Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday Poetry Stretch - Abecedarian

It's time this week to revisit and old (i.e. - one we've already played with) form. An abecedarian poem is one in which the verses or words begin with successive letters of the alphabet. I was inspired to think about this form again because I've been reading When You Are Alone / It Keeps You Capone: An Approach to Creative Writing With Children by Myra Cohn Livingston. In it you'll find a poem written by a ninth grade boy that begins this way.

A            Mexican hat is not to
Be           undermined, especially when one can
Cee          its innate qualities which
Dee          golden color rev-
Eals.        However
F            one doesn't see the beauty:
G-           wiz- let them go to
H            or heaven but
I            do not think they should be on this earth, or
It's really a silly little thing, but it reminded my of how many clever and interesting ways there are to write a poem.

So, your challenge for the week is to write an abecedarian poem. Leave me a note about your work and I'll post the results here later this week.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Check Me Out In the June Issue of Book Links!

This month you'll find me sharing a thematic book list somewhere besides this blog. Check out the June issue of Book Links for my article entitled Titles That Sing and Shine: Books about Sound and Light. You'll find poetry, fiction, informational titles and activity books for grades K-6. You'll also find a sidebar on scientists of light and sound with suggested titles for learning more about Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.

If you can't get to the article right away, check out some of these web sites about light and sound.


Finally, check out this Poetry in the Classroom post entitled Lighting It Up for even more ideas on teaching about light.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Cento

Today's poetry stretch takes the form of thievery. Actually, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so let's think about this as an exercise in honoring our favorite lines of poetry. Today's exercise in mental gymnastics takes the form of the cento.
The cento is a poem made entirely of pieces from poems by other authors. Centos can be rhymed or unrhymed, short or long.
(From The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms.)
You can read more about the cento at I also like this article about found poetry.

Not one to stick with the rules, I wrote using adult titles on my bookshelf.
Nobody's Fool
He waits in the secret garden while his
love is lost to the housekeeping.
He knows the name of the rose,
and all creatures great and small.
He meditates on beauty,
and walks where angels fear to tread.
He is the constant gardener,
tending the family orchard while
the sun also rises.
He lives in a brave new world,
without pride and prejudice,
by a thread of grace.
He dreams of Gilead,
the wide Sargasso Sea and
going to the lighthouse,
but dreams blow away
on the shadow of the wind.
He views the world through
an imperfect lens, and knows it's all
one big damn puzzler, but
he believes that life is a miracle and
that the Lord God made them all.
Here are the books that make up this cento.
  1. Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo
  2. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  3. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  4. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  5. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
  6. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  7. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
  8. The Constant Gardener by John le Carre
  9. The Family Orchard by Nomi Eve
  10. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  11. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  12. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  13. A Thread of Grace by Maria Doria Russell
  14. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  15. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  16. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  17. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  18. An Imperfect Lens by Anne Roiphe
  19. One Damn Big Puzzler by John Harding
  20. Life is a Miracle by Wendell Berry
  21. The Lord God Made Them All by James Herriot
So, do you want to play? What kind of poem will you assemble? Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

Poetry Stretch Results - Macaronic Verse

Well, it appears that last week's challenge put me in a bit of hot water. Sheesh! I didn't think it was THAT hard. Here are the results for macaronic verse, or poems that include bits and pieces of another language.
Subject is Matter
by Jane Yolen

Subject is matter,
And matter is verse.
The one can be versatile,
Or something worse.
Verser and verser,
Berserker we go
Into the mental
And magical flow.

Floe is the answer,
A berg of real choice,
When verse is much better
Than verbiage or noise.
And so burgermeister
Come sell me some rhymes
That I can take with me
In virtual times.

©2010 by Jane Yolen, all rights reserved

By Steven Withrow of Crackles of Speech

Mother of merci
and grazie mille
and muchas gracias.

Estranged relation
of vielen dank
and mange takk,
among many others.

You grace—you gratify
my philologist’s heart
with your Latinate

Gratias tibi ago,
Thank you so.

by Kate Coombs of Book Aunt

I cannot make a telephone calle
or cut the abundant grasa.
I will not shoot the revolver
or lift the heavy masa.
I won't congratulate the champú
or buy a movie pasa.
Nor will I pet the cat's furia
or polish up the brasa.
Don't ask me to drink a cola
or shelve books in a casa.
And no matter how fast I can run,
I'm not going to win the raza.

—Kate Coombs, 2010, all rights reserved

calle = street
grasa = grease
revolver = to turn
masa = dough
champú = shampoo
pasa = he/she passes
furia = fury
brasa = live coal
cola = tail (of an animal)
casa = house
raza = race, lineage
("No" is the same in Spanish and English.)

Econd-say Anguage-lay
by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater of The Poem Farm

Igs-pay are riendly-fay.
Igs-pay are mart-say.
If you ike-lay igs-pay
Ou'll-yay do our-yay art-pay
to isten-lay ell-way
to peak-say in wine-say.
Irst-fay etter-lay ast-lay
Add ay
You'll e-bay ine-fay.

(If is-thay is oo-tay
ard-hay or-fay ou-yay,
igs-pay peak-say
Glish-enay oo-tay.)

© Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

Song in Macaroni
by Barbara Turner

Just south of Rigatoni
is the city of Bologna
and for a pocket full of pennes
you can get into the fair.

Where Ms. Elizabeth Rotini
Signs her book on Ditalini
Who painted Acini de Pepe
with the long spaghetti hair.

--Barbara J. Turner

Not Lost In Translation
By Liz Korba of

English can bee sew confusing.
(How can “says” be said that way?!)
I am walking. I am running. I am sading… (No? Can’t say?!)
I walk slowly. I run quickly. I work hardly… (Not that way?!)
Every rule we know gets broken. My pants ARE?! Shirt IS! (Ok…)
You my teacher good and friendly. Gracias for help and tries.
Here’s a card – “In Sympathy” – What?! It’s for when someone dies?!
Read my note, then you will see…
“Thanks for all you did to me.”
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Poetry Stretch - Macaronic Verse

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.
You can read more at Wikipedia and learn a bit about the history of this form. I was interested to note that the Carmina Burana (which I sang eons ago in high school) is a fine example of this.

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 note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Poetry Stretch Results - Some Like It Hot

The challenge this week was to write about something hot. Here are the results.
Kate Coombs of Book Aunt shared this untitled poem.

Today has a fever,
but the ocean puts cool fingers
across its hot forehead
and says, "Shhhh.
Soon it will be night."

--Kate Coombs, 2010, all rights reserved

By Steven Withrow of Crackles of Speech

Nine years old, bored with summer,
sick of sunburn, watermelon,
almost wishing for September,
I follow my patient father
through hanging vines,
chain-linked swings
of our equatorial jungle gym,
where earth turns daily
and vegetables grow.
I plunk myself down
between red radish rows,
leaves like ping-pong paddles,
while Father thrusts
a spade into soft soil.

At garden’s margin
a fat, black rabbit
tips slack ears
like a conjurer’s top hat
at miracle finale
of a mirror-shadow show.
(Father doesn’t look up;
this trick’s for me.)
Long-eared illusionist,
with rabbit sleight-of-foot,
nabs one red radish,
into tall grass disappears,
without presto, bravo,
or wherever-did-he-go.

by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater of The Poem Farm

It was such a cute pepper
the size of my thumb.
I bit off the tip
and I felt pretty dumb
for though it was little
that pepper was strong.
I thought it was sweet.
It was hot.
I was wrong.

© Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

Diane Mayr of Random Noodling shared this untitled poem.

afternoon heat...
gray cat flops on her side
to stretch long
against the cool wood floor
still and silent as a shadow


by Liz Korba of

It's hot.
I'm not.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Better Than Wizard's Chess

While I continue to dig out from under a pile of work, please enjoy this brief interlude. And yes, it IS better than Wizard's chess!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Monday Poetry Stretch - Some Like It Hot

I seem to have fallen off the face of the earth where blogging is concerned. I'm swamped with work right now, but wouldn't dream of letting down all you folks who take up challenges with me. I don't know what it's like where you are, but it's darn hot here. I hope this isn't a sign of things to come. I have lived here nearly 16 years and I still don't like the summers. I don't miss the Buffalo snow, but I do miss the summers and the fall.

Okay, enough of my stream of consciousness on the weather. Let's write about something HOT. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.