Friday, March 9, 2018


When I first thought of trying to get a poetry book published, I began "studying the market" and found a striking and glorious book on the shelf in my local library.  It was Janet Wong's Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams, illustrated by Julie Paschkis, newly out in 2000.  This seemed to me the perfect marriage of words and art, but more importantly, it was the perfect use of poetry:

to faithfully
          unpredictably capture
the unreasonable
of the mind.

I have since come to better understand the many "uses" of poetry, especially in the classroom, which go far beyond pure intrigue and enjoyment.  And, in the way of anyone who has practiced a craft for many years, I understand better now how much faith and flexibility, reason and discipline can go into the making of a poem that seems like a spontaneous flow or burst of the subconscious.

Unpredictable segue to Room 203, fall 2018: second-graders arrive from the tumult of recess followed by the Seventh Circle of Hell (aka lunch in the cafeteria).  We settle into our circle on the carpet and the Afternoon Leader selects a Mindful Breathing Exercise.  They are simple and brief, 3-5 breaths, and have names like Up and Down, Balloon Pop and Breathing Buddies.  But they serve to regather and recenter us to the purposes of the classroom.

But now it is late winter, and the Great Second-Grade Shift has begun: we're bigger in our bodies and MUCH bigger in our brains; we no longer care so much what the teacher thinks and are MUCH more interested in what our peers are saying, doing, judging, inventing, choosing. We are able to comprehend and appreciate the two points of view in a genius poem called "In the Hood" by Marilyn Singer, but often the Big Bad Wolf gets carried away...

It's time for some bigger breathing called YOGA.  Our simple Mountain Pose and Warrior Pose breathing exercises become part of a longer yoga routine like this one led by Leslie Fightmaster.
And I get out a book called Twist: Yoga Poems, also by Janet S. Wong and Julie Paschkis, and we begin with

Breath | Janet Wong

Breath is a broom
sweeping your insides.

Smooth and slow:
You pull scattered bits of dream fluff
and heart dust into neat piles.

Short and quick:
You coax shards of broken thoughts
out of forgotten corners.

Breath is a broom
sweeping you fresh.


Burst or flow of subconscious, crafted into a language object of gorgeous usefulness.  Thank you, Janet--and Julie, will you illustrate my next book, please?  It'll be a while; full-time teaching is ever so distracting.

But in the meantime I get a poem or two out into the world by other means...I'm thrilled to announce that two forthcoming anthologies carry my poems--as different in feel as you can imagine.  The books are The Poetry of US, another National Geographic anthology edited by J. Patrick Lewis, and Imperfect: Poems About Mistakes, edited by Tabatha Yeatts.

The round-up today is with Michelle at Today's Little Ditty--can't wait to see what's breathing over there!


  1. Yay for your poems getting out! I have a couple poems you might encounter here and there, rubbing elbows with yours. I'm working on a collection, too, if you ever want to exchange collection critiques, let me know. :-)

  2. Your 2nd graders are so lucky to have such a wise teacher. I love the way Janet combines simplicity with such deep wisdom in her poetry. This poem makes me want to roll out my yoga mat this minute. Congratulations on your publishing news! I'm sure there will be more to follow soon!

  3. "I understand better now how much faith and flexibility, reason and discipline can go into the making of a poem that seems like a spontaneous flow or burst of the subconscious." Yes! Yes! Yes! Janet is a master as far as that goes. Happy to be joining you in those forthcoming collections, Heidi. :)

  4. I am glad to hear your writing about your classroom always, and now changing to that next tune is the turn I think each class has. Thanks for the Breath poem, lovely to read, maybe one for all of us to memorize! Congratulations on your poems in the anthologies! That's wonderful!

  5. Congratulations on your poetry appearing in two upcoming anthologies. I have a poem in Imperfect as well and I'm over the moon about it! (My first published poem! Woot!) I love Janet Wong's poem, Breath, and how you've incorporated mindfulness into your classroom. Thanks for such a rich post!

  6. What a wise teacher you are! Love Janet's poem.

  7. Janet Wong (& Julie Paschkis) to the rescue, again, as always...! My third-grade-teacher-daughter Morgan has used Janet's yoga poems, too. :0) Congrats on the new releases - I'm delighted to share pages in both with you! (I hadn't even seen the cover of the JPL one yet, so extra thanks.)

  8. Breath is a beautiful poem. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Congratulations, Heidi, for your poems being published. Your post had so many links that I so enjoyed all of it. I have Marilyn's book so I am going back into it to see what I can make of reversos (not so easy a task).

  10. Hey!! I've got poems in both of those, too! I love it that our words will live together between those covers!!

  11. Janet's poem about breath is just right. I say "Ah!" I have a poem in the National Geographic book. So cool to be there with you! Thanks for inspiring my breath today!

  12. Sounds like your students have grown leaps and bounds in body and mind this year. Congrats on your poems in the forthcoming books, I'm happy to be sharing a place in one with you too!