Poetry Friday: The Universe, An Abecedarian

I was two years old when John F. Kennedy declared “we chose to go to the moon…and do other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Space exploration was woven into the background of my childhood, and it has always captivated me. So I was paying close attention last week as the Cassini spacecraft met its fiery end in Saturn’s butterscotch clouds. Cassini and its mission to explore Saturn, its rings, and moons seemed like a worthy subject for Michelle Barnes’s September ditty challenge from Carole Boston Weatherford.

It soon became clear, though, that writing an abecedarian about Saturn and the Cassini mission would be hard! It threatened to become a list of some of Saturn’s 53 named moons. Not giving up, I expanded my focus to include the whole universe and came up with this draft.

Astral bodies:
dwarf planets with
eccentric orbits,
frozen moons,
glowing stars,
haloes of hydrogen and helium
jet black space,
kindling wonder,
launching dreams to
mine the mysteries of
nebulous interstellar dust, the
Oort cloud,
pulsing quasars, and
spiral galaxies
tumbling through the
universe, emitting
visible and invisible
wavelengths of light and
yielding amazement and awe, our
zeal for discovery never-ending.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

The Veil Nebula,
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team

Please be sure to head over to Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s Poem Farm for the Poetry Friday Roundup!


Poetry Friday: What to Remember When Waking

This picture, taken at the Highlights Foundation last year, popped up in my Facebook feed this morning:

What a magical few days I had there, spending time with Rebecca, Georgia and so many other Poetry Friday friends! It made me realize how far I’ve drifted from my poetry practice and how much I miss it. In “What to Remember When Waking,” David Whyte asks “What shape waits in the seed of you/to grow and spread its branches/against a future sky?” I love the endless possibilities contained in this question. With renewed resolve, I can’t wait to find out.

“What to Remember When Waking”
by David Whyte

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Read the rest of the poem here.

Please be sure to visit Michelle Heidenrich Barnes at Today’s Little Ditty for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Whispers at the Edge of Day

This week I’ve been reading poemcrazy: freeing your life with words (1996) by Susan Goldmsith Wooldridge. I found this book as I was scrolling though my Twitter feed a few weeks ago. If you aren’t familiar with it, go find it now. You won’t be sorry.

Sometimes writing poems does drive me crazy, but this book makes you fall-in-love crazy about poetry. Wooldridge is a cheerful, enthusiastic teacher. In the first section of the book, “Following Words”, she urges us to collect words and “create a wordpool.” “The great thing about collecting words,” she writes, “is they’re free; you can borrow them, trade them in or toss them out.” Each short chapter is followed by suggestions for practice. This draft grew out of those suggestions.

The canary sun
sets the sky aglow,
whispering pink
at the edge of day
like a conch,
the memory
of ocean waves.

Photo by adrian via Unsplash

Please be sure to visit Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm, & Rhyme for the Poetry Friday Roundup. And to all my friends around the country who are facing hurricanes or fires, please stay safe!

Slice of Life: One School, One Book

For many years, schools across the country have been participating in One School, One Book programs to promote a love of reading and build a reading community. After the Children’s Program Coordinator of our local library contacted our school to discuss ways we could join forces to encourage summer reading, we decided to sponsor a One School, One Book event.

Or rather, a Two Schools, Two Books event. Because I teach in a K-8 school, finding one book for such a broad age range was a real challenge. So we split the school into elementary and middle school grades and chose two books. Students in the lower grades read Tamera Will Wissinger’s heartwarming Gone Fishing, while middle school students read Ghost, by Jason Reynolds. Every child received a copy of a book during the last week of school.


We met twice during the summer to celebrate these books and our reading. Taking a cue from poetry promoter extraordinaire, Sylvia Vardell,  Gone Fishing readers made poem collages (scroll to the bottom of the post) for their favorite poems, then performed some of the poems for two (or three) voices. At our second get-together, the kids wrote acrostics and list poems about fishing or other favorite hobbies. The highlight of this evening was a Skype visit with Tamera. She shared that the idea for Gone Fishing grew out of one poem based on Tamera’s memories of going fishing with her family. Some brave poets then read their poems. Everyone was inspired to write more poems, and one lucky girl went home with a copy of Gone Camping, Tamera’s new book about Sam and Lucy.

Proud poem collage creator
Skyping with Tamera

Readers of the National Book Award finalist, Ghost, by Jason Reynolds had two insightful discussions about Castle, the choices he made, and how he dealt with those choices. These middle schoolers loved performing some of their favorite scenes, especially Ghost’s blow-up at Brandon in the cafeteria. They also had fun making heart maps for Castle. Everyone was disappointed that Patina hadn’t been published yet (we met before the August 29th publication date), but had plenty of recommendations for other books they’d read over the summer.

All of our celebrations were topped off with ice cream sundaes, and everyone went home happy.  Now that school has started, we’ve been discussing how the main characters of both books exhibit Sherman School’s core values of honesty, courage, responsibility, and respectBased on the success of these celebrations, we’re hoping to make our version of One School, One Book an annual event. 

Happiness is ice cream with a friend AND a new book!

Thank you also to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, 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.