instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Amy Lowell's THE CONGRESSIONAL LIBRARY in light of Parkland, and SCHOOL PEOPLE Book Winner


Thursday morning while sipping coffee and semi-watching the news, I came across a poem by Amy Lowell in What’s O’Clock (Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1925), winner of the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

The words imprinted themselves in my mind and heart as I turned my attention to an interview with an articulate, grief-stricken father. Fred Guttenburg’s beautiful 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was shot in the back with an assault rifle in a hall in her Parkland, Florida high school on Valentine’s Day. Her spinal cord was severed, and 16 other beautiful lives were gone in an instant.

“We start each day at the cemetery,” Mr. Guttenburg said. “That’s what we do now.”

Amy Lowell’s “The Congressional Library” was not written about a school shooting. But its images spoke to me in the midst of our collective sadness and outrage – and the ability/mandate to respond lies in the halls of Congress. Here is an excerpt.


From THE CONGRESSIONAL LIBRARY

by Amy Lowell (1874-1925)


This is America,
This vast, confused beauty,
This staring, restless speed of loveliness,
Mighty, overwhelming, crude, of all forms,
Making grandeur out of profusion,
Afraid of no incongruities,
Sublime in its audacity,
Bizarre breaker of moulds,
Laughing with strength,
Charging down on the past,
Glorious and conquering,
Destroyer, builder,
Invincible pith and marrow of the world,
An old world remaking,
Whirling into the no-world of all-coloured light.

But behind the vari-coloured hall?
The entrails, the belly,
The blood-run veins, the heart and viscera,
What of these?
Only at night do they speak,
Only at night do the voices rouse themselves and speak.
There are words in the veins of this creature,
There are still notes singing in its breast:
Silent voices, whispering what it shall speak,
Frozen music beating upon its pulses.
These are the voices of the furious dead who never die,
Furious with love and life, unquenchable,
dictating their creeds across the vapours of time.
This is the music of the Trumpeters of the Almighty
Weeping for a lost estate,
Sounding to a new birth which is to-morrow.
Hark! This hurricane of music has no end,
The speech of these voices has neither end nor beginning;
They are inter-riven as the colours of the sky
Over the graveyards of ten thousand generations. …



For notes about this poem, click here. For a copy of the entire poem, click here, and for more on Amy Lowell at poets.org, click here.

Thanks to all who came by week before last to celebrate the release of SCHOOL PEOPLE (Wordsong) and enjoy an interview with Lee Bennett Hopkins. I’m delighted to announce that the giveaway winner is…

***Catherine Flynn***

The past 10 days have reminded us that many School People are selfless servants– heroes to us, though they likely wouldn’t describe themselves, or wouldn’t have described themselves, in such terms. “Greater love has no one than this…” (John 15:13)

And I am so proud of those young people turning shock and sorrow into activism – they are amazing. Congress, quite simply, has failed them. Yet they are willing to face professional politicians with unblinking resolve and in the harshest glare of the public arena (and the sometimes-slime of social media). God bless their voices. Many will be voting this fall.

The thoughtful, talented, and active Elizabeth Steinglass has our Poetry Friday Roundup this week. Thanks, Liz.  Read More 
26 Comments
Post a comment

Poetry Friday - Lee Bennett Hopkins and SCHOOL PEOPLE Giveaway!





Is your monitor shaking, or your phone screen, maybe? I’m so excited about this week’s post, I might be jumping up and down a little….


Lee Bennett Hopkins is here!

If you’re a Poetry Friday regular, you know that Lee Bennett Hopkins is a singular force in the world of children’s poetry, holding the Guiness World Record for number of poetry anthologies for children published.

He has received countless awards for his own writing and his collections, including the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, the Florida Libraries’ Lifetime Achievement Award, the Christopher Award, and the distinction last year of being inducted into the Florida Arts Hall of Fame, among others. (Read more about Lee here.)

Today he shares a behind-the-scenes look at his newest anthology, SCHOOL PEOPLE, to be released Feb. 13 from Wordsong, the poetry imprint of Boyds Mills Press (so you know it’s first-class).

From the publisher’s description:


…this collection of poems paired with imaginative artwork introduces readers to the important grown-ups they’ll meet at school. From the school’s own story, written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, to J. Patrick Lewis’s “Principal,” to Alma Flor Ada’s "Spanish Teacher," each poem features the women and men who inspire, encourage, and help children in their own unique ways.


The small format of photos allowed on my blog don’t do justice to the vibrant illustrations by Ellen Shi, but you can get an idea. The publisher kindly shared a couple of interior spreads – “Librarian” by Lee himself, and my own poem, “Lunch Lady.”





LIBRARIAN

He opened the door.
As we walked in
he said,
“Look!
It’s all about books.
And books are you!

Books will lead you
anywhere
everywhere –
to magical places
to meet new faces.”

He opened
one single door
yet he
led us down
pathways
we never
could ever
have traveled
before.


©Lee Bennett Hopkins. All Rights Reserved.



LUNCH LADY

Long before lunchtime
Ms. Bailey keeps busy
stacking towers of trays,
filling the salad bar,
sliding steaming pans
into place.

We swarm the cafeteria.
“Here you go, Honey,” she says,
handing each of us a full plate.

Long after lunchtime,
Ms. Bailey scrubs everything clean,
hangs the last heavy pan.

She rubs her neck,
wipes her forehead,
and changes the menu sign –
for us,
for tomorrow.


©Robyn Hood Black. All Rights Reserved.


How did this collection come to be? Lee generously agreed to share his thoughts.

--How did the idea for SCHOOL PEOPLE come about? (And how long has it been in the making?)

I began my career as a sixth-grade teacher in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, in 1960 at the age of 22, fresh out of college. I taught sixth grade for three years before becoming a Resource Teacher in the same school working with grades K-6.

So – after almost six decades later the idea of a SCHOOL and its PEOPLE pops up. One never knows what memory will uncover. Such an obvious topic.


--Each of your anthologies has a distinct personality – some magic you make out of many different contributing voices. How would you describe SCHOOL PEOPLE?

Yes, each anthology does have a distinct personality. When creating an anthology my mind completely focuses on the topic whether it is a collection as difficult as the recent TRAVELNG THE BLUE ROAD: POEMS OF THE SEA (Seagrass Dreams/Quarto) for Young Adults, or SCHOOL PEOPLE for younger readers. I assign topics to various poets who work with me – a wondrous group of dedicated writers. My role is to put the entire collection into focus before it reaches an editor’s desk. The process of producing an anthology can take years.

--This book should lend itself to all kinds of interactions. How do you envision teachers might use it in the classroom or media center?

There are so many ways to use this book in schools. I envision an assembly program where various school people are invited to sit on stage, introduced as each child reads or performs a poem about them…from the principal to the custodian. Or as a weekly, monthly tribute to each of the people represented.

It can also be used to show appreciation of the work each person does to make a school a whole.
I would encourage young writers to choose one or more of their favorite school people to write about.

SCHOOL PEOPLE is also a nice gift to give to various school personnel. How often does a Custodian or a Crossing Guard get acknowledged?


--How do you hope students will respond to the collection?

Hopefully children might see the diversity of people within a school building - for example, a female coach, a male librarian. Also I hope they will experience empathy for individuals – the Bus Driver with ‘that smiling face’ to bring a child home again, the Lunch Lady who works hard and long hours, the Custodian who is “caring, helpful, smart, and kind,” the Nurse who is there “like the heart in my body/like the moon in the sky.”

--The 15 poems come to life in Ellen Shi’s colorful digital illustrations. Any thoughts about how the text and art work together here?

Shi captures so many different moments via her art depicting emotions that are part of every person involved with children. That caring Principal who could ‘teach a bully/how to be humble”, the Librarian who “opened one single door/yet he/led us down/pathways/we never/could ever/have traveled before.” Each double-page spread has a lot of offer, to linger with.

--Do you have a special memory you’d like to share about a teacher or staff member from your own school days?

It was my eighth-grade teacher, Mrs. Ethel Kite McLaughlin, who saw something in the mixed-up child I was due to growing up in a dysfunctional family. She was the one who turned my life around. Being with her in a self-contained classroom environment for a year convinced me that I, too, would become a teacher…like her. And I did! Without her guidance I don’t know where life would have taken me. One teacher. One voice. As Joan Bransfield Graham writes in “Teacher” – “You stretch my world much wider…I feel I, too, can fly.” Mrs. McLaughlin did indeed stretch my world. Oh, how she helped me to fly!

--I think most would agree you absolutely SOAR. Thank you so much for joining us today!

Thank you, Robyn, for your forever poetry enthusiasm! Hugs.


Other familiar Poetry Friday faces with work in this collection include Matt Forrest Essenwine, Michele Krueger, , Irene Latham, Charles Ghigna, Renée LaTulippe, and Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. And other familiar POETRY faces include Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Ann Whitford Paul, J. Patrick Lewis, Joan Bransfield Graham, Alma Flor Ada, and Darren Sardelli. (So honored to share book pages with these fine poet-folk!)

But wait – there’s MORE. Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press will send a copy of SCHOOL PEOPLE to a lucky reader! Just leave a comment below by Wed., Feb. 21, and you’ll be entered in the drawing. (Be sure the hidden email associated with your comment is a good way to contact you later for a snail mail address, just in case today’s your lucky day.) I’ll be out of pocket next Friday, but back to announce the randomly-selected winner on Friday, Feb. 23.

Sally Murphy has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week – hop, skip, or jump on over (under?) to beautiful Australia for more poetry surprises.
 Read More 
37 Comments
Post a comment

Poetry Friday - POEMS ARE TEACHERS author Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, and a Giveaway!



As I pack up for a week of school visits in the Atlanta area next week, I am SO excited to be tucking in a brand-new, soul-enriching resource, POEMS ARE TEACHERS – How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres, HOT off the press this week from Heinemann. It is the result of the passion, creativity and smarts of our own Amy Ludwig VanDerwater of The Poem Farm. A graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University, and a former 5th grade teacher, Amy is the author of picture books, professional works, and lots and lots of poems!

Each section of POEMS ARE TEACHERS includes a poem by a contemporary adult poet and two poems by students (grades 2 through 8). These are models exemplifying six topics: finding ideas, choosing perspective and point of view, structuring texts, playing with language, crafting beginnings and endings, and choosing titles. Of course, the poems are so rich that teachers and students will find cross-over examples of all kinds of techniques, leading to lively classroom discussions. And the book’s clear organization makes it easy to jump in and out according to specific objectives.

The quality of the poems by adults is a little breathtaking, with names you will surely recognize, including some familiar Poetry Friday contributors. I have to say, the student poems really choked me up (like “What Ifs” by Alex C., grade 8), or made me break out into helpless laughter (such as “A Bacteria Tragedy” by George M., grade 3). These and the other poems by young writers are honest and surprising and fully felt – terrific examples to share in any classroom. (Hats off to the teachers of these young writers.) Each student poem is presented in the author’s own handwriting, making the poetry personal and accessible.

Here’s a sample of a poem by a contemporary adult writer, Kristy Dempsey, in the “Writers Play with Language” section:


Rain Song

Rain taps out a rhythm,
a rapid skipping rhythm
a plitter-plinking, plopping,
hopping, bopping kind of beat.

It starts with just a drizzle,
a syncopated sizzle,
a sound that soon becomes a tune
as raindrops hit the street.

It sets my toes to tapping,
I’m twirling and I’m clapping,
Splashing, dashing, laughing
as I move my dancing feet.

Play the water music,
the thrilling, trilling music!
Spill the notes from every cloud,
DripDrop, PlipPlop. Repeat!


©Kristy Dempsey. All rights reserved. Used with permission. (Thanks for sharing, Kristy!)

Immediately following in “WORDS FROM THE POET,” Kristy says, …To me, all writing is made to be read out loud, to be heard and even performed! When I’m writing, both poetry and prose, you’ll find me tapping my hands or feet, dancing and jumping, and using my mouth and tongue to make sounds – almost like beatboxing – so I can listen to the rhythm of my words.

The book also offers a wonderful foreword by Katherine Bomer, and a heartfelt dedication to Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Ever Amy, the author encourages readers/users of this book to “fall in love first” with texts and poems, and then explore what techniques might be learned from the way those words are put together. The pages of this book are filled with play and with joy – I think lots of teachers will be falling in love! So happy Amy is joining us today for a behind-the-scenes peek.

Welcome, Amy! You are both an award-winning poet and a teacher of writing. How do your own poetic sensibilities inform your teaching?

Because I write and share regularly, I understand the terror associated with writing and sharing. So the more I write, the better I become at approaching young writers with gentleness. I know what it feels like to take a soul-risk, and so I work to listen carefully, to hear what is be most helpful to a writer now, be it encouragement or a tip.

How did the idea for this book come about? What is its own backstory?

Working in the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project office with Lucy Calkins back in the early ‘90s changed my life. During that time as a graduate student, I learned from many brilliant folks including Katie Wood Ray, Carl Anderson, Georgia Heard, and Isoke Nia. I got to carry Katherine Paterson’s backpack and listen in as great minds spoke to groups large and small. I heard gorgeous speeches and watched masterful teachers. Then, several years later, I met Lee Bennett Hopkins, my poetry teacher to whom this book is dedicated. My life changed again as I worked hard to write stronger, leaner poems. This book is a marriage of those two wonderful parts of my learning life.

No two students are the same, of course, but do you find students connect to poetry in a different way than they connect to other genres? (As readers and/or as writers.)

Poetry frees us. Many children and adults discover our beliefs and our voices through poems. Again and again, teachers share with me stories of students who did not connect - who even struggled - with other genres. But with poetry...their voices sang with rhythm, metaphor, and deep connection. Children know that poems are full of love.

What is an example of a bridge students can cross between poetry and fiction or nonfiction?

In poetry, we quickly see how repetition can tie stanzas and lines together. We speak often about repeating words and lines and sounds when we read poems. Yet we find repetition threading through narrative and information and opinion texts too: the recurring image, the last line echoing a first line, the surprising yet perfect alliterative phrase. Standing just on one page, a poem can illuminate all kinds of writing techniques. And once we understand, we can bring these techniques with us; we can welcome them to seep into our prose.

You’ve had lots of experience writing poetry and educational texts. What were some of the delights and challenges of being an anthologist of sorts, working with so many different poets, teachers and students?

It was a gift! To be in touch with so many fabulous poets of all ages and so many wise teachers...this whole thing was a gift for me. But difficult, as I am a disorganized person. And difficult, too, because I have read and admire mountains of professional books. I was scared to do this - What if it didn’t work out? Aside from that, the hardest part was knowing when to stop. How many poems? How many explorations? How many words for each? For there’s no end to the possibility. Fortunately, there was a deadline. My amazing editor, Katie Wood Ray, and everyone at Heinemann was marvelous, making extra space and bigger pages to fit so much goodness from so many talented people. POEMS ARE TEACHERS is: one third poetry anthology, one third professional book, and one third celebration of student writing. I can’t believe it’s out in the world.

Thank you, my friend Robyn, for having me at your place today. I am so happy to be able to share your clever poem “Word Wanted” in this new book...and now I think I’ll go celebrate by shopping at artsyletters!


[She really did, and she insisted on keeping that in there. Thank you, Amy!]

Here’s my poem; I’m beyond grateful to have it included in this treasure of a book:


Word Wanted

POEM seeking just the right word.
Must dazzle when written, spoken or heard.

Slight words, trite words need not apply.
Precise and concise words, give us a try.

Regardless of your part of speech,
a noteworthy job could be within reach.

Endowed with sound second to none?
Potential for growth, if you are the one.



©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.


But wait – there’s more! Heinemann has kindly offered to send a copy of POEMS ARE TEACHERS to one lucky reader of this post! Please leave a comment below by Tuesday, Oct. 31 (Boo!), and I’ll announce the random winner on that Poetry Friday. Many thanks to Heinemann, and bouquets of gratitude to Amy for visiting with us today.

Now, please enjoy ALL the instructive poetry this week over at A Day in the Life, where Teacher/Reader/Writer Leigh Ann has the Poetry Friday Roundup! (Thanks for hosting, Leigh Ann.)
 Read More 
41 Comments
Post a comment

Poetry Friday - Book Giveaway! WRITE LIKE ISSA by David G. Lanoue


Happy Summer-ing, Poetry Lovers (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway)!

Are you a haiku fan, or would you like to learn more about how to write – and/or teach – haiku? I have the PERFECT book, hot off the press and not even “formally” released yet, for you to tuck into your beach bag.

It’s Write Like Issa by one of my favorite champions of haiku, Dr. David G. Lanoue. (You’ve met David here before. Poet, author, and internationally recognized Issa scholar, he’s been the RosaMary Professor of English at Xavier University of Louisiana since 1981 and recently served three terms as president of the Haiku Society of America . Learn more about David at his rich website, haikuguy.com . For more about Issa, click here, and to search through an archive of more than 10,000 of Issa’s haiku translated by David, click here.)

Now for a little gushing about this new book. Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) is beloved around the world, partly because he’s, well, so much like us. Fellow haiku masters Bashō (1644-94) and Buson (1716-1784) have lifetimes of wisdom to teach, of course. But Issa, whose personal history included much hardship, loss, and tragedy, captivates us with his compassionate, down-to-earth poetry, which also still somehow conveys joy and humor.

In a little more than 100 pages, Write Like Issa offers the reader six lessons highlighting Issa’s approach to haiku, in easy-to-navigate chapters. Issa’s own poems serve as guides, but so do poems by contemporary poets – 57 of them – who have either participated in David’s “Write Like Issa” workshops in recent years, or whose writings exemplify an Issa-like sensibility.

Here are a couple of examples from Lesson 3 – “COMIC VISION. COSMIC JOKES”:


baby grass–
the stylish woman leaves
her butt print


Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

The author writes:

…the woman, we can imagine, is young, attractive, elaborately coiffed, and wrapped in a brightly patterned kimono of the latest style. The two images exude freshness and beauty, but surprisingly, when the pretty lady rises from where she has been sitting, she leaves an imprint of crushed grass. The “delicate” woman reveals herself to be, in fact, a gargantuan smasher of grass blades, viewed from the grass’s perspective….”

One of the contemporary poems offered to illustrate this approach is this one:

dinner time–
the old cat regains
his hearing


©Stanford M. Forrester. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.

David writes,

Poets who follow [Issa’s] lead find their own revelations of odd concatenations: a “deaf” cat that miraculously hears the call to dinner, [and other examples]… .

What’s a concatenation, you ask? I looked it up. “Concatonate,” which means “to link together in a series or chain,” was actually Merriam Webster’s “Word of the Day” on May 27. Here’s a short podcast explaining it.

(And if you can’t get enough cat haiku, check out our own Diane Mayr’s new series for summer launched last Friday.)

I’m honored to have a poem included in Write Like Issa, one of the most personal poems I’ve written. It appears at the end of Lesson 4 – “BOLD SUBJECTIVITY – THE ‘I’ HAS IT:

robin’s egg blue
how my father would have loved
my son


©Robyn Hood Black; originally published in Acorn 29 (Fall 2012).

If you’re serious about haiku, I heartily recommend reading as widely as you can in scholarly anthologies and books and journals to understand the history of English-language haiku and to inspire your own writing. BUT - whether or not that is your cup of tea, you can also start RIGHT HERE with this very accessible, hands-on, how-to volume full of insights and mentor poems to get you going.

If you’re a teacher, just a few enjoyable sittings will yield a greater understanding of haiku as you introduce it in the classroom, whether in an elementary school or a university. [Note – Some lessons explore Issa’s acceptance of all aspects of human and animal life – “potty humor” and lovemaking and flatulence not excepted! These discussions here, and in workshops I’ve taken with David, are actually helping me be a bit less uptight; in case you are on the somewhat reserved side like I am(?), I thought I’d pass along.]

By the way, have you had your Issa today? You can go to Yahoo.com (Groups) and subscribe to the DailyIssa Yahoo Group to have a randomly selected haiku, translated by David, appear in your inbox every day. (This is always the first email I open!) You can also follow @issa_haiku on Twitter .

In a note with one of this week’s poems, David writes:

Part of Issa's genius is his ability to imagine the perspective of fellow creatures.

In Write Like Issa, this idea comes to life in poem after poem, whether ‘fellow creatures’ are human or non-human. I dare you to reach the end of the book without trying out your own pen, writing like Issa to capture some honest moment experienced with sensitivity and compassion, or subtle humor, or delight.

Bu wait – there’s more! I love this book so much I bought an extra copy to give away in a random drawing. Just leave a comment below, and you’re entered! Make sure it’s connected to a valid email address (not published), so I can track you down for your real-world address.

[UPDATE: Just realized I never gave a "deadline" for adding a comment to enter the drawing. Let's say Wednesday, June 28, and I'll announce on Poetry Friday the 30th.]

Can’t wait? I understand. Order here at CreateSpace or here on Amazon, where an e-book is also available.

For more great poetry of all kinds today, pay a visit to the ever-curious Carol at Carol’s Corner for this week’s Roundup.  Read More 
37 Comments
Post a comment

Poetry Friday - Teaching Poetry!

Happy Poetry Friday!

Many of you are at NCTE in Atlanta - what a wonderful weekend of poetry is planned in many of those sessions! Do report back.

I'm on the road too, just slightly north of that, in the North Georgia mountains. On Friday, I'll be helping daughter Morgan lead a small group of young poets (2nd and 3rd grade) at her school. We'll be playing with found poems, and I can't wait to see what they come up with.

I love sharing any kind of poetry with students. This week over at The Haiku Foundation, I'm honored to have a guest post about teaching haiku to Morgan's third graders last spring in Greenville, SC. Click here for that.

If you've been watching the news, you know the Southern mountains have been plagued with wildfires in recent weeks. Our youngest, a college senior near the Georgia-North Carolina border, started sending us pictures of smoke and haze a couple of weeks ago. (We plan to see him too this weekend, as he's on his college's homecoming court!) And though I wouldn't relish driving in rain, I do hope they get rain, and soon.

I'll close today with a recent haiku of mine, written when afternoon showers prevailed here on the Lowcountry coast:



summer storm
pavement steam rises
to meet rain



©Robyn Hood Black
Acorn, No. 37, Fall 2016


Whether you're hanging out with other poetry-loving teachers or savoring Poetry Friday in some quiet corner, thanks for coming by, and be sure to follow the trail at Friendly Fairy Tales, where Beautiful Brenda has our Roundup this week.  Read More 

17 Comments
Post a comment

Poetry Friday - Eletelephony and Poetry on the Road




Brrrrriiinggggg. Brrrrriiinggggg.

Hello? -- Oh! An elephant from my childhood is calling. Perhaps you knew him, too?

He's the hapless pachyderm who got all wrapped up in a phone call in Laura Elizabeth Richards's "Eletelephony." Raise your hand if you remember when telephones had actual cords....

This poetic companion is going to join me Saturday in Augusta, where I'll be doing a children's poetry presentation at the Georgia Literary Festival. (Fingers crossed - it's outside, and there's a 90 percent chance of rain!) I'm looking forward to driving over with my author buddy Kami Kinard and squeezing in a visit with an Augusta friend, too. We lived there for nine years while my hubby was in med school and residency; both our babies were born there.

I look forward to sharing lots of poetry with whoever shows up - especially some found poems from THE ARROW FINDS ITS MARK (Georgia Heard, ed., Roaring Brook) and several from THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY series (Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, eds., Pomelo Books).

But back to "Eletelephony" - did you know that Laura Elizabeth Richards (1850-1943), in addition to writing 90 books (!) and many children's poems, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1917 for co-authoring a biography of her mother, Julia Ward Howe, writer of the words to The Battle Hymn of the Republic? Her father, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, was an abolitionist and founded the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind. Laura E. Richards left a rich and varied body of literary works.

I didn't know any of that when, as a young child, I first read "Eletelephony." I just know that this poem tickled my fancy and helped open the door for a lifelong love of wordplay, as I'm sure it did for lots of folks throughout the decades. Enjoy!


Eletelephony

by Laura Elizabeth Richards

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I’ve got it right.)
Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I’d better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)


For more fancy-tickling poetry today, please visit the lovely Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat. for this week's Roundup. [And apologies for being a bit out of the loop lately; last week it was my privilege to share poetry and all kinds of writing with about 2,000 students in and around Cobb County as part of Cobb EMC's Literacy Week. I look forward to getting back home Saturday night and staying put for a while, at least until the holidays!] Read More 
21 Comments
Post a comment

Poetry Friday: Micro Found Poetry for the Holidays... Kid-Friendly Project!

©Robyn Hood Black

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

One of the top items on my "Thankful" list is our Poetry Friday community - old hats, new faces, the spontaneous community of what must the world's most wonderful folks. Thank you for your friendship and your ever-inspiring posts.

My post today is about wee things. Just when I think I can't downsize any more....

Here I was this week in my studio, trying to concoct a few Christmas ornaments to make available in my Etsy shop this weekend. I've searched high and low for any kind of ornament frames similar to the great ones I found last year for the miniature version of my "Writer Mouse" print. But, alas, no luck.

So I've been experimenting with some smaller vintage ones that I found online. I hand-cropped my wee literary mousie and put it in the front of some gold-tone tiny frame ornaments I snatched up. These are only about 2 inches by 1 1/2 inch. The back had its own clear plastic covering for an image as well. What to do?

Eureka! I've also been playing around with my beloved old books this week, planning mixed media/found poem/collage pieces now that I'm on the mend. Why not conjure up wee little holiday found poems from these very old texts to share? A tiny piece of history to hang on the tree! [My first children's poems published in a book were in Georgia Heard's THE ARROW FINDS ITS MARK (Roaring Brook), and I've been addicted ever since. Kids love creating found poems, too - more on that in a sec.]

Here are the highlighted texts, in case they are difficult to read in the pictures:

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

      merry making
telling of stories

carries us back


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

reindeer
     travel upwards


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

practice
under the mistletoe


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



[From LITTLE FOLKS - A Magazine for the Very Young, London, Paris & New York, Cassell & Company, LTD., bound collections from 1877 and 1884.]

Not really sure you'd call these poetry, maybe micro found poems? (If that's a thing, I couldn't find it online, though you can read plenty about "found poems" and "micropoetry.")

Now, Teachers - and Parents about to have kids home over the next break - students seem less intimidated about "writing poetry" if they have something in front of them as inspiration instead of a blank page. I kid you not, I've even seen "cool" eighth grade boys eager to come to the front of the room and share a found poem they created together during a workshop. [That is a beautiful thing!]

Maybe you could try an ornament activity like this as a fun little project? Students would not need to cut up 100-year-old books, of course. They could start with a die-cut blank cardstock circle, or cut their own "base" in a shape they like, and punch a hole in the top for a piece of ribbon. Are there any kid-friendly magazines or other text goldmines in the recycling pile? All the poet-artists need now are some scissors, glue, and imagination! One option for them (or you) is to simply cut out some words from within the text and glue these onto their cardstock base.

If you'd like to try the "highlighted" effect I show above, the top of a sticky note (the sticky part) is your best friend. (I borrowed this technique from the terrific Seth Apter.) Just cut a text-high strip to cover the words you want featured. Paint over the rest of the text (a light "wash" - acrylic or watercolor paint thinned with water - works great, to let some of the other words peek through just a bit). Before the paint is completely dry, gently lift away the sticky note strip(s). Tweezers might help here.

When the found-poem ornament is dry, a coat of acrylic gloss will give it a sheen and add some protection. That's not necessary, though, if supplies are limited or you've got very young artist/poets!

***All you talented teachers, poets, artists, parents - please add your two cents' in the comments if you've got thoughts to share on this project!***

For poetry of all shapes and sizes, and a thoughtful post from our host today, please visit Carol's Corner.

 Read More 
20 Comments
Post a comment

The POETRY FRIDAY ROUNDUP is here! And so are Sylvia Vardell, Janet Wong, and the PFA for Science!

The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science with editors Janet Wong (l) and Sylvia Vardell (r)


Happy Poetry Month, and HAPPY POETRY FRIDAY! Please leave links in the comments with a short description of your post, and I’ll round them up throughout the day.

Today at Life on the Deckle Edge, I’m thrilled to welcome two very special guests. You’ve heard me gush about their newest compilation, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science. [I’m thrilled to be among several Poetry Friday regulars who are contributors.]

Let’s go behind the scenes with the Poetry Friday Anthology creators and editors, Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.

First, introductions:

Sylvia Vardell is Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University. She has published extensively, including five books on literature for children and over 100 journal articles. Her current work focuses on poetry for children, including a regular blog, PoetryforChildren. She is also the regular “Everyday Poetry” columnist for ALA’s BookLinks magazine.

Janet Wong is a graduate of Yale Law School and former lawyer who switched careers and became a children’s poet. Her dramatic career change has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN’s Paula Zahn Show, and Radical Sabbatical. She is the author of 30 books for children and teens on a wide variety of subjects, including writing and revision, dumpster diving, diversity, and chess.

Together, Vardell and Wong are the creative forces behind The Poetry Friday Anthology series, launched last year and already adopted by hundreds of school districts nationwide.

Now, some questions for each. Welcome, Ladies! Sylvia first, and then Janet.

I love the “Poetry and Science” introduction to this collection. How do these two disciplines complement one another?

SV: Poetry and science are like first cousins that finish each other’s sentences. They both rely on the key elements of language and observation. Both poets and scientists pay close attention and search for specificity in communicating what they see, smell, hear, touch, and taste. Scientists want to capture exactly the moment so that other scientists can trust their findings and replicate their methods or results. Poets want to capture the moment so that readers (or listeners) can see what they see or feel what they feel.

Can you tell us a little bit about the “Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and how these poems address those?

SV: The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a new “framework” for learning and teaching science that moves instruction toward depth of understanding, rather than breadth of coverage. In the past, science teaching has often been “a mile wide, but an inch deep.” The NGSS framework addresses the usual disciplines of the physical sciences, life sciences, earth and space sciences, as well as engineering, technology and science applications. Plus, they focus on best practices (like asking questions, defining problems, using models, analyzing data, etc.) as well as what they call “crosscutting concepts” like cause-effect, patterns, systems, etc.

We used this framework to identify and develop our weekly science themes, for selecting (and commissioning) poems on a wide range of topics, and for organizing the 200+ poems in a searchable fashion. We also provide grids to show which poems relate to which NGSS discipline or NGSS practice in case teachers need to document their coverage of the Standards.


How tricky was it to keep both science standards and Common Core language arts standards in mind as you all selected poems?

SV: Not at all. We chose and arranged poems based on their science focus, but all the poems come ready-made for the Common Core because they’re each full of beautiful language, interesting structures, literary devices, etc. That part is easy! In the “Take 5!” activities that accompany each poem, we focus on highlighting the SCIENCE content of the poem as our focus on a curricular skill. But for each poem we also provide guidance in how to read it aloud effectively, invite students to read it aloud together, discuss the poem, and connect it with other poems, works of nonfiction, and websites—all essential elements of the Common Core (and curricular standards in every school district).

Sounds like your students have embraced this new compilation. [Click HERE to check out some of their recent poem-movie videos!] How do you envision these future teachers, and teachers across the country, using this resource in classrooms?

SV: We hope we have designed the book to be as user-friendly as possible and for a variety of approaches, too. Teachers can simply follow the “Take 5!” activities and introduce a poem that happens to be science-themed every Friday (or any day). Or they can use the index to search for a particular poem that fits a science lesson they have planned. Or they can simply share the poems for the fun of the language and the science content will be “gravy”—an extra bonus.

Did you encounter any particular challenges/celebrations putting together this large collection designed to serve another content area?

SV: My challenges came with creating the “Take 5!” activities and getting the science part correct. I did a lot of reading of science materials and teacher resources to get it right and attended NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) conferences to get familiar with the latest trends. I consulted a ton of web and blog resources for science teaching and we reference many of these within the “Take 5!” activities. In addition, we had science experts (science teachers, science writers, and university science professors) review all our content and give feedback. I learned a lot!

Tell us about the new grade-level student editions.

SV: I love these! We’ve added illustrations and removed the “Take 5!” activities so that the poems pop and have an added visual element too. We also added extra poems to each book, so that kids would have even more to ponder. Plus, each student edition has its own glossary and subject index.

I think kids will love these, too! Thanks so much, Sylvia. Now let’s welcome Janet.

When you all first began working on the Poetry Friday Anthologies, did you envision collections devoted to other subjects, or how did the idea come up?

JW: Two years ago we started working on The Poetry Friday Anthology (the "PFA") because teachers and librarians asked us to help make it easier to teach poetry for K-5. The heart of each book is Sylvia's "Take 5!" mini-lesson for each poem--a lesson that gives 5 consistent steps for sharing a poem in 5 minutes. After the first book came out, there was a flood of requests from middle school teachers, so we did The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School.

K-5 teachers started asking for an additional PFA at about the same time we started seeing tons of articles mentioning STEM and STEAM--resulting in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science. While we were compiling the Teacher's Edition of our science book, teachers then stepped up their requests for Student Editions (so all students could follow along in a book that doesn't show the "Take 5!" mini-lesson); because of that, we made Student Editions for each grade level (K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). As it turns out, the Summer Reading theme across the country this summer is science--great timing for kids (and us)!


More than 200 poems by 78 poets – Whew! What were some of the challenges in matching poetry submissions to the subject areas?

JW: The biggest challenge was that many poets wrote about the same (or very similar) topics, forcing us to make hard choices and omit some terrific poems. And very few (or no) poets wrote about some of the necessary but "less interesting" topics that we needed covered (per the NGSS and various state standards). Also, in some cases we wanted a few specific science "buzzwords" but didn't have a poem that did that, so I ended up filling some gaps.

You are not only an editor, but a contributing poet as well. Was there a topic you most enjoyed researching or writing about?

JW: My favorites are our Kitchen Science poems--your poem about reading nutritional labels, Robyn, Mary Quattlebaum's pancake science poem, poems about growing food, and my poem about ice cubes in a drink that is filled to the brink (which I conducted as an investigation while writing the poem). Kids will really enjoy Charles Waters's poem about the (disgusting) topic of mold!

Absolutely! As a poet, how do you think poetry can support learning across the curriculum?

JW: Poems are short. Easy to read, easy to talk about, easy to remember.

”A poem should first be enjoyed for its own sake” – that’s the first key in each of the Poetry Friday Anthologies. Any qualities among these science poems you particularly savor?

JW: Separate two groups of kids. With the first group, take a science paragraph that describes an unfamiliar subject, using unfamiliar vocabulary. With the second group, take a science poem. I'll guarantee that the Group 2 kids will wonder more--coming up with questions, guessing at the new vocabulary, WANTING to learn. A perfect experiment along these lines would be with kindergartners and Joy Acey's "Capillary Action" poem--one of my favorites because it really makes the science description visual and simple to understand.

The poems in the student books are accompanied by black and white line art illustrations by Frank Ramspott and Bug Wang. How does the art enhance these editions?

JW: Drawings really take the Student Editions to a whole new level, I think. You can talk for an hour about a drought, but seeing the parched, cracked ground sends the message home in one second.

What is the best way to order the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science?

JW: Amazon is the easiest way; all our books pop up when you search "Poetry Friday Anthology." If you have favorite booksellers who would like to carry the book, please tell them to contact us (info@pomelobooks.com) and we'll send them ordering info. And schools that need to use purchase orders can contact us for a list of terrific vendors who accept them.

Terrific. Now, I have to share your original poem you mentioned, which was an experiment as well as a writing project!

The Brink

by Janet Wong

I fill a cup to the top
with crushed ice,
pour juice to the brim,
neat and nice.
Mom thinks
it’s on the brink of disaster.
When I take just a sip,
she shouts, “Drink faster!”
When the ice melts,
will my drink spill out?
I think there’s nothing
to worry about
but I wait and I watch.
The ice seems to shrink.
PHEW! Okay –
time to drink!


©Janet Wong. All rights reserved.

Thanks again to both of you. Now, let's all grab a nice glass of pomelo juice and enjoy this week’s great poetry:

Starting us off with a big P for Poetry is Donna, whose A to Z Challenge continues at Mainely Write. Up today: two poems starring the letter P!

Linda at Teacher Dance offers a poem about being alone, letting in the quiet in our very noisy world.

At Gathering Books, Myra brings us a special message in keeping with Good Friday - Archbishop Desmond Tutu's Let there be Light, a beautiful picture book in verse illustrated by Nancy Tillman. Note -
I am having trouble accessing the post from the link; Will try again later! Not sure if it's just my computer.


Have you ever written a tritina? I haven't either, but Jone's gorgeous original poem today at Deo Writer will make you want to try, and to savor spring as well.

An Earth Day List Poem will make you think at JoAnn's blog today. Pssst- she's got a book give-away, too!

Jone continues to share student poetry this month at Check It Out - I dare you to read today's poems written by third graders and not smile.

Oh, you have GOT to go see what Tabatha Yeatts's animals are up to in Michelle's Haiku Garden at Today's Little Ditty today. Well, the pets are in Tabatha's kitchen, but they're all in Michelle's garden. You'll see what I mean.

[Also, big thanks to Michelle for reminding us that yesterday was National Haiku Poetry Day. I had intended to do a special post, but with hosting the Progresssive Poem on Wednesday and PF today and "hosting" my youngest who flew in for the weekend late yesterday, um - it didn't happen. Next year!]

If you haven't seen Charles's new Poetry Time Blog, today's a great day to visit - and drop by, even if you have! He also has a poetic case of animal-in-the-kitchen antics. (Hmmm. I'm sensing a theme today....)

Catherine brings us a wonderful & thoughtful poem by Louise Erdrich, "Advice to Myself", at Reading to the Core. (Reading it makes me feel a little better about my housekeeping...!)

Lace up those hiking boots and join Mary Lee at A Year of Reading, where Machu Picchu is on tap for her "Our Wonderful World" series.

Poetry Friday folks get around! At Tabatha's The Opposite of Indifference today, poems by Laura Shovan and Linda Baie have us pondering rabbits and hobbits as part of Tabatha's "The Directory of Imaginary Poems" series!

Speaking of Laura, her own series about Source Poems continues with another Poetry Friday frequent flyer, Janet Fagal. Janet shares the classic, "The Lake Isle of "Innisfree" today at Author Amok.

If you know Buffy Silverman, you know she's always up for a challenge. Today at Buffy's Blog, she has three original poems in answer to two online challenges. (What exactly is a homophoem? Ask J. Patrick Lewis, or, just click over to see!)

Irene, our fearless leader of the Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem (now in its third year), adds her own luminescent line today at Live Your Poem. She also continues her series of favorite quotes by favorite poets with a gem from Ellen Hopkins.

Over at A Teaching Life, Tara has a breathtaking poem by Julia Kasdorf - a perfect send-off for students about to take flight.

Matt offers up a found poem about his two vocations at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme. Inspiration from voiceover websites? Sure!

Ed shares the split-decision summary results from this year's March Madness Poetry tournament at Think Kid, Think and invites your thoughts. He'll continue the discussion and share more data next week.

Despite a recent bout with the flu, Laura brings us two contributions today. First, at Writing the World for Kids, she continues her original riddle-ku series. Second, she shares one of her favorite poems, Rudyard Kipling's "Seal Lullaby," as a new member of the fabulous Teaching Authors! (Go, Laura - and feel better!)

Diane is here with her more-than-one contribution as well. (How does she do it?!) Well, at Random Noodling, she's not here so much as in her imaginary place, hosted by Tabatha earlier in the week, with "Máel Dúin, Seafarer of the Atlantic". And she's pondering earlier poems created for other online challenges in 2009, "Cartographer's Revenge" and "Echineis." How interesting to see all of these together!

Diane's Kurious Kitty features Paul Scott Mowrer, New Hampshire Poet Laureate (1968 - 1971), and a very delightful toad poem.

Kurious Kitty's Kwotes has a short Paul Scott Mowrer poem I am going to print out and enjoy again and again. And again!

Carol is taking on Mary Lee's Machu Picchu challenge over at Carol's Corner, with help from one of my favorite animals - the alpaca! (Carol had me entranced in just the first three lines...)

Liz brings us a celebration of yesterday's National Haiku Day (Yay!) with three spring haiku and a peek into her inspirations.

And while you're enjoying a Japanese sensibility, visit Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for some fun, foxy combinations of origami and poetry created by her youngest students.

Amy's always combining some of my most-favorite things - this month she's got poetry and thrift stores! And, today, a haiku, about a painting she found that's just perfect for her! :0) Trek on over to The Poem Farm and enjoy these hidden treasures.

More wonderful blog hopping going on for Poetry Month. Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe shares a link to Tricia's post from yesterday (which pairs Heidi's amazing PUMPKIN BUTTERFLY with Grace Lin's OUR SEASONS.) This is all part of:

Tricia's month-long series which celebrates poetry and science! Today at The Miss Rumphius Effect, enjoy a science/poetry pairing featuring animal collectives. Tricia's selection to share for Poetry Friday is Amy Lowell's poem, "By Messenger" (one of my all-time favorites, too!) Tricia's Science/Poetry series will wrap up April 30 with the POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR SCIENCE, so check back there for more with Janet Wong and with::

Sylvia Vardell, whose Poetry for Children post today features a poem-movie with terrific poem by the terrific Kristy Dempsey. Says Sylvia, "Today, it's dinosaurs and lab safety-- a fun and crazy combination!"

Amy at Hope is the Word is in today with Lin Oliver's new poetry book for the youngest listeners, Little Poems for Tiny Ears, illustrated by Tomie dePaola.

For Good Friday, Ruth brings us a hauntingly thoughtful song, "The Silence of God" by Andrew Peterson, at There is no Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town.

A warm Poetry Friday Welcome to writer/editor Sarah Monsma, joining the Roundup for the first time with a lovely original poem, "You can take a girl out of the woods..." . Thanks for joining in!

Continuing our science theme today, Emily Jiang brings us this week's lunar eclipse and the moon - considered in “Night Thoughts” by Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai, in an original haiku - :0) - and in her poem, "The Face of my Ruan" - from her brand-new (gorgous-looking) picture book from Shen Books, Summoning the Phoenix - Poems and Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments, illustrated by April Chu.

It's great to see Elaine today, in with a perfectly delicious poem for this Easter weekend, "Marshmallow Chicks," peeping over at Wild Rose Reader.

On the solemn consideration of Good Friday, Violet offers an unusual poem after Mark 15, "Evil’s Party (guest list)."

Literary Event Invitation: Carol Varsalona writes in about a new project for National Poetry Month: "I am sponsoring a Literary Event, April Awakenings, on my blog. Please see http://beyondliteracylink.blogspot.com/2014/04/poetry-alive-during-national-poetry.html for the invitation (scroll to the bottom). The first collection for March can be seen at http://beyondliteracylink.blogspot.com/2014/03/reflect-with-me-bringing-together.html There are other blogs about the invitation and the power of poetry on my blog: www.beyondliteracylink.blogspot.com." Thanks, Carol!

[Break Time! The traveling college student is up and about, probably searching for food; the other one's checking in by phone before driving tomorrow... Will be back after lunch.]

Hello again! Joy chimes in with a breezy pantoum for April (and thoughts about the form) at Poetry for Kids Joy.

Tricia is circling around again with another wonderful entry for today - book spine poems atThe Miss Rumphius Effect. They'll make you long for summer days, and nights!

She's not the only one with more than one thing to say today. The always-inspiring Julie has 1.) a heads' up that tomorrow, she pens the next line in our Progressive Poem, 2.) a link to her delightful and diverting Proust post at Books Around the Table - (bon voyage!) and 3.) a link to some of her (amazing) recently published poems in Numero Cinq. Links for all over at The Drift Record, so drift on over!

From Little Willow today, Mary Oliver's life-affirming "The Messenger" at Bilungsroman.

I don't know about you all, but the breadth of poetic offerings today takes my breath away. So many wonderful posts!

And just in time for afternoon tea, Cathy joins us with a colorful celebration of crayons at Merely Day by Day - continuing her series of original poems about objects.

Evening arrivals:

April shares a secret: she's having a "metaphoraffair!" Check out her metaphor-a-day posts at aprilwayland.com.

Over at Teach Mentor Texts, Jen has a colorful new rhyming alphabet book by Dallas Clayton, A is for Awesome. She also has some great insights about keeping a positive attitude, whether you're still a kid or all grown up!
 Read More 
52 Comments
Post a comment

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

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!

 Read More 
22 Comments
Post a comment

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

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.
 Read More 
19 Comments
Post a comment