Friday, December 30, 2011

MyPoPerDayMo

And lo, the blog went forth and multiplied, and there appeared on the face of the earth a new page chronicling my efforts during November 2011 to write one poem per day.  Jump to it here:

http://myjuicylittleuniverse.blogspot.com/p/mypoperdaymo.html

Poetry Friday--the last of 2011--is at The Drift Record with Julie.  Happy New Year to all.

Friday, December 23, 2011

and lo, sickness fell upon the house

amoxicillin ibuprofen
double triple dose
fever lingers glands are swollen
only fit part is my nose
hives and itching hands ballooned
I hope I hope to get well soon

hope you all are healthier over the holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

taking care of business

Home sick today, but not too sick to appreciate this, posted on the listserv of the large, diverse middle school where my daughter attends a magnet program.  Hooray for a stroke of sanity in the world!
*****************

EMS Families,

At Eastern Middle School we are committed to creating opportunities that support each and every student being the best that they can be. Recently we have been investigating ways to help all students improve their reading ability. The research we found told us that in order to be a better reader a person must read 20 minutes per day. The teachers discussed the research and decided that our "Taking Care of Business" time could and should be used to give everyone at Eastern 20 minutes to read every day.

When we return from break we will make a change to how we use the TCB time. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday students will report to their sixth period class during TCB. Students and staff will be expected to use the TCB time to read quietly. You can read any item of your choice… a novel, a magazine, a newspaper, a graphic novel… whatever you like. You can read in the language of your choice. Teachers and staff will be reading too… and reading email will not count!

For those students that were at Eastern last year and participated in Maryland State Assessment prep activities in January and February --- this silent reading program will take the place of MSA prep. This is your time to take a break and enjoy a good book. We believe that taking time every day to read will help all of us… students and adults become better readers.

During winter break visit the library and select books that you would like to read and bring them to school when we return from break. If you don't have time to visit the library or you forget… don't worry, your teachers will have materials in the classrooms for you.

If you have any questions about this change your are encouraged to contact any staff member at Eastern for clarification. We hope that you will enjoy and take advantage of this opportunity to get lost in a good book!

Casey Crouse
Proud Principal

Friday, December 16, 2011

red and gold the fluffy threads

It's taken the best part of a week, but our tree--not a Christmas tree exactly, but an evergreen Yule tree--is finally "quite dressed."  Reading at that link, I found something I didn't know, that the Druids decorated their evergreens with "images of what they wanted the waxing year to bring."  By design, our tree is hung with flora and fauna: many rustic and realistic animals, fruit and flowers, stars and snowflakes, sweet Laplanders and Alpenkinder.  I guess these images from nature are what I'm always wishing for.  (Our tradition of hanging plain little gingerbread men rather confuses the concept, but as I've done it every year since I was born, it's not December without them.)

Tonight the kids pulled a slip from the Solstice countdown calendar which invited them to make a fire in the fireplace (for Duncan), roast marshmallows (for Daisy) and read from our collection of holiday books and poems. We worked our way through toddler favorites (Happy Christmas, Maisy; lifting the flaps is still fun), classics ("The Night Before Christmas") and finally the lovely spangled little tree by e.e. cummings, illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray. 

[little tree]

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower


who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly


i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid


look...................... the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,


put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy


then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud


and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

by e. e. cummings


Put up your little arms, world.

The rest of Poetry Friday is with Kate Coombs at Book Aunt.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

OIK Tuesday: desert island coconuts


Today's Overheard in Kindergarten is actually "Overheard at Hinode," the sushi restaurant where Duncan, now 9, and I have been eating together since he was a toddler.  We enjoyed the buffet dinner there the other night and had some interesting conversation during which we each schooled the other on the question of perspective.

Duncan posed me a problem involving a desert island, coconuts and some "nerds."  He then answered all my follow-up questions,  though  somewhat impatiently. When I finally got to the end of my earnest and strategic adult plan to solve the problem, he said, "Wow. You really think differently about this than anyone else I've asked. They all just throw the coconuts at the nerds." 

Of course, everyone he's asked is a 3rd-grade boy--except for Bella, his good friend who first got the nerds to help her build a cannon, from which she then fired the coconuts at the nerds! (That right there is why they're such good friends.)   Here's my poem.


What To Do If You Are Stranded On a Desert Island
with Nothing But a Lot of Coconuts and Some Nerds

Who are the nerds?
Am I friends with them?
What is my aim?
Are there coconut palms or just coconuts?
Am I trying to survive there
or am I trying to escape back
to civilization?
What time of year is it?
Why are they nerds?
What are they passionate about?
(After all, nerds are just people who are so focused on one or two things, like physics,
that they forget to notice other things, like what clothes are fashionable.)

First I would introduce myself to the nerds.
I'd ask them to help me devise a way to
crack a lot of coconuts in a short time.
We would drink the coconut water and eat the meat.
Meanwhile we would design and build a raft
out of the coconut shells and palm fronds.
Through cooperation and ingenuity
we would triumph over adversity and the ravages of nature!

Or maybe I would just
throw the coconuts at the nerds.


Heidi Mordhorst 2011
all rights reserved

Friday, December 9, 2011

picturing writing: literacy through art

At NCTE I found myself laughing at myself, because with 700 sessions to choose from, I managed to attend a session that I had already attended last year!  Not so surprising--the concept of "Picturing Writing: Fostering Literacy through Art" is right up my personal alley, and the collage-based approach called "Image-Making Within the Writing Process" is my back door.  Thanks to Beth Olshansky and her teacher colleagues for leading me home (two years in a row).

So, in our new 2.0 Elementary Integrated Curriculum we are supposed, as winter sets in, to be studying plant and animal life cycles, planting seeds and learning about baby animals. (Never mind that all around us dying, darkening, sleeping.)  To tie it all together and to lead us into a poetry project, I chose Leo Lionni's Frederick and Eric Carle's The Tiny Seed, which we have been comparing and contrasting, enacting and evaluating: which parts of this story could really happen?  do Frederick and his family do what real mice do? 

Meanwhile, each child used watercolors to paint 3-6 papers for collage, in the manner of both Carle and Lionni. As the class worked to see what animals, plants and weather their unpredictable painted papers suggested, I learned quite a lot that will help me support the project next time!  (Note to self:  20 collaging kindergarteners at once is too many.)  Still, their collages are very pleasing, often striking, and most importantly, quite individual. 

This week we're placing our collages in front of us and writing poems.  While a couple of the 5-year-olds are able to write their compositions on their own, for most I'm scribing with strategically placed blanks for them to spell juicy words like fish, rain, float and lion.  I cannot wait to share the whole collection with you, but for now I have only two to hand.  Jordan cut 4 shapes from a pinkish-purple paper, arranged them as a fish on a stripy bluish sea paper, and then painstakingly cut and glued maroon and ochre spots from another paper to create a bubbly surface. Here is his poem.

Mighty Minnow
by Jordan

mighty minnow swimming fast
in a deep, deep sea
pinkish-purple spots and dots
do you see any more colors
or anything else on me?

Ezekial is my youngest nearly 6-year-old and My Project for the year. We worked very closely to make the lion he imagined out of a deep muddyish turquoise paper. Here is the poem we negotiated.

Lion
by Ezekial

the blue dad lion
is walking to his wife
the playground is their house
they eat leaves and grass
they climb up the ladders
and they jump!

Extra poet's note: My plan, of course, was to model the collage-to-poem move using my own giraffe-under-sunset collage...but as my colleagues often say, "Kindergarten happened," and I found myself sitting down to write with children without ever having modeled. Guess what? For this class anyway, it has not mattered. Perhaps the other poetry we've been reading (most recently Frederick's "Sky Mice" poem and Douglas Florian's Beast Feast) and all the singing we've done has been enough. Their words sing, too!

Bonus activity:  the children are loving acting out each poem as it's completed. More soon...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

OIK Tuesday: guts

Back before Thanksgiving, when I asked the children to list what they were thankful for, I went for variety by specifying some categories:  a person, a food, something in nature, something at school, something you like to play, a part of your body.   Talia suprised me by writing "my intinestinse" (which, unlike the average 5-year-old, she felt confident to spell independently).

Clearly intestines remain of great interest to her.  Having read Frederick all last week, we are looking forward to a visit from real pet mice and listing what we know and what we wonder about mice.  On our KNOW chart, Talia's statement reads, "Mice have intestines."  On our WONDER chart, her question reads, "Do mice have intestines?" She has a sense, very vague, of what intestines are for.  But I think she could use some further information.

I'm working on a mouse intestines poem for Talia--do you have one too?

Friday, December 2, 2011

give e-poetry this season!

Folks, there could not be an easier, cooler stocking-stuffer for your iGeneration kids than p*tag, the downloadable poetry anthology for Kindle, Nook or iPad.  For a mere $2.99, you can send a collection of fresh, original poems  for readers 12 and older straight to their digital devices!

In addition to p*tag for teens, there's Poetry Tag Time, perfect for your elementary teacher friends, and Gift Tag (pictured here), which features poems about presents.   All can be enjoyed on iPhones, Kindles, Nooks, computers and interactive whiteboards.

For a taste of p*tag, here's my piece "The Wishing Tree," introduced this way:

People (adults, mostly) say that “money doesn’t grow on trees, you know,” like it’s no work at all to produce a crop of juicy peaches or shiny acorns.  Other people (little kids, mostly) think that lots of things grow on trees, like corks and popcorn.  This photo came with the title “Wishing,” so it was easy to embrace the intriguing idea that wishes grow on trees.  Does that mean there’s a Come-True Tree somewhere?


A Wishing Tree

on every star
every puff of birthday breath
every penny down the well
you wish for the same thing

on every four-leaf clover
every loose eyelash
every turkey’s furcula
you wish for the same thing

(can’t tell us, can you?
if you do it won’t come true)
you wish it every day
until one day you’re walking along,

secretly wishing on random things:
cloud shaped like a duck
three green punch-buggies in a row
your own lucky-left blue shoe

and you find—who knew?—a wishing tree
hung with white wishes as light as popcorn:
“I wish I could fly”
“I wish for a slumber party with a rock star”
and of course
“I wish to have three more wishes”

reaching deeper between the leaves
you find riper, heavier wishes:
“I wish my dog was still alive”
“I wish I had stuck up for myself”
and then—no way!—
“My wish is the same as yours”

this one you pluck, fold in half and
tuck into your right shoe,
waltzing away on the soles
of twin wishes

Heidi Mordhorst 2011
from p*tag, compiled and edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

To give p*tag as an online gift, go to Poetry Tag Time.  Click on the "Give as a Gift" button at the Amazon listings for our books, follow the prompts, and a book will be ready to download instantly on a Kindle or iPad.  Be a poetry elf!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

OINK Tuesday: Dad is a...

Part of the reading we do in Kindergarten is in “guided reading groups,” where I sit with a small group and a set of little beginner books such as Moms and Dads.  I read it to them, they read it with me, they read it independently, and then they take it home to read with their families.

Moms and Dads was Group One’s greatest challenge yet:
“Mom is a bus driver.
Dad is a window cleaner.
Mom is a police officer.
Dad is a vet.
Mom is a librarian…”

On page 11 we learned that “Dad is a farmer,” and we had to look hard to see that he was a pig farmer, because only parts of various pigs were visible in the photo illustration.  It was much easier to see that “Mom is a farmer, too,” because her cows were very apparent (and complete).  However, for this group that includes four English learners, the tough part was remembering the vocabulary for all the jobs.

During the unison reading, I paused on page 11 to let the children refer to the photo and recall that “Dad is a… a…”  Silence. 

After studying the picture again, finally Marla said, “Pig!”   We all laughed.

*****************************
Dads at Work (#29 in MyPoPerDayMo)

His dad is a window cleaner;
Her dad drives a rig.
Your dad is a dentist, and
My dad is a pig.

He goes to work in black and white.
They call him Spotted Swine.
He roots and snuffles, rolls in mud;
He snorts and is porcine.

At home he cleans his hairy ears
And tucks away his tail.
He joins us at the dinner table,
Then reads through all the mail.

Tomorrow will be like today:
My dad will go to work.
He’ll eat his lunch out of a trough—
A porky piggy’s perk.

Heidi Mordhorst 2011
all rights reserved

Thursday, November 24, 2011

post-feast poetry fest: black friday

Welcome one and all to what I hope will be a blockbuster day in the poetry market! 
Come early, stay late and shop til you drop without ever leaving home or---this is key--spending a penny.  At the poetry mall, all the flavors & favors, subjects & objects, treasures & pleasures are yours for the mere click of a mouse.   I'll be rounding up the posts periodically all day with the help of Mr. Linky below.

I spent time yesterday trying to explain "Black Friday" to my 9-year-old and why we will be avoiding Target like the plague, also known as The Black Death.  I'd like to reclaim the beauty of black this Friday with a piquant excerpt from Mary O'Neill's deservedly classic Hailstones and Halibut Bones, and a video featuring the whole poem.

What Is Black?

...Think of what starlight
And lamplight would lack
Diamonds and fireflies
If they couldn’t lean against Black.




Interesting musical treatment, don't you think?  For more black beauty, go here for said 9-year-old's take, and here and here for some adult poems on black.  Then be sure to leave your link below, with a word about your post in parentheses after your name. Thanks for shopping stopping in!

*********************************************************************************
Early Birds

First up today is (as far as I know) a newcomer, Karissa Sorrell, with a lovely "Blessing" by James Wright, posted at The Iris Chronicles.  Nice to meet you, Karissa!

At The Write Sisters, Jet has Robert Frost's "Reluctance," which is a do-not-go-gentle poem I didn't know.  I am so grateful to PF for repeatedly introducing me to new Frost poems--it seems I missed most of them in my education.  Was he considered too traditional by my hippie English teachers?

Myra posts on the cemeteries of New Orleans today with photos and video and lyrics and poem today, all on the theme of passing.  Rich and interesting stuff at Gathering Books.

Over at Paper Tigers, Sally has a review and commentary on the oral tradition of  the Ainu people of northern Japan....lots of links to follow!

Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference is also up early and sharing the excellent "common book of prayer" by Chris Clardy.  Click around this blog to find endless collectibles you didn't know you needed.

At The Poem Farm, Amy has, as always, a post full of juicy details about the new e-book Gift Tag, the snow poem she contributed, and a story about a miracle of a teacher who knows which is more important: a math test or the first snow of the season.

Janet at Across the Page, shares some fabulous photos of neighborhood hawks, along with Ted Hughes's "Hawk Roosting."  How did she know that we spotted (and heard!) some in our neighborhood yesterday?

Coming to us from Haiti, Ruth at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken place, has a rumination on brokenness, gratitude and Pablo Neruda's "Ode to Broken Things."

And Tanita concludes a month of Thanksgiving with an essay on "difficult patriotism" and a paragraph that sounds like a poem called "I don't like you."  Journey with her at [fiction, instead of lies].

Mary Lee explores the very small and very large with the help of Robert Creeley at A Year of Reading.  You can also go there to sign up to enjoy the Poetry Friday hosting experience in 2012.  I can recommend it.  : )

Steven at Poetry at Play gives mouthwatering thanks for...penguins!  If you haven't joined Poetry Advocates for Children and Young Adults, today is your day.

Oh, boy--Maria at A Poem A Day shares Eavan Boland's "A Moment," which is a cousin to Robert Creeley's "One Day."  Lovely.

Linda has an original and personal sestina which honors the passing down of traditions, Thanksgiving and otherwise, from mother to daughter.  You'll find it at TeacherDance.

At Random Noodling, Diane has a hoot of a haiga--or should that be hogga?  At Kurious K's Kwotes, we hear from Fabu, the poet laureate of Madison (Wisconsin, I believe).  And at Kids of the Homefront Army, Diane shares another authentic take on the Black Friday/Black Market thread with a WWII-era voice.

Robyn and G.K. Chesterton are making sure that we are thoroughly grateful today and every day over at Read, Write, Howl.

Over at A Teaching Life, Tara shares "Before the World Intruded" and view into the backseat at (grown-up) sleeping children.  The traditions of Thanksgiving took me to some of these bittersweet thoughts about my children, too.

Sylvia compellingly advertises her latest e-book poetry anthology, Gift Tag, published with Janet Wong, at Poetry for Children.  If you scroll down you can also enjoy her comprehensive report on the poetry doings at NCTE's annual convention in Chicago, a poetry party I was privileged to participate in.  (Is my favorite letter P?)

Carol's Corner features a review of Jane Yolen's new Birds of a Feather and some nice excerpts, plus a reminder that poets and scientists have a lot in common. Go, observers of the world!

Greg at GottaBook didn't eat too much for dinner, oh nooooo.  At least he's got his priorities straight.

I apologize to Charlotte of Charlotte's Library, whose link I missed earlier today.  She's got spoofs of A.A. Milne (sacrilege : ) by a British humorist known as the Beachcomber.  Don't miss it!

And last for today is Adrienne at What Adrienne Thinks About That, with a Stanley Kunitz poem called "The Layers" and a knowledge that she is not done with her changes.  Me, either, Adrienne.  Me either.

Thanks for playing poetry today, everyone!  I've enjoyed sampling everyone's posts and will return to make  proper comments soon.  All the best until next time!


   
   

********************************************************************************

house prayer

Welcome to all on this Thanksgiving Thursday introduction to tomorrow's Poetry Friday feast. I heard a piece on NPR this morning on civility around the table which intersects nicely with this poem-set-to-music that has been running through my head. It's #1 in the Unitarian Universalist hymnal (wish I could link to a recording).  May it be so at your house today.





House Prayer
by Louis Untermeyer

May nothing evil cross this door,
And may ill fortune never pry
About these windows; may the roar
And rain go by.

Strengthened by faith, these rafters will
Withstand the batt'ring of the storm;
This hearth, through all the world grow chill,
Will keep us warm.

Peace shall walk softly through these rooms,
Touching our lips with holy wine,
Till every casual corner blooms
Into a shrine.

Laughter shall drown the raucous shout;
And, though these sheltering walls are thin,
May they be strong to keep hate out
And hold love in.

See you tomorrow, poems abounding!

this is a test

While most are busy stuffing and basting and peeling and mashing, I'm messing with HTML code...Mr. Linky is invited to my feast!

Let's see how he fits at the table....

Well, he's not particularly handsome, but he's a fine conversationalist, and really, what's more important?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

boots in Chicago

It's chilly here and everybody's wearing boots, including me.  (I didn't need those other pairs of shoes I brought.)  I got to thinking about my first pair of boots, c. 1980, and what they did to me--on the inside.  This is #19 in MyPoPerDayMo.






Boots
George Sand on her men's hob-nailed boots: "I would willingly have slept with them, as my brother did when he was very little, when he was given his first pair. With their little metal heels I was firmly grounded on the pavement."


These boots are a black mask for my feet.
Far from my face, still
they shift my balance, turn me into a bandit
who steals into secret identities, then

sneaks out wielding Xena’s sword
and George’s pen,
climbs into Amelia’s Electra
wearing Nancy’s miniskirt,
mouth full of Penelope’s bubblegum
as she blows out a story
as fireproof as Saint Joan’s.

Heidi Mordhorst 2011
all rights reserved

Thursday, November 17, 2011

feeling small: from NCTE in Chicago

Thursday was a beautiful day in Chicago, and not just because I'm here all on my own for four days.  I arrived for the NCTE Convention early enough to be a tourist, and although the temperature was a bracing 33*, the sky was as blue as in the (stock) photo.  Millenium Park is a marvel.  Here's #17 in MyPoPerDayMo.


scaled

I swim the serpentine spine of a
steel-shingled leviathan

it skims the base of a canyon of coral
steeples skinned with glass scales

even deeper, schools of flashing
fish swarm north and south

a lattice of ribs arches above
the sea bed, something shipwrecked

nearby a steely cephalopod
crouches enormously over its cave

I’m one of the
slow-motion minnows
that bumps its nose bumps its nose
against a shiny sea-cloud, asking

in all this vastness
where am I?


Heidi Mordhorst 2011
all rights reserved

I'm looking forward to greeting some PF regulars in person for a change!  For those enjoying it from the comfort of their own homes, Poetry Friday is with my neighbor Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

OIK: the sun's belly

Today we did our first official science investigation, a very simple one:  which powder makes Oobleck?  Afterwards, sitting in a circle, we talked about how we liked being scientists and about all the kinds of scientists there are, including archaeologists, which led to some discussion of meteors and dinosaurs, which led to this.

Sara:
My mom says the sun is really a star, and its belly is so big that those points have to come out all around it.


If you like the idea of the sun's big belly, write a poem about it!  Here's mine:

sun
you have eaten up
sand and snow, leaves and lava flow

now your belly glows so big
that you have to lie back
in your blue hammock
your many arms thrown wide
and shine

Heidi Mordhorst 2011
all rights reserved

Missing word to be entertained tomorrow.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

let the trio lay

In the spirit of BLTN rather than TGIF, I'm here to post something, anything, for Poetry Friday.

The Word-of-the-Month poetry challenge at David Harrison's blog is FLAMBOYANT, and Steven Withrow put up a flamboyant triolet, which got me all rhyme-and-metered (which is the poet's equivalent of hot-and-bothered)....so here's #11 in MyPoPerDayMo series.


Triolet for 11.11.11

Flames are floating on the frost,
Torches throwing off their sparks.
The lake of green is crackling, lost.
Flames are floating; on the frost
Flamboyant tongues of light are tossed.
They ride the wind in waves and arcs.
Flames are floating on the frost,
Torches throwing off their sparks.

Heidi Mordhorst 2011
all rights reserved


Poetry Friday *was* hosted by April at Teaching Authors yesterday, and it's never too late to stop by!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

OIK: nothing to see here

No one said anything ticklish in Room 144 this week.


Well, they did--lots of things--but it would be so burdensome to explain the context that the lightness of the tickle would be spoiled.  And anyway, having embarked suddenly on MyPoPerDayMo (My Poem Per Day Month) on November 1, I now have a good handful of poems to pick from and post.

Here's #8, thanks to Tricia Stohr-Hunt's Monday Poetry Stretch at The Miss Rumphius Effect suggesting that we write a commemorative poem (happy bloggiversary, Tricia!). I ended up commemorating my favorite part of our classroom day.


2:27 pm

Each afternoon at this moment
if I could
I would kneel facing Mesopotamia,
touch my forehead to the clay soil
and honor the broad-shouldered,
tip-toeing gods of writing.

Instead at this moment
because I must
I bend facing Kindergartenia,
touch my hand to the fresh toil
and honor the tender-voiced,
heart-shouting words of writers.


Heidi Mordhorst 2011
all rights reserved

Friday, November 4, 2011

never mind TGIF...CIPBFA?

I lament "the TGIF mentality" and the way we teach our young people that what we do during the week--our work--is distastefully less worthy than anything we might do during the weekend (like grocery shopping, laundry and yard work).  I think it's especially sad in the context of early childhood education, where every day is Today and every day's work can be thrilling and important (cf. the spontaneous burst of cheering and clapping in my class when we reached the 40th day of school and were able to make another bundle of 10 popsicle sticks!)

Of course, if I were in the position of having to do a job I didn't enjoy, TGIF might make a lot more sense to me.  I take this moment to be grateful that through a constellation of circumstances within and beyond my control, I get to spend Monday through Friday doing the work I was born to do.

This blessing may be also why I woke this morning thinking not "TGIF" but "CIPBFA?"  Can It Possibly Be Friday Again?  Where do the weeks go?  Did I use all those six days since last Friday well enough?  Can I even remember their quality, the highlights and challenges, the quips and quirks of this particular fraction of my life?   Do I think too much?

And now I go searching for a poem that delicately wraps a muscled hand around these thoughts and feelings, molds them into a more pleasing shape and holds them outstretched on its palm for me (and you) to observe, consider, admire.  In three minutes I have several options (and I take this moment to be grateful for the World Wide Web).  Here's one that slows the day down and turns the idea of weekdays vs. weekends inside out.


Friday Snow

Something needs to be done—like dragging a big black plastic sack through the upstairs rooms, emptying into it each waste basket, the trash of three lives for a week or so. I am careful and slow about it, so that this little chore will banish the big ones. But I leave the bag lying on the floor and I go into my daughter’s bedroom, into the north morning light from her windows, and while this minute she is at school counting or spelling a first useful word I sit down on her unmade bed and I look out the windows at nothing for a while, the unmoving buildings—houses and a church—in the cold street...... 

continued at moving length here

by Reginald Gibbons


Poetry Friday continues at the new and improved Writing the World for Kids with Laura Purdie Salas, and if you write as well as enjoy poetry, don't forget to stop by here every Tuesday evening for the "Overheard in Kindergarten" poetry tickle.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

OIK Tickle: store-ybook princess


During the Halloween costume parade, between shivers...
Camila:
Ms. Mordhorst, do you know what princess I am?

Me:
No, I don't know which princess wears a purple dress.  Is it a Disney princess?

Camila:
Yes!  It's Camilla!

Me:
Oh--what story is she from?

Camila:
Walmart.


...which leaves me wondering: what IS the relationship between "story" and "store"?  Off to check it out; back soon with a poem.
*******************************
she kicks through the plastic
with lucite heels,
breaks from her little box,
smooths her hair

perfect in purple
she twirls through the aisles
of her big-box palace
haughty but naughty under her crown

prances past security
straight into the schoolyard,
satin and spangles galore: who needs
a story when you've got a store?

Heidi Mordhorst 2011
all rights reserved

Friday, October 28, 2011

decomposition

While we only just carved our home pumpkins yesterday (a truly awesome pair that resulted from a rash promise: "If you can carry it as far as the wagon you can have it") and roasted the seeds, some of our classroom pumpkins are moldering interestingly.  I went looking for a pumpkin seed poem and found this, from an Irish poet I didn't know.


Totem

All Souls’ over, the roast seeds eaten, I set
on a backporch post our sculpted pumpkin
under the weather, warm still for November.
Night and day it gapes in at us
through the kitchen window, going soft
in the head. Sleepwalker-slow, a black rash of ants
harrows this hollow globe, munching
the pale peach flesh, sucking its seasoned
last juices dry. In a week, when the ants and
humming flies are done, only a hard remorseless light
drills and tenants it through and through. Within,
it turns mould-black in patches, stays
days like this while the weather takes it
in its shifty arms: wide eye-spaces shine,
the disapproving mouth holds firm....


~ Eamon Grennan

Read the rest here, and snack on the roasty toasty Poetry Friday noodles of autumn with Diane at Random Noodling.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

OIK: and where is the yellow cube?

We're doing just a little more assessment in Kindergarten, trying to make sure that the few minutes of actual teaching I've had time to do between all the assessments has been worth it.  The children are supposed to answer some questions about the position and location of things like counting bears and unifix cubes.  This is fairly straightforward if you're a fluent English speaker ("at the top," "on the bottom") and even more straightforward if you're at a certain developmental age and stage ("right here," accompanied by a look that says, "What's wrong with your eyes, teacher?")

Then there are the kids who are positioned-and-located somewhere in between, like Bryon.  He recently arrived from an English-speaking African country and is "in progress" on this measure of mathematical concept acquisition.

Me, with an encouraging smile and a flourish as I place a yellow Unifix cube beneath but not touching my chin:
And where is the yellow cube, Bryon?

Bryon:
Umm....That might be a trick question. [with sudden insight]  I know!  Before your neck!



Maybe Bryon's trick answer makes you think of a poem located somewhere like mine below.  Leave it in the comments and I'll round up on Friday.


*******************

Before my neck

there was just a little necklet
which I wore laced with pearls
of baby powder, jewels
of new baby blink, charmed
with welcome kisses


Heidi Mordhorst 2011
all rights reserved

Thursday, October 20, 2011

twenty-four doors

Maybe it's a teacher thing, or maybe it's just me:  I am inordinately excited by the arrival of a new rug for my classroom.  (We've made do with unsatisfactory ruglike arrangements for two months.)  Our meeting area--where so much talking and listening, teaching and learning go on--is defined by The Carpet, so how the carpet looks and feels is important.

Isn't my new rug beautiful?  It's so beautiful I had to write a poem about it.

Twenty-Four Doors

The new rug in my room
is one inch deep,
a layer of soil
made of snowflake and moon.
I lie down by a river
of lightning and leaves.
My arms span a sky
like a mine full of gold;
turtles in treetops nibble my toes.
A cloudburst of apples
showers my head.
I tickle sharks
at the rainbow’s end,
feed the bluebird of gravity
acorns and sun.
They can keep me inside,
but the rug on my floor has
twenty-four doors that lead
into the wild.

Heidi Mordhorst 2011
all rights reserved


Head to Jama's Alphabet Soup for the usual smorgasbord of poetry dishes, autumn edition, and don't forget to stop by again on Tuesday evening if you'd like a poetry challenge!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

OIK Tickle: the jurassic age is 5

Just when I'm wondering what I'll post, something pops up, like they know I'm listening!  It's spooky. 

Yesterday after reading a book about what didn't frighten a certain boy at bedtime, we were talking about why it was the little brown owl at the end that DID frighten him.  I wondered whether it was because the owl was the only real creature out in his tree, "because I know that there's no such thing as a golden gorilla or a unicorn or a green goblin, and I know there are no pink dinosaurs, at least not in our time--"

Jordan:
"Yeah, dinosaurs were on the earth long ago, back in the--in the--1950's."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

OIK Tickle: snack foods of the world



Lunch time is so early for us that snack time is a necessity, around about 1:15 every day.  We were finishing off a very large box of graham crackers brought in by Talia, who is Chinese-American.



Talia:
"These are the ones I brought in, right?"

Sara:
"They're good!...I really like Chinese food."

Friday, October 7, 2011

picking the apple of analysis

It's all about apples in Room 144 right now, with a little leaf work on the side and pumpkins on their way.  This is despite the fact that our new Curriculum 2.0 (which fancies itself rotten, as they say in England) is integrated not around something concrete and interesting for young children such as apples, but around "Thinking and Academic Success Skills." 

There is certainly no doubt that kindergarteners can begin to understand Big Ideas such as analysis and collaboration, but I'm not sure it's very productive, in the third week of school, to ask 5-year-olds a Unifying Question such as "How do identifying and describing attributes help you understand your world and organize your ideas?"  More mystifying to me is that we the teachers seem to be DIScouraged from developing these eleven Thinking and Academic Skills through projects or topics that are thematically integrated and relevant to children's experience of what's happening outside school--you know, such as apples.  Why not do both?

But it's Poetry Friday and I must step down off my apple crate to allow Robert Frost to speak, literally.  The poem below (which is nearly suitable for kindergarten, but not quite) can be heard in Frost's own growly tones at The Poetry Foundation website.  Robert Frost knew how to keep it concrete for sure.

After Apple-Picking

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

~ Robert Frost

More "keeping it real through poetry" at Great Kid Books with Mary Ann today, where she highlights April's Poetry Tag collection and sets the stage for the new and thrilling p*tag collection for teen readers, now available here!  Download the divine!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

OIK: what time is it again?

Ms. Mordhorst:
"This morning we're going to do something new called Weekend Snapshot.  A snapshot is an old-fashioned name for a camera picture.  Put your camera up, close your eyes and look at your weekend.  What did you play this weekend?  What did you eat this weekend?  Where did you go?  When you find one important picture, press the button and take a snapshot.  Now draw and write it on this paper."

[some minutes later, empty paper]
"Soren, what important little thing are you going to draw?"

Soren:
"I don't know."
[looooong pause]

"I don't know when was the weekend."

Perhaps you, too, occasionally lose track of whole chunks of time.....Leave your poetic response in the comments.

******************************************
Lost Time

I found a piece of lost time
in the grass today,
gleaming silver like a coin.
It's in my pocket, round
as an old turnip-shaped watch.
Who knows when I'll need it?
I could use it when I'm late
for school, use it when I'm not
quite finished with my homework
or the last six pages of a book
and my mom stands there saying
"Time for bed." The thing ticks
softly, like a friend talking
just a bit too quietly to hear.
Maybe I will keep it instead.

—Kate Coombs, 2011, all rights reserved

************************************

I am not a watch.
I hate sucky ticks
And pushy tocks!
And second hands that push me with a bang!
Hurry furry thing!
To the finish line.
I'd rather stop
Than hop
To someone else's beat.
Lose the time.
Cruise the line that's fine.
Mine.

-Jeanne Poland
2011, all rights reserved

**************************************

Kate, I like the sound of "a piece of lost time" ticking softly in your pocket. Coins don't usually make that kind of noise!

Jeanne, your vision of a watch as a "Hurry furry thing!" is also striking.

Thank you both for stopping by. Here's mine...

The Past

Remember that time
just now
when you sneezed and it sounded like
an elephant?

Yeah, that was so funny!
 Remember that time
five minutes ago
when we built that pyramid
and then a tornado knocked it down?

I remember that, I think.
Remember that time
this morning
when I forgot my lunch on the bus
and I had to order grilled cheese?

You did?
Remember that time
at the weekend
when you did something really special
at that place with those people?

I don’t know when was the weekend.
Do you?


 
~ Heidi Mordhorst 2011
DRAFT all rights reserved

Friday, September 30, 2011

the trenches of seventh grade

Over the summer, students in my daughter's humanities and communications program read All Quiet on the Western Front (which I also read in high school; did you?).  Now that the school year is in full swing, these 12-year-olds are writing 2-page essays analyzing the message and tone of World War I poems.  I recognized the names of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon and some of the poems included in her packet, but I was not familiar with the poem Daisy chose.


Suicide in the Trenches

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

~ Siegfried Sassoon, 1917


Simplicity itself--even nursery-rhymish--but effective, yes?

Daisy had a tough time getting going with her essay, and I guess I'm not surprised.  We thank our lucky stars that she has never lived first-hand through a war (a curiously true statement), and that being so full of despair you'd put a bullet through your own brain is foreign to her. (However, when I wondered whether her choice of "frustrated" to describe the soldier boy's feelings was quite strong enough to warrant suicide, she quipped, "This frustration would be enough for me!") 

But it's hard, as a parent, to know that my big little girl is spending time down in the trenches with the demands of a well-constructed five-paragraph essay on a topic she has to stretch hard to reach: the grim reality of war.  I take solace in the fact that immersing yourself in a masterful poem is always worthwhile.

Find more poetic war and peace--and above all, connection--at Read Write Believe with Sara today...BUT WAIT!  THERE'S MORE!

p*tag is here!!!  October 1 is the official launch date of the new p*tag digital poetry anthology for teens, conceived and edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.  For only $2.99 (early-bird price $1.99 through today) you can download this anthology in a wink and become a proud part of the publicity machine for new work by the "best poets for young people, including YA poets and verse novelists Naomi Shihab Nye, Margarita Engle, Allan Wolf, Betsy Franco, Paul Janeczko, Helen Frost, Newbery Honor winner Joyce Sidman, current Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis, and poetry legend Lee Bennett Hopkins,".... and li'l ol' me. 

Please take time to support this project and share it wherever you go, in body and in spirit.  Sylvia's intriguing photos were wonderfully inspiring and Janet's concluding piece is beyond powerful; there are poems for readers of all stripes ages 12 and up, and this approach to publishing is aimed at bringing more poetry to more young people using the media they can most easily access.  Go, p*tag!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

OIK: what's my rule?

This week's OIK Tickler is from Neal, who watched closely as I sorted a set of apples.  We had already sorted by color and by size; "what's my rule for sorting this time?"

Pointing, Neal said, "Those are the sticking-up-things, and those are the not-sticking-up-things."

He was right: one group of apples had stems and the other didn't.  What can we make of his general-yet-specific description?  Post your responses in the comments!

Friday, September 23, 2011

guest poet and birthday boy

Here it is 7:23 am and we have already had the speed version of birthday cards and breakfast in bed, but what shall I post for Poetry Friday???

Never fear--Granddad is here, with his customary hand-lettered card on heavy cream stock incorporating birthday poem written just for the occasion!  See if you can detect why it brought me both a pang and surge...


DUN [yes we] CAN | DUN CAN'T

Duncan's nine!
Isn't that just fine?
Better than eight
(Though that was great);
One more and then--
You're really ten.
But take the time
To be just nine;
No need to rush,
To shove and push.
For nine is cool,
And as a rule
All boys this age
Must turn a page,
And leave behind
(Like some cheese rind)
Those childish tricks
Get you in fixx.

We count on you, young man; don't drift
Against the flight path of your gifts,
But use that busy brain of yours
For better, best; forget the flaws;
To be your better self with pride
Brings happiness deep down inside.
And does the same for all your others,
Sister, grandparents and mothers;
Just think of us across the sea,
Your (much) Extended Family.
So Duncan, on your day this year,
Give us a present, please; let's hear
How good and grown-up  you've become,
A model boy for everyone.
This of this once a week at least;
And now enjoy your birthday feast!

~ Granddad Damian Grant 2011

More mixed poetry feelings this week with Anastasia at Picture Book of the Day!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Overheard in Kindergarten: I pledge allegiance


Here's this week's Tickle.  Post your poetic response in the comments!

Today in kindergarten we attempted to fulfill an objective which is perhaps the most developmentally inappropriate in the whole K curriculum:

Identify and describe people, symbols, and practices associated
with the United States of America.


Now, my little Minnows are a pretty sharp bunch, but even so, their concept of the US of A is just about nonexistent; they're still trying to work out "my school," never mind "my neighborhood," "my state" or "my nation."  All the same, we gave it a go, and had a close encounter with a brand new 8"x10" flag.  We observed with *all* our senses before we analyzed its color, shape and size attributes--which means that we actually even smelled the flag (although we did not taste it).

"Can you smell the flag?"  I asked.

Sarah said, somewhat perplexed,
"The American flag smells like bubbles."

Friday, September 16, 2011

one-line power poem

What if the secret to success is failure?

That's the title of an article in the NYT Magazine by Paul Tough.  It explores the idea that character is just as important as academic prowess in climbing the ladder towards a college degree, and that the moral virtues like fairness, respect and integrity (labelled around here as the Six Pillars of Character) may not be sufficiently powerful, especially if you're starting from the real bottom of the ladder and not halfway up.

The most striking idea is that these other character strengths--which, enjoyably, can be summed up as 'grit'--can and should be taught in school.  These "performance character" traits include self-control, diligence and perseverance--in other words, the traits you need to keep climbing after you slip and slide down the ladder for the umpteenth time.  That's what makes the difference, and it's why some of those kids who start halfway up (or who make the climb with Mom & Dad holding up their butts) are having trouble these days.

So, once again:

What if the secret to success is failure?

If you've stopped by, don't forget to look below for a new feature on my blog, the OIK Challenge!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

OIK! a new feature: The "Overheard in Kindergarten" Tickle

Many of my poems are seeded by words overheard in the classroom.   In an effort to preserve the surprising, original, inspiring language of 3- to 7-year-olds, I'm designating Tuesday nights--or very early Wednesdays--as  "Overheard in Kindergarten" day here at my juicy little universe.  Perhaps you'll be as tickled as I often am by the things they say!

I'll record a bon mot let loose from the mouths of my 5-year-old babes, and those who wish to be tickled can come and post a poetic response in the comments.  You can also post your own Overheard nuggets for others to enjoy. My goal for this week is one response (besides my own).

What I can't promise is extensive commentary afterwards.  However, all participants will receive a big Mighty Minnows star for playing, and I hope we'll all have fun!

Here's this week's OIK, from Harry (all names are altered to protect identities):   
"You skipped me!  I need some of that sandihantizer."

Here's mine:

sandihantizer

With one miracle pump
it squirts into your palm:
the sticky-salt smell
of the ocean,
the grit and sparkle
of itty-bitty particles
across your cheek and
between your teeth--
a handful of beach
pumped from a plastic bottle.


DRAFT Heidi Mordhorst 2011
all rights reserved


And from my dad:

Alcohol gel may sanitize
but nothing removes playground grime
Like Sandihantizer


Bob Mordhorst

Thursday, September 8, 2011

we're so brave, we're so smart

The Mighty Minnows of Room 144 are almost literally splishing and splashing down the hall this week due to the many inches of rain that have fallen here, and in two weeks of school they have not been out to recess ONCE.  (Long story; must get to writing that grant to fund 20 pairs of galoshes and 20 ponchos so we can go out in all weathers).

The "big song" we're learning is one both my own children sang in Kindergarten with the wonderful Miss Cook, The Sun Inside Us. (Scroll down to play a sample.)  It's by Sarah Pirtle, from an album called The Wind Is Telling Secrets, and we hope Sarah doesn't mind that we've changed an important word in the chorus from "strong"--which for little children implies muscle power only--to "brave," which is a fine character trait that even the most physically challenged can develop. 

It's just a song, and it's not like they made it up themselves, but I can hardly express how it feels to hear 5-year-olds assert, in sincere and joyful voice (and of course, with motions) that they were born brave and smart, with loving hearts.  I know that singing those words rubs off on them.  The poetry's darn good too.

The Sun Inside Us
Sarah Pirtle

Chorus:
Derry-down a-diddle-um-day!
So we are and so we’ll stay.
We're so brave; we're so smart;
We were born with a loving heart.

We were born with the sun inside us,
We were born with the mystery moon.
We were born with the stars to guide us,
We were born with the blackbird's tune.

We were born with the river's turning.
We were born with the river's run.
We were born with the wild bird's yearning.
We were born with the blue jay's fun!

We were born with the strength of hickory,
We were born with the seagull’s sight.
We were born with cells of crystal,
We were born with the rainbow light.

You're so brave; you're so smart;
You were born with a loving heart.


Katie's hosting Poetry Friday at Secrets and Sharing Soda today.  Bubble on over and fizz!

Friday, September 2, 2011

growing gills

I've been underwater for the last two weeks, thanks to the hurricane of back-to-school details and a pesky need to actually sleep every night.  However, I must be growing gills, because I'm finding time to post.

It has been a fairly fishy week.  I began the year with my new K class with a deeply favorite book, Swimmy by Leo Lionni.  He's just such a good role model, isn't he?  Swimmy stands out from the crowd, takes care of himself, finds wonder in his surroundings even though he's scared and alone, takes a stand and solves a problem--cleverly--and shows bravery and determination as he leads all the little red fish to liberty.  For right now, I'll be the eye, but soon my 19 little ones will begin to lead the way.

Then we sang a tune I used to sing to my children when they were infants in the tub with me:

"Splish, splash, splish;
I am a little fish.
Swimmy, swimmy, swimmy, swimmy,
Splish, splash, splish."

At snacktime (made necessary by a scheduled lunch time of 10:45!), we've been plucking and reading this week's poem from the Poetree:

Fish

Look at them flit
Lickety-split
Wiggling
Swiggling
Swerving
Curving
Hurrying
Scurrying
Chasing
Racing
Whizzing
Whisking
Flying
Frisking
Tearing around
With a leap and a bound
But none of them making the tiniest
tiniest
tiniest
tiniest
tiniest
sound

by Mary Ann Hoberman

This poem reminds Ms. Mordhorst's Mighty Minnows that fish are very quiet indeed, and that the Mighty Minnows can be very quiet when it's called for.  Now before we enter the hall we sing, "Splish, splash, splish; I am a silent fish," and we swim down the hall like one giant silent fish with our hands finning up and down or side to side.

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect is our "powerless" Poetry Friday host today...hope to surface long enough to see you there!

Friday, August 19, 2011

tea for two hundred

Well, I thought I had been to the Lake District during my five years living in London, but clearly not--I would have remembered all these damp and dripping greens and greys. We're in a 16th c. house now mushroomed to a complicated and comfortable cluster of rooms, underpinned by a big old kitchen with two electric kettles that have served up at least 200 cups of tea to an ever-changing array of inhabitants over the last week. I do enjoy all the kerfuffle and banter of a large group of wonderful people, and the challenge that surrounds the mobilization of a party of 11 for a walk (we Yanks would say "hike") to Tarn How, or a party of 14 for As You Like It on the lake shore, or a party of 21 for dinner at the Black Bull pub...

But I must say I'm ready to be back, just the four of us (or even the two of us!), in our cozy kitchen at home.  From here at Coniston Water it would be fitting to post something by Wordsworth or John Ruskin or even Beatrix Potter, all of whom trod these rocky hills, but instead I'm thinking of the lovely interior poem my father selected to read at our little wedding, which holds out the promise of a quiet--but not too quiet--latter-years domesticity a deux.

PRAYER FOR A MARRIAGE
Steve Scafidi

When we are old one night and the moon
arcs over the house like an antique
China saucer and the teacup sun

follows somewhere far behind
I hope the stars deepen to a shine
so bright you could read by it

if you like and the sadnesses
we will have known go away
for awhile---in this hour or two

before sleep---and that we kiss
standing in the kitchen not fighting
gravity so much as embodying

its sweet force, and I hope we kiss
like we do today knowing so much
good is said in this primitive tongue.

From the wild first surprising ones
to the lower dizzy ten thousand
infinitely slower ones---and I hope

while we stand there in the kitchen
making tea and kissing, the whistle
of the teapot wakes the neighbors.

~Steve Scafidi


Poetry Friday today at Dori Reads.  I hope Dori Drinks Tea, too!

Friday, August 12, 2011

dayenu = joy

 I'm posting from near Manchester, England ("England, across the Atlantic Sea; and I'm a genius, genius, 'cos I believe in" Poetry Friday).  We spent a few days in London and are heading to Lake Coniston today for a week-long family celebration of my mother-in-law's upcoming notable birthday.  (Side note:  My mother-in-love, previously honored here for her contributions to my poetry bookshelf, is now truly and technically my mother-in-LAW, thanks to that legal wedding certificate.  Nice bonus effect!)

Our London experience this time around was deeply colored by Daisy's twin passions:  Harry Potter and Shakespeare. We have spent large chunks of our trip visiting Harry Potter book and film locations in Wiltshire and in London, helped by a poorly-written but comprehensive book on the subject acquired in a National Trust bookshop at Lacock Abbey.  The two passions came together nicely on the terrace at the Globe Theatre.  There, among the many flagstones commemorating the supporters of American Sam Wanamaker's 45-year quest to rebuild the Globe, is one bearing the name of Sam's daughter Zoe, and any diehard Harry Potter fan knows that in the movies Zoe Wanamaker plays Madame Hooch, the flying instructor and Quidditch referee at Hogwarts.  I won't go into how many other Harry Potter actors are also noted Shakespeareans.

But I digress (even before approaching my true subject):  why can Shakespeare even begin to touch Harry Potter in Daisy's world of what rates?  Credit for early initiation goes to Mrs. Kleinman and Mrs. Alexander, the 4th grade teachers who had their classes performing Romeo and Juliet, in which Daisy played the Prince of Verona (and The Pirates of Penzance, a not unrelated British institution, in which Daisy played the modern Major General).  But credit for her lasting, maturing passion goes to Michelle Ray, a fellow Montgomery County Public Schools teacher and author of the recently published Falling for Hamlet.  My respect for teacher-authors gets a big boost once again.

Passion (or lack thereof) in the classroom is contagious, and this is why teaching is such a powerful and dangerous profession.  Ms. Ray, Daisy's 6th grade reading teacher, made Shakespeare current and true and important to Daisy. Here I find that Ms. Ray has also written a few words of wisdom on the topic of gratitude for what is sufficient in life.  "Being published has been one of the best things in my life, yet it’s been fraught with emotional challenges....So my mission:  focus on the joy."
.
I for one can always use the reminder that what we have, each of our blessings, our small contributions and celebrations, even each of our little adversities, is enough.

"Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything."

William Shakespeare
As You Like It, 2.1.13

Poetry Friday today is hosted by Karen at The Blog with the Shockingly Clever Title.

Friday, August 5, 2011

p*tag you're it

After the rounds of poetry tag played at my Honesdale Highlights workshop, I didn't think a tag game would ever be quite so exciting again.  But I was wrong:  I have been invited to participate in the second poetry tag project coordinated by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, champions for the dissemination of poetry for young people.  Titled p*tag (you can play along here), it's the "first electronic-only anthology for teens" and will be illustrated with photos taken by Sylvia herself. 

Even as I write I'm in the midst of the challenge:  I have just been tagged by Stephanie Hemphill, an accomplished verse novelist.  My mission is to a) immerse myself in a photo I selected from Sylvia's intriguing gallery, b) select three words from Stephanie's fine poem, and c) compose my own poem inspired by the photo using Stephanie's three words and an as-yet-undetermined number of my own.  I have 24 hours in which to do this, and to write a piece that describes my process and how the resulting poem is linked to the photo and to Stephanie's.  

Then I get to tag another of the 31 poets who are participating (with respect for who's on vacation this weekend and who's working!).  The project will all be complete and available for download at an irresistible price by October. How cool IS this?  I just hope I can pull off something worthy of the concept and of the first Poetry Tag Time volume, which was e-published in April.

So, back to Stephanie Hemphill.  Her latest book is Wicked Girls, which I confess I thought might be another girls-telling-lies-and-being-mean-to-each-other-book despite its subtitle: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials.  I took up HarperTeen's offer to "browse inside" and found myself reading way past my bedtime with fascination and admiration.  Here's a selection called "Caught."

Caught
Margaret Walcott, 17

Past the crooked evergreen
and the brook what lost its water,
on my way home from playing
games on who'll make me husband,
I cross Ipswich Road.
I rub my eyes.  His two blue ones
be looking straight on me.

My pulse starts to gallop
like a steed.  But today I trip not.
I track on up to him and say,
"Be you following me?"

His arms be thick enough
to lift the axe of three men.
Isaac's laughter shakes
through him so fierce
it scatters the snow off his boots.
"Yea, Margaret Walcott,
betwixt tending the stables,
staking out the fields
and bringing wares to town,
I be scouting all the time after you."
He raises one brow.
"But where hast thou been?"

The color splashes over me,
drenching me red.  I hold up my buckets.
"Fetching water," I say.

"Thou are far from any stream
I know of," Isaac says,
and shakes his head.
His eyes catch on me
like he be holding lightly
my face with his hand.

"I must then be lost," I say,
and I pick up my bucket
and my skirts and trot off.
And do so quite a bit like a lady.

~ Stephanie Hemphill
from Wicked Girls, Harper 2011


Apart from the draw of the story itself, of the girl accusers of Salem's alleged witches, I am completely fascinated by the sound of American English at this early, early stage of our history--the syntax, the grammar, and not least the voices of these girls who find themselves, unlike most girls of the era, known in history rather than anonymous.

Check out what other worlds folks are dreaming today at A Year of Literacy Coaching with Libby.  Happy Poetry Friday, and look out for p*tag!

Friday, July 29, 2011

the big day

Update, August 12:  here we are, having done the deed!

Those zebras are going to have to wait yet another week, because suddenly, after 20 years and two children together, my beloved and I decided to tie the knot----you know, officially and publicly, with a license---because who knows how long same-sex marriage will stay legal in DC., and who knows how long until it's legal in Maryland?  So the big day will take place down in the big city and the ceremony has been hastily cobbled together this week around the theme of  "unconventional"--best expressed by our 8-year-old son's decision to wear a black tuxedo, accessorized with a sombrero.  Really.

Here are words I find appropriate on such a momentous little occasion.  I just read that e. e. cummings was criticized for his failure to grow as a poet, and one reviewer called him "a case of arrested development."  But I'm with Edward Estlin: I say that keeping that beginner's wonder at "the root of the root and the bud of the bud" through decades is what grows the tree called life [called love] so sky high.

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
....................................i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

~ e.e. cummings


Visit Kate for more poetry love at Book Aunt, and think of me and Fiona, the Spice Girls (spouse girl + spouse girl = Spice Girls) on Saturday morning!