Thursday, December 29, 2016

haiku catch-up

Holiday travel this year--all the way to Seaford, England, courtesy of Grandma Treeze. I've just about managed to stick with the daily #haikuforhealing, which also serves as a sort of December diary.  Here's what those not following on Twitter may have missed.

each morning we wake
to see what star is fallen
sky blues anyway

..and Carrie and Debbie and...

south downs: more like ups
here at the seven sisters
mutton on the hoof

chilli pickle
thali platter mutton curry:
brighton highlight

boxing day:
let's celebrate by letting
everyone out

misty, moisty
Christmas Day--sea breeze
whips the walled garden

airplane universe:
chorus of voices
fails to reach Syria


airport universe:
some of everyone shining
in long weary lines


revelling late
the shortest day becomes
the longest day ever

rogue elector
I *choose* to shop at the discount store
at rush hour
          Electoral College

haiku harmony
arranging layered words we
rage and marvel on

Reflections on the Teche  and read the comments

winter traditions:
devised by peasants with no
fields to plow, no school?
          (The more I wanted to just sleep from 6pm until 7am, the more there was to do...)

I'm posting early this week because we'll be busy overnight with visiting rellies.  Thanks to  Donna at Mainely Write for hosting.  See you in 2017!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Time this morning only to wish everyone a bright Solstice--which I described to 2nd graders as the winter holiday we can ALL acknowledge:  light the dark, green the grey, warm the frigid world!  (The northern hemisphere, anyway.)

This week's microprocessing...

on the 14th, seared,
I lay down rows of cookies
iced with salty stains
          Newtown Anniversary

strange light spreads
in my dark December room--
oh! it's the fat friendly moon

welcome all
the world is spicy
brown and sweet

a player, ready
palms and feathers greased
exxonus rex

Rex Tillerson

who needs intelligence?
you get this, Mike--
I'm busy trying on suits
          The President's Daily Brief

note to self:
hurrying towards everything
I hurt someone

Today the round-up is with my pal Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.  A visit to her blog is always intriguing, always uplifting (slothlove!), always healing.

Friday, December 9, 2016

#haiku (and book launches) for healing

My effort to respond creatively to the news of the world continues;  you can read about how Mary Lee started it all here.  You're invited to scroll down to the previous week's minimalist commentaries --and of course, you're invited to join in.  It wasn't clear to me at first, but the tiny discipline of slowing down to craft a response (rather than just banging the steering wheel and yelling at the radio) has been empowering.


first college news
we both prefer denial
to rejection

And from yesterday:


gold star winks out
leaving a long bright trail
holding in orbit

Joining in this project are all the brave women below; I hope they will pardon me when, during the week, all I can manage is to Like their Tweeted haiku.  It's good to work alongside you all!

          Mary Lee Hahn at Poetrepository
          Michelle Heidenrich Barnes at Today's Little Ditty
          Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
          Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
          Buffy Silverman at Buffy's Blog
          Jone Rush MacCulloch at DeoWriter
          Diane Mayr, posted on Thursdays at Random Noodling
          Julie Johnson at Raising Readers and Writers
          Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
          Carol Varsalona at Beyond LiteracyLink
          Carol Wilcox at Carol's Corner
          Julieanne Harmatz tweeting @jarhartz          Linda Baie at Teacher Dance

Our hostess with the postest is Jone at Check It Out.  She reminds us that haiku fits nicely on a postcard. And now, in other news...

I was delighted to join Jacqueline Jules, Marty Rhodes Figley and Laura Murray on Dec. 1st for a holiday book launch at One More Page in Arlington, VA (what a delightful place).  Here we are, festive and fierce with a bunch of fun books for holiday giving and receiving.  Each book you see earns its place on the bookshelf, but if I may reveal all my biases:  every home with children needs a copy of One Minute till Bedtime!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

a fine kettle of
hawks we have here,
rising on hot air


and also

generals and majors
drone on with military decision
just following orders, sir

Here's my inspiration, deceptively upbeat, by the ever-clever XTC.  The song remains a stroke of genius, although the video is goofy--can you spot a really famous British entrepreneur?



looks like pizza, smells
like pizza--but let's shoot it
just to be safe

Comet Ping-Pong
I have a ton to say about this one, primarily that in order to effectively distinguish fact from fake it helps have to have an excellent grip on metaphor.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sunday, December 4, 2016


loud and solid
an army of rock stands, chants,
sends the snake around

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016


Mary Lee said: "My creative spirit, who has been sitting out on the porch with her head between her knees for the last couple of weeks, looked up and nodded. Yes, that seems right, she said. A response to the news of the day, shared in the concise metaphorical form of the haiku."

Thus daily  #haikuforhealing in December was born.

My creative spirit exclaimed, "Dang, that sounds like a good idea! News, concise, metaphor, daily.  You can do this!"   And also: "Isn't Mary Lee wise, brave, and planful?"

So here we go, with no promises that I can manage every day.

fire, flood, tornado
no one says
"punishment from God"


skies clear: no dove.
on the ground jackass
brays at mad dog

Hmmmm.  Those are perhaps not extremely healing.  Let me try again....


stone soup simmers
villagers add their vegetables
to the deep pot of Friday

And here are last week's warm-ups, featured on Today's Little Ditty by Michelle:


not by hiding
from the world but by living
widely in it


refuge & solace:
today I don't turn on
the news


gathering light
around the long table
let's take this outside

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!

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!