle right in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That cannot be done, and you’ll do it




I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.

Write, for instance: “The night is full of stars,
and the stars, blue, shiver in the distance.”

The night wind whirls in the sky and sings.

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like this, I held her in my arms.
I kissed her so many times under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her.
How could I not have loved her large, still eyes?

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.
To think I don’t have her. To feel that I’ve lost her.

To hear the immense night, more immense without her.
And the poem falls to the soul as dew to grass.

What does it matter that my love couldn’t keep her.
The night is full of stars and she is not with me.

That’s all. Far away, someone sings. Far away.
My soul is lost without her.

As if to bring her near, my eyes search for her.
My heart searches for her and she is not with me.

The same night that whitens the same trees.
We, we who were, we are the same no longer.

I no longer love her, true, but how much I loved her.
My voice searched the wind to touch her ear.

Someone else’s. She will be someone else’s. As she once
belonged to my kisses.
Her voice, her light body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, true, but perhaps I love her.
Love is so short and oblivion so long.

Because on nights like this I held her in my arms,
my soul is lost without her.

Although this may be the last pain she causes me,
and this may be the last poem I write for her.

Pablo Neruda


Laura Grace Weldon:

This is a project after my own heart. I’m a fledgling poet (with a chapbook out of print and hopefully another coming out next year). I tend to have fierce reactions to poems—adoration or indifference with little in-between. Hard to imagine choosing a favorite when there’s so much to love about the work of so many poets: Lisel Mueller, Stephen Levine, Wendell Berry, Anne Sexton, Franz Wright, oh believe me I could drone on. Here’s one of my many favorites, one that I’ve been listening to in my head recently.



Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is. I met her
in a bar once in Iowa City.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.

Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life also.

Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe. I heard her singing Kiowa war
dance songs at the corner of Fourth and Central once.
Remember that you are all people and that all people are you.
Remember that you are this universe and that this universe is you.
Remember that all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember that language comes from this.
Remember the dance that language is, that life is.


~ Joy Harjo ~


French Arthur Rimbaud, the archetypal teenage-poet and “poète maudit“. His life is, of course, fascinating (Leonardo Di Caprio even played his role in a dispensable movie). But Rimbaud is also a wonderful seeker of a new language, the explorer of new images and new musics. An amazing poet.


Alexandra Siy

A TREE WITHIN by Octavio Paz

A tree grew inside my head
A tree grew in.
Its roots are veins
its branches nerves,
thoughts its tangled foliage.
Your glance sets it on fire,
and its fruits of shade
are blood oranges
and pomegranates of flame.
Day breaks
in the body’s night.
There, within, inside my head,
the tree speaks.
Come closer–can you hear it?


Who are some of your favorites?

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1 thought on “Celebrating National Poetry Month With The Geek Moms

  1. Just fantastic! Thanks for sharing these gems. I’m such a poetry fan wannabe, and this is a little kick in the pants to explore it.

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