Friday, July 11, 2014

taking your suggestions, please

This summer I'm working on a sweeping revision of last summer's project.  I'm now aiming at a teen audience, and one of its themes is identity.  Many of the poems will be set in the context of trying out different voices, perspectives, and even disguises, and so it seems like a good place to include some of the poems I've written as "copy tributes."  (I may have made up that label.)  Here's one that's working quite well; below you'll see what I'm hoping you can help with...

Stopping by Turtle on a Rainy Morning

Whose shell this is I think I know.
His head is under cover though;
He doesn’t want me stopping here
To watch him, crouching close and low.

I startled him along the path.
He wasn’t stepping very fast
Between the ferns and dripping weeds,
This wettest morning, for a bath.

He freezes, puts on all his brakes
And hopes that there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the blink
Of careful notice that I make.

His shell is lovely, arched and dark,
But I can’t read his orange marks,
Our miles of difference, slight and stark,
Our miles of difference, slight and stark.

            Heidi Mordhorst 2013
                all rights reserved

So far the poems I've copy-tributed are classics by male poets.  I also need to include a couple by women--but which?  I can think of several Emily Dickinson ones that would work well, but what about a more modern classic American poet?  Which Lucille Clifton or Maya Angelou poem would you suggest?  Sylvia Plath? Dorothy Parker? They need to be widely recognizable, I think, for the "joke" to work.  (It's not really a joke at all, but I want literate MS and HS readers to realize that something is going on even before they get to the reference.)

Of course I could sit down and surround myself with all my anthologies for a hunt, but I thought it would be more fun to start by asking you what classic poems by women spoke to you in your teens (or later).  I'm sure you'll remind me of something obvious I've forgotten, or, as so often happens here, introduce me to something that somehow I've missed. 

Thanks, and turtle on over to Write Time for the round-up with Linda Kulp!


  1. Hi, Heidi. Loved the poem and the idea. How about Lucille Clifton's "Wishes for Sons" as "Wishes for Boys" in the voice of a teenage girl?

  2. I looked through all my favorites that I've used with my students (middle-school gifted) & the one, by a woman poet, that I think might be more well-known than others is The Summer Day by Mary Oliver (the wild and precious life one). What a wonderful project. I love the turtle poem, hope you have a project that you'll share more of soon.

  3. Heidi, I love your tribute-copy poem! Wow! Hey, how about Gwendolyn Brook's "The Pool Players"? That one seems to be in a lot of lit texts. Laura's suggestions are good ones too. I want to read more tribute-copy poems!

  4. This is such a great idea! I guess I have Edna St. Vincent Millay on the brain today, because the first poem I thought of was "Renesance." It's long, but your poem wouldn't have to be the same length. I love your turtle, with his shell "arched and dark." Looking forward to hearing more about your project!

  5. I still haven't written a poem for the turtle who walked up mom's driveway last summer. Part of the reason is that every turtle poem I know is the one I wish I had written. Yours included.

    Your quest for female poets with poems well enough known to use for a tribute-copy makes me sad. There really aren't many, are there? Maya Angelou, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Cynthia Rylant, Jane Yolen...

  6. Wonderful project with a delightful poem! I think the Turtle poem will be a hit with MS students. I always liked Dorothy Parker. She has a poem On Being A Woman I also just found Mary Oliver and think she is a wonderful woman poet. Good luck!

  7. Best wishes with your project, Heidi - enjoyed this wonderful poem here and your "13 Ways" poem swap offering over at Tabatha's.

  8. One of my favorites--if only for its non-color color--is "Thompson's Lunch Room—Grand Central Station" by Amy Lowell. I don't know how familiar it will be to students, though.

    How about Adelaide Crapsey's "November Night"? I know cinquains are taught in the schools, so perhaps that title is too well-known!

    "Let Evening Come" by Jane Kenyon, or "Velvet Shoes" by Elinor Wylie. Linda recommended Gwendolyn Brooks--I think many would be familiar with "We Real Cool," and I think it would be fun to redo, as would "Homage to My Hips" by Lucille Clifton.

    Have fun!

  9. Wish I could be more helpful, Heidi, but not coming up with anyone at the mo. I'll let you know if I come up with someone later. I do LOVE your turtle tribute though!

  10. Maybe "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes, except "Son to Mother" ?

    Or maybe I am not understanding the project exactly... would love to hear more!

  11. Wow, folks--there IS sadness that this is even a little hard to do, and there is gladness for all the great ideas/reminders that you shared (I left town without my 'puter at 9 am on Saturday morning, so I'm just enjoying finding all these responses now). Will keep you all posted how it goes...

  12. Not sure if you remember us heidi
    Donna barnbrook and zoe sparkes from Brecknock
    Just wanted to say you was our favourite teacher ever and we have your books on order. So pleased to see your doing so well. Take care xxx

  13. Message to Zoe and Donna:

    !!!!! Yes, I remember you very well! After all, your Year 5 class was the first I ever taught in England, so it was a rather intense experience. I love knowing that you two are still friends! By my calculations you are approximately (oh good heavens) 33 or 34 years old now? I must be frightfully elderly. :)

    I'm glad you have fond memories of that year and of me, and thank you for ordering my books. Do you have kids to share them with? Are you still right there in Camden? It's such a fantastic surprise to hear from you, girls. Thanks for writing!


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!