Poetry Friday: Challenges

T.S. Eliot claimed that “April is the cruelest month” but I think teachers might argue that August is a close second. Unfinished summer projects taunt us; unorganized classrooms beckon. Add to all that the Inklings’ monthly challenge. Something had to give. You guessed it. It was the challenge.

For our September challenge, Margaret Simon asked us to “Choose a photo from the month of This Photo Wants to be a Poem and share your poem and your process.” Every week, Margaret shares a photo on Facebook as a poetry prompt, a tradition that began with Laura Purdie Salas.

I knew immediately which photo I wanted to write to:

The fields around my house are full of this grass right now and I’m always awed by its beauty. But what to write? I pondered and wrote notes. After several false starts, I began looking at the other photos. Then, while Heidi Mordhorst, Mary Lee Hahn, Michelle Kogan, and I were discussing Ada Limón‘s enchanting new book, The Hurting Kind, someone said that many of Limon’s lines would be good strike lines for a Golden Shovel. All at once, everything clicked. I knew which line would work perfectly with this photo.

“…amidst the perpetual
scattering that unspools the world.”

Ada Limón
(from “It’s the Season I Often Mistake”)

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Thank you to Margaret for posing this challenge. Thank you to Heidi, Mary Lee, and Michelle for the insightful and stimulating conversation about The Hurting Kind. If you haven’t already read how my fellow Inklings responded to this challenge, please visit them at their blogs:

Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Also be sure to visit Kat Apel for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Something Shiny

On a recent episode of The Slowdown, Ada Limón asked “What is the job of a poet?” Part of the poet’s work, she mused, is to “look around for something shiny, and when we see it, we grab it.” I love this. It reminded me of Natalie Babbitt‘s assertion in The Search for Delicious that the world is full of “commonplace marvels” spread “carelessly before us every day.” This was a reminder that I desperately needed.

Something shiny, a commonplace marvel, offered itself up to me not long after. A tiny green spider, no bigger than the eraser on a pencil wandered across the arm of my lawn chair. She was moving pretty quickly, so I didn’t get a chance to study her or take a picture. But I was astounded to see that she was completely green–legs and all! I knew at once that she needed her own poem and that it should be an octet.

Summer’s Bounty

one
neon
green spider
scrambles amidst
spikes of sun-fed grass
seeking a hiding spot 
where she can hunt for her lunch:
an insect smorgasbord awaits!

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please be sure to visit Tanita Davis at {fiction, instead of lies} for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Summer Sports

It’s the first Friday of August and many of us are thinking about the start of school. (Or have already started!) I’m still thinking about summer and all the sports I loved playing as a kid. So for this month’s Inkling challenge, I asked my fellow Inklings to write a poem about sports. Any sport was fair game. I suggested Soccerverse, by Liz Steinglass as a model, but everyone was free to write in any form they wanted.

Originally, I imagined writing about swimming, which is still my favorite sport, but I couldn’t get it to come together. Instead, I have a homage to many summer sports and used Douglas Florian’sWhat I Love About Summer” poem as a model. (He also has wonderful celebrations of fall, winter, and spring that are not to be missed.)

Summer Sports

Staying cool
splashing in pools.

Adventuring hikes,
rides on my bike.

Frisbie flinging,
sky-high swinging.

Rafting down rivers,
rapid-soaked shivers.

Running the bases,
three-legged races.

Cartwheel turning,
superstar yearning.

Summer days of endless fun,
playing games under the sun.

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please be sure to visit my partners in ink to see how they fielded this challenge! Molly Hogan is also hosting Poetry Friday this week.

Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche
Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone

Poetry Friday: Persistence

The first Friday of the month already? Wasn’t it just the first of June? The calendar is persistent, isn’t it? This month, Heidi noted that “there are so many ways in which we’ve all (but especially as women, as educators) had to be persistent, despite our weariness.” Her challenge was to “write a poem (for kids or adults) about PERSISTENCE.”

The political and cultural landscape of our country has changed dramatically since Heidi first posted her challenge. I had several ideas for how this poem might go, but after a week of what feels like one assault after another on our democracy, it’s hard not to write this poem as though persistence has a whole new meaning. This poem began as an acrostic. Some of those bones are still visible. I tried to keep politics out of this very drafty poem, but it wasn’t easy.

A young praying mantis, 
Not even two inches 

long, scrambles away
from my rake.

Possibilities evaporate 
when we retreat,

Fail to stand up 
for ourselves, for what’s right.

High above me, the mantis
clings to the house

Stretching, reaching
Toward light, toward love.

Expand your heart
Toward your true North.

I marvel at this tiny insect’s
courage; try to summon my own.

Everything hangs in the balance.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please be sure to visit my fellow Inklings to read their responses to Heidi’s challenge:

Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Then head over to Salt City Verse, where Janice Scully has the Roundup.

Poetry Friday: The Roundup is Here!

Welcome to the Poetry Friday Roundup! (Find our more about Poetry Friday in this post by Renée LaTulippe here.)

Tuesday was the last day of school in my district, and I’ll be honest, I’m exhausted! The good news is that I’ve had two days to rest and relax and get ready to welcome you here today!

For the past two years, our school did not chose a single individual as teacher of the year. Rather, we were all celebrated for our efforts to keep school as normal as possible for our students. This year, one teacher was recognized each week and we were asked to share a reflection about teaching with our colleagues. Two weeks ago, it was my turn to share my thoughts. Of course I had to write a poem.

I love writing abecedarians and decided that The ABCs of Teaching would be the best form to organize my reflections about all I’ve learned about teaching children over the past 27 years.

The ABCs of Teaching

Ask questions and
Build knowledge.
Cultivate curiosity.
Develop relationships.
Encourage children to explore and
Find their
Gifts. Grow their
Hearts.
Infuse this
Journey with joy,
Kindness,
Love and laughter.
Make learning meaningful.
Nurture strengths.
Open hearts to
Possibilities.
Quiet doubts and fears.
Read, read, read!
Sing praises, build
Trust, treasure each moment.
Unlock mysteries,
Validate and celebrate success.
Wonder what’s next.
eXpect miracles. Stay
Young and never lose your
Zeal for children!

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

I hope you all have a relaxing, safe, and healthy summer!

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Poetry Friday: Household Dreams

It’s the first Friday of the month, which means it’s time for another Inkling challenge. This month, Molly “thought it might be fun to write a poem about some sort of domestic task. (Writing a poem = way more fun than cleaning!)” She shared “Spring Cleaning,” by Ellen M. Taylor to inspire us.

I actually don’t mind cleaning, but I mind the time it takes. There are so many more interesting ways to spend my time. Still, I manage to keep the downstairs of our house under control. The spare bedroom upstairs in another story!

For some unknown reason, I decided that this poem should be a sonnet. My relationship to sonnets is the same as my relationship to cleaning: I like the idea, but the execution is always flawed. (Iambs are not my friends!)

There are three main forms of sonnets: Petrarchan, Italian, and English, or Shakespearean, along with many variations. I chose one of these alternatives, the Spenserian form.. Spenserian sonnets vary “the English form by interlocking the three quatrains (ABAB BCBC CDCD EE).

Household Dreams: A Sonnet

Someday soon I’ll sweep away the clutter.
Tables and shelves won’t be covered in dust.
Clean sheets, unfurled flags of hope, will flutter
On fresh breezes. My conscience will be shushed.

No longer will I betray the trust
Of window panes longing to shine.
And the kitchen floor will be nonplussed
When it’s mopped to reveal its design.

These lofty goals all sound just fine,
But this hectic pace could not be sustained.
Unless the planets and stars all align,
Domestic perfection won’t be attained.

I’ll ignore the mess, let it go to seed
I’ll sit here all day, just knit, write and read.

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please see how my fellow Inklings responded to Molly’s challenge, then head over to Karen Edmisten’s blog for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Margaret @ Reflections on the Teche
Linda @ A Word Edgewise
Heidi @ My Juicy Little Universe
Molly @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Mary Lee @ Another Year of Reading

Poetry Friday: So Much Depends…

Last week, inspired by Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s National Poetry Month project, I wrote a gogyohka in response to a photo of my mother and her twin sister. Like Tricia, I have found family archives to be rich source material for poems. One of the treasures I have is a diary of my grandmother’s from 1936. Times were tough for my grandparents throughout the Depression and many of her entries detail the small ways they scraped by. January of that year was bitterly cold, and Grandma was knitting a scarf for my uncle, but she ran out of yarn. She sounds so relieved when she finally “got to town” to get more yarn that the first line of William Carlos Williams’ famous poem popped into my head instantly.

So much depends
upon

a skein of red
wool

soft as a
petal

spun into a
scarf

by two nimble
hands.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please be sure to visit Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: National Poetry Month Isn’t Over

It’s time for the monthly Inkling challenge. This month, Linda challenged the Inklings to “Honor someone’s April Poetry project in some way with a poem in the spirit of their project, a response poem or any way that suits you.” 

I knew immediately that I wanted to base my response on Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s (aka Miss Rumphius) project of “sharing original poems written in a variety of Japanese poetic forms (haiku, tanka, dodoitsu, etc.) to primary sources. I’m using photos, letters, newspaper articles, and more to inspire my writing.” Tricia shared many treasures from her family archives and her poems always captured funny or poignant insights into her source materials.

Like Tricia’s family, my family (specifically my maternal grandmother) saved everything and I have many photos and letters. I also have my grandmother’s diary from 1936, which is the only one we know of. Mostly, she recorded the weather, her daily household chores, and what she baked. There are also a few headlines from the wider world: The last line for Monday, January 20th reads “King George V of England died. Edward VIII becomes king.” She stopped writing on Saturday, August 22th with this short entry: “Rained on Sat. Went to town in A.M. Did shopping. Bought a pot roast. Not much new. They will finish the forty acre lot in one more day.” (I’m sure this refers to haying on my great-grandfather’s farm.)

I suspect she stopped writing because of this entry a few days earlier: “Feel certain that we will have a baby by spring.”

That baby turned out to be my mother and her twin sister.

Here they are, about 3 or 4, ready to attend a cousin’s wedding.

My mother is on the left
Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

There are troves of poems waiting in that diary, but how could I resist writing about this photo? I chose a most forgiving form, the Gogyohka. This is a five line verse without a specific syllable count. As Tricia explained in her post, it was “invented in the 1960s, the idea was to ‘take the traditional form of Tanka poetry (which is written in five lines) and liberate its structure, creating a freer form of verse.’ You can learn more about this form at Writer’s Digest Gogyohka: Poetic Form.”

Please be sure to visit my fellow Inklings to see which NPM project they honored:

Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Then head over to Jama’s Alphabet Soup, where Jama is serving up the Roundup.

Poetry Friday & NPM: Skyglow

This month I have been writing poems in response to the ideas, connections and echoes between All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson and Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. I’ve focused more on Rooted and the fundamental beliefs, or tenets, that are at the heart of rootedness. Like countless poets and scientists before her, Haupt knows that “poetry and science intermingle.” They “bring depth and knowing to one another–all mingle as co-expressions of a wild earth.” (p.24)

Poets and scientists have been inspired by the mysteries of the universe since the dawn of time. All living creatures are guided by the natural cycle of light and dark created by earth’s rotation and orbit around the sun. But we are disrupting these rhythms by leaving the lights on. Mounting evidence makes clear that this disruption is harmful both physically and mentally to humans, plants, and animals. The International Dark Sky Association has declared this week “Dark Sky Week.” There are simple steps we can all do to eliminate much of the light pollution that threatens us. Let’s start by turning off the lights.

Skyglow

Once guided by the stars above
we’ve lost our celestial map,
its compass rose
erased by bright skyglow.

Warblers, winging northward,
confused by all this light,
are steered off course,
crash into glass and steel
instead of settling into soft nests.

Creatures of the night exposed:
No shadows to hide in
or darkness alerting frogs
and toads its time
to serenade their sweethearts.

One more balance we’ve disrupted.
Another threat to harm us all.
How will we find our way forward
if we look up and see nothing,
nothing at all?

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Photo by Adrian Pelletier on Unsplash

Previous NPM Posts:

Day 10: The Cosmos
Day 9: The Fox
Day 8: A Haiku
Day 7: Ode to an April Morning
Day 6: Wander
Day 5: For the Good of the Earth
Day 4: Enchantment and Wonder
Day 3: Reciprocity
Day 2: Kith and Kin
Day 1: The Thing Is

Please be sure to visit Jone Rush MacCulloch’s blog for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

National Poetry Month: The Cosmos

This month I have been writing poems in response to the ideas, connections and echoes between All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson and Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. I’ve focused more on Rooted and the fundamental beliefs that are at the heart of rootedness. One tenet, “poetry and science intermingle” is woven into many of these poems. Haupt explains that “poetry, science, story, art, all bring depth and knowing to one another–all mingle as co-expressions of a wild earth.” (p. 14)

Last weekend I came across 50 Ways to Help Save the Bees by Sally Coulthard. This short book is filled with relatively simple steps we all can take to protect these engines of our ecosystems. One step is to plant a pollinator garden. I’ve been gardening for years, but never focused specifically on bee-friendly flowers. Coulthard includes a list of “Blooms for Bees” and one of my favorite annuals, cosmos, is included. Anxious to get my bee-friendly flowers started, I planted packets of cosmos, sunflowers, and cornflowers (indoors–it’s not warm enough here in western Connecticut to sow seeds outdoors). This poem was inspired by all that planting.

Dozens of bees orbit
a galaxy of blossoms,
probing pollen-packed pompoms
bursting from the shining center
of the cosmos.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Maurice Flesier, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can learn more about how to help bees here.

Previous NPM Posts:

Day 9: The Fox
Day 8: A Haiku
Day 7: Ode to an April Morning
Day 6: Wander
Day 5: For the Good of the Earth
Day 4: Enchantment and Wonder
Day 3: Reciprocity
Day 2: Kith and Kin
Day 1: The Thing Is