Friday, March 30, 2012

poetry friday is here! object voices

Welcome to's still dark out, but it's sounding like a beautiful day in Bethesda.  I know it's not quite April, but National Poetry Month starts today here at my juicy little universe.  This month I'm going to be exploring poems in the voices of the inanimate world (and I hope there will be some guest poets later in the month, also).

As humans we do a lot of talking--in my house especially!--and it's easy to imagine animals and plants finding language to express their views and emotions. But it's a little more of a stretch to put words in the nonexistent mouths of things, to hear the voices of the objects around us, and when they come through clearly it's an exciting look into another world.

Here's one from my collection of poems in the voices of folk and fairy tale objects.  I had fun trying to get the vocabulary and speech patterns to fit the station and style of things like Cinderella's glass slipper, Rapunzel's hair, and the Third Pig's bricks.

Little Bricks, Little Bricks,
Let Me Come In

We’re  thick  thick  thick
We’re  dense  dense  dense
There’s only one thing that makes sense:

We  stick  stick  stick
We  stack  stack  stack
We do not crack when wolves attack

Side to side and back to back
Our shoulders square   our faces flat
We stand  we stick  we sit  we stay

Huff and puff at us all day,                         wolf!

But bricks don’t budge
They don’t cave in
Not by the straw of our chinny-chin-chins

Heidi Mordhorst 2010
all rights reserved

Laura Purdie Salas has also played with this idea in her recent volume, BookSpeak (Clarion, 2011).   We went to the library last night in preparation for a Spring Break trip to Arizona; just listen to this globe-trotting book speaking.


Whenever I’m checked out, it’s like a vacation.
I’m scanned and I’m packed for a new destination!

I’ve floated in airplanes. I’ve lain on the beach.
I’ve hidden in bunk beds — just out of your reach.

Been stained by spaghetti, been splashed at the lake.
I’ve shared your adventures. I’ve kept you awake.

At night in your sleeping bag — too dark to see –
you whipped out a flashlight to keep reading me.

I never quite know where my reader is bound,
and hundreds of times I’ve been lost and then found.

It’s good to get home, look around, see what’s new,
but before long I’m antsy . . .

A trip’s overdue!

Copyright © 2011 Laura Purdie Salas.
All rights reserved.

Look for more talking-object poems throughout April, and if you have a favorite, let me know. 
And now, let the wild round-up begin!

Robyn posted early this week and features a really fun new abecedarian from Nancy Raines Day called A is for Alliguitar at Read, Write, Howl.  Go try out a tromboa, a saxofox or a wolbourine!

Jone at Check It Out has a useful little listing of National Poetry Month blog celebrations.  Our friends are serving up such richness!  Jone herself will be featuring thirty days of poems by students.

Joy's celebration is of Janet Wong's new collection Declaration of Interdependence, and she's giving away four autographed copies!  Visit her at Poetry for Kids Joy.

Amy LV has a darling (but also clever) poem about baby dreams at The Poem Farm, along with info about her plans for April both on the Farm and at her Sharing Notebooks blog.

Myra and Co. at Gathering Books are lingering in Women's History Month before leaping into [American] National Poetry Month--with the help of  Walt Whitman and a piece of Leaves of Grass I don't recall seeing before.  Wow!

At The Drift Record, Julie has an original poem from the point of view of a kite, as well as news about Sylvia Vardell's new book and words from Janet Wong again--this time calling us all to agitate for a higher profile for poetry! [This formerly incorrect link is now fixed. Sorry, Julie!]

Mary Lee is posting today at A Year of Reading on all the ways she WON in the March Madness Poetry Tournament.  We all won just by reading poems like "Saffron Harvest."

Renee hosts guest poet Miranda Paul--from the crocodile pit!--today at No Water River, and will be sharing videos and interviews with a lovely assembly of poets throughout April.

Tabatha's got the second installment of her Fictional Favorites series, featuring Irene Latham's poem picks in honor of characters from The Hunger Games.  This could be too wonderful for one post!  Go to The Opposite of Indifference to catch fire.

Irene herself at Live Your Poem has written an Ode to Mary Lee (yes, our Mary Lee!) and thoughts on her experience as a reader and writer in the March Madness tournament.  I think it has been a novel experience for many of us, and we're all looking forward to the Final Four.

Two of my favorite Lauras are posting today:  Local Laura Shovan, who shares an interesting visit with fellow Marylander Kay Weeks and her online Senryu Journal at Author Amok.

Minnesota Laura [Purdie Salas] has her 15 Words or Less results, as usual, and Janet Wong again!  (Did I miss the memo about how March 30 is Janet Wong Day?]  It's her Polar Bear poem from the e-book Once Upon a Tiger at Writing the World for Kids.

Your host will now pause to celebrate Spring Break by reading aloud pages 382-405 of Harry Potter VII and posting poetry in the halls of a certain middle school.  More round-up around lunchtime!

What a busy Friday!   Jama's announcing her Poetry Potluck plans in honor of Mary Oliver and her own list of Poetry Month events at Alphabet Soup.

Linda's ruminating on being part of online writing communities, and I hope is not as disappointed as I am that the sun lasted approximately 15 minutes this morning in our part of the world!  Visit her at Write Time.

As usual, Diane offers a plethora of poetry at Random Noodling (a spring poem by Wm. Allingham, "Four Ducks on a Pond") at Kids of the Homefront Army (a poem called "This Close"), at Kurious Kitty (the words to "Old Salty Dog Blues" in honor of Earl Scruggs, who passed away this week), and at Kurious K's Kwotes (a quote from Adrienne Rich, who also passed away this week).

Sherry reminds us of the delights of Poe with The Raven" at her Semicolon blog.

Elaine shares her original mask poem "Trunk Talk"--go see which kind of trunk is talking at Wild Rose Reader.  She also announces her book giveaway during April...goodies, goodies!

At On Point, Lorie Ann offers "Offering," a haiku.  Nice to have you, Lorie Ann.

Violet takes us to Canada for thoughts on the demise of the Canadian penny and some nursery rhymes at Line upon line.

It's a windy end to March at The Write Sisters with Jet and "Only the Wind Says Spring."

Ed has two posts for us today, some cool miscellaneous data on the Madness and one on waking up, both at Think Kid, Think.

In a pleasingly smooth segue, at Carol's Corner Carol features Charles R. Smith, sports poet superstar and author of five books of basketball poems.  Folks, let's make sure Carol (and all the other poetry lovers who also love sports) understand that all passions are prime poetry impulses!

Katya also remembers Adrienne Rich with "Diving into the Wreck" and some links to more information about this most distinguished American poet.  Find her at Write. Sketch. Repeat.

Tamera Will Wissinger is one of quite a few authors with debut books coming out in 2012.  They're all blogging at The Lucky 13s, and Tamera's post today is on Why Poetry Matters.  Thanks for stopping by, Tamera!

Donna shares a neat little poem along with some very nice crafting related to it at Mainely Write, and another one here!

At A Teaching Life, Tara's featuring Laura Purdie Salas as well today (making it officially Janet-Wong-AND-Laura-Salas Day), again putting the delightful BookSpeak into the spotlight.

Janet returns to the timeless classic Hailstones and Halibut Bones at her All About the Books blog.  She's feeling purple today!

Ruth made me laugh with her teacher's intro to a hopeful poem with a wonderful title, "Horses at Midnight Without a Moon."  Enjoy it at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town.

Linda at TeacherDance is featuring Renee LaTulippe and her awesome (and I do not use that word lightly) poetry video blog project.  I didn't quite understand what Renee is up to, rushing to round up this morning.  Please go see what a service she's providing to the community!

Lately risen to the Final Four of the March Madness Tournament, the heroic Greg is sharing his playground acrostic poem from Round 3, using the inspiring word "truce."  Enter the battle at GottaBook.

Susan wades back into Poetry Friday (how we've missed you!) with her own March Madness contribution at Susan Taylor Brown, as well as her plans for Poetry Month.  I loved this poem, not least because of its pantoumian structure. 

At bildungsroman (a fine title for a blog), Little Willow shares a D.H. Lawrence poem in honor of the recently published book Joe Golem and the Drowning City.  I think Little Willow ought to check out Tabatha's Fictional Favorites above!

Kerry froths things up with a review of the classic Barnyard Dance (4 million copies in print!) over at Picture Books & Pirouettes.  Everybody ready?

Gosh, I love Poetry Friday when I have time to enjoy it properly!  Time now for your hostess to attend to more of those mundane, laundry, supervising "Granny Wars" on the trampoline...I'll round up any last posts much later tonight.  Thanks for stopping in, everyone!

Our friend at Books 4 Learning joins us with a review of If Peas Could Taste Like Candy, a collection
by Crystal Bowman.  I'm confused, though...don't peas already taste like candy?  ; )

Marjorie at Paper Tigers shares photos and an interview with Dutch photographer Taco Anema. 

To close the evening, Sylvia stops in to plug what is surely a must for every poetry-loving, poetry-teaching, poetry-promoting one of us--her new Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists!  Get the full story at Poetry for Children.

That's it, everyone!  I'm looking forward to making a second round to read more carefully, and I'm grateful to be a part of this community.  Until next time, my neighbors in PoetryTown!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

hearing voices

Today is the last day of "Marking Period 3" (still wondering why we're not calling it Quarter 3 anymore) and my Spring Break starts tomorrow with a bang--I'll be hosting Poetry Friday! 

I'll be using tomorrow's edition to lead in to National Poetry Month, during which I'll be featuring poems in the voices of the inanimate world.

As humans we do a lot of talking--in my house especially--and it's easy to imagine animals and plants finding language to express their views and emotions.  But it's a little more of a stretch to put words in the nonexistent mouths of things, to hear the voices of the objects around us, and when they come through clearly it's an exciting look into another world.

If you're planning to join in Poetry Friday tomorrow, please consider posting a poem in the voice of an object.  I'll offer two, and look forward to seeing you here!

Friday, March 23, 2012

OIK: naked, hello!

As most of you stopping by this Poetry Friday will know, we've reached the Sweet Sixteen round of Ed DeCaria's March Madness Kids' Poetry Tournament being played out over at Think Kid, Think.  I've just been and done some voting and I have to say, it's getting even harder to choose between poems.  

And when I'm not actually reading the fantastic work-under-pressure of this ever-widening children's poetry community, I'm reflecting on the unique confluence of circumstances in this event.  Only in America, don't you think, would we all leap in to a sports-based poetry competition, with a popular vote element a la American Idol, with enough skilled and rampantly creative folks both on the court and gathering on the sidelines cheering (and occasionally heckling) without trash-talk and with such serious, clever and friendly response?  It just makes me proud to be a part of it.  Go Poets!

And now, recycling a bit, my post for Poetry Friday.  Go see Mary Lee at A Year of Reading--one of my favorite competitors--for more more more!

I found in my poetry file a photocopy of the following, untitled and unattributed:

Good-bye, ice skates.
Good-bye, sled.
Good-bye, winter.
Spring's ahead!

Good-bye, leggings.
Good-bye, snow.
Good-bye, winter.
Spring, hello!

Hello, crocus.
Hello, kite.
Good-bye, winter.
Spring's in sight!

Hello, jump rope.
Hello, swing.
Good-bye, winter!
Hello, spring!

I now find it online called "Good-bye and Hello!" by Barbara Anthony. We celebrated the First Day of Spring yesterday in Room 144 by enjoying this listy-looking poem together. It seems simple enough, doesn't it? And yet when I provided it as a blank goodbye-hello poem template today (something I do rarely during Writing Workshop), many little Minnows showed that they didn't understand the poem's structure by eagerly plunging into renditions of randomness like this one:

Goodbye, cars.
Goodbye, [myself].
Goodbye, cat.
Balloon's ahead.

Goodbye, helicopter.
Goodbye, ice cream.
Goodbye, [my friend].
River, hello!

In other words, it would appear that many had not perceived that the poem is based on the various but linked signs of winter contrasted with the various but linked signs of spring. Or is it just that they were unable to create similar sets independently?  I'll be looking out for more evidence of this developmental challenge...
Then Jordan brought me his paper, accompanied, like the original poem I shared, with a little illustration next to each item. Apparently Jordan got the idea just fine, and with all the very warm weather we've been having, you can see why this theme might occur to him.

Good-bye, shrte.
Good-bye, pa[nt]s.
Good-bye, socks.
Nac[k]ed's ahead!

Good-bye, teshrt.
Good-bye, udrwar.
Good-bye, dipr.
Nac[k]ed, hello!

Hello, lags.
Hello, orems.
Good-bye, stof.
Bode's in sight!

Hello, fas.
Hello, orempets.
Good-bye, klos!
Hello, bode!

Doesn't that just make you SMILE?

Friday, March 16, 2012

"decaffeinated" vs. "knack"

Game on!  In Ed DeCaria's March Madness Poetry Tournament I am pitted in the first round against the delightful and skilled Laura Purdie Salas.  My randomly assigned word was "decaffeinated," a 14th seed word classed as possibly impossible, but I'm pretty pleased with what I managed. Prepare to enter the dusky world of the nightwalkers....

YA Vampire Novella
by Heidi Mordhorst

Bec LeCru rose at sundown as normal.
He dressed in black, as usual—formal.
He stopped at the all-night Starbucks for coffee.
He ordered espresso with two shots of toffee.
The barista’s mistake: serving decaffeinated.
Bec fell asleep with his face on the table;
Dawn found him dead, sadly decoffinated.

Laura's word was "knack," seeded 3, and she did a wonderful, timely, hopeful thing with it!

Natural Talent
by Laura Salas

Sky has a knack for
pounding out rain
Ground has a knack for

Spring has a knack for
bursting out blooms
Seed has a knack for

What a challenge is faced by all 64 participants, and what fun it is to see what folks are coming up with! To vote for your favorites, start here
and then spend some of your Poetry Friday bopping around Think Kid, Think! to see more!

Greg at GottaBook is hosting today. Go poets!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

march madness & getting comfy in my bracket

Thanks to calculating upstart and hero-boy Ed DeCaria, 64 children's poets are going head to head in the first ever Think Kid, Think! Poetry Tournament.  I'm in the second flight of the first round and will shortly know which devilishly difficult 14th seed word I'm supposed to compose around.

The criteria for judging each poem are as follows:
"Voters can use whatever criteria they’d like when determining their preferred poem from each pair. As a random guideline, consider the criteria on which the contestants on the cooking show “Chopped” are evaluated: presentation, taste, and creativity. Translated roughly into poetry terms, presentation might include technical aspects such as meter, rhyme, form/shape, etc.; taste might be the net effect — did the poem move you to laugh, cry, think, kill, etc.; and creativity might include the poet’s approach toward a certain subject, image evocation, clever wordplay, etc."

Yes, folks, it's like American Idol:  YOU, the discerning public, get to pick which poem in each match-up cuts the mustard.  Go to the Live Scoreboard to see what the first flight of poets is feverishly working on even as I type.  Then go back to vote for your favorites.

Wishing the best to all competitors...

Friday, March 9, 2012

powerful fluff

I got up this morning with plans to post a poem in commemoration of International Women's Day and then, because I'm lately very interested in kids' varying ability to control impulse and delay gratification, I got distracted by looking to see what I might be able to do for a certain couple of characters in my class.  The resulting post is somewhat fluffier than planned.

I found my way to several new links about the familiar Marshmallow Experiment, the outcome of which 15-minute task is strongly predictive of a child's later academic and life success.  To summarize, a 4-year-old is offered one marshmallow to eat right now but two if she can wait 15 minutes before eating the first.  Children who can resist and delay gratification tend to have the kind of self-control and patience that will serve them well in life (independent of "hard" intelligence).  For me, today's new information is that kids who can wait are not so much resisting as successfully distracting themselves from the "hot stimulus" of the tasty marshmallow sitting on the plate in front of them.  The video is a delight (even if you don't aspire to raise CEO kids).

Funnily enough, today my kindergarteners will attempt to build 3D shapes out of toothpicks and minimarshmallows.  Only then can they eat the marshmallows. : )

Given all this, you will not be surprised to find three marshmallow poems below.  Enjoy!


Kristine O'Connell George

I am a careful marshmallow toaster,
a patient marshmallow roaster,
turning my stick oh-so-slowly,
taking my time, checking often.
This is art---
a time of serious reflection
as my pillowed confection
slowly reaches golden perfection....

Read the rest here.

Ode to the Burning Marshmallow

Oh my marshmallow,
From the depths of the plastic bag
You came,
White as snow,
Poofy as a cloud.
Edges rounded,
Body smooth.
Oh sugar and air,
How wonderful they melt in my mouth.
My taste buds become joyous
When you pass my lips,
And the dentist becomes concerned.
I love you so well,
Oh my marshmallow.
On my skewer I pierce you,
(A shame to tarnish such a beautiful specimen)
But how good you will taste,
Golden and browned.
But alas, that is not your fate,
Oh my marshmallow.
The embers of the flaming fire
Glare fiercely
Upon your white flesh.
They catch you off guard,
You begin to burn,
Oh my marshmallow.
I snatch you as quickly
As a mother would if her child
Were in danger.
But I was not quick enough.
As a beacon you light up the sky.
My cheeks turn red
As I puff in vain.
As the fire dies down,
I see you as black as the raven's wing.
I shed a tear, oh my marshmallow.
You will never come back,
One less s'more to grace the world,
Alas, Oh my marshmallow.

Marie Freudenberg, age 12

Marshmallow?  What Marshmallow?

a sugary cloud
no, not sweet
an airy cloud
just a pillow for a doll
a snowman's head
a cotton ball in chrysalis
an igloo door

a grasshopper trampoline
vanilla tender bomb
a loaf of bread for lemurs--
slice and spread with fruit

a cloud again
a bouncy white cloud
and I'm a bouncy elf
an airy fairy
in a puffy sky
above a baby beluga
in the deep blue sea

white glob of sand
in an hourglass, stuck
how long? how long
is it not a

Heidi Mordhorst 2012
all rights reserved

Today's roundup is at Gathering Books with Myra, who celebrates her birthday with all of us (an extra pleasure for me, since mine is Sunday.  Informal poll:  how many of us poets are Pisces?  Leave your answer in the comments!).

Also, don't forget to check back often over the next couple of weeks as I participate, along with 63 other lucky contestants, in the March Madness Poetry Tournament hosted by Ed DeCaria at Think Kid, Think!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

OIK Tuesday: st. patrick's secret identity

On March 1 I presented the new month's calendar to my kindergarteners.  Although many in my school enjoy the undeniable convenience of a calendar stored on the computer and presented on the Promethean Board, I still make a grid on a big sheet of 1-inch graph paper and hang it at the front of the room.  The physical work of each day's Calendar Marker is then always visible, birthdays and other special days can be referred to at any time, and the months become concrete artifacts that line the top of the walls and create a timeline of our kindergarten experience.  Call me old-fashioned, but I think 5- and 6-year-olds need this concrete, omnipresent record of passing time in order for it to begin making sense.

So there was the blank calendar, with weekend numbers recorded and a small green shamrock in the number 17 box.  "What do you notice?" I asked the class.  Some of the responses were...

"What is that green leaf for?"
"I notice a clover for Leprechaun Day!"
"St. Patrick's Day is coming."

I acknowledged these varying levels of familiarity and began a short and challenging explanation of St. Patrick's Day for a widely diverse group of children--after all, how do you fit the gigantic concepts of Christianity/Catholicism, sainthood, Ireland, history, immigration, cultural traditions and leprechaun magic into two sentences?  After my first sentence about how many kinds of people have come to live in America, just like some families in our class, and have brought their celebrations with them, like Chinese New Year, I started to say, "St. Patrick was--" and then got interrupted by a visitor at the door.

Bryon filled the pause that followed:  "--a rock star?!"

Have you heard of the rock star called Patrick
Who pulled off a Catholic hat trick?
The shamrock he takes;
The Irish he makes
Into Christians with wakes,
Then banishes snakes.
I'd like to see Bono do that trick!

Heidi Mordhorst 2012
all rights reserved


Okay, I worked way too long on that terrible piece of nonsense.  I may have to come back and try again with a poem on the bigger idea of the rock stars of Kindergarten:  those personalities who loom large in the K curriculum and the way their contributions do or don't make sense in the egocentric, here-and-now minds of 5-year-olds.  Happy upcoming St. Patrick's Day, folks.