Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday Poetry Stretch - Behind the Museum Door

In today's Poetry Makers series post I wrote about Lee Bennett Hopkins. One of his anthologies is Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums, a book with poems selected by Lee and illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen.

While lots of folks write ekphrastic poetry (poems about art), museums contain such a range of materials, that I find this title a bit limiting for what I am about to propose.

Think about your favorite museum and something inside that fascinated you. I can't choose just one museum, so I'll be thinking about some of my favorite pieces from The Met and the National Museum of Natural History. Whether it's Stegosaurus bones, the Hope Diamond, a hippopotamus named William, a painting by Milton Avery, or a British court dress from the 18th century, there is much to inspire us inside a museum. Do you have a picture in your mind? Good! Now your challenge is to write about something found "behind the museum door." Use any form you like. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.


  1. Shrunken Heads in the Museum of Natural History

    Such little minds.
    Oh, not the ones
    In the display cabinets,
    But the ones who hide
    These gems away.
    I used to spend hours as a child
    Gazing into the glassy eyes,
    Contemplating the sewn-together lips.
    “Tell me your stories. . .”
    I whispered to them,
    Till the tales thrilled through me
    Like cold water streams
    Over a warm body,
    My body, my head, my mind.

    @2009 Jane Yolen

  2. Jane, you're amazing! How do you always come up with something so wonderful so fast? Boy, the imagery in this one made me shirver: "Contemplating the sewn-together lips."
    I can almost hear them breaking free the from the stitches and telling their stories. Hmmm...what would they say?

  3. Tricia,

    There's so much going on in the kidlitosphere this April. I can't keep up with reading all your posts here and those at other blogs.

    Preparations for Easter and a few other things kept me especially busy for about a week. Maybe I'll have more time now to immerse myself in all the wonderful poetry offerings.

    I may try your Poetry Stretch this week. We had a wonderful museum in a nearby community that I visited often when I was young. There were a couple of things there that especially fascinated me.

  4. Such a great prompt! I first thought of these amazing sculptures who seemed alive, rippling muscles and all, but still - as if playing red light green light with the museum guests. Here's a little haiku:

    Statue Garden

    Stone is barely still
    Dancing when I turn away
    I spin to catch them


  5. Tricia, thanks for the prompt! Mine is inspired by a memory of Picasso's painting Guernica. I've posted it here: Guernica Burns.

  6. Hi, Tricia - wonderful stretch this week. I've posted a poem about Monet's Woman with a Paraso. It's over at The Drift Record

  7. That's Woman with a Parasol, of course.

    And Jane, I love that Museum of Natural History, too. We have a shrunken head at a shop on the waterfront in Seattle - I go occasionally, to look and feel the shivers - and to have my fortune "told" by an old automaton for two bits.

  8. Tricia,

    There was a wonderful museum--the Peabody Museum--in Salem, Massachusetts, that I visited often when I was little. One of the things that fascinated me most there was the American bison--or buffalo as I called it then--that was kept in a large glass case. I remember staring at that bison everytime I was there. I thought I'd write a poem of address to the bison for my poetry stretch this week:

    Old Bison,
    Once you traveled in a mighty herd
    Of migratory beasts.
    Furry master of the plains,
    You thundered over the ground,
    Kicking prairie dust into brown clouds.

    I can still see you
    Shaking your shaggy mane...
    Hear the music of your hooves
    Beating across the open land.
    Long ago you ran wild and free,
    Now you remain a prisoner here
    Forever caged in glass.

    BTW, that museum has been enlarged in recent years. There is even a Chinese house that was brought from China and reassembled on its property in Salem. Today, it's called the Peabody Essex Museum--or PEM.

  9. OK, I decided to scratch together all my "braveness" and try the poetry stretch this week. Here is a poem about one of the first field trips I ever did with kids.


    I am a
    first year teacher.
    We get one
    field trip
    a year.

    Principal and colleagues
    give me advice.

    If you do it right
    they say,
    you can
    do the museum
    in the morning
    have lunch
    at City Park
    then take in an
    IMAX show
    in the afternoon.

    I am all about
    doing it right.

    That day
    my six-year-olds,
    marvel over
    enormous dinosaur skeletons
    google glowing crystals
    wander through the digestive system
    at the museum

    They gobble pbj's
    run relays
    blow bubbles
    and splash
    in City Park Fountain.

    They romp with dolphins
    face off against sharks
    try deep sea fishing
    and nap a little
    in the dark IMAX theater.

    Back at school
    my world travelers
    write or draw
    about their favorite part
    of our special day.

    They loved
    peering through
    the museum's
    ancient heat grates
    at their friends
    on the floor

    Carol Wilcox