Robyn Hood Black - children's author, poet





Tags



Hannah enjoying poetry workshop


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

Archives

Tags


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 2005-2016 ©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 - Wandering with J. Drew Lanham

March 9, 2017

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, poets, birds, nature, J. Drew Lanham, animals, Penn Center



A few months ago, our dear friend Lane Glaze (who happens to be our pastor) gave me a poetry chapbook by a friend of his, Dr. J. Drew Lanham . Lanham is a wildlife ecologist and professor at Clemson, on the other side of the state. (Go ahead and Google him after you read this; you’ll be impressed.) I was smitten with Sparrow Envy (Holocene, 2016) and hoped our paths might cross at some point.

Last Saturday, they did.

You might know that the amazing and generous Pat Conroy called Beaufort home, and now there is a Pat Conroy Literary Center here. On the one-year anniversary of Pat Conroy’s death, last Saturday, the Center sponsored an event called “March Forth/ March Fourth: A Day to Wander and Love the Land” at Penn Center out on St. Helena Island. You’ve heard me mention Penn Center before. It’s a treasure: a hub of African-American history since housing the country’s first school for freed slaves, keeper and promoter of Gullah Geechie culture, and sacred ground upon which leaders of the Civil Rights movement – black and white – could assemble freely under its moss-heavy oaks and beside its gentle waters.

Back to Saturday… Lanham first led us in a chilly but sun-drenched birding walk through the woods and to the water, next to the cottage built for Dr. Martin Luther King, who retreated in this special place several times. (This cottage was completed after his death, though it is said he penned at least part of his “I Have a Dream” speech at Gantt Cottage on the premises.)

[Note: On January 12, President Obama announced the establishment of Reconstruction Era National Monument as a unit of the National Park Service “in recognition of the role Beaufort County, South Carolina played in shaping the historic period of Reconstruction,” including Penn Center.]

Saturday’s event was a tribute to literature, history, and the incomparable natural surroundings of this spot in the Lowcountry. I was struck with how Lanham effortlessly wove into and out of his store of natural facts (and his ability to recognize even the faintest bird call, sharing life history tidbits of several species), ponderings of the human condition, and his reverence for those who had gone before, on the very ground we now walked upon. He shared a quick wit as well, and I imagine he is a tough but terrific professor.

Like a good teacher, he reiterated a theme in his “conservation conversations”: first comes noticing (what is that bird? that sound? etc.); second comes sympathy, and finally, empathy, which leads to the desire for preservation. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, by all means, go!

The day also included a wonderful presentation by Victoria A. Smalls, Director of History, Art and Culture & Public Relations. She is a St. Helena Island native who now helps share its rich Gullah heritage.

Several members of the Conroy family were also on hand. They were welcoming and friendly on what had to be a challenging day for them. A screening of the 2014 Conroy Family Roundtable video —featuring Pat Conroy with siblings Mike, Jim, Tim, and Kathy— was available to Saturday’s attendees, as well as free time to tour Penn Center and Pat Conroy’s gravesite, a short distance from the campus.

The day ended with a Q&A with Drew led by the lovely and ever-sharp Margaret Shinn Evans, publisher and columnist for Lowcountry Weekly. They discussed Lanham’s book, The Home Place – Memories of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature (Milkwood Editions, 2016), which Kirkus Reviews calls, "A shrewd meditation on home, family, nature, and the author's native South." (Click here for more about Lanham’s books and links to other publications.)

I’ll leave you with a poem from Sparrow Envy. I picked this one because these little birds featured are among my favorites, and they are so very busy now establishing nests in all kinds of nooks and crannies around our homes, aren’t they?


WREN R.E.M.

fleeting dreams
pass on morning’s first light
mist lifting off a mental bridge to nowhere probable –
but all points beyond possible
reality is the wren that wakes to each sun’s rising
with only the moment before it
no plans to skulk
or explore the next darkest crevice or crack
it sings heart full to the limits of the bounds it know
– the rotting woodpile in the northeast corner
the honeysuckle tangle westward
satisfied in that half acre universe
it sings to meet the day
tucks its wings satisfied in some second of accomplishment
It scolds a plan
and flits away
a wanderer in the present tense
future perfect does not exist
the past makes little sense
that I should live as wisely as wrens
is lesson one
carpe diem
ad infinitum



©J. Drew Lanham. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.


For more great poetry, flit on over to Today’s Little Ditty, where the Marvelous Michelle is Rounding up this week. And then circle on back here next week, when I’m hosting! Forgive me this weekend if I’m slow to respond to comments – I’m bound for our wonderful SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle in Atlanta. (I know… Lucky me AGAIN for another inspiring weekend!) AND – Still a few days to enter to win a copy of HERE WE GO! from Pomelo Books by leaving a comment on my post last week, here.

Poetry Friday - Haiku Taking Flight...

January 5, 2017

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, haiku, HSA, workshops, birds, bird haiku, Haiku Society of America



Happy New Year!

I'm still getting my sea legs back after travel up in the hills to see family for the holidays, and after the little retail rush of December in my shop. I hope you and yours had a lovely holiday.

For haiku fans, I've just updated information on the Haiku Society of America meeting/workshop Earth Day weekend I'm coordinating in April on the coast of Georgia. Here's a link to that recent post below (or you can find it on the SE Regional page at the HSA website). A registration form is available on my Haiku page, at the top left.

Since we're going on a birdwatching Ginko (a haiku walk) that weekend, here are a few more of my own bird haiku that seem to work for this time of year; both light and dark and in-between, as I am feeling all of the above right about now:


new year
the twitter of a hundred robins
in the oak


Modern Haiku, Volume 45.1, Winter/​Spring 2014


gathering dusk
the unanswered call
of a dove


Frogpond Volume 35:3, Autumn 2012


winter chill
turkey vultures circling
one of their own


The Heron's Nest, June 2012

Poems ©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.


[Pssst.... A little bird has told me a Poetry Friday-er or two might attend the St. Simon's weekend!]

Our beautiful Linda, no stranger to writing haiku, has this week's Roundup at TeacherDance (with a Japanese proverb and intriguing picture of birds at the top of the page, I might add!)

Here's wishing you a 2017 full of poetry, and light....

Poetry Friday - EVERY DAY BIRDS and Extra Credit Q&A with Amy LV!

March 30, 2016

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, poets, birds, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, book tracks, National Poetry Month


Dear Poetry Friends,

Such a special treat today – No April Foolin’! If you’re a Poetry Friday regular, you know that our own Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is fluttering around with a beautiful brand-new book, EVERY DAY BIRDS, published by Orchard/Scholastic. If you’re a PF newbie, Welcome!

I’m one of those lucky ducks who can call Amy friend, as well as poetic inspiration in human form. You can learn more about Amy and her work here. And in case you haven’t heard… her debut poetry picture book, FOREST HAS A SONG, illustrated by Robbin Gourley (Clarion) just won the inaugural SCBWI Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award!

EVERY DAY BIRDS, her second picture book for young readers, offers a closer look at many common birds, brought to colorful life with papercut illustrations by Dylan Metrano. Kirkus calls it “beginning birding at its best.” Here's a taste:


Hawk hunts every day for prey.

Cardinal flashes fire.

Woodpecker taps hollow trees.

Crow rests on a wire. …



Click around the Kidlitosphere and Poetry Friday blogs, and you’ll find lots of love for this book. Amy’s post celebrating its lift-off ihere. I thought it wouldt be fun to ask Amy just a few “Extra Credit” questions inspired by EVERY DAY BIRDS to give us a peek behind the scenes of her life poetic. Here we go!

Amy’s Extra Credit Q&A


Early bird or night owl?

I am a night owl who is trying to be an early bird!

Hummingbird drinks flower nectar. Coffee, tea, or something else for you?

Tea. I have a glass teapot, and my children and I enjoy trying all different kinds of tea, from flowery tea to fruity tea to herby tea. I like the varied colors of teas brewing, and holding a warm mug in my hands feels so cozy. This said, I am always happy to go out for coffee with a friend. And since I live in chilly Western New York, I am a fan of hot cocoa (lots of whipped cream) too.

Are you more chirpy bluebird or boisterous blue jay?

People often think of bluebirds as cheerful creatures, and I am a cheerful soul. To be truthful, though, I can also be bossy as a blue jay.

Chickadee wears a black cap. What’s your favorite hat?

My current favorite is a new crazy bird hat, a superb gift from Librarian Jim Worthington. I cannot stop laughing when I wear it because the birds’ wings flap on springs. Someone told me that she could not take me seriously in this hat, and I like this idea of not being taken too seriously.

In addition to being a poet, you’re a traveling speaker and teacher. How many times a year do you fly?

I try not to fly too frequently as I love being in my nest with my nest mates, but I do take three or four sky-trips each year.

Gull stares at the sea. What do you stare at when you are waiting for inspiration to strike?

Sometimes I stare out my window and sometimes into deep nothingness. Sometimes I stare at my empty paper and sometimes into my own head.


Thank you to my friend-with-the-beautiful-bird-name-Robyn for inviting me to your blog home today. I am a big fan of your work. xo, a.


Thank YOU, Dear Amy, for lighting on a branch over here this week to spread your sunshine!

For more great poetry sure to have you soaring, wing it on over to Amy’s home turf, The Poem Farm, where she happens to be our gracious host ringing in National Poetry Month today. Her blog is also celebrating its sixth anniversary this week. I’m sure there are still some cake crumbs around… (Which, by the way, Mr. Cornelius might find as he visits blogs for Jama’s roundup of National Poetry Month special events here, including links the 2016 Kidlit Progressive Poem organized by Irene.)

Poetry Friday - Of Carolina Wren Connections...

March 26, 2015

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


It's almost here... National Poetry Month! Most of you know the Academy of American Poets and the poets.org site.

"Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month, held every April, is the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture."

[Many of our Poetry Friday peeps go all out in April - Jama will be compiling a whole menu of special blog events and links over at Jama's Alphabet Soup.]

You might also subscribe to the Academy's "Poem-a-Day" feature, in which a new poem magically appears in your inbox each day. I was enchanted by an offering earlier this week, both its subject and luscious writing.

The poem is "The Carolina Wren" by Laura Donnelly. Here's a bit from the middle, to send you off to read the whole poem:

from The Carolina Wren

...
Only later, this other, same-same-again song,
a bird I could not see but heard

when I walked from the house to the studio,
studio to the house, its three notes

repeated like a child’s up and down
on a trampoline looping

the ground to the sky—
....


Copyright © 2015 by Laura Donnelly. Click here to read the entire lovely poem.

I've enjoyed watching and hearing a wren or two in our "Carolina" yard this week. At our former house in Georgia, our back patio was a regular nesting site each spring for a wren pair. I was so impressed by the industry and care they would take in building a carefully sheltered nest, and then tending their offspring from first shell-crack to first tentative flight. It was a lot of work!

And then this week, a kind note from friend - Poetry Friday-er, talented author, and - I'm happy to say - artsyletters customer Jan Godown Annino. (Check out her new bloggie look at Bookseed Studio - you'll love it!)

Jan had bought some of my wren and books notecards (design above) and sent me a message. We ended up swapping wren stories. Mine was simply that one year the aforementioned nesting pair built their twiggy home in a pot on our patio. I really wanted to make a relief print of a Carolina wren and some old books, so I set the stage. Though I knew my finished art would be simplified and stylized, I wanted a reliable reference picture. I placed a small stack of vintage books next to the pot, thinking Mama Wren would probably perch there for a wee second while tending her peeping babies.

Then I stashed myself across the patio, hunkered low in a chair with my camera, and waited. And waited. And waited. She did come back and forth a few times, but it took more than one attempt on my part to click at just the right moment, and from far away. The pictures were not National Geographic quality, but they provided enough visual information for me to sketch by, and I was able to get to work.

Now this current rambling would be incomplete without my also mentioning another friend: writer/author/editor extraordinaire and public relations expert P. J. Shaw (Peggy, to me!). I was so thankful to get to catch up with Peggy at our recent SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle in Atlanta. Peggy was my editor for WOLVES (Intervisual Books, 2008) a few moons ago, and I was always impressed by her quick eye and ear when wrangling a manuscript.

In addition to her job as Public Relations Director at a large private school in Atlanta, Peggy offers editorial services to individuals and organizations through her business, Wren Cottage. Isn't that a wonderful name? The masthead on her website features a rich and gorgeous painting of a wren sitting atop some books by artist Camille Engel . That image obviously spoke to me as I watched "our" wrens making so many trips to and fro on the patio, where I used to shoot all my Etsy product pictures before we moved to South Carolina and I landed a real studio space.

I suppose along with Laura Donnelly's "looping" images in her poem, I can't help connecting the sight or sound of a wren with my memories of other wrens that I checked on daily for weeks and weeks, or my associations with wren-loving creative people like Jan and Peggy. Poetry loops us all together.

Please wing your way back here next week, when we'll kick off Poetry Month with another talented Student Haiku Poet of the Month! Until then, enjoy all the great poetry rounded up this week and set to flight by the multi-talented Jone at Check It Out!

Poetry Friday - a Haiku for the New Year

January 1, 2015

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, haiku, ponderings, birds, awards

Yay Images
Happy New Year!

I hope you and yours have enjoyed a lovely holiday, and you are ready to leap head-first into a new year filled with poetry. Like my crazy hubby and son leaped into the chilly Atlantic today as part of the "Pelican Plunge" at Hunting Island....

Last year, I was still in the foothills of north Georgia, where I'd penned the following haiku:


new year
the twitter of a hundred robins
in the oak



Modern Haiku, Volume 45.1, Winter/​Spring 2014

©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.


I haven't seen those huge flocks of robins here in my new yard near the coast, but there is plenty of wonderful bird life. And it's very nice to greet the new year from the same nest this year, rather than two different locations on the map!

Please make a migratory stop here next week, as we'll celebrate our January Student Haiku Poet of the Month. Such a treat for me to feature the work of these fine young poets.

Rounding up our first Poetry Friday for2015 is the wonderful Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Be sure to also check out her post featuring the Cybils finalists for poetry - the rounds have included books by some of our own amazing Poetry Friday community. Congratulations to all the nominees! [If you're a PF regular, you'll recognize the talented judges' names, too.] The incomparable Syliva Vardell has featured the shortlist at Poetry for Children, and there you can also find all of the 36 nominated poetry titles for 2014. I'll take one of each, please.

Poetry Friday: Summer Poem Swap Haiga from Heidi Mordhorst

August 14, 2014

Tags: Poetry Friday, haiku, haiga, Poem Swap, birds, poetry


Happy Middle-of-August!

I’ve just returned from helping our daughter Morgan set up her new third grade classroom in Greenville, SC, and we’re about to head out to the north Georgia mountains to get our son Seth settled into his college apartment on campus. I hope your back-to-school-ing is going well if you are a parent or teacher or media specialist or student or such! Whether your August involves school or not, I’m sure you’ll enjoy stopping just for a moment to enjoy another Summer Poem Swap treasure.


sodden robin
unmiserable to the
naked eye



©Heidi Mordhorst. All rights reserved.


This gem is from our ever talented Poetry Friday host this week, Heidi Mordhorst (who greets this time of year as a teacher and a mom herself!). How lovely that she paired her haiku with this wonderful photograph of my namesake in the bird world. In an accompanying note, Heidi said she loved the “resilience” of this feathered friend. We’ve certainly seen our share of “sodden” this summer; our back yard flooded last weekend. Many cities (including Greenville) in several regions of the country have dealt with serious flooding this week.

You might know from Diane and her wonderful blog that a haiku and visual image presented together is called a “haiga,” and I’m honored Heidi sent me one!

As Stephen Addis explains in the jacket flap of his book, THE ART OF HAIKU (Shambhala, 2012):

All the great haiku masters created paintings (called haiga) or calligraphy in connection with their poems, and the words and images were intended to be enjoyed together, enhancing each other, and each adding its own dimension to the reader’s and viewer’s understanding.

Many thanks to Heidi for this haiga, and to Tabatha for organizing our sensational SWAP.

Here’s hoping you are unmiserable - nice and dry in fact, and ready to enjoy more poetry! Join the flock over at Heidi’s My Juicy Little Universe.

Poetry Friday: Carpe-ing Diem with Andrew Marvell and His Coy Mistress

September 19, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, birds, ponderings

© Robyn Hood Black

Okay – my posts are usually pretty tame; but today young children and eighth-grade boys should probably leave the room. ;0)

Wednesday night I caught the “Europe” episode of a PBS Nature series, “Earthflight.” Fascinating stuff: cameras literally capture a bird’s eye view of our planet as birds migrate across the continents. I was rather charmed with the way male cranes and storks go ahead of their mates to spiff up the nest and put their best avian foot forward to impress their ladies for breeding season.

I thought of that again today (bear with me) when I was playing around with some cool 1950s metal letters I’ve been framing for this weekend’s Art in the Square here in north Georgia. Why? Well, I made the above “Carpe d’ M” picture, which got me pondering the concept (I’m a seize-the-day kind of gal), which led me to looking at a “carpe diem” poem I probably haven’t read since college.

You, know, English poet Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress.” Marvell (1621-1678) penned these lines toward the end of his “invitation” to a certain young lass:

“Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey… .”

The PBS birds weren’t birds of prey (though there was some amazing footage of a Peregrine falcon trying and failing to nab a starling in a murmuration), but they were certainly amorous. How odd to read this poem again when I’m not quite crone (though that is not terribly far away), but I’m w-a-y past maiden. I find myself chuckling at the 300-year-old pick-up lines.

Here they are:

To His Coy Mistress

By Andrew Marvell

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast;
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart;
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song: then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.



I mean, “The grave's a fine and private place/
But none, I think, do there embrace” – that’s better quipped than late night TV monologues, don’t you think?

Please click here to learn more.

This poem also brought to mind a piece of the soundtrack of my teenage years – anybody else remember? – “Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel. Of course, this song got the young Joel in a heap of trouble with Catholics, though its banning only resulted in skyrocketing sales. Click here for a little more on that.

I suppose if we banned all carefully crafted entreaties of lusty young men from our literature, our books would weigh far less. And then, if we found ourselves missing all that strutting and preening, we could just look to the birds.

Now, flap your way over to The Opposite of Indifference to enjoy today's Roundup with Tabatha, who keeps a bird's eye view of just about everything.

Poetry Friday: Full Hearts, Empty Nests, and Emily Dickinson

June 13, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, school visits, students, teachers, ponderings, birds

Willow Tree figure, "Happiness," with student cards...


On Wednesday I grabbed a quick catch-up coffee with a dear friend. Years ago, she taught both of my kids when they were in fourth grade, and I was her room mother each time! Now the youngest, Seth, has just graduated (though not before visiting her classroom to talk about song writing with her students), and I’ve been continuing the tradition of visiting her class to talk about writing each spring. A couple of years ago, my oldest (Morgan, my rising college senior/ed major) tagged along. It’s been a great arrangement; I “experiment” with different writing activities with the students, and they get a little outside spice with their language arts.

Sharon has given me the most thoughtful, perfect gifts over the years as a thank-you. When the creative writing theme involved butterflies (catching ideas!), the class gave me a butterfly coffee cup, matching journal, and bookmarks. Once they gave me a heavy duty pen holder for my desk, decorated with pens on the outside. The most precious gifts are notes and cards from the students, which I think every author cherishes.

This week, along with a bow-tied stack of cards, Sharon gave me the lovely Willow Tree figure in the picture above. This one is called “Happiness” – and Sharon said it made her think of me. Well, that just fills me with joy, and much appreciation.

Willow Tree creator Susan Lordi says of this figurine, “I hope this piece is very open to viewer interpretation. For me, it is the pure joy that comes from creating — in all of its forms. A side note … I love bluebirds.”

I told Sharon the birds were appropriate, as the last thing I’d done before sunset the night before was fish a newly-fledged robin out of our pool. I scooped it up and set it on the ground, where, after sitting there not knowing what to do for a time while its parents fretted, it eventually hopped toward Mom, who escorted it up the hillside and out of my sight.

This baby was the last one to leave this year’s nest in the camellia bush. A big baby bird, I’d already mentioned to it that it was about time. That mama and papa robin had worked tirelessly harvesting gobs of worms to take to the nest day in and day out.

Obviously we have empty nests on our minds these days. My husband said he even got misty watching some baby robins outside at work the other day. They were learning to fly. So, let’s have a bird poem today, in which Miss Emily so beautifully renders the image of flight:

A Bird Came Down the Walk

by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

A Bird came down the Walk—
He did not know I saw—
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass—
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass—

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all around—
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought—
He stirred his Velvet Head

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home—

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam—
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
Leap, plashless as they swim.


Click here for more information about Emily Dickinson and links to many of her poems.

Now, flap your wings and glide on over to Reflections on the Teche , where the thoughtful and talented Margaret has the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Also, if you want to see some gorgeous oil paintings, I featured works by my fellow-brand-new-empty-nester-to-be friend and amazing artist Ann Goble on my artsyletters blog this week.

Poetry Friday: Poetry and Photographs from Susan Taylor Brown

November 16, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, authors, poetry, art, writing life, birds, Etsy

© Susan Taylor Brown. All rights reserved.


I am humming with joy this morning – award-winning author, poet, and artist Susan Taylor Brown is here! Well, some of her work is here, and now there are more options for you to own some yourself.

Perhaps you know Susan primarily through the writing side of her life – dozens of books for children for the trade and educational markets, hundreds of stories and articles in newspapers and magazines, and a speaking schedule that has included SCBWI conferences, Highlights workshops, and artist in residence experiences in which she’s taught poetry to at-risk and incarcerated youth. Or perhaps you’ve visited her blog and website for spot-on writing advice shared with wisdom and plenty of heart and personal experience. If, like me, you might have missed the incredible interview posted by Jone in June over at Check It Out, you will definitely want to, well, check it out!

Perhaps as a faithful Poetry Friday-er, you’ve popped over to Susan’s website or seen her pictures on Facebook. Has your jaw dropped and have your eyes popped at her glorious photographs of the wildlife she’s invited into her California back yard? Thought so. Did you mourn a few months ago after following the daily activities of Lily, the lovely hummingbird who graced Susan’s yard with a nest and then lost her precious eggs just before they were to hatch? Yes, me too.

Lots of folks were moved by Susan's photographs. It wasn’t long before Susan’s friends clamored for her to offer her incredible nature pictures for sale.

She made a page for her greeting cards with the delightful name, “Poppiness.” And just this month, she opened her own Etsy shop! As a new Etsy shop owner myself, I was thrilled to catch this bit of news and track her down. Oh, and order some gorgeous cards.

I asked Susan if she might share some of her hummingbird photographs and poems with us. The poems appeared on other blogs this year (terrific Poetry Friday ones!), but they bear re-sharing.

In My Backyard

iridescent wings dip, dive
between branches
of the scraggly Toyon bush
not yet six feet tall

pointed beak
weaves bits of moss
with spider webs
tucks in a single strand of grass
a dainty dandelion seed
then flies away

cat quiet, I creep
peek
stare
compare
tiny nest cradles
tiny eggs, two
no bigger than my thumb

whirling wings
hum hello
now go
she settles, spreads
herself atop the eggs
watches me
watching her

the wind blows, blustering
never flustering her
she sways a branch dance
keeping safe
tiny nest
tiny eggs
where rainbows wait to hatch


© Susan Taylor Brown. All rights reserved.

Previously here:
http://gottabook.blogspot.com/2012/04/susan-taylor-brown-in-my-backyard.html
on Greg's great blog.


******************************************

13 Ways of Looking at a Hummingbird

1
wings whirl
in place
my face
smiles
swivels
tiny dancer
chirps
cheeps
chitters
hello

2
greengold glitters glides
lands atop the waterfalls
shimmy shakes
a water dance

3
spider silk
blades of grass
lichen
moss
one gray hair
two red threads
building blocks
a mini mansion

4
picture pose
turn left
now right
chin up
hold still
I'll keep my distance

5
in out
out in
tall wall
soft floor
ready wait
wait some more
egg one
egg two
soon
each morning
each evening
I check
just in case

6
the plum tree a
perfect preening place
ruffled nest feathers
bugs picked flicked
feathers smoothed
stretch once
stretch again
bask in the sun
before babies come

7
stormy days
stormy nights
quivery
shivery
forgetting generations
that came before
I worry
flashlight in hand

8
she disappears deep
within the overgrown honeysuckle
seeking bugs
protein power
for motherhood
alone
I measure
one nest
one half a walnut shell
one egg
one jellybean
one miracle
waiting to happen

9
my days equal
part
inspection
observation
research
photographs
my days equal
bliss

10
camera ready
I await her homecoming
hidden only slightly behind the fence
fifteen minutes
two hundred photographs
my mini model
is a star

11
morning comes
empty
no mama snug atop her nest
no tiny eggs safe and sound
no babies waiting
to say hello world
sometime between
the darkness and dawn
disaster

12
overcast and gray
rain soon
but I am stubborn
searching beneath the bushes
until I find evidence
until I find a tiny white shell
until it hits me
miracles don't always come true

13
crying
crying
crying
camera clicks
shot after shot after shot
most will be out of focus
unable to capture the pain I feel
at all the days that should have been ahead
suddenly suspended beside me
close enough to almost touch
no chirp
no cheep
no chitter
she hovers there
ten seconds maybe more
just long enough
to say goodbye


© Susan Taylor Brown. All rights reserved.

Previously here:
http://maclibrary.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/poetry-friday-5/
on Jone’s wonderful blog.

I asked Susan: What is it about hummingbirds that compels you to write about and photograph them? Take it away, Susan!

I am a perpetually nervous person often filled with worry about things I can't change or control. I was spending so much time worrying about what did happen and what I could have done differently and what might happen and how I could avoid it that I was forgetting to live my life in the here and now. I had a wonderful life and I was missing out on it. All around me friends were going to yoga, beginning to meditate, and learning how to be here, now, living in the present moment. I couldn't seem to get the handle of yoga or meditating but I did spend a lot of time in my native garden. Usually it was because my dog Cassie was pestering me to step away from the computer and go outside. In my typical hurry-up fashion I wanted her to hurry-up and take care of business so I could hurry-up and get back to work worrying about whatever the day's worry might be.

Cassie had other ideas. She meandered around the yard, each visit outside taking a similar path, dipping a head into the sage to sniff at bees, pausing under the maple tree to wait for squirrels, stopping at the elderberry to watch the birds flit from branch to branch. I got tired of standing and waiting for her so I sat down. And when I sat down, the critters in the yard got used to me and turned brave, coming closer to feed at the bushes close to me and play in the bird pond. My fingers itched for my camera. The more I sat and watched, the more I saw. I had found a meditation that worked for me. I had learned to see more by being still and I had discovered how to live in the present moment.

What does that have to do with photographing hummingbirds?

Hummingbirds are so fast that one would think you need to be fast in order to get a photo of them in flight. But really the opposite is true. You need to be slow. You need to be patient. You need to learn to be still. Because when you do that you will be forced to watch, hundreds of times, the way the hummingbirds around you act when they are coming in to feed. You learn their dipping, diving behavior. You begin to understand their dance. I spent hours just watching the birds in my garden and other gardens before I tried to pick up the camera. And even then I shot thousands of blurry photos or photos of plants where the birds USED to be, before I snapped the shutter. But with practice, I found it easier to get into the dance and sometimes I get lucky and capture just the photo I had hoped to capture.

So I guess the easy answer is that I feel compelled to photograph hummingbirds, as well as the other wildlife in my garden, because it continually reminds me to be here, now, in the moment and to give thanks for the opportunity to witness these gifts of nature.


Click here for a link to a published slideshow Susan did for Bay Nature Magazine on photographing hummingbirds.

And now let me leave you with some lovely news you can use. Susan has gorgeous photographs available in her Etsy shop – hummingbirds, flowers, other stunning flora and fauna. And, she and I have decided that we’d like to offer a Poetry Friday discount for holiday shopping. From now through Dec. 31, just visit either of our shops – Poppiness or artsyletters – and type in the Coupon Code: PF2012 for a 10 percent discount! (You can look each of us up on Twitter, too, @poppiness and @artsyletters.)

Thanks, and many thanks to Susan for sharing her work here today.

Also, much appreication to Julie Hedland for featuring me on her terrific blog on Wednesday, and to Renée LaTulippe for welcoming me to No Water River today! Such an honor, ladies - thank you.

For more poetic treasures, hop over to Booktalking, where the amazing Anastasia is rounding up Poetry Friday.

Poetry Friday - A Wordsworth Wren-dition...

June 22, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, birds, haiku, ponderings, Berry Blue Haiku

art and photo ©Robyn Hood Black, all rights reserved

All week long I’ve heard the eager peeps of three tiny wrens from their nest just outside our back door, where Mama built a nest in an abandoned flower pot on a ledge. I’ve watched her tirelessly fly hither and yon and back again with (presumably yummy?) wriggly snacks, pretty much all hours of the day.

A couple of years ago, we had front row seats for a wren family just outside the other back door. They inspired a poem which appeared in Gisele LeBlanc’s then-magazine-for-kids, Berry Blue Haiku (now the name of her personal online journal ) :

Carolina wrens
twig by leaf by twig by leaf
build a cozy home


©Robyn Hood Black
Berry Blue Haiku, Sept. 2010

I’ve always admired the nest-building skill of wrens. This year’s architect was especially smart, making her snug little home under shelter and away from any harm, except for the inconvenience of humans walking by as we go in and out of the house.

Well, our friend William Wordsworth was admiring wren nests long before I was – back in the 1830s to be more precise, and at his home, Rydal Mount, where the inspiration for the following poem was hatched.

A Wren’s Nest

by William Wordsworth

AMONG the dwellings framed by birds
In field or forest with nice care,
Is none that with the little Wren's
In snugness may compare.

No door the tenement requires,
And seldom needs a laboured roof;
Yet is it to the fiercest sun
Impervious, and storm-proof.

So warm, so beautiful withal,
In perfect fitness for its aim,
That to the Kind by special grace
Their instinct surely came.

And when for their abodes they seek
An opportune recess,
The hermit has no finer eye
For shadowy quietness.

These find, 'mid ivied abbey-walls,
A canopy in some still nook;
Others are pent-housed by a brae
That overhangs a brook.

There to the brooding bird her mate
Warbles by fits his low clear song;
And by the busy streamlet both
Are sung to all day long. …


Click here to read the rest.

Finally, an anniversary tweet-out to my nest-building mate, Jeff, for 28 years of flocking together TODAY! :0)

Amy at The Poem Farm is rounding up everything for the Poetry Friday flock. Thanks, Amy!

Poetry Friday: Nesting with Robins

May 25, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, nature, birds, Highlights, authors, illustrators, workshops

©Cory Corrado



Is this a great picture or what? At the Poetry for All Highlights Founders workshop last week, I shared my cabin with some special guests. Well, the inside top of the porch of my cabin. A pair of robins dutifully flew in and out and in and out to tend their nest.

The photo was taken by fellow workshop attendee Cory Corrado, a lovely and talented poet and amazing nature photographer who hails from Quebec, Canada. She spent a little time patiently waiting – okay, a long time patiently waiting – balancing herself standing on a deck chair holding out for just the right shots when the birds wouldn't fly away. See how her patience paid off?

Cory’s book of photos and poetry, “Pho-etry,” called Nature Inspires, was featured earlier this year on Poetry for All co-leader David L. Harrison’s blog (click here for the link.) You can also get a virtual look at Cory’s stunning work in the book by clicking here.

Well, I’ve been thinking about those robins. And I’m enjoying all the varied birdlife outside my own doors this spring. (Oh – and Susan Taylor Brown’s amazing bird photos on her Poppiness website! – Have you seen those or followed her bird stories there or on Facebook?)

Back to robins. Here’s a fun poem for today from The Golden Book of Poetry(1947) as shared on The Poetry Foundation website.

The Secret

By Anonymous

We have a secret, just we three,
The robin, and I, and the sweet cherry-tree;
The bird told the tree, and the tree told me,
And nobody knows it but just us three.

But of course the robin knows it best,
Because she built the--I shan't tell the rest;
And laid the four little--something in it--
I'm afraid I shall tell it every minute.

But if the tree and the robin don't peep,
I'll try my best the secret to keep;
Though I know when the little birds fly about
Then the whole secret will be out.


Now wing your way over to TeacherDance for more great poetry, where Lovely Linda has today’s Roundup.

Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2011

Tags: illustration, birds

© Robyn Hood Black, all rights reserved

Wishing you and yours a holiday season full of light, song, and love. See you in the New Year!
Merry Christmas!

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.


The Great Backyard Bird Count

February 17, 2011

Tags: birds, nature

Looking for a fun way to spend time outdoors and contribute to a good cause at the same time? The Great Backyard Bird Count is this weekend! The Cornell Ornithology folks explain it best, so here's the blurb lifted directly from their promotional email:

From: Cornell Lab Bird News, Feb. 17, 2011
Great Backyard Bird Count
Join Us, February 18–21

Top 5 Reasons to Do the GBBC

1. The birds you see will be recorded for all time. Just count for at least 15 minutes on one or more days and enter your checklist at www.birdcount.org

2. Your counts ensure that the birds in your town or favorite birding locales will be represented in this continentwide event.

3. Scientists and birders alike can see the tallies as they roll in for more than 600 bird species.

4. Now in its 14th year, the GBBC provides data to track dynamic bird populations through time, a feat that would be impossible without the participation of tens of thousands of people like you.

5. Celebrate birds by watching them at your favorite spot. See photos of birds submitted from around the continent or send in your own for a chance to win birdy prizes.

Please help spread the word by asking your friends and family to participate! They’ll find easy instructions at www.birdcount.org.

For more news about the count, read this week’s article in The New York Times.



On My First Baby's Leaving the Nest

August 22, 2010

Tags: birds, ponderings

Not long ago I was in the back yard with the dogs.

A brown thrasher squawked and carried on in the branches above me. Why was it moving closer rather than farther away?

Then I saw it - a brown thrasher baby, inside the tennis court fence and inside the half-filled dog water bowl. Now there was a dilemma. (more…)

Andy Runton and OWLY

June 2, 2009

Tags: authors, illustrators, birds

When I think of the little wren family, or other wild guests in my own back yard, I think of the talented and wonderful Andy Runton. Do you know him?
He's the creator of the OWLY series of graphic novels, and he watches birds, rabbits, butterflies - you name it! - right here in Georgia. (more…)

And they're off....

May 27, 2009

Tags: birds

Leaving so soon?
This morning, the wren babies peeped outside of the nest (ducking back in if they saw me), then hopped out just before noon, then flew around the patio and into the trees on the other side of the fence. Mama and Papa supervised the whole affair, continuing to supply bugs and chirps and directions, I'm sure.
Wishing blessings to each one....(Photo at left.)

Summer peeps

May 25, 2009

Tags: birds

First, time to pause a moment in gratitude to those who serve our country and to honor the memories of those who died while doing so.

I've also been pausing to watch the beautiful drama just outside my back door: five baby Carolina wrens who are growing fatter and more feathery by the day. A month ago they were just speckled eggs! Mama and Papa Wren keep up nearly constant flight paths through the back yard to supply bugs and grubs to their peeping brood. Must be agreeing with them! (Photos at left)

Happy Summer!!!

For the Birds

February 14, 2009

Tags: birds

Happy Valentine's Day!
This weekend I'm participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count - http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/ . I thought my skills would be pretty good in this area, since I've watched and conversed with birds my whole life.

But actually accurately documenting which ones and how many in a certain time period? Wait - (more…)

Quick Clicks

Media
bio, photos, interview links, etc.
Poems
Explore a poem or two or five....
Haiku
Explore this genre of sparely crafted poetry which offers endless depth. Resources for students, teachers, and writers.
Author visits
In schools or other settings, Robyn shares her passion for writing and encourages creativity. Presentations for all age groups.
Magazines
In addition to writing books, Robyn has sold her writing to major children's magazines.
Books
A rhyming tale of a young boy's knightly adventure with an imagined dragon.
Nonfiction, interactive book on wolves featuring giant pop-up and tons of info!
Portfolio
illustrations