Friday, December 18, 2020

ho ho ho the scarlet force!

I got lucky, yes I did!  My Winter Poetry Swap elf turns out to be my own critique partner Margaret Simon!  She knows me well and so my gifts are perfect.

I love this fresh new/old journal made by Marcie Melancon,
the illustrator of Margaret's book SUNSHINE.

And I love this distillation of my True Essence!

Here's the Annie Dillard quote included:  

“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

Margaret may or may not know that for 3 months in 1986, I walked each morning from my off-campus house in Middletown CT to Annie Dillard's on-campus house, through the front door and to the key rack hanging near the kitchen. I took the keys to her taxi-yellow sedan and drove to my job at the daycare center in town because it was too far & too cold and icy to ride my bike.  Annie had answered my message-board request to borrow a car during the day, and I neither paid for this privilege nor did I attempt to capitalize on the opportunity to get to know her. We both had our jobs to do, I guess!

And here's the text of the poem, which takes a few pieces of my own writing.
 I feel seen, heard and loved!

Essence of Heidi

There you are rolling playdough balls,
placing them onto a fake birthday cake,
lighting each candle
deep breath in, then screen-blow--
a ritual of celebration, exclamation
of You Matter!

There you are creating a caterpillar's undoing,
how it digests itself 
to become something miraculous,
shouting the great wonder--
a ritual of changing, shedding the old,
in silence.

There you are writing words,
passion-pulsed onto the page
to a inspire a child or grown-up--
a ritual of reading aloud, praise
for turn-the-page, frosted ice
melting into a poem.

--Margaret Simon, 2020 Winter Poem Swap

Thank you, Margaret, and thank you Tabatha who organized the Swap and all these opportunities for JOY.  Today's round-up is dusted in stardust by Michelle Kogan at her artful blog.  

Friday, December 11, 2020

poetry friday arrives in PreK

I know, I will exclaim, "What do you mean, Poetry Friday is only just arriving in PreK?!"  But, as the youth say, hear me out.

At most, a PreK student with perfect attendance has now spent a total of 44 days x 2.25 hours + 14 days x 1 hour (our Wednesdays are different) = 113 hours in school, of which .5h daily is free play time away from the screen and .2h daily is their time with specialists, leaving me 82.2 hours of instructional time.  

Wow.  That calculation is shocking even to me.  And let's not forget that every minute of that time has been spent on-screen.

OF COURSE we have read and said and sung texts that are poetic.  But just when the older kids are getting antsy and ready for a big long winter break, my littles--most of whom have never been in a group situation; many of whom arrived expert in Spanish or Amharic or Arabic but are beginners in English--are finally getting the hang of the routine, have learned their classmates' names, know what to expect from school. 

During this initial period my paraeducator and I have worked hard to make the most of our scant time, to make our days predictable for both families and children (while going graciously with the flow, of course).  The concept of "story" is familiar to everyone; the concept of "poem" not so much.  So it's only in the last couple of weeks that I have begun labeling texts as poems, and only last week that I attempted to introduce a text as poem.  It didn't go well because I didn't plan carefully, although the poem I chose was a fine one ("Crayon Poem" by James Carter).  I learned superfast that it made a huge difference not to be in the room with the children to do my patented introduction of what a poem is and how to get ready for it to "work."  It made a big difference that there was nothing graphic to look at on the screen, although I showed them the text.  At this age the poem arrives mostly through the sharer's FACE AND BODY, not through words on a page, no matter how colorful.

So this week, with my AM student Bella's interest in tigers to inspire me (this month we are doing mini student-led studies), I am getting very 2D-concrete and presenting the concept of POEM on our first-ever named POETRY FRIDAY using a POEM which I have composed. (By 1:00 when the PM Class signs onto Zoom I will also have one for Monserrath about unicorns.)  It will follow a shared reading of the Tigers article on PebbleGo.  Here are the inevitable Google Slides.

[Friday afternoon edit: Bella was absent.😆] Now I can use this presentation to add a slide for each Friday's poem (not all by me, certainly, but to get started it helps that I can match my own composition to what I know will be accessible--with just the right amount of stretch--to my actual 4- and 5-year-olds).  And then when I want to, I'll be able to print a booklet for each child to give out at our monthly materials distribution, where we actually get to see the children in person for 5 minutes. (Not gonna lie: I love it and it breaks my heart every month.)

Go here if you want a copy of this template.  Have a concrete Poetry Friday with any young ones you are working to inoculate with the entirely beneficial poetry virus, and a Merry Holiday Tiger to you!

The roundup today is with Buffy Silverman, where she interviews the NCTE Excellence in Poetry for Children Award winner JANET WONG!  I'm proud of my participation in this choice for teachers and students and all poetry lovers.


Friday, December 4, 2020

a line that strikes you

Our fellow Sunday Swagger Molly Hogan has challenged us to use this all-purpose prompt recommended by Holly Lyn Walrath.

Go to a book you love. Find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.”

It is absolutely true, evidenced by my 15-minute application of these directions, that it could not be simpler to get going!  And you have the added bonus of honoring those who are your inspirations.  Here are the first lines from "Winter Dark," by Lilian Moore, and here is my poem thereby inspired and retitled.

"Winter dark comes early
mixing afternoon
and night."


how it surprises us.
it is day, a gray day; 
day, even a sunny one,
and then

suddenly, so subtle

comes the drifting drop
of dark, floating down 
fast and heavy,
a hood over our heads.

if lights, they bright up.

how we are shocked
to find it is night, a gray night;
night, maybe a moonlit one,
has snatched us.

instadraft ©Heidi Mordhorst 2020

You can see the how each of the other Swaggers tackled this by clicking below.

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 for today is Mary Lee at A Year of Reading, where there's a two-for-one special featuring Irene Latham!