Saturday, November 21, 2009

live from philadelphia

First, thanks to everyone who played along with the idea of "definito"s last week. I'm coming back to them soon and wish I could find a way to display all the comments permanently...
Despite my best intentions this week, I neither visited Miss Rumphius to pick up a Poetry Stretch on Monday, nor managed yesterday morning to post live from the NCTE Conference live from Philadelphia, where I had just the best time at the Poetry Party organized in honor of the NCTE Poetry Award (finally) Winner Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Many who contributed poems to a beautifully produced tribute volume joined the panel in saying a few words and reading their poems, but I believe I was the only one having the pleasure of meeting Lee for the first time. I have never felt so physically middle-aged than I do this fall (and let's face it, 45 is very probably halfway along my lifeline), but something about being in a room with him, with Bobbi Katz and Jane Yolen and the gentle spirits of Myra Cohn Livingston and Eve Merriam, makes me feel like my 4th grade self again, the one who wanted nothing more desperately than to have a poem published in the brand-new Cricket Magazine. When John Ciardi visited my school (thank you, Mrs. Jane Toler, school librarian), I was starstruck and have saved the autograph he gave me in my musical jewelry-box forever: it stood for poems, and what is a poem but a musical jewel? (I'll tell the story about the three cigarettes that once spent a few guilty days in that same jewelry-box another time.)

In the years since, I've been living and working on the outskirts of Poetry Town--knowing just enough news and just enough people to feel like a part of the community, but rarely setting foot in the Town Hall. So getting up and reading "Stanza Means Room" among that crowd of luminaries was was was--DIZZYING, knowing that my poems are built out of their poems, that the internal recording of my experiences as a kid was in a language they taught. I'm not the same now as when I went in, a guest in their poetry house.

Friday, November 13, 2009

one of my many projects

Poetry Friday is not lamenting but crowing over at GottaBook with Gregory K.

At our house, Gregory's "fibs" got everyone excited, especially my mathematician of a daughter, and I found J. Patrick's "zeno" intriguing as well. Intermittently I get an idea for another "definition" poem, which is not a form exactly but an intention for a poem: in few words it attempts to capture the essence of a less common word. It started with this one, written after D1, then in third grade, asked "What does immaculate mean?" and then separately, assigned me to write a poem of at least 10 lines. So I synergized:

Definitions #1

not a
smudge of mud
not a
jot of rot

tulip leaves of clean green
tulip petals of pure red

mingling, singularly

Here's a new one, first draft, from this week's engagement with D2's Level 16 nonfiction text entitled Squirrels.

Definitions # 12

reading about squirrels
your throat tightens
on seeing the limp body of the squirrel
under the cruel talons of the hawk

reading about hawks
your heart leaps
on seeing the skill of the hawk
as it drops onto the fleet squirrel

it's all a matter of

Now I wonder if I should formalize it after all...see how both have exactly 10 lines? and they want to fall into three stanzas of 3, 3 and 2 lines, with the last word being the word they define. Maybe it needs a name...the "definito"? Should the title also be the word in question? Anyone else want to play?

Friday, November 6, 2009

the same leaves over and over again!

Poetry Friday is at Wild Rose Reader today.

There must be as many leaf poems as there are leaves in our yard, but just as you can always find a leaf that seems like a miracle of colors, I keep finding another leaf poem to roll around in.

In my first grade class we talked about how this poem is the perfect combination of science fact and mystery. We talked about how poems are so often made of Noticing and Wondering and how Robert Frost must have been doing both when he wrote this. And I taught them how leather is made, and one little one asked, "Does the animal have to be dead?"

In Hardwood Groves

The same leaves over and over again!
They fall from giving shade above
To make one texture of faded brown
And fit the earth like a leather glove.

Before the leaves can mount again
To fill the trees with another shade,
They must go down past things coming up.
They must go down into the dark decayed.

They must be pierced by flowers and put
Beneath the feet of dancing flowers.
However it is in some other world
I know that this is the way in ours.

~ Robert Frost

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


October may be the 10th month nowadays
but I counted it octopodally:
I was an eight-armed creature walking on water, juggling
many odd balls, some of them flaming
with excitement, even as
I battled an eight-armed creature equipped
with powerful suckers that threatened to drag me
too deep in an ocean of constant motion
clouded with turquoise ink, bad weather and
many more than one grain of sand.
In October my long arms finally reached
the rubbery endtips of my ability to Do Things.
Surfacing, now I can breathe the word