Friday, December 7, 2018


Some of us in the Kidlitosphere, in the Twitterverse, are spending December haikuing, just as in 2016, led and inspired by Mary Lee, we haikued for healing. (I now regret attempting to use haiku as a verb.)

This year our friend Catherine suggested modifying our daily writing practice to #haikuforhope, and that is certainly resonating with me...although it does appear that when you're trying to produce a pithy moment each and every day, just about any topic comes to seem like a commentary on hope, if not actually hopeful.

Here are mine so far this week:

Dec. 1

last red branch exhales
catching up in slow motion
refusing to rush

Dec. 2

Sunday morning Spirit Play
we all watch as fog lifts
in a water glass

                                                           Dec. 3

                                                           nothing can pierce this
                                                           afternoon dark
                                                           not even 12-foot Rudolph

Dec. 4

seven-year-olds sit
in silent rows, testing
cold winds test the glass

Dec. 5

unwinding the light
tightening the twinkle
window candles spark

Dec. 6

"we are in trouble"
small hands mold
plasticene landscapes


Dec. 7

Tuesday despair
Friday giddy energy
estrogenic seasons

Participants in this December tradition are Catherine Flynn @flynn_catherine, @MaryLeeHahn, @MargaretGSimon, Linda Mitchell @LindaMitch2783, Molly Hogan @mbhmaine, Julieanne Harmatz @jarhartz, Jone MacCulloch @JoneMac53, Jean LaTourette @mz_lat,  Linda Baie @LBaie, Carol Varsalona @cvarsalona, and @mandyrobek....and probably more.  Join us!

And join the Poetry Friday round-up (what is that? go HERE to find out) hosted by Liz Steinglass today, where there's all kinds of merry and bright.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

out of sync

is how I seem to be this shortest fall ever, with NCTE climbing in over parent conferences, with winter sweeping into mid-November, with December jingling in early with Hanukkah on its heels, with the hottest, the wettest, the driest, the coldest ever.

In rebending a few crucial spines of myself, I'm off the clock, off-kilter, out of step, outta sight and out of mind and hardly ever sure what I want to be doing with my time.

So now it's Saturday evening and I find I did want to post for Poetry Friday, although early on Friday instead of composing my post I was doing something else poetic and secret.  Maybe it's not too late.  Maybe it's never too late.

It's definitely not too late to reconnect with a former student.  Tyler hasn't been gone long; he's in 3rd grade now and I had him last year. I got the most welcome email from his mom, sharing this, "proudly described as his first rhyming poem."

I love this for so many reasons.  This poem is Tyler through and through, the Tyler I knew, short and  full of power!  But also, the craft: the tantalizing switch-up of "hunters taking wing" and "rulers of the air" for the title, the collective voice, the mythic feel of the language with the ring of a pledge, a shift in the rhythm at the end lest it become too sing-song and lose its gravity.

And of course I love the evidence that the work and play we did with poetry continues to hold a place in Tyler's world, which is definitely not all due to his year with me in 2nd grade--his mom is a high school English teacher AND the literary magazine sponsor.  But it does feel good that Tyler would want to reach back and share this with me.

And here I am, a day and half late, sharing it with you, Poetry Friday.  Thanks to all who steadfastly make this community happen and do their part to keep it going. Even when any of us step out for a time, we are always welcomed back.  And thanks to Carol at Carol's Corner, for hosting this week!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

live from #NCTE18

Greetings, all, from sunny Houston, to which I escaped so early Thursday morning that I journeyed unscathed by the surprise autumn snowstorm that CLOSED MY SCHOOL DISTRICT, in mid-November, no less!  I'm happy enough to be here at NCTE that I don't mind missing the snow day, but boy--the time spent on sub plans gone unused--THAT really stinks. :)

I was delighted to be presenting again this year as part of a session called Poetry in the Wild. My team included the greatly gifted teacher-poets Mary Lee Hahn and Margaret Simon, plus the greatly gifted poet-authors Irene Latham and Laura Purdie Salas, all well-known to you Poetry Friday regulars.

Our session went swimmingly with an extra surprise from Mary Lee, who introduced us each with a snippet of "wild" music. Here are the slides from my section, entitled "Talk a Mile in Someone Else's Shoes: How Poems for Two Voices Encourage Young Writers to Step Into New Perspectives." You can download this presentation as a PDF by clicking on the front page, and I'm also providing a copy of the "poetry folder" that I use in 2nd grade small group reading over the course of 5-10 days when we're focusing on point of view in the curriculum.

I hope there's something useful there for all you teachers.  Don't forget to be careful about attributions and copyright rules, which you can find here: [2008 Copyright Guidelines]

I'm excited to rejoin the Poetry Friday routine and look forward to all the goodies piling up over at TeacherDance with Linda to host us!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

blog pause: a message from the management

Hello, few but faithful followers!  Hello, intermittent visitors!  Hello, accidental arrivals!

I'm posting today just to inform y'all that I'm going on hiatus for an undetermined length of time (unless doing so turns out to be a big mistake, like last time, in which case I'll consider it a successful experiment instead of a failed one and come back).

Since May, maybe even since December, I've been plunged into a deep dive of memoir, and while it's kicking up a tsunami of writing, both prose and poetry, the work is consuming and often doesn't feel quite appropriate for this Poetry Friday Kidlitosphere space.  Which is not to say that this community wouldn't embrace and support whatever I put up here, but perhaps more that I myself need to be in incognito mode for a while.

So I'll sign off, leaving you with an exhortation to read a book called I Will Be Complete by Glen David Gold--in which, according to one review, I play either a "tedious" or "forgettable" role 😏--and a see-you-later poem. 

Not for Kids

This poem is not for kids
it’s about how the bees sting you
from the inside
it’s about what’s under the bed
invisible almighty
that they are afraid of
this poem is all shiny
on the outside and rotten
on the inside  
oops worm bit off your head
now you can’t think your way
out of the apple
it’s not for kids at all
kids don’t know about pain:
scraped knee, loose tooth,
broken arm, black eye
these are sticks and stones
mere sticks and stones
kids don’t know that words
can always hurt you
isn’t it amazing how the
high-functioning trunk
grows right around
the wire that garottes it
this poem is not for kids
it’s this little light of mine
frantic incandescent
long-lasting flavor of
gingerbread abandonment
the way you can’t get angry
because nothing is wrong

draft ©HM 2018 

The round-up this week is hosted by Carol at Beyond Literacy Link.  Ride over on the last waves of summer to join the party!

Friday, August 31, 2018

"all the world is all of us"

I went back to see whether my first-days-of-school post last year expressed any of the even-keeled matter-of-fact even-slightly-boredness that I'm feeling during this year's preservice week, and the answer surprised me.  At this time last year my blog makes NO MENTION OF THE START OF SCHOOL.  I, who have lived for the excitement and possibility of the new year since, well, 1968, have been rather unmoved by it for two years now.  I'm shocked.

But honestly, this year feels different even than last. This year I'm very aware that the fresh new folders and the fussing over my first-day script and our new schedule's opportunity to be faithful with #PoemADay are all just routine--they're what I've done every year for 30 years.  This year I'm very aware that the big excitement doesn't come until the kids walk in.  The true fresh newness is the living breathing being of the collective class:  how will I welcome each and every child as she or he is, and help them turn that welcome around and beam it on to their classmates? [This little light of mine--I'm gonna let it shine...]

This is not achieved by standing at the copier prepping days' worth of paper, by fancying up the decor, by micromanaging my slot on the library check-out schedule (the one of those three things that I have done this week and which I now see was unnecessary).

Being prepared, creating a comfortable environment, providing for a workable timetable--all these help, but none of them are the real work of a teacher in these days, in this moment.  The real work is, as it has always been, interpersonal, emotional, the work of commitment to the balance of liberty and justice for all in the deep formative experience of 2nd grade, any grade.  That looks different in American classrooms now, is always changing, but has reached a tipping point, as the pundits say.

So here's an appropriate little back-to-school poem, friends.  Labor over this at the weekend, and have a great new year of school.

Declaration of Interdependence | Janet Wong

We hold these truths
to be not-so-self-evident--
but think about them a while
and you might agree:

all men are created equal-
ly a puzzle, made up
of so many parts;
and each of us makes up part

of the greater puzzle
that is our nation.
Lose one piece
and the picture is incomplete.

What happens when
too many pieces,
one by one,
become lost?

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit
of Happiness: let's do our best
to find the pieces that fit together,
to make our picture whole.

from Declaration of Interdependence, presciently 2012
by Janet Wong

Thanks to Robyn over at Life on the Deckle Edge for hosting Poetry Friday today. March on over and see where you fit in the greater puzzle.

Friday, August 17, 2018

sandwich generation
It's 1:52 pm and I'm only just realizing that it's Friday, it's THAT Friday, like every Friday--it's POETRY Friday.  You might think that means that I'm so relaxed and checked out here at the end of my long summer that I've lost track of what day it is, but no...

It's more that I'm having trouble surfacing from my deep dive into the past for this memoir WIP that has taken over my mornings.  It requires a lot of internet research--everything from who narrated the record album versions of Winnie-the-Pooh that I listened to in 1970 to the names of all the books by Marilyn Sachs that I read between 1973 and 1977 to what year Wesleyan Alpha Delta Phi started calling their dance parties "VORTEX: the party that really sucks" to what club I would have danced in in Manhattan,1986 to the what Metro line we were riding in 2007 when Daisy got off and Duncan and I didn't.  (Here's a little present from me to you of a similar age, by the way.)

Funnily, though, not everything I dredge up leads to memory or even memoir.  Some of it leads to poems that I could only write right now, in this moment, at this age.  Like this one--bon appetit!

sandwich generation 

Back when I was just cheese or
lebanon baloney with mustard,
French’s yellow mustard on
Pepperidge Farm white,
a sandwich was nothin' but a sandwich:
light, bright, handy, daily
gift.  The Archway cookie
tucked under one layer of my
folded paper napkin was
the icing on the cake,
so to speak.

That was before we discovered
whole wheat bread and
grainy mustard, before I went
anywhere and sandwiches
became a bit more pleasantly
I was open faced hot turkey
with Thanksgiving gravy,
roasted and basted in the
ancestral kitchen;
I became open-faced cheese
on toast under a British grill.

Now the other shoe has dropped
(there’s a pair of them), the case
is closed, and it’s clear which side
my bread is buttered on: both.
Below me the 19-grain bun, the yeasty glazed donut,
above the gentle weight of Arnold’s Brick Oven White.

Now I’m tuna salad with
finely chopped celery,
not too much mayo,
tuna melt with cheddar if I’m
going for the Best Sandwich
Oscar, pickles for him,
cucumber for her, heaped
between the two slices
of bread.

Now I’m once-a-week
processed packaged smoked
turkey with avocado guacamole
always wishing for some sprouts,
mustard AND mayo, glass  of
milk, chips on the side,
the Saturday sandwich lunch
that I think is my uncomplicated
childhood though I never had that.

Now I'm peanut butter, ground-
nuts full of healthy fat,  ground
shapeless into a paste that
sticks to your ribs, saves lives
and goes with everything from
concord grape jelly to Miracle Whip
to carrots, apples and bacon,
edible at lunch, breakfast,
and in a pinch for dinner.  

Call me creamy until it turns
out I was wrong about that:
everyone likes crunchy better,
the way the solid bits persist,
tickle your teeth.  I spread thin
into all four corners, oozing
when I’m overfilled or when
I’m sliced by the hands
of a clock.

Bread above me,
bread below me,
am I holding it all together?
I’m a hero.

draft ©HM 2018

The round-up today is with Christy over at Wondering and Wandering. Flap on over for some birdy beauty and so much more!

Friday, August 3, 2018

be my next inspiration

Poetry Luck abounds this summer: here visiting friends in London my family was invited to the launch of Be My Next Inspiration, a collaboration designed to support the Young People's Laureate for London project.  It was a small but mighty affair, a pop-up stage in a London-proper narrow lane with a fair crowd and a feature we always appreciate:  civilized consumption of alcohol in a public space.

But wait--go back a second: a Young People's Poet Laureate for a city?  I mean, London is more than just a city, but I can tell you that my locality, large as it is, does not have a poet laureate of any kind, much less one dedicated to being and raising the voices of young people aged 13-25.*  And on this program was not one inspiration, but SIX young poets performing their work and representing both the wide variety of flavors to be found in the capital but also their shared experience of being young, British and susceptible to marginalization.

Here are some ways to enjoy the same poems that we heard on Tuesday night.


The Story We All Know | Caleb Femi

I know I am the unreliable narrator of
this story
but if anyone is to tell it let it be me.
It starts as the wind blows through
the hollow torso of a concrete estate
singing like a clarinet does when bad news
drags its solemn face into a crowd of kids...

This story starts in Barking where they
tuck their wonder
under a pillow as it is too precious to
bring it into the classroom....

This story is a loop of starting,
and kids don't know where
they start and the story ends.

PhilospHer | Rakaya Esime Fetuga

home | Zia Ahmed

running like thought running from thought rattling from the constant battling
broken pieces floating tokens token gestures token jester open sesame ali baba forty
thieves forty grievances nothing to pledge allegiance with trapped in a box...

I highly recommend you watch the rest here on BBC Asian Network.

And here is this year's Young People's Laureate, 24-year-old Momtaza Mehri.  From an article in the Evening Standard:
Mehri is a Somali-Brit who grew up in Kilburn and Birmingham. For her, poetry has never conformed to one particular tradition. “I was raised in a household where there was lots of poetry around me, recited, cassette poetry that my father used to play. A lot of it wasn’t in English but I also really liked the poetry anthology taught at school — so I would go home and research and be like, ‘Oh my God, Sylvia Plath, who is this?’ I was involved in many traditions at the same time.” Moreover, she also spoke four different languages. “It was the kind of household where if you’re getting shouted at by your aunt to come downstairs, in one sentence she will use Somali, Arabic, Italian and English.” 
She immersed herself in a dawning online scene, the poetry that was beginning to be published on Tumblr and LiveJournal, and watching def poetry jams on YouTube. “I was feeding my own obsessions in my own home.”
She remains thrilled by the possibilities of this live, labyrinthine archive, which grows online every day. “It’s allowed people to access worlds they would not necessarily have been exposed to.” Her inspirations include Mourid Barghouti, a Palestinian poet, June Jordan, Amiri Baraka. “And Keats. Always.”
No Name Club | Momtaza Mehri

This event was sponsored by Spread the Word, the parent literary organization of the Young People's Laureate, and by BUREAU Creative Agency, which produced a publication of the evening's work.  View it here.  You should know that the Young People's Laureate for London project is in danger--there is no funding in place for next year's program.  I made my donation here and maybe you will too, to support #diversevoices and #diversebooks in our English-speaking culture.  And of course you can follow all these poets on Twitter!

The round-up today is with Mary Lee at A Year of Reading, where you always get more than a year's worth of reading.

 *However, check it out:  Montgomery County, PENNSYLVANIA, does have a Poet Laureate, and our Maryland's capital Annapolis just instituted a Poet Laureate program, which makes me think that Montgomery County, MD definitely needs one.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

POETRY FRIDAY ROUNDUP & PoFo Summer Poetry Teachers Institute

Welcome to all!  I'm pleased to host this week's Poetry Friday Round-up (go here for full details thanks to Renee LaTulippe if you're new) and to make good on my promise to report from my pretty glorious last week in Chicago at the Summer Poetry Teachers' Institute.  You'll also find links to all the other cool poetry posts around the web down at the bottom.

I can't remember how I discovered this institute, which is offered free of charge and includes accommodation at the conveniently located but very dorm-like dorms of the University of Illinois at Chicago.  There was a short application form to complete back in April, and then I was notified of my acceptance--it was that simple.  It's unclear to me if there were folks who applied and were NOT accepted, but the Institute, which has sections for Elementary, Middle & High School, and Community College teachers, served about 80 people (very unsure of that number) of whom 20 were in my nicely diverse PK-5 group.

If I sound like I'm selling this program, I am.  You'll see from the schedule below how varied the sessions were and how practically useful the outcomes were at a number of levels, and how time was allocated for processing as well as rest, tourism or home life, according to preference!

We began and ended the week all together with Carol Jago, familiar to me from NCTE--a true teacher leader.  There wasn't a lot of difference between the "seminars" and "workshops"--they were all excellent presentations that often included opportunities to write for ourselves or to plan for our classroom practice; there were handouts and modeling, and in several cases, the gift of books!  We all received a book collection from the Poetry Foundation which included an Engle book, The Flying Girl, and Ted Scheu gave each of us a signed copy of his Someday I'll Be a Teacher. 

The range of the presentation content was wide, and if I have any tiny criticism, it was that some presenters seemed unaware that we were not a wide general audience of teachers, but mostly quite devoted to and experienced with poetry--and in addition most of us were poets ourselves.  Thus a couple of the presentations came in at a rather basic level--and still we managed to glean plenty from each of them!  Details from each presentation may be added throughout the day here, but I can identify the single best line of the week:


This came from Beth Sampson, who runs Hands On Stanzas, a Chicago poetry-in-the-schools project.  She outlined the first five lessons which this organization's poets do in classrooms, and thereby all my best practices as a poetry teacher became a newly organized, explicit, intentional approach with structure and labels!  Concept #1 for kids (and perhaps teachers) with little familiarity of "what poetry is" uses children's experience of art class--a special subject carried out by a specialist teacher in a different room in most districts--to "do a lot really fast."  By comparing the variety of materials, processes, and products that constitute ART, this definition clarifies the broad range of writings that can be poems, the endless ways that words can be used to create them, and the idea that we are using words in different and special ways when we make poetry than when we do other kinds of language work, especially in school settings.

I love, love, love this genius little metaphor (*forehead slap* why didn't I think of it myself?) and honestly, its powerful efficiency is going to change how I approach poetry in my 2nd grade classroom this year.  Usually we begin with a period of input, analogous to the silent/receptive stage of second language learning, because I never know what kind of poetry experience my students will be coming in with.  I wait until around December before I ask kids to Write a Poem, when they've had weeks of exposure to many different forms and a lot of my passion and excitement.  (I also certainly don't discourage them if they think of doing so on their own!)

Being able to "draw on" their shared experience of Art with our seriously excellent art teacher, Leela Payne, will make that leap to writing work nearer to the beginning of the year.  I can't wait!  The other transformative concept from Hands On Stanzas is one that I carry with me as an implicit assumption--that all kids are poets. WE know that, but often they don't know that, so it's important that we let them know that just as in art class, they all come with all the creative tools they need to be successful.  They'll just be applying them in new ways. Do all kids come to art with excellent scissor skills?  No, so we model and teach and share techniques and they get better at cutting--but 99 times out of 100 they know WHAT they want to cut and what color it should be.

Here are some photos from the week, many taken by our Chicago Public School facilitator Shamika Keepers.

We were asked to bring one indispensable resource. I couldn't get it down to one!

from Carol Jago's opening remarks
Looking at how we could use some of the books provided by the PoFo...

Notes from Margarita's presentation
We had time to explore the glorious Poetry Foundation Library.  I recognized a friend!

The many breakout sessions on the schedule were for self-selected groups to work collaboratively on poetry projects for the classroom.   We were encouraged to make maximum use of the Poetry Foundation's website, and the culmination of the week was a Curriculum Fair at which we displayed our concepts Science Fair-style. Here were some of my favorites--not all from the Elementary section, either!

A middle school idea which I loved--and I was so happy to introduce the group to Valerie Worth's small poems!

This was our group's project, designed to work up or down PK-5.  That's my fab new friend Chii.  See my Metaphor Dice?

I'll leave you with a poem I wrote during Eric Elshtain's session, in which we worked on "the rearrangement of past perceptions to create new realities" using the logic of the senses.  He said, "All knowledge and all art begins and ends with the senses."  We imagined that we had met a cloud of our favorite color on the street and taken a handful...

I Finally Choose A Favorite Color, 1997

Turquoise, you persist, you win,

and I shake your hand.

You are slick and solid with shiny sharp edges,

which surprises me.

You smell like sky upside down water.

Next to my ear you breathe

a meditation sound, a Mediterranean sound

not laborious but lively.  

When I open my mouth for a taste,

I find you are also drinkable, liquid, tart,

which surprises me.

Returning you to you,

you reshape yourself, no longer

a tile of middling blue but a bowl,

a curved mirror

exactly the size of my face.
You make everything more brilliant.

draft © HM 2018

So, there is a good some of it, but not the sum of it!  If you are a teacher, do apply for next year, and maybe I'll see you there, since repeat offenders are welcome.

And now....the Round-Up!  Please leave your links in the comments and I will line them up old-school throughout the day.  Thanks for joining us today!

Bedtime Stories

Linda Number 1 is sharing a jam sandwich at A Word Edgewise.

Linda Number 2 has popsicles--four flavors--at Write Time.  Now, who has the main course?

Alan has fighting words for beating the blank page at Poetry Pizzazz.

Sally is dealing with a very very very challenging misfortune:  Too Many Books.

Diane is in with an original called "Pictures of Liberty" over at Random Noodling. 
And at Kurious Kitty you'll find two anniversary poems by Douglas Florian.

Tabatha has a found poem from The Hare with Amber Eyes, to which she refers like everybody knows The Hare with Amber Eyes. 😉  Read this beautiful object at The Opposite of Indifference.

Matt will be cooling us down with an original called "Summer Frost" at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme.

Laura Number 1 would like to warn you that her post includes a powerful response to the Parkland HS shootings by Tim Singleton.  You will also find a link to her stop on the blog tour for Margaret Simon's Bayou Song.

Laura Number 2 has been sharing her entries for the March Madness Poetry Tournament and concludes today with her last, "Spurious Sayings."  Find it at Writing the World for Children.

Our friend at Books4Learning has a very thorough an enticing review of Javaka Steptoe's anthology In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall.

Michelle Kogan celebrates butterflies and bees in art and writing over at More Art 4 All.

Rebecca lets us enjoy her Summer Poem Swap from Irene about "creepy lakes." I will soon be swimming my curious self over to Sloth Reads to find out what that's about!

Jone is introducing a new haiku anthology at Deowriter that includes some of her work.  Congratulations, Jone!

Fats at Gathering Books is highlighting the work of a young Instagram poet, Caroline Kaufman.

Early Birdsong

Mary Lee reports on a miracle she witness this morning at A Year of Reading.

There's more about lakes--not all creepy--with Irene at Live Your Poem.

Ruth is sharing poems for travelers at There Is No Such Thing As a God-Forsaken  Town.  I love airports too, as last week's travels reminded me.

Lunchbox Letters

Little Willow reminds us to keep dancing over at Bildungsroman.

Tara is sharing some Mary Oliver today at Going to Walden.

Catherine has poems commemorating the 49th anniversary of the moon walk at Reading to the Core.

Afternoon Authors

At the Mistakes Anthology blog Tabatha has a poem by Michelle Kogan to share.

Margaret has a review of Marilyn Singer's new book and a writing prompt to share at Reflections on the Teche.

Mandy is following a question this week about disappearing parsley at her blog Enjoy and Embrace Writing.

Evening Entries

Carol is looking at Long Island through the eyes of Emma Lazarus at Beyond Literacy Links.

And now, a flash poem:  Molly Hogan's hollyhocks.  The End. 😀   Read about them at Nix the Comfort Zone.

Christie has also been away at Cornell's BirdSleuth educator retreat! She has hungry herons at Wondering and Wandering.

And, to close out the weekend's reading, Sylvia brings a report on her presentation about pets and reading from ILA at Poetry for Children.