Poetry Friday: Wordy Thirty

I’ve loved word games since I was a kid. My grandmother introduced me to word find puzzles when I was probably in 3rd or 4th grade. They seemed like treasure hunts to me. Eventually, crossword puzzles usurped word finds (although I would never scorn them), and Scrabble was admitted to my list of favorite games. But for some reason, I’m very late to the Wordle craze. I didn’t start playing until 19 days ago. Why start playing now? Because Mary Lee challenged the Inklings to write a Wordy 30 for our October challenge! According to Mary Lee, “a Wordy 30 is a poem using exactly 30 letters. Each line should have the same number of letters. Each line should use one word. You might have 6 lines with 5 letters in each line (like Wordle), or 5 x 6, 3 x 10, 10 x 3, 15 x 2, 2 x 15, 30 x 1, or (most unlikely) 1 x 30. Have…fun???”

Don’t you love those question marks? Playing Wordle is fun. Writing poetry is fun (mostly). Writing a Wordy 30? Not so much.

For my first attempts, I stuck to five letter words. It was challenging to find six words with the right letter count that worked together in a meaningful way. Talk about a treasure hunt! After a few false starts, I decided this draft wasn’t terrible.

cloud
shape
ideas
arise
heart 
bloom

But I didn’t love it. Then, last weekend, as I worked on my latest knitting project, inspiration struck. Realizing I didn’t have to use five letter words, I came up with this:

skeins
unwind
needle
weaves
warmth

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Easter warmth I knit for Hazel

Please be sure to visit my fellow Inklings to see their Wordy 30s:

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 be sure to visit Sarah Grace Tuttle for the Poetry Friday Roundup. Do try your hand at Wordle, if you haven’t already. You never know; it just might inspire a poem or two!

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: Seeking Joy

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.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please be sure to visit Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading for the Poetry Friday Roundup. Bushels of poetic joy await!

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: “Looking for the Gulf Motel”

I love podcasts. I love that they come in neat little packages that I can listen to while I’m doing the dishes or folding laundry. I love that I can press a few buttons on my phone and Ada Limón or Pádraig Ó Tuama will read a poem to me as I drive to work. This is the best way to begin the day.

Not long ago, on Poetry Unbound, Pádraig Ó Tuama shared “Looking for the Gulf Motel” by Richard Blanco. Although I have never been to the Gulf Motel, or Marco Island, Florida, I instantly recognized everything in Blanco’s poem. Substitute my father and friends clamming at Head’s Beach, or the Cafe 2000 in Newport, and this poem is the poem of my childhood summers.

Although many of you may have already read this poem or heard this episode, I’m sharing it today in honor of Father’s Day, the start of summer, and all the Gulf Motels of our childhoods.

“Looking for the Gulf Motel”
by Richard Blanco

Marco Island, Florida

There should be nothing here I don’t remember . . .

The Gulf Motel with mermaid lampposts
and ship’s wheel in the lobby should still be
rising out of the sand like a cake decoration.
My brother and I should still be pretending
we don’t know our parents, embarrassing us
as they roll the luggage cart past the front desk
loaded with our scruffy suitcases, two-dozen
loaves of Cuban bread, brown bags bulging
with enough mangos to last the entire week,
our espresso pot, the pressure cooker—and
a pork roast reeking garlic through the lobby.
All because we can’t afford to eat out, not even
on vacation, only two hours from our home
in Miami, but far enough away to be thrilled
by whiter sands on the west coast of Florida,
where I should still be for the first time watching
the sun set instead of rise over the ocean.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Please be sure to visit Michelle Kogan for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

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.