Thursday, December 5, 2019

sunday swaggers challenge: the beauty in the ugly

Our critique partner Molly Hogan set this month's challenge, called “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” She writes, 'I participated several years ago in a photo challenge from Kim Douillard to “find beauty in the ugly.' This month, I invite you to reinvent the world around you (or one aspect of it) by shifting your lens to see the beauty in what at first seems to be ugly or unnoteworthy. My [original] post is here. Happy Writing!"

Thanks, Molly--this was a perfect one for me over the last couple of weeks.

punching balloons

I didn’t like to go to school.
I didn’t talk.
The teacher was nice, SO nice,
but some children were not.

They didn’t share.
They didn’t listen.
All around me ugly talk
and even sometimes punching.

Every day got worse
and I got scared.
The teacher got scared too.
And then one day she YELLED.

Not at me.  At them.
And they listened!
Especially about the tiny treats.
Everyone wanted a tiny treat.

The ugly went away, almost all
at once, and then we all won stars together,
one, two, three four FIVE!
Our balloon party was beautiful, 

just like we are beautiful 
punching all the colors gently up
in the cozy calm air of our classroom.

©Heidi Mordhorst 2019

Please gently punch your colorful way over to these Swaggers' blogs to enjoy more beauty out of ugly!

Catherine Flynn @ Reading to the Core 
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone 
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise 
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Our host this week is Tanita over at [fiction, instead of lies].  Thanks for rounding us up, Tanita!

Friday, November 22, 2019

ncte19: the real deal and climate action psa

I'm coming to Poetry Friday this week from the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English!  Here is a link to the whole of my presentation on inquiring into the poetic intent of our beginningest beginner writers by offering concrete choices.
Clicking should take you to a Google Slides doc which you should be able to view, download and print as you need to.  We had a great time presenting together!  Here's the team:

And now, your #Climate Action PSA poem for GREEN FRIDAY, Nov. 29
Use the Power of Your Purse, Yes, Follow the Money
Stay Home, Eat Food that You Already Cooked, 
with Your Loved Ones Play a Game
that You Already Own 
Make an Impact Take a Stand

"This year, on November 29th we are calling on you to take a stand for the planet and support your local community businesses by refusing to give any of your hard earned money to this corrupt financial system. Each year we are sold products built to break or fade out of fashion, making us feel forced to keep perpetually consuming and extracting new resources. By taking part we will be affecting these companies where it hurts them the most, in their profit margins."

Thanks to Rebecca at Sloth Reads for hosting, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Friday, November 1, 2019

national author's day challenge

The Sunday Poetry Swaggers group challenge is on again, set this month by Linda Mitchell.  Our challenge this month is to celebrate National Author's Day (as it is styled in most places online; I prefer Authors' Day) by "finding prose text or poetry you love from a published author and use it as a mentor text to write your poem. The poem doesn't have to be about an author or authorship...but it could."

I am lucky to be friends with an Irish resident of DC, Andrew Clarke, whose beautiful cottage on the family farm in County Roscommon we visited two summers ago.  We met his mum, who still lives in the farm house that has been in the Clarke family for generations, his brother Charles, who still raises cattle there, and on two other occasions now I have met Andrew's sister Jane, who is a an acclaimed poet!

Most recently I attended a reading here in DC on Monday evening; one of her 2019 books is WHEN THE TREE FALLS (Bloodaxe Books).  It includes many poems sited at the same family farm that we visited and mainly addresses the long decline of Andrew and Jane's father, but a poem that really struck me at the reading is the one titled "Polling Station [May 25th, 2018]."  Some of you may know that on that date, the Irish people voted--rather breathtakingly:

That’s it then: as those two shock exit polls predicted last night, by a margin of 66.4% for yes to 33.6% for no and on a record turnout of 64.51%, Ireland has voted to repeal the eighth amendment of its constitution, which since 1983 has effectively prohibited abortion in all bar exceptional circumstances.
Here’s is Guardian Ireland correspondent Henry McDonald’s full story on the events of a historic day, what led up to them, and what they might mean.
Here is Harriet Sherwood’s explanation of what will happen to Ireland’s abortion legislation now, and how the government’s planned new regime compares with the rest of the world.

Here's the poem:

Polling Station | Jane Clarke
May 25th 2018

In the queue up to the door of the schoolhouse
neighbours welcome sunshine after the wettest
of wet winters; spirits lift at the sight of fields

drying out, grass thickening, calves thriving,
unstoppable growth.  There's talk of young ones
speeding home to vote, swallows back to the barn.

No one asks anyone where they'll place their X--
every family has stories, left like ploughs
and harrows among thistles behind the sheds.


Wow--do I admire this poem.  Rooted in the shared natural rhythms and routines of farm life, Jane deftly, deeply conveys the powerful emotion of this referendum for Ireland's women (and the men who also voted), and the way that public policy can be  quietly, momentously changed by very private stories.

I love the extended metaphor, of the wet winter giving way to grass thickening, unstoppable growth, swallows back to the barn, of great and ordinary change.  But the soaring moment here is the lowdown gut punch of the last two lines:

"every family has stories, left like ploughs
and harrows among thistles behind the sheds."

What a simple simile in the first line, which then turns, with the addition of harrows left among the gorgeous, thorny pink-purple thistles, out of sight behind the outbuildings, to hulkingly painful, prickly secrets, shames, sadnesses.  What can I take from this mentor text?


Lyft Driver
October 11, 2019

He's bearded, black, a little older than I,
gracious. Reminds me of Barack, somehow.
He's wearing earbuds--doesn't need, like 
some of them do, to chat.  And at the end
of a long week, I don't think I need to chat either.  
Except--"I'm going to an extraordinary event," I say.

William takes out his earbuds, finds me in
the rear view mirror. "What kind?" he says.

"It's a celebration of the investiture of a friend,
after years of waiting, as an immigration judge.
And it's extra special because my friend is a 
cigar-smoking Cuban immigrant butch lesbian
little person. Her approval as a judge feels like 
a move forward at a time when most things feel 
like they're moving backwards."

My driver turns off the main road towards downtown,
heads into a neighborhood I've never driven through.  
Will this detour make me late, or does he know 
where he's going?

He says, "Well, I've been black my whole life, 
and to me this moment doesn't feel so terribly
backwards.  It only feels that way to people 
who thought everything was going fine before."

I roll down my window for more fresh air.
I have no idea where we are, but William's 
navigation app--full of redlined traffic jams
we can't really avoid--shows what time 
we'll arrive: just a little later than we hoped.

flashdraft ©Heidi Mordhorst 2019


You can tell it's a flashdraft because it's way longer than Jane's poem, which means it needs way more work.  I'm a little sad it's not a big nature metaphor because, you know, NATURE. But occasional Friday evening Lyft rides to downtown (so we can take the Metro home together) are part of the rhythm and routine of my real city life.  Thanks to Jane for the inspiration, and thanks to Linda for the challenge.  You can find the rest of the Sunday Poetry Swaggers' work here:

Catherine Flynn @ Reading to the Core
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

And our host today is Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference, who reminds us that indeed, spending a lot of time with people who challenge and inspire you will change your life!  (Or even a little time, in a Lyft.)

Friday, October 25, 2019

Inktober 2: catching up

I watched the debate last week and fell off the Inktober wagon in the process.  Last night I had some catching up to do, involving words 15-24.

I was half-asleep, and sometimes that helps--it didn't go too badly,  and it just about fit in a Tweet!

pretty oldenday

she has gone legend, draped 
and belled with wild green ornaments, 
misfit among the suits and seatbelts
slung over our shoulders. 
her tread itself is treasure, 
little ghosts of tiptoe 
disappearing, already ancient, 
dizzy over graveled avenues.

flashdraft  ©Heidi Mordhorst

I've just realized that Pretty Oldenday has a brother.  That poem will not be so light.

Our host for Poetry Friday today is Karen Edmisten.  Head on over for a fall of "crisp, crackling gifts."

Friday, October 18, 2019

OIPK: prereading

Before the poetry, a climate action PSA:  
Black Friday is your next opportunity to stand with youth and 
call for policy to recover our global climate.

I do plan to participate, but I have learned through my workshop that we are likely to accomplish more through action at the level of our local organizations, and that governments can't pay for the scale of change that is required.  We have to press wealthy entities like corporations to make the change.  May I challenge you to research which is the most powerful corporate employer in your area?  What are they doing to reduce emissions and reverse climate warming?  Mine is Marriott, and they just decided NOT to provide a million little plastic bottles of shampoo.  So I'm thinking of asking them to do more and fund food composting in my county schools!

This post represents my 11th bloggiversary.  Thanks to you, Dear Readers, for steadfastly sticking with me all this time, and for welcoming me into the Poetry Friday community.

And now, welcome to the next installment of Overheard in PreK.  Each of my kids has a laminated photo name card with a velcro dot on the back.  We use it on the Attendance Board and then they take it with them to stick on posters for each play center as a way of showing who's working where.  They often forget to retrieve them, meaning that PM kids will then find an AM card still stuck on a poster and vice versa.

My readingest AM kid is Kyng.  He found PM Francisco's card in which Francisco is smiling broadly in a coral-pink striped polo shirt.  "I found Flamingo's card in the Dollhouse!" said Kyng, handing it over.

It took me a few seconds to guess what had just happened.

How Reading is Like

I found a Flamingo at school, a Cassowary
and three Allisongators and a Bryonlyon,
plus a Nayanabanana and Nayelyjelly.
When I read I read with my whole head,
my eyes and my memory of every book I've read,
things I know and things I like.
When I see the color it helps me think.
Words are made of more than ink. 

flashdraft ©Heidi Mordhorst

BONUS MUSIC: "Flamingo" by Kero Kero Bonito 

This poem is brought to you by Kyng, Francisco, Cassidy, all three Allisons (yes, three), Bryon, Nayana and Nayely, and also by the complexity that is the reading process.  The Poetry Friday round-up today is brought to you by Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Friday, October 11, 2019


So it's really a challenge for illustrators, but as we learned last week, INK KNOWS NO BORDERS, so plenty of people whose inkstrokes look like letters are joining in.  Created by one Jake Parker, you can find Inktober work on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Inktober offers us a list of words, one for each day of October.  Me, I'm a Tweeter, so I'm posting there, which also limits my word count and therefore supports my regular participation.
In the spirit of our host and my CP Catherine Flynn's THANKU post, I'm really grateful to the organizers who put the challenge out there. And for all its warts (and warthogs) I'm grateful that Twitter exists as an instant publication platform for those of us who just need to see our compositions up on the noticeboard of the worldwide village. I'mma do some catching up today, too.



[CHEAT: not new work but too perfect an opportunity]


Thanks to @mrjakeparker for hosting #Inktober and thanks to Catherine for hosting #PoetryFriday, and thanks to the youth of the planet @Fridays4Future, for refusing to give up their persistent demands that the adults with the power do something to COOL IT. Are you still looking for a positive way into being part of the solution?  Drawdown has 100 solutions--you're sure to find one you can get behind!