Friday, January 12, 2018


"Counting Out Rhyme"

Silver bark of beech, and sallow
Bark of yellow birch and yellow
Twig of willow.

Stripe of green in moosewood maple,
Colour seen in leaf of apple,
Bark of popple.

Wood of popple pale as moonbeam,
Wood of oak for yoke and barn-beam,
Wood of hornbeam.

Silver bark of beech, and hollow
Stem of elder, tall and yellow
Twig of willow. 

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Today, I'm sharing Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Counting Out Rhyme." I'm sharing it because I just finished listening to an extraordinary book, ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein, and I can't wait to share the book. Edna St. Vincent Millay's poems feature prominently in the book. I'm thinking maybe some of you who love poetry might also love this book. 

ROSE UNDER FIRE is the story of Rose Justice, a teenage girl from Pennsylvania.  Her father taught her to fly an airplane when she was twelve, and she graduates early from high school so she can join the Royal Air Force in Britain during WWII. Women are not allowed to be fighter pilots, but she ferries planes from one country to another. On one of her trips, she is captured by two German planes and forced to land in Germany. She ends up in Ravensbruck, where she is befriended by a group of Polish known as the Rabbits. The Rabbits have been the subject of horrible, horrible medical "experiments" by the Nazis. The book actually ends after the war, when some of them testify at the Nuremburg Trials. 

I'm sharing Edna Saint Vincent Millay on Poetry Friday because Rose is a lover of poetry. She recites Edna Saint Vincent Millay's poems throughout the book-- when she is laying on her stomach after two brutal beatings, when she is standing in endless roll calls, and after a Polish woman, Roszcika (I'm not sure I am spelling her name right because I listened to the book, I have never seen the print copy) promises an extra slice of bread for every poem she will recite. Rose also writes poetry to make sense of her experience, and Rose's poems are included throughout the book, which is told in the format of a journal. 

ROSE UNDER FIRE is a really dark book and it's sad and hard to listen to. Ravensbruck was the scene of horrible atrocities, and Elizabeth Wein doesn't sugarcoat them, at all; but it's also an incredible book about the power of poetry to help and to heal, and the power of friendship, and kindness and the human spirit. I loved the audiobook and I think other poetry lovers might love it too. 

POETRY FRIDAY is at Bookseedstudio today. 


Linda B said...

I have loved all the Elizabeth Wein books, so glad to hear about your listening, Carol and this poem. When I've read of others' capture, often they tell of reciting poetry, a balm for them in the face of horror. Thanks!

Jane @ said...

Poetry can be the life raft that carries us through the storm. This book sounds so powerful - I don't think I'd be able to make it through right now, but I'll keep it on my list!

Kay said...

I loved both Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire. Like you, I listened to Rose Under Fire, but I do want to go back and read the print version--just for the poetry. And by coincidence, I read just this week yet another book by Elizabeth Wein--the prequel to Code Name Verity, The Pearl Thief. I enjoyed it as much as the other two.

Myra Garces Bacsal said...

I think I have a copy of this book waiting patiently to be read on my shelves - thank you for reminding me that I should get to this one soonest. Poetry heals, indeed.

Mary Lee said...

You make me want to re-read all of Elizabeth Wein's books! She's one of my favorite authors.

Violet Nesdoly said...

Thanks for drawing attention to what sounds like an interesting and important book. I love it when books inspire one to read other books or types of writing (a testimony to the sisterhood / brotherhood of writers).

Brenda Harsham said...

Sounds like an amazing book.

Keri said...

I have not read her work yet! I've recently listened to a WWII-era middle grade novel, and I agree, at times it is hard to listen. I think if I were reading, though, I might rush through.