Robyn Hood Black - children's author, poet








Hannah enjoying poetry workshop

(Scroll down this column for tags, archives and blogroll....)


POETRY FRIDAY ROUNDUP SCHEDULE



July


4   Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

11  Linda at Write Time

18 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference

25 Sylvia and Janet at Poetry For Children







August


1   Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

8  Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

15 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

22 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

29 Jone at Check it Out







September


5   Laura at Author Amok

12 Renee at No Water River

19 Amy at The Poem Farm

26 Laura at Writing the World for Kids







October


3   Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup

10 Monica at The Poem Trail

17 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty

24 Cathy at Merely Day by Day

31 Linda at TeacherDance







November


7   Diane at Random Noodling

14 Keri at Keri Recommends

21 Becky at Tapestry of Words

28 Carol at Carol's Corner







December 


5   Anastasia at Booktalking #kidlit

12 Paul at These 4 Corners

19 Buffy at Buffy's Blog

26 Holly at Reading, Teaching, Learning




Enjoy these Great
Children's Lit Blogs and Websites:


Hanging with fellow Georgia writers (from top, l-r) Tracy Walker, Heather Kolich, Donna Bowman, (bottom, middle) Janice Hardy and Paula Puckett
photo by Steve Kolich

Susan Rosson Spain, Robyn Hood Black, Elizabeth Dulemba, and Myra Meade at the Hall Book Exchange in Gainesville, Ga.
photo by Mel Hornsby

Southern Breeze Kudos Kites 09 - Donna, Robyn, Heather, Sarah, and Peggy

Robyn with Kathleen Duey, author extraordinaire http://www.kathleenduey.com

Robyn with Alaska Nature Writer Debbie Miller http://www.debbiemilleralaska.com

photo by Robyn Hood Black
Paul B. Janeczko http://www.paulbjaneczko.com

Copyright 2005-2014 ©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved. Please ask permission before using any text or images on this website, except for reproducible
"4 Kids 2 Do" and "Press Kit" pages.

Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Tribute to Mary Lee. A Different Mary Lee...

July 17, 2014

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, animals, ponderings


Our Fearless Poetry Friday Roundup Leader, Mary Lee, of A Year of Reading blog and her poetrepository website, is certainly worthy of a tribute. But today I bring you a different Mary Lee. One with fins.

Let me back up. Today in our new hometown, a 10-day extravaganza known as the "Water Festival" begins. While this part of the lowcountry is also called the “slowcountry,” my understanding is that for the next week or so, it’ll be the slowcountry on steroids. Concerts, dragon boat races, parades – on land and in the water, and lots of dancing, lots of beverages…. Well, at least we live within walking distance to downtown!

Thinking about celebrating the water, I was also reminded of a news story which came in on the tide this week. We’d heard about Mary Lee, a great white shark who pays visits to Beaufort County waters. (She even has her own Facebook page .)

She was tagged in 2012 by OCEARCH and now scientists monitor her movements, and those of other sharks, around the world. (Pretty cool – click here here to explore!)

Anyway, seems our new little personal nest is more or less surrounded by what just might be a prime nursery site for great white mamas in the Northern Atlantic! Port Royal sound is teeming with diverse aquatic life, perfect for baby shark buffets. Here’s this week’s article which caught my eye.

(Did you click over? Please pause and wrap your mind around that: 16-plus feet long. 3400-plus pounds.) Ah, motherhood.

I decided to shine the light on Mary Lee for Poetry Friday this week – from a distance, of course. From land, in fact. Inside my house.


MARY LEE


Mary Lee, Oh, Mary Lee –
you’ve come back to the bay.
To these waters where we swim
and fish - and row - and play.

Come to leave your pups with us
in deep Port Royal Sound.
Yes, we’ll keep an eye on them.
We hear you’re Northern-bound?

Not to worry. Go on now.
Though you might find it odd,
we’ll sleep a bit more soundly here
when you’re back in Cape Cod.



©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.


Please remove your silver jewelry and paddle and splash your way on over to Terrific Tabatha's, where she has this week's Roundup at The Opposite of Indifference.

Poetry Friday: Dog Goodbyes

June 12, 2014

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, animals, writing life



A few children's lit folks I'm friends with on Facebook have posted tributes to dogs they've had to say goodbye to recently. We were in the same boat last Saturday. Our dachshund mixes, Asper and Oliver, joined our family as pups (rescues) back in 1999. Asper has knocked on Heaven's door a couple-few times in recent years, only to rebound and romp with us for a little while longer.

Last week, after enjoying a few days with us at the beach following Morgan's college graduation, he began his journey across that Rainbow Bridge. Morgan was in second grade, just seven years old, when we got him. (Oliver became Seth's dog when Seth was just four - and now he's a rising sophomore in college. Oliver does not quite know how old he really is, and we're not telling him.)

In my own Facebook post, I lauded Asper as our "Playful Pup, Defender of the Realm and Bodyguard to Morgan, Toy Hoarder, Copperhead Slayer, Couch and Bed Buddy, Trouper to the End..." - he was all that and then some.

I'm sharing all this because recently my father-in-law forwarded an email from a family friend. Here was the message: "Do you have a copy of Robyn's poem. If not would you forward this to Robyn. I have a friend who is grieving over his dog now. He needs her Poem."

I remembered the poem - it was one I'd written for my husband's brother when their family lost their wonderful Australian Shepherd, Gracie - back in 1998! I couldn't find the poem in my files (piles of boxes) at the new house, but emailed our friend that perhaps it was still in my old home office. Lo and behold, on my last trip to clean out that office, I found a copy. It went like this:

MEMO

To: God
Date: 10/30/1998
Re: Gracie

A good dog came your way today -
By now, I'm sure you know.
Please show her to the tennis balls
with an angel who can throw.

Her people down here miss her.
When you can, help them to see
they helped her have a playful heart
that's now forever free.



©Robyn Hood Black, but free for others to borrow and adjust name/date, if it might comfort any family who's lost a good dog....

Now, that poem won't win a Pushcart prize, but I was touched that those few lines were brought to the mind of my dog-loving friend after all these years, and that he wanted to share them with his grieving friend. Perhaps the most surprising part of the story, however, is that when I took the newly-found copy by my in-laws' house, my mother-in-law not only remembered the poem - she recited it by heart! We should have just asked her in the first place.

I was humbled, and comforted that poetry has the power to soothe when "regular" words don't quite seem enough. Thanks for letting me share.

For today's Poetry Friday Roundup, please visit the lovely Catherine Johnson.

Poetry Friday: A (Slightly Creepy?) Peek Inside the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, with a Real Look Still to Come!

April 3, 2014

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, students, science, nature, animals

Sharing the new Poetry Friday Anthology at our recent SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle in Atlanta.
photo by Jo S. Kittinger

Happy Poetry Month!

I have some fun posts to share in the next few weeks. Next Friday (April 11), we'll feature a very talented young poet in our Student Haiku Poet of the Month Series. The week after that, I host Poetry Friday (Woo-hoooo! And crossing fingers the cyber gremlins don't steal any responses this year. Took major technical intervention by some Authors Guild hired heroes to find those entries days later....)

That will be April 18, and be sure to circle back because my guests will be - drumroll, please ....- Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong! They'll tell us all about the hot-off-the-press Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, which includes 218 poems by 78 poets. You can read their launch post here (on Sylvia's blog). Also, the collection has been featured by Mary Lee at A Year of Reading and by Irene Latham at Live Your Poem. Also check out these posts by Jeannine at View from a Window Seat and Linda at Teacher Dance. Catherine at Reading to the Core highlighted it, too, and there's a delightful nod from Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe. Also, those terrific Teaching Authors will be blogging about it this month, too. And - PSSST - Amy at The Poem Farm is giving away a copy each week this month! Click here for details. (If I missed anyone, correct my omission in the comments and I'll add your link here!)

I'm thrilled and honored to again be among the contributors, so I thought I'd share a couple of my poems here today. I'll share the fifth-grade poem here soon. (I "crashed" our book launch at our SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle last weekend with these - so fun to share and to spread the word about this new collection!)

Here are my poems from the Fourth Grade section:



FOOD FOR THOUGHT


You won't find a character, setting, or plot
on the side of the cereal box Dad bought.

But wait! There's still something tasty to read.
The food label has information you need.

Ingredients tell you what is inside.
(See sugar and salt? They were trying to hide.)

Your body needs protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
A good bit of this, just a little of that.

Vitamins help keep you active and strong -
minerals, too, when they tag along.

Check out the calories per serving size.
Then make a choice that is healthy and wise!



And now, my personal favorite - especially because Janet said she saw a link to this story and thought of me? Hmmmmm....



ROCKY RESCUE


In the South Pacific,
Lord Howe Island has a tale
of how a giant stick bug,
thought extinct, might prevail.

"Land lobsters" as they're called
had lots of woe in store
when, back in 1918,
a ship wrecked on their shore.

Rats skittered from the boat
and found the black bugs tasty.
"They're gone!" the experts said. "Each one!"
-- a conclusion that proved hasty.

For not so long ago,
some scientists, at night,
climbed a sea stack miles away
and found an awesome sight.

Look! The giant stick bugs!
They counted twenty-four.
Now with help from science,
there are many, many more.



Poems © Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.


[Okay, you have GOT to check out these gi-normous stick insects, formally known as Dryococelus australis. Start here - and if you just can't get enough, look for "Lord Howe Island Stick Insect" videos on YouTube as well. ]

Thanks for reading along! Now, creep or crawl thee hence to The Poem Farm , where the amazing and aforementioned Amy kicks off our Poetry Month Roundups!

Poetry Friday: Mortimer Minute Stops Here. (Really, but I hope someone will jump in...)

October 24, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, Mortimer Minute, poets, poetry, dogs, animals, ponderings, writing life

Greetings, Friends!

Ever since I first heard about the Children's Poetry Blog Hop from my wonderful, talented buddy April Halprin Wayland, I've been delighted to see "The Mortimer Minute" hopping around the Poetry Friday blogosphere. I've been dodging Kind Mortimer (and invitations from fellow poetry bloggers) for weeks, however, because of a crazy travel schedule and crazy life in general this fall.

I came up for a wee bit of air last week to find a tag invite from the wonderful, talented Tricia Stohr-Hunt, whose Mortimer Minute blog post is here on her terrific Miss Rumphius Effect blog (definitely worth hopping around there). You feel bonded with a person after sharing a few moments of white-knuckled airplane-seat-gripping on a little plane taking off from Scranton, PA, following a Highlights Founders poetry workshop, into uncertain skies.... Thanks, Tricia, for thinking of me years later!

Here's how the Mortimer Minute works:

• Answer 3 questions. Pick one question from the previous Hopper. Add two of your own. Keep it short, please! This is a Blog Hop, not a Blog Long Jump. This is The Mortimer Minute—not The Mortimer Millennium!
• Invite friends. Invite 1-3 bloggers who love children’s poetry to follow you. They can be writers, teachers, librarians, or just plain old poetry lovers.
• Say thank you. In your own post, link to The Previous Hopper. Then keep The Mortimer Minute going — let us know who your Hoppers are and when they plan to post their own Mortimer Minute.


Okay, methinks, I can do that. Answer 3 questions, check. Thank you to previous Hopper, check. Invite friends.... well, that's where the hopping didn't go so well this past week. I did invite poetry blogger friends - several - but they'd all been previously Mortimer-ed and were already posting soon, or their schedules wouldn't allow them to participate, or memes in general just weren't their thing. Now, I don't particularly want Mortimer to stop at my place - really, I have a houseful of rescued animals already. (No offense, Mortimer.) They don't always play nicely with others, at least not the 16-pound somewhat demon-possessed kitty in the basement.

If you are reading this and would like a tag-after-the-fact, please by all means consider this an invitation to play along! I'll try to post a link to your site as soon as my car rolls to a stop again (traveling again this weekend and next week - author visits in schools.)

In the meantime, here's my Minute:

Mortimer: Do you have a favorite poetry book from childhood?

I can’t place my memory on one particular book, though I remember loving poems as a child, and reading was a favorite pastime in our house growing up. (I do remember thinking “Eletelephony” by Laura Richards was hilarious.)

But, spurred on by Tricia’s “well-worn and much beloved book” she shared from 1968, I dug one out of the shelves which technically belonged to my older brother, Mike, published in 1966. It is a big Western Publishing collection with photos and illustrations, My Dog, My Friend in Pictures and Rhyme. (Guess I'm continuing last week's canine theme.) Its opening poem pretty much describes the attitude both Mike and I have had since we were babes. (And congrats, Bro, on the newest doggie rescue in your house this week!)

Birthday Present
by Aileen Fisher

White?
Oh yes, a woolly white one.

Black?
Oh yes, a black-as-night one.

Tan?
I think a tan or brown one
perfect for a farm or town one.

Sleek?
Oh yes, a sleek and trim one.

Shaggy?
Any her or him one.
Tousled, frowzled,
big or small,
I’d like any kind at all –
just so it’s a dog.


Please scroll up one post for a picture of the book. And don’t miss Renée LaTulippe’s ongoing series with the incomparable Lee Bennett Hopkins on NCTE Poetry Award winners – click here for the video posted this month featuring Lee’s interview about Aileen Fisher.

Mortimer: Do you write several drafts of a poem or dash off publishable gems the first time around?

I find most writing, especially poetry, needs to "cure" - at least overnight, usually many overnights, and sometimes over a month or year or more. That is just part of the process. It would be rare that something needing fixin' doesn't jump out upon a second or twentieth reading.

Mortimer: Do you have a favorite poetic genre?

Many kinds of poetry make me swoon. Blake (1757–1827) wrote, in the opening lines of "Auguries of Innocence":

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour....


Click here for more.

Good poetry allows me that magic. The way poetry crystallizes a moment, an experience - that's probably why I'm so drawn to haiku. Speaking of which, I need to go pack. I'm participating in a Haiku Society of America regional "haikufest" this weekend in Atlanta.

So if you'll excuse me, and if any Poetry Friday bloggers want to take Mortimer...

Now, jump on over to see the wonderful, talented Irene at Live Your Poem , where she's hosting this week's Roundup AND celebrating her 1000th post. Woo-hoooo! That's enough to make you want to twitch your whiskers.

Poetry Friday: Mary Oliver's Dog Songs

October 17, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poets, poetry, animals, dogs




Greetings, Poetry Packmates! It's the tail end of Wolf Awareness Week, so I thought a canine post might be in order.

A very dear friend (and high school teacher - one of the main reasons we shelled out private school tuition for both of our kids if truth be told) surprised me with a special gift this month: Mary Oliver's new book, Dog Songs (The Penguin Press, 2013). Michael has quite a soft spot for dogs himself and is regularly seen romping around town with their two soft and lively cinnamon pups.

My family's own pack includes two male 14-year-old dachshund mixes (littermates) who think they're still puppies and a year-old dainty, feisty, utterly charming female Chihuahua, all three and-a-half pounds of her, that I rescued from a busy road last year. (That's another story.) I can't imagine life without dogs as part of the family.

Apparently neither can Mary Oliver, whose unassuming and accessible poems in this collection at turns imagine what our canine companions are thinking, feeling and saying, celebrate their unique and wild qualities, and mourn the brevity of their time with us.

A phrase Michael pointed out, from "School," asks:

How many summers does a little dog have?

If you journey through these poems you'll meet Percy, and Bear, and Ricky, and Benjamin, to name a few - all dogs with something to say.

Here are the opening lines from "The Sweetness of Dogs" - because I'm actually at the beach right now myself, and tonight is a full moon.

What do you say, Percy? I am thinking
of sitting out on the sand to watch
the moon rise. It's full tonight.

So we go

....


Click here to read a review of this new collection in The New York Times.

And because it's almost Halloween, and I would hate for any picture book loving friend of dogs (and children) to miss it, please continue to celebrate with me one of my favorite works ever, Bone Dog (Roaring Brook, 2011), by the amazing Eric Rohman. Here's my my 2011 blog post featuring Bone Dog - the difficult topic of grief handled in such a brilliant way.

Now, romp as fast as you can without a leash over to this week's Roundup hosted by Cathy at Merely Day by Day. Woof!

Poetry Friday: Margarita Engle is here!

July 25, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, authors, ponderings, verse novels, poetry, animals


Earlier this summer I was honored to feature a poem by Margarita Engle from her gorgeously crafted The Hurricane Dancers. That only whet my appetite to offer a more fulsome post featuring this talented, generous, adventurous and multi-award-winning poet. But what to focus on - her journalistic career and NPR segments? Her scientific expertise? Her picture books and animal knowledge? (Did you know she "hides" in the wilderness to help search and rescue dogs learn their trade?) Her precision regarding historical figures, some of whom wouldn't otherwise have a voice today? Verse novels?

Well, this column today is mainly about verse novels, with some of those other dynamics woven in. Like me, you'll want to explore more than just one work or form! I'm so pleased to welcome Margarita, whose many awards include a Newbery Honor, the Pura Belpré Award, the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, and a Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Honor, just to name a few.

Your body of work (and that’s just so far!) includes a treasure of stories about Cuba’s history. First, can you share a bit about your rich family history and your visits to Cuba growing up?

My mother is from the beautiful town of Trinidad, on the south-central coast of Cuba. My father is an American artist who traveled to her town after seeing photos of the colonial architecture and traditional customs in the January, 1947 issue of National Geographic. He arrived on Valentine’s Day, and they met on the terrace of a palace that was an art school at that time, but is now known as El Museo Romántico, because it is a museum of Romantic Era art. Since they couldn’t speak the same language, they communicated with drawings. It was love at first sight (or first sketch). They were soon married, and they moved to my father’s hometown of Los Angeles, where I was born and raised. Summers spent visiting my mother’s relatives in Cuba are my fondest childhood memories. During those trips, I bonded with the extended family, including my grandmother and great-grandmother. I also fell in love with tropical nature and the family farm, setting the foundation for a later career in botany and agriculture. The 1962 Missile Crisis, and my loss of the right to travel freely, was the defining moment of my adolescence. I think that might be why I tend to write for eleven-year-olds, since that is the age at which my life was abruptly severed into distinct before and after segments.

Your writing sensitively conveys both the courage of ordinary people as well as the horror of humanity’s dark side in conditions such as war and slavery. How were you able to actually write difficult scenes, such as the recurring tortures endured by Juan Francisco Manzano in The Poet Slave of Cuba?

Thank you, I’m glad it does come across as sensitive. Those scenes were adapted directly from Manzano’s autobiographical notes. On my own, I never would have imagined such terror, but I felt obligated to retain both the facts and the spirit of his notes about his childhood. The stunning illustrations by Sean Qualls really helped soften, and at the same time, strengthen, those disturbing images.

Turning specifically to the form of verse novels, I’d like to share some correspondence with you earlier this summer that helped click this form into place in my mind. You wrote:

The two things I sacrifice in exchange for using the verse novel form's magic are:

1. dialogue---When I encounter dialogue in a verse novel, it usually feels disorienting, so I search for other ways to have characters communicate.
2. detail---I feel the need to research like a maniac, and then omit most of what I have learned. This forces me to only include those aspects of history that seem most important to me. In other words, it forces me to remain constantly aware of what I am really trying to say to young readers.


What terrific thoughts for folks exploring this form! Would you like to share a little more about its magic? Why is the verse novel a vehicle of choice for sharing your stories?


I fell in love with the verse novel form after struggling to write about Manzano in traditional prose, and falling short over and over, for ten years. As soon as I switched to poetry, the life of The Poet Slave of Cuba sprang to life. I think it’s because Manzano was a poet, and I was only able to retain the spirit of his voice by honoring his love of verse. He wrote poetry while struggling to stay alive. I write in safety and comfort, yet we meet on common ground. I have never been a slave or a boy, but I feel a kinship to this enslaved boy who taught himself to read and write poetry. After that first verse novel, I just kept going. The Surrender Tree was next, and the first draft was so unfocused that it was rejected by my wonderful editor, Reka Simonsen. I’m fortunate that she gave me a second chance to re-write it from scratch, because the result was a Newbery Honor. I don’t think that would have been possible for me in any other form. If I’d written a nonfiction book about a wilderness nurse during Cuba’s independence wars, it would have needed footnotes, instead of feelings. Someone else could write that, but I can’t. I need to experience my protagonist’s emotions. After The Surrender Tree, I followed with Tropical Secrets, The Firefly Letters, Hurricane Dancers, The Wild Book, and The Lightning Dreamer. Each of these verse novels explores some aspect of freedom and/or hope, my two recurrent themes.

While we’re on the subject of form, I’d like to take this opportunity to give a bit of advice to anyone teaching poetry to young people. Personally, I would tell kids (and aspiring adult writers) to turn off their gadgets, string up a hammock, and write with pen and paper, just letting words flow. Write as if time does not exist. Write as if rejections and critics don’t exist. Just write because you have something to communicate, deep down inside your heart, mind, and soul. Go exploring.

(I LOVE that advice!) Your main characters are full of light in dark circumstances, and often deal with being perceived in unfair and negative ways. In The Surrender Tree, Rosa (modeled after Rosario Castellanos Castellanos, who lived in the 19th and early 20th century) is a nurse who helps the injured on both sides of conflict in Cuba’s three wars of independence. She must do her healing in hiding, deep in the tropical forests and caves of the countryside:

The Spanish soldiers dress in bright uniforms,
like parakeets.
They march in columns, announcing
their movements
with trumpets and drums.

We move silently, secretly.
We are invisible.


Rosa is called a witch and pursued relentlessly. Under the weight of extreme weariness, hunger, lack, and fear, she carries on. What keeps her going?


Compassionate perseverance is the reason I chose to view 30 years of war through her eyes. I don’t understand that level of generosity and courage. I admire modern nurses for the same reason: they stayed with their patients during Hurricane Katrina. They don’t receive the respect granted to doctors, but they accomplish daily tasks that would exhaust the powers of superheroes. Nurses amaze me. Where does that dedication come from? I think it’s hope, and that’s the reason I admire Rosa la Bayamesa enough to write about war, when all I want to think of is peace.

In your speech at the 2010 National Book Festival (available on the Macmillan Authors site and your own website, and echoing your advice above, you said, “writing is an exploration.” Any projects in the works you want to talk about, or do you prefer to keep creative endeavors under wraps until they’re ready for the world?

I have taken a brief rest from Cuban history to write some animal books. When You Wander, a Search and Rescue Dog Story (wonderful illustrations by Mary Morgan!), is my new picture book, and Mountain Dog is a middle grade chapter-book-in-verse (magnificent illustrations by Olga and Alexey Ivanov, and edited by the amazing Ann Martin!). Both of these dog books were inspired by my husband’s volunteer work, training our dogs to find hikers lost in the Sierras. My role in their training is hiding out in the woods, so the dogs can practice finding a “lost” person. I also have some other picture books pending, about other subjects, including a couple of biographies, one of the most difficult p.b. forms to publish these days.

{Note: When you leave here, please take a moment to enjoy When You Wander, read aloud by Margarita in a video over at Renée's No Water River! An interview follows, and she'll be a special guest over there again soon, too!}

In March, 2014, Harcourt will release a picture book inspired by a Cuban folktale: Tiny Rabbit’s Big Wish(gorgeous illustrations by David Walker!), as well as Silver People, Voices From the Panama Canal (spectacular cover illustration by Raúl Colón!), a verse novel about the Caribbean Islanders who were recruited to dig the canal, while subjected to U.S.-imposed apartheid. Caribbeans and southern Europeans were paid in silver, while Americans and northern Europeans were paid in gold, hence the title. Silver People is also my personal love letter to tropical rain forests. In this book, every living thing has a voice, including monkeys, ants, birds, snakes, cockroaches, and trees.

That sounds beyond wonderful. I have to mention that among many other things you write, you are a haiku and tanka poet. Do these short forms inform your other writing?

Absolutely! Since childhood, I have loved the short Japanese forms of poetry. They help me remain aware of immediacy, and of the senses. They also help me discover universal images that are extremely useful for triggering emotions in a reader’s mind, so that I don’t have to go on and on in a melodramatic way, naming and describing those emotions. I think haiku and tanka help me fill the blank spaces between lines of verse with unstated thoughts and feelings. It can be described as resonance, like the vibrations that continue after the sound of a bell has faded. It makes reading interactive, without any electronic gadgets, just words.

Readers and writers are always curious about an author’s work habits and inspiration. Will you play along with a short Q & A? Here we go:

Morning or Evening? (or Middle of the Night?!)

Morning. I get up early, work early, and exhaust my creative energy early. By evening, my mind is a sponge, and all I can do is read.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee, the stronger the better.

Beach or Mountains? (or maybe Tropical Forest?)
All of the above. I don’t swim, but I love the seashore. Our search and rescue dog training takes us to the mountains once or twice each week. I visit tropical rain forests whenever our budget has room for travel. Most recently, we went to an orangutan reserve in Borneo (after the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore, a great conference for any Western authors who want to meet authors and readers from the East). And before you ask, yes, one sort of writing project or another often does grow out of each adventure, so there is an orangutan book in my future (illustrated by…no, sorry, I can’t reveal that exciting secret yet, but it’s edited by Noa Wheeler at Holt...)

(Oooohhh... can't wait!)
Music (What Kind?) or Silence?


Silence. I’ve never understood authors who can write in crowded places. I need to be alone with my characters, whether fictional or historical. Noise or modern music would interfere with my time travel experience.

What’s on your Night Stand? (Or would that be a Kindle?)

I just finished the best grownup biography I’ve ever read: Second Suns, by David Relin, about a heroic Nepali eye surgeon who cures blindness in remote villages. I don’t know whether this book captivated me just because it’s fantastic, or because my son-in-law is from Nepal, and I’m eager to go meet his family---probably both.) Tragically, the author killed himself right after writing this masterpiece. He was discouraged by criticism of Three Cups of Tea, his previous book. Even though accusations against that book’s authenticity were dropped in court, the discouragement must have been overpowering. I think there’s a lesson for all authors here---we can’t let critics destroy us. We have to ignore all the media buzz, noise, whining, and bullying. We have to just focus on doing our best, and ignore attacks by cruel people.

Some of your favorite-sounding words (this week!)?

The following word is on my mind: travel. That’s because I just finished writing a memoir in verse about my childhood travels, and now I’m waiting for news from my agent, hoping the book has found a home.

Thank you, Margarita, for gracing us with your talent and generous spirit today. I’m glad you write so many books, because I can’t wait for the next one!

Thank you, Robyn! It’s an honor to answer such thoughtful and challenging questions.

For more about Margarita, please visit her website.

And to explore more poetry, please check out Semicolon, where Sherry has the Poetry Friday Roundup!
(Note - as of Friday morning, I'm not seeing a Roundup there - but there are some great PF posts in the kidlitosphere today. UPDATE: Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme stepped up to post links he knows of today. Thanks, Matt!)

Poetry Friday - Poetry Month Continued with Eileen Spinelli

April 8, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, book tracks, Poetry Month, animals

Eileen and Robyn at Highlights Founders Workshop in May 2012; Office Kitty May enjoying NORA'S ARK.


Greetings from Mississippi, where I’m heading home today after the wonderful Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at The University of Southern Mississippi. April and Irene and I had a blast sharing the Poetry Friday Anthology and the Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (Sylia Vardell and Janet Wong, eds.) with workshop attendees! [Details in my post last week, which was to my utter shock gobbled up somehow in cyberspace, with all the dozens of links folks had left and I’d rounded up - 60-plus comments. Sigh. I reposted my text part here, with our PFA poems.]

I love connecting with other children’s poets, writers and readers. Almost a year ago I had the good fortune to attend my second poetry workshop up at Highlights (post about that here).

Guess whose small group I was in? Eileen Spinelli’s. Yes, that Eileen Spinelli, whose work I’ve admired for many years.

Eileen has poems in these Poetry Friday Anthologies as well. I asked her if I could share her PFA poem from Fourth Grade, Week 29 – “Poetry Poems” – because to me it’s just perfect for National Poetry Month. She kindly agreed.

Today

Today I’m going to pay attention.
To the broken blueness of sky.
To the high weeds in the vacant lot.
To the rusted pot in the alleyway.
Today I’m going to leap across puddles
and steep in green
and all the wild colors in between.
I’m going to listen to
what the birds are singing about,
and to the happy shouts of toddlers on swings.
Today I’m going to gather all my heart can hold
of lemony light and yawning cats
and the bright blur of traffic on the bridge.
Today I’m going to pay attention.
Today I’m going to find myself a poem.


©Eileen Spinelli. All rights reserved.

This poem is particularly delicious when read aloud!

Speaking of Eileen, who is an amazingly generous and prolific writer (of more than 40 books and counting), I’d like to offer a shout-out here for her brand-new picture book, NORA’S ARK (illustrated by Nora Hilb, Zonderkids, 2013).

The ark is just what you’d think, except in Nora’s case the “passenger list includes two backyard spiders, a pair of battery-operated monkeys, and a couple of unimpressed cats.” And Nora does everything just like Noah… well, not just like Noah.

Publisher’s Weekly praised “the respectful exploration of the power of a child’s imagination.”

I absolutely love this book and its ending – perfect for sharing with a child on a rainy day, or any day!

Now, are you ready for some more Eileen Spinelli poetry? Check out “April Foolery,” the poem of the month at her website.

For links to more great poetry all over the Kidlitosphere, please visit the terrifically talented, kitty-loving Diane at Random Noodling for today’s Round Up. Unless you are a cyberspace gremlin.

Poetry Friday is HERE!

December 6, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, animals, magazines, writing life, illustrators

Image ©Hyewon Yum; text ©Carus Publishing.

Happy Poetry Friday, and Happy Holidays!

I’ll be rounding up throughout the day, so come on in and have a cup of hot chocolate or tea and enjoy all the great poetry posted today. Please leave your link and a short description in the comments.

Today, I’m celebrating that one of my poems appears in the current issue of LADYBUG . Several years ago, when we lived on a small farm, I encountered a beautiful fox where our yard met our woods. Weather-wise, it was probably much like today – chilly, with one season was making way for the next. I remember the fox and myself suspended in a moment of stillness just looking at each other – a fleeting moment that was gone as quickly as it came.

I wrote this poem from that experience and was delighted when it was accepted for publication at Carus. It was originally accepted by SPIDER, but they ended up not publishing it, and in the meantime the LADYBUG editor had expressed interest. Suffice it to say that after a few years of waiting, I’m thrilled it has found a home in the Nov./Dec. 2012 issue.

Even more thrilled that it is so beautifully illustrated by the talented Hyewon Yum , who kindly shared the original art above with us today. It's a linoleum cut print - isn't it perfect? Yum is an acclaimed author/illustrator of many books including: MOM, IT’S MY FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN (2012), THE TWINS’ BLANKET (2011), THERE ARE NO SCARY WOLVES (2010), and LAST NIGHT (2008) all from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. More books are soon to hit the shelves, which she either illustrated or wrote and illustrated.

Many thanks to Hyewon for sharing her artwork, and to The LADYBUG/Carus folks for granting permission to post my poem for you today. Here it is:

GRAY FOX

by Robyn Hood Black

At the edge of winter,
at the edge of the wood,
at the edge of the brush,
a gray fox stood.

I took a small step,
I took a breath in –
then nothing was there
where the gray fox had been.


© 2012 by Carus Publishing

Click here for a link to the LADYBUG Teacher’s Guide. (It says October, but scroll halfway down and you’ll come to a couple of suggestions/questions re. “Gray Fox.”)

Thanks so much for coming by today, and here’s to appreciating moments and poems! (Remember to leave your link with your comments if you want to be rounded up.)

Oh – and if you’re a fiction writer, you might enjoy my column from yesterday over at Janice Hardy’s blog, The Other Side of the Story, in which I talk about writing mask poems as a way to get inside your character’s head. (Thanks to the lovely Amy Ludwig VanDerwater for loaning a poem for the post!) In 2013, my column at Janice's will move from the first Thursday of each month to the first Wednesday of each month (except Feb.).

Carry on!

HERE'S THE ROUND-UP:

Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff has delightful feline fare today: JRR Tolkien's "Cat."

At Gathering Books, this month's water tales theme continues with Mary Oliver's "Blackwater Pond," presented by the lovely Myra in a visual setting befitting the words.

Father Goose is here today with "The Christmas Box" (from his CHRISTMAS IS COMING!) with a homemade gift idea that would thrill any parent.

Violet has a fun and yummy original ABC poem called "Appetite Affair." If you haven't yet had breakfast, this will make your stomach rumble....

At Poetry for Kids Joy, Joy brings us her original poem, "The Elf." I like that this elf is female! :0)

Jama at Alphabet Soup serves up another stunning haibun by Penny Harter, the title work from ONE BOWL.

After reading Jeff's cat post above, you must head over to Carol's Corner, where Carol is featuring Rose Fyleman's classic "Mice" with Lois Ehlert's magnificent collage illustration.

Tara at A Teaching Life has Mark Strand's moving "Lines for Winter" (and a gorgeous photograph to go with it).

At Teacher Dance, Linda shares an original poem about a weather phenomenon she noticed while at school - I won't spoil the fun, but I'm happy to say she was quick with her camera as well as her pen!

Matt Goodfellow at Poems and things! is in with a triple play of original poems today: "Yew Tree", "Different Eyes" and "Ghost Bike."

(Off to make coffee - back in a short bit....)

Wondering how to start writing your next poem or creating your next piece of art? Susan Taylor Brown has a wonderful poem by David Whyte today, "Start Close In" - food for the creative soul!

At The Poem Farm, Amy offers an original poem from her SPARK 18 project to accompany Amy Souza's gorgeous collage. (If you had a grandmother like mine, "Quilt Map" will fill your heart.)

Join Tabatha for some touching low-tech communication celebrated in two delightful poems: "Father's Story" by Elizabeth Madox Roberts and "The Telephone" by Robert Frost.

Visit Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe for a new take on "Squandering" - an original poem inspired by a kindergarten teacher's comment during a challenging day.

Speaking of the classroom, over at A Year of Reading, Mary Lee has a simple and powerful original poem about teaching.

Take a moment to s-l-o-w down with a very clever original poem, "The Snail's Lament," penned by Liz at Growing Wild. She also offers a discussion of how she revised this poem - great to share with students (or others!) expecting to write a perfect draft the first time.

Laura, our resident Author Amok, shares the history of the haunting Coventry Carol, including a video of the Westminster Choir singing it. This thoughtful post literally gave me chills. (As Laura kindly points out, if you've recently suffered miscarriage or the loss of an infant, you might want to skip for now and come back at a later date.)

Our other Laura is in with a poem from David Harrison's newest book, COWBOYS. She's sharing "Stampede." (Does anyone else think she might be partial to that title?) ;0)

Also, Laura's got quite the lively party going on at 15 Words or Less Poems. Check out today's larger-than-life picture prompt and join the fun.

Margaret at Reflections on the Teche shares the most wonderful poems in a "Preposition Parade" today - her own poem and then several samples from students. (The kids came up with 50 prepositions as part of this exercise - can you??)

Another terrific teacher in our pack of poets, Betsy, takes a look back at warmer days with an original poem, "Summer Dandilion," over at Teaching Young Writers.

At Charlotte's Library, Charlotte shares her son's first sestina. (Note: Link is working now.)

Steve is in today with a "thoughtful-wondering poem about chance events and parents getting older" at Inside the Dog. This is one of the sharpest poems I've read today - exemplifying this repeating theme of observing a moment. (Beautifully wrought, it has great prepositions we've been discussing, too!)

At Random Noodling, Diane offers up a few humorous poems from a 1937 anthology. Kurious Kitty
has a gorgeous poem by Rumi accompanied by a perfect photo , and, Kurious K's Kwotes' Poetry Friday quote is by Rumi, too.

At There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town, Ruth ponders the winners of the Academy of American Poets "best poems of the year" and shares a fun poetic look at love poems from Rafael Campo.

David's in with celebratory voyage of poetic nonsense (very cleverly crafted) at fomagrams. Happy Birthday, David! (I would like to note that my birthday is coming up next month and I am younger than David, though not by much, but I'm younger.) ;0)

Speaking of birthdays, Karen is celebrating Willa Cather's birthday today with the poem, "L'Envoi," which Cather wrote for Fr. Scott.

Lovely Sylvia has two offerings today: a list of more than a dozen books featuring poetry for Hanukkah (which begins this weekend) at Poetry for Children, and Constance Levy's fun "penny" poem with accompanying activites at The Poetry Friday Anthology blog.

At Paper Tigers, Marjorie offers a look at anonymous seventeenth-century English nonsense/puzzle poem, "I Saw a Peacock With A Fiery Tail," and a lovely discussion about Gond artist Ramsingh Urveti's stunning illustrations of it in a recent version published by Tara Books. Warning: I read this post and immediately ordered the book online. Yes, I did.

JoAnn Early Macken is here! She's a guest today at Teaching Authors with a student poem from WRITE A POEM STEP BY STEP, her new book which shares tips for teaching poetry gleaned from years of experience. AND, she's giving a copy away... so go sign up like I just did.

Little Willow at Bildungsroman has a gorgeous poem by Siegfried Sassoon, "Butterflies."

At The Small Nouns, Ben is also featuring Willa Cather's "L'Envoi" poem, and a discussion about careful planning versus shooting from the hip. Which way do you approach a task?

MotherReader has a glowing review of J. Patrick Lewis's new anthology, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S BOOK OF ANIMAL POETRY, with a taste of Robert Frost for you to sample. She dares you to click the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon and not end up buying this book. (I dare you, too.)

Lunch break! Afternoon posters, add your links in your comments and I'll circle back around.

Break out the footy pajamas! Bridget has an original poem paying homage to the ultimate winter comfort wear at wee words for wee ones.

Remember all the madness this past March at Think, Kid, Think? Well, Ed has just unveiled "The Thinkier", a celebration in bronze to commemorate each year's poetic champion.

Matt is getting us in the holiday spirit with a poem celebrating Christmas trees from his winter collection of poetry, AND he has a lovely give-away offer. Of what? You'll have to click over to find out.

Any bugs knocking on your door for winter housing? Check out Jone's look at two bug poetry books at Check It Out for some fun with lots of legs, and some great classroom tie-ins to boot.

A hearty welcome to children's author Dia Calhoun, who ventures into Poetry Friday for the first time with a lovely original poem, "A Room With No View."

And in the Fashionably-Late-to-the-Party-and-Always-Welcome-Dept., we have:

The Write Sisters with (one of my personal favorites!) a wild Carl Sandburg poem, and an equally cool photo.

Donna at Mainely Write has been finding inspiration in lost gloves this week. Click the blog link for today's succinct and clever offering, and, if you want more, that poem's pink predecessor was posted on Tuesday. ("They have jobs to do while they wait," says Donna.)

Here's some more humor to transition into the weekend: Janet at All About the Books offers a taste of Douglas Florian's LAUGH-ETERIA. (You can't even get through this plug without smiling, can you?)

If, like Irene, you are searching for the perfect breakfast casserole recipe for this weekend, try this poetic little treasure she found in the back of a cookbook. Wishing you heaping servings.

An evening surprise:

Carlie at Twinkling Along shares a lovely cinquain about cherry blossoms in December. Yes, cherry blossoms!

Weekend Update:

At On Point, Lorie Ann has an original haiku this week - and you must see the accompanying photograph!

Thanks to Poet Joy Acey for the Shout-Out

August 26, 2012

Tags: poetry, poets, book tracks, ponderings, animals

Joy Acey had some fun with the new Poetry Friday Anthology, and with my poem, "Snack Rules." Click here to see what resulted when she mis-read the title, then followed that wondering and pondering into a new poem of her own. (And you might check out her follow-up post exploring rhythm.)

Joy has two fun poems in the anthology as well. I've had the privilege of meeting Joy at the two Higlights Founders Worskhops in poetry I've attended. She's an enthusiastic voice for children's poetry!

Poetry Friday - Remembering a Good Old Dog

August 24, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, animals, ponderings

Lucky at Christmas, patiently donning a wreath for the camera

The summer before our youngest, Seth, entered first grade, we rescued a five-week-old hound/shepherd mix. This Wednesday, Seth began his senior year of high school, and it was Lucky's last day with us.

The vet said he had lived up to his name, especially this past year, as he had dodged a myriad of health problems. He went blind in the spring, but, like most trusting, devoted dogs - he took it in stride as long as he could be near us.

I think he wanted to spend one last summer with the kids. Morgan moved back up to college last weekend and posted a beautiful tribute to Lucky on her Facebook page. I'm glad he hung around long enough to meet a new school year.

We still have two little dachshund mixes - they just turned 13 and haven't slowed down, despite their white muzzles. Time is less kind to the larger breeds.

Rest in Peace, Lucky - we were the lucky ones.

Here's a poem I wrote earlier this summer:


My Old Dog


This dog of mine

was once a pup.

He’d romp and lick

the sunshine up.


This dog of mine

when he had grown

could guard the yard

and grind a bone.


This dog of mine

now old, now gray –

needs me to guide

him through his day.


This dog of mine

so slow and frail

wears years of love

from nose to tail.



©Robyn Hood Black, all rights reserved

For the Poetry Friday Roundup, visit the ever-talented and all-around wonderful Doraine at Dori Reads.

Poetry Friday: Nancy Raines Day brings us A IS FOR ALLIGUITAR

March 30, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, book tracks, animals, authors

Fans of Nancy Raines Day’s wordplay are in for a treat. Her newest picture book, A IS FOR ALLIGUITAR - Musical Alphabeasts (Pelican Publishing, Spring 2012) is a unique abecedarium - chock-full of fun animal/instrument combinations.

Since Nancy’s first picture book, THE LION’S WHISKERS, appeared in 1995, she’s published half a dozen more. All have poetic language, and some of them rhyme, like her rollicking ON A WINDY NIGHT (Abrams) (see my blog post here) and DOUBLE THOSE WHEELS (Dutton).

In her new book, each letter of the alphabet comes to life in an unexpected way. The Illustrations by Herb Leonhard are colorful and full of expression and movement. (And what a challenge it must have been to visually create, say, a “harpoodle” or an “organutan.”) For insight into Leonhard’s process in bringing to life these “alphabeasts,” which involved traditional and digital painting techniques, see his comments here on Nancy’s website.

Here’s how the story starts:

Animals, instruments,
swing all around,
Mix - one for each letter -
now how do they sound?


Some of Nancy’s own favorite characters begin the adventure:

A
is for alliguitar,
who has his
own picks.

B
is for banjaguar,
who plays some
hot licks


Another of her favorite spreads is one I’m especially drawn to:

S
is for saxofox,
with velvet-toned
tail.

T
is for tromboa,
who really can
wail.


I’m swayin’ to the music, baby.

Nancy adds, “My fellow University of Michigan alumni friends get a kick out of the wolbourines.”

Before becoming a children’s author, Nancy wrote in some form or fashion throughout her life. As a child, she “published a newspaper written on leaves with ‘ink’ from squished berries and charged 25 cents in hickory nut money.”

I asked Nancy a couple of questions about this new book.

How did you get the idea for ALLIGUITAR?

“I was standing on the St. Simons (Georgia) pier, thinking about going to a reunion concert of the youth orchestra I played viola with in high school--all the different instruments and the people who played them. Some tourists on the pier were talking about just having seen an alligator in the water. So, while scanning the water for an alligator and thinking about instruments, my wires got crossed and I said "Alliguitar".

I wondered if I could come up with a combination like that for every letter of the alphabet. Mostly, I did it for my own entertainment. (Some people do crossword puzzles; I set myself these little challenges.) Then I wondered if I could put it all in rhyme, which--this time--came easily. It was a gift.


What fun! What was the most challenging part of the project?

The most challenging part was probably coming up with the animal/instrument combinations. Google was a big help for finding lists of animals and instruments that started with the right letter or sound. It also helped in trying to come up with scenarios to pair the two musical alphabeasts in the same stanza and spread. For instance, googling ibis and jackal, I discovered the Egyptians had two gods, one with the head of an ibis and another with the head of a jackal.

Those ancient Egyptians had some intriguing deities. Thanks for stopping in, Nancy!

Young readers will love the creative letter/instrument combinations that form each colorful "alphabeast" - and they will likely come up with their own! Learn more about Nancy and her work at her website.

And to fill your universe with more great poetry, click on over to visit Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup. [Next week, the Roundup will be HERE! :0) ]

Poetry Friday: In the Wilderness with Carl Sandburg

March 2, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, animals, nature, wolves

illustration © Colin Howard from WOLVES.

Yesterday the spring-like sun was shining and the wolves (and other animals) were frisky and full of themselves at the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve, and I had a terrific time visiting with them. That put me in a mind to find a good, wild poem for today. I really love Carl Sandburg's "wilderness that will not let (him) go." Here are the first and fourth sections, but you'll want to click the link at the end to read the whole poem:

Wilderness

by Carl Sandburg


There is a wolf in me … fangs pointed for tearing gashes … a red tongue for raw meat … and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.

[...]

There is a fish in me … I know I came from saltblue water-gates … I scurried with shoals of herring … I blew waterspouts with porpoises … before land was … before the water went down … before Noah … before the first chapter of Genesis. ...


Please click here to enjoy the whole poem. (If you have time, leave a comment below with your favorite fun phrase - one of mine is the "saltblue water-gates" above.)

And then run, creep, slither, swim, fly or otherwise get thee to Dori Reads where Doraine has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: The Big Bad Wolf has his Say

February 9, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, animals, wolves, illustrators

I’m always curious about how animals are depicted in stories, myths, folktales and art. As well as in the media – I haven’t yet seen it, but this week’s TIME has an intriguing cover story about a scientific examination of friendships between animals.
One of my favorite spreads in my WOLVES book is a brief look at “The Mythical Wolf.” For the illustration, I suggested a human in wolf clothing on one side (an indigenous person wearing a wolf pelt as a sign of admiration), and a wolf in human clothing (think of our Western “big bad wolf”) on the other. Colin Howard produced brilliant artwork.

I recently ran across this poem, “The Wolf’s Postscript to ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ ” by Agha Shahid Ali (1949 – 2001, credited with introducing the classical form of the ghazal to American readers). In the poem below, I fell in love with the speaker’s dry, sophisticated voice. See if you don’t agree it’s dark and delicious (and rather sad, too):

The Wolf’s Postscript to ‘Little Red Riding Hood’
(excerpt)

by Agha Shahid Ali

First, grant me my sense of history:
I did it for posterity,
for kindergarten teachers
and a clear moral:
Little girls shouldn't wander off
in search of strange flowers,
and they mustn't speak to strangers.

And then grant me my generous sense of plot:
Couldn't I have gobbled her up
right there in the jungle? …



Click here for the rest of the poem.

And be sure to check out the Poetry Friday Roundup hosted by Laura this week at Writing the World for Kids.

Poetry Friday is Here! A Web of Treasures…

December 9, 2011

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, animals, Highlights, writing life, nature, book tracks, workshops

Greetings! I’m thrilled to be hosting Poetry Friday today.

My Christmas gift this year, a really nice one, is a trip back to Honesdale, Pennsylvania, for another Highlights Founders Workshop in poetry. I’ll be attending Poetry for All in May (there are still a few spots available!) co-led by poet and friend Rebecca Kai Dotlich (click here, here and here for previous posts featuring Rebecca), David Harrison, and Eileen Spinelli.

You're looking at the picture and thinking, What does this have to do with spiders?

David Harrison has this wonderful poem in his collection, Bugs – Poems about Creeping Things, illustrated by Rob Shepperson (Wordsong, 2007):

spiderwebs

by David Harrison

Webs sparkle
on the lawn
like diamond
necklaces
at dawn.

Shiny droplets –
small oases –
beckon spiders
To their places.

Silently they
look and lurk.

Time now for
spider work.


(Used with permission from the author.)

And Eileen Spinelli has this wonderful picture book, Sophie’s Masterpiece, with gentle illustrations by Jane Dyer (Simon and Schuster, 2001).

Sophie was no ordinary house spider. Sophie was an artist.

The talented heroine has a hard time finding a place to live and create, however, as she is chased away from corner to corner of Beekman’s Boardinghouse.

By this time, many spider years had passed. Sophie was older. She only had energy to spin a few small things for herself… a tiny rose-patterned case for her pillow, eight colorful socks to keep herself warm.
But mostly she slept.


Until she meets someone who appreciates her and inspires her to create a very special gift - something that takes her all and becomes a loving legacy. I won’t spoil the story, but I will say my eyes were a bit misty by the end. And then, when I read the author’s note… okay, I cried.

In cultural traditions across the world, the spider represents creativity – a keeper of ancient wisdom, and sometimes a trickster. (And now you’re thinking of E. B. White’s Charlotte , aren’t you?)

Whatever your “spider work” is today, let it be inspired by a World Wide Web-ful of poetry. Include your link in the comments, and I’ll weave them all together throughout the day.

POETRY FRIDAY ROUNDUP:

Julie at The Drift Record is waking up with a cold snap and the poem, "Icicles," by Todd Boss.

Over at The Poem Farm, Amy
shares a terrific original poem, "Umbrella Path," inspired by Alix Martin's colorful painting in the collaborative SPARK 14.

Tabatha,at The Opposite of Indifference, explores poetry holiday and gift ideas (including a really cool ornament).

Myra chimes in that at Gathering Books, Iphigene discusses another Joel M. Toledo poem, "Learning to Swim" - beautiful and thought-provoking!

Jama serves up a poignant haibun by Penny Harter, "Moon-Seeking Soup," written after the death of her husband, William J. Higginson, in 2008 (both have made immeasurable contributions to the haiku world).

Heidi's in today at My Juicy Little Universe with some delightful poetry by her kindergarteners, and a discussion of their poetry collage projects.

Ruth brings us Keats and an original poem describing how a poem idea will not leave you alone at There is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town.

Need a little romance today? Maria at A Poem a Day from the George Hail Library brings us Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning - and in the continuing series on sonnets, one from the latter you might not have read before.

Irene is caught up in the spirit of giving. She’s got a copy of Shel Silverstein’s EVERY THING ON IT for some lucky re-tweeter.

Join Laura today here for Janet Wong’s yoga poem, “Tree,” and here for her 15-words-or-less poem, also tree-related, and a photograph you just have to see for yourself.

Diane has an original poem, “Pie Town Family – 1940” inspired by a historical photograph, at “Random Noodling.

Her Kids of the Homefront Army features a poem about one reality of war, “Certain Advantages.”

And, Kurious Kitty is asking with Aileen Fisher, “Do Rabbits Have Christmas?” featuring one of the sparkly poems from the book, published five years after Fisher’s death.

K K’s Kwotes has a quote by Truman Capote.

Linda at TeacherDance helps us to remember those for whom the holidays are a lonely time, with “The Transparent Man” by Anthony Hecht.

How about some Ogden Nash? Sally’s got you covered at The Write Sisters with “Everybody Tells Me Everything.”

At Picture Books and Pirouettes, Kerry shares Doreen Cronin’s picture book, Wiggle, sure to get you moving this morning.

Debbie takes another look at giving with the poem “Altruism” by Molly Peacock.

Feeling a little batty? Join Joyce at Musings to enjoy thoughts about Randall Jarrell’s The Bat-Poet (and a few verses from the poetry).

Sally at Paper Tigers brings us Oh, Grow Up: Poems to Help You Survive Parents, Chores, School and Other Afflictions by Florence Parry Heide and daughter Roxanne Heide Pierce.

Check out The Stenhouse Blog for a reverse poem, “Framing My Future,” written by Rebecca, one of Kelly Gallagher’s students.

Mary Lee at A Year of Reading encourages us to “Have a _________ Day.” (You have to click to find out!)

At Dori Reads, Doraine shares a Tennyson poem that still perfectly captures difficult emotions.

Over at Wild Rose Reader, Elaine keeps the spirit of giving going with another terrific e-book from Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, Gift Tag, and a fun, original poem to fit the theme.

Brace yourself to face the animal life in a hoarder's home with Mandy's original poem at Write on the World.

David E. has a thought-provoking original poem, "how great?" - which he describes as "a found poem, a cross-out poem, a little bit of random poem." Check it out!

Lorie Ann at readergirlz also features the Gift Tag e-collection from Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, and shares her poem in it, "Tucked Between Branches." If you enjoyed/enjoy those little pudgy trolls as much as I did/do, you'll love it!

At All About the Books, Janet is all about Douglas Florian's wonderful volume, mammalabilia.

Shelley at Dust Bowl Poetry shares many different poems about families facing hard times.

Tara is celebrating libraries today with a couple of terrific poems and pictures. Go join the party at A Teaching Life.

Like a little moonshine with your Chicken Spaghetti? Susan has an original found poem and a review of Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition by Karen Blumenthal.

Over at A Wrung Sponge, Andromeda (Andi) has a very clever idea for combining nature and learning to read! And, after my own heart, a haiku written on rocks. Really!

Mmmm... Smell cookies baking? Follow your nose to Twinkling Along and enjoy an original poem cooked up by Carlie. And some very cute pictures.

The talented Liz over at Liz in Ink is thankful for the change of seasons (brrr!) and offers "Relearning Winter" by Mark Svenvold.

If you're hosting family for a holiday meal, do check out Kelly's original "Holiday Dinner To-Do List" at Writing and Ruminating What would Martha Stewart make of it?

Joy has lots of fun holiday poems and prompts at her blog. Grab a mug of hot chocolate and head over!

Just in time for supper, Jone has a review of Katherine B. Hauth's What's For Dinner? over at Check It Out.

Eric Rohmann's BONE DOG - more than a Halloween treat...

October 30, 2011

Tags: book tracks, authors, illustrators, animals, Highlights, workshops

I've had the pleasure of hearing Caldecott medalist Eric Rohmann speak a couple of times, most recently at the fantastic Advanced Illustrators Highlights Foundation workshop last month. (See Sept. posts.)

In Honesdale, in addition to enjoying the incredibly fun relief printing workshop he offered, I chatted with him for a few moments about his new book, Bone Dog (Roaring Brook Press, 2011). The Highlights folks were gracious to provide a copy of the book for attendees, but I'd already brought one in my suitcase.

I don't have an official interview to offer, but I do have to keep shouting out about how much I LOVE this book. Eric joked during that weekend about how it was standard procedure, when writing a picture book, to kill off a main character by the second or third spread. That's actually what he did in this touching (but not sentimental), humorous, heartfelt story about a boy and his dog.

Gus's beloved old dog, Ella, dies. He goes through the motions of daily activities but is grieving this loss.

"And when Halloween came around, Gus didn't feel like trick-or-treating. But he pulled on his costume and trudged out the door."

He's dressed as a skeleton, he is, and let's just say that as he makes his way home later, some real skeletons appear and they are up to no good. The text and illustrations cause just enough tension that a young reader will be wide-eyed and worried, but not terrified.

The skeleton characters are goofy and wicked and full of themselves, and the reader can sense that they might just be too big for their nonexistent britches.

I won't spoil the story by revealing how things are resolved, but Ella appears in a new form and helps to set things right, with a brilliant idea from Gus. (The book is called Bone Dog, after all - not really a spoiler there, is it?)

Some hilarious spreads ensue, followed by a satisfying ending. Not a "happily ever after," mind you, or something tidy and sweet - but something very rich and honest. Death is a heavy subject, and this book looks it straight in the eye - but with such fun, expressive illustrations and a wacky sense of humor that readers young and old will enjoy the tale.

To learn more about the book, click here for Eric's interview with Vicky Smith posted a few days ago on the Kirkus Reviews blog.

And to learn more about Eric, check out his brand new website.

With all the starred reviews for this one-of-a-kind book, my two cents' might not amount to much - but it's Halloween and I couldn't resist sharing my favorite recent picture book treat. Go dig it up!

Have You Hugged Your Wolf Today?

October 20, 2011

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, wolves, Chestatee Wildlife Preserve, animals

To celebrate Wolf Awareness Week (Oct. 16-22), I thought I’d celebrate with some pack-related poetry. I have the privilege of volunteering with a couple of wolves at the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega, Ga. In light of the news this week, I’m sure I’m not the only one with a heavy heart for the senseless loss of animal life in Ohio, and also for the law enforcement officers who had a terrible but unavoidable task to protect the public. Surely laws in that state regarding the keeping of exotic animals will be strengthened now.

If you happen to be in north Georgia, I'll be presenting a session for kids featuring wolf information next month on Sat., Nov. 12, at 3 p.m. at the Dahlonega Literary Festival.

Here are a couple of poems I wrote a while back about the captive wolves I’ve been honored to know.


The Bottom Line


Sit, Luna.

I hold a piece of cheese above her nose.
Her back end hits the ground.

But she knows and I know:

A wolf only sits if she wants to.


© Robyn Hood Black, all rights reserved


Butterfly Dance


Yellow butterfly
flits and floats outside the pen.

Gray wolf leaps and prances inside -
matching movements,
up and down,
following buttery wings.

La Mariposa.

Musky, muscular,
magnificent
she-wolf
dances

the

Butterfly Dance.


© Robyn Hood Black, all rights reserved

Note: In Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes a solo tribal dance in New Mexico called the “Butterfly Dance.” Traditionally, Hopi youth perform a social dance called “The Butterfly Dance” in late summer.

Attempts are ongoing in the Southwestern United States to reintroduce the Mexican Wolf, the most genetically distinct type of gray wolf. Efforts have not met with the same success as the reintroduction of wolves in the greater Rockies. For updated USFWS Mexican wolf information, click here and here.

And for wonderful poetry, go see what Jama’s got cookin’ for the
Poetry Friday Roundup.

Birds on the Wing and a poem by Linda Pastan

September 29, 2011

Tags: poetry, Poetry Friday, Elachee Nature Science Center, nature, animals, birds

© Robyn Hood Black

detail from my illustration in the March 2011 issue of Berry Blue Haiku
My Master Naturalist Class yesterday at Elachee Nature Science Center Center was one I’ve been looking forward to – Peter Gordon led a session on birds, followed by all of us heading out with binoculars and optimism to see what we could see! Despite the warm afternoon and shifty winds, we checked off about 18 species in our short trek by the lake.

What fun to distinguish a turkey vulture from a black vulture, the Cooper’s hawk from the more familiar red-tailed hawk, and the persistent chatter of a red-bellied woodpecker from the almost as persistent calls of a blue jay. We saw a flycatcher and a kingfisher, both having very good luck, and more common grackles than could be counted as they moved in and took over treetops.

Fall is such an exciting time to look for birds. Each year, ten billion birds leave the northern hemisphere to head south. And a whole bunch of them fly through my state, Georgia.

By the way, if you’re looking for an excuse to read poetry this weekend rather than do yard work, here it is: “Birds abhor a clean yard.” So forget the pristinely trimmed lawn if you want to attract them. Migrating birds appreciate the simple things: space, food (feeders, or berry-filled dogwood trees and the like – even poison ivy!), water (they really love a misting feature), and shelter (unkempt trees, and dead snags if they don’t threaten your property, are wonderful).

Today I found the perfect poem for this subject and this time of year – “The Birds” by Linda Pastan.

excerpt from The Birds
by Linda Pastan

The Birds

are heading south, pulled
by a compass in the genes.
They are not fooled
by this odd November summer,
though we stand in our doorways
wearing cotton dresses.
We are watching them

as they swoop and gather—
the shadow of wings
falls over the heart. …

(
Do click here to read the complete poem – the second half is my favorite part!)

Wishing you uplifting winds and welcome spots to rest along your journey this week. Fly on over to Read Write Believe for today's Poetry Friday Roundup.


Snakes on a Blog, and a Jane Hirshfield poem

September 23, 2011

Tags: poetry, Poetry Friday, authors, nature, Elachee Nature Science Center, animals, Berry Blue Haiku, haiku

Georgia's state herpetologist John Jensen holds a king snake. I held her, too - she was quite lovely!
I am loving the Master Naturalist class I’m taking this fall at Elachee Nature Science Center . Yesterday, the Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s chief herpetologist, John Jensen, led us through a litany of reptiles.

I didn’t realize my state housed the largest venomous snake in the U.S. (the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, which is also the world’s largest rattlesnake), as well as the smallest (the Pygmy Rattlesnake), as well as the largest snake in general in the U.S. (the gentle Eastern Indigo), as well as the smallest native snake (the Florida Crowned Snake) and the country’s smallest /shortest snake, though not originally a Georgia resident (the Braminy Blind Snake). Those lengths, by the way, range from 8-and-a-half feet or more to just six inches.

In searching for an appropriately slithery poem to share this week I stumbled upon one which does mention a snake, but is so much more. Here are a few lines from Jane Hirshfield:

excerpt from “The Envoy”

Jane Hirshfield

One day in that room, a small rat.
Two days later, a snake.

Who, seeing me enter,
whipped the long stripe of his
body under the bed,
then curled like a docile house-pet.

I don’t know how either came or left.
Later, the flashlight found nothing.

For a year I watched
as something—terror? happiness? grief?—
entered and then left my body. …


(For the complete poem, and a moving reading of it by the poet, please click here.)

Now, speaking of Jane Hirshfield, I’d also like to put in a good word for her wonderful article, “The Heart of Haiku,”
available on Kindle for just 99 cents. I downloaded it to my PC. It’s a terrific introduction to the life and poetry of Bashô.

And speaking of Bashô and haiku, let me offer a shout-out that submissions are welcome over at the Berry Blue Haiku
blog, now a general online journal celebrating fine haiku. Click here for guidelines.

Finally, for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup , please wriggle your way to Picture Book of the Day with Anastasia Suen.

Just to Say...

August 19, 2011

Tags: nature, animals, poetry, Poetry Friday

Can you smell how sweet it was? At least somebody enjoyed it...
This is Just to Say from the Critter that Raided my Garden…

- apologies to William Carlos Williams:


I have eaten
the cantaloupe
that was in
the garden

and which
you were probably
saving
for lunch

Forgive me
it was delicious
so sweet
and so (mmmmm…) juicy



Was it a raccoon? Groundhog? Rat? Something else? Well, I’m glad someone enjoyed it. But it smelled oh-so-sweet, freshly open there on the ground (what was left of it). I did scoop up some seeds for next time.

Perhaps in a few months I’ll be able to discern from claw marks and such just which critter had been there. Next week I begin a “Master Naturalist” program at our local nature/science center . I’ve wanted to take the course for a while, but last year’s torn Achilles set me back from hiking.

May your own steps be sure, and the fruits of your labors sweet! Indulge in some great poetry at today’s Poetry Friday Roundup, hosted by fellow Georgia peach Doraine Bennett.

Bittersweet Benediction

July 8, 2011

Tags: poetry, Poetry Friday, animals

A few days ago I buried one of our beloved cats. He’d been with us a good decade or so, and I’ve shed my share of tears.

I was on the hunt for a good cat poem this week and stumbled upon this humorous, poetic, pseudo-cautionary tale written by Englishman Thomas Gray (1716--1771):

“Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes”

I mean, who can resist a title like that?

Silver would forgive my light touch after a heavy heart. He was much too grounded and savvy to have ever gotten himself in the following situation:

...
Still had she gazed; but 'midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The genii of the stream;
Their scaly armour’s Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
Betrayed a golden gleam.

The hapless nymph with wonder saw;
A whisker first and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish?
...


For what comes before and after, read the whole poem
here.

And for the rest of the Poetry Friday Roundup, please visit Elaine at
Wild Rose Reader.

Summer Camp at Chestatee Wildlife Preserve

May 24, 2011

Tags: Chestatee Wildlife Preserve, wolves, animals

Just a quick shout-out to folks who might know youngsters in the Dahlonega, Ga., area who are crazy about wild animals - There's about a week left to sign up for the "Zoofari" Summer Camp at the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve. The camp is for kids ages 7 to 12 and is scheduled for June 13- 18, 9:30 to 3:00 each day. Click on over to the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve website and find the "Summer Camp" tab to learn the details.

I'll be there sometime during the week presenting a session on wolves. Arrwooooooo!

She picked a pack of 'pacas....

April 8, 2011

Tags: animals, authors, illustrators, Poetry Friday

1.) Paula Puckett 2.) some of her fiber creations........... 3.) Riley, 5, shares some carrots
Who did? Paula B. Puckett: my dear friend, SCBWI conference travelling buddy, fellow writer and illustrator and critique group member. I know today is Poetry Friday (click here for Roundup), but I'm interrupting strictly poetic posts to share something fun.

Today, Paula's family hosted what's becoming an annual "alpaca shearing and pot luck lunch" for family and friends at their beautiful farm nestled in the North Georgia mountains.

I've always had a thing for alpacas and have enjoyed getting to visit hers. Today's shearing was interesting. The animals are laid out one at a time on special mats, and then the shearers go to work, removing the gorgeous, thick fleece with skilled hands. The process only takes a few minutes, and then the animal is trotting off to rejoin the herd. I'm thinking Paula's alpacas are going to be thankful come Sunday they're in short coats - we're supposed to have temps in the 80s! (more…)

Exploring Big Cats and Little Kitties (and more) with Author Scotti Cohn

February 28, 2011

Tags: authors, book tracks, nature, SCBWI, wolves, animals

It's been a fun month of featuring nonfiction nature writers! For our last visit, I'm happy to host Scotti Cohn. I “met” Scotti online when her fellow Sylvan Dell author and my good friend Gail Karwoski told me about Scotti’s gorgeous rhyming picture book, ONE WOLF HOWLS (illustrated by Susan Detwiler). Needless to say, Scotti and I discovered we are pretty much from the same pack! The Illinois writer, who is planning to move to South Carolina in a few months, tackles a wide range of subjects for readers of all ages, and you should check out her great blogs. Today we welcome her for a sneak preview of her new book from Sylvan Dell, also illustrated by Susan Detwiler, BIG CAT, LITTLE KITTY.

Welcome, Scotti! We share a lot of passions, including members of the canine and feline families – wild or domestic. Tell us about your new book, BIG CAT, LITTLE KITTY. What does it have in store for young readers, and how did you come up with the idea for it? (more…)

Life is full of Surprises

July 28, 2010

Tags: wolves, Chestatee Wildlife Preserve, zedonk, animals

Mine certainly has been lately! This past week, I found out the Intervisual Animal Vault series has been discontinued, including WOLVES. I have some copies I'll reserve for school visits, since I like to donate one of each of my books to school media centers. But I'm sad it's out of print. However, I'm happy that I could help collect and send off some copies for use in a very worthwhile and innovative arts in education program in West Virginia.

In cheerier news (is cheerier a word?), take a look at the photo to the left. (more…)

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