Thursday, February 13, 2020

i heart poetry: ncte notables part 4

Yes, it is Valentine's Day--possibly my favorite holiday--and therefore I will not disappoint by plunging into my last reviews of NCTE 2020 Poetry Notables without any hint at hearts.
Here is the song I wrote in 2001 for a class of 4-year-olds, slightly creased and glue-bedecked from all our monster-building activities.  I'm having a bit of trouble remembering the tune, though!

Now that you are well and truly monstered by love, here are the reviews. What riches!

James E. Ransome
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019

Our national history of the enslavement of Africans and their American-born descendants is difficult to place in context for young children. In The Bell Rang, James Ransome brilliantly builds his narrative of plantation life on a familiar days-of-the-week pattern. This gives readers 4-11 something on which to hang a shocking understanding: the humanity of ordinary family life in deep conflict with the inhumanity of slavery.

Each morning the overseer’s bell rings and a young girl and her big brother Ben go about their routine, until one day,

I wake to the sound
of Mama and Daddy
searching, looking.
No sun in the sky. 
Mama crying. 
No Ben.
Daddy crying. 
Ben ran.

Spare, repetitive language and richly detailed paintings are painfully educational; older readers will be able to interpret this narrative for themselves while primary aged children will need--and be enabled--to talk and talk about it.

David Elliot
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2019

A tour de force of poetic craft, this reconstruction of the extraordinary life of an ordinary French peasant girl offers challenge and surprise on every page. Elliot weaves witness testimony from Joan’s trials with the distinctive voices of herself, the saints who guided her outrageously courageous actions, and the objects that play roles in her story--a needle, a dress, a road, a sword, the very fire upon which she was burned. Each poem has its form: metered verse set in concrete shapes that work against their formal regularity, just as Joan strained against all expectations of her gender and era.

please forgive this unprofessional photo of an extremely professional poem

Elliot skillfully mingles the facts of Joan’s mission to save France with the superstitious flavor of pre-Enlightenment religious belief that permitted a teenaged girl to lead an army in God’s name. Her charismatic leadership coincides fascinatingly with the current phenomenon of Greta Thunberg’s, and while only the most mature 11-13-year-olds will find this book accessible, they will be richly rewarded for their efforts.

Our Poetry Friday hostess-with-the-mostest is Linda at TeacherDance. March on over and take the Love Monsters with you!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

sunday swaggers: climate action terza rima

what I deserved after finishing this challenge

This month our CP Catherine Flynn, dabbling in a little Dante, challenged us to write a terza rima.  "Coolcoolcool," we said. "No problem."  HA.

The terza rima, explained by Edward Hirsch:

"A verse form of interlocking three-line stanzas rhyming aba, bcb, cdc, etc. The terza rima form was invented by Dante Alighieri for the Commedia….The effect of this chain-rhyme is both open-ended and conclusive, like moving through a series of interpenetrating rooms or going down a set of winding stairs: you are always traveling forward while looking back."

You know how every day you try to do something different than you used to, in an effort to lighten your footprint on the planet, if not actually halt climate change?  And you know how every day you realize that you FORGOT and did it the old, heedless, "our resources are unlimited" way?  The "boy, these convenient plastic ziplock bags are genius" way? The "crap, I forgot to ride my electric bike to work" way?

If you're like me, you're trying to travel forward while always falling back down the winding stairs, looking back at how we got to an average January temperature 3* hotter than it should be. So here I am, a modern troubadour, singing a song of two steps forward, one frustrating step back.


Each day we hum a tiny tune of change,

a little hymn of too much rain and flame,
an unharmonic melody of strange

new storms and melting. Things just aren’t the same

as when they told us we had earned this gain.
“The spoils of progress” is our truest claim.

Our glad old song of triumph trails and wanes.

We ask ourselves what kind of war to wage
against the way we blithely drain and stain

our land, our air, our ocean. Turn the page:
lift up a chant to keep us pitched and brave.
Today we tilt at prudent, sane and sage.

It’s inconvenient but we try.   We cave

so easily! Each day it’s hard to gauge
if beating on this different drum can save

us, set a syncopation full of rage.
Let’s take the blame for digging our own grave.
Time now to chorus: can we act our age?

©Heidi Mordhorst 2020

I don't know--CAN we act in the way that our post-consumer age demands? Some days feel so daunting, like the bad guys are definitely winning, and then something buoys me up: for example,  Wednesday I participated in a training with the Elders Climate Action/ Environmental Voter Project.

I watched the trainer use a computer app to text 50 registered NH environmental voters in under 3 minutes, encouraging them to pledge to vote in the Primary Election.  He got a dozen responses right away and then spent about 4-5 minutes replying: tagging them as "voting," "wrong number" or "opt out."  It was beautifully efficient and I can't wait to play a role in getting voters--really ANY voters--thinking about which candidates have a plan for reversing global warming.  If you want to check it out, go here--and you don't have to be an "Elder"!

Don't forget to check out the rest of the Sunday Swaggers' efforts:

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Writing the World for Kids with Laura Purdie Salas--march on over to the beat of your different drum and make a difference!