Friday, January 17, 2020

ncte poetry notables 2020

What a terrifically fun and serious responsibility it has been this year to begin a 3-year term on the NCTE Children's Poetry Awards Committee!  We read all summer and into the fall, wrassled through our deliberations at the NCTE Convention in Baltimore in November, and at the start of this month released our longer-than-ever list of notable poetry books and novels-in-verse.

The good news is that there were so many outstanding titles that we couldn't fit our list onto two sides of paper, so I invite you to wallow and revel in the glorious abundance, with something for every taste!  After the list, I'll highlight a few that were my particular favorites.

Fabulous, amiright?!  Among these many wonders, a few stood out for me (time now only for the briefest of descriptions, but you can trust me on these!), and over the next weeks I'll share little reviews of six others that I'm charged with writing for School Library Journal.

two middle school girls figure themselves
out through a surprising friendship: true characters
Emmy discovers her particular genius
and we learn some Javascript: wow format!
All of Me | Chris Baron | Macmillan
Ari struggles with the burden of weight
and survives crises with wry humor
wildly successful anthology of "other" voices;
for older readers and all adults
Waking Brain Cells – Page 3 – "I like nonsense, it wakes ...
how do I love thee? a modern, metaphorically
challenging RUNAWAY BUNNY 
30 Must-Read Diverse Children's Books From The First Half ...
sweet-gorgeous, book-length poem
honoring that reading feeling we can't resist
poems at the edgy imaginations of
very young children: "cute" need not apply
Hawksbill Promise: The Journey of an Endangered Sea Turtle (Tilbury House Nature Book) ebook by Mary Beth Owens
ancient Antiguan tree narrates the challenging
life cycle of hawksbill turtles

Our host today is none other than my dear friend and CP Catherine at Reading to the Core.  I'm sorry to hear that she's under the weather, but her #haikuforhope are very healthy indeed!  See you there!

EXTRA EXTRA for later arrivals: don't forget that Wednesday, April 22 is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day and our next opportunity to build a very big voice for #ClimateAction.  Go here to learn more.

Friday, January 10, 2020

happy green new year

As I have mentioned before, I've labeled myself a climate activist, and if there's ANY One Little Word that deserves sustained attention it's CLIMATE.  So bear with me as I use my #PoetryFriday posts also as #FridaysForFuture posts, as #FireDrillFriday posts.

My principal role as a climate activist isn't, of course, to be a scientist or even a striker, but to be a communicator, a teacher, a poet, so here is today's little nudge to action: according to my friends at Elders Climate Action, pro-environment citizens are actually LESS likely to get out and vote!  So ECA has gotten together with the Environmental Voter Project to PROMOTE THE VOTE.  They are training volunteers, including me, to use our cell phones to text pro-environment voters, state by state, primary by primary, and get them to use their voice and vote.  Here's the email I received this week.  I'm excited to sit in the comfort of my own home and use my expensive mobile phone plan to make an impact! 


You are receiving this email because you have registered as a volunteer with Elders Promote the Vote. ECA and the Environmental Voter Project (EVP) are working together to contact millions of pro-environment voters, especially those who need encouragement to get out to the polls. We have already done a lot. In 2018 and 2019, ECA/Promote the Vote volunteers completed more than 650,000 voter contacts. Now, we have a volunteer group of more than 140 people and growing fast!

As part of this Promote the Vote volunteer force, you give us the potential to make two to three million voter contacts before Election Day 2020, and generate tens of thousands of pro-environment votes that would not otherwise be cast.

Starting in late January, Promote the Vote will really gear up. EVP will be generating voter lists at a rapid pace for us to work with. The primary season kicks off with Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina in February, Super Tuesday on March 3rd, and various primaries continuing through June. We can look forward to almost 10 months of a high demand for our services leading up to Election Day on November 3rd.

In anticipation of all this activity, we are planning several on-line training sessions for working with the Hustle texting app, and a very special national call in January. The national call features Nathaniel Stinnett, founder and Executive Director of the Environmental Voter Project. This will be an excellent opportunity to learn more about EVP's innovative approach to identifying environmental voters and persuading them to vote in every election.

Save the date for this informative call: Tuesday, January 28th at 7PM (ET). Stay tuned for instructions on how to participate.

We have also scheduled 5 on-line orientation and training sessions. Please plan to attend one of these if you are new to Promote the Vote, or if you want a refresher. The trainings run about 90 minutes and include plenty of time for Q&A.

Tuesday, Jan. 14 12:30-2:00 PM (ET)

Wednesday, Jan. 22 7:00-8:30 PM (ET)
Friday, Jan. 24 12:30-2:00 PM (ET)
Wednesday, Feb. 5 4:00-5:30 PM (ET)
Monday, Feb. 10 1:00-2:30 PM (ET)

Please register for any of these 5 training sessions here. You will receive specific instructions for participating, and the latest version of the Volunteer Orientation Guide.  Thank you for being part of this campaign to activate pro-environment voters. We will keep you informed as things develop.

And ICYMI, I had an interesting encounter at Costco yesterday. End of Climate PSA!

"In January it's so nice, while slipping on the sliding ice..." 
 CHICKEN SOUP WITH RICE, Maurice Sendak, 1962

The 12 months of the year make a very fine organizer for a collection of poetry.  I like ONCE AROUND THE SUN by Bobbi Katz (Harcourt, 2006), HERE COMES THE YEAR by Eileen Spinelli (Henry Holt 2002), and WINTER FRIENDS by Mary Quattlebaum (Doubleday, 2005) is full of nice moments. Here are a few January-appropriate poems that might be new or forgotten to you, including one by me from PUMPKIN BUTTERFLY.

January | John Updike

The days are short,
The sun a spark,
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.

Fat snowy footsteps
Track the floor.
Milk bottles burst
Outside the door.

The river is
A frozen place
Held still beneath
The trees of lace.

The sky is low.
The wind is gray.
The radiator
Purrs all day.


winter haiku from
LION OF THE SKY | Laura P. Salas

we are knitted twins,
soft as kittens, warm as hugs,
waiting to hold hands

Wordsong 2009, illustrated by Jenny Reynish

(right) from WINTER FRIENDS

frost | Valerie Worth

How does
The plain
Of water

Sprout these
Lacy fronds
And plumes
And tendrils?

And where,
Before window-
Panes, did
They root

Their lush
Crystal forests,
Their cold
Silver jungles?

Our host today is living in another season--a scary fire season--that reminds us all to do every little thing we can to connect our daily, hourly, jerky-buying choices to global climate effects.  Thanks to Sally Murphy for the round-up today!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

to word, or not to word?

It’s that time of year--or even that time of decade--when our thoughts may turn to One Little Word. I'm uncertain where the idea of choosing a single word rather than a RESOLUTION originated, but at the Two Writing Teachers blog, Stacy Shubitz described the One Little Word practice thusly in 2011:

"Instead of thinking about a new year’s resolution for 2012, consider thinking about one little word you’ll live by this coming year. Living with one little word as your guide throughout an entire year provides you with more clarity."

So this month the Sunday Poetry Swaggers' challenge is to reflect, in poetry, on the question of whether “to Word” in 2020. Each of us has a different history with OLW and of course various feelings about the usefulness of selecting a word to guide our daily living through the coming year.

It seems my own OLW journey began in 2015. From the beginning, I resisted settling on just one word, immediately revising my first choice, LIGHT, to REVISE, which conveniently left open all kinds of possibilities. 

In 2016 I must have completely forgotten about the whole idea of One Little Word. There is no bloggival evidence that I even THOUGHT of choosing One Little Word.

In 2017 I eschewed a single word for THREE Little Words (always a greedy one, me). They were READY. STEADY. GO. Fancy my paying enough attention to them to return in September, a full 9 months later, to see how the New Year’s Baby had grown!

 In 2018, it would appear, I quietly and deliberately did not choose One Little Word, the unhelpful burden of which I commented on the next year in 2019 when I exchanged OLW for ODT, One Difficult Truth.That choice did me a world of good throughout the year.

So it is perhaps unsurprising that now, with 2020 hindsight, I stop pretending that One Little Word will ever suit my greedy, undisciplined, spatter-focused personality. 


Dear Words, ALL Words, 

I love how you are  
allowing me the latitude 
to utter any attitude. 
I need not stoop to platitudes-- 
your precision’s magnitudinous-- 
and so I’m full of gratitude 
to you, Words, for your plenty. 

I don’t think even twenty 
of you, fifty or a hundred 
could see me through a year, 
could peek at me, speak at me, Latin 
and Greek at me.  Hello?! I’m aglow
with your abundance, portmanteaux
and loanwords, cognates and calques;
at your smorgasbord of choices
my greedy mouth rejoices.

So it does not behoove me--
I don’t think it improves me--
to choose a single one of you to guide 
me through my year. Instead
I choose you all, each of you in your time,
momentary, legendary, literary, prime,
ordinary, necessary, abstract and applied
to all the shades and grades, 
the hints and hues of meaning

to which my heart is leaning,
on which my brain’s caffeining,
by which my soul is stirred.
I even choose all of you words 
my ear has never heard!
To choose just one--One Little Word--
paupers me, stoppers me, is resistibly 
absurd. I announce my renouncement 
of One Little Word. 

draft (c) Heidi Mordhorst 2019

All that being said, you know that I'm continuing to focus my attention on CLIMATE this year, both as the fundamental issue of this decade and as the foundation of my classroom work.  

Meanwhile, I can't wait to see what the Sunday Poetry Swaggers are thinking about their OLWs this year. Do visit each of them to find out.
-Catherine at Reading to the Core -Margaret at Reflections on the Teche -Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone 

-Linda at A Word Edgewise

Our host for the first round-up of 2020 is Carol at Carol's Corner. I wonder if she has a word in mind?

Saturday, December 28, 2019

#haikuforjustice dec 2019

 Illustration of several kids gathered around an adult holding the scales of justice. 

Once again at the end of November came the suggestion to share daily haiku, this year from Jone MacCulloch, with the hashtag #haikuforkindness. But then I was very affected by an article from the magazine Teaching Tolerance I read in the loo at my Thanksgiving hosts' house. "The harm done by long-term exposure to injustice—to the kind of imagery found in racist books, microaggressions and discrimination—calls for more than a simple understanding of kindness. It demands that kindness be interwoven with substantial notions of true justice," writes primary teacher Bret Turner. This made me want to take a step beyond kindness into the territory of #haikuforjustice.

Here's what I have come up with this month, often in response to news items.

yuletide richness inside 
bare brown scarcity outside 
sunny 60* evens things out

December 27 #haikuforkindness #haikuforjustice 
it's called a school strike
to stand with a striking sign
schooling passers-by

December 23 #haikuforkindness #haikuforjustice
to you my British kin
who still buy proper Christmas cards and
then --love--actually send them

to Florence and her dad
who found a message in their Tesco card
then--love--actually heard

December 22 #haikuforkindness #haikuforjustice
#GeorgetownGlow @GeorgetownGlow
all hanging in the same
dark sky prickly and bright
ziptied ziplined light

December 21 #haikuforkindness #haikuforjustice
longest night broken
the throwing off of last year's
acid  excess   bile

December 18 #haikuforkindness #haikuforjustice
Hopi R2 codetalking
decolonized rebels
force of indigenous genius

December 16 #haikuforkindness #haikuforjustice
@RepSlotkin #principled
represent them yes
but also oath of office
head and shoulders above

December 14 #haikuforkindness #haikuforjustice
#PublicEdForum #AllOurChildren
they all arrive
without a price tag  some
can’t see their value

Greta girl of the globe
person of the year
unable to kid herself

December 11 #twitterku #haikuforkindness #haikuforjustice
12:12 12/12
silent sky clock
counts out equal shine for all
cold moon justice

stand strong use your rights
to lift theirs till no one's left
defenseless alone

[no wait this is better]
everyone EVERY
one everyone everyone
EVERY one and ALL

cheeto feet to rotten crotch
to his hoggish head

2/ richly corrupt from
the start sometimes I think
about little Donnie

December 8 #haikuforjustice #haikuforkindness
#BigBird @KCHonors
Carroll, we won't forget
how to get, how to
get to Sesame Street

December 7  #haikuforkindness
washington and lee
belafonte harrier their
blackkklansman arrests me

December 5  #haikuforkindness #haikuforjustice
who sees what they need
who senses  who sounds  who speaks
we do   the teachers

December 4  #haikuforjustice #longformhaiku
we had never met when the
birthday girl mailed me a tiny encouragement
I keep it in my wallet

December 3 #haikuforjustice #haikuforkindness
#simoncowellisoverparty racism sexism homophobia
one voice is too little
northsoutheastwest try a fifth direction
true harmony is a mix

her dad tells me "trabajo
lunes a sabado. no puedo
llevarla al doctor"

December 1 #haikuforkindness #haikuforjustice #WorldAIDSDay
kindness wears a rainbow
of ribbons, red yellow pink
justice acts up


I'm not sure I've pulled it off, and certainly I have broken that cardinal rule of haiku and failed to include nature images in most of them...but I guess that comes with the territory.  Thanks, Poetic License!

Thanks also to the crew who are sharing their #haikuforkindness (also essential) and #haikufor justice on various platforms, and to Michelle Kogan who is hosting our last round-up of 2019 and blasting into a 2020 full of climate action--which is always for #justice.  See you in the new year!

Friday, December 20, 2019

summer sweetness and homage to 9th grade English teachers

I do realize that on this eve of the Winter Solstice few of us are considering that universe of sweetness known as the watermelon.  But because in our household the boy band One Direction has played a significant role over the last just about 10 years (ie half of my daughter's life) and because former member Harry Styles has just released an album called FINE LINES with a really great song (enjoy below) called "Watermelon Sugar," I have gone to my shelf of forever books to pull out IN WATERMELON SUGAR by Richard Brautigan (1968).

This book was given to me as a present by my 9th grade English teacher at Trinity Episcopal High School (Richmond, VA) in 1978.  He was a bearded corduroyed Earth-shoed Deadhead, and it was he who taught me to write (mostly by having us write, a LOT, and then commenting with radical candor), and he who made me feel seen and heard as a writer.  I hope we all have such a teacher to look back on with fondness and gratitude. [The Internet has rarely failed me, but I have searched this Jeff Harrison many times without any leads.  Let me know if he's your neighbor.]

This strange book, set in a post-apocalyptic commune called iDEATH where rivers run in widths from a half-an-inch to miles, where most things except the tigers may be made of watermelon sugar, where some people do and others don't have a regular name, is full of images and language that flavor all my poetry even 40 years later.  Here was my senior yearbook quote: "Our lives we have carefully constructed from watermelon sugar and then travelled to the length of our dreams, along roads lines with pines and stones."

On this cold dark morning I give thanks for watermelon music, for watermelon words, for watermelon sugar sweetness old and new. I don't know that I could ever go without.

The Poetry Friday round-up is brought to us today by Buffy at her blog. Let's murmurate together as one dark bird!

Friday, December 13, 2019

the best of mhb 2017-2018

cover & interior art by Miranda Barnes
In my hands I hold the third volume of THE BEST OF TODAY'S LITTLE DITTY, poems collected on the ambitious blog of Michelle Heidenrich Barnes from 2017-2018.  Many of our Poetry Friday regulars are represented in this book, including me, and we are all rhapsodizing over it, as well we should.

But today I'd just like to spotlight the creations of the creator of THE BEST OF 17-18, Michelle herself.  She has three poems in the book which serve to highlight her range of skills as a poet and the generosity that we have all experienced in working with her.

In this ode from March 2017 Michelle builds a beautiful mosaic of sensory images and then cements  them with a hanging, open question.

Ode to a Genocide Memorial | Michelle H. Barnes

The hammer sings the story
of ten thousand broken shards--
the stench of old bones
and hope's gritty aftertaste,
scrubbed clean by twenty thousand tears.
What question hasn't been asked
that has an answer?

Michelle's golden shovel poem is based on a line (the same one I chose!) from "blurred lines" by Lil Fijjii, shared in Nikki Grimes's post of March 2018.  In it Michelle deftly occupies the slippery brainspace of someone losing their memory but not their need for connection.

Forgetfully Yours | Michelle H. Barnes

There are only so many ways I can say I'm
sorry. I know that you're tired.
I am too.  Weary of
searching for words--names.
places, and all the everyday things I once
took for granted.  If only you
could read my mind! Say
what you will, I probably won't believe it.
Because unless you
can dip a net into my fishbowl world, you can't
imagine how slippery it is. Let them take
my memories, my dignity, my hope. None of it
matters as long as you come back.

And finally, Michelle playfully celebrates her fellow Floridian, our dear one Lee Bennett Hopkins, by casting him as a dino with a taste for poetry.  "Robust and unreserved" also describes Michelle's appetite for the work of sharing poetry, in which she always takes the lead. 

Don't Ask a Hopkinsaurus | Michelle H. Barnes
         for Lee Bennett Hopkins

The L.B. Hopkinsaurus
is a rare and noble breed--
a prince among the wordivores,
he always takes the lead.

At feasting "dino"ccasions
when poetry is served,
his taste for inky gobbling
is robust and unreserved.

He might appear well-mannered
but once he's on a roll,
he holds the Guinness record
for collections swallowed whole!

The L.B. Hopkinsaurus
wears a venerable crown.
Don't ask him to retire,
or even to slow down.

This Energizer Dino
with his charismatic roar
says when it comes to Poetry,
we all should eat much more!

I am so grateful to Michelle for relentlessly and graciously bringing us all together month after month to feed, learn from, be challenged by, and encourage each other. Raise your glass or mug or bowl...Here's to Michelle!

The roundup today is with Liz at Elizabeth SteinANDglass, who is appreciating duality this week.  See you there!