Friday, October 28, 2016

mother's day in october

This is the big minute of Kenn Nesbitt!  Our former Children's Poet Laureate has worked for more than two years with over 130 poets to produce one of the loveliest anthologies of poetry I've ever held in my hands. (As a contributor, I have already had this pleasure though the book release is not until November 1.) I think one of the big appeals of One Minute Till Bedtime is that it feels distinctly old-fashioned, in the best possible way.

The heft of the book, the feel of the dust jacket and the paper inside (smooth but not slick) contribute to this initial sensation.  The hand-chalked title and cover illustration glow forth from a deep purple background.  Christoph Niemann's robust drawings build the feeling--they appear simple and straightforward but they carry (like good writing for children) layers of imagination and emotion.  And the poems inside, not all of which are sleepy or soft by any means, are cozy nonetheless--they speak to the experiences that children have at home, in their early close relationships with people, objects and the creatures of the natural world.  There's no flash, no high-tech, no gloss--just outstanding design and sensitive curation.

In a time of--would you agree with me?--global unrest, when anyone who is paying attention to the Big Picture must carry a sense of unease, this book is comforting and reassuring.  It confirms that the fundamental, ritual experience of going to bed with a story, poem or song shared in the voice of a beloved caregiver is alive and well.

So it's fitting that when Kenn was invited to an interview over at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes's blog, he offered this challenge:
Write a poem for your mother. Write it for your mother and give it to her. It can be any kind of poem you like, as long as it’s especially for her. In my opinion, a poem is the best gift you can ever give someone. It doesn’t cost you anything but a little thought and time, and yet it will be treasured forever.

And fittingly enough, I have just such a gift poem in my archives!  I posted it to the Ditty of the Month Club Padlet and now I share it with you here--a poem about precisely that experience I described above, of being rhymed and rhythmed, thrilled and calmed each morning, noon and night by the voice of my mother, Lila (nee Zingerline) Mordhorst.

A History of Your Voice
Mothers’ Day 2011

and this little piggy stayed home
for so long we were
together all the time
together all alone
together all among
open the doors and see all the people

three gray geese in a flock
for so long you listened to every word I
began to say
forgot to say
dared to say
wire briar limber lock

we parted       disintegrated
remembered    recombined

apple seed and apple thorn
for so long now we are
winding threads
dropping threads
picking up threads
sit and sing by a spring

there were two old Indians crossing the Mississippi
ripping a seam here and there
putting right sides together
stitching further rivers

would you like to hear the rest? 

© Heidi Mordhorst

The round-up for this Poetry Friday is with Linda at TeacherDance.  May you hear today in your travels the voice of someone who spoke to you with love at bedtime--and may we seek that for every child.

Friday, October 21, 2016

big jumps

Last year at NCTE, the author-illustrator Jon Klassen spoke about a certain scene in a certain book which thrillingly broke open a memory pod in my brain.  It was the moment in "The Wish Sack," the third story of Benjamin Elkin's 1958 masterpiece The Big Jump, in which Ben (a young hero of approximately medieval times) finds that he has wished himself right onto the bed of the sleeping bad King in his black palace!

Oh, how I loved this book!  I searched for a copy of this out-of-print book and ordered it, and after reliving many deep experiences of learning (about reading and about how the world works) from it, I put it in my class library.  And then a few weeks ago I put it in the Book Box of my student Natan.

On Tuesday Natan was among the first to do Book Sharing at our class meeting time, and so we conferred about a good choice.  To my great satisfaction, he chose The Big Jump, but not the copy from the classroom library--he loved it so much he had found and bought and brought his own!  He chose to read aloud precisely the same passage from "The Wish Sack" that Jon Klassen had mentioned in his speech, and others in the class who have read The Big Jump jumped in to say how easy to read and how exciting this book is.

But that wasn't all.  On Tuesday night Natan made another big jump.  He arrived at school with a homemade stapled book that also included 3 stories--about Pokemon training.  His sense of humor and wide vocabulary made each little story very effective,  and of course I acknowledged that.   So (with writing time in school currently filled with a research project about nutrition), Natan went home and added a proper cover, a "tabel of contants" and three more stories! On Wednesday morning he tried to GIVE this book to me, so I taught him about dedications and he kept the book, now dedicated to me.

The next big jump came later that morning during our discussion of choosing books responsibly and wisely.  I departed a bit from The Big Orange Splot, which turns out to be the perfect book for learning the I PICK model for independent reading, and I extended the concept to self-selected writing projects.  I read Natan's Pokemon book to the class as an example--and during the discussion Natan let us know that the idea to make a book with more than one story had come from his repeated readings of The Big Jump.

Suddenly--right on time, really--in one of those aha! waves that happen in classrooms, the Diamond Miners realized that what you read is connected to what you write, and (with Ms. Mordhorst's help) that what you write is probably the most important work you do in school.  The houses of The Big Orange Splot are the metaphor and, as Mr. Plumbean says, "My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams."

And they're off, to make books that look like all their dreams!  That very day there was a flurry of independent paper folding and stacking and stapling and writing and drawing  when center work was completed, and next week I will start replacing some of my Word Work Centers with Self-Selected Writing, so that eventually every child will enjoy two writing sessions every day--one structured, coached Teacher-Selected Writing time and one independent, autonomous choice writing time.  And then I will have to establish more sharing opportunities!  (And then I will have to get to work on my own Big Jump book with Benjamin Elkin as my mentor.)

I really love Big Jumps.  : )  And here's an unexpected bonus video....

The round-up today is with Tricia--I think!--at The Miss Rumphius Effect.  Jump on over for some big reading!

Friday, October 14, 2016

8th anniversary, 463 posts

C&T Custom Lures on ETSY

Yes, I have been blogging here for eight whole years!  My first post featured a poem I'd heard on the Writer's Almanac which I could post just as easily today, but for a historical marker, go to one of my first long posts, written in English and in French (such as my French was, after spending 2007-2008 in Paris)  about the day after the 2008 election and my feelings about seeing Barack Obama become President.

Very shortly after that I wrote about "the beauty of the blog," even though at that point I don't believe
ANYONE was reading it.  Perhaps that's why posting was a little haphazard until my momentous entry into this Poetry Friday community (momentous for me, not necessarily for the PF community!)
That came in March of 2009, which is another anniversary I look forward to celebrating.

For now, though, this:

Keeping It Together
All threads and trains,
No rules, restraints,
No due dates, deadlines, demands.
I get to choose.  It's in my hands:
Vocabulary, voice, venom or valentine--
Each and every muse is mine.
Reaching in deep or out wide, me to you,
Sampling the past or hewing the new,
A record here is made,
Revels, relations, revelations live here
Year after year after year.
draft (c) HM 2016

Today's round-up is with Irene and her scarecrow show (how wonderful!) at Live Your Poem.  Wishing you, her and her scarecrow the same satisfaction that I can't help but feel at sticking with this for eight years!

Friday, October 7, 2016

thursday night lights

foreign bodies

black and white against the
rubber-crumbling field of turf,
daughters meet the fight--
they gallop, leap and turn,
twinkle, clump and spread again,
amoeba-like around a white and black
nucleus of ball

black and white, pink and brown,
against the empty, clanging stands,
chill October night--
we gather, leap and clap,
shiver, stretch and cheer again,
eggbox lights under a white on black
slice of moon

singular smell here, green and dying
singular sound here, still and shouting
and all that speedenergysweatspirit
like black and white
like day and night
a foreign cult to me

draft (c) HM 2016

It's our last season of varsity girls' soccer.  I put on a good show (and I am truly amazed, truly supportive), but the whole enterprise remains fundamentally baffling to the inner me.

Enter the fray of Poetry Friday over at Violet Nesdoly's blog today--always a reason to cheer on Friday, and this week it's for Poetry Camp!