Friday, December 20, 2013

Poetry Friday - Poems from CRICKET NEVER DOES

Knowing I would be hitting the road this holiday, I finished my shopping ages ago. This means that while everyone around me is whipped into a shopping frenzy, I can relax and browse. That's just what I was doing earlier this week (while procrastinating on my grading) when I stopped into my favorite used bookstore and treated myself to this little book.
CRICKET NEVER DOES: A COLLECTION OF HAIKU AND TANKA, by Mrya Cohn Livingston, is a seasonal collection of poems beginning with spring and ending with winter. Here's one of the winter poems.

Here we are, Winter,
just you and I in the snow,
freezing together

And because I love the book title, here's the poem those words come from.

Not wishing to stop
his chirping the whole night long,
Cricket never does

Check out other poetic things being shared and collected today by Buffy Silverman at Buffy's Blog. Happy Poetry Friday all! And best wishes to each of you for whatever holiday you celebrate this season.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Nonet

When I sit down to write I find I am more compelled by form than topic. It's also easier for me to wrestle with form than it is to compose on a specific topic. (I was the kid in English class that stared at my notebook page when told to "free write." Guidance and guidelines do wonders for me!)

That's why I like to tinker with forms in these challenges. This week I'd like to try the nonet. Here's a description of the form.
A nonet is a nine line poem. The first line containing nine syllables, the next line has eight syllables, the next line has seven syllables. That continues until the last line (the ninth line) which has one syllable. Nonets can be written about any subject. Rhyming is optional.
You can read more about this form and see a few examples at Poetry Dances - Nonet

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

Friday, December 13, 2013

Poetry Friday - Superstition

On this Friday the 13th I am sharing a poem by Amy Lowell. This piece was published in 1919 in a volume entitled Pictures of the Floating World.

by Amy Lowell

I have painted a picture of a ghost
Upon my kite,
And hung it on a tree.
Later, when I loose the string
And let it fly,
The people will cower
And hide their heads,
For fear of the God
Swimming in the clouds.

This poem and the book it was published in are in the public domain and have been digitized and made available by Google. You can read the entire volume simply by downloading a copy.

Check out other poetic things being shared and collected today by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference. Happy Poetry Friday all! 

Monday, December 09, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Sijo

Last week the fall semester came to a close. We still have exams and final projects to wade through, but the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter. It wasn't until Friday that I realized I had completely missed the Monday stretch! Not so this week . . .

I'm quite fond of the poems in Linda Sue Park's lovely book Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo Poems. Originating in Korea, sijo are poems divided into three or six lines. These poems frequently use word play in the form of metaphors, symbols and puns. Here is a description from AHApoetry.
More ancient than haiku, the Korean SIJO shares a common ancestry with haiku, tanka and similar Japanese genres. All evolved from more ancient Chinese patterns.

Sijo is traditionally composed in three lines of 14-16 syllables each, totaling between 44-46 syllables. A pause breaks each line approximately in the middle; it resembles a caesura but is not based on metrics.
And here is the description from the jacket flap of Park's book.
What is sijo?
A type of poem that originated in Korea.

But what is it?
A sijo has a fixed number of stressed syllables, usually divided into three or six lines.

Like haiku?
Kind of. But a sijo always has a surprise, an unexpected twist or joke, at the end.
The poems in the book are full of these wonderful surprises. One of my favorites is entitled Long Division. It is the poem that gives the book its title. Another favorite is Summer Storm. It is below.
Summer Storm

Lightning jerks the sky awake to take her photograph, flash!
Which draws grumbling complaints or even crashing tantrums from thunder--

He hates having his picture taken, so he always gets there late.
Now that you've read a sijo, you'll know that the challenge this week is to write one. Here is a brief summary of the advice Park gives at the end of her book.
Three line poems should contain about 14 to 16 syllables per line. Six line poems should contain 7 or 8 syllables per line.
The first line should contain a single image or idea. The second line should develop this further. The last line should contain the twist. 
Park writes:
I try to think of where the poem would logically go if I continued to develop the idea of the first two lines. Once I've figured that out, I write something that goes in the opposite direction--or at least "turns a corner."
I hope you'll join me this week in writing a sijo. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

For Thanksgiving

Two poems for my readers . . . and wishes for a joyful Thanksgiving.

By Emily Dickinson

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.

In Harvest
By Sophie Jewett

Mown meadows skirt the standing wheat;
I linger, for the hay is sweet,
New-cut and curing in the sun.
Like furrows, straight, the windrows run,
Fallen, gallant ranks that tossed and bent
When, yesterday, the west wind went
A-rioting through grass and grain.
To-day no least breath stirs the plain;
Only the hot air, quivering, yields
Illusive motion to the fields
Where not the slenderest tassel swings.

Read the poem in its entirety.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Thanksgiving

Well, this week is a no-brainer. Let's write about thanks, Thanksgiving, gratitude, or anything that resembles thankfulness.

For a bit of inspiration you might want to check out these links.
Thanksgiving Poems at
The Cranberry Cantos at The Poetry Foundation

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Poetry Friday - Thanksgiving

Back in 2009 the Poetry Seven took up the challenge to write together. Here were the rules.
  • We each do a villanelle.
  • In one of our repeating lines we use the word thanksgiving, in the other repeating line we use the word friend.
  • No other rules, no other similarities. Just those two things.

The villanelle I wrote is a bit of an anthem and appropriate for the upcoming holiday, so I thought I'd share it again.
Dear friends, Thanksgiving!
For glorious oaks and sprawling trees
in winter, summer, fall and spring

For all things green and lush and living
that dance so lightly in the breeze
dear friends, Thanksgiving!

For spiders spinning webs of string
while swinging and dangling on a trapeze
through winter, summer, fall and spring

For sunflowers bold and bright and smiling,
climbing skyward with grace and ease
dear friends, Thanksgiving!

For birds that chirp and peep and sing
while visiting blossoms with bumblebees
through winter, summer, fall and spring

For poems, prose and words that sing
of beauty that brings us to our knees
Dear friends, Thanksgiving
in winter, summer, fall and spring!

Check out other poetic things being shared and collected today by Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat.. Happy Poetry Friday all! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Prose to Poem

I've been reading a lot of primary source documents for my class and am thinking about transforming a prose document into poetry. Let's consider this a form of a found poem. Take a letter, a speech, a passage from a favorite book, any portion of prose with some meaning, and use words from it to write a poem. (Note that if you use excerpts from poems by other authors that you will be writing a cento. You can read more about the cento at

Here's a poem I wrote based on the words from the chapter Winter Animals in Walden: Or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau.

Hills rose up around me
and in misty weather
loomed like fabulous creatures.

I walked freely
far from the village street,
where I heard the forlorn note 
of a hooting owl.

At length the jays arrived,
then the chickadees in flocks,
hammering away with their bills.

And once a sparrow
alighted upon my shoulder.
For a moment,
I was more distinguished
by that circumstance
than any epaulet
I could have worn.

I hope you'll join me this week in turning prose into poetry. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Poetry Friday - To Sleep

Here's what I need most in my life these days ...

To Sleep
by John Keats

O soft embalmer of the still midnight!
Shutting with careful fingers and benign
Our gloom-pleased eyes, embower'd from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine;
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close,
In midst of this thine hymn, my willing eyes,
Or wait the amen, ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities;
Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes;
Save me from curious conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed casket of my soul.

Check out other poetic things being shared and collected today by Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Happy Poetry Friday all!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Poems of Peace

In thinking about Veterans Day I read over some of the pieces linked at the Poetry Foundation's page on Veterans Day Poems, as well as some of the entries at The Sandbox. I have a great deal of respect for soldiers, the sacrifices they make, and the work they do. We wouldn't be who we are without them. That's why this week, I want to write about peace, something we should all be working towards.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a poem for peace, or perhaps one for soldier. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Friday, November 08, 2013

2 Days Late for a Birthday Milestone

On November 6, 2006 (that was 7 years ago!), I launched this blog. Here's a picture of that post.
At that time I was still teaching our technology course and was looking to expand my work with students. 

I've come a LONG way since I started my first web site in the spring of 1995 (yes, you read that correctly). Back then my web pages were all written in HTML. Now this web stuff is so much easier.

I haven't been around much as of late, but am trying hard to reconnect with the community that first embraced me and brought me into the blogging fold. I am so grateful for all the wonderful people I've connected with, many of whom I've had the pleasure of meeting in real life.

So, I'm wishing myself a belated happy birthday while thanking you all from the bottom of my heart. I'm so grateful every time you stop by.

Poetry Friday - For the Chipmunk in My Yard

I've long been a reader of and subscriber to American Life in Poetry. American Life in Poetry is a free weekly column for newspapers and online publications featuring a poem by a contemporary American poet and a brief introduction to the poem by Ted Kooser. The sole mission of this project is to promote poetry.

If you subscribe, each week you get a lovely little gift of poetry in your inbox. What could be better? If you stop by online, you can print out a PDF of your favorite columns.

Here's one of my favorite fall selections from this project.

For the Chipmunk in My Yard 
by Robert Gibb

I think he knows I’m alive, having come down
The three steps of the back porch
And given me a good once over. All afternoon
He’s been moving back and forth,
Gathering odd bits of walnut shells and twigs,
While all about him the great fields tumble

Read the poem in its entirety.

Check out other poetic things being shared and collected today by Diane at Random Noodling. Happy Poetry Friday all!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Cinquain defines the cinquain in this fashion.
The cinquain, also known as a quintain or quintet, is a poem or stanza composed of five lines. Examples of cinquains can be found in many European languages, and the origin of the form dates back to medieval French poetry. 
The most common cinquains in English follow a rhyme scheme of ababb, abaab or abccb. 
I'll admit that the first part of this definition was unfamiliar to me. It was only this second part that I recognized.
Adelaide Crapsey, an early twentieth-century poet, used a form of 22 syllables distributed among the five lines in a 2, 4, 6, 8, and 2 pattern, respectively. Her poems share a similarity with the Japanese tanka, another five-line form, in their focus on imagery and the natural world.
This is the form that is taught in schools alongside haiku and diamante, though I'm not fond of the didactic approach generally taken, which consists of listing words related to a topic (adjectives, action verbs, etc.) .

If you are looking for some guidance, Kenn Nesbitt has a nice page on how to write a cinquain.

For a bit of inspiration, here's an example by Adelaide Crapsey.


Look up…
From bleakening hills
Blows down the light, first breath
Of wintry wind…look up, and scent
The snow!

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

Friday, November 01, 2013

Poetry Friday - November Night and Triad

I've been reviewing poetic forms while selecting topics for my Monday Poetry Stretch series. Since cinquain will be coming up soon, I thought I'd share a few examples today.

November Night
by Adelaide Crapsey

With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

You might know Adelaide Crapsey as the inventor of the cinquain. Even though she authored fewer than 100 poems, her work is spare, yet powerful. Writing through illness and her impending death, much of her work touches on death and dying. Here's an example of one of those poems.

by Adelaide Crapsey

These be
Three silent things:
The falling snow…the hour
Before the dawn…the mouth of one
Just dead.

You can learn more about Crapsey at The Poetry Foundation. If you want to read more of her poetry (she did write more than cinquains), take a look at Verse by Adelaide Crapsey.

Check out other poetic things being shared and collected today by Linda at Teacher Dance. Happy Poetry Friday all!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween - A Bit 'O Shakespeare

Macbeth: Act 4, Scene 1

A dark cave. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.
Thunder. Enter the three Witches.

First Witch 
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.

Second Witch 
Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.

Third Witch 
Harpier cries "'Tis time, 'tis time."

First Witch 
Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch 
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Third Witch 
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch 
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - 13 Ways of Looking at Fall

This weekend I was savoring Wallace Steven's wonderful poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. I began to think that looking at fall in this way might be an interesting thing to do. Now, you don't need to come up with 13 stanzas of your own. Perhaps we could write this as a modified renga, each contributing a verse or two.

Here are the stanzas I'm starting with (I think).

Why is autumn
Is it cooling temperatures?
Dampening spirits
as summer fades away?
Could it be as simple
as dropping leaves?


Ripe, round, juicy
delights picked 
and turned into
steaming, cinnamon slathered pies

However you want to approach it, the challenge this week is to write a few stanzas (or more!) about fall. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Poetry Friday - Zero by Eve Merriam

In honor of the holiday just 6 short days away, I'm sharing a poem in the spirit of the season.
I love the 1987 publication Halloween ABC, written by Eve Merriam and illustrated by Lane Smith. However, I must say that I am even fonder of the 2002 revised and retitled edition Spooky ABC. Besides the absolutely pitch-perfect poems and illustrations, one of the most interesting things about the book is the section at the end entitled "The Awful Truth Behind The Making Of Spooky ABC." In it, Lane Smith describes how the first book and revised edition came about. This section also includes images that were created for the first book, but ultimately dropped because Merriam's poems suggested other illustrations. For example, vampire was lost to viper, tree to trap, and cat to crawler. (I do LOVE the cat illustration, as well as the one for invisible. I wish you could see them!)

Today I'm sharing the poem for the letter Z.

by Eve Merriam

Round blank
Round blank
Only bubbles
mark where it sank.

What was the secret,
what was the prize?
Nothing but hollow
holes for eyes.

Where did it come from,
and where did it go?
No one alive
will ever know.

Check out other poetic things being shared today at Live Your Poem. Wish Irene a happy 1000th post while you're there. Happy Poetry Friday all!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Rictameter

Created in 1990 by two cousins, rictameter is a nine line poetry form in which the 1st and last lines are the same. The syllable count is 2/4/6/8/10/8/6/4/2.

You can learn more about this relatively young form at Wikipedia, or read some examples at Shadow Poetry.

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

Friday, October 18, 2013

Poetry Friday - Mortimer Minute

I hope Mortimer isn't too angry that I finished off the last of the fresh celery greens last night while making a pot of yummy vegetable soup. I promise to head to the farmer's market tomorrow to get him something green and leafy if he promises to stick around!

I've been absent from Poetry Friday for quite a while now, so Laura Purdie Salas thought this might be a way to get me back into the swing of things. I think she just might be right! Like Laura, I'm not much of a meme girl, but this one was too much fun to pass up.

So, without further ado, I'm jumping into the Children's Poetry Blog Hop head first. Many thanks to Laura for the invite!

Here’s how to hop “Mortimer Minute” style!
  • Answer 3 questions. Pick one question from the previous Hopper. Add two of your own. Keep it short, please! This is a Blog Hop, not a Blog Long Jump. This is The Mortimer Minute—not The Mortimer Millennium!
  • Invite friends. Invite 1-3 bloggers who love children’s poetry to follow you. They can be writers, teachers, librarians, or just plain old poetry lovers.
  • Say thank you. In your own post, link to The Previous Hopper. Then keep The Mortimer Minute going — let us know who your Hoppers are and when they plan to post their own Mortimer Minute.
Mortimer's got some friends waiting, so let's go!

Mortimer: Is there a children’s poem that you wish you had written?
Mortimer, you really can't expect me to pick just one! There are so many that I love for so many different reasons. Since growing up next door to a dairy farm, I've always had a fondness for cows. This means that I wish I had written just one of the many cow-themed poems penned by Alice Schertle. Here's one of my favorites.


She landed hard,
they say,
and afterward was slightly lame.
For several days
the curious came to stare,
and many hoped
that she would dare
to try the trick again.
They went away dissatisfied.
She never tried
to jump again,
but gazed for hours at the moon.
They never found the dish and spoon.

Poem ©Alice Schertle. All rights reserved.

Mortimer: Do you have a favorite poetry book from childhood?
I certainly do! It's called THE PEDALING MAN AND OTHER POEMS and is written by Russell Hoban. Here's a photo of my well-worn and much beloved book. It was published in 1968. I'm not sure when I got it, but I remember it well. Growing up near the Erie Canal, Genesee River, and Lake Ontario I was very familiar with water, but it was this poem of Hoban's that captivated me. 

Old Man Ocean
by Russell Hoban

Old Man Ocean, how do you pound
Smooth glass rough, rough stones round?
     Time and the tide and the wild waves rolling,
     Night and the wind and the long gray dawn.

Old Man Ocean, what do you tell,
What do you sing in the empty shell?
     Fog and the storm and the long bell tolling,
     Bones in the deep and brave men gone.

Mortimer: If you could host a dinner party and invite three poets, who would you choose?
Oh Mortimer, that question is just so unfair. Since I'm a rule-breaker, I'll give you two answers. If I could dine with the dead, my choices would be Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Walt Whitman. Of folks writing poetry today, I'd choose J. Patrick Lewis, Helen Frost, and Avis Harley. (Yes, I left out some AMAZING poets, but I'm going to gloat for just a moment and tell you that I have shared meals with some of them!)

That's it for me and my Mortimer Minute. Next week the the Children's Poetry Blog Hop continues with Robyn Hood Black, an author and poet I had the honor of sharing many fabulous meals with while attending a Highlights Foundation workshop.

Robyn is the author of Sir Mike (Scholastic) and Wolves (Intervisual Books) and writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Her poetry appears in The Poetry Friday Anthology and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, Pomelo Books), in Georgia Heard's anthology of found poems, The Arrow Finds Its Mark (Roaring Brook), and in leading haiku journals. Her fiction has appeared in Highlights and her poetry has been featured in Ladybug and Hopscotch. She also creates "art for your literary side" through her business, artsyletters.

Check out other poetic things being shared today at Merely Day by Day. Happy Poetry Friday all!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Kyrielle

I seem to be stuck on repeating forms these days. There is something challenging about fitting the same line(s) into a poem and making it work.

A kyrielle is a French from that was originally used by Troubadours. In the original French kyrielle, lines had eight syllables. Written in English, the lines are usually iambic tetrameters. The distinctive feature of a kyrielle is the refrain in which the final line of every stanza is the same. The name of the form comes from the word kyrie, a form of prayer in which the phrase "Lord have mercy" (kyrie eleison) is repeated.

A kyrielle can be any length as long as it is written in 4 line stanzas of iambic tetrameters. A kyrielle also has a rhyme scheme. Two popular forms are aabB/ccbB/ddbB etc. or abaB/cbcB/dbdB etc., where B is the repeated refrain.

Here is an example of the form.
by John Payne

A lark in the mesh of the tangled vine,
A bee that drowns in the flower-cup's wine,
A fly in sunshine,--such is the man.
All things must end, as all began.

A little pain, a little pleasure,
A little heaping up of treasure;
Then no more gazing upon the sun.
All things must end that have begun.

Where is the time for hope or doubt?
A puff of the wind, and life is out;
A turn of the wheel, and rest is won.
All things must end that have begun.

Golden morning and purple night,
Life that fails with the failing light;
Death is the only deathless one.
All things must end that have begun.

Ending waits on the brief beginning;
Is the prize worth the stress of winning?
E'en in the dawning day is done.
All things must end that have begun.

Weary waiting and weary striving,
Glad outsetting and sad arriving;
What is it worth when the goal is won?
All things must end that have begun.

Speedily fades the morning glitter;
Love grows irksome and wine grows bitter.
Two are parted from what was one.
All things must end that have begun.

Toil and pain and the evening rest;
Joy is weary and sleep is best;
Fair and softly the day is done.
All things must end that have begun.
If you want to learn more about the kyrielle you can read this Wikipedia entry or the article Kyrielle: The Kyrie Reformed.

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

Friday, October 11, 2013

Poetry Friday - She Runs

Laura Salas has done a spectacular job in her poetry Friday introduction describing the Poetry Seven's recent foray into writing pantoums. The only requirement was the form and that we use the line “I’ve got better things to do than survive,” from Ani DiFranco’s song Swandive. I have the album this song is on, so I did not listen to it while I was writing for fear that my poem might too closely resemble the song.

I wish I could explain in some eloquent manner how this poem came to be. It actually began to form while I was walking to work and watching the many people jogging past me. I started thinking about how much I despise running and how sometimes in life it's a struggle to finish the course I've set for myself. With the song lyric in mind, a desire to make the poem rhyme and move a bit like a runner, this is what I came up with. I did take some liberties with the lyric, but you can still see a bit of it in here.

Thanks to my poetry sisters for holding my feet to the fire and encouraging me not only to write, but to share.

She Runs

This day I am alive
up and racing with the sun
I’ll do better than survive
though I’ve only just begun

Up and racing with the sun
breathing morning’s sweet bouquet
I’ve only just begun
to watch the pavement slip away

Breathing morning’s sweet bouquet
clock the miles beneath my feet
watching pavement slip away
down a sleepy, city street

Clock the miles beneath my feet
breathing hard and fading fast
down a sleepy, city street
more mile markers passed

Breathing hard and fading fast
I’ll do better than survive
last mile marker passed
this day I am alive!

I hope you visit the other Poetry Seven blogs today and see how crazy talented these women are and how very different poems revolving around the same line can be. Here's where you'll find them.

Tanita S. Davis - The Mother Load
Kelly Fineman - On My List
Sara Lewis Holmes
Laura Purdie Salas - Buckled Bricks
Liz Garton Scanlon - And This, and This and  The Food Movement (2 poems!)
Andromeda Jazmon Sibley - Moth Sisters

While you're at Laura's place, don't forget to check out the rest of the Poetry Friday entries being shared this week. Happy poetry Friday all!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Rondel/Roundel

A rondel is a variation of the roundeau. In the book A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms, Paul Janeczko calls it a roundel and defines it this way.
A roundel is a three-stanza poem of 11 lines. The stanzas have four, three, and four lines in them and a rhyme scheme of abab bab abab. Ah, but there's more. Line 4 is repeated as line 11 -- not an easy trick!
The roundel in the book, entitled A Silver Trapeze, was written by Alice Schertle, a woman who once said "Writing poetry is difficult, absorbing, frustrating, satisfying, maddening, intriguing – and I love all of it!" I am so with her!

Here is a roundel about a roundel.

The Roundel
By Algernon Charles Swinburne

A roundel is wrought as a ring or a starbright sphere,
With craft of delight and with cunning of sound unsought,
That the heart of the hearer may smile if to pleasure his ear
A roundel is wrought.

Its jewel of music is carven of all or of aught--
Love, laughter, or mourning--remembrance of rapture or fear--
That fancy may fashion to hang in the ear of thought.

As a bird's quick song runs round, and the hearts in us hear
Pause answer to pause, and again the same strain caught,
So moves the device whence, round as a pearl or tear,
A roundel is wrought.
Will you join me this week in writing a roundel? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Tuesday Poetry Stretch - Triolet

It may be "Five O'Clock Somewhere," but it's certainly not Monday anywhere. Sorry for being a bit late on this one.

Since I've been playing around with the pantoum, I want to try another strict verse form this week. I've only written a few triolets, largely because the form scares the heck out of me. A triolet is an eight line poem with a tightly rhymed structure and repeated lines. Here is the form.
line 1 - A
line 2 - B
line 3 - A
line 4 - line 1 repeated
line 5 - A
line 6 - B
line 7 - line 1 repeated
line 8 - line 2 repeated
You can read an example and learn more about this form at

Here is a triolet I particularly like. It comes from the book Fly With Poetry: An ABC of Poetry, written and illustrated by Avis Harley.
by Avis Harley

Have you ever swum in a sea
alive with silver light
sprinkled from a galaxy?
Have you ever swum in a sea
littered with glitter graffiti
scribbled on liquid night?
Have you ever swum in a sea
alive with silver light?
Another terrific triolet can be found in Paul Janeczko's A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms. Written by Alice Schertle, the poem is entitled The Cow's Complaint.

Will you write a triolet with me this week? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rigged Game by Dylan Garity

No one will ever convince me that teaching isn't the hardest job in the world. Here's Dylan Garity's take on teaching and why it's a "rigged game."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Cleaning House

Last week my mother entered a nursing home. I've just returned to Virginia after spending several days looking through the accumulation of 84 years, trying to decide what to keep and what to let go. It's not an easy process. When my father died 4 years ago my mother significantly down-sized, leaving our family home for a much smaller space. Despite it's smaller size, there is still much to consider.

While cleaning house I came across a newspaper clipping regarding a late night automobile accident my father was in. That was a story I never heard as a child! There are the pictures and letters, of course, but sometimes the stories my mother told we more precious than the objects themselves.

This is all a terribly hard business. It makes me want pare down my own possessions and reminds me that the things are not as important as the people.

I don't have a form in mind this week, but I think writing about cleaning house is where I'm going. Won't you join me? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Bouts-Rimés

A bouts-rimés poem is created by one person's making up a list of rhymed words and giving it to another person, who in turn writes the lines that end with those rhymes, in the same order they were given.

You can read more at Wikipedia and learn a bit about the history of this form.

For today's stretch I asked a friend to generate a word list for me. (These all came from a poem of note, so kudos to you if you can name it.)

Here is your word list.

night, light, sky, cry, rain, lane, feet, street

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

Monday, September 09, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Haiku

I'm quite fond of haiku, though I find it hard to write well. (Actually, I find many forms difficult to master!) When thinking of writing haiku I often return to J. Patrick Lewis' book Black Swan/White Crow, illustrated by Christopher Manson. In the introduction, Lewis describes the form and encourages readers to write their own haiku.
To write a haiku, you might go for a walk in a city park, a meadow, the zoo. Put all your senses on full alert. Watch. Listen. Imagine that what you are seeing or smelling or hearing has never been seen, smelled, or heard before--and may never be again. Now take a picture of it--but only with your words.
The best haiku make you think and wonder for a longer than it takes to say them. I've always loved that last line.
Here's one of the haiku from the book I still think about, especially when I'm at the beach.
Frantic sandpiper
high tides erasing
her footnotes

Poem ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.

I hope you'll write some haiku with me this week. I'm thinking a lot about summer's demise and the beginning of fall, so that's where my poems seem to be going. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments. 

Monday, September 02, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - School Supplies

Some folks are already back at school (myself included), but many begin in earnest tomorrow. After a bit of back-to-school shopping yesterday and some (I'm not too proud to say it) salivating over the shiny new items in the office supply aisle, I can't stop thinking about about my obsession for school supplies.

One of my favorite poems about a school supply item is this one by Daniel J. Langton.
by Daniel J. Langton 
I was sent home the first day
with a note: Danny needs a ruler.
My father nodded, nothing seemed so apt.
School is for rules, countries need rulers,
graphs need graphing, the world is straight ahead. 
Read the poem in its entirety.
I hope you'll write a little something about a school supply item this week. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments. In the meantime, I'll be dreaming about those colored pencils.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Labor

In a speech given at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. asked students "What Is Your Life's Blueprint?". In this speech he said the following about work.
If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.
With Labor Day just one week away, I thought this would be a good time to celebrate those who work day in and day out, without fanfare, without accolades, and often, without notice. I'd like to celebrate those who do the jobs that few of us are inclined to do. I can't imagine where we would be without them.

I hope you'll write about labor this week. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Lune

One can find many variations on haiku these days. Often these forms attempt to find a syllabic pattern that is more appropriate to English than Japanese. Today's poetry stretch takes the form of one of these variations.
The lune is a haiku variation invented and named by poet Robert Kelly. The lune, so called because of how the right edge is bowed like a crescent moon, is a thirteen syllable form arranged in three lines of 5 / 3/ 5 respectively.
(Adapted from The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms.)
You can try your hand at writing an instant lune or read some examples by Robert Kelly here.

I wrote these lunes to get us started.
Lune #1
wings beating, whirring
you float there
sipping sweet nectar

Can you guess what I was watching when I wrote this?

Lune #2
watermelon days
rush headlong
toward pencils, books, desks

I suppose none of us can escape this one. I, for one, can't wait!
So, do you want to play? What kind of lunes will you write? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Snowball

It will be in the nineties today, but I'll be keeping cool writing snowball poetry. Here's an introduction.

The OULIPO is a form created in 1960 by a writer and mathematician. The form is designed to examine verse written under strict constraints. There are many constraint forms. Snowball is one of these forms.
  • Snowball: A poem in which each line is a single word, and each successive word is one letter longer. This form could also start with one word with each line growing by one word.
You can read more about this form at Wikipedia and The official site is here, but alas, I do not read French. (However, the Google language tools are somewhat helpful.)

There is an interesting article entitled Snowballs and Other Numerate Acts of Textuality that has a nice introduction to the form. YOu can find this snowball poem by John Newman there.
(sort of)
new topic
to discuss.

do you enjoy
does word play
give headeaches?
are you confused?

This is a snowball,
A poetic form which
was created by those
who group themselves
with the name of Oulipo.
Every line contains one
Additional letter. U like?

I hope you'll join me in writing a snowball poem this week. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments. Have fun with this one!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Tanka

Tanka is a form of Japanese poetry that has been practiced for more than 1000 years. Tanka are composed of 31 syllables in a 5/7/5/7/7 format. Most tanka focus on a single event of some significance.

In her article Tanka as Diary, Amelia Fielden writes:
Tanka, meaning ‘short song’, is a 1300 year old Japanese form of lyric poetry. Non-rhyming, it is composed in Japanese in five phrases of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables.

In English, tanka are normally written in five lines, also without (contrived) rhyme, but in a flexible short/long/short/long/long rhythm. Due to dissimilarities between the two languages, it is preferable not to apply the thirty-one syllable standard of the Japanese poems, to tanka in English. Around twenty-one plus/minus syllables in English produces an approximate equivalent of the essentially fragmentary tanka form, and its lightness. To achieve a “perfect twenty-one”, one could write five lines in 3/5/3/5/5 syllables. If the resulting tanka sounds natural, then that’s fine. However, the syllable counting does not need to be so rigid. Though no line should be longer than seven syllables, and one should try to maintain the short/long/short/long/long rhythm, variations such as 2/4/3/5/5 or 4/6/3/6/7 or 3/6/4/5/6 syllable patterns can all make good tanka.
Tanka Online has a wonderful Quick Start Guide to Writing Tanka. Finally, Atlas Poetica has a terrific post entitled 25 Tanka for Children. The educator's note at the bottom has very useful advice for writing tanka.

Will you write some tanka with us this week? What will you write about? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Clerihew

clerihew is a short verse that is biographical and humorous. Here are the rules for writing a clerihew.
  • The poem must be four lines long.
  • The rhyme scheme must be a/a/b/b.
  • The first line should consist of the name of a person.
  • The poem should be biographical and humorous. Often times clerihews poke fun at famous people.
You can learn more about clerihews at Poetry for Kids and Wikipedia. You can get some advice on writing clerihews at Giggle Poetry

Here’s one by Paul Janeczko:
Harry Potter
Was a magical plotter
At Hogwarts he became a master
After many a goof and disaster.
So, what kind of clerihew will you write? Will your subject be literary or political? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments. Have fun with this one!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Hay(na)ku

I've found another new form that I would like to try this week. It's called hay(na)ku and was created in 2003 by poet Eileen Tabios. Here are the guidelines.
Hay(na)ku is a 3-line poem of six words with one word in the first line, two words in the second, and three in the third. There are no other rules and no restrictions on number of syllables or rhyme.
You can learn more about the form at Poetry Form. I love this example posted there.

   adds up.
   Love isn't math.

Poem © Dan Waber

Need some examples? You can find some at the Hay(na)ku Poetry blog. (Look for the Hay(na)ku contest winners.) There is also a thoughtful essay about the form at Dragoncave.

As you'll see from the examples, some folks create poems comprised of several hay(na)ku strung together. So, what kind of hay(na)ku will you write? 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Sijo

Originating in Korea, sijo are poems divided into three or six lines. These poems frequently use word play in the form of metaphors, symbols and puns. Here is a description from AHApoetry.
More ancient than haiku, the Korean SIJO shares a common ancestry with haiku, tanka and similar Japanese genres. All evolved from more ancient Chinese patterns.

Sijo is traditionally composed in three lines of 14-16 syllables each, totaling between 44-46 syllables. A pause breaks each line approximately in the middle; it resembles a caesura but is not based on metrics.
I'm quite fond of the poems in Linda Sue Park's book Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo Poems. Her sijo are full of little surprises. One of my favorites is entitled Long Division. It is the poem that gives the book its title. Another favorite is the poem below.
Summer Storm

Lightning jerks the sky awake to take her photograph, flash!
Which draws grumbling complaints or even crashing tantrums from thunder--

He hates having his picture taken, so he always gets there late.

How do you write a sijo? Here is a brief summary of the advice Park gives at the end of her book.
Three line poems should contain about 14 to 16 syllables per line. Six line poems should contain 7 or 8 syllables per line.

The first line should contain a single image or idea. The second line should develop this further. The last line should contain the twist. 

So, your challenge this week is to write a sijo. If you need a little inspiration, check out the winning entries in the 2013 Sejong Writing Competition.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Almost As Good As Wizard's Chess

For your viewing pleasure ...

Monday, July 08, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Terza Rima

I've been reading poetry this week and have iambic pentameter on the brain. I thought we should try a form that uses this meter, so this week I've chosen Terza rima. The Handbook of Poetic Forms defines terza rima in this fashion.
Terza rima is a tumbling, interlocking rhyme scheme that was invented by the thirteenth-century Italian poet Dante for the creation of his long poem, The Divine Comedy.

Terza rima (an Italian phrase meaning "third rhyme") consists of a series of three-line stanzas (tercets) with the rhyme scheme aba bcb cdc ded and so on. It can go on as long as the poet wishes. At the end of the poem an extra line is often added to complete the structure: yzy z.
You can read more on this form at Here is a poem written in terza rima by Robert Frost.
Acquainted with the Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
You can read another example in Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem, Ode to the West Wind.

So, what kind of terza rima will you write? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - List Poem

I could list all the reasons why I've been absent, but thought a poem would be better.

Why Poems (and Blog Posts) Aren't Written

The end of school
beginning of summer
laundry needs folding
house needs cleaning
mind and body never in the same place at the same time
sleepless nights
pens out of ink
pencil points broken
computers crashed
inspiration flown the coop

In all honesty, my mom was in the hospital for three months and the travel and worry made it really hard to be present anywhere. She's home now with 24-hour nursing care and a plan in place that says there will be no more hospital visits. I'm having a bit of trouble wrapping my heart and mind around what that means.

In the meantime, I'm teaching summer school and getting on with the business of life. I'm sorry I haven't been here. I have missed you and missed blogging. I hope you'll join me this week and write a list poem. I'm going to keep going and see if I can't write something a bit more inspirational.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Ideograms

This in one of my favorite May Swenson poems.
Cardinal Ideograms
by May Swenson

0     A mouth.  Can blow or breathe,
       be a funnel, or Hello.

1     A grass blade or cut.

2     A question seated.  And a proud
       bird’s neck.

3     Shallow mitten for a two-fingered hand.

4     Three-cornered hut
       on one stilt.  Sometimes built
       so the roof gapes.

I love the notion of writing about the shape of things. What do you see in the number 6? Or the letter Y? What kind of ideogramatic poem can from the word L-O-V-E? (Ideogramatic? Yeah, I just made that up!)

Visit Joyce Sidman's site to see how she used the words in her name to write an ideogram poem. Now it's your turn to write an ideogram poem. Leave me a note about your work and I'll share the results here later this week.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Rhopalic Verse

In the book Fly With Poetry: An ABC of Poetry, written and illustrated by Avis Harley, you'll find descriptions and examples of many different poetic forms. This week I want to try rhopalic verse. Here's how Avis defines it.
Rhopalic Verse: (from Greek "rhopalon"--a club which is thicker at one end)
Lines in which each successive word has one syllable more than the one before it.
Here is an example.

Small spiders filigree
the garden greenery
with silken precision. Delicately, definitively,
they network tapestries
that capture
than morning's glorious

Poem ©Avis Harley. All rights reserved.
So, your challenge is to write a rhopalic verse. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results later this week.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Poetry A-Z: Day 30 ... Celebrations

I can't believe it's that last day of April. As usual, after 29 days of poetry goodness I have a laundry list of things I wish I'd done differently, topics I wish I'd covered, and books I know I missed. So how does one cap off a month filled with poetry? I've decided to do it with a bit of celebration.

CELEBRATION - the action of marking one's pleasure at an important event or occasion by engaging in enjoyable, typically social, activity

Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts, and More, written and edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn, is an enormous collection of filled-to-the-brim facts by month accompanied by carefully selected poems. Each month of the year is highlighted with a double-page calendar spread in which each  box on the calendar includes one or more noteworthy events (birthdays, historical happenings, holidays, etc.) for that date. At the top of each double-page spread is a fact box listing the origin of the month's name and information on the flower, birthstone and zodiac sign for the month. Along the bottom readers will find a quote by an individual with a highlighted birthday and a report of some weather extreme that occurred during the month. 

Since we're wrapping up April, here are some of the tidbits you'll find for the month of May.
Mother's Day - 2nd Sunday 
Memorial Day - 4th Monday 
The name for May haas a mixed history. Some say it stems from Maia, the goddess of growth, while others maintain the month was named to pay tribute to the Majores, or Maiores, the older branch of the Roman Senate. The number of days has varied from twenty-two to thirty to today's thirty-one. 
Weather Report - On May 17, 1979, the temperature dipped to 12 degrees at the Mauna Kea Observatory, establishing an all-time record low for Hawaii.
For each of the poems in the monthly sections you'll find a bit of informational text about the person, holiday, or event. Here's what you'll find on p. 49.
May 17, 2000:
Sue, a dinosaur, is exhibited in Chicago, Illinois
In South Dakota in 1990 Sue Hendrickson discovered bone fossils that later were assembled into the largest, most complete skeleton ever found of the Tyrannosaurus rex, a dinosaur that lived more than 67 million years ago.
     In 1997, at an auction, the Field Museum of Chicago, Illinois, offered the highest price for the bones, more than $8 million.
     After three years of laboriously putting Sue back together, she went on exhibit in the Field Museum.
And here's the poem for this event.

Fossil Finds
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

No skin,
no scale,
no ancient moan—
her legacy is strictly

One of my favorite poems in the book is on p. 104 and is part of the December section.

December 21: First day of winter

I Heard a Bird Sing
by Oliver Herford

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember:
"We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,"
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You've Never Heard Of, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Anna Raff, is a collection of 22 poems about holidays you won't believe actually exist, but they do! There are poems here for Dragon Appreciation Day (January 16), National Hippo Day (February 15), Worm Day (March 15), Firefly Day (April 10), Limerick Day (May 12),—which if I'm not mistaken is Edward Lear's birthday—and many more! While all of the poems and nearly all of these holidays are devoted to animals, I'm find I'm quite partial to the notion of Chocolate-Covered Anything Day (December 16), though the notion of chocolate-covered ants is a bit revolting!. Here are two of my favorite poems.

January 16 - Dragon Appreciation Day


At every meal, bow your head, fold your wings, and say, “Graze.”
Wait till someone screams, “Let’s heat!”
Don’t talk with people in your mouth.
Never blow on your soup. That only makes it hotter.
Don’t smoke.
Never remove a hare from your food.
Play with your food, but don’t let it run around screaming.
Chew your food. Once.

March 15 - Worm Day

Take my advice:
For your own good,
Stay away from
The Robin 'hood.

Poems © 2013 J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.

You can learn a bit more about this book and the wonderful illustrations in the video below.

Sadly, this is it for April 2013 and Poetry A-Z. I hope I've fittingly ended this month-long feast of poetry. Now go on into May and continue to celebrate the goodness that is poetry. Thanks so much for joining me.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Poetry A-Z: Day 29 ... Gardens

My son and I spent Saturday morning in the community garden on campus pulling weeds. Growing weeds seems to be my forte, while growing vegetables ... NOT SO MUCH! My garden partner and I have planted radishes, broccoli, two kinds of basil, squash, and sunflowers. We're waiting a bit to put in the tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. I do love fresh vegetables, so pulling weeds will be tedious and highly annoying, but I have to keep reminding myself of all the good things that will come in the end.

Given my recent experiences, this seems like a particularly appropriate time to write about poetry in the garden.

Oddhopper Opera: A Bug's Garden of Verses, written and illustrated by Kurt Cyrus, is a collection of poems that provides an unusual view of the garden and its inhabitants in all their (sometimes disgusting) glory. It begins:
Once upon a garden rotten,
Twice forlorn and half forgotten . . .

Drip--drip--cold and wet.
Winter isn't over yet.

Drip--drip--soaking, sopping
Always dripping, never stopping.

Drip--drip--sound of thunder
Wakes a weevil way down under.

Drip--drip--burrow deep.
Wait for spring. Go back to sleep.
When the temperature rises, all manner of oddhoppers (bees, beetles, crickets, fleas, etc.) come out of the woodwork! There's a beetle on his back (kicking to right himself), a snake in the grass, katydids, a walking stick, stinkbug and, more. Here's one that always makes me smile and makes listeners wrinkle their noses in delight.
Bugs are digging--scoop it out.
Move it, boys, let's hack it out!
Front feet, back feet, scrape it out.
        Dig we must.
        Excuse our dust.
Black muck, brown muck, mix it up.
Watch it, boys, it's breaking up!
Punch it! Pat it! Patch it up!
        Bless my soul--
        It's time to roll.
Dung balls rolling--move 'em out!
The rhythm of the text, the cadence that propels you forward, the hidden jokes in the illustrations--all artfully combine to make this one thoroughly enjoyable book. Perhaps most of all I like that Oddhopper Opera is a handsome invitation for young readers to explore the world of the garden and its inhabitants on their own time, while getting down and dirty with some real live bugs.

    I Heard it From Alice Zucchini: Poems About the Garden, written by Juanita Havill and illustrated by Christine Davenier, is a collection of poems by turns both whimsical and scientific, Juanita's first poetry book (though far from her first published work!) is a magical collection about growing things. Here's the poem that opens the book.
    When I Grow Up

    In the still chill of a winter night
    seeds on the gardener's bench
    rattle their packets
    with chattering.

    "When I grow up,
    I'm going to be . . . "

    "The biggest watermelon."
    "Greenest spinach."
    "Toughest kale."
    "A rutabaga round as the world."
    "An everywhere zucchini vine."
    "Cornstalk so tall I touch the sky."

    Little seeds
    with big plans,
    chittering, chattering,
    except for one,
    not a murmur from his packet.

    Hey, little seed,
    what about you?
    What will you be
    when you grow up?

    In the still chill of the winter night:
    "I'm going to be FIRST!"

    And the radish is right.

    Poem © Juanita Havill. All rights reserved.
    Given that seeds and plants "talk" in this collection, readers will find all manner of garden gossip, and what fun it is! However, I'm still quite fond of this very simple poem.

    Plant seeds early in the spring
    when the ground is warm,
    two inches deep in well-tilled soil
    where they'll be safe from harm.

    Let the sun and rain pour down.
    Be careful where you hoe.
    A miracle is taking place:
    Seeds split and start to grow.

    Poem © Juanita Havill. All rights reserved.
    Juanita followed this book of poetry with Grow: A Novel in Verse. It is the story of Kate Sibley, a twelve-year old girl and Berneetha, a teacher who decides to plant a community garden on a vacant lot that has long been neglected and is strewn with trash. While folks at first just watch Kate and Berneetha work in the garden, soon they join in to help. Just as the garden begins to take shape, Randall Conn, the owner of the lot dies, and troubles ensue when his son decides to turn the lot into a parking garage. Will the garden survive?

    The story is deftly told in a series of poems that allows readers to watch both the characters and the garden grow. But more importantly, readers really get to know these characters inside and out. They are well drawn and utterly human. Here's an excerpt from the poem "About Berneetha."
    She does things:
    sizzling, stirring,
    zapping, rocking,
    purring, jumping,
    dancing things.
    With Berneetha
    everything happens
    big time
    even the quiet things
    like sitting still
    and staring at frost
    on the window in winter
    or counting cricket chirps
    when the summer sun sets (p. 13)
    Here's another excerpt, this time from the poem "Harlan's Favorite Flower."
    Once he asked Berneetha
    how a whole plant
    can sprout and grow and flower
    all from a sliver of seed.
    What was it
    in that seed
    that made it grow
    in the dirt
    and bloom yellow, white,
    purple, orange, maroon,
    like a conjure man had spoken
    a spell over it?

    Berneetha said
    we all start as seeds--
    each of us different,
    each of us beautiful. (pp. 58-59)

    Poems © Juanita Havill. All rights reserved.
    In Our Backyard Garden, written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Marcy Ramsey - Set in the garden and around garden events, this is a collection of poems all about family that is filled with love and laughs.

    September's sun
    falls golden
    on the garden.
    A butterfly
    wings past
    my baby brother.
    Grandad picks
    the last of
    the zucchini.
    Grandmother cuts
    a last bouquet
    of mint.
    Aunt Sissy and I
    take one last
    hammock ride
    to places we have
    read about
    in books.

    Poem © Eileen Spinelli. All rights reserved.

    That's it for today. See you tomorrow for another mystery post and a wrap-up. Where has April gone?!

    Sunday, April 28, 2013

    Poetry A-Z: Day 28 ... School Days

    As my friends in K-12 schools finish up the last 9 weeks of the school year and begin testing like mad, things here are winding down. Classes here have officially come to an end, but we still have finals and I have LOADS of grading ahead of me. As I work to wrap up the spring semester and plan for summer school, I'm thinking a lot about the academic year. This cycle of school days puts me in mind of some wonderful books of poetry about school.

    First Food Fight This Fall: And Other School Poems, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa, follows a group of children as they learn and grow over the course of a school year. These poems are written in the children's voices and fairly sing about the highs and lows of school. What's most interesting is that readers will see how the kids grow and change over the course of the year. Here are two poems that show this growth.
    The Class I Hate
    by Fumi

    A-tisket, a-tasket,
    don't wanna shoot a basket,
    or join a baseball team,
    or walk the balance beam.
    Would I care to climb a rope,
    run, or tumble? One word: nope!
    I don't even like to swim.
    Guess what class I hate.
    It's gym!

    The Class I Love
    by Fumi

    Hickory, dickory, dock,
    hurry up, hurry up, clock!
    I want the time to pass
    so I can get to class.
    Here's the crazy thing:
    I can cha-cha, rumba, swing,
    do merengue, salsa, too.
    There's no dance that I can't do.
    Yes, I know what I once said.
    But now I love, love, LOVE Phys. Ed.!

    Poems ©Marilyn Singer. All rights reserved.

    Dear Mr. Rosenwald, written by Carol Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, is a collection of poems that tell the story of how one community came together to build a new school--a Rosenwald School. Imagine attending a school where wind sweeps through cracks in the walls, rain drips from the ceiling, and indoor heating and plumbing are noticeably absent. It may seem unbelievable, but for many African American children attending segregated schools, these conditions (and often worse) were the reality in public education.

    Weatherford's book begins with the poem 1921: One-Room School. Here is an excerpt.
    My teacher, Miss Mays, said,
    You can't judge a school
    by the building. When the roof leaks,
    she calls us vessels of learning.
    When the floor creaks, she says
    knowledge is a solid foundation.
    From the very beginning, the heart, the dreams, and yearning of people longing to be educated comes through. As told by Ovella, a young girl in the community, we meet dedicated people who put their blood and sweat into backbreaking work that doesn't earn a decent living, and then see them spend that money for the good of the community. We see families and communities at work, at home and church, coming together for the common good. You see, Rosenwald schools were only partially funded through grants from the rural school building program. The balance came from the community. This meant that hard-working, poor folks needed to raise money, acquire land and build that school. The poem New School Rally ends with these words.
    Everyone in church stood, clapping.
    How on earth will poor people
    find money to give away?
    How indeed? In the poem Taking Root, we learn that the church gives an acre of land for the new school. In the poems Box Party and Passing the Plate, we learn about the ways in which people worked and sacrificed to raise money. Finally, the seeds of hope begin to grow, as Blueprints for the school are presented. Soon building materials are acquired, a roof is raised, second-hand materials arrive, a playground is built, and a school is born. Every time I read this book, I'm all choked up by the time I get to 1922: White Oak School. It begins this way.
    Uncle Bo cut the ribbon at the doorway
    and we marched into the new school,
    proud as can be. The place sparkled.
    The poem that lends its title to the book is the final piece. Ovella completes her first lesson, writing a letter to the man who helped make this new school a reality.

    This is a moving and powerful book. I have highlighted the beauty of the language, but cannot fail to mention that the gouache and colored pencil illustrations by R. Gregory Christie remarkably capture and extend the emotion of the poetry.

    I Thought I'd Take My Rat to School: Poems for September to June, selected by Dorothy Kennedy and Illustrated by Abby Carter, contains 57 poems that describe the range of experiences children have in school, from classroom pets, to school supplies, recess, mean kids, and more. Poems in this volume are written by Gary Soto, Bobbi Katz, Judith Viorst, Karla Kuskin, Eve Merriam, and many others. There are at least three different poems on the topic of homework. Here is an excerpt from each one.
    by Russell Hoban

    Homework sits on top of Sunday, squashing Sunday flat.
    Homework has the smell of Monday, homework's very fat.
    Heave books and piles of paper, answers I don't know.
    Sunday evening's almost finished, now I'm going to go

    Homework! Oh, Homework!
    by Jack Prelutsky

    Homework! Oh, Homework!
    I hate you! You stink!
    I wish I could wash you
    away in the sink,
    if only a bomb
    would explode you to bits.
    Homework! Oh, Homework!
    You're giving me fits.

    by Jane Yolen

    What is it about homework
    That makes me want to write
    My Great Aunt Myrt to thank her for
    The sweater that's too tight?
    This is an entertaining collection of poems with many gems that are sure to please students.

    School Supplies: A Book of Poems, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Renée Flower, contains 16 poems about the school paraphernalia we simply can't do without. If you have kids who get excited about pencils, paperclips, crayons, and other such schoolroom tools, then this book will grab them with its artwork and its poetry. For the aspiring writer in your class, there are poems about new notebooks, writer's notebooks, and lots of writing utensils. For the kids who lean towards illustrated writing, there are poems on crayons and Popsicle sticks and glue. There is a homework poem in this one too. Here is an excerpt.

    by Barbara Juster Esbensen

    It rustles it
    shifts with no wind
    in the room to
    move it
    the blank white
    needs your attention.

    Stampede!: Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School, written by Laura Purdie  Salas and illustrated by Steven Salerno, is a collection of poems that recognizes and celebrates the ways kids mimic the behaviors of animals. The poems are funny, clever, and clearly recognize the ups and downs of being a kid. Here is one of my favorites.
    I'm one quiet fox.
    My desk is my den,
    with quizzes, smooth rocks, and
    a note from a friend.

    I tuck deep inside
    the hollowed-out wood
    to make me feel safe when I'm
    not understood.

    Poem ©Laura Purdie Salas. All rights reserved.

    The Bug in the Teacher's Coffee: And Other School Poems, written by Kalli Dakos and illustrated by Mike Reed, is an I Can Read Book designed to introduce poetry to children learning to read independently. The mask poems in this book are short, rhymed, and full of bouncy fun. Here are two poems from this book.

    Monkey Bars

    Rightside up,
    and upside down,
    Back and forth,
    And all around,
    The kids
    are making monkey sounds!


    Schools Get Hungry Too

    I'd like a bowl
    Of ruler stew,
    A pencil sandwich,
    And some glue.

    Some purple paint,
    I'd like to drink,
    And for dessert,
    A classroom sink.
    Poems © Kalli Dakos. All rights reserved.

    Lunch Box Mail and Other Poems, written and illustrated by Jenny Whitehead is a collection of 38 poems, most of them about school. While not all the poems are about school, they do cover a wonderful mix of subjects and use a variety poetic forms. They are playful and fun to read aloud. Here are the first two poems from the book, which provide contrasting views of school.

    The 1st Day of School

    Brand-new crayons and
          unchipped chalk
    Brand-new haircut,
          spotless smock.
    Brand-new rules—
          "No running, please."
    Brand-new pair of
          nervous knees.
    Brand-new faces,
          unclogged glue.
    Brand-new hamster,
          shiny shoes.
    Brand-new teacher,
          classroom fun.
    Brand-new school year's
          just begun.

    The 179th Day of School

    Broken crayons and
          mop-head hair.
    Scuffed-up shoes and
          squeaky chair.
    Dried-up paste,
          chewed, leaky pens.
    Dusty chalkboard,
          lifelong friends.
    One inch taller,
          bigger brain.
    Well-worn books,
          old grape-juice stain.
    Paper airplanes,
          classroom cheer.
    School is done and
          summer's here!

    Poem © Jenny Whitehead. All rights reserved.

    That's it for today. See you tomorrow for another mystery post!