Saturday, April 30, 2011

Poetry in the Classroom - All About Poetry

It's the last day of April and that means the poetry in the classroom series is about to come to a close. To wrap things up I'm sharing one last thematic list. Here are some great books for kids on reading and writing poetry. You'll find titles describing poetic forms, advice from poets, suggestions for writing poetry, and much more.
Fly With Poetry: An ABC of Poetry, written and illustrated by Avis Harley, uses the alphabet to organize 26 different poetic forms (two for the letter A and none for Y). Each page includes a poem written in the named form with information at the bottom of the page describing the form. Additional poetic forms are included in the end notes.

Leap Into Poetry: More ABCs of Poetry, written and illustrated by Avis Harley, is a companion to FLY WITH POETRY that uses the alphabetic format to introduce a variety of poetic forms and techniques. Each letter introduces an arthropod in a poem that uses the stated form or technique. Facts about each animal are included in the end notes.
Write Your Own Poetry, written by Laura Purdie Salas, is a book that provides a thorough introduction to the process and tools of writing poetry. There are chapters on poetic forms, language of poetry, imagery, point of view, meter and rhyme, and more. Jam-packed with sample poems, helpful tips and advice from poets, this is a comprehensive introduction to writing poetry.

A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms, compiled by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka, is a book that explains and provides examples for 29 different poetic forms. Each form is accompanied by some kind of visual clue in the top corner of the page. For example, the page for couplet shows two birds on a wire, epitaph shows a headstone, and ode shows a Grecian urn. Once the form has been identified, readers find a short informational description and poetic example. This volume not only contains many familiar forms, such as haiku, cinquain, acrostic and limerick, but also forms such as aubade, pantoum, villanelle, and double dactyl. At the end of the book readers will find a bit more background information on each of the forms.

R is For Rhyme: A Poetry Alphabet, written by Judy Young and illustrated by Victor Juhasz, is a book that examines poetic forms, as well as some of the "tools" that poets use, such as onomatopoeia, metaphor, end rhyme and more. Each alphabet page contains a poetic or literary term and includes a poem. The "sidebar" on each page contains informational text that describes the form or tool and includes some tips for reading and writing poems.
Immersed in Verse: An Informative, Slightly Irreverent & Totally Tremendous Guide to Living the Poet's Life, written by Allan Wolf and illustrated by Tuesday Morning, is a how-to guide for middle grades and young adults on becoming a poet. The book is divided into five major sections, each color-coded for ease of use. Poetry & You offers readers a quick guided tour of poetry, nine habits of successful poets, a writing pledge and more you. Your Poetry Toolbox explains the tools of the trade, such as poetic devices and the anatomy of a poem. The Poet's Decisions delves deep into the process of writing, providing lessons on point of view, tense, form, playing with structure, revising and much more. Always Something to Write About provides ideas for journaling and writing prompts. Ta Da!: Presenting Your Work is about reading, performing and publishing poetry. Liberally sprinkled throughout the text are examples and lots of poems from a range of poets. The book ends with appendices of selected poems and poets, as well as publishing resources for young writers.

Read a Rhyme, Write a Rhyme, selected by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Meilo So, is an interactive book in which readers are presented with poems arranged thematically and a sidebar box that includes an unfinished verse (called a poemstart) and suggestions for how to go about completing the poem. In some cases a list of rhyming words in included. Poem themes include dogs, food, birthdays, bugs, cows, friends, snow, turtles, rain, and self.

Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry: How to Write a Poem
, written by Jack Prelutsky, includes 20 writing tips, a variety of sample poems, and poemstarts for the beginning poetry writer. Readers will learn how to turn their experiences and stories about family, friends and pets into poems.

How to Write Poetry, written by Paul Janeczko, is a Scholastic Guide that organizes the poetry writing process in easy-to-follow steps. The chapters on starting to write, writing poems that rhyme, and writing free verse poems all offer a wealth of information, sample poems, and "try this" suggestions. Different poetic forms are introduced along with checklists to keep writer's focused on important features. Includes an extensive glossary.

Poetry from A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers, written by Paul Janeczko, is a collection of 72 poems arranged alphabetically by subject. Also included are 14 poetry-writing exercises that show how to write specific types of poems and advice from more than twenty poets on becoming a better writer.
Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem From the Inside Out, written by Ralph Fletcher, is a good guide to writing poetry from the heart. Chapters deal with imagery, rhythm, crafting poems, wordplay, and more. Major poetic forms are defined and there is a section on ways to share your work. Interviews with Kristine O'Connell George, Janet Wong, and J. Patrick Lewis are included. A number of poems written by Fletcher are included as examples in these chapters.

Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for New Poets, compiled by Paul Janeczko, contains a collection of letters and poems by children's poets. Written to and for aspiring writers, this volume provides advice and inspiration.

The Place My Words Are Looking For: What Poets Say About and Through Their Work, selected by Paul Janeczko, is a collection of poems, advice, anecdotes, and recollections of 39 poets. Following their poems, poets describe their inspirations, memories, where they get their ideas, their writing processes, and how they go about translating their ideas in to poetic form.

If you are looking for additional resources on poetry writing, try these sites.
April may be ending, but that doesn't mean the poetry goodness must stop. I hope you'll revisit some of the posts from this month and think about using these terrific books in your classroom.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Poetry in the Classroom - Evolution and Extinction

I wasn't sure what to call this post, but before the month winds down, I want to share a few books of nature poetry that are in some way related to Darwin and issues of evolution and extinction.
An Old Shell: Poems of the Galapagos, written by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Tom Pohrt, is a collection of 34 poems in which Johnston pays tribute to the wonder that is the Galapagos. I'll begin at the end of the book and share an excerpt from the author's note.
After reading about them for a lifetime, in 1995 I visited the Galapagos. When you stand in this place, wild and vast and stark, looking out over the endless and shining skin of the sea, you hear the flutter and roar of Creation, feel the stir of your own beginnings upon the delicate chain of life. Here, you are at the core of the mystery and poetry of Nature.

These islands symbolize the peril that the entire earth faces. We can take it apart, sea turtle by sea turtle, shell by shell, but we cannot put it back together.

Meanwhile, as we struggle with our humanity, the sun bakes their old backs, the wind caresses the salt grass, the waves wash the Galapagos.
The book opens with a two-page map of the islands. The poem topics include the sea, the islands, animals, plants, and more. Here is one of my favorites.
Small White Flowers

At night the lava cactus blooms
In small white flowers. Its faint perfume
Floats upon the quiet dark
Along the lava still and stark
Where lone owl, old cold shadow, glides
While rice rat hugs the dark and hides.
When dawn comes up and darkness goes
Silently the petals close.
No one sees them in the gloom,
Small white flowers to please the moon.

Poem ©Tony Johnston. All rights reserved.
Most of the poems in this collection are written in free verse, though a few are written in haiku.
The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination, with poems selected by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston, is a stunning collection of poetry and information. The book includes a CD where many of the selected poets read their own works. Included among the authors are William Blake, Joseph Bruchac, Emily Dickinson, T. S Eliot, Barbara Juster Esbensen, Douglas Florian, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, D. H. Lawrence, Myra Cohn Livingston, David, McCord, Eve Merriam, Lilian Moore, Ogden Nash, Mary Oliver, Carl Sandburg, Alice Schertle, Joyce Sidman, Walt Whitman, and Valerie Worth, and many more. Here's a bit from the introduction that will give you a sense of how this anthology was put together.
Like Darwin, anthologists are passionate collectors, but the specimens we collect are poems. However, the process of collection in both areas is similar. At first, we simply gathered together as many poems as we could find that fit the subject we have chosen for your book. Then we decided how the book would be organized and we sorted our poems into the various categories we had chosen. The next step was putting the poems into some sort of order within these divisions so that they related thematically to their immediate neighbors.
. . .
The poems in this book explore many of the roots and limbs of Darwin's Tree, the branching tree that shows the connections among all forms of life. For some of these poems, we have offered brief comments or pointed out links to other poems.
The books is divided into the sections named below. For each one you'll find a brief excerpt or description of the kinds of poems in that section.
  • Oh, Fields of Wonder - "Both poets and scientists wonder at and about the world."
  • The Sea is Our Mother - "The poems in this section recall life's watery origins as well as the Earth's own geological beginnings. "
  • Prehistoric Praise - Fossil poems
  • Think Like a Tree - "We wouldn't be here without plants."
  • Meditations of a Tortoise - "In both Iroquois and Hindu legends, the earth is supported on the back of a giant turtle."
  • Some Primal Termite - "Naturalists define fitness as the ability of a species to reproduce itself in the greatest numbers and to adapt to the widest range of environments. According to this definition, insects are the fittest of all living creatures."
  • Everything That Lives Wants to Fly - "Along with Archaeopteryx (the earliest known bird), Darwin's finches play a key role in evolutionary theory."
  • I Am the Family Face - Poems on family in all its forms
  • Hurt No Living Thing - "It is natural for species to go extinct, but the rate at which this is happening today is unprecedented."
Here is one of the poems. Can you guess which section it is found in?
Cross-Purposes

The fickle bee believes it’s he
Who profits from the flower;
But as he drinks, the flower thinks
She has him in her power.

Her nectar is the reason
That she blooms, the bee is sure;
But flower knows her nectar
Is there merely for allure.

And as he leaves, the bee believes
He”ll sample someone new;
But flower knows that where he goes,
Her pollen’s going, too.

Poem ©Mary Ann Hoberman. All rights reserved.
Footnotes accompany many of the poems. These include explications of both the content and form of the poem. There is also a glossary of scientific and poetic terms, as well as a brief biography of the included poets.
Swan Song: Poems of Extinction, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Christopher Wormell, is a collection of 20 poems that pay tribute to species that have disappeared since crossing paths with humankind. The book opens with these disturbing words.
More than ninety-nine percent of all species that have ever lived are now extinct.
. . .
On Earth, six animal species die every hour, many of the most recent due to climate change, habitat destruction, or human greed, carelessness or indifference.
A timeline runs across the bottom of the pages, with the poems ordered by when a species became extinct. You'll also find its scientific name and where it once lived. The first poem is to the aurochs, a species from which modern cattle descended that died out c. 1627. The last poem is to Miss Waldron's red Colobus monkey, a species that died out in 2000. In between you'll find familiar and unfamiliar animals, like the dodo and the blue buck.
The Arizona Jaguar

Description: Loner; nightfall eyes;
Coat of spots on spots (disguise);
Once the New World's largest cat;
Mountain, grassland habitat;
Fed on any kind of meat;
Stumbled down a one-way street;
Color of a jealous sun.
Status: Nowhere. Future: None.

Poem ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.
The book concludes with a series of endnotes describing each animal in further detail.

Here are a few sites with more information about these topics.
Do you have a favorite book of poetry that addresses issues of evolution and extinction? If so, please share. I'd love to add your ideas to this post.

Poetry Friday - Ode on My Mother's Handwriting

My mother still sends cards and letters, so I'm always thrilled to catch a glimpse of her handwriting waiting for me in the mailbox. Barbara Hamby knows just how I feel.
Ode on My Mother's Handwriting
by Barbara Hamby

Her a's are like small rolls warm from the oven, yeasty,
fragrant, one identical to the other, molded
by a master baker, serious about her craft, but comical, too,
smudge of flour on her sharp nose, laughing
with her workers, urging them to eat, eat, eat, but demanding
the most gorgeous cakes in Christendom.
Her b's are upright as soldiers trained by harsh sergeants,
whose invective seems cruel in the bower of one's
own country but becomes hot gruel and a wool coat
during January on the steppes outside Moscow.

Read the poem in its entirety. (You can also listen to Garrison Keilor read it!)
Week 4 of National Poetry Month continued with the following poetry in the classroom posts.
22 - Concrete Poetry
23 - In the Big City
24 - Spanish/English Poetry
25 - America in Poems
26 - Just Jazz! (Musical Poetry, Part 1)
27 - More Music! (Musical Poetry, Part 2)
28 - Diggin' On Dinosaurs
The round up is being hosted by Tabatha Yeatts of The Opposite of Indifference. Do take some time to enjoy all the terrific posts this week. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday all!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Poetry in the Classroom - Diggin' on Dinosaurs

What is it about dinosaurs that so captures the attention of children? Is it their size? The mystery? Or perhaps it's the fact that every time a new skeleton, nest, or coprolite is unearthed we learn something new. So, in celebration of our longstanding fascination with dinosaurs, here are some poetic connections.
Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings, written and illustrated by Douglas Florian, is a collection of 20 poems chock full of information about dinosaurs. Each double page spread contains an illustration and a poem. The illustrations were done with gouache, collage, colored pencils, stencils, dinosaur dust, and rubber stamps on primed brown paper bags and are full of interesting little tidbits. For example, the pages for the poem Iguanodon has a female dinosaur (Iguano-Donna) who is wearing bracelets and a pearl necklace. Before, during, and after reading the accompanying poems they beg to be looked over carefully. The poems themselves are laced with puns, word play, and made-up words. A pronunciation guide for each dinosaur name and the name’s meaning are included below each title. Here's an example.
Pterosaurs
TERR-oh-sawrs (winged lizards)

The pterrifying pterosaurs
Flew ptours the ptime of dinosaurs.
With widespread wings and pteeth pto ptear,
The pterrorized the pteeming air.
They were not ptame.
They were ptenacious--
From the Ptriassic
Pto the Cretaceous.

Poem ©Douglas Florian. All rights reserved.
You can check out some of the artwork and read additional poems from the book at Florian Cafe.
Tyrannosaurus Was a Beast, written by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, is a collection of 14 poems that tantalizingly trip off the tongue. They are humorous and full of rhythm and rhyme. The table of contents includes a thumbnail of each dinosaur next to the dinosaur's name, time period it lived in, where it came from, and its size. Along with each poem is an illustration of the dinosaur, a pronunciation guide, and meaning of the name.
Brachiosaurus
Brak-ee-uh-sawr-us
"Arm Lizard"

Brachiosaurus had little to do
but stand with its head in the treetops and chew,
it nibbled the leaves that were tender and green,
it was a perpetual eating machine.

Brachiosaurus was truly immense,
its vacuous mind was uncluttered by sense,
it hadn't the need to be clever and wise,
no beast dared to bother a being its size.

Brachiosaurus was clumsy and slow,
but then, there was nowhere it needed to go,
if Brachiosaurus were living today,
no doubt it would frequently be in the way.

Poem ©Jack Prelutsky. All rights reserved.
This book was published in 1988, so you should be aware that most likely a few of the facts about these dinosaurs have changed since then. Though some of the poems may be dated, this does not change how much fun it is to read these aloud.
Bone Poems, written by Jeff Moss and illustrated by Tom Leigh, is a collection of 42 poems inspired by the bones of dinosaurs and early mammals found at the American Museum of Natural History. Some of the titles are extraordinarily long, but they are funny and often a meaningful part of the poem. In some cases the titles ask a question or provide important information. The poems are all rhyming, many of them written in limerick form. Here are two examples.
What You Should Answer If Some
Scientist Comes Up to You and Says,
"What Do All Proboscideans Have in

Common?"


Noses
Like hoses.


Incorrect


A dinosaur cheerfully winked,
And said, "I will not be extinct!
I'm too wise, I'm too clever,
I'll be here forever!"
(He wasn't as smart as he thinked.)

Poems ©Jeff Moss. All rights reserved.
This one ends with answers to a dinosaur math quiz, an apology for pages 70-71, and a pronunciation guide.
Dizzy Dinosaurs: Silly Dino Poems, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Barry Gott, is a collection of poems in which dinosaurs are the main characters in the kinds of everyday activities children engage in, such as eating lunch, playing at recess, riding the bus, and more. Since this is part of the I Can Read series, the vocabulary, structure of the poems, and use of rhyme are intended to support beginning readers. The book opens with a table of contents and section on how to say dinosaur names.
School Rules

No chomping
No romping
No treading on tails
No clawing
No climbing
No gnawing your nails
No roaring
No soaring
No sharpening teeth
No stamping
No stalking
Small friends to eat

These are rules
All dinos must follow
They keep school safe--
So no one gets swallowed!

Poem ©Sarah Hansen. All rights reserved.
You can read several poems from this book on the blogs of contributing poets. At the blog of Laura Purdie Salas you'll find the poem Acrocanthosaurus. At the blog of Linda Kulp you'll find the poem Saltopus. You can also browse inside the book at the Harper Collins web site.
Dinosaur Poems, compiled by John Foster and illustrated by Korky Paul, is a collection of 21 humorous poems about dinosaurs that engage in human activities, often with dire results. Contributions come from a variety of poets, though you may not recognize many of them since this is an Oxford University Press publication.
Companion

I have an allosaurus
And I take him everywhere,
And really I can't understand
Why people stop and stare.

He's loving, kind and gentle,
He wouldn't hurt a soul,
Unless of course you laughed at him--
And then he'd eat you whole!

Poem ©Clive Webster. All rights reserved.
You'll find poems about dinosaurs singing in the chorus, eating the fridge, having a party, stuck in the bath, grinding up bones, and much more.
Dinosaur Dances, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bruce Degen, contains 17 poems about dinosaurs dancing the night away. You'll find dinosaurs waltzing, square dancing, doing ballet, hula, and more. The words and rhymes in these poems create a rhythmic beat that mimics the dances they are describing. Here is the title poem.
Dinosaur Dances

When the lights went low
Over prehistoric plains,
And the music beat
In rhythm with the rains,
All the mud and ooze
Showed the scientist remains
Of a prehistoric party.
Here's Tyrannosaurus
Dancing on his toes.
Here is Stegosaurus
In a ballet pose.
And with airy Pterodactyls
Anything goes
At a prehistoric party.
Brontosaurus sits
And waits this number out.
But here's Allosaurus
Doing "Twist and Shout"
And seven little Coelurosaurs
Hopping all about
At the prehistoric party
"Goodness gracious,
It's Cretaceous
Party time again!"

Poem ©Jane Yolen. All rights reserved.
All of the poems from this book have been set to music. You can list to an excerpt of the poem Ms A Hulas at Lui Collins web site.
Dinosaurs, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Murray Tinkelman, is a collection of 18 poems that pays homage to dinosaurs in museums and in our dreams. In that respect, this one has a very different feel than many of the other books in this set that focus on the beasts themselves, whether described as animals or creatures with human qualities.
Dreamscape

A giant came into my dream
And thundered to and fro.
As thunder-lizards often do
He traveled high and low.
He shook the hills and mountaintops
And spilled the seven seas.
He drank eleven rivers,
He ate a hundred trees.
But even thunder-giants sleep--
He wandered off to find his bed.
I didn't notice where he went,
I simply, quickly, woke instead!

Poem ©Lillian M. Fisher. All rights reserved.
You'll find poems here by Bobbi Katz, Patricia Hubbell, Valerie Worth, Myra Cohn Livingston, and others. This title was selected as an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book in 1988.

There are a HUGE number of dinosaur resources on the web. Here are a few of my favorites.
Okay, if I don't stop now I'll keep on going! If I've missed a great dinosaur poetry book or web site, please let me know.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Poetry in the Classroom - More Music! (Musical Poetry, Part 2)

Yesterday I began this topic looking at poetry books about jazz. Today I'm focusing on music in a range of musical styles, so put on something you love to listen to and read along.
Song Shoots Out of My Mouth, written by Jaime Adoff and illustrated Martin French, is a collection of twenty four poems that reflect a variety of musical styles and instruments in content and form. The poems sing with the same rhythms you would expect to hear in the music. They are perfect for read aloud and almost demand to be sung, or swung, tapped, rapped, drummed, and more. Here is a poem related to jazz.
Jazz Bath

            Be Bop bubbles go
up my nose and I blow into my horn.
            Pass the soap and the eighth notes, drip
into my eyes.
            No more tears
            no more fears.
My sax speaks for me. Says what I can't say. Which is a lot
these days. Now, teenage.
            I trade 4's and 8's with Bird and Trane.
Outside my bathroom door;
            I hear the roar of the crowd,
the roar of the crowd!
            The roar of my sister screaming,
            "GET OUT!"

Poem ©Jaime Adoff. All rights reserved.
The back matter for this book includes a section called Backnotes which includes musical terms and descriptions, as well as an overview of selected artists and suggested listening material. If you haven't seen this one, you're really missing something special. (If you didn't know it, this book was named an honor book for the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award in 2003.)
Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World, written by Marilyn Nelson and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, is the story an all-female, racially integrated swing band that toured the United States during World War II. What makes this story unique is that it is told in poems, each in the voice of a band members’ instrument, each titled after a song of the era. It all begins in a pawnshop where a tenor saxophone describes its glory years in an all girl band. Other instruments begin to respond, and soon enough, all of them are sharing stories about days gone by.
With a twilit velvet musky tone
as the pawnshop door is locked,
an ancient tenor saxophone
spins off a riff of talk.
“A thousand thousand gigs ago,
when I was just second-hand,”
it says, “I spent my glory years
on the road with an all-girl band.”
From a shelf in the corner, three trombones
bray in unison: They say
they, too, were played in a gals’ swing band
way back in the day.
Then effortlessly, a blues in C
arises out of a phrase
and the old hocked instruments find the groove
and swing of the Good Old Days.

Poem ©Marilyn Nelson. All rights reserved.
And now for a musical interlude, courtesy of the Sweethearts of Rhythm.

Call Down the Moon: Poems of Music, selected by Myra Cohn Livingston, is a collection of 136 poems divided into 12 sections, arranged by how we listen to and remember music, as well as by type of instrument (keyboard and strings, fiddles and cellos, banjos and guitars, woodwinds, brass and percussion). In a volume so extensive, I have many favorites. Here is one of them.
Music Becomes Me

as water
becomes the creek
trilling, filling it
giving it voice.

Music becomes me
like sparks
zipping
through electric wires
making light of dark.

Music becomes me
as wind
becomes the storm
swishing, swaying me
tapping my feet
thrusting my hands up
like castanets chattering.

Caught in its breath
I dance on winter's roof.

Poem ©Marni McGee. All rights reserved.
In this volume you'll find poems by Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, Edward Lear, X.J. Kennedy, Valerie Worth, April Halprin Wayland, and many others.
Roots and Blues: A Celebration, written by Arnold Adoff and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, is a collection of poems and prose that traces the history of the blues while celebrating its culture and the strength of the people who created it. As Adoff takes readers through a historical journey, he introduces readers to many blues performers including B. B. King, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and others. The history of the blues is a difficult one, so the poems are filled with high emotion. The works themselves are visually appealing, crafted so that the spacing of letters and breaks in lines give each their own rhythm and shape. While they need to really be seen and reflected on, they also demand to be read aloud.

I've seen a lot of poems from this book floating around already, so instead of adding another to the mix, please take some time to visit the thoughtful reviews at Writing and Ruminating and Poetry for Children to read excerpts from the book.

Here are some resources that you may find useful in examining a range of musical forms in the classroom.
  • Kirkus has produced a useful booklist entitled Music and Harmony in Children's Poetry.
  • The SFSKids site has interactives about the instruments of the orchestra, a music lab, the tempo of music, and more.
  • The New York Philharmonic Kidzone has a wealth of material to explore including sections like the composition workshop, meet the composers, instrument storage room, instrument lab, and more.
  • Classics for Kids has a wealth of information about classical music and jazz, as well as audio clips, interactive games, lesson plans and more.
  • The Blues Classroom has a number of lesson plans, teacher's guide, blues glossary, and more.
  • EDSITEment has a terrific lesson for elementary students entitled Learning the Blues.
Have I missed a favorite musically-inclined book of poetry? Please let me know so that I can include it here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Poetry in the Classroom - Just Jazz! (Musical Poetry, Part 1)

Music has always been a big part of my life. I grew up listening to jazz, big band, and Dixieland music. During my adolescence I sat a few rows back from center stage at Artpark and heard the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, and Joe Williams. As I grew and made some of my own concert choices, I found myself watching Billy Joel, Elton John, The Police, Bon Jovi, Run DMC, Garth Brooks, and others. Today I still attend concerts in a wide range of musical forms. Given my love of music, it seems only fitting that music would find it's way into my poetic life.

Today for part one of this musical journey I'm focusing on jazz, so put on some Armstrong (I'm listening to Jelly Roll Morton!) and read along.
Jazz, written by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Christopher Myers, is a collection of poems covering the history of jazz that begins along the Nile and ends on Bourbon Street. In between it covers ragtime to boogie, and every style in between. The poems are accompanied by vibrant paintings that celebrate different styles of jazz.
Start with rhythm
Start with the heart
Along the Nile
A black man's drum
Speaks
LOVE
Start with
RHYTHM
Start with
the HEART
Work songs
Gospel
Triumph
Despair
Voices
Lifted
From the soul

Poem ©Walter Dean Myers. All rights reserved.
In addition to the poems, the book opens with a terrific introduction to jazz and includes a selective glossary and chronology.

Becoming Billie Holiday is a fictional verse memoir that tells the story of Holiday's life from birth through age 25. The poems carry titles from Billie’s songbook. The writing is tender and vivid, matter-of-factly portraying the ups and downs that dominated the singer's life. You'll see from the cover image that this book was awarded a Coretta Scott King honor award for writing. Here is one of the poems from this book.

How Deep Is The Ocean

Without the microphone
there would be no spotlight,
no band backing me
with bluesy swing.

My voice was too small,
barely an octave,
but the mic enlarged my songs,
let me hold listeners close.

With the microphone,
my voice was an ocean,
deep as my moods,
and audiences dove in.

Poem ©Carole Boston Weatherford. All rights reserved.
What is a fictional verse memoir? Weatherford explains it this way.
It combines elements of the novel, biography, oral history, persona poem, and one-woman show into a unique genre. The fictional verse memoir is ideally suited to Billie Holiday's sassy, soulful and sophisticated style.
Weatherford has created a web site for the book where you will find a reading guide, book trailer, and other informative links.
Jazz ABZ: An A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits with Art Print, written by Wynton Marsalis and illustrated by Paul Rogers, is a collection of 26 verse profiles of jazz greats, with each poem reflecting the musical style of the musician or performer. Brief biographies by Phil Schapp are included for each artist. Here is an excerpt from the first poem.
Armstrong

Armstrong.
Armstrong almighty!
An ad-libbing acrobat.
American ambassador of affirmation.
Adventurous author of ambrosial aires.
Absolute architect of the Jazz Age.

Poem ©Wynton Marsalis. All rights reserved.
What you need to know about this poem is that the words on the page are spaced in such a way that it forms the triangular outline of the letter A, so you need to see the poem as well as read it aloud. The alliteration works well in this poem and many others. You can listen to this poem read in its entirety, as well as hear some others at the NPR web site.

Here are some resources that you may find useful in learning more about jazz.
  • Did you know that April is Jazz Appreciation Month?
  • PBS Jazz Kids has information about jazz greats, a timeline, interactives to experiment with playing or leading a band, and more.
  • Jazz lesson plans is the educator site accompanying PBS Jazz Kids.
  • NEA Jazz in the Schools is a "web-based curriculum and DVD toolkit that explores jazz as an indigenous American art form and as a means to understand American history."
  • The classroom section for the Ken Burns film JAZZ has a number of lesson resources and materials for teachers.
  • Smithsonian Jazz at the National Museum of American History presents a range of resources to explore, appreciate, and experience jazz. Be sure to check out the education resources.
  • Jazz for Young People is the online component of the Lincoln Center's jazz curriculum. It provides information about the history of jazz and its artists and includes recordings, readings, photographs, videos, and activities.
  • The Jazz Institute of Chicago has an article entitled Jazz for the Youngest Hep Cats that highlights some songs and books useful for introducing children to this musical form.
Have I missed a favorite jazzed up book of poetry? Please let me know so that I can include it here.

**NOTE** - Part 2 of Musical Poetry continues with a focus on swing, blues and other musical forms or musically inspired poetry. (Don't worry, you'll see titles by Marilyn Nelson, Arnold Adoff, and Jaime Adoff tomorrow!)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Poetry in the Classroom - America in Poems

I love poems that introduce and explore places, particularly places I've never been. Here are some books that explore America in poetry.
Home to Me: Poems Across America, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn, is described this way in the Editor's Note (written by Lee).
Where we live—the place we call home—strongly influences our way of life.

Whether on lives on a prairie where a child ". . . pedals through grasses/bone dry, needle thin", a reservation where "Mother Earth is always beneath our feet", or a city where one wakes up to hear "sputters/of sweepers/swooshing litter/from gutters", home is an integral part of growing up, being, becoming.
.
.
.
Home to Me reveals home and heart, the pulse that makes our country so unique—the beat that makes us all individuals—yet one.
This particular anthology is comprised of 15 commissioned works by poets from across the U.S., including Jane Yolen, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Tony Johnston, Janet Wong, Ann Whitford Paul, Joan Bransfield Graham, Alice Schertle, Joseph Bruchac, and others. There are poems here about home in the desert, the prairie, the New Jersey shore, the mountains, a reservation, a cattle ranch, a farm, and more. Here is an excerpt from one poem.
My Desert Home

Here on Table Mesa
I look down on endless sand
That seems to spread forever
Over barren lonely land.
My home is on the stony ridge
Of a prehistoric sea
Where brittle bushes shine their gold
In shade of a single tree.
A cactus like a one-armed man
Is pointing to the sky.

Poem ©Lillian M. Fisher. All rights reserved.
My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn, is a collection of 50 poems grouped by geographic region. It includes the northeast states, Capital, southeast states, Great Lakes states, plains states, mountain states, southwest states, and Pacific coast states. The section for each region is prefaced with a map and facts about each state, including capital, nickname, motto, bird, flower, tree, area, and one "great fact." Here's a poem from the Pacific coast region.
California Missions

They're tall and sturdy,
four feet thick,
built of stone
and mortar, brick.
Through quakes and plagues
each ancient wall
has stayed in place
and stood up tall.
No mouth to speak,
no ears to hear,
yet they hold tales
of ancient years.
I sit inside
and listen well
to every word
their silence tells.

Poem ©Ann Whitford Paul. All rights reserved.
Tour America: A Journey Through Poems and Art, written by Diane Siebert and illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson, is a collection of 26 poems of varying length about a range of places and things around the United States. In her author's note, Siebert explains how a summer motorcycle trip across the U.S. turned into a 10-year journey around the country. In TOUR AMERICA she wrote about some of her favorite sights, including the Everglades, gargoyles, Lucy the Elephant, Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, Old Faithful, The Golden Gate bridge, and more. The book opens with a map of the U.S. with dots and illustrated captions highlighting the sights. Here's a poem about one of my favorite places.
Niagara Falls
New York

Niagara Falls
great tumbling walls
of water
frothy white
all pouring down
and
roaring down
and
rainbowed by the light

Poem ©Diane Siebert. All rights reserved.
Each poem in this collection is accompanied by a brief bit of informational text. Here's the text for this poem.
NIAGARA FALLS - Although half of the water from the Niagara River is diverted into tunnels for use in power plants downstream, about 500,000 gallons of water still pour over the cliff's edge every second. Over the years, daredevils have plunged to the bottom in barrels and other containers. A few have even survived.
The illustrations beautifully complement the poems. In the artist's note Johnson says "And so, in keeping with the forms, contents, and moods of Diane's poems, my artwork, in a variety of mediums--acrylic, charcoal, colored pencils, collage, gouache, graphite, ink, oils, pastel, photography and watercolors--celebrates the colors, diversity, and rich textures of America."

If you are interested in more poetry about places and using poetry to teach geography, consider these links.
  • Poetry of Place - This site encourages the reading and writing of poetry in geography instruction and includes many fine examples of student work.
  • Travel Pals - In this geography unit, a class sends out four different stuffed animals across the United States to learn about U.S. geography through the eyes of the Travel Pals. Poetry books can be used to support instruction.
  • For additional poetry books with a geography theme, try these titles.
  • Pair poetry and music while studying places in the U.S. and try this lesson on Music From Across America.
  • The Picturing America gallery (particularly the landscapes) offers some nice images for writing ekphrastic poems.
Do you have a favorite book of poetry about America? Or a great idea for a geography-oriented poetry lesson? Or a poetically-inclined geography lesson? If so, please share!

Monday Poetry Stretch - Macaronic Verse

Back in 2009 we wrote poems in the form of macaronic verse. This seems like a good time to revisit the form. The Handbook of Poetic Forms defines macaronic verse in this fashion.
Macaronic verse is a peculiar, rare and often comic form of poetry that sometimes borders on nonsense. It is a mixture of two (or more) languages in a poem, in which the poet usually subjects one language to the grammatical laws of another to make people laugh.
Poetry Base describes macaronic verse this way.
The definition is a poem in a mixture of two languages, one of them preferably Latin. Usually the mixture of languages is a bit absurd. The word of one language may be terminated with common endings in the other.
You can read more at Wikipedia and learn a bit about the history of this form.

So, your challenge for this week is to write a poem that uses more than one language. If you don't know another language, make one up. Pig Latin, anyone? Leave me a comment about your macaronic verse and I'll post the results here later this week.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Poetry in the Classroom - Spanish/English Poetry

Earlier in the month I wrote about food poetry where I included an excerpt from the book Sopa de frijoles/Bean Soup: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem, written by Jorge Argueta and illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. That got me thinking that English/Spanish poetry might be a good topic for exploring.

Several years ago while looking for some bilingual poetry for a student teacher, I stumbled across the book Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems/Iguanas en la nieve: y otros poemas de invierno, written by Francisco Alarcón and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez. The vibrant art on the cover reeled me in, and once I was inside the magic of the poems enchanted me. Here's one I suggested she use with her ESL students, all recent immigrants, all Spanish-speaking.
Ode to Buena
Vista Bilingual School

here Spanish
goes to school
with English

uno-dos-tres
is as easy as
one-two-three

here children
of all races write
beautiful poems

in English
and Spanish
even in spirals

and following
the beat of teacher
Felipe's clave

here children
learn to sing
with their hearts
Oda a la Escuela
Bilingüe de Buena Vista

aqui el español
va a la escuela
con el inglés

uno-dos-tres
es tan fácil como
one-two-three

aqui niños de todas
las razas escriben
bellos poemas

tanto en inglés
como en español
hasta en espiral

y siguiendo
la clave del
maestro Felipe

aqui los niños
aprenden a cantar
con el corazón

Poem ©Francisco Alarcón. All rights reserved.

Finding this first book of Alarcón's led me to the remaining books in his Magical Cycle of the Seasons series. Here's a poem found in From the Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems/Del Ombligo de la Luna: Y Otros Poemas de Verano.
Ode to My Shoes

my shoes
rest
all night
under my bed

tired
they stretch
and loosen
their laces

wide open
they fall asleep
and dream
of walking

they revisit
the places
they went to
during the day

and wake up
cheerful
relaxed
so soft
Oda a mis zapatos

mis zapatos
descansan
toda la noche
bajo mi cama

cansados
se estiran
se aflojan
las cintas

muy anchose
se duermen
y sueñan
con andar

recorren
los lugares
adonde fueron
en el día

y amanecen
contentos
relajados
suavecitos

Poem ©Francisco Alarcón. All rights reserved.

Other titles in this series include Laughing Tomatoes: And Other Spring Poems/Jitomates Risuenos: Y Otros Poemas de Primavera and Angels Ride Bikes: And Other Fall Poems/Los Angeles Andan en Bicicleta: Y Otros Poemas de Otoño. All the books in the series are written by Francisco Alarcón and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez. In addition to these titles, look for Animal Poems of the Iguazu/Animalario del Iguazu (also illustrated Gonzalez).

**UPDATED** - Check out Alarcón's original poem, On Monday I Feel Like a Dragon/El lunes me siento como un dragón, posted as part of the 30 Poets/30 Days celebration at GottaBook.


A Movie in My Pillow/Una pelicula en mi almohada, written by Jorge Argueta and illustrated by Elizabeth Gomez, is a series of poems based on his life when he first came to this country. Argueta's poems are so vivid that it is easy to imagine the sights, sounds, and smells of a new home. Here is an example.
Wonders of the City
Here in the city there are
wonders everywhere

Here mangoes
come in cans

In El Salvador
they grew on trees

Here chickens come
in plastic bags

Over there
they slept beside me
Las maravillas de la ciudad
Aquí en esta ciudad
todo es maravilloso

Aquí los mangos
vienen enlatados

En El Salvador
crecían en árboles

Aquí las gallinas vienen
en bolsas de plástico

Allá se dormían
junto a mí

Poem ©Jorge Argueta. All rights reserved.

A Movie in My Pillow/Una pelicula en mi almohada was Argueta's first book for children. Published in 2001, it went on to win the Américas Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature. To see examples of the artwork and read some additional poems, you can preview the book at the International Children's Digital Library.

Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con madre tierra: Poems/Poemas, written by Jorge Argueta and illustrated by Lucia Angela Perez, allows readers to experience the depth of Argueta's roots in El Slavador and his strong connection to the people and the land. The poems in this collection cover a range of topics. Here is one of my favorite poems from the book.
The Corn

The corn's spirit
becomes delicious and happy
when we plant its tiny seeds
in Mother Earth.

After four days
the corn sprouts.
At first it is like a little worm
stretching, searching for the sun's light.

Later a leaf is born
from the stem
thin as a thread
sweet and green like a caress.

The plant keeps growing and growing
till from its center comes an ear of corn
a bearded child
laughing with all its teeth.

When I finally eat it
in tortillas
or tamales or atol
I start to smile like the corn.

Poem ©Jorge Argueta. All rights reserved.
In addition to these titles you will find two books by Argueta that were written as cooking poems. The first is Sopa de frijoles/Bean Soup: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. The second is Arroz con leche/Rice Pudding: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem, illustrated by Fernando Vilela.
Finally, for younger children I recommend ¡Pio Peep! Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes, selected by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, with English adaptations by Alice Schertle, and illustrations by Vivi Escriva. Here is an excerpt from the introduction of the book to provide some background for this collection.
Hispanic oral folklore is very rich. Its winged words have conveyed families' cultures and traditions from generation to generation. Some rhymes and songs have remained nearly intact along their extensive journeys on both sides of the Atlantic. Others have been enriched by the contributions of the various groups that make up the Hispanic world. All provide joy and delight in our heritage.

In the twenty-first century, this cultural wealth is reaching new frontiers. More than thirty-five million Latinos contribute their traditions to the cultural mosaic that is the United States.

This book offers a small sample of this wealth, presented in two languages so that it can be meaningful to both Spanish and English speakers. To preserve the charm of the original rhymes, the English version is not a translation but a poetic re-creation. In some instances, the details are different, but the re-creation remains true to the essence of the original.
Here is one of the 29 rhymes in the collection.
El sol es de oro
la luna es de plata
y las estrellitas
son de hoja de lata.

The sun's a gold medallion.
The moon's a silver ball.
The little stars are only tin;
I love them best of all.
You can read more of the introduction and preview some of the text at the Harper Collins web site.

If you are looking for additional resources on bilingual poetry or picture books, check out some of these links.
Have I missed a favorite volume of Spanish/English poetry? If so, please let me know.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Poetry in the Classroom - In the Big City

I read (and write) a lot of poetry about animals and nature, but I am also quite fond of poems about the city. Good poems about the city capture the sights, sounds and smells and catapult me back my days walking the streets of New York City. Life in the big city is vastly different from the rural area where I grew up, and for many students, life in the big city may be just as foreign. Here are some poetry selections that capture life in the city.

City I Love, written by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Marcellus Hall, is a collection of poems that Lee wrote about city life and living. Even though the illustrations depict cities around the world, the sights, sounds, and sentiments are the same. You'll find poems here about subways, taxis, zoos, weather, bridges, lights and more. I can't say enough about how much these poems made me want to run right off to to the big city for a fix. You'll feel the same when you read them. Here is my favorite poem from the collection
MOTHER'S PLEA

Silence sirens.

Hush all horns.

Quiet rumbling

                    traffic roars.

Please
city

                    have
                    some
                    pity.

Promise me

                    not
                    one
                    more
                    beep?

My newborn

                    pigeons
                    need
                    their
                    sleep.

Poem ©Lee Bennett Hopkins. All rights reserved.
Two more books I like to use for capturing the spirit of the city are Mural on Second Avenue and Other City Poems, written by Lilian Moore and illustrated by Roma Karas and Sky Scrape/City Scape: Poems of City Life, with poems selected by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Ken Condon.

Mural on Second Avenue is a collection of 17 poems that celebrates the city through the seasons and at different times of day. Accompanied by vibrant oil illustrations, the city, as seen through the eyes of a young boy, comes to life. Whether it's looking out the window, walking through the neighborhood, or playing in the park, the poems in this book exude the energy of the city and its inhabitants. There are poems here about building skyscrapers, going around corners, window reflections, pigeons, a mural (lending itself to the title of the book), bridges and more. One of my favorites is this poem about the skyline.
Roofscape
The lines are
straight
and
many-cornered--
plunging,
rising high.

From my window
I can see
how roofs
design a sky.

Poem ©Lillian Moore. All rights reserved.
Sky Scrape/City Scape is an anthology of poems selected by Jane Yolen. The 25 poems contained inside come from notables like Langston Hughes, Myra Cohn Livingston, Jane Yolen, Carl Sandburg, Lee Bennett Hopkins and many others. The illustrations show crowded streets, fire escapes, graffiitied walls, buildings tall, a garbage dump, and much more. This collection of poems is full of life and almost as energetic as the city itself. Many of the poems on a double-page spread are connected thematically, like the series of poems on skyscrapers or those on street cleaning. Here is an excerpt from a poem by Norma Farber.
Manhattan Lullaby
Lulled by rumble, babble, beep,
let these little children sleep;
let these city girls and boys
dream a music in the noise,
hear a tune their city plucks
up from buses, up from trucks
up from engines wailing fire!
up ten stories high, and higher,

Poem ©Norma Farber. All rights reserved.
One more book I recommend including in this set is the updated classic by Gwendolyn Brooks, Bronzeville Boys and Girls. Originally published in 1956, this new version is beautifully illustrated by Faith Ringgold. Each poem in this collection of 34 contains the name of a child. This child is either the subject of the poem or the person delivering it. Set in a Chicago neighborhood, these short poems highlight the highs and lows of life in the city, particularly big cities where many are poor. Even though most of the poems are light-hearted, a few are sad. An element of social consciousness is also evident in this collection. Here are a few examples.
Robert, Who is Often a Stranger to Himself
Do you ever look in the looking-glass
And see a stranger there?
A child you know and do not know,
Wearing what you wear?


Michael Is Afraid of the Storm
Lightning is angry in the night,
Thunder spanks our house.
Rain is hating our old elm—
It punishes the boughs.
Now, I am next to nine years old,
And crying’s not for me.
But if I touch my mother’s hand,
Perhaps no one will see.

Poems ©Gwendolyn Brooks. All rights reserved.
Altogether, these books provide varied glimpses of life in the city and what children living there may experience.

If you want to do some poetry writing about the city but can't get there, here are some resources to inspire you.