Saturday, April 30, 2022

npm 30: imperfect all over again



What, you may ask, does an anthology of not-particularly-climate-related "poems of perspective" for middle-schoolers have to do with Truth, Courage and Connection and solving the climate crisis?

It's a great question, and yet, as climate communicators like Katharine Hayhoe, Emily N. Johnston and--well, I--have realized, every aspect of our lives and every identity we claim (and even those we're unaware of) is directly touched by the fact that we are hurtling by the day towards some truly unknowable consequences of our quotidian destruction of the planet.  Everything really is connected by those interwoven lines of the interdependent web of all existence. 

So, as we try to pick a path forward in our anxiety and grief, any little dose of perspective goes a long way. And way better to begin younger to grasp all that "keeping perspective" can do for us.  Big thanks to Tabatha Yeatts, her  team, and all the poets for bringing IMPERFECT II to us, which closes my April project--but not the brilliant ALL WE CAN SAVE that I still haven't finished reading, never mind processing--here today.

As Tabatha writes in the Introduction, "All of us have to do something similar [show a realistic perspective] in our daily lives.  Things may happen that we view out of proportion--we see them as being bigger, smaller, more permanent that they really are."  The trouble, when it comes to climate disaster, is that if you accept the science,*  it's hard to pin down what a "realistic" perspective might mean, and our climate chaos future really is looking bigger and more permanent than many of us can imagine.  What can we, parents and grandparents of the kids IMPERFECT II is made for, take from this slim but "high-nutrition" volume?

The Perfect Book for Now

Is it stubborn to insist


comes along at the perfect time?

Or is it always/ every day/

each moment/ this week/

tomorrow/ oops just now/

the perfect time 

to practice/remember/ 

realize/ learn that 

there is no such thing

as perfect?

If these pants fit me "perfectly,"

that won’t be true for you.

If my project lacked perfection/

even completion, does it

mean I failed? Why, no.

And if my poem strikes you as

perfect, it won’t be so for everyone–

only for the you who came to it

precisely when and how you 

needed it.

draft ©HM 2022


Here's some of what I read in ALL WE CAN SAVE this week and the perspective I needed--and found--in IMPERFECT II.
Ash Sanders:  "How do we confront the reality of climate change and convince others to do the same? The environmentalist Alan AtKisson calls this predicament Cassandra’s Dilemma...AtKisson connects the myth to climate action: the more a person knows about environmental destruction, the more they will try to warn others, and the more others will, in fear and defensiveness, resist them."  --Under the Weather, ALL WE CAN SAVE

 Robert Schechter:
"If you really knew me,
If you could see right through me,
If you could glimpse the true me,
If you could rightly view me,
I wonder if you'd like me more, or less?"
"Your Guess" (excerpt), IMPERFECT II

Amy Westerfeldt:  "Exxon CEO Lee Raymond said in a 1996 speech..."It's a long and dangerous leap to conclude that we should cut fossil fuel use...there's simply no reason to take drastic action now."  The m***erf***er. These speeches and memos infuriate me." --"Mothering in an Age of Extinction," ALL WE CAN SAVE
Lisa Varchol Perron:
Some words, like stones, are heavy--
they knock me to my knees.
While other float like feathers
and scatter in the breeze....
But I can start refusing 
to carry stony things.
I'll gather all my feathers
and stitch them into WINGS.
"Stones and Feathers" (excerpt), IMPERFECT II
 Ash Sanders: "Ultimately, [Chris] settled on one word to describe both others and himself. He called it ignore-ance, or “returning from a state of consciousness to a willed state of not knowing.” That’s where he was now, he said, and where so many people insist on being. He was surviving, but he didn’t admire himself. “You do it by pretending,” he said, as if teaching me how. “You pretend that this life is OK, that college football is fun, that driving is normal. You pretend, to justify living a lie.”--Under the Weather, ALL WE CAN SAVE

Linda Mitchell:
I pledge allegiance to my hoody,
and the safety it
a life jacket in
and cover for me...
"My Hoody" (excerpt, IMPERFECT II)
Emily N. Johnston: "We can feel fear and grief and anger, in other words — we can even feel avoidant sometimes — and still attend to the world’s very real and immediate needs, as long as we don’t let our feelings be an excuse for abandoning our responsibilities. And in truth, serving the world’s needs is the only thing that I have seen consistently lighten that fear and grief and anger in others, and the only thing that has done so consistently in my own life." --Loving a Vanishing World, ALL WE CAN SAVE

Mary Lee Hahn: 

"My eyes are not the best in the animal kingdom, 
but I can see both sides of an argument, 
giving me the power of perspective,

I can see into your pain,
giving me the power of empathy,
and I can see what might be,
giving me the power of imagination.

"Point of View" (excerpt), IMPERFECT II

Emily N. Johnston:  "Everybody has different skills, and different temperaments...We can best use our own abilities within the landscape of our feelings, in other words, by valuing those of others. We have one volunteer who spends a day every week doing our books, another who does all the tricky work on our database, another who writes all our thank-you notes for us. We even have a retired massage therapist who offers us free massages. All of the work is critical in this moment, and we must do it with humility; learning as we go; taking on both the deeply satisfying and the unpleasant or routine tasks. We don’t have to believe they’re adequate — we only have to understand that not doing them would mean we’d decided not to care for this world..."-- Loving a Vanishing World, ALL WE CAN SAVE

Here I can turn to one of my own poems, even!

The Bigger Picture


i am one particle among

millions and

billions and

trillions of us

each of us our own particular

grains and

shapes and


crystals and

infinitely numerous

colors and

formed through unimaginable

eons and

from uncountable

eruptions and

erosions and

somehow we are all called



Again, thanks to Tabatha Yeatts for including my work along with all the many talented poets included in this anthology. Order your copy here!  

*Pet Peeve: it's not a question of "belief," which does not depend on data; it's a question of accepting the science, which IS the data.  We should stop talking about whether people "believe" in climate warming. Do they accept the scientific data or not?--that's the question.


My project for NPM 2022:
This month I'm making "human stories to move human beings.  Human stories are more powerful for inciting action than counting carbon or detailing melting glaciers." (Favianna Rodriguez, from her essay "Harnessing Cultural Power," in ALL WE CAN SAVE.)
2 Gratitude for those who take the time to fix things
5 A comparison of beaver wisdom with human attempts to control water & fire

Thursday, April 28, 2022

npm 29: and now for something not at all completely different!

 Greetings, Poetry Friday friends!  Today, to for the last Friday of National Poetry Month, I'm changing gears--but only a wee bit. I've been trying to write more narratively the stories of humans--especially women--who are helping humans solve the climate crisis.

But here is truly All We Can Save, the next generation, the foundation of our future. Here are the PreK Pandas learning about the miracle of seeds and writing collaborative poems about our garden. 

We have not read BEHOLD OUR MAGICAL GARDEN by Allan Wolf, but we will, and we have read DANIEL FINDS A POEM and WONDER WALKERS by Micha Archer, THANK YOU EARTH by April Pulley Sayre, and A NEW GREEN DAY by Antoinette Portis.

I was going to type them all up fancy, but maybe you'll enjoy seeing our process.

1) A small group visit to the garden to notice colors, shapes, textures, and elements of the garden.
2) Sticky notes: "What words do we need to write a poem about our garden?  Write the first letter here." Then I write the rest, mostly upside down.🙃
3) Rehearse words, often with signs or gestures.
4) Next, "Who has the first word?  What goes with that word?  Which order sounds better, 'smooth, soft' or  'soft, smooth'?"
5) Build poem together and read and reread, repeating each line twice.
6) Share with the class and make any changes that reading aloud make us notice. 


planting brown 
flower seeds
soft green
plants growing up

by Lyanna, Vincent, 
Mateo, Nina



green stalk
smooth soft leaves
sunflower nasturtium
water brown soil

by Emely, Ismat, Mariela, Molly

garden soil
hard seeds
water soft
green roots
flowers corn

by Carter, Fernanda, 
Matthew, Noella

Panda Flowers

dirt       water
seeds     plants
green green
yellow growing

by Michael, Kelsey, Christian

planta verde
flor suave
semillas en la tierra
agua para las plantas
por Allison, 
Santiago, Hector

Flower Magic
stem       beans
flower    leaf
crinkly green
dirty roots

by Josie, Jewels, 
Ava, Bella


A Poem about the Garden
Una Poema sobre el Jardin
water black seeds
stem          leaves
sunflower flower
rain from the sky

by Matthew, Gabriel, 
Brandon, Kaylee
sunflower growing
water black seeds
maíz plants
green triangle leaf
by Andrew, Helen, 
Kairi, Adish

And now, to close, a bonus poem spoken by Carter on the playground.  He said, "How about a flower?" and I said, "THAT sounds like a good poem!  How about a....?" and off he went. (He might have meant fins instead of fur, but we're going with it.) Carter is 57 months old.

How About A...

How about a flower?
How about a sunflower, following the sun?
How about a rose, shining in the sky?
How about a plant, spreading out its leaves? 
How about a fish, feeling all its fur?

by Carter (a spoken word poem)


Our host today is Jone Rush MacCulloch, who is beginning our day with a fine poem from IMPERFECT II.  I'll be closing the month tomorrow with another look at this brilliant anthology edited by Tabatha Yeatts.



My project for NPM 2022:
This month I'm making "human stories to move human beings.  Human stories are more powerful for inciting action than counting carbon or detailing melting glaciers." (Favianna Rodriguez, from her essay "Harnessing Cultural Power," in ALL WE CAN SAVE.)
5 A comparison of beaver wisdom with human attempts to control water & fire


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

npm 26: the interdependent web



I cannot let go of this line from "Dead Stars" by Ada Limon:
"I am a hearth of spiders these days: a nest of trying."


My project for NPM 2022:
This month I'm making "human stories to move human beings.  Human stories are more powerful for inciting action than counting carbon or detailing melting glaciers." (Favianna Rodriguez, from her essay "Harnessing Cultural Power," in ALL WE CAN SAVE.)
2 Gratitude for those who take the time to fix things
5 A comparison of beaver wisdom with human attempts to control water & fire
23 On the feeling of being "a hearth of spiders"