Friday, October 29, 2010

SPARKs fly

As I noted some weeks ago, I'm participating in SPARK 10, an online collaboration project between artists and writers. This painting is by Delores Ekberg of Piedmont, SD. Here's how she describes the work: "This is watercolor on rice to do. You crumple rice paper, attach it to illustration board with acrylic matt medium, then brush color on the creases, or "rub" color on the creases...I used colored pencils...then use watercolor to make a picture of whatever you see coming out of the textures."

Here's my poem (probably not my final draft) inspired by the art. Ooh, I hope she likes it!


blossoms in autumn from
crumpled trunks
rootrippled river
from wrinkled tips of twigs

hangs lowswinging
among elderly leaves
dripping dry mineral hues

falls to ground
lies in brittle layers
sinking to siltsoil taking down
swallowed sunlight

sends up heat

is wisdom

Enjoy all the poetic richness of Poetry Friday this week with Toby at The Writers' Armchair.

P.S. Two notes to all my PF friends:
1) I apologize for receiving all your kind comments and regularly failing to return the favor. I shall try to do better now that my teaching life is settling down.
2) Will you be at NCTE? Let me know!

Friday, October 22, 2010

in case anyone has never

What is it about pumpkins? We went to choose pumpkins at a local "patch"--no time for a trip to an actual farm this week, and my kids know very well how pumpkins grow--but even just being in a large sunny yard strewn with pumpkins gave us all a rotund feel of earthy well-being.

At school today, following the kindergarteners' visit to a pumpkin farm yesterday, we'll celebrate our first Poetry Friday together by carving a pumpkin while simultaneously reading the following tour de force by the great Valerie Worth. To me this poem (with many of hers!) serves as a definition of "poetry" for kids: a piece of writing that distills experience into a handful of words that work musically together. (Want to watch me try to explain that to 5-year-olds?) In any case I think it will make a fine complement to our work with "Five Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate" next week.


After its lid
Is cut, the slick
Seeds and stuck
Wet strings
Scooped out,
Walls scraped
Dry and white,
Face carved, candle
Fixed and lit,

Light creeps
Into the thick
Rind: giving
That dead orange
Vegetable skull
Warm skin, making
A live head
To hold its
Sharp gold grin.

~ Valerie Worth (1933-1994)

You can dig in to more at a wrung sponge with Andi this week.

Friday, October 15, 2010

autumn summer pumpkin butterfly

What's your favorite season? It's an important question; in my family we seem to review our preferences, with revisions, on a regular basis (just like we keep having to come back to the food question: "If you could have only one carbohydrate for the rest of your life, what would you choose? only one fruit? only one vegetable?").

I find it very easy indeed to pick summer, but this early fall time is a close second because of piquant overlaps like the one I tried to capture in the opening poem of last year's Pumpkin Butterfly (Boyds Mills/Wordsong). My school is full of painted lady and monarch butterflies because of the second-grade science curriculum, and the pumpkins are already on their way in, all under the mellow October sunshine. Don't forget to watch for ghosts.


we haul our wagon to a patch of hilly earth
weighed down with deep orange
with bigbellied, cumbersome pumpkins

“This is the one”
“And this one”
we say

we cut the tough vines and turn to load them up

behind our backs
a gust of butterflies rises and tumbles
on hot October air

yellowgreen tinged with orange
wings as weightless and angular
as the pumpkins are heavy and round:

the ghosts of our pumpkins untethered from earth

~ Heidi Mordhorst 2009

Friday, October 8, 2010

[uptoFIFTEENonline-listservs] in the picture

I find lists to be a powerful way of describing and defining. When I placed a personal ad in the Village Voice ohsomany years ago, it consisted of a list of items in my possession, among them "103 earrings, garlic press, Swiss Army knife, X tapes." That last got me plenty of suggestive letters from folks who misunderstood thoroughly.

I've realized that I'm now receiving daily digests from no fewer than 15 different listservs; taken together they describe and define me pretty thoroughly. The most recent addition is the Maryland Writers' Association, where I found an announcement about this project:

Welcome to SPARK!

Open to writers, musicians, and visual artists of all kinds,
SPARK is a participatory creativity event that takes place four times each year.

The project’s rules are simple: Writers send their partners a story or poem; artists send an image of their painting, photograph, or sculpture; and musicians and video artists send either a file or a link to their work on another website. Then, over the 10-day project period, each person uses their partner’s piece as a jumping off point for new work of their own.

This site is a work in progress, containing inspiration and response pieces from SPARK’s 2010 rounds. You can view those pieces by clicking “See the work,” above. You can also see work from SPARK’s first six rounds here.

SPARK Rounds take place in February, May, August, and October. If you’d like to join us, send us a note!

I've already registered to participate in SPARK 10 later this month, because I had so much fun doing something similar before. I've written some poems to go with paintings by my friend Elyse Harrison, a local artist who runs a studio/gallery, and participated in an event a few years ago where Elyse invited artists and writers to collaborate and then put up a show of their work. I wrote a poem to go with a provocative landscape photograph that I had intended to post here, but alas, I can't find it.

So instead I'll put up this week's "15 Words or (ahem) Fewer" poem, a weekly opportunity provided by the endlessly energetic and inspiring Laura Purdie Salas. This week she posted the above, and in response I posted the following.


it's the elbows
that tell the story
of the next twenty-four years
of togetherness

Heidi Mordhorst

While a list, like a column of tiny buttons, might describe and define, sometimes it's what is not quite in the picture that tells the real story.

Laura and Heidi at the ALA Poetry Blast 2010

Check out the list of Poetry Friday posts at Carol's Corner!

Friday, October 1, 2010

look out, you rock-and-rollers

As primary school teachers go, I'm a bit of a rock-and-roller, at least in the musical sense. This is proving helpful at the moment: due to all kinds of factors, our school district is experiencing flash flooding and children are pouring into my school like heavy beautiful raindrops. We keep adding teachers, but not as one-whole-teacher-at-a-time; as a part-timer, I'm one of the folks whose schedule and teaching assignments keep getting "adjusted." This week (just when I was hoping to settle into a rhythm with my 2nd and 1st grade reading classes), instead I'm moving out of one classroom and into another, and losing my 2nd grade class and gaining a Kindergarten class instead!

How handy, at times like these, to log into Rhapsody on my classroom computer and play--at some volume--uplifting, pertinent songs like this 1971 classic by David Bowie (during my prep time, not class time. We listen to other rock-and-roll then). As in all good poems or lyrics, there's some ambiguity here, some interpretation demanded of us, the reader/listeners.

Culturally, I'm not as much of a rock-and-roller, if that implies going raucously, carelessly with the flow. Being a teacher is perfect for those of us who like routine, who "nest" into their classrooms like mamapapabirds, but who enjoy the surprises and challenges that arrive with each child each morning. However, I did appreciate being asked to help problem-solve on all these changes because of my ability to think outside the box. (Little do most people know how far outside of the box I'm willing to go!)

My only other comment is that I have never intentionally spit on any children.


I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test

Turn and face the strange
Don't want to be a richer man
Turn and face the strange
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can't trace time

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through

Turn and face the strange
Don't tell them to grow up and out of it
Turn and face the strange
Where's your shame?
You've left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can't trace time

Strange fascination, fascinating me
Ah, changes are taking
the pace I'm going through

Turn and face the strange
Oh, look out you rock 'n rollers
Turn and face the strange
Pretty soon you're gonna get a little older
Time may change me
But I can't trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can't trace time

~ David Bowie

Dip into Poetry Friday's stream of warm impermanence with Jen at Biblio File.