Saturday, December 3, 2016







12.3

so dam busy in
December--maybe this
will save me some tooth






"Beaver Wreaks Havoc in Maryland Dollar Store"



Friday, December 2, 2016

#haikuforhealing


Mary Lee said: "My creative spirit, who has been sitting out on the porch with her head between her knees for the last couple of weeks, looked up and nodded. Yes, that seems right, she said. A response to the news of the day, shared in the concise metaphorical form of the haiku."

Thus daily  #haikuforhealing in December was born.

My creative spirit exclaimed, "Dang, that sounds like a good idea! News, concise, metaphor, daily.  You can do this!"   And also: "Isn't Mary Lee wise, brave, and planful?"

So here we go, with no promises that I can manage every day.
*****************************************
12.1

fire, flood, tornado
no one says
"punishment from God"


12.2

skies clear: no dove.
on the ground jackass
brays at mad dog

Hmmmm.  Those are perhaps not extremely healing.  Let me try again....

12.2 

stone soup simmers
villagers add their vegetables
to the deep pot of Friday


And here are last week's warm-ups, featured on Today's Little Ditty by Michelle:

11.28

not by hiding
from the world but by living
widely in it

11.27

refuge & solace:
today I don't turn on
the news


11.26

gathering light
around the long table
let's take this outside


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

One Minute till Bedtime Blog Tour!




To help celebrate the release of this beautiful book, contributor Jackie Hoskings has organized a blog tour!  Please join the poets on December 1st as we share a one-minute poem that didn't quite make it into the book.

Find her round-up here, and enjoy!






Dig Me

I open
at the end of your stick--
little dent in the dirt

I open
wider, deeper, darker—
a hole that might

shout out
the round echoes
of a grand canyon

or whisper
the small secrets of
the soil


©Heidi Mordhorst



Friday, November 25, 2016

singing gratitude



Being a "general optimist," my reactions to the current state of the world lean resolutely towards whatever there is to appreciate, whatever there is to celebrate, whatever is good.  In that spirit, today I offer some grateful words I sang to my children at bedtime, composed as a more-than-Christian variation on a hymn tune my mother sang to me.  They're intended to be both soothing and, the next morning, rousing.

There is so much to be thankful for, so many blessings to fight for.

Hymn at Bedtime

All praise to thee, bright world, this night
For all the wonders of the light.
Keep me, oh, keep me till sunrise
Beneath thy deep and endless skies.

Thanks for the trees and for the birds;
Thanks for the silence and the words;
Thanks for the blue and for the green;
Thanks for the places I have been.

Thanks for the water and the wind;
Thanks for the drum and violin;
Thanks for the honey on my bread;
Thanks for this place to lay my head.

And when tomorrow comes the day
I’ll wake and shake the dark away,
Greeting each creature of the earth
With gifts of warmth and strength and mirth.

        (c) Heidi Mordhorst 2001
 


The Thanksgiving round-up is with Carol at Carol's Corner.  I'm thankful for all of you who make this community for all of us.


Friday, November 18, 2016

#ncte16

I'm coming to you from balmy Atlanta this week, where Mary Lee Hahn and I will be presenting later today a session called "Risking Writing," along with Dr. Shanetia Clark of Salisbury University and author Patricia Hruby Powell.  At the heart of this session is the writing of a poem brainstormed by Shanetia, drafted by Mary Lee, and revised by me.  Patricia will supply inspirational commentary. Do check back in to see what we came up with!

...And here we are, back from a really terrific collaboration between presenters--all the more terrific because none of us knew all the rest of us before we met in our session room!  That in itself was part of the risk.

Here's the photo--by Mary Lee, of course--that we offered as a prompt.

After brief introductions, Patricia kicked us off by emphasizing the fun in writing, reviewing some of the  techniques she uses, like keeping a bank of verbs related to her subject handy.  She spoke about emotion as the key both to authentic writing, and about its role in the teacher-student relationship.

                                                  Here we all are getting started.







Next, Shanetia brainstormed and Mary Lee drafted based on her ideas.  A document camera let participants watch this work as we all commented on the process.




















Participants also brainstormed and drafted.  Then I narrated a process of revision, reading aloud to find the music in the words and also to hear where the emotion was coming through.



 








 Likewise, our intrepid crew of participants had a go at revision.  It was a lot more difficult to come to a conclusion
with our shared poem than we expected, and the feeling of being vulnerable in front of an audience--as our students are asked to be every day--was palpable!




Our poem may not yet be finished, but here it is.  You can follow the whole process by going to #riskingwriting on Twitter, where we hope that others will share their efforts at writing in front of their students!

                        
The Voice of the Vegetables

We don't get to pick
the basket we land in--
pepper with eggplant with squash.

Grown apart, at market
we tumble together
on a background of red--
color and spice and crunch.

Unity is not a concession.
Stand, then speak, then lead.
         
(c) Shanetia Clark, Mary Lee Hahn, Heidi Mordhorst 2016


Here were the few slides of our presentation:




The round-up today is with Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales.  It's not much of a risk just joining in our friendly Fridays, but letting the poetry take you--that's riskier.


Friday, November 11, 2016

november kaboom, take 2

Last Friday I wrote with joy to the world about a November volcano exploding a lava of leaves.  This Friday (not because Hillary lost, but because ignorant, selfish, and hateful won), that November lava has been scorched raw and is now chilling into the hard obsidian of resolve.

That's how I feel on the inside.  My poem for that goes like this:



I pledge allegiance
to liberty and justice for all.

Looking at me, you wouldn't notice any hard shiny edges.  On the outside I look the same as I always have: an ordinary, middle-aged woman white woman.  You'd see me get in my late-model Mazda and know that I'm privileged to drive my own car, with enough time and money to decorate it with pink and green flower decals.  Even my bumper stickers are pretty ordinary:  two public school logos and a "Wag More, Bark Less" magnet.  (You might assume that means I love my dogs instead of owning cats.)

You wouldn't know that when I first left my husband and moved to London in 1991, I thought I'd cut my hair short, stop wearing teacher skirts and go butch to suit my new lesbian lifestyle.  After a lifetime of privilege I felt so safe, even as I altered my whole identity, that it never occurred to me that I might endanger myself with a style makeover.

As it happened, I was still mostly myself after a year in London.  I couldn't ever commit to the butch look, and eventually understood that I wasn't even a "real" lesbian--instead I'm a real bisexual who found the love of her life in a woman instead of a man.  So that ordinary, middle-aged white lady you see getting into her suburban Mazda is, invisibly to most, a bisexual woman in a same-sex marriage with two children conceived through artificial insemination. 

Unless I open my mouth, I'm pretty safe in this "new" America where my fellow citizens, emboldened by an ignorant, selfish and hateful winner, feel free to aggress. I'm not black, I'm not brown, I don't have an accent, I don't wear a hijab, I don't stand out.

So I'm opening my mouth.  Not in protest because my right to marriage is now endangered, although it is, and not because my worth as human being will be questioned, because it will, and not because my children's security will be compromised, because it may be.  I'm opening my mouth because it's not fair that I get to be invisibly safe as I go about my business, while whole populations of Americans are waking up worried about what ugliness lies ahead because of how they look on their morning commute, in their day at school, in the next weeks or months or year.

I'm unsure if this is any help.  I'm even a little unsure of my motivations here. I just feel like I don't want to be hiding right now, that--KABOOM--this country is not what I hoped, believed, and committed to on the day after the election in 2008.  I feel like I've been relaxing in safety for 8 years, here in suburban liberal Maryland with my white skin and my flowered Mazda, and that I have to get out of the car now and walk with some folks who are strangers to me.

And I don't have a poem for that yet.

The round-up is with Jama today.  Safety in numbers there, and maybe in baked goods.



Friday, November 4, 2016

november kaboom

"November Volcano" illustrated by Christoph Niemann, 2016

Fall is late this year in the mid-Atlantic--and in the last weeks we've had two days in the high 70's and two above 80*!  It's been hard to settle into the season, but fortunately Halloween was chilly--and yet not as leafy-scuffly-rustly as it usually is.  Our leaves fall late compared to New England--not until the end of October--and this year it's only in the last couple of days that color change has really been noticeable. 

But when it starts, it's thrilling!  A good gust and the trees seem to be spouting hot lava, red and glowing yellow. And that's even before they're raked into a mountain and exploded by a daring leap into its crater! A poetic mom and her 7-year-old son might just have to write about it...and that's how the wee poem in One Minute till Bedtime came to be.

One of my favorite things about this gorgeous book (see my earlier rhapsodizing here) is that in most cases each poem, even the briefest, has been given its own page and often its own illustration.  The generous amount of white space acts as a two-dimensional pedestal, elevating each poem to its highest effect, like a gem on velvet under glass.  And yet the "glass" is penetrable--small hands can reach right into each illustration to grab the energy.  Don't you want to jump in there too?!

Thanks once again to Kenn Nesbitt, Christoph Niemann, and to every one of the other poets whose work graces this book--and special kudos to Phil Caminiti, Nicole Brown and David Caplan, the designers and art director listed in the front matter.  The difference a great book designer can make--especially in children's books--is beyond quantification.

Laura has the round-up today at Writing the World for Kids--go jump in, throw leaves, explode!






Friday, October 28, 2016

mother's day in october

This is the big minute of Kenn Nesbitt!  Our former Children's Poet Laureate has worked for more than two years with over 130 poets to produce one of the loveliest anthologies of poetry I've ever held in my hands. (As a contributor, I have already had this pleasure though the book release is not until November 1.) I think one of the big appeals of One Minute Till Bedtime is that it feels distinctly old-fashioned, in the best possible way.

The heft of the book, the feel of the dust jacket and the paper inside (smooth but not slick) contribute to this initial sensation.  The hand-chalked title and cover illustration glow forth from a deep purple background.  Christoph Niemann's robust drawings build the feeling--they appear simple and straightforward but they carry (like good writing for children) layers of imagination and emotion.  And the poems inside, not all of which are sleepy or soft by any means, are cozy nonetheless--they speak to the experiences that children have at home, in their early close relationships with people, objects and the creatures of the natural world.  There's no flash, no high-tech, no gloss--just outstanding design and sensitive curation.

In a time of--would you agree with me?--global unrest, when anyone who is paying attention to the Big Picture must carry a sense of unease, this book is comforting and reassuring.  It confirms that the fundamental, ritual experience of going to bed with a story, poem or song shared in the voice of a beloved caregiver is alive and well.

So it's fitting that when Kenn was invited to an interview over at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes's blog, he offered this challenge:
Write a poem for your mother. Write it for your mother and give it to her. It can be any kind of poem you like, as long as it’s especially for her. In my opinion, a poem is the best gift you can ever give someone. It doesn’t cost you anything but a little thought and time, and yet it will be treasured forever.

And fittingly enough, I have just such a gift poem in my archives!  I posted it to the Ditty of the Month Club Padlet and now I share it with you here--a poem about precisely that experience I described above, of being rhymed and rhythmed, thrilled and calmed each morning, noon and night by the voice of my mother, Lila (nee Zingerline) Mordhorst.

A History of Your Voice
Mothers’ Day 2011


and this little piggy stayed home
for so long we were
together all the time
together all alone
together all among
open the doors and see all the people

three gray geese in a flock
for so long you listened to every word I
began to say
forgot to say
dared to say
wire briar limber lock

we parted       disintegrated
remembered    recombined

apple seed and apple thorn
for so long now we are
winding threads
dropping threads
picking up threads
sit and sing by a spring

there were two old Indians crossing the Mississippi
ripping a seam here and there
putting right sides together
stitching further rivers

would you like to hear the rest? 


© Heidi Mordhorst


The round-up for this Poetry Friday is with Linda at TeacherDance.  May you hear today in your travels the voice of someone who spoke to you with love at bedtime--and may we seek that for every child.


Friday, October 21, 2016

big jumps

Last year at NCTE, the author-illustrator Jon Klassen spoke about a certain scene in a certain book which thrillingly broke open a memory pod in my brain.  It was the moment in "The Wish Sack," the third story of Benjamin Elkin's 1958 masterpiece The Big Jump, in which Ben (a young hero of approximately medieval times) finds that he has wished himself right onto the bed of the sleeping bad King in his black palace!

Oh, how I loved this book!  I searched for a copy of this out-of-print book and ordered it, and after reliving many deep experiences of learning (about reading and about how the world works) from it, I put it in my class library.  And then a few weeks ago I put it in the Book Box of my student Natan.



On Tuesday Natan was among the first to do Book Sharing at our class meeting time, and so we conferred about a good choice.  To my great satisfaction, he chose The Big Jump, but not the copy from the classroom library--he loved it so much he had found and bought and brought his own!  He chose to read aloud precisely the same passage from "The Wish Sack" that Jon Klassen had mentioned in his speech, and others in the class who have read The Big Jump jumped in to say how easy to read and how exciting this book is.

But that wasn't all.  On Tuesday night Natan made another big jump.  He arrived at school with a homemade stapled book that also included 3 stories--about Pokemon training.  His sense of humor and wide vocabulary made each little story very effective,  and of course I acknowledged that.   So (with writing time in school currently filled with a research project about nutrition), Natan went home and added a proper cover, a "tabel of contants" and three more stories! On Wednesday morning he tried to GIVE this book to me, so I taught him about dedications and he kept the book, now dedicated to me.

The next big jump came later that morning during our discussion of choosing books responsibly and wisely.  I departed a bit from The Big Orange Splot, which turns out to be the perfect book for learning the I PICK model for independent reading, and I extended the concept to self-selected writing projects.  I read Natan's Pokemon book to the class as an example--and during the discussion Natan let us know that the idea to make a book with more than one story had come from his repeated readings of The Big Jump.

Suddenly--right on time, really--in one of those aha! waves that happen in classrooms, the Diamond Miners realized that what you read is connected to what you write, and (with Ms. Mordhorst's help) that what you write is probably the most important work you do in school.  The houses of The Big Orange Splot are the metaphor and, as Mr. Plumbean says, "My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams."

And they're off, to make books that look like all their dreams!  That very day there was a flurry of independent paper folding and stacking and stapling and writing and drawing  when center work was completed, and next week I will start replacing some of my Word Work Centers with Self-Selected Writing, so that eventually every child will enjoy two writing sessions every day--one structured, coached Teacher-Selected Writing time and one independent, autonomous choice writing time.  And then I will have to establish more sharing opportunities!  (And then I will have to get to work on my own Big Jump book with Benjamin Elkin as my mentor.)

I really love Big Jumps.  : )  And here's an unexpected bonus video....



The round-up today is with Tricia--I think!--at The Miss Rumphius Effect.  Jump on over for some big reading!

Friday, October 14, 2016

8th anniversary, 463 posts

C&T Custom Lures on ETSY

Yes, I have been blogging here for eight whole years!  My first post featured a poem I'd heard on the Writer's Almanac which I could post just as easily today, but for a historical marker, go to one of my first long posts, written in English and in French (such as my French was, after spending 2007-2008 in Paris)  about the day after the 2008 election and my feelings about seeing Barack Obama become President.



Very shortly after that I wrote about "the beauty of the blog," even though at that point I don't believe
ANYONE was reading it.  Perhaps that's why posting was a little haphazard until my momentous entry into this Poetry Friday community (momentous for me, not necessarily for the PF community!)
That came in March of 2009, which is another anniversary I look forward to celebrating.

For now, though, this:

Keeping It Together
All threads and trains,
No rules, restraints,
No due dates, deadlines, demands.
I get to choose.  It's in my hands:
Vocabulary, voice, venom or valentine--
Each and every muse is mine.
Reaching in deep or out wide, me to you,
Sampling the past or hewing the new,
A record here is made,
Revels, relations, revelations live here
Year after year after year.
draft (c) HM 2016

**********************************
Today's round-up is with Irene and her scarecrow show (how wonderful!) at Live Your Poem.  Wishing you, her and her scarecrow the same satisfaction that I can't help but feel at sticking with this for eight years!

Friday, October 7, 2016

thursday night lights

foreign bodies

black and white against the
rubber-crumbling field of turf,
daughters meet the fight--
they gallop, leap and turn,
twinkle, clump and spread again,
amoeba-like around a white and black
nucleus of ball

black and white, pink and brown,
against the empty, clanging stands,
chill October night--
we gather, leap and clap,
shiver, stretch and cheer again,
eggbox lights under a white on black
slice of moon

singular smell here, green and dying
singular sound here, still and shouting
and all that speedenergysweatspirit
like black and white
like day and night
a foreign cult to me

draft (c) HM 2016


It's our last season of varsity girls' soccer.  I put on a good show (and I am truly amazed, truly supportive), but the whole enterprise remains fundamentally baffling to the inner me.

Enter the fray of Poetry Friday over at Violet Nesdoly's blog today--always a reason to cheer on Friday, and this week it's for Poetry Camp!



Friday, September 23, 2016

14th birthday, present

While you are sleeping
I find your sister's old phone--
the smart one--
and make the call.

Your dumb, old phone,
with its cracked screen--
"not your fault"--
lies in the hall,

full of stupid photos
and foolish texts sent
against the rules.
You never call.


I add another line and
increase the data plan--
that's my secret--
and pay for it all.

I activate your new phone,
congratulate myself--
birthday gift achieved--
and test a call.

There you are, goofing on last
year's voice message--"Like,
totally, like ciao!"
You sound small,

smart enough for a phone
but little, like a kid--
high, chirpy voice--
not cracked, not tall.

draft (c) HM 2016

****************************
Fourteen is different nowadays, huh?  I spent hours and hours on the kitchen wall phone with the long spiralled cord, sitting in the privatest place it could reach at the top of the back stairs, practicing my double entendre with a boy who was a friend, not a crush--safe space.

My son is moving from the "dumb" phone to the smart phone because he needs to start practicing how to use it wisely, but we have our qualms--unfairly, because we didn't have the same ones with his sister.  This rightly makes him indignant (but they have different strengths and weaknesses and are susceptible to different, shall I say, "cultural" dangers.)  However, he's getting his sooner than she got hers.

Hope it doesn't grow him up any faster than he's already going.

ADDENDUM:  No danger of that.  I showed him his birthday poem (so much for keeping secrets).  He stared for a while and then said, "Is that how you spell ciao?" 

But then, this is the same boy who looked out the car window recently and said, "Hey, look--is that guy RUNNING with a stroller!?"  They know so much, and then you find out what they absurdly haven't figured out yet...

The Poetry Friday roundup today is with Catherine at Reading to the Core.  Call in for plenty of poetry conversations!