Friday, July 29, 2016

3, a number poem

draft (c) Heidi Mordhorst 2016
3 is the magic number,
bulging with possibilities.
One thing leads to another
                and then another.
Beginning middle end.
3 has eyes to see and ears to hear.
3 purses its lips and
blows a kiss to the future.
         Promise of wishes fulfilled.


That's a less-than-one-minute poem that COULD have been (but isn't) in the forthcoming anthology ONE MINUTE TILL BEDTIME, edited by Children's Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt.  Instead a different tiny poem by me is included, along with many more "60-second poems to send you off to sleep."

I just love the cover illustration by Christoph Niemann, and I can't wait to see what other poems by our Poetry Friday friends are included.  It comes out November 1 from Little Brown, just in time for winter gift-giving!

The Poetry Friday round-up is with Margaret at Reflections on the Teche.

Friday, July 22, 2016

remember the raspberries

"I want my word to be the thing itself,
 created by my soul a second time."
                    --Juan Ramon Jimenez

"A poem should not mean, but be."
                   --Archibald MacLeish

This week I presented at the Millersville University Poetry in the Classroom Institute, directed by Dr. Lesley Colabucci.  Along with Jacqueline Jules, Marjorie Maddox, Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, I "worked" poetry with a great group of Pennsylvania educators.  There was talk of the many ways to read poetry, write poetry, share poetry, collect poetry, teach poetry, learn poetry, and my particular contribution was a look at the nuts & bolts of establishing a workable poetry routine in the classroom. Meanwhile, I created my own writer's retreat here in Lancaster, PA, and excavated a whole crate of writing from as far back as 1992--not notebooks, but drafts of stories and memoir and poems and manuscripts, some with my notes, some with critique group notes--tons of material remembered and yes (I have a really faulty memory), forgotten.

This has given me the impression of eating, sleeping and breathing poetry all week, and yet for me there has hardly been a moment of letting a poem "be the thing itself," of letting it "not mean, but be."  These words are the epigraph to a double collection of poems by my youngest cousin Meredith, which I rediscovered in my trove of writing.  So to conclude my week, I'm going to let these two poems by Meredith be the thing itself, created a second time out of her college experience of brain cancer and long recovery

from Roots: Living With(Out) Cancer
grass || Meredith Tracy
       Part I: Another Voice in the Darkness, 1999

Dad wheels me along
the paved pathways, careful not
to tip me sideways
I remember how the familiar feel of
each individual blade
on my bare feet
stunned me as I stood up
out of my wheelchair.

Taking in the fresh air,
an unexpected treasure--
raspberry bushes:
ruby fruit
that melts on my tongue.

A respite from hospital air,
nutrients/food.  A reminder of life.

I am alive.

remember the raspberries|| Meredith Tracy
     Part II: Remember the Raspberries, 2009
i need to remember that
unexpected pleasure of
the rubyfruit melting on
my tongue.

that moment when I was
outside, no longer a
patient, but an outsider
seeing the unexpectedness
of life, the surprises that
appear so suddenly, th
pieces of a light-full life
to be lived, even if only
day by day.

i need to forget the
dark half of the room
i shared with a stranger.
the dark half that seems
to follow me, not
letting me go
until i can shed this
darkness and walk out
into the light.


The roundup today is with  Chelanne at Books4Learning.  Let the poems be.

Friday, July 15, 2016


When is the new year?
not on the calendar's first day
of January,
not even on the solstice night
of winter,
not the solstice day of June.

The new year arrives
on some
unmarked day
of summer, when

an unnamed energy,
submerged in
sun and water and soil,
counts a number of ticks
known only to its own
atomic clock

and rested, wakes,
resonates, reanimates,
swings its pendulum
of light, wet and polished,
beaming up
the new year.

draft (c) HM 2016

The roundup today is with Mary Lee (Moo!) at A Year of Reading.

Friday, July 8, 2016

watermelon teatime

Despite my firm and abiding belief in public education (maybe not the system we've got, but in the ideal of it), I think often about other models:  unschooling and homeschooling and cooperative schooling.  Lately the crew at Brave Writer has had me wishing that I'd set out on the homeschool journey (even though everyone knows that we moved to France for a year just so that I could avoid teaching my son in nursery school).  They offer homeschoolers many resources for teaching writing, including online courses, but their greatest invention is (are you listening, Jama?) ........

The basic idea is that a family sets aside regular time for 
Poetry + Tea + Treats = Enchanted Learning and Magical Family Time!

Brave Writer supports this ritual with a website dedicated to it alone.  Posts come from the Brave Writer staff, who recommend books, recipes and related projects, and from homeschoolers who keep Poetry Teatime weekly with their families.  You will also find interviews with poets, and I was recently invited to respond to a set of questions about writing and poetry--you can read the full interview here. I'm in extremely good company; Poetry Teatime has featured Marilyn Singer, Amy Ludwig Vanderwater and Joyce Sidman too, and their interviews are fascinating.

Here's one snippet that goes to the key elements: the pairing of poetry and food!

We love to pair tea and food with poetry. Many of your poems mention food—for example, your book Pumpkin Butterfly features wild strawberries, lemons, and cherries. How can poetry and food complement each other? Do you have any favorite food/poem pairings, either of your own or of others’ work?

A tea party is a special way of enjoying food and drink that gives extra weight and importance to the flavors and the company. Poetry is a special way of enjoying words and ideas that gives extra weight and importance to the meaning and the metaphor. They go together beautifully! 

My family just celebrated the Summer Solstice with a big evening picnic in a park where we always serve watermelon—one of the very best flavors of summer. Here is a watermelon poem that goes with my poem from Pumpkin Butterfly called “Winged Solstice.”

Ode to a Watermelon
by Pablo Neruda

Round, supreme, celestial watermelon
The fruit of the tree of thirst
Green whale of summer.

Oda a la Sandia
por Pablo Neruda

La redonda, suprema y celestial sandia
es la fruta del arbol de la sed.
Es la ballena verde del verano.

I also include an easy watermelon recipe to try that's a far cry from scones or cinnamon toast, but is a perfect summer teatime finger food!

And of course, with Poetry Teatime coming in one ear and this "Poetry Peek" post from Amy's Poem Farm about poetry and popcorn coming in the other, my teacher brain is ruminating on how to bring a similar ritual into my classroom next year.  I already do our daily chapter book reading during snack time, and not only because our crammed schedule requires multitasking.  While it's true that the children are not all ranged, rapt, at my feet as I read about (for example) Gawain's escape from the courtroom to freedom and isolation across the lake in The Real Thief, my standing position as they eat at their desks allows for a dramatic and energetic rendering of the action and, I hope, creates an association for the kids between food for the body and food for the spirit.  I believe in that yet more firmly and abidingly than the belief I began the post with!

Today's host for Poetry Friday is Katie at The Logonauts--pour yourself a cup of tea (iced if it's 93* as predicted here) and enjoy the ritual!

Friday, July 1, 2016

back in the saddle and living a lie

File under Silver Linings:  last week's episode with the unwelcome visitors (which seems to be concluded by the application of a fierce indoor heat treatment) required a kamikaze decluttering effort which laid bare the deeper strata of stuff in our house.  In the aftermath, we find ourselves putting back the essentials and opening up boxes like the very heavy one, taped shut since 1998, that has stood in our bedroom draped with a cloth and pretending to be a coffee table.

Lo, it contained notebooks!  My notebooks and journals from the very early years--high school, college, my 6 months in Germany after college.  Amid the excruciating details of my forever overlapping love interests-- (how the world has changed! My own 17-year-old, nor most of her friends, does not concern herself with boys or girls or any love interests but with her own mighty path of becomingness.  Is this true in other parts of the world, or is this specific to her and her microcosm?)--there are POEMS to discover, including this one, typed on an actual typewriter and then marked up and down.  It was folded into my journal from 1984-85, my senior year in college.

Careful readers of  Squeeze may recognize a precursor to my poem "The Moon Moves," which in more than one place I claim to have written first as a 2nd-grader.  Apparently I have been living that lie for all it's worth!  The original version above is clearly based on bike trips I took in the dark during my summer at home in Richmond in 1984, where I visited childhood stomping grounds and viewed them with all the wisdom and perspective of a 20-year-old--"old rounds, new."

Of course, nothing is exactly proven except the fact that I have a a really faulty memory.  It is still possible that somewhere I might turn up an original first poem about riding my bike in the dark at age 7 or 8 (mothers let their kids do that back in 1972).  But I think, in trawling my mind for material for Squeeze, that I neatly bypassed the memory of this composed college version of my kid experience and recreated it as a directly experienced episode of my childhood.

But wait!  There's more!  Looking yet more closely at my 1985 draft, I also see elements of another Squeeze poem, "Singing the Swing:" 

old rounds,                                                                  new

Now I swing and point my toes                                   reach out with your toes
straight into the mottled sky.                                        kick at the clouds

I, the chains and the earth,                                           hold safe to the chains
we swing a scalene explosion                                      you're rooted in earth but you're singing the swing

However it has all developed, the Silver Linings file is getting fat, because THIS is why I keep stuff!  Too much stuff, to be sure, but I keep it because

1) the proven fact that I have a really faulty memory
2) writers should never erase or trash anything--
    you never know when or why it may come in interesting, if not actually handy, and
3) "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," and I prefer to repeat my past with a sense of awareness.

I look forward to a steadier, more reciprocal participation in Poetry Friday for the rest of the summer.  Thanks to Tabatha for hosting today at The Opposite of Indifference, where her theme of mistakes offers ample room for my lie the size of the moon!