Saturday, March 28, 2015

2015 National Poetry Month Project - The Lowdown

I'm revving up for the kickoff of National Poetry Month in just a few short days. Here's what I've done in the past.
  • 2014 - Science Poetry Pairings - project pairing poetry and nonfiction picture books
  • 2013 - Poetry A-Z - project covering a range of thematic posts with poetry titles selected by adjectives like xeric, penitent, impish, collaborative, and more. 
  • 2011 - Poetry in the Classroom - project highlighting a poem, a theme, a book, or a poet and suggesting ways to make poetry a regular part of life in the classroom.
  • 2010 and 2009 - Poetry Makers - project containing interviews with poets who write for children (and sometimes adults!).
  • 2008 - Poetry in the Classroom - project highlighting a poem, a theme, a book, or a poet and suggesting ways to make poetry a regular part of life in the classroom.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about my topic for this year and have spent time looking at a range of poetry for kids. After embarking on a year-long writing challenge with my poetry group, coupled with participating in and following the March Madness poetry event, I’ve decided that I want to focus on poetic forms. 

One of the things I love about Poetry 180 is that it provides such a range of topics and forms for classrooms. However, it is focused for high schools. I want to shine a spotlight on forms other than strictly rhyming (though rhyme is perfectly fine) for the elementary and middle school classroom. I love rhyme just as much as the next person, but I worry that much of the poetry parents select for kids and teachers select for classrooms is chosen simply because it rhymes. And I don’t want the merit or “goodness” of poetry judged simply on this trait. Kids need to be exposed to poets old (classic) and new, poems funny and serious, in the glorious range that exists. Poetry for kids can be smart and challenging and I want to highlight this aspect.

In addition to focusing on forms, I'll also be sharing the thoughts of selected poets. I can't wait for April to begin! I hope you'll stop by to see what I've thrown together.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Poetry Friday - Rock Me To Sleep

To say I'm exhausted is putting it mildly. Work is overwhelming at the moment, but I know all this will pass and the semester will end far too soon. Before I know it I will be bemoaning the dearth of students on campus.

While I work to catch up, I will dream of sleep. Those dreams and a strong desire to see my mother have brought me to this poem today.

Rock Me to Sleep
by Elizabeth Akers Allen

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—    
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!
I am so weary of toil and of tears,—    
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain,—
Take them, and give me my childhood again!
I have grown weary of dust and decay,—
Weary of flinging my soul-wealth away;
Weary of sowing for others to reap;—
Rock me to sleep, mother – rock me to sleep!

Read the poem in its entirety.

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Jone of Check It Out. Happy poetry Friday friends!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Poetry Stretch - Clogyrnach (Welsh Poetic Form)

I'm not quite ready to share my National Poetry Month project quite yet, but I'll admit to examining verse forms and speaking with poets as I prepare. One of the fine poets I spoke with extolled the virtues of "foreign" verse forms. I've been thinking about this ever since, and have started looking at forms completely unfamiliar to me. That's where this week's challenge comes from.

Clogyrnach is a Welsh poetic meter that falls under the poetic form of awdl (odes). Clogyrnach are composed of any number of 6-line stanzas. Each stanza has 32 syllables. The first couplet is 8 syllables with an end rhyme of aa, the second couplet is 5 syllables with an end rhyme of bb, and the final couplet is is 3 syllables with an end rhyme of ba. In some variations the poem is written as a 5-line stanza with the 5th line composed of 6 syllables. 

Here's a visual of a clogyrnach. Each x represents a syllable, while other letters represent rhyme scheme.

8 syllables - x x x x x x x a
8 syllables - x x x x x x x a
5 syllables - x x x x b
5 syllables - x x x x b
3 syllables - x x b
3 syllables - x x a

You can read more about this form and other awdl forms at The Poets Garrett. You can read about other variations of the clogyrnach at The Poets Collective.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a clogyrnach. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Poetry Friday - Two For the Madness

For those of you not following Ed DeCaria's March Madness Poetry, you've missed some terrific poems by a number of Poetry Friday regulars. Today I'm sharing some thoughts on my process and the two poems I wrote before bowing out (rather ungracefully). 

If you don't know the particulars, each participant is given a word that must be used in a poem. In the early rounds, poems must be 8 lines or less. A participant's "seed" number indicates the difficulty of their words. I was a number 12 seed.

Round 1 - incalculable 
Given the "big" words in this one, I like to call it my SAT prep poem. If I'd had my wits about me when I wrote it, I would have dipped into the Princess Bride well and used the word inconceivable instead of unfathomable. I also wanted "life without chocolate," but darn chocolaty goodness had too many syllables! 

Mysteries of the Universe

We ask question upon question, curiosity untamed
Find answers steeped in numbers, though some cannot be named
     Digits of Pi? - Innumerable
     Number of stars? - Incalculable
     Distance to you? - Immeasurable
     Life without love? - Unfathomable
Indeterminate mathematics, from matters most humane

Round 2 - machinations
When I got the word machinations, I immediately thought of fairy tales. I began writing about the evil queen in Snow White. Here are the lines I wrote and then tossed.

Her royal highness sat in jail
facing trumped up allegations
Poisoned apple, girl gone pale
what could be her motivation?

When I couldn't make this work I decided to try writing an ottava rima. Ottava rima is an Italian form that consists of an eight line stanza with the rhyme scheme abababcc. In English these lines are usually written in iambic pentameter. Once I chose a form, I changed my focus to the evil witch in Hansel and Gretel. I wanted to give her a name, but that presented a problem. In some forms of the tale she is called the Gingerbread witch, but in others she is unnamed. In the German opera she's named Rosina. Neither of these names worked with the rhyme and meter of the poem, so I randomly chose Helga.

Before Hansel and Gretel

With skill and care she built a house to eat
deftly made with saccharine temptations
Deep in the woods where people rarely meet
the townsfolk questioned Helga’s motivations
Why build a home far from the county seat?
Unless your heart hides evil machinations
But Helga built a house with kid appeal  
the perfect trap for catching every meal

Poems ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2015. All rights reserved.

I'm pretty happy with my efforts given the time constraints and imposed words. Regardless of the outcome, it was fun and I enjoyed the challenge.

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Catherine of Reading to the Core. Happy poetry Friday friends!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Poetry Stretch - Double Dactyl

I was going through an old poetry notebook last week and found some notes on double dactyls, along with attempts at the form. I've come across a few words lately that sound like they belong in a double dactyl, so this seems like a good time to have another go at this one.

What is a dactyl you ask? A dactyl is a foot in a line of poetry that contains three syllables, one stressed followed by two unstressed (/ _ _ ).

double dactyl poem consists of two quatrains that follow these guidelines:
1 - double dactyl nonsense phrase (like Higgeldy Piggeldy)
2 - double dactyl of a person's name
3 - double dactyl
4 - one dactyl plus a stressed syllable (/ _ _ / )

5 - double dactyl
6 - double dactyl
7 - double dactyl
8 - one dactyl plus a stressed syllable (/ _ _ / )
Here are some other helpful notes.
  • Somewhere in the second stanza is a double dactyl formed by a single word (usually).
  • The last lines of the quatrains (4 and 8) must rhyme.
  • Like the clerihew, these are generally written about famous people and are meant to be humorous.
Phew! I hope this makes sense to you. Writing it in this way helps me to see what the poem should sound like. Here is an example.
Hans Christian Andersen
Wrote of a mermaid who
Swam up on shore.

There she became somewhat
Less than amphibious;
Drowned in the sea-foam 'mid
Morals galore.
If my notes aren't helpful, you can find a description of double dactyls at Poetry Base and

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a double dactyl (or two) . Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Poetry Friday - A Second Sestina

As part of our year-long poetry writing adventure, the Poetry Seven tackled the sestina during the month of February. It seems that the shortest month gave us the hardest form.

Not completely satisfied with my first sestina, I chose new words from the communal list and went back to work. The words I selected were:
sense/cents, turn, up, wind, break/brake, rays/raise/raze

On my first go-round I had no idea where to start and no topic in mind. For my second try I knew I wanted to write about the coming of spring and wrote a few phrases that included the end words. After writing the first stanza, I filled in my form and got to writing. I posted the poem and waited for feedback. While still noodling and tweaking, I was heartbroken to find my second stanza had only five lines. I'd missed an end word! Fixing that mistake changed the stanza that followed, and the one after that, and then another. It was like dominoes falling. One little change meant big changes elsewhere. I also had trouble wrapping this one up. Ultimately, I wrote two envois, one that followed the rules and the one that broke them, unsure of which was "right."

After many passes at this poem, I'm putting it to rest for a while. I will revisit one day to revise again. Until then, here goes, rule-breaking ending and all.

Waiting on Spring

We brave Arctic winds.
Our senses
stinging seek warmth, turning
east at sun-up,
but poorly angled rays
can’t break

cold’s hold. The canebrake
still hibernates, wound
tight, not raising
until it senses
temperatures climbing up.
We turn

our minds to the return
of spring, when daffodils break
through and push up,
blossoming skyward.  Wind
blows fragrant, tickling senses.
Land, razed

by snow, blossoms. Spirits raise
as eyes turn
skyward, sensing
a break
in the weather. Tailwinds
carry kites up,

above trees, up
towards golden rays.
clocks forward, turn
away from this long slumber, break
free from childhood and into adolescence.

Let green fill your senses.
Our world is waking up!
At daybreak
birds raise
a chorus, beautiful melodies turned
and carried on the wind.

It’s senseless to rail against the cold.  Spring will come, raise
life anew.  Up-beat we turn to March.
Break winter’s hold! Bring on the winds of change.

Poem ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2015. All rights reserved.

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Laura Shovan of Author Amok. Happy poetry Friday friends!

Monday, March 09, 2015

Monday Poetry Stretch - Ottava Rima

I keep going back to form when I need some structure for my writing. It actually helps me when I have constraints to work within. Ottava rima is an Italian form that consists of an eight line stanza with the rhyme scheme abababcc. In English, the lines are usually written in iambic pentameter. Ottava rima is generally associated with epic poems (like Don Juan), but can be used for shorter poems.

An example of ottava rima can be found in the poem Sailing to Byzantium. Here are the first two stanzas of the poem.

Sailing to Byzantium
by William Butler Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect. 

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

Read the poem in its entirety.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing in the form of ottava rima. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.