Saturday, April 30, 2016

NPM Celebrations - National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day

April 30th is National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day. This day was created to raise awareness of the thousands of pets living in shelters that are waiting for adoption and permanent homes.

As I write this post my buddy Cooper, our latest rescue dog, is on the couch beside me snoring away. His predecessor was also rescued from a shelter. We were fortunate to call Sydney ours for nearly 16 years. When she was put to sleep, I swore it would be a long time before another one graced our doorstep. I lasted all of one month before needing to fill the space she left in our lives. All of you pet lovers out there know what I'm talking about.

Today I'm sharing poems about some pets lucky enough to find their forever homes.

Stella, Unleashed: Notes From the Doghouse (2008), written by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Paul Meisel, is a collection of poems told from the point of view of Stella, a dog rescued from the pound and brought to live with a family. The poems cover topics as varied as her rescue from the pound, selecting a name, the family members, other pets, eating, sleeping, the dog park, and more.

Lost & Found

Metal bars.
A cold, hard floor.
No window seat.
No doggy door.

Countless strangers come to call—
I listened,
and sniffed them all . . .

then turned away
and curled up tight
Nice enough but not quite right.

Then, one day, I sniffed a sniff
and got the most delightful whiff:
dirt and candy, grass and cake.
I stuck my paw out for a shake.

A boy knelt down.
I licked his face.
He rubbed my head.
I'd found my place.

That's how I chose this family.
Not perfect, no.

Except for me.


I swim in the ocean,
no matter how rough.
In rivers and lakes
I can't get enough!

When I see a pool,
I dive like a sub.
I LOVE the water
but not in the tub.

Poems ©Linda Ashman, 2008. All rights reserved.

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku, written by Lee Wardlaw and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin, is the story of a shelter cat and how she acclimates to her new home, told entirely in senryu. Won Ton's story is divided into sections, including The Shelter, The Choosing, The Car Ride, The Naming, The New Place, The Feeding, The Adjustment, The Yard, and Home.

No rush. I've got plans.
Gnaw this paw. Nip that flea. And
wish: Please, Boy, pick me.

Dogs have hair. Cats, fur.
Dogs whine, yip, howl, bark. Cats purr.
I say: No contest.

Scrat-ching-post? Haven't
heard of it. Besides, the couch
is so much closer.

Poems ©Lee Wardlaw, 2011. All rights reserved.

Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku (2015), written by Lee Wardlaw and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin, is the sequel to Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku. In it, Won Ton again narrated and shares with readers what life is like with a new and annoying puppy in the house.

Ears perk. Fur prickles.
Belly low, I creep . . . peek . . . FREEZE!
My eyes full of Doom.

Don't bother barking
your real name. I've already
guessed. It must be . . . Pest!

Breaking news: YOU SNORE.
Twitch and whimper too. Yet you
make a soft pillow.

Poems ©Lee Wardlaw, 2015. All rights reserved.

Dogku (2007), written by Andrew Clements and illustrated by Tim Bowers, is the story of a stray dog told through a series of 17 haiku. While not about a shelter dog, it is about a pet in need of a home. The story begins with this poem.

There on the back steps,
the eyes of a hungry dog.
Will she shut the door?

The door is opened and the dog welcomed in. Eventually he earns the name Mooch and becomes a part of the family. Here are two additional poems.

Scratch, sniff, eat, yawn, nap.
Dreams of rabbits and running.
Could life be sweeter?

Family meeting.
There are words and words and words.
Did someone say "pound"?

Poems ©Andrew Clements, 2007. All rights reserved.

The PBS series Martha Speaks produced a nice list of books about dogs, including shelter dogs.
Well, that's a wrap for this year's National Poetry Month project. I hope you've enjoyed exploring celebrations with me. Check out the NPM 2016 Celebrations page for a complete listing of this month's posts. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

NPM Celebrations - Arbor Day

April 29th is Arbor Day, a day dedicated annually to public tree-planting in the US, Australia, and other countries. In the United States it is celebrated on the last Friday in April. Trees are so important. They provide us with two things we cannot live without: food and oxygen. They also offer the added benefit of serving as a source for shelter, beauty, and a wealth of wood products.

Just how many trees are there in the world?
In thinking about trees today, I'm sharing snippets of poems in a form borrowed from Wallace Stevens. You'll recognize it as Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Trees

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

From Trees by Joyce Kilmer

Trees know the soft secrets of clouds
       the dark siftings of soil
The hear the high keening of squalls
           the deep rumbling of rocks
Trees whisper for the sky's damp blessings
       and the earth's misty kisses

From Go-Betweens by Marilyn Singer
in Footprints on the Roof: Poems About the Earth, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Meilo So 

Trees need not walk the earth
For beauty or for bread;
Beauty will come to them
In the rainbow—
The sunlight—
And the lilac-haunted rain;
And bread will come to them

From Trees Need Not Walk the Earth by David Rosenthal

Major tree traffic today—
commuters in both directions,

rippling up and down,
tails unfurled.

The treeway is
heavily squirreled.

Tree Traffic by Kristine O'Connell George
in Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems, written by Kristine O'Connell George and illustrated by Kate Kiesler

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
he recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

From The Trees by Philip Larkin
in The Collected Poems, written by Philip Larkin and edited by Anthony Thwaite 

The cherry trees bend over and are shedding
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed.

From The Cherry Trees by Edward Thomas

Buds, which the breath of summer days
Shall lengthen into leafy sprays;
Boughs where the thrush, with crimson breast,
Shall haunt and sing and hide her nest;

From The Planting of the Apple-Tree by William Cullen Bryant

O white pear,
your flower-tufts,
thick on the branch,
bring summer and ripe fruits
in their purple hearts.

From Pear Tree by H.D.

This is the way that autumn came to the trees:
it stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground.
Anyone could trample them out of shape
undisturbed by a single moan of protest.

From When Autumn Came by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
in The True Subject: Selected Poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, translated by Naomi Lazard

Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

From Winter Trees by William Carlos Williams

Years love trees in a way we can’t
imagine. They just don’t use the fruit
like us; they want instead the slant

of sun through narrow branches, the buckshot
of rain on these old cherries.

From Remaking a Neglected Orchard by Nathaniel Perry

Think finally about the secret will
Pretending obedience to Nature, but
Invidiously distinguishing everywhere,
Dividing up the world to conquer it,

From Learning the Trees by Howard Nemerov
in The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov, written by Howard Nemerov

With strong and graceful outline,
With branches green and bare,
We fill the land through all the year,
With beauty everywhere.

From The Heart of the Tree by Henry Cuyler Bunner

Here's a handout of poems about trees from the Arbor Day Foundation.
I've written about trees and poetry before. Check out my Thematic Book List on Trees. (You'll find poetry books at the very top.)

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our last celebration of the month. I can't believe it's almost done.

Poetry Friday - Cartoon Physics, part 1

Last week I shared the poem After Reading a Child's Guide to Modern Physics by W.H. Auden. I'm still thinking about physics and poetry this week.

Cartoon Physics, part 1
by Nick Flynn

Children under, say, ten, shouldn't know
that the universe is ever-expanding,
inexorably pushing into the vacuum, galaxies

swallowed by galaxies, whole

solar systems collapsing, all of it
acted out in silence. At ten we are still learning

the rules of cartoon animation,

     Read the poem in its entirety.

If you haven't been here before, or haven't been following my National Poetry Month project, here are the posts from this week. Feel free to poke around.

24 - Sky Awareness Week
25 - World Penguin Day
26 - Richter Scale Day
27 - Babe Ruth Day
28 - National Blueberry Pie Day
29 - Arbor Day

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

Thursday, April 28, 2016

NPM Celebrations - National Blueberry Pie Day

April 28th is National Blueberry Pie Day. I am not a fruit pie lover (sorry!), but I do adore the blueberry. Last summer I heard a terrific story on NPR about blueberry history in New Jersey and how the blueberry was bred and "tamed" into the version we all know so well today. You can hear that story at How New Jersey Tamed The Wild Blueberry For Global Production.

I buy my blueberries when they are available at my local farmer's market. I'm lucky if I can get them home before popping one after another into my mouth. And really, isn't that what you want to do with sweet, fresh, juicy fruit?

Fresh Delicious (2016), written by Irene Latham and illustrated by Mique Moriuchi, is a collection of 20 poems (21 if you count the back cover) about the farmer's market and the amazing array of produce you can find there.


are sweet
but not

One fits
and thumb.

They burst
like flavor-filled
in waffles
and muffins.

Poem © Irene Latham, 2016. All rights reserved.

Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué Rico!: America's Sproutings (2009), written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Rafael López, is a book that combines factual information about edible plants native to the Americas with crisp, sense-filled poems, all in the form of haiku. The foods are listed alphabetically, beginning with blueberry and ending with vanilla.


Fill your mouth with blue.
Share a bowl heaped with summer.
Chew indigo O.

Blueberries are delicious, healthy treats. Originating in North America, they were eaten fresh and dried by Native Americans. They also ground blueberries into spice rubs and used the berries in medicines. European settlers in North America made gray paint by boiling blueberries in milk, and today the United States is the largest producer of blueberries in the world. Wild blueberries, the official state berry of Maine, are sometimes harvested using traditional handheld rakes. Plan a blueberry party in July, National Blueberry Month.

Poem and Text © Pat Mora, 2009. All rights reserved.

Here's a long and lovely poem by Robert Frost.

by Robert Frost

 “You ought to have seen what I saw on my way
To the village, through Mortenson’s pasture to-day:
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!        
And all ripe together, not some of them green
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!”

Read the poem in its entirety.

Lettuce Introduce You: Poems about Food (2008), written by Laura Purdie Salas, is a collection of  food-themed poems that are written in a variety of poetic forms. Each poem is accompanied by a vibrant photograph. Next to blueberries in my hand, this poem describes my favorite way to eat them.

Too Early!

Mom says to wake up
     I don't want to
It's the middle of the night


Dad makes me a
"Cheer up!" waffle-boy
with blueberry eyes and
a fresh citrus smile

     What's he so happy about?

Poem © Laura Purdie Salas, 2008. All rights reserved.

In addition to blueberries on and in my pancakes, I do love a good blueberry muffin. My favorite recipe is this one for Jordan Marsh's Blueberry Muffins.

This last poem isn't really about blueberries, but the imagery reminds me of them.

Blackberry Ink (1985), written by Eve Merriam and illustrated by Hans Wilhelm, is a collection of poem for young children on a wide range of topics.

Berries on the bushes
In the summer sun.
Bring along a bucket
And pluck every one.

Look at my teeth,
They're raspberry red.
Look at my fingers,
They're strawberry pink.
Look at my mouth,
It's huckleberry purple.
Look at my tongue,
It's blackberry ink.

Poem © Eve Merriam, 1985. All rights reserved.

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our next celebration.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

NPM Celebrations - Babe Ruth Day

April 27th is Babe Ruth Day. On April 27, 1947, the Yankees hosted Babe Ruth Day at Yankee Stadium. The event was held to honor the ailing baseball star, who was in failing health due to throat cancer. You can read the New York Times article from the following day at On This Day.

George Herman Ruth, Jr. (1895-1948), best known as "Babe" Ruth, was an American baseball player who spent 22 seasons in Major League Baseball playing for three different teams, the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, and the Boston Braves.

One of my favorite baseball movies is The Sandlot (1993). Here's a favorite scene side-by-side with the NY Yankees, in a commercial they did for the opening of the 2015 season. In it, the boys school their friend on just who Babe Ruth was.
You can learn more about this commercial in this Inside Edition video.

Let's start today with a poem sent to me by J. Patrick Lewis for this month's project.

The Battle Hymn of the Babe
by J. Patrick Lewis

George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Jr.
1895 – 1948

[Note:  To be sung to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”]

He’s American as Jell-o, apple pie, and ice cream cones.
He’s synonymous with magic, miracles, and milestones.
He’s the nemesis of Beantown where they hate him in their bones.
Babe Ruth is marching on.

Watch him nonchalantly waving, as he steps up to the plate,
To the spectators applauding for the Yankee head of state.
Will the Sultan swat one out today? They won’t have long to wait.
Babe Ruth is marching on.

The pitcher eyes him cruelly, the Bambino eyes him back,
Like a bike with training wheels up against a Cadillac.
When he points a warning finger at the useless warning track,
Babe Ruth is marching on.

He swings so hard you almost feel sorry for the air.
The second strike is in the dirt. The Babe? He doesn’t care.
But the umpire shrinks a little from the heat wave of his glare.
Babe Ruth is marching on.

Now here it comes, the best forkball the pitcher’s thrown all year . . .
Rainbowing to the right-field bleachers as a souvenir.
That pill could make it hail throughout the Western hemisphere.
Babe Ruth is marching on.

Poem © J. Patrick Lewis, 2016. All rights reserved.

Pat may not remember this, but he also sent me a baseball poem back in 2008. It's one of my favorite baseball poems.

A Baseball Poem
by J. Patrick Lewis

A baseball poem
should swerve
like a sidearm curve

or tease a designated reader
with sublime

A baseball poem
should be as unexpected, say,
as an undetected
squeeze play

or explode like a six-run
bonanza and a grand slam
into the leftfield stanza.

Poem © J. Patrick Lewis, 2008. All rights reserved.

When I think of baseball poems in general, three come to mind.

1. Every year when spring training begins and on opening day, I read the poem Analysis of Baseball by May Swenson. Here's how it begins.
It’s about                
the ball,                  
the bat,                                    
and the mitt.
Ball hits                    
bat, or it                  
hits mitt. 
Read the poem in its entirety
2. This poem that I memorized in middle school. It ends this way.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.
If you don't recognize it, the poem is Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer.

3. I'm also quite fond of this poem by Ogden Nash. Line-Up for Yesterday: An ABC of Baseball Immortals was written for the January 1949 issue of SPORT Magazine. The poem pays tribute to 24 of the games greatest players. Here's how it begins.
A is for Alex
The great Alexander;
More Goose eggs he pitched
Than a popular gander. 
B is for Bresnahan
Back of the plate;
The Cubs were his love,
and McGraw his hate. 
C is for Cobb,
Who grew spikes and not corn,
And made all the basemen
Wish they weren't born. 
Read the poem in its entirety.
Creative Editions published this poem, illustrated by C.F. Payne in 2001.

I'll wrap up with this poem by Franklin Pierce Adams.

A Ballad of Baseball Burdens
by Franklin Pierce Adams

The burden of hard hitting. Slug away
      Like Honus Wagner or like Tyrus Cobb.
Else fandom shouteth: “Who said you could play?
      Back to the jasper league, you minor slob!”
      Swat, hit, connect, line out, get on the job.
Else you shall feel the brunt of fandom’s ire
      Biff, bang it, clout it, hit it on the knob—
This is the end of every fan’s desire.  

Read the poem in its entirety.

I've written numerous times about my love for baseball and about baseball poetry. Check out the post Poetry in the Classroom: Take Me Out To the Ballgame from 2011 and Poetry A-Z: Day 27 ... Baseball from 2013.

You'll also find a wealth of baseball poems at the Baseball Almanac. Be sure to check out the poem Frosty and the Babe by John Robert McFarland.

I'm ending today with this gem.

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our next celebration.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

NPM Celebrations - Richter Scale Day

April 26th is Richter Scale Day. The Richter Scale is a numerical scale developed for measuring earthquakes by Charles Richter, a geologist at the California Institute of Technology.  The Richter scale is a logarithmic scale that measures "magnitude" and reflects the amount by which the earth's crust shifts during an earthquake. Because the scale is logarithmic, each 1-point increase on the scale represents an increase of 10x in the magnitude of the earthquake. Here's a simple chart to help understand the scale.
Image from CBC NewsWorld
Here's a bit more about the scale.
You can learn more about the science earthquakes at the USGS.

Earthshake: Poems From the Ground Up (2003), written by Lisa Westberg Peters and illustrated by Cathie Felstead, is a collection of 22 poems that introduces geologic concepts through metaphor and word play in a variety of poetic forms.

River Meets Crack in the Earth

A river crosses the San Andreas fault.
It turns right, then continues on,
a little shaken up.

Instructions for the Earth's Dishwasher

Please set the
continental plates
gently on the
continental shelves.
No jostling or scraping.

Please stack the
basin right side up.
No tilting or turning

Please scrape the mud
out of the mud pots.
But watch out!
They're still hot.

As for the forks
in the river,
just let them soak.

if anything breaks,
it's your fault.

Poems © Lisa Westberg Peters, 2003. All rights reserved.

GOT Geography! (2006), selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Philip Stanton, is a collection of 16 poems about the geography of the earth, as well as ecosystems and features found on its surface. There are poems for islands, forests, mountains, the sea, and more.

Awesome Forces

The earth is
it would seem,
for here and about
it lets off
lava flows,
geysers gush,
canyons are carved
          by a river's
The earth's old crust
cracks and creaks,
shakes and
          shoves up
Ice caps recede,
glaciers advance,
ever in motion—
          a global dance.
          Will it ever
stand still?

          no chance

Poem © Joan Bransfield Graham, 2006. All rights reserved.

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry: More than 200 Poems With Photographs That Float, Zoom, and Bloom! (2015), edited by J. Patrick Lewis, is  a collection of classic and contemporary poems that celebrate the variety of life and landscapes on Earth. One section of this book is called In Distress. The poem below has some interesting formatting that I could not reproduce here, so be sure to click the image above to see what it's meant to look like.


Dakota, first to sense a change,
Begins to whimper—passing strange.

Here comes the catastrophic whine:
The loss is yours, the fault is mine.

Tectonic plates can only shake
A continental bellyache

By stretching several feet or more
To rearrange themselves before

The settlements of Earth lie bare
Among the rubble of despair.

Poem © Mariel Bede. All rights reserved.

I'll wrap up today with this piece from PBS NewsHour. Kwame Dawes is a writer whose work include poems, plays, essays, criticism, and novels. He spent time in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake, reporting on events and writing poetry in response. (This story was produced through a partnership with USA Today, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and the NewsHour.)
You'll find the video poem Mother of Mothers around minute 7:58.

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our next celebration.

Monday, April 25, 2016

NPM Celebrations - World Penguin Day

April 25th is World Penguin Day, a day in which we celebrate the 18 known species of penguin and focus on their conservation. It is celebrated on this day because the annual northward migration of penguins is usually on or around April 25th. Penguins only live in regions south of the Equator, in areas ranging from the cold continent of Antarctica to the warm lands of the Galápagos Islands. Today's selections celebrate this popular flightless bird.

An Old Shell: Poems of the Galapagos (1999), written by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Tom Pohrt, is a collection of 34 poems (most written in free verse, though a few are written in haiku) in which Johnston pays tribute to the wonder that is the Galapagos. The book opens with a two-page map of the islands. The poem topics include the sea, the islands, animals, plants, and more. 

Galápagos Penguins

The penguins are swimming
See how the water
     holds them
in its cool green
how it lifts them
light as kelp
lets them splash
     and reel
          and roll
over its bright
Oh, see how the water
     loves them!

Poem ©Tony Johnston, 1999. All rights reserved.

Eric Carle's Animals, Animal (1989), compiled by Laura Whipple and illustrated by Eric Carle, is a collection of 62 poems about more than 70 different kinds of animals, from ant to yak. These poems come from authors and poets as varied as Emily Dickinson, Edward Lear, Eve Merriam, Rudyard Kipling, Benjamin Franklin, Lewis Carroll, Karla Kuskin, Judith Viorst, and many, many others. The poems are accompanied by brightly colored, exuberant illustrations by Eric Carle. It concludes with an index of animals arranged alphabetically, as well as an index of first lines.

Enigma Sartorial
by Lucy W. Rhu

Consider the penguin
He's smart as can be—
Dressed in his dinner clothes
You can never tell
When you see him about,
If he's just coming in
Or just going out!

Poem ©Lucy W. Rhu. All rights reserved.

Animal Poems (2007), written by Valerie Worth and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is a posthumously published collection of 23 poems that highlight Worth's keen sense of observation. Animals range from small to large and simple to complex. You will find poems about jellyfish, cockroaches, kangaroos, elephants, minnows, and more. They are all accompanied by Jenkins' amazingly beautiful cut- and torn-paper collages.

by Valerie Worth

Where the only
Land is ice, loose
Crystals worked
To white diamond
By ridge heaped
Upon crevasse, or
Carved into looming
Emerald veins, or
Pressed past sapphire
To the shuddering cobalt
Gloom of the berg's
Abysmal bone,

The penguin swims
At home, or frolics
Over the treacherous
Floe: or amidst
Those fearful frozen
Smolderings, settles
To its nest of
Snow: cheerful
As a house cat
Toasting its haunches
On the hearth's
Warm stones.

Poem ©Valerie Worth. All rights reserved.

Animal Sense (2003), written by Diane Ackerman and illustrated by Peter Sís, explores the ways that animals navigate the world using their senses. The poems are funny and clever and occasionally include made-up words. Organized into sections for touch, hearing, vision, smell, and taste, three different animals are highlighted in each. Here's the first poem from the section on touch.

Penguin babies,
on the other hand (or wing),
will cozy up to almost anything
summery and snug—
preferring Mom's tummy,
but a human hand or rug
also feels yummy.

Frantic for a big, smothery
featherbed cuddle,
they sometimes wobble around
in a chilly muddle,
gawking everywhere
for their next of kin.
"Hug me!" they squawk.
"I need wings to snooze in."

Then while the antarctic night
blusters and blows
and rainbow-bright auroras glow,
the air plunges to 40 below.
But penguin babies keep warm—
they peep songs of summer
and nuzzle in deep,
waltzing through their ice palace
on Mama's feet.

Poem © Diane Ackerman, 2003. All rights reserved.

On the Wing: Bird Poems and Paintings (1996), written and illustrated by Douglas Florian, is a collection of art and poetry that examines 21 birds with witty word play and a keen sense of observation.

The Emperor Penguins

The life of these penguins
Is harsh as can be:
They gather on ice packs
Of antarctic sea,
All huddled together
For warmth and protection,
And choose a new emperor
Without an election.

Poem ©Douglas Florian, 1996. All rights reserved.

zoo's who (2005), written and illustrated by Douglas Florian, is a collection of 21 poems and paintings on a variety of animals, including the bush baby, tortoise, ladybugs, slugs and more.

The Penguin

A penguin isn't thin—it's fat.
It has penguinsulation.
And it toboggans through the snow
On penguinter vacation.
The penguin's a penguinsome bird
Of black-and-white fine feather.
And it will huddle with its friends
In cold penguindy weather.

Poem ©Douglas Florian, 2005. All rights reserved.

The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems With Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! (2012), compiled by J. Patrick Lewis, contains the photos we've come to love from National Geographic, accompanied by one and sometimes two poems from classic to contemporary poets. The book categorizes the poems under the headings “the big ones,” “the little ones,” “the winged ones,” “the water ones,” “the strange ones,” “the noisy ones,” and “the quiet ones.” 

by Charles Ghigna

Penguins waddle.
Penguins stroll
All around
The cold South Pole.

Penguins slide.
Penguins swim.
Penguins never
Look too slim.

Penguins play.
Penguins dress
Always in
Their Sunday best.

Poem ©Charles Ghigna. All rights reserved.

Antarctic Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems (1998), written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey, is a collection devoted entirely to the lives and habitats of emperor penguins. It begins with the hatching of a new penguin and comes full circle with the grown penguin finding a mate and new chicks being hatched.

Diary of a Very Short Winter Day

At the first hint of dawn
I awake with a yawn
And follow my cousins
(All thirty-three dozen)
To the end of the land,
Where we stand and we stand,
Playing who'll-dive-in-first,
And, fearing the worst,
We listen for seals
Who want us for meals.
I see on penguin lunge,
Then in we all plunge,
Take a bath, gulp a snack,
And climb out in a pack . . . .

Hurry back to our home
For a quick preen and comb
So our feathers aren't wet
As we watch the sun set.  

Poem ©Judy Sierra, 1998. All rights reserved.

If you want to combine poetry with a bit of citizen science, check out Penguin Watch and get involved in counting penguins in images taken by remote cameras monitoring nearly 100 colonies in Antarctica. Here's a screenshot I took of a recent penguin count I worked on. Can you find the chicks?
That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our next celebration.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Cento

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

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

So, do you want to play? What kind of poem will you assemble? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

NPM Celebrations - Sky Awareness Week

The last full week in April (24-30) is Sky Awareness Week. This week provides us all with an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the sky and to better understand the processes that make our weather.

When I look at the sky during daylight hours, I think of clouds. That's exactly where I want to focus for this week's celebration.

Let's start with cloud formation. This is what happens when warm air rising up from inside the canyon meets cooler, moister air.
When I first began to plan for this post, three things came to mind.

1. "I wandered lonely as a cloud/ That floats on high o'er vales and hills," the opening of the Wordsworth poem that has absolutely nothing to do with clouds.

2. Joni Mitchell and these lyrics.
Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
and feather canyons everywhere, I've looked at clouds that way.
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.
So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way. 
I've looked at clouds from both sides now,
from up and down, and still somehow
it's cloud illusions I recall.
I really don't know clouds at all.
3. Shakespeare!
from Antony and Cleopatra
Act 4, Scene 14    
Sometimes we see a cloud that's dragonish;
A vapour sometime like a bear or lion,
A tower'd citadel, a pendent rock,
A forked mountain, or blue promontory
With trees upon't, that nod unto the world,
And mock our eyes with air: thou hast seen
these signs;
They are black vesper's pageants.
I found additional ideas when I turned to my poetry bookshelf. Here are some favorite poems about clouds.

Seed Sower, Hat Thrower: Poems About Weather (2008), written by Laura Purdie Salas, is a collection of weather-themed poems that are written in a variety of poetic forms. Each poem is accompanied by a splendid photograph.


Vanilla cotton candy
Pillows meant for kings
Fluffy bunny rabbits
Enormous seagull wings

I check the sky at recess
To see what each day brings
I never dreamed that clouds could make
So many different things!

Poem © Laura Purdie Salas, 2008. All rights reserved.

Here's an older poem (maybe 200 years?) by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The Cloud
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
    From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
    In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken      
    The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
    As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
    And whiten the green plains under,      
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
    And laugh as I pass in thunder.

Silver Seeds (2001), written by Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer with paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, is a collection of 15 nature poems using the acrostic form. The verses are ordered to follow a young boy and girl through the day, beginning with dawn and ending with night. In between they encounter sun, shadow, hills, trees, leaves (though the word is leaf), a bee, butterfly, hummingbird, clouds, fog, rain, the moon, and stars.

Creamy scoops of ice cream
Under a
Dreamy blue

Poem ©Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer, 2001. All rights reserved.

Here's a lovely little poem by Christina Rosetti.

by Christina Rosetti

White sheep, white sheep,
On a blue hill,
When the wind stops,
You all stand still.
When the wind blows,
You walk away slow.
White sheep, white sheep,
Where do you go?

Sky Songs (1984), written by Myra Cohn Livingston and illustrated by Leonard Everett Fisher, is a collection of 14 poems about different aspects of the sky. Poem topics include the moon, stars, planets, storms, smog, rain, and more.


strange animals
creep out of white mountains,
stalk each other around in a

of head and legs,
chase through the silent air,
tumble over themselves as the paling

sun burns
through their bodies,
and their bleached skeletons,
blown by a rising wind, thin out and

Poem ©Myra Cohn Livingston, 1984. All rights reserved.

Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for New Poets (2002), compiled by Paul Janeczko, is a  The title of the book comes from this poem which is about seeing the sky differently.

The Blue Between
by Kristine O’Connell George

Everyone watches clouds,
naming creatures they've seen.
I see the sky differently,
I see the blue between—

     The blue woman tugging
     her stubborn cloud across the sky.
     The blue giraffe stretching
     to nibble a cloud floating by.
     A pod of dancing dolphins,
     cloud oceans, cargo ships,
     a boy twirling his cloud
     around a thin blue fingertip.

In those smooth wide places,
I see a different scene.
In those cloudless spaces,
I see the blue between.

Poem ©Kristine O'Connell George All rights reserved.

Since reading this poem, I've never looked at the sky the same way again. Now I look at the spaces of blue and gray before I study the clouds.

Let's wrap this up with an excerpt from a poem by Goethe. You maynot know this, but the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe studied a number of scientific fields, including geology, mineralogy, botany, comparative anatomy, and theory of light and colors. His developed an in terest in meteorology after reading a paper by Luke Howard on the modifications of clouds (1803). Goethe embraced Howard's cloud classification scheme and eventually struck up a correspondence with him. Enamored of his work, Goethe wrote the poem "Howards Ehrengedächtnis" or "In Honor of Howard," in which he described different types of clouds using Howard's nomenclature and descriptions. The poem was published in German as well as in English in Goethe's journal on natural sciences.
-Information found in the Proceedings of the International Commission on History of Meteorology 1.1 (2004).

You can read the entire poem in the article Johann Wolfgang von Goethes Beziehungen zu Luke Howard und sein Wirken auf dem Gebiet der Meteorologie, written by Karl-Heinz Bernhardt. Don't worry, there is an English translation of the poem!

When o’er the silent bosom of the sea
The cold mist hangs like a stretch’d canopy;
And the moon, mingling there her shadowy beams,
A spirit, fashioning other spirits seems;
We feel, in moments pure and bright as this,
The joy of innocence, the thrill of bliss.

Then towering up in the darkening mountain’s side,
And spreading as it rolls its curtains wide,
It mantles round the mid-way height, and there
It sinks in water-drops, or soars in air.

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our next celebration.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

NPM Celebrations - Talk Like Shakespeare Day

April 23rd is Talk Like Shakespeare Day. On this day we celebrate the bard’s birthday (we think) and his works. Though there are no records of his birth, he was baptized on April 26. He also died on April 23, so this day was chosen to honor him.

Before I begin, I want to highlight a brand new book that everyone interested in language, words, idioms, history, and Shakespeare must read.

Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk (2016), written by Jane Sutcliffe and illustrated by John Shelley, is a book about Shakespeare, his plays, and the words he gave us that have found their way into our everyday language. Each double-page spread includes information about the theater and the bard's world on the left side, with information on "Will''s words," what they mean, and where they come from. Backmatter includes an author’s note, a bibliography, and a timeline. This is a fabulous introduction to the time period, theater, Shakespeare, the evolution of the English language, and much more.

What did spoken Shakespeare really sound like? Check out this piece at The Telegraph to learn more.

This is for those of you who think Shakespeare isn't meant for kids.
Speaking like Shakespeare can be as easy as slipping some of his phrases into your conversation. Here are few for which the credit goes to the bard. Kudos to you if you know the plays these come from!
  • As good luck would have it
  • Be-all and the end-all
  • Break the ice
  • Dead as a doornail 
  • Eaten me out of house and home
  • Forever and a day
  • For goodness’ sake
  • Give the devil his due 
  • Heart of gold 
  • Love is blind
  • One fell swoop 
  • What the dickens
  • Wild-goose chase
You can read more phrases attributed to Shakespeare at 45 Everyday Phrases Coined by Shakespeare.

Can we attribute Knock-Knock jokes to Shakespeare? I think so!
“Knock knock! Who’s there?” — Macbeth
Here are a few Shakespearean knock-knock jokes for you.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Noah who?
Noah’s the winter of our discontent.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Oberon who?
Oberon the other bank you might try to catch some fish.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Orlando who?
Or Lando or Leia or Luke or Chewbacca will pilot the Millennium Falcon.

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Shelly who?
Shelly compare thee to a summer’s day?

You can find more knock-knock jokes at Shakespeare Geek.

Here are a few poems and excerpts from plays that are particularly kid-friendly.

If you see a fairy ring
Near a field of grass,
Very lightly step around,
Tiptoe as you pass;
Last night fairies frolicked there,
And they're sleeping somewhere near.
If you see a tiny fae
Lying fast asleep,
Shut your eyes and run away,
Do not stay or peep;
And be sure you never tell,
Or you'll break a fairy spell.

At Christmas I no more desire a rose,
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.
 - Love's Labour's Lost 

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

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron 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 owlet's wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
 - Macbeth

O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away!
 - Two Gentlemen of Verona

I'll close with this hilarious version of Clarence's speech from Richard III.

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our next celebration.

Friday, April 22, 2016

NPM Celebrations - Earth Day

April 22nd is Earth Day. Earth Day was founded in 1970 by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. It was organized to "raise public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment, and links between pollution and public health." As a result of Earth Day, many environmental laws were passed and the Environmental Protection Agency was created. Today, Earth Day is celebrated all over the world.

Let's start with looking at NASA's campaign from last year.

The Three Bears Holiday Rhyme Book (1995), written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Jane Dyer, is a collection of 15 poems celebrating 16 different holidays including New Year’s, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s, Earth Day, Arbor Day, May Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas & Chanukah, and Happy Birthday.

Earth Day
by Jane Yolen

I am the Earth
And the Earth is me.
Each blade of grass,
Each honey tree,
Each bit of mud,
And stick and stone
Is blood and muscle,
Skin and bone.

And just as I
Need every bit
Of me to make
My body fit,
So Earth needs
Grass and stone and tree
And things that grow here

That’s why we
Celebrate this day.
That’s why across
The world we say:
As long as life,
As dear, as free,
I am the Earth
And the Earth is me. 

Poem © Jane Yolen, 1995. All rights reserved.

Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts, and More, (2005) 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. 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 the poems for Earth Day

Earth, What Will You Give Me?
by Beverly McLoughland

Earth, what will you give me
In summer,
In summer,
Earth, what will you give me
In summer

I'll give you my fields
Made of lilies,
Of lilies,
I'll give you my fields
Made of lilies
And green.

And what will you give me
In autumn,
In autumn,
And what will you give me
In autumn
So bold?

I'll give you my leaves
Made of maple,
Of maple,
I'll give you my leaves
Made of maples
And gold.

And what will you give me
In winter,
In winter,
And what will you give me
In winter
So light?

I'll give you my stars
Made of crystal,
Of crystal,
I'll give you my stars
Made of crystal
And white.

And what will you give me
In springtime,
In springtime,
And what will you give me
In springtime
So new?

I'll give you my nests
Made of grasses,
Of grasses,
I'll give you my nests
Made of grasses
And blue.

Poem © Beverly McLoughland. All rights reserved.

I'll wrap up today's celebration with a poem J. Patrick Lewis sent me for Earth Day.

Earth Day (April 22)

The Globe

Ever since her birth
Ancient Mother Earth
Demonstrates her power
Spinning hour by hour.

Doesn’t it seem strange?
Land and Sea arrange
Nature with the Sky.
We’re just passers-by.

Poem © J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our next celebration.