Poetry Friday: “Authors”

I am a creature of habit. I crave routines to keep my life in order. Needless to say, habits, routines, and order are out the window. We are all trying to make some sense of our new reality.

The habit of Poetry Friday is now deeply ingrained in me, and yet I couldn’t manage a post last week. I resolved not to let this week go by, too.
At the beginning of the month, Tabatha Yeatts was in Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’s TDL Spotlight and challenged readers to “write a poem about a game.”

There are several games I love to play, but my husband is NOT a game player. Now that my children are grown, I don’t play games as often as I’d like, so I really had to dig deep for an idea for this challenge. Not surprisingly, afternoons spent with my grandmother came to the rescue. My sister often joined in the game, but for today, it’s just me and my grandmother.


One deck of cards
one me, one you
can chase away the blues.

Shuffle, shuffle
four cards each,
Time for the big reveal.

I’ve got Jane Austen.
Here’s Shakespeare. Tennyson
and Hawthorne
, too.

In your hand you hold
Dickens, Balzac, Alcott,
and your favorite, Sir Walter Scott.

Back and forth,
we trade our cards
and slowly build our sets.

The last card is drawn.
Again, you’ve won.
Play once more? You bet!

© Catherine Flynn, 2020

Please be sure to visit Tabatha at her blog, The Opposite of Indifference, for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: The Comfort of Pie

Tomorrow is Pi day (3.14). We were going to celebrate at school today with a smorgasbord of pies. Instead, we are all home, hoping that closing our school will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We received word last night, before I made the chocolate cream pie my family loves. I was still too filled with worry and the stress of the week to bake last night. I may make it later this afternoon. After all, a piece of pie seems like a reasonable way to soothe the soul. 

We were also going to write Pi poems with the kids today, so I went ahead and wrote one that I hope I will be able to share with them soon. 

topped with dollops
whipped cream; nestled in
a crust of chocolaty crumbs. Divine.

From House of Nash Eats. Here’s their recipe: https://houseofnasheats.com/chocolate-cream-pie/.

Be well, my friends.

Please be sure to visit Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Here are other Pi day poems I’ve written over the last few years:


Poetry Friday: The Question is Why

I spend my days helping kids learn to read. This is incredibly rewarding, but given the nature of how we learn, it can also be frustrating. Kids may read words with long vowels effortlessly one day, then forget they exist the next. So when one of my students was unable to read the word why (a word she knew the day before) not once, not twice, but three times in a row, I knew she needed a poem starring the word why!

There are at least 100 books of poetry in my classroom. I know I’ve seen a why poem somewhere. But after searching through the most likely volumes, I had nothing. Rather than spend any more time looking, I decided to write one. I quickly jotted down a list of why questions, using words that included a number of different phonics patterns we’ve worked on recently. She read it beautifully and loved it.

Fast forward to Sunday. As I was getting ready to meet with the Sunday Night Swaggers, I realized that our monthly challenge was coming up this week! I didn’t even remember what challenge Margaret had posed. A question poem! What on earth could I write about? I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me a few minutes to realize I’d already written one!

This draft is a more polished version of the poem I wrote for my student. It’s not perfect, but she likes it. And she now knows the word why.


Why do ships sail on the sea?
Why is the sky so blue?
Why do fish swim in the pond?
How I wish I knew!

Why does the moon shine at night?
Why is the grass so green?
Why do bees buzz in the garden?
Why won’t my room stay clean?

Why do ducks say quack, quack, quack?
Why can’t I answer back?

Draft © 2020, Catherine Flynn

Photo by Jenny Bess on Unsplash

What questions are my fellow swaggers asking? Find out by visiting their blogs:

Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche

Then head over to Rebecca Herzog’s blog, Sloth Reads, for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

In case you missed it earlier in the week, there is still time to be entered in my giveaway of David L. Harrison’s new book, After Dark. Read my post about using this book in the classroom here.

After Dark Blog Tour: The Final Stop

Welcome to the final stop on the blog tour celebrating the publication of After Dark: Poems About Nocturnal Animals, David L. Harrison’s 97th book! Congratulations, David! I am honored to be part of the festivities. Be sure to visit the previous stops (links below) on the tour for interviews with David about where he gets his ideas, his creative process, and more.

Over at No Water River, David told Renée LaTulippe that “being fascinated with the universe” is one of the major influences on his poetry. This fascination is contagious and shines brightly on every page of this gorgeous book. 

One sure-fire way to build students’ curiosity is to introduce topics through poetry. Which is why I was so excited to share After Dark with my students. Each of the 21 poems highlights the nocturnal comings and goings of familiar animals. The beauty of sharing these poems is that they are about animals children will recognize, but will extend their knowledge in playful and engaging ways.

David’s masterful poetry builds vocabulary and will foster a love of language in readers of all ages. First graders loved “Owl Rules,” a perfect mentor text for young writers. They will use this poem to organize what they have learned about animals they are studying. David’s categories are full of humor: “Never work for food,” “Eat whatever,” “Who needs a nest?” and “Tease campers.” Children will be able to adapt these categories or create their own.

Eighth grade students I work with are currently reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They quickly recognized similarities between Shakespeare’s play and “The Queen,” which is filled with rich and royal vocabulary: regal, ermine, suitors, serene.

“The Queen”
(Luna Moth)

Like regal monarch of the night
or fairy in the airy light,
richly robed in ermine white,
winged in velvet royal green.

Suitors you have never seen
find you here in woods serene.
You’ve much to do before the dawn
so when your fleeting life is gone,
future queens can carry on.

© David L. Harrison, 2020

Examples of poetic techniques also abound in After Dark. The rambunctious “growly, pouncy, bitey games” played by wolf pups in “The Rehearsal” is a great example of creating adjectives and making words rhyme. My students are excited to try this themselves! Other favorites, “Toothy Grin,” “The King,” and “Hear This! Hear This” focus on prominent features of the kit fox, the Mexican red-knee tarantula, and spring peepers, then emphasize them through repetition. This poetic technique is one that young writers can easily imitate. The possibilities are truly endless!

Observation is the best way to learn about an animal’s behavior and get ideas about a behavior to focus on in their poem. If heading outside to explore isn’t an option, critter cams are a great way to bring the hidden world of animals into your classroom and spark student writing. 

Stephanie Laberis’s expressive digital illustrations are filled with details that are perfectly suited to the personality David emphasizes in each poem. There are two pages of additional facts about each animal at the end of the book. Students could use these fascinating facts in their own poems.

Boyds Mills & Kane has generously donated a copy of After Dark to one lucky reader of today’s post. Thank you! To be entered in the drawing, leave a comment by Saturday, March 7th. If I pick your name at random, a copy of this delightful book will soon be on its way to you. Thank you, David, for inviting me to join in the fun, and for all your wonderful poetry!

Previous stops on the After Dark Blog Tour:

Writing and Illustrating

Beyond Literacy Link

Read, Learn, and be Happy

Poetry for Children

Teacher Dance

Michelle Kogan

Salt City Verse

Reflections on the Teche

Simply 7 Interview

No Water River

A Word Edgewise

Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

Live Your Poem