Monday, April 30, 2012

a peek into my notebooks!

Thanks to Amy LV for closing out my National Poetry Month with an invitation to share my notebooks with y'all (and indeed for reminding me that drafting, by hand, on paper in a nice notebook is one of the great pleasures of being a writer).

Please stop by  to find out what style of notebooker I am and to watch how a few pieces have traveled from first draft to second draft to final and even published poems.

Don't forget to click on the photos for enlarged and readable versions, and leave any comment you have to be entered in a drawing to win the entirety of Pumpkin Butterfly dismantled and laminated into two-sided poetry posters for your favorite classroom!  Hope you enjoy the post!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

OIK Tuesday: what do kindergarten poets do?

I love kindergarteners.  They are just so fresh and willing when it comes to language, ideas, possibilities!  Last week, to supplement our biweekly Poetry Friday activities, we worked all week on a poetry study  called "What Do Poets Do?"  Each day brought a new poem and a new thing to notice.  I guess I need to learn how to upload a document, but here's what the cover of the booklet looks like. 

What Do Poets Do?

Dear Family,   


This week we read poems to find out what poets do.  We noticed that poets often choose to write about one small thing.  We noticed that poets choose juicy words that sound good together.  We noticed that poets choose how to arrange their words.  Then we tried writing our own small poems by choosing and arranging juicy words.  Please read all the poems with me, and when we’re done, let’s talk about which one gives us the strongest feeling.

                                              Love, ____

The poems included are "April Rain Song" (Langston Hughes), "Hey, Bug" (Lilian Moore), "My Mouth" (Arnold Adoff) and "Night Comes..." (Bernice Schenk de Regniers).  On Friday we listed some small things we could write poems about and some strong feelings we could make room for, and then off they went.

Here, without further ado, are the poems that resulted, in no particular order (a few of the twenty need a little editorial development--or just plain deciphering. I'll add them soon).  I'm so pleased that they all felt equipped to be The Boss of Their Poem, and that their work, each according to his or her means, is as individual as they are! 

Apple Pie

apple pie to ice cream
up            down
apple pie go ice cream
up           down

by Sidney L.


the night
it’s dark and
come out

by Cale H.


hair is perfect
it I love
hair is pretty
it I love

by Johanna A.


trains on the
trains on the
trains on the
trains on the
track go
trains on the go!

by Juan M.R.
Tea Party

my best friends
we had a tea party
with my toys
with Jasmine and Sarah
that like to do
with my toys
that was happy!

by Camille G.


basketball rock
basketball roll
basketball awesome
basketball shoot
basketball miss
basketball bounce

by Ezer Y.

the sun

the sun
shines down
on us  it glimmers up
on us  it spreads
on us  it spins
out there in
space   it goes
down at sun set
it goes up at sun

by Talia W.

about food

when the food
wakes up the
food is so happy

by Edwin M.
This one deserves special mention because of the detailed pencil-and-crayon drawing that shows apples and carrots with faces using tiny arms and legs to leap, wide awake, right out of the ground and their tree! 

Me and Camille
and Sarah we are
princesses  we
are going to
the woods.
We are excited
because we are going
to the woods!
because we are going
to see
deer and birds!

by Jasmine R.

Aw man

aw man aw man
aw man aw man
aw man aw man
aw man aw man
aw man aw man
mom   what can I do?
perhaps you can
play with your
aw man!

by Jordan L.

Star Wars Grand Canyon

Darth shot
the Grand
Light sabers
Luke grew flowers
They battled
The people grew

by Hamish D.

The camp

Camping is fun
when I go out
for a hike
I love
to camp  do you?

by Octavia S.

Sea Monsters

    Me and
    my brother
    saw the
sea monsters
    then the
    into Bernard’s

by Byron A.

Ice Cream

I eat ice cream
eat eat ice cream
the ice cream

by Alfredo C.F.


are fun you can
learn about things
like the world you
can pick whatever you
want you can pick
whatever game you
want   I say I like
this game a lot!

by Emily L.



by Gloria C.

Happy indeed, the surprises and gifts of 6-year-old poets!  Which are your favorites?

Meanwhile the Progressive Poem is leaping and landing and buoying towards its conclusion, with the latest addition being Renee LaTulipppe's at No Water River. I'm excited because I've been wanting to get back to Jeannine Atkins's silver slippers

I have really enjoyed getting to know Renee's work over the last eight weeks or so, through the March Madness Tournament and her blog.  Despite having the increasing feeling that We All Know Each Other in the KidLitosphere, this will never be true, so it's a good thing that we are so welcoming and supportive here when "new" folks explode on the scene.  (I'll skip over the part about how envious I am of the time Renee and others spend working on so many fabulous projects...we makes our choices, right?)

Poetry Friday--the last of National Poetry Month--is happening today with my "walking friend" Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.  I just love her Fictional Favorites series, and since I haven't read so much of the fiction which is being linked with the poems, I get a double dose of goodness:  the poems, and the pointer towards what to read.  The good news is that I seem to be returning to Reading Mode after many years of resisting books out of self-preservation.  How will I ever catch up?!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bamboozle your feet with humble dusts of coriander

It's my turn to add to the Progressive Poem launched by Irene on April 1, a prospect which is both thrilling and threatening.  To Lori, who wrote the last line and passed the poem to me, claiming to be out of her league, I say "Nay!"  You followed on Amy's line by choosing to employ that workhorse of poetic technique, repetition, and you made it graceful by returning to wine (which had not been partnered so closely with waltzes yet) and dreams.  Lovely.

I must admit I've had a powerful urge to add chocolate to the mix of wine and spices, waltzes and dreams.  Is it just me, or does anyone else see chunks of chocolate all lined up and ready to be chomped in our ProgPo badge???

But I resisted the chocolate, because the circle of our beautiful and mysterious poem seems to be turning back toward its beginning (and this is Line 20, after all.)  We who invited a wanderer in silver slippers to sit for a spell have offered comfort and nourishment, and now it's time for that wanderer to join the dance, for the music to quicken and for joy to overtake sorrow.

I feel also like the poem is ready for a little grounding in the concrete, and yet who would want to disturb the gently wafting spirituality in the air?  So I've tried to ease us towards a livelier pace without breaking the mood--which is why, I explained to my 13-year-old, the word "bamboozled" could not be included in Line 20, despite her energetic and cogent arguments.  I have suggested that she and Ruth's daughter, of "Suddenly, Ninjas!", should get together for their own partner poem project.

Now that I have completed my overthinking ritual, here's the poem.

If you are reading this
you must be hungry
Kick off your silver slippers
Come sit with us a spell

A hanky, here, now dry your tears
And fill your glass with wine
Now, pour. The parchment has secrets
Smells of a Moroccan market spill out.

You have come to the right place, just breathe in.
Honey, mint, cinnamon, sorrow. Now, breathe out
last week's dreams. Take a wish from the jar.
Inside, deep inside, is the answer...

Unfold it, and let us riddle it together,

...Strains of a waltz. How do frozen fingers play?
How do fennel, ginger, saffron blend in the tagine?
Like broken strangers bound by time, they sisterdance...
their veils of sorrow encircle, embrace.

Feed your heart with waltzes and spices.
Feed your soul with wine and dreams.
Humble dust of coriander scents your feet, coaxing
One of my well-read daughter's critiques was about my use of the word "humble."  How can coriander be humble, she asked, and if you're trying to be more concrete, isn't personifying a spice taking you in the wrong direction?  I realized that she understood the meaning of humble only in relation to a person's station or modesty.  I explained that humble can also describe a thing, meaning plain and simple, unpretentious, and as I explained, I remembered how I learned "humble" long ago, and it made me smile.
Charlotte: HUMBLE? Humble has two meanings. It means NOT PROUD and it means LOW TO THE GROUND. That's Wilbur all over. He's not proud and he is near the ground.
Then I got concerned, because my UU daughter seems to have missed her opportunity to learn something about humble from a certain humble stable in Bethlehem.

A final note:  I adore coriander, the dried and ground seeds of the plant we commonly call cilantro, and if our wanderer has any digestive discomfort after the delicious tagine, a little coriander tea should help.

On to you, Myra--I hope my humble addition gives you something to run with!  Poetry Friday is hosted today by Diane at Random Noodling.  See you there...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

OIK Tuesday: qualities of good literature

After lunch each day comes read-aloud time in the Mighty Minnow classroom.  The children prefer to sit at their tables "where there's somewhere to lean" rather than on the carpet, which means I have to become a mobile reader app, circling the classroom and training some kids to keep their eyes on me (especially those English learners for whom the chapter-book experience is challenging) while I do it.  Although it feels all wrong, I pause when there's an illustration and use the Elmo camera to project it onto my fancy Promethean Board so everyone gets a clear view.

So far this year we've read the brilliant Sea Cat and Dragon King, by Angela Carter (yes, THAT Angela Carter), My Father's Dragon by Ruth Gannett Stiles, and Rip-Roaring Russell by Johanna Hurwitz.  I hope we'll also get to Catwings by Ursula LeGuin, but we do have to have all three installments of My Father's Dragon and there are only 8 weeks left in the school year!

Last week we started Book 2, Elmer and the Dragon, and were in the middle of Chapter Two when it became apparent that the poor baby dragon would not be able to fly Elmer on its back through a violent thunderstorm.  A sad death by drowning seemed imminent for our heroes.  I paused to build understanding and predictive thinking (driving crazy the children who already listen this way as a matter of course and just want to get on with the story) and asked, "Do you think Elmer and the Dragon will sink down into the ocean and this will be the end of the story?  How do we know that won't happen here in Chapter Two?"

I was looking for someone to explain that there was too much book (and indeed series) left for our protagonists to meet their demise, but Talia cut to the chase:

"Because this is supposed to be a GOOD book!"

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mr. S. rocks

Last spring I attended a poetry workshop at the Highlights Foundation facility in Honesdale, PA led by David Harrison.  It was a great group of people which included an unassuming but very talented poet and special ed teacher from Phoenix, Ken Slesarik.(As you might imagine, I have particular respect for those who manage to teach full-time and write anything at all!)

Like many of us, Ken participated in the March Madness Poetry Tournament.  His first-round word was "thermal," and here's what he made of it...

Commander Thomas
by Ken Slesarik

I, Lieutenant Cornwall Thomas,
battle tested, make this promise;
although tantamount to treason
goin’ commando’s out of season,
so I’ll wear my thermal underwear,
concealing ample derrière
from botched cosmetic surgery
and Botox on the buttocks.

Funny, right?  But I'm not sure how middle-grade-friendly that let's just test it out on Duncan, age 9.5.  Before showing him Ken's poem, I ask:  "Duncan, do you know what Botox is?"
Duncan:  Y-e-e-es...(*mischievous glint*) Well, there's BUTTOCKS (heh heh), which is your behind, and then there's BOTOX, which is a kind of plastic surgery for your face.  But I guess you could get BOTOX (heh heh heh) for your BUTTOCKS (heh heh heh), and then your butt would be less wrinkly and saggy.
Okay, then!  Perfectly middle-grade-friendly!

So, I was in Phoenix just last week and caught up with Ken, who was flying high, for very good reason.  He had just uploaded an e-book called Poetry Rocks, which both highlights his efforts to promote poetry at Esperanza Elementary School and raises funds for more poetry activities there.  Esperanza is a small Title I school, and thanks to Mr. S. now has its own Poetry Rocks Poetry Club for 3rd-6th graders.

Here's some of Ken's commentary on the project.

"In April of 2011, I came across an article by children’s author Janet Wong talking about the possibilities of e-book publishing in regards to children’s poetry. I was especially impressed by her enthusiasm for promoting the genre and it got me thinking about how I could promote poetry at my small, Title 1 school. After giving it some thought, I drafted a proposal for an after school poetry club to encourage students to write with the eventual goal of publishing an e-book. The profits from this fundraiser would be used to promote poetry in our school. My principal, Denise McGloughlin has been very supportive throughout this project and we hope to continue and refine the process in the next year(s)."
It's nothing fancy, the Esperanza Elementary poetry anthology (although the cover is certainly eye-catching), but it represents a phenomenal amount of work on Ken's part as well as a nice glimpse into the kind of poetry work that's going on, especially this month, in classrooms and schools all over the U.S.  Here are a couple of my favorites from the collection.
Horse Apples
by Hannah Jensen

Horse he likes the food
“mmm” he said.
He ate an apple big and crunchy.

Horse he likes the food
"yum” he said.
He ate a carrot big and crunchy.

Horse he likes the food
“gulp” he said.
He ate a third grader big and crunchy!

by Nathan Bruun

Flowers on the ground
Flowers all around
Five daisies from me
Five roses from my brother
Five daffodils from my sister
A beautiful bouquet for mom to say
Happy Mother's Day!

David Harrison and Ken himself also contributed a poem, and if I'm not mistaken, a few other teachers as well.  (This could be Ken's greatest success--getting teachers to write along with their students!)  Ken's forte as a writer is his way with meter and rhyme (think Ogden Nash), and it shows up in some of the kids' work too:
by Kyra Larson

Ashley got out of bed,
she looked at the clock and said,
“Eee, I’m late! Oh dread!”
She rushed to school and her teacher said,
“Is that toothpaste on your head?”
To his credit, Ken included all the poems submitted, not just the "good" ones, giving even the least experienced readers and writers a chance to feel the thrill of publication and an incentive to continue their poetry explorations.  That means there are some clunkers, for sure, but they're charming clunkers and a regular part of the poetry landscape that we teachers and visiting authors inhabit.

I'm just so impressed by "Mr. S." and his energy and optimism, and I'm putting my money where my mouth is--I've downloaded Poetry Rocks not once but twice for use on different platforms.  I encourage you to buy your own copy and to support poetry at Esperanza too--in Ken's capable hands, your little $3.99 can add to a world of difference at one ready-to-rise school!

Poetry Friday is at Booktalking with Anastasia.  Spread the word!

Friday, April 6, 2012

exquisitely progressive

Thanks to Irene Latham, many of us in the Kidlitosphere are enjoying the first ever KidLit National Poetry Month Progressive Poem. Irene started us off with first line which is both welcoming and intriguing (I love her meditation on how she came to the important very first word, "if"), and now the poem is passing, line by line and author by author, around the community...and we can all see what's developing!

Mary Lee has today's line and says, "Right now this seems to be a poem of friendship, a poem of comfort...with the possibility of a little magic thrown in. What will become of those silver slippers?"

If you are reading this
you must be hungry
Kick off your silver slippers
Come sit with us a spell

A hanky, here, now dry your tears
And fill your glass with wine

While this may be the first-ever Kidlit NPM Progressive Poem, what we're all playing at actually has a long history, beginning with a parlor game called Consequences played during the Victorian era. Here's how the middle- and upper-classes amused themselves of an evening once leisure time was established and before radio and TV took over, from Wikipedia:

Each person takes a turn choosing a word or phrase for one of nine questions, in this order.

1.Adjective for man
2.Man's name
4.Adjective for woman
5.Woman's name
6.Where they met
7.He wore
8.She wore
9.He said to her
10.She said to him
11.The consequence was… (a description of what happened after)
12.What the world said

Then the story is read (for example):  Scary Bob met voluptuous Alice at the zoo. He wore a giant yellow banana costume She wore a lime green string vest, & a pink tutu. He said "This is delicious," she said "Hit me baby one more time." The consequence was that they eloped to Mexico. The world said "the femme fatale will always win".
The game is traditionally played by writing the words on paper and folding the paper to hide the previous words before passing it to the next player.  You can see how this led fairly directly to Madlibs, which were introduced as a paper-and-pencil game in 1958 by Roger Price and "Honeymooners" script writer Leonard Stern. (In his little memoir, Leonard insists that the two originated the Madlibs concept, but of course in 1958 there was no Wikipedia to describe the game of Consequences for them.)

By 1925 at least, a group of artists (both visual and literary) of the Dada and Surrealist movements were using the Consequences technique, which came be known as le cadavre exquis (from one of the early playings of the game in Paris).  According to Andre Breton, "we would turn to games; written games at first, contrived so that elements of language attacked each other in the most paradoxical manner possible, and so that human communication, misled from the start, was thrown into the mood most amenable to adventure." 
From this came lines like, "The completely black light lays down day and night the powerless suspension to do any good."

The jump from paradoxical juxtapositions of words to those of drawings, especially body parts, is easy to make, and I personally learned the Exquisite Corpse game as a drawing game, with each section of the body hidden by folding as the paper passes around.   Here are some of the Surrealists' results.

It's fun to think that "my" version of Exquisite Corpse actually began as a poetry game played by the likes of Tristan Tzara, from whom comes the poem below.  In the meantime, I'm wondering how a "blind" version of the Progressive Poem would work, one in which we the adventuring authors could NOT see and follow the development of the poem as it travels from "house" to "house." 

To Make a Dadaist Poem

Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are--an infinitely original author of charming sensibility,
even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.
Tristan Tzara
Enjoy some more infinitely original and charming sensibility today at Read, Write, Howl with Robyn!