Tuesday, March 31, 2015

NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - At the Starting Gate!

I've been looking for a good way to describe my choice of project this year and why I'm so passionate about poetic forms. After listening to this fabulous PBS NewsHour piece on Kwame Alexander​ and poetry, I can say it no better.
"See, I’m in love with poetry. And there are so many different forms of poetry. And I believe I wanted to have that sort of variety, that sort of diversity of verse, so that kids could sort of figure out what they were interested in and what they could latch on to and perhaps mimic some of these poems themselves."
Ditto and Amen.

See you tomorrow for the launch of my 2015 project, Jumping Into Form. Up first is the sijo.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday Poetry Stretch - Tripadi

I've embarked these last few weeks on exploring poetic forms that I've never written before, and in many cases, never even knew existed. This week I've chosen to explore tripadi.

Tripadi is a form of Bengali Poetry. It originated in Eastern India sometime in the 10th century. The tripadi is a written in stanzas with any number of tercets. Here are the requirements of a tripadi.
  • Each tercet is generally a sentence of 20 or 26 syllables
  • A tercet is broken into lines of 6-6-8 or 8-8-10 syllables. 
  • The rhyme scheme is: aax / bbx / ccx, etc.

You can read more about this form and see an example at Poetry Magnum Opus.

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

Saturday, March 28, 2015

2015 National Poetry Month Project - The Lowdown

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

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

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

Poetry Friday - Rock Me To Sleep

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

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

Rock Me to Sleep
by Elizabeth Akers Allen

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

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

Read the poem in its entirety.

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

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Poetry Stretch - Clogyrnach (Welsh Poetic Form)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 20, 2015

Poetry Friday - Two For the Madness

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

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

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

Mysteries of the Universe

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

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

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

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

Before Hansel and Gretel

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Poetry Stretch - Double Dactyl

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

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

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

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

There she became somewhat
Less than amphibious;
Drowned in the sea-foam 'mid
Morals galore.
If my notes aren't helpful, you can find a description of double dactyls at Poetry Base and Everything2.com.

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

Friday, March 13, 2015

Poetry Friday - A Second Sestina

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

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

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

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

Waiting on Spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 09, 2015

Monday Poetry Stretch - Ottava Rima

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

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

Sailing to Byzantium
by William Butler Yeats

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

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

Read the poem in its entirety.

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

Friday, March 06, 2015

Poetry Seven Write Sestinas

Let me just put it out there and say that I think sestinas suck. I really do not like this form. It's too long and unwieldy. It's repetitive, and not in a good way. Beyond slotting the end words into each stanza, you can't do much planning. In each poem I wrote, the words and poem took on a life of their own and I was forced to follow along.

We began this process by suggesting words to work with. I started writing when we had only 6 words to choose from. Those words were: here/hear, sense/cents, cart, turn, up, wind.
I listed the words on the top of a form and wrote the first stanza. Then I listed the end words in the remaining stanzas and envoi, looked them over, and jumped in.

Inspired by Sara's villanelle, I got caught up in something a bit more playful as I wondered who is actually crazy enough to write these things. Apparently, when all is said and done, I am! Here's the very first sestina I've ever written.

Writing the Sestina

Who does these things? I hear
poets can make sense
of this form, turn
words inside out, put the cart
before the horse. I wind
myself up

gearing up
to write. I hear
rhyme and meter in the wind,
devour poetry with every sense.
I cherry pick words, ripened fruit from a peddler’s cart,
watch them tumble down the page, turn

the corner, swirl around, and turn, turn, turn.
Churning in my stomach, they wander up
to my heart, my head. A menu, this a la carte
collection of sounds, an “oh” here,
an “ah” there, makes sense
only when read aloud, my breath on the wind.

I’ll toss this poem to the wind
hoping it will return,
that it has the good sense
to straighten up
and fly right. Say hear!
Cooperate and I’ll give you carte

blanche to carry this thing away in a push-cart,
unbound by rules, wind-
-ing and moving from here
to there as wheels turn
round. Energized I’m looking up.
Do I sense

the end is near? What per-cent
is complete? Can I pack it in? Cart
it away? Not yet. Don’t give up.
Stand firm against the wind.
Don’t hesitate to turn
the page. Put words here and HERE.

This sestina is nonsense in the wind,
a cartful of playful word tumbles and turns.
Listen up! There’s poetry here.

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

Once the group settled on a larger set of words (12!), I decided to try again, not completely happy with my first poem. I'll share that sestina with you next week.

We're missing Sara today, but her book draft was much more important than this month's endeavor. Don't fret ... she will be back! You can read the poems written by the other Poetry Seven compatriots at the links below. 

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

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Thematic Book List - Biographies of Early Scientists (through Newton)

In a letter to Robert Hooke in 1676, Isaac Newton wrote "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants." Newton, just like the scientists of today, relied on the work of scientists and mathematicians who came before him.

Below you will find a list of books on scientists before and including Newton. I've also thrown in a couple of important mathematicians. Titles are roughly arranged in chronological order.
The Life and Times of Aristotle (2006), written by Jim Whiting - This biography from the Biography from Ancient Civilizations series provides a compelling look at Aristotle and his influence across history in a wide range of subjects. Though Aristotle was a philosopher, he was for many centuries considered the world's greatest scientist. Whiting explores Aristotle's contributions to science, as well as history and politics. Back matter includes a chronology, selected works, timeline in history, chapter notes, glossary, and further reading ideas.

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth (1994), written by Kathryn Lansky and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes - This biography of the Greek philosopher and scientist Eratosthenes, who compiled the first geography book and accurately measured the globe's circumference, tells the story of his life from his birth over two thousand years ago in northern Africa (modern Libya) to his work as the chief librarian at the great library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt. 

Of Numbers and Stars: The Story of Hypatia (2006), written by D. Anne Love and illustrated by Pamela Paparone - The daughter of Theon, a mathematician, philosopher, and the last director of the Library at Alexandria, Hypatia was educated in the ways of many young men of her time and was one of the first women to study math, science, and philosophy. This book provides a nice overview of the time and place in which Hypatia lived. The artwork evokes both Egyptian and Greek styles and nicely incorporates images that reflect the subjects Hypatia studied. This is a carefully crafted picture book biography on a woman that little is known of. Despite this, her story is one that will inspire. Included are an author's note and bibliography, as well as some additional notes about mathematics.

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci (2009), written by Joseph D'Agnese and illustrated by John O'Brien - Medieval Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci is introduced in this first person biography. In traveling with this father, Fibonacci learned geometry in Greece, fractions from the Egyptians, and Hindu-Arabic numerals in India. Largely responsible for converting Europe from Roman numerals to Hindu-Arabic numerals, he also realized that many things in nature followed a certain pattern, today known as the Fibonacci sequence.
Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer (2012), written and illustrated by Robert Byrd - In this gorgeously illustrated picture book biography, Byrd provides a wealth of information about da Vinci's life and work. In addition to the traditional narrative, da Vinci's own words, anecdotes, and journal excerpts are found in sidebars and small panel illustrations. Byrd clearly and concisely explains da Vinci's theories in a way all readers can understand.

Leonardo da Vinci: Giants of Science (2008), written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Boris Kulikov - An extensive biography for older students (middle grades and up), this engaging work in the Giants of Science series focuses on the life of da Vinci while exploring his study the natural world, including aerodynamics, anatomy, astronomy, botany, geology, paleontology, and zoology. Special attention is given to da Vinci's notebooks and their meaning.

Leonardo da Vinci for Kids: His Life and Ideas: 21 Activities (1998), written by Janis Herbert - This biography of da Vinci is interspersed with activities readers can try on their own, including observing nature, painting birds, growing an herb garden, making minestrone soup, building a kite, and more. Includes extensive reproductions of da Vinci's sketches and paintings. Includes a list of related Web sites.

Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci (2009), written and illustrated by Gene Barretta - This biography for younger students focuses on the ideas and inventions found in the more than 20,000 pages of da Vinci's notes. Readers learn how many inventions that came centuries after da Vinci's time were actually imagined and described in his notes.
Galileo For Kids: His Life and Ideas: 21 Activities (2005), written by Richard Panchyk - This biography of Galileo is interspersed with activities readers can try on their own, including letter writing, observing the moon, playing with gravity and motion, making a pendulum, painting with light and shadow, and more. Back matter includes glossaries of key terms, people, and places in Italy, helpful web sites, and a list of planetariums and space museums.

Galileo's Telescope (2009), written by Gerry Bailey and Karen Foster and illustrated by Leighton Noyes - Every Saturday morning, Digby Platt and his sister Hannah visit Knicknack Market to check out the interesting and unique “antiques” for sale. In finding a telescope, the children learn about the life of mathematician, physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei. Back matter includes a glossary.

I, Galileo (2012), written and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen - This first person biography opens with Galileo imprisoned and remembering his life from childhood onward, highlighting his education and scientific discoveries. In the Afterword, Christensen explains that it took nearly 400 years for the Catholic Church to admit they were wrong to condemn Galileo. Back matter includes a glossary, chronology, and descriptions of his experiments, inventions, improvements, and astronomic discoveries. 

Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei (2000), written and illustrated by Peter Sis - In this Caldecott honor book, gorgeous illustrations take center stage in telling the story of Galileo. Sis creates for readers images of the things Galileo saw in his observations of space, including sunspots, planets revolving around Jupiter, valleys and chasms on the moon, and more. Though not a detailed treatment of his life, the text is enhanced by notes and quotes from Galileo's own writings, scrawled throughout the pages.

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian (2010), written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Julie Paschkis. Maria Merian was an artist and scientist who studied plants and animals in their natural habitat and then captured them in her art. This book is based on the true story of how Merian secretly observed the life cycle of summer birds (a medieval name for butterflies) and documented it in her paintings. Focusing on her young life, this book shows readers how curiosity at a young age can lead to a lifelong pursuit. 

Isaac Newton: Giants of Science (2008), written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Boris Kulikov - An extensive biography for older students (middle grades and up), this engaging work in the Giants of Science series focuses on the life of Newton, a boy who was incredibly curious. Though he lived a solitary life, he attended Cambridge, worked for an apothecary, served in Parliament, and so much more. Despite his successes in the fields of math and science, Newton was also "secretive, vindictive, withdrawn, obsessive, and, oh, yes, brilliant." 

Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities (2009), written by Kerrie Logan Hollihan - This biography of Newton is interspersed with activities readers can try on their own, including making a waste book, building a water wheel, making ink, creating a 17th century plague mask, tracking the phases of the moon, testing Newton’s Three Laws of Motion, and more. Back matter includes a list of useful books and web sites.

World History Biographies: Isaac Newton: The Scientist Who Changed Everything (2013), written by Philip Steele - This book in the National Geographic World History Biographies series profiles Newton as more than just a physicist, but also as an acclaimed mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, philosopher, and inventor as well. 

Online Resources

That's it for this list. Coming up next is a list of biographies for scientists from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Monday Poetry Stretch - Scallop

I'm still working through the forms in Spinning Through the Universe: A Novel in Poems from Room 214 by Helen Frost. This week I thought we'd try the scallop. Here are the requirements of the form.
  • three 6-line stanzas, with each having a particular rhyme and a particular number of syllables
  • syllable per line: 2, 4, 6, 6, 4, 2
  • rhyme in each stanza: a b c c b a 
This is how each stanza is constructed:
  • line 1 - 2 syllables, rhyme a
  • line 2 - 4 syllables, rhyme b
  • line 3 - 6 syllables, rhyme c
  • line 4 - 6 syllables, rhyme c
  • line 5 - 4 syllables, rhyme b
  • line 6 - 2 syllables, rhyme a

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