Wednesday, November 30, 2016

One Minute till Bedtime Blog Tour!

To help celebrate the release of this beautiful book, contributor Jackie Hoskings has organized a blog tour!  Please join the poets on December 1st as we share a one-minute poem that didn't quite make it into the book.

Find her round-up here, and enjoy!

Dig Me

I open
at the end of your stick--
little dent in the dirt

I open
wider, deeper, darker—
a hole that might

shout out
the round echoes
of a grand canyon

or whisper
the small secrets of
the soil

©Heidi Mordhorst

Friday, November 25, 2016

singing gratitude

Being a "general optimist," my reactions to the current state of the world lean resolutely towards whatever there is to appreciate, whatever there is to celebrate, whatever is good.  In that spirit, today I offer some grateful words I sang to my children at bedtime, composed as a more-than-Christian variation on a hymn tune my mother sang to me.  They're intended to be both soothing and, the next morning, rousing.

There is so much to be thankful for, so many blessings to fight for.

Hymn at Bedtime

All praise to thee, bright world, this night
For all the wonders of the light.
Keep me, oh, keep me till sunrise
Beneath thy deep and endless skies.

Thanks for the trees and for the birds;
Thanks for the silence and the words;
Thanks for the blue and for the green;
Thanks for the places I have been.

Thanks for the water and the wind;
Thanks for the drum and violin;
Thanks for the honey on my bread;
Thanks for this place to lay my head.

And when tomorrow comes the day
I’ll wake and shake the dark away,
Greeting each creature of the earth
With gifts of warmth and strength and mirth.

        (c) Heidi Mordhorst 2001

The Thanksgiving round-up is with Carol at Carol's Corner.  I'm thankful for all of you who make this community for all of us.

Friday, November 18, 2016


I'm coming to you from balmy Atlanta this week, where Mary Lee Hahn and I will be presenting later today a session called "Risking Writing," along with Dr. Shanetia Clark of Salisbury University and author Patricia Hruby Powell.  At the heart of this session is the writing of a poem brainstormed by Shanetia, drafted by Mary Lee, and revised by me.  Patricia will supply inspirational commentary. Do check back in to see what we came up with!

...And here we are, back from a really terrific collaboration between presenters--all the more terrific because none of us knew all the rest of us before we met in our session room!  That in itself was part of the risk.

Here's the photo--by Mary Lee, of course--that we offered as a prompt.

After brief introductions, Patricia kicked us off by emphasizing the fun in writing, reviewing some of the  techniques she uses, like keeping a bank of verbs related to her subject handy.  She spoke about emotion as the key both to authentic writing, and about its role in the teacher-student relationship.

                                                  Here we all are getting started.

Next, Shanetia brainstormed and Mary Lee drafted based on her ideas.  A document camera let participants watch this work as we all commented on the process.

Participants also brainstormed and drafted.  Then I narrated a process of revision, reading aloud to find the music in the words and also to hear where the emotion was coming through.


 Likewise, our intrepid crew of participants had a go at revision.  It was a lot more difficult to come to a conclusion
with our shared poem than we expected, and the feeling of being vulnerable in front of an audience--as our students are asked to be every day--was palpable!

Our poem may not yet be finished, but here it is.  You can follow the whole process by going to #riskingwriting on Twitter, where we hope that others will share their efforts at writing in front of their students!

The Voice of the Vegetables

We don't get to pick
the basket we land in--
pepper with eggplant with squash.

Grown apart, at market
we tumble together
on a background of red--
color and spice and crunch.

Unity is not a concession.
Stand, then speak, then lead.
(c) Shanetia Clark, Mary Lee Hahn, Heidi Mordhorst 2016

Here were the few slides of our presentation:

The round-up today is with Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales.  It's not much of a risk just joining in our friendly Fridays, but letting the poetry take you--that's riskier.

Friday, November 11, 2016

november kaboom, take 2

Last Friday I wrote with joy to the world about a November volcano exploding a lava of leaves.  This Friday (not because Hillary lost, but because ignorant, selfish, and hateful won), that November lava has been scorched raw and is now chilling into the hard obsidian of resolve.

That's how I feel on the inside.  My poem for that goes like this:

I pledge allegiance
to liberty and justice for all.

Looking at me, you wouldn't notice any hard shiny edges.  On the outside I look the same as I always have: an ordinary, middle-aged woman white woman.  You'd see me get in my late-model Mazda and know that I'm privileged to drive my own car, with enough time and money to decorate it with pink and green flower decals.  Even my bumper stickers are pretty ordinary:  two public school logos and a "Wag More, Bark Less" magnet.  (You might assume that means I love my dogs instead of owning cats.)

You wouldn't know that when I first left my husband and moved to London in 1991, I thought I'd cut my hair short, stop wearing teacher skirts and go butch to suit my new lesbian lifestyle.  After a lifetime of privilege I felt so safe, even as I altered my whole identity, that it never occurred to me that I might endanger myself with a style makeover.

As it happened, I was still mostly myself after a year in London.  I couldn't ever commit to the butch look, and eventually understood that I wasn't even a "real" lesbian--instead I'm a real bisexual who found the love of her life in a woman instead of a man.  So that ordinary, middle-aged white lady you see getting into her suburban Mazda is, invisibly to most, a bisexual woman in a same-sex marriage with two children conceived through artificial insemination. 

Unless I open my mouth, I'm pretty safe in this "new" America where my fellow citizens, emboldened by an ignorant, selfish and hateful winner, feel free to aggress. I'm not black, I'm not brown, I don't have an accent, I don't wear a hijab, I don't stand out.

So I'm opening my mouth.  Not in protest because my right to marriage is now endangered, although it is, and not because my worth as human being will be questioned, because it will, and not because my children's security will be compromised, because it may be.  I'm opening my mouth because it's not fair that I get to be invisibly safe as I go about my business, while whole populations of Americans are waking up worried about what ugliness lies ahead because of how they look on their morning commute, in their day at school, in the next weeks or months or year.

I'm unsure if this is any help.  I'm even a little unsure of my motivations here. I just feel like I don't want to be hiding right now, that--KABOOM--this country is not what I hoped, believed, and committed to on the day after the election in 2008.  I feel like I've been relaxing in safety for 8 years, here in suburban liberal Maryland with my white skin and my flowered Mazda, and that I have to get out of the car now and walk with some folks who are strangers to me.

And I don't have a poem for that yet.

The round-up is with Jama today.  Safety in numbers there, and maybe in baked goods.

Friday, November 4, 2016

november kaboom

"November Volcano" illustrated by Christoph Niemann, 2016

Fall is late this year in the mid-Atlantic--and in the last weeks we've had two days in the high 70's and two above 80*!  It's been hard to settle into the season, but fortunately Halloween was chilly--and yet not as leafy-scuffly-rustly as it usually is.  Our leaves fall late compared to New England--not until the end of October--and this year it's only in the last couple of days that color change has really been noticeable. 

But when it starts, it's thrilling!  A good gust and the trees seem to be spouting hot lava, red and glowing yellow. And that's even before they're raked into a mountain and exploded by a daring leap into its crater! A poetic mom and her 7-year-old son might just have to write about it...and that's how the wee poem in One Minute till Bedtime came to be.

One of my favorite things about this gorgeous book (see my earlier rhapsodizing here) is that in most cases each poem, even the briefest, has been given its own page and often its own illustration.  The generous amount of white space acts as a two-dimensional pedestal, elevating each poem to its highest effect, like a gem on velvet under glass.  And yet the "glass" is penetrable--small hands can reach right into each illustration to grab the energy.  Don't you want to jump in there too?!

Thanks once again to Kenn Nesbitt, Christoph Niemann, and to every one of the other poets whose work graces this book--and special kudos to Phil Caminiti, Nicole Brown and David Caplan, the designers and art director listed in the front matter.  The difference a great book designer can make--especially in children's books--is beyond quantification.

Laura has the round-up today at Writing the World for Kids--go jump in, throw leaves, explode!