This week I was fortunate enough to participate in part of the Poetry Foundation’s annual workshop for teachers. To say that this experience was inspiring is an understatement. I’m still processing the multitude of ideas, wisdom, and poems shared by the presenters. My initial reaction to the incredible poets who presented was “thank you!” Thank you for voicing so clearly what I sometimes have trouble articulating: That poetry is not a luxury, that poetry is full of all the feelings, and that, in the words of Yolanda Sealy-Ruiz, we should all ‘’be deliberate about seeking joy.”
Later, while “seeking joy” in my backyard, I noticed two goldfinches flitting in and out of the branches of our cherry tree. Goldfinches truly do bring me joy. I’ve written at least twice about their merry-making. (Here and here) In that moment, in the words of musician Mic Jordan, their “music [was] medicine” to me, medicine worthy of celebration.
High in sun-spangled treetops, chitter-chattering goldfinches bestow their poem to the world.
I am thrilled and honored to have my poem, “Mental Floss,” included with the work of so many stellar poets. Thank you, Janet & Sylvia, for your tireless efforts to bring poetry into the lives of so many!
I also love that fellow October birthday girl and poet extraordinaire Marilyn Singer’s Feel the Beat is the suggested companion piece to my poem.
Please be sure to visit Janice Scully at Salt City Verse for the Poetry Friday Roundup.
The Sunday Night Swaggers are back with another monthly challenge. This month, Margaret Simon challenged us to write a duplex, a form created by Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Jericho Brown.
Challenge is the keyword here. I really struggled with this poem. I struggled to come up with a topic, then struggled to keep the poem from becoming too dark. I also didn’t exactly follow the rules, but I know I wrote with the spirit of the rules in mind. That has to count for something, right?
The facts are hard to dismiss; We’re at the edge of a vast abyss.
At the edge of this abyss, can we ignore Tons of plastic littering our shores?
Plastic-lined shores still sparkle and shine But they are a beacon of nature’s decline
Nature’s decline is our fault alone. Is it too late for us to atone?
Before it’s too late to atone for our greed Let’s join together, plant the seeds
Plant seeds for the future, seeds of hope We must stop our slide down this slippery slope
Stopping this slide is a goal we can’t miss These are facts that we cannot dismiss.
This poem was written in honor of Lee Bennett Hopkins, a giant in the world of children’s poetry. Lee passed away on August 8th of this year. Today, the Poetry Friday community is sharing poetry honoring Lee. My contribution is a Golden Shovel using the title of Lee’s classic book, with phrases from some of Lee’s own poems woven in. Lee joyfully spread his love of poetry throughout the world, and his loss is immeasurable. How lucky we are that our lives were enriched by Lee, and that we have volumes and volumes of poetry to help keep his legacy alive.
Pass the Poetry, Please!
Italicized lines are from the following poems by Lee (in order of appearance):
“Under the Microscope” from Spectacular Science (Simon & Schuster, 1999) “Librarian” from School People (Wordsong, 2018) “Ruby” from Hoofbeats, Claws & Rippled Fins: Creature Poems (HarperCollins, 2002) “Storyteller (For Augusta Baker)” from Jumping Off Library Shelves (Wordsong, 2015) Introduction to I Am the Cat (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981)
And, of course, Pass the Poetry, Please! a treasure trove of poetic love, containing “a wealth of ideas to encourage a child’s natural delight in poetry.” (from the back cover of my paperback of the revised edition, published by HarperTrophy in 1987.)
Please be sure to visit our gracious host, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, at The Poem Farm for more remembrances of Lee.
This year, our school has a single teacher for elementary science. He coordinates with classroom teachers, and has his own room where instruction takes place. For the past week or so, he has been incubating chicken eggs. The incubating process wasn’t too interesting, but all that changed when the eggs began to hatch. Everyone in the building has been visiting the newly hatched chicks. Of course I wrote a poem about them.
Bundles of damp down Tumble into the world, Cheeping and chirping. Chicks rise, stumble On brand new legs, Spindly and pink. They wobble back And forth, Unfold tiny wings Then fall flat, Worn out with effort. They rest, gather strength, Then rise again, Pause, find their Footing. Transformed into Puffs of smoky down, They scurry forward, Ready to greet the world.
Fake it till you make it. We’ve all heard it. We all know people who do it. We’ve all done it ourselves. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. I thought about this yesterday as I stood by the window in my classroom while my lunch was heating up. I looked out onto a playground filled with first and second graders reveling in the spring-like weather. Then I noticed three boys by the basketball hoop. Dribbling, passing the ball, taking shots. I thought about how much fun they were having, even though they didn’t come close to making a basket. They were practicing the moves they’d seen other, more seasoned players make.
As I watched, I thought about what else in life we approximate until we “make it.” Adulting, parenting, you name it, we fake it. Eventually we gain a certain level of competence and confidence. We don’t feel like we’re flying by the seat of our pants ALL the time! But what about our students? How much approximating do they do every day? It exhausts me to think about it.Which makes me wonder about our expectations. Perfect, polished writing is a challenge for us all. Why would we expect first graders to write flawlessly? We shouldn’t. What we should do is help them approximate being a writer, to copy the moves their favorite authors make. Sometimes their imperfections show us the most about their learning, about them as learners. So let’s make our classrooms places for taking risks that help us grow. That’s how we make it.
Thank you to everyone at Two Writing Teachers for this space where we can all take risks.
Without intending to, I ended up taking a hiatus from blogging during October. I have missed all my poetry pals, though, so I’m determined to at least get pack to posting on Fridays.
In September, the lovely and generous Irene Latham invited her readers and friends to share “some octopus poems and art” to be featured on her blog during October, otherwise known as #NationalOctopusMonth. I’ve never been a huge fan of octopuses, but I am a HUGE fan of Irene and all her writing, so I dove into learning more about the fascinating creatures.
I soon discovered the wonderpus octopus (Wunderpus photogenicus), who lives in the coastal waters near Indonesia and Malaysia. This beautiful little octopus inspired this poem, “The Wondrous Wonderpus.”
Thank you again to Irene, for always being such an inspiration. Please be sure to visit Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup for the Poetry Friday Roundup!
Today is really only the second day of my summer break. (I don’t think the weekend should count.) I am working hard at looking busy and being productive. But honestly, I haven’t accomplished much and feel a little adrift.
One thing I have managed to do is read the first chunk of I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson for an online reading group organized by Sally Donnelly. This Printz Award winner and Stonewall Honor Book was on many Best-Book lists when it was published, deservedly so. At first, I was so caught up in the story that I missed the nuances of Nelson’s writing. I’m rereading now with ever-increasing awe at the power of this book.
Three hours are left before the last day of March, and I still don’t know what to write about today. Was there a slice hidden somewhere in my day? If there was, I didn’t notice it, maybe because I was preoccupied by something.
Was it that moment when a third grade student came up with the perfect metaphor for a poem she’s writing?
It could have been when a first grade student sat up a little straighter after figuring out a word he didn’t know.
Was it hiding in the emails I wrote?
Maybe it was when a kindergarten student hugged me in the hallway just because she felt like it.
Did I miss it while I was planning for tomorrow?
Or was it when I got home after a late meeting and my husband had dinner ready and waiting?
Whenever it happened, it went by unobserved. Some days are like this.