Friday, January 28, 2011

magnetic charm--and some depth

I have taught sizeable classes of 2nd graders, more than once, and I don't remember it being as challenging as parenting a single 2nd-grade boy. I have carefully avoided teaching a class of 6th graders, or any group of kids older than 11--once they grow underarm hair my sense of control erodes quickly--so I was not prepared for the joy of parenting a single 6th-grade girl.

We have on our fridge a set of children's
poetry magnets which usually say things like "did we eat green and blue monkey dog cheese?" (The set does not include punctuation, so the question mark there is my addition.) That 6th-grade girl, who lives daily in her sense that things are changing, that childhood fleets away, left the following on the fridge this week. Up high.

ask mom
by dmmg, age 11

will she shine

are books alive

is this good

where is my home

do flowers sing in water

are sundowns too fast

Yes, daughter, they are...and poems speak your soul.

And now, by way of contrast: the 2nd-grader, my little early bird, has just come downstairs. Apropos of nothing immediate, but apropos of our recent 1960's live-action Batman viewing (the campy series featuring Bruce Wayne and his youthful ward Dick Grayson), he asks,

"Who names their child after a penis?!"

The poetry roundup this week is with Elaine at
Wild Rose Reader...see you there, and don't forget to read my "extra" post this week featuring some really good news.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

a certain kind of poetry

...because we find that the local board has failed to provide any rationale for its decision, we reverse and remand [the appeal case of Global Garden Public Charter School ] so that the local board may reconsider its decision in light of the rulings we have made in this case. We expect that such reconsideration shall occur within 90 days of the date of this decision."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

found out

Last week I mentioned Frank O'Hara and linked to a really interesting piece on him by yet another poet I didn't know, Elaine Equi. She's quite famous, and pretty soon agents of the Academy of American Poets are going to show up on my so-called poet's doorstep and relieve me of my laminated Poets Club ID card based on my dire ignorance of modern American poetry.

I'll plead with them, explaining that after all it was I who, as a work-study student at Wesleyan University Press in 1982, discovered Yusuf Komunyakaa's Copacetic in the slush pile and sent it breathlessly off to the Editorial Board, but they'll say, "That's no excuse for admitting in public that you had never heard of Elaine Equi until 2011. Just look at the kind of works she's been producing since 1978, long before you found yourself typing first-reader's reports in Middletown, CT on a manual typewriter using carbon sets."

They'll thrust a page into my hands. "Just look at this poem from The Cloud of Knowable Things! And you call yourself a poet!" Then they'll turn on their heels as I cry from my kidscribbled, catscratched teacher's doorway, "Please--I just need more time!"
[echo of "more time! more time! more time!" receding into the distance]

excerpt from
The Objects in Fairy Tales

are always
the most important
Then as now,
the power to transform
is theirs —
the story
a way of talking through
(and to) us.
Shoes of Fortune,
Magic Beans,
are unlike objects
in magazines
for they awaken
us against our will
from the spell of abject
longing for more.
Only then do we live
happily ever after.


They speak
but not
to everyone,

just those
ready to hear
and endure

what they have to say —

impossible tasks,

shine wrapped around
the seedvoice.

Golden apples
in the grasp of time.

"I'll climb up."

~ Elaine Equi

I wonder: what kind of well-read do you have to be, to write well?
Explore this question and others at A Teaching Life with Tara Smith, host of Poetry Friday this week.
I promise a return to the Kidlitosphere next week...

Friday, January 14, 2011

"what buds?"

My son is 8 and although he knows a lot about the world, I'm sometimes surprised at what I assume he knows and doesn't. We had another 2" of snow overnight on Tuesday and therefore (somewhat absurdly) a 2-hour delay on Wednesday, so we had time to gear up and head out to the bus stop half-an-hour early. It wasn't great snowball snow--fine and flaky and extra-sparkly in the sun--so we found other ways to amuse ourselves, like shaking snow off branches (and is there anything more beautiful than dark branches frosted in sparkling snow against a blue, blue sky?) .

"Look at all the buds," I said. "They know spring will come again even though it doesn't feel like it now." I bothered to say it out loud because this knowledge added to my hopeful, sunny, fresh-air feeling. Duncan looked up and said, "What buds?" You know, like he'd never heard of buds. I pointed out the little textured teardrops at the end of each twig on the--actually I don't even know what kind of tree we were standing under. "Each of those is a tiny beginning of a leaf, just waiting for the weather to warm up." "Really? Cool," he replied, and went to jump daringly into the snow from a wall which is rumored to contain a snakehole.

There was time when I eschewed exclamation marks as a sign of weak writing in need of bolstering by flashy punctuation. Frank O'Hara changed my mind about that (and has inspired many others), and see how WCW uses one surprisingly! in this otherwise softspoken poem. I think it renders perfectly the feeling we have when we can cross something big off our to-do list, relax and store up wisdom. Hm. I miss that feeling...

Winter Trees
by William Carlos Williams

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

Enjoy Poetry Friday today with Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids--and congratulations indeed to Joyce Sidman for her Newbery Honor medal--it'll look great on the cover of Dark Emperor. Go Poetry!

Friday, January 7, 2011

winter eyes

Every day on the morning announcements at my school, there's a "Did you know...?" Yesterday's was, "Did you know it might SNOW tomorrow?"

Personally I could live without most of winter, but around these parts real snow comes seldom enough that it brings real magic when it does. On the other hand (and I'm convinced this is due directly to climate change), the 5- to 7-year-olds that I teach have grown up in a mid-Atlantic region with considerably more snowfall than I ever enjoyed as a kid, where we tended to get one snowfall of 10-12" a year sometime in January--never in time for Christmas!

So the kindergartners do know what it's like to cross a landscape something like that in Jan Brett's The Mitten, and the first-graders know something about venturing out into hills and expanses of snow like Peter in The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Today is Poetry Friday in my classes and Douglas Florian has something for both groups! His 1999 Winter Eyes (Greenwillow) is so full of goodies--and really no two the same, kinda like snowflakes--that it's hard to choose.

To the kindergarteners, who are as a whole a snappy group, I could offer "Winter Tracks," about the same meadow mouse that figures in The Mitten, or "Winter Burrows," which would echo yesterday's discussion about how Jan Brett eschews the boring popcorn words "go" and "went" to make the animals "burrow," "wriggle" and "nose" their way into the mitten. But because of Nicki's white mittens on white snow, I'm going to give them "Winter Wear."

Winter Wear
Douglas Florian

The weasel wears a coat of white.
He always keeps it zippered tight.
It helps him weasel out of sight.

The snowshoe hare from head to toe
Wears white wherever she may go
To help her hide against the snow.

The snowy owl perched in a tree
On snowy days is hard to see.
I don't see him but he sees me.

In our white coats we come to peek.
On winter wildlife we sneak.
We play a game of hide and seek.

How simple, how pleasing! To the first-graders, who as a group benefit from taking things more slowly, I'll offer "Sled," a concrete poem that climbs the left side of a two-page spread just like Peter climbs "up a great big tall heaping mountain of snow," and then speeds down the right side just like Peter sli-i-i-des all the way down.
Here's the text:

Douglas Florian

then (here's where the poem meets the gutter of the book)
s p e e d
s a i l
w h i z
w a i l

I don't usually show children the book or illustration with the poem I'm sharing at the first reading, but this is one where I'll be holding up both Winter Eyes and The Snowy Day so that the children can make the visual connection. I love Poetry Friday!

Join in today at Live. Love. Explore! with Irene.