Thursday, March 24, 2011


Thoughtful commentary will resume after I update my resume and prepare to find a new job. I am now officially an "involuntary transfer."
*sigh* In the meantime, slam bam thank you Mr. Mali...

Definitely beautiful.

Discuss what YOU make this Poetry Friday at A Year of Reading with Mary Lee....She makes me laugh.

Friday, March 18, 2011

life in me like grass on fire

This week I'm celebrating my first foray into publishing poetry for adults. I'm delighted to say that I have three poems in Life in Me Like Grass on Fire, an anthology on the theme of love treated in its broadest, richest sense by 50 members of the Maryland Writers' Association.

Laura Shovan, a fellow Maryland poet (whom I first met at a SCBWI conference), alerted me to the opportunity and has served as a tireless, intuitive editor. She even asked me to write an introduction to the section called "Love Floods the Senses," in which two of my poems are placed--a request that was both terribly flattering and terribly daunting, probably the hardest piece of writing I've done in the last few months.

Our official launch is at the annual conference of the MWA on April 2nd, but you can support "local poetry" by pre-ordering this collection here and now at 20% off. To whet your appetite, here's one of my contributions to the collection, from the section entitled "Friends and Family." (As usual, I'm unable to preserve the formatting of the poem in blogger--can anyone help me solve that problem?)


read the signs on the boxcar

and my daughter on the verge of three
sits sobbing, hands over her ears
as Mrs. Jumbo rocks her Dumbo
cradling him in the curl of her trunk
the only part of her hugeness
he can reach through the bars
this is the scary part

Baby mine, don’t you cry
she wails, “Mama I need you”

yes, you need me
to tell you why I’m full of tears
why I’m the one who needs a nap
why the clowns are bad guys
and why your days are “full of troubling”
when they used to be one long bubbling bath
of peek-a-boo
I see you

Rest your head close to my heart
to hear what I can’t tell you yet:
the flutter of faraway stork wings

~ Heidi Mordhorst
in Life in Me Like Grass on Fire, MWA Books 2011

Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is with Andromeda at a wrung sponge, where she uses a very interesting volume of poetry to connect all of us to our Japanese earthmates. May stork wings fly eastward bearing renewal.

Friday, March 11, 2011

not allowed

On Tuesday it was nice and bright, not too windy--the perfect day for 1st grade geographers to go out on the playground, well away from the portable classrooms, in search of natural features and human-made features. After they completed their labelled sketches, I allowed them to play for a while, and encouraged them to play among the natural features--trees, stumps, raspberry canes, bushes, vines, tall dead grass--at the edge of the woodchipped playground and sports field, which was dotted with large muddy puddles. It took them some minutes to realize that there was fun to be had away from the "mungke bars," but soon they figured out quite a few things to do. One of my more reticent English learners provided the rhythmic backdrop to the group effort.

wood work

hup! hup! hup! hup!
one twig two twigs
three twigs four
throw them down and pick up sticks
hup! hup! hup! hup!
big stick bigger stick
bigger stick branch
help me carry this big long branch
hup! hup! hup! hup!
I got it I got it
we got it we’re strong
hup two three four carry this log

chuck ‘em down stack ‘em up
sticks and twigs
chuck ‘em down stack ‘em up
branches logs
hup! hup! hup! hup!
build a bridge across this bog
build a bonfire pile of wood
we did this work we did it good

~Heidi Mordhorst 2011
all rights reserved

Later I discovered that a) despite the calculated distance, this important work disturbed all the 3rd and 4th graders in the portables who were taking their high-stakes state assessments and b) practically everything I let them do is not allowed at recess. Posting the photos I took of the kids working cooperatively to carry 15-foot limbs and lay them across the boggy spot on the field is also not here's a stock photo instead, which does not nearly capture the joy of this half-hour.

From Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods:
"Countless communities have virtually outlawed unstructured outdoor nature play, often because of the threat of lawsuits, but also because of a growing obsession with order."

From Playing for Keeps by Deborah Meier, Brenda S. Engel, Beth Taylor:
"Leaving no time or space in education for children’s [creative] “playful” efforts to make sense of the world risks the future not only of poetry and science but also of our political liberties. The habits of playfulness in early life are the essential foundations upon which we can build a K–12 education that would foster, nourish, and sustain the apparent “absurdity” of democracy."

I wish you a playful day, and I'll see you over at Liz in Ink for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Wednesday I spent 6 hours in a hearing of the House Ways & Means Committee of Maryland's General Assembly, waiting to testify on a bill regarding, predictably, our public charter school law. While there I heard testimony on a bill that would add teacher "ineffectiveness" to the list of causes for dismissal, along with things like poor attendance and moral turpitude (I don't think that term is used any more but I love the sound of the word turpitude a lot).

This would seem to make sense--as in other professions, if you're not doing a good job you should be, as they say in my partner's consulting firm, "counseled out." The problem is that, despite recent focused research and writing about what great teachers actually do on a moment-by-moment basis, no one is still very sure exactly what constitutes teacher effectiveness--or how to measure it.

Personally, I consider good teaching to be an art, much like poetry. So often the sum of a great poem is greater than its parts; while connoisseurs may appreciate the dazzle of discrete elements of a poem, there is an alchemical mystery to the overall effect, as in this one by Howard Nemerov. It is often this way in the classroom, too.

To David, About His Education
~ Howard Nemerov

The world is full of mostly invisible things,
And there is no way but putting the mind’s eye,
Or its nose, in a book,to find them out,
Things like the square root of Everest
Or how many times Byron goes into Texas,
Or whether the law of the excluded middle
Applies west of the Rockies. .......
........ such things are said to be
Good for you, and you will have to learn them
In order to become one of the grown-ups
Who sees invisible things neither steadily nor whole,
But keeps gravely the grand confusion of the world
Under his hat, which is where it belongs,
And teaches small children to do this in their turn.

Read the complete poem here, and catch the mysterious sums over at The Small Nouns with Ben on this Poetry Friday. He's leading with an homage to Lucille Clifton, also one of my favorite poets during all months of the year.