Poetry Friday: What Was the Question?

Welcome to the Poetry Friday Roundup! (To find out more about Poetry Friday, click here.) I’m pleased to welcome you this week! How did it get to be the first Friday in December?!? And how is it time for another Inkling challenge? This month, Molly challenged us to respond to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater‘s post, “Answer an Unasked Question.” Amy suggested that we

Think of something someone might wonder, real or pretend…and then write a poem answering this question.

Pretty straightforward, right? Right. Until you start considering all the wonderings in the world!

As usual, my draft is very drafty and feels quite unfinished to me. I blame turkey.

To disappear 
into an emerald cloud,
listening while breezes
whisper their secrets.

To hide
for an afternoon,
watching 
the comings and goings
of birds and squirrels,
spiders and beetles.

To stretch
and reach 
toward the sky,
testing  
strength,
building courage.

Catherine Flynn, draft © 2022

Please visit my fellow Inklings to read their answers to unasked questions, then leave your link below.

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

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Poetry Friday: Hazel, Hawthorn, Oak, and Ash

This month’s Inkling challenge came from Linda. She suggested that we “find or write a poem in any form of any length for Folktale Week November 14-20, 2022.” Linda shared this explanation of Folktale Week, which is primarily for visual artists, from their Facebook page: “Folktale Week prompts artists to respond to folktales and share their work on instagram #folktaleweek! Use #folktaleweek2022. Prompts will be released by the hosts on October 17th. You will have over a month to search for your favorite folktales, discover new ones, work on your own amazing art, or even write your own tales! Be sure to follow #folktaleweek2022 to find others who are joining!”

I loved this idea immediately. This year’s prompts are fool, tree, star, rebel, costume, potion, and victory. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you won’t be at all surprised to learn that I chose tree as my starting point. This lead me down several rabbit holes and false starts. Maple trees dominated my childhood yard, but my memories didn’t have a folktale feel to them. I turned to my Celtic heritage and came up with this very rough draft.

Hazel, Hawthorn, Oak, and Ash

In the before times,
when the world still fed on dreams,
forests filled with
hazel, hawthorn,
oak and ash
spread across the land,
sharing their gifts with all.

But dark clouds of greed
descended on the forest.

The timeless rhythms of 
hazel, hawthorn,
oak and ash
were drowned out by the the
thwack, thwack, thwack,
of the axe.

The forest thinned
and wept.
And the world forgot
how to dream.

The forest remembers
those ancient dreams.
They whisper to us
on the wind
of hazel, hawthorn,
oak and ash.

Be still.
Listen.
They’re waiting for you.

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

Please be sure to visit my fellow Inklings to read their responses to this challenge:

Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe (Heidi is also hosting Poetry Friday this week. Thank you, Heidi!)
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 Light

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence
is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.
~ Carl Jung ~

The world is a scary place these days. Sometimes it’s hard to see how we will find solutions to the myriad crises the we face. But then wise people like Robin Wall Kimmerer, a brilliant “plant ecologist, educator, and writer articulating a vision of environmental stewardship grounded in scientific and Indigenous knowledge,” wins a MacArthur award. Kimmerer’s writing always gives me hope and inspires me to just be and do better as I move through the world. One lesson I took away from her book Braiding Sweetgrass is the importance of knowing the names of the plants and animals who share this earth with us. Because I have no one left to teach me, I rely on technology to learn the names of plants and flowers that have surrounded me since childhood. Now I have iNaturalist on my phone, so while I’m out walking or working in my yard, I can take a photo of whatever plant or animal I come across, and iNaturalist will do its best to tell me the name of my nonhuman neighbor.

Last weekend, I found this glorious little berry behind my house:

I had never seen such a plant! My first thought was that it was a wild strawberry, but it’s October and strawberry season is long past. After a quick search through its database, iNaturalist informed me that this is a mock strawberry, a species native to eastern and southern Asia. I know I should have left it for the squirrels and chipmunks who have been busy devouring the feast to be found outside my backdoor, I couldn’t resist setting a woodland table:

Of course all this creative play inspired a poem!

October Surprise

Bright red and glistening 
with morning dew,
a plump mock strawberry
is a beacon 
to a chipmunk
foraging for breakfast.

Gobble.

Gulp.

Gone.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

If you haven’t read Braiding Sweetgrass, find a copy today. Or listen to the author herself reading it in her soothing, patient voice. Your world will be made brighter! Also be sure to visit Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

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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