Friday, May 29, 2015

buckle up

simulated daughter on closed course
If the Motor Vehicle Administration had been open on January 1, my little April Fool would have been there at 8am sharp to get her learner's permit.  As it was, she had to wait until she was 15 years 9 months and 1 day old.  Driving practice has been going well since January 2nd--short jaunts on neighborhood roads two or three times a week with one or the other parent.

But Memorial Day Weekend is traditionally one for family outings.  Ours took us around the DC metro area beltway--famous for requiring nerves of steel when it's flowing smoothly and the patience of Job the other 495% of the time.


While 16 drives
12 tells me he has
he can see the holes
in the hub caps spnning
at 60 MPH
and what does SPF stand for?
16 holds steady,
only a few wobbles within her lane.
Nearly 50 is coaching her
and I--51--I'm wobbling
a little too in the backseat,
letting go, holding nothing
but a slippery pink glitter gel pen
she doesn't use anymore.

HM 2015
all rights reserved

The Poetry Friday round-up today is at Reflections on the Teche with Margaret, who must be celebrating the end of another satisfying year of teaching.  Cruise on over and enjoy the poetry scenery!

Friday, May 22, 2015

me and my shadow I mean notebook

sticker courtesy of Pomelo Books
Over at Sharing Our Notebooks, Amy LV is collecting summer notebook and journal ideas for writers of all ages.  I contributed this little snip from my current notebook and  can't wait to see all the cool suggestions she's collecting.  I always look forward to summer break and having more time to spend with my notebook, and now I'll have lots of new adventures to take it on.

Try This!  Doodle Your Listening

Heidi Mordhorst

I debated for a long time about  how many notebooks to keep:  one for school, one for poetry, one for my calendar/agenda, one for everyday household business, one for—yep, that was too many notebooks to juggle.

In the end, I do keep a separate binder for my teacher stuff, but for all other purposes I have Just One Notebook.  I use it for intentional sitting-down-to-write, but it’s also the one that I take to writing conferences, to services at my congregation, to a political meeting, to a wellness workshop.  The pages below are from a workshop called “Redefining Health,” and they definitely do not capture the organized thread of the presentation!  Instead you see my doodled, fonted, decorated, designed version of  it.  I have recorded certain turns of phrase, questions for myself, pairings of words, tangents, direct quotes, and there are lots of possibilities for mining poems from the graphic details.

I’m calling this thing you might also like to try “DOODLE YOUR LISTENING.” Carry your notebook anywhere you’ll be sitting and listening--in the car with the radio on, in church, at a meeting, at the pool where people don’t know you’re listening!  Design and decorate your notes to see what happens!

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) had it right:

“A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that ‘great wits have short memories:' and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation. There you enter not only your own original thoughts, (which, a hundred to one, are few and insignificant) but such of other men as you think fit to make your own, by entering them there.”
—from “A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet”

Matt Forrest Esenwine continues his Big Year of Breakout by hosting Poetry Friday today at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme.  Go congratulate him on his first book contract!

Friday, May 15, 2015


Daisy is working on a big poetry project for English 10.  She and a partner had to choose a poet from a list, select 10-15 poems  for anthology, write commen-
taries on each poem, write their own poem "similar in content and style" to the poet's work, and analyze their own poem.

Daisy's first choice was Naomi Shihab Nye (I may have influenced that), but they ended up with Natasha Trethewey (also no slouch).  Here's my favorite of the poems that they selected, an exquisitely constructed pantoum which manages to be both simple and as grand as the planets.

Rotation || Natasha Trethewey

Like the moon that night, my father —
         a distant body, white and luminous.
How small I was back then,
         looking up as if from dark earth.

Distant, his body white and luminous, 
         my father stood in the doorway.
Looking up as if from dark earth,
         I saw him outlined in a scrim of light.

My father stood in the doorway
         as if to watch over me as I dreamed....

Read the rest at the Poetry Foundation website, and then send Daisy some good vibes for her original poem.  She's more comfortable with math and visual art, so is feeling rather challenged.  (Personally, selfishly, I'm thinking of a nice villanelle in which I am the warm yellow sun burning queenly and she orbits teenly, keenly around me, a lush little bluegreen planet of statistical formulas.)

Also check out Natasha's Poet Laureate project, a whole PBS NewsHour special series called "Where Poetry Lives," which I managed to miss entirely. It looks like--and this fits her historical, social-personal themes very well--the program is focused on the ways that poetry can contribute to social justice.  Watching it goes on my list of summer treats.

You'll find the round-up this Poetry Friday at Random Noodling with the intriguingly in-sane Diane Mayr.

Friday, May 8, 2015

ditty challenges

The delightfully ambitious Michelle at Today's Little Ditty is our Poetry Friday host today, and she has offered two challenges that I'm about to tackle.  First is Nikki Grimes's wordplay challenge which concludes the fascinating interview she gave Michelle last week:

"When I talk about wordplay, I'm talking about studying a word from top to bottom, and inside out, considering every aspect of the word:  What it looks like, sounds like, feels like.  What it does, how it's used, etc.  The idea is to bring all of your senses into the act.  The poem you create may end up being complex and sophisticated, or very simple."

Second is the Five for Friday challenge periodically set by Michelle, which is an exercise in minimalism, a ditty of five words only (although I note that many poets endow theirs with expository titles, a practice which I wholly condone).

So--for Nikki's challenge I do not choose the word "bell" or "lemon" (done that one!), "blanket,"  "leaf" or "sun," as I might usually.  Instead the news lately takes me to "bullet" and I'm a little afraid of it, but here's my Draftless Luck* effort.  The title is both expository and five words long, if you allow me a hyphenated word, so that's my Five for Friday, too.

Thank you, Michelle; thank you, Nikki; and thank you, Poetry Friday people, for reading the raw and unpolished with interest and respect.  We do each other a great favor in that.

May I also point you to this quote from George Eliot and this recording by Elvis Costello?

*With apologies to Erica Jong, this refers to my time-challenged technique of writing a poem right now, once, with the revision allowed by one hour, publishing it on the blog as though it were finished--and hoping for the best.

Friday, May 1, 2015

what do kindergarten poets do?

As promised last week, I'm celebrating the (endless end) of National Poetry Month today with poems by 17 kindergarten poets from North Kensington, MD!  After our (year-long) week-long poetry study, the most fun this year was noticing who learned what about poets' techniques--some clearly took in the lesson about creating strong feelings; some chose carefully where their words would go on the page; some used repetition (occasionally by accident!) and some went for juicy words or juicy rhythm.  Once again, I consider it my greatest success as a poetry teacher that all but a couple had good ideas and felt capable of writing a poem.

As the teacher I often get both the first and the last word, but today I'll go first and let Anthony have the last word.  You'll see why. 

Frog Song

tadpole  polliwog
tadpole  polliwog
   (gills   gills)

  back legs   shrinky tail
  front legs   shorty tail
    (change  change)
      frogpole   frolliwog
      frogpole   frolliwog
          (lungs   lungs)


by Ms. Mordhorst

Ameera’s  Mirror

my mirror
was gone at
it was alone
and shiny

by Ameera

Planes and Trains

the airplanes
are flying
the trains
are rolling

by Cristian

A Ballerina Dancing

a girl put on her shoes
blue dress
blue shoes
then the girl performed
then she took a bow

by Charm

Star Wars Legos

circles and squares
I made the
Death Star

by Thomas

Ice Cream

I love to eat
ice cream and
eat other colors
of ice cream!

by Catherine


Space oh space
how I love you
you are 1,001,000
miles away   oh
how you make
my brain tickle

by Jack


The maniac
gets you and
he steals  money  
he sneaks in your
house      he steals
treasure  he steals
food        he steals all

by Jacob

    The Butterfly

the butterfly
is in the
in the flowers

by Ari


swiveling snake
shedding its skin
slithering away from
a roadrunner

by Aidan


fish live in
streams and oceans
too    fish eat
plants and insects

by Michelle


I have a
birthday party
I make a cake
and to have
my cake
come here
I like
my cake and
I like my cake

by Jocelyn


tiger eating

by Edwin

My House

my toys are
behind my chimney
my kitchen
is in order
my room is
my house looks

by Victor

My Egg Hatched

Look at my
egg    it hatched
there is a chick
this chick is
so cute that
I keep it     oh

by Hannah


lions are the
of the
lions are

by Nadia

Ice Cream

I eat ice cream
at my home and
my brother eats ice cream
in a cone
We like

by Victoria

The Clouds Are Nickels

the first part of it:
nickels are the right size
for a cloud 
the next part of it:
clouds are soft 
clouds are like
rice and mashed potatoes.
I will drink lemonade wow!
I am holding a cloud bank
of nickels  wow!
a lot of nickels outside

by Anthony


When illustrating, Anthony took a nickel out of his pocket and used it for tracing the round fluffy shapes of clouds.  And truly, he knew--or created--the cloud bank image.  So much goodness wow!  Which kindergarten poems are your favorite?

The May Day round-up is with Ellen at Elementary Dear Reader--see you there!