Friday, October 20, 2017

celebrating ***Poems Are Teachers*** and a giveaway!

We all enjoy getting a party invitation. Knowing that we have been thought of, that we are considered fun to have around, is a good feeling.  This is how I felt when Amy Ludwig VanDerwater asked if I would provide a poem for her new book about using poetry as a model for writing across the genres.  I didn't realize what a work of depth and breadth I would become one small part of!

Poems Are Teachers: How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres (Heinemann, born yesterday!) is both comprehensive and compact, a highly accessible, digestible guidebook for busy teachers.  Its six chapters, ranging from "Writers Find Ideas" to "Writers Select Titles" (and I love that this is the last section, for how do you know what you've written until after you've written it?) consist of 4-page sections that follow a predictable and highly useful structure:

i. a  model poem written for this very book by a currently practicing and publishing children's writer;
ii. words from the poet, tips for considering the technique, and ways to TRY IT;
iii. student poems which show the technique in action, which are infinitely encouraging to young writers!

Most striking (and, I admit, unexpected) is the way that Amy lightly weaves in references to many, many other models and mentors.  For example, in the section Form a List in the "Writers Structure Texts" chapter, Amy follows up the model poem by Kwame Alexander with information that draws on everything from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to picture books by Judi K. Beach and Todd Parr, from dissertations to poetry classics like Falling Down the Page (Georgia Heard) and the newer Things to Do (Elaine Magliaro).

Other sections help teachers and students link writing work to genres outside writing, with references to movies and music, like the song "Summer Nights" from the musical Grease, mentioned in the section Weave Back and Forth to Compare and Contrast.  This approach makes Poems Are Teachers reach up and down the age range, supporting teachers in using the intense, time-wise power of poetry to show students engaging, relevant ways to improve their writing from beginning to end, from surface to depth and from top to bottom.

I'm delighted, of course, to have been invited to this party, but I'm even more delighted to see what kind of event it has turned out to be--a rich practical resource for teachers who know what the particular qualities of poetry are and want to apply them effectively in the classroom. Congratulations to Amy on this achievement!  And now, here's my little contribution--the model poem for the section mentioned above about comparing and contrasting.

To celebrate the publication of this book, I'm offering a copy (provided by the publisher, Heinemann--thank you!) to one winner from the staff of my excellent Montgomery County Public School here in Maryland.  To enter, teachers should comment on this post, mentioning any poem they have used in their classroom in the last year.  Bonus points for including how it strengthened a student's writing! A name will be drawn Monday the 23rd at 12 noon.

The Poetry Friday Round-Up is with Leigh Ann at A Day in the Life.  Enjoy the celebration!

Friday, October 13, 2017

happy bloggiversary to me

Read all about Poetry Friday here.
Yes, poetry fans, this weekend marks the 9th birthday of 

my juicy little universe!  

Next year, for the 10th anniversary, I will do some extravaganza of gratitude like making a lengthy found poem out of your--YOUR--comments over the years. But for 2017, at the end of a weighty and irregular week (and I mean that in the medical sense), I have only enough energy to point you in the direction of my very first post, made before I even learned that there was Poetry Friday.

It was about typing, and the sole commenter was my friend and critipue group partner Robin Galbraith (@RobinGalbraith), now the proud holder of a Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA!  (Speaking of typing, for no discernible reason the KUE key on my computer has stopped working. Now how will I type "kwakwaversal"?)

Speaking further of typing, I have held forever the position that writing by hand (including drafting and doodling and note-taking) has a different character than writing by typing, and my notebooks are very important to me.  But this has been the year that I had to admit that actually getting any writing done seemed to be related to abandoning my notebook and just typing on my laptop.

I'm still pondering why this is--is it a function of my fast-paced intense inside-the-DC-beltway microculture, which makes writing anything by hand feel inefficient?  Is it that my brain, fueled by a constant stream of think-too-much adrenalin, can't wait around for my handwriting to keep up?  Are those two things pretty much exactly the same, and should I try to relax?  Your views welcome.  : )

So here's my own poem about typing, a skill so very much more important now than it was when I took typing in high school in 1979.  (I have a second grader who has taught himself to type rather fast using two fingers on his right hand and his left thumb, and who will be therefore very well prepared for his computer-based assessments next year.)  I found this poem lurking in that very first post...

Keyboard Magic

I go around with 
letters dangling from the tip 
of each finger—

the h, j, and m jangling like charms
from my right index,
the c, d and e each occupying a joint

of the left middle,
the o ringing and ringing
my right ring finger,
a sparking a little flame from
that powerful pinky--

letters and numbers,
punc-punc-punctuation marks
trailing each move of my fingers
like the starry streaks 
that follow the sweep 
of a movie magic wand.

(c) draft HM 2017

The Poetry Friday round-up today is with Irene Thirteen--tippy-tap your way over and see what's popping at Live Your Poem!

Friday, October 6, 2017

poetry that goes for the jugular

It's Poetry Friday, and if you're new to this blogging tradition, go here for an overview.

Last Friday, our 3rd Poetry Friday of the school year, I presented Colleen Thibeaudeau's "balloon" to go with our Junior Great Books exploration of The Red Balloon.

I also introduced my blog to the class and shared my "Last Saturday in September" poem (not really written for younger kids), after which one young'un, alias Taylor, pressed his fist to his heart and sighed. We all considered with great wonder how two poems about round red things (a balloon, an apple the color of the setting sun) could FEEL so different. 

There ensued a flurry of poetry writing, and by the end of the day one small group had decided they would be writing poems for sale and were making advertising posters!  Folks, I have a class of writers.

Here's the poem that Taylor wrote:

Killer Jaguar Poem

The killer jaguar
killed the chicken with his
sharp claws.  It digged into 
the chicken's body.
It killed the chicken. It
ate the whole entire
chicken.  It got rid
of the chicken forever.


Chilling, no?  Talk about creating a mood.

The roundup today is at Violet Nesdoly / Poems--prowl over and grab some poetry by the neck!