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.


  1. Oh, Heidi. What a musical and healing and loving poem. Thank you. And your review of Kenn's book is beautiful too. How lucky we are to be in the same place here and in the same place there. Hugs for a rainy Poetry Friday in Western New York... xx

  2. What an emotional journey your poem takes me on, Heidi. I like the touch of fairy-tale whimsy in "wire briar limber lock" and "apple seed and apple thorn". Very moving.

    1. Brenda,

      Those words come from a Mother Goose/traditional nonsense rhyme used for counting out. My mom used to touch each of my fingers, folding one under each time we reached "Out."

      "Intery, mintery, cutery-corn,
      Apple seed and apple thorn;
      Wire, brier, limber-lock,
      Three gray geese in a flock;
      Sit and sing by a spring,
      O-U-T spells out."

  3. I didn't realize this poem was from your archives, Heidi. It fits the challenge so perfectly! (Should I change the copyright date in the wrap-up presentation?) I love how your poem weaves together nursery rhymes and memories... or stiches them together, to go with your analogy. Like a beautiful family quilt. I also agree with Amy, your description of OMTB is lovely, as well... and all of it true.

  4. I have seen this anthology popping up on blogs all over this week - congrats on being a part of such an exciting collection!!

  5. That book is on its way, and you've made me even more excited, Heidi, with your special review. I love your poem, a compilation of all the love and change in mother to daughter. I still hear my mother's voice, miss all our conversations, and now my daughter and I talk, a reprise continuing. Thanks for reminding us of all that mothers are.

  6. Your poem is like a warm hug, Heidi. Lovely. Congrats on being included in Kenn's collection. Looking forward to reading it. =)

  7. Your poem is quite magical, Heidi, with its repetition and the way it flows in and out of familiar lines. I especially love the ending. And congratulations on being part of Kenn Nesbitt's project. This is one book I want to own (not just borrow from the library).

  8. Such a beautiful poem! You nailed the whimsy of Nesbitt and the tenderness of mother's voice....the memory. Well done and beautiful! Many many congratulations on the inclusion of this poem in One Minute Til Bedtime. Have a great week. See you in November.

  9. Love the way you describe what an anthology for children should be, and the way you described the pages? Ahhh. Be still by poetic heart. I couldn't agree more, Heidi. Also, loved the poem for your Mom. She must be so proud of you and your alter-ego, emily cummings.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!