Friday, January 21, 2022

dive deep


Greetings, All.  It's the 3rd Friday of the month, the one where Poetry Friday meets Fridays for Future and we focus on climate issues. Let's take a look at the Climate Clock.

As we contemplate how little time we have left to limit global warming to 1.5*C, let's also consider this enormous news: I drove through McDonald's today (why and whether that's a good use of my climate activist economic pressure is a topic for another time) and realized that my new reusable straw was not in my bag.  It's hard to drink in the car (a birthright of the American consumer) without a straw, so reluctantly I popped open the wrapper on the McD's straw AND DISCOVERED IT WAS PAPER, 100% PAPER!!!  That, my friends, is progress, and SOMEONE (someone you know?) has been badgering McDonald's to make that happen. Cheers to the straw activists!

Here's another cause for celebration: "Deep in the ocean off the coast of Tahiti, scientists made an incredible discovery in November: acres of giant, pristine, rose-shaped corals blossoming from the sea floor in what's known as the ocean's "twilight zone.""


The research mission, led by UNESCO, found the reef stretches for nearly two miles and exists at depths down to 70 meters, or 230 feet. This is around the ocean's "twilight zone," where there's just enough light to sustain life, and below which the ocean transitions into a dark abyss."For once, it's a positive story about coral reefs in the news, which is quite rare these days," Julian Barbiere, head of marine policy at UNESCO, told CNN.

Indeed, this news has got me bobbing about and feeling pink and positive somehow, like "WEHAVEN'TDESTROYEDEVERYTHINGYET!"  And, if we didn't know this reef was even there, maybe that means there's so much else we don't know, that we can discover, that might save us.

Now, to connect the straw to the reef, I want to make sure you all know about this book, THE LAST STRAW: KIDS VS. PLASTIC, an NCTE Notable Book for 2021, by Susan Hood.

From Kids Book a Day: "Following an introduction by 9-year-old Milo Cress, founder of Be Straw Free, this poetry collection looks at different aspects of plastic, from its undeniable usefulness in many areas to the damage it is wreaking on the environment (especially the oceans) to different ways kids and teens are figuring out to recycle and find alternatives to plastic.  

The poetry is just the beginning in this book that is jam-packed with information and inspiring stories about kids working to make a difference in the world by recycling or eliminating plastics.  The colorful illustrators add a lot to the poems, and the 13 pages of back matter... make this an excellent resource for older kids."

Here's one poem from that book to enjoy with the younger readers you know, and one from the Poetry Foundation for you.

illustrations by Christiane Engel


 A Sea Change | Susan Hood
Listen to the seagulls cry,
    watching whales
        who used to thrive
            in seas of cobalt blue.
    Those might mammals ruled the waves--
        a most majestic crew!
Listen to the seagulls cry,
    watching whales 
        who breach and dive
            in seas of plastic stew.
    Whales eat their fill of bags and cups
        and other human spew.
Listen to the seagulls cry
    watching whales
        who can't survive
            sink slowly out of view.
    O wisest of the mammals, please!
        Sea change is up to you.

Pot of Gold |  Ingrid Wendt

For Elizabeth Bishop, 1911–1979, with gratitude

We talk, you and  I, of  mindfulness, here in the world above
          water, but what’s below is watchfulness,
                     pure and simple: creatures trying not to be eaten,
          creatures relentlessly prowling or simply waiting for meals to
cruise on by. Except maybe parrotfish.
          Ever industrious, ever in motion, it’s hard to find one not
                     chomping on Yucat√°n limestone reefs. What we see as
          dead, bleached coral or crusted limestone shelves, for them

is re-embodied Fish Delight. Which means I find them by
          eavesdropping. Ah, those castanet choruses clicking, clacking,
                     a coven of  promises leading me on until there:
          below my mask and snorkel, a dozen or more upside-down

Princesses sway as one, in their pink and blue checkerboard
          gowns, their long, long dorsal crowns
                     cobalt-striped, and turquoise, and fuchsia—useless—
          no Prince to be found, not even in fish identification books,

just me and my ardor. Bewitched, each day I hang, transfixed,
          above them in a slightly different
                     place in that once-pristine, once-undiscovered Yal-Ku lagoon,
          its cradling mix of salt and fresh water

letting me hold myself, and time, and the rest of the world
          stock still.         [read the rest here; the ending is worth the click]


And now, before you go, click on over to  Oceana, a Charity Navigator 4-Star outfit, to learn more about one of the world's biggest plastic polluters (yeah, you guessed it--Amazon) and to take a little action.

Our Poetry Friday host today is Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference, where her puzzling reflections and poem fit nicely with the idea that we all have a part to play in changing the way humans live on our home, the Earth.

Friday, January 14, 2022

it takes practice

Greetings on this heavy-feeling Friday.  I have no spiffy feature today, no OLW or big ol' project to announce, just a really rough and possibly problematic draft that started with a thought I had waiting at the lights on my bike yesterday.  Apparently David Brooks was having the same kind of thoughts, but he clearly never participated in a Friday Night International Folk Dance Club like I did growing up. He offers no solutions.


 Here are the necessary audiovisuals:

Our host today is the colorful and prolific Mary Lee of A(nother) Year of Reading, who also kindly schedules our hosting duties every six months and is generally a human of the finest fabric.  I thank her for letting me use her stitching to illustrate this post about falling apart at the seams.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

winter poem swap & the lost lagoon challenge

Greetings once again, Poetry Friday people. As promised I'm extending the pleasure of joining the Winter Poem Swap and getting to know Tanita better by sharing it with you today, well into January!  Below this you'll find January's Inklings poem challenge as well.

Tanita knows that my family starts our winter holiday with a celebration of the Shortest Day, the Longest Night, on the Winter Solstice. She also knows that I've often and recently used the acrostic to get a draft off the ground. Her poem is truly tailor-made for me, and incorporates all her gorgeous command of rhyme, rhythm and a slightly formal, archaic diction which fits the observance of the Solstice, a practice that reaches us from deep prehistory (and yet which happens right now too, every year!).

See how it's a little wrinkled?  I keep carrying it from room to room with me.

 Now if I could beg your indulgence:  please read this poem aloud while playing the following sound clip from the equally gorgeous handmade titanium wind chime that accompanied the poem.  You see it above in a photo which shows it hanging  before the sliding doors in my Library Lounge; it is both cozy inside and snowy outside at the same time!


I'm so delighted with every part of this gift--"Now wakes the wind.  It whisks the barren ground/Verdant beneath, as sprightly seedlings sleep"--which is always my greatest hope at this time of year. Sunlight is indeed unconquered, no matter what we may do to Earth; let 2022 be the year when each and all begin truly to conquer our misuse of her riches. Thank you, Tanita!


 It's the first Friday of the month, so we Inklings are again undertaking a challenge, this time set by me.  Despite my swoon over Tanita's gorgeously "old-fashioned" poetry it's not often I go for that, but every now & then something strikes my fancy, and this poem by Emily Pauline Johnson (who also published under her Mohawk name Tekahionwake and was born 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve, Canada West) captivated me.


The Lost Lagoon

It is dusk on the Lost Lagoon, 
And we two dreaming the dusk away, 
Beneath the drift of a twilight grey— 
Beneath the drowse of an ending day 
And the curve of a golden moon.

It is dark on the Lost Lagoon,
And gone are the depths of haunting blue,
The grouping gulls, and the old canoe,
The singing firs, and the dusk and—you,
And gone is the golden moon.

O lure of the Lost Lagoon—
I dream to-night that my paddle blurs
The purple shade where the seaweed stirs—
I hear the call of the singing firs
In the hush of the golden moon.


My challenge: "Use the form of this poem to build your own poem FOR CHILDREN about a treasured place that you return to again and again (geographical or metaphorical)." 
It seemed simple enough, but the form proved deceptive--and I counted wrong! I noted that the first four lines had 4 stressed beats each and that the last line of the stanza had 3...but in fact both L1 and L5 of each stanza have three beats. 
So my poem, like some of the others, departs from the form a bit, and doesn't quite have the same water-paddling rhythm--but there may be other pleasures lurking instead. See what you think.

 I bet I'm not the only one whose treasured place is the library, eh? I will say it worked better when I didn't have to keep an eye on the clock!
My school district has just announced a delayed opening tomorrow due to predicted snow that they have cancelled school***, so maybe by the time you read this, an 811 stanza will have been written! Here's where to find everyone else's treasured places.
 Thanks to Carol at Beyond Literacy Link who hosts us this week with a few One Little Words to get 2022 rolling, hopefully in a far more peaceful, prudent way.
***I am not one of my district's 10,000 students and staff currently infected with COVID. Woot. However, the closure today, while the district continues to say it's due to the max 2 inches of further snow, is really because they don't have enough staff to open the buildings. Here's a laugh:

Monday, January 3, 2022

Mordhorst Grant New Year's Letter 2021-22



You've arrived here by following the Bitly link on our paper letter that Fiona, with great patience and respect for the traditions of British Christmas carding, has snail-mailed you.  Thanks for taking the trouble, and we hope you enjoy/learn something/get fired up by one or more of these posts.  Happy 2022!


Sending love from all of us!

Friday, December 31, 2021

with bells on

Santorini -photo by Yuri Lev

Greetings to all who land here as we ring out the old year and ring in the new.  The Seven+One Poetry Sisters aka Poetry Pals have invited us to feature bells today.  In the spirit of collabellation, here's my blitz:



if a clod be washed away by the sea


coral bells

coral reef

reef or island

reef or atoll

toll the bells

toll the road

road to ruin

road to nowhere

nowhere else

nowhere man

man no island

woman be

be the bell

be the ring

ring me up

ring a rosie

rosy glasses

rosy future

futures stocks

future shock

shocking data

shocking news

Alexander Graham Bell

calling on the Batphone

phone me up

phone it in

in a minute

just a second

second thoughts

second chances

chance encounter

chance of rain

rain of ashes

rain of fire

fire alarm

fire fall

all fall down

all wrung out

out of luck

just in time

time's a-wastin'

time’s a ship

a sinking ship

a sinking feeling

a feel for it

it takes a toll

atoll an island

rings it tolls



draft ©HM 2021

Many will notice that I'm leaning heavily on John Donne here, his famous you-can-call-it-a-sonnet-but-really-I-wrote-it-just-the-way-I-wanted "No man is an island." Like John, I had a hard time following the rules of the blitz this time and finally I've just had to give in and ring this bell my own way. Thanks to the sisters, among them Tanita Davis, for the opening the challenge.

In other news, Tanita was my Winter Poem Swap partner, and in the spirit of pacing myself and making that holiday feeling last as long as possible, I'll be posting all about the lovely gifts she sent next time, when also the Inklings will be posting our first challenge of *gulp* 2022. I'm glad to leave 2021 behind, yes, but also not expecting too much better of 2022.  

Apparently that's a way to go, according to this deeply radical and honest blessing that passed to me on Facebook, by Nadia Bolz-Weber:

A blessing for the new year:

As you enter this new year, as you pack away the Christmas decorations and get out your stretchy pants

as you face the onslaught of false promises offered you through new disciplines and elimination diets

as you grasp for control of yourself and your life and this chaotic world

May you remember that there is no resolution that, if kept, will make you more worthy of love.

There is no resolution that, if kept, will make life less uncertain and allow you to control a pandemic and your children and the way other people act.  

So this year,

May you just skip the part where you resolve to be better do better and look better this time.

May you give yourself the gift of really, really low expectations.

May you expect so little of yourself that you can be super proud of the smallest of accomplishments.

May you expect so little of the people in your life that you actually notice and cherish every small lovely thing about them.

May you expect so little of the supply chain and the service industry that you notice more of what you do get and less of what you don't and then just tip really well anyhow.

May you expect to get so little out of 2022 that you can celebrate every single thing it offers you, however small.

Because you deserve joy and not disappointment

So, I wish you a Happy as possible New Year.

As do I, and especially to our host today, Carol at Carol's Corner, who is gamely rounding us up with the antidote, which is always poetry, to the sudden fiery devastation of very nearby territory in Boulder, CO.  May you all feel just a little bit safer by being here.

Friday, December 17, 2021

climate friday: mastering methane

Greetings, Poetry Friday friends! It's the 3rd Friday of the month, when I try to focus my post on important issues of climate rescue.  We all have our own meaningful and motivating causes, and when I found myself overwhelmed by the many, many needs and crises in the world, I picked ONE that feels foundational to me.  

Yes, racism and economic justice are towering challenges, but by working towards preserving the planet, I believe I'm also addressing those, because preserving the planet is saving the homes of its people, especially those who live where climate warming is most pronounced and dangerous.  The New York Times has an extensive interactive piece called POSTCARDS FROM A WORLD ON FIRE, if that tornado system here in middle America seems like a fluke. Spoiler alert: it ain't.

So let's talk about methane.  From the EPA: 

Methane is the second most abundant anthropogenic GHG after carbon dioxide (CO2), accounting for about 20 percent of global emissions. Methane is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Over the last two centuries, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled, largely due to human-related activities. Because methane is both a powerful greenhouse gas and short-lived compared to carbon dioxide, achieving significant reductions would have a rapid and significant effect on atmospheric warming potential.

In other words, making the effort to reduce methane emissions is extra powerful, because we could take out a much more damaging greenhouse gas effect within the 12 years it would otherwise last. 

LOTS of that methane comes from food waste that is dumped into landfills where it rots anaerobically,  producing methane.  Here's a handy graphic to show how one state's overall waste is more than 50% organic matter that could be composted aerobically instead of dumped.

This jibes with what I learned in a Zoom call yesterday with 5 high school students who have received a WWF grant to initiate food composting in my district's schools.  In an average school, food and other organic, compostable waste equals 50% of our overall trash, but it goes straight to our county landfills or incinerators.  The grant program would provide our school with tools to collect food waste from the cafeteria and have it picked up and composted by a commercial composting contractor, reducing school methane contributions by close to 100%.  I'm so excited about this possibility I can hardly stand it!  After all, I watch about 75% of 2 PreK lunches per day go straight into our trash can.

Composting all those limp french fries, nuggets, banana peels and half-eaten pears (because if it's not an apple many kids won't eat it) means those hundreds of pounds of school food waste per week is returned to arable soil, not gassed into the atmosphere.  Here's a vid from MIT that shows why this is an easy solution to our dumbest problem.

And now, because this IS a poetry blog, I give you a poem from my collection PUMPKIN BUTTERFLY (Wordsong 2009). 

Folks, I fear that's a little hard to read (click it to get a better view), but I don't have time this morning to make it better!  Enjoy digging into the rich organic matter of Poetry Friday, ringingly hosted for us this week by Jone at her blog.  Wishing you all a merry and bright Solstice before we meet again next week!


Friday, December 10, 2021

the tree in me

last Dec. 21; my grown-up son
Greetings, Poetry Friday folk!  If you are new,  go here to learn more about this weekly poetry smorgasbord, and welcome.  Poetry Friday originated in 2006 in an online children's literature bloggers' location called The Kidlitosphere, and how surprised am I to find that Susan Thomsen of Chicken Spaghetti is not "new" to Poetry Friday as I've been believing, but a returned early adopter who wrote about it for the Poetry Foundation!

I mention this because I think it might be fair to say that Poetry Friday, since I've known it (my first intentional Poetry Friday post was on 3/27/09) has gradually admitted more and more poetry posts of original work for adults and focused less often on others' published work for kids.  Certainly as my own children have grown up my writing has become more and more adult, a fact which I didn't embrace until around 2018.  

Now, as a challenge to myself this December, I'm deliberately writing for a young audience, and a series of poems related to the season (both natural and festive) is developing. Yesterday I wrote about watering the tree (a Yule tree in our house rather than a Christmas tree; if you're curious ask me about our family's 12 Days of Yuletide), which reminded me to share another's published work for kids!

I read about 200 submissions for the NCTE Poetry Notables list this year, and one of our standouts was THE TREE IN ME by author-illustrator Corinna Luyken. As it happens I had an opportunity to provide a reading of this book for a service at my UU congregation, which I presented as a member of our Earth Ministry to go with my minister's theme of "Old Growth."  Here's what I was working with when I made a selection to present; as you can see poetry and literature are holy texts in our denomination!

Old Growth

Walt Whitman mused that it is the trees which “know the amplitude of time.”  At the end of this month when our congregations reflect on what it means to hold history, we’ll follow the old growth trees into deeper time than our own short lives, paying homage to what Ursula K. Le Guin has called the “tall fraternal fire of life as strong now as in the seedling two centuries ago.” 


And here's what I sent for our service that is currently both "limited in-person" and streamed on YouTube. I recorded it early on the morning before Thanksgiving, not yet washed or dressed, so I went for an "invisible" format that made quite a few people comment on the way I used my hands. Early childhood folks out there will recognize that this is just regular PreK technique! 

                       There was something funny with the sound on my computer, sadly, but the amazing AV folks at church made it better for the recorded service.

  So there you have it:  a classic Kidlitosphere Poetry Friday post to brighten and warm this season of cold and dark.  The round-up today is with Cathy at Merely Day by Day, where--serendipitously--she honors this tradition of Poetry Friday in the Kidlitosphere!

Friday, December 3, 2021

taking on a new form - inklings challenge

Greetings, Poetry Friday people.  Some other day when I have more energy I'll share my essay on how no early years teacher (and probably no teacher, period) should ever be expected to work alone. I've gotten used to having a paraeducator here in PreK, and when she was away for 3 days this week I got all flustered and anxious and, although I pulled it off, deeply exhausted.  (There was no sub, of course, although folks pitched in where they could.)  How did I teach K, 1, 2 all those years in all those places with the barest minimum of support from an extra pair of hands, an extra caring heart?

All of this is by way of pardoning--nay, accepting--that my address of our dear friend Molly's INKLINGS challenge is a touch less than magical.

Here was her assignment: 


The Magic 9 sounded good and somehow seasonal, and not too complicated: wide open except for the line count and the rhyme scheme, a play on the word abracadabra: abacadaba. I felt the pressure, but I played.



May my words magically bring into being the next poem in my December series (short poems for children, for a change)--or else a full-time assistant for every K-2 teacher.

Our host today is Michelle Kogan at her artful blog, where you can find gorgeous watercolors and good news as well as poetry for the holidaze.  Wishing a happy and safe Hanukkah to all our friends who are mid-menorah this week!

Friday, November 26, 2021

ode to the small things of autumn

Greetings, Poetry Friday folk, and if you are Emeka Barclay, you are especially welcome! Emeka's one of the many new and interesting poetry people that I met online at the #NCTE21 National Convention last weekend, and I do hope some of them will join us here on Poetry Fridays to bring us new, diverse voices in the children's poetry community.

I attended the virtual NCTE this year largely because of my participation on the NCTE Committee for Excellence in Poetry for Children.  I don't think I would have done another virtual convention again otherwise.  I found it REALLY hard to commit and be present in the way you can do intensely where you're there in person, with the group energy carrying you along.  Still, I'm glad for what sessions I did attend, and the one our committee did was presenting our list of Notable Poetry Books for Children.  Please do check it out by clicking the link below!

During the same event, NCTE unveiled its 2022 list of Notable Poetry Books and Verse Novels, selected by the NCTE Award for Excellence in Children’s Poetry Committee. The list can be downloaded here.

“We are the only committee in the country that focuses on selecting notable books of poetry and verse novels for children, ages three to thirteen. We are proud of the wide range of themes in this year’s notable poetry books, including new anthologies, advocacy, social and emotional well-being, history, nature, social justice, and science. Our verse novel selections include themes of fitting in, dystopian adventure, refugees, coming of age, and language extinction,” said Ted Kesler, chair of the NCTE Children’s Poetry Awards Committee.

And of course we celebrated the 2021 Awardee for Excellence in Poetry for Children, JANET WONG! Read more here and here.

I had also promised to do my monthly Climate Friday post on the results of  COP26 last week, but I don't know what I was thinking...especially since now my school district schedules parent conferences on the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving Week!  For the moment I'll just link to this explainer of the main takeways.  I hope it gives both hope and a reality check. 

Now for the poetry!  This month the Seven Poetry Sisters invited us all to play along with their "Ode to Autumn"  challenge. Two weeks ago I was kind of mad at autumn and I posted this no/de. This one, however, I bashed out yesterday morning once the stuffing was made and the turkey in the oven (and about a hundred other things done, in concert with the rest of the family).


thanks & gratitude

too many mornings we wake to 

how did I get here?


no matter how hard I try

knowing that the day will be

strained, slippery, sloppy

& we

get up anyway.  who are we to

resist the riot of minor miracles (this pecan)


tiny blessings (this parsley) orbiting us like

iridescent insects, mithering us with

their background buzz?  if they bite

us, if they sting, it’s just to

demand our attention, to denounce our

ennui.  get up.  get up & bare your skin.

draft ©HM 2021


Did you notice it's an acrostic? I definitely used to think that falling back on an acrostic was a cheater-pants 2nd-grader move, but no more:  it really does always lead to something real for me.  Well, it feels real to me, and I hope to you too! I also can't help but link to a lot of songs that bubbled up as I was writing.

Our host today is our dear Ruth at There Is No Such Thing As a Godforsaken Town. We are sending all our love, compassion and hope to Haiti and Ruth is sending us back months and years worth of gratitude, which is a feat on her part.  I am #grateful for her and all of you here in the Poetry Friday community!