Thursday, July 19, 2018

POETRY FRIDAY ROUNDUP & PoFo Summer Poetry Teachers Institute

Welcome to all!  I'm pleased to host this week's Poetry Friday Round-up (go here for full details thanks to Renee LaTulippe if you're new) and to make good on my promise to report from my pretty glorious last week in Chicago at the Summer Poetry Teachers' Institute.  You'll also find links to all the other cool poetry posts around the web down at the bottom.

I can't remember how I discovered this institute, which is offered free of charge and includes accommodation at the conveniently located but very dorm-like dorms of the University of Illinois at Chicago.  There was a short application form to complete back in April, and then I was notified of my acceptance--it was that simple.  It's unclear to me if there were folks who applied and were NOT accepted, but the Institute, which has sections for Elementary, Middle & High School, and Community College teachers, served about 80 people (very unsure of that number) of whom 20 were in my nicely diverse PK-5 group.

If I sound like I'm selling this program, I am.  You'll see from the schedule below how varied the sessions were and how practically useful the outcomes were at a number of levels, and how time was allocated for processing as well as rest, tourism or home life, according to preference!

We began and ended the week all together with Carol Jago, familiar to me from NCTE--a true teacher leader.  There wasn't a lot of difference between the "seminars" and "workshops"--they were all excellent presentations that often included opportunities to write for ourselves or to plan for our classroom practice; there were handouts and modeling, and in several cases, the gift of books!  We all received a book collection from the Poetry Foundation which included an Engle book, The Flying Girl, and Ted Scheu gave each of us a signed copy of his Someday I'll Be a Teacher. 

The range of the presentation content was wide, and if I have any tiny criticism, it was that some presenters seemed unaware that we were not a wide general audience of teachers, but mostly quite devoted to and experienced with poetry--and in addition most of us were poets ourselves.  Thus a couple of the presentations came in at a rather basic level--and still we managed to glean plenty from each of them!  Details from each presentation may be added throughout the day here, but I can identify the single best line of the week:


This came from Beth Sampson, who runs Hands On Stanzas, a Chicago poetry-in-the-schools project.  She outlined the first five lessons which this organization's poets do in classrooms, and thereby all my best practices as a poetry teacher became a newly organized, explicit, intentional approach with structure and labels!  Concept #1 for kids (and perhaps teachers) with little familiarity of "what poetry is" uses children's experience of art class--a special subject carried out by a specialist teacher in a different room in most districts--to "do a lot really fast."  By comparing the variety of materials, processes, and products that constitute ART, this definition clarifies the broad range of writings that can be poems, the endless ways that words can be used to create them, and the idea that we are using words in different and special ways when we make poetry than when we do other kinds of language work, especially in school settings.

I love, love, love this genius little metaphor (*forehead slap* why didn't I think of it myself?) and honestly, its powerful efficiency is going to change how I approach poetry in my 2nd grade classroom this year.  Usually we begin with a period of input, analogous to the silent/receptive stage of second language learning, because I never know what kind of poetry experience my students will be coming in with.  I wait until around December before I ask kids to Write a Poem, when they've had weeks of exposure to many different forms and a lot of my passion and excitement.  (I also certainly don't discourage them if they think of doing so on their own!)

Being able to "draw on" their shared experience of Art with our seriously excellent art teacher, Leela Payne, will make that leap to writing work nearer to the beginning of the year.  I can't wait!  The other transformative concept from Hands On Stanzas is one that I carry with me as an implicit assumption--that all kids are poets. WE know that, but often they don't know that, so it's important that we let them know that just as in art class, they all come with all the creative tools they need to be successful.  They'll just be applying them in new ways. Do all kids come to art with excellent scissor skills?  No, so we model and teach and share techniques and they get better at cutting--but 99 times out of 100 they know WHAT they want to cut and what color it should be.

Here are some photos from the week, many taken by our Chicago Public School facilitator Shamika Keepers.

We were asked to bring one indispensable resource. I couldn't get it down to one!

from Carol Jago's opening remarks
Looking at how we could use some of the books provided by the PoFo...

Notes from Margarita's presentation
We had time to explore the glorious Poetry Foundation Library.  I recognized a friend!

The many breakout sessions on the schedule were for self-selected groups to work collaboratively on poetry projects for the classroom.   We were encouraged to make maximum use of the Poetry Foundation's website, and the culmination of the week was a Curriculum Fair at which we displayed our concepts Science Fair-style. Here were some of my favorites--not all from the Elementary section, either!

A middle school idea which I loved--and I was so happy to introduce the group to Valerie Worth's small poems!

This was our group's project, designed to work up or down PK-5.  That's my fab new friend Chii.  See my Metaphor Dice?

I'll leave you with a poem I wrote during Eric Elshtain's session, in which we worked on "the rearrangement of past perceptions to create new realities" using the logic of the senses.  He said, "All knowledge and all art begins and ends with the senses."  We imagined that we had met a cloud of our favorite color on the street and taken a handful...


So, there is a good some of it, but not the sum of it!  If you are a teacher, do apply for next year, and maybe I'll see you there, since repeat offenders are welcome.

And now....the Round-Up!  Please leave your links in the comments and I will line them up old-school throughout the day.  Thanks for joining us today!

Bedtime Stories

Linda Number 1 is sharing a jam sandwich at A Word Edgewise.

Linda Number 2 has popsicles--four flavors--at Write Time.  Now, who has the main course?

Alan has fighting words for beating the blank page at Poetry Pizzazz.

Sally is dealing with a very very very challenging misfortune:  Too Many Books.

Diane is in with an original called "Pictures of Liberty" over at Random Noodling. 
And at Kurious Kitty you'll find two anniversary poems by Douglas Florian.

Tabatha has a found poem from The Hare with Amber Eyes, to which she refers like everybody knows The Hare with Amber Eyes. 😉  Read this beautiful object at The Opposite of Indifference.

Matt will be cooling us down with an original called "Summer Frost" at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme.

Laura Number 1 would like to warn you that her post includes a powerful response to the Parkland HS shootings by Tim Singleton.  You will also find a link to her stop on the blog tour for Margaret Simon's Bayou Song.

Laura Number 2 has been sharing her entries for the March Madness Poetry Tournament and concludes today with her last, "Spurious Sayings."  Find it at Writing the World for Children.

Our friend at Books4Learning has a very thorough an enticing review of Javaka Steptoe's anthology In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall.

Michelle Kogan celebrates butterflies and bees in art and writing over at More Art 4 All.

Rebecca lets us enjoy her Summer Poem Swap from Irene about "creepy lakes." I will soon be swimming my curious self over to Sloth Reads to find out what that's about!

Jone is introducing a new haiku anthology at Deowriter that includes some of her work.  Congratulations, Jone!

Fats at Gathering Books is highlighting the work of a young Instagram poet, Caroline Kaufman.

Early Birdsong

Mary Lee reports on a miracle she witness this morning at A Year of Reading.

There's more about lakes--not all creepy--with Irene at Live Your Poem.

Ruth is sharing poems for travelers at There Is No Such Thing As a God-Forsaken  Town.  I love airports too, as last week's travels reminded me.

Lunchbox Letters

Little Willow reminds us to keep dancing over at Bildungsroman.

Tara is sharing some Mary Oliver today at Going to Walden.

Catherine has poems commemorating the 49th anniversary of the moon walk at Reading to the Core.

Afternoon Authors

At the Mistakes Anthology blog Tabatha has a poem by Michelle Kogan to share.

Margaret has a review of Marilyn Singer's new book and a writing prompt to share at Reflections on the Teche.

Mandy is following a question this week about disappearing parsley at her blog Enjoy and Embrace Writing.

Evening Entries

Carol is looking at Long Island through the eyes of Emma Lazarus at Beyond Literacy Links.

And now, a flash poem:  Molly Hogan's hollyhocks.  The End. 😀   Read about them at Nix the Comfort Zone.

Christie has also been away at Cornell's BirdSleuth educator retreat! She has hungry herons at Wondering and Wandering.

And, to close out the weekend's reading, Sylvia brings a report on her presentation about pets and reading from ILA at Poetry for Children.

Friday, July 13, 2018

I am from project

Greetings from Chicago, where I'm attending the very wonderful Poetry Foundation's Summer Poetry Teachers Institute.

I'll get into all the details of this wonderful experience next week when I host, but for today I just want to point you in a very hopeful direction....

As always in these poetry teaching workshops, George Ella Lyon's celebrated poem "Where I'm From" is offered up as a way to help young writers see that the details of their own true lived experience can be the stuff of poetry.  Here's the poem, if you somehow haven't run across it before.

Where I'm From | George Ella Lyon
 I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.
I'm from fudge and eyeglasses,
          from Imogene and Alafair.
I'm from the know-it-alls
          and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I'm from He restoreth my soul
          with a cottonball lamb
          and ten verses I can say myself.
I'm from Artemus and Billie's Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
          to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.
Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments--
snapped before I budded --
leaf-fall from the family tree.

While we worked with the poem and our own memories (my piece is called "How I Left Red Behind"), I popped over to George Ella's website and found this note from her:

Dear Friends of Poetry & Democracy,

I’m writing to tell you about a project that Julie Landsman & I are developing in response to the rhetoric of xenophobia and isolationism that is becoming rampant in our country. In such an atmosphere, how can we find our voices and make them heard?  One avenue is through poetry, that heart-cry that comes to us in times of love and crisis. 

Because my poem, “Where I’m From” has been used so widely as a writing model (most recently across Kentucky during my tenure as Poet Laureate)*, Julie–an educator, writer, and activist in Minneapolis–reached out to me with the idea of creating a national “I Am From” Project. Through Facebook, a website, and a great network of teachers, librarians, writers, and community leaders, as well as other organizations, we hope to encourage and gather “I Am From” creations from all over the country and take them, in some form, to Washington in October of 2018.  The action in D.C. will be a culmination of local readings and workshops, statewide presentations, radio and TV appearances, and more.

We’re encouraging creation in many directions; poems, yes, but also dance, art, song, drama—expressions which can be videoed and shared with and beyond their local audience. In terms of poetry, one of Julie’s visions is a scroll made of “I Am From” poems wrapped around a school, a library, a state capitol. Another possibility is to put our poems on posters and have a river of poetry on the National Mall.

Our deepest hope is to open a way for We the People to express who this country really is, what our values are, and how they unite rather than divide us. America’s embrace is wide enough to include all of us if we put our minds and money to our common welfare.

We would love to have you involved in some way. Please send comments and suggestions to Julie at:
or me at:

Here’s to equality and hope. Here’s to all our voices!
George Ella Lyon

I just wanted to make sure that all my friends in this Poetry Friday community were aware of this inspiring project, which I hope to give some on-the-ground support in the DC area.  Sylvia is rounding  us up today at Poetry for Children where I think we'll all learn even more about the book that's popping up everywhere, Great Morning!

Friday, July 6, 2018

metaphor dice iv

[Do scroll down and read two more Metaphor Dice poems I've written this week.]
Remember Magnetic Poetry?  I still mess around with several mixed-up sets of those sticky little words, and I still feel the little frisson of recognizing that Madonna's "Candy Perfume Girl" was made of the original set of 150 Magnetic Poetry words (although apparently she denied that at the time, which is shockingly TWENTY years ago).

I mention the lasting usefulness of MagPo today because I'm getting, after only a week, the first hint that my fabulous Metaphor Dice are a bit limited.  There are 12 dice, 6 sides each, which is 72 words.  If I have used this permutation calculator correctly, that means there are 59,640 metaphor possibilities, and yet today's roll offers me four combinations of which none is really doing it for me...and I think I know why.

The whole point here is to take a big abstract concept and talk about it using an adjective and a "smaller...humbler" concrete noun. So here we have big stuff like my birth, my soul, memory,  and power as the given starting points.

This is not working for me because this way of approaching a poem is, I can say unequivocally, never the way that a poem comes to me.  I never suddenly think, "Oooh, look at this gigantic concept I have come across in daily life, POWER!  Let me sit down and write a poem about power."

Instead poems come to me in tiny specific seeds, like a surprising combination of words or a poignant moment of emotion, which are noticeable or intriguing because of the way they connect to something unexpected and sometimes more universal.  Perhaps this is why I often dislike big classic sweeping poems about Truth and Beauty.  The poems that speak to me are small (thanks, Valerie Worth) and precise and do just enough of the hard work of revealing links between things that I have missed.  My favorite poems slow me, stop me, dazzle me with the accuracy of their literal description even as they crack open a wider mystery that demands my participation.

Here's a poem that I share with 2nd graders, an extended metaphor that we read during the time of the year when we are first studying Native American culture and change over time by observing the moon.  We read it first while looking at a picture of a birch bark canoe, and then we reread it with the sliver of a new moon before us.

The New Moon | Eve Merriam

Hold on to me.
We will slip carefully carefully
don`t tip it over
into this canoe
pale as birch bark

and with the stars
over our shoulders
down the dark river
of the sky.

Do not delay.
By next week
the canoe will be bulging with cargo,
there will be no room
inside for us.

Tonight is the time.
Step carefully.
Hold on to me.

I LOVE this genius poem because the first line demands that we forget all about the new moon in the title and get a physical grip on this slightly risky, rather urgent canoe trip.  This would be interesting in itself--but then the "dark river of the sky" alerts us to something more going on, and with a small investment of attention and imagination, 7-8's can suddenly see how the crescent moon resembles a canoe, a canoe that changes shape and fills with cargo (what cargo?!), and how the climbing in and paddling (which we actually do with our bodies) puts us in a whole different place with a whole different view of both the canoe and the moon. Genius, like I said.

If Eve Merriam were using Metaphor Dice, this poem could not have come to be (even though moon appears on a humble blue die). With Metaphor Dice you can't roll something small and concrete like moon = full + canoe, if you go with the basic red = white + blue.  So, as usual, I'm just going to break "the rules," which, to be fair to Taylor and his team, probably shouldn't be considered rules.  This workaround stuff started already on Tuesday with a poem about iconoclasm, so I shouldn't be surprised. Today I'mma work with meadow again....


meadow is a rugged midwife:

tireless she brings forth leggy

flowerchildren of soil and rain.

they with their hueboldened

heads are not her own,

they leave home, sow their oats,

die back, are mown,

but meadow counsels earth

to breathe and push again,

again, unalone.


The roundup today is with Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect (ooh that turns out to be a nice connect to ms. meadow the midwife, right?) who is doing it old-school, ever charming. Hike on over for some Poetry Sisters action.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

metaphor dice iii

in my mind my mind
is now dotted with ill-used fields
many barren a few overgrown
    wild wasted bad bleak neglected
                desolate deserted
it happened gently insofar as it was
not planned
not managed
not even noticed
         stealthy workings of my mind
beneath my mind
walking there now
there are pits brambles nettles stones
          & the occasional bright meadow
    of long-stalked perennials
that keep reaching each year
                to a cloud-studded sky
                 lit by crepuscular rays

draft  ©HM 2018

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

metaphor dice ii

I rolled twice this morning to get this combination...

an escape

at first glance this is so obvious as to be boring:
of course
the past is a handed-down act,
and facing the facts,
"the past is a handed-down act"
is not even a very graceful phrase.

but what if we were, as per the directions,
to construct
the metaphor using something other than "is"?

the past is not a handed-down act
the past was born a handed-down act
the past considered my mother a handed-down act
the past claimed to be a handed-down act
the past was never a handed-down act
the past turned into a handed-down act
the past thought he was a handed-down act
the past dreamed of being a handed-down act

all true.  and then there is the reverse:
"the handed-down act of the past"

ah.  I see it now.  break and rearrange:
"the act of a handed-down past"

yes, I have certainly been
the act
of a handed-down past.

break and rearrange the past
and out
falls the word iconoclast. 

I have certainly been an iconoclast.
this past
was handed down to me
in acts large (march on Washington)
and small (make cassoulet)

I can and I will now
break likeness,
march on cassoulet and make Washington
down hands on past acts--

no. enough of the feverish cleverness.
it will be enough just to break
likeness, go
to the fields and be lovely,
bloom for a time.

draft © HM 2018