Thursday, June 4, 2015

Nanny's Violin



I've been absent for ages, but I'm happy to be popping back in with a poem inspired by my latest challenge. Buffy hosts today, so pop over for more Poetry Friday offerings.


When my children surprised me by refurbishing my grandmother's violin on the sly, I took up the challenge and signed up for lessons. Not that my writing isn't challenging enough, but that old violin had sat in our closet for most of my childhood, its strings snapped and horsehair hanging off the bow. I never heard my grandmother play the violin, but I have a picture of her in a girls' string orchestra and another of her as a young woman cradling that instrument like it's pretty important to her.

Velma Collemer Brousaides played in one of the Boston orchestras started under the WPA in the 1930s. At least once she played in the Hatch Shell along the Esplanade beside the Charles River.

How could I let her beloved violin remain silent? So here I am, two months into private lessons. My optimistic teacher says I'll be a fiddler by the fall. My calloused finger tips think I'm a fiddler already, but my fingers (which don't cross strings easily) and my bowing arm (which still produces plenty of scratchy notes) think otherwise.

But my persistence (which I learned by writing!) has led me from "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" to some simple fiddle tunes (slowly, still). When I can't manage to tune the violin, my accomplished cellist granddaughter rescues me so I can continue to enjoy this bond with the grandmother I remember.

This poem is in the style of the "Say" poems by the wonderful poet Nikki Grimes in her book Words with Wings. I love using "Say" poems to encourage kids to pile on words!



Say “violin”
and my fingers try not to grip the bow,
my wrist tries not to go begging for G
with my elbow too high or too low,
and when the SCRATCH says begin again
I picture my grandmother on the Esplanade 
playing this violin, and I relax, 
let the bow glide down and up
over the sweet spot, my fingers arched
over the neck playing "Sweet Betsy from Pike"
for Nanny and for me.

                                Joyce Ray

14 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post, Joyce. Your poem, reminiscences about and photo of your beautiful grandmother with her violin! Loved it all. I applaud your resolve -- the violin is a difficult instrument to learn, but I'm sure Velma will inspire you to master it. :)

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    1. Thanks, Jama! And after reading Judyth's poem, I'm thinking it may take as long to master brownies!

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  2. So happy to see you "back," Joyce!
    What a lovely post, through-and-through. Like Jama, I admire your pluck for tackling a challenging instrument, and I'm just smitten with the thought of you as a "strings" connection between your grandmother and your granddaughter - beautiful!

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    1. Thanks, Robyn. Yes, I guess I'm the strings link! and Lindsay inspires me as much as my grandmother!

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  3. How wonderful that you're taking up the violin--and your grandmother's violin to boot! Love the photo of her, and your inspirational poem too. (I played violin as a kid, and then again when my daughter did suzuki lessons...but now my fiddle which originally belonged to my dad stands silent and in disrepair in my closet. Maybe you have inspired me to dust it off!)

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    1. Go for it, Buffy! I think that fiddle is calling you!

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  4. Welcome back, Joyce! I love the photo! You've done your grandmother proud in the speed in which you've progressed beyond "Twinkle, Twinkle" in two short months! I expect you'll soon be sitting in with the band at some NH contradance.

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    1. Ha! That's what I say when my teacher says I'll be fiddling with a Manchester group in the fall! Thanks for your vote of confidence.

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  5. Congratulations on your new learning!

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  6. This is gorgeous, Joyce! Nikki's "say" form works so nicely for this poem. I admire your determination, and also love that you've come full circle, and that your cellist granddaughter is helping you with the tuning of your grandmother's cherished violin.

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    1. Michelle, thank you for your comment. It is full circle, isn't it?

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  7. How lovely to have that connection with you Nanny, and to find a renewed love of playing. I admire that so much! And I love how the poem builds to satisfaction.

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    1. Thank you, Andromeda. I appreciate your stopping by!

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Comments welcome.