Poetry Friday: Spring Tanka

“…seek the resonance that enters a poem only when it is touched by the stillness of nature.”
~ Margarita Engle ~

Spring has finally arrived in my corner of Connecticut! The forsythia have been ablaze for the last two weeks, and greening lawns are dotted with dandelions. Everywhere you look, the world is abloom. For this final week of National Poetry Month, I decided to revisit Margarita Engle’s tanka challenge for Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’s Today’s Little Ditty Challenge. Even though there is nothing still about spring, the beauty of the season resonates deep within me.

Lithe limbs arch and bend
trimmed with a thousand blossoms,
graced in frilly pink tutus,
chasséing on a spring breeze.


On a southern slope,
columns of bright daffodils
raise their trumpets high
and play a rousing fanfare
heralding winter’s retreat.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

Thank you, Michelle, for inviting us to your DMC Potluck this month! Be sure to visit Michelle’s to read more poetic offerings. And don’t forget to visit JoAnn Early Macken at Teaching Authors for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Slice of Life: Song of the Butterflies

A few weeks ago, I came around the corner in my hallway and this greeted me:

“These butterflies are so beautiful!”I said to the teacher. “They deserve to have poems written about them.” She agreed and invited me into her class to help her students write butterfly poems.

Laura Shovan’s fabulous onomatopoeia lesson was a great inspiration, but I wanted to focus the kids on the movement of butterflies. I found this poem, from Nibble, Nibble by Margaret Wise Brown, to get them thinking.

“Song of the Bunnies”

Bunnies zip
And bunnies zoom
Bunnies sometimes sleep tip noon





All through the afternoon

Zoom   Zoom   Zoom

This is the song of the bunnies.

After reading the poem several times, I asked the kids to close their eyes and imagine being a butterfly and think about how they would move. After a minute or two, they shared words with a partner, then we made a list. Several words from the bunny poem were shared, but they came up with great movement words, too. We brainstormed color words, adjectives, and they even came up with some similes.

Working together, we created this poem:

Butterflies float.
Butterflies glide.
Light as a feather,
blue as the sky.
Perched on a daffodil,
sipping sweet nectar.
Me, oh my!

After we were happy with the class poem, they set out to write their own butterfly poems. Some were having trouble getting started, so I suggested “Things to do if you are a butterfly…” as a prompt. (Thank you, Elaine Magliaro!)

Here are a few student poems:

If You Were a Butterfly…

If you were a butterfly, what would you do?
Would you glide like a bird,
or sail like a fly?
Or would you sip nectar,
just like a bee?

by C.B.


Butterflies flap,
butterflies flip,
light as a leaf,
nice and sweet,
red, blue, pink, and orange.
I love butterflies.
Do you?

by I.V.

Colorful butterflies
zip and zoom
they float and flutter
diving for food,
sipping nectar.

by E.O.

I am a chrysalis.
I look like I’m sleeping,
but I am changing,
waiting for my wings.

by Z.J.

If you are a butterfly
you can fly high
in the sky.
You can have
colorful wings, too.
You can find a daffodil
to get nectar.

by K.H.

Little butterflies.
Colorful butterflies,
flutter butterflies,
spying for daffodils,
feeling the wind
on its wings.
Using its proboscis.

by L.O.

Here is the door now, with all the butterflies and their poem:

 Thank you also to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, MelanieLisa and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Poetry Friday: Responding to Rilke

In February, I took part in Laura Shovan’s Found Poetry Project on Facebook. (Read more about this here.) Everyone agreed we wanted to continue the project with a new set of ten words each month. For April, Heather Meloche found ten words in “Early Spring” by Rainer Maria Rilke to inspire new poems.  From these words, (vanished, softness, meadows, rivulets, tendernesses, earth, subtle, risings, expression, and trees) I zeroed in on “rivulets.” Our family has been kayaking forever, and spring is a paddler’s favorite season, especially here in the Northeast. As I worked through my ideas, I realized I wanted a tighter form and that my lines were arranging themselves into tanka-like rhythms on their own. So I created a series of tanka for early spring.

Vanishing snow digs
furrows in softening earth.
Trickling toward the sea,
icy rivulets quench the
thirst of stirring roots and buds.

Joining together
in rising streams and rivers,
subtlety is lost.
A cauldron of froth and foam
bubbles up into being.

Growing impatient,
cascading over boulders,
water expresses
its overwhelming power,
sweeping away winter’s dregs.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

My son Michael, facing spring’s froth and foam.

Please be sure to visit Doraine Bennett at Dori Reads for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Stars: A Fibonacci Poem

Dava Sobel‘s The Glass Universe continues to inspire me. Although I couldn’t find any direct relationship between stellar spectra and the Fibonacci sequence, a mathematical form seemed appropriate for this topic.

in white light.
Spectral lines reveal
elemental composition
and temperature to sleuths who probe their mystery.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

Star Spectra by Secchi, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Writing poems in a specific form can be a fun yet challenging way to summarize learning in any subject area. The concision of poetry forces kids to hone in on the essential aspects of a topic, book or article. It also provides an authentic purpose for using subject-specific vocabulary.  As I wrote this poem, I found my biggest challenge wasn’t the basic science behind the stellar spectra, but getting the right words to match the syllable count of a Fibonacci poem.

 Thank you, Laura, for once again being so generous with your time and talents.  Thank you also to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, MelanieLisa and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

DigiLit Sunday: Asparagus: A Digital Poem

When Margaret posted this week’s Digilit Sunday topic, Digital Poetry, I felt a sense of relief. The past few weeks have been pretty hectic and I just didn’t have the time to devote to the topics Margaret had suggested. But Spring Break began on Friday and I finally felt that I could stop and take a breath.

The spark for this poem came from “Autumn’s Way” by Charles Ghigna. I took the first line,

“In their yellow-most goings,”

and reworked it for spring. Thinking about how to narrow down the greening of spring, for some unknown reason, I settled on asparagus.

With the help of this video the poem itself came together pretty easily  As I thought about the digital element of this poem, I wanted to challenge myself and create something that conveyed a sense of movement. I have limited experience with iMovie, but I thought it might create the effect I wanted.

I scoured the web for royalty-free images of growing asparagus. (NOT an easy feat!) While I was doing this, a memory of “Simple Gifts” popped into my head, and I knew that tune would be the perfect soundtrack.

With all the elements collected, I set out to create this movie. After about four hours of trial and error, I have a 24 second video! As with any work, I feel this still has room for improvement. So I offer you the latest digital draft of my poem, “Asparagus.”

In the greening days of April,
stalks of asparagus
raise their heads
after slumbering deep
in the earth.
Stretching into
the air’s bright warmth,
growing taller,
they sway to and fro,
like a troupe of modern dancers
welcoming spring.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

Poetry Friday: The Glass Universe

“For me poetry has always been a way of paying attention to the world.”
~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~

Confession: I worked on four or five poems last night, attempting to wrestle one of them into shape to share today. No luck. A rhyme wouldn’t work in one, the details weren’t there in another. Finally, I decided to sleep on it. But before I went to sleep, I read a few pages of Dava Sobel’s The Glass Universe, a fascinating account of how a small group of women working at Harvard University at the turn of the last century uncovered and catalogued ground-breaking discoveries about the stars. Sobel’s writing is masterful and poetic, and as I read one passage, I found a haiku hiding in her prose.

a river of stars,
the Milky Way spills across
the night’s horizon

By Steve Jurvetson (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Please be sure to visit Irene Latham at Live Your Poem for the Poetry Friday Roundup.


Slice of Life: Poem for a Fairy Wren

Whew. I don’t know about you, but I needed a few days off after a marathon month of blogging. I’ve been writing every day, but am very relieved that the pressure of posting daily is over. But, because it’s National Poetry Month, I can’t rest for too long! There are so many exciting poetry projects going on around the Kidlitosphere, it might take me all month to read them all. (Visit the the lovely and gracious Jama Rattigan at Jama’s Alphabet Soup for links to all the festivities.)

In the meantime, I have a poem inspired Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s “Writing the Rainbow” project. Sunday’s color of the day was lavender. Scrolling through Facebook that day, I found this photo:

via INature’s Facebook page (If you are the photographer, or know who is, please let me know so I can give proper credit.)

A friend assures me those feathers are blue, but I’m claiming poetic license and declaring them lavender. I’ve never seen such a sweet little bird, so I did some research to try and find out what species this is. In my searching, I found a purple-crowned fairy-wren, which is native to Australia. This bird doesn’t really fit a fairy-wren’s description, but when I read that name, I didn’t care. Poetic license strikes again. The details in the poem about the birds song, habitat, and diet are accurate for the purple-crowned fairy-wren. Thank you, Amy, for the inspiration!

The fairy wren
wears a purple crown
that complements
her lavender gown.

Her tail feathers
form a velvety train
that won’t be ruined
by wind or rain.

Flitting about creek-side
cane grass and shrubs
she feasts upon beetles,
spiders, and grubs.

Later, she and her love
will sing a duet,
a chick-chicka tune:
serenade for sunset.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

Thank you, Laura, for once again being so generous with your time and talents.  Thank you also to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, MelanieLisa and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.